Crista Farrell lost her husband in an automobile accident eight months ago. Now ready to go on with her life, she returns to the place on Hood Canal in Washington to say goodbye to the love of her life.
Car trouble leads her to walk to a nearby cabin, where she meets Jeff Bower. Jeff has come to his cabin to be alone and think about the long relationship he just ended with his girlfriend. He didn't expect to find a damsel in distress on his doorstep. He also didn't expect to fall in love with her on first sight.
Sparks fly between the two lovers, yet Jeff is unsure of Crista's true feelings. Has she really fallen in love with him, or is she still trying to get over the loss of her husband?
Enter a tow truck driver who looks just like Santa Claus. With a little magic and a Christmas wish, Santa makes sure Crista and Jeff will have their happily ever after. After all, Christmas is about miracles.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from A Wish Granted by Lynn Lafleur
Crista Farrell folded her arms across the steering wheel and stared at the stormy water of Hood Canal. The line of snow-covered hills in the distance was the only thing that separated the gray water from the cloudy sky.
The colorless scenery fit her mood perfectly.
Crista leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes. She hated self-pity, and it had consumed her for the last eight months. She didn't know what to do to make it disappear from her life. Her sisters, Lindsey and Jade, had tried to cheer her up, and so had her friends. Nothing had worked to bring any happiness back into her life.
Despite trying to hold them back, tears filled her eyes. She was so tired of hurting. She tried to tell herself that there were so many people in the world a lot worse off than she. That knowledge didn't help her feel any better.
Tears trickled from her eyes and ran down her cheeks. Crista angrily swiped at them. Stop it! Joe is gone. No amount of tears will bring him back, no matter how much you want him back.
Her tears slowed, although they still clouded her vision. This had been a mistake. She'd driven here on impulse because she and Joe would've been married two years today. They had stood on the shore one year ago, only a few yards in front of where her car was now parked, and planned their future. They'd talked about the phenomenal success of her hair salon and the steady growth of his investment firm. They'd talked about shopping for a larger house, and when they would start a family.
Crista laid her hand on her flat abdomen. They'd decided to wait another year or two to start a family. She desperately wished they hadn't waited. If she had Joe's child growing inside her, a part of him would still be alive.
Would always be alive.
She wasn't supposed to be a widow at twenty-six. She and Joe were supposed to have a long life together. That life had been snatched away from her because some idiot had run a stop sign and plowed into Joe's car. He had died instantly and hadn't suffered. That knowledge gave her comfort.
It was the only comfort she'd had in eight months.
Light, fluffy flakes of snow began to fall. How appropriate for the first day of winter. Wrapping her coat tighter across her chest, Crista studied the flakes as they slowly accumulated on the windshield and hood of her car. Although she rarely watched the news because she'd grown tired of seeing nothing but bad things, she faithfully watched the weather every evening. She didn't remember any mention of snow in the weather forecast. While snow was always a possibility, December along Puget Sound usually meant rain.
When the snow completely obscured her vision through the windshield, Crista decided to leave. She turned the key in her Nissan's ignition. Nothing happened. She heard no sound, not even the grinding of a motor struggling to turn over. Frowning, Crista tried again. Still nothing. How odd. She never had trouble starting her car. Although four years old, it still ran perfectly.
One more time produced the same result. Crista rested her head on the steering wheel and sighed deeply. Great. Car trouble on top of self-pity. This is turning out to be a shitty day.
A shiver ran through her, an indication of how cold it had turned. She had to get out of here. Since her car wouldn't start, she had no option but to call Joe's brother, Gene, for help.
Crista reached for her purse and removed her wireless phone. The indicator showed no signal available, but she tried making a call anyway.
Okay, now what? I can't just sit here and wait for someone to come by and rescue me. There hasn't been one vehicle drive by here in the last hour.
Walking appeared to be her only choice.
Crista buttoned her coat and pulled the collar up in back to cover her neck. She dropped her wireless phone and keys into her purse, took a deep breath, and left the car.
The snow seemed to be falling harder now. Stuffing her hands in the pockets of her coat, Crista trudged up the incline to the road. Visibility became more difficult because of the falling snow and approaching dusk. Sunset would occur in less than an hour. She had to find help somewhere. Traffic could be heavy along Highway 101 in the summer, but very sparse in the winter, especially during a snowstorm. She knew there were houses along this road, as well as vacation cabins, although she doubted if anyone would be at their vacation cabin now, only four days before Christmas. People were gathering with their families, spending time with their loved ones at this most special time of the year.
