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Monday, October 7, 2019

Christmas at Mistletoe Lodge: New Holiday Romances to Benefit St. Judes Hospital ~ by Joanne Jaytanie

CHRISTMAS AT MISTLETOE LODGE NY Times, USA Today, & Award-Winning Romance Authors bring you the HEA Box Set of the Season! 10 NEW BOOKS to warm your heart and curl your toes!

Each novel in this sweet to steamy romance set has a Mistletoe Lodge, none the same, but all magical, Christmasy and full of Happily Ever After endings. Curl up in a favorite chair and treat yourself to 10 wonderful holiday romances full of Christmas trees, jingle bells and mistletoe.

Available for Preorder Now 
Releases October 22nd 

Sabrina York – Cooped Up For Christmas — It was supposed to be an easy gig—working as a concierge at a luxury lodge for the super-rich over Christmas—but then he had to show up. The boy who broke my heart all those years ago. But former Navy SEAL Cameron Cooper isn't exactly a boy anymore.

Tamara Ferguson – A Kiss Under A Blue Christmas Moon — Blue Moon’s bandleader, Noah’s been crazy about Mia since the moment they met at a magical beach concert, but Mia’s father sabotages their romance before Noah goes to war. Six years after escaping her controlling father, Mia’s returned to Crystal Rock to find Lieutenant Noah Erikson’s never stopped loving her.

Jen Talty – Alaskan Christmas – Flynn Wagner sets off to the frozen tundra and the Mistletoe Lodge, prepared for endless stories about her mother. However, nothing can prepare her for coming face to face with the one man she couldn’t get out from under her skin. At the lodge, Colton Granger never expected to find the woman who had changed his life forever in high-heeled boots, a winter coat that wouldn’t keep a person warm, and a killer smile that would soon melt his heart.

Natalie Ann – Christmas Love – Former model, Noelle Bennett has decided she wants to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. Just her and the woods around her little home, snapping pictures of the winter landscape and historic Inns. Then how did sexy veterinarian Dr. Chase Martin talk her into adopting a puppy and wondering if the peaceful life wasn't what she wanted all along?

Pam Binder – Christmas Makeover — Mistaken as a wedding and events planner, the out-of-work dog walker, is hired to transform a rundown inn into a Medieval themed-wedding destination. But the owner’s handsome son, Owen, has other plans for the Inn.

Tammy L. Grace – Christmas in Snow Valley — Fifteen years ago, he broke her heart. She never moved on. Will a little Christmas magic bring them back together?

Jacki Delecki – Mission: Impossible to Wed — A wedding designer and a Special Ops soldier are thrown together for a country wedding that has them both thinking they’ll never get married.

Joanne Jaytanie – Christmas Chemistry — It's nothing but an old tavern. But to the Jamersons and Brocks, it's a treasured history, a precious legacy. Can Gina Jamerson and Owen Brock meet in the middle or will their families ruin any chance of compromise?

 Kim Hornsby – The Christmas Challenge A hermit blogger attends a destination wedding as part of a Christmas challenge and meets someone who gets her heart racing again only to discover he has a game-changing secret—about her.

Lauren Gayle – A Southern Lights Christmas When a rare winter storm covers their Christmas getaway with bone-chilling snow and ice, two strangers are challenged with the reality of winter in a southern town.

LEARN MORE! Excerpts and Bios Below

Read blurbs and excerpts from the books in this collection, and connect with the authors!

Win a Christmas Gift from the Authors of Christmas at Mistletoe Lodge 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cooped Up for Christmas by Sabrina York

Though she has a terribly romantic vacation planned with her boyfriend, Victoria Walker, VP of Hospitality for Eden Properties, Inc., is called to fill in for a flaky employee at the last moment, forcing her to spend Christmas as luxury concierge at the luxury Eden’s Mistletoe Lodge at Shannon Lake. She finds herself spinning as she revisits her first job—serving an impossible client, herding a clowder of staff-kittens and dealing with an overemotional French chef. To make matters worse, this client has requested high octane snow sports, so the staff also includes former SEAL Cameron Cooper, who now works as an excitement adventure tour guide to the rich. 

Oh, and also? Cameron’s Vic’s ex. You know. The one you hope you never run into again, because he’s the one you wish you could. 


Cooper winked at me as he followed Ben and the others from the room, and for some reason, for a second there, I was pretty damn happy he was here. But then, he stopped short. “Oh. I do have a question.”
He looked around the empty room, then leaned in and his lips touched mine. It wasn’t an onslaught. It was, indeed, a question. Sweetly asked with timorous hope.
I didn’t mean to answer that question. I swear to God I didn’t. Something possessed me, took hold. Something made me kiss him back. Maybe it was the allure of his breath, I wanted to drink it all in. Maybe it was just joy that we were together again. Maybe it was just a reawakened primal lust… Surely is wasn’t the ache of a soul unfulfilled. I was damn fulfilled. I had a great job, a fabulous apartment and a hot boyfriend.
What a pity he wasn’t anywhere in my mind when I kissed Coop back.
It was a long, hot, hard kiss, one that woke up parts of my body that had been, apparently, in hibernation for years. In fact, his kiss set me afire.
So much so that I lurched back and swiped my bangs out of my eyes and said, “There. Does that answer your question?” I asked all this in a frosty tone that was hardly breathless at all, so I have no idea why he laughed. “It does indeed, Vic.” To my horror, he turned and continued out the room.
“And what was that burning question, may I ask?” I had to ask his retreating form. I just had to. He looked back and winked. “I wanted to know if it’s still there, Vic. That thing between us.”
Heat rose on my cheeks. “What thing?” I knew damn well. I’d just felt it. 
His expression made clear he was wise to me. He came closer again and whispered, “It’s great to see you again, Sweetheart.”

