Tag Archives: Holidays

Author Showcase – Jill Shalvis (Hot Winter Nights)

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas . . .

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~~ Chapter One ~~

(excerpt courtesy of Jill Shalvis’ Website

 

It took Lucas Knight longer than it should have to realize he had a woman in his bed, but to be fair, he had a bitch of a hangover. Even worse than that, last night was a blur, prompting him to take quick stock. One, there was a bundle of sweet, soft curves against him. Two, his head was currently threatening to secede from the United States Of Lucas. And three, his side hurt like … well, like he’d been shot.

It’d been two weeks since he’d gotten caught in some crossfire on the job and he hadn’t yet been cleared for more than light duty – something he’d obviously managed to ignore last night given that he was palming a nice, warm, feminine ass.

Think, man.

Straining his brain, he remembered taking a pain med before going to O’Riley’s Pub to meet up with some friends. A client had been there, someone he’d recently helped save from a multi-million dollar corporate espionage. The guy had ordered shots to toast to Lucas and … shit. Knowing better than to mix pain meds and alcohol, he’d hesitated, but everyone had been waiting on him, glasses hoisted in the air. Thinking just one shot couldn’t hurt anything, he’d knocked back the drink.

Clearly, he’d been wrong and it’d been enough to mess him up big time, something he hadn’t been in years, not since his brother Josh had been killed. Shoving that away for another time – or never — Lucas cracked open one eye, but when his retina was stabbed by a streak of sunlight glaring in through the window, he immediately slammed it shut it again. Taking a deep breath, he told himself to suck it up and opened both eyes this time, learning two additional facts.

He was naked and completely uncovered.

And the woman snugged up at his side was rolled up in his comforter like a burrito.

What. The. Hell.

A few more images slowly began to filter into his brain. Kicking ass at the pool table and winning two hundred bucks from his boss Archer, who ran Hunt Investigations where Lucas worked as a security specialist.

Dancing with a sexy brunette…

And then making his way upstairs, but not alone.

His head was pounding too hard to remember anything more, but clearly the brunette had not only come up, but stayed. She was cuddled up too close to see her face, especially with the way she had the entire blanket wrapped around herself. The only thing visible was a mass of shiny brown waves peeking out the top.

Holding his breath, Lucas slowly pulled away until he could slide off his bed.

The brunette’s hair never so much as quivered.

Letting out a relieved breath, he shoved on the clothes he’d so thoughtfully left for himself on the floor – seriously, he was never taking another pain pill or drinking alcohol again – and headed for the door.

But unable to do it, unable to be the guy who just walked out, he stopped and detoured to his kitchen to make her a coffee. Leaving her caffeine was a nice gesture, right? Right, but … shit. He was out of coffee. Not surprisingly since he usually grabbed his from work because Molly, who ran the office at Hunt Investigations, made world-class coffee. And since one of the benefits of living on the fourth floor of the Pacific Pier Building and working on the second floor meant convenience, he texted the coffee master himself:

 

Any chance you’d send up a cup of coffee via the dumbwaiter?

 

A few seconds later, from his bedroom came a cellphone buzzing with an unfamiliar tone and he froze. If his plan was to leave before the awkward morning after – and that was always the plan — he was on borrowed time.

Since nothing came back to him from Molly, he moved onto Plan B and scrawled out a quick note: Sorry, had to get to work, take your time.

Then he hesitated. Did she even know his name? Having no idea, he added: I’m leaving cash for an Uber or Lyft – Lucas.

He dropped some money next to the note and grimaced at himself for still being a complete asshole. He stared down at his phone.

Still nothing from Molly, which meant she wasn’t going to save the day. She was smart, sharp, and amazing at her job, but for reasons unknown, she wasn’t exactly interested in pleasing anyone, especially him. Locking up, he left his apartment.

The Pacific Pier building was over a century old and sat in the center of the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco. It was five stories of corbeled brick, exposed iron trusses, and big windows built around a legendary fountain. Retail and businesses took up the ground and second floors, with residential on the third and fourth. The fifth floor penthouse belonged to his friend Spence Baldwin, who owned the building.

All of it was currently decorated for the holidays like it was about to star in a Hallmark movie.

Lucas jogged down two flights of stairs to Hunt Investigations, fully prepared to be blasted by Molly at her front desk. Not just for his text, but for his appearance at all. Off duty since the shooting, he wasn’t supposed to be back at work until next week, and that was if his doctor cleared him. But Lucas couldn’t stay home another day, a fact that didn’t have anything to do with the stranger in his bed.

