Title: The Greatest Gift
Author: S.L. Sterling
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Derrick destroyed Tess's heart only weeks before their Christmas-themed wedding. He'd been cheating on her with his secretary, I knew I should have said something, but didn't because I didn't want to be the one to break her heart. After all, I'd crushed on her since he'd introduced us, so instead, I decided to step in and clean up his mess.
One night she came to me, telling me how the honeymoon she'd booked was non-refundable and how she wished she had someone to travel with. Since I believed no one should be alone for Christmas I agreed to go with her.
We had 10 days in Paris and when we arrived it felt as if we'd been transported into another world. She was finally laughing and smiling until we arrived at the hotel to find everything had been prepared for the newlyweds, which we weren't. One look at her and I knew the tears were going to come rushing back if I didn't step up and take control of the situation.
Afterward, I pulled her in for an innocent hug. The problem was she fit perfectly as if she'd been made for me. It was then that I realized this trip wasn't going to be easy and that the next 10 days were going to be filled with cold showers, especially if she didn't feel the connection too.
From USA Today Bestselling Author S.L. Sterling comes this heartfelt holiday romance that proves time heals everything if you let it.
Laura and I sat in the living room working on calling all the guests. Derrick carried the last few boxes of his stuff down the stairs, followed by Maddox, who’d agreed to help him move. Derrick marched out the door without another word, we had done nothing but argue since he had arrived. Maddox placed the box he'd been carrying on the floor and then poked his head into the living room.
"I think that is it, Tess. Just call me if he forgot anything and I'll come by and pick it up."
I looked up at him and nodded. "Okay, thanks, but please don't let him come with you. I don't want to see him again," I said, standing up and going over to him.
"I won't bring him back here. I promise. You can call me if you need anything." He smiled, pulling me in for a hug.
Maddox and Derrick had been best friends growing up. The couple of years I had been with Derrick, Maddox had become a very good friend to me. He was someone I cherished, and I hoped that with the news of us breaking up meant that he, too, wouldn’t disappear from my life.
"Let's go," I heard Derrick call from outside.
"He beckons.” He gave me a half smile and rolled his eyes. “Guess I’ve got to go," Maddox said, winking at me. He leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek. “I’m on holidays for the next week, so if you’re feeling lonely, just call or text, okay.”
I nodded and watched as he walked out the front door, pulling it shut behind him.
I went in and flopped down on the couch just as Laura crossed off another name on the list and hung up her phone. “Another person off the list,” she said, smiling.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "I guess I should now call and try to cancel that trip. Even if I won't get my money back, perhaps they can offer me some sort of credit."
Laura looked up from the list of names and shook her head. "No way. Don't you dare.”
“Don’t cancel the trip?” I questioned, rubbing the tension from my neck.
“That’s right. I was speaking with your mom earlier. Her and I both agree that you should go on that trip, regardless. It will give you a chance to get over everything that has gone on, perhaps even give you a new outlook on things. Call it a self-discovery trip."
I looked at her. She was being ridiculous. "Yeah, okay, let me get this straight. I’m to go on my honeymoon by myself to get over my fiancé dumping me eight weeks before our wedding? That doesn't exactly shout fun," I said, rolling my eyes. I picked up the confirmation email I had printed and searched it to find the number I needed to call and cancel.
I'd just found it when the front door opened, and I heard my mother call out a hello. I looked at Laura and gritted my teeth, not really in the mood to be ambushed by either of them. “Hey, Mom. We're in here," I called out.
Mom came around the corner, a huge smile on her face. "Okay, girls, tell me what I can do to help?" she asked, throwing her coat and purse over the arm of the couch.
"You can convince your daughter to go on that trip, while I continue to call and let guests know they cancelled the wedding," Laura said, looking proud of herself.
Mom looked at me with disappointment written all over her face. Then she sat down and crossed her arms. I could tell from her body language that I was about to get a lecture. "Tess, you paid for that trip. You should at least go. I know how excited you were to go see Paris. Besides, it will do you good to get out of here for a while and away from all of this."
I shrugged and looked at Laura. "You two don't get it. I don't want to go. This should have been my honeymoon. How much fun do you think I am going to have? First, I'll be alone, and second, it's only going to be a reminder of what would have been."
Mom and Laura looked at one another, suddenly smiling as if they had an idea.
"What?" I asked, crossing my arms and rolling my eyes.
"So don't go alone. Take one of your friends. What about Laura?" Mom asked.
"Oh, no, I can't go. I'm heading out to Denver for Christmas. Going to visit my parents," Laura said, putting the phone down on the table.
"Okay, so we need to find someone to go with you. Your father and I cannot go. We have plans already—Hawaii.” Mom brought her finger up to her lips and squinted her eyes as she tried to think of someone. Suddenly, her eyes lit up. “What about one of your single, platonic male friends?"
I put my head in my hands and shook it before running my fingers through my hair. "Mom, I don't have single male friends."
"There has to be someone, Tess."
"Like who?" I frowned.
"Teddy, or perhaps the firefighter, oh what's his name? You know the one with those stunning blue eyes?” Mom said, once again bringing her finger to her lips as she struggled to come up with his name.
"Maddox?" I questioned.
"Yes, that’s it, Maddox! He has always adored you. You should ask him," Mom said, Laura nodding in agreement.
“You actually just missed him." Laura smiled.
"Oh, that is too bad. I've always liked him, such a sweet man, and a good looking one too."
I buried my face in my hands. I couldn't believe that, as I stood here, my mother and Laura were plotting to fix me up with someone so I could go on this trip. I rolled my eyes. "Mom, Maddox isn't even my friend. He is Derrick's."
"Now I know for a fact that isn't true. Maddox adores spending time with you," Laura interjected. "Did you see the way he hugged you earlier? And he is single."
I gritted my teeth and looked toward Laura, willing her with my eyes to stop. "Don't you have a list of people in front of you to call?" I interjected.
"Right, phone calls." She giggled as she picked up the phone and began dialling.
Mom turned to me. "Oh, Tess, don't be so stubborn. I agree. I think you need to go on that trip, but I don't want my daughter travelling halfway across the country alone. Plus, everyone else has plans, and if Maddox is single...and willing to go...then I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t ask him."
I picked up the other half of the guest list and shoved it at my mother without answering her. "I'll go make us some coffee. I am sure it is going to be a late night," I said, leaving the room and heading out to kitchen.
"Just ask him?" she yelled out as I left the room.
"Mother, please, I am not asking Maddox!" I shouted over my shoulder.
"I'm just saying..." She smiled and lifted her eyebrows in gest. "He's a good-looking guy who would probably love to accompany you to Paris. Just ask him."
I shook my head in disbelief that my own mother would even suggest such a thing. I could hear them giggle from the kitchen, and I shook my head as their suggestion ran through my mind. "Ridiculously crazy," I muttered to myself as I made the coffee for everyone. There was no way I was asking anyone to go on that trip with me, if I were to go at all.
© The Greatest Gift 2021 S.L. Sterling
S.L. Sterling was born and raised in southern Ontario. She now lives in Northern Ontario Canada and is married to her best friend and soul mate and their two dogs. An avid reader all her life, S.L. Sterling dreamt of becoming an author. She decided to give writing a try after one of her favorite authors launched a course on how to write your novel. This course gave her the push she needed to put pen to paper and her debut novel "It Was Always You" was born. When S.L. Sterling isn't writing or plotting her next novel she can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, blanket and the newest romance novel from one of her favorite authors on her e-reader. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, sunny destinations, spending quality time with family and friends and of course reading.