Saturday, October 12, 2019

And Their Horses


Giveaway of a $15 gift card!


         My childhood days were dotted with heroes—western heroes, named Trigger, Buttermilk, Silver, Diablo and Tornado. Fast and fearless, my four-legged loves galloped over rough, arid badlands or through lush valley grasses, confronting evil and saving the world on a weekly basis. In those early days, I really didn’t notice much about television except horses—and as an aside, the cowboys that rode them. But the horses were the thing.
         Life being what it is, there came a time when the men on those horses started catching my eye, too. The cowboy as hero—stoic, honest, able to love just one woman for a lifetime, thinking of his horse before himself, courageous, handsome—forced itself into my consciousness. I wrote a John Wayne script during high school chemistry class—because John Wayne would doubtlessly have a young, good looking cowboy sidekick riding with him. Unfortunately, John Wayne never got to shoot that movie—the script was burned when my father disowned me for marrying a dude ranch cowboy. But the palomino the sidekick would have ridden in the movie—Taj—would have been golden. Pun intended.
         Kids move on. I traded western stock horses for Arabians and Thoroughbreds---the hot bloods of the equine world. I rode in an English saddle and decided that the idea of stoic, honest, faithful men was fiction at best, and likely just an evil lie perpetuated over time. With the onslaught of social media, though, I kept up with the original horses I’d cherished as a kid—the paints and quarterhorses, the Appaloosas that had been my favorites for a brief time when I saw the Disney movie about them. I picked Derby winners and dreamed of show jumpers, but I never got away from those good, solid steeds that used to save the world on Saturdays.
         And their cowboys. The cowboys came, over time, to hold a larger part in my fantasies than their horses. Looking back, I realize I was either getting old or growing up—but the men with their honesty, fairness, good looks and occasional bare chests had become the heroes. They were the ones defeating evil, loving one woman for a lifetime, suffering unbearable pain and still moving forward with courage and kindness. I found myself loving cowboys more than their horses.
         Well, maybe just as much.
         So writing about women who love cowboys comes naturally and from the heart—I’ve been doing it since eleventh grade chemistry. With the wisdom of years spent living at a distance from that life, though, I can see flaws in both cowboys and their horses—but I know that I, and countless others, became who we are because of that love for a special kind of man, the cowboy. Even if the cowboy is an illusion, it’s the kind of illusion that inspires and fills hearts.
         If you’re lucky enough to have your own real-life cowboy—wow!
         Maybe you have a horse and its cowboy. Don’t even buy a lottery ticket—you’ve hit the jackpot.
         As Roy and Dale would croon, “Happy Trails to you…”

Author’s note:  Ty Olivares, the heroine in The Cowboy’s Christmas Hand, in the new set ACowboy Under the Mistletoe, gave up horses and cowboys, like me—and must fight to regain what she lost when she left the family ranch. I hope you enjoy the story and the blog. Please comment and let me know how you feel about cowboys, horses, or what you find important in hanging on to family. All my best, Leslie.

A COWBOY UNDER THE MISTLETOE 



Christmas is a time for romance and love. Six amazing and best-selling authors weave the holiday season with the sexiest cowboys. What are you wishing for this Christmas? How about a Cowboy!!

A Cowboy for Christmas by Susan Fisher Davis--When Reid decides he needs to do one last thing to honor his best friend, will Lucy, his best friend’s widow, understand or say goodbye to the cowboy she got for Christmas.

The Cowboy’s Christmas Hand by Leslie Garcia--Ty Olivares, grew up cherished and surrounded by luxury--and lies she didn’t discover until her ex inherited the ranch that should have been hers.

Tempting the Cowboy by Melissa Keir--Johnson and Debra must trust in their love and rely on each other because, when temptation comes calling, only the strong will survive.

A Different Kind of Gift by Debbie Desmarteau--Will a chance meeting between a forlorn cowboy and a woman who gave up her dreams a long time ago lead to love, or just another set of broken hearts?

Saving a Cowboy’s Christmas
by Stephanie Berget--Gina’s been a lot of things, but rebound girl isn’t the next on her list. Even for a cowboy that’s always been out of her league.

Noah’s Christmas Faith by D'Ann Lindun--Faith Cortland has to protect her teenage sisters left in her care, so she refuses to let any man get close. Will Noah Carpenter be able to break down her defenses and show her she can trust him?






Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST October 13th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. US residents only. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Feeling a Character: Lyndell Williams’ novel Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit


Giveaway Alert!

I am thrilled about the release of my new novel, Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit. It is the second book in the Brothers in Law Romance series and the most difficult to write. 

The characters in my books face realistic issues that impact their falling and staying in love. In Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit, Toni must deal with the pain of infertility while watching her sister-in-law have baby after baby. She was successful in concealing her anguish the first time, but with a new pregnancy comes renewed pain and desire to be a mother. She needs to decide if she should stay quiet and suffer in silence or try again, something her husband, Marcus doesn’t want.

Marcus loves Toni and works hard to make her happy. Seeing her in any pain tortures him, so he decides that they just shouldn’t try to have a kid anymore. Unfortunately for him, the infertility demon doesn’t play fair. Toni vacillates emotionally; he feels helpless, and their marriage begins to fall apart.

Toni’s dilemma, pain and desperation tore into me as I wrote her because it brought back the torment I went through early in my marriage. Society is ridiculously hard on women who voluntarily or involuntarily do not procreate. No one around me really understood. They usually made well-intended but insensitive remarks and became irritated when I didn’t just get over it, which made getting Toni’s voice onto the page difficult.

I avoided Toni’s point of view while writing most of the book. My writing coach pointed it out to me after reading half of the first draft. She told me, “You do a fantastic job with Marcus but don’t allow Toni to come through enough. She has the most to lose, so why aren’t you giving her a stronger voice?” I finally had to admit that I feared the feelings Toni would have because it took me years to bury them for myself. It took a while to get to where I could write her the way she deserved when I did, she came shining through. A few scenes left me crying, but the emotional hit was worth it. Like most authors, I feel my characters’ emotions so readers can too.

Toni and Marcus’ relationship hit reveals a scary reality that many of us want to deny exists. Sometimes love isn’t enough. Life can inject some messed up stuff in the strongest of unions and threaten its stability. How well a couple gets along and the length of their relationship doesn’t safeguard them from tearing the good thing they have apart. Despite the successes they enjoy and deep emotional connections they share, Toni and Marcus must tackle with some tensions, making each doubt that they will stay together.  

~SWEET LOVE, BITTER FRUIT~

Has everybody lost their damned minds?

Harlem lawyer Marcus Kent fights for justice while preserving a stable, passionate marriage with wife, Toni. Smart and confident, he has it all together—that is until his world turns upside down.

Not only is someone stalking his sister, but an intern at work is also getting too close for comfort. On top of all of that, Toni’s renewed infertility obsession causes them to continually argue, adding more strain and cooling off their steamy union.

Struggling with insecurities and yearning to have a child, successful psychologist Toni Kent looks to her husband for support. Unfortunately, relentless distraction and stubbornness prevent Marcus from being there when she needs him the most and jeopardizes their happy home.

After multiple failed in vitro attempts, Toni is ready to try again, but Marcus is done. He doesn’t want another headache or more heartache.

Will a baby-making impasse tear this dream couple apart?

From the author of My Way to You, a new novel about keeping the flames of love and passion burning in a world determined to snuff them out.
~Excerpt~

“Toni.” Catching his breath, Marcus inhaled the delicious smells from the kitchen and started pulling off his hoodie. “Your man is home.” He scraped his wet sneakers on the entryway rug and scanned the apartment. The morning jog helped clear his head and renewed some of the confidence he was used to having in his chest.

Toni emerged from behind the refrigerator. “Hey, Babe. Hungry?” She held up a water bottle. “I rescheduled my morning appointments, so I don’t have to leave until later.”

He stood behind and pressed his body against hers, sliding his cold hands up and down her warm, soft arms. 

She giggled and squirmed. “Stop, Marc. You’re freezing.”

“Warm me up?” he asked, kissing her neck.

“Yes, with a nice breakfast. Now, let me do this.”

He smiled as he watched the polka dots on the pajama pants covering her bottom jiggle toward the stove. Always a morning treat. 

~Giveaway~
Enter to receive a signed copy of my book My Way to You, a bookmark and a key ring, plus more awesome goodies from I Love Diverse Romance.


