Home > Home with You (Winter Valley #2)

Home with You (Winter Valley #2)
Author: Claudia Y. Burgoa



Chapter One






As I step out of the bookstore onto the sidewalk of 5th Avenue, a blast of frozen air hits my face, reminding me that my winter essentials are all warm and cozy inside my purse. I pull out my scarf, hat, and gloves from the big tote, trying to avoid frostbite.

Once I’m ready, I look up, hoping to see a lost star in the dark sky. Nothing.

Earlier, before I entered the bookstore, the sky was gray and threatening to snow. Now, it’s pitch black. I bet if I was in upstate New York, I’d be able to see the constellations. That’s one of the few downsides of living in a big city. I can’t see the stars like I used to when I was growing up. It’s not like I miss my hometown, but there are a few things that I long for. The big, tall evergreens coated with fresh snow, starry nights, and caroling from door to door.

There are things I don’t miss. The cold, the small-town gossip, and Morgan Bradford. Not necessarily in that order.

Since I’m not in the mood to think about Winter Valley, I decide to get myself a warm drink and window shop. If I’m lucky, I might find a birthday present for Mom. I head to my right, walking toward 46th Street, where Jim’s Coffee Grind is. I could use a chai tea or a matcha green tea latte. It’s a good excuse to spend some time in the city, window shopping, enjoying the holiday decorations, and even the traffic and noise and smells of Manhattan.

For the second time in less than five minutes, I fix my scarf and hat, trying to protect myself from the bitter, burning cold air. I’m not a stranger to freezing temperatures. I was born in a town where it snows six months of the year. There’s a reason the place is called Winter Valley. Whoever wrote the song “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” was probably in my hometown at the time. It’s not that wonderful, but I guess for tourists it’s the perfect spot to enjoy the magic of the holidays.

Ugh, the idea of my former home makes me shiver from the inside out. I wouldn’t want to go there even if they paid me a gazillion dollars.

Yep, I definitely need to get a hot drink to warm my soul.

Rushing through the crowd of people, who are either window shopping or just strolling through the street, I finally reach the coffee shop. This place has been around since I moved here after college. It’s like Central Perk in Friends but real. There’s no Rachel, Ross, or the rest but the couches are cozy, if not old. Their drinks are addictive, and the heady aroma of dark roast always brings me comfort.

I weave my way through the masses of people. Kenzie, one of the managers, spots me and waves at me to come to her.

“Hey, same as usual?”

I want to say yes, but there’s a line of people who’ve been waiting for their turn. Before I can reply she hands over a mug and a paper bag.

“On the house,” Kenz says and moves to the other side of the counter.

I don’t have time to say anything, but I do reach for my wallet and leave a hundred-dollar bill in the tip jar.

“Happy Holidays,” I say to everyone and leave.

On my way out, I bump into a tall man. I look up and his light blue eyes stare at me for a couple of seconds before he grunts and moves away. The air in my lungs leaves me as I glance at him to make sure I don’t know him. Though he looks so familiar, I realize it’s not him.

It’s like my past has been trying to knock on the door, like I’m about to reenact A Christmas Carol. Not sure why though. I work a lot, but I also take breaks. I help my family and anyone who needs it. I shouldn’t be on any ghost’s radar, should I?

Well, I’m lying. There’s always that ghost from the past who haunts me and when I allow him, he leaves a hollowness that’s hard to ignore.

Stop, Peighton. There’s no need to have any lingering emotional disarray just as you’re about to head out of town. Not when your career is shifting and you have to step out of your comfort zone.

I might be looking for an excuse to avoid my new responsibilities. Who wants to spend almost six weeks on the road meeting strangers?

Not me.

After taking a calming breath, I remind myself that everything is going to be okay. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been eighteen months in the making. My agent-slash-manager-slash-emotional-support convinced me to do something that will not only help my career but also the future of Harley The Fairy Hedgehog.

Who knew that little hedgehog would be not only my best friend and only companion during my childhood but also the reason I do what I love?

Once I work through my small anxiety attack, I finally get out of the coffee shop. I hand the blueberry scone to a woman who’s outside of the store asking for money. While perusing through the shops of Madison Avenue, I drink my tea. I make a stop at Hermès to buy a scarf for Mom. She’s going to love it. I hope it says Happy Birthday! Sorry I won’t be there to celebrate but see you in the Maldives for Christmas.

The silk scarf has a lot to live up to, let’s hope it works.

My phone rings. I find a trash can where I toss away the empty cup and check my phone. It’s Byron Langdon, my manager-agent-personal-tormentor. I shoot him a text.

Peighton: I can’t answer right now.

BL (scrooge-manager): The signing ended an hour ago.

Peighton: Almost two, but I’m shopping.

BL (scrooge-manager): You shop online.

Peighton: Mostly, but I window shop in person.

I send him a picture of the Hermès shopping bag.

Peighton: I bought a present for Mom. If you leave me alone, I might buy you something.

BL (scrooge-manager): Are you avoiding me, Peighton Peterson?

Peighton: Yes, but I am on Madison Avenue, heading toward Carolina Herrera. A girl can always dream of wearing a fancy dress of hers for a movie premiere.

BL (scrooge-manager): I’ll get you the prettiest dress when you have that movie premiere. I need to make sure you’re packed and ready to go. Are you avoiding the trip? Do you need me to get you a service car?

Peighton: I packed.

It’s a lie and I’m sure he knows it.

BL (scrooge-manager): Harley the Fairy Hedgehog is judging you. She doesn’t like liars.

Peighton: Ha, you can’t use her against me. Anywho, I’ll call you when I arrive home.

BL (scrooge-manager): CALL ME. I do need to talk to you.

Peighton: Harley says, ‘ta-ta for now.’

BL (scrooge-manager): Really, you’re going to have your imaginary hedgehog say goodbye?

I send him an image of Harley waving goodbye and toss my phone inside my purse. He’s a great agent and manager but the last thing I need is to deal with him today.



Chapter Two






Around seven, I decide to head home. Since I haven’t had much to eat all day, I stop by Cucina Della Nonna to pick up an order of lasagna and a slice of tiramisu cheesecake. When I arrive at my apartment, I set up my food on the dining table and pull out my phone so I can call Byron. Knowing him, he’s going to barge into my place or call me at midnight.

“Are you ready for the trip?” As always, he doesn’t greet me, he’s already bossing me around.

If I ever had a crush on him, he made sure to erase it with his lack of manners. He might be attractive, with a Theo James vibe, but he is authoritarian and too demanding for my taste. He’s too type-A to my type I-don’t-bother-to-stress-about-every-little-thing.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Sweet Temptation
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Den of Vipers
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Serpent & Dove(Serpent & Dove #1)
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Credence
» Archangel's War