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Jennifer Youngblood

Rewriting Christmas

Rewriting Christmas

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📚Read an Excerpt

“You sure you don’t need my help?”

“I’m all right.” Her stubbornness was going to be the death of her. 

He shrugged. “Okay. Suit yourself.” 

Her heart sank when he turned to go back inside. She gritted her teeth thinking that if she had to, she’d crawl back to the steps. 

He turned back around. “Just teasing.” 

His dark hair was spiky on top, giving him a tousled reckless look. Sheesh! He was handsome with his prominent cheekbones and chiseled features. Add to that combination his piercing blue eyes, and he was irresistible. No, not anymore. She had to summon the strength to resist him. She and Gunner lived in two different worlds. He’d hurt her once and would do it again if she let him. 

Clutching the handrail, he came down the steps and made his way towards her. He lost traction, his arms waving wildly before he regained his balance. Cautiously, he moved a few more steps in her direction. She held her breath, watching. Slowly, he made his way toward her. When he got a couple feet away he flashed a grin, and she caught that familiar reckless glint in his eyes that had first stolen her heart. He skidded the remaining distance, hitting into the car as he caught himself to keep from falling. 

She laughed despite herself. “You’re going to help me? From the looks of things, I should be helping you.” How easy it was to slip back into their easy banter, to pretend that nothing had changed.

He turned around and leaned against the car, flashing a boyish grin that sent her insides into a tailspin. “In those shoes? I hardly think so.” 

“My shoes are perfectly fine,” she countered as she shoved him, almost knocking him down.

“Hey,” he protested. He gave her a sidelong glance. “You look good, Kinsley.”

The compliment blind-sided her. She should’ve been appalled, but was strangely pleased. “Thanks,” she finally said. “You look good too,” she admitted. Too good. The instant the words left her mouth, she regretted saying them. Great! Now Gunner would think she still had a thing for him. 

“Me?” he asked innocently. He cocked a lopsided grin as he looked down. “In this old thang. Aw, shucks, I’m not much.”

She rolled her eyes. “It was a polite compliment. Don’t let it give you a big head.”

“Nah. No chance of that happening with you around, cutting me down to size.”

She blinked a few times, unsure how to respond.
Gunner folded his arms, his tone going nostalgic. “Remember when we used to come out here and play freeze-out?”

She chuckled. “Those were the days. You wouldn’t go inside even when you turned into a popsicle. Your toes were so blue that Mama was afraid you were frostbitten.” Things had been simpler then, before the pain and fighting. When she and Gunner broke up, she not only lost her boyfriend but her best friend. She rubbed her arms. “Speaking of which.”

“Yep, it’s colder than Scrooge’s heart out here.” Gunner blew out a long breath, watching it turn to a puff of smoke against the frigid air. Something else they used to do. Kinsley did the same. 

“My puff was bigger than yours,” Gunner bragged.
Her eyes narrowed. “Was not.” They both tried again. Gunner’s puff was bigger, but no way was Kinsley going to admit it. 

Gunner looked her over. “You’re freezing.” A glint of mischief streaked through his eyes. “Would you like for me to keep you warm?”

The bubbles of attraction that rose in her took Kinsley off guard. “No!” she said more forcefully than the situation warranted.

Gunner let out a hearty laugh. “Well, in that case. I’d guess we’d better head in before we turn into popsicles.” His lips formed a determined line. “Let’s do this.”

She chuckled, surprised at how fast her animosity against him was fading. “All right. Here we go.”

He took hold of her arm as they moved forward a few paces. “Easy does it,” Gunner warned. They made it to the steps before Kinsley’s feet slipped out beneath her. She let out a cry as she went down, taking Gunner with her. 

