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Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today we have another holiday book. A Contemporary Christian Christmas romance by Jennifer Chastain, entitled The Mistletoe Contract. Now that’s an intriguing title. Read on to discover the story behind Jennifer’s Christmas book and an excerpt from The Mistletoe Contract. Welcome, Jennifer!

            What is your favorite holiday? Mine? Hands down, it would have to be Christmas. I love a cheery fire in the fireplace, turning off all the lights in the house, except the lights on the Christmas tree, and watching a Christmas movie. The scents of pine and cinnamon permeate the house.

            After I attended a writing camp three years ago, I had an idea for a Christmas book. I like to read marriage of convenience stories and I’m a fan of Married at First Sight, a reality show where couples are matched and don’t meet each other until their wedding day. The participants go through a rigorous vetting process and are matched on compatibilities as well as temperament and life goals.

            After coming up with the general story idea, I knew I wanted to write a sweet, marriage of convenience, second chance romance that took place during the Christmas holidays. As I delved into Nate and Meredith’s stories, their hopes and dreams slowly came into focus. But for my couple, I added the element of faith, since God is the only one who can heal our hurts. I spoke with my writing friend a couple of times and once we hammered out the details for the story outline, I sat down to write. As I wrote, I noticed that there is a little bit of myself in both Nate and Meredith. I even included a real town in the story, McAdenville, NC. This small town is nestled close to the NC/SC line and used to be an old mill town. After the mills closed, McAdenville had to reinvent itself. So, the town became known as “Christmas Town USA”. The entire town is decorated in Christmas lights, homes have elaborate displays in their front yards, and carols are played over the loudspeakers in the center of town. The lights are so bright, the entire town is seen from miles away. Now, people drive from hundreds of miles away, just to walk through the town, look at the lights, and spend time with their families. This town evokes a slower pace that seems to have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the holidays.

            Christmas is a time of rebirth and renewal. After all, Christ was born to give us new life. I wanted these same themes of redemption, renewal and second chances to be evidenced not only in this sweet, contemporary romance but in all my stories. My prayer for all my readers is that they (and you) will experience the love, peace, and joy that only faith in Jesus can bring. Merry Christmas!

The Mistletoe Contract

By Jennifer Chastain 

Confirmed bachelor, Nathan Rutledge shut his heart to romance when he was forced to break the heart of the only woman he loved. Now, with his father’s retirement from the family conglomerate, the torch has been passed to him. But there are two problems—first, he needs a wife in order to take over the family business. Second, someone has been embezzling company funds. With the pressure mounting, and time expiring to find both a wife he can trust and the thief, Nate needs a Christmas miracle.

Forensic Accountant, Meredith Mitchell’s life is in a shambles. Her mother needs a lifesaving transplant, Mom’s medical bills have bankrupted Meredith’s meager savings, and she’s sold everything of value, but it’s still not enough. Worse, she’s now tasked with discovering accounting errors for a new client—none other than Nathan Rutledge—the same man who gave her a broken heart for Christmas eight years ago.

Meredith wants to run. Nate wants the chance to right his wrongs. When he proposes a modern-day marriage of convenience, she balks at the idea. But he desperately needs a wife, and she really needs the money he offers. Is this the answer to her prayers? Or will this mutually beneficial arrangement re-open old wounds that can’t be healed?

EXCERPT:

Meredith closed the door with a soft click and propped herself against the wall. Tilting her head up, she released a huge sigh. She hated lying to her mother. Weariness settled deep in her bones. Her to-do list for the wedding grew with each passing hour. She had a lot to accomplish between now and Friday morning.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Meredith’s eyes popped open. “Nate! You scared me!” Facing off with her fiancé, she straightened her spine. “What’re you doing here?”

His back against the wall, he crossed his ankles. Even after working all day, Nate still appeared fresh. When she glanced at her gray dress pants, the red sauce stain from her rushed dinner glared at her. She was wrinkly… and frumpy.

Nate frowned, his gaze roving over her.

Meredith moved her purse from her shoulder and held it in front of the stain. “I’m sorry. That was unkind.”

