Tag Archives: Holidays

Author Showcase – Susan R. Hughes (Romance Novella: Halloween Kisses – An Office Love Story)

One kiss can change everything. Dulcie has had a secret crush on her co-worker Rowan for ages, but she’s too shy to let him know, and preoccupied with raising her rebellious teenage sister. When she bumps into him in the darkness of a haunted barn, she can’t resist stealing just one kiss.

That kiss enchants Rowan. If only he could figure out the identity of the woman whose kiss haunts him. While running from a troubled past, he may find that the woman he least suspects could lead him out of the dark forever.

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Chapter One courtesy of Susan R. Hughes’ Website

 

Two weeks before Halloween

The first kiss happened in the dark. It couldn’t have happened otherwise. Though Dulcie had longed to kiss Rowan for ages, ever since he first ambled by her cubicle at the office and tossed her one of his affable smiles, she wouldn’t have dared to let him know. How could she? Rowan Pearce was beautiful. Self-assured. Magnetic. Everything Dulcie Brooks wasn’t.

Of course she hadn’t planned the kiss. Kisses were the furthest thing from her mind as she strode toward the haunted barn at Sumner’s Farm. The ramshackle building stood on a small rise overlooking the farm’s expansive cornfields on one side and forest on the other. Above the craggy black outline of the treetops, a half-moon gleamed against a swath of inky sky.

Stepping around the slanted, weathered-looking gravestones that flanked the path leading to the barn’s entrance, Dulcie merged with the lineup of visitors waiting for the dour Frankenstein’s monster guarding the door to usher them inside. Red lights glowed in windows laced with cobwebs, where shadowy faces peered out and ominous moans and creaks emanated from within the wood-plank walls. Cheesy as heck, but just creepy enough to rouse goose bumps on her arms.

When a pair of hands gripped her shoulders from behind, Dulcie jerked and let out a startled squeak.

The hands pawed her hair. “Brains! I must find brains to eat. Where can I find brains?”

She spun to face her coworker, Nora, who flashed a wicked grin.

Dulcie folded her arms over her chest. “So very droll.”

“Scared?” Nora waggled menacing eyebrows. In the evening dark, the shadows crossing her face deepened the hollows of her eyes, lending her normally elfin features a ghoulish aspect.

“Only afraid that you’ll flay the skin off my arms like you did on that haunted hayride.” Dulcie plucked a sprig of straw from Nora’s pale blond curls. Huddled in the tractor-drawn wagon that had brought them to the barn, Nora had screamed like a six-year-old as zombies and masked men with chainsaws emerged from the woods and shambled behind in chase. Dulcie could still feel the fingernail gouges in the delicate flesh above her elbow.

Nora laughed. “This place is a blast. Why didn’t you bring your sister?”

Dulcie rubbed her hands along the sleeves of her cardigan, where the October chill seeped through to her skin. “Allie didn’t want to come and hang out with my stuffy old coworkers at some lame team-building thing.”

“Stuffy? Well, she may have a point. We’re not exactly the most with-it crowd–evidenced by the fact that the only term I can come up with is ‘with-it’.”

Dulcie slid off her glasses and used the edge of her cardigan to wipe a fine coating of dust from the lenses. “She had plans to go out with some friends tonight. Lord knows where, or what shady business they’re up to.”

The lineup inched forward, and Dulcie glanced at her coworkers, a mixture of staff from several departments at the head office of River’s Edge Adventure Gear. Alan McCarthy, the company’s vice president who had arranged the outing, waited at the front of the line.

Directly behind Alan, she spotted Rowan, his hands resting casually in the pockets of his fleece jacket while he chatted with copywriter Andy Newman. Normally she tried not to let her gaze linger on Rowan for too long, but she couldn’t resist the occasional glimpse at the strong lines of his profile and soft sweep of his blond hair.

Glancing away, she gave herself a silent scolding. At twenty-six, she was far too old to be caught in the throes of a secret crush. Especially when she’d barely spoken to the man in question in the nine months they’d worked two floors apart in the same building.

“My kids wouldn’t come, either,” Nora commiserated. “It’s for the best that they aren’t here to witness my embarrassing cowardice. It might scar them for life.”

Dulcie glanced back at her. “At least they’re at home with your husband, not roving the streets with their hoodlum friends.”

One edge of Nora’s mouth lifted. “You sound like a mom.”

“I’m the closest thing to a mom that Allie has right now. Someone has to worry about her.”