It registered in her mind that Gunner had fallen on top of her. She became aware of Gunner’s weight and his warmth as opposed to the cold, wet concrete against her back. Light from the front porch reflected against Gunner’s strong jaw as he gazed down at her. Time seemed to slow as the past collided with the present. Gunner was so close she could feel his warm breath on her face. Her heart pounded wildly as she looked at his lips, wondering if he’d kiss her. If he did, she didn’t know if she’d have the strength to resist him. A teasing glint touched his eyes. “This is a mighty interesting situation,” he drawled.

Laughter gurgled in Kinsley’s throat as she instantly caught the reference. Jimmy Stewart from It’s a Wonderful Life. Gunner used to say that all the time when they were teenagers. His weight pressed on her chest. “Maybe you should get up so I can breathe,” she squeaked.

“Nah. I kinda like this spot.” 

Her breath hitched when he touched her hair. “I’ve missed you,” he uttered.

Confusion swirled inside her as she went stiff. “Gunner, we can’t do this.”

His eyes held disappointment. “That’s too bad,” he said softly. He glanced toward the far end of the porch. “We could always go over there under the mistletoe.” A smile played on his lips. “Although I might be taking my life into my own hands.” 

She grunted. The last time they were under the mistletoe didn’t end so well. 

The front door opened. “What in the heck is going on out here?” her mama exclaimed.

Kinsley’s face flamed despite the cold. Gunner moved off her and stood, offering his hand. Kinsley took it, getting to her feet. “It’s not what it looks like,” Kinsley said quickly, seeing her mama’s shocked expression. She wiped the ice and snow off the back of her jeans. “Gunner was helping me across the ice and we both fell.” 

Her mama’s hand went to her hip. “Uh, huh.” She gave Kinsley a sharp look. “I don’t know what they’re teaching you in New York City, but here in the South, we ladies take things a little slower.”

Can a Christmas rewrite bring two broken hearts back together? Find out in this touching and tender novella by USA Today Bestselling Author Jennifer Youngblood.

After a bad breakup with her boyfriend Gunner, playwright Kinsley Preston has avoided going home for Christmas for five long years. She has no intention of going home this Christmas but then gets the extraordinary opportunity to meet with an elusive author about turning adapting a worldwide bestselling book into a play. The only snag? The meeting is to take place in Kinsley’s home town over the Christmas break.

Kinsley never expects to come face-to-face with Gunner the minute she gets home, and she certainly doesn’t anticipate slipping on ice and taking him with her where she finds herself gazing like an idiot into his piercing blue eyes. No way is Kinsley going to fall for him again! Gunner broke her heart and she swears she’ll never forgive him!

Will Kinsley obtain her lifelong goal of writing a play for Broadway, or will she end up rewriting her heart instead?

Read the First Chapter

Just a little farther. Kinsley tightened her hold on the steering wheel as she strained to see through the dizzying barrage of snow pelting the windshield like meteorites. The methodical swishing of the wiper blades had a hypnotic effect, making her feel like she was suspended in time. It was her second day on the road. The night before, she’d stopped at a roadside hotel but hardly got a wink of sleep, probably because she was so keyed up about the meeting.

She grunted. Who was she kidding? It wasn’t the meeting she worried about, but the infernal Gunner Douglas! For the past five years, since their breakup, she’d been able to avoid Gunner. Now, here she was going into the lion’s den, right at the very time she most wished to avoid! The goal was to get in and out of town without seeing his wretchedly handsome face. She squelched the image of Gunner’s piercing blue eyes and cocky grin that flashed through her mind.

The closer she got to Remember, the more intense the pang in her gut grew. No! She couldn’t allow herself to think about Gunner and how in love with him she’d been. How he’d broken her heart into a million pieces when he married her high school nemesis Carol Ann. The marriage lasted one month. Until Gunner discovered Carol Ann was having an affair with her boss. Kinsley had tried to warn Gunner before the marriage, but he didn’t have sense enough to listen. Stupid man!

