What Child Is This
Book 1 in the Frost Family Christmas Series
A Frost Family Christmas Novella
Frost Farm owner, Garret Frost, and his Public Relations Manager, Lily Parker, each have their own reasons for dreading Christmas this year. Garret’s a widower, stressed with the responsibility of running the family’s maple syrup business while raising his young son on his own. And Lily’s still trying to recover from the tragic loss that ended her marriage.
Adding to their personal challenges, Garret’s adorable son Duncan has just told Santa that all he wants for the holidays is to visit the North Pole. How’s Garret going to manage that? And then an abandoned baby is found in the manger of the nativity scene beside the Sugar Shack…
Just as it seems like the holiday will be a total bust, an almost-kiss under the mistletoe has Garret looking at Lily in a whole new way. Despite all the holiday mayhem, could this end up being the best Christmas ever?
What Child Is This is the first of a series of five. The other books in the series are:
Book 2: Home For Christmas, by Roxy Boroughs
Book 3: The Holly & The Ivy, by Brenda M. Collins
Book 4: More Than A Feeling, by C.J. Carmichael
Book 5: The Greatest Gift, by Roxy Boroughs
What Child Is This
Book 1 in the Frost Family Christmas Series
What Child Is This
- Brenda M. Collins and Roxy Boroughs were the perfect writing collaborators. We had great fun brainstorming the Frost Family & Friends stories!
- Roxy, Brenda and I decided to run a mystery thread through our first three stories…the puzzle of the baby abandoned at the Frost Farm’s nativity scene. Since we all love mysteries as well as romance, this seemed a perfect fit.
- There will be more stories coming soon about the Frost Family and the people of Carol Falls. Roxy, Brenda and I are working on them now!
What Child Is This
Most people looked forward to Christmas, but for Garret Frost, the last one had been hell and he wasn’t expecting much from the upcoming one either. Christmas was for families, right? But Sara was dead, and now he was a single father. It was up to him to make sure their five-year-old son had a wonderful Christmas—never mind the fact that he didn’t have a mother anymore.
It had been just over two years since Sara died, along with their unborn child. For Garret most of the pain had faded into sorrow. But he couldn’t be sure about Duncan. His son seemed like a normal little boy who loved exploring and playing with his best friend Nathan.
But Garret knew children could hide their wounds—and hide them very well.
Because when he was four, he’d done just that.
And he didn’t want the same for his son.
An awesome Christmas, that’s what was needed. And for an awesome Christmas, he needed the perfect gift.
Garret pulled out the toy store flyer he’d saved from the Burlington Free Press. He was at his desk in one of the offices that had been added to the Old Sugar Shack. This was where his grandfather had originally boiled the sap to make the maple syrup for which Frost Farms was famous. Now all that work was done in a modern new barn and the Sugar Shack was used to host events for visitors and guests. The addition of offices to the back of the barn had been made by Garret’s father, Harold, who had officially retired this year, making room for his eldest son to step into his place. Garret loved the family business, but had to admit the work load was a little overwhelming at times.
Another reason a great Christmas for Duncan was really important this year.
Garret flipped through the pages of the catalogue. He wasn’t foolish enough to think that the right toy could make up for Sara’s absence, or the many hours he put in at work.
But it couldn’t hurt, either.
So far, his attempts to subtly question his son about what he wanted had been unsuccessful. But he knew Nathan, Frost Farm accountant Peter Boychuk’s son, was getting a Wii.
Would Duncan like one, too? Garret circled the game in the flier, as well as an age-appropriate Lego set and a remote control car that looked kind of cool. A toy telescope had just caught his eye when he heard a terrible crash from the front of the barn.
“Are you okay, Duncan?” Lily Parker, their new public relations manager sounded concerned but not panicked.
Garret hurried to see what had happened.
The commotion had come from the main event room, which still contained the original fireplace and iron vat from his grandfather’s years. But Garret’s attention was drawn to the big oak door, where his PR manager lay on the floor, a toppled stepladder, basket and several bundles of mistletoe around her.
Right there, at the scene of the crime, was his son. Unharmed, but clearly beside himself with contrition.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Parker. I was coming to talk to my dad and I didn’t see you.”
