Ainsley Holloway had come to Gooseberry Bay to find answers about her past. She’d come to find an explanation for the dreams that haunted her after the death of the cop who’d both rescued and raised her. And she’d come to identify the family she couldn’t remember but knew in her heart she’d once belonged to.
Ainsley hoped that by finding these answers, she’d also find healing. She hoped that once she’d resurrected the memories buried deep in her mind, she’d find peace.
The Cottage at Gooseberry Bay is a series about, not only finding answers, but finding hope.
It’s a series about family and friendship.
It’s a series about shared holidays, festivals, and celebrations.
It’s a series about shared heartbreak and hardship.
And it’s a series about the bond that can be forged amongst strangers when tragedy binds two or more individuals with a common goal.
In book 14 in the series, it's Christmas in Gooseberry Bay and the peninsula gang has come together to make it the best one yet. Ainsley has decided to jump headfirst into yuletide preparations and is looking forward to some time to relax and enjoy the season until she finds a baby on her doorstep with a note to keep her safe until her mother can return for her.
Release date: November 28, 2023
Publisher: Kathi Daley Books
Print pages: 150
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Cottage on Gooseberry Bay: The Christmas Baby
Saturday, December 9
“Ugh,” I said, sitting back on my heels as the circuit breaker for the Christmas lights on the
giant tree Tony and I had cut and delivered to the community center tripped for at least the tenth
time. “Does anyone know where Tony is?” I asked about my husband, Tony Marconi, who
would likely be able to figure out the problem well before anyone else in attendance.
“I saw him outside,” my best friend and sister-in-law, Bree Thomas, said. She turned to the
young woman helping her hang Christmassy garland along the banister leading to the second
story of the building. “Can you run outside and tell Tony that Tess needs him?”
“Yeah, no problem,” Bree’s young helper jumped up and headed toward the doorway.
“I suspect you have too many lights on one extension cord,” Bree said as she finished what
she was doing and then walked down the staircase to the first floor, where I’d been fooling
around with the lights for the past hour.
“I thought of that, so I used two extension cords. One for the lights on the right side of the
tree and a second one for the lights on the left. I don’t understand what’s going on. We’ve always
plugged the tree into the same electrical outlet and never had a problem.”
Bree tilted her head back and looked up toward the top of the tree that brushed the ceiling
two stories up. “You and Tony did cut down a really tall tree this year. And you were generous
when stringing the lights. Maybe you simply have one string too many on that Giant Redwood.”
“It’s not a Redwood. It’s a White Fir, but maybe you have a point,” I acknowledged. “I’ve
always wondered why Jerry didn’t get taller trees in the past when the ceiling at the front of the
building is open to the second story. Maybe he knew about the problem with the electrical and
decided that it would be easier to get a smaller tree than it would be to replace the circuit
“Maybe we should have asked Jerry about it before he moved,” Bree suggested. “He was in
charge of decorating the community center for the annual Christmas event for many years. I bet
he knows all sorts of tricks and secrets.”
I blew out a long breath. “Yeah, it might have been a good idea to pick Jerry’s brain before he
left, but I guess it’s a little late for that now.” I stood back and looked up at the very full fifteen-
foot tree. “Maybe the problem is that even though I divided the lights into two sets that plug into
two separate extension cords, both extension cords are plugged into the same outlet. It could be
that the load to the outlet rather than the load to the extension cord is causing the circuit breaker
Bree looked around. “If we don’t plug both extension cords into the same outlet, where
would we plug in the second cord? If we run one of the extension cords to the outlet on the other
wall, folks might trip over the dang thing.”
She had a point. The Christmas tree was tucked into a nook in the entry, and the only
electrical outlet with easy access was directly behind the tree. If we decided that we needed to
plug half the lights into a different outlet, we’d need to find a way to run a cord from the tree to
the outlet on the far wall without causing a hazard. Given the location of the tree, that wouldn’t
“Maybe we can hire an electrician to add a second outlet to the wall,” I said.
“I doubt an additional outlet would do any good unless an additional circuit breaker was
added, but it is a good idea to bring an electrician in on things. Maybe we can have another
circuit breaker added to the panel.”
“I know very little about this, but I’m sure there must be a way to accomplish what we’re
hoping to accomplish.” I pushed down the frustration that had been bubbling up ever since the
first time the circuit breaker tripped over an hour ago.