Nora’s hands settled on Dulcie’s shoulders again, but with a reassuring squeeze this time. “She’s seventeen. Rebellion is natural at that age. And, as her guardian, you have the pleasure of reining in that rebellion. But don’t fret so much. This isn’t big bad Toronto, it’s Donnington, Ontario’s most innocuous city. There’s nothing scarier here than this ridiculous haunted barn.”

“The shambling, grungy-haired, tobacco-reeking boy she hangs out with scares me more than anything lurking about here.” Dulcie heaved a sigh. “At her age, I was home every evening, usually studying or curled up in front of the TV. No parties or boyfriends. I never gave our mother a moment’s anxiety.”

“You don’t say,” Nora replied dryly.

Dulcie shot her a withering glance.

“It’s just that you’re a cautious, by-the-book sort of person. In a good way. Everyone appreciates how reliable you are.”

Boring and predictable, you mean. Dulcie opened her mouth to offer a rebuttal, but couldn’t think of one before the line ahead began to move and Nora nudged her forward.

Within a couple of minutes, Frankenstein’s monster lifted his moldy hand to direct them through the doorway into the barn. Dulcie entered ahead of Nora, her stomach tightening a little as she passed the threshold and headed into a darkened corridor. She felt Nora close behind, breathing raggedly, the toes of her shoes bumping Dulcie’s heels.

“Stay close to me,” Nora whispered, dread lacing her voice.

Dulcie folded her arms tight over her chest to avoid Nora’s clutching hands. She shuffled toward a corner dimly illuminated by blinking lights. Eerie moans echoed through the walls.

A figure leaned out from an alcove–a vampire baring his fangs–and Dulcie jolted. Nora gasped, while the teenaged girl behind them let out a startled shriek.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Dulcie muttered, walking onward while the vampire retreated behind a curtain.

Rounding the corner, with Nora still at her heels, she passed a series of mutilated corpses and skeletons suspended from hooks, and then entered a corridor lined with formal portraits of ghoulish half-decomposed subjects.

Nora bent close to a portrait of a woman wearing a black Victorian dress and hat. “Look at this one,” she said. “The eyes seem to follow you.”

Just then, the woman in the painting opened her mouth wide and screamed. Nora yelped and jumped back, splaying her hands over her face.

“Oh my God, Dulcie. This place is gonna give me a freakin’ heart attack.”

Dulcie gripped her elbow. “Come on. We’re halfway through.”

In the next room, in order to pass they had to push through a cluster of decapitated heads dangling from ropes, eerily aglow in sickly green light. Dulcie wrinkled her nose and shoved through the rubber props.

Emerging on the other side, she realized she’d lost track of her companion. She spun to look back, but a crush of teenagers in the narrow doorway blocked her view. “Nora?”

No response came, and to avoid being trampled she had to move forward into a pitch-black passage. Staring blindly, Dulcie pressed her hand to the rough planked wall. Whispers and nervous laughter echoed around her. It was all cheesy special effects and cheap scares, but she couldn’t help the frisson of nervous tension that ran down her spine as she stumbled through the dark, not knowing what might leap out at her at the next turn.

She took a step away from the wall and collided with a warm body. Hands closed around her upper arms and she jolted.

“Sorry. Are you all right?”

Dulcie froze, and then wavered on her feet. Rowan’s voice. Her pounding heart tripped over itself while his hands remained on her arms, steadying her. She could read in his tentative tone that he didn’t know who she was.

She couldn’t find her voice. Rowan Pearce stood inches from her, touching her. Heat flared from her skin under his fingers and rippled through her body. With her heart throbbing in her throat and her insides quaking, something came over her–an impulse too powerful to resist, a long-repressed compulsion unleashed in the cover of darkness.

Finding his elbow, in a single swift motion she slid her hand up the soft sleeve of his jacket and over the collar, touched his neck, and then traced the line of his jaw with her fingertips. Skimming her thumb across his lips to fix their location, she leaned in and pressed her mouth to his.

Excitement exploded inside her. His supple, warm lips tasted of the salty-sweet caramel popcorn she’d seen him eating during the wagon ride.

To her surprise and pleasure, Rowan didn’t pull away. His grip on her arms tightened a fraction as his mouth molded to hers and glided against her lips.

Though blind in the dark, Dulcie let her eyes flutter closed. The kiss lasted only a few seconds, but filled her senses with heat and longing.

