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The Christmas Cottage

By:Kay Correll



The Christmas Cottage





Kay Correll





CHAPTER ONE



Holly pulled the car over to the side of the road. She flicked on the light on the ceiling of her beat up but serviceable sedan. It had done her well on the long drive. Good thing she’d written out the directions to Comfort Crossing in the middle of nowhere Mississippi because she’d lost her cell signal twenty minutes ago. Her map app on her phone was doing her no good. She snatched up the directions she’d hastily written on a scrap of paper. Maybe too hastily. She wasn’t sure if this was where she was supposed to turn, or if she needed to go to the next intersection. After twisting the paper back and forth, as if that was going to make any difference, she decided it did say to turn left here.

Probably.

She pulled the car back onto the blacktop road and decisively made a left turn. This was the right way. Left way. Left was the right way. Well, she knew what she was talking about even if her brain was bouncing around trying to trick her.

What had seemed like such a good idea last week began to pale a bit as the day had worn on. She knew she was headed to a small town somewhere not far from the coast of Mississippi, but she hadn’t realized just how far Comfort Crossing was from any real town. Though, she doubted the residents would like it if she said Comfort Crossing wasn’t a real town. She’d keep that thought to herself when she began her work at Comfort Crossing Animal Clinic. Two weeks of work away from her home, family, and friends. Just what she craved this holiday. Long hours, lots of work, and just pop on over to the new year. Snap, just-like-that, the holidays would be over and life could get back to normal. Please.

Her headlights sliced through the darkness until she could see a glow coming from a town in the distance. Hoping the lights meant she’d found her destination, she drove on. She flicked on the radio and twisted the knob to see if she could get a signal. After a bit of static, the clear tones of a country singer belting out Jingle Bells poured into the vehicle.

Not a chance.

She quickly twisted the knob again only to be greeted with the melodious sound of Silent Night. The next station blared out Deck the Halls. Great. She stabbed at the off button. Didn’t any station play normal music in December?

She pulled into town, thankful to see a sign declaring she’d found Comfort Crossing, and made a left on Main Street. The street was decorated with lights strung across it from sidewalk to sidewalk and bright red bows tied on each lamppost. The front of the stores were all decorated with holiday festivity, with snow etched snowflakes painted on the windows and Christmas displays beckoning customers to come in and finish off their holiday shopping. It looked like a vintage Christmas card for Pete’s sake.

She gritted her teeth, ignored the decorations and continued down Main Street, looking for Chalk Road. There it was. She pulled under a street lamp and glanced at the directions one more time. Take Chalk Road about two miles. The cottage she was staying in was on the left. A red mailbox. That should be easy.

Four miles later she turned the car back around. She drove more slowly this time and spotted the red mailbox, cleverly almost hidden in a bush. Not such a great marker after all. She pulled into the gravel driveway and followed its curves up to a pretty white cottage.

Then she saw the twinkling white Christmas lights strung on the bushes lining the front porch. A wreath hung on the door. Red ribboned bows hung from the porch railings. It was Christmas at this cottage, that was for sure.

Her worst nightmare.

Exactly what she did not want.

How could she have known escaping Christmas by hiding out in a small town and waiting for the holiday to blow past her would put her right smack into its midst? A place she did not want to be.

She pulled her suitcase out of her car and crossed over to the come-rest-a-spell front porch. Red Adirondack chairs and a swing were nestled at one end of the porch. Light poured through the big picture window. She could see into the cottage to a tidy family room with a fireplace against the far wall. She didn’t realize it would get cold enough here in Mississippi in the winter for a fire.

Holly picked up the flower pot beside the door, and just like the instructions had said, there was the key. She opened the front door and crossed into the cheerful warmth of the cottage.

* * * * *

Holly unpacked her suitcase and settled in. Someone had left her coffee, milk, orange juice, a sandwich, and a delicious looking cinnamon roll. She guessed when Comfort Crossing needed a temporary veterinarian, they went all out to make you feel at home.

Her partners at the vet clinic in Kansas had known how hard this Christmas would be for her. When Lynn, not only her best friend but another vet at the clinic, had seen the ad for this temporary position she’d suggested that maybe Holly should take it. Holly had made no attempt to hide the fact that she wasn’t having Christmas this year.

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