The young woman Bree had sent to find Tony came jogging back into the building. “I
couldn’t find Tony anywhere,” she said. “It’s starting to snow, and someone said that they
thought Tony might have gone to grab salt for the walkway, but they weren’t certain that was
where he’d gone off to.”
I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. “I’ll just call Tony, which is what I probably should
have done in the first place.”
When Tony answered, he informed me that he’d taken the truck and headed to the warehouse
the town used for storage to help some of the guys grab the sleigh and eight reindeer that the
decorating committee set up in front of the building each year. He suggested that I ask Hap to
look at the lights. Even though Hap Hollister wasn’t an electrician, he owned a hardware and
home supply store and knew a lot about these sorts of things. Tony informed me that he’d seen
Hap chatting with a group of men who were setting up the manger scene when he’d left to pick
up the sleigh and reindeer. Deciding to head outside to look for the man, I instructed Bree to tell
anyone who might come around asking about the lights that I was working on the problem.
After putting my bright red parka on, I pulled my knit cap over my long hair and ventured
out into the softly falling snow. Pausing to admire the way the snow had dusted the trees that had
long since lost their leaves, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and said a brief prayer of
thanks that I was fortunate enough to live in such a picturesque location. After a brief pause, I
opened my eyes and looked around. Tony had been correct. Hap was helping the men with the
“Hey, Hap,” I said as I greeted the man I’d known my entire life.
“Afternoon, Tess.” He looked around. “Your sidekick not with you?”
By sidekick, I knew he meant Tilly, my golden retriever and frequent companion.
“No,” I answered. “I left Tilly at home with Titan and Kody today.” I referred to the two
other dogs who lived with Tony and me in our house on the lake. “Since we’ve been doing the
mail route while Evie is recovering from her surgery, she’s had a lot of exercise this week, so I
decided it might be best to just let her rest up.”
“I guess the old girl is getting on in years.”
“She’s healthy and active, but it is true that she no longer has that puppy energy.”
“I can tell she’s slowing down a little, but it’s been so nice to have you and Tilly doing the
mail route again. I’ve missed your daily visits since you decided to give up your job with the
“I’ve missed them as well, although I seem to be asked to sub quite often. Still, I miss
visiting with everyone along my mail route on a regular basis. I feel out of the loop with the
“There does seem to have been a lot of changes lately,” Hap agreed. “Six new businesses
opened up in town just since this past summer.”
“Six is a lot in such a short time,” I agreed. “When I did the mail route this past spring, there
had been talk about a bagel shop moving into the storefront where the ice cream parlor used to
be, so I wasn’t all that surprised to find the new owner had moved in, but the new dry cleaner on
Second Street seemed to have gone in overnight.”
Hap paused and then responded. “I seem to remember that the liquor store that was in that
retail space lost their license, so they closed down without notice. It wasn’t long after the liquor
store went out of business that a couple guys from out of the area rented the space and set up
“Hugo and Lorenzo,” I said. “I met Hugo my first day doing the mail route, but Lorenzo was
out of town, so I didn’t meet him until yesterday.” I frowned. “What do you think about the
Hap raised a brow. “Think about them? What do you mean?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. The men are nice enough, but I picked up this weird vibe when I
stopped by that first day and introduced myself.”
“I get that not everyone wants to stop and talk to the mail carrier, and I’m only a temp on my
old mail route at this point, so I’m not as familiar with everyone as I used to be, but I thought I’d
stop and introduce myself to the new business owner on my first day temping, and Hugo made it
clear that he was a busy man who didn’t have time for idle chitchat. He suggested that I just
leave the mail in the box he set up near the front door. I asked about outgoing mail, and he said
there wouldn’t be any.”
Hap shrugged. “I guess the man might just be as busy as he said he was.”
“Maybe. But it seems odd that other than Hugo and Lorenzo, no employees are working for
the dry cleaner, especially while Lorenzo was out of town.”
“I guess the men might just need to settle in before they take on the expense of employees,”
“I guess. I came looking for you to ask for your help with the Christmas tree lights.” I
explained my dilemma. “Tony is with the guys picking up the sleigh and reindeer for the exterior
of the building, so I hoped you might have an idea as to how to handle the situation.”