Follow author Lyndell Williams on social media:


Friday, September 27, 2019

LOSS AND NEW LOVE: A MIDDLE-AGED, SOPHISTICATED WOMAN’S SECOND CHANCE AT FINDING LOVE AGAIN


Congratulations to "Taurus", the winner in Susan's giveaway. Please contact JUST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE to claim your prize!

Chronicling a widow, squarely in her mid-fifties, as she navigates her new life after the loss of her husband to cancer five years ago. A career driven interior designer, the protagonist Leila Brandt is stunning and possesses business-savvy as well as sophistication; however, she’s not ready for change in the romance department. After surviving the unimaginable, she’s buried her feelings of despair and grown accustomed to the routine of her single life.

Leila copes with her profound loneliness by channeling her energies into her business and close circle of grown children, family, and friends. Her formula works until she meets Ayden Doyle, an arrogant but hypnotically-appealing architect, at a new client’s home. Divorced for 25 years, Ayden is open about his aversion to commitment and the family obligations that come with long-term relationships. He’s also had significant experience with wooing women, and Leila gets to know firsthand that he’s very good at it. Still, despite her reservations, the astounding chemistry between them is impossible to ignore, and she finds herself beginning to fall under his spell. Ayden, meanwhile, finds Leila unlike the younger women who have occupied his time in the past, and is drawn to her intellectual depth, style, creativity, sense of humor, and sexual allure. Leopards may not change their spots―but if anyone can tame the beast, it will be Leila.

And Now There’s You proves that love will prevaileven when we suffer great losswhen all we expect in life is that our first love will last forever. But what ensures that love will last, especially the second time around when the romantic embers of youth have seemingly been extinguished? “I believe that just as in real life, the lovers in a novel are bound by an ineluctable and magnetic chemistry--the perception of one another’s attributes that each finds desirable, admirable, and sexually arousing,” says Etkin. “There’s an interplay of personalities, physical attractiveness, and deep connections possibly involving careers, talents, interests, cultures, conversations and the like. This truly unique and intense phenomenon can happen at any age and engenders feelings, that given enough time and multiple opportunities, may lead to a romantic relationship with staying power, a true attachment where, at times, desire overtakes all reason. This is the experience, one filled with excitement, optimism, and vision, I hope to invoke with readers of And Now There’s You.



Giveaway:
Susan S. Etkin will be giving away a copy to one lucky winner who leaves a comment or email entry.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST September 28th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. US residents only. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming

With: June Faver

Giveaway Alert!

This cowboy’s finally coming home for Christmas

Zach Garrett is home from war, haunted by PTSD, trying to fit in to what has become an alien world. With the holidays fast approaching, his uncle Big Jim Garrett offers him a place on the family ranch. Zach isn’t sure he’s up for a noisy, boisterous Garrett Christmas…until he meets beautiful Stephanie Gale, and all his protests go up in flames.

Firefighter and EMT Stephanie Gale is ready for anything. She’s got her life under control…until she locks eyes with Zack and realizes her heart’s in a whole new kind of danger. But with a little help from Zack’s long-lost army dog, maybe he and Stephanie will be able to make this a Christmas of new beginnings after all.

Dark Horse Cowboys series:
Do or Die Cowboy (Book 1)
Hot Target Cowboy (Book 2)
When to Call a Cowboy (Book 3)
Cowboy Christmas Gold (Book 4)

Praise for Do or Die Cowboy:
“Guaranteed melt-your-heart romance.”—Romancing the Book
“Heartwarming…a very entertaining story with some surprises.”—Harlequin Junkie

June Faver loves Texas, from the Gulf coast to the panhandle, from the Mexican border to the Piney Woods. Her novels embrace the heart and soul of the state and the larger-than-life Texans who romp across her pages. A former teacher and healthcare professional, she lives and writes in the Texas Hill Country.

