Snow Valley, November 1st
I’m in the garage rooting through bins of Christmas decorations when my husband Hank comes up behind me and wraps an arm around my waist. He kisses my cheek and I smile. “What was that for?”
“What? We may have been married for thirty-five years, but it doesn’t mean I ever get tired of being close to you.”
I turn around, handing a large tub of twinkly lights to my man. “So when you were in town, did you hear any gossip?” Since Hank handed over the reins of his hardware store to our younger son earlier this year, we haven’t heard as much news on the daily.
Hank shakes his head as he carries the bin to the open garage door before coming back for a second box. I always want the Christmas lights up the first week of November and my husband knows that is non-negotiable. I love Christmas like I love all my boys. With all my heart.
“Well, Jasper is retiring and putting our little mountainside town up for sale. Crazy, considering it’s been in his family the last hundred and fifty years.”
“What do you mean, Jasper is retiring?” Jasper is a local widow who is as much a staple to this town as we are.
“He’s nearing seventy-five. Wants to sell this town and move out to Arizona to be close to his grandkids. Can’t fault the man that.”
Grandkids. I try not to let the word ruffle my feathers too much. I have six grown sons and yet not one of them is married, let alone a father.
“Who will own Snow Valley if he sells?” I ask, worry knitting its way inside of my heart. I’ve heard of big corporations buying out small towns in the middle of America and turning them into tourist traps, forcing them to lose the soul that made the towns special in the first place.
“Word is Titan Corporation is looking to buy.”
I press a hand to my cheek. “That can’t happen.”
“Well, darling, it just might. Who else can drum up the money needed in a few months?”
“Apparently January first is the deadline to put in an offer.”
“Maybe our boys can buy it?” I say, pacing the garage. “Matt has a lot of investments, and Mason has that settlement from the government. Not to mention the rest of the boys have my grandfather’s trust. That alone could buy it…”
“Joy,” Hank says, resting a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t get any crazy ideas. The boys can use that money however they want. They don’t need to buy a town!”
“But…” My mind is already racing. I know my sons love Snow Valley as much as I do. I hand Hank the last box of lights. “While you get this sorted, I’m going to make a few calls, okay?”
I kiss him then pat his bum and head inside, calling my neighbor Louise as I enter my kitchen. She has worked as a clerk at the town hall for a decade. I make a fresh pot of coffee, pulling out my gingerbread creamer and opening the stash of Christmas cookies that I baked last night. My tradition is to bake a batch of sugar cookies covered in sparkly sprinkles every Halloween.
“Louise, have you heard?” I begin to fill her in on the news, but she cuts me off. Apparently she was down at the coffee shop this morning and heard all about it.
“Can you imagine, this town being bought by a corporation?” she says, clucking her tongue. “It’s a travesty.”
“Well, I have a plan.” I launch into my scheme to get my sons to buy Snow Valley. “So what do you think?” I ask once I’m finished explaining.
“Sounds perfect except for six tiny things.”
“What do mean?”
“There’s a stipulation in the city’s laws. According to a law written by the town’s founder in 1870, the purchaser must be married. Which means your six single sons need to be married by New Year’s Eve.”
“But that’s impossible!”
Louise laughs. “Knowing you, Joy, that word is hardly in your vocabulary.”
“But how can I manage this?” I ask, dunking a cookie in my steaming mug of coffee.
“Why don’t you start by talking with your sons?”
“But six brides in about as many weeks… are there even that many single women in Snow Valley?”
“You know,” Louise says slowly, “I have a niece who has a best friend who has a cousin who just used a service called Mail-Order Brides For Christmas. She’s set to marry a man she’s never met, across the country in a few weeks.”
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