Sabrina York (Cooped Up For Christmas/Former SEAL)

Her Royal Hotness, Sabrina York, is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of hot, humorous romance. Her titles range from sweet & sexy to scorching romance in all genres and might include snark (SPOILER ALERT).  

Sabrina’s recent accolades include: 2018 Holt Medallion Winner,
2017 RITA Nominee for Susana and the Scot and the 2017
National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award

Social Media Links & Connections

VIP Newsletter and 2 free books: 
Twitter @sabrina_york

Kiss Under A Blue Christmas Moon by

(Daydreams & Dragonflies Rock 'N Sweet Romance 4)

After moving with her father from Chicago to Crystal Rock, Wisconsin, student Mia Michaels is excited to be invited to participate at the local music camp during the summer.
Overlooking her father’s lack of enthusiasm, Mia has been planning a future in music her entire life.

Despite a music scholarship offer, Noah Erikson will be enlisting in the Air Force to help support the grandparents who raised him. Blue Moon’s band leader, Noah’s been crazy about Mia since the moment he saw her, and when he serenades her at a magical beach concert with a song he wrote for her, they can’t fight their feelings any longer.

Few people know of Noah’s status as a scholar, including Mia’s
father, who can’t see past the kid who wears an earring and rides a Harley. When Noah comes home on leave and agrees to meet Mia for a Christmas rendezvous at the romantic Mistletoe Lodge, Mia’s father sabotages their plans before Noah’s sent overseas to Iraq.

Six years after escaping her controlling father, choreographer Mia returns to Crystal Rock and discovers Lieutenant Noah Erikson has never stopped loving her. Can Noah break through Mia’s heart, or will it be another Blue Christmas without her?


It had never been important to him before, but right now, Noah really wanted to see Mia’s face. 
Noah turned to Brad, muttering, “This mic runs on batteries too. Right?”
Brad gave him a look that was definitely wary. “Yep. What have you got in mind?” “A little interaction with the audience,” Noah answered.
“Yeah, right,” Brad answered, shaking his head with obvious resignation. “You’re whipped, and you don’t even know it yet.”
Noah grinned, pulling the guitar strap over his head and laying down the guitar before unclipping the mic from its stand.
Brad asked dryly, “Got a specific number in mind?”  “Star-crossed,” Noah answered abruptly.
Brad glanced at Chris and Mike. “Hear that?” They both shook their heads in acknowledgment.
Brad rolled his eyes. “I should have figured you wrote it for her.”
Picking up Noah’s guitar and switching it out with his, Chris looked unusually perceptive.
“You’re the last guy I thought would pull a Maroon 5 on us.”
Noah grimaced, realizing Brad and Chris were right. He’d been thinking about Mia when he wrote the lyrics, and this would be the first time he’d performed the song. It was fast-paced, but romantic too, which was something he’d always steered away from in the past.
Chris began strumming the opening chords as Noah moved across the stage and down the staircase into the audience, amidst wolf whistles and cat calls from some of his fellow classmates. 
Noah grinned, winking at his grandparents, who couldn’t seem to quit laughing as Noah stalked through the crowd, gyrating his hips with the music. 
He took in a deep breath, approaching Mia, his heart missing a beat when she turned, staring into his eyes and looking stunned.

‘When I looked into your eyes,
A shooting star dashed through the sky, And I finally figured why,
I’m hypnotized.’

Chris and Brad sang along with the keyboard in the background.

‘Star-crossed, star-crossed.’

And when Mia smiled, there was a light in her eyes, so Noah smiled back at her, moving closer as he continued to sing.

‘I’m hypnotized,
By cerulean blue eyes.’

Chris and Brad joined in again.

‘Star-crossed, star-crossed.’

Noah finally keyed up into a falsetto.

‘I’m star-crossed,
I’m hypnotized,
Cause I know I see forever in your eyes.’

* * *

Half her heart fell when he approached through the audience without taking his eyes from her face. The other half of Mia’s heart stopped beating for a moment when Noah began singing, and she realized he’d written a song for her. But it was the falsetto that solidified her feelings, setting her heart racing madly. He had a beautiful voice.
But how could she be certain what she was feeling was real? After all, she’d never once spoken with Noah Erikson. Not only was she clueless about what she should do, she was totally out of depth. 
She’d never even had a boyfriend.
As he continued with the song, Mia was melting from the warmth in Noah’s chocolaty brown eyes when he stared intently into hers. She hadn’t caught a word of the second verse, she realized, hearing the other band members repeating the chorus onstage.

‘Star-crossed, star-crossed.’

Noah smiled, his voice moving back into falsetto.

‘I’m star-crossed,
I’m hypnotized,
Cause I know I see forever in your eyes.
Star-crossed, star-crossed.’

The background music suddenly went quiet, and Noah’s voiced slowed as he transitioned beautifully into acappella.

‘Cause I know I see forever in your eyes.’

