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High-powered, highly pampered Tara Mollagen couldn’t imagine a worse start to the holidays than boarding a crowded plane. A stolen wallet and lost suitcase later, she finds herself stranded in unfamiliar territory—Salt Lake City—after being rerouted to avoid a Colorado blizzard. With her temper running as wild as her red curls, Tara realizes her only option out of town is with Benjamin Whitmore, her reluctant knight in shining armor-er, overalls.
For being a nice guy, Ben is rewarded with one aggravating situation after another with sassy, spoiled Tara. While doing his best to bring her pride down a notch, he begins to see another side to her—and a side of himself he’s not overly fond of. When tension between them reaches a crescendo, he takes matters into his own hands and Tara into his arms.
Unable to forget her experience with Ben, Tara re- turns to Seattle and long-time friend Jane, who offers possibilities Tara had never even considered. But change is difficult, and she’s not so sure she has what it takes to make that leap of faith or. if she has the courage to leave her old life behind.
- Size: 6 x 9
- Pages: 336
- Released: 04/2012
About the Author
Michele Holmes spent her childhood and youth in Arizona and northern California – often with her head in a book instead of out enjoying the sunshine. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for more than twenty years, and they live in Utah, having traded the beach for the mountains.
Michele graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in elementary education – something that has come in handy with her five children, all of whom require food, transportation, or help with their homework the moment she sits down at her computer. In spite of all the interruptions, Michele is busy at work, with more story ideas in her head than she will likely ever have time to write.
Michele’s first published novel, Counting Stars, won the 2007 Whitney Award for best romance. The companion novel, a romantic suspense titled All the Stars in Heaven was a 2009 Whitney finalist. My Lucky Stars continues the series. Michele also enjoys writing historical romance. Her first, Captive Heart, was published by Covenant in 2011 and is a Whitney finalist.
Oh no, it’s a kid. Tara Mollagen stared down at the pre-adolescent male sitting in the aisle seat of row twenty-seven—her row, the one listed on her boarding pass, the one she’d counted on having all to herself. The woman at the ticket counter had said she’d try—hadn’t she? Tara closed her eyes briefly, taking a deep breath as she faced the second of her two greatest fears in less than three minutes. Stepping onto the plane, forcing herself to walk into the narrow, confined space—knowing she’d be stuck here for a good two hours—had been difficult enough.
And now she was going to have to talk to a kid—one of those smallish-size people who seemed something less than human. Often sticky. Frequently whiney. And the really little ones smelled funny. At least the one sitting in her row didn’t seem to have that problem.
“Excuse me,” she said in what she hoped was a kid-friendly, yet authoritative voice. “I believe you’re in my seat.” She held up her pass, polished nail pointing to the number twenty-seven.
“Nope.” The boy didn’t even glance up from his hand-held video game. “I’m in C. You must have D.”
Tara frowned. She looked down at the paper in her hand and saw that he was right. She was assigned to 27D, but there had to be some mistake. She’d specifically requested the aisle—had been upset enough to find out that each side of the plane had only two seats instead of three. At the very least she’d hoped to have both of those to herself.
The man behind her cleared his throat and she half-turned, dismayed to see the line of people crowded behind her. Feeling faint, she gripped the seatback, wishing more than anything that she could turn around and vault over everyone’s head to the exit and get off this miserable excuse for transportation. She looked at the kid again, at the full seats in the rear of the plane, at the passengers behind her, waiting impatiently to stow their excess of carry-on luggage and find their own seats. Her hope of sitting alone vanished, and silently she cursed herself for not purchasing two tickets. Though she’d been lucky to have found a flight at all a few days before Christmas.Expelling a breath, she attempted to remedy the situation as best she could. The aisle seat would have to suffice. That little extra space around her on one side could make the difference of whether or not she pulled down the overhead oxygen mask before or after take off.
“How about you take the window seat?” She spoke to the kid casually, thinking he’d jump at her offer.“Nah. You can have it.”
Great. “No really,” Tara tried once more. “I bet this is your first time flying. Seeing out the window is pretty cool.” Pretty nauseating.
“Pretty boring, you mean.” The kid finally glanced up, staring at her in a way that said he thought she was as clueless as they came. “I fly all the time. My parents are divorced.”
“Oh.” Tara stared at the tiny space on the other side of him. There was no way she was going to survive two hours sitting there. She already felt the walls closing in on her. Having them curve a foot or so above her head wasn’t going to help.
The man behind her cleared his throat again. “Lady, do you mind?”
