Bring Me Home for Christmas

Virgin River Book # 16
October 27, 2015
MIRA Paperback

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Bring Me Home for Christmas

New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr brings you home to Virgin River in a Christmas story about reuniting with the one person you just can’t forget…

This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list: getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It’s time she got over her silly college relationship and moved on.

So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother’s men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River. With Denny. In very close quarters.

As the power of Christmas envelops the little town, Becca discovers that the boy she once loved has become a strong and confident man. And the most delicious Christmas present she can imagine.

Originally published November 2011.

Excerpt

Chapter One
Rich Timm pulled into Virgin River a mere ten hours after leaving San Diego. He’d made excellent time because he tended to ignore little things like speed limits. And…he had been trapped in the Ford truck with his twin sister Becca all day and had had about enough.

As Becca gazed out the window at the town, she muttered, “Seriously?”

“What?” Rich said.

“This is the place Denny never wants to leave? It isn’t exactly… you know… quaint.”

Rich pulled right up to the only bar in town, right next to a truck he knew belonged to one of the two other buddies from the Marines who were meeting him here. “Maybe that’s not what he was looking for.” Rich put the truck in park and before he turned off the ignition, he turned in his seat and said to his sister, “Since there wasn’t time to warn Denny you were coming along, promise me you won’t make trouble.”

“Rich,” she said with a laugh. “Why would I make trouble?”

“Oh I don’t know,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Because you’re his ex girlfriend? Because this is a guys’ hunting trip and you’re not one and everyone has to take care of you?”

“No one has to take care of me,” she said indignantly. Then she smiled very sweetly. “I’m anxious to meet your other friends. And hunt — I’m anxious to hunt.”

He scowled. “Right,” he said. “You expect me to believe you’re going to shoot a duck and pluck it?”

If I have to pluck it with my teeth to be convincing, she thought. “Of course! I’m a little more excited about fly fishing, though. I can’t wait to try that.” She opened her door. “You about ready?”

He grunted. “Do not be a problem. Do not be a pain in my ass for a week!”

“Do not be a jerk,” she countered.

~~~~~~~
Becca had arrived at Rich’s townhouse at three in the morning, big suitcase and shotgun in hand. When he opened the door wearing nothing but boxers she said, “Guess what? I don’t have anything to do this week. Take me with you. I’ve never been duck hunting or fly fishing.”

“You’re out of your mind, right?” he said, scratching hair crazy from bed. “Didn’t you tell Mom and Dad you were going home with Doug for Thanksgiving?”

She shook her head. “That isn’t going to work out and I don’t want Mom and Dad to cancel their trip plans just so I’m not alone on Thanksgiving.”

“Why isn’t it going to work out?”

“He’s way too busy; he’s going all the way to the east coast for two days. Come on, this is a great idea. A little last minute, but come on. Be a sport.”

“And what about Denny?” he asked. “Your ex?”

She put a hand on her hip. “It’s time we all moved on from that, don’t you think? I have no hard feelings and I’m sure he doesn’t. He probably has a girlfriend. This is a perfect opportunity to make sure it’s all cool between us. I mean really — since you guys are good friends and all… And it was a long time ago.”

“Yeah, but it was brutal,” Rich said, looking down at her suspiciously.

“We were young,” she said with a shrug.

“And what does Doug think about this?” Rich asked.

“Doug isn’t the jealous type. He told me to have a good time. Doug is not your problem…”

“I know,” Rich said. “Apparently you’re my problem.” He let her come into his townhouse. “You better know what you’re doing,” he said. “If you screw up my hunting trip, you’re going to pay.”

“Don’t worry…”

~~~~~~~
It really hadn’t been as spur of the moment as Becca pretended. A lot of planets had converged at once and she found herself planning, though quickly. First of all, Rich had been talking about this hunting trip for weeks, with good old Denny, the guy she once thought she was going to marry, the guy who broke up with her three years ago. The guy she still thought about way too much. Then the elementary school in which she taught shut down due to financial issues they just couldn’t resolve and she found herself suddenly unemployed. Then Doug, the law student she’d been seeing for the past year, made her look at engagement rings in a catalogue.

She had nothing to do besides look for work during the holidays, a dismal prospect, and worry about the fact that Doug was probably leading up to a marriage proposal while the last guy was still on her mind. All the time.

She didn’t get it. Why did she still think about Denny, dream about him? Was it just wanting what was out of reach rather than appreciating what was right in front of her? When Denny broke up with her before going to Afghanistan she had been devastated. By the time he looked her up two years later and suggested they give it another try, she had been furious and told him he was too late, she wasn’t interested. Then she met Doug Carey a year ago, a good looking second year law student, and her mother had been so relieved! Beverly Timm found Doug so much more appropriate for her daughter. Doug had it all. He was a good guy; Becca enjoyed him. He had a bright future. He came from a successful, financially secure family. He loved her. His family had their own sailboat!! It made absolutely no sense to continue to think about Denny.

There was a time when Becca had dreamt of a Christmas proposal and a beautiful ring under the tree. Now she feared it. She wanted to want to marry Doug Carey, but she just couldn’t commit to him while this ghost haunted her. It would be so wrong. So unfair to both of them.

