Series: The 12 Loves of Christmas #2
Published by: Jelly Bean Press Co
Release Date: 10/5/2021
Contributors: Heather Tullis
Genre: Christmas Romance, Romance
Christmas in Dos Fuentes is all about love
Heaven Lee has exactly the life she always wanted—her own dental clinic tucked in the hillside of her tiny town off Highway 1. Her sister and niece love close by and she has plenty of friends—and it's Christmas time. What else could she want? Certainly not the cute, quiet mechanic who damaged her car. Men are a nice diversion now and then, but she's been burned too many times and has no intention of relying on them for anything long term.
Jayden Lewis has only lived in Dos Fuentes for six months, but he's found it to be a peaceful place where he can live life at his own speed and avoid the public events that cause his anxiety attacks to kick in. He can't help but be glad when a little Christmas magic brings Heaven into his life. Seeing that she's heading up the Chamber of Commerce's gift wrapping booth, he impulsively signs up to help—never mind the fact that he's never wrapped a decent-looking package in his life.
Jayden can't help but fall for Heaven from the start, but can he convince her that love doesn't have to end with a broken heart?
Also in this series:
Heaven Lee finished charting for the final patient and hit save. She still had to make dinner and take Kay to the pigeon guy’s house for a school assignment before she could call this day finished. She rubbed her face and neck, willing herself to wake up. The previous night had been a late one, designing a flier for the holiday present-wrapping station downtown. Satisfied with her notes, she closed the rest of the programs and shut down the computer.
Sunny, one of her hygienists, stepped in holding a sanitizer spray bottle and cloth. “I’ve got everything else cleaned and the computers are shut down for the night. Darla had to leave a little early to pick up her son.”
“Sounds good. You handled Tommy well. You’re great with kids.”
“Thanks, I like kids. It helps when you have a lot of nieces and nephews.”
She sure had a slew of them, Heaven acknowledged. “Whatever it takes. I’ll let you finish in here.”
Heaven double-checked the dental office to make sure it was ready to lock up. When she’d bought the practice three years earlier, her upgrades had all been software related. Maybe it was time to give the inside a facelift. A little paint wouldn’t hurt. She added that to the mental list of expenses she needed to juggle into her budget.
Sunny met her at the back door. “Everything looks good. See you on Monday.”
“Great, have a good weekend!” Heaven said.
She locked up and they headed for their cars. What little light made it through the cloud cover was fading in the drizzle. Heaven headed to the daycare for her seven-year-old niece, Kay. Thanksgiving was the following week and Heaven smiled at the holiday decor going up in the small town. The discovery of two hot springs with legendary medicinal properties two hundred years earlier had fueled the town’s settlement in what had been Mexican territory—a legacy that was reflected in the architecture in many buildings. Even today, the springs drew hordes of tourists, but Dos Fuentes had managed to maintain the old-time feel.
She drove up one of many steep, twisting roads that defined the coastal northern California town. A light rain fell, and her windshield wipers squeaked. At least it wasn’t icy.
She turned onto Main Street and prepared for the next right turn when a white truck shifted into her lane. She laid on the horn and hit the brakes, but the metal pipes sticking beyond his lowered tail gate smashed into the front of her car.
Heaven used a few words she would have squelched in front of her niece. Since there was no street parking on the narrow road, when the driver drove around the corner, she followed into the parking lot for Tubman’s Bistro.
A lanky man with an angular face and well-tended beard emerged from the truck and approached, wide eyed. “I’m so sorry! You were in my blind spot, and I didn’t see you. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Heaven took stock of herself to verify that it was true. “You damaged my car. I have to call this in.” She sighed and pulled out her phone.
He turned to look at the front of her old Honda Accord, pushing an unruly shock of hair back from his forehead. “It looks like it’s just the front headlight. I don’t see any other damage around it, well below the reporting minimum. I’d need my tools and a few minutes to make sure there isn’t any more damage.”
His tools? What did he know about cars? “I don’t think that’s necessary, and my insurance will want a police report.”
“I’m a mechanic. I’ll repair it for you, no charge since it’s my fault.” He pulled a few business cards from his pocket, handing one to her. “I’m Jayden Lewis.”