Continuing to hold her gaze, he tucked the microphone into his jean’s pocket, and then, reaching out and laying a hand on each side of her face, he bent down, lightly brushing his lips against her forehead.
Even the touch of his lips was electric, and heat went shooting straight through her.
Inhaling deeply, she felt like she needed to say something. “Your band sounds great. The song you just sang was beautiful.”
Noah’s smile went wide. “The dancing wasn’t half bad either, was it?”
Mia grimaced. “Truthfully? You could use a little help with that part of the performance.” For a moment, Noah looked at her in apparent consternation. 
And then he barked out a laugh and couldn’t seem to stop. The microphone was still turned on, so everyone at the beach must have heard her, because even the guys from his band were snickering loudly onstage.
“In that case Mia, I’m definitely going to need your help,” Noah said, starting to walk away. 
He suddenly turned back, and Mia could swear she saw uncertainty in his eyes. “Later?”
When Mia smiled, she couldn’t seem to help it when she nodded her agreement. “Later.”
Mia was in a daze during the rest of the concert. After she began thinking about the fact that
Noah was a guy in a band, most likely being pursued by a bunch of other girls, she wasn’t quite as starstruck as she’d been earlier, when he’d been standing right in front of her. 
But when she looked over at Bree a few minutes later, Mia was surprised to see she’d been crying.
Mia wrapped an arm around her friend. “Bree? What’s wrong? Are you alright?”
“Mia. That’s gotta be one of the most romantic things I’ve ever seen—not even in the movies.” Bree sniffed, scraping the tears from her face. “There’s something I should probably let you in on. I know a few of Noah’s friends and according to them, he’s never been interested in anyone like this before. He doesn’t even bring dates to any of our dances, even when his band’s performing, like they did at prom.”
“How do you always seem to know what I’m thinking?” Mia asked. “I didn’t even know he was serious until tonight. I imagine he gets lots of girls chasing after him?”
Bree shrugged. “It goes with the territory. Plus he’s really hot. I’m sure he’s dated. But not much. He takes life pretty seriously, that’s why I got such a kick out of you making him laugh so hard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that before.”
Mia grinned. It surprised her to realize how much better Bree’s words made her feel. 
Bree nudged her in the ribcage and waved at an older couple sitting in lawn chairs near the beach.
“What?” Mia asked, giving Bree a side glance. Her tears seemed to have evaporated with her smile. “Wave back,” Bree answered.
Mia smiled and waved, asking, “Who am I waving at?”
Bree laughed. “Noah’s grandparents, of course.”
Mia grimaced. “Oh, geez. You should have pointed them out sooner.”
“I thought you saw them earlier, when you were watching Noah,” Bree said. 
“You notice everything, don’t you?” Mia muttered. “To tell you the truth, I was too busy checking him out to pay attention to who he was talking to. He seems to know just about everyone. Kind of like you, as a matter of fact.”
“Checking him out—huh?” Bree laughed again. “Those tight black jeans, and that thin tshirt with the sleeves cut off?”
“What?” she answered. “There’s no law against checking him out, even if he’s interested in you. Is there?”
Mia suddenly giggled. “He doesn’t just sit around playing music all day, does he? Did you notice the size of those arms?”
“I was too busy checking out his…”
“Bree.” Mia stopped her before she could say more. Mia realized she was a person of interest now with her fellow classmates, and too many people around them were listening to what was being said.
Looking into each other’s eyes, they both began laughing madly.

Tamara Ferguson (A Kiss Under A Blue Christmas Moon)

Writing both steamy and sweet compassionate stories of fate that are wonderfully romantic, Tamara Ferguson is the multi-award winning, #1 International and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Tales of the Dragonfly Romance Suspense Series, the Kissed By Fate Series, the Two Hearts Wounded Warrior Romance Book
Series, the Daydreams & Dragonflies Rock ‘N Sweet Romance Series and the Tales From Dragonfly Pointe Short Story Series.

If you don't believe in the power of fate, you shouldn't read her
stories, because Tamara always writes a happily-ever-after for her heroines and heroes, since it doesn't always work out that way in real life.

Since 2015, she has earned more than twenty-five awards in multiple contemporary genres, the majority for her Two Hearts Wounded Warrior romances, including five Readers' Favorite International Book Awards; Two Hearts Unbroken earning the Bronze (2018), Two Hearts
Unspoken earning the Silver (2016) and Two Hearts Find Christmas earning the GOLD Medal in Military Fiction (2018.)  

A member of the RWA, the Authors' Billboard and the Independent Authors' Network, her stories have been included in several #1 bestselling anthologies.

Since she remains a full-time caregiver for an autistic son (along with a bunch of adopted pets!), you can usually find Tammy working at home, where she spends a lot of time not completing her numerous home improvement projects, because she's writing or helping author friends promote their books.

Tamara’s Links:
Tamara's Blog & Website   
Tamara on Twitter: @Tammysdragonfly   
Tamara on Twitter @KissedByFate2   
Tamara on Instagram     
Tamara E-mail  
Kissed by Fate on Facebook  
Kissed by Fate homepage   Two Heart Wounded Warrior Romance on fb  Tamara on Tumblr   

Alaskan Christmas by Jen Talty

He was the second date that should have lasted a life time.

Flynn Wagner didn’t have time for relationships. Her career as a head hunter in New York City was the only thing she truly cared about, outside of her parents. When her dying mother asks her to go on their much-anticipated trip to Alaska without her, Flynn can’t deny her mother’s request. A few weeks after her mother’s passing, Flynn sets off to the frozen tundra and the Mistletoe Lodge. She’s prepared for hearing endless stories about her mother. However, nothing can prepare her for coming face to face with the one man she couldn’t get out from under her skin.  

