Sunday, December 25, 2016

Holiday Heartwarmers By Mimi Barbour - $0.99

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Christmas is family time in small town, Carlton Grove... Three stories to lift your holiday spirits!

Snow Pup
A small town’s lovely deputy and a father who lost his son years ago to a vindictive wife team up to save the kid from an overzealous social worker and foster home he hates.

Find Me A Home
An accident changes the lives of: a little baby girl who loses her parents, a crabby puppy who hates all men, a soft-hearted beauty who fears for her brother and also the cop who can’t escape his destiny.

Frosty the Snowman
Stranded in an Alaskan snowstorm, strangers Hali and Terry are forced to rely on each other for survival. The frigid temperatures are brutal and when Terry falls through the ice to save a puppy, the stakes for survival become enormous.

25 Days of Christmas - Sami's Christmas Wish List by PJ Sharon

$1.99

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All seventeen-year-old Samantha Owens wants for Christmas is a working car, a miraculous improvement in her grades, and a boyfriend who sees her as more than just a friend with benefits. But with a single mom who’s struggling to make ends meet, presents seem unlikely, and with legal troubles looming over her head, she’ll be lucky not to be spending the holiday in juvenile detention. When she’s forced to do community service at the local church, she finds that wishing her life was different won’t make it so, and that avoiding her past may be what’s standing in the way of her future.

It doesn’t help that Travis Vance, a freshman in college and intern for a teen drug and alcohol treatment program, is hanging around and pushing her buttons at every turn. Or that her friends are all going through their own dramas—most of which seem far worse than her own. Can Sami bring everyone together to save the church in time for Christmas? Or is hoping for a happy ending one more wish that will never be granted?

Excerpt:


The next day, Mom drove me to the church early on her way to work. Despite my pleading with her not to, she was determined to check in with Sister Mary Margaret and make sure I wasn’t causing any trouble. When we pulled up in front, Travis was in deep conversation with a tall, broad shouldered man with silvery blond hair and a stern expression that raised the hairs on my neck. From the similarities in stature and the chiseled jawline of both men, it was obvious Travis was in a heated exchange with his father. I paused before getting out of the car.
“Who’s that?” Mom asked.
“Travis Vance,” I said, my ears heating up. I went on to explain Travis’s role as Pastor Tom’s helper during Christmas break and his work at the teen center.
“You seem to know a lot about him,” Mom said suspiciously. “He looks way too old for you. I hope you aren’t going after him.”
“You make me sound like a pit-bull. He’s only nineteen, and it’s not as if I routinely hit on dads at the playground or anything. We’re just friends.”
Mom and I observed the interaction between Travis and his father for another few seconds.
“Whoever he’s talking to isn’t at all happy with your friend Travis.”
A gust of cold wind hit me when I stepped out of the car. I wrapped my scarf tighter around my neck and pulled on my hat, making my way around a snow bank to get to the narrowly shoveled sidewalk. Another four inches had come down overnight, and there seemed no place left to pile the snow.
As my mother and I approached, and Travis saw us coming, he stopped talking and his gaze dropped to his feet. The knot forming in my gut made me wonder if I wasn’t at the center of the discussion.
“Is this the girl?” The hard edge in the man’s voice matched his expression.
Yep…suspicion confirmed.
My mother stiffened beside me. “Excuse me?” she said as she stepped onto the landing at the top of the church steps. “Is there a problem with my daughter?”
To his credit, the man’s face flushed. “I’m sorry, ma’am…I…”
“Did you just call me ma’am?” Now Mom’s face flushed, and I sensed the take no crap waitress side of my mother was about to show. The wind howled and whipped my scarf.
“I didn’t mean…” The man fumbled over his words and glared at Travis, who seemed to be reveling in his father’s discomfort. “This is exactly why I wanted you to stay in California. You could have been at Stanford right now instead of freezing your…” he glanced at my mother and continued. “…freezing in the middle of nowhere.” He blew on his ungloved hands and pulled the collar of his coat up around his ears.
“Why, so you can dictate every minute of my life in person? It’s bad enough you’ve got someone checking up on me.” Travis, fuming, met his father’s gaze head on, the men remarkably equal in stature.
Mr. Vance shifted his gaze from me to my mother before responding to Travis, his jaw tight. “I only want what’s best for you, and we agreed that if you came to Connecticut, you would focus on your studies.” He turned his attention to Mom and forced a not unattractive smile. “It’s nothing personal. I’m sure your daughter is very nice. But she’s young, and from what I understand, she’s been in some…trouble recently. I’m sure you’ll agree she and my son are…” he glanced at Travis as if plotting his next words carefully. “…not a good idea.”
Mom’s signature tell when she was about to say something the other person didn’t want to hear was her chewing the inside of her cheek. Her eyes glazed over as if she were a Doberman about to spring.
“Tell me, Mr.…?
“Vance. Phillip Vance.” He extended a hand to my mother, who studied it for a second before reciprocating.
“Tell me, Mr. Vance…”
“Phillip. And your name?”
Mom looked as if she’d forgotten what she wanted to say. Then she cleared her throat. “Carolyn Owens,” she said dismissively. “My daughter’s troubles are not your concern, but for the record, she’s a great kid. I just want to know if the reason you don’t want your son dating my daughter is because of their age difference, or because you don’t think she’s good enough for him.”
Phillip Vance’s jaw dropped. “I didn’t say that. I just think…”
Before he finished his sentence, a gust of wind produced a loud creak from above. We all followed the sound, craning our necks to peer upward. A second later, the steeple released a thunderous groan, toppled, and crashed onto the roof. Screams echoed from inside as another crack of dried wood vibrated through the air and the roof gave way.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

25 Days of Christmas - Cowboy of Mine by Red L. Jameson


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Book Three of the Glimpse Time Travel Series

The matchmaking, time-traveling muses have a huge problem. An angry Norse god has just captured one of their mortals, refusing to tell them where he took Jacob Cameron, let alone when.

As a seventeenth-century Highlander, being shuttled through time by a man calling himself Odin, might have been enough to crack Jake Cameron’s sanity. He’s kept his mind only through grit, gumption, and the single goal to somehow return to 1653 and his brothers. Landing in the freezing wilds of Montana in 1887, becoming the sheriff for a small mining community, Jake now needs to make a plan to travel back in time. However, when a wee fae-like woman walks into his life all his best-laid intentions becomes hazy.

As a thief and liar, Meredith Peabody knows she has no chance with the new sheriff in town. Although, he melts her frozen heart with his protection and smoldering looks. Even if she did have a chance with him, how could she ever relate she’s not from this time? She might never get the chance because as soon as she realizes her winter’s wish—for Jake to stay close—the criminal he’s hunting turns the tables on him. But there’s no way in h-e-double hockey sticks Meredith will let that happen.

The muses have their work cut out for this glimpse—chasing after a god, trying to find clues where and when their humans could be, and fitting in time for dress shopping has been murder. Gods, hopefully not literally!



Excerpt 


Through the velvet blackness of the winter night, the Montana frost was already settling in, making his breath cloud. But Jake clearly saw all the glittering stars above, a sure sign of no snow.
He rode close to Meredith’s paint, then extracted his plaid, hoping it didn’t smell too dirty. Tethering his horse to a pole, he lowered himself then extracted Meredith from her dappled horse without a word. She made another little noise, her eyes staring at him the whole time, but didn’t say much. Placing her on his horse, he then wrapped the plaid around her, trying to tuck the ends around her dainty feet. Once he felt the chill on her skin though, he stopped and tried to warm her with his hands. He glanced up to see her reaction, but she merely looked at him with those huge eyes of hers. No complaints, no words. But her lids fluttered, and her shoulders seemed to relax under his coat once he got her toes a little warmer. Satisfied that she wouldn’t get frostbite, he then secured the plaid around her feet again, tied her horse to the back of his saddle, then hefted himself behind Meredith.
She wiggled, and at first Jake thought she was trying to distance herself from him. But then he noticed her draping one leg around the saddle horn, ensuring he had room in the saddle, which was very snug with two people in it. Wrapping one arm around her waist, he pulled the reins the direction she’d told him her house was located.
He’d have to say something to her eventually, but for the time being he was too distracted with the way she felt against him, the softness of her backside, the scoop of her waist in his hand. And the way she smelled—a mixture of vanilla and sweat pea blooms. He wasn’t sure if she applied the aroma or if it was her.
He swallowed, trying to regain his thoughts, trying not to nuzzle the back of her head.
She placed a cold hand over his. “I’m that house, down near the creek bed. I left all the lights burning.”
He nodded, but then realized she couldn’t see him. Jake tried to think of words, something to say, but could only concentrate on her palm still on him. He liked her little hand, so dainty.
She was here, in his arms because some man was prowling on her porch. Or she was mad, as Tom and Laura clearly thought. He needed to remind himself that he wasn’t taking a turn with the lady. He wasn’t here to court her. She needed him to protect her, and he’d better damned well do his job.

Where you can find Cowboy of Mine:

iBooks --
Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1HWXRYX
Universal link for Cowboy of Mine -- http://mybook.to/cowboyofmine
And available at other retail book sellers

Bio for Red:




As a military historian by day, sometimes Red does feel a bit clandestine when she writes romance at night. No one knows that while she researches heroes of the past and present, she uses everything for her characters in her books. Her secret's been safe . . . until now.

She lives in Montana with her family and far too many animals but never enough books.

She loves her readers, so please feel free to contact her at http://www.redljameson.com

You can find Red L. Jameson at . . .