“That’s okay, Duncan. But maybe you should walk, rather than run next time.” Lily gingerly shifted up to a sitting position. He wouldn’t have blamed her for being angry—who wouldn’t be after getting knocked off a ladder—but he could tell she wasn’t.
“Are you hurt?” he offered his hand to help her stand.
“I’m fine.” Lily normally wore skirts and blouses to work, but today, because of Frosty Frolics—a holiday event hosted by the farm that would be starting in about two hours—she was in jeans and a sweater the same light blue as her eyes.
She pushed her pale blond hair out of her face, and accepted his hand. As he pulled he picked up on her signature botanical scent that might have been perfume, but was faint enough that it could have come from a scented bar of soap. He’d noticed that he had to be standing really close to her to smell it.
“I was trying to hang the mistletoe for the party. I hope it isn’t crushed.”
Her sweater had pulled up, revealing an inch of her slender midriff. He tried not to look. “I’m more worried about you. Are you sure you’re okay?” “Luckily I’d only climbed up to the first rung.”
She pulled her hand from his, and Garret stood there looking at her and feeling awkward, until he realized he should pick up the ladder. And talk to his son. “Duncan, I hope you’ll remember what Ms. Parker said. And let’s have another apology, son. Make sure you look Ms. Parker in the eyes when you give it.”
“I’m sorry I knocked you off the ladder, Ms. Parker.”
Garret was pleased to see his son’s hazel eyes trained on Lily’s blue ones.
“And I won’t run anymore.” He looked rather pleadingly at his father. “Not ever, Dad?”
“Not when you’re inside.” Garret tried not to smile. “Now gather all that mistletoe and put it back in the basket.” He turned to Lily, who was still adjusting her sweater.
Maybe, as her employer, he shouldn’t have noticed that glimpse of her slender waist.
But he didn’t think there was a man alive who could be immune to Lily Parker with her pretty features and lithe, graceful body. Not only was she attractive, but she was smart and capable, with a friendly way about her. She was only thirty—four years younger than him—and he’d never heard her mention anything about having a boyfriend. That said, he didn’t even know how long she’d been divorced. She made a habit of skirting topics of a personal nature.
He took the basket from his son. “You can go to the house now and see if your grandma needs help getting ready for Frosty Frolics.”
“ But…—Dad. Grandma wants me to talk to you. She said I could stay up late tonight because of Frosty Frolics. If you say it’s okay. You do, right?” His son tugged at the jeans that were always slipping down his skinny hips. His light brown hair was messy as usual, and his eyes were glowing with excitement.
Garret resisted the urge to hug him tight. Since Sara’s death he often had moments of intense emotion where his son was concerned. Lately his mother had pointed out that he was becoming too protective. “I know it’s hard, that you’re scared of losing him, too. But you have to let him enjoy his childhood. The way you and your brother and sister did.”
For the most part it was true, he and his brother Jimmy and sister Josephine—Joey to most—had terrific childhoods. They’d been lucky to grow up on a maple syrup farm with lots of room to run and play and the fun of sugaring-off in the spring.
They’d had their share of mishaps. And maybe that was the problem. He knew the kind of the trouble a young boy could get into…
Still, his mother was right. A life without any risk at all, was no life at all.
For some reason that made him think of Lily. If he ever were going to date again, he would want it to be with someone like her. Someone he was attracted to, but who didn’t remind him of Sara…
Garret realized he still hadn’t answered his son. “If Grandma thinks it’s okay, then sure. You may stay up late tonight.”
Garret realized Duncan had been expecting him to say no. “Yup. Really.”
Duncan whooped then bee-lined for the door.
“Duncan!” Garret called out.
His son’s rubber soled boots skidded on the wood plank flooring. “Sorry, Dad. I forgot.” He walked the rest of the way out of the barn.
With a rueful smile, Garret looked at Lily. “I apologize for my son. Obviously he isn’t quite housebroken yet.”
“Standing on ladders in doorways in asking for trouble, I suppose.” She held out her hand for the basket, but he shook his head.
“Let me hang this. I thought we’d finished decorating last night.”
