‘A Christmas Fling’ and ‘A Cupcake Christmas’ by Beth Barany (2 Book Christmas Showcase)

Dahlia, a Santa’s Elf, has 21 days left before Christmas to create the best toy in the world without using magic or revealing her true identity. Stuck on how to complete the prototype, and working as a temp in San Francisco’s financial district with no time for love, will her innocent Christmas fling get her unstuck, or will she turn her back on her beloved career for her heart?

Liam, an up-and-coming financial analyst, swore off women after getting dumped by the love of his life. He just found out his ex is going to the company Christmas party with his rival Michael Hendricks. Up for promotion against Hendricks, Liam has to win the favor of his boss. His best bet is to invite the vivacious secretary Dahlia to the party. Will Dahlia be a welcome distraction, or will she turn his life upside down?

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Chapter 1
December 1, Oakland, CA

Dahlia strolled through the small neighborhood park. It was great fun to think about how the children would enjoy her toy once she was done with it, but she had to complete it first. She only had twenty-two days to fix whatever was wrong with it before returning home. She’d gone over her designs and schematics and taken it apart and put it back together a dozen times, but it still wouldn’t work.

Dahlia left the park and headed down the street toward the detached studio she rented on Miles Avenue.

A dog bark had her look up just in time to almost but not quite avoid getting tangled up in a long leash. A man with the warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen gazed down at her, a half smile on his face.

She smiled back startled out of her daydreaming, but not before she noticed his endearing dimple on one side of his mouth.

She said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you. Thank goodness for your dog. Oh, she looks like a Husky.”

Dahlia shifted her bag to one hip, so she could bend down and pet the dog.

The dog wagged her tail.

Dahlia said, “You must feed her really well. Her coat is so soft and luscious.”

“She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog. Sally. My roommate’s.”

His voice was deep. She had to look up to smile into his deep brown eyes. He was a whole head taller than she was. Almost two meters. She translated into American measurements. Six foot three or something.

“My uncle, well one of my uncles has one—that he uses for work. But I hardly see him because he lives—” She paused. “I’m prattling, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are, but I like listening to your accent. Scottish?”

“Yes, wow, you guessed correctly. Most people here can’t do that. Yeah, we’re from Scotland, but it’s been a few generations.” She couldn’t very well tell him how Santa’s elves lived a very long time. It had only been her grandparents that had immigrated with Uncle, known as Santa to most, and some neighbors to set up the North Pole.

“So, you’re in school here?” He waved off toward what she knew was the art college a few blocks away.

“No. I’m here on an independent research project for a few more weeks.”

“So you’re from—”

“Alaska. Well, near Alaska, anyway. I—I best be going,” she interrupted and gestured to her bag of goodies. She shifted from foot to foot on the corner of Miles and Clifton Streets, still tangled up in the Bernese’s leash. “Gifts to wrap. For the kids. Big project.” She gulped and held out her hand. “I’m Dahlia, by the way. Dahlia MacMillian.”

With a half-smile, he shook her offered hand. His grip was firm and strong. “Liam. Nice to meet you, Dahlia MacMillian.” He led the dog around her, slowly untangling the leash.

How he moved with grace and power, even in his simple gestures. He was tall, lean and muscular, broad shoulders identifiable even in his sweatshirt with the UC Berkeley name and logo on it.

“There we go, Sally,” Liam said, his voice a rumbling, soothing cascade.

Sally licked Dahlia’s hand, bringing her out of her staring. She gulped and felt the heat of a blush creep up her neck and onto her cheeks. Dahlia stroked the soft fur to cover her embarrassment. It had been a long time since she’d felt attracted to anyone. Everyone she’d dated at the Pole was so familiar to her, and mostly related. She didn’t have time for a distraction.

She looked up when she heard Liam chuckling. He was shaking his head.

“What?” She couldn’t help but ask.

He shrugged. “I guess I should run into girls more often with my roommate’s dog. I didn’t realize it could be such a pleasant experience.”

“You must not walk her very often then.” Oh my, she was flirting. The Elf boys back home never brought that out of her. She felt her pale skin flush. Och, yes, this was a man, she thought. “Thank you, then. For the pleasant experience. And the untangling.”

“You’re welcome.” Liam said to her, smiling, that one dimple showing again. Then he spoke to the dog. “Come on Sally. Let’s finish your walk, so we can go watch the game.”

