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Worst. Day. Ever. After Lyssa Barnett’s sister tricks her into reprising her role at Snowflake Valley’s annual children’s party, she doesn’t think anything can be worse than squeezing into her too-small elf costume. Then tall, dark, and way too handsome Nick Tavlock shows up to play Santa…and an unexpected storm leaves them snowbound in the isolated lodge.
The last thing Nick wants is to spend a cozy Christmas Eve with a trio of kids and the woman who dumped him. But as much as Lyssa frustrates him, he can’t stop thinking about her. And soon, he’s fighting very un-Santa-like thoughts of kissing a certain sexy Miss Elf under the mistletoe. As Nick starts to fall for Lyssa all over again, he knows it will take nothing short of a miracle to have Lyssa in his arms on Christmas Day.
Lyssa could so easily see Nick with children of his own…and hers… But she had already decided there was no point in dreaming about a future with him. Considering his single-minded focus on work, he could never be the man for her.
She got to her feet and, forcing a smile, said, “I think it’s time for some hot chocolate.”
Four voices rose in agreement, and she escaped gratefully to the kitchen. The more she saw of Nick connecting with the kids, the harder it was for her to watch and the more she wanted to stay away. Yet she knew this trip to the kitchen was only a temporary reprieve.
She just hadn’t realized how temporary.
She had barely started heating the milk in a pan on the stove when Nick entered the kitchen. He came to lean against the counter beside her. “Need something?” she asked brightly.
“Yeah. To tell you I forgot how much fun it is being around you. It’s been a great afternoon.”
She flushed. “No thanks to me. That’s all on the kids. They’re quite a bunch.”
“And you’re quite a woman.”
He reached up and touched his finger to her lips. “Don’t do that, Lyssa. Don’t sell yourself short.” He moved his hand to trace her chin. A shiver tickled along her jaw. “You know what else I need?”
“That, too. And this.”
He leaned down and brushed his mouth against hers. He tasted so like the man she had fallen for months ago. His kiss was so tender, so sweet, she couldn’t help but want more. Another thought hovered at the edges of her mind, a thought she felt sure she didn’t want to know. Not now. Not here. Not when his taste and his touch and his total concentration on her were all exactly what she needed.
One dizzying kiss led to another and then another, until she had to curl her fingers in the fabric of his T-shirt to keep herself standing upright. But finally she forced herself to come to her senses. She tilted her head back and whispered, “Stop.”
“Why?” he murmured.
“What would we say if one of the kids walked in?”
“That the chocolate will be ready as soon as I’m done kissing the cook.”
Single mom Amber Barnett loves family, kids, Christmas…and unfortunately, her boss, confirmed bachelor Michael DeFranco. It’s a crush she really needs to get over. Except, when she’s temporarily forced from her apartment, her only option is to stay at Michael’s private ski lodge, where she’s the housekeeper. No problem. Her handsome boss rarely visits Snowflake Valley unexpectedly, plus he’s spending the holidays with his family. Or so she thinks…
A stormy Christmas Eve reunion leaves Michael seeking the solitude of his lodge, where he finds Amber in residence—and in trouble. Attempting to save her from her matchmaking family, he announces they’re a couple. His good deed backfires when they’re instantly included in each and every holiday event in town. So much for solitude.
Only the more time he spends with the beautiful, cheery brunette, the more he yearns to make things real between them. But he and Amber want different things, and Michael could never be the family man she’s looking for.
The jingling of Santa’s sleigh bells jolted Amber Barnett awake on the couch. Following the bells came a thud, a crash, a clatter, and a long string of muttered curses. That couldn’t be. Santa wouldn’t swear like a sailor, especially not on Christmas Eve.
Time to wake up. She was hearing things and not making any sense. Well, it had been a long, stressful trip here. With the storm racing toward Snowflake Valley, heading up to her boss’s mountain lodge after her family’s open house might not have been the brightest idea ever. But it was the best solution she could come up with.
She glanced at the small playpen near one end of the couch. In the dim light from the table lamp, her four-month-old daughter lay looking up at her peacefully, unbothered by whatever Amber thought she’d heard.
Amber leaned down to tuck Penny’s lightweight blanket around her. “We left later than planned,” she murmured, “and the snowstorm was worse than I expected. And okay, maybe we shouldn’t have come here at all.” She looked around the large living room she had decorated for the holidays only a week ago. “But it’s not like I had much of a choice. The mean old electric company turned off our service. It was either hide out here for a few days, or go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and face everyone.”
Right. And let Callie and Lyssa know she had screwed up—yet again.
The thought made her shudder. Her older sisters loved her and she loved them. But living with their tendency to fly to her rescue? Not so much to like there. It was as if they both felt they couldn’t trust her to do anything right.
Her ex’s attitude had been even worse. With him, there was no seemed about it. He told her outright and on a regular basis she needed him to take care of everything. Another good reason she now called him her ex.
A loud thump made her heart leap.
Those noises she’d heard hadn’t come from a dream.
Someone was in the kitchen.
It couldn’t be her boss. Michael was spending the holidays with his family in California.
The footsteps grew louder. He—or she—was getting closer to her and her daughter. Scoop up Penny and run. But the car keys were in her room. She would never reach the stairs in time. And even if she could make it as far as the front door, how could she escape on foot in a snowstorm?
Nobody’s getting between me and my baby. She grabbed a heavy ornament sitting on the coffee table.
The footsteps came even nearer to the door.
Swallowing a shriek, she raced across the room and past the dining area. Her slippers padded silently on the wooden floor.
As she reached the doorway, her weapon held high, a towering man stepped through the opening. Recognition hit—too late. Fear and adrenaline had her in full swing. The ornament zeroed in on her boss’s snow-frosted head.
Michael lunged, reaching up to wrench the weapon from her hands. “What the…? Amber?”
Well, one consolation—if you could call it that—he looked as shaken up as she felt. The reply whooshed from her mind straight to her mouth. “You’re not supposed to be here!”
“Neither are you. And especially not armed for battle. I didn’t mean to scare you. Heck, if I’d known you were here, I’d have called ahead, if only to keep you from trying to knock me out with a…with a…” He looked down at the ornament in his hand. “A troll?”
“It’s not a troll. It’s an elf. A Christmas elf.”
“Oh. Well. That makes it all right, then, doesn’t it?”
Her laugh shook so badly, it rattled. “Well, after all, it is Christmas Eve.”
I’m Barbara, and I write small-town romance that usually includes quirky characters and a touch of humor.
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