Kinsley was glad it was dark, so she couldn’t see the picturesque town. She didn’t need to see it to know that the Victorian style homes decked out with Christmas trimmings were a vision in the iridescent blanket of snow. She puckered her lips, a sour expression overtaking her face. Before he’d ended up with Carol Ann, Gunner had chosen the town over her, and Kinsley had built up a mountain of resentment against it ever since. Add a blizzard into the mix and that resentment multiplied exponentially. She should be lounging in her apartment right now, wearing her favorite fuzzy socks and sipping hot chocolate, instead of out here on the road driving a snail’s pace through the treacherous snow. 

Her phone rang. She grabbed it from the console and put it to her ear. “Hello.”

“How’s it going?” Cassidy began.

“I’m caught in a blizzard,” Kinsley huffed, “that’s how it’s going.” When she’d left the hotel this morning it had been drizzling. According to the weather report she’d watched, while wolfing down a bowl of cereal, it was only supposed to rain. Well, so much for that prediction!

Concern tinged Cassidy’s voice. “Are you okay?”

Kinsley sighed heavily. No, she wasn’t okay. The last thing she wanted to do was go back to Remember, North Carolina for Christmas. “So far.”

“How far are you from home?”

“About a day and a half,” she said tartly.

Cassidy instantly picked up on her sarcasm. “I don’t mean New York, I mean Remember. How long until you get to your parents’ house?”

She let out a heavy breath. “I should be there in less than five minutes.” Despite her frustration over coming home for Christmas, Kinsley was a little excited to see her parents and her younger sister and her family. She just wanted to avoid Gunner Douglas at all costs!

“Oh, good,” Cassidy gushed in relief. 

“Any news about the meeting?” When she’d left New York City, all Kinsley knew was that A. G. Wells the elusive, worldwide bestselling author had agreed to a meeting. She and her agent, Cassidy, had been trying in vain for six months to reach the author. Truthfully, the two of them had given up hope of ever succeeding. A. G. Wells was such a mysterious figure that no one knew if the author was a man or woman. No one knew anything about A. G. Wells. Then, out of the blue, Cassidy had received a call from A. G. Well’s agent saying the author had agreed to a meeting. If that weren’t shocking enough, the agent announced that the meeting would be held in Kinsley’s hometown of Remember, North Carolina. 

“Yes, the meeting will be held tomorrow at The Magnolia Blossom Inn.”

“Okay.” This was getting stranger and stranger. “I expected the meeting to be at A. G. Well’s home. Do you think the author lives near Remember?”

“Yeah, I would assume so. Maybe A. G. Wells wants to meet somewhere neutral. She may not want anyone to know where she lives.”

Kinsley tightened her hold on the phone. “So, the author’s a woman?”

“Or a man, I don’t know. I just assumed …” Excitement crackled in Cassidy’s voice. “If you can get her to let you adapt Stolen Moments into a play script, you’ll be a shoe-in for Broadway.”

“Yeah, and while we’re dreaming, we can add winning a Tony Award to the list,” Kinsley said dryly. 

“Hey, don’t be so negative. It can happen.” Cassidy’s voice took on the tone of recitation. “‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’”

Kinsley smiled, hearing her favorite Thoreau quote. A tiny flicker of hope licked at her stomach. “Do you really think I can convince A. G. Wells to let me write the play?”

Cassidy chuckled. “Well, if tenacity has anything to do with it, I’d say your chances are pretty good. This could be the break we’ve been waiting for.”

Kinsley had written several plays for off-Broadway productions. Her two most recent ones received mixed reviews. The literary manager of the Cherry Tree Theatre, where the plays were produced, informed Cassidy two weeks ago that the only way they’d consider picking up another of her plays was if she wrote something guaranteed for success. She needed a win! Her rent in SoHo wasn’t cheap. She’d almost exhausted her funds. If she didn’t get another play soon, she’d have to get a regular job. The plan was to persuade A. G. Wells to let Kinsley adapt the famed book Stolen Moments into a play. That would be the golden ticket to success. 

