Solo for the Season
Solo for the Season
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- Childhood crush
- Christmas Romance
After being dumped last Christmas, I’m taking extreme measures to ensure nothing and no one ruins my happy holidays this time around. I’ll be safely wrapped in a cocoon of kitschy Christmas decor, complete with surrounding winter wonderland at the ultimate holiday mountain cabin. So what if the countless elf figurines make me a little uneasy or if there are a couple hiccups with cabin maintenance?
There’s a bigger problem: the assistant manager happens to be one of (many) teasing classmates from my childhood and my former crush. He keeps showing up to my cabin to fix things. I’m more worried about what he might break….
Here at Crystal Peaks Resort, I’ve got everything I need: tall trees, fresh air, and no cell phone service. This is my happy place, and if I prove to my boss I can handle the job, the management position here will be mine. Everything is falling into place.
Until the newest guest arrives. The quirky cabin she’s in is the bane of my existence, causing issue after issue. But the more I’m there, the more I realize the real obstacle between me and my future plans: proving to my boss I can keep a professional relationship with the guests. Or one guest in particular.
Intro to Chapter 1
Intro to Chapter 1
Grinning like Buddy the Elf, I yank the end of the satin scarf around my neck. Why our accounting firm requires us to dress like we’re flight attendants is still a mystery to me after two years working there. Taking off the glorified choker is a daily ritual when I leave the parking lot, but today it marks something special: my Christmas break has officially begun. And it’s going to be fabulous.
I turn up the volume on my Christmas playlist as I wait at a traffic light, glancing in my rearview mirror at the sight of Quillen & Associates, which I won’t be seeing for more than two weeks. I sigh happily and toss the scarf onto the box of books on the seat beside me. The lid peeps open, giving me a glimpse of the selection I packed. Twenty titles might seem a tad overly ambitious, particularly given the number of movies I have saved on my Hallmark Channel watchlist and the continuing education credits I have to get done during Christmas vacation, but I believe in myself.
My phone rings as the light turns green, and my friend Stevie’s name pops up on the car screen.
“We’re sorry,” I answer in my best operator voice, “you’ve reached Maggie during her ultra-Christmassy, radically-solitary holiday vacation. Please try—”
“Are you on your way, then?” she asks.
“I’ve got to stop by my house and grab my cooler of food, but then I’ll be heading out.”
“I’m so excited for you!”
“Excited or worried?” I ask knowingly. Stevie has tried to subtly persuade me against my plan a number of times now. She’s afraid I’ll get lonely. Or appear on the back of a milk carton.
“Excited,” she says definitively. “And also worried. You sure you’ll be okay? I was serious when I said you could stay with Troy and me.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’ll be more than okay, Stevie. I’ll be in my element. It’ll be so much better than last Christmas.”
“Ugh. That’s a pretty low bar, Mags.”
She’s right. But being dumped on Christmas is the bar I’m working with, all the same. Like an idiot, I ditched my family to spend last Christmas with my boyfriend Rich, only to find out his family hardly celebrates it. All they celebrated that Christmas was Rich breaking up with me. I wanted to make sure my next Christmas couldn’t be ruined by anyone, so, while I was holed up in the guest room of his parents’ house, waiting for my flight home, I booked two weeks at Santa’s Haven at Crystal Peaks Resort.
Now that I’ve had a year to get past the breakup, I considered canceling the reservation. But it was nonrefundable, so I figured I’d make the most of it. I’m genuinely excited for it now, though, especially since this is my family’s off year for Christmas. My brothers are with in-laws, and my parents are off in Bermuda.
“You’ll have cell service, right?” Stevie asks.
I clench my teeth as I pull into my apartment parking lot.
“Wait, seriously?” Stevie says. “No service? What about internet?”
“Negatory.” I downloaded all the movies on my watch list as well as all my accounting courses. There’s a promotion coming up at Quillen, and I figured I might as well go for it.
“What sort of place is this? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.”
“Or peace and joy. It’s the experience people want—to disconnect and enjoy being present.”
“If you say so. But how am I supposed to know if you’re okay? Are you sure this place is even legit?”
“Positive. And I promise I’ll be fine. I’m not even planning on leaving the cabin, Stevie. It’s about as low-risk as possible.”
“Maggie . . .”
“Mmhmm?” I already know what’s coming.
“I have to ask one more time. Are you 100% sure you want to be alone on Christmas? Two weeks is a long time even not during the holidays.”
I open my car door but stay in my seat, fiddling with my keys. “I’m sure. I just want to do this Christmas on my own—make it what I want it to be.”
“A Regency romance reading fest, interspersed with accounting classes?”
“What? No.” I instinctively reach over to press the open lid of my book box down.
“Fess up. How many Georgette Heyer novels do you have with you?”
I glance at the box out of the corner of my eye. “A few.”
“A few,” she repeats. “As in all of them?”
“Nope. Percentagewise, it’s only, like, fifty. Less if you count her murder mysteries. I only brought one of those.”
She laughs. “You’re my favorite, Mags. I’m not judging. I just figured you’d want more Christmassy books.”
“I’ll have my movies for that. Plus, I’ll be surrounded by Christmas everywhere I look. Trust me.”
It’s been a while since I looked at the pictures of the cabin I’d be staying in, but I vividly remember how Christmassy it was. That was all I needed to know.
“Okay,” Stevie says resignedly. “Well, I hope you have the most amazing Christmas ever.”
“Same to you and Troy.”
“If you do end up with service, text me to let me know you arrived safely, okay?”
I head inside, grab my cooler, and haul it to the backseat of my car.
Once I’m on the road, I reach back with my free hand and undo my French twist, cringing as I pull the bobby pins out. I’ve learned over the years how to slick my hair back so you wouldn’t even know it’s curly, but all bets are off the second it comes out of its tightly wound ‘do.
I shake it out, glorying in the freedom. Aside from a brush, I didn’t bring a single hair product or tool with me on this vacation. Not a drop of makeup, either. Books and movies don’t care what I look like, which is how I know I’ve found true love with them.
I take a deep breath as I wind my way out of sunny skies, palm trees, and LA traffic and toward fresh air, freezing temperatures, solitude, and lovely, delicious snow. Stevie was worried about me spending so much time alone, but she doesn’t get it. Alone is where I flourish. When you grow up as the frizzy, brace-faced awkward girl at school, not-so-affectionately dubbed “Maggot” instead of Margot, you learn to like alone pretty quickly.
It takes a little less than two hours to reach Crystal Peaks Resort in San Bernardino Forest. The sun has already dipped behind the mountains by the time my tires crunch on the blanket of snow covering the drive. The sound brings a stupid grin to my face as I pull up to the reception cabin to check in. I park and get out of my car, then slowly turn 360 degrees, taking in every detail of the scene before darkness claims it.
Deep green pine trees are scattered all over the white peaks, with log cabins tucked away here and there. I try to see if I can tell which one is mine, but it’s impossible from here. In the distance, snow-covered trees line well-kept ski trails. If I squint, I can make out a few dots of skiers gliding down the lit mountain trails. It’ll be great to watch them from my window. There’s nothing I like better than living vicariously through risk-takers. You get all the adrenaline and none of the hospital bills.