Amazon Author Page: http://goo.gl/Gvd2vq


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lost Boys by PJ Sharon - $0.99

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Justin’s friend Cody has disappeared, and Brinn is determined to find out why. Despite an escalation in the tensions between them over Cody and Brinn’s complicated friendship, Justin agrees to join her on a journey that leads to the mysterious jungles of Colombia, where whispers of human trafficking bring them face to face with an old enemy.

Brinn and Justin join forces with friends to do the unthinkable—enter the dangerous jungle on a rescue mission, sparking a battle for the lives of eight young boys and a fight for their own survival. Brinn’s haunted past rears its ugly head as she is forced to once again take on a brutal killer. But in risking her life to save her friend, will she lose the one man who has sacrificed everything for her?

Follow Brinn, Justin, Cody, and a cast of new characters through a series of novellas (30-40k word short novels). Each story will bring a new adventure, another crime to solve, and more danger for Brinn and company as they delve into the world of human trafficking and beyond.

Excerpt:


“Are you okay?” Cody and I asked simultaneously. I laughed.
“Yeah. I’m okay.” The feeling was beginning to come back to my leg and other than a deep ache in the upper thigh, the only damage was to my pride for so easily being brought to tears. I’d sworn I would never be anyone’s victim again, and there I was, bound and about to be tortured and sold into slavery.
“We need to get out of here,” Cody said as he fought against the ropes. He grunted in pain with every movement. “Any ideas?”
Things had quieted down outside, but light continued to stream through the cracks in the old barn door, illuminating the space enough for me to make out shadows. I wiggled and strained for another minute while I formulated a plan. “I’ve almost got these…ropes…off.” With one last sharp pull, my thumb dislocated and the rope slipped off my wrists, taking the bandages with it. Searing pain shot up my arm. I sucked in a breath, freed my arms, and yanked on the thumb. It popped into place, bringing immediate relief. Taking no time to shake out the ache, I untied the rope around my ankles.
“That was impressive,” Cody said as I proceeded to free him.
“It’s going to do us no good if we can’t find a way around all those guards.” We kept our voices low, and my gaze darted to the door to make sure no one was coming. “There are now two guards out front, and once the fire I started behind the dining hall is under control, there will be more patrolling the grounds. Not counting the swarm of men blocking every exit of the compound.”
“Leave them to me.” Cody stood and then wobbled. I wrapped an arm around his waist and ducked under his shoulder to help support him. Our eyes met and even in shadow I saw the tender look of admiration, affection, and gratitude in his eyes. “Thanks for coming after me. I wish you hadn’t,” he added, a stern quirk of his swollen lip making him wince. “But I appreciate the sacrifice.”
“Not a sacrifice,” I said, giving him the same admonishing tone. “You would have done the same for me, right? We can do this.”
“Right.” He gave my shoulder a squeeze. “Which leads me to the fact that it’s going to be tough getting Rick out of here. We’re going to need to borrow one of their trucks.”
“I know where they keep them,” I said.
“First things first.” Cody managed to walk on his own after a few steps and limped toward the back of the barn where the crates were stored. “Can you check on Rick for me while I see what I can scrounge for weapons?”
I nodded and left him to his task, hurrying to Rick’s side. His breathing was even more shallow than before. I untied his hands and feet. He groaned when I turned him onto his back, and his eyes fluttered open.
“You’re a pretty sight,” he croaked in a whisper, forcing a quick smile.
The dark sticky fluid beneath him and the fact the wound in his side was still oozing meant he’d lost a lot of blood and would likely not make a long trip out of the mountains—even if we could get him into a truck and escape the compound. My hands shook as I tucked my jacket under his head.
We had to try. I remembered the herbs I’d stuffed into my pockets back in the garden. Calendula and comfrey weren’t ideal, but they might help slow the bleeding and keep out infection. I dug out the aromatic herbs and crushed them between my hands, pulverizing the flowers and leaves together.
“Sorry, Rick. This is going to hurt.” I lifted his shirt, exposing the raw, blackened hole, the skin around it dark with bruising from the soft tissue damage. There appeared to be no exit hole, which meant moving him in the slightest would be a risk. He nodded and groaned as I packed the wound and placed his hand on top. “Hold this in place as best you can.” He flashed a weak grin and complied, gritting his teeth against the pain.
“Jackpot,” whispered Cody loudly from the back of the barn as he pried open a crate with a crowbar he’d discovered nearby. “Looks like a weapons stash.” He lifted out an AR-15 and continued his search, looking for crates of ammunition. My gaze went back up to the small vent leading to the outside. It would be tight, but I was the only one who could fit through.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Proposal & Pumpkin Pie by Debora Dennis

$1.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

Amazon

Welcome to Starlight Hills! Mountain views, small town charm, and one little bake shop, where romance is always on the menu.

Lacey Andrews is focused on her city life and her CPA career. The last thing she wants is a relationship and up to now she’s managed to dodge her mother’s increasingly desperate attempts at matchmaking. But it’s Thanksgiving, and for Lacey that means family, the magic of walking through crisp fall leaves, and the Itty Bitty Bake Shop’s pumpkin pies. So she’s heading back to Starlight Hills for the holiday. Only this year, she suspects coming home alone might be a big mistake.

Kane O'Brien learned the hard way that being chivalrous only ends in betrayal and pain. He’s been an outsider in Starlight Hills since the Andrews family turned the town against him twelve years ago. While he's done his best to rebuild his life and his auto repair shop, he’s never quite outrun his turbulent past. Now he no longer believes in family traditions or holiday celebrations.

But a chance encounter in the Itty Bitty Bake Shop, a shared pumpkin pie, and one crazy proposal could make this the holiday that changes everything.

Plain Fame: By Plain Accident by Erin Brady

$1.99

Amazon

Laura Sumers is not having a good day. She’s been fired by her boss and may be forced to move back home to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. She’s running out of time and she’s running out of luck! She needs a job to stay in New York City and fast! It’s then that fate intervenes when she is struck by a bike. The bike rider is none other than Scott Bratton, the famously handsome CEO of Bratton Publishing. Scott offers Laura the opportunity of lifetime, the chance to stay in the city she loves. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. In no time, Laura’s playing personal assistant to New York’s most eligible bachelor and wondering what she may have gotten herself into.

From Newsprint to Footprints: A River's Edge Cozy Mystery by Elaine Orr

$2.99

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Grouchy news publisher Hal Morris fires reporter Melanie Perkins because she takes too many photos of flowers when she's supposed to concentrate on the story at hand. She lands work as a landscaper, but there's an ugly surprise her first day at the new job.

At first no one thinks Melanie could be a killer. But when her hoe turns up in the same mulch pile as a body, the local sheriff isn't so sure. Mel’s initially willing to let law enforcement clearher name, but the hoe and a nighttime assault convince Melanie she has to look out for herself.

Life along the Des Moines River in Iowa can be peaceful, but the murderer has no problem disturbing Melanie’s tranquility.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

25 Days of Christmas - Just in Time for Christmas by Kim Boykin

FREE

Amazon


Nobody does Christmas like Miranda Hamilton, and now that she finally has her chance to chair Magnolia Bay's tree lighting and the cotillion, which benefits her late mother’s breast cancer foundation, this Christmas is shaping up to be the best ever. That is until her childhood nemesis Logan Mauldin buys his way on her committee and starts making plans of his own.

Logan Mauldin loves to get under Miranda's very sexy skin, and it's only fair. She's been getting under his since long before their first kiss at 13. Logan’s the last man interested in co-chairing a Christmas committee or participating in a sexy bachelor auction, but since that night he interrupted Miranda on a date and cornered her under the mistletoe, he can't stop thinking about her. Or vying for her attention and bugging the hell out of her.

Christmas cheer isn’t the only thing that heats up between the Miranda and Logan, but, thanks to a lie that is as much her fault as it is his, he loses the woman he’s loved since forever. Logan will need a Christmas miracle for Miranda to forgive him. A grand gesture to melt her heart and win her back just in time for Christmas.

CHAPTER ONE


Miranda Hamilton yanked the freshly baked sugar cookies out of the oven and lightly touched the tops of them to make sure they were as perfect as the B&B experience she created for all her guests at Ivy Cottage. She put the pan of biscuits in the oven, cranked up the temperature, and set the timer. Normally, she kept freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the warming plate on the ancient mahogany table at the top of the stairs, but Christmas called for sugar cookies. Perfectly decorated, like the rest of Ivy Cottage, Magnolia Bay’s finest B&B.

            Outside, friendly magnolia wreaths with bright red plaid bows adorned each of the fifteen windows of her gorgeous historic home. At night the house sparkled, completely outlined in white twinkling lights. The same for the base and lower branches of the ancient live oak in the front and the tall slender trunk of each stately palm. Powder pink Camellias in full bloom encircled the house like a delicate bracelet and were also interlaced with lights as well, because goodness knows, if Miranda learned anything from her dad, she learned there was no such thing as too many Christmas lights.

            She headed up the stairs with the cookies and couldn’t help smiling at the smell of the fresh pine garland that lined the bannister mingled with the scent of the cookies, making her heart quicken. She loved Christmas as much as she loved her beloved two hundred year old home that was considered by most to be one of Magnolia Bay’s finest bed and breakfast.

Eying one of the red plaid bows that was a hair cockeyed, she made a mental note to set it right on her way back downstairs. She put the cookies on the table and noticed that three of the five copies of the Charleston Post and Courier were missing from the threshold of the bedrooms. That meant she’d have guests downstairs soon; she’d better get a move on if she was going to have breakfast ready and be out the door before nine.

