‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa by Kate Hardy With the help of a sprig of mistletoe and some snow angels, a recently single pastry chef teaches a highly successful and sexy Scrooge the true meaning of the holidays on a snowy Christmas Eve that quickly heats up.
‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky by Heidi Rice When a Christmas Day blizzard strands an up-and-coming marketing manager and her boss’s very off-limits, very hot playboy son in his department store, the two toe the line between naughty and nice as they unwrap their holiday presents—and each other!
‘Tis the Season to be Kissed by Amy Andrews A down-on-her-romantic-luck kindergarten teacher plans to drown her New Year’s Eve sorrows in a gallon of spiked eggnog, but the arrival of her best friend’s sexy brother threatens to melt the snow piling up outside the tiny Vermont cabin.
‘Tis the Season to be Tempted by Aimee Carson After the worst year ever, a jilted music manager rings in the New Year alone, swearing off men forever. But things get complicated when her brother’s best friend, the perfect man with the perfect body, tempts her to break her vow—if only for one hot night!
‘Tis the Season to Kiss Santa
“So that was your dream when you were a kid? To be a PR man?”
“Maybe.” Mitch couldn’t remember his dreams as a kid. Other than the need to get away as soon as he could. “Was that your dream—to be a pastry chef?”
“Yes. I always loved cooking, but especially cakes and desserts. I loved it when Betty came over to stay with us in the summer. She taught me how to make a proper gingerbread house.” Ellie smiled. “I made one for her to take into the hospital with her earlier this week.”
It didn’t surprise him. He’d already worked out that she was the sort who’d think of others.
He parked in the street as close to her place as he could. It looked as if it was one of the traditional Philadelphia row houses: three stories, with a flat roof and a bay window on the ground floor.
“I guess this is home, then,” he said.
“Yes. Well, my godmother’s.” She looked out of the window. “The snow’s getting worse. I didn’t see a snowplow all the way here, and I don’t like to think of you driving in this. Why don’t you come in for a while and wait it out? It’ll give the snowplows time to come and sort out the roads and make them safer for you to drive on later.”
What she said made perfect common sense—but it also gave Mitch an odd feeling. He wasn’t used to anyone being concerned about him. “I don’t want to inconvenience you.”
“My family’s all in London and my godmother’s in hospital. I don’t have any plans other than visiting her tomorrow, so you’re no inconvenience to me.”
She wrinkled her nose. It was incredibly cute, and it made Mitch want to lean over and kiss her.
He stopped himself.?Just.?“Though I guess you need to get in touch with your family to let them know where you are and that you’re okay,” she said. “They’ll be worrying about you.”
No, they wouldn’t. He’d been gone too long. He shook his head. “There’s nobody to worry about me.”
“Nobody? But—won’t you be seeing your family or friends for Christmas?”
“Not everyone celebrates Christmas.”
She flushed deeply, looking mortified. “Oh, no. What with you being Santa, I made the wrong assumption. I’m sorry. Obviously you’re Jewish.”
“No, I’m not Jewish. I just don’t celebrate Christmas.” “Why not?”?“Just call me Ebenezer,” he said lightly.
“Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t help out at a kids’ party and donate the gifts,” she pointed out, frowning.
He couldn’t take credit that definitely wasn’t due. “I helped out because my boss asked me to, and he’s the one who paid for the gifts.”
“Even so. Scrooge still would’ve said no.”
“I just don’t like Christmas. I don’t have particularly good memories of it when I was growing up.” The words came out before he could stop them.
She was practically a stranger and here he was, spilling his guts to her.
Big mistake. He needed to get going. Like now.
And yet there was no pity in her face when she looked at him. Just warmth and understanding. “I apologize for being pushy and nosy. Come in and have some coffee and warm up.”
He should say no. Make an excuse. Drive away as fast as the snow would let him.?But there was something about her he couldn’t resist, and he found himself saying thank you, locking his car, and following her into the house.
‘Tis the Season to Get Lucky
When Kate disturbs Ryder while he’s in the toy department having just accidentally knocked over a display of Dolls. Unfortunately for Kate she’s been forced to wear a rather tight Santa’s Little Helper outfit because her own clothes got drenched on the way to the store, and Ryder’s just spent two months in a war zone — so he ‘subdues’ her first and asks questions later. At this point she’s on the floor, with Ryder on top of her and her hands held down above her head… But still trying to maintain her dignity:
“Will you get off me, Mr. Sinclair?” Kate said in the most commanding voice she could muster while she was being pressed into a mass of jagged cardboard by a man who felt like he weighed several tons.
