He's a lonely man who hates Christmas. She's a struggling single mom. As they rediscover the magic of the holiday, will they also find love?
Christmas hasn't been the same for Allison Voss since losing her husband, but she's determined to make it merry for her daughters' sake. But she's between jobs and simply managing day to day is a struggle—until a stranger's act of kindness changes everything.
Ward Haysgard is not a fan of Christmas. He's seen plenty of greed and selfishness and not much good will toward men. But Allison's plight moves him to help her. As he gets to know her and her girls, they work their way into his heart. A heart he thought had hardened long ago.
As the holiday approaches, will the emergence of an old secret threaten their growing closeness? Or will they finally discover what makes Christmas real?
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She was chewing her sandwich when the door opened again. Ward Haysgard walked in, stopping momentarily when he spotted Allison. "Mrs. Voss. Hello."
She quickly gulped her mouthful. "Hello, Mr. Haysgard." Their paths didn't cross too often. Though his main office was here in the Applewood location, as District Manager he spent a lot of time visiting other area stores in the Sullivan's chain.
"Please don't let me interrupt your lunch," he said.
"Not at all. I'm just…" she gestured to an empty chair. "Would you like to join me?"
"Thanks, but I'm trying to get some work done at my desk. I just came in to get a soda."
She flushed. What was she thinking? Managers didn't eat with lowly sales associates. "Of course."
She took another bite of her sandwich as he strode to the vending machine. Chewing slowly, she found her eyes drawn to him as he perused the drink selection. She hadn't noticed his looks the night they met—it had been dark and she'd been distracted. But here in the brightly lit break room, only a few feet away from her…man, he looked good.
Not in a movie star, too pretty, way. His features weren't perfect enough for that. His forehead was too broad, his nose too large. His brown hair was smoothed back in a businesslike style, but a wave fell over his forehead as though saying You can try to control me, but I'm going to do my own thing. His suit jacket was slightly rumpled as though he'd been sitting in it too long, and his tie hung a bit askew. Those small imperfections only made him more real, more attractive.
He fed a dollar into the machine and looked her way. "How are things going here for you?"
Mortified that he'd caught her staring, she glanced away, her face aflame. "Fine, thank you. Very well." She cleared her throat of sticky peanut butter. "I can't thank you enough for your help."
"I just pointed the way. You got the job on your own." Drink in hand, he paused at her table. "How are your daughters?'
"They're fine. Doing well, thanks." She re-wrapped her sandwich in the waxed paper. Peanut butter and jelly made a cheap and filling lunch, but she was embarrassed to be eating it in front of a manager. It was the kind of meal a child would eat.
He noticed her surreptitiously edging her sandwich aside. His eyes darkened. "I'm keeping you from your meal."
"No, please, not at all—" why was she so flustered and fumbling? Was it because he was her boss? Because he was so good looking? Or that he'd mentioned being a bachelor? Come on, Allison, what difference does it make? It's not like you're on the market.
He nodded at the sandwich she'd tried to hide. "Whatever you have there, it looks good."
"It's only peanut butter and jelly. I'm sure whatever you have waiting at your desk is much more enticing."
His mouth twisted into a half-smile. "You mean the bag of stale pretzels I found at the back of my desk drawer?"
She frowned. "Stale pretzels? That doesn't sound very healthy. Or appetizing."
"They're not. And they get stuck half-way down." He thumped his chest with his fist and grinned. "That's what the soda's for. To help ease the way."
His humor emboldened her. "Well, in that case…" unfolding the waxed paper, she slid the sandwich his way, stifling a giggle. "Would you care for half?"
A light danced in his warm brown eyes as though he enjoyed her teasing. "As a matter of fact, yes I would." He picked up the untouched half of the sandwich and took a big bite.
Her mouth fell open in surprise. She never dreamed he'd take her up on the offer.
"Very tasty," he announced once he'd chewed and swallowed. "What's in it? Strawberry jam?"
She blinked. "Uh, raspberry."
"Raspberry. Of course. Much better than pretzels." After setting the remainder down, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his wallet. "But you have to let me contribute something to the feast." He walked over to the snack machine.
"Oh, no, that's not—"
"I insist." He peered at the offerings featured in the plastic windows. "Now, what's in here that's not too unhealthy?"
He settled on a package of fish shaped cheese flavored crackers, fig filled cookies, beef jerky and fruit rollups.
"Oh, that's too much," she exclaimed when he deposited all the goodies on the table.
"Not at all. This is much nicer than pretzels at my desk." He sat down next to her and finished off his part of the sandwich while she nibbled at hers. His nearness only made her more aware of his good looks. Her heart hammered and her appetite vanished.