Tara sent him a look that said, yes she did very much mind his impatience and his person so close to hers. “If you won’t move over, then let me in,” she said to the boy, absorbed in his game once more.
“Sure.” He turned his body exactly a quarter of an inch.
Tara let out a huff, rolled her eyes, and proceeded to step over him. She noticed his gaze leave the video screen as her leg, with her skirt hiked up to mid-thigh, crossed his line of vision. Maybe these kinds of kids were the worst. Too big to be even remotely considered cute, and definitely too young to be looking at a woman’s legs. He was what—probably all of twelve? Tara resisted the urge to slap his hairless cheek.
Practically falling into her seat, she reached over and snapped the window blind shut. Though the window should have helped her claustrophobia, she’d found it actually had the reverse effect, making her feel like she was imprisoned in a tomb from which she could look out but never escape.
Reaching up, she twisted the knob for air, but nothing came out. She tried the one over the kid, but it too refused to work.
“Can’t use those til after takeoff.” The kid’s tone was derogatory—as if she were completely stupid.
Tara didn’t bother responding, but tilted his air vent toward her so that when they did come on, it would flow forward, just over her face and not the top of her hair. Serves him right—taking my seat like that.
With the shade down, her seatbelt buckled, and her bag tucked under the seat in front of her, Tara leaned her head back, closed her eyes and tried to practice her meditation exercises. She’d been taking yoga for six months now, but so far the only thing feeling lighter was her bank account. No matter how hard she tried, how carefully she followed the instructors’ commands, she never felt relaxed.
The whole concept of peace continued to elude her, as she was certain it would during this flight. She wished that she were up in first class, where at least you had an armrest to yourself. Right now the pre-teen next to her had taken over their shared one, and his elbow moved with sporadic jerks as he pushed the buttons on his video game.
Too bad I booked so late, she thought. She’d been planning to stay in L.A. and spend the holiday with her mother until her mom had called two days ago to tell her she was extending her cruise into the new year. Apparently Greece held more interest than seeing her only daughter for the first time in almost five years.
Thinking about her mom, Tara felt a little sting zap at her emotions, but she brushed it away. She was thirty-four years old now. Who needed a mother at that age, anyway? What she needed right now was a drink. A strong one. Opening her eyes, she leaned toward the aisle, looking for a flight attendant—preferably one that was tall, dark, and handsome.
After several minutes, an attendant that was rather on the matronly side made her way down the narrow corridor, checking to make sure seat backs were upright. Tara had already reclined hers the one-point-two inches it would go back. She needed every particle of space available. I need air. “I need a drink,” she said as the attendant reached their row.
“We’ll be by with beverage service shortly after takeoff,” the woman said.
“I’d like to buy one.” Tara reached for her purse. “A martini please.”
“After takeoff,” the woman reiterated. “And please return your seat to its full, upright position.” She looked at the boy. “You’ll need to turn that game off until we’re in the air.”
“Sure,” he said and continued to play.
The attendant moved on to the next row.
“But—” Tara held her wallet up. The kid eyed it speculatively, and she returned it to her purse, shoving it deep within the folds. “In first class, you can have a drink whenever you want.”
“Then how come you’re not sitting there?” he asked.
“I booked too late. Not that it’s any of your business,” she added. The last thing she needed was conversation. It was bad enough she was stuck back here, and not even in an exit row. The exit rows! She’d been so focused on not hyperventilating, that she hadn’t located them. Unbuckling the belt, Tara rose from her seat, craning her head in each direction as she looked for the emergency exits.
Her panicked gaze caught the attention of the matronly attendant as she returned, making her way toward the front of the plane.
“May I help you?”
“Where are the exits?” Tara asked.
The woman gave her a sickly sweet smile. “The closest one to you is row fifteen.” She pointed toward the front. “There’s also one at the rear of the plane.”
Fifteen. Tara felt like there was a weight pressing on her lungs. And I’m all the way back at twenty-seven. “Do you have any other seats available?” she asked. “Any aisle—or even any windows closer to an exit, closer to the front—”
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “But this flight is full. Holiday travel, you know.” Her smile widened. “If you’ll sit down, we’ll show you a short safety presentation. I’m sure that will ease your mind.”
“A drink would ease my mind,” Tara muttered under her breath. She sat down again, gripping the arm rest as the plane started to move. She was stuck now. There was no getting off until they reached Denver. Even worse, she was about as far from the exits as possible. The woman at the ticket counter lied, Tara decided. Her hair color was so obviously fake. Shoulda been a clue.
“Yeah. High score!” The kid beside her jerked his arm, smashing his elbow into hers.