She hurried back downstairs straightening the plaid bow and the handmade stockings she’d hung over the fireplace. She’d missed the Thanksgiving bargains that weekend. While she loved to shop as much as the next girl, Miranda’s Black Friday was always spent in Boone, in the other Carolina.

As usual, she’d chosen the perfect Christmas tree for her foyer. Sure, she always caught hell for not buying her tree local at Pineville Farms, but she ignored the complaints from friends who gawked at and secretly coveted her gorgeous Douglas fir. The requirements were simple, not too fat as to overpower the foyer, not so skinny that it looked like a stick, and it had to be at least twelve feet tall. At just a hair under fifteen feet, this year’s tree was exquisite decorated in white twinkling lights and ornaments from the sea. Starfish. Sea urchin angels with white seashell wings and sand dollars of all sizes bleached white by the sun, collected from the beaches on Bulls and Capers islands, the nearby barrier islands.

            The train set her grandfather willed to her meandered around the base of the tree and throughout the living room. He had obsessed over it for as long as she could remember, and it always made Miranda feel childlike to see it chugging around the room. Christmas figurines her grandmother had given her dotted the living room and were tastefully arranged around the cottage. The poinsettias throughout the house would need watering today, all forty-two of them.

            In the kitchen, she filled a big pot with water and grits. The shrimp had been peeled the night before. The timer on the oven sounded; the biscuits were golden brown. She smeared butter over the tops of them and threw together what many had called the best shrimp and grits in the Lowcountry together. She could make this recipe in her sleep and, if she’d enjoyed herself a little too much with her best friends, the Six Chicks, sometimes she did.

She’d already whipped peppered pimiento cheese into the snowy white grits. Stirred the heavenly shrimp sautĂ©ed in olive oil and garlic, sweet red pepper, and swimming in her secret creamy sauce.

            “Good morning,” the cute couple from Arkansas chimed in unison as she placed the chafing dish on the antique buffet table. They’d come the day before Thanksgiving and were staying until Wednesday.

            “Morning, y’all. Everything’s almost ready. Juice, coffee, mimosa, or all of the above?”

            “Mimosa for me,” Ms. Arkansas drawled. “Coffee for him.”

            Miranda thought it was funny that these two had been married for so long, the husband rarely spoke. He didn’t have to; his wife did it for him.

            “We adore your place, Miranda. Thanksgiving was perfect and waking up yesterday to a Christmas wonderland was even better.” Ms. Arkansas looked at her husband who nodded in agreement on cue. “I can’t believe it’s already Monday. Seems like we just got here.”

            “Thank you. I’m glad you love Ivy Cottage as much as I do. Wish you all could stay until the Christmas tree lighting. You’d adore the formal,” Miranda nodded at the wife. “It’s elegant and beautiful, really something to see.”

            “I wish we could stay too. Maybe we’ll come back next year for the event, although we’d already planned to come back for your Thanksgiving feast. The sweet potato casserole alone is worth the trip.”

            “Thanks. I’d love to have you.” She set the rest of the breakfast in place. “Everything’s out on the buffet. The chafing dishes will keep things warm. There’s plenty of coffee and juice, an endless supply of champagne,” Miranda smiled as she poured the mimosa. “I apologize for leaving you all this morning, I have to dress and get to a meeting by nine.” And Miranda couldn’t wait. “I told the other guests last night. They’ll find their way to the food and coffee, and I’ll be back before you know it.”

            The meeting was a block away at City Hall; if it went well, she’d be back by ten. And everything would go well. Even if it was just for this year, the Bloom Bitches, Daisy and Camellia, who ran The Historical Society and thought they ran Magnolia Bay, had finally and begrudgingly handed over the reigns to two of the biggest annual events in Magnolia Bay. Miranda couldn’t be more proud to be the chairman of the city Christmas tree lighting and Winter Formal.

            With her organizational and creative hooks into the events, Miranda was in heaven. Just two weeks away, the events were going to be bigger and better than ever, but Miranda wasn’t doing it for the accolades that would surely bring. A large portion of the money raised from concessions at the tree lighting as well as the silent auction and tickets to the Winter Formal went to her favorite Lowcountry charity. While the tree lighting and formal had been around as long as Miranda could remember, both now carried the name of the Barbara G. Hamilton Foundation, named for Miranda’s mother who’d died of breast cancer the year Miranda graduated from college.

Half of the proceeds the foundation received went to research. The other to half went into a fund that provided help to patients and their families with travel and medical expenses, which, as Miranda from experience, could eat up a family’s resources in a heartbeat.

Miranda had honored her mother’s memory every year working tirelessly for Daisy and Camellia. The Bloom Bitches didn’t like to give up control of anything, much less the biggest events in Magnolia Bay. Lucky for Miranda, Daisy was receiving a lifetime achievement award at the American Historical Society the first weekend of December and her sister and co-chair Camellia wouldn’t miss seeing that for the world. With Miranda as chairperson, she could do things the way she wanted, make the event bigger, better, and raise more money to help families in need. Help find a cure for the horrible disease that had taken her mother.

She pulled on a lovely Christmas red sheath dress and a gorgeous pair of Stuart Weizman black pumps. She ran a brush through her thick blond shoulder length air and finished the look with her mother’s pearls. Saying her goodbyes to the guests who were in heaven around the breakfast table, she was out the door. The crisp Lowcountry morning felt delicious as her heels clicked along the sidewalk. She’d checked ticket sales for the formal online last night before she went to bed and again this morning. They’d already surpassed last year’s record and if sales kept going up, they’d need to find a bigger venue, which could be a problem. But a wonderful problem.

Daisy and Camellia had almost canceled their trip when they’d learned that Miranda had advertised the formal to the public. It had always been a hoity-toity affair for the locals held at the historic city gardens with the silent auction bringing in the most cash.  Miranda had changed things around a bit, raising the cost of tickets, inviting the public, and in addition to the same old silent auction with the same old items, Miranda was auctioning off dates with Magnolia Bay and Charleston’s most eligible bachelors. That alone probably accounted for sales being up ninety tickets over last year.

She entered City Hall and was greeted by Dee, a sweet round receptionist in her fifties who singlehandedly ran City Hall. She’d been invaluable to Miranda, getting her up to speed so that she could do this job, even with the scrutiny of the Bloom Bitches. “Morning Sunshine,” Dee said, handing Miranda her coffee.

“You’re a mind reader, I really needed a third cup.” Miranda took a sip and nearly spat it back in the cup.

“About the coffee,” Pat began in a hushed tone, “You’re going to need that shot.” Crap. Pat had known Miranda since she was a kid. This couldn’t be good.

She tossed the cup in the trash and poured herself a fresh cup. The last thing she wanted was the board members thinking she was a lush. “Are Daisy and Camellia here again? I thought after the last meeting, they trusted me to get this thing right.”

“They’re not here, but--.” Pat was cut off as Mayor Delaney breezed out of her office in a flowy navy dress.

“Miranda.” She had a pained look on her face she tried to make pleasant with a smile. This wasn’t like Mayor Delaney at all. She gave Miranda an air kiss, but never looked directly at her. “Come. The meeting’s already started.”

“But I’m fifteen minutes early,” Miranda stammered following her down a long hallway toward the boardroom. “Aren’t I?”

“Yes and no. There’s been a new development. Really, a wonderful development that came with a great big fat donation made out to your mother’s foundation. I know the Christmas tree lighting and the Christmas Cotillion are your pies, but there’s going to be another pair of fingers in them,” she said hesitantly. “But it’s all good. All for charity.”

“Fabulous.” Miranda said, but what had this woman so tentative, almost worried?

“The money comes with some strings,” the mayor continued. “That’s what we were meeting early about. I left a message on your cell last night.”

“I’m sorry, when I’m decorating the cottage for Christmas, I’m oblivious. It’s wonderful about the donation. Whatever those strings are, I’m thrilled.”

As they were passing the ladies room, the door opened and out strutted Pammy Anderson dressed like a runway model in couture. Shit. Was this where the money came from? Was the catch that Miranda would have to work with the woman who was vying to take the title of Biggest Bitch in the bay away from the Bloom sisters? Great. But if it came with money that would go to her mother’s foundation, she could work with anyone. Even Pammy.

“Morning, Pammy. Great to see you.”

Miranda put on her best smile. She was sure Mom was looking down from heaven and laughing at the show. Mom had comforted Miranda through her grade school years when Pammy lived to torture her. If Miranda achieved something, was given or earned something, Pammy made it her job to bully her out of it. But in the sixth grade, after Miranda grew a little backbone and some boobs, which shouldn’t have but did improve her social status but did, things were better. Not that Pammy didn’t try to  Miranda really thought Pammy would eventually grow out of it, but no such luck.

Pammy still loved to get her digs in whenever she could, but since she started working for Big Jim Mauldin’s huge Arcadia Dunes development as sales director, she’d been busy. Making a shrimp boat full of money, which she loved to throw around town, buying fabulous clothes and shoes and a custom made BMW that cost more than Miranda made in a year.

Miranda took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. This is for Mom. “Thanks for your very generous donation, Pammy. I looking forward to working with you.” For a moment, Miranda was hypnotized by Pammy’s predatory smile.

The mayor paused outside the boardroom and was saying something; Miranda only caught the tail end. “—New co-chair.” What? Pammy Anderson is her co-chair? This couldn’t get any worse.

For you, Mom. This is for you.  . “You’ll make a great co-chair,” Miranda offered. But you taught me to let people know where I stand. Never back down. “I look forward to working with you, Pammy.”

“Oh, Pammy’s just a new committee member Logan Mauldin brought on,” the mayor gushed, as she pushed open the door. “He’s your new co-chair.”