Excited voices and giggles erupted from around the corner, just before a crush of bodies jostled Dulcie and Rowan apart. Shrieks filled the darkness. She stumbled sideways, dazed and disoriented, her hands flailing. The fingers of one hand scraped the wall while the other brushed against the people shuffling past. Rowan was gone.

She found her bearings when a sliver of light pierced the dark as a nearby door cracked open. The door opened further and she stumbled toward it, following a woman ahead of her onto the grass outside.

While the evening chill cooled her heated cheeks, Dulcie blinked and glanced around at the people scattered behind the barn. She didn’t see Rowan among them.

A hand closed over her shoulder and she whirled around.

Nora stared at her with reproach. “Where were you? I thought you were right in front of me.”

Dulcie cleared her dry, tight throat. “Lost my way for a bit.”

Shuddering, Nora hugged herself. “I didn’t like it in there. Too crowded. What did you think?”

“It was … fun. Kind of a rush,” Dulcie said. She still felt slightly dazed, as though she’d just woken from an intense and titillating dream.

“But would you do it again?”

She bit her lip to keep a grin from spreading over her face. Yeah, in a heartbeat.

 

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I’m a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and historical romance. Nothing gets my heart pumping like a good love story with absorbing emotion, plenty of passion, and an old-fashioned happy ending. That’s why I write romance, and I’m thrilled to share these stories with you. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, with my husband and three children.

To  find out about my sales and new releases, sign up for my newsletter. You can also like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter.

I contribute regularly to the Authors of Main Street blog. Sign up for the AoMS newsletter for articles, free short stories, and news about me and the other talented authors in our group.

 

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Happy Holidays!!

It’s that time of year again. The kiddos are out for Christmas break which means I will be engaging in daily battles of board games, movies, crafts — basically just soaking up the family time until school resumes.

I’ll still be reading but reviews won’t be appearing again until January 2017. 

 

So……. 

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And……

 

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🎄 KAM 🎄

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Author Showcase – Debbie Mason (Mistletoe Cottage, Harmony Harbor)

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‘Tis the season for love . . .

Sophie DiRossi loved growing up in Harmony Harbor. But after fleeing in disgrace many years ago, it is the last place she wants to be. Left homeless by a fire, she’s forced to go back to the small coastal town that harbors a million secrets, including her own. Sophie sees this secret reflected every day in her daughter’s blue eyes-and she must keep it hidden from the only man she has ever loved.

Sophie’s return is a shock for everyone . . . especially Liam Gallagher. The firefighter had some serious feelings for Sophie-and seeing her again sparks a desire so fierce it takes his breath away. Now Liam will do whatever it takes to show Sophie that they deserve a second chance at love, even if everything they’ve concealed threatens to keep them apart. In this special town at this special time of the year, Sophie and Liam can only hope for a little holiday magic…

 

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CHAPTER 1: courtesy of Debbie Mason’s Website

 

Sirens wailed, the fire engines’ red and white lights bouncing off the clapboard Colonials on Main Street. People strolling along the tree-lined sidewalk turned to watch the rigs careen around a corner while cars veered to the side of the road. Ladder Engine 1 and Engine 6 were headed west of Harmony Harbor to Greystone Manor.

Three hours earlier, Liam Gallagher had been heading home to Boston. He’d stopped by the station to say goodbye to his father, Fire Chief Colin Gallagher, on the way out of town. But, because he loved his old man, who had put up with Liam for the past month, he’d made his first mistake. He’d let his dad convince him to stay another day. Taking his father up on his challenge had been a bigger one. Under the watchful eyes of the three men who knew him about as well as he knew himself, Liam would be battling his first fire in more than five weeks. Built in the early nineteenth century and modeled after a medieval castle, Greystone Manor was a firefighter’s worst nightmare. And over the last month, Liam had been battling one of his own.

The chief disconnected his cell phone call and shifted to face Liam and Marco DiRossi, Liam’s childhood best friend. The rest of the crew followed behind in the ladder engine. Fergus MacLeod, a burly beast of a man with russet hair and beard who’d known Liam since he was in diapers, blasted the horn at three second intervals to clear the intersection up ahead. Liam’s father raised his voice to be heard. “Manor’s full of smoke, but the sprinklers haven’t kicked in. Lights went out, and the generator took longer than it should to come on. A couple of guests sustained minor injuries evacuating—”

“GG and Grams?” Liam asked, unable to conceal the anxiety in his voice. He wasn’t worried his father would misconstrue the reason for it or reprimand him for interrupting his brief. Liam’s great-grandmother Colleen owned and operated Greystone with the help of her daughter-in-law and Liam’s grandmother, Kitty.

