For Lily Sinclair, Christmas means sorrow and loss since the death of her twin brother. When her friends want to celebrate at the Paradise Lodge on Mt. Rainier, Lily figures she’ll take the chance to see her brother one more time before ending her life.
As an Ice Demon, Zachary Snow is used to rescuing people in winter, but he’d never rescued anyone like Lily. She fights his efforts, claiming the magic has left the world and she has no more adventures left. But to Zach, she embodies everything magical and more.
Zach must convince Lily the magic she wants is in life itself.
The wind picked up and the crystals chimed with its passage, tinkling like the windchimes Linus had given her for their birthday. Lily opened her eyes and choked a sob. Winding his way through the bright, sharp gemstones, Linus met her gaze and grinned at her, opening his arms for a hug.
Lily flung herself off her crystal seat, tears cascading down her cheeks as she threw herself into his waiting arms.
“Oh, God, Linus, I’ve missed you so much.” She pressed her nose against his chest and tried to stop the sobs shaking her body. She only succeeded in crying harder.
“Hey, now, Lil, don’t cry. I’ve been here the whole time.” Linus squeezed her gently. “You still felt the connection, right?”
Lily pushed back a little and looked up at him. “No. What connection? You died. You were gone and my heart was empty. I was all alone. How could you do that to your younger sister?”
Linus chuckled. “I’m only older by ten minutes.”
“Still.” She thumped him in the arm with her fist. “You’re not supposed to leave your little sister by herself.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about that.” He gave her a sad smile. “I didn’t know it was part of the plan or I would’ve given you a heads-up.”
Lily’s lower lip trembled. “I didn’t get to say goodbye, you big knucklehead. I was in Australia.” She shook her head and tears splashed her cheeks. “I shouldn’t have gone.”
“Bullshit.” Linus pushed her down on a nearby crystal. “You’d wanted to see what Christmas was like in the tropics and you got the opportunity.” He dropped beside her. “No one could’ve known what would happen. You can’t live your life defensively. That’s not living.”
Lily huffed a laugh, swiping at her tears. “Says the dead guy.”
He grinned. “I should know, shouldn’t I?”
“Heh. Yeah.” She rubbed her nose on her sleeve.
“Here’s the thing. I’ve been with you every step of the way, keeping an eye on you, and you’re starting to freak me out a little, Lil.” He took her hand and met her gaze, his usually dancing eyes serious. “You’re pushing too hard and it’s going to end up killing you.”
Lily pursed her lips and looked away. How could she tell her dead brother she didn’t want to live anymore? “There’s nothing really left for me…here.”
“Bullshit again.” Linus shook his head and gave her a dry look. “You have Felicity, Portia, and Elaine back at the Lodge. You have Mom and Pop, who worry about all the risks you take now. All those people love you and don’t want to lose you. Hell, you have four hundred and twenty Facebook friends, right? I bet they’d notice if you were gone.”
Lily didn’t laugh. “They don’t understand. No one does. The magic is gone. You’re gone.”
“Jeez, there are days you’re dumber than a bag of hammers.”
“What?” She blinked up at him as he stood over her with his arms crossed on his chest.
“Lily, I still have a connection to you. You feel it every time you get the thrill of hang gliding or standing at the edge of Niagara Falls. That’s the magic you and I share, even now.”
“But it fades and leaves me more empty than before.”
Linus crouched before her and took her hands. “That’s because you’re trying to hold on to the past too tightly. The past is empty, there’s nothing there. You have to make new memories and experience the magic of the present. What did the old tortoise say?” Linus scrunched up his nose, narrowed his eyes, and made his voice sound old. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” He grabbed her shoulders. “Take the gift and unwrap the magic, Lily. It’s there for you, you just have to reach for it.”
The tears scalded her cheeks in burning trails. “But it’s not the same without you, Linus. My heart is empty now that you’re gone.”
“Then you’re going to have to fill it with something better, right? Take the gift, Lily. It’s Christmas, after all.” He gave her one more squeeze and stood up again. “All joking aside, it’s not time for you to give up. You have so much more you need to do and so many others who need your adventurous spirit, got me? So, instead of getting busy dying, you need to get busy living.” Linus glanced past her shoulder, a cheeky grin quirked his lips. “There’s more magic in the world than you know and you have to take a chance. You have to hang in there long enough to discover it.” He met her gaze again. “Promise me you’ll take the chance, Lil.”
She shook her head. “I can’t do it alone.”
“Yes, you can.” He glanced past her again and nodded as if in greeting. “But it looks like you won’t have to. Now promise me.”
“Promise.” Linus crossed his arms over his chest.
“Good. I’m going to hold you to that, you know.” A warm smile filled his features. “I love you, Lil. Remember you promised. I think I know someone who can help you keep it.”
“What? Who?” Lily looked over her shoulder, but she didn’t see anything beyond a bright, flickering light. When she turned back, Linus had retreated and jogged away from her through the crystals. “Linus, wait!”
She jumped up to follow him, but he only increased his pace, a loving smile on his face.
“Get busy living, Lil. And go play in the snow. It’s Christmas!”