Halloween at the North Pole

When I started “Marrying Miss Kringle: Stella” I pictured the book beginning on Halloween. 👻

I had so much fun dressing the Kringle clan up as villains–Stella’s idea of course. And thought that it was appropriate for her love story because she always flirts with the Naughty List.

The trick was on me, because the timeline didn’t work out and I had to go back and take out all the fun costumes and Halloween references.😩

But, I couldn’t just scrap the chapter that I was looking forward to sharing with you so much.

I’ve put it below. I hope you have a fun time visiting the North Pole for Halloween this year.

And, if you’d like to read more about this exceptional Christmas family, click here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HPNGPLZ

🎃 🎃 🎃 🎃 🎃

Stella Kringle had turned the formal dining room into dating headquarters. As the last remaining single Kringle—gag! Had she ever thought that name entertaining?—she had less than three months to land the man of her dreams, settle down (double gag!) and save Christmas.
Simple-dimple-holiday-brickle.
There was just one problem.
“Where have all the good men gone and where are all th–.”
Stella yanked the candy dish away from her oldest sister, Robyn, before she could grab another milk chocolate dipped vanilla. “If you sing that song one more time, I’m going to sew your stocking shut.”
Robyn pouted out her bottom lip. “It’s apropos.” She waved her arm indicating the six laptops open on to different dating apps. Lux streamed them into one screen so Stella could talk to a dozen men at once.
She’d given up trying to keep the conversations straight and shoved Frost into the chair. With her speed reading skills—honed through years of reading letters to Santa—her youngest sister was more than capable of flirting with four times as many men online.
Stella leaned over her shoulder, supervising—something she excelled at. “It’s too bad you always had a thing for Tannon—we could have had so much fun as single sisters.”
Frost hunched her shoulders forward. “If you so much as whisper to my husband that I did this, I’ll fill your closet with Amish clothing.”
Stella laughed. No doubt Frost could do it—within hours. “I could totally rock it.”
“The Amish!” Lux sat up in her seat where she’d crouched over her keyboard counting megabytes like Scrooge counted his money.
They stared at her in wonder.
Lux shoved her glasses up her nose. “What? Besides the Rain Forest, it’s the only place on earth we haven’t looked for a man for you.”
Desperation was not Stella Kringle’s best look and she did her best to hide it behind a lasafair attitude and extra thick eye liner.
The advent calendar didn’t lie. Christmas would come on the 25th of December, just like every other year. Yet she wasn’t any closer to getting married than she’d been four years ago when the North Pole started to fall apart. Life was good back then, before Christmas Magic decided to stir up their lives with an unexpected and irrational demand that one Kringle sister find true love and marry by Christmas.
Stella wasn’t single by choice. Each year she’d found a husband prospect who turned out to be worth less than a lump of coal. And each year one of her sisters saved the day—and Christmas for children all over the world—by getting married.
The scary thing about this year? She was flying the sleigh without a safety harness.
There wasn’t another Kringle to jump in and say I do. She was it. Christmas’s last hope. The woman who stood between the elves turning into a puff of dust, the reindeer crashing, and their family ice castle at the North Pole melting into the ocean.
It wasn’t fair. Her personal life—or lack thereof—shouldn’t stand between Santa and delivering gifts. But, unlike the reindeer, Christmas Magic didn’t play games. It was fall in love or bust.
Talk about pressure.
The kitchen door flew open, the scent of gingersnaps filling the air like an ominous westerly wind. Ginger Kringle stood in the doorway wearing a red velvet coat with a high collar and black leggings. Half her hair was black and half white. Her face was pale as freshly fallen snow and her lips as red as Rudolf’s nose. She planed her fists on her hips a scowl on her usually jolly face. “I’m issuing an executive Santa order—all online dating stops now.”
Stella blinked. “Okay, Cruella.”