Or at least not all due to the stranger in his bed.

He scrubbed a hand over his unshaved jaw, feeling incredibly tense, which for a guy who’d apparently gotten laid last night, didn’t make much sense.

Nor did the fact that sitting on a bench outside of Hunt Investigations front door were two old ladies dressed up as elves. Knitting elves.

The one on the left looked to be making a Christmas stocking. The one on the right was working on something too small to see. They smiled at him in greeting, lips coated in bright red lipstick. Left elf had a smudge of it on her teeth and her little elf cap seemed to quiver on top of her white hair.

Right Elf pulled out her phone. “I just got a text from Louise,” she told Left Elf. “It says, ‘Don’t be late for work tonight, Santa’s turned into Grinch. SMH.’” She blinked. “What does S-M-H mean?”

“Shaking my head,” Left Elf said.

“Oh thank goodness,” Right Elf said, putting a hand to her heart. “I thought it meant Sex Might Help.”

They both cackled over that before they saw Lucas.

“Hello there, young man,” Left Elf said. “We were hoping you were Molly. We’ve got a problem involving a bad Santa and she said to meet her here.”

“A bad Santa,” Lucas repeated, starting to wonder if maybe he was still in bed dreaming this day.

“Yes, we work for him. Obviously,” Right Elf said, gesturing to herself.

“You’re … Santa’s elves,” he said slowly. “And you work for him at … the North Pole?”

“Right.” Left Elf snorted. “We work right here in the city like you, at the Christmas Village in Soma, in too tight of costumes for too little money. Honey, didn’t your mama ever tell you Santa isn’t real?”

Okay, so they didn’t believe they were real elves. That was a relief. Lucas had a great uncle who sometimes thought he was Batman, but that was only on the nights he drank away his social security checks with his cronies.

“Santa promised us half of the profits,” Right Elf said. “To go to the charities of our choice. Last year we made enough to give big and hit up Vegas for a long weekend.”

Left Elf nodded with a smile. “I’ve still got Elvis’s underwear from that big impersonator party we were invited to, remember, Liz?”

Liz nodded. “But this year, we’re not getting anything. Santa says there aren’t any profits, that he’s barely breaking even. But that can’t be true because he just bought himself a brand new Cadillac. Molly’s my neighbor, you see.”

Lucas didn’t see at all. He was good at certain things, such as at his job of investigating and seeking out the asshats of the world and righting justice. He was good at taking care of his close-knit family. He was good, when he wanted to be, in the kitchen. And – if he said so himself – also in bed.

But he was not good in social situations, such as those that required small talk, especially with old ladies dressed up as elves. “This really isn’t the sort of case that Hunt Investigations takes on,” he said.

“But Molly said you’re an elite security and investigative firm that employs finders and fixers for hire, whoever needs them.”

Not strictly true. A lot of the jobs they took on were routine; criminal, corporate and insurance investigations along with elite security contracts, surveillance, fraud, and corporate background checks. But some weren’t routine at all, such as forensic investigations, the occasional big bond bounty hunting, government contract work…

Nailing a bad Santa wasn’t on the list.

“Do you know when Molly might arrive?” Left Elf asked. She was looking at him even as her knitting needles continued to move at the speed of light. “We’ll just wait for her.”

“I don’t know her schedule,” Lucas said. And that was the truth. Hunt Investigations was run by the biggest, badass he’d ever met. Archer Hunt, and he employed a team that was the best of the best. Lucas was honored to be a part of that team. All of them, himself included, would step in front of a bullet for each other, and had.

Literally, in his case.

The lone woman in their midst was Molly Malone, equally fearless, though in other ways. She was the one to keep them all on their toes. No one would dare venture into her domain at her desk and put their hands on her stuff to check her schedule, but he could at least ask around. “I’ll go check her ETA,” he said and headed inside.

He found Archer and Joe in the employee room inhaling donuts. Grabbing one for himself, he nodded to Archer and looked at Joe, one of Lucas’s best friends and also his work partner. “Where’s your sister?”

Joe shrugged and went for another donut. “Not her keeper. Why?”

“There’re two elves outside waiting to talk to her.”

“Still?” Archer shook his head. “I told them we wouldn’t take their case.” He headed out front. Lucas followed because if his social niceties game was stale, Archer had zero social niceties game.

“Ladies,” Archer said to the elves. “As I explained earlier, your case isn’t the kind of case we take on.”

