Fleetas coverHere’ in the mountains it’s getting to be the season for curling up with hot cocoa and a good book while the temperatures drop outside. And what could be better than a Christmas story?

Oh wait–I have one of those! My novella, A Shot at Love (the one nominated for a Christy Award!), is now available for download for just a few dollars. It’s shorter than my novels and I think it’s sweet without being sticky. If you’d like a taste, here’s a Christmasy snippet to whet your appetite:

Hank tried to pay attention as James and Grace showed him their favorite holiday traditions. They’d all trooped out into the woods the day before and cut not one, but two evergreens. The prettier of the two had been stabilized in a bucket of rocks and sand, then Abram drilled holes into the trunk, cut branches from the second tree, and inserted them to fill out the first one. The result was a remarkably full and uniform Christmas tree. Hank marveled at the ingenuity while continuing to kick himself for upsetting Fleeta.

“Stepped all over her pride,” Abram said when Hank shared his tale.

“What can I do to fix it?” he asked.

Abram shrugged. “Women,” he said. “I’m still trying to figure Lydia out and she’s not half so contrary as Fleeta Brady.”

Now Hank gave his host family about a tenth of his attention as he pondered what he could do to make things right with Fleeta. Lydia bumped his elbow and handed him a darning needle with a long length of heavy thread. She pushed bowls of popped corn and cranberries toward him.

“You’re too distracted for anything trickier than this,” she said. “Don’t worry about a pattern, just put on some corn and then some berries—it’ll look nice once you’re done.”

Hank gave her a grateful smile. “Lydia, when’s the last time you were put out with Abram?”

“Oh now, the secret of a good marriage is not telling when you’re mad at your husband.” She laughed. “Or your wife. Doesn’t do anyone good to air dirty laundry.” She gave him a sideways look. “Although once you’ve washed it, you’ve got to hang it out to dry.”

Hank raised his eyebrows and strung several kernels of fluffy corn on his thread, followed by two berries.

“I’ll tell you a secret.”

He leaned in closer and kept to his work.

“The main thing any woman wants from a man who’s upset her is . . . an apology.”

Hank paused, a red berry in his fingers. “You mean just walk up to her and say, ‘I’m sorry?’”

Lydia nodded as she continued sifting through a box of ornaments. “That’s a start, sure enough. But the best apologies have something to hold them up. Maybe a bunch of flowers you cut out in the woods, or a tin of tea from the store. The words are the main thing, but it’s nice to have something to remember them by.” She smiled and touched a basket of pinecones on the end table beside her. “Doesn’t need to be fancy, just from the heart.” She tapped Hank’s chest. “The heart’s where healing lives.”

Hank nodded and strung some more corn.