A heartwarming and inspirational Christmas novella. Brett Riley is a man tortured by a painful memory he associates with Christmas. Each year the emotional pain seems to get worse, and he’s afraid this year it will be unbearable. He decides to take a cross country road trip to Vegas to help him forget his troubles and avoid all of the sights and sounds leading up to the Christmas season. The first day of his trip he meets an intriguing, young hitchhiker named Grace at a rest stop. Over the course of the next twelve days she turns Brett’s life around, helping him come to terms with his past, while showing him what Christmas is really all about.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I first wrote this story as a series of blog posts that were published as a devotion, and which was meant to be read the twelve days leading up to Christmas, although many of those who have read it said they could not put it down. I wanted to write a story that would make people happy as they read, and especially after they finished the book. I hope it will inspire them to look for ways they can help others at Christmas or any time of the year. I also wanted to tell the reader about my faith and the true meaning of Christmas.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted an interesting relationship to develop. My main character is a tough, ex-military guy who has always felt like he needed to stand on his own, and who could not show any weakness to others. I balanced that with a character who is a strong, independent woman able to teach him how to overcome his painful past, and to move on to a new life with hope for the future.
When Brett Riley pulled out of his driveway, he expected a rush of relief—like a huge weight off his shoulders. He had been excited since he'd first thought about taking this trip. Once he had made the final decision to go, and began planning the timeline and his route, he was sure this was the answer to his trouble. Just the thought of it all at the time was liberating, and he imagined he would feel a renewed sense of freedom as soon as he hit the road. It had now been almost four hours since he left Miami, and he was beginning to have a nagging feeling that maybe he was
not going to be able to escape quite that easily. He tried to talk himself into renewing those feelings he had weeks earlier. Rather than clinging to tired traditions like everyone else, he was taking his own step of faith. He was rejecting the celebration of a senseless and painful season, and instead seeking out something much more to his liking. It didn't work. Maybe once he got a little further into his trip he could relax. For now, he was too close to home, and too close to a past that still haunted him.
He pulled into a rest stop near Orlando to gas up and grab a snack. It was one of those nice rest stops that could double as a tourist attraction, but he was in no mood to linger. He thought about his trip, and figured he would make Vegas in six days if he kept to a reasonable number of stops just for gas, meals and rest. That would put him there early Christmas week. He'd spend a few days and nights in the casino, sleep through Christmas, and then head back. It would maybe take another week or so to get home. What he did after that he wasn't ready to think about further, although he already knew he could be in a frame of mind at that point where anything was possible, including options he didn't want to dwell on. He gassed up, parked the car, and looked through a case full of books on CD he brought to keep himself company. He pulled one out and laid it on the front seat to pop in once he got back, and then headed into the rest center.
As he walked in he passed a group of Christmas carolers standing by the entrance. He hurried by them, avoiding eye contact. While it bothered him, he knew he couldn't completely avoid the holiday. He was going to do his best, though. He made a stop in the restroom, bought a Coke from a vending machine, and started heading out the door. As he was leaving he noticed a young woman, probably in her early twenties, sitting on a bench. She was listening to the carolers looking very content. She had a duffel bag in her lap, and was holding a sign that said “Going to Spirit Lake, IA (or next closest stop).” She seemed out of place, yet totally comfortable with the fact that she was at least 1,500 miles from where she wanted to be, with no means to get there. She reached over to grab a water bottle next to her, and as she did, the duffel moved a bit. He then noticed she was quite pregnant. Definitely out of place. He wondered what her story was, but not enough to ask. He walked on by, heading for the door, and she gave him a warm smile. As he passed, he also noticed she was wearing a T-Shirt that said Fort Bragg—where he had trained so long ago. He kept walking, but was compelled to look back. She was still smiling at him, as if she had expected him to turn around—and, as if he were obeying her, he turned back.
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