Fabulous. Logan Mauldin. The only person other than Pammy Anderson she would never want to be stranded on a committee with.

He stood with the rest of the gentleman as she entered the room and buttoned his black blazer. Her eyes glided down his well-worn jeans for a fraction of a second and then jerked back up to his face. The crisp white shirt he was wearing stood out against his perfect year round tan and accentuated his disgustingly beautiful blue eyes that sparkled. No. Twinkled, and he was enjoying this. Too much. Between the shock, and well, him, no wonder, Miranda’s mouth was gaping open.

She should have slapped herself for gawking at him. Instead, she turned her attention to the rest of the board members, and gave even Pammy, her most genuine smile. “Everyone. Wonderful to see y’all. Logan.”

“You can’t imagine my surprise when Logan here, nabbed me Saturday night at Crusoe’s,” the mayor said, like the man was the second coming. The sexy smirk on his face wasn’t helping Miranda at all. “Put a great big fat check in my hand and said he had some fabulous ideas for our little Christmas events. Even asked if he could co-chair. Of course, knowing you wouldn’t mind, I said yes.”

Miranda nodded. She’d been at Crusoe’s Saturday night and had seen the mayor and her husband. Miranda had been on a date with John Jackson, a yummy attorney from Charleston who Miranda had recently met at one of the gallery crawls there. He had talked her into taking a break from decorating the house, and she was glad she did. The food and the wine had been as good as his company.

Although there hadn’t been any real sparks at dinner, they were just getting to know each other and the night was young. John asked Miranda if she wanted to walk on the docks; when she said yes, he asked the waiter to split the last of their wine in to-go cups.

John had just put her wrap in her shoulders when she noticed Logan coming in with a stunningly beautiful leggy redhead. As Miranda and John and some other diners who had the same idea bottlenecked near the restaurant door that faced the docks, Logan was headed to his table. His hand brushed Miranda’s, and the current that always passed between them made her jerk away. Her heart beat faster than it had at any point during the evening. Her chest felt tight.

“Sorry,” she muttered to Logan. Jesus. She was with a date and totally embarrassed by her body’s immediate reaction to him. She was so grateful no one had seemed to notice. Especially John.

As the diners in front of her filed out the door, Logan leaned in close enough to whisper. “Not. Sorry.” Then he sat down and gave his date a polite smile, obviously not as affected as Miranda was by their brief exchange.

The cool Lowcountry night was beautiful, and the full moon hung over the center of the bay like a giant luminous ornament. Hand in hand, she and John walked to the very end of the pier where it was more private. He kissed her. He was a good kisser, at least an eight on her friends’, the Six Chicks’, scale, but Miranda didn’t feel anything close to what she felt from simply brushing hands with Logan Mauldin.

And now he was here at her committee meeting trying to upend things in the ninth hour. Usual sexy smirk. A big fat donation with strings attached. What did that mean? That he was nuts? They were oil and water. This would never work.

            “Miranda.” He extended his hand. “Always a pleasure.”

That smirk said he knew exactly what he did to her. She sat in the only available seat beside him, determined to get down to business. When she gave his hand a firm shake, her heat fluttered.

Damn heart.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Injury & Ecstasy by Marly Andrews

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Injured Air Force pilot Nick Thompson is slowly recovering from a piloting accident that brought him out of the field. With demanding effort, he has pushed himself to rebuild strength and endurance to prove he can return to the cockpit. He has to – flying is his life.

Months later, while recuperating at home he begins to realize that the beautiful widow next door is doing more than helping him heal. She is showing him how to become the man he’s always wanted to be. As he gets closer to her, an unfamiliar ache and desperation takes hold of his heart.

After a year of grieving over the sudden loss of her husband, Maggie Carter is ready to rebuild and start over. At the age of 40, she is a vibrant woman ready to live life again. With an empty nest on Lake St. James, she finds the sexy recovering pilot next door to be more than the solution to her loneliness.
As these two cross the fence of friendship, the heat builds as a part of Nick’s past catches up to him.

25 Days of Christmas - Petectives: Christmas Party by Robert J. Smith

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Christmas time is here and cat detectives Yoshi and Gatsby are back in this holiday whodunnit! Someone not filled with the holiday spirit is trying to kill an obnoxious dog and the Petectives are on the case. While conducting their latest investigation, Gatsby's also planning a Christmas Eve blowout for the neighborhood animals. Yoshi is dead set against the party but he may be able to use the festivities to unmask a would be killer and teach Gatsby what Christmas is all about. Throw in a canine love triangle and a cute orphan kitten and you've got the recipe for one riveting Yuletide affair. The Petectives are throwing a Christmas party and you don't want to miss it!
A 19,000 word mystery novella

Monday, December 12, 2016

25 Days of Christmas - Still Presence by Kyan Christopher

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A weekend in a cabin up north is the perfect getaway. At least that’s what Tristan and Kyle think when they invite their friends to join them for a holiday vacation. But after the tragedy that befell their friends, can this year’s festivities help Kacy and Mitch learn to live after their loss? Does the Christmas season truly bring hope or will heartache overtake any chance for a Christmas miracle?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

25 Days of Christmas - Seduction at the Christmas Court by Jenna Jaxon

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Alyse and Geoffrey, Lord and Lady Longford, have journeyed to the glittering Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take part in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is suddenly called into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at court, attending the queen and persuading her rebellious sister to accept an unwanted betrothal. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise, Alyse fends off an old suitor who wants to renew their friendship. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?

Excerpt:

Alyse stared in horror as Guy nonchalantly raised her hand to his lips. The skin seemed to shrink, as though it would crawl off her bones to escape his touch. She longed to snatch it away from the vile man however, mindful of the thousand eyes that marked her every movement, she instead gave him a coy look and a nod. “You are kind to remember me, Guy, now that you have my sister to wife. I doubted you would give me a glance in the wake of her beauty.”

Geoffrey moved closer to her, his hulking presence a subtle warning.

An she knew her husband, he was now sorely tempted to run Guy through with his sword. Thank God it lay safe in their chamber. “I give you good evening, Sir Guy. It has been long since last we met at my father’s house.” Remind him who had triumphed that evening and mayhap he’d keep his distance and his head.

“Too long, cherie. Perhaps now we are to be kindred, we will see much more of one another.” His gaze rested on her mouth and he licked his lips.

Bold villain. Alyse drew closer to Geoffrey. The man’s dark-eyed gaze would peel the clothes from her like the skin from an orange an she endured it much longer.

Face blackened in a scowl, Geoffrey bumped her side as he stepped between her and Guy. “My wife will enjoy her sister’s company as often as she likes while we are at court, Sir Guy. An you are in the room you may bear them company as well during the Christmastide. Should you journey to Longford after you are wed, of course, we will always open our home to you.” Her husband’s teeth clenched so tight his jaw creaked. He’d rejoice in Guy’s company when the last trump sounded.

“Pippa,” Alyse said, turning to her sister, sorry that she must bear witness to Guy’s disrespect. Pray God His Majesty never heard tell of this conversation. She grasped her sister’s hands, pulling the girl from Guy’s side. “’Twill only be a short time ‘ere we are gone from here. This feuding twixt Guy and Geoffrey will last only so long as we remain here. Once you are married—”

“Once I am married to him there will be no escape, Alyse.” Pippa’s voice, hard-edged, flat, and filled with anger, made her cringe. “I will be forever chained to a man who cares nothing for me, only for my sister.”

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Sweet Montana Christmas by Roxanne Snopek

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Melinda Sweet loved her husband before she learned of his wealth and she loves him still, despite the fact that it’s gone. Unfortunately, while she knows the collapse of his Chicago financial services business had nothing to do with him, he believes otherwise. His upbeat adjustment to their new – and temporary – life on his grandfather’s rundown honey farm is a foil to cover the burden of failure. She wasn’t expecting to throw – in five weeks – the traditional Sweet Christmas Open House, but it’s a good earning opportunity and how hard could it be?

Austin Sweet is determined to make his wife proud of him again. But he also wants to erase the sting of shame he feels from his parents, to whom he owes a debt of gratitude for arranging for this caretaking job. Getting paid to fix up this disaster is better than living in their basement, sure. But what does he know about bees? Or fixing broken plumbing? Or cleaning a chimney?

But when Austin’s grandfather gives him the farm as a Christmas gift, there’s only one response. Accepting the gift will secure a future that will make his wife even more unhappy than he already is. Refusing the gift will finalize the rift between him and his family, but he’d rather lose them than Melinda. Then he discovers she’s spared him the choice. Austin’s not-so-Sweet side rears up as he determines that he’s done trying to make everyone happy. He’ll get his wife back, no matter what. And they’ll decide their future together.

Excerpt:

Thwack!

Splinters of bark and wood exploded onto the snow as the last log split apart at his feet.

Austin Sweet yanked the axe-head out of the stump, straightened up and stretched his back. A cord-and-a-half of dry lodgepole pine, split and stacked neatly next to the honey shed. Would it be enough to heat the 150-year old pile of ugly he now called home, through to spring?

He took off his work glove and wiped the sweat off his face, surprised again by the beard. He hadn't intended to grow it exactly, but a month without shaving will do that.

The temperature dropped dramatically in December after dark and suddenly he felt it. Time to go in. He looked across the yard at the house, the sagging wrap-around porch, the weathered shingles, the shutters falling drunkenly away from the windows, like his grandfather's eyes after the stroke that finally killed him.

Maybe, thought Austin, if he closed off the parts of the house he wasn't using, the firewood would last long enough. "Come on, Speedy Gonzales, let's go scrounge up some food."

