Their Christmas Carol

By: Jessica Gilmore

 (Big Sky Hathaways Book 2)


A Big Sky Hathaways Romance



Chapter One





“It’s just like old times,” Lacey Hathaway said, squeezing her brother’s arm enthusiastically. “You, me, and Dad, riding in the pickup, ready to choose our Christmas trees.”

Nat tried not to wince as Lacey tightened her grip. “What old times? We always spent Christmas either in a hotel or back at the grandparents’ ranch. We have literally never picked out trees together. And,” he added, warming to his point, “why on earth are we doing it today of all days? It’s only Thanksgiving, isn’t it a little early to be starting Christmas?”

“Bah, humbug.” Lacey tossed her blonde ponytail as she finally relinquished her hold on Nat. “Details, details. Thanksgiving is the official start of Christmas. Isn’t that right, Dad?”

“It’s never too early to start Christmas,” Ted Hathaway agreed as he turned the pickup off the highway into Olsen’s Apples and began the scenic drive through the orchards. The last of the autumn leaves had been stripped away, the trees bare and cold under the dark grey skies, the mountains rising into the horizons behind them. “Besides, I promised your great-aunts we’d collect the cider they ordered for their Thanksgiving party so this way two birds, one stone.”

A steady stream of cars crawled along behind and before the pickup, evidently the Hathways weren’t the first to think of starting Christmas before they had eaten their Thanksgiving turkey. Nat stared out of the window at the still-familiar scene. He hadn’t set foot on Olsen land for a decade, but little had changed. The Olsens’ main business was growing apples—and other fruit trees—but at this time of year the evergreens took precedence. Their Christmas tree plantation rose into the lower reaches of the mountain, at the far end of the orchard, behind the shop, café, and distilleries. Nat closed his eyes and remembered how the ordered lines of the orchard became curved and random as soon as he had stepped into the pine forests, how much more mysterious, how much more private it had been under the tall, dark trees. Another world, another time.

“Mom is so excited about having Christmas in her own home for the first time; she wants the tree up as soon as possible. As do I, especially as I’m only around half the week. The longer we have it, the more I get to enjoy it.” Lacey said, interrupting his wander down memory lane with another squeeze of his arm. “I’ve been collecting decorations for months. It’s going to look amazing.” She clapped her hands together, her face shining. “Zac has never really done Christmas; I can’t wait to make this really special for him.” Her face shone, just like it did every time she mentioned her fiancé.

Nat’s chest squeezed, a bittersweet reaction. He was honestly delighted his sister had found someone she loved, someone who loved her, honestly delighted to welcome Zac Malone into the family, but the radiance on Lacey’s face was a stark reminder that his sister and he had chosen very different paths. Nat wasn’t sure he had ever been so demonstrably happy, except when he was on stage.

And recently even that hadn’t felt real, more like he was faking it.

“I can’t believe you’re both so domesticated. Trees, decorations, planned menus and table décor. My wild, roving family, tamed and house-trained.” Nat pushed the disquieting thoughts away.

Truth was he had no call to be feeling anything but pretty darn radiant himself. His career was practically flying, the years of hard work finally paying off. So what was this rumbling of discontent he couldn’t quite quell?

“Who are you calling domesticated?” his father retorted. “This rolling stone will still be rolling as will your mom, don’t let her hear you call her house-trained—we’ll just be rolling shorter distances and with a place of our own to stop at in between times. But older stones are allowed a little moss, you know.”

For every one of Nat’s twenty-eight years his parents had been on the move, traveling throughout the US and Canada, spending entire years in Europe and Asia and even Australia, bringing their own unique brand of folksy-blues to the masses—and just as often the few. Not that they cared, they would much rather a small audience of true aficionados than a large one of philistines. That was practically the family slogan.

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