“I didn’t mean to intrude.”

She pulled herself up to her full height. “You didn’t. It’s… I didn’t expect to see you.” At least, not until their wedding day, giving her a couple of days to steel her emotions against his all-American boy-next-door charm. Why did he have to ruin her well-thought-out plan? His nearness sent her pulse into overdrive.

Nate turned toward her and rested one hand on the wall above her head. He was so close she saw the golden flecks ringing his pupils. “Can’t a guy see his fiancée before the wedding?” The low timbre of Nate’s voice raised goose bumps on her arms, and her heart rate kicked up another notch.

Butterflies fluttered in her stomach, and she licked her dry lips before her gaze settled on his mouth. “Yeah, sure.”

Nate’s free hand came up and traced a line down her cheek. Meredith closed her eyes. She had to stop this flood of emotion. Why was he doing this to her? His spicy cologne wafted between them. Comforted her. Shoot. Nate smelled good.

“Nate… please… someone will see us.” Meredith swallowed hard, and her breaths came in short gasps.

“So?”

“This is supposed to be a business relationship. No funny business. You promised.” Meredith scooted out from under his arm and hurried down the tiled hallway, her steps echoing in the empty space. She needed air. And personal space. “Is there a reason you stopped by?”

Nate fell in step beside Meredith. She scampered down the hall to the elevator bank.

Nate touched her arm, and they stood facing each other in front of the elevator. “Have a cup of coffee with me?” His blue eyes held a glimmer of amusement.

Shock or maybe desire rooted Meredith’s feet to the floor.

The elevator door opened, and two nurses in scrubs emerged. Meredith entered and jabbed the first-floor button. When she looked up into the polished steel doors, she met Nate’s steady gaze. Turning to face him, she crossed her arms. “Why, Nate? What are you trying to do to me? We have an agreement.”

Nate matched her stance, a smirk on his face. “I have no clue what you’re talking about.”

Meredith snorted, and her lips stretched into a sneer. “Oh, come on. You cannot seriously be this clueless.”

He stepped closer, his hands in his pockets, causing her to back up a couple of steps. “This attraction—you’re not immune to it, either, are you?”

Shaking her head, Meredith braced her back against the elevator car. “No, you’re wrong. This isn’t the type of relationship you’re thinking about.” She bit her lower lip.

Nate’s warm breath whispered against her ear, and chill bumps raced up and down her arms. “But it could be. Think of how much fun we’d have.”

His nearness muddled her mind. But she was older now. Wiser. Fool me once and all that. She’d be doggoned if he’d fool her again with his sweet talk. Before she answered, the elevator doors opened with a whoosh. Saved by the bell.

Meredith darted into the parking deck. “I don’t think so,” she said over her shoulder. “I’ll

see you tomorrow at 4:00 to finalize the details.”

Want to read more? You can find The Mistletoe Contract at

Amazon

About the Author:

Ever since she was a little girl, living in her small town in New York State, Jennifer has been a voracious reader. During the summer months, she would ride her bike to their library and return with a basketful of books. Her dad’s job moved them to Charlotte, NC in her teen years, but the memories of growing up in a small community have stayed with her. A Yankee transplant, she has grown to love the grace and charm of the South. In fact, she even married a native Charlottean.

For the past five years, she and her husband have been host parents to several

international high school students. They have experienced the joy of seeing these students blossom into young adulthood.

Jennifer is a member of ACFW, ACFW-NC, and My Book Therapy/Novel Academy. Several of her other stories were finalists in the Blue Ridge Mountains Foundations contest and she was a finalist in the Touched by Love contest, sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of RWA. Her contemporary romance stories contain the themes of redemption, grace, forgiveness, and second chances.

A hopeful romantic, Jennifer loves dark chocolate, Diet Coke, old movies, and a good romantic movie. She loves to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, and when not cooking, she’s reading. Growing up in the snowy North, Christmas has always been her favorite holiday, with the scents of cinnamon, vanilla, and pine scenting the air.

She and her husband have been married for over 25 years, and they are permitted to coexist with their black rescue cat.

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook: Instagram: www.jenniferchastain.com