The ancient Malamute or husky or wolf or whatever he was began the process of getting to his feet. His actual name was Jackson. According to the neighbour who'd handed him the keys, the dog came with the farm. From the way he moved, you'd think he'd been there from the beginning.

"I feel like you look, buddy."

Jackson's tail swayed politely, too busy putting one foot in front of the other for any more enthusiasm. Could also be he was deaf.

Austin shrugged his jacket back on and hiked up his jeans, reminding himself to punch another hole in his belt. And to go to town for some groceries.

Bring home the bacon, son. That's what a man does. A husband provides.

He shook his head, trying to erase the thoughts but they were on replay. The best he could hope for was a shuffle.

He hated going to town. Shopping meant people. And people always had questions.

Are you reopening Sweet Montana Farms?

How are you handling the adjustment from Chicago?

Aren't you lonely, out there all by yourself?

And the worse one of all.

So what brought you to little old Marietta, Montana?

The answers were yes, badly, yes and don't ask.

Austin helped the dog up the rickety steps to the porch and through the front door.

"Yeah, yeah," he muttered, at a particularly loud creak. He told himself yet again that he'd fix it. The whole thing. Tomorrow.

Or, he'd let it fall off and put a milk crate under the front door. Who cared? What did it matter?

Inside the kitchen, he opened a can of dog food for Jackson and a can of human food for himself. The dog ate from his dish on the floor. Austin stood at the sink and didn't bother with a plate. They finished at the same time.

"So," he said to the dog. "That's dinner. Now what?"

With no cable or wi-fi, no city or nightlife, what did a single guy do?

He looked down at the wedding band still on his finger. Was he single? He wasn't divorced. They weren't even formally separated yet. But if a man moves to the forest, and his wife isn't there to share his spaghetti-os, are they still married?

**


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lycan's Mate by Caryn Moya Block

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Gwen Quiet Thunder has fought against her Lycan roots her whole life. She didn’t want anything to do with the wolf inside her and couldn’t fathom finding a mate in a Lycan. She thought all Lycan men were like the boy who terrorized her while growing up, mean, cruel, and aggressive. So when the mating bond snaps into place with her future brother-in-law, there’s only one thing to do. Run.

Mischa Sokolov, Siberian Lycan is thrilled to find his future sister-in-law is also his mate. She may be having some problems accepting the inevitable, but he never expected her to run and put an ocean between them. The more he tries to connect with her, the more she pushes him away. But Lycans only get one heartmate and mate for life. He’s going to have to prove to Gwen that she can trust him with her heart or lose the one woman meant to be his.

25 Days of Christmas - Find Me a Home by Mimi Barbour

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Can a crabby puppy perform cupid's magic this Christmas season?

Wheelchair bound, Amelia Lloyd is embarrassed when the neighbour calls the police to deal with her out-of-control brother. Her old dog tries to protect her but it takes the combined efforts of a handsome police Sergeant and a crabby puppy to put a stop to her sibling’s shenanigans. At first, she hates to be caught in such a situation. But then she accepts an important truth. The big-hearted man, her savior, wouldn’t have come into her life otherwise.

Sergeant Harley Carlton is exhausted from dealing with a car accident where everyone is killed except for the darling cherub who decides she’s his daddy. How can a man with a heart as big as his, correct the precious little orphan? Within a few hours, he gets a call to save a blonde-haired beauty from her crazy brother. So how can a man fall in love twice in one night?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

This Is Our Song by Samantha Chase

$6.15

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Entertainment reporter Savannah Daly is completely unfazed by pretty-boy rock stars. She's just here to get her interview and write her story. When she's assigned to write a tell-all about Riley Shaughnessy, she expects to be put off by a shallow rock star lifestyle. Instead, Riley brings her home to the shores of the Carolinas where she's immediately embraced by his sprawling, rambunctious family. She expected spotlights and cameras; she gets a welcoming, loving family and a side of Riley she never could have guessed.

The Shaughnessy Brothers Series:
Made for Us (Book 1)
Love Walks In (Book 2)
Always My Girl (Book 3)
This Is Our Song (Book 4)

25 Days of Christmas - Slay Bells and Satchels by Dorothy Howell Excerpt


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The Summer Santa Sale at Holt’s Department Store becomes a Christmas nightmare when sales clerk Haley Randolph finds a murdered elf in the store’s giant toy bag. Haley, a crazed fashionista obsessed with designer handbags, could find herself “bagged” if she doesn’t untangle this mystery quicker than Saint Nick can slide down a chimney. But Haley has another problem: Can working with hot private detective Jack Bishop put her on Santa’s “naughty” list?

Excerpt:

    Jeanette gestured to the front of the store.  Near the entrance on a little platform sat a full-sized, heavy cardboard fireplace, complete with stockings.  A decorated Christmas tree sat next to it, alongside a big green hopper.  The display was surrounded by red velvet ropes held up by huge candy canes.
    Where did that come from?
    “Be sure there’s always an elf standing there to greet the customers and have them fill out an entry form,” Jeanette said.  “A winner has to be drawn every hour, on the hour, so make sure one of the elves is in place.  The rest of them will circulate through the store asking for donations for the children’s charity.”
    Jeanette didn’t wait for me to say anything—which was probably wise on her part.  She turned to leave, but stopped immediately.
    “Thank goodness,” she mumbled.  “Here they come.”
    Down the aisle came a bunch of young, pretty girls, all of them decked out in elf costumes.  I guessed they were all in their early twenties, differing in heights, but not a size larger than a six among them.  They wore green shorts and vests over red and white striped tights and long-sleeved tops, and green, pointed-toed elf shoes.  Everyone had on a Santa hat, bright red lipstick, and big circles of pink blush on their cheeks.
    “Good, we’re all set,” Jeanette said, taking one last look around.  “When the customers come in—”
    She stopped abruptly and her gaze drilled into me.
    “Where’s the giant toy bag?” she demanded.
    The giant—what?
    “The giant toy bag is supposed to be right next to the fireplace,” Jeanette declared.  “It must still be in the stockroom.  Get it, Haley.  It has to be in place when the customers come in.”
    I headed for the rear of the store, pausing only long enough to ditch my Santa hat behind a display of T-shirts.  The entrance to the stockroom—one of them, anyway—was located beside the customer service booth near the hallway that led to the employee break room, the training room, and the store managers’ offices.
    I went through the swinging door into the stockroom.  It was as quiet as an evening snowfall back here.  Unless the truck team was on duty unloading a big rig filled with new merchandise, nobody came in here often.  The rear door by the loading dock was propped open for the janitor.  The store’s music track played “Jingle Bells.”
    I spotted a red toy bag right away.  It was a giant, all right, just as Jeanette had said.  It sat on the floor in front of the huge shelving unit that held the store’s entire inventory of Christmas decorations.
    Half the contents of one of the shelves was scattered on the floor, which was weird, but I didn’t have time to clean it up.  I’d come back and do it later—not that I was all that concerned about maintaining a neat, orderly stockroom, but I never passed up a chance to escape the sales floor.
    I grabbed the bag.  Yikes!  It wouldn’t budge.
    I pulled it again using two hands.  It moved maybe a couple of inches.
    Jeez, this thing weighed a ton.
    No way could I carry it to the front of the store, and dragging it would take forever.  Even loading it onto one of the long, thin U-boat carts we used to transport merchandise wouldn’t be easy.
    There was nothing to do but take out some of the toys.
    I pulled open the draw string closure at the top of the bag and—
    Oh my God.  Oh my God.
    There was an elf inside.
    Dead.

Monday, December 5, 2016

25 Days of Christmas - We Need a Little Christmas by Sierra Donovan

$4.99

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The best Christmas present? The unexpected romance that brings two former classmates together for a lesson in holiday magic. . .

With its festive Snowed Inn and year-round Christmas store, the pretty town of Tall Pine knows how to do the holidays right. But this year, Liv Tomblyn's homecoming trip may be bittersweet. Liv's grandmother died soon after Thanksgiving, leaving a lifetime of belongings to sort through. Soon Liv is surrounded by memories, including a retro silver Christmas tree. And there's Liv's old friend Scott Leroux--the one-time class clown who's become the town's go-to handyman.

Scott enjoyed helping Liv's Nammy with little fix-it jobs in recent years, but now he's wondering if the crafty grandma had a much larger project in mind. Everything--from Nammy's mysteriously malfunctioning heater to that silver tree--seems to be conspiring to throw Liv and Scott together. Not that Scott objects. For though Liv insists she'll leave Tall Pine when the holidays are over, he's hoping their holiday kisses might thaw her resolve and make this Christmas truly unforgettable. . .

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cruising for Love (The Escape Series Book 2) by Ann Omasta

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Being selected to star on the new reality television show, Cruising for Love, is a dream come true for effervescent Ruthie Rose. Having always enjoyed being the center of attention, the lure of a free Caribbean cruise, the opportunity to find a steamy love interest, and the chance to become an internet sensation are too tempting to turn down. Without bothering to read the pesky contract, Ruthie signs on the dotted line and sets sail on her high seas adventure. Join Ruthie as she navigates the many twists, turns, and crushing tidal waves of drama the producers have in store for her on the not-so-real reality show, Cruising for Love.

This novel is part of The Escape Series, which includes the Kindle Scout winning book, Getting Lei'd, as well as its prequel novella, Aloha, Baby! The books in this series are standalone novels that do not have cliffhanger endings. They share characters, but are designed so they can be read in any order.

Download your copy of Cruising for Love now to escape into Ruthie's exciting adventure!

