OVER THE RIVER
THROUGH THE WOODS
A Christmas Novella
With Bonus Holiday Dessert Recipes
From Readers Around The World!
“TOTALLY HALLMARK WORTHY!!!”
~Kim Swain, Red Line Editing
“A very touching story that puts you in the mood for hot cocoa and Christmas. Lacey Weatherford has you captivated from page one.”
~ Lisa Markson, The Paranormal Bookworm
“If the Hallmark Channel is looking for a new story to make into a movie for their Countdown to Christmas, this one is it!”
~ Raquel Ariemma, Roc N Read
“Oh my gosh! I can’t wait to go home for Christmas break tomorrow. It’s going to be so much fun!” Noelle, my roommate, exclaimed as the two of us packed our suitcases in our dorm room. “All the parties, family, food, fun, and presents—it will be a blast.”
“I agree. My whole family will be there too. I can’t wait to play with all my nieces and nephews. It’s kind of like a loud, crazy circus; but it’s still so much fun being together.” I was interrupted by the phone vibrating on the bed next to me.
By the time I ended my phone call with my mom, my mouth was watering. She told me all the wonderful things she’d been cooking in preparation for our arrival. “I can’t wait for some of her cherry cheesecake and Christmas pie. Those are two of my most favorite things to eat. Well, unless you count Aunt Sally’s brownies. Those are pretty awesome.” I attempted to close the top and zip my very over-packed suitcase, full of clothes and presents, as well as toiletries for my two week vacation. “Of course, I won’t get to enjoy any of it if I don’t survive the ride home.”
Noelle glanced at me and rolled her eyes dramatically. “Please, you will survive just fine. It was nice of Micah to offer to take us after Christian’s truck broke down. We could’ve been stranded.”
Christian was Noelle’s boyfriend, and Micah’s best friend. We’d gone to the same high school before heading off to Ivy College together. We had all been good friends until I caught Micah kissing one of the cheerleaders, at school. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except he was my boyfriend at the time. We’d been steady dating for two years and I’d fancied myself in love with him. Not anymore, though. I’d hated him ever since. He never even tried to apologize to me; so we’d spent the rest of our senior year avoiding each other, the animosity between us growing steadily stronger.
Now I was going to be stuck in a car with him for two and a half hours. Thank goodness Christian and Noelle would be there as buffers. Otherwise, I might have considered slitting my own wrists to get out of the trip.
“You two really should try talking to each other to see if you can come to some sort of agreement and get along. Chris and I hate having to bounce between the two of you all the time, worrying we might offend one of you.” She crawled onto the bed and sat on the lid to her suitcase, attempting to zip it closed.
“He’s had plenty of opportunity to apologize to me. Besides, I think he’s enjoying being the campus Casanova. I swear I see him making out with a new girl every week.”
“You sound jealous,” Noelle replied, grunting as she dragged her suitcase off the bed and over to the door.
I scoffed. “Not jealous, grateful; ecstatic even, as well as a bit sad for the poor girls. They’ll all find out what kind of guy he is, sooner or later.”
Noelle sighed heavily. “Micah is an amazing guy, Felicity, not to mention gorgeous. You can’t deny it, because you used to see it, too.”
“Yeah, well, I was wrong. We all know how that turned out.” Placing my suitcase beside hers, I turned to face her. “So, what else do we need to do? There’s that party my teacher is throwing for the music students, tonight. I promised I’d help out. She’s counting it as the rest of my work study hours, which will give me a little extra money for next semester.”
Noelle quickly glanced around. “I think we are done here.”
“All right.” Grabbing my white coat, I slipped it on before shoving my feet into my tall, fur-lined snow boots. “I’ll see you later tonight, then. It will probably be after eleven, so don’t worry if I’m late.” I wound my white, cable knit scarf around my neck and dug my matching gloves from my pocket.
“I always think you look like a snow angel when you go out in that get up.” Noelle laughed. “All that light blonde hair against your white clothing. I keep expecting you to break out in Christmas carols or something.”
I laughed heartily as I reached for the door. There were far worse things than angels to be compared to. “Have fun with Chris tonight.”
“Thanks, I will. Be careful on your walk to the auditorium. There was a lot of ice on the sidewalks, earlier; although I saw the grounds keepers spreading salt to keep it under control.”
“Will do,” I replied, stepping from our room into the vacant hall.
Most of the students had already left campus and were headed home, even though there were still a few parties scheduled, tonight.
It was already dark as I carefully made my way across campus, toward the large auditorium. The Music Department party was being held in the Greenroom and I promised to arrive an hour early to help Mrs. Wimble set up. Here and there I passed a student or facility members hurrying on their way; but, for the most part, I was alone.
The sidewalks were, indeed, still icy, even though most of the snow from the last storm had been shoveled away. Piles of it still covered the ground, marred with thousands of footprints from people walking across the lawn. Glancing up at the black sky, no stars shone through the heavy cloud cover. Another big storm was predicted for tomorrow and most people had left campus in an effort to beat it. I hoped it would hold out long enough for our little group to make the trip back up the mountain to our small town, Evergreen. If not, we would be stuck here until they re-opened the roads. That idea didn’t appeal to me at all. We’d already discussed that possibility when Chris’s truck broke down. As much as I hated to admit it, it had been a blessing that Micah had offered to take us all back home.
