Today I am so pleased to welcome A.D. Ellis to Joyfully Jay. A.D. has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Heart of St. Nick. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Admittedly, the shiny sports car I’d rented at the airport was likely a poor choice for driving to St. Nicholas Crossing. While the railroad the town relied on wasn’t in the hills—more at the base of them—much of the town was nestled in and around the hilly area and snow, altitude, and a sports car weren’t a good combination.
But the car drove like a dream and I’d enjoyed the two-hour drive from the airport.
Enjoyed it right until I had to fight the car to make it up the first hill to St. Nicholas Crossing.
Then I realized I looked like a man in the middle of an early mid-life crisis trying to prove how big my dick was with a souped-up, shiny red sports car that probably cost more than two houses in the little railroad town.
There was no way the car would make it to my grandpa’s place, so I eased the beauty into a spot near a park and killed the engine.
With a sigh, I glanced around.
Didn’t look like much had changed.
God, how I’d loved the place as a kid.
Ridiculous to think back on it now, but St. Nicholas Crossing had been a haven for me.
Escape from my parents’ fighting and taking it out on me.
Time with my grandfather.
Streets named after reindeer.
I’d looked forward to my visits year after year.
Until I didn’t.
My heart pinched, guilt coursing through my veins.
What had made me stop coming?
Being jaded by my parents. Their toxic relationship and combination of verbal abuse and neglect of me did a number on my head and heart.
Focusing more on money and success than on family. Money and success didn’t lash out or make you feel bad. I’d found them and they were a lot easier to deal with than some of the people in my life.
And the little trick I’d learned of walling myself off from people emotionally so as not to have to do the whole getting-my-heart-involved thing. I knew I had issues with getting too close to people. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. It wasn’t even a challenge to figure out why I was leery of relationships.
It’s not that I didn’t want a happy, healthy, loving relationship with a man.
I just didn’t want to watch it die a slow, painful death like my parents’ marriage and ruin the lives of those around me.
So, money and success were my focus.
And now your grandfather is dead and you have no one.
Gut churning, I climbed out of the car.
I didn’t often allow myself to think about Grandpa and how good he’d been to me, but when I did, I suffocated in heavy guilt.
I should have been there for him.
Should have set aside my stubborn pride and at least let him in.
It was a lot easier to hunker down behind my walls than to deal with people-y entanglements.
But he was my grandfather, for god’s sake.
What did Joseph Snow think as he watched his only grandson, child of his estranged and now deceased son, inch further and further away with each passing year?
I stayed away to keep up the walls.
The walls kept my heart safe.
But they also cost me my only family.
And now he was gone.
The guilt and pain trying to swallow me whole battled with the good memories of the little town. I wanted to replace the bad with the good, but I wasn’t sure I had it in me.
I was here for a purpose.
God rest his soul, Grandpa had left his house and store to me.
I’d get it in sale-ready condition and work as quickly as I could to sell.
Then I was out.
Where do you really need to be? You could stay for a while. Reconnect with him if only through stories and memories.
The thought punched me in the gut.
When was the last time you were truly happy and content? This place has always had a hold on your heart if you’d just let go.
No, it was best if I swooped in, did my job, and left as quickly as I’d arrived.
True, nothing was holding me to LA.
I could work from anywhere. Hell, I knew Ellen would be willing to keep up with her duties through virtual meetings.
But with Grandpa gone, nothing tied me to St. Nicholas Crossing either.
I had no connections in the town other than fond recollections of far-off times with my grandfather.
What good would those do me?
Gathering my scattered thoughts and stomping down my wishy-washy heart, I locked the car and pocketed the key. I’d need a lift to my grandpa’s house up the hill and I hoped I’d find a cooperative and easy-going person to assist in giving me a ride at The Heart of St. Nick, the little general store my grandfather had owned.
Challenging myself to be in and out of town in under a week—yeah, it was a stretch, but it would keep me on a schedule and not give me time to get caught up in the place—I breathed deeply as if steeling myself against the emotions this place had stirred. The scent of cinnamon, chocolate, pine, and peppermint gently assaulted my senses, reminding me of years gone by and the comforts this damn town always brought me.
