A Madrona Island Christmas

By: Jami Davenport
Seattle Sockeyes Hockey--Game on in Seattle




Love at First Snow Blurb


Four years ago on Christmas Eve, NHL hockey player Blake Daniels lost his entire family in a float plane crash. Every Christmas Eve he mourns his losses by returning to the family vacation home in Sunset Harbor, Washington, his family's destination that fateful night. Only this year he's also mourning the loss of his hockey career and wondering what's left to live for. When he finds a kitten starving and half frozen in a foot of snow, he rushes the tiny thing to the local animal hospital.



Still reeling from the unexpected loss of her father on Christmas Eve two years ago, Dr. Sarah Whitney opens the door to her clinic and finds a rough and tough professional athlete holding a minuscule kitten in his big hands. Only a miracle can save the frozen creature and only a miracle can heal the devastating losses suffered by both Sarah and Blake.



But Christmas is the time for healing and miracles if only you believe and give love a chance.





DEDICATION



For Jessica and Sue. You’ll always have the wonderful memories. Over time the love of friends and family will help lessen the pain of your loss.



For all my readers who believe in the healing power of Christmas.





Chapter 1—Blue Christmas


Merry effing Christmas.

Blake Daniels plunked his butt down on the front steps of his rustic cedar home, elbows on his thighs, hands clasped in front of him. He didn’t give a shit that the six inches of snow and ice on the steps froze his ass through his jeans. The snow might be pretty, but it was terribly out of place here in the San Juan Islands and he was determined to ignore it.

Yeah. Bah, humbug.

Once, Christmas had been his favorite time of year, a time to celebrate with family and count his many blessings. Yeah, once. Now it was a mixture of melancholy memories and painful realities.

Blake stared at the surprisingly wintry scene around him. Heavy snow bent the boughs on the cedar trees nearby. Christmas lights twinkled cheerfully on his neighbors’ homes. Every once in a while laughter from inside the closest house echoed off the water and drifted up the hill, but that only made his chest clench with pain. In the distance, Chinook Channel churned with water so black and angry a Washington State ferry bound for the ferry landing rocked and rolled. He’d bet his best pair of skates they would shut down the ferries for the night after this sailing.

The storm added to his dark mood. He couldn’t explain why he tortured himself every year by returning to this house. Maybe he kept hoping he’d find what he’d lost. Maybe it was good old-fashioned denial. Maybe he was just plain nuts.

Early this morning he’d walked onto the San Juan Islands ferry in Anacortes, Washington, bound to spend his Christmas the same way he’d spent the last four: by himself on this remote island with just ghosts for company. Not real ghosts, but recollections from his past. The scent of his mother’s gingerbread cookies in the oven. Christmas music played by his sister on the piano near the window. A college football game on in the den. His father and youngest brother arguing over whether or not the Seattle Steelheads would make the playoffs. His older brother building a raging fire in the fireplace. They were all things he’d taken for granted, assumed they’d always be there. If only he’d taken that same Christmas Eve flight four years ago, he wouldn’t be the one left alone to pick up the pieces. He’d be in a watery grave with his parents and siblings, none the wiser and a whole lot more peaceful. There were worse ways to go, like dying a slow death inside every day while going through the motions of a life he no longer knew how to live.

For as long as he could remember, his family had flown from all parts of the country to spend the holidays at their vacation home on Madrona Island here in the San Juans. Then came the fatal night their chartered floatplane crashed into the frigid waters of the Straits of Juan De Fuca. His sister had texted him at takeoff to let him know they were in the air and would see him soon. A few hours later, completely unaware of the tragedy, Blake arrived and wondered where the hell everyone was.

It had been snowing then, too. He’d texted his sister first. No response. He’d called her cell and actually got through, but the phone went straight to voicemail. Next, he tried both brothers and his sister-in-law. Same result. His parents didn’t have cell phones. To quote his dad, they’d lived without them for sixty-plus years and didn’t need them now. Frustrated and wondering if they were playing one hell of a joke on him, he’d called the floatplane company. He hadn’t expected an answer and didn’t get one, but he left a message with contact info. He then spent a sleepless night pacing. With no internet access, no late-night ferry service and spotty cell phone reception, he couldn’t do much but wait for morning. Staring at the snow.

A county sheriff knocked on his door at six a.m. One look at the man’s face and Blake knew. He just knew. Two days later he’d walked onto the ice and played hockey because only on the ice could he possibly forget.

Only, he couldn’t forget. Even though hockey was all he had left, he couldn’t get his game back. He bounced from NHL team to NHL team. Coaches scratched their heads, frustrated at how to get through to him, how to get back the player who’d shown such promise. Teammates avoided him as if he’d caught some contagious disease. Friends expected him to recover and move on. But how does a guy move on from something like that?

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