Introducing 6 Sweet Inspirational Romances from 6 Sweet Romance Reads authors to warm your heart this holiday season.
Small-Town Christmas Wishes
Welcome to Snowflake, Colorado—a small town where wishes come true! When six old high school friends receive a letter that their fellow friend, Charity Hart, wrote before she passed away, their lives take an unexpected turn. She leaves them each a check for one thousand five hundred dollars and asks them to grant a wish—a secret wish—for someone else by Christmas. And she wants it to be special.
It sounds like fun. It reminds them of when they were secret angels in high school together. But the friends soon discover that it isn’t as easy as it seems. With the clock ticking, will they make it happen in time?
Join Mia, Caro, Nate, Sara, Holly, and Taye on their journey to make a wish come true—and find love along the way.
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Sample Chapter of Nate's Gift
Nate Cooper collapsed into his desk chair, causing it to smack into the brick wall behind him, and disrupting the wobbly corkboard. Last month’s lunch menu and several sticky notes rained down on his head.
Oh well, he’d been needing to clear off the board, anyway. Bending to scoop up the papers, an envelope fell from his shirt pocket and slid beneath the desk. Oh no, that was definitely not trash. Nate grunted in irritation when he had to get on his knees to fish the envelope from the dusty corner where it had landed.
Great. Now his slacks were covered in dust bunnies. Didn’t the cleaning crew ever make it back here to the band hall? Sometimes he wondered.
He peeked inside the envelope to see that the check for $1500.00 was still inside. Yep, along with the note everyone else received. Except his envelope had one extra letter, still sealed. He’d not had the heart to read Charity’s handwritten words. Not yet. The main letter, explaining what they needed to do, had pierced his heart enough.
Ever since the meeting with the lawyer, Don Green, memories had resurfaced and threatened to flood his every waking moment. The last thing Nate Cooper wanted to do was relive his high school years. He had enough coping to teach the high schoolers he was now in charge of.
If only he’d not been such a chicken about pursuing his dreams of playing music then maybe he’d not be stuck in a dead-end teaching job he no longer enjoyed.
“Mr. Cooper?” A timid voice drew him out of his reverie.
He straightened, shoving the check back inside the envelope, then tucking it inside a pocket of his briefcase. “Yes, Navi? How can I help you?”
Navi held up the schedule for their holiday practice sessions that he’d passed out before Thanksgiving break. “There’s a problem with your schedule, sir. I have Drama Club on Tuesdays after school. So, I won’t make practice that day. Can I come in later—?”
“No,” Nate shot back, his annoyance already growing and the first bell hadn’t even rang yet. He’d told that Drama teacher, Ms. Shay, that the band kids had a Christmas concert to practice for. She needed to give a little. “If you wish to be part of the concert ensemble, then I need you to show up for practices. All of them, Miss Gaton.”
Navi’s shoulders sank along with the corners of her mouth. Her dark brows furrowed as she looked from him to the schedule, then back to him. “But we’re also practicing for a Christmas play. I’m one of the lead characters, Mr. Cooper. Can’t we work out something? I know all the songs, I promise.”
Nate stood, wiping off the remaining bits of dust clinging to the legs of his black pants. “If I make concessions for you, then I’ll have to make concessions for everyone. Half of you are in the Drama Club, am I correct?”
Navi glanced over her shoulder at the other students entering with their instruments and long faces. “Almost half. Ms. Shay said that she’d talk to you. I’m not sure how to be at two places at once, Mr. Cooper. I love band and drama club.”
He’d not give on this. That Shay woman had connived half of his students into taking part in her silly play. It was no surprise that the district was thinking of cutting the drama program, along with a couple of the less popular sports, and the art program. They’d threatened to cut out his orchestra and only have him teach marching band, but the orchestra had earned a few awards, which kept his program safe from their proverbial scissors.
“I suggest that you figure out which one you love more, now go have a seat.” The bell rang at that moment, saving him from further arguments from the girl. Why did she want to be involved in so many things, anyway? Didn’t these kids have homes to go to after school? The way most of them tried to find excuses to hang around until nearly dinner time when teachers were trying to get home themselves was beyond him.
Not like he had a family to go home to, but his dog Buster needed to be let out every few hours. Luckily, his elderly neighbor was willing to take Buster for a walk when he took out his own pooch, Rosie. Since Buster seemed to be enamored with the cute little cocker spaniel, the two dogs got along well.
Nate tried not to be too put out over the fact that his dog had a better love life than he did.
Snapping his fingers, Nate called out over the chattering roar, “Okay, I want everyone in your seats. We’ll get started right after the announcements.”
If the students could even hear Principal Lopez’s announcement over the clamoring of the percussion instruments or the low humming of the horns. At least the stringed section sat quietly.
“Mr. Benson, wake up. I swear, there’s drool hanging from your chin. Sit up, man!” Nate chuckled as the boy quickly wiped at his mouth, his face turning redder than the shirt he wore.
After the pledge and reciting the school motto, everyone took their seats. Chairs scraped over the concrete floors. Nate set his music on the conductors stand. “Listen up, people!” he shouted over the noise. “We only have three weeks to get our act together. If you don’t want to have to practice in your sleep, I suggest you get your heads into this performance. Soon after Christmas, the yearly competitions will be upon us. We will win this year! So, I don’t want to hear any more excuses about missing the after-school practices I’ve scheduled. Understand? If you miss, then you’ll miss out on the performance, as well. Simple as that. I’ll find a substitute for your parts from someone in the lower grades.”