Robyn brightened. “You guessed it!” She glanced down at her ensemble, her cheeks flushed with excitement. “Layla picked the costume out online but the wig was a disaster. Bundle had to help me get it on and puff it out.” She patted her head to make sure everything was in place. “Trick-or-Treating starts in thirty minutes. All Kringles are required to be there and be scary or face my wrath.” She glared around the room. A reindeer hoof-stomp later she giggled. “I didn’t know how fun it could be to be bad. Maybe you’ve been onto something all these years.” She clipped Stella’s shoulder, spun on her heel and sauntered out of the room with her lips pushed out like a super model.
Lux closed her laptop, making all the screens go dark.
“Whaaaa?” Frost reached for the keyboard. “I wasn’t done reading.” She’d been so engrossed in words that she missed most of what went on around her. It was the same thing when the Twilight series came out; they hadn’t seen her for a whole hour and a half.
Robyn pushed to her feet, tugging the candy plate with her. “Santa’s orders. What are you dressing up as?”
“The White Witch—naturally.” Frost flipped her snow white hair over her shoulder. “Besides the hair, her dresses are to-die for. I had the hardest time picking one. You?”
Robyn curtsied in her apron while managing to lift her chin in the air. “Lady Tremaine, in ballroom attire–naturally. I need to keep my eye on my daughters and my step-daughter away from the prince.”
“Lucky.” Lux gathered her things. “I let Oliver pick and I’m Nebula. I have about three hours’ worth of blue body paint to do in thirty–,” she checked her watch, “make that twenty six minutes. Bye.” She hurried out of the room, tugging her hair out of the messy bun as she walked.
“How about you?” Frost asked Stella.
“Yeah, usually you’re the first one to pick a costume. Our all-villains Halloween theme was your idea.” Robyn paused before selecting a piece of fudge.
Stella settled into a chair, throwing her leg over the armrest and twirling her hair. “Oh, I have a costume.”
Frost and Robyn exchanged worried looks. Robyn squared her shoulders in a spot-on impersonation of their mother. “Tell me it’s children appropriate—I have a teenaged brother-in-law to consider.” Robyn’s new husband came with a now-sixteen-year-old brother. He was a handful but so darn loveable that he got away with sneaking cookies from the cookie jar and candy canes from the cooling racks.
Stella hopped up, swinging her hips as she walked. “Don’t get your cookies in a crumble, sis. I’m all sugar and no spice tonight.”
She pushed through the swinging door to the kitchen as if her only care was how much candy she would consume during their Halloween extravaganza. As soon as the door shut, she burst into a run. Down the Hall of Santa’s Past, their stern gazes following her. She gave them a wink and kept going to her room where her magic purse hung over the bed’s end post. She reached her hand inside, wishing for a villain’s costume. When she pulled it out, she laughed.
“Whoever said Christmas Magic doesn’t have a sense of humor?”
It took fifteen minutes to wiggle into the tight black dress and sling the leather Pink Ladies jacked over her shoulder. Glancing in the mirror, she decided to wear the jacket instead. The dress was tight and Robyn was right, this was a family gathering.
She’d grown her black hair beyond Rizzo length and had to do some fancy bobby-pin work to get the right look. All in all, she looked hotter than cocoa—for the 1950s.
Knock. Knock.
“Candy!” She used her purse to create a skeleton bowl full of Snickers and answered with a smirk on her face. “Yeah, wadda ya want?” She snapped her gum.
Her nieces and nephews did nothing for the images of evil they’d dressed up as when they burst into giggles at her accent and attitude.
Stella rolled her eyes. “You misfits couldn’t scare a dandelion. Take some candy and get outta here.” She’d join them as they knocked their way to the gathering room where they’d dip caramel apples, make popcorn balls, and play Halloween bingo. Dad was in charge of prizes so it would be good.
Oliver was the smallest Al Capone ever seen and the last one to take a candy bar.
“Hey,” she snapped at him. “Is that any way for a gangster to take candy?”
His brow wrinkled and his hand froze over the bowl—one candy bar in his fingers. “Uh…”
She shoved the bowl at him. “Jeeze. Take what you want—just don’t shoot me.”
His blue eyes lit up as he realized she was trying to give him more candy. He scooped a handful into the violin case he used as a candy bucket. When he was done, he slammed into her legs and threw his free arm around her thighs. “You’re the best, Aunt Stella. I love you.”
