Suddenly let go from her news anchor position, Aria Roberts heads north to stay at her late Great-Aunt Clara’s house. She has many good memories there and wishes to give Clara’s Christmas Shoppe, which is located on the first floor of the Victorian mansion, one final holiday season. When Aria arrives, she finds the special gift Clara left for her—an antique nutcracker with a poem hidden under the back lever. Aria reads the poem out loud. At sundown that night, those words magically bring the nutcracker to life.
After some convincing, Aria believes Kort’s strange story. She helps him experience life as he is gifted so few hours alive and in doing so, falls in love. He knows his curse makes it impossible to give her the constant relationship she deserves. His plan to leave her forever on Christmas Day collides with Aria’s desire to build a future together, even if for only twenty-five nights a year.
Unable to form words, Aria leaned into him. Her heart rate soared, and her body trembled. This isn’t the end. Grief swelled. She focused on Kort, standing with her now. His body solid and real. The smell of wood and sage drifted off his shirt.
He brushed his thumb across her brow, creating the sensation of miniature fireworks inside her head. She’d grown to love the tender jester, feeling as if he was connecting into her mind.
She fought against the instinct to check the time. Live in the moment. “Don’t go.” Tears welled in her eyes, blurring her vision. A slow Christmas tune played on the radio, and she swayed with the music in his arms.
“If I could, I’d stay with you forever.” He kissed her, brushing across her lips. “I love you. Don’t ever forget that.”
She initiated another kiss. The softness of his lips made her body tremble. While holding him, she senses the tingle of the same strange energy as when she’d seen him transform into a man for the first time. “No,” she cried out. “No.” Her sobs came out fast and hard. Now, she held only air.
Dropping her hands to her sides, she stared at the nutcracker standing at attention at her feet. She fell onto her knees.
Bingo pushed his nose into her arm and whined.
She wiped her eyes with her shirt sleeve. “I love you.” Words said too late.
The emptiness Aria carried before coming to Clara’s expanded again. A black hole churning inside her core. For a brief period of time, Aria had discovered peace and happiness. For the next eleven months, she’d hold on tight to what she’d found with Kort.
Excerpted from A Nutcracker Christmas by Laurie Winter, Copyright © 2021 by Laurie Winter. Published by Champagne Book Group.
About the Author
Multi-award winning author Laurie Winter is a true warrior of the heart. Inspired by her dreams, she creates authentic characters who overcome the odds and find true love. She keeps her life balanced with regular yoga practice and running with her dog, Shadow. When not pounding the pavement or the keyboard, she’s likely fueling up on wine, cheese curds, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
One winner will receive a print copy of A NUTCRACKER CHRISTMAS or ONCE UPON A PRINCE by Laurie Winter, $25 Amazon gift card, and a nutcracker Christmas ornament (US only)
Ends December 8, 2021