Muttered grumbling sped through each row like waves lapping up on a beach. A girl sitting beside Navi Gaton raised her hand.
Nate tried not to roll his eyes. “Miss Banner?”
“Sir, will you please write a note that we can give Ms. Shay? She wants us to practice our parts, too.” Debbie Banner flipped her long blond hair back over her shoulder. “I’m in the starring role, Mr. Cooper. It’s imperative that I show up for practice. My parents will be there. They told me that if I do well in my part, then they’d let me start auditioning for commercials. I have to practice for the play, too.”
Poor misguided kids. “Which one is more important, Miss Banner? Violin or acting?”
She flashed a bright smile, batting her heavily mascaraed eyes. “Both. I’m going to be famous like Lindsey Stirling someday. You’ll see. I can do both. I can play my violin, dance, and act. Ms. Shay says that if I can dream it, then I can do it.”
Oh boy, she was one of those types.
Nate sighed. “Since several of you are faced with the same dilemma, I’ll speak to Ms. Shay myself. But for now, time’s wasting. Let’s start with Jingle Bells.”
* * * *
After a grueling hour of playing the same two songs over and over, Nate needed some aspirin and a coffee. If he could get away with something stronger…but no, those days were over. He was a teacher now and needed to set a good example.
Why did it feel as if the students were merely going through the motions of practicing for the Christmas program? They complained about having to play the same old songs every year.
They were boring to him, too, but the songs were expected. Who didn’t play Jingle Bells at the Christmas concert? Weren’t all the Christmas songs the same ol’, same ol’?
The holidays were usually torture for him to get through. Not that he didn’t appreciate the two-week break and being able to sleep in. But after three days, he usually grew tired of being at home. His parents were away on another mission trip to spread the Gospel in third world countries. That left him alone for Christmas day.
Sure, sometimes folks from church invited him over to their houses for dinner, but he always felt as if he were imposing.
As soon as he entered the teacher’s lounge, he headed right for the coffee maker when he noticed that Ms. Shay had beat him to the last cup. She turned to him, her pink lips set in a smirk, “Sorry, buddy. You’ll have to make a new pot.”
Nate folded his arms across his chest. “I’d think that the one who emptied the pot would be kind enough to start a new one.”
“That would be the kind thing to do, right?” Her head tilted to the side. “Just like it would be kind for one teacher to respect another teacher’s schedule instead of giving her kids such a hard time and making them choose between two things they love very much.”
“Right,” Nate yanked the filter cup from the machine and headed for the trash can. “I’m glad you brought that up. I need every day this week for—”
“My left toe you need every day.” She emphasized need with a roll of her eyes. “And don’t toss out the coffee grounds. The garden club wants us to collect the used ground for their compost bin.”
Nate’s brows furrowed. “They’re still meeting? There’s a foot of snow outside, for goodness sakes. Isn’t that a spring program?”
Ms. Shay shrugged as she pulled her red hair back into a ponytail. “They still meet once a week for planning and mainly because they simply enjoy it. You know, kids like being part of something bigger than themselves. That’s why all of these programs are important. Not just certain ones. They need choices. They need a chance to spread their wings and try on several things before they find something that fits. Know what I mean?”
He’d heard something like that before… someone from his past who’d told him to follow his passion. Charity! Yes, she was always on him about not being afraid to spread his wings and fly. That if he didn’t give his dreams a shot, he’d regret it.
Except, his passion and dreams wouldn’t guarantee a livable income.
He’d taken the safer path instead.
He didn’t regret it…too much.
“The only thing I know, Ms. Shay, is that I need to get these seniors ready for competitions. The Christmas concert is one of their big events and they’re all playing like kindergarteners banging on wooden instruments.”
“Have you asked them what songs they’d like to play?” She sipped from her coffee and cringed at the taste. “Maybe I should have let you have this last cup and waited for a fresh pot.”
Nate grabbed the coffee container only to find it empty, too. Great. Did he have time to walk all the way down to the storage closet? He glanced up at the clock. Not even.
“I’m the teacher, Ms. Shay. It would do you well to remember that yourself. We make the decisions, not the students.”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Her green eyes leveled on him.
A small jolt of fear shot through him, but he recovered quickly. They both had fifth-period core classes they had to teach. He taught History and she taught Literature. He could always hear her students through the brick wall, much to his annoyance. Partly because the noise was distracting, but also because it always seemed like her students were having the time of their lives.
The bell rang. Nate decided to settle on getting a soda from the machine. “It means that…” Drat! He was twenty cents short. “Never mind what it means. I’m going to be late for second period.”
Ms. Shay reached into her bag and brought out two quarters. “What’s your poison?” She dropped them into the slot, then waited for him to press one of the buttons. He quickly hit the first one that showed it wasn’t empty. While the can tumbled out, he tried to give her what change he did have.
She waved him away. “We need to work this out, Nate. Really, it’s not fair to the kids to make them choose. Can we meet after school?”
Another jolt snapped through his chest when she used his first name. He nodded, too dumbfounded by her pleading green gaze and pouty lips to trust himself in giving an intelligent answer.
“Great. Come to the auditorium after your practice. I’ll still be there working on our costumes.”
He nodded again. “See you then.”
Did she not have a life either? Nate wondered. If she wasn’t such a thorn in his side, then maybe he’d try to be nicer to her.
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.