He’d never understood what had possessed his great-grandmother to turn the manor into a hotel. If it was up to him, she would have sold out years ago. Especially now that his grandfather Ronan was no longer there to help run the place. Liam hoped she’d be more open to the idea after tonight.

“Jasper got GG out, but your grandmother, a woman, and a young child are still inside. They can’t find the little girl. Kitty and the woman refuse to leave without her.” His father looked at Marco. “Jasper says she’s your sister, son. And the little girl is her daughter, your niece.”

Liam blew out a silent whistle. Sophie DiRossi. He hadn’t thought about her in years, and there’d been a time when she’d been all he thought about. He glanced at Marco who sat in the jump seat across from him.

Beneath an inch of dark scruff, Marco’s jaw tightened. “Jasper’s gotta be mistaken, Chief. Sophie and her kid live in LA.”

“Just wanted to give you a heads-up in case it’s true,” his father said, then glanced at Liam and lifted his chin at Marco before facing forward.

Everyone in Harmony Harbor knew how the DiRossis felt about Sophie and her mother’s defection. Within six months of Sophie and her mother taking off, the oldest of the DiRossi siblings, Lucas, had left Harmony Harbor, and a year later their father, Giovanni, remarried and moved to Italy.

“You okay?” Liam asked his best friend.

Marco took off his helmet to stab his fingers through his dark hair. “Jasper has to be wrong. There’s no way it’s Sophie.”

If Jasper said it was Sophie, Liam had no doubt that it was. Nothing got past the old man—a fact Liam, his brothers, and cousins could attest to. Jasper, or Jeeves as the Gallagher grandchildren referred to him, had been at Greystone for as long as any of them could remember. A tall bean-pole of a man with stiff, overly proper manners, he ruled the manor and Gallagher family with an iron fist hidden inside a velvet glove.

Since Marco knew Jasper almost as well as Liam, either his friend was in denial or he held a grudge longer than Liam had given him credit for. Noting the angry bounce of Marco’s right leg, he was going with the latter. Then again . . . “They’ll be okay, buddy. We’ll find your niece. Get them out of there.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. What I don’t know is why the hell Sophie’s here. After eight years, she just shows up out of the blue . . .” With a white-knuckled grip on his helmet, Marco gave his head an angry shake.

So Liam had been right after all. “I don’t get it. Aren’t you happy she’s finally come home?”

“Give me a break. You have no idea what her leaving did to my family. For two years we never heard a word from her. Now we’re lucky if she calls a couple times a year. And for the amount of time she talks, you’d think we were putting a trace on her phone calls.”

“So, what, you don’t believe in second chances? Don’t be a hothead and blow it. At least you still have a sister.” Liam sensed his father glancing his way and Fergus’s eyes on him in the rearview mirror.

“You’re right. Sorry, I didn’t think.”

Fergus blasted the horn as he drove beneath the vine-covered stone arch, past the iron gates leading into the estate. The emergency lights sliced through the gloom of the late October night and Liam leaned forward. What held his attention wasn’t the sprawling mansion built of local granite or the people scattering from where they’d been standing on the circular drive. It was the white smoke billowing from the manor’s entrance. He opened the door as the engine rolled to a stop and smelled the air–chemicals, not burning wood. “There’s no fire,” Liam said to his father as he jumped onto the asphalt.

“Not yet, but could be electrical. Breathing apparatus on, Liam,” his father called after him. Liam raised his gloved hand, indicating he heard him as he jogged to where Jasper was leading Kitty from the manor. “You okay, Grams?” he asked once he reached them.

She nodded through a coughing fit.

He rubbed her arm and looked at Jasper. “Sophie and the little girl still inside?”

Jasper gave him a clipped nod. “We’d gone through most of the upper and main floors before Miss Kitty was overcome.”

“All right. Go let Dad check you both over,” Liam said as he started into the building, then pivoted when it hit him what he was smelling. “Jasper, you didn’t have the fog machine going, did you?”

“Certainly not, Master Liam. As your father directed, I expressly forbid Miss Kitty and Madame from using it this year.”

