What a difference One Christmas makes…
All Irene wants this year is to have a peaceful celebration with family and the new man in her life. If only her arrogant ex-husband, Dean, could stop popping up when she least expects it.
Meanwhile, Irene’s adult children, Anthony, Gloria, and Jake, as well as her nephew, Christopher, are all caught in their own webs of romance and heartache.
Anthony seeks to warm the lonely heart of Ava, the mysterious barista in his mother’s coffee shop. Only she’s completely sworn off romance.
Gloria is determined to bring holiday cheer to her brooding neighbor, Lucas, and convinces him to be her fake boyfriend so she can make him see the light.
Jake thinks he’s found a woman he could finally commit to and works hard to gain the trust of her guarded young daughter, Josephine. Only he’s taken by surprise by a secret admirer.
As for Christopher, he tries to fight the attraction he feels to Jake’s girlfriend, a woman he let slip away years ago.
Everyone’s set to meet at Irene’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner, where sparks are sure to fly. But with a little bit of the season’s magic, this Christmas might become one they will never forget.
Reviews of One Christmas
"Before you begin this book, grab a big box of tissues. The characters are people you know and care about from the first words you read. Their stories touch your heart. So much love and so much pain mixed with the spirit of the season and many tears make this the perfect book for a cozy read with your favorite beverage. I highly recommend [One Christmas], it is worth a re-read."
— Carla W.
"Love and heart-breaks are in the air as young and old find out they aren't with the ppl who really love them for who they really are..."
"If you love a good romance this is a book for you! Can’t say you won’t shed a tear but it is worth it!"
"All I can say is "Wow"...you felt a deep connection to each one as they journey to find true love."
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Seven days before Christmas Eve
It’s intriguing how one Christmas can sprinkle its magic onto someone’s life and take them down a path they didn’t expect.
That one particular Christmas, all I wanted was to go through the holiday season without any unexpected disturbance. All I wanted was to bask in moments with the new man in my life and celebrate in peace with my three adult children—Anthony, Gloria, and Jake.
That did not exactly happen the way I had wished.
That night, I was on a date with my one-month-and-a-half boyfriend, Robert Rowland.
I grasped his hand—“Oh, Robert,”—and caressed his skin with the pads of my fingers. “It feels so good having such a peaceful dinner for a change.” I scrunched my nose, “I rarely experienced that with my full-of-himself ex-husband.”
“I must admit”—he released a sigh, sliding his hand through his short, salt-and-pepper hair—“it’s such a relief that your ex-husband won’t be here at Christmas.”
The evening was going perfectly well. We were sipping Chardonnay, kissing, and had just finished the entrée—baked potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and scallops with a creamy sauce.
As a tradition, I would host Christmas Eve dinner, as well as Christmas lunch. Robert would be my guest of honor, meeting my children for the very first time. Needless to say, I didn’t invite Dean, my ex-husband, and my children supported my decision. I hadn’t seen him once since the divorce and didn’t plan on doing so anytime soon.
Because of Dean, the beginning of the year had been quite tough, with the separation and then the divorce. Over the last few months, I had often wondered why my life had crumbled so easily. Was it because I had fallen in love with the wrong partner for so many years, or was it because I was not good enough for him? I’d convinced myself that it must have been the latter because, together, we had three wonderful children, and my life would have never been the same without them.
But Robert’s soothing presence made it seem like just a bad memory now. He was exactly what I needed, and I could already see myself spending the rest of my life with him.
“I have a little gift for you,” I said, exhilarated to show it to him.
I headed to the bookcase lining the wall in the living room and grabbed a little box wrapped in paper from one of the shelves.
“It’s not your official Christmas gift,” I sat back down at the dinner table that overlooked the terrace and handed it to him. “It’s something I want you to have.”
He tore off the paper and removed the lid of the small box.
“Oh, wow, Irene, is it…” he trailed off, the corner of his lips turning up.
“Yes, it is the key to my home,” I confirmed, ready to take our relationship to the next level.
His face illuminated, and he gave me a kiss on the lips. “Thank you so much, Irene. You have no idea how much it means to me.”
Feeling happy as can be, I started cutting the homemade chocolate cake and placed two slices on small plates, while Robert’s tongue wet his lips in anticipation.
The doorbell suddenly rang. That’s odd. I’m not expecting anybody else tonight.
“I won’t be long.” I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
I went to answer the door. I was on a fluffy cloud, thanks to Robert. I must have looked like a teenage girl who had a big crush on a boy and couldn’t stop smiling.
Well, as soon as I pulled the door open, the smile on my face faded instantly. My ex-husband stood in the doorway, holding a large bouquet of red roses.
“Hi, Irene,” he chirped, grinning like an idiot. “These are for you.”
He extended the flowers. I ignored them, folding my arms against my waist.
“Did you get lost?” I asked.
“Never when the road leads to you.” His lips curved into a nauseating smirk.
My gaze flicked upward in disbelief, completely immune to his smooth-talking that had worked on me in the past. What a fool I had been!
And knowing how easily he had ripped apart the relationship we spent so many years forging, that bouquet meant he needed something from me.
He scratched at his stubble. “My Christmas invitation did get lost, though.”
There it is.
“Oh, it didn’t get lost.” Dean would be the very last person I would invite.
He pinched his lips together in what I could only imagine was displeasure. “Is this your way of getting back at me?”
I scoffed at his insinuation. “I have way better things to do than to waste another minute of time on you, Dean.”
