Christmas in Smithville
The Hometown Series Book 4
by Kirsten Fullmer Genre: Contemporary Romance
Even though Gloria is determined to change her reputation, most of the women in town still think she’s a tramp. Sure, she may have dressed a little flashy and dated pretty much every single guy in town, but that’s the past. Now that she wants to make a fresh start, will Smithville give her a second chance?
Ned has heard all the gossip, but being the Sheriff’s Deputy, he sees all the kind things Gloria does behind the scenes for the folks of Smithville. It looks like the upcoming Christmas Pageant will offer him the opportunity to spend time with her, but can he overcome a frustrating stutter and talk to her, face to face?
Your favorite characters from the Hometown Series bring craziness, love, and Smithville Christmas style, to a whole new romance about overcoming your past and sharing your deepest secrets. Fall in love and be swept away with the Christmas Eve celebration of your dreams.
“Then I just had to wr—wrap the baby up and hand her to her mother,” Ned said as he dropped his paint roller in the bucket of hot water.
Gloria stared at him, her eyes wide in fascination. “I can’t believe you delivered a baby by the side of the road. I don’t think I could have—”
“Sure you could,” he said with a shrug. “When the time comes and work needs doing, folks like us st—step up.”
Unsure, she scoffed. “Well, baking a casserole is one thing, but—”
Ned reached out to take her paint roller. “Yeah, okay, the baby was kind of a big deal,” he conceded, “Usually, I just end up learning w—way more about people than I want to know.”
“I understand that.” Gloria nodded. “Given my past, I know—” She stopped, realizing what she was saying. “Of course, I’ve forgotten all about those guys...” She faltered, her words fading away and her cheeks burning red under her freckles.
Ned’s laughter rang out into the workshop. “Oh, I’m sure you don’t know which guys in town burp at the table, who is connected at the hip to their momma, or who snores—” The words chopped off and it was his turn to blush. “I… I d—didn’t mean… I—I w—wasn’t…” His stutter always got much worse when he was upset. Frustrated, he stopped talking and turned back to the water bucket.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Gloria said, feeling bad for him. “It’s true though, especially with your job. What do you do when you meet someone on the street, and you know intimate details about their personal life?” She waited, but he just pumped the paint rollers up and down in the water, so she tried again. “I’m asking for advice, honest. Do they train you on this stuff at the police academy?”
He shrugged, then straightened and shoved one hand in the front pocket of his jeans. “Well we have to t—take ethics classes, but…” he looked up, making eye contact, “no, they don’t tell you that stuff. You just h—have to act like you weren’t at their house two n—nights ago with the fire chief, helping them get their hand unstuck from the k—kitchen drain they were trying to fix.”
Her eyes widened, and she chuckled in surprise. “Who? No, no don’t tell me.”
He shook his head; his hand raised to stop her. “I wouldn’t,” he said, but his eyes were bright with humor. “It’s a th—thing you have to learn to do I guess. I know you’re g—good at it, I’ve seen you in action.”
She shrugged modestly. “Oh, well, I just try to put myself in their place.”
They were both quiet for a minute, contemplating all the dirt they’d collectively compiled on the people of Smithville.
“Yeah, ” she continued with a sparkle in her eye. “Because if I were a great big guy, I wouldn’t want everyone to know that I scream like a little girl when I see a spider.”
Ned’s eyebrows rose, and a big grin spread across his face. “Now I have to wonder…”
“It will go with me to the grave,” she assured him, looking solemn. But she couldn’t help it and broke into laughter. “Oh my gosh, it was the funniest thing. I thought he was going to run away, but he kept screaming for me to ‘get it’. Of course, I was far too busy laughing and taking video.”
He chuckled, enjoying the way her eyes shone when she was happy. Her laughter was like music, and her cheeks turned rosy with happiness. His own heart swelled, catching him off guard. “You’re a mean one, aren’t you,” he teased.