As Kinsley pulled into her parent’s driveway, her phone dinged signaling another call. “I’ve gotta let you go. Fleming’s calling.”

Cassidy grunted. “I can’t believe you’re giving that idiot the time of day. I thought you ended things with him.”

Kinsley rolled her eyes. “Yes, I did. We’re not together.” Technically, she added mentally. Before she could say anything else, Cassidy interrupted her.

“Good! Count your lucky stars.”

Irritation crawled down Kinsley’s spine. “Why’re you always so critical of Fleming?” She turned off the engine and raked her hair out of her face. Her phone chimed again. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. I’ve gotta go. Talk to you tomorrow morning,” she said, ending the call. She clicked over, but had already lost Fleming’s call. Great! Before the impromptu meeting with A. G. Wells came up, Kinsley had agreed to spend Christmas with Fleming and his family in the Upper Eastside of Manhattan. Fleming was frustrated that she cancelled on him last minute, especially when she didn’t give a reason. Kinsley wanted to keep the meeting with A. G. Wells on the down low. At this point, she didn’t even know if anything would come of it. 

Hopefully, she’d go back to NYC with great news to report. If things went well with the meeting and Kinsley got the green light to write the play, Fleming would wet his pants. He’d beg her to let him direct it. Would she let him? She chewed on her inner jaw, mulling it over. Yeah, maybe … eventually, after she made him beg a little. She grinned at the thought. Contrary to Cassidy’s opinion, Fleming wasn’t a bad guy. Cassidy was just looking out for Kinsley as a best friend should. Six months ago, Fleming proposed to Kinsley. She told him she needed time to think things over. He got ticked and broke up with her, finding another girlfriend faster than Kinsley could sneeze. At first, she was ticked. However, it didn’t take Fleming long to realize the error of his ways. For the past two months he’d begged Kinsley to take him back. They’d gone out on a few dates, but Kinsley was still keeping him at arm’s length. Well, sort of. She did agree to spend Christmas with him. Now, those plans had gone down the toilet. 

Nervous jitters danced in Kinsley’s stomach as she looked at the white Victorian home with its large wrap-around porch and intricate trim. Some called it majestic, others quaint. For Kinsley, it had simply been home. Her gaze trailed up to the Christmas tree sitting prominently in the center of the turret on the right-hand section of the home. That was new. From this distance, the white lights resembled sparkling diamonds. The icicle lights hanging from the eaves, the large wreaths with red velvet ribbons on the windows had been a part of Kinsley’s mama’s décor for as long as Kinsley could remember. Her eyes went to the swing on the left. Her throat tightened as she swallowed. It was that fateful spot where she had her last face-to-face conversation with Gunner. Had Mama hung mistletoe this year? Probably. She’d been hanging it near the swing for years. 

Wanting to distract herself from thinking of Gunner, Kinsley thought about calling Fleming back, but the front door opened and Kinsley’s mama Sue Ellen stepped out. Her eyes reflected pure joy when they connected with Kinsley’s. A pang of guilt stabbed through Kinsley. For years, her mama had begged her to come for Christmas, but the thoughts of doing so were too painful. Now, here she was, lured by personal gain rather than home. She needed a shot at writing this play! 

Kinsley got out of the car, pushing her purse strap over her shoulder. “Hey, Mama,” she said as she came up the walkway. Her feet slipped a little. It was getting slick out here. Snowflakes circled around her, landing on her face.

Sue Ellen burst into tears as Kinsley got to the top of the steps. She flung her arms around Kinsley. “I’m so glad you’re home!”

The familiar scent of her mama’s perfume, mingled with the faint odor of baby powder, peeled the years away. For an instant, Kinsley felt like she’d never left. 

Her mama pulled away and suppressed a shiver. “Oosh! It’s freezing out here. Let’s go in the house.”