“Oh we heard you,” Left Elf said. “We’re just waiting for Molly. She promised to help us personally if you wouldn’t.”  

Archer looked pained. “Molly doesn’t take on cases here. She’s office staff.”

The two elves looked at each other and then tucked away their knitting. “Fine,” Left Elf said. “We’ll just go straight to her at home then.”

Archer waited until they’d gotten on the elevator before turning Lucas. “Why are you here?”

“Gee, good to see you too, bossman.”

“Let me rephrase,” Archer said. “How’s your side? You know, where you have a GSW?”

“It’s no longer a gunshot wound, it’s practically just a scratch now. I’m good enough to get back to work.”

“Uh huh.” Archer looked unimpressed. And … still pissed.  Lucas had been hoping that he’d gotten himself out of the dog house by now, but apparently not.

“I didn’t get a report from your doctor clearing you,” Archer said.

Lucas squelched a grimace. His doctor had told him – repeatedly – at least one more week. But he’d be dead of boredom by another week. “We’re having a minor difference in opinion.”

“Shit.” Archer swiped a hand down his face. “You know I can’t put you back on the job until he clears you.”

“If I stay home another day, I’ll lose my shit.”

“It’s only been two weeks since you were shot and nearly bled out before we got you to the hospital,” Archer said. “Way too close of a call.”

“Practically ancient history.”

Archer shook his head. “Not even close. And I told you to abort. Instead, you sent the team out to safety and then you alone hauled ass deeper into the yacht, knowing it was on fire thanks to our asshole perps trying to sink it for the insurance pay out.”

“I went deeper because there was still someone on board,” Lucas reminded him. “Their lead suspect’s teenage kid. He’d been holed up and had fallen asleep watching TV. He would’ve died if I’d left him.”

“And instead you almost did.”

Lucas blew out a breath. They’d had this argument in the hospital. They’d had it twice since. He didn’t want to have it again. Especially since he wasn’t sorry he’d disobeyed a direct order. “We saved an innocent. You’d have done the same damn thing. So would any of us.”

Archer looked over at Joe, who’d been silent through this entire exchange.

Joe lifted a shoulder, an admission that yeah, he might’ve done the same thing. And so would Archer, and Lucas damn well knew it.

“Shit,” Archer finally said. “Fine. I’ll unground you, but only for light duty until I hear from your doctor personally that you’re one hundred.”

Lucas didn’t dare smile or pump a fist in triumph. “Deal.”

Archer went from looking pissy to mildly amused. “You don’t know what light duty I’m going to make you do yet.”

“Anything would be better than staying at home,” he said fervently.

“Glad to hear you say that.” Archer jabbed a thumb at the door. “Molly’s going to want to take those elves seriously. She’s been asking to take on a case for months now, but our cases have all been too risky.”

Lucas rubbed his side. Wasn’t that the damn truth. “And?”

“And your ‘light duty’ job is to make sure she turns those elves down,” Archer said. “She’s not ready yet.”

Joe nodded his agreement on that and Lucas let out a mirthless laugh. He understood why Molly’s boss might tell her not to take on a case, but her brother should know better. “Hello, you’ve met her, right?” Lucas asked them. “No one tells Molly what to do.”

“Improvise,” Archer said, unmoved. “And keep in mind, you’re still in hot water with me. So be careful.” He looked at Joe. “Give us a minute.”

Joe looked at Lucas and left the room.

“You’ve got something else to say?” Lucas asked Archer.

“Yeah. Don’t screw this up. And don’t sleep with her either.”

Granted, Lucas had never been all that discriminating when it came to the fairer sex, but this was Molly they were talking about. She was the baby sister of his friend and coworker, which meant she was noton his radar. At least not during the day.

The nights were something else altogether because there’d been more than a few times where she’d starred in his fantasies – his own deep dark secret since he liked breathing. “I wouldn’t sleep with her.”

Archer looked behind him to make sure Joe had left. “Elle and I saw you at the pub last night, flirting with her.”

This had Lucas’s full attention. “What?”

“Yeah, and what the hell were you thinking? You were lucky Joe was late.”

He’d flirted with Molly? Was he crazy? He’d long ago learned to ignore the undercurrent of electricity between them because he had zero interest in mixing business and pleasure, and even less interest in hurting her.

And he would eventually hurt her.

