Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor: A Novel (Friday Harbor Series)

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9781441847621: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor: A Novel (Friday Harbor Series)

ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother, Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word. ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow. SOMETIMES IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC . . . Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic. . . . TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home. . . .

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About the Author:

Lisa Kleypas is the RITA Award-winning author of twenty-one novels. Her books have been published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband and two children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR (Chapter 1)

Until his sister's death, Mark Nolan had treated his niece Holly with the usual offhand affection of a bachelor uncle. He had seen her during the occasional holiday gatherings, and he'd always made certain to buy her something for her birthday and for Christmas. Usually gift cards. That had been the limit of his interactions with Holly, and it had been enough.

But everything changed one rain-slicked April night in Seattle, when Victoria had been killed in a car wreck on I-5. Since Victoria had never mentioned a will or any plans she had made for Holly's future, Mark had no idea what would happen to her six-year-old daughter. There was no father in the picture. Victoria had never divulged who he was, even to her close friends. Mark was fairly certain that she had never told the father about Holly's existence.

When Victoria had first moved to Seattle, she had fallen in with a bohemian crowd, a group of musicians and creative types. This had resulted in a string of short-term relationships that had provided all the artistic razzle-dazzle Victoria had craved. Eventually, however, she had been forced to admit that the quest for personal fulfillment had to be balanced with a regular paycheck. She'd applied for a job at a software company and had gotten one in human resources, with decent pay and great benefits. Unfortunately by that time, Victoria had found out she was pregnant.

"It's better for everyone if he's not involved," she had told Mark when he had asked who the guy was.

"You need some help with this," Mark had protested. "At the very least, the guy should live up to his financial obligations. Having a kid isn't cheap."

"I can handle it by myself."

"Vick...being a single parent isn't something I'd wish on anyone."

"The concept of parenting, in any form, freaks you out," Victoria had said. "Which is perfectly understandable, coming from our background. But I want this baby. And I'll do a good job."

And she had. Victoria had turned out to be a responsible parent, patient and kind with her only child, protective without being overcontrolling. God knew where such mothering skills had come from. They had to have been instinctive, since Victoria certainly hadn't learned them from her own parents.

Mark knew without a doubt that he didn't have those instincts. Which was why it was a shock upon shock when he learned that he had not only just lost a sister, he had gained a child.

Being named as Holly's guardian was nothing he had ever anticipated. He knew his own capabilities about most things, and he had a good idea of what he probably would be able to do in situations he hadn't yet encountered. But this...taking care of a child...this was beyond him.

If Holly had been a boy, he might've had half a chance. Boys weren't all that hard to figure out. The entire female gender, on the other hand, was a mystery. Mark had long ago accepted that women were complicated. They said things like, "If you don't already know, I'm not going to tell you." They never ordered their own desserts, and when they asked your opinion on which outfit to wear, they always wore the one you didn't pick. Still, although Mark would never claim to understand women, he adored them: their elusiveness, the surprises of them, their intricate, fascinating shifts of mood.

But to actually raise one...Jesus, no. The stakes were too high. There was no way he could set a good enough example. And guiding a daughter through the treacherous, tricky climate of a society that presented every kind of pitfall...God knew he had no qualifications for that.

Mark and his siblings had been raised by parents whose version of marriage had been a war of attrition in which their children had been used as pawns. As a  result, the three Nolan brothers--Mark, Sam, and Alex--had been fine with the idea of going their separate ways upon reaching adulthood. Victoria, on the other hand, had craved the kind of connection their family had never been able to muster. She had finally found it in Holly, and that had made her feel lucky.

But one wrong half turn of a steering wheel, one patch of wet road, one out-of-control moment, and the amount of life measured out to Victoria Nolan had run cruelly short.

Victoria had left a sealed letter, addressed to Mark, kept in a file with the will.

There's no other choice but you. Holly doesn't know Sam or Alex at all. I write this hoping that you'll never have to read it, but if you are...take care of my daughter, Mark. Help her. She needs you. I know how overwhelming this responsibility must seem. I'm sorry. I know you didn't ask for this. But you can do it. You'll figure everything out.

Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

"You're really going to take her?" Sam had asked Mark on the day of the funeral, after a reception at Victoria's house. It had been eerie to see everything the way she'd left it: the books in the bookcase, a pair of shoes tossed carelessly to the closet floor, a tube of lip gloss on the bathroom counter.

