His Christmas Miracle

By: Dani Collins

Dear Reader,

Writing a Christmas book is a lot like Christmas itself. You have so many wonderful elements to draw on to make for memorable moments.

As I brainstormed this one, I began listing fun winter activities like sleigh rides and baking cookies, building a gingerbread house and, of course, visiting the increasingly famous Marietta Stroll. Pretty soon I was wondering how I would fit it all in and started mapping it on a calendar, trying to figure out the timing and… Wait a minute.

Some years ago, when my children were still young, I was visiting a friend in December. I saw she had made a homemade advent calendar for her children. I had only ever seen the chocolate kind. She told me she filled hers with ‘chachkies.’ Trinkets.

The memory came back to me as I was writing this book. You’ll see that Nicki had one like my friend’s, but when Nicki makes one for Atlas, she takes it in yet another direction. Recognizing that Quincy needs to bond with his son, she plans a Christmas themed activity for each day through December. At first, Quincy is not impressed, but soon he’s checking the calendar to see what’s next.

I had a lot of fun with this and thought you might, too. I am thrilled to include a special bonus with this book. Look for a link at the end of this book to download a printable advent calendar similar to the one Nicki makes. It includes instructions for a few simple crafts, some popular recipes, and a list of suggested activities to make your own countdown to Christmas memorable.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!


November 30th

Nicole Darren pulled her hatchback into the address on the outskirts of Marietta and let out a relieved breath. That drive through icy passes and swirling snowflakes had been a nightmare—and she had splurged on good snow tires.

Well, she had spent her father’s money on them, but she wouldn’t have arrived in one piece if she hadn’t. And she was going to pay him back.

Right after she landed this job.

With another cleansing breath, she tugged her hat onto her head, pulling hard enough to bring the pink-and-yellow tails under her chin, then tied them off. As she stepped outside, her nose pinched and her eyes watered, stung by the fierce, biting wind.

I missed you, too, Montana. Ugh. Maybe she should have waited until May to leave California.

After slamming her car door, she pocketed her keys, then zipped her consignment-store ski jacket, taking in the farmhouse as she started toward it. It was two stories with a single-story addition wrapped in a covered porch off to the left. The east side, maybe? She was terrible with directions, but she knew pretty when she saw it.

In the waning light of afternoon, surrounded by the blowing snow, the house looked surprisingly sweet. It was in good repair, obviously restored by loving hands that had a flair for “quaint”. She adored the bold eggplant with teal trim and yellow rails. On a sunny day, it would be bright and welcoming, making any passerby smile. There was even an old washtub next to the stairs, sleeping under a layer of snow, but with a few ice-coated, brown stalks poking through, promising to greet visitors with a riot of blooms come spring.

Delighted by the idea of working for someone with such a warm, artistic bend, she clomped up the steps, rang the bell, then looked for a broom to sweep her footprints.

The door opened and a man was backlit through the screen. She saw more silhouette than expression. He was tall and had wide, strapping shoulders beneath a white-and-blue striped button shirt. No hat, cowboy or otherwise. He wore a neatly trimmed beard the same color as his dark brown hair.

He did not look like he needed a nursing aide.

She smiled as if he were her new boss. “Am I at the right house? Are you Ryan Quincy? I’m Nicki Darren.”

“Quincy Ryan.” He started to push the screen toward her.

“I’m sorry.” She stepped back, then loosened her boots and stepped out of them, leaving them on the welcome mat as she entered. “I thought the recruitment site got it backward, and Ryan was your first name.”

“That happens a lot.” He didn’t smile. In fact, he was doing a great imitation of the arctic outflow wind that he locked outside as he closed the door behind her.

Now she was in the foyer and could properly see him, she realized he was really good looking. Her inner spinster warmed and fanned herself. The aspiring actress who had been around that many pretty boys for the last seven years said, Oh, please.