She leaned over him to hug him back. “Love you too, little man.” Straightening, she shooed him off. “Now get outta here. I gotta party to go to.”
He grinned. “Me too. Bye.” Running as fast as his little legs would allow, he caught up with the group at Lux’s door. Makeup wasn’t her strong point but she’d managed to be mostly blue. The tight leather pants. Next to her, Quik wore a red mask and a black cape. He smiled in a creepy impersonation of Red Skull.
Stella grinned. It was so good to be bad.
Not that she’d ever jump onto the Naughty List—on purpose. But, flirting with the line was invigorating. She closed her door and clicked the heels of her red shoes together before setting off to join her family. There was no place like home—especially when it was an ice castle.
Pumpkins and fall foliage filled the gathering room. “Wow,” she said to Mom. “You really outdid yourself this year.” She side-stepped Mom’s pirate sword as Mom turned to peruse the decorations.
“The elves got into the spirit of things. I think they’re starting to like our Halloween parties.”
Stella jerked her chin back. “Really? That’s so… un-elfish.”
“We’ve grown fond of the candy,” said Selnora as she bustled past, carrying a pillowcase. She stopped at the buffet table and began dumping full bowls of candy into her sack.
Stella blinked in shock.
“Hey!” yelled Sniffles. “What do you think you’re doing? That candy is for all of us.”
Selnora stared him down while dumping another bowl into the bag. “It’s mine. You’ll have to forage the garbage cave for your share.”
Sniffles stomped his foot. Selnora was not dissuaded by his tantrum. “Careful, or you’ll end up cleaning stalls.” She hugged the heavy bag close.
Stella marched over, Mom right behind her. “Selnora what’s going on? You never act selfishly. Ever. You give your dinner carrots to the reindeer.” She sputtered to come up with an explanation as to why the normally congenial elf was behaving like a spoiled child.
“That’s all I do is give, give give. For once I want to get my share.” She began to stomp away, dragging the pillowcase behind her.
Mom put her hand on Selnora’s shoulder. “Can we talk about this?”
“There’s nothing to say. This is my candy and you’re not getting it back.” She dug her toes into the carpet and pulled like the eight reindeer trying to get off the ground on Christmas Eve.
Mom’s brow furrowed.
Stella stared after the determined, and disturbingly angry elf. “I’ve never—.”
“I’ll get more candy.” Mom patted Sniffles on the shoulder in consolation and promise before going to the kitchen.
Stella opened her mouth to say something—though she didn’t know what because she was still in shock herself.
“She’s in a mood,” Sniffles offered.
“Are elves allowed bad moods?” Stella asked.
“No.” Sniffles tugged at his pointy ear. “I must say, it’s a might bit concerning.”
“You can say that again.”
“Ho Ho Ho.” Dad burst in the room, covered in green hair.
“Dad,” Stella scolded. “You’re supposed to be a villain.”
“I am. I’m Santa, playing the Grinch, playing Santa.” His blue eyes twinkled with glee.
Stella cocked a hip and an attitude. “So you’re a good guy, playing a bad guy, who becomes a good guy? That is so not in the spirit of villains and bad guys.”
He held up a finger, the green hairs on the end flopped over. “But it is in the spirit of Christmas.” He grabbed his bowl full of jelly and gave a hearty laugh.
Stella shook her head. “You can take the Santa out of Christmas but you can’t take the Christmas out of Santa. Come on, I’ll get you a mug of cider, there’s no way you’ll be able to pour it with those gloves on.”
“Thanks. You’re not so bad for a Pink Lady.”
“Yeah, well, don’t let word get around. I can’t let people think I’ve gone soft.”
“Of course not.”
“Hello, Rosa.” Stella reached for the punch ladle. “How’s the mail room.”
Rosa looked down into her drink and then back up at Stella. “Mind your own business.” She threw the drink in Stella’s face.
Stella sputtered and spit. She wiped the liquid off her face, coming away with a palm full of mascara. Her hair dripped sticky cider onto her pink leather jacket. “Rosa!” she screamed.
Dad stepped between them. Although, Stella didn’t know if it was to stop her from going after the elf or to stop the elf from coming after her. “Both of you go to your rooms.”
“B—but…” Stella stuttered. She held her arms out to the side, as if they would permanently stick to her sides if she let them down. “She splashed me.”