Not to mention what Joe would do to him after he did. And if Joe failed in this new mission, Archer would happily finish him off, and they’d both have every right. But Lucas wouldn’t go there, ever. His job had come between him and The One a few times now, so he’d shifted his priorities. He still loved women, just not one woman — and he was good with that and who he was.

Except … sometimes, like two weeks ago when he’d almost died on the job and had been forced off duty, he knew he was fooling himself. He’d been left feeling far more alone than he liked to admit. He looked at guys like Archer and Joe, both who’d managed to make love work for them just fine, and he wondered what the hell he was doing wrong.

Drawing a deep breath, he thought of the woman in his bed two flights up. Maybe for starters, he should try to remember the name of the women he’d just slept with. “Trust me,” he said. “Nothing happened with Molly last night”

“Uh huh.”

“No, really. Apparently, I was preoccupied with someone else.”

Archer went brows up. “The new brunette at the bar?” He then clapped Lucas on the shoulder. “Glad to hear you’re not going to have to die today.”

“Yeah, well, when Molly finds out you’ve put me on babysitting duty, she’s going to kill us both.”

“That’s why she’s not going to find out.”

Lucas stared at Archer, a very bad feeling coming over him. “I’m supposed to keep it from her?”

“Now you’re getting it.”

Lucas didn’t know much about Molly’s past other than something bad happened to her a long time ago and she still had a limp from whatever it’d been. Joe had kept a tight lid on his and Molly’s rough childhood. Both brother and sister had some serious trust issues. He shook his head glumly. “This is worse than monitor duty.”

“Is it worse than dying?” Archer asked mildly.

Shit. Lucas went back upstairs. He needed a shower, fresh clothes, and a clear head before he faced Molly, as well as a good story because apparently he couldn’t tell her the truth. He hoped to hell that a long hot shower would clear his brain enough to come up with something believable, because something else Molly was – sharp as they came. He stalked through his bedroom, hit the switch on the wall and froze.

The brunette was still in his bed.

At the bright light flooding the room, she gasped and sat straight up, clutching the sheet to her chin, her hair a wild cloud around her face.

And not a stranger’s face either.

Molly’s face.

Molly was in his bed and his first thought was oh shit. His second thought tumbled right on the heels of that — he was going to die today after all, slowly and painfully.

 

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New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit http://www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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Author Showcase – Jessica Lemmon (Dallas Billionaires Club series)

 

 

 

(courtesy of Jessica Lemmon’s Website)

Standing before the mayor, was it any wonder the man had earned the hearts of the majority of Dallas’s female voters? Chase Ferguson was tall, his dark hair pushed this way and that as if it couldn’t be tamed, but the angle of his clean-shaven jaw and the lines on his dark suit showed control where it counted.

“Ms. Brand.” Hazel eyes lowered to a respectable survey of her person before Chase offered a hand. She shook it and he released her to signal to a nearby waiter. “Stefanie is around here somewhere,” he said of his younger sister. He leaned in. “And thanks to you, on her best behavior.”

The mayor straightened as a waiter approached with a tray of champagne.

“Drink?” Chase’s Texas accent had all but vanished beneath a perfected veneer, but Pen could hear the slightest drawl when he lowered his voice. “You’ll get to meet my brother tonight.”

She was embarrassed she didn’t know a thing about another Ferguson sibling. She’d only been in Texas for a year, and between juggling her new business, moving into her apartment and handling crises for the Dallas elite, she hadn’t climbed the Ferguson family tree any higher than Chase and Stefanie.

“Perfect timing,” Chase said, his eyes going over her shoulder to welcome a new arrival.

“Hey, hey, big brother.”

Now that. That was a drawl.

The back of her neck prickled. She recognized the voice instantly. It sent warmth pooling in her belly and lower. It stood her nipples on end. The Texas accent over her shoulder was a tad thicker than Chase’s, but not as lazy as it’d been two weeks ago. Not like it was when she’d invited him home and he’d leaned close, his lips brushing the shell of her ear.

Lead the way, gorgeous.

Squaring her shoulders, Pen prayed Zach had the shortest memory ever, and turned to make his acquaintance.

Correction: Re-acquaintance.

She was floored by broad shoulders outlined by a sharp black tux, longish dark blond hair smoothed away from his handsome face and the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. Zach had been gorgeous the first time she’d laid eyes on him, but his current look suited the air of control and power swirling around him.

A primal, hidden part of her wanted to lean into his solid form and rest in his capable, strong arms again. As tempting as reaching out to him was, she wouldn’t. She’d had her night with him. She was in the process of assembling a solid bedrock for her fragile, rebuilt business and she refused to let her world fall apart because of a sexy man with a dimple.