She thought of her errands: grocery shopping, picking up gift-wrapping supplies from the Chamber closet, and running Kay to activities. It would be much harder if her car was in the shop. “I don’t have time for this.”
Heaven looked at the business card: Jayden Lewis, Dos Fuentes Car Repair. She’d heard of this mechanic’s shop—it sold recently to someone new in town. She eyed him again, not sure what to think. The patient who had mentioned him—the wife of the previous owner—said he was good. She glanced at the company logo on his truck, which matched the card. She’d spent too many years living in the city to take the card as proof on its own. Anyone could have claimed to be a mechanic if they had one of his cards.
“I’m really sorry. If you can bring it to my shop, I’ll fix it. I’ll put you first. It won’t take long to replace.”
Heaven looked at the damage, water droplets slowly soaking her hair and clothes. Was it really under the reporting limit? There didn’t appear to be any body damage. She let out a breath, calming herself, and pulled one of her cards from her purse. “Here’s my business number. You’re sure it’s under the minimum to report the accident?”
“Well under. You’re really not hurt? You didn’t bump your head or anything?” His concern seemed genuine, reassuring her even more.
“I’m fine, really. I have to pick up my niece, but we can talk tomorrow. I’ll call you.”
“No problem. Again, I’m sorry.”
“Yeah. Good night.” Grumpy and more stressed than before, she headed to pick up Kay. Heaven glanced at the clock. Great, now she was late. Again.
Jayden watched the woman drive away and studied her card. Heaven Lee, DDS. Heavenly? Really? He slid the card into his front pocket and got into his truck. He should have double-checked his blind spots. He should have unloaded the pipes for the shop renovations before he returned to town. Idiot. He gripped the steering wheel, reminding himself that it wasn’t the end of the world. Accidents happen, and this one had been minor. It was fast and inexpensive to repair. The car had a few dings—but those weren’t his fault. He glanced at the card again. Why was a dentist driving a ten-year-old car?
He still had to stop at the drugstore for Sally’s medication. Roger’s call asking Jayden to stop for the meds had been the reason for the lane change. Next time he would be more careful.
Doing his best to shake it off, Jayden headed for the family-owned drug store on the next block.
The bright space was surprisingly full. Nine customers in the small room felt like fifty as his anxiety rose. Jayden had lived in town for nearly six months, and he’d met a lot of people through his shop. He recognized most of the men gathered near the pharmacist’s windows. They were good friends with Roger, the man who had sold him the shop.
“Hello, Jayden. What brings you here?” Clarence Braun asked. Though well into his seventies, you wouldn’t know it from the energy the man gave off. Though his grandson had moved back to take over the family hardware store, Clarence still worked often.
“Just picking up a prescription. How about you?” Jayden inched toward the pharmacist so he could escape quickly but didn’t want to be rude.
“Already got mine. What do you think of the match-up for the Thanksgiving game?”
“It should be interesting.” Jayden enjoyed watching football when he came across a game, but he wasn’t a fanatic and had no idea who was playing in the big game.
“I been hearing a funny whine in my engine the past couple mornings.” Clarence tried to imitate the sound but wasn’t very helpful.
“If you run by my place, I’d be happy to have a listen,” Jayden moved a few more inches. The pharmacy closed soon. “I need to get some meds back to the Gordons.”
“You tell them hello for me, would you? I haven’t seen them around much lately.” George Robinson’s heavy white mustache nearly obscured his moving mouth. Near neighbors, he and Clarence were always running around town together, frequently with a couple of other friends.
“They don’t get out as much as they used to.” Jayden turned toward the pharmacist, nearly running over a preteen girl with her eyes glued to her cell phone. When had she entered the store?
His heart pounded almost painfully, and the aisles grew smaller as Jayden requested Sally’s medication, covering the ten-dollar copay. “Thanks,” he said, grateful the men had left, eliminating one gauntlet for him to pass through on his way out.
“You’re welcome. Tell Sally and Roger hello for me.”
“I will.” Jayden made a beeline for the door. Living in a small town, it seemed he always ran into an acquaintance—1300-plus residents were fewer than he’d thought when he’d arrived in the spring.