25 Days of Christmas - A Campy Christmas by Karen Musser Nortman and Libby Shannon

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A Holiday novella. The Shoemakers and Ferraros plan to spend Christmas in Texas with Larry and Jane Ann’s brother and then take a camping trip through the Southwest. But those plans are stopped cold when they hit a rogue ice storm in Missouri and they end up snowbound in a campground. And that’s just the beginning. Includes recipes and winter camping tips.

Excerpt:

It was still dark when Frannie woke. Really dark. It took her a moment to realize that the soft snores behind her were coming from the dog, not Larry. And then another few minutes to realize the reason it was so dark was that the nightlight in the living room was not on. The bulb might have burned out, or more likely the power had gone off—not a good thought.
She got up, shivered, and grabbed a hooded sweatshirt. In the living room, she checked the space heater—not running. No lights on the microwave either. So the power was definitely off. She curled up in the recliner with a fleece throw and mentally checked off what that meant.
None of the outlets would work. The 12V ceiling lights would still operate, the fridge would switch to propane, and the stove was also propane. The water heater could run on gas but since they had no water in the tank, that didn’t matter. The microwave was out but the furnace was propane. Fortunately they wouldn’t need the AC.
She turned on one of the ceiling lights and looked at the wall clock—5:30. That meant coffee. But she couldn’t use the percolator or make instant in the micro. Mickey and Jane Ann had a generator and would no doubt fire it up but probably wouldn’t be awake for a while.
She was getting out a saucepan to heat water for instant when she remembered her ‘flower pot.’ She kept an old stovetop percolator under the sink and used it for flower arrangements for the table. And every time that she took the basket and stem out of it, she wondered why she didn’t just throw them away. Now she knew why. After filling the pot and the basket, she folded back the stove cover and lit one of the burners. While waiting for the pot to perk, she checked the phone and the iPad. No reception.
There was a thunk sound from the bedroom, and Dasher poked her nose around the curtain.
“C’mon, girl.” Frannie sat on the couch and patted the seat. Dasher jumped up and snuggled next to her.
“You don’t know how lucky you are,” Frannie whispered. “None of our dogs ever have been allowed on the furniture or the bed.”
When the coffee finished, she turned off the burner and got out one of the Christmas mugs and poured a cup. It was a little strong and slightly gritty. But since a half hour before, she had thought she might have to do without for a couple of hours, it was the best coffee she had ever tasted. She wrapped her hands around the bright red mug and looked at the dog.
“So where did you come from? Is someone looking for you?” The dog cocked its head at her as if it was considering how to answer the question.
“And, you know, you would have been smarter to have found a nice warm farmhouse with a well-stocked fridge. We might end up as bad off as you were last night.”
No answer, so she picked up her book. After a few minutes, she closed the book on her thumb to save her place and leaned her head back. Christmas Eve morning. It seemed less and less likely that they would be getting out of this park today. Hopefully, they would know more when the ranger called.
And what about the shower house? Did the plumbing depend on an electric pump? It might be a good idea to bring in a couple of buckets of snow to supplement their water supply. They could subsist several days on lunchmeat sandwiches but it would be nice to do something special for Christmas Eve. She was sure they could concoct something, but dozed off before she could decide what that was.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dying Breath (Dying for a Living Book 6) by Kory M. Shrum

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"I always knew I was going to die. I just didn’t know it was going to be today."

Maisie won’t live to see her seventeenth birthday. Her mother and sister are locked in a war over the world, and Maisie is stuck between them. She must decide if she will join her sister’s cause, or defend her mother. In the face of her mother’s demands, Maisie doubts herself and what she truly wants. But her only alternative is to be murdered by the person she loves most.

Jesse wants to find her father’s body and finish him before he can resurrect. If she succeeds she will save millions, if not billions, of lives. But first, Jesse must defeat the woman protecting him.

Will Maisie stand with her? Or fight by her mother’s side?

One decision will make all the difference in the world.

25 Days of Christmas - Montana Secret Santa by Debra Salonen

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Ad exec Krista Martin, while feeling more Grinch than elf, still jumps at the chance to co-chair Marietta’s Secret Santa Society. Why not? Especially since brilliant, attractive, and innovative tech wunderkind Jonah Andrews has agreed to help. He's well connected and Krista's hoping for some advice on rebooting her career.

Jonah knows Krista has a not-so-hidden agenda, but sparring with her over cocoa at their Secret Santa meetings is the most fun he’s had since returning to his old hometown. Krista may come across as all business, but Jonah’s positive he’s glimpsed a little girl inside her who wants to believe in Santa... and in love.

Praise for Montana Secret Santa
Sweet, affecting, and just plain fun, this holiday charmer is a delightful addition to the series and a perfect companion to a mug of hot chocolate and a crackling fire. - Library Journal

Love at the Chocolate Shop series
Book 1: Melt My Heart, Cowboy by C.J. Carmichael
Book 2: A Thankful Heart by Melissa McClone
Book 3: Montana Secret Santa by Debra Salonen
Book 4: The Chocolate Cure by Roxanne Snopek
Book 5: The Valentine Quest by Melissa McClone
More books in the series coming soon

