Hi everyone! Cassandra Carr here. It’s great to be back writing, though I’ve got a new pen name for sweet romance – Cassandra Cassidy. I recently released a holiday short titled Snowflakes and Sugar Cookies under Cassandra Cassidy, and I’m so excited for you all to read it!
When Celeste abruptly gets fired by an egotistical celebrity chef, she retreats to her grandparent’s inn to celebrate Christmas and regroup.
But one thing after another goes wrong. Then, sexy lumberjack Brody shows up and Celeste can’t decide if this is the best gift she’s ever gotten, or if Santa’s left coal in her stocking.
To get you in the mood, here’s an excerpt from the story. To set this up, Celeste, our intrepid heroine, is a chef who’s helping her grandparents out with a traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. Celeste battles anxiety, and this is the end of the scene where they’re getting everything out of the kitchen:
Dishes were everywhere. “Cod salad, stuffed shrimp, linguine with clam sauce, all out. Extra sauce, about to go in a gravy boat. Rolls, soup, meatloaf…what am I forgetting?”
The other side of the oven beeped. Brody called to her, “Want me to get that too?”
“I don’t even know what’s in it or if it’s done.”
“Meatloaf, from what I can see, and I confess I have no idea if it’s done.”
“If it’s the meatloaf, it’s done. I hope. There’s already one out on the buffet but I didn’t know how many people would eat it so I made three.”
“You’re going to have to roll us all out of here,” the man said, and it seemed to break the tension as everyone laughed. Celeste felt her shoulders relax. She could do this. Even lunch at the restaurant had been busier than this. If she could only stop psyching herself out. Your own worst enemy, her brain said.
Brody laughed too. “I have complete faith in you.”
“Glad someone does,” she mumbled.
“What was that?”
“Never mind, talking to myself.” Celeste propped her hands on the prep table. People stood, waiting for orders. Food was getting cold, and she was frozen. Damn anxiety.
“Do you want this on a platter or in one of those chafing dishes?” Brody asked.
“I don’t know. Just hang on.”
“It’s fine, Celeste,” he answered. “We’ll get everything out.”
She leaned toward him and said under her breath. “I need you to get like two-thirds of these people out of here. We’re almost done and they don’t need to be in my face. I can’t handle this.”
“Okay,” Brody briefly grabbed her shoulder, squeezing. “You’re fine. You’re doing great.” He moved toward the crowd of guests. “I think we should give Celeste a moment to check everything without us breathing down her neck.”
Selma nodded, her expression somber. “Thank you all, you’ve been a huge help.” She should’ve refused her grandmother’s suggestion, but the lack of staff had made that impossible. If they hadn’t all been staring at her like a zoo exhibit that would’ve helped. There were few things Celeste hated more than being the center of attention.
The oven rang again. Brady looked at Celeste. “I’ve got that, it’s the rolls. Don’t know if they’re ready but I’ll make a determination myself. It’s not that hard, I’m guessing. You do what you need to do.”
“Thanks for getting everybody out of here. I know they want to help, but-”
“Hey, you’re in charge.”
“I hope I don’t seem rude.”
“No one even noticed,” Selma said. “Finish looking over your list. We’ll wait.”
“Okay, thanks,” Celeste replied, though she had a feeling Selma’s aim was to make her feel better, not tell the truth. “Pen? I had a pen.”
“Right here.” Selma plucked it out from the pocket of Celeste’s chef coat.
She started vigorously crossing things off the list. After about ten more minutes, everything was finally either on the tables themselves or the buffet.
Celeste had intended to change but collapsed in a chair and decided against it. It wasn’t lost on her that even though Gram had insisted spouses and families didn’t sit together so as to encourage mingling, her place card was next to Brody’s.
“Hey,” he said after a bit. “You were amazing. It was really something watching you in action.”
“Thanks.” She wasn’t sure what else to say, so she stuffed a bunch of pasta in her mouth.
Until that moment, Celeste hadn’t realized she was. “Starving.”
“You need to take better care of yourself. Seems like you’re always watching out for people but ignoring your own needs.”
I gave Celeste anxiety because my 12yo daughter (and beta reader!) battles it every day too and I wanted to put a spotlight on how anxiety can be insidious, but also how people can overcome it, even if only for a minute, an hour, or a day. Brody is the “sexy lumberjack” (aka carpenter) who’s staying at the inn while everyone is snowed in. He’s interested in Celeste and also a ridiculously nice guy, so he’s trying to help her as much as he can – and convince her to stay. Will he succeed? You’ll have to read to find out!
Thanks to Nix for having me here today! I’m thrilled to be writing again!
Giveaway: I’m giving away an ebook copy of the backlist book of your choice. Cassandra Cassidy doesn’t have a backlist – yet – because it’s a new pen name, but Cassandra Carr does. Under that name I write everything from steamy contemporary romance to erotic stuff.
Cassandra Cassidy is a new pen name for author Cassandra Carr, an award-winning romance writer. She lives in the Buffalo, NY area with her husband and teenage daughter. For more information, see her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BooksByCassandraCarr.
In addition to this wonderful prize from Mia, and in celebration of the Festive season, I, Nix, will be giving away a £25/$30 voucher for a book retailor of choice across the event. Each comment, on ANY post, will be classed an entrance; just fill in the Rafflecopter at the bottom. You can enter once a day.a Rafflecopter giveaway