Since Madame didn’t like to be told what she could or couldn’t do, Liam didn’t rule out the possibility Colleen and a fog machine were behind the smoke. As he walked into the entryway, he tapped the switch on his helmet twice. The beam of light cut through the haze, providing him with a 180-degree view. He jogged down the steps into the lobby calling for Sophie while trying to get an idea where the smoke originated from. He spotted what he believed was the point of origin at the same time he heard someone cough.

A woman with long, dark hair stumbled out of one of the sitting rooms. “Sophie, it’s Liam.” He tipped up his helmet as he closed the distance between them.

She lowered a denim jacket from where she’d held it over her mouth and nose. Her face was pale, her golden-brown eyes red-rimmed. She looked exhausted and utterly terrified. “My little girl. I can’t find my little girl. You have to help me—” She started coughing again.

“I’ll find her, Sophie. But you need to—” He broke off as a second beam of light joined his. “Marco, get her out of here,” he ordered his best friend.

Marco nodded, his expression unreadable as he reached for his sister.

She pulled away from her brother and frantically shook her head. “No, I can’t go. I have to help you find her. You don’t—”

Marco cut her off. “Dammit, Soph, don’t be stubborn. We’ll find her, but you have to—”

“No, no, you don’t understand. She’s terrified of fire . . .  and firemen. And she can’t . . .” A sob broke in her voice. Liam saw the herculean effort it took for her to regain control, but she did, and then she finished what she’d been about to say “. . . she can’t talk.”

He and Marco shared a glance. Their job just got a whole lot harder. “Sophie, I’ll take off the breathing apparatus and my helm—”

“Like hell you will,” his father said through his com. Marco said the same thing beside him.

Liam knew the reason for their concern and ignored them. He couldn’t think about that now. Couldn’t let the memory of the warehouse fire into his head. “I’m going to find your little girl. What’s her name?”

She held his gaze as though she believed him and swiped at her eyes. “Mia. Her name’s Mia.” Overcome by another coughing fit, Sophie struggled to take the knapsack off her shoulder. Waving off his offer to help, she dug around inside and pulled out a pink pig with a singed ear. “We had a fire at our apartment in LA. Other than Mia, Peppa Pig is pretty much the only thing that survived. It might help if you show her . . .” She bit her lip, and then handed him the stuffed animal. “Please, Liam, please find her. She’s all I have.”

He slipped the pink pig into his pocket. “Right now it doesn’t look like we’re dealing with a fire. She’ll be okay, Sophie. I’ll find her,” he promised.

“Jesus, Soph. Why didn’t you call us? Why didn’t . . .”

Liam didn’t waste time waiting for Sophie to answer her brother. He jogged toward the door behind the grand staircase. It led to the basement, a place that as a little kid had featured prominently in his nightmares. Probably because his older brothers and cousins had traumatized him with stories about the long-dead pirates that haunted the narrow passageways and secret tunnels. Since the upper levels had already been searched, it’s possible he’d find Mia down there.

Smoke billowed through the partially open door, and Liam adjusted his breathing apparatus before opening it wide. As soon as he did, he was hit by a thick wall of smoke. The beam of light cut through the fog and illuminated the spiral staircase.

Liam started down the stairs and the stone walls closed in around him, transporting him to a wide-open space filled with movement and noise. Voices came over his radio—yelling, the rapid repeat of gunshots. Faint at first, and then the gunfire became louder. Get downGet down. He belly-crawled to where Billy lay in the middle of the floor, laser beams zinging overhead from one side of the warehouse to the other. Shouting. Everyone shouting. A bullet shattered the concrete an inch from his head, and then another one . . .

Something repeatedly bumped his leg, getting harder with each jab, and the flashback started to fade. Liam looked down. A pair of small blue eyes stared up at him. It was a black cat. It took a moment for his head to clear and to get his bearings. He wasn’t in Boston; he was on the stairs at Greystone.

Someone yelled over the radio. “Liam, are you all right? Liam, goddammit, answer me.”

“Good. I’m good, Chief. I’m in the basement. Must have played havoc with the com.” He lied to his father who must already suspect what Liam had been denying. He was so far from good it wasn’t funny. “Found the problem,” he said as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

To his left, barely visible behind cardboard boxes piled precariously close, sat two overheating commercial fog machines. They were damn lucky the units hadn’t caused a fire. He reported his findings to his father over the com at the same time Marco thundered down the stairs. 

When he reached the bottom, Marco searched Liam’s face and stabbed an angry, gloved finger in his chest. “Get your head out of your ass, Gallagher, before I do it for you.”