She swallowed down the lump of mortification in her throat as his gaze dipped down to her cleavage again.
Why had she come out here? She should have just stayed in her office and ignored the almighty crash from outside. Especially as her ethics had prevented her from “borrowing” anything from the clothing department while her wet clothes dried on her office radiator. Consequently, the only thing she’d been able to find to wear was the prototype for this year’s Santa’s Little Helpers outfits—which was two sizes too small.
“How the hell do you know who I am?” Lake-blue eyes glared at her accusingly.
She glared back at him, ignoring the spectacular blip in her pulse from the man’s face. With a day’s worth of stubble shadowing a strong jaw, blunt features darkly tanned from what she suspected was several months spent in some glitzy Caribbean resort, unruly hair that curled around his ears, and brows drawn into a sharp frown over those unfathomable blue eyes, he looked more like a marauding pirate than the pampered playboy she’d expected.
“I know who you are because I’ve seen your photo in Vanity Fair.” Although the chiseled, pretty-boy features of that man looked nothing like the ruggedly handsome face above her.
‘Tis the Season To Be Kissed
Sergeant Luke Jackson had gone straight into combat mode at the sound of the blood-curdling banshee yell, and it took several seconds for the adrenaline spike to release him from its grip long enough to compute the fact that there was no danger. He had no idea who was beneath him, but the landing had been too soft to register it as a threat.
Still holding firm to the attacker’s splayed wrists, his father’s old putter discarded and well out of reach, he looked down into stormy gray eyes. He may only have been able to see an oval cut-out of her face from the confines of the hood she had pulled tight around her head, but it was definitely a woman. No man owned such delicate bone structure and had a nose as cute as that.
“What the hell?” he demanded back at the woman moving ineffectually underneath him. He’d just trudged two miles through a freaking blizzard from the bus depot to be greeted like this?
“Get off me right now you…giant…ass!”
“Who the hell are you?”
The woman stopped struggling and glared at him. “Hey buddy, this is my house. I get to ask the questions and you”—she struggled some more—“are”—more interesting squirming, shoving, and pushing—“squashing me!”
Luke pushed away immediately and stood towering over her. She looked like a felled Eskimo in full winter regalia. “Ma’am, I don’t know who you are, but I think you’ll find that this is my house.”
She gave him an indignant look as she lay there waving her arms and legs like a stranded beetle. “While I appreciate your manners,” the beetle with the elfin nose and pixie cheekbones said, “I’ll have you know that this cabin belongs to the Jackson family.”
Luke nodded. “Yes. Edward and Sophie. My parents. I’m Luke. Luke Jackson.”
He offered her his hand to help her up, fearing that with all those clothes thwarting her attempts she would never make it unaided.
The angry pixie’s eyebrows knitted together as she glared up at him, but reached her mittened hand for his anyway. “Nice try. Luke Jackson is in Afghanistan and I think impersonating a US soldier on active duty is”—she paused as Luke pulled her to her feet—“beneath contempt.”
Luke didn’t bother to look at the portrait of him and Georgia that he knew hung on the wall to his right. He just jerked his thumb toward it and waited patiently for the penny to drop. The woman blinked at the picture as if she was having trouble seeing it. She peered at him, then back at the wall, then back at him, squinting and scrutinizing it carefully, as if she’d been asked to pick him out of a lineup.
The picture had been taken a few years back on his return from his first tour to Afghanistan, but he hadn’t changed that much.
Not anywhere that was visible, anyway.
And then he heard her gasp and watched as her face fell. Yep. Now she was with the program.
“Oh God,” she groaned as she lurched away, heading for the low table next to the couch, picking up a glass, and taking a hefty swig before facing him again. “I’m so, so sorry. I thought you were a looter…or a burglar…or at the very least up to no good. I didn’t know you were home. Georgia was so disappointed you were going to miss her thirtieth birthday party and if I had known, I would never have yelled and attacked you with a golf club. I teach kindergarten…we use our inside voices, we keep our hands to ourselves…”
Luke folded his arms across his chest, amused at the horror on her face. She obviously wasn’t a violent person. Which only made her actions at defending his family cabin that much more endearing. “You’re Tamara, aren’t you?”
The pixie raised her glass in salute. “That would be me.”