He slid inside the apartment.
“Dean!” I shouted, grabbing his arm to force him out. “Do not come in here!”
He didn’t budge, and my outburst was futile. He crossed the living room, passed by the black piano, and stopped dead when he saw Robert seated at the candlelit dinner table.
A hint of disappointment I didn’t comprehend flared in his eyes. Dean marched toward the dinner table.
“Well, well. You got a date?” His tongue was heavy with arrogance. “Candlelight dinner. You do mean business with that guy.”
“You need to leave, Dean!”
He paused and stared at me for much too long, his signature smirk appearing on his face. “You really do have terrific taste in men.”
“Except with you,” I shot back, erasing the conceited smile on his face.
He set the flowers on the table and faced my boyfriend. “Who are you?”
“Hi, I’m Robert.” He stood up and shook hands with my ex.
“Dean,” he replied, casually unbuttoning his coat as if he were welcome and planned on staying.
Exasperation unfurled through me. “What are you doing, Dean?”
He ignored me and focused on Robert. “Can you believe she won’t even let me spend time with my kids on Christmas?”
“Robert doesn’t want to chat with you,” I stated, expecting him to take the hint and leave.
Robert readjusted his rectangular glasses. “Irene’s doing the Christmas Eve dinner and lunch on Christmas Day. You could see your children after that, for dinner on Christmas Day.”
His calmness and mediation skills blew me away.
Dean groaned. “They won’t be hungry after Irene’s meal on Christmas Day. She always makes food for a hundred people, even if there are only ten people to feed.”
Dean had always stretched the truth regarding my food, but he had always been the one who ate three servings of it. I knew right then and there that Dean had already taken too much of my time.
“Now that it’s settled, and you know the schedule”—my voice started as calm as can be, then rose—“it’s high time you leave!”
“I’ll leave when I have an official invitation.”
My hands flew to Dean’s coat and re-fastened the buttons. “That’s not gonna happen.”
I glowered at him, giving the clear message that I was not in the mood for his childish demands and would not back down.
Sulking, Dean grabbed one of our chocolate slices of cake.
Not on my watch, prick!
I snatched the cake from his hands. “You do not get to eat our cake!”
Dean was turning my peaceful and romantic date into a circus. He brought me to the verge of exploding with anger.
He put the plate back on the table, grimacing.
Robert joined his hands, almost as if in prayer, but likely more to keep from using them to escort my ex from my home.
“Dean, I think you should be reasonable and respect Irene’s wishes.”
I smiled at Robert for standing up for me.
Dean shot him a dirty look. “You should stay out of this if you don’t want a taste of my fist in your face.”
Robert’s eyebrows shot up with quiet nervousness over his glasses. “That won’t be necessary.”
That was the last straw.
I threatened Dean with a pointed finger. “You get out of my home, right now!”
Robert pressed his palm on my shoulder. “Listen, I better leave you two to handle this alone. I’ll see you on Christmas Eve anyway.”
Dean’s face turned white. “I beg your pardon?”
He took off his coat in a flash, his limbs moving like an octopus having a panic attack.
My hands flew to my hips with fierce pride. “Indeed, Dean, Robert’s invited.”
He glared at me like I had offended him. “You invited a stranger to our Christmas celebration?”
“Robert’s not a stranger,” I remarked. “And there is no ‘ourChristmas celebration.’ You made sure of that, remember?”
“Fine,” Dean said, his hands up in surrender. Then, he sat down. “Robert, please, let’s chat.”
He motioned to the chair next to him. Robert followed his lead.
“What do you do?”
Robert cleared his throat. “I’m a business consultant. That is actually how I met Irene.”
“What’s your intention with Irene? Are you planning to marry her?”
“Um…” Robert stuttered.
“Not your damn business, Dean.” I spoke through gritted teeth.
I looked back at Robert. He was grabbing his gift box and placing it in his pants pocket.
“You’re not going now, Robert! Dean’s the one who’s leaving.”
My boyfriend pulled me aside and put his hands on my shoulders. “I think you both need to straighten some things out.”
He was careful with each word he uttered as if he was afraid I would fly off the handle.
“There’s absolutely nothing more I need to straighten out with this… man,” I said while pulling Robert’s gift out of his pocket and setting it back on the table.
I convinced him to stay; he sat quietly on the arm of the couch.
All of a sudden, I realized that Dean hadn’t said a word and instead heard the tines of a fork hitting a dish. I spun around.
Dean was eating my cake!
I grabbed the plate with the remainder of the cake from his hands. It slipped and flew across the room, landing on the wooden floor, splattering chocolate everywhere.
“Irene!” Dean pouted like a baby. He looked down at the mess. “I’m not cleaning that up. That was your fault.”
I crouched down to clean the mess.
“Always making trouble.” I muttered.
I stood back up and looked around. “Robert left!”
Dean shrugged, eating another piece of my cake. “You have a choice, Irene. It’s either you invite me, or I crash your party. Either way, I’ll see you on Christmas Eve.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. My patience and tolerance for my ex-husband went to pieces. Not only had he crashed my beautiful date with Robert, but he scared him completely away. That was too much to abide.
In one swift move, I grabbed the cake and smashed it into his face. “Crash that.”
His body jerked, and he slowly wiped the cream from his face. “Does that mean I’m invited?”
I dragged him to the foyer.
“I never want to see you ever again,” I yelled, shutting the door on his nose.