November 20th, 2019
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THE CHRISTMAS KEEPER

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Beyond the Page Bookstore #3
Kensington
October 2019
On Sale: September 24, 2019
304 pages
ISBN: 1496720210
EAN: 9781496720214
Kindle: B07MH9X47R
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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Addie Greyborne is preparing for the holidays at her bookstore in seaside New England--but a winter storm is coming, in more ways than one . . .

Addie's getting into the spirit for the upcoming Charity Auction--especially since she's got an 1843 copy of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol to donate. Her former colleagues at the Boston Public Library have confirmed that its worth runs toward the high five figures, which should help with the new pediatric wing. Her mood darkens, though, when a visitor from the past appears--Jonathan Hemingway, the father of her late fiancé. His presence stirs up sad memories for Addie, but also has her fuming when Jonathan, true to his womanizing ways, runs off for a lunchtime liaison with Teresa Lang, who's in charge of the auction.

Soon after, Addie heads to Teresa's office at the hospital--and finds the poor woman's dead body. What she doesn't find is her valuable first edition. What sort of Scrooge would steal from sick children and commit murder in the process? As a Nor'easter bears down and a mystery emerges about Jonathan's past, Addie must find out if she can appraise people's motives and characters as well as she can appraise rare books . . .
 

Excerpt

Addison Greyborne’s eyes glistened with the reflection of the glimmering snowflakes hanging from
the delicate fairy lights she’d retrieved from her aunt’s attic. They were perfect. Both of her shop’s bay windows resembled a winter wonderland of lights. She
wrapped her arms around her middle and crossed her
fingers. Hopefully, the holiday glow would beckon
passersby.

“Morning, Addie,” a stocky woman called as she
passed along the sidewalk.

“Good morning, Carol.” Addie smiled and waved.

Had it really only been just over a year since she’d
established Beyond the Page, her book and curio
shop? It was hard to believe given the bumps and
bruises she’d endured along the way, but now she was
truly a part of this town that she’d grown to love.

“Good morning, Addie,” another passerby called
out.

“Morning,” she said, smiling.

“Your displays are looking good.”

“Thanks.” Addie grinned and took a step back to
get a clearer view of both windows. The display of
books in the right one caught her attention.

She pressed her face to the cold glass, wiped off the
condensation from her warm breath, and peered at
the small tree in the center colorfully decorated with
antique ornaments. But it was still missing something.
Tinsel! That’s what it needed, and the book sets she’d
wrapped with holiday ribbon displayed like gifts beneath it on a red tree skirt needed an extra splash of
sparkle to make it all just perfect. She made a mental
note to buy tinsel and added another package of artificial snow to her shopping list. Outdoor inspection complete, she opened the door to her store and drew in a
deep breath.

The crisp smell of the New England sea air combined with the scent of old books and leather tickled
at her nose, but this morning she also detected the
hint of a new aroma. It appeared that Paige Stringer,
her shop assistant, had placed small, festive bowls and
baskets of apple-cinnamon potpourri on bookshelves
throughout the shop.

The fragrance stirred warm memories of her childhood home and her family. Now, all since passed, including her beloved David. They were to have been
married by now and should have been celebrating the
season together, but he . . . a tear slid down her cheek.
She swatted at it and forced that memory back into its
box in her mind and headed for the coffeemaker on
the far end of the long, antique Victorian bar she used
for a sales counter.

Paige poked her blond, curly head out of the storeroom, grinned, waved, and disappeared back inside.
Addie shook her head and tossed her purse and red wool coat on the counter. Dropping a coffee pod into
the machine, she sorted through the previous day’s receipts as the aroma of fresh-brewing coffee taunted
her. Paige reappeared, wearing an “I ‘heart’ the Cook”
apron and carrying two steaming mugs in her hands.

“What are you up to?”

“Well?” Paige waved a mug under Addie’s nose.“What do you think?”

“I think I smell my grandmother’s Christmas applespiced punch?” Addie clasped the cup and waved the
fragrance toward her. She took a sip. “Yes, perfect.”
She beamed over the rim.

“Good.” Paige gave a toothy grin. “After you told me
yesterday that your grandmother’s punch was one of
your fondest Christmas memories, I worked most of
the night perfecting the recipe.”

Addie took another sip. “You’ve done well, thank
you.”

“I brought in a small cook plate so I can prepare it
in the back room, and a large coffee urn that we can
refill as needed. I thought it might be a good idea to
have it up here on the counter for customers. You
know, as an alternative to coffee for the holidays. What
do you think?”