“Pleased to meet, you ma’am,” he said.
She nodded then stopped abruptly. “Wait.” She frowned. “How do you know about me? Georgia and I haven’t known each other that long.”
He shrugged, noting the way her gaze traveled over the contours of his shoulders. Interesting. “Georgia writes a lot of newsy e-mails.”
“Ah,” she said and swayed a little.
Luke reached out a hand. “Ma’am?” he asked, looking at her a little closer. Pink cheeks. Red nose. Unsteady on her feet. A waft of …eggnog? “Are you…drunk?”
‘Tis the Season To Be Tempted
The urgent ping of the call button broke through the first-class cabin as the airline passengers prepared for takeoff, some bringing their ongoing New Year’s Eve revelry attitudes on board, others clearly nursing hangovers from the night before.
The last to board, Wes Campbell handed his winter coat to the waiting flight attendant. Ringing in the New Year with his newest client hadn’t been his first choice. Neither had the multiple rounds of Dom Perignon.
He sank wearily into his leather seat, grateful that the nasty winter weather had cleared long enough for his flight home. The second call-button ping came just as he closed his eyes. Determined to catch some much-needed z’s, he ignored the male flight attendant as he passed to assess the problem.
Until Wes heard a female voice address the man from a few seats back.
“I hate to complain, dude.” The vaguely familiar tones reached through the sleep-deprived, muddled mess of Wes’s mind as the woman continued. “But I think we have a problem.”
“The name is Bob,” the airline employee said. “And how can I help you?”
“Well, Bob, my seatmate still has his cell phone on,” she said.
Wes cracked a lid open. He definitely recognized the voice.
An outraged male, undoubtedly the rule-breaking neighbor, said, “Hey, look lady—”
“If having all electronics turned off means the difference between living and dying in a fiery crash,” the woman pushed on, “shouldn’t you have been confiscating them as we came on board?”
Full comprehension finally hit, and Wes sat up straighter in his seat. He’d recognize that enticingly husky, frustratingly persistent voice anywhere. Because Evie Lee Burling rarely stopped for anything, including red lights. But beneath the hint of sarcasm in her voice, Wes detected a note of panic.
“Surely that would be the safest plan?” she said, as if the idea made total sense.
And despite the determined tone and the sliver of fear beneath, the sexy voice resurrected never-quite-forgotten memories. The remembered desire shimmied down Wes’s back and settled in, as if determined to stay, competing with the fatigue for his total attention.
Bob sounded less than appreciative of Evie’s help. “Miss, you have to buckle your seat belt.”
Wes sympathized with the man. Evidently Dan’s free-spirited little sister hadn’t changed much since high school, offering her opinions freely.
Whether they were welcome or not.
“How do you know all the electronics have been powered down?” The panic in Evie’s voice grew a bit stronger. “I mean, I don’t think you should be leaving our safety up to the cooperation of the passengers.”
Amused by the soundness of her logic, Wes leaned in to look down the aisle, anticipating catching a glimpse of the woman he hadn’t seen in ten years. But all he could see was an irritated, balding passenger in the aisle seat five rows back—no doubt the cell-phone offender—and the less-than-stimulating view of the backside of Bob. From the airline employee’s posture, it was obvious he was irritated, too.
“I can assure you, Miss,” Bob said, “you are quite safe.”
The scoff that followed sounded unconvinced. “Really?” Evie said, and Wes was disappointed the seat in front of her blocked his view of her face. “We all know how inherently uncooperative most people are.” Her voice took on a reasonableness that communicated she was about to spell out her point. “Just look at Congress—”
“I’m sorry, Miss,” Bob said firmly, and Wes doubted the man’s blatantly annoyed voice was triggered by a need to defend the elected members on Capitol Hill. “You need to buckle your seat belt,” he said. “Now.”
Evie ignored the escalating tension and plowed on, the hint of panic growing thicker. “But I think I saw that lady over there with her iPod on.”
Wes bit back the smile. Evie never could keep her mouth shut. Wouldn’t take direction, either. As a matter of fact, the word contrary came to mind. Deliciously, delectably contrary. Not that Wes had ever done more than secretly appreciate the sassy mouth he had found both frustrating…and fascinating.
But Evie Lee had been off-limits from day one.
She went on. “You should check to make sure—”
“Seat belt,” Bob bit out before signaling his female colleague in the galley. “Marge, can you get this lady a drink?” He turned back to Evie, his smile tight, his voice deceptively smooth. “What would you like?”