So she had decided. She was going to force Rich to take her with him to this Virgin River, the place Denny had chosen as his home. She’d hunt and fish and try to figure out why she just couldn’t let go of the guy. She would see him again and come to the conclusion that it had been a crush, a first love between a couple of kids that she had idealized in her mind, and she’d go home to the perfect man, finally appreciating him as much as he deserved. They would live happily ever after and the image of Denny would fade, then disappear.

She looked around the town once more as she went up the steps of the log cabin bar where they were all meeting. “Seriously?” she said under her breath. It was kind of a dumpy old town; the houses were small, a lot of them had peeling paint. There weren’t even street lights or sidewalks. Besides a little grocery store and the bar, there didn’t appear to be any commerce. What did these people do for entertainment? For fun? “Hunting and fishing,” she reminded herself. “Whoopee.”

Yeah, she was hopeful. Just a look at this backwoods little town was promising — she’d figure out what happened with Denny, where it all went so wrong and why. They’d been so different in the first place and now she had to find a way to move on so she could happily marry a man with a law degree and his own sailboat.

~~~~~~~
Denny Cutler had come to Virgin River in search of roots and a year after stumbling into Jack’s Bar, he was secure that he’d found the place he would live for the rest of his life. He had friends that were as tight as family. He also had a career, one he had never in his craziest dreams envisioned — he was a farmer! An associate in an organic farm that promised to grow strong and profitable.

It was Jack’s idea that he reach out to a couple of his buddies, maybe from the Corps where he’d spent four years, and invite them to Virgin River for a little guy stuff — hunting, fishing, poker. Jilly Farms wasn’t too busy in late fall and could spare him for a few days. He knew exactly which guys he’d like to host. They were Troy, Dirk and Rich who were like brothers to him during his first hitch, during his deployment to Iraq. Dirk and Troy were both reservists and lived near Sacramento and Rich Timm, also known as Big Richie or sometimes just Big, was from San Diego where Denny grew up, though Denny hadn’t met him until the Corps. Rich got out of the Marines after two years, finished college and was now an engineer who worked for the highway department in San Diego, building freeways and bridges. All three of these guys loved camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, anything a little rugged. And they would love Virgin River.

The only downside to his friendship with Rich — he was Becca’s twin brother. That’s how Denny had met his old girlfriend, through Rich, while they were on leave together back in San Diego, years ago. And since Denny and Becca broke up, the continued friendship put Denny a little too close to all available news about Becca. Rich only told him if he asked, of course, which he couldn’t seem to keep himself from doing, even though he wanted to forget her as thoroughly as she’d forgotten him.

So, when plans fell together for the four guys, it turned out Thanksgiving week was the best time for everyone. “Perfect,” Jack said. “We got Riordan cabins on the river and my guest house is available — plenty of room. We have duck hunting, fishing and Preacher always serves a big Thanksgiving dinner at the bar. The day after Thanksgiving we go out into the woods to find, chop down and put up a thirty-foot Christmas tree outside the bar — that’s a circus you don’t want to miss.”

So the plans were set. Troy, Dirk and Rich were due to arrive on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, depart the Sunday following.

Denny had had a few rough years before settling in Virgin River — his mother had died, he reentered the Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan, he broke up with Becca after they’d been together for over three years — and finally, at the age of twenty-five, things were finally falling into place for him. Life was good. He was happy.

Troy and Dirk arrived by four on Sunday afternoon. Not only was Denny on hand at the bar to greet them and serve them up a beer, but both Jack and Preacher made it a point to be around. Dirk and Troy were going to stay in one of Luke Riordan’s cabins, so Luke and Colin Riordan dropped by for a quick beer to be part of the welcoming party. Preacher had a stout meal planned, but it being the Sunday night before a big family holiday week like Thanksgiving, there weren’t too many out of towners in the bar — just four hunters over in the corner at the table by the hearth enjoying a pitcher of beer. They practically had the place to themselves.

Finally the door to the bar opened and Big Richie stepped inside. He stood just inside the door and wore a look on his face that Denny could only describe as apologetic. And then she stepped inside right behind him.

Becca!

What the hell? was Denny’s first thought. He stood behind the bar, next to Jack, his mouth hanging open. She lifted her chin and smiled at the gathering. Dirk and Troy knew of her, but they’d never actually met her.

Rich gave a lame shrug.

God, she sure hadn’t gotten any worse looking, Denny thought. Five-seven, slim build, large blue eyes, her sun-streaked hair pulled back in a clip that left it flouncing in large, loose curls on the back of her head with little wisps around her face. She was tan, of course. She was a beach bunny. And despite the fact that the memory of how she looked in a very tiny bikini came instantly to Denny’s mind, those long legs and perfect butt sure did justice to a pair of jeans and boots.

He was in a complete daze. Except for the physical response. He was so glad he was standing behind the bar.