Colton Granger left Alaska and joined the Army when he’d been eighteen years old. He swore he’d never return to his home town.
But when his father has a heart attack, Colton decides it’s time to return to the Mistletoe Lodge and help his mother keep the business running during the winter months while his father recovers. He never expected to open the doors to the Lodge and find the woman who had changed his life forever standing there in high-heeled boots, a winter coat that didn’t keep a person warm, and a killer smile that would soon melt his heart.


He moved behind Flynn, pressing his body against her back. “I’ve been dealing with women like her since I started as a tour guide. I almost never take them up on their offers.” “Almost never?”
“Only once did I ever hook up with a guest. Second biggest mistake of my life.” He lifted the reins and put them in her hands.
“What was your first?” she asked.
“Letting you blow me off.”
“Damn Colton, that’s a really good line. Now why don’t we just get everyone and head to lunch? I really don’t need to learn anything about mooching—” “Mushing.”
“Whatever. I’ll just end up getting one of us hurt. Or worse. One of the dogs.” The lead dog turned his head and growled.
“See, he agrees,” she said.
“He’s just ready to get moving. Now I’m going to use my right leg and pedal.” “What’s that?” she asked gripping the harness so tight her hands had to be white. “Just helping the dogs get started. Now do you remember the commands we discussed?” “I think so.” She took in a deep breath.
“Alright. Let’s go down the trail we just came from and we’ll circle around at the turn off where we saw the eagle. Okay?” She nodded. “Hike,” she said softly.
“A little louder.”
“Hike. Hike,” she repeated.
The dogs took off at what could be called a trot, jerking her backward. Thank God, Colton was there to make sure she didn’t fall off, because had she been forced to do this by herself, she’d be on her back making snow angles. A fork in the trail appeared. “Haw,” she yelled.
“Gee. Gee.” Colton took ahold of the harness and pulled to the right. He pressed his cheek against hers. “Haw is left. Gee is right,” he whispered.
“Will you just take over and I’ll stand here looking…well, not pretty, because who the hell looks hot in this shit.”
“You’re so sexy right now.”
“Right. I’m all covered—whoa! Whoa!” The dogs came to an abrupt stop.
Flynn’s body flung forward before being propelled backward into Colton, shoving them backward.
“Oh shit,” he mumbled circling his arms around her body. She landed on top of him with a thud.
He groaned. “Fuck, that hurt.” He rolled to the side. The lead dog strolled by and sniffed at his head. “Are you okay?”
“Fine. Just concerned about what was poking into my backside. Seriously? I can’t believe you just did that.”
“You mean right here?” He pressed his hand against the small of her back. “I’m tall, but not that tall. What you felt was my weapon. As in gun. As in metal. Besides, it’s a little too cold out here for me to get an erection, but now that I’m thinking about it, things are, well, growing.” She elbowed him in the gut. “You’re a pig.”
“I’m just a guy with a sexy warm body pressed against my manhood.”
She burst out laughing. “Did you seriously just say that?”
“Not one of my more shining moments, that’s for shore.” He jumped to his feet and stretched out his arms. “Thankfully, the dogs didn’t take off.”
“Yeah. That would have sucked.” She rested her hands on his shoulders and stared at his shiny thick goggles, wishing she could see his ocean-like eyes.
He must have read her mind because he lifted her goggles to her forehead and then his own. Gently, he pulled down his mask.
Her heart tightened and her breath caught in her throat. She tried to swallow three times before she succeeded.
“I’m going to kiss you.” Before she could protest, he’d pulled her mask to her neck pressed his cold lips against hers. His hot tongue darted into her mouth, swirling around, gently stroking every crevice. Her muscles went weak and she leaned into his strong body. The first time he’d kissed her, she thought she’d died and gone to heaven. No one kissed like he did. It wasn’t too tender, nor did he leave her lips bruised, but his touch would linger for hours.
Quickly, he covered her face. “We should get back.”
She nodded, climbing on the back of the sled. Her heart hammered so fast in her chest, she thought it might punch through her ribcage. The thumping echoed in her ears.
“Hike,” Flynn commanded. Once again, the dogs took off down the path, heading back toward the small cabin. “You don’t ever have to be jealous of a woman like Lisa.”
“I’m not jealous. If you want to go after her, go for it. Hell. Feel free to have an entire haram if you want.”
He laughed. “I felt every muscle in your body tense when you said those words. You want to be the woman in my bed and—”
“I’d stop talking before I knock you off this sled again.”
“Promise, promises.”
She bit her tongue. Based on past experiences with Colton, when he got this cocky, he wouldn’t stop until he got what he wanted.
And she knew she'd cave. It was inevitable.


Jen Talty (Alaskan Christmas) 

Welcome to my World! I'm a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance. I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.

I'm currently enjoying the next phase of my life...the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the
world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.

Jen’s Links:  

TWITTER: https:/

Christmas Love by Natalie Ann

What happens when even the strongest are blinded by insecurities? 
Former model, Noelle Bennett has decided she wants to be behind the camera instead of in front of it. She is longing for peace and quiet. No more traveling. No more crowds. No more men hitting on her left and right. Or people only wanting one thing from her. Just her and the woods around her little home, snapping pictures of the landscape, wildlife, and historic grounds. A normal life for once...maybe.
Veterinarian Chase Martin has always gotten along better with animals than people. So when a sexy woman who looks like she just walked out of a fashion magazine shows up at his clinic offering to volunteer to take pictures of the dogs for his rescue shelter, he finds what should have been a great idea turning into uncharted territory for them both. Now he is wondering how he got so lucky...or is it more how unlucky he’s always been?

