A Pine Creek Holiday
A Pine Creek Holiday
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- Single Parent
- Grumpy vs Sunshine
This cowboy would never be accused of being full of cheer.
But a little Christmas magic can change everything.
Owen Carlson may have been deemed the Grinch of Pine Creek, but everyone in town knows that he’d bend over backwards to help them out of a bind. Between keeping the ranch in tip-top shape and playing handyman around town, he barely has time to wonder why all of his brothers have found love and not him…Barely. When he meets Savannah and her little girl, he feels a familiar tug on his heartstrings.
Savannah Hart is determined to give her daughter a storybook Christmas. After a nasty divorce and a move, Noel deserves it more than anyone. When Savannah meets Owen, she’s definitely interested. Owen says he wants to give Savannah and Noel their best Christmas ever. But letting the slightly grumpy repairman plan their Christmas festivities? That’s a risk she’s not willing to take.
She certainly isn't ready to trust another man with her heart, let alone Noel's. Can the warmth of this holiday season turn the Grinch of Pine Creek into a cowboy full of Christmas cheer?
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Savannah Hart’s year hadn’t gone as well as she planned, but that wouldn’t stop her from making the most of what she had been given. The idea of starting over seemed a lot scarier than it was turning out to be. Moving to Pine Creek was her saving grace. Not only hers, but her daughter’s as well. Or, at least, that’s what Savannah needed to believe.
Christmas music played softly in the background as Savannah placed the freshly baked apple cinnamon muffins in the display case. She was currently in her second week of work at Sunrise Café, and it was everything she hoped for it to be and more. And because she was a newcomer finding her place in the small town, she wasn’t surprised how fast the word got around.
She needed more than her own two hands to count how many times she’d been asked to share how she ended up in Pine Creek. Just last week, there had been a group of lovely older women who welcomed her with friendly smiles over chatter about everything the small town had to offer. One woman in particular mentioned Pine Creek Littles, a small establishment that not only provided somewhere for young children to spend their days while their parents worked, but also offered a place for the woman to spend most of her spare time.
Charlotte Langley had been sweet as pie, calming Savannah’s worries about Noel’s first day at daycare and letting her know her daughter would have so much fun with the other kids her age. And, to Savannah’s relief, the woman had been right. Noel couldn’t stop talking about her first day, and for only being four years old and rather shy, that said a lot.
Savannah smiled at the thought as she hummed along to the Christmas music and hung ornaments on the small tree in the corner of the café. The bell above the door chimed its own Christmasy jingle as the door swung open, bumping into Savannah and causing the box of ornaments to shatter against the floor.
“Sorry. I didn’t see you there,” a man with a gruff voice grumbled over her shoulder.
Savannah accepted his apology as she made her way over to the utility closet. She grabbed the broom along with the dustpan, but instead of responding to the man, she swept up the shards of broken glass. She made a mental note not to buy anything breakable for her own Christmas tree… that she still needed to find.
The man hadn’t moved an inch from where he first walked in, but he managed to remove his cowboy hat and hang it, along with his coat, on a nearby hook. “You probably shouldn’t be standing so close to the door. It’s hard to see anyone through the frosted glass, especially when the snow is blowing, and people are in a hurry to get inside.”
Was it her imagination, or did he seem a little grumpy?
Savannah smiled with a nod, remaining polite. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Breaking the awkward tension surrounding them, Savannah leaned the broom against the wall and walked over to the counter. Now standing on the opposite side from the man, she pressed a smile on her face and asked, “What can I get for you?”
“Just a coffee, black. No extras.”
A cold draft rushed into the café as more customers walked inside. They quickly lined up at the counter, conversing with one another while patiently waiting to place their orders.
Because the man appeared out of his element and in a hurry to get away from the crowd, Savannah rang up his order, accepted his money, and handed back his change without hesitation. She smiled and said, “I’ll bring that right out if you want to take a seat.”
Without another word, the man nodded and found a spot at a vacant table near the back corner of the café. Normally, Savannah would go out of her way to entice customers to buy something sweet to go along with their coffee, but she got the impression he couldn’t care less.
Grumpy or not, Savannah couldn’t allow one customer to ruin her mood. So instead, she placed a smile back on her face and continued helping the next customer in line. Thankfully, they seemed to be in a better mood than the last guy.
“Want me to take over the register while you start preparing orders?” Marlene asked, entering the scene from her office on the left. “I don’t want Owen waiting any longer than he has to. It’s not every day he makes a special trip into town for coffee. I’m sure he has somewhere more pressing to be.”
Savannah took her boss’s word for it and poured coffee into a medium-sized mug before making her way over to whom she assumed to be Owen. Now that she knew his name, maybe she could use it to her advantage—break the ice between them and make his visit a little more personable.
“Here you go. Black without anything extra. Just the way you ordered it,” she said, approaching the table and being careful not to spill his coffee. That was the last thing she needed to happen. She set the cup down in front of him and smiled. She waited a moment for him to say something, like “thanks” or “perfect.” Anything would have been better than silence. With a smile, she folded her hands in front of her and said, “Let me know if you need anything else, Owen.”
Shocked he’d managed to say anything at all, Savannah struggled to say “you’re welcome” before heading back to the counter to prepare more orders.
Only when she was caught up and had a moment to catch Marlene did Savannah nudge her boss and pull her to the side. She glanced over her shoulder, checking to make sure they were out of earshot from customers sitting at a nearby table.
“I hate to be that person,” Savannah started, glancing over her shoulder a second time when the bell above the door chimed, “but what’s his deal?”
Not that she cared. Not really. He was just another customer. But a part of her was concerned about his well-being. It wasn’t all that common for people to be so grumpy. Maybe their encounter at the door had something to do with it, but it was an accident, and accidents happened all the time. It wasn’t something to get bent out of shape about. Besides, she had tried to brush it off like it was no big deal, but his brows remained furrowed.
“Who?” Leave it to Marlene to be lost in her own thoughts, getting carried away by the morning rush of customers. Savannah pointed discreetly toward Owen, almost as though he would look over any second and catch her pointing at him. Marlene followed Savannah’s gaze and tipped her head back, letting out a light laugh. “You mean Owen?”
“Not so loud.” She shushed her boss, turning her attention away from Owen just in case he heard Marlene.
Marlene waved it off like it was no big deal. Maybe so, but still, Savannah didn’t want the guy to know they were talking about him. She wasn’t like that. She didn’t need anyone to think she enjoyed gossiping about the customers at Sunrise Café.
“He’s a quiet one. He doesn’t say much to anyone, and keeps to himself most of the time,” Marlene said with a slight shrug. “He’s a bit on the grumpy side, so don’t take it personal. He’s been like that since he returned from war a few years ago.”
War? Savannah’s stomach dropped. That could very easily explain everything. She couldn’t imagine what that would have been like. What he had gone through while serving their country.
“He’d give his shirt off his back to help anyone in need, then and now,” Marlene stated matter-of-factly. She gathered a tray of sweet treats and nudged Savannah in the arm. “Just don’t take it personally. He’s a lot better now than what he used to be, and once you get to know him, he’s the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet.”
Marlene left Savannah standing alone behind the counter, slowly processing the information. Savannah glanced over at Owen, wondering how someone so grumpy could be as sweet as Marlene said. Granted, he had every right to be whatever he wanted, which meant she had no right to question it.
But that didn’t stop her from wanting to cheer him up. Maybe she could offer him a refill on the house. Or better yet, a freshly baked apple cinnamon muffin. Everyone liked apple cinnamon muffins, didn’t they?
Except by the time she plated the muffin and rounded the counter, heading toward his table, he was nowhere to be found.