Purchase Links:
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/2I3klkU


Excerpt:

Stephanie Gayle looked at the check. “Oh, Big Jim. This is so generous. You’re going to make sure the children have a nice Christmas.”
Big Jim shrugged. “It’s the least I can do for those poor kids.” He looked around the room, his gaze falling on a little red-haired girl and a blonde girl, maybe a little older. “I think all children need to be loved.”
I feel the same way.”
Big Jim’s face morphed from sentimental to grim. “How are those two kids you saved? The ones whose mother got killed.”
Stephanie tried to control the tremor in her voice. “They—they’re still at the children’s center. They don’t have any family members willing to take them in.”
Well, that’s a damned shame.”
She nodded. “Rafe Neeley, the step-father...He’s been arraigned and bound over for trial.” The image of Rafe’s angry face as he screamed threats made her shudder.
Good,” Big Jim pronounced. “I hope that sumbitch gets what’s coming to him. I can’t imagine a man hurting a woman or a child...much less murdering the woman you’re married to.”
Stephanie’s throat tightened. “Hope they put him away for a hundred years. The children...they witnessed their mother being murdered. They—they were so traumatized.”
 Big Jim let out a snort and reached in the back pocket of his Wranglers. He produced a worn leather billfold, and pulled out a couple of hundred dollar bills. “Here ya’ go. Buy them two angels a little something special...and let me know what happens to them. I hope they wind up with some good family.”
She swallowed hard. “Thanks, Big Jim. I’ll find something special for them.” The words ‘some good family’ were stuck in her craw.
Come have a cup of coffee, Stephanie.” Big Jim motioned her into the kitchen.
Stephanie took a seat at the counter while Big Jim filled two cups with coffee. He set one in front of her and leaned on the other side of the counter.
This was where Colt’s voice could be heard from the front of the house. “Hello! Where is everyone? I brought my brother from another mother.”
Back here,” Big Jim called.
Misty and Mark led the way, both grinning. “We got him,” Mark announced.
Colton came next, followed by a tall, muscular man wearing camouflage gear. This guy appeared to be on edge, like he’d just been plucked from a battle ground. His gaze took in the entire interior and everyone in the large kitchen. When he locked eyes with Stephanie, she felt a jolt like an electric shock. He was a Garrett.
It was the Garrett eyes. Those amazing, smokey turquoise eyes, ringed with black lashes. They held her in thrall for a moment before releasing her.
Big Jim let out a yelp. Zachery Garrett! Come here, boy!” Big Jim held out a hand, and when the newcomer reached for it, Big Jim dragged him closer and clasped him in a man hug. “Dang! It’s been a long time...and look how you’ve grown.”
Yes, sir. It’s been forever.”
Big Jim pounded him on the back, and then pulled back to look at him. “I’m glad you’re here, son. We all are. Just in time for Christmas.”
Glad to be here, sir.” His gaze flicked back to Stephanie.
Where are my manners?” Big Jim asked. “This fine young man is my nephew, Zach Garrett. He’s just been discharged from the US Army.”
Stephanie smiled. Nephew, huh? Garrett through and through.
Big Jim gestured toward her. “And this lovely young lady is Stephanie Gayle. Believe it or not, she’s a firefighter.”
Stephanie gave a one-sided grin and rolled her eyes. “Why do people always find it difficult to think of me as a firefighter?”
Because we always think of firefighters as big burly men,” Misty said. “One has to see you in action to know what a bad ass you are.”
This caused a round of laughter, all except this Zach guy. He just continued to stare at her as though he was committing her to memory, molecule-by-molecule. It was unsettling, to say the least, but there was something else...something simmering just below the surface.
Stephanie swallowed hard, something that felt like a roll of razor wire at the back of her throat. She straightened her shoulders, refusing to be intimidated by his scrutiny. Who is this guy, anyway?
Good to meet you, ma’am,” Zach said.
Ma’am? She nodded and offered a hand, which he wrapped with a large, baseball mitt size paw that was warm and very rough.
Colton slapped Zach on the shoulder. “C’mon, bro. Let’s get you settled in.” Colt shouldered the huge duffle bag and headed off toward the room he planned to settle Zach into.
Zach hit her with his laser beam eyes again, gave a little nod, before turning to follow his cousin. Misty and Mark trailed after them.
He’s had a rough time,” Big Jim said. “My brother died while Zach was deployed so he never got to say goodbye to his father.”
Oh, that’s so sad,” Stephanie said.
He’s a good boy. He’s going to be just fine.”
Stephanie agreed. Fine. That pretty much summed up the hottest guy she had laid eyes on in a long time...and she worked with the hottest men in the county.

***
Excerpted from Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by June Faver. © 2019 by June Faver. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 23, 2019

Lovers to enemies to lovers.


Congratulations to "Elizabeth H.", the winner in Alice's giveaway. Please contact JUST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE to claim your prize!