 Chase didn’t want his picture on the pamphlet. Everyone knew who he was. They knew what he did and what he was concerned with. No way having his picture would help or even make a difference.
“If you say so,” he replied, not wanting to argue, nor wanting their time to come to an end. What he really wanted to do was find a way to make this night last a lot longer but had no clue how to do it.
“So how do you get these puppies back inside?” she asked, leaning down to pet one of them, then pick up and cuddle it a little closer. “How old is this one?” she asked.
The boxer bulldog mix was just loving the attention and he couldn’t blame the little fellow one bit. 
“Eight weeks. An apartment fire left that one homeless a few days ago not far from here.” “Oh, so you take dogs in at any time?” she asked.
“If there is a need, I will, but the bulk are sent here like I said.” He walked forward. “This little guy is pretty lovable. I think he had a decent family that took him in, but unfortunately they were displaced and are staying in a hotel.” “They won’t come back for him?” she asked, then laughed when the dog licked her face. First she giggled, and now was a nice throaty laugh. He liked that better than the giggle, but the giggle was pretty special too.
“No. I’m sure they’ve got other things to worry about than a puppy that was in their house for a few days. We’ll find a good home for him. Sure you don’t want him? He seems pretty smitten with you.” Lucky dog, being in her arms.
“I’ve never had a dog before,” she said, walking forward with the pup in her arms, while the other three followed fast on his heels after he called them.
“How come?” he asked, liking that they were just carrying on a conversation about something that was second nature to him. Something that was so important in his life.
“I’ve always lived in apartments and flats. I’ve traveled a lot, even as a kid. It wasn’t something that would have worked out well.”
“What about now?” he asked, thinking it wasn’t the time to talk about their pasts. “You said you just moved here and have time on your hands.” He hoped that didn’t sound like he was prying.
“I wouldn’t know the first thing about taking care of a puppy,” she said, but she didn’t say no, so he was going to push a little bit more.
“It’s not that hard,” he said and hoped she believed that lie. “Yeah, right,” she said back, laughing. Guess not.
“Most puppies are forgiving. They just want some love. They don’t care if you’re late with their food, they’ll let you know when they’re hungry or want to play.”
“Like just now,” she said when he handed the three remaining puppies small bones before they took off for the open room out front and started chasing each other. The one in her arms decided to settle in for a snooze. She didn’t look like she was going to put him down either, but rather shifted him like she was cradling a baby now.
“You can give him any name you want. He’s almost housebroken too. Did you notice how he was the first one out there doing his business before he came over to play?”
“I did,” she said. She was caving, he could see a glimmer of it, like that tiny light in the distance that you were drawn to hoping it would just get brighter.
“He sure seems attached to you.”
She rubbed her nose on the pup’s wrinkly chin. “I don’t know how anyone can tell you no.
Don’t I have to sign contracts or something? Buy bowls, food, leashes. I don’t even know,” she said, frowning now.
“We can deal with the contract. Yes, you need those things, but I’ve got some over at the clinic if you want. Or the pet store is open...”
“I don’t even know what to buy in terms of those things.” 
She wasn’t putting the pup down though, so he wasn’t stopping. “If you don’t have any plans, we could go over together and I’d walk you through the basics. I can help you get set up tonight if you want.”
“Do you do this with everyone that adopts a dog?”
Crap, was she seeing right through him? He was so not good at this. 
“No. But not everyone comes in here like this and offers to help, then finds a puppy falling in love with them. I’d hate to see you both not get to experience the bond.”
“You’re good,” she said, looking down at the sleeping puppy she was rocking in her arms.
He’d seen dogs grin before and this one was laying on the charm extremely thick. 
“What do we do with the puppy now?”
He looked at his watch. “We can put him back in the kennel. These other three have been having fun. We’ll come back after you get what you need and pick the puppy up.”
“I can’t believe I’m about to agree to this,” she said. “But if you’ve got the time and are willing, then we might as well. Let’s fill out the contract now, and he can continue with his nap.”
Chase put the other three dogs back and then returned to see Noelle sitting in a chair whispering to the sleeping puppy. If there was a better sight on the face of this earth than a person falling in love with a dog, he’d yet to see it. 

Natalie Ann (Christmas Love) 

NATALIE ANN is a USA Today bestselling author that lives in Upstate NY with her husband, son, and French bulldog.  She has always had a love for books, especially happily ever after. She writes contemporary romance with a dash of humor focusing on real life (but fictional) situations and storylines.
She’s inspired by the crazy, ridiculous, touching and emotional family dynamics that most people go through. Her series are based right in her home state or cities she has visited.
Contact Natalie Ann

Christmas Makeover by Pam Binder

Miranda Gale’s life is about to change. Mistaken as a wedding and events planner, the out-of-work dog walker, is hired to transform a rundown inn into a Medieval themed-wedding destination. But the owner’s handsome son, Owen, has other plans for the Inn. Now she must makeover not only the inn, but work to change Owen’s cold heart, if her dreams of a new life are to come true.