For the past week everyone—himself, Lily and the other three members of Frost Farm’s office staff—had worked at transforming the maple syrup farm into a Christmas wonderland. He and his operations manager, Chet Blackwell, with help from Peter Boychuk, the accountant, had strung lights along the roof, window frames and door of the sugar shack. They’d also outlined the branches of the trees around the skating pond and had put up the temporary stage by the fire pit.
Lily had been in charge of decorating the interior. She’d festooned a fourteen-foot white pine and had lined the walls with dozens of potted poinsettias—which would all be given away during the raffle that evening.
She’d also set-up the outdoor, life-sized nativity scene that Garret’s father, had made by hand twenty-five years ago. And helped stack wood for the bonfire pit next to the stage where the choir would be performing.
No doubt about it—she’d been a real trooper, pitching in wherever she was needed.
“I wanted to make sure the mistletoe was fresh,” Lily explained. “So I left it in the fridge until now.”
“Good idea.” He glanced at the dark green leaves that had been bundled with red ribbon. Only then did the significance of what they were doing occur to him. He glanced from the mistletoe, to the woman by his side. Her mind seemed to be channeling the same old custom. She immediately took several steps backward. But not before a pretty interesting expression chased over her face.
Was it possible she’d wanted him to kiss her?
If there had been a second where the idea had struck her as somewhat tempting, the moment was gone now. She brushed her hands together, as if ridding herself not only of an unwanted job, but also, unwanted company. “If you need me, I’ll be in my office going over the schedule.”
And before he could say anything else, or do anything else, she was gone.
* * *
She hadn’t signed up for this. Lily closed her office door and leaned against it, wishing she could forget what was on the other side.
When Sylvia Frost had interviewed her this September for the position of public relations manager at Frost Farms it had seemed like a heaven sent opportunity. After the nightmare of the past two years, Lily had been dying to leave New York, her corporate job and the expensive condo she’d been awarded in her divorce settlement.
She’d needed change and she’d thought she would love living in a small town. Being in charge of PR for a farm that produced maple syrup had seemed just too quaint to be true.
She and Sylvia had talked for over an hour on Skype. Sylvia had explained that with the economy so tight, her son felt Frost Farms needed to do a better job at promoting their excellent products. On the priority list was building a new brand, revitalizing their website, and creating a Frost Farms Facebook Page and Twitter Account.
“Not that I really understand what those things are.” Sylvia had shrugged, demonstrating her helplessness. To Lily, trying to judge her interviewer from a grainy Skype image, the woman seemed more elegant and well groomed that she would have expected a farming woman to be.
“I suppose I could learn,” Sylvia continued, “but my husband retired from the business last year, and I’d like to do the same thing.”
“Your son is right. Social media is really important to business these days.” That’s what Lily had said. All the while she’d been thinking: What an opportunity. It’s perfect.
So she’d taken the job. Sold her condo and moved to Carol Falls, Vermont.
And it was true—the job had turned out to be interesting and challenging and a fresh change from her previous corporate clients.
But Sylvia had said nothing about her son looking like Doctor McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy. She hadn’t mentioned that he was smart and sweet—or widowed with an adorable five-year-old son.
Lily grabbed the water bottle she kept on her desk and took a long drink. She didn’t have time for emotional distractions today. So Garret had touched her. Looked at her as if he’d wanted to kiss her. Made her feel as if she was a desirable woman again.
She had to forget the incident had happened. Today was going to be hard enough as it was. Frosty Frolics was the first major PR event that they’d held at the farm since she’d been hired. At the planning meeting with Harold, Sylvia and Garret, they’d made it clear the entire family considered it a very big deal.
Everyone in the community was invited—though usually only a hundred and fifty or so attended. There was a buffet meal, the local choir singing Christmas carols, skating and tobogganing for the kids. This was the Frost family’s way of giving back to their neighbors and friends and also, at the same time, raising funds by raffling off poinsettias and turkey vouchers with the proceeds going toward Christmas Boxes to help the less fortunate. It wasn’t a stretch to say that her very job depended on this evening being a success.
She studied the checklist on her clipboard, shaking her head at the irony. The last two years she hadn’t even celebrated Christmas. And now it was her job to host a holiday party for an entire town.