A Home For Christmas by Katie Eagan Schenck Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Brad has just one wish this Christmas: to find a real home. Having lost his parents before joining the Marines, he misses that sense of belonging and family. When he meets an introverted flight attendant on his journey to start his civilian life, he wonders if this might be his chance.
After a messy divorce, Shelly has decided the only person allowed within the brittle walls of her broken heart is her daughter, Lilly. At least, until she meets a friendly man who hails from her hometown while working a routine flight. When she learns he needs a place to stay, she offers the apartment over her garage out of the kindness of her heart – and her desperate need for extra cash.
Even as Brad endears himself to Shelly by saving the town's Christmas pageant, she attempts to keep her distance to protect the fragile stability she's built since her divorce. But Brad's willingness to walk the fine line between what Shelly's heart wants and what her head allows slowly wears down her resolve. And when Brad receives a job offer near the only family he has left, Shelly must decide whether she's willing to risk her heart again before he leaves her home, and her life, for good.
Lilly’s phone was still connected to the speaker and “I’ll be Home for Christmas” played. “I love this song, though it’s bittersweet.”
“Because you haven’t had a home for Christmas?”
“Well, yes,” he said, staring at the tree. “However, the lyrics aren’t really promising the singer will be home for Christmas. He mentions at the end how he’ll only be home in his dreams. For me, home isn’t about a specific place, but more about the people who make it a home.” He turned toward her. “My parents are gone and, as I told you before, my sister and I aren’t close. So my home for Christmas is truly in my dreams, because it doesn’t exist anymore.”
Shelly’s eyes softened, and she took his hand. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”
“It’s not your fault, and I’m not surprised.” He gave her a half smile and patted her hand before letting go. “Leave it to me to turn a lovely Christmas song into something depressing.”
“But you’re right, it is kind of a sad song.”
“Perhaps we can make it happier.” He stood, then performed a slight bow and offered her his hand. “Would you like to dance?”
She raised her eyebrows dubiously, but she accepted his hand and he pulled her to her feet. They faced each other, both unmoving, until Brad brought her closer to him and placed his free hand on her waist. Her hand rested on his shoulder as they swayed together to the beat.
She was soft and warm in his arms and he detected the faint scent of cinnamon and something floral. As they turned in the limited space of the room, he was reminded of earlier that morning when he helped her into her coat. The way his fingers tingled when they touched her skin. He recalled how the look in her eyes made his heart stop. Now, his heart was pounding, and the air seemed to hum with electricity, just like that morning.
He directed her to twirl, then caught her at the waist. This time, she was close enough to rest her head on his chest as they continued to sway. He tightened his arm around her and wished this could last forever. For reasons he couldn’t quite explain, it felt like they had known each other for years, instead of only one day.
The song’s last notes played, and they stopped swaying in the sudden silence. When she gazed up at him, her emerald eyes were sparkling. She was absolutely radiant, the happiest he had seen her since they met. He released her waist, but he held onto her hand.
With a smile, he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it in what he hoped was a gentleman-like way.
“Thank you for the dance.”
Shelly averted her gaze. “You’re a wonderful dancer.”
Debut author, Katie Eagan Schenck, writes sweet romance that warms the heart and gives all the feels. When she's not writing fiction, she's either working on regulations for the federal government or binging Hallmark movies. She lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter, and their three cats.
When I was around 8 years of age, I realized I wanted to write books when I grew up. My mother was my biggest fan, and she encouraged me to pursue my dreams with one caveat: she made me promise that I write and dedicate one “kissing book” to her. Kissing books is what I called romance novels, but my mother preferred the steamier, so-called “bodice ripper” variety. I made the promise, but as I hit puberty, the idea of writing my mother a steamy romance novel didn’t sit right with me. And then, in 2002, she passed away after a brief battle with colon cancer.
Between my aversion to writing a steamy book for my mom and the grief over her loss, I moved away from writing to pursue other interests. But it was always in the back of my mind. In fact, I struggled to write creatively because I felt I needed to fulfill the promise first before I could move forward with writing anything else.
One afternoon, following a particularly grueling day of grad school, I came across Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas. I quickly became hooked. The movies were simple to follow, which was what my tired brain needed after writing academic papers and working full time as a paralegal. It dawned on me as I watched another sweet romance end in a kiss that I didn’t need to write a steamy book to keep my promise. It just had to be a romance novel.
Now, my husband likes to tease me about my love of Hallmark movies. He referrs to them as modern day mad-libs because the careers of the characters and the situations they find themselves in are sometimes a bit random. So, in that spirit, I used Reedsy’s plot generator and got a Marine and a flight attendant as the main characters. The Christmas setting was already in my head after binging so many holiday movies, and the rest just stemmed from there. I’ve since written two other sweet romance novels, but it all started because of a childhood promise I intended to keep.