He’d come as a tourist with his parents and sister’s family and fell for the place overnight. He loved the crazy, steep streets with their sharp turns and cobbled roads. The Mexican flavor that endured in the ancient stone church, the city building, and the old hotel on the hill. He loved the steep stairways that bisected the long thin blocks on the side of the hill, allowing pedestrians to move between Main Street and First Street without making the trek to the corners. The laid-back small-town friendliness had appealed as well, though he’d realized the drawbacks to that aspect since moving here.
When he’d learned Roger was looking to sell his shop, Jayden acted on instinct and didn’t regret it. Most of the time. He liked working solo, but that meant dealing with customers more—not his favorite part of the deal. The paperwork was a pain—he was still figuring that out. Still, Dos Fuentes beat Reno any day.
At his previous job, his boss had considered lunch breaks optional—and he opted not to offer them if at all possible. His co-workers had constantly poked at Jayden about women, his birds, why he didn’t smoke, how quiet he was—anything and everything. Being his own boss and working mostly alone was much better.
Jayden took the winding road toward the five acres on the edge of town that Roger and Sally had purchased over forty years ago. When he had first arrived, Jayden rented the room built onto the shop, and the Gordons treated him like a grandson. Now the shop—business, equipment, and building, were all his, so he owned the tiny apartment. It would do for now.
Before he pulled into the long driveway, flashing lights from an ambulance and two sheriff’s vehicles caught his eye. Coming to a quick stop at the edge of the yard, Jayden bolted from his truck, rushing inside the bungalow. “What happened?” he asked the sheriff’s deputy who was hurrying through the living room.
“And you are?”
“Jayden Lewis. I live here on the property. Is it Sally or Roger?”
“Sally, I’m getting the gurney so they can take her into the hospital.” He continued out the door and Jayden followed voices to the family room. Sally’s papery face was pale, her eyes closed. Roger sat angled out of the way, holding her hand while two EMTs worked with a female deputy assisting.
The fear in Jayden’s mouth tasted acrid, like the scent of axle grease. “What can I do to help?”
The female EMT handed him a bag of saline. “Hold that up for me? I need an IV pole.”
He could be an IV pole. At least it was somewhat helpful, even if it didn’t feel like he was doing much.
After what felt like forever, they lifted tiny Sally onto the gurney and hung the saline on an attached IV pole.
“We’ll take her to the hospital and the doctor will take a look at her,” the second EMT said.
“I’m coming,” Roger grabbed his keys from the dresser.
“Let me drive you. You look like a hard wind might blow you over.” Jayden accepted the keys from Roger, not sure whether to be grateful or worried when the man didn’t argue. Roger was unendingly independent.
The drive to St. Joseph’s went faster than Jayden expected. They were walking inside when Jayden’s phone alarm rang, reminding him his pigeon girl would arrive in fifteen minutes. Groaning, he pulled out his phone and called.
“Butler here,” a woman’s voice answered.
“Hi, this is Jayden Lewis, the guy with the pigeons. Look, I’m really sorry. I know you’re probably about to walk out the door, but I have a family emergency. Could we reschedule?”
“I guess so. Tomorrow?”
“Um, maybe. Could I text you in the morning when I know what’s going on?”
“Okay. I’ll look for your text.”
“Thanks. I’m really sorry.” That phrase was getting old tonight. Running his hands through his untamable hair, he went inside the ER to see what the doctor had to say.
Heaven felt terrible that Kay was the last child at daycare. Not only did the provider have to stay open later—even if it was only a few minutes, but the time or two Kay had been the last to leave, she had been anxious that something was wrong.
“Heaven, you’re late!” Kay declared as soon as her aunt entered the daycare.
“I’m sorry, I had a slight mishap on the road.” She looked apologetically at Ginger, the twenty-something young woman who ran the daycare. “Someone cut in front of me on Main and damaged my headlight. It took a little extra time to deal with that.”
“No problem, you’re only a few minutes late. You’re okay?” Ginger asked.
“I am, thanks.” Heaven turned back to Kay. “You ready?”