Chapter 1

Stilettos and snow? Bad idea.
Krista Martin had lived and worked in Marietta, Montana, long enough to grasp the importance of proper winter footwear. But today she needed the height and authority that came with heels. One didn't tell one's best friend and business partner--the person responsible for Krista moving halfway across the country to help create Blue Sky Promotions--that said partner and friend’s work lately had become substandard, uninspired and phoned-in without adequate body armor and a large travel mug filled with Sage Carrigan's cocoa.
Krista feared Copper Mountain Chocolates--her favorite downtown Marietta haunt--was the reason she could barely snap the waistband of her black Armani pencil skirt. A bad-mommy-forgot-your-birthday gift from Krista's producer/screenwriter mother a couple of years back. In the year and a half that Krista had lived in Montana, not a single member of her family--from either coast--had made the effort to visit her. Normally, Krista was too busy to care. But once the holiday season set in, all those old hurts and grievances seemed to rise to the surface of her consciousness.
She'd been banking on a big uptick in business to keep her too distracted to feel sorry for herself, but between Sage Carrigan's decision to table any talk of expansion until after the first of the year and Amanda Heller-Montgomery's general ennui when it came to their ad agency, Krista was close to reaching level ten on her frustration meter.
She paused a foot from the doorway to take a gulp of fortitude before leaving the warm, fragrant safety of the chocolatier. Sweet, rich, and chocolaty warmth slid like hot lava down her gullet to her mostly empty tummy. She'd been too busy practicing her speech to eat breakfast.
She still hadn’t decided which approach to take.
Direct and businesslike?
Amanda. We have a problem. Blue Sky is underperforming and the obvious correlation to this decline can be tracked back to your marriage to Tucker Montgomery. I’m concerned that marriage has completely gutted your work ethic.
Or something a bit more diplomatic?
Amanda. Girlfriend. We need to talk. You’re more than my business partner and best friend. But I'm worried that we're not going to meet our year-end goals if you don't return to your pre-marriage self.
Krista hesitated before reaching for the door. Blaming marriage might backfire. Amanda was the happiest Krista had ever seen her. But, the harsh reality couldn’t be avoided. The Amanda who invited Krista to join her on the new frontier where--to paraphrase Amanda, “…all you need is drive, brains, and decent Wi-Fi to blow the glass ceiling of NYC advertising out of the market”--was MIA.
And, while Krista wasn’t shy about sharing her goals and ambitions, she’d let the situation at Blue Sky slide for the past nine months, hoping Amanda would return to her normal highly focused and efficient self after the first blush of marital bliss dissipated.
They’d made a pretty fantastic team to start out. Amanda brought her local contacts to the table. Krista’s family had enough connections on both coasts to fill any gaps. And Blue Sky’s highly acclaimed promotion of last year’s Big Sky Mavericks’ New Year’s Eve Masked Ball had resulted in a dozen or more excellent paying leads.
Their first quarter rocked. Then, Amanda took off a week at the end of February to join her soon-to-be-fiancé at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Tucker proposed, Amanda said yes, and the snowball rolled.
Thanks to Tucker's connection to the Zabrinski family--all successful entrepreneurs and pilots, with several airplanes at their disposal--Krista and nine other Marietta friends flew to Louisiana to celebrate the Heller-Montgomery nuptials.
While Krista could appreciate the romance of the near-elopement, she put no trust in grand gestures. She’d seen plenty growing up in a family of actors. But promised vows were as empty as an actor’s lines. Love and family soon became relegated to the backburner of life so each partner could pour his or her heart and soul into their respective careers.
She truly hoped that whole happily-ever-after thing worked out better for Amanda and Tucker. They certainly seemed happy, committed, and in love. But, for the moment, at least, Krista needed to stay focused on the personal fulfillment side of life.
Crunch time. I can do this.
She set her travel mug on a convenient display table, laden with chocolate treasures, while she tugged on her faux rabbit fur-lined leather gloves and re-tucked the soft alpaca scarf into the "V" of her white tuxedo-style shirt. Anticipating the single digit wind chill she’d already encountered when she scraped a thick layer of ice from the windshield of her Subaru, she pulled up the collar of her knee-length, cranberry wool coat. Even with expensive hose, she expected her legs to be numb by the time she reached the Blue Sky offices about a block and a half away.
She grabbed her mug and turned to leave just as an older woman in a bulky, masculine-looking Carhartt jacket, grubby jeans, and cowboy boots blew in on a gust of arctic air. The woman looked familiar but Krista avoided making eye contact so she wouldn’t get pulled into a neighborly exchange of nonpersonal hi-how-are-yous.
Grabbing the edge of the door with her free hand, she hurried outside. The cold hit like a full-on blast from a high power fire hose. Her stride required mincing steps to keep her thighs together. The last thing she needed was frostbite on her privates. Bad enough a former romantic interest had accused her of “freezing him out of the pleasure zone”.
Who says things like that? Pleasure zone. Bah—
The humbug required to finish the thought disappeared the instant a knee-high dog shot, headfirst, between her legs. A nearly invisible tether attached to a harness hidden beneath the animal’s stylish red and black plaid fleece overcoat snapped taut, sending Krista’s skirt to mid-thigh. She squeezed her legs tight in self-defense.
Wobbling like a tightrope walker, she'd nearly recovered her balance when a shrill zipping sound of the dog's coated wire tether being recalled--too late, in her opinion--yanked the animal--now square to Krista’s body--sideways against her shins.
Things went downhill pretty fast after that. Although every action and reaction felt like slow motion from Krista’s perspective, the entire debacle probably took seconds.
"Wait. No. Oh, crap." The last came out on a protracted cry as her skinny pumps shifted sideways on a patch of black ice.
Her wonderful, badly needed insulated cup of Sage’s divine cocoa went flying. Her small, smart patent leather shoulder bag shot upward to conk Krista on the chin, which caused her to windmill backwards straight into the open arms of the person reeling in their stupid dog.
Since Krista closed her eyes, she couldn't say for sure what happened next, but it involved ear-piercing barks, grunts and groans, and several colorful curses, which might have come from her. Luckily, the person in meager control of the dog’s leash turned out to be a man, large enough and strong enough to catch her mid-fall. She recognized his gender by his deep voice and the rock solid arm that locked around her chest as they went down. The thick padding of his winter jacket--along with a nicely built torso--cushioned her impact when they hit the sidewalk. The angle of their repose told her they'd taken another casualty with them.
She blinked as the pile beneath them morphed into a small golden moose with floppy ears, a big black nose, and a tongue about a mile long. Too hairy for a Great Dane. The beast yanked her rescuer's arm--the one that had been around her chest--out and back like a spastic puppeteer when it caught a whiff of her warm cocoa, spreading like a blood stain across the thin layer of ice and snow.
The man ungallantly shoved Krista aside so he could scramble to his knees and do a hand-over-hand motion to reel in the giant dog. "River Jack, no. Cocoa is not on your diet, dude. And Mom said dogs are never supposed to eat chocolate."
River Jack? Odd name. She might have been intrigued if she weren’t busy taking stock of her situation.
She pulled down her skirt the best she could.
"It's mostly milk. And Sage's chocolate is the best. It won't kill him. Them," she corrected, noticing the beagle and a puffy hairball with a curly tail had joined River Jack at the quickly freezing trough of goodness.
"Bear,” the guy cried, fumbling with the rat’s nest of leads in his hands. “Not you, too.
“Bear? River Jack? What’s with the strange names?” she muttered, mostly to herself.
The man found the right leash and tugged the largest beast away from the spill.
“Jack is my parents’ recent rescue dog adoptee. He was a lonely hearts dog.”
The dog in question lumbered toward them with a friendly manner, big, pink tongue still licking its chops.
“’Lonely hearts.’ I don’t know what that is.”
The guy opened his arms, which barely fit around the animal’s girth, and buried his face in the fluffy blond coat. “Mom said that’s what the staff calls animals that have been at the shelter for months, even years."
Krista stared, transfixed by the sweet bond evident between man and dog. An emotion she couldn’t quite name—yearning? wistfulness?—climbed up her throat making speech impossible.
The man looked her way, his smile bemused. "I suck at dog-sitting."
Krista agreed on one level but, since she’d never owned pets and didn’t have a great deal of patience with other people’s animals, she’d learned to keep her opinion to herself. After a quick inventory to make sure the only thing bruised was her pride, she tried to figure out the most graceful way to stand without putting her nylon-covered knees on the trampled, crusty snow.
With an even more impatient sound, the dog walker tossed the ends of the leashes on the ground and jumped to his feet. "River Jack, stay.” He turned toward her and extended his hand, his glove coated in dog hair. “What's wrong with me? Screw Jack’s diet. I can't believe I left a beautiful girl sitting on the ice and snow. Double suck."
"Double suck?" She barely got the words out before he grabbed her by the upper arms and lifted her to her feet.
He didn't let go right away. "Are you hurt?"
His thick, tanned, buckskin leather gloves looked huge against the cranberry wool of her coat.
She shifted her gaze to his interesting blue-gray eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled. A smile that sent shivers--the hot sort--up her spine like a mini-burst of lightening.
He was a hunk. In a scruffy, just tumbled out of bed sort of way. What’s someone his age doing walking dogs at this time of day?
Cute and unemployed? No thanks. She went for the high-achiever, goal-oriented, make-partner-by-thirty type. “A male version of you,” Amanda had said recently. “That’s what you’re holding out for and, frankly, Krista, they’re not that easy to come by--especially in Montana.”
A point supported by Krista’s three dates in a year and a half. But having no man in her life was better than wasting time on the wrong man. A lesson she’d learned the hard way.
"I’m okay. Nothing’s broken."
"Thank God.” He let go of her to make a pretend brow-swipe of relief. “I’ve only been home a week. My brother would never let me live it down if I wound up getting sued the first time I walked the dogs on my own."
"I'm not going to sue you. Your dog? Maybe."
He picked up the leashes again and coaxed all three animals to his side. "Bindi,” he said, addressing the animal. “Apologize at once. I mean it. This lady has every right to be mad at us. Mostly me, but you know how you get when you’re focused on a scent.”
His tone—and humor—took the edge off her irritation.
“Bindi was a gift from my sister after Mom and Dad’s fourteen-year-old beagle died. She’s only four. Or five. Which is probably a teenager in dog years. And teens are just… well… impossible.”
She refused to smile but the teasing look in his eyes made it tough not to give in to his goofy good humor.
“And Bear is short for Teddy Bear. Look at that face. Self-explanatory, right? He’s a chow mix they inherited from my brother who was dating a girl who worked at the animal rescue at the time.”
Krista looked at the dog in question. The fuzzy square face with coal black eyes, short ears, and shiny nose could easily have fit on a shelf with a selection of stuffed animals. “You’re right. He does.”
She noticed the dogs studying her with varying expressions of interest. She had a feeling they weren’t impressed by what they saw.
“Jack has an eating disorder.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer to whisper, “Mom says we’re not supposed to use the word f-a-t because that’s a form of body shaming. Nobody knows Jack’s story, but it probably didn’t involve a lot of exercise, hence our twice-daily walking routine."
He held up his hand, boy scout-like. “I promise to pay better attention in the future and avoid the chocolate shop at all cost.”
Coming from New Jersey, Krista rarely, if ever, was left without a snappy comeback, but the sincerity behind this guy’s slightly abashed look robbed her of speech. Crazy, ridiculous, disparate thoughts played tag in her head. Is he for real? Could this be a prank? Is my brother hiding in one of these storefronts with a film crew? Why can’t I stop looking at him?
Fortunately, the door of the chocolate shop opened and two people rushed out. Dakota, Sage's clerk, must have witnessed the debacle through the store window because she carried a handful of napkins and a replacement cocoa. The same cowboy-woman who Krista recalled passing on her way out of the shop followed. "Young lady, you need to get yourself a pair of snow boots."