Adam Morrow and his two friends have declared themselves a Player’s Pact—men who will never give their hearts but will enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.  Now, Adam has been confronted by the woman who betrayed him years before, and he wonders if the old spark is still there.

“What are you going to do?” Ryan said.

“Nothing,” Adam answered.

Grant clapped Adam on the shoulder. “He’s going to get drunk, like any sane human male when he sees his ex—”

“You’re a pain in the ass,” Adam said, but that didn’t stop him from downing his martini.
“Maybe she still wants you,” Ryan said. “She had the best. Why would she want the rest?”

“It’s been too long.” But had it been? She’d pretended confidence when she’d confronted him, but he knew how vulnerable she’d been when she was younger. That person was still in there. Her eyes gave her away. They still held the hurt that had made him want to protect her back then. She didn’t know how to fight then, and she probably still didn’t.

He, on the other hand, knew little else. He still went with his boxing instincts. They’d served him well in business.

“Wait a minute.” Ryan pointed in Nicole’s general direction. “Westmore. Isn’t that the hotel chain you’re trying to take over?”

“Her father’s company,” Adam said.

“The man you used to work for,” Ryan said.

“As a chauffeur, for one summer.” The bastard treated his staff as if they weren’t fully human, and so he had constant turnover. “Old man Westmore nearly had a coronary when he discovered his daughter had fallen in love with the help.”

“So, what happened?” Grant asked.

“When things got tough, Nicole went along with her father’s wishes.” She’d chosen the bastard over him. Since then, Adam had planned and plotted, going to great lengths to show both of them who was the better businessman. At first, he’d just competed with Westmore’s company. He had more devious plans now.

He’d taken money from Vivian to get his own company off the ground. Together, they’d figured out a way to take over Westmore’s hotels through stock buy-outs, and the upcoming fatal blow—a vote of no confidence in the CEO. Vivian seemed thrilled to sink Nicole now that Nicole’s father had died. Did Adam really feel the same way after seeing Nicole again? Oh, hell.

“The two of you were lovers, right?” Grant asked.

Adam drained the last of his martini. “I took her virginity.”

Grant whistled again. “You two have a messed-up history.”

“You could say that.”

“Here’s what Dr. Ryan recommends,” Ryan said. “See if the spark is still there. If not, just walk away.”

“And if it is… Well, we’re not players for nothing,” Grant said.

Seduce Nicole? First of all, could he? The guys were right. If there was no spark, nothing was lost. But if the old flame hadn’t died out for either of them, well, it was worth exploring. Sex with her had been so amazing. She went from zero to top speed as soon as he touched her. It was the ultimate turn-on. He’d never come across another woman who responded so hotly to his touch. Sex with Nicole wasn’t an exercise in creating orgasms. It was a full-body experience.

“You’re thinking about it,” Grant said.

“It’s a bad idea,” Adam said.

Grant grabbed another martini from a waiter and exchanged it for Adam’s empty. “It’s a great idea.”

“At least one of us will have some fun tonight,” Ryan said.

“Yeah, this is my baby sister’s wedding,” Grant said. “I’d better behave myself.”

This time, Ryan put his hand on Adam’s shoulder. “You can do it, Adam. Put the old ghost from your past to rest.”

Would he be doing that tonight? Could he? Maybe the whole mystique of sex with Nicole was something his memory had created. He’d been a horny kid when he’d known her before. He hadn’t gotten laid as often as he did now. If the two of them had sex—and it was only nice—he’d be able to put her out of his mind once and for all.


He was still playing with the idea when Nicole sealed the deal by walking out onto the balcony alone. He could talk to her there, apologize for the cutting remark, and see where the conversation led. He could find out if the passionate woman he knew so long ago still lurked under her now-cool exterior.

“You talked me into it,” he said. Then he made his way around the crowd, toward the balcony and a date with his past.

THE REVENGE GAME


Adam Morrow is a self-made millionaire. But one night with her could ruin everything…
I’ve worked my ass off for what I have, and I’m damn proud of it. I started off with nothing and now I’m filthy rich. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like revenge to help you get your ass in gear. And that’s what I’m taking, with every exclusive resort I open—sweet, sweet revenge…on her.
Nicole Westmore was my first love. The poor little rich girl stole my heart with her sweet smile, hot body, and irresistible innocence. The summer I worked for her father was the best time of my life…until he drove me away. Even then, I thought Nicole would wait for me. She didn’t.
And so, I decided to get even, opening rival hotels, slowly driving them out of business. The old man is gone now, but Nicole is still running the company that’s about to collapse. All my hard work will soon pay off.
And then I catch sight of her at a wedding, and all those feelings come rushing back--for both of us. Still, she doesn’t know what I’ve done—yet—and she seems more than willing. What will one night in her bed hurt?