“I’ve been ready.” She hefted her backpack onto her shoulders and tossed her blond hair with the annoyed air of a girl of seventeen instead of seven. “We’re going to go see the pigeons tonight.”
“I know. Right after dinner.” Heaven said goodnight to Ginger and followed Kay out to the car.
Once Kay was buckled into her booster seat, they headed home. “What do you want for dinner tonight?”
“Pizza?” Kay said.
“Macaroni and Cheese?”
“Try again.” This had become a nightly ritual, with Kay asking for the same dishes night after night. Heaven used to make a meal plan, but by the end of the night she was usually too tired to do anything that took much effort.
That was a new one. Heaven laughed. “Maybe for dessert, if you eat all of your salad.” She parked in her garage in the twin homes she and Faith had purchased when the neighborhood was being constructed the previous year.
“I’ll put together some pasta. Did you get through your homework after school?”
“Everything except math.” Kay pulled a face. She was learning how to spell out the numbers—a double whammy when neither math nor spelling came easily to her.
“Start it at the table while I make dinner. If we’re fast, we should be able to get through your math before we need to go to the pigeon man’s house.” Faith had arranged the visit for a verbal report the kids were giving in class. It would be simple enough to get a book on pigeons, but Kay had wanted to see some herself, and the teacher knew a pigeon owner. Heaven looked out at the heavy clouds. She wasn’t looking forward to walking around in the drizzle, but at least it wasn’t raining hard.
With Heaven’s spelling assistance, Kay’s homework was done by the time Heaven finished cooking the penne and dumped in a can of sauce and some cheese. She assembled a salad kit and they sat to eat.
She was checking the clock again when her phone buzzed with a text message.
Faith: Just got a call from the pigeon guy. Family emergency came up. He’ll message me tomorrow to reschedule. LMK if you got this or I’ll call to check.
Heaven: Got it, thanks.
No wandering around in the rain. That was a relief. “Well, looks like the pigeon guy had something come up.”
“Aww. I wanted to go,” Kay pouted.
“What do you say to a movie night?”
“Yes!” Kay hopped off her chair for a celebratory dance. “But when am I going to see the pigeons?”
“He’s supposed to let us know tomorrow. Your mom or I will take you whenever that is.” Faith was working twelve-hour shifts as a sheriff’s deputy and worked today and tomorrow. “Finish your dinner if you want that ice cream.”
Despite her excitement, Kay took forever to finish her dinner and change into pajamas. Heaven had cleaned up and changed her own clothes, pulling her long, brown hair back in a ponytail while Kay was still in her room. Exhausted from a busy week, Heaven expected to nod off after fifteen minutes, but Kay would probably stay up for hours.
After popping a bag of popped corn, Heaven walked through the door that connected the living rooms of the mirror-image units and called to Kay, “Aren’t you ready yet?”
Heaven poured the finished popcorn into two bowls, and scooped ice cream into two more, and Kay still hadn’t emerged from her room. “What are you doing?”
She found Kay tugging the blanket off her bed, half a dozen stuffed animals piled in the middle of it.
She should have known. “You don’t need all of those.”
“I’m sleeping on the couch, so I’ll know when Mom gets home.” She gave a final tug, and the blanket came free.
“You can bring two, and that’s plenty.”
Kay frowned. “It’s not that many toys.”
“Two.” Otherwise the small living room would be over-run.
After some consideration, Heaven helped Kay cart the blanket and toys to the living room sofa. No need to worry about having too much space to fill in this house, Heaven thought as she slid to the far end of the sofa to make room for Kay’s stuffed friends. Before long they were eating ice cream and watching Frozen 2 for the thirtieth time.
Heaven dozed for part of the movie, but Kay apparently stayed awake for the whole thing. “One more,” she said when the credits started rolling and Heaven rubbed her eyes as she woke up.
Heaven checked her watch. “Your mom will be home from work soon.”
“Good. Just a short show?” She rubbed at her eyes, obviously struggling to stay awake.
Deciding it was easier to let her fall asleep to TV than to fight about going to sleep, Heaven pulled up a show Kay loved about kids living on a ship and settled in to wait for her sister’s arrival.
Kay was asleep in minutes.
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