“I know. I know. But now’s not the time to—” He broke off and frowned down at the cat head-butting his leg. For a second, Liam was afraid he’d zoned out again. But no, Marco would have seen it coming on and shook him out of it. The cat meowed and looked toward the tunnels. Liam didn’t read minds, cat or human, but somehow he knew this was about Mia. As though the cat sensed he’d clued in, he took off.  Liam ran after him.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Marco called out.

“To find Mia,” he shouted back. His voice sounded like he’d been hacking up a lung. Maybe he had been during the flashback. Though now wasn’t the time to think about those missing minutes and what they would have meant had they been battling an actual blaze. He’d beat himself up over it later.  

As he made his way deeper into the tunnels, the smoke wasn’t as bad. He pulled off his breathing apparatus, stopping briefly to remove the tank and rest it carefully against the damp stone wall. He thought he’d lost the cat until he heard an impatient meow up ahead. The beam of light from Liam’s helmet caught the end of the cat’s tail just before it disappeared down a narrow passageway.

As soon as Liam rounded the corner, he spotted the little girl. Sophie’s daughter sat with her back to the wall, her forehead resting on denim-clad knees that were pressed to her chest. She slowly raised her head and blinked into the bright light.

“Hey, Mia.” He didn’t want to frighten her and crouched a couple yards away. Then he took off his helmet and set it on the ground, angling it so the light didn’t hit her in the eyes. He smiled. “I’m Liam Gallagher, a friend of your uncle Marco. Your mommy too. I’ve known her since she was a little girl not much older than you are.”

She scuttled away from him then came to her feet, her eyes darting from left to right. His chest tightened. He recognized the look on her face, the wide-eyed panic and fear of someone who’d suffered a trauma. He should know, since after tonight, he could no longer deny he’d suffered the same. “Your mommy gave me”—he wracked his brain for the pig’s name— “Porky.” She looked at him “Peppy the pig?”

The faintest hint of a smile touched her adorable heart-shaped face. “Do you want your pig?” he asked, reaching in his pocket.

She gave her head a quick shake, and Liam withdrew his hand from his pocket. He got it. The singed ear was a reminder of what she and her stuffed animal had been through. “You don’t have to be frightened, sweetheart. There wasn’t a fire, just a lot of smoke from the fog machines.” Within minutes, there might have been a fire. But looking at Mia, he couldn’t let his mind go there. Couldn’t think of her down here trapped and alone. “I know you’re scared, and you don’t know me, but your mommy’s worried about you so whaddya say we get out of here?”

She looked down, her long, dark hair shielding her face, but not enough to hide the slight flush pinking her cheeks. He frowned and followed her gaze, wondering what . . . He briefly closed his eyes. She’d wet her pants. 

He cleared his throat. “Mia. Sweetheart.” Her big blue eyes flitted to his face, then darted away. “If I tell you a secret, do you promise not to tell anyone?” She glanced at him, then gave him a hesitant nod. “Okay, I’m holding you to that. When I was around your age . . . Now that I think about it, I was way older. Like ten.” He’d been five. “My brothers and cousins brought me down here to hunt for buried treasure. We had flashlights and shovels, and while we were digging, they told ghost stories. Really spooky ones. And then they turned the flashlights off. They left me down here for hours all by myself in the dark. I was so scared, I wet my pants.” That part was true. “So you see, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Happens to the best of us,” he said with a smile, and shrugged out of his jacket, holding it open for her. “You can put this on, and no one will know. It’ll be our secret. Sound good?” He’d find a way to tell Sophie without embarrassing Mia.

She took a couple hesitant steps toward him. “Thatta girl,” he said, and leaned over to wrap the jacket around her tiny, delicate frame. “It’s pretty long. Is it okay if I pick you up so you don’t trip?” She nodded, and he lifted her into his arms. “You know what, you’re as brave as any firefighter I know, so you should probably wear this.” He put his helmet on her head, grinning when she disappeared beneath it. He tipped it up. “There you are.”

She rewarded him with a smile that lit up her face and wrapped around his heart, squeezing tight.

“Mia DiRossi, you’re going to be a heartbreaker just like your mother.”

