THIS CHRISTMAS is about two former high school friends, Crispin Thomas and Sierra Williams who have been estranged for nine years.
After being reunited due to Crispin—once again—needing Sierra's help, they work together in order to make sure the desserts for the Thomas' holiday gathering are ready and in the process, old wounds are healed and new love blossoms.
This second chance romance features forced proximity, opposites attract, and of course an HEA.
Sierra concentrates as if she’s performing surgery instead of squeezing a piping bag. Light purple icing flows carefully from the nozzle. Delicate small flowers appear around the top of the four-layered creation. When she’s done, Sierra stands back and admires it. In her humble opinion, this is the best blackberry lavender cake she’s ever made. And it’s a good thing, too; Delia Jansen will arrive at the bakery bright and early tomorrow morning to pick it up. Mrs. Jansen isn’t the type to tolerate mistakes of any kind. Sierra boxes the gorgeous creation and puts it in the fridge. She takes off her apron and tries in vain to brush away the flour that’s…everywhere. As she cleans the kitchen, she thinks about the long, hot soak in the tub that awaits her at home.
This week has been insane, but Sierra saw it coming. It’s Christmas eve; everyone is scrambling to get their last-minute shopping done, including prepping for Christmas dinner. Unfortunately, Christmas dessert almost always gets lost in the shuffle. By the time folks remember it, it’s usually too late. That’s where she comes in. Sierra’s Delectable Desserts is the only bakery in town taking orders up until today. She’s not totally crazy, though; she plans to take Christmas day off. After she gives Mrs. Jansen her dessert, she’s going to relax at home, have some wine, and spend the day watching slasher movies.
For years, the holidays were divided between her family and her ex-husband Bryon’s family. They’d spend Thanksgiving with her parents and Christmas with his. Now that they’ve split, this will be the first Christmas Sierra will spend alone. She lied and told her family she was spending it with friends. The truth is, the bakery is her biggest priority, so she doesn’t have much time for friends. Besides, most of them only want to talk about the divorce, and she’s over talking about it. Every time she sees her friends, they recite the same things; “girl, I just saw Byron, and he looks good, but I could tell he was a mess over losing you.”
If he’s so much of a mess, why did he leave in the first place? Even worse, her former mother-in-law reached out and insisted Sierra still come by. There was no motherfucking way she was going out like that. She could go to her sister’s house, but will the guests being married with kids, it would quickly turn into “The Poor, Lonely Sierra Show” followed by “Let’s Find Her a Man.” Knowing Celeste, the minute Sierra agrees to stop by, she’ll have a laundry list of desserts she just needs. Sierra isn’t baking another thing until after Christmas. With neither Sierra nor Celeste coming home for the holidays, her parents booked a well-deserved trip to Tahiti.
There are worse things than being alone at Christmas. Truthfully, Sierra’s relieved she doesn’t have to sit through another Duncan family gathering. Byron’s uncle Zeke always said the prayer, and lord have mercy, that man’s prayers lasted twenty minutes. If God himself had been in attendance, even he would have asked Zeke to wrap it up so they could eat. She lets out a sigh as she walks to her car. She mentally goes over her endless to-do list
- Check email and phones for more orders
- Do inventory
- Shop for ingredients, especially edible confetti, vanilla, and organic eggs.
Those are the three most important things. Lots of folks will submit orders for New Year’s Eve parties. Last year, her New Year’s confetti cake sold like crazy. So she needs to be ready for an onslaught of orders. Preparation for the holiday season started in June for her, but one can never be too careful.
Sierra’s so deep in thought that she doesn’t hear someone calling her name until he’s directly behind her.
“Sierra!” A resounding voice calls out to her.
She jumps and screams, “Holy shit balls! Jesus, what the fuck?” She turns to face her mystery man, who’s smiling with his hands raised in surrender.
“That was one hell of a reaction,” he says.
Sierra’s terror turns to surprise. This isn’t a mystery man. Crispin Thomas? Though she hasn’t spoken to him in nine years, she knows him. They were good friends, and she secretly lusted after him throughout high school. Goddamn, he’s still fine as hell. Scratch that; he is fine as all get out.
Crispin is six-foot-three inches of smooth, tawny skin. In high school, he had a body that would make a superhero jealous. By the way he fills out those jeans and sweater, some things haven’t changed. That winter coat ain’t hiding shit. Then there’s the smile. The megawattage from Crispin’s smile could light up Times Square. Sierra reminds herself that she and Crispin are adults.
“What are you doing here?” She asks after catching her breath.
“It’s Christmas time. I’m visiting my family.”
“No, I mean, what are you doing in this parking lot, almost making me piss myself?”
“Oh, right.” He chuckles. “I was assigned the task of picking up the desserts for Christmas dinner, but I had to deal with some work stuff and totally forgot.”
“And your mom didn’t remind you?” Sierra replies, suspicion dripping from her tone.
Sierra knows Ms. Dorothy Thomas; when they were younger, she constantly reminded Crispin and Sierra about things. Shit, that woman still checks on Sierra and reminds her not to miss whatever sale happens at Goodman’s Grocers.
“Okay, so the bakery owner did call my mom, and my mom did remind me several times, but I kept putting it off. I went by the bakery tonight, and there was a sign saying the owner left for vacation and won’t be back until January second.”
“How did you know I even owned a bakery?”
“I looked up nearby bakeries. Not only is yours still open, but you have a lot of five-star reviews.”
“Oh.” Sierra’s a little disappointed. She hoped Crispin had been checking her social media over the years like she did with him. Sierra has kept up with all of Crispin’s accomplishments over the years. Even though they’re no longer friends, he’s never been far from her thoughts.
“Please, Sierra. I need you.”