Tara glared at him, then continued to grip the arm rests, and watched the safety video on the screen in front of her. She paid close attention to the segment discussing emergency landings and exit procedures. And though she was very familiar with how the oxygen masks worked, she watched that presentation too. No problem, Tara thought when the video instructed adults to take care of their own needs before assisting children seated beside them.
But when the film moved on to using the cushions as flotation devices, she tuned out. Unless they made an emergency landing in the Colorado river, she wasn’t going to need to do anything with her seat except manage to stay in it without having a total panic attack.
Ignoring the flight attendant’s instructions regarding the use of electronic devices—as her seat mate was so obviously doing—Tara took her purse from the floor and got out her iPod, as well as the soothing eye mask she’d taken out of the fridge this morning. After putting her purse away again, she stuck her earbuds in and turned up the volume, so her Meditative Melodies would drown out the sounds of the plane. She carefully adjusted the elastic strap of her eye mask over the back of her teased hair. The last thing she wanted was to arrive in Denver looking bad. Of course, she’d have time to freshen up before catching the shuttle to the spa in Boulder and meeting up with her friends. But she didn’t like to be out in public for even a second, looking less than her best.
The mask in place, Tara reclined in her seat. She felt the plane taxi down the runway, felt it lift into the air and tried to mimic that same rising with her spirit as her meditation instructor had recommended the day before. The gentle tones filtered through her ears into her mind; the mask was cool and dark. Tara strived to engage her soul, restore inner balance, and refresh her spirit. But all she could think about was her need for air, and the feeling of suffocating growing more intense by the second.
The plane had almost leveled out when she pushed the button to call the flight attendant and reached toward oxygen overhead.
• * *
Tara flinched, waking suddenly as something sharp jabbed her side and one of the earbuds jerked from her ear.
“Sweet. It’s snowing in Denver!” The kid again.
She lifted her eye mask in time to see him leaning over her, his elbow digging into her side, while his other arm was outstretched, lifting the window shade.
“Don’t touch that.” She slapped his hand away and gave him a withering look as she re-lowered the shade. But the damage was done. The glimpse outside had already elevated her heart rate again. “I offered you this seat, and you didn’t want it.”
“But we’re being rerouted to Salt Lake City,” he said. “I might be able to see the salt flats from the plane. The third Pirates was filmed there. My dad was part of the tech crew.”
“We’re being rerouted?” Tara straightened her seat back, pulled the other bud from her ear, and turned off her iPod.
“They announced it a couple minutes ago.” He turned away from her, muttering under his breath.“If you didn’t have that lame music up so loud, you woulda heard too.”
Too upset by the news to bother responding to the kid’s continued rudeness, Tara unbuckled her belt and started to rise from her seat. The matron stewardess chose that minute to reappear, collecting cups and napkins from the earlier beverage service.
“I’ll need you to remain seated with your belt fastened.” She pointed to the red letters overhead, lit once more.
“Is it true?” Tara asked. “Are we being rerouted?”
“Yes,” the woman confirmed Tara’s fears. “The Denver airport has just been closed.”
“Bliz-zard,” the kid said, grinning as though that were great news.
Dismayed, Tara sank into her seat. “Now what am I going to do?”
“I know what I’m gonna do,” the boy said. “I’m going to get a hotel room all by myself. No parents to bug me.”
“You want to be alone at Christmastime?” Tara asked.
He shrugged. “Yeah. If you had my parents, you’d want it too.”
Mine probably aren’t that far off, Tara thought. And I still don’t want to be by myself. Weird family is better than no family. But even that hadn’t worked out, so she’d risked life and limb on this plane to be with people she barely considered friends anymore.
The pilot’s voice came over the speaker, announcing their impending arrival in Salt Lake City. An inversion and a balmy thirty-two degrees awaited. It wasn’t known when the Denver airport would reopen, but airline employees were ready to assist in any way possible. Tara sighed. After extra oxygen, a martini, and an hour of meditation, she’d barely begun to relax, thinking she might actually make it through the flight without losing her mind. Now she was faced with an immediate return flight, or a night alone in a hotel in the middle-of-nowhere Utah.
Her chest tightened, and a wave of nausea washed over her. Cold sweat sprang up on her forehead as she opened her mouth and took short, panting breaths, trying to fill her lungs with oxygen, while staving off the impending eruption.
Her seat companion looked over at her, seeming to notice for the first time that she wasn’t well. “You look kinda green. Wanna change seats?”
Tara shook her head. “Too late.” She leaned forward, digging through the seat back for the little paper bag she’d seen there earlier. The martini churned in her stomach as the plane bounced with turbulence. Tara imagined that if she opened the shade now, they’d be in the middle of a cloud. The image only intensified the feeling of suffocation.