 

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Review of “Snowfall on Haven Point” – RaeAnne Thayne

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There’s no place like Haven Point for the holidays, where the snow conspires to bring two wary hearts together for a Christmas to remember 

It’s been two rough years since Andrea Montgomery lost her husband, and all she wants is for her children to enjoy their first Christmas in Haven Point. But then Andie’s friend asks a favor—to keep an eye on her brother, Sheriff Marshall Bailey, who’s recovering from a hit and run. Andie will do anything for Wyn, even park her own misgivings to check on her grouchy, wounded bear of a brother. 

Marshall hates feeling defenseless and resents the protective impulses that Andie brings out in him. But when a blizzard forces them together for the holidays, something in Marshall begins to thaw. Andie’s gentle nature is a salve, and her kids’ excitement for the holidays makes him forget why he never wanted a family. If only he and Andie can admit what they really want—each other—their Christmas wishes might come true after all.

 

 

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Snowfall on Haven Point is more than meets the eye. It’s not just about Marshall’s frozen heart or who hit him with their car causing a compound fracture of his leg. It’s not about Andrea swallowing her fears and opening up her heart to new possibilities… for new love. It’s not about a troubled young man, Christopher, and the troubles plaguing his young heart.  

No, it’s not about just ONE of those things…. It’s about ALL of them.  

It’s also about the power of love. How love, in all shapes and sizes, can impact a person.

In Snowfall on Haven Point, two small children (Will and Chloe) bring holiday cheer with their homemade ornaments, kind words, warm smiles, and genuine goodness. Through their actions, they opened up Marshall and Andrea’s eyes to many things which brought about happily ever afters for themselves and for others.

Will, Chloe, and Christopher all suffered from traumatic events in their lives so I was happy to see they all receive a Christmas miracle. 

 

Heart Rating System – 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤❤1/2

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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including four RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews magazine. RaeAnne loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com

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Author Showcase – Lori Wilde (A Wedding for Christmas: A Twilight, Texas Novel)

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The whole town is ready for the holidays: The Cookie Club is baking, Main Street glitters with lights, the carolers sing . . .There’s even a Christmas wedding.

When bodyguard Ryder Southerland sees his best friend’s sister Katie at an L.A. Christmas party, he mistakes the slinky blonde for a celebrity stalker and tackles her. Then they tackle each other . . . at his place. The next morning, Katie’s gone, and Ryder tells himself it’s for the best. It isn’t. Now, one Christmas later, Ryder’s falling for the woman he’s been missing in the town he hasn’t missed at all . . .

Katie Cheek’s outgrown the romantic fantasies she had about Ryder when she was fifteen. Katie’s packed their hot night away in a box labeled “fling”—or tried to. But Twilight’s bad boy is the best man in her brother’s wedding. And up-close and personal, Ryder’s impossible to ignore. So Katie can either go into hiding—or surrender to Christmas magic.

 

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Excerpt courtesy of Lori Wilde’s Website

 

“BOLO. BOLO. Be on the lookout for a hot blonde in a red dress.”

Personal bodyguard, Ryder Southerland resisted an eye roll, and muttered into the tiny microphone clipped to his lapel. “I know what a BOLO is, Messer, and I don’t need an update every time you spy a good-looking woman.”

Not a hot chick alert. Repeat this is not merely a hot chick alert, although she does sizzle. It’s Ketchum’s stalker.”

Les Ketchum, the rodeo star turned country and western chart-topping singer, that Ryder had been hired to protect. Two weeks ago Les had broken things off with a buckle bunny in possession of a mean streak who couldn’t seem to take hasta la vista, baby, for the brush off it was.

Ryder’s entire body tensed, and he pressed a hand to the blue tooth device that fed Messer’s voice into his ear. “You sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Where?” Ryder leaned over the balcony railing, scanning the well-heeled crowd milling in the art gallery below.

You’d think a hot blonde in a red dress wouldn’t be that hard to spot, but since it was a celebrity-stubbed holiday bash a surprising number of women were wearing red. And sun-drenched LA had a knack for manufacturing blondes.

“You got Ketchum in sight?” Messer asked.

“Yes.” Ryder swung his gaze to his client who was kissing a busty redhead that was known for her appearances in makeup commercials, underneath a bouquet of mistletoe. “Does your red-dress blonde look armed?”

“It’d have to be in her purse. That dress is sprayed-painted on. Couldn’t hide anything underneath that.”

“Can you still see her?”

“Negatory. She disappeared in the crowd.”

“Stop talking, and freaking follow her.”

“I’m trying, but some drunk sitcom-actress just took off her top, and there’s a hundred guys in my way.”