"Of course I'm going to take her," Mark said. "What else can I do?"

"There's Alex. He's married. Why didn't Vick leave Holly to him and Darcy?"

Mark gave him a speaking glance. Their youngest brother's marriage was like a virus-ridden computer--you couldn't open it in safe mode, and it ran programs that seemed harmless but performed all kinds of malicious functions.

"Would you leave your kid to them?" he asked.

Slowly, Sam shook his head. "I guess not."

"So you and I are all Holly's got."

Sam gave him a wary look. "You're the one who's signing on for this, not me. There's a reason Vick didn't name me as her guardian. I'm not good with kids."

"You're still Holly's uncle."

"Yes, uncle. My responsibilities are limited to making jokes about body functions and drinking too much beer at family cookouts. I'm not the dad type."

"Neither am I," Mark said grimly. "But we have to try. Unless you want to sign her up for foster care."

Scowling, Sam rubbed his face with both hands. "What is Shelby's take on this?"

Mark shook his head at the mention of his girlfriend, an interior decorator he had met when she had been decorating the high-end house of a friend on Griffin Bay. "I've only been going out with her a couple of months. She'll either deal with it or bail--that's up to her. But I'm not going to ask her for help. This is my responsibility. And yours."

"Maybe I could babysit sometime. But don't count on much help; I've sunk everything I have into the vineyard."

"Exactly what I told you not to do, genius."

Sam's eyes, the same blue-green as his own, narrowed. "If I listened to your advice, I'd be making your mistakes instead of my own." He paused. "Where does Vick keep the booze?"

"Pantry." Mark went to a cabinet, found two glasses, and filled them with ice.

Sam rummaged through the pantry. "It feels weird, drinking her liquor when she's...gone."

"She'd be the first to tell us to go ahead."

"Probably right." Sam came to the table with a bottle of whiskey. "Did she have life insurance?"

Mark shook his head. "She let it lapse."

Sam shot him a look of concern. "Guess you're going to put the house up for sale?"

"Yeah. I doubt we'll get much for it in this market." Mark pushed a glass over to him. "Don't hold back," he said.

"Don't worry." Sam didn't stop pouring until both glasses were liberally filled.

They resumed their seats across from each other, raised their whiskey in a silent toast, and drank. It was good liquor, sliding smoothly down Mark's throat, sending a rush of mellow fire into his chest.

He found unexpected comfort in his brother's presence. It seemed their cantankerous childhood history--the fights, the small betrayals--would no longer get in their way. They were adults now, with a potential for friendship that had never existed while their parents had still been alive.

With Alex, however, you could never get close enough to like or dislike him. Alex and his wife, Darcy, had come to the funeral, stayed at the reception for about fifteen minutes, and then left with hardly a word to anyone.

"They've gone already?" Mark had asked incredulously upon discovering their absence.

"If you wanted them to stay longer," Sam had said, "you should have held the funeral reception at Nordstrom."

No doubt people wondered how three brothers could reside on an island with approximately seven thousand residents and have so little to do with one another. Alex lived with Darcy in Roche Harbor on the north side. When he wasn't busy with his condo development, he was taking his wife to social events in Seattle. Mark, for his part, kept busy with a small coffee-roasting business he'd established in Friday Harbor. And Sam, who was always in his vineyard, tending and cosseting his vines, felt a deeper connection to nature than to people.

The only thing they all had in common was their love of San Juan Island. It was part of an archipelago that consisted of approximately two hundred islands, some of them encompassed by the Washington mainland counties of Whatcom and Skagit. The Nolans had spent their childhood in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, a place sheltered from much of the grayness of the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

The Nolans had grown up breathing in humid ocean air, their bare feet constantly coated with the silt of exposed mudflats. They had been gifted with damp lavender mornings, dry blue days, and the most beautiful sunsets on earth. Nothing could compare to the sight of nimble sandpipers chasing the waves. Or of bald eagles swooping low and fast in pursuit of prey. Or of the dance of orcas, their sleek forms diving, spy-hopping, and cutting through the Salish Sea as they fed on the rich pulse of salmon runs.

The brothers had rambled over every inch of the island, up and down wind-bitten slopes above the seacoast, among somber columns of timber forests, and across meadows thick with orchard grasses an...

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