Christmas At The Candied Apple Cafe
by Katherine Garbera
e-book Nov. 10, 2017
paperback Dec. 14, 2017
There's nothing so magical as Christmas in New York...
Santa is coming to New York!
Snow is falling, excitement is high and the delicious scent of chocolate drifts along Fifth Avenue – the Candied Apple Café is ready for Christmas! And no one is busier than publicist Iona Summerlin. With so much to do, she doesn’t have time to think about men, dating, or the fact her last boyfriend ditched her for her brother… Relationships are off the menu!
Hotel boss Mads Eriksson is not looking forward to the first Christmas since losing his wife. His six-year-old daughter Sofia has lost her belief in Christmas magic along with her mother, and he has no idea what to do. But an unusually festive business meeting at the Candied Apple – and meeting the beautiful Iona – starts to defrost Mads’ frozen heart, and suddenly life seems full of light and sparkle again.
If only they dare to believe, maybe all their Christmas dreams will come true!
Mads and Iona have been trying to keep things all business between them but Sofia forces them both to admit there is more between them than a business deal.
Singing Christmas carols with her friends, Mads, and Sofia after all the other party guests had left was something … well, really magical. She could see the snow falling beyond the tree through the window that looked over Central Park. Cici and Hoop sat together in a large armchair, Cici cuddling Holly in her arms. Garrett and Hayley were sitting on the floor in front of the tree and Iona and Mads and Sofia were nestled together on the couch.
She knew — truly she did — that this wasn’t real. That she and Mads had just become a family without any effort. But a part of her finally admitted it was something she was interested in.
Sofia was starting to get sleepy, curling closer to Mads, resting her head on his chest as Leon Redbone’s version of “Winter Wonderland” played in the background. Mads gave her a wry smile. “I think we should go.”
“She nodded. “I’ll come with you.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
She glanced over to see that Hayley was watching her with one eyebrow raised. Her friends had been cool about not saying anything about Sofia arriving by herself or Mads kissing her in the kitchen hallway. But she had the feeling tomorrow at work they were going to want all the details.
She just smiled at Hayley, who winked at her. “We’re going to head out. Thanks for a wonderful party.”
“You’re welcome,” Hoop said as he shifted Cici and baby Holly to the chair and stood up. “I’ll see them out.”
“Iona went over and gave Cici a hug and kissed the sleeping baby on the head before waving bye to Hayley and Garrett. Mads followed her, carrying his daughter, who’d fallen asleep. Iona gathered their coats from Hoop.
“My phone is in my pocket,” Mads said. “Will you text Hamlisch we’re ready to go?”
She blushed as Hoop watched her reach her hand into Mads’ back pocket to retrieve his phone. She tried to be nonchalant but the gesture felt intimate. Not something acquaintances would do. She took out his phone and handed it to him since it was password-protected. She turned to hug Hoop as Mads texted his driver.”
“He reached around her to open the door for Mads. “See you on Saturday.”
“Can’t believe I’m going to the ballet,” Hoop said. “But I think it should be fun.”
“You’ll love it,” Iona said.
He nodded and they left the apartment. Iona hit the button for the down elevator and as they waited Mads looked over at her. There was an intensity in his gaze that she hadn’t noticed in him before.
“I was just thinking about something Sofia had said earlier.”
“What was it?” Iona asked, tucking a strand of Sofia’s hair behind her ear.
“That she wanted this year to feel different. Gill was sick for three years before she died. Sofia never knew a Christmas that didn’t involve nurses or hospitals.”
Iona put her arms around them both and hugged them. She wanted them to be hers. She held them tightly because she wanted to keep them close forever. “We’re going to make this one special for her.”
“I hope it’s good for you too,” he said.
“Me too,” she admitted, as the elevator doors opened. She caught a glimpse of the three of them walking through the lobby in the mirrored wall behind the reception desk. They looked like a family. Like the one she’d kept tucked away in the back of her mind from the moment that her mom had mentioned a matchmaker. Finding her a husband because it was time for her to have a family of her own.
But that had been her mom’s agenda, trying to force her to not work so hard, not be like her dad. This was different. She hadn’t been looking for Mads or Sofia when they’d come into her life.
“You okay?” Mads asked.
She realized she’d stopped walking and was staring at her own reflection in the mirror. She nodded because she knew she couldn’t tell him what was on her mind. That at this moment she finally got that she hadn’t been okay in a really long time. She’d used the Candied Apple as her surrogate family. She’d made that little place into the only thing that mattered in her life because there she was safe. She could pour all of her hopes and dreams into the shop and it would never let her down.
Never break her heart or let her glimpse something she longed to call her own, only to take it away from her.
And she knew… really, she did, that she’d been pretending for too long that the Candied Apple Café would be enough to fill the emptiness left by never getting the approval she needed from her father.
She wanted this Christmas wish that she’d been silently whispering for longer than she could remember to come true. She wanted Christmas morning to be special and not because she’d ordered lots of things she wanted and had them wrapped and delivered and put under her tree. But this year she wanted to have something she couldn’t buy. Something that had always been out of her reach and that reflection in the mirror made her hope that this time she could get it.
That Mads and Sofia could be hers, not just on Christmas morning but for all the Christmases to come.