“I think”—Addie set her mug down and crossed
her arms, looking hard at Paige—“that you come up
with some”—Paige sucked in a sharp breath—“of the
most . . . outstanding ideas.”

Paige’s cheeks flushed with a rosy glow. “You always
get me.”

“Just keeping you on your toes.” Addie winked,
grinning. “I don’t want all your brilliant ideas going to
your head.”

“No risk of that happening with you as my boss.”

Paige returned an exaggerated wink. “I’ll fill the urn
and set it up.” She swung on her heel and headed to
the back room, straightening bookshelves as she went.

Addie smiled at her protégé. She really had turned
out to be the perfect employee despite her best friend,
and the local tea merchant, Serena’s initial misgivings
as to where Paige’s loyalties might lie. Would they be
with Addie, her employer, or the tyrant baker next
door, Martha, her mother, but time proved Paige most
adept at finding a balance between the two of them.

Addie scanned the store. A large wreath and a few
more lighted green garlands to wrap around the pillar
posts would complete the holiday ensemble. Now to
only find time to shop. When she glanced past the window, she spotted a man dressed in a black trench coat and black hat with the brim pulled down covering his
features. He stood across the street seemingly staring
at her store. A shiver traveled up her spine. She moved
closer to the window for a better look, but a large delivery van pulled up, blocking her view of the man.

The courier driver hopped down from his truck
and scurried to her front door, yanking it open. The
bells attached to her door protested with a merry jingle. Within thirty seconds, he had delivered a package, asked for a signature, and left with the same force,
bells still echoing from the first time. She peered
across the street after Mr. Speedy screeched away. The
man in black was gone.

Addie shrugged and glanced at the large envelope.
From Boston. With a smile, she placed it on a shelf
under the front counter. The door chimes rang. She
looked up, a welcoming smile forming on her lips.
The color drained from her face, and the smile faded.
The man in black removed his hat, ran a leather
gloved hand over his silver hair, and stood silently staring at her.

She grasped the counter edge to keep her wobbly
knees in check. “Jonathan?”

“Hi, Addie.” A smile tickled the corners of his
mouth.

She swallowed hard to release the lump growing in
the back of her throat.

He shuffled his weight from one foot to the other.
“Maybe I should have called first?”

“No.” She shook her head and walked around the
end of the counter. “You just surprised me. That’s all.
Come in, please have a seat.” She motioned to a counter
stool. “Would you like some coffee, or hot spiced Christmas punch?”

He shook his head and slid onto a stool. “Coffee’s
fine. Just a quick warm-up and I’ll be on my way.” He
pulled off his gloves.

“You’re leaving?” From the coffeemaker, she glanced
over her shoulder. “But you just got here.”

“Afraid so, there’s a big storm coming tonight or tomorrow, and I’d like to get past it before the highways
are closed, but I’d heard you’d moved to Greyborne
Harbor, and well . . . just stopped to say hello.”

“Five sugars, right?” She grimaced as she passed
him his coffee. “This is hardly on the interstate running to and from anywhere?”

He nodded, lifting the cup to his lips. “Exactly what
I needed, thanks.” He set it down. “No, it’s not, but
I’m on my way home from a business meeting in
Boston and am living north of Albany now. So, before
the forecast changed, I’d already decided on a short
detour to drop in to wish you a Merry Christmas.” He
reached over and clasped her hand, guiding her to the
stool beside him. “But now it appears it’s going to have
to be a shorter visit than first planned.”

“I’m glad you stopped by anyway.” Her throat tightened. “It’s wonderful to see you again.” She released
her hand from his.

Paige coughed and placed the large urn on the end
of the counter, glancing at the stranger.

“Paige, this is—”

The bells over the door chimed. “Morning, Addie.”
Catherine Lewis swept toward the counter. She pulled
off her gloves and slid onto a stool.

“Good morning, Catherine.” Addie rose to her feet.
“You’re out and about early today.”

“Yes, lots of shopping to do, and my car’s in the
garage. So, I’m on foot today and have a lot of ground
to cover. I thought I’d better get an early start and
headed right here for one of your delicious, freshbrewed coffees to get me going.” She nodded at the
silver-haired man seated beside her.

“Paige, Catherine, I’d like you both to meet my . . .
umm, David’s father. Jonathan Hemingway.”

“Hemingway?” Paige’s brow creased. “I thought
David’s last name was Armstrong or something?”

Addie nudged Paige with her elbow.

“Yes”—Jonathan cleared his throat—“it was Hemingway. His mother and I divorced when he was quite
young, and she remarried.”