Krista couldn't remember the last time she’d been scolded. Her lips parted but no words came out. Dumbfounded twice in one morning. This did not bode well for her upcoming meeting. And when she saw the dog walker’s gaze on her, her cheeks turned icy hot.
“And you, young man, need to keep your eye on the ball. Or on the dogs, as the case may be.” She petted and praised all three canines before looking at the human holding their leashes.
Her demeanor instantly became less schoolmarm and more schoolgirl. “Oh, my word. Jonah Andrews," she exclaimed, pointing him out to the small crowd that had gathered to gawk. "I should have recognized the dogs. Your mother said you were going to be house sitting and dog walking for a few months. Looks like you need more practice."
“Ya’ think?” Krista murmured softly.
The woman turned her gaze on Krista. "Are you okay? I'm Emily McCullough. Most people call me Em. I've seen you around, but I don't know your name."
"Krista Martin. I'm in advertising. Blue Sky Promotions."
"You work with Amanda Heller. Nice gal. She's on our board. Whip smart."
Board? What board? Krista and Amanda were partners. Best friends. They didn’t have secrets from each other. Well, not many.
Krista started to ask, but Dakota walked up at that moment with Krista's battered cup, its broken lid dangling by a thread of plastic. "I was going to pour this cup into yours, but I think it’s beyond hope. Shall I throw it into our recycling bin?” She held out the replacement. “Maybe you should come in and sit down for a bit."
Krista’s fingers closed around the to-go cup greedily. “Thanks so much. You’re a lifesaver. But Amanda is expecting me at the office. I'd better go."
"Wait. Wait just a second." The dog walker--what was his name? Jonah something?--took a step closer. The dogs surged in mass as if that signaled something completely opposite of wait. "Hold on."
Once he had the trio of misfit mutts under control, he looked at Krista. The sparkle in his lively, intelligent eyes made her breath catch. Did I break a rib when I fell?
"If you give me your number, I'd like to send you something to compensate for your ripped nylons and cover the cost of dry cleaning." He used his teeth to pull off one glove. The gesture fell short of sexy when he had to spit dog hair out of his mouth.
He wiped his lips then held out his hand. “I’m Jonah, by the way.”
Krista glanced down. She hadn’t noticed the collection of snags that must have been caused by the beagle's sharp nails.
Before she could give him her hand, Emily McCullough grabbed Jonah by the elbow and turned him toward the street. "She's in the book. You two can make up later over drinks or something. I need to talk to you about the meeting tomorrow."
He mouthed the word “Sorry,” as the bossy woman led him--and the trio of dogs--away.
From the back, Krista got a better look at the man. She liked what she saw. Six-foot or better. Broad shoulders, although the bulky coat left a lot to her imagination. And, damn, if her brain didn’t fill in all the gaps with Charlie Hunnam’s body.
No. Stop. Don’t go there.
The holidays were a terrible time for a fling. Awful. She’d learned that the hard way her last Christmas in New York. The whole new-person-gift-giving thing was an evil trap. Too much and she came across as desperate. Too little, she looked cheap. No thanks. Definitely not happening.
She readjusted her purse then checked the time on her phone. Ten minutes late. So not her style, but neither was getting taken down by a beagle.
~~
"Listen, Em, it's good to see you again, but I really think the dogs and I should walk that poor girl to her place of business. She might be hurt. Soft tissue damage."
He'd liked every inch of the soft tissue that had touched him. Krista Martin. Her name flitted around his head like a snippet from a new song. He didn’t know the rest of the words, but the melody made him want to download the whole thing. Immediately.
Emily made a dismissive motion, as if shooing away a pesky steer. "Oh, she's fine. You'll have plenty of time to check out her bruises when you see her tomorrow at the Secret Santa Society meeting."
“She’s a Santa? Are you sure? I don’t remember seeing her name on the roster.” His mother had started briefing him about the venerable Marietta charity weeks ago. For the first time, his interest felt titillated. Maybe the chore he’d been volunteered for wasn’t going to be the drudgery he’d thought it would be.
How could a woman many years his senior walk so fast? The dogs, of course. Bindi ran circles around the overweight footstool and the easily distracted puffball. He tugged impatiently on their leashes.
“Go easy on them, son. We’re not all young and fit,” Em admonished. “A good dog owner leads, he doesn’t yank.”
The woman seemed impervious to the cold, but despite having grown up in Montana, Jonah had the blood of a coastal Californian. Even his dad's oversized coat and three layers of expensive thermal undergarments weren't enough to keep him from shivering. But Em's hint about Krista Martin being involved in the society caught his attention.
His mother had explained in great detail what Montana Secret Santa volunteers did and why he had to take her place and his dad's. "I feel terrible leaving them right now. I'm worried the group might die out, son. Our members are all getting older. Some have moved to live closer to their children. Two passed away last year. Plus, it’s like our donation well suddenly dried up. Apparently, we're not hip and flashy and connected on social media the way some charities are. If not for our board members, we wouldn't have enough money to fulfill even a simple wish or two."
As Jonah understood the process, someone--a friend, family member, neighbor, or workmate--would write to "Secret Santa" asking for a special gift for someone deserving. The members of the board would read the letters, do enough background checking to make sure the request was legit, and then find a way to honor the request. Sometimes very ingeniously.
“Her name isn't official yet, but it will be tomorrow."
They'd reached a giant, diesel ranch truck that provided enough of a windbreak Jonah could speak without his teeth chattering. "How do you know?"
"The Marietta grapevine has it Amanda Heller... or does she go by Montgomery, now? So many women these days don't take their husband's names. Wasn't an option when I got married." She shook her head. "Anyway, Sarah Zabrinski--you know her, I assume..."
"Not personally, but I was in school with her son, Paul."
"Big Z's man of the hour. Big changes over there. Have you been in the store?"
Before he could answer, she kicked the truck's running board with the heel of her boot. "Dang squirrel brain, I keep getting sidetracked. As I was saying, rumor says Amanda is expecting and her doctor told her she's at risk for gestational diabetes. I don't know how he knows, but she's supposed to give up caffeine and stress. Which are two mainstays of advertising, I'd wager a guess."
Jonah could see where this was leading. "You think Amanda will ask her partner to take her place on the Secret Santa board."
"Sarah called to see if that was possible. As outgoing president, I said, 'Yes.' Our members are dropping like goddamn flies. The society needs new blood if we’re going to survive." She gave him a soft tap on the shoulder. "Guess I got my wish. You're good and you haven't even started."
Jonah blinked. "What do you mean?"
"You haven't even formally taken over as board president but you've already made one wish come true--mine."
She’d opened the driver's side door and climbed in by the time he managed to digest her comment. "President? No, wait. There must be some mistake. I've never been president of anything."
"Then it's about time you stretched yourself a little. You don't want Secret Santa to die on your watch, do you? If you're as smart as everyone says, you'll figure out a way to recruit Krista Martin to be your VP and the two of you will save Christmas."
The truck door closed with a loud bang that spooked River Jack. When the engine roared to life, Jonah had his hands full keeping all three dogs from panicking in different directions. It took a few minutes--long enough for Emily McCullough to back out and disappear from sight--to come up with a plan of action.
Save Christmas? Me? Is this some kind of It’s A Wonderful Life takeoff? He looked around, half expecting his mom and dad to step out of some shop door laughing at the elaborate prank they’d pulled.
But he knew that wasn’t likely. They had too much on their minds at the moment. Me? Save Christmas? At least, it would keep me from being bored out of my freaking mind.
“Come on dogs. I don’t know what Em was talking about exactly. But knowledge is key to any good plan, and that requires good Wi-Fi.”
He looked longingly toward the chocolate shop as they passed. The smell of Krista’s hot cocoa had sent his taste buds into overdrive. But even if the picture-postcard-perfect shop welcomed dogs, only a fool would take these three marginally trained animals inside. "Let’s go home, doggies."
Home to his parent’s house where he’d lived with his brother and sister until leaving for college at the tender age of seventeen.
Boy genius, people had called him.
Big things are coming from this young man, the newspaper had written.
Big being a relative thing.” He recalled his schoolteacher father’s attempt to keep Jonah’s head from swelling too badly. “Making a positive change in a young person’s life--the way your mother does--is big, too, son.”
His folks were as proud as parents of a successful youngish inventor and businessman who sold his company for megabucks could be. But money had never been the guiding force in their lives. Being happy meant more to them than how many zeroes and commas occupied the balance in their bank account.
Jonah and his entourage paused at the corner for Bear to lift his leg at the street sign pole. River Jack didn’t have the energy or balance for such frivolity.
Happy. Am I happy?
He didn’t have an answer. He wasn’t completely sure he understood the question. Normally, his work kept him too busy, too consumed by the demands of running a business to think about his personal life. Which, by most people’s standards, probably sucked. No wife or significant other. No kids. No pets.
As they drew closer to his parent's home--a prairie-style knock off on a decent-sized lot a few blocks off Main--the tension that had been building started to ebb. Home. He hated to admit his six-figure house in the foothills above the Silicon Valley never produced the same warm, fuzzy feeling in him.
From the moment he’d walked through the door to be greeted by his mother and three mutts, he’d felt at home. Not that he planned to stick around once his parents returned from Florida. Good lord, no. A thirty-something, unmarried man living with his parents was poster boy for the title--Loser Of The Year.
So what if he had millions in the bank? The fact he didn't have a clue about what to do with the rest of his life kept him awake at night. He'd lost his creative mojo to occupational repetitive mind stress and, without a goal, he was a rudderless boat adrift on a sea of whogivesadamns.
"We're back," he hollered after shedding a couple of layers and wiping twelve paws on a towel in the mudroom before entering the kitchen.
“Mom?”
The smell of homemade chicken soup in the slow cooker filled his nostrils, taking him back to his childhood in an instant. He could picture Gracie--the studious one--doing homework at the counter. Daniel--the wild one--in the living room playing a bootleg copy of some video game. And slouched in the corner of the breakfast nook, nose in a book, Jonah would be traveling through time, space, and possibility with Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, or Orson Scott Card.
After hanging the leashes on their individual hooks and giving the dogs each a biscuit--diet variety for River Jack--he went looking for a note. Mom was famous for her cryptic messages scribbled on anything handy--the teacher’s copy of a report card, the return portion of a bill, or his personal favorite--the back of his acceptance letter from MIT.
Dad=Doc. Just ck-up. No worry. Soup 4 sup. Wait for us, plz.
And obviously added in a hasty dash a few lines down--U Santa Prez? Neat.
"Dang, Em. You don't waste any time, do you?"
Jonah stirred the soup, then picked up his laptop and walked to the corner of the breakfast nook. When asked for the key to his success in business, Jonah always said, “Homework. Never go into a meeting without knowing everything possible about the company or issue in question.”
He’d read the information his mother had sent him about Montana Secret Santa a bit closer then check out Krista Martin.
The woman intrigued him. She’d had every right to cuss or shout at Bindi, but she’d acted as if getting knocked on her gorgeous behind by a poorly controlled dog was an everyday occurrence.
No drama worked for him. His last girlfriend-slash-mistake had cost him a small fortune in broken dishes and lawyer fees paid out in response to her frivolous lawsuit. According to the suit, he’d disappointed her by disappearing into his lab for long periods of time, thereby depriving her of conjugal relations.
“You’re being sued for sex, buddy,” his lawyer friend had told him. “Or, rather, the lack of it, stud muffin.”
A good reminder. Look but don’t touch. Especially here and now. He was supposed to be coming up with his next great idea, not drooling over a pretty girl who fit in his arms as if she’d been made for him.
Being attracted to someone as hot as Krista Martin was probably a normal guy reaction. Too bad he was the odd duck who didn’t relate well to people. Another reason he was a foolish choice to run the Secret Santa Society.
Krista had better be damn good at her job or Christmas was in big trouble.

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