Hold Me Close (Ryker Falls #5) - Wendy Vella

Chapter One

Maggie Winter knew that coming home to people who knew her better than she knew herself would be the best acting job of her life.

Weak winter sun began to sink behind the twin mountains standing sentry over the town as she entered the main street of Ryker Falls

“You can do this. You’re strong and resilient.” Maggs snorted. Maybe she had been, but not now.

Her big adventure had turned into a nightmare. But at least here none of the ugliness she’d left behind could touch her. She’d make sure of it. From this moment on, she was going to work at being the old Maggie. Happy, colorful, and full of life. That was her mantra now.

Driving slowly, Maggie checked for signs of change in the two years she’d been gone. December was a magical place in this town. It was a time for everyone to celebrate and participate in crazy events the committee or council came up with.

Looking at the banner crossing the street above her, she read the words. Town Events was written in red, then underneath was a list: Santa run, Christmas bake-off competition, and musical chairs for adults.

“Okay, so nothing’s changed much there,” Maggs muttered. “Although I don’t remember participating in musical chairs for adults.”

She loved this town for its quirks and eccentricities.

Her eyes went to Tea Total, one of the storefronts. That was bigger now. Mandy and the Robbins sisters had expanded, with Ted’s help. She had to smile about that. Big bad Ted Hosking hooked up with sweet timid Mandy Robbins. In the window was a huge gold teacup with holly spilling over the edges. Framed with snow and little flashing lights, it looked wonderful.

“Life changes, Maggie. Look at yours.” Lifting a hand off the steering wheel, she saw it was shaking.

The huge Christmas tree that Bas from the garage put up every year, with the help of a few locals, twinkled in the dwindling afternoon light. Standing proud on top was a white star the town council had insisted on. Winter, to her mind, made this place even more special. You believed in fairy tales and magic when you stepped foot into Ryker Falls in December. Scents, sights, it was all part of the package, and of course there were the Christmas sweaters most people wore.

Checking all the names of the stores, there didn’t seem to be anything new, which relieved her. Maggie didn’t want to see change at the moment; she wanted this place to stay as it had always been, just as she wanted to go back to the person she’d been living here.

She needed a few supplies to get her through till tomorrow, or whenever she decided to officially show her face, so she searched for a parking space. Maggie hoped she could slip in and out of the grocery store without encountering anyone she knew. Chances were high, as most of them worked, and those that didn’t would probably be tucked up inside and not out in the cold like tourists. But then again, she knew a lot of people in this town.

“Buzz!” The dog was leaning on a post, like he’d been waiting there all day just for Maggie to return. A car pulled out before her, so she nipped into the space.

Running around the hood, there he was, tail wagging, waiting for her. A big black fur ball she’d known since he was a little black fur ball.

“Oh Buzz, I missed you so much.” Dropping down right there in the street, she ignored the cold seeping into the knees of her jeans and hugged him. He rested his head on her shoulder and let her cry into his fur.

“Hey, you okay there?”

Every muscle in her body clenched at the deep words. She knew that voice. Knew the disturbing male it belonged to but wasn’t ready to face him yet.

“It has to be noted the fur ball is good for a hug, but I’m pretty good too. I mean, some even say better, because you don’t get a mouthful of fur.”

She couldn’t stay here, her face pressed into Buzz’s fur, forever. She’d have to get up. Giving the dog a last squeeze, Maggie regained her feet.

“Hello, Fin.”

“Maggie?”

Fin Hudson, a long tall drink of handsomeness who had always made her feel a little off balance. The one man she couldn’t dismiss no matter how hard she’d tried. He still had a smile playing on his lips, telling her he was thinking about something that would make her knees go weak.

It wouldn’t

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