Midnight and Miranda couldn’t sleep. 
The aroma of dark, melted chocolate filled the Mistletoe Lodge’s kitchen as Miranda added a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to the saucepan on the stove. Her mind was too full with thoughts of Owen and the dilemma she faced to sleep. She had abandoned her rules and was falling for an attractive man. 
Even his ridiculously bushy beard hadn’t deterred her from feeling all gooey inside whenever he entered a room. She had to stay focused. He relied on her to help him revitalize his lodge, but the only solutions she’d come up with he would veto.
When she couldn’t sleep, she fell back on the one thing she hoped would help her  discover a new plan. She was never more like herself then when she recreated her mother’s
signature hot coco recipe. The concoction purported to have magical properties that opened a person to new possibilities. The smell alone did the trick. She didn’t know if she believed in such things, but still… 
 Miranda added brown sugar and cream and stirred, dipped a spoon into the creamy texture and brought it to her mouth for a taste. Smooth, dark, and rich, with a hint of chilies. She closed her eyes and sighed.   
              “You look…different.”
     Owen’s deep male voice startled her back to the present and the spoon slipped from her hand into the saucepan. She spun toward him. 
     He filled the entry. Bare chested, he wore only sweatpants, and appeared as though he’d awakened from a sound sleep. She wondered if he would mind if she covered him in chocolate, then shook herself free of the fantasy.
              She took in a shallow breath, afraid to move.
Owen’s green eyes darkened to deep emerald and smoldered like a banked fire. His breath labored as he raked his hands through his hair. “You look different,” he repeated.
Her heart raced. She knew what he meant, but it had nothing to do with her clothes. If anything, she looked more plain-Jane than usual. Her straight hair frizzed from the heat of the kitchen and perched in a haphazard fashion on top of her head. She wore her favorite red and green plaid Christmas PJ’s, and matching fleece robe. The perfect example of what not to wear in the presence of a handsome man.
No, it wasn’t her appearance that was different. The fault resided in the combination of ingredients on the stove that caused Owen to glance at her like she was a hot fudge sundae. This was the same recipe her mother claimed had made Miranda’s father fall in love. One whiff, her mother said, and he was besotted. One taste and he was down on one knee, proposing marriage.
Miranda swallowed down her panic. Had her mother ever regretted the part the recipe played?    
     She wouldn’t be like her mother. She turned off the stove, dumped the saucepan in the sink, reached for a pitcher of water, and marched over to Owen. Before she could change her mind, she tossed the water in his face.
     Startled, he stepped back. Water dripped down his beard as he rubbed his eyes. When he glanced in her direction the enchanted expression evaporated.              She should feel relieved, instead of disappointed.
     He closed the distance between them and brushed his thumb over her mouth. “You have chocolate on your lips,” he said as he brought his thumb to his mouth. In the next instant, his eyes widened.
              The enchantment returned.  

Pam Binder (Christmas Makeover)

Pam Binder is an award-winning New York Times and Amazon bestselling author of ten novels and one novella. The diverse author, who resides in a suburb of Seattle, writes young adult, romance, historical, time travel and fantasy fiction. Pam received RT Book Reviews’ Pioneers in Romance award in 2018. She is a conference speaker and teaches the year-long classes, “After the First Draft” and “Write Your story,” and is also the president and program director of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. Drawn to Celtic legends and anything Irish or Scottish, Pam blends historical events, characters, and myths into everything she writes.

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Christmas in Snow Valley by Tammy L. Grace

(Hometown Christmas Book 1)

Fifteen years ago, he broke her heart. She never moved on. Will a little Christmas magic bring them back together?

After leaving Snow Valley behind for college and a life in New
York City, Emily returns to her small hometown to spend
Thanksgiving with her sister. Her sister has to leave town, forcing Emily to extend her stay and coordinate the mayor's annual Christmas Tree Party at the Mistletoe Lodge. 

Emily hasn’t heard from the boy she thought was “the one” since the day he walked out of her life.  When he walks back into it, while she’s in the midst of prepping for the holiday party, she’s shocked. She’s prepared to give him a piece of her mind, but when she sees the man before her, more handsome than ever, her resolve evaporates. 

A beautiful lodge, a massive snowstorm, and two lovable dogs might be the perfect catalyst for the two of them to confront the past and rekindle what they thought was lost.
The best-selling author of women’s fiction and sweet Christmas romances delivers a new touching small-town holiday novella perfect for readers who enjoy heartwarming characters, dogs, and second chances. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, curl up in front of a warm fire, and escape to Snow Valley this Christmas.    


As Emily enjoyed her eggs benedict, Sara chattered nonstop, going over of all the details related to the house and her businesses, telling her again to text with any questions. As Mike signed the check, he reminded Emily to charge any meals she wanted to their account. 
Sara swallowed a hurried sip and added, “Oh, and I have an account at Rosie’s, so feel free to eat there. Jackie and I eat there quite often.” Before she could bring the cup to her lips again, she said, “Don’t forget Bella’s supplement for her hips. I told you, didn’t I? You’ve got Mike’s cell number, right?”
Emily resisted rolling her eyes and smiled at her sister’s obvious nervousness. “Don’t worry about anything. I’m sure I can figure it all out.” She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt. There was so much to remember and Sara’s last minute overload of information wasn’t helping.
Mike bent to the floor and picked up Sara’s gorgeous silky pashmina that matched her blue cape and rested his hand on her shoulder. “Sweetie, Em can handle it all and we’re only a phone call away. Let’s get going.”
Sara leaned into Mike and squeezed his hand with hers. “I know. It’s just been a long time since we’ve been gone.”  She turned her watery eyes to Emily. “I know you can handle it. I think
I feel a bit guilty.”
Mike held his wife’s cape and she slipped into it. “You two need to enjoy yourselves and not worry about anything. I expect to see lots of photos of all the Christmas decorations in London and Paris. They’re going to be beautiful.” Emily hugged both of them and watched them walk hand-in-hand to the parking lot. 
She lingered behind for a few minutes, listening to the soft Christmas music playing throughout the huge lobby and taking a decorated cookie from a tray held by a friendly elf. She took the long way around the property, basking in the view of the pristine snow on the mountain and the thick layer of it in the branches of the trees. Flames danced from the firepits behind the hotel with several guests gathered around them, visiting and laughing.
Snow in the city was never this pretty and quickly turned to gray slush instead of the acres of gorgeous untouched snow blanketing the resort and the entire valley. She couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend the holidays. 