“How about we go and have a look,” Hap suggested. He tilted his head and looked up at the
sky. “The snow is a nice touch, but I hope we don’t get a lot just yet.”
“Given the fact that I will be doing Evie’s mail route until after the first of the year, a mild
winter would suit me just fine,” I agreed.
“I thought you liked the snow,” Hap said.
“I do, but the long drive from the lake into town is difficult if there’s more than an inch or
two on the road. While the road up the mountain to our place is plowed, it isn’t plowed as often
as the roads in town, and the snow tends to build up between plowings. When I had my cabin
and lived in town, snow on the road wasn’t an issue, but even with Tony’s giant truck, it can
really trip me up.”
“I guess I do remember you saying the commute was one of the main reasons you gave up
the mail route in the first place. That and your job at the shelter. How’s that going, by the way? I
spoke to Aspen, and it sounded like she’s settling in just fine.”
Aspen Wood was Brady Baker’s new assistant now that I had decided to step back to have
more time to hang out with Tony. Brady was the local veterinarian and shelter owner.
“It’s going well,” I answered as Hap and I stomped the snow from our shoes before we
entered the building. “Brady and Aspen make a good team and seem to have made a lot of
progress with their plan to offer rehabilitation for wild animals in addition to running the shelter
for local strays and surrendered pets. Aspen has the background Brady needed to pull off his plan
for expansion, and, to be honest, now that Tony and I have decided to travel more frequently, I’m
just not around as much as I used to be.”
Hap walked over to the tree and picked up the end of one of the extension cords. He slipped
it into the outlet and verified that the lights no longer worked. He set the string down and headed
toward the box that housed the circuit breakers for the building. “Got any trips planned?” he
“Tony has plans to go to a video game convention in February, and I’m going with him. The
convention is being held in Lake Tahoe, so we’re taking a few extra days to ski and enjoy all that
the area has to offer.”
“That sounds like fun. Are Shaggy and Shanti going with you?” he asked, referring to Tony’s
business partner and his girlfriend as he opened the box and began flipping switches as he
searched for the right one.
“Shaggy is going but Shanti isn’t certain. I’m not sure she’s into the whole video game thing.
She mentioned that she might just stay home with the animals.”
“Seems as if she’d want to go for the scenery alone. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place. It should
be a very nice trip.”
We returned to the Christmas tree once he had all the circuit breakers reset. Hap paused to
fiddle with the plug while I stood back and watched. “I’m really looking forward to
snowboarding on the mountain overlooking the lake, and I’m hoping to do some cross-country
skiing through the forest,” I said. “The house we rented comes with an outdoor hot tub with a
view, and then there are all those wonderful restaurants to choose from. I’ve been thinking I may
need to stop by that new boutique that just opened up and pick out some new clothes for the
“I can’t say I know a thing about ladies’ clothing, but Hattie seems to enjoy stopping by the
boutique to browse.”
Hattie was Hap’s wife.
“The shop opens later in the morning, so I haven’t been in, but Bree shared that the woman
who runs the shop seems to have a knack for matching her customers with the style that will suit
“Estella does seem to know her stuff. Hattie isn’t the sort to go for fancy dresses, so I was
surprised when she told me she’d ordered a few things.” He smiled. “I had my doubts, but the
items Estella picked out for her look really nice on her.”
“I’ll definitely stop by before my trip since I really need something new to wear. And not just
dressy items but causal items as well. Tony and Shaggy will need to spend a lot of their time at
the convention promoting their new video game, but personally, I’m planning to simply settle in
and relax. Maybe get a massage. Possibly even a mani/pedi.”
“That sounds nice.”
“It does sound nice. And relaxing. I’m really looking forward to it.”
As happened before, once Hap plugged the Christmas tree in, the lights shone bright for a
few seconds and then flickered and went out.
“The easiest fix will be to add a breaker to the box and then install an additional outlet to the
wall. Once you do that, you can divide the load on the circuit breaker that seems to be causing it
to trip. There’s room in the box to add an additional circuit, so that won’t be an issue, but this is a
public building, so in my opinion, we should have a certified electrician do the work. I’ll call
Angie,” he referred to the best electrician in town, Angie Gonzales. “She ought to be able to get
the job done by the end of the week.”
“Okay, thanks,” I said. “I appreciate that.”