The fear in Evie’s voice was briefly replaced with doubt. “I downed two drinks just to screw up the courage to board the plane, and I don’t think another one is a good idea—”
“I’m pretty sure the suit in 5A still has his laptop on, so I’m not really in a celebrating mood—”
“Vodka and tonic?” The attendant spoke in a tone that made it clear he was about two seconds away from grabbing a drink for himself, pulling the emergency slide, and shoving the annoying passenger out the door.
After a brief pause, Evie said, “Fine.”
Wes’s amusement abruptly died, and he suppressed a groan. Ever since he’d woken for this morning’s flight, he’d longed for more sleep. A few minutes of relaxation. After the whirlwind business trip, and being forced to celebrate his latest coup for his company with a champagne-guzzling client, all he wanted was to snooze in peace. Up until now, staying out of the current Evie Predicament—a phrase her family had coined years ago—had been easy to do. But her agreement to the vodka and tonic was sure to end in a disaster.
He knew that from personal experience.
Damn, he didn’t want to feel responsible. He didn’t want to get involved. He just wanted a couple of hours of shut-eye. But she was still the little sister of his best friend and former Harvard University roommate. Hell, Wes had practically grown up at the Burling house, especially during the terrible teen years stained by his father’s embezzlement scandal. Not only had Dan been the only friend to remain true throughout the ordeal, Wes also owed Evie’s brother an enormous debt for loyally signing on as his client during the infancy of Campbell Investments, Inc.
Not that Wes had a clue how to handle Evie Lee; the black sheep had perplexed her family for years.
Blowing out a breath, Wes stood and finally spied Evie, his gaze meeting her dark chocolate eyes. Long, brunette hair framed her misleadingly delicate features adorned with a small eyebrow piercing, and the vibration that had been pulsing through his body gained strength. Apparently her affection for grunge fashion hadn’t changed. She wore an ugly knit hat with a tiny brim in front and a white T-shirt with the words “Conformity: the surest form of death.”
The pretty, rebellious teen had matured into a beautiful maverick.
Kate Hardy is an award-winning author of over 50 books for Harlequin and is thrilled to be writing now for Indulgence. Her novel ‘Breakfast at Giovanni’s’ won the RNA Romance Prize in 2008 and she’s been shortlisted three more times for the award, as well as for two Romantic Times awards. She lives in Norwich in the east of England with her husband, two children, springer spaniel, and too many books to count. She’s a bit of a nerd who loves cinema, the theatre, ballroom dancing history and cooking (which is why she has to go to the gym five times a week!), and adores anything Italian. Reviewers say that her books are full of warmth, heart and charm – and also that you’ll learn something new and interesting from them! Kate also writes bestselling local history books under the name of Pamela Brook
USA Today bestselling author Heidi Rice lives in London and is married with two teenage sons (which gives her rather too much of an insight into the male psyche). She also works as a film journalist but loves being a romance writer because it involves sitting down at her computer each day and getting swept up in a world of high emotions, sensual excitement, smart feisty women, sexy tortured men and glamorous locations where laundry doesn’t exist … Not bad, eh.
Then she gets to turn off her computer and do chores (usually involving laundry!)
Amy is an award-winning, best-selling Aussie author who has written thirty + contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets. She has written for Harlequin Mills & Boon, Entangled, Harper Collins and Momentum.
To date she’s sold over a million books and been translated into thirteen different languages including manga.
She loves her kids, her husband, her dogs, cowboys, men in tool belts, cowboys in tool belts and happily ever afters. Please, DO NOT mess with the HEA! Also good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together.
She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.
The summer she turned eleven Aimee left the children’s section of the library, entered an aisle full of Harlequin Mills and Boon, and pulled out a book. That story sparked a love affair that has followed her from her life in Florida to Alaska, Seattle, and finally South Dakota.
Armed with a fantastic job working part-time as a physician in the Alaskan Bush (imagine a combo of Northern Exposure and E.R., minus the beautiful mountains and George Clooney), she enjoys being home in the gorgeous Black Hills, riding her dirt bike with her three wonderful kids and beyond-patient husband. But every morning she gets to play God and flirt vicariously through her characters, who all just happen to reside in one of her favorite vacation destinations . . . South Beach, Miami.
Her motto? Life is too short to do anything less than what you absolutely love.