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The Christmas Date is the third novella in Christmas, Actually – three holiday stories about three siblings living in Christmas Town, where tradition has it that a kiss on Christmas Eve in the town square gazebo will lead to wedding bells in the new year!
Gina Vernay was in an accident as a child and has a scar down her right cheek. Since then, Gina has always sat on the sidelines, lacking the self-confidence to shine. Wanting what many of her friends have – love, a family – Gina signs up for an online dating account. But her picture doesn’t show her scar. And she’s always too busy running The Tea Cup in Christmas Town to meet anyone, much less a man to share a kiss under the mistletoe in the town’s gazebo. But when one persistent on-line suitor arranges to meet her on Christmas Eve, Gina’s life turns upside down.
In the wee hours of Christmas Eve morning, Gina stood at the edge of the town square and traced the deep, jagged scar that ran from her left temple to her jawline with the tip of a gloved finger, as if her touch could erase the past. The small ball of worry, the one that hadn’t let her sleep last night, expanded like bread dough in her chest, pressing against her lungs.
I should have told him.
Snow fell silently, blanketing the square and the balsam firs lining it. The trees, mistletoe gazebo and surrounding quaint old buildings were draped in holiday lights. The town square looked like a snow globe, beautifully pristine and peaceful. The wind swirled around her, stealing her worried breath.
A whistled tune drifted through the darkness. “Jingle Bells.”
A block away, a figure appeared on Taylor Street. Nick Banning, the town handyman and whistler.
Gina sucked in cold, much-needed air. There was too much to do today for her to wallow in what-ifs. She hadn’t told him and this afternoon she’d face the consequences.
Carefully, Gina walked along the snowy sidewalk toward The Tea Pot. She’d bought the corner shop from her aunt last summer, trading in safe columns of numbers and isolated cubicles for early morning pastry making and running the place where everyone in town gathered.
Arriving at her doorstep just as she did, Nick finished a whistled chorus, his breath mingling with snowflakes. “Morning.” He had a boxy tool bag slung over his shoulder. Holiday lights softly illuminated his handsome, reassuring features. Nick was one of the few people in the world who made Gina feel at ease, despite her scar.
She hurried to unlock the door and get them out of the cold. Once inside, she scuffed her boot soles across the extra large doormat, ridding them of snow. “When I asked you to show up first thing, I didn’t really think you’d show up this early...whistling.”
“No reason not to whistle.” He stomped the snow from his feet, first on the outside grill, then on the inside mat. “Big day today.”
She had the distinct impression that he knew she had a date this afternoon, and was teasing her about it. Gina flipped on the lights and peered at Nick. He tugged off his knit cap and slid it into a coat pocket, revealing short dark hair, a gaze that didn’t mock and a familiar, lopsided grin.
Nick caught her staring. His grin widened. “What? You forgot today’s Christmas Eve? The annual Christmas pageant? The night Santa Claus comes to town?”
“No...I...no.” Of course he didn’t know about her blind date. Well, it wasn’t exactly a blind date. In her continued quest to de-comfort zone herself, she’d signed up for an online dating service and had been instant messaging a guy named Football20 for a week. He was going to introduce himself to her in person this afternoon. They planned to have coffee together. That was, if he didn’t take one look at her scar and bail.
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