A dimple that was notably missing since he was gaping at her with shock. His poker face needed work.

“I’ll be damned,” Zach muttered. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“That makes two of us,” Pen said, and then she polished off half her champagne in one long drink.

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As the snow falls, her touch sets him aflame…

“I don’t want you to leave.”

Texas billionaire Chase Ferguson has one regret: leaving Miriam Andrix to protect her from his public life. When a snowstorm strands her in his mountain mansion, their passion reignites, and it’s too hot to resist! But reality—and scandal—arrives with the thaw. Chase turned his back on happiness once. Will he fight for what he truly wants this time?

 

 

(courtesy of Jessica Lemmon’s Website)

At the entrance of Whole Foods, the automated doors swished aside and the fragrant scent of mulled cider wafted out. She lifted her head and closed her eyes to inhale her most favorite scent—autumn—when a competing smell mingled with the cider.

Sandalwood. Pine. A touch of leather… And eerily familiar. As was the voice that crashed into her like a runaway shopping cart.

“Mimi?”

She snapped her head up and her gaze collided with a man taller than her by several inches, his devastatingly handsome face broken up by the frown on his forehead and additional lines at the corners of his gray-green eyes. His jaw sported a barely-there five o’clock shadow, and his hair was in the same disarray she remembered from ten years ago—the one crooked part of Chase Ferguson that couldn’t be tamed.

“Chase. Hi.” She blinked again at the man in front of her, having the half-crazed thought that she’d summoned him with her mind. A week ago she’d received a photo of herself in an envelope she’d had to sign for. Along with the photo was a letter from the mayor of Dallas’s office—Chase’s office—that was signed by a woman’s hand. Miriam had read the two neatly typed paragraphs and tossed the letter into the trash. There was no action step for her, merely a “making you aware” note that she might be mentioned in Mayor Chase Ferguson’s upcoming campaign and “may be called upon in the future” for her cooperation.

But throwing the letter into the wastebasket hadn’t removed the memories of Chase from her head. For a solid week, she’d reflected on the summer they’d spent together, fumed anew at the senseless way he’d cast her aside and played out a few scenarios wherein she’d enjoy humiliating his mother—whom Miriam blamed in part for Chase breaking things off.

“I didn’t expect to run into you while I was here,” the man from her past was saying. It was the same deep, silken voice she remembered, but his Texas drawl was diminished, no doubt due to rigorous training from a speech coach.

“That’s my line,” she said with a flat smile, stepping aside to allow a woman pushing a stroller to go in ahead of her.

Chase palmed Miriam’s arm and physically moved her to the side of the automated door, and if she was still twenty-three and over-the-moon crazy about him, she might have said that his hand was warm and brought back memories of the summer they spent with each other, most of those days wearing as little clothing as was legal. Sometimes less.

“Yes, I suppose that would be your line.” His smile hitched at one corner and dropped like it’d never been there. He adjusted the paper grocery bag in the crook of his arm.

“What are you doing in Montana?” She had to ask. Because seriously—what?…

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A Christmas Proposition will be available Dec 01, 2018.
 
“I need to get married…

And the only one who can help me is you.”

Trading one scandal for another, Stefanie Ferguson must marry to save her brother’s political career. Luckily, her brother’s best friend wants to help. But until this moment, Emmett Keaton has been off-limits. Now their convenient vows on Christmas Day unleash a passion too long denied. Will this marriage for scandal become a marriage for real?

 
 
 
 
 
Jessica is a contemporary romance author, artist, dreamer, wife, and den mother to a rescue dog. To keep up with the latest news and book releases visit www.jessicalemmon.com.

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Happy Holidays

2017 sure has a busy, eventful year. We started the beginning of it spending WAY TOO MUCH time in hospitals. Those moments, living in limbo, sure do make you cherish the time your loved ones are healthy. I’m thankful, that today, all my family members are at home to share this holiday season with me. I hope you all can say the same. No matter where you’re at, no matter what holiday you celebrate this month (if any), enjoy your day. Enjoy life

 

And see ya in …….

 

 

**new posts arriving in January**

 

🎄 KAM 🎄

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Author Showcase – Jessica Lemmon (A Crane Family Christmas)

(Billionaire Bad Boys Book 4) 

Gather ‘round the Christmas tree with your favorite Cranes…

Eli and Isabella Crane are hosting a very special Christmas gathering this year. Join Reese and Merina, Tag and Rachel, and even Alex “Big” and Rhona for a magical evening filled with love, laughter, and a few surprises that aren’t wrapped in ribbon…

This short story serves as an epilogue to the Billionaire Bad Boys series. If you haven’t read the series yet, you may encounter spoilers!