The sex is hotter than ever, and I can’t help wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Until I get up the next morning…and realize I’ve been kidnapped!


Giveaway:
Alice is giving away a paperback and a custom phone charger to one lucky person leaving a comment or email entry!

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST September 23rd. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact maureen@JustContemporaryRomance.com to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. US residents only.



Saturday, September 21, 2019

A Dash Of Christmas


Giveaway Alert!

“The perfect blend of heart and sass.”—Publishers Weekly for Holiday Spice

With a dash of Christmas magic…
Two people who have spent most of their lives being rivals…
Learn a little something about following their hearts…

Carter Montgomery broke the family mold when he went to culinary school. Now a successful restauranteur, he’s at a crossroads: should he continue on his successful path or look for a new challenge? What he needs is time alone to think things through. But his matchmaking family has other ideas…

Emery Monaghan’s no-good fiancĂ© has embroiled her in scandal and she needs a way out. When mentor Eliza Montgomery offers her a refuge, she’s relieved—until she realizes that the deal means rubbing elbows with Eliza’s son Carter—Emery’s childhood nemesis.

The Montgomery Brothers series:
Wait for Me (Book 1)
Trust in Me (Book 2)
Stay With Me (Book 3)
More of Me (Book 4)
Return to You (Book 5)
Meant for You (Book 6)
I'll Be There (Book 7)
Until There Was Us (Book 8)
Suddenly Mine (Book 9)

Praise for Samantha Chase:
“Utter rock star perfection. I dare you to stop reading until the end.”—Rachel Van Dyken, New York Times Bestselling Author, for One More Moment
“Chase’s three-dimensional characters leap off the page, encouraging readers to sit down, put their feet up, and enjoy...charming.”—Publishers Weekly for Until There Was Us
“Chase just gets better and better.”—Booklist

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Samantha Chase has published more than twenty romance novels, with over half a million copies sold. Visit her at www.chasing-romance.com. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Wake Forest, North Carolina



Excerpt:

“Don’t go.”

His voice was raw and it wasn’t hard to tell there was a battle waging within him. Normally, Emery enjoyed watching Carter squirm and struggle, but for some reason seeing him this emotional after a call with his mother affected her in a way she didn’t expect.

She felt compassion for him—a need to comfort him and tell him it was going to be all right.
She made her way toward him. “I think it would be best for everyone if I did. You didn’t deserve to be blindsided like this, and I’m sorry it happened this way. I truly believed you were aware of what was going on and you were coming here specifically to work on the book. I had no idea your trip here had nothing to do with it or that you were so against giving it more attention.”

Carter’s shoulders sagged a little. “At any other time…”

“I know,” she said softly, moving a little closer. “I get it. Hey, there isn’t anything I can do about whatever else you’re dealing with, but on this particular subject, I can. I’ll work with the files you sent your mother and I’ll make it into something closer to what she’s looking for, okay? And in the meantime, I’ll stay out of your way so you can have at least one night’s peace.”

They stood in silence for a long time, and as much as Emery wanted to pack and get out of his way, she couldn’t seem to make herself move. In all the years they had known one another, they had bickered and poked fun at each other and essentially gone out of their own way to make the other miserable. It was what they did. It was comfortable. But right now, she couldn’t think of a single snarky or antagonistic comment.

And that freaked her out.

Swallowing hard, she took a step back. And then another. Next thing she knew, she had spun and was walking back to her bedroom, mildly trembling. She went straight to her closet and pulled out her weekender bag. Knowing she wasn’t going to be going out or doing anything other than vegging in her hotel room, she walked over to her dresser and pulled out a couple of pairs of yoga pants, a few T-shirts, a pair of pajamas, and a pair of shorts and tossed them in the bag. Next, she opened her lingerie drawer and was pulling out a handful of panties when a large male hand closed over hers. Gasping with surprise, she turned and found herself face-to-face with Carter.

