TheHopeChest 1400x2100As the maid of honor for a Christmas Eve wedding, Evelyn Marshall plans to give the bride and groom something special – a hope chest that they’ll want to pass on down through the generations. The only problem is that the bride didn’t give her much time to plan for such a gift. When Evelyn’s rush order gets cancelled, a friend suggests the help of the new high school industrial arts teacher.
Felix Spencer came to Christmas Town to start over after the end of his marriage. He has no desire to let anyone get close again. Evelyn’s request is easy to turn down until one of his wayward students shows some interest in helping out. Can a troubled teen and a hope chest bring these two opposites together? Maybe they aren’t as different as they think. In Christmas Town, anything is possible!






“Knock, knock.” Evelyn had on a red puffer jacket today with a cream-color

ed scarf knotted around her neck. Her cheeks matched the color of her coat thanks to the chilly temperatures outside. “Am I too late? Did you already get started?”

“We’ve started, but you’re not too late to pitch in and help if that’s what you mean.” If she was going to hang out with them, she was going to be useful. Felix offered to take her coat.

She bit down on her bottom lip. “Um, that’s not … I thought about it last night and I’m worried that I’ve tasked you with an impossible job. I don’t want to waste your time if this isn’t going to be finished by Christmas Eve.”

Of course she was trying to back out after Felix had bought all the wood and spent hours putting together the design plan. No way was she giving up on this before he got a chance to show her his design. “We’ll be finished on time. Maybe even early. Mason has to be done with his part by December 21st because that’s when grades are due.”

“I’d be done with plenty of time if we had a mechanical planer.”

“You are an able-bodied sixteen-year-old. You can do it. But to help you out, Miss Marshall is going to plane a few boards, too.”

“Wait, what?” Admittedly, she was kind of cute when she was flustered.

Felix pulled out another bench plane. “You ever use one of these before?”

With a scrunched up forehead, Evelyn stared at him wordlessly. Mason burst out laughing, unable to hold it in.

She exhaled in relief as she untied her scarf and unzipped her jacket. “You sure have an interesting sense of humor. I almost thought you were serious for a second.”

Felix wasn’t about to let her off the hook. “You think I’m kidding? I don’t joke about the work we do in here regardless of what Mr. Ringwald might think. If you’re going to join our work party, you have to play.”

“I don’t know how to use woodworking tools,” she said, taking a step back. “I’m a clothing buyer and a personal shopper. If you want some fashion advice, I’m all yours. I can even pick out something sharp for you to wear this Christmas, but that’s as hands on as I get.”

Mason stopped giggling. “Hey, do you think you could help me find something to wear to Winter Formal?”

“Mason Ringwald is going to a school dance?” Felix couldn’t hide his surprise. Mason was far from full of school or holiday spirit and didn’t seem like a kid who attended functions like the winter formal.

Mason bristled. “Maybe. I haven’t decided for sure. Tegan Haney asked me to go with her, but I don’t know. I don’t have anything to wear to a stupid dance.” His gaze fell to his feet. His worn out skater shoes were stained by the salt used to keep the sidewalks clear of ice. His royal blue hoodie was the same one he wore every day and it most likely doubled as his jacket. It smelled like it hadn’t been washed in weeks and the cuffs were ripped and dirty. “Never mind. I probably won’t go.”

Evelyn and Felix exchanged a look before she jumped right in. “Winter formals are not stupid. And you have to be impressed with a girl who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. She must really like you.” She took the bench plane from Felix. “If you show me how to use this, I’ll help you find something to wear to the dance.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mason said, shoving his hands in the front pocket of his hoodie. “I don’t have a lot of money to spend on fancy clothes that I’m only going to wear once anyway.”

Evelyn put the plane down and placed a hand on his shoulder, undeterred. “I get an amazing employee discount at Dockery’s. We can find you something for next to nothing. I can show you how a few key pieces can be dressed up or down and interchanged to make multiple looks. It’s my super power,” she said with a wink.

Mason relaxed almost immediately. “Thanks.”

She pushed the sleeves of her pale pink cashmere sweater up to her elbows and picked the bench plane back up. “All right, show me how to use this thing.”

Felix watched in silent fascination as Mason taught Evelyn how to plane a board. Not only was he surprised she was willing to learn, he couldn’t believe how knowledgeable Mason sounded. Maybe he really did pay attention during class after all.

“If you’re going to join our work party, you have to play,” Evelyn said, snapping him out of his stupor. “Isn’t that the rule, Mr. Spencer?”

Felix failed to hold back a smile. She had him there. He grabbed his tool and got to work. Evelyn was not what he expected. It had been a long time since someone surprised him in a good way.