Stomping my feet to remove any loose snow, I opened the auditorium door and proceeded down the hall into the warm building, thankful to be out of the bitter cold. Music was already coming from the Greenroom and when I entered, I found Mrs. Wimble and her husband busy decorating everything with garlands and lights.
“Hi, Felicity!” she greeted me warmly, from the top of a small step ladder. “Dave and I got an early start on things, but I still need help setting up the banquet tables for the food and decorating them. The DJ should be here any minute to set up, too.” She pointed to a large box next to the door. “Everything you need should be in there.”
“Got it!” I shrugged out of my coat and accessories and carried them over to one of the chairs against the wall.
The party was in full swing a mere fifteen minutes after people began arriving. Students were on the make-shift dance floor, shaking it up to popular favorites as well as holiday music. The DJ worked the crowd well, mixing genres to keep everyone happy, and having a good time. From my spot behind the refreshment table, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the shenanigans going on as several guys got together and attempted to strut their stuff to a popular line dance. They really were awful.
“What’s a pretty girl like you doing stuck behind the table?” A tall, cute, blonde guy smiled, his eyes drifting over me before returning to my face.
“I’m here helping as part of my work study hours,” I explained.
“Oh, I see. Well, do you have to stay here or can you join me for a dance?”
I glanced to where Mrs. Wimble was setting out a new tray of cookies. “Go on, Felicity, Bill and I can take care of this for awhile. Have a little fun.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, knowing I was here to work.
“Positive,” she replied with a smile.
Stepping from behind the table, I walked toward the dance floor, the guy following a step behind me. “My name is Felicity.” I stopped, turned and held my hand out to him.
He shook it gently. “So I heard. I’m Chance, by the way.” A slow song started and Chance quickly swept me into his arms. “How come I haven’t seen you around before? I’m assuming you’re a music student if you’re working in this department.”
“I am,” I replied, resting my hands lightly on his shoulders as we swayed. “But I’m not in the choir, band, or orchestra, like most of the students here. I’m doing private study for piano. So, most of my time is spent alone, in a practice room.”
“Well, that’s a travesty.” He stared down at me, a slight twinkle lighting his eye.
“What is?” I asked, not following.
“That you’re always locked away where none of us can appreciate your beauty.” He chuckled and I had to work to avoid rolling my eyes. This guy was definitely a player; but, for some reason, I still blushed. “Had I known there was such a beautiful angel drifting around campus, I would’ve hunted you down a long time ago.”
I laughed and tried to casually brush his comment off. “Yeah, I don’t get out much. I have a pretty heavy schedule.”
“Maybe things will lighten up and I’ll see you next semester, then.”
“Maybe,” I replied, noncommittally.
“Are you going anywhere for Christmas?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’m headed home tomorrow. I grew up about two and a half hours from here.” For some reason, I was reluctant to tell him the name of my town.
“Well, you better get an early start. There’s supposed to be a big storm coming.”
“I heard. We plan on leaving first thing in the morning.”
“We?” he asked.
“My roommate and her boyfriend.” I didn’t bother to acknowledge Micah would also be coming along. The song started drawing to a close.
“Look me up when you get back. Everyone in the music department knows me. Maybe we can grab a burger or something?”
“Sure, thanks.” I returned his smile as another student came up to us.
“Can I cut in?” he asked politely.
My gaze drifted to Mrs. Wimble, who signaled for me to keep dancing. Smiling, I nodded in acceptance as the newest stranger placed his arms around my waist.
“I’m Derek,” he said with a boyish grin. “Where are you from?” The conversation between us ran much the same as the first; and by the end of the night, I’d met half the male music student body.
It was late when I stumbled into my dark apartment, tired and ready for bed. Turning on the small lamp on my nightstand, rather than the overhead light so I wouldn’t wake Noelle, I was surprised to find her bed empty and made. A piece of paper rested on it. I picked it up, hurriedly reading through it.
I tried to reach you, but couldn’t ever get an answer. The auto place called right after you left to tell us Chris’s truck was fixed already. We went and got it and are headed home. I called Micah when I couldn’t get a hold of you. He said he will still pick you up in the morning and bring you with him. Sorry about the change in plans.
See you there,
“No!” I shouted, crumbling the paper into a ball and throwing it angrily at the wastepaper basket. This was horrible! How could she do this to me, knowing how much I detested Micah? Now I had to spend two and a half hours alone with him! This was going to be pure torture!
Dragging my phone from my pocket, I saw the reason for the missed calls. It was dead. Tossing it onto the nightstand, I flopped onto my bed with a groan, burying my face into my pillow. “Two and a half hours! Two and a half hours! I swear I am going to strangle you when I see you again, Noelle!”
© Lacey Weatherford Books/Moonstruck Media, LLC.
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