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Excerpt courtesy of Jessica’s Website

 

Chapter One

Elijah Crane          

“Well, I didn’t know I’d be hosting this year, maybe that’s why I’m crabby.” Eli fussed with his bowtie before grousing at his wife’s reflection behind him in the bathroom mirror. Isa wore the usual bemused expression on a face so beautiful it still hurt a little to look at her. It hurt because of how close his bumbling had come to losing her.

Thank God she was as stubborn as he was.

“You’re crabby every day. It’s what I love about you.” She dragged her fingernails over his crisp, white shirt and smiled. She wore a slinky, sequined black gown that accentuated her voluptuous figure and made his mouth water. Her beauty had always contrasted his “beast” nicely.

“How much time do we have?” His eyes feasted on the low V-neck, danced around her luscious hips and jerked back to whiskey-colored eyes he couldn’t get enough of.

“Don’t even think about it. Your family is due to arrive any minute.”

“Why are we dressed like this if everyone is coming here?” His warehouse was more rustic and comfortable than formal. His frown returned, but only so that his wife would tut at his tone.

“You know why.”

He’d been the last to know—or at least he felt like it.

“Tag ruins everything.” He turned to face her, but some of the bite went out of his tone when his hands found her supple hips. Fingers digging into the dress’s material, he growled, “I’d like to take you out of this dress.”

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Other Books in the Series

The Billionaire Bachelor

The Billionaire Next Door

The Billionaire Bastard

 

A former job-hopper, Jessica Lemmon resides in Ohio with her husband and rescue dog. She holds a degree in graphic design currently gathering dust in an impressive frame. When she’s not writing super-sexy heroes, she can be found cooking, drawing, drinking coffee (okay, wine), and eating potato chips. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want. 

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Author Showcase – Maisey Yates (Christmastime Cowboy)

 

It’s Christmas in Copper Ridge, and love is waiting to be unwrapped… 

Falling for a bad boy once is forgivable. Twice would just be foolish. When Sabrina Leighton first offered her teenage innocence to gorgeous, tattooed Liam Donnelly, he humiliated her, then left town. The hurt still lingers. But so does that crazy spark. And if they have to work together to set up her family winery’s new tasting room by Christmas, why not work him out of her system with a sizzling affair?

Thirteen years ago, Liam’s boss at the winery offered him a bribe—leave his teenage daughter alone and get a full ride at college. Convinced he wasn’t good enough for Sabrina, Liam took it. Now he’s back, as wealthy as sin and with a heart as cold as the Oregon snow. Or so he keeps telling himself. Because the girl he vowed to stay away from has become the only woman he needs, and this Christmas could be just the beginning of a lifetime together…

 

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Excerpt courtesy of Maisey Yates’ website

 

Liam Donnelly was nobody’s favorite.

Though being a favorite in their household growing up would never have meant much, Liam was confident that as much as both of his parents disdained their younger son, Alex, they hated Liam more.

As much as his brothers loved him—or, whatever you wanted to call their brand of affection—Liam knew he wasn’t the one they’d carry out if there was a house fire. That was fine too.

It wasn’t self-pity. It was just a fact.

But while he wasn’t anyone’s particular favorite, he knew he was at least one person’s least favorite.

Sabrina Leighton hated him with every ounce of her beautiful, petite body. Not that he blamed her. But, considering they were having a business meeting today, he did hope that she could keep some of the hatred bottled up.

Liam got out of his truck and put his cowboy hat on, surveying his surroundings. The Grassroots winery spread was beautiful, with a large, picturesque home overlooking the grounds. The winery and the road leading up to it were carved into a mountainside. Trees and forest surrounded the facility on three sides, creating a secluded feeling. Like the winery was part of another world. In front of the first renovated barn was a sprawling lawn and a path that led down to the river. There was a seating area there and Liam knew that during the warmer months it was a nice place to hang out. Right now, it was too damned cold, and the damp air that blew up from the rushing water sent a chill straight through him.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and kept on walking. There were three rustic barns on the property that they used for weddings and dinners, and one that had been fully remodeled into a dining and tasting room.