Tammy L. Grace (Christmas in Snow Valley)

Perfect Escapes | Unforgettable Characters | Binge-worthy

Tammy L. Grace is an award-winning author who entertains readers with perfect escapes in women’s fiction, clever whodunit mysteries, and sweet Christmas stories.  She is a fan of dogs and includes furry companions in all of her books and is presently working on two dog-centric novels for Bookouture for release in 2020, under her pen name, Casey Wilson.

Born and raised in Nevada, Tammy L. Grace loved reading at a young age. With the help of her middle school teacher, she discovered the joy of writing. When Tammy isn't working on ideas for a novel, she's spending time with family and friends or supporting her addiction to books and chocolate. She and her husband have one grown son and a new golden retriever puppy.

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Mission: Impossible to Wed by Jacki Delecki

She’s the family peacemaker...

Fashion designer, Lauren Harrison, dreads nothing more than yet another wedding—particularly one she has “agreed” to design the dress for her half-sister during the Christmas season.

He’s her sister’s ex...

Gabe Griffin, the best man to his multimillionaire scientist brother Gavin, would rather return to the field as an elite Delta Force soldier than think about marriage—especially between his brother and some self-absorbed, status-seeking woman like Tiffany. But the task of delivering the dress and the designer has fallen into his hands.

Alongside Lauren’s bridezilla sister, the country wedding only gets worse when she is forced to interact with Gabe, her secret crush, as he transports the dress and her to the venue, due to the raging blizzard. Sparks fly, but will the close proximity change their minds about love? Or will Gabe’s mission to prevent his brother’s wedding with her help thwart Lauren’s high school fantasies?

Enjoy this contemporary romance of holiday fun, set against the backdrop of the remote Eastern Washington countryside!


Gabe Griffin checked the flight monitor for an update on her arrival from JFK. He gritted his teeth as he chewed on a sample of swear words he acquired in the military.
 Her flight was delayed for an hour because of “weather.” And, to make it worse, their connecting flight had been cancelled because of the snow. Of course, what could you expect when you had to have a Christmas destination wedding in remote location in the mountains of Washington?
God would his Delta buddies give him shit if they heard of his mission. It was worse than any he had been assigned by Uncle Sam, including infiltrating Iran’s nuclear plants.
His phone buzzed. Looking down at the screen, he swallowed his favorite four-letter word. Mother earth was messing with him big time today.
“Just saw you, dude,” Gabe grumbled into the phone. “Miss me already?” 
“No, jackass. Saw the weather cancelled all flights to Winthrop. Wanted to see if you needed a place to crash?” Aiden Foster’s deep bass voice bellowed over the line. “You can hook a ride with us on Thursday. I owe you after your help with the little problem in Vegas,”
Only a fellow operator would call taking down a tech billionaire sociopath trying to sell security codes to military drones as a “little problem.”
“I can’t. I’m in charge of transporting the wedding dress.” Gabe waited for his friend’s LMFAO. And, as expected, the loud hoot followed. He moved the phone away from his ear.
Foster was a big mother.
Gabe had commiserated with Aiden during their down time in Vegas about the complications of his older brother’s upcoming wedding. Aiden was in the midst of planning his wedding to Jordan Dean, daughter of one of the richest men on the planet, and strange has it seemed for the silent operator, Aiden had a handle on the intricacies of wedding-planning which baffled Gabe a confirmed bachelor, now more than ever.
“Not sure why elite spec forces has been charged with procuring the wedding dress? It seems like poor use of resources and obviously over kill. Unless the dress is a state secret?”
“Man, I don’t know if it’s a secret. My brother asked me to help.”
“I thought your goal was to talk your brother out of marrying the woman?”
Gabe had given Aiden all the details of what a social-climbing B the bride-to-be was. An insufferable woman that Gabe had dated for five weeks in college before she decided Tyler Brown had bigger connections on campus. And now Tiffany Turner was engaged to marry his brother who incidentally was about to step into the role of CEO of their father’s million-dollar company. His Nebraskan farmer father had built a global company on developing genetic resistant strains of corn and soybean for the world market.
 “Haven’t had a chance to have the sir-down yet with Gavin.” His mother wanting alliteration for their Griffin name had named all five boys and one sister with names beginning with G.
“We can fly the dress over on Dean’s jet. Jordan and I are flying over on Friday for the rehearsal with plenty of time to spare. Come stay with us for the next days.”
Jordan Dean had gone to the same Swiss private boarding school as Tiffany and was invited.
And even though Jordan hadn’t said it, they were coming because of Gabe’s connection to Aiden. Gabe and Aiden were brothers in the things that mattered.  “Thanks for the offer. But I’m at SEATAC to pick up Tiffany’s half-sister and the dress.
Lauren, the designer, is bringing the dress from New York. I can’t believe my brother is buying into all this bullshit. The dress has its own first-class seat.”
“No wonder you’re single. It’s not buying into bullshit. It’s doing anything to make your woman happy.”
Gabe took the phone away from his ear and stared at it. “I’m checking my connection. Is this Aiden Foster, the Aiden Foster who used to tear the sheets up in every country we were stationed?”
“Hey asshole, talk like that and your invite is rescinded. I don’t want Jordan to hear trash talk.”
“You tell her you were a monk or something?” Now it was Gabe’s turn to enjoy getting Aiden’s skives in a knot.
“No, but she doesn’t need any reminders of what a bastard I was.”
“Relax, dude. I’d never hurt Jordan’s feelings. She’s a sweetheart. Not sure what she sees in you…but…”
“Why can’t the half-sister bring the dress? She isn’t an adult?”
Gabe recognized the misdirection. Gabe flashed on memory of Tiffany’s younger sister, tall, thin, with big green eyes and red hair and very quiet when around Tiffany. But then no one got to talk when Tiffany was holding court.
“It’s more of a courtesy kind of thing. I guess its bulky and she has a lot of luggage. My brother asked since we’re both on the same fight.”
“What are you going to do now that your flight is cancelled? Not drive? You’ll need fourwheel drive to get over the mountain passes. The roads will be treacherous.”
“Man, what have you done with my kick-ass buddy? This wedding stuff is making you soft. Driving in a heated SUV versus horse back over mountain passes without being shot at by the Taliban sounds like a slam dunk. 
“But smart ass, you’ve never been in charge of wedding dress.” Aiden’s chuckled and then in low rumble, said, “Later.” Gabe stuck his phone back into his jean’s pocket, and he walked toward the main terminal. He searched for a kiosk since he was unfamiliar with Seattle’s airport. He needed a rental car, a haircut, and a shave in that order. And since he had at least two hours, he had time for mission prep. And plenty of time to think of a way to sabotage his brother’s wedding. 

