When Captain Jake Casey returns to his hometown for the holidays, he searches for the woman he loved, and had left behind. And under mistletoe, he finds a Christmas miracle
“She stopped dancing, and stood utterly still as his heart swelled”
fter five deployments in the Army, anywhere stateside would have Casey. street a was since snowy Not heaven he’d of But a looked Cinnamon Christmas lot been walking on had good Earth. gone. changed Eve down Valley to A Captain night new main on Jake sign station, extra hung parking and outside the bay. diner the But had gas the an holiday lights were still strung from one the way side he of the remembered street to the them, other crisscrossing just overhead like shimmering stars. He was home, he realized with a growing sense of relief. There had been times when he’d found it impossible to believe he would ever make it back, yet here he was: solid earth beneath his feet and snow on his face. He was taking a position at a local base, and there was just one thing left to do. He swept his eyes shut for a moment, summoned his courage and pulled open the door to the local bar. Christmas carols hit him square in the chest, and the merriment almost robbed him of breath. It was like a scene out of a movie: Colorful lights were hung across the ceiling, a pine tree was standing in the corner, its fairy lights twinkling and illuminating decorations on every branch. Practically the whole town was packed inside, dancing and laughing. His eyes scanned the crowd, searching for the one person he needed to see: Stella. Every second that passed, his heart seemed to slow down until it almost thudded to a stop in his chest. What if she’d left the Valley? Moved on with her life like he’d told her to? But, no. There she was. All he could do was stare. She was a Christmas angel, with her long dark hair pinned onto her head in a bun, to make way for a halo of tinsel. She spun around, smiling, as her eyes landed on Jake. She stopped dancing, and stood utterly still as his heart swelled. This was it. The moment he’d been waiting four years for. Would she be angry? They’d loved each other so much, and he’d walked away from it, unwilling to risk hurting her when he’d found out how dangerous his post was going to be. Standing here alive was more than he’d ever hoped. And standing in front of her…was a dream. A
he jeans. And She hope He wiped now, for couldn’t his did her own he hands move. dare Christmas on hope His the feet for backs miracle? more? were of locked her Did to the floor. She moved, though, weaving through the crowd toward him. As she walked, her beautiful lips curved into a smile as tears sparkled on her lashes. “You’re home?” she breathed, gazing at him. As if she couldn’t help herself, she lifted a hand to his chest. “You’re really home?” He nodded. His voice deserting him. “For how long?” Her eyes locked on his and for an instant, he saw her as she’d been when they first met when they were both 5 years old. Then as a 15-year-old, dancing with him under the stars, when she’d said she’d loved him for the first tim. The 18-yearold who’d cried and slapped him when he’d enlisted without telling her. He cleared his throat. “For good.” “For good?” Her smile widened as his pulse ratcheted up a notch. “You mean it?” “Yes. Stella, I should’ve explained. I should have called more or told you how I felt. I wish I’d explained…serving in the Army…” She lifted a finger to his lips. “Don’t you dare go thinking I’m anything other than proud of you, Captain.” It was too much. More than he’d ever dreamed. Her eyes drifted upward and his gaze followed. “Mistletoe,” she whispered, her cheeks flushed. He grinned and leaned forward. “May I?” She smiled, closing the distance between them. “I’m so glad you’re home.” As Jake pressed his lips to hers, their past, present and future spun together in a blissful moment. Stella, his own Christmas star, had guided him right back to where he always needed to be. He was finally home. And this time, he wasn’t going anywhere.