Smiling, she walked around her brother and approached the bar. She barely looked at Denny. “Hi,” she said, putting out her hand first to Troy. “I’m Becca, Rich’s sister. I hope I’m not intruding.”

Troy took the hand and a smile slid slowly across his face. “Not. At. All,” he said smoothly.

She grinned at him as he hung onto her hand. “Bet you have a name,” she said.

“Ah… Yeah… I’ll think of it in a second…”

“Troy,” Denny said impatiently. “His name is Troy.”

“Nice to meet you, Troy.” She offered the hand to Dirk.

“Dirk Curtis,” he said. “Nice to finally meet you.”

“Becca, what are you doing here?” Denny asked.

She lifted one shoulder and tilted her head. “Well, I guess it’s going to be either duck hunting or fly fishing — two things I’ve been dying to try. I need to expand my horizons a little bit. Thanks for including me.”

“I didn’t include you.”

“Rich said it would probably be okay, and thanks.” She looked between Dirk and Troy. “You guys don’t mind, do you?”

“It’s a pleasure,” Dirk said.

Troy leaned an elbow on the bar, his head on his hand. “I take it you don’t hunt or fish?”

“She surfs,” Denny said sharply, glowering.

“And I sail, among other things,” she added pleasantly. “We live in San Diego. It’s what happens there — surfing, sailing, volley ball, biking, hiking, skiing in winter. If you guys show me the hunting and fishing ropes, I’ll be glad to teach you to surf — I’m much better at it than Rich, although he might be a slightly better sailor. Don’t do anything different just because I’m along — I’m just one of the guys on this trip. I promise not to get in the way.”

“Right,” Denny said.

“Seriously,” she insisted, narrowing her eyes at him.

“You’re going to be sorry you said that when one of these clowns decides to pee on a bush,” he snidely pointed out to her, lifting one eyebrow.

A bark of laughter came from Colin Riordan, which marked the first time Denny remembered there were others present. Just a second after Colin’s laugh, a giant hand came down on his shoulder and Preacher said, “Give me a hand in the kitchen, would you, Den?”

He treated her to one final, withering glare before following the big cook into the kitchen. Once there, he found himself face to face with a man who could easily top him for fierce, weakening stares. And Preacher said, “What the hell, Dennis! Were you raised by apes?”

“She’s my ex-girlfriend, all right?” Denny said by way of explanation.

“We got that,” Preacher said, his hands on his hips, his bushy black eyebrows drawn together in a scowl. “And your excuse for acting like an ass is…?”

“It was complicated,” he said. “My mom died, I closed up and wouldn’t talk, shut Becca out when she wanted to help. Then without saying anything, I rejoined the Corps and told her after the fact. For which she was very pissed. So I broke up with her before I deployed so she could date other guys while I was gone.”

As he was finishing that tale, Jack was entering the kitchen and got the last of it, but he didn’t need the details. He’d actually heard the story before. Now Jack wore his upside down, contemplative smile, nodding. “Makes perfect sense,” he said.

“It does?” Denny asked.

“Of course. You can’t stand to even see her shake hands with another guy in a public bar, so you cut her loose to date some. Oh yeah. Brilliant.”

“It was not a smart time in my life,” he admitted. “So after my two year commitment I went straight to her and apologized, asked if maybe we could try again.”

“And she said?” Jack asked.

“I believe the direct quote was, ‘Dream on.’ We argued a little bit and she told me I’d been replaced, that she’d probably be engaged in a year. That’s when I decided to come up here. Start over.”

“Well don’t look now, Denny. Your past has followed you. You have to go out there and apologize. Again.”

“Wait a sec, she shouldn’t have just dropped in like this, right on my— my— my whatever this is. She should’ve called. Or Big should’ve called!”

“You seem to be the only one put out by her appearance,” Jack pointed out.

“Rich didn’t look all that happy, but the other two? The only time they’re not on the prowl, looking for chicks, is when they’re asleep. I’m sure they’re thrilled to meet Becca.”

“Then if it bothers you, I suggest you keep an eye on things,” Jack said.

Denny stole a glance at Preacher, who gave a nod.

“Starting with, you have a word with Becca, see if you can sort things out enough to have a good week,” Jack said. “You wanted to do this; you can’t make everyone else miserable just because you have a bug up your ass about a girl. Call a truce or something. Whatever it takes.” And with that, Jack returned to the bar.

But what Denny really wanted to do was take off out the back door.

No, not true, he thought. What he’d rather do was walk back into the bar, grab her and kiss the hell out of her. And beat the crap out of anyone who tried to get between him and her.

But he heard Dream on inside his head. And the voice was hers.

© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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Character Sketches

Becca Timms—Several years after her final break-up with Denny, 25-year-old Becca, an unemployed teacher, heads to Virgin River, where she plans to confront the man who broke her heart. She simply wants to let go so she can move on.

Denny Cutler—Having found a permanent home in Virgin River after serving in the Marines, this 25-year-old associate in Jilly Farms is surprised to see his former girlfriend, Becca, in town.

Nora Crane—single mother of a newborn and a two-year-old; very young and extremely poor.

Adie Clemens—elderly widow in need of some Christmas charity; very concerned for her young neighbor, Nora, and her children.

Thickson Family—Frank, a disabled and disgruntled logger; his wife, Lorraine, a hard-working waitress, and their children: eight-year-old Megan and three young boys.