Big Star, Small-Town Christmas
Country singer Riley Jensen would never have returned to her small Missouri hometown if her publicist hadn't come up with the scheme to tape a Christmas special there. So she never would have known that the man who broke her heart at eighteencausing her to flee to Nashvillewas now a widower with a seven-year-old daughter. Riley has ten years of angst-filled hit songs and Grammy awards to prove she doesn't need Ethan Kent. But suddenly, she can't help thinking of all she gave up by running away...
Ethan Kent knew Riley had the talent and the drive to make it as a singer. He also knew she wasn't going anywhere if she stayed in their nowhere town for him. Then one night and one huge mistake sent her running on the road to fame. Which doesn't mean he ever stopped loving her...
But with so much separating them, can Riley and Ethan find their way back together one magical country Christmas?
Book 1 of the Kent Brothers Trilogy
This is your home town? This tiny little blip in the middle of nowhere?
Yeah, this is it. Riley Jensen tensed as the tour bus pulled down Central Street. In ten years, nothing much had changed. The post office was still there and so was the hardware store, the clothing shop that was probably still owned by busybody Charlene Talmage, and the diner on the corner where her foster mother used to drag her on Saturdays so she could gossip with all her friends. The five and dime still stood in the center of all the chaos.
And you said people wouldnt come. Rileys publicist stretched her long, lithe body across the leather seats and peered out the darkened privacy glass. The streets are lined with people. Joann turned to Riley. See? Your town still loves you.
Riley sniffed. My town just wants to be on television and they know I come with photographers and a TV crew.
Joann tsked. So cynical for one so young.
Im almost thirty, Jo. Im hardly young anymore.
Jo swiveled and gave her an eye roll. Youre twenty-eight, not anywhere close to thirty, and youre hardly headed for the rocking chair, so knock it off, put on your biggest smile and get ready to greet your hometown fans. Its show time.
Show time. Hometown. She hadnt been home since shed bought a bus ticket ten years ago and ran like hell from Deer Lake. And shed never once looked back, come back or wanted to, until Joann and her agent, Suzie, convinced herno, forced herto make this trek in order to film part of the biography special in her hometown.
That they wanted to do it during the Christmas holidays was ridiculous, but whatever. Not that she had any plans anyway.
Why Deer Lake agreed to it considering she hadnt once stepped foot in this place in the ten years shed been gone wasnt because they loved their long lost home town gal. They should hate her for turning her back on them, for never coming back, for never once giving back to the town that had raised her.
Yet here they were, lined up on the streets as if she were Santa in the annual Christmas parade. And she knew why. All the smiles and waves and banners and screams outside the bus were for one thing and one thing onlyexposure for the town that sat on the outskirts of the Ozarks. Deer Lake had its quirky charm and a few interesting attractions. The lake for one thing, which was a hotspot in the summer. Tourism would benefit from the exposure, and so would the town.
Jo held Rileys jacket in front of her. You ready?
Ready as Ill ever be. She slid into the warm suede and took another look at the woman in the mirror. She was so different from the girl shed been when shed left ten years ago. Back then shed been scared out of her mind when shed bought the one-way ticket to Nashville with nothing but a few clothes in her suitcase, her guitar and the money shed saved working at both the movie theater and the restaurant.
Theyre proud of their hometown girl, Riley. Grammy Awards, ACMs, CMAs. You name it, youve won them all. They know that and they want to celebrate you.
They know that and they want to capitalize on me.