The family and elves gathered round looking like a bad musical mashup of Halloween and Christmas. Rosa ran to Frost who wrapped her in a hug as she sobbed. “I didn’t mean to do it. I don’t know what came over me.”
Frost rubbed her back. “It’s okay. We’ll sort this out.” She turned accusing eyes on Stella.
“What? I didn’t do anything.” She lifted her palms higher.
Dad stroked his beard—which was the only part of him not painted green. “It’s as I feared.”
“What honey?” Mom placed a hand on his arm.
Stella wrinkled her nose. She’d have to use a roller to get the hair off her hand.
“Christmas cheer—it’s waning.”
Lux and Quik exchanged frowns.
“Excuse me?” Robyn pushed to the front of the group doing a great impersonation of Cruella with her hand on her impossibly thin hip. “Christmas cheer doesn’t wane. Not when I’m Santa.”
A few of the elves nodded in agreement.
Lux lifted her hand. “Um… well… that’s not exactly true.”
Heads whipped in her direction faster than jump ropes turned circles.
“Go on—you might as well tell us.” Stella studied her nails as if she didn’t care. Inside, her heart beat as if the Little Drummer Boy had a hankering for a drum solo.
“We all have different parts of Christmas Magic inside of us. Robyn can see needs and fill them. Ginger can tell a naughty or nice child at a glance. Frost can speed read letters.” She pointed at Stella. “What’s your Christmas gift?”
“Pft.” Stella scoffed. “Organization, engineering, management, and I make Christmas look good.” She touched her eyebrow.
Tannon pointed at her. “She’s charming.”
“Ding. Ding.” Lux pointed to her nose and to Tannon. “Although, I don’t think it’s as much charm as it is cheer.”
Stella scowled. “Is this a joke? I’m the least cheerful of us.”
Lux narrowed her eyes as if X-raying Stella’s soul. “That’s not true. Not only do you handle stress better than all of us combined—hello, you have to make enough toys for the whole world in 364 days—you are the one who championed us through the last four years of rocky romance.”
Quik put his hand on Lux’s shoulder. Tannon kissed Frost’s hair. Brodey hugged Robyn to his side. Joseph grabbed Ginger’s hand.
Their show of strength and support for her sisters was touching—and a big reminder that she had unfinished business. Stella kept her face impassive. “Yeah, well, it was easier to be positive when I wasn’t the last woman standing.”
Ginger reached for her shoulder. “Stella, you know what you have to do.”
Something stung Stella’s eyes and she blinked rapidly. “No. Nope. I can’t.”
Robyn gathered her family. “We’ll ready the slay.”
“I’m not going,” Stella called after them.
Mom tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “I’ll pack you some food. The lake house isn’t stocked yet.” She headed for the kitchens.
“Don’t bother. I’m not going to need it.” Stella folded her arms, a squishy sound reminding her that she was covered in cider.
Frost clapped her hands. “I have a few new outfits I’ve been holding onto—I’ll pack them and meet you in the stables.”
“It’s not worth your time,” Stella warned her.
Lux rubbed her palms together. “I have new tech. It’s so good I almost put the Stark logo on it.”
“You did?” Quik followed her out. “How come I didn’t know about that. I thought you were a Captain America fan…” Their voices faded away before Stella could tell them not to bother.
She planted her feet and glared at Ginger. “You’re going to have to banish me to get me out of here.”
Ginger linked her arm through Stella’s, ignoring the liquid dripping onto her costume. She turned them toward the door and the elves parted to let them through, their brows and lips pinched in concern.
Guilt was as bad as a clogged paint sprayer. Stella could do without either in her life for the rest of her life.
“Look. We both know there’s only one man you’re going to fall in love with.” She tugged Stella toward the door.
“Who?” asked Dad from behind them.
“We don’t know any such thing. I haven’t spent much time in Italy and I’m partial to a Roman nose.” Stella countered.
Ginger sighed. “Will you please stop fighting it? Wi—”
Stella cut Ginger off with a hand over her mouth. “We do not speak his name.”
“Whose name?” Dad asked again.
Ginger growled and shoved her hand away. “Fine. I won’t say his name. But you will talk to him. You have a lot of explaining to do.”
The sternness in her voice brokered no arguments. Not that Ginger was in charge of her. Stella would do what Stella wanted to do. But she’d avoided this errand for 310 days. “Perhaps it’s time to set things right—for the sake of closure.”