The flight attendant returned, garbage bag still in hand.
“Can I move?” the kid asked. He inclined his head toward Tara. “‘Cause I think she’s gonna barf.”
“Oh dear.” The attendant took one look at Tara, then leaned over the boy, holding out the plastic garbage bag just in time.
Tara bent over it, gagging as she emptied the contents of her stomach.
“Gross.” The kid leaned as far away as possible.
When her spasms finally subsided, Tara squeezed her eyes shut, mortified and miserable. A single tear tracked down the side of her face. There goes my mascara.
“Are you all right now?” the attendant asked.
“I won’t be all right until I’m off this thing.” Tara groaned as she reached for her purse. When she’d located a tissue and a breath mint, she leaned her head back against the seat.
The stewardess left; the boy shrank away from her. Good, Tara thought with the tiniest bit of satisfaction as she took over the armrest. It was only fair that he’d be as miserable as she was. Selfish, seat-hogging kid.
Across the aisle a woman wrinkled her nose and turned aside. Tara’s face heated with embarrassment, but she still felt too sick to care much. She reached up, twisting the knobs, turning both fans on high and directing a blast of cool air directly toward her. Her carefully teased and perfected hair style blew out of place, but that didn’t really matter now. She wasn’t going to be seeing her friends in Boulder today, wasn’t going to be seeing anyone she knew.
The important thing was surviving until she could get off this plane, and then find some place to go and some way to travel so she wouldn’t have to get right back on another one.
by Heather - reviewed on June 09, 2012
Another great read from Michele Holmes. This book covers the character of Tara (from Counting Stars) and how she undergoes some life-changing events. At first, Tara is her usual self--demanding, selfish, and unhappy. As her character progresses, the reader will become attached to her and cheer for her triumphs. Holmes's sweet and creative writing style will pull you into the book and wrap you up into her characters.
by Michelle - reviewed on June 24, 2012
I bought this book not knowing it was part of a series of books. But that didn't matter. It was a great book! I really enjoyed reading it. I actually stayed up till 1:30am to finish it, I couldn't put it down!
Michele Paige Holmes is so good at writing a believable romance.
by Sheila - reviewed on July 02, 2012
My Lucky Stars is the third installment in this series of Romantic books. It first started with Counting Stars, then continued with All the Stars in Heaven, and finishes up with My Lucky Stars. Let me say, Michele is so good at writing a believable romance. The characters are people just like you and me. Their problems are like those that many of us have. It also takes awhile for the characters to realize that they love each other. My Lucky Stars is the story of Tara, whom we first met in Counting Stars. She is worldly, spoiled, rude and overall NOT a nice person. Life has not been good to her and she doesn't have many close people in her life, including her parents. She is on her way to stay with friends for Christmas when her plane is detoured to Salt lake City, Utah. Stuck there with no luggage, no wallet and no friends, she meets Ben and his sister Ellen. They take her in to offer food and shelter. Tara complains, silently and out-loud, about all of her problems and how unhappy she is. You basically smile to see all of these bad things happening to such an unlovable character. At the beginning you wonder if you will ever learn to like this character, let alone tolerate her. Ben on the other hand, isn't much nicer to her than she has been to him. They give each other a hard time, amongst many several funny happenings. Ben and Ellen end up giving Tara a ride all the way to Colorado. Some of the funniest moments happen during this trip. After this the story shifts gears as Tara ends up leaving her fancy lifestyle in LA, and moves back to Seattle, Washington to help her bedridden, very pregnant friend. A transformation takes place during this part of the novel. Tara has a spiritual awakening where she starts to believe in God and Jesus and his life's ministry and words. Even though Tara goes through this spiritual awakening, I never felt like I was being preached to. Though she eventually joins the LDS church, anyone of a Christian faith will relate to Tara's experience of coming to know Christ. At the end, Tara is redeemed and I learned to like her a lot. After all, none of us are perfect and need a break. Out of all of the books in this series, My Lucky Stars feels the most serious in spots, but it's also interwoven with the most lovable supporting characters of Jane, her daughter Maddie and Ben's sister Ellen and her children. To me, Michele's biggest writing strength is how well she writes her characters! Your emotions will be all over the place when you read this romance: you will laugh, you will sneer, you will cry and of course you will cheer. (If my 2nd graders were reading this, they would point out that I just rhymed, even though it wasn't on purpose. ;) I loved this series by Michele Paige Holmes, and know that readers of Christian Romances will also love it!