Dahlia waved good-bye and turned to go down the street and head for her apartment. But first she had to watch Liam walk away. He fit nicely into his jeans. For a moment, a pang of wistfulness washed through her. She shook her. She had other things to focus on, like completing her toy on time so she could get her Master Elf badge, and even win the Grand Prize.

She was sure she’d be able to make progress on her toy tonight. Maybe it was something about meeting a happy dog and tall brown-eyed man that made her feel hopeful. Yes, she would get her toy done in time.

***

To read the entire first chapter, click HERE
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Love, chaotic magic, and cupcakes. What could possible go wrong?

What if you risked losing your baking legacy by cooking up a love truly special?

Florian MacMillian needs a final job to complete his baking resume—preferably a job where he’s unlikely to blow things up with his unruly magic—before returning to the North Pole and taking his rightful place as Master Baker to all the elves.

Kate Delore desperately needs help in her fast-growing cupcake business in downtown San Francisco.

Florian is a perfect fit, so she brings him on as baker.

For a short time, Florian is happily up to his elbows in batter, and Kate’s business is booming.

But when things heat up between them, Florian wonders if he should risk his legacy to cook up something truly special.

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Chapter One
Monday, December 1, San Francisco

“Help wanted. Must be good with pastry baking, parties + kids. Part-time/Holiday Temporary. Competitive pay. Flexible hours. Apply in person. Bring printed resume. Must love cupcakes.”

Florian jumped off the trolley at the bottom of Market Street and checked the address on his smart phone’s map. He peered around at the busy area, looking for his new possible employment, Kate’s Cupcake Cart. He didn’t see it. He must be off by a few blocks. He hustled back up Market Street, one of San Francisco’s main boulevards.

A cold brisk wind had him turning up his collar, pulling down his cap more over his ears—couldn’t have people spotting them and asking questions—and tightening his scarf. He loved the weather at the city on the bay. Way warmer than New York City where he’d been working up to last week, and way, way warmer than back home at the Pole.

He stood on the busy street corner of the city’s Financial District and swiveled, not just his head, but his whole body. He still didn’t see it. He was about to wave his hand to stir up some magic, maybe bring a magnifying glass in front of him—he never knew exactly what he’d conjure—but then saw as the busy crowd thinned for a moment what he was looking for. A small food stand perched on the corner, kitty corner to where he stood. A big sprinkle-top cupcake jauntily capped the sign that stated in broad flourish font, “Kate’s Cupcake Cart.” At the other end of the sign, a frothy cappuccino angled in nice symmetry. He smiled. His sign-making elf cousins couldn’t have done a better job.

He crossed the street, a bounce in his step, and wiggled his fingers in his pockets. Nerves. This job would work out. Had to. He needed one more stint of unique work experience to round out his resume, emphasis on the unique. Uncle, known as Santa to the rest of the world, expected him to have a diverse and eclectic resume when he returned home to finally ascend to his rightful place as Master Baker for the entire North Pole community. He was young for a Master Baker but ambitious. He still had to prove himself.

He approached the cupcake cart and stood in line, already ten people deep at 9 a.m. He bounced up and down on his toes. A busy boutique business, how fun. What a refreshing change from the bigger business he’d worked in recently. He’d mostly worked in storefronts or pastry kitchens this past year. He was almost done with his year abroad. His family would so delight in his travels. He couldn’t wait to tell them about his confection adventures at the festivities Christmas morning.

Vibrant, hopping San Francisco was his last stop. A nice bonus. There was something special about this sparkling city by the bay. Another bonus: He’d enjoy a taste of a mild winter before returning home.

What better way to end his year abroad than to make cupcakes in a vibrant city for quirky Californians? Now he just needed to wow the proprietor of this cute establishment for the final flourish to his resume.

***

To read the entire first chapter, click HERE

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Books, the perfect Christmas present! 

All the Books in the Touchstone Series

Touchstone of Love (A Time Travel Romance) (Touchstone, #1)
A Christmas Fling (A Christmas Elf Romance) (Touchstone, #2)
Parisian Amour (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Touchstone, #3)
A Labyrinth of Love and Roses (A Fairy Tale Romance) (Touchstone, #4)
A Cupcake Christmas (A Christmas Elf Romance) (Touchstone, #5)

 

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