They arrived at the stables to find it bustling with energy from every occupant—except the one hitched to the sleigh. Stella screwed up her lips at the sight of Dunder hitched to the green sleigh.
Dad came through the door practically on top of them. “Ladies—would someone please tell me—”
“Dunder?” Stella hooked her thumb at the grey reindeer. “No offense, but I don’t want to travel with a grandpa. Where’s Blitz?”
“You’ll take the reindeer I tell ya to take.” Selnora did up the last buckle. Her hands dropped. “Sorry Miss Kringle. I’m still under the effects of the party, I think.” Her hand went to her stomach.
“Did you eat all the candy?” asked Mom as she came through the door, grocery boxes in her arms. Dad rushed to take them from her and stowed them in the sleigh.
“Only the suckers.”
Stella snickered. “That was a dum-dum move.”
“Stella,” Mom warned her.
“What? That much sugar should make her a jolly rancher out here in the stables.”
Dad coughed to cover his chuckle. Stella’s confidence boosted.
Her sisters and brothers-in-law poured through the door in a symphony of purposeful chaos. In less time than it took to print a Twister matt, she stood in the sleigh, her foot against the brace. Not that she’d need it. Dunder was the slowest of the reindeer still in the stable.
“Do you think he can make it?” she asked Lux who was busy installing apps on Stella’s new phone.
“He’ll make it, won’t you boy.” Stella scratched behind his ear. “Go easy on him though, okay?”
Dunder huffed as if Lux had insulted him.
“What?” Lux held up a palm. She leaned over and whispered in his ear, just loud enough that Stella could hear it too. “It’s her I’m worried about—she’s crazy.”
Dunder chortled.
“Oh great—a reindeer with a sense of humor. That’s all I need.” As lift off approached, Stella’s stomach fluttered with nerves. She hadn’t been back to Clearfield since she’d kidnapped the man in question for Robyn’s wedding. She didn’t mention it at the time of the heist, but she’d barely been able to get him in the sleigh because he didn’t think his girlfriend would like him jetting off with a lady.
Noble? Yes.
Heartbreaking? That too.
“Looks like you’re all set.” Ginger hugged Stella. “Be nice to he-who-can’t-be-named.”
“I’m not making any promises.” Stella stepped away and laced the leather reins through her fingers. “It all depends on if he’s still dating Cindy-Lou-Shmoo. If he is, I can’t be held responsible for knocking over her Christmas tree.”
Ginger gasped. “You wouldn’t.”
Stella looked up at the ceiling as if gathering strength from a higher power. “You underestimate me, my dear sister.”
Dad stepped forward. “Leave Christmas out of this.” He drew a deep breath and glanced at the group. “And would someone please tell me where my daughter is flying off to tonight?”
Mom’s cheeks lifted. “Clearview, Alaska, dear.”
Dad scratched his snowy white head. “The preacher?”
“The preacher.” Robyn folded her arms. “Tell him thank you for the lovely wedding last Christmas. He did a wonderful job.”
Stella rolled her eyes. “I jump right into weddings. Because that’s not obvious at all.” She flicked the reins. Dunder looked over his shoulder at her, lifting an eyebrow. “How does he do that? Reindeer don’t have eyebrows.”
Lux shrugged. “He’s magical.”
“Well, if he doesn’t get a move on, I’m not giving him carrots when we land.”
Dunder stomped one back foot, shaking the ice cave. Stella grabbed onto the sleigh to keep from falling back into the velvet seat. “Sprockets and springs, Dunder. I didn’t know you had it in you.”
He cocked his head and then bolted from the cave with a mighty whoosh.
Stella whooped. “On Dunder!” she called into the night as the sleigh rose into the inky sky full of stars. She turned to look at her family, gathered in the cave opening. Her throat closed off with emotion. Going alone was the only options. Sure, she’d been a wingman for her sisters, but she couldn’t bear for them to see her fall on her face romantically. They looked up to her. She was the one who had it all together. The confident sister that stood up to bullies and jumped into the crowd as if they’d all love her.
For the most part—they did.
So why didn’t Will?
Yes, she could think his name. It was hearing it that set her heart off like an electric fire truck. Shoot. She needed to update the orders for those. She pulled out her phone and tapped the Toys app, changing the numbers as she kept one eye on the sky. Dunder flew smoothly and made life easy for her. When that was done and her mind blanked, she groaned. Work was usually her distraction from thinking about Will.
What was she going to do if he turned her away?
Christmas cheer wasn’t the only thing on the line. If she didn’t fall in love and get married by Christmas Eve, Christmas Magic would disappear and there would be no more presents under the trees, no more candy canes in stockings, and no more Santa.
And who would she be then?
A nobody.
Because without the magic, she wasn’t anything special.
Her biggest fear? That Will already knew that.
Dunder pitched forward, taking them downward as a sprinkling of lights came into view.
She tightened her grip on the leather. The flight there may have been like riding in a Cadillac, but she was no stranger to the fact that the road through romance was all turbulence.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/widget/313601