“You’re a relative of Addie’s?” Catherine turned to
him, her hand outstretched. “How wonderful.”

His eyes and hand held fast with hers. “I must say
your husband is a very lucky man.”

“I’m . . . I’m not married.” Her porcelain complexion turned a shade of peach.

“Jonathan, this is Catherine Lewis. She’s a good friend of mine and was also a close friend of my father’s.”

“It truly is a pleasure to meet you, Catherine.” He
brought her delicate hand to his lips and kissed the
back of it. “Any friend of Addie’s, and the late Michael
Greyborne’s, is a friend of mine, too.”

“Hemingway, like the author?” She all but purred
when his thumb began stroking the back of her hand.

Paige looked at Addie, who was in the midst of an
involuntary eye roll.

“Yes, he’s a distant relative and may be the reason
my son had such a fascination with books and women
who love books.” He glanced at Addie, but then caressed Catherine with another gaze. “Do you love
books, too, Catherine?”

Catherine let out a breathy sigh and pulled her
hand away. Her already flushed cheeks brightened
with an intense fiery hue. She straightened stray
strands of her brown shoulder-cropped hair, slid off
her stool, and backed toward the door. A shy smile
graced her lips. “It . . . ah . . . was wonderful to meet
you. I hope . . .” She swallowed. “I hope I run into you
again, Jonathan, before you leave.” She studied the
tips of her toes before bolting out the door.

Addie looked at Jonathan from under a creased
brow. “I see you haven’t changed at all.” She clucked
her tongue.

He tossed his head back and released a barrelchested laugh. Addie gave Paige a dismissive head tilt,
and after the girl retreated with the book trolley into the back room, Addie glowered at him.

He smirked. “What?”

“I see you’re still up to your same old tricks. I
thought you promised David that was all in the past.”

He looked up at her and set his cup down. “And I
see you have carried on the same grudge my son held
against me for years. He forgave me in the end, Addie.
Why can’t you?”

She threw her hands in the air. “I did, and I tried for
David’s sake, but what do you expect after that seduction I just witnessed?”

“Really? Just exactly what did you see? Me being
kind to an attractive woman? I didn’t see her complaining. Did you?”

“I saw the same thing I saw for the five years David
and I were together. Something he’d lived with his entire life.”

His eyes narrowed. “And just what was that?”

“Every time you dropped in out of the blue, there
was a different woman on your arm. You’d deposit her
on our doorstep and disappear, leaving us to entertain your flavor of the month and then not return for
hours, acting all nonchalant like you’d just popped
down to get something from your car.” Her knuckles
whitened when she gripped the edge of the counter.
“You never showed any regard for the emotional havoc
those visits created, leaving me to try to put him back
together after you’d disappear again for months without another word.”

“I didn’t realize that my family visits were such an
imposition on you?” His lip twitched.

“They wouldn’t have been except for the fact that
you never spent any time with your son, and left us to
make small talk with your . . . your . . .” Her whole
body vibrated.

He shrugged. “They were all in a similar line of work
as you were in and even a few who were in David’s line.
So, you had something in common with them.” His
hand clasped hers. “Look, I was busy. Working.”

“Working?” Her eyes widened. “The visit was just a
cover for having us babysit your latest piece of arm
candy.”

“Addie.” He squeezed her hand. “David eventually
came to understand the hours my work demanded,
and he didn’t let it stand in the way of our relationship
the last few years.” She yanked her hand out of his.
“Why can’t you let the past go, too?”

Her chin jutted out. “Because you kept lying to him,
and it broke my heart.”

Jonathan’s shoulders stiffened. “I never lied to my
son.”

“But you did, every time you’d tell him this wasn’t
like the old days. This woman was serious, but it never
was because he saw the same old revolving door of
your women friends as he had his whole life. Then you’d
promise him that the next visit would be longer, and
you’d spend more time with him.” Her eyes flashed.
“Did you know that after one of your later visits, he
started to become withdrawn? He seemed worried and
wouldn’t even talk about you to me anymore.”

“I see.” He stood up and collected his hat and gloves
from the counter. “Just remember that everything is not
always as it appears. David came to know that.” He
placed his hat on his head and nodded, pulling one
glove on.

“Look, Jonathan, we’re like family, and I want to believe in you, but Catherine is a good woman, a nice
woman, but she’s emotionally fragile because she’s
been hurt more than she ever should have during her
life. Stay away from her, please. She doesn’t need you
and your old philandering ways only to have her heart
broken again.”

He tilted his head. One corner of his mouth
twitched. “Give me more credit than that, will you?”



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