He had seen the new additions online. He hadn’t actually been to Grassroots in the past thirteen years. That was part of the deal. The deal that had been struck back when Jamison Leighton was still owner of the place.

Back when Liam had been nothing more than a good-for-nothing, low-class troublemaker with a couple of misdemeanors to his credit.

Times changed.

Liam might still be all of those things at heart, but he was also a successful businessman. And Jamison Leighton no longer owned Grassroots Winery.

Some things, however, hadn’t changed. The presence of Sabrina Leighton being one of them.

It had been thirteen years. But he couldn’t pretend that he thought everything was all right and forgiven. Not considering the way she had reacted when she had seen him at Ace’s bar the past few months. Small towns.

Like everybody was at the same party and could only avoid each other for so long.

If it wasn’t at the bar, they would most certainly end up at a four-way stop at the same time, or in the same aisle at the grocery store.

But today’s meeting would not be accidental. Today’s meeting was planned. He wondered if something would get thrown at him. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

He walked across the gravel lot and into the dining room. It was empty, since the facility had yet to open for the day.

rustic barn with a wooden chandelier hanging in the center. There was a bar with stools positioned at the front, and tables set up around the room. Back when he had worked here there had been one basic tasting room, and nowhere for anyone to sit. Most of the wine had been sent out to retail stores for sale, rather than making the winery itself some kind of destination.

He wondered when all of that had changed. He imagined it had something to do with Lindy, the new owner and ex-wife of Jamison Leighton’s son, Damien. As far as Liam knew, and he knew enough—considering he didn’t get involved with business ventures without figuring out what he was getting into—Damien had drafted the world’s dumbest prenuptial agreement. At least, it was dumb for a man who clearly had problems keeping it in his pants.

Though why Sabrina was still working at the winery when her sister-in-law had current ownership, and her brother had been deposed, and her parents were—from what he had read in public records—apoplectic about the loss of their family legacy, he didn’t know. But he assumed he would find out. About the same time he found out whether or not something was going to get thrown at his head.

The door from the back opened, and he gritted his teeth. Because, no matter how prepared he felt philosophically to see Sabrina, he knew that there would be impact. There always was. A damned funny thing, that one woman could live in the back of his mind the way that she had for so long. That no matter how many years, or how many women he put between them, she still burned bright and hot in his memory.

That no matter how he had prepared himself to run into her—because he knew how small towns worked—the impact was like a brick to the side of his head every single time.

And no matter that this meeting was carefully orchestrated and planned, he knew it was going to be the same.

And it was.

She appeared a moment after the door opened, looking severe. Overly so. Her blond hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, and she was wearing a black sheath dress that went down past her knee, but conformed to curves that were more generous than they’d been thirteen years ago.

In a good way.

“Hello, Liam,” she said, her tone impersonal. Had she not used his first name, it might have been easy to pretend that she didn’t know who he was.

“Sabrina.” The word came out neutrally enough, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that he could taste it. Like honey on his lips. Sweet. Enticing.

Something he hadn’t tasted in far too long.

Sabrina didn’t seem to feel the moment at all. Her expression remained cool. Her lips set in a flat line, her blue eyes looking through him.

“Lindy told me that you wanted to talk about a potential joint venture. And since that falls under my jurisdiction as manager of the tasting room, she thought we might want to work together.”

She finally smiled.

The smile was so brittle it looked like it might crack her face.

“Yes, I am familiar with the details. Particularly since this venture was my idea.” He let a small silence hang there for a beat before continuing. “I’m looking at an empty building at the end of Main Street in Copper Ridge. I think it would be a great opportunity for both The Laughing Irish and for Grassroots. A tasting room that’s more easily accessible to the tourists who come to Copper Ridge.”

“How would it differ from Lane Donnelly’s store? She sells specialty foods.”

“Well, we would focus on Grassroots Wine and Laughing Irish cheese. Also, I would happily purchase products from Lane’s to give the menu a local focus. It would be nothing big. Just a small lunch place with wine. Very limited selection. Very specialty. But in a town like Copper Ridge, that works well. People want wander the historic main street and shop in boutiques.  A place that offers the change to sit and have a short break is perfect.”

“Great,” she said, her smile remaining completely immobile.

He took that moment to examine her even more closely.  She was more beautiful now than she had been at seventeen. Her slightly round, soft face had refined in the ensuing years, her cheekbones now more prominent, the angle of her chin sharper.

Her eyebrows looked different too. When she’d been a teenager they had been thinner, rounder. Now they were stronger, more angular.