Uploading

I thought I’d share a bit about uploading a book to Amazon.

It’s not hard to do, but it does take a couple hours to do it right.

Part of the reason it takes me so long is that I include print and large print versions of my books, which have to be formatted separately and the covers done.

It’s also a time when paying close attention to detail makes a difference so I don’t rush the process. Instead, I crack open a Diet Dr. Pepper and settle in at my desk. 🙂

What about you? What tasks do you enjoy that take a lot of focus?

Sample Chapter

Ginger Marie Kringle snuck into the quiet toy production office. The overhead lights were off, leaving her favorite sister, Stella, in a shadowy outline created by the computer screen’s muted glow. The short pixie haircut accentuated Stella’s long and graceful neck. Ginger smoothed a hand down her long, auburn ponytail. How two girls from the same set of genes could look so different was beyond her.

All five of the Kringle girls had a distinct appearance; none of them had the same color of eyes, hair, or skin. And yet, there were similarities—their smile for one, their love for all things Christmas for two …
Beyond Stella’s desk was a large window overlooking the largest of their manufacturing facilities. Even with the call for name-brand electronics, there was a large demand for stuffed animals, bicycles, dollhouses, and other classic childhood wishes. Stella, with her extreme organizational skills, oversaw the production of toys. Ginger, on the other hand, was over list management. She’d inherited her father’s naughty/nice radar, which annoyed her four sisters to no end.

Honestly, if you’re going to sneak around, at least lock the door. Ginger grinned as she crept forward. Stella shared the space with several elves. But since elves hated paperwork, Stella had the place to herself most of the time. Whatever she was up to, it had to be good. None of her other sisters sent out naughty beacons like Stella did.

Robyn, the oldest, managed elf resources, ensuring that the elves were happy, healthy, and took their required two weeks of vacation—which many of them resented her for, but what could she do? Even a Christmas elf needed a break now and then.

Lux, the second oldest, worked in IT. Five years ago she’d updated and streamlined the whole system, making it possible to view everything from the child’s letter to the fulfillment receipt on the same software. If anyone deserved a vacation, it was Lux. That girl worked like an elf, happily hiding from the world behind her big glasses and hard drives.

Ginger came next in birth order, followed by Stella and the surprise baby, Frost. Frost organized the mail room. She read every letter and often brought her work to the dinner table. She and Ginger worked closely to ensure that those on the Good List had their letters expedited through the system.

But Ginger wasn’t thinking about letters or elf relations or production numbers. She’d gotten close enough to absorb the image on Stella’s computer screen. A handsome man on horseback, framed by a purple heart, rode along a railroad tie fence. He was cute, in a way that set off her naughty list alarm. The phrase Country Guys and Gals Online Dating danced across the top of the screen in a horrid bright pink. Next to the man’s profile picture was a messaging screen. Can we meet? Ginger read.

Oh, yeah. Like that would go over well. Let me just park the sleigh on the roof and I’ll pop down the restaurant’s chimney. The cook would love that.

Unlike her mother, who embraced Christmas Magic and all it entailed, Ginger liked to keep her Kringle-ness under wraps, preferring to blend in with the rest of the world as much as possible. She’d fit in quite nicely at UC Santa Barbara and had enjoyed living a “normal” life. One day … one day she’d move to Mexico to be near her Grandpa and Grandma Kringle, but for now, her family needed her. Case in point: someone had to keep Stella out of trouble.

The cursor blinked, waiting for a reply to the stranger’s invitation.

“Ho ho ho,” Ginger whispered in Stella’s ear.

Her sister jumped out of her seat, her eyes wild. “Ginger!”

Ginger wiggled her fingers hello.

Falling back into her chair, Stella glared. “I thought you were Dad!”

Sliding easily onto the desk next to the laptop, her long skirt gathering around her longer legs, Ginger smirked. “If I were Dad, you’d be halfway to the South Pole.”

Stella leaned back in her chair, a challenge in her chestnut eyes. “Halfway to the South Pole wouldn’t be all that bad. Beaches, tan lines, and surfers are a few of my favorite things.”