Kinsley jutted her thumb to the car. “I’ve gotta get my luggage.”

“We’ll get your daddy to get it for you in a few minutes.”

When they stepped inside the foyer, Kinsley dusted off the snow. Glancing around she noted that everything looked nearly the same as it had when she’d left five years ago. She realized her mama was staring at her. “What?” Self-consciously, her hand went to her hair.

The corners of her mama’s lips turned down. “You look tired, honey. And a little thin.” Sue Ellen touched Kinsley’s hair. “Are you doing all right?”

Kinsley drew back from her reach. Really? Her mama was already starting in on the criticism? “You haven’t changed a bit, Mama. Always putting me under the microscope.” She didn’t try to hide the angst in her voice. 

Sue Ellen drew herself up to her full height, pulling at her sweater. “That’s not true.” Her eyes softened. “You look beautiful, as always. Just tired.”

“Thanks,” she replied automatically. “I am tired. I’ve been on the road for two days,” she grumbled. “The snow was awful.”

“I know. Lee and I have been worried sick about you.” 

Kinsley glanced around. “Speaking of Daddy. Where is he?”

“In the living room watching a football game with Hollis and the guys.”

Hollis was married to Kinsley’s younger sister Jolene. “Are Jolene and the girls here?”

“No, just Hollis. Jolene wanted to be here, but August had dance practice tonight.”

Kinsley wrinkled her nose as she removed her coat and hung it on the rack beside the front door. “Shoot. I was hoping they’d be here. I wanted to see the girls.” Kinsley had missed seeing her nieces August and Tara. 

“They’ll be here tomorrow. You won’t believe how much they’ve grown.” Sue Ellen’s eyebrow arched. “Of course, it has been five years since you’ve seen them.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m a lousy aunt.” The comment was met with a stilted silence that cut to the bone. Her mama wasn’t going to let her squirm off the hook easily. “I’m sorry, Mama. Work has just been so crazy that it’s been hard to find the time to get off.” Her voice dribbled off, the words sounding lame even to her own ears. They both knew the reason why Kinsley had avoided coming home, but Kinsley wasn’t going to voice it. 

She adjusted her sweater, fluffing her hair. She was sure she looked like crap. A good night’s sleep would do her wonders.

“Come on in and say hello to the guys.”

That’s right. Mama had mentioned guys before, but she’d not caught it because she was focused on her nieces. “What guys?” The last thing she wanted to do tonight was to have to make small talk with her dad and Hollis’s buddies.

Sue Ellen touched her arm, giving her a reassuring smile. “Oh, don’t worry. It’ll be perfectly fine.”

Was it her imagination or did she detect a note of tension in her mama’s voice? Her mama took her by the arm and pulled her down the hall. “Everyone will be so glad to see you.”

“Everyone?” Kinsley didn’t like the sound of this, not at all! Even as her mind worked to figure out who was here, her mama practically pushed her into the family room, the words bubbling out like frothy soap suds. “Look who’s here.”

Kinsley’s daddy rose from his recliner and crossed the distance between them in two large steps before embracing her in a bear hug. “Hey, darling. Welcome home,” he said heartily. The scent of Old Spice permeated her senses, taking her right back to her childhood. She’d always felt so protected in her daddy’s strong arms. He pulled back, assessing her, a broad smile filling his craggy face. “Beautiful as always, just like your mama,” he proclaimed.
“Thanks, Daddy.”

He turned and in a booming voice announced the obvious. “Hey, everybody. Look who’s home.”

Kinsley did a quick scope of the room—three guys sitting on the couch, their feet kicked up on the coffee table. On the left was her brother-in-law Hollis. Claude Billings her daddy’s closest friend and the owner of the local hardware store was in the middle. Her heart nearly stopped when she locked gazes with the guy on the far right. Her hand went to her chest as she clutched her sweater, finding herself staring into the same piercing Nordic blue eyes she’d spent the past five years trying to forget.

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