“Great,” he returned. “I guess we can go down and have a look at everything sometime this week. Gage West is the owner of the property, and he hasn’t listed it yet. Handily, my sister-in-law is good friends with his wife. Both of my sisters-in-law, actually. So I’ve got the inside track on that.”

Her expression turned bland. “How impressive.”

She sounded absolutely unimpressed. “It wasn’t intended to be impressive. Just useful.”

Her lips twitched, like she was holding back a smile. But not a particularly nice smile. “Well, aim for what you can achieve I suppose.”

“I didn’t say I couldn’t be impressive if I had the mind to be,” he said, unwilling to let that dig go.

Her lips twitched again, bit this time he sensed a lot more irritation than he had before. “That won’t be necessary.” She cleared her throat. “Lindy and I had discussed a shopfront in Gold Valley, since it’s slightly closer to the winery, and at the moment retail space is cheaper there. Why are you thinking Copper Ridge? Aside from the fact that it’s closer to your ranch.”

. It’s definitely on its way, but it’s not there yet.”

“But it’s on its way like you said. Property values are only going to go up.”

“Property values in Copper Ridge already have. And oceanside real estate isn’t going to get cheaper. At the price Gage is willing to sell for we’ll come in with equity.”

She looked irritated, but clearly didn’t have another argument ready. She sighed slowly. “Did you have a day of the week in mind to go view the property? Because I really am very busy.”

“Are you?”

“Yes,” she responded, that smile spreading over her face again. “This is a very demanding job, plus, I do have a life.”

She stopped short of saying exactly what that life entailed.

“Too busy to work on this project, which is part of your actual job?” he asked.

She looked calm, but he could sense a dark energy beneath the surface that spoke of a need to savage him. “I had my schedule sorted out for the next couple of weeks. This is coming together more quickly than expected.”

“I’ll work something out with Gage and give Lindy a call, how about that?”

“You don’t have to call Lindy. I’ll give you my phone number. You can call or text me directly.”

She reached over to the counter and chose a card from the rustic surface, extending her hand toward him. He took the card, their fingertips brushing each other as they made the handoff.

And he felt it. Straight down to his groin, where he had always felt things for her, even though it was impossible. Even though he was all wrong for her. And even though now they were doing a business deal together, and she looked like she would cheerfully chew through his flesh if given half the chance.

She might be smiling. But he didn’t trust that smile. He was still waiting. Waiting for her to shout recriminations at him now that they were alone. Every other time he had encountered her over the past four months it had been in public. Twice in Ace’s bar, and once walking down the street, where she had made a very quick sharp left to avoid walking past him.

It had not been subtle, and it had certainly not spoken of somebody who was over the past.

So, his assumption had been that if the two of them were ever alone she was going to let them have it. But she didn’t. Instead, she gave him that card, and then began to look…bored.

“Did you need anything else?” she asked, still looking determinedly cheerful.

“Not really. Though I have some spreadsheet information that you might want to look over. Ideas that I have for the layout, the menu. It is getting a little ahead of ourselves, in case we end up not liking the venue.”

“You’ve been to look at the venue already, haven’t you?” It was vaguely accusatory.

“I have been to the venue, yes. But again, I believe in preparedness. I was hardly going to get very deep into this if I didn’t think it was viable. Personally, I’m interested in making sure that we have diverse interests. The economy doesn’t typically favor farms, Sabrina. And that is essentially what my brothers and I have. I expect an uphill fight to make the ranch successful.”

She tilted her head to the side. “And yet, our winery is well-established and very healthy.”

“But Lindy wants to expand, I’m not incorrect about that. She was very interested in this proposition, and not only that, she’s started hosting weddings and farm-to-table dinners, right?”

“You know you’re right,” she said. “Like you said, you do your research.”

Her friendliness was beginning to slip. And he waited. For something else. For something to get thrown at him. It didn’t happen.

“That I do. Take these,” he said, handing her the folder that he was holding on to. He made sure their fingers didn’t touch this time. “And we’ll talk next week.”

Then he turned and walked away from her, and  resisted the strong impulse to turn back and get one more glance at her. It wasn’t the first time he had resisted that.

 

Kindle Purchase Link (US)

Print Purchase Link (US)

UK – Amazon Link

 

 

Also In this Series:

APRIL 18, 2017
(Lane’s Book: link)

 

JUNE 27, 2017
(Alison’s Book: link)

 

AUGUST 29, 2017
(Alex’s Book: link)

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