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Pining for Christmas

Pining for Christmas

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Surprising my family with a visit home for the holidays brought some big surprises--not least of them Cameron, whom I've not forgiven, nor forgotten after he broke my heart in high school. Could this single dad and his daughter make this final year on my parents' Christmas tree farm complete?

Main Tropes

  • Frenemies
  • Single Dad
  • All Grown Up
  • Shared Past
  • Return to Home Town
  • One That Got Away


I’m only home for the holidays, but this hot, single dad could make me want to stay.

I’m the personal assistant to one of Hollywood’s elite, but I grew up on a Christmas tree farm. Now, after two Christmases away, I’ve decided to surprise everyone by coming home for the holidays. Great idea, right? Of course, right. Except for a couple of problems. Which are not really problems, because I’m Makenzie Vandenberg, and my job is solving problems.

Problem #1: They sold the Christmas tree farm. Kind of a big one, but somehow my family failed to mention this little detail.

Problem #2: They’re selling it to my old crush.

Guys are jerks. And crushes don’t change that. Cameron was the first one to teach me this, after years of friendship he stomped all over my heart and started dating my mortal enemy. But we’re both adults now. I’ve moved on . . . sort of.

Problem #3: He’s been married and divorced since then and maybe he’s not the same jerk he used to be.

From the moment I arrive in Sugar Creek I can feel him changing my mind, reminding me why we were friends to begin with. Now, my emotions have gone as melty and sticky as his daughter's candy cane kisses.

Which has created the final issue . . .

Problem #4: This single dad could break my heart . . . again.

I was so sure Cameron was in my past. I’d tucked him away with memories of childhood and the smell of pine tree adventures. No matter how much I want to be with him, staying isn’t an option. I've got a job and a life outside of Christmas tree farms. Now, I have a few short weeks to decide if I’m willing to sacrifice everything for a chance at love.

Look Inside

Mackenzie wondered again if she should have told her parents she was coming instead of springing it on them. Perhaps, but she couldn’t wait to see the look of surprise in her mom’s eyes.

Anticipation thrummed through her as she turned left onto her family farm, driving past the large space that had been cleared with a wooden railing separating the parking area from the pre-cut tree sales area. The snow fell lightly on the car as she pulled around to the family parking spaces near the kitchen door at the back of the house. She grinned as she saw a figure hauling Christmas-colored totes from the back of the farm’s blue pickup truck—no doubt the lights for the annual sledding party the next Saturday. It took only a second for her to realize the figure was too tall and lanky to be her father, but all she could see were his legs and the top of a baseball cap until he set the totes on a table.

Definitely not her dad. The man was probably mid to late thirties, dark haired with a scruff of beard growth. Wow, he was hot! It took several seconds for her to realize she knew him because she had not expected to see him here.

No way. No. Way.

Cameron Navarro was the most clueless idiot she’d ever had the displeasure to know—and she worked in Hollywood, so she knew her idiots. Surely her dad didn’t hire him. Wasn’t he some hot-shot engineer now? Why would he be working on a farm after working so hard in college to escape his family farm? Not that she’d kept tabs on him or anything, but their parents were close, so she heard things sometimes—whether she wanted to or not.

A smile spread across that sickeningly handsome face when she slid into an empty parking spot not twenty feet from where he was working.

“Hey, Mac. Haven’t seen you in a few years.”

He was the only person who had called her that. Once upon a time she had actually liked it. “Cam.” When she stepped out onto the snow, Mackenzie was grateful she still had a pair of winter boots left from high school. She did her best to look unsurprised and unaffected by his presence. She took in a lungful of the beautiful Vermont air and smelled the pine fragrance that had always meant home to her.

“I didn’t know you were coming home,” Cameron said as he walked over.

She almost made a snide comment about her parents keeping a lot of secrets—for example, his presence—but since even her parents had no idea she was coming home, and it would be easy enough for him to find that out, it wasn’t worth the effort. “Spur of the moment decision.”

“I’m sure your parents will be glad to have you here for Thanksgiving. Your mom is inside. Your dad is out doing tree stuff.” He waved toward the rows of trees that stood like a vast arm across the land, some inter-planted with the honeyberries and lingonberries that provided summer and fall harvests.

“Thanks.” She wrangled her two large suitcases out of the back seat, and started dragging them toward the house. The gravel and new snow did not make an ideal rolling surface.

“Whoa, how long are you planning to stay? A year?” he asked.

“Not quite.” Mackenzie wanted her parents to be the first to learn about her plans.

“Need a hand?” Cameron asked.

“I’ve got them. Thanks.” Of course, as soon as the words were out of her mouth, one of the suitcases got caught up on a larger rock, and she had to tug, causing her feet to slide a couple inches in the snow and nearly landing her on her butt before she got her balance back.

“You always were stubborn,” Cameron said as he picked up the larger suitcase and hauled it onto the back stairs as if it weighed only a few pounds. It had been very near the max weight allowed at the airport.

“It’s part of my charm,” Mackenzie ground out, trying not to snap at him. She could tell herself that it was the long flight, the endless drive, and hunger, but she knew better. He had annoyed her beyond words since they were teenagers, even without trying. They had made a game of annoying each other all through high school despite the fact that they had been friends for years before that.

Cameron grinned. “Right, your charm is overwhelming.” He reached out and grabbed the second suitcase that she had been about to pull up the two stairs, depositing it near the first one. “Good to see you again.”

“I’m sure it is.” Just because he had big farmer’s biceps, and she had wimpy computer nerd biceps didn’t mean he had to be smug.

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