Guest Post by Lynn Crandall
I’m a serious animal lover. My cat, Willow, is a member of the family, yes, as were all her cat and dog predecessors. Beyond loving my cat with all my heart, I have helped home many stray cats, worked with the Humane Society to help owners appreciate their responsibilities as pet owners, and I feed birds, ducks, raccoons, squirrels, whatever small beast comes into my yard.
I came by my sentiments early in life, thanks to my dog Champion. My family gave him a home when I was eleven. A German Shepherd, he was kind and loving. He listened to me when I was lonely or upset. We ran through fields together and he made me laugh with his crazy antics. Now, years later, his memory still makes me smile.
I don’t think there is a dog, cat, bird, or animal in general I wouldn’t respect. One of my shirts proclaims my devotion. It reads, “No, I can’t. I have plans with my cat.” With this much interest in the relationship between animals and their “parent,” it’s natural for me to populate my books with various kinds of animals or write paranormal characters who are some kind of were. And my contemporary holiday romance Nutcracker Sweet is no different.
Here’s a peek at Lynn’s romance novella
A year after her sister’s death, Noël Hartley is haunted by memories of Christmas past. All around, life is going on, including all the happy celebrations of Christmas. Noël is having nothing of it, or the firefighter who failed to save her sister Regina from the deadly fire.
Firefighter Jonah Grant is going through the motions of working and living his life. The night he fought a fire in Regina Hartley’s house replays over and over, but always ends the same. He went into a fire to save her, but came out without her.
A wall of pain keeps Noël and Jonah apart and alone in their suffering, though in mid-size Cranberry Cove they’re finding it challenging to avoid one another. But when a stalker puts Noël’s life in danger, Jonah has to find a way to prevent another tragedy and prove to her that their futures rely on facing the past.
Jonah’s blonde Labrador Carpe Diem plays a minor role in the story, but nonetheless an important one. As a firefighter, Jonah faces death all the time. Loss is up close and personal for him, especially since he failed to rescue Regina Hartley. The death weighs on him, but Carpe Diem is always by his side with soft fur, a wagging tail, and unconditional love. As long as Carpe Diem is around, Jonah doesn’t have to face life alone. While the past haunts him, his dog’s name reminds Jonah to live in the present.
When he runs into Regina’s sister Noël and tries to avoid her, Carpe assures him he’s going to survive the encounter, and hope for healing blossoms between Jonah and Noël.
JONAH LIFTED HIS HEAD up from his bed pillow and stared up into big brown eyes. “Good morning.” Carpe Diem, his blonde, longhaired Labrador, shook his jowls and whined. Jonah scruffed his ears and adored his dog’s face. “Okay, Carp, let me jump into some clothes and we’ll go for a walk.”
His big, furry dog jumped off the bed and ran down the stairs. His claws clicking on the hardwood floor all the way to the front door warmed Jonah’s heart. Carp whined and barked in succession.
“I’m coming, hold your pants on.” Jonah pulled boots over his shoeless feet and trudged down the stairs while Carp sat at the bottom, his tail whipping back and forth across the floor. Jonah hooked the lead into Carp’s collar and the dog burst out the door. He galloped around the front yard, tossing snow clods into the air and towing Jonah behind. Carp’s spontaneous joy sent happiness swirling through Jonah. “Hey, slow down.”
Carp took off after a squirrel. He stopped short at the foot of a tree and stared up at the scolding squirrel, doing his share of noisemaking.
“Carp, you have a healthy bark. Come.” He patted his leg and Carp dashed toward the sidewalk. The morning wind was mild but crisp, and Jonah took to it. The brisk walk through ankle deep snow enlivened his alertness. “What a great start to the day, huh, boy?”
Carp turned and barked, barked, barked.
“So you agree. Great. We have things to do today, starting with breakfast with the family.” Jonah stiffened. “Yes, you’re going along. I need you, especially around Dad.”
His hopes for his dad’s acceptance wouldn’t go away, but he was made from a different mold entirely. He didn’t tolerate weakness. Even Carp was a point of criticism. Only “sissies” needed a dog to take care of them.
But Carpe Diem accompanied Jonah often, and especially to his parent’s house. He wasn’t a certified therapy dog. But Jonah’s buddies at the station had advised him after the fire to get a dog. He’d picked him out of the pure and mixed breeds at the animal shelter because somehow they’d connected. It all seemed a bit flaky, but Carpe Diem was in tune with him and soothed his anxiety and depression.
They circled the block, Carp kicking up snow all the way. Inside, Carp chowed down on kibble while Jonah showered and dress.
“We gotta go. We can’t miss breakfast.”
His cellphone rang. “Oh, great.” His back went rigid at the number on his screen. “It’s Dad, Carp. Hi, Dad. What’s up? I was about to head to your house.”
“Just now? You’re late, son. Your mother is all a jitter. She thinks you’re not coming for breakfast. Luke is here, why aren’t you?”
Jonah’s breath caught in his throat. So like his father to jump all over him without even asking if he’s okay. “I am not late. My brother is early.”
“So you’re coming still? Don’t bring that dog. You know I feel about a dog in the house.”
His gut clenched. Yes, he knew his dad was being himself, the way he’d always been, but Jonah didn’t like it. His dam was weakening.
“I’m eager to learn about the MVA from last night. What happened?”
He knew very well the only thing that truly interested his father was firefighting. Jonah might as well have been invisible. “Nothing really to talk about.” He felt for Carp.
“Come on, there’s always something to talk about in your line of work, son. How many cars involved? Was there a fire?”
Jonah rubbed Carp’s belly. “I don’t want to talk about it now.”
“Why not? Is the job too boring for you?” His father’s voice was sharp.
The tendons in Jonah’s neck hurt. He weighed his words. “The job is never boring, Dad. But it’s serious business, and more so for me than it was for you. You never lost a life.”
“Oh, I see. You know more than I do about firefighting.”
“No, I didn’t say that. But you don’t know what it’s like. This seriousness is about me, not you.” There. He’d spoken the words. To his dad. The world would now commence to fall apart.
“Listen, boy, I’ve got more on-the-job experience in my pinky than you do in your entire body. Don’t tell me you know things I don’t.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“The hell you didn’t!”
“Dad, you have a ton of firefighting experiences. I agree I don’t come close to knowing what you’ve been through. But I’m talking about mine, my own personal experiences. For me, Reggie’s death changed things.” Carp leaned into his leg, warming his nerves.
“You think I don’t have regrets? I do. And they’re in the past. You need to get over this thing. Injuries and deaths are part of the job. The fire investigator found you innocent of any wrongdoing or recklessness. You’ve got to put all that behind you and move on.” He snorted. “Man up, I’m telling you.”
Topic over, shoved under the rug like everything else challenging to his father.
He slanted his head and thought. Him being a firefighter was his dad’s dream.
Jonah glanced at his watch. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll do the right thing. But I’ve got to say good-bye. Something has come up. I’m not going to make it for breakfast.” He could come up with some reason to get off, and he already had one idea that sounded better than sitting through another round with his father about firefighting being a choice for life and how it’s the family business.
Book Buy Link: Amazon
About the author
Lynn Crandall lives in the Midwest and writes in the company of her cat. She has been a reader and a writer all her life. Her background is in journalism, but whether writing a magazine or newspaper story or creating a romance, she loves the power stories hold to transport, inspire, and uplift. In her romances, she focuses on vulnerable, embraceable characters who don’t back down.