This time, Ryder did roll his eyes.

Trite. His job was trite. Protecting spoiled celebrities from overly zealous fans who thought getting near them meant something special. But after four years in the Middle East, and an unpleasant bout of PTSD, Ryder was good with trite.

And working for his former platoon leader’s personal security business in LA was a long sight better than crawling home to Twilight where small town minds had branded him disreputable years ago.

Pathetic.

He was twenty-nine years old, had been a decorated MP in the US Army, and yet he couldn’t shake the old childhood wounds, and the names he’d been called—bad boy, punk, troublemaker, delinquent, thug.

Ah, his youth. Those were the days.

There was only one family in the whole town he gave a fig about, and that was the Cheeks. The family who’d taken him in when his father kicked him out and no one else would touch him.

His favorites of all the Cheeks was his best friend Joe, and the other was Joe’s kid sister, Katie. He hadn’t talked to Joe since his friend had moved back to Twilight to take over his ailing grandfather’s Christmas tree farm that summer. And it had been two years since they’d seen each other in person, back when Ryder had crashed at Joe’s place for a couple of months after he’d been discharged from the Army, and he was struggling to get his act together.

And as for Katie?

In his mind she was still the gawky fifteen-year-old who’d flung herself into his arms and kissed him. And that had been the last time he’d seen her, but he couldn’t help wondering what she looked like today.

Head in the game, Southerland. Katie ain’t nothing but a fond memory.

He leaned farther over the balcony railing for a better look, watching the circular metal staircase that led to the second story exhibits. The party was in full swing. The band blasted Christmas songs. People packed in close dancing, drinking, eating canapés served by tuxedoed waiters passing through the throng.

The crowd was eclectic. Young and old, trendy and traditional, dressed down and dressed up, an equal mix of male and female. The majority of them were wealthy, or plus ones of the wealthy. Ironic, how much money was being spent raising funds to benefit poverty. Why not just give the money to the homeless?

He scanned the three exits he could see, each one manned by museum security, and finally caught sight of Messer trapped in a bottleneck near the entrance.

He counted off the attractive blondes in red dresses, one, two, seven, a dozen. Was one of the Ketchum’s stalker?

Concerned, he glanced back at Ketchum. The celebrity and his woman of choice, who had shifted to the bench exhibit seating, near the restrooms and they were still in a lip-lock, hands all over each other. The second floor was reserved for special VIP sponsors, and Ryder was the threshold guardian to their domain.

From his peripheral vision, he caught movement at the top of the staircase. A blonde. In red. Hurrying.

Hurrying hell, the woman was full on running.

Immediately, Ryder tensed, and his hand touched the Taser at his hip. He didn’t want to use it, or the concealed Sig Saucer in his shoulder holster. Discretion was a big part of his job. Diplomacy another.

Besides, she was a woman. He was big, and she was small. Body block, and chokehold ought to do it, and that was only if she was unreasonable.

He didn’t want things getting messy.

In two long-strides, he reached her, and for a split second, he was struck by the notion that anyone watching them might assume they were lovers rushing into each other’s arms.

Except she showed no signs of slowing down, her gaze fixed to the spot where Ketchum sat kissing the redhead. This had to be the stalker, hyped up with rage, jealousy, adrenaline and god knows what else.

Instinct, honed from numerous tours in the sandbox, took over and he reacted without hesitation. It happened during the space of a single breath. Grabbing her by the arm, flipping her onto her back, falling atop of her, pinning her to the floor in a four-point restraint.

“Stand back people!” Messer shouted. Ryder felt rather than saw his colleague herding people down the steps. “Nothing to see here. Go downstairs and enjoy the party.”

Ryder’s hands manacled her wrists. His cowboy boots locked spread-eagle around her ankles. The woman was panting.

And so was he, because he realized not only was she not Ketchum’s stalker, but he knew her.

Ryder peered down into her face. A familiar face despite the fact it had changed a lot over the past twelve years.

Katie Cheek.

What in the blazes?

All the air exited his body in one hard puff.

Her features were softer, thinner, and prettier than ever. The glasses were gone, and so were the braces, and instead of frizzy untamable, dishwater blond curls, her hair was straight and lush and golden.

Yes, she’d changed a lot, but he would recognize her anywhere.

Yep. Katie Cheek, all right.

It was high school buddy’s kid sister, all grownup, and curvy in the most dangerous places.

 

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