“The other option would be to rework things and run a third cord up to one of the plugs
upstairs, but adding an additional circuit to the mix seems like the best long-term solution.”
“If Angie can get to it in the next couple of days, I agree that will be the best way to go,” I
Tony returned with the sleigh and reindeer shortly after Hap spoke to Angie. She agreed that
fixing it right the first time to avoid dealing with the situation year after year made sense. It
appeared that the existing circuits were able to handle the rest of the lights that were being hung
both indoors and outdoors, so only one new breaker was needed at this point, but Angie had
assured Hap that she’d worked on the electrical system in the past and according to her notes,
there should room in the circuit box for an additional three breakers should we need them at
some future date.
Once that was settled, I headed toward the second story to see how the volunteers were doing
with the garland. “Are you okay?” I asked Bree after I found her sitting in a chair, watching the
women she’d been working with arrange fresh holly along the mantle of the old brick fireplace.
“I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
I raised a brow. “Just tired?” I asked. I knew that Mike and Bree had been trying for baby
number two, and I seemed to remember that being tired was one of the side effects experienced
during early pregnancy.
She frowned. “I’m not sure. I am late, but you and I both know I’ve never been very regular.
I have an appointment with my doctor to discuss my annual blood test results next week, so if
I’m still late, I guess I’ll have him do a pregnancy test.”
“You know you can just pop in the drug store and buy a test, don’t you?”
“I know, but I went through so many ups and downs the last time that I’ve decided that I’m
not going to jump the gun and take a test every time I’m a few days late this time.”
I guessed I could understand that. Mike and Bree really had struggled the first time they’d
decided to try for a baby.
“Is Ella with Mom?” I asked about my adorable niece.
Bree nodded. “Mike and I have intentionally not told either your mother or mine that we’ve
decided to try for baby number two, but both grandmothers have been commenting about not
overdoing things and taking time to relax, so I suspect they’ve figured it out anyway.”
I smiled. “It wouldn’t surprise me if, on some level, Mom knows you’re working on
grandbaby number two. She seems to have a sixth sense when her children and grandchildren are
involved. If there’s one thing you can say about my mom, it is that she was made to be a
grandmother, and Sam seems to be settling into the grandpa role as well.”
Bree made a face that appeared to be a cross between a frown and a grimace.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing’s wrong, but Ella has started calling Sam Gopa. She calls your mother Goma since
she can’t quite manage grandma, so I guess it makes sense that she’d call Sam Gopa since Sam
always seems to be around when Ella is visiting her Goma these days, but I could tell that the
whole thing hit Mike wrong.”
“Wrong?” I asked.
“Not wrong so much as oddly. I guess I get it. Technically, if your mom is Goma, then your
dad should be Gopa, but everyone other than you, Tony, Mike, and I think your father is dead, so
calling Sam Gopa probably feels natural to Ella. Sam may not be married to your mother, but he
does seem to be her constant companion, so in a way, he is like Ella’s Gopa.”
“What does Mom think about the whole Gopa thing?” I asked.
“She seems to be encouraging it. When we stopped by the other day, she picked Ella up and
gave her kisses, but once she did that, she commented about going to find Gopa, who’d been
working out in the backyard.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I guess it’s a complicated situation, but I understand where Mom and
perhaps Sam might be coming from.” I paused briefly and then continued. “I can’t tell Mike how
to feel about the situation, but I’m sure he realizes that our dad is never going to actually be a
grandfather to Ella, and Sam is likely to end up being a very important person in her life. In my
opinion, it really would be best if all of us just embraced Sam’s role in the lives of your children
as well as Tony and my children, if we ever get around to having any, that is.”
“Are you planning to get around to it?” Bree asked.
I shrugged. “Maybe one day, but that day will not be today. Today, all I want to do is finish
decorating the community center so I can go home and sit in the hot tub before settling in front
of the fire with my animals and the new video game Tony was asked to preview.”
“Don’t you think you’re getting a little old for video games?” Bree asked.
“Not at all. You enjoy reading as a way to escape into an alternate universe, and I like playing
video games to accomplish the same thing. It’s how I relax.” I smiled. “It’s how Tony and I relax together. Maybe you should try it sometime.”
“No thanks. I’ll stick with my sagas, romances, and mysteries.”
“To each her own.” I grinned. ...
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