Let It Snow...

By: Leslie Kelly

Prologue

ONCE UPON A TIME, in a faraway land, in a world called Elatyria, there lived a handsome prince who believed in true love.

This prince had been raised by parents who adored each other. Their lives were filled with love, joy and happiness. He had always looked forward to the day when he would meet his own soul mate, with whom he could share his life and his kingdom.

Unfortunately, though he tried and tried, the prince could not find a bride who loved him for himself. All the eligible maidens he met proved to be more interested in his crown, his palaces and his lands than in his person.

Growing discouraged, he began to cast off his royal duties and go out into the world to meet as many women as he could, looking for his one-and-only, forever love—and finding along the way a lot of one-of-many, for today lovers.

With his parents aging, and his kingdom needing an heir, the prince realized the time had come to settle down and do his duty. Relenting to family pressure, he agreed to make one last foray into the wide world in search of his soul mate. If she was not to be found, he promised to marry a girl his parents chose for him.

With time running out, the prince had one last hope, and one final place to go to try to find the woman of his dreams....

A magical city called New York.





            1

“IF I DON’T COME UP WITH the money, I’m in big trouble.”

Claire Hoffman had been trying to ignore her brother, Freddy, who had burst into the kitchen of her candy shop, ranting about his latest financial emergency. It was under four weeks until Christmas; she had a ton of work to do, and no time to deal with his histrionics.

But unlike usual Freddy’s tone, he didn’t sound cajoling and playful now. He sounded serious. Very serious.

Her hand shook, ever so slightly, but enough to sabotage the delicate lacework icing she’d been applying to a tray of tiny petits fours. She lowered the icing bag. “What are you talking about?”

Ignoring her for a moment, Freddy grabbed a café con leche truffle—one of her specialties—and stuffed it into his mouth.

“Freddy?” she snapped.

“I’m starving. I don’t even have money to feed myself.”

She didn’t ask why. Freddy made a fair wage ushering at one of the theaters on Broadway, but whatever he made was never enough to keep him solvent between paychecks. Which was why she hadn’t immediately panicked when he’d burst in a few minutes ago, looking for cash. She was used to slipping him a twenty she could hardly spare, knowing the money was worth avoiding the nagging.

But she suspected a twenty wasn’t going to cut it this time.

“What have you done?”

He finished chewing, then looked down at his feet, scuffing them on the floor. It might have been cute when he was ten and, five years older, Claire was practically raising him, since their delicate, prima ballerina mother was so often ill. But it wasn’t cute now that he was twenty-one, and a lazy, often unemployed college dropout who seemed happy to coast through life.

After he’d spent his share of their mom’s life insurance policy, he’d started bumming from Claire’s. Now that she had invested every penny in updating the ancient building her uncle had left her, and starting her shop, I Want Candy, she could no longer serve as Freddy’s ATM. “What. Have. You. Done?”

“It shoulda been a sure thing. I mean, that race...”

“Jesus, Freddy!”

A flush rose up his neck, mottling his cheeks.

“How much did you lose?”

“Well, it wasn’t so much the race....”

She reached for a truffle and bit into it, then grabbed another one. She needed to busy her hands so she wouldn’t strangle him, and busy her mouth so she wouldn’t scream.

“See, when I realized how deep I was in, I went to leverage what I had left on last weekend’s NFL games.”

He snagged a petit four. She snatched it back. “How much?”

He mumbled a reply, so softly she couldn’t be sure she’d heard right. Oh, God, please let me not have heard right. “What?”

“Um...ten large.”

“Tell me you mean ten oversize one-dollar bills.”

He shook his head, looking miserable. “Ten grand.”

The truffles threatened to come back up. For a moment Claire couldn’t think. As if on autopilot, she reached for a nearby bottle of Grand Marnier she’d used in the truffles, twisted off the top and swallowed several mouthfuls. The liqueur burned a fiery path down her throat, snapping her out of her lethargy.

Setting the bottle down, she stretched her hands out and strode toward her brother, ready to choke him.