While they both held her panties.

Awesome.

Emery wanted to be outraged—or at the very least annoyed that he had invaded her space when she was clearly trying to be the bigger person here, but for some reason she couldn’t seem to make herself speak or react.

What was happening to her?

“This is crazy,” he said, his voice deep and low and borderline hypnotic.

So he felt it, too? This sudden, crazy pull toward one another? The change in the air around them?

“I already said I didn’t want you to go, Em,” he went on and that’s when she realized what he was talking about.

Forcing her gaze away, she carefully pulled her hand and underwear from his. “I think it’s for the best.” Then she moved away, tossing her garments in the weekender bag along with the rest of her clothes. For a few minutes, she busied herself collecting odds and ends—her laptop, her e-reader, her iPod—before going into the bathroom and grabbing her toothbrush, makeup, and brushes. Anything else she needed she’d get from housekeeping. When she walked back out into the bedroom, she found Carter sitting quietly on her bed.

And her weekender bag emptied.

Okay, now she was outraged.

“Seriously, Carter?” she cried. “Why can’t you just let me do this?”

He shrugged. “I already told you. It’s not necessary.”

“To me it is! There’s no reason for me to stay here. And, might I remind you, I’ve been a thorn in your side since we were kids!”

It pleased her that he paled a little at having his words thrown back at him.

“I would think you’d be thankful that I was leaving,” she said, hating the tremor in her voice. “One less thing for you to worry about.”

The curse that flew out of his mouth followed by a huff of annoyance didn’t really surprise her. This was them. This was the relationship they had. And honestly, she preferred this to the strained silence and whatever it was that she was feeling just minutes ago.

Carter stood and walked over until they were toe to toe. “What I said to my mother,” he began and then stopped. “What I mean is, that was said in the heat of the moment and really, it couldn’t have been news to you. I’ve been telling you that to your face since we were twelve.”

“Eleven, but…whatever,” she corrected and smirked when he growled with frustration.

“That! That right there is why I said it! Can’t you just let some things go?”

Me?” she cried. “How about you? I was being the bigger person here! I was putting your feelings first, and where did that get me, huh? I should be in a cab on my way to a hotel with room service, but instead I’m here arguing with you again! Why couldn’t you just let me leave?”

They both instantly fell silent and Emery felt herself holding her breath while she waited for his answer.

“What’s the matter?” she finally asked. “Is it possible the arrogant Carter Montgomery has nothing to say for himself for the first time in his life?”

Yeah, she was taunting him, but…she needed to. Needed things to be like they always were. If she didn’t get them back on solid ground—back on the familiar turf of a lifelong rivalry—she wouldn’t know what to do. For years she’d been aware of Carter as a person. 

She couldn’t deal with suddenly being aware of him as a man.

When his only response was a slight tick in his jaw, she figured she’d poke the bear a little more. “Did you burn the sauce? Is that why we’re not eating yet? Or maybe you realized all that pretentious crap you bought was no better than grabbing a couple of slices from the pizzeria on the corner.” She noted he seemed to be almost inflating before her eyes—his posture straightened, his shoulders seemed to grow broader…

Go big or go home, right?

Leaning in, she said, “I bet you really don’t know how to make homemade pizza. At least not good homemade pizza.” She let out a devious little laugh. “Probably thought I would be too naive to know the difference. You probably could have served up one of my frozen pizzas and I wouldn’t know the difference.”

He was breaking molars now, no doubt.

“Not that it matters. I’ve got some microwave popcorn I can have for dinner, along with the last brownie. That’s the kind of stuff I can count on—and will probably be a lot more enjoyable.”

This time when Emery tried to move away, Carter’s large hand on her arm stopped her.
She had to hide her smile of satisfaction. “Problem?” she asked innocently.

“You’ve got a real smart mouth, Emery, but you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Oh, really? Care to explain?”

But he shook his head. “As a matter of fact, no. I don’t.”

She shrugged. “Fine, whatever. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my dinner awaits.”

“If you so much as think of making popcorn for dinner, I’ll strangle you,” he said, tugging her closer.

When she leaned in until they were nose to nose, she said, “I dare you.”

“Such a smart mouth,” he said right before he claimed it.

***
Excerpted from A Dash of Christmas by Samantha Chase. © 2019 by Samantha Chase. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.


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