Homecoming in Christmas Falls by Ciara Knight
Eight years after fleeing Christmas Falls because of a high school prank gone wrong, Ashley Brooks receives a mysterious letter from her mentor asking her to come home. She arrives to face all she left behind—her family, her friends, and the rich boy she’d loved who would never date the girl from the wrong side of town.
Brent Donnelly, high school jock, brainiac, and dutiful son did everything right until the day Ashley returns to Christmas Falls. With one look at the girl who got away he questions all his life choices, including following in his father’s footsteps in the family business.
Faced with a potentially devastating decline of tourism in their hometown, Brent and Ashley must work together to save the magic of their town, but when Ashley discovers he still has feelings for her best friend she must finally face the real reason she left Christmas Falls—to try to heal her broken heart.
Targeted Age Group:: All audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I'm a USA Today Bestselling author of small town romance and my favorite holiday is Christmas. I've always wanted to work on a Christmas book set in a small town in Tennessee near my fictional world from my bestselling series, Sweetwater County. This project is more than a sweet romance with a second chance at love since the town comes to life almost as another character in the story.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Ashley "Ash" Brooks is a character I've always wanted to write since she is a little like me. I've always been adventurous, and a little mischievous at times. I love my friends and family and I've always dreamed of living in a small town like Christmas Falls. Of course, the hero had to be strong if he was going to ever win Ash's heart.
At the county line, I slowed before hitting Main Street. White lights strewn overhead marked the beginning of town. Potted trees in front of each store with their own white lights, and red bows tied to the old-fashioned lamp posts all screamed Christmas Falls decor. The whimsical picture-perfect town that warmed your heart no matter what mood plagued you.
Red lights of a different kind spun behind me. Great. Police lights. Everyone entering Christmas Falls in a rental would be pulled over for the ceremonial welcome to our town and fifty questions of what business you had here.
I angled into a spot, turned off my car, and waited. Waited for my epic welcome home.
A tall woman got out of her cruiser and she placed her official hat on top of her red hair. Even through my tiny side mirror I could tell she was pretty, too pretty to be a cop in the all-boys club of Christmas Falls public services division. I wasn’t sure how she cracked the man code to join the force, but bravo. I already liked her.
I hit the button to lower my window at her approach. “Hi, don’t worry, I’m not a stranger, I’m from Christmas Falls.” I held out my hand to her, but she only flipped open one of those ticket things and began scribbling.
“If you’re local, I’m sure you know the speed limits. You blew down that mountain like a speed demon with a death wish.”
“Oh, that. Well, I slowed before I reached Main Street. Law around here always told us to take it down before entering town.” I said it in the rhythmical way the officer always said it back in high school Based on the officer’s lip tightening I knew immediately she didn’t like my humor.
“I’m Officer Hutchinson, and the only agreement we have is that you obey the law. License and registration, please.”
My mouth fell open. Once someone announced they were a Christmas Falls citizen the police usually sent them on their way. They didn’t like to bother with going to court if they could avoid it. “Um, sure. I think I have my idiot ID in here somewhere.” I reached for my purse in the back seat.
“Keep your hands where I can see them, please.” Great, a woman on the force and she has to prove herself. Fine, I’d pay the darn ticket; wasn’t like I couldn’t afford it. That was one thing that had changed since I left Christmas Falls. I retrieved my license and registration and handed it over.
“Local, huh? ID says Key West Florida. Miss Ashley Brooks.” Officer Hutchinson took a step back. “Do you have anything in your car I should be aware of? Drugs, alcohol, or weapons?”
“Nothing except my dumb blond elixir to help me navigate life.” I laughed. Officer Hutchinson didn’t.
“Get out of the car, please.”
“Out of the car.”
I opened the door, but didn’t dare reach for my coat. I was worried Officer Hutchinson would shoot me. “I was joking. You should know I tend to tease when I’m nervous.”
She directed me to the front of the car. “Stay where I can see you. Do I have permission to search your car, ma’am?”
“Ah, sure.” I bit my lip to keep from making a wisecrack.
After several minutes of tossing things around in the rental car Officer Hutchinson stood with a disappointed swish of her lips. “Stay here Ms. Brooks. I’ll be right back.”
I leaned against the rental and scanned the old shops. Looked like the corner toy store had shut down, a few of the stores looked renovated, but most everything else remained the same. My gaze traveled to the other end of town over where the community center sat behind the trees. The one place I had felt like I truly belonged in life. For a second, I allowed myself to play with the notion of coming home to where I knew my neighbors and there weren’t any strangers in town. Not full of rotating tourists in and out of my life. Not that I minded strangers. I loved owning my own business and there were worse ways to spend my days than running boat charters on the ocean.
The wind picked up so I turned to block the chill and spotted a man through the window of Knits by Nana. The knitting store that had been owned by Mrs. Donnelly, Brent’s grandmother. A place I used to hang out after school before my mother got off work. His grandmother was the best. I squinted at the figure. A handsome, trimmed bearded, short haired, grown man that held my gaze captive as my mind caught up.
Every nerve in my body kicked up to a hundred and fifty miles per hour and my spark plugs fired on all cylinders. Would he still see me as the fun friend? Would his parents still see me as the unworthy poor kid he shouldn’t hang out with?
“Turn around and put your hands on the hood, Miss Brooks.”
I shook the haze away and faced Officer Hutchinson as she approached. “Excuse me?” My voice sounded breathy and full of shock, even to me. Of course, Brent always had a way of stirring me up and leaving me disoriented.
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