Jacki Delecki (Mission: Impossible to Wed)

Jacki Delecki is a bestselling romantic suspense author whose stories are filled with heart-pounding adventure, danger, intrigue, and romance. 

Contemporary romantic suspense The Impossible Mission
Series, featuring Special Force Operatives; The Grayce Walters Series, contemporary romantic suspense following a Seattle animal acupuncturist with a nose for crime; and The Code Breakers Series, Regency suspense set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. 

Jacki’s stories reflect her lifelong love affair with the arts and history. When not writing, she volunteers for Seattle's Ballet and Opera Companies, and leads children's tours of Pike Street Market. 

To learn more about Jacki and her books and to be the first to hear about giveaways join her newsletter found on at  
Jacki’s Links

Christmas Chemistry, by Joanne Jaytanie

Forever Christmas in Glenville, Book Three
Chemistry and Christmas draw them together, but family loyalty could keep them on opposing sides.

After the loss of Gina’s dad, her mom and siblings needed her more than ever. So Gina uprooted a life she loved and moved to Glenville, Washington. She’s become immersed in the charming town and its heartwarming people who accept and love her. Gina never imagined she’d find her forever career managing the main house at Forever Christmas tree farm. Now a popular overnight destination, the main house needs a proper name. Searching for the perfect name, Gina discovers that generations ago her family was quite prominent in Glenville.

Owen Brock has built a thriving law practice in Phoenix, where the weather is always perfect. Phoenix is also as far away as possible from the frigid winters of Glenville—and his overbearing family. His mother’s health is declining, so Owen decides to return home only long enough to assess mom’s condition and to help his family reclaim their history lost in a card game decades ago.

He never dreamed he’d be battling with Gina Jamerson over an old tavern worth nothing to anyone except the Jamersons and Brocks. 


Gina and Angel were relaxing in the main sitting area as Christmas music drifted softly through the room. The last guests had said goodnight an hour ago. All the outside Christmas lights were on, bathing the yard with a rainbow of colors. As if on cue, large fluffy snowflakes started dancing in the air, Gina was in awe. The first snowfall of the season was making its grand entrance as she watched it unfold.
Gina was marveling over her good fortune. She had great friends, a job she adored, and now a Doberman puppy to love. She still couldn’t believe Juliet had thought of her to take Angel. She and Angel were learning more about each other every day. Angel was still all puppy. Even so, it was evident her first owner had set a solid foundation. 
The weak flash of headlights partially lit the room as a vehicle turned into Forever
Christmas. “That's our cue,” she said to Angel. She slipped the leash on to Angel’s harness and walked to the reception desk. Gina glanced at the check-in file as the door to the house opened. A man walked in and brushed the snow from his coat.
“Good evening, Mr. Brown. Welcome to Mistletoe Lodge,” she greeted the very striking man as he entered the foyer. He was bundled under a smart fitting, three-button, dark gray cashmere overcoat. And if she wasn’t mistaken, it looked exactly like the one she’d seen in the online men’s shop the other day when she was helping Juliet pick out a coat for Colton. And oh my gosh, that coat cost more than she made in two-months’ salary! Her hand tightened on Angel’s lead. The last thing she needed was a mishap with Angel running over to greet their new guest. He had an attractive purple and gray silk scarf wrapped around his neck; the ends neatly tucked inside the coat. 
“Good evening,” Mr. Brown answered. “I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you with my late arrival. “It couldn't be helped. I dropped some people off in San Francisco, and the airport was backed up due to the weather.”
“Don’t give it a thought.” She smiled at the man as he stepped closer to the desk. His raven black hair only served to accentuate his mesmerizing green eyes. Gina wondered if he was one of the models she’d seen online. “You must be a lucky man.”
“What makes you say that?” His persona appeared calm and serene, but the sