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Authors: Richard Paul Evans

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BOOK: The Mistletoe Inn
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“Okay,” I said. “What's your phone number?”

“My phone number,” he repeated. “My phone number.” He pretended to look through his pockets. Then he said, “I seem to have misplaced it. Can I have yours?”

“Excuse me?” I said.

He just looked at me.

“Your phone number?” I repeated.

“It's 555-445-3989.”

I typed in the number. I hoped that the awkwardness had successfully dissuaded him but it hadn't. A few minutes later he said, “Your name is Kimberly?”


“May I call you Kim?”

“Yes, you may,” I said, continuing typing.

A beat later he asked, “What time?”

I looked up. “What time . . . what?”

“What time may I call you, Kim?”

I breathed out slowly. “Okay, Mr. Craig . . .”


“I'm flattered, Tim, but I'm not in the market right now, so you just hang on to those gems for some other lucky gal.”

He slightly blushed. “Sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” I said. “Now, if you'll just fill out your insurance information.”

He silently filled out the paperwork. When he finished he said, “Are you almost off work?”

I looked up from my computer.

“Because, if you are, I'll take you for a ride in my new car. Maybe we could go to dinner. Or

“Just a minute,” I said, standing. “May I get you some water?”

“I'm not thirsty.”

“I meant to cool you off.”

“No, I'm good,” he said.

“All right, I'll be right back.”

I walked into the employee break room and grabbed myself a ginger ale. My manager, Steve, was sitting at a table working on his iPad. Steve was a good guy, and one of my few real friends at the dealership.

“Just kill me now,” I said. “Please.”

“What's going on?”

“Mr. Beret is. He thinks the car should come with a dealer-installed woman.”

“That would increase sales,” Steve said. “I wonder if it's ever been done.”

“You're not being helpful.”

“Sorry. Is it the GX?”


“Wasn't that Rachelle's?”

“Was. She asked me to take it for her. She had a hot date.”

“Rachelle always has a hot date,” he said. “Want me to finish up for you?”

“No. I just needed someone to commiserate with.”

“Consider yourself co-commiserated.”


I started to walk back to my office when Steve said, “Just tell him you're not interested in dating.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“It didn't help?”


As I walked back to my office I thought,
Is that what everyone thinks about me?


There have been seasons of my life when rejection rained down. And then there have been typhoons.

Kimberly Rossi's Diary

In spite of the Denver traffic, my commute wasn't too bad. I was glad to get home. For once I had plans for the evening. I had a second date with Collin, a man I had met at the dealership. He wasn't buying a car—he was a vendor who sold tools to our service bay. I had gone to get a bottle of water from the waiting area and he was there drinking a coffee. He struck up a conversation by the coffeemaker, then asked me out.

I stopped by the Java Hut for a coffee, then headed home. I lived in a decent but inexpensive apartment complex in Thornton, about a half hour from the dealership. Walking into my apartment with my hands filled with my coffee, purse, and mail, I heard my phone chirp with a text message.

“You will have to wait,” I said to myself. I unlocked my door and went inside. I set down my coffee and mail, then dug through my purse for my phone. I lifted it to read the text message. It was from Collin.

Sorry. Something came up. Rain check? I'll call you.

I'm sure you will
, I thought. I sighed. I liked the guy. I felt like a rejection magnet.

I started looking through my mail. There was a letter from the Boulder County Clerk's office. I tore it open.


Kimberly Rossi,



Marcus Y. Stewart,


Case No.: 4453989


This matter came before the court on the seventh day of October 2012. It appears from the records and files of this action that a Complaint was filed and served upon the Defendant.

The rest of the letter was just typical legal jargon, which basically said over and over that we were over. However, the last line stopped me.

3. Name Change. Wife will retain the last name of Rossi.

Rossi again,
I thought.
Back to where I started.

The paper was dated and signed by the magistrate and judge. The formalities of our divorce had taken longer than I had expected, as Marcus had fought the divorce the whole way. He wasn't trying to keep me, he was trying to keep his money.

I don't know why the letter made our separation feel any more official—I hadn't seen Marcus for more than six months—but it did. He was a liar, a cheater, and he didn't love me. So why was I so sad?

I flipped through the rest of the mail. As a child, I had thought mail was something magical. There were handwritten letters, cards, and thank-you notes. Now it seemed to be nothing but circulars and junk mail—the physical equivalent of spam.

Then I saw a letter from a publisher.

“Please, please, please.” I tore open the envelope.

Monday, October 12, 2012

Dear Author,

They didn't use my name. Not a good sign.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your manuscript. We read it with interest. While there was much to like about your book, we regret we will not be making an offer of publication. We do not feel that we are the right publishing house to successfully publish your book.

Thank you for thinking of us, and we wish you every success in finding a publisher for your work.

Yours sincerely,

Sharlene Drexell

Strike three
. I sighed loudly. Actually, it was more of a groan. The universe must have conspired to bring me so much rejection at once. I was almost in a daze as I looked through the rest of the mail, which I did more out of habit than of interest.

That's when I saw the card for a writers' conference at the Mistletoe Inn.


There are people whom we've never met in person yet feel closer to than those we brush up against in real life.

Kimberly Rossi's Diary

I must be on a wannabe-writer list somewhere. Six years ago I attended a two-day writing seminar in San Francisco and ever since then I've gotten notices every month about the latest writing conference, seminar, retreat, or authors' workshop—a faucet I'd probably turn off if I had any idea where the spigot was. But this one looked interesting.



Bring Your Brand of Love to the Mistletoe Inn!

This Holiday Give Yourself a Once-in-a-Lifetime Christmas Gift.

Writing Workshops • Panel Discussions

Agent Pitch Sessions • Open Mic Readings


H. T. Cowell

December 10–17, 2012

$2,199 includes room / breakfast & lunch each day

What especially caught my eye was the name H. T. Cowell—and not just because his name was printed in type twice the size of everything else on the piece. Cowell had earned twenty-point type. You probably remember him, or at least his name. He was once the bestselling romance writer in America.

Actually he was one of the bestselling writers of any genre. He didn't just dominate the genre, he defined it. What Stephen King did for horror, Cowell did for romance. He's also the writer who made
want to be a writer. For years I read everything he wrote. And then, like the other men in my life, he was gone. The difference was, no one knew where he went.

Cowell, who was reclusive to begin with—his books didn't even have an author photo—was one of those literary-world enigmas like J. D. Salinger or E. M. Forster who, at the top of their game, disappeared into the shadowy ether of obscurity, like a literary version of Amelia Earhart.

Of course, that just made him more intriguing to his readers. The year he stopped writing was the same year Danny left me. I think, on some level, I had fallen in love with H. T. Cowell. Or at least the idea of him. I couldn't believe that after all this time he was coming out in public.

I looked over the advertisement, then set it apart from the rest of the mail. The event was pricey, at least for me, but it was, as advertised, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And right now I needed a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I needed
something to look forward to. Frankly, I needed something to live for. I looked over the advertisement again.

To book your space, call 555-2127. Or register online.

I made myself some ramen noodles for dinner, then was turning on
The Bachelor
when my phone rang. It was my father.

“Hey, Dad.”

Ciao, bella
. How are you?”

“I'm okay,” I said. “How are you?”

Bene, bene
.” He sounded tired. “I wanted to make sure you're still coming out for Thanksgiving.”

“Of course.”

“And Christmas?”

“That too.”

“Do you know what day you'll be here?”

“For Thanksgiving, Wednesday afternoon. I'm not sure about Christmas. What day is Christmas this year?”

“It's on a Tuesday.”

“I'll probably be out the Sunday before, if that's okay.”

“Great, but you might have to take a cab from the airport. There's a chance I might not be back until late Sunday night.”

“Where are you going?”

“A group of us are taking a Harley ride over to Albuquerque.”

“That sounds fun. Just be careful.”

“I always am.”

“You know, your Harley has two seats.”

“Are you inviting yourself?”

“I meant you might want to take a friend. A female friend.”

“Well, don't faint, but I've invited someone. I'm waiting for her to get back to me.”

This was a first. “Does this
have a name?”

“Alice. She works down at the VA. We've been spending some time together lately.”

“It's about time.”

“It's nothing serious,” he quickly added. “I'm not really looking for anything but a little companionship.”

“That's a good place to start.”

“How about you?” he asked. “Any new friends?”

“Nothing special.”

“No need to rush into anything. And I'm so glad you're coming out. We'll have a wonderful, relaxing time.”

“That sounds nice,” I said. “Nothing like the dry desert heat to warm your bones. Especially at Christmas.”

“Which reminds me. What do you want for Christmas?”

“I don't need anything,” I said.

“I didn't ask what you needed, I asked what you wanted. Besides, I'm just spending your inheritance anyway. You want it now or after I check out and taxes are higher?”

“I'd rather you not talk about ‘checking out.' You're going to live forever.”

“Ah, denial.” He was quiet a moment, then said softly, “We all check out sometime, baby.”

“Can we please not talk about this?”

“Sorry. So help me out here. What can I give you for Christmas? My mutual funds did well this year. I'd like to do something meaningful.”

BOOK: The Mistletoe Inn
10.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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