“You can wave as the sleigh goes by,” Ginger replied dryly.

Ignoring her, Stella said goodbye to her mystery man and closed the screen. The lights in the work room below them flickered before returning at half power. Both Ginger and Stella pressed their hands to the cool glass and held their breath. Ginger’s worry over Stella’s dating life was pushed aside. At this point in the year, they should be cranking out the toys, not running at half capacity.

“That’s the second time this morning.” Stella picked up her phone and hit the press to call button. “Talk to me, Robbie.”

Robbie, Stella’s right-hand elf, waved from the work floor. His green hat bobbed as he spoke. “The crafty cooking section is down, and we’ve got a clog in the stuffing station.”

Ginger waved back to him. The damage was minimal compared to the brownout last week. Ginger’s department had just finished entering the previously hand-kept list into the system when the power dimmed. Thankfully, Lux had been able to retrieve the files. She really was a genius.

Stella’s machinery had gone down too, sending the elves back to hand stitching and carving. They loved it. The Kringles? Not so much. Something was brewing at the North Pole. Lux, the resident nerd, practically slept in the computer room. She and Dad spent hours poring over charts and graphs and schematics Ginger couldn’t make heads or tails of.

“Has Lux figured out why this is happening?” Stella demanded as she rebooted her computer.

Ginger blinked. “Not that I’ve heard. It’s driving her nuts.”

“The rest of us, too.”

Feeling useless in toy production, Ginger decided she’d best get back to what she was best at: checking the list. “I’m headed to the lib—” Ginger let out a startled cry and grabbed her wrist. Searing light burned from her arm. Tiny snowflakes danced like lightning bugs around the sisters. The sound of sleigh bells filled her ears. With a splendiferous whoosh of frosty wind, Ginger’s skirts wrapped around her and then flared out, her hair lifting off her back. Knowledge jumped to her consciousness. Images of children at play and work and crying and laughing and running and jumping and caring flickered before her eyes like DVR on fast forward. She knew them. Knew their names. Knew their hearts. The good and the bad. A crash of cymbals reminded her to breathe. She gasped, and everything disappeared, leaving the room in semidarkness once again.

“What the holly-jolly was that?” Stella flipped on the lights.

Ginger, holding her forearm, stared at the two-inch snowflake outlined in exquisite detail in the skin below her wrist. It shimmered silver in the light.

Stella grabbed her hand. “Holy holly.” Their eyes met. “Robyn’s going to kill you.”

Ginger’s mouth had gone dry, keeping her from replying.

For generations, Santa and his missus had had one child, a male, who took over the Christmas operation at age thirty. Imagine the surprise when Robyn—a girl!—was born, and the unprecedented surprise when Lux—a second girl!—came along. By the time Ginger burst onto the scene, all bets were off, and her parents had accepted that life at the North Pole and Christmas Magic were changing. For obvious reasons, they homeschooled their girls. At age eighteen, they were off to college, each choosing a different focus of study. Once they had their degrees, they came home and took their place in the Christmas process.

Despite all the changes, the family believed Robyn would be chosen to take up the role of Santa when she came of age—in less than six months. Christmas Magic had different ideas, evident by the mark on Ginger’s arm that matched the one on her dad’s wrist. Oh, and her grandpa’s wrist. And her great-grandpa’s …
Stella’s grip tightened. “We’ve got tell Dad.”

“No.” Ginger yanked her hand away and held her arm to her chest. “Are you crazy? Dad’s gonna freak. I’m only twenty-five!”

“What’s he going to do about it?”

Stella was right. It’s not like any of them really had a choice in this. Being born into the Kringle family came with a host of blessings and a sleigh-load of responsibility. Christmas was their destiny. Becoming Santa wasn’t supposed to be Ginger’s destiny—the honor should have fallen to Robyn, who was almost thirty, dating a sweet guy from Philadelphia, and ready to settle down. Not to Ginger, who was too young, single as could be, and planning her next vacation to Mexico. “He’ll feed me to a polar bear.”

Stella shook her head. “Give the guy a little credit.”

“Fine, you tell him about your online cowboy, and then I’ll show him this.” She waved her tinsel tattoo in front of Stella’s face.

Stella shoved her arm away. “Leave Mitch out of this.”

