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Sugar Mountain Christmas Bride
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When I arrive in Linesworth with my daughter to celebrate the holidays, I’m not looking for love.
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This sugary town is over-the-top. I’ve visited once before, when my parents moved to Linesworth, helping them settle in – but that was in the summer. Now, it’s a few weeks before Christmas and everything about this place makes my cold-heart melt.
Well, the fact that my four-year-old daughter, Scout, thinks we set foot in a snow globe is the catalyst for the temporary, literal, change of heart. How can I not smile when she sits on Santa’s lap and asks for a pony?
I may be a jaded mountain man but I’m a father first. Wasn’t the life I expected, but hell, it’s sweeter than the candy cane my little girl is licking right now.
“Papa, can we get hot cocoa? Please?”
Maybe it’s the golden ringlets bouncing on her shoulders. Maybe it’s her rosy cheeks. Maybe it’s the fact that she has me wrapped around her little finger. I don’t say no because I don’t want to say no.
I want Scout to be happy. More than happy — I want her to know that miracles can come true.
God knows she is mine.
I run a hand over my beard, wondering just when I became such a sap, but before I can get any more sentimental, she has her tiny hand placed in mine and we’re walking down Main Street toward The Three Sisters Bakery.
“Granny said this was the best place ever. She got her cimmon rolls here.”
“Cinnamon,” I say gently as we walk into the shop. It’s as Bavarian-themed as the rest of the town — only on overload. Gingerbread houses are perfectly iced and are on practically every surface, Christmas carols ring through the rafters, and red and green-aproned employees smile brightly as they place frosted gingerbread men and powdered sugar concoctions in boxes for customers.
In line, I’m so distracted by the jingling bells at the doorway, the long line of anxious shoppers, the rows and rows of sugary delights — that it takes me a moment to realize a woman is asking about my order.
I do a double take, remembering where I am and with whom. If I were at a bar, I wouldn’t be able to resist asking her out. Buying her a drink. Running my hand over the curve of her waist and cupping her heart-shaped face with my hand. Pulling her in for—
“Papa, can I have a cookie?”
I look down at Scout, remembering where I am. At a bakery with my little girl.
“So, what will it be?” the woman asks again, her voice so sweet — sugary, but not fake. And she looks more delicious than a Christmas cookie. Waiting for my answer, she’s frosted to perfection. Glossy red lips. Dark hair. A Santa’s hat on her head. A candy-striped apron over her hourglass figure.
“These ones here are my special ones. I decorated them all myself. I have a thing for sugar cookies. You have to when you live on Sugar Mountain.”
I cough into my hand, collecting myself. There is a time and place for everything and damn, I know what place I’d like to be with her.
“We’ll take two hot chocolates and two sugar cookies,” I say to Scout’s delight. She is clapping her hands and saying thank you. Adorable and polite. I somehow won the single-father lottery.
“Which ones?” the woman asks. “We have lots of choices.”
You. I think it, but don’t say it. Instead, I ask Scout which ones she likes best.
“I want the snowflake and…” she looks up at me. “Which one do you want, Papa?”
“The snow-capped mountain,” I say.
The woman behind the counter beams. “That design was my idea. I mean, we are here at the base of a beautiful mountain range, so it seemed right.”
I nod. “It does feel like Christmas.”
She hands my daughter a bag with the cookies, then holds a paper cup and a marker. “What’s your name, sweetie?”
The woman’s eyes widen, and she looks up at me. “Like in To Kill a Mockingbird?”
I shrug. “It’s my favorite.”
She smiles softly, writing Scout’s name. “Mine too. Growing up, our family dog was named Atticus.”
If that isn’t going to give me a hard-on, I don’t know what is.
She’s cuter than any Santa’s helper I’ve ever seen, appreciates the mountains, and likes to read.
God, I wish I were at a place in life to take this woman out for more than a sleigh ride.
“And your name?” she asks me.
“Brooks.” Running a hand over my beard I realize there is some legit Christmas magic in this mountain town. I haven’t felt inclined to ask a woman out in years. None set a spark in me, and it would take that in order for my focus to be on anything but Scout. “And uh, what’s your name?”
“Noelle.” She scrunches up her nose. “Christmas is my mom’s favorite holiday.”
Just then a woman with a clipboard swings into the bakery from a backroom. “Oh, good, Noelle. I need your help.”