“Christmas at the Candied Apple Café” by Katherine Garbera #Spotlight


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There’s nothing so magical as Christmas in New York…

Santa is coming to New York!

Snow is falling, excitement is high and the delicious scent of chocolate drifts along Fifth Avenue – the Candied Apple Café is ready for Christmas! And no one is busier than publicist Iona Summerlin. With so much to do, she doesn’t have time to think about men, dating, or the fact her last boyfriend ditched her for her brother… Relationships are off the menu!

Hotel boss Mads Eriksson is not looking forward to the first Christmas since losing his wife. His six-year-old daughter Sofia has lost her belief in Christmas magic along with her mother, and he has no idea what to do. But an unusually festive business meeting at the Candied Apple – and meeting the beautiful Iona – starts to defrost Mads’ frozen heart, and suddenly life seems full of light and sparkle again.

If only they dare to believe, maybe all their Christmas dreams will come true!


Mads is trying to convince Iona to do business with him and when he showed up unexpectedly at the Candied Apple Café, Iona’s mom invited Mads and his daughter, Sofia, to a brunch with Santa after the six-year-old revealed she doesn’t believe in St. Nick.


Saturday dawned blustery and cold. Perfect for getting in the mood for Christmas. Iona was having a tree delivered later that evening but this morning she had the “Brunch with Santa” her mom had organized for Catholic charities.

Iona checked her phone, hoping for an urgent message from Cici or Hayley that would have given her the perfect excuse to skip it but there was just a cheery photo of Cici’s baby Holly sleeping in their group chat.

Iona was one of Holly’s godmothers — Hayley being the other — and she admitted she was in love with the tiny baby. Cici having a baby had kind of awakened something unexpected in Iona. She’d never thought she wanted a family, preferring business and, given her track record with men, that was a good thing, but holding Holly had made her feel … well, like maybe someday if the right guy came along, she’d consider having a family.

She texted back a bunch of emojis and then mentioned the Santa brunch thing in case Cici wanted to bring Holly. She’d be so cute and would provide a distraction from her brother and his new boyfriend. She still felt kind of like something was wrong with her that even a matchmaker couldn’t find her a guy.

Which was fine.


She had enough to keep her busy at work. The Candied Apple Café made her happy. She hopped out of bed, showered, and dressed in a pair of red and white striped leggings and an oversized cream-colored sweater. She braided her hair before putting on her knee-high black boots, grabbing the large Land’s End tote full of dry goods to be donated at the breakfast and headed out the door.

She pushed the button for the elevator and heard someone coming behind her, and glancing over her shoulder, she was surprised to see that it was Mads and Sofia.

“Hiya,” she said. “I guess we’re neighbors.”

“Hi back. We just moved in back in September,” Mads said.

“I think you’ll love the building,” Iona said. She couldn’t help but notice how the gray argyle sweater Mads wore brought out the stormy gray color in his eyes.

“Some of the kids in my class live here too,” Sofia said. “Are you going to the breakfast thing with your mom?”

“I am,” Iona said. “Are you guys?”

Sofia got a stubborn look on her face before turning her head down to look at her feet. “Yes.”

She glanced at Mads and he shrugged. “We are trying to do new things this year and seeing Santa isn’t a bad idea.”

Sofia didn’t say anything else and sort of pouted on the way down. Mads didn’t seem too upset with his daughter. She had the feeling he just didn’t know what to do.

“I have a car and driver if you want to ride with us,” Mads asked.

“Thank you.” Iona thought maybe the two of them could use a buffer so smiled and joined them in their car. It was heated and warm as she slipped inside and slid across the seat. Sofia got in next and put on her seatbelt and Mads closed the door, getting in the front in the passenger seat inside.

Iona realized she hadn’t been with a child since she herself was one and had no idea what to talk to Sofia about. The little girl didn’t seem bothered by the silence and stared out of the window as they drove through the city.

“What’s your favorite part about winter?” Iona asked, already knowing that Christmas was a sensitive subject for Sofia.

The little girl shrugged.

“I used to love a good snow because that meant school would be closed,” Iona said.”

“I like snow too. Last year Papa and Uncle Piers took me skiing in Vermont. That was funny because Papa kept falling down.”

“I didn’t keep falling down, Sof,” Mads said from the front seat. “It happened one time when Uncle Piers shoved me.”

Sofia giggled.

And Iona had to smile at that. “Theo — that’s my brother — used to always try to beat me to get outside when we were growing up so he could hit me with a snowball.”

“Did he do it?” Sofia asked.

“Sometimes. He’s got a really good throw so I sometimes I had to sneak out the back to get him.”

“We had a snowball fight too,” Sofia said. “I won. Papa and Uncle Piers were covered in snow.”

Iona smiled as the little girl entertained her with more memories from their Vermont ski holiday. And she glanced up and saw that Mads was watching his daughter in the rearview mirror.

He caught her eye and mouthed the words thank you.

She nodded. They pulled up at the center where the event was being held and the driver got out to open the door for her.

“She hopped out of the car and waited for them. There was a line to get in and they were separated. Iona dropped off her donated goods and caught a glimpse of her brother and Nico handing out bags to each of the kids after they visited Santa.

She’d go over, say hi, and then find her mom and leave. She didn’t want to be the awkward third wheel at this thing.


She turned to find Mads standing a few feet away from her with his cell phone in one hand and Sofia next to him.


“Would you mind taking Sofia to the gingerbread decorating area? There is an emergency at the Common and I have to be on the phone so won’t be able to help her,” Mads said.

“Sure. It will be fun,” Iona said, holding her hand out to Sofia, who took it readily.

She was aware of Mads getting on his phone as they walked away.

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~ Author Bio ~

Katherine GarberaUSA Today bestselling author Katherine Garbera is a two-time Maggie winner who has written more than 60 books. A Florida native who grew up to travel the globe, Katherine now makes her home in the Midlands of the UK with her husband, two children, and a very spoiled miniature dachshund.

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~ R A F F L E C O P T E R ~

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