Ginger grinned. “Mitch, eh?”

“I swear, Ginger …”

Pressing her lips tightly together, Ginger contemplated her sister. She’d spiked her short hair today, just to show a little attitude. She had large, sparkling brown eyes with ebony flecks. Regular ice-climbing trips kept them both in excellent shape, and Stella looked good in the khaki hiking pants and tight red sweater. “Why are you online dating, anyway?” Whenever they took forays into the outside world, men flocked to Stella. She flirted and sometimes kissed, and then left them behind without a backward glance.

“I want what Mom and Dad have, okay?” Stella fidgeted with her Bluetooth. “It’s lonely here.”

“You’re only twenty-three,” Ginger began, wanting to list the reasons Stella was not ready for a lifetime commitment.

Most of those reasons were the same things she told herself. At twenty-five, she was well aware of her innocence in the ways of the world. Movies and television were fictionalized versions of life, and while their home was a place of peace and happiness, she couldn’t believe that bringing an outsider to the North Pole wouldn’t upset her fairy-tale life. Besides, her time away at school had shown her that her family life was pretty much the ideal. There was a lot of pain and heartache out there in the world.

Stella’s eyes hooded over, stopping Ginger’s diatribe before it began. Instead, she wrapped her sister up in a hug. “Your secret is safe—for now.”
“Thanks.” Stella broke away. “But yours is about to blow up.” She hit the instant connect button on her phone. “Emergency Kringle meeting in the living room—now.”

“Copy that,” said Frost.

“On my way,” replied Robyn.

“We’re already here, dear,” said Mom.

“Can it wait? I’m up to my glasses in code,” asked Lux.

Stella folded her arms. “Sorry, girl—this is important.”

“Fine,” she groaned.

“I’m bringing Ginger.” Stella pulled her by her sleeve into the hallway.

“You stink, you know that?” Ginger adjusted her shirt.
Stella grinned. “I know—like dark chocolate with a twist of lemon. Come on. This is supposed to be a good thing.”

They hastened through the many corridors of their ice-encased home. Ginger loved the white and blue walls; they were sturdy and beautiful in an exotic way. What little girl wouldn’t love growing up in an ice castle? Not that the house suggested an ice castle from the outside. The exterior said “ice cave” while the interior said “palace.”

Ginger didn’t really have time to contemplate the natural grace around her as Stella propelled her forward.
Stella spoke quickly. “Lux was worried that the magic was fading—you know, because we’re girls instead of boys and the power has flickered for months and the elves are slowing down. I think even Dad’s worried, but you know him, he’d never say anything.”

Ginger nodded. This was why she loved Stella, despite her penchant for finding trouble. She didn’t believe in sugarcoating; she was brave. As they made their way down the Hall of Santas Past, which connected the workshop to their living quarters, Ginger felt the eyes of the paintings follow her.
Santas’ images, captured by talented artists throughout the ages, lined both walls. The weight of their legacy bore into her as sharply as the tinsel tattoo had just moments before.
At the end of the hallway was a large, wooden door carved with the Kringle family crest. Ginger paused, wishing for a fraction of Stella’s bravery as she stepped forward to break her oldest sister’s heart and upset the First Family of Christmas like never before.
To find out what happens to the Kringle family, find Marrying Miss Kringle: Ginger on Kindle.
Or click here to get a copy.

Whirlwind romances–is this a thing?

Usually, my stories take place over several months. Which seems like enough time to fall in love.

But, the book I’m working on now, involves a whirlwind romance of three weeks.

3 weeks!

Is that possible? Did you fall in love that fast? Let me know…

Starting a book

When I walk into a book store, the hair on my arms stands up because I know something’s going to happen. Something amazing! It’s all right there, waiting for me to discover it on a book shelf.

I do love to be active and outdoors, but there’s something inside of me that yearns for a quiet corner, a selection on chocolate, and a stack of books. I don’t often get to indulge in a full day spent reading, but gather moment here and there that sustain my need to read.

My wish for you today is that you are gifted time with a good book.

God bless and happy reading,

Lucy

A Christmas bookshelf

Are you on Goodreads? I put together a book shelf for Clean Christmas Reads.

Hop on over and check it out. 🙂

Join today!

Are you on my email list?

I give a free book to every subscriber and offer giveaways for autographed copies of my latest release. 

You can join here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/ennt75l6j4

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