Tears tightened Crista's throat. Jade had invited her to come to Florida, and Lindsey had also extended the invitation to visit her over Christmas. Crista had turned down both of them. She had to be here on her anniversary, in Washington, where she and Joe had spent their short life together.
Now, with the snow falling even harder and the sky turning darker, Crista wondered if she should've accepted one of their invitations.
She reached the highway and stopped. Left or right? Think, Crista. Did you see any houses or cabins?
No, she hadn't. That meant she should turn right, instead of the way she'd come.
Ten minutes of brisk walking made Crista thankful she used a treadmill regularly. Ten minutes more and she decided not even a treadmill could prepare her for walking in the biting cold. Her lungs burned. Her throat felt raw. Small pellets of ice now mixed with the snow and stung her cheeks. It didn't take a medical degree for her to know she had to find help, and quickly.
The approaching vehicle didn't register until a flash of headlights illuminated the highway before her. Crista turned and shielded her eyes from those lights. The vehicle slowed to a stop beside her.
A tow truck! Perfect.
She ran around the front of the truck to the driver's side. "Oh, I'm so glad to see you! My car..."
Crista stopped when the driver rested his arm on the frame and leaned out the window. He looked just like Santa Claus. He wore a Seattle Mariners baseball cap and a plaid flannel shirt instead of the normal red velvet. Otherwise, with his snowy white hair and full beard he could be Santa's twin brother.
He smiled. "Hi, little lady. Need some help?"
"Climb into the truck. No reason for you to stand out there in the snow."
"Thank you." She jogged back to the passenger side and climbed up on the bench seat. The warmth inside the truck made her shiver. She stuck her feet as close to the heater vent as she could get them. "My car broke down a mile or so back."
"The little Nissan parked by the water? I saw it when I drove by."
"Yes, that's it. Can you give me a jump, or tow me to a service station?"
He stroked his beard. "Well, that's a problem. This truck isn't exactly the newest model. My winch jammed on my last tow."
"What about jumper cables? Maybe it's just the battery."
"I lent my jumper cables to a friend last night. Do you have any?"
Crista could almost hear Joe yelling at her to keep her trunk supplied--especially with jumper cables--in case of an emergency. "No." She bit her bottom lip. "Can you call for another truck?"
"Well, that's another problem. There's no signal here for my cell phone, and my scanner's busted."
Some help you are, Crista thought. Immediately, she regretted her ungrateful thought. Surely, somehow, he could help her.
"I'm sorry I'm not more help," he said, "but I'll be glad to take you wherever you need to go. Maybe there's someone up the road a piece with a phone."
"I don't think there's anyone up here this time of year."
"It won't take long to find out. You need a few minutes in this warm truck anyway."
"The heat does feel good. Thank you."
He winked at her, then put the truck into gear.
Crista settled back in the surprisingly comfortable seat. She looked around the interior of the truck. She'd never been inside a tow truck so didn't know how they should look, but she'd describe this one as...comfy. Soft Christmas music came through the speakers. A cup sitting in a holder on the dash held what looked like hot chocolate. A plastic bag of homemade cookies sat on the seat next to the driver. All the comforts of home on wheels.
"What's your name, little lady?"
"Crista Farrell. And yours?"
"Folks call me S.C."
S.C. Short for Santa Claus, maybe?
Shaking her head, Crista chuckled to herself. If Lindsey were here, she'd believe this man was Santa. Lindsey believed in the magic of Christmas. She swore the ornaments that she'd inherited from Gram were magic.
Crista stopped believing in magic when her husband was taken away from her.
The truck jerked and spit. Crista instinctively grabbed the edge of the seat. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know. She's been acting up lately."
The truck jerked and spit again before the motor died. S.C. tried to start it once more. His effort produced nothing but a grinding sound.
"Well, this is embarrassing," S.C. said. "The tow truck driver needs a tow."
Crista didn't find his joke amusing. "Isn't there anything you can do?"
"I'll take a look under the hood, but it sounded pretty bad." He reached for his door handle, then stopped. "Looks like there's someone on this road after all."
Following the direction of his gaze, Crista squinted through the falling snow to see lights from a cabin.
"I'll walk up there and see if we can get some help," S.C. said.
"No, I'll go. You see if you can get your truck started."
S.C. hesitated, his hand still on the door handle. "I don't like the idea of a pretty young thing like you walking up to that cabin alone, and in the snow."
"I've already walked in the snow tonight. Walking a bit more won't hurt me. And I promise you, I can take care of myself. I have a black belt in Aikido. And if that isn't good enough..." Opening her purse, she withdrew a .22 caliber Jennings automatic and held it up for S.C. to see. "...I have this."
S.C.'s eyes widened. "I'm convinced."