“Me?” she asked, with her hand on her chest. “No, no, I finally took pity on him and smashed the bug.”
“Well that’s good,” he said, wishing he could make her laugh like that all the time.
“Anyway…” she trailed off, “I better get moving. I have a ton of sewing to do.”
“I wish I could help you with th—that,” he said, collecting the butcher paper he’d spread for them to paint. “But I have no idea how to even thread a needle.”
Her head tilted to one side. “I doubt that.”
“Okay, okay,” he relented, crumpling the paper to stuff it in the trashcan. “I can thread a n—needle, but choir robes and sh—shepherd costumes are way beyond my scope.”
She waved him off. “Oh, these are pretty simple. I figure they’re for one night and no one will really see them up close.”
He waited for her to continue, watching her think, wishing he could hear what was on her mind.
“Well, it’s just,” She chuckled. “Practically every family in town has someone in this thing, so I guess in reality, everyone will see them up close.”
“Right?” he laughed. “I wonder sometimes, who is going to watch this thing.”
“Me too!” she agreed. “We may need to set up a bus service to bring folks from Uniontown.”
He rubbed his chin. “Not a bad idea.”
She chuckled, reveling in the shared moment, then turned away, looking for her purse. “Well, I’d better get going.”
“Thanks for the help,” he said, wishing he knew how to make her stay. “ Do you have to go?”
The question froze Gloria in her tracks. Normally at this point, if a gorgeous man was being funny and sweet and she liked him, she’d stay and talk. And not only that, she amended, she’d sign up for more. But things were different now. She was different. She wasn’t doing any of this to get a man, and, truth be told, she wouldn’t know what to do with one at this point anyway. She wanted to prove to the women in town she didn’t need to flirt, and that she could do a job and do it well, without attracting male attention. She frowned. That wasn’t going so well evidently. Was she attracted to Ned?
Turning back toward the shop, she regarded him carefully. He had a swipe of red paint across one cheek, but that only made him more approachable. The man was a knock out no matter how you looked at him. The paint spear made him cute. Shocked by her appraisal, her eyebrows lifted. When was the last time she’d thought a grown man was cute? Especially one with a physique like the deputy.
He grew uncomfortable under her stare, and she realized she was being rude. “I really do have to go,” her words said, but the rest of her said, “I want to stay.” He was easy to talk to and friendly. He didn’t judge her. He was nice. It came to her then; she had a friend in Ned. They had some things in common, and they could have a laugh together. Given her situation, a friend was something she needed. Gaging her words carefully, she hoped she could make him understand how much she appreciated him. “I really do have to go, but this has been… this has been great.”
He looked so disappointed that she nearly relented, but she knew it was for the best. This pageant was not the time or place to be looking for a new boyfriend. And she was sure she didn’t want to ruin the budding friendship they’d forged. This was new territory, and she had to move carefully and use her head.
“I have to go.” She turned toward the door, then, with her hand on the door handle, she stopped and looked over her shoulder. “But I’ll see you tomorrow night at practice, right?”
For a minute she thought he wasn’t going to respond, but finally he nodded, and an easy grin lit his face. “Sure.”
All she could manage was a quick nod, and then she ducked out the door before she could change her mind.
Kirsten grew up in the Western US and graduated from high school in 1984. She married soon there after and quickly built a family. With three young children and number four on the way, she returned to college in 1992. Her career as a draftsman included many settings ranging from a steel fabrication shops to prestigious engineering firms. Balancing family life with the workplace forced her to become the queen of multitasking. In 2001, bored with the cubical life, she moved on to teach drafting in technical college, then to opening her own consulting firm teaching 3D engineering software. Due to health problems, Kirsten retired in 2012 to travel with her husband for his job. She now works writing romance novels and enjoys spoiling her three grandchildren. Since 2017 Kirsten has lived and worked full time in a 40' travel trailer with her husband and her little dog Bingo.