And obviously still brings you.
“Welcome to The Heart of Saint Nick,” a cheery voice called from somewhere in the little store as jingle bells chimed over the door to announce my arrival.
Little store was a misnomer.
The place had grown a lot since my last visit.
“Feel free to look around,” the happy helper said. “I’ll be right with you.”
Trying to contain my eye roll at the peppy person I already knew would be over-the-top in the holiday spirit, I wandered the store.
When I was younger, the place had seemed huge. But now, it truly was quite large. Instead of the small counter of snacks and desserts I remembered, there was now a full-blown café and candy store. Ginger Snap Café and Candy Cane Counter weren’t the only additions to The Heart.
Walls had been knocked down to add on space and there seemed to be much more going on than just the little grocery and toiletries area I remembered.
Toys, clothes, shoes, and school supplies lined several aisles adjacent to the groceries and toiletries. As I gazed around the place, I took in the fact there appeared to be two distinct sections.
One side had signs with prices.
One side had signs with number limits.
Frowning, I made note to ask about that if and when the damn cheerful little voice ever made itself known.
“Sorry about that.”
Startled, I jerked to a stop.
“Oops, didn’t mean to scare you.”
I turned around only to be punched right in the gut.
The cheery voice belonged to the most beautiful man I’d ever seen—as far away from my type as one could get, but gorgeous all the same.
Russet-colored hair straddling the line between stylishly messy and just plain out of control, pale skin with warm undertones and the slightest hint of freckles, dark grayish-blue eyes, and the most deliciously-kissable mouth I’d ever seen.
“Hi, I’m Hayden Green. You’re not a regular. Just passing through or here for a visit?” He stuck out his hand with a cheery, genuine smile as he stood there looking ridiculously cute in a matching bowtie and suspenders in a snowman print.
The hot jolt of awareness and desire that smacked me when I took his hand had me wondering if I’d somehow landed in a cheesy Hallmark-ish type holiday romance. His skin was soft and warm against mine and I wanted to yank him close, wrap him in my arms, and forget everything, even if just for the night.
Forcing the thoughts away, I let go of his hand and cleared my throat. “Gannon Snow.”
Hayden’s eyes widened, but he recovered quickly. “Welcome back to The Crossing, Mr. Snow. Terribly sorry about your grandfather’s passing.”
Hayden Green is the epitome of a cheery, generous, small-town guy. He keeps himself busy in a tiny railroad town tucked in the hills of the Midwest by helping others. If he also finds himself wishing for a tall, dark, and handsome man to waltz into town and sweep him off his feet, who can blame him?
Gannon Snow closed himself off to emotions and connections a long time ago. He’ll head back to his late grandfather’s beloved holiday town, but only to sell the old man’s house and store. He has his own business to run and no time for feelings. Much to his chagrin, Gannon gets caught up in nostalgia and finds himself mesmerized by a happy little holiday helper.
Hayden and Gannon share an instant connection, but Gannon isn’t staying and Hayden isn’t keen on a broken heart. However, the universe—and maybe some holiday magic, which Gannon most definitely doesn’t believe in—has a different plan, and the men find themselves smack dab in the middle of a small-town Christmas romance.
The Heart of St. Nick is a steamy, forced proximity, small-town M/M holiday romance with a slight age gap between a bowtie and suspender-wearing good guy and an emotionally-stunted man with a cold heart just waiting to be melted.
Buy Link: Amazon
A.D. Ellis is an Indiana girl, born and raised. She spends much of her time in central Indiana as an instructional coach/teacher in the inner city of Indianapolis, being a mom to two amazing school-aged children, and wondering how she and her husband of almost two decades have managed to not drive each other insane. A lot of her time is also devoted to phone call avoidance and her hatred of cooking.
She loves chocolate, wine with friends, pizza, crocheting and naps along with reading and writing romance. These loves don’t leave much time for housework, much to the chagrin of her husband. Who would pick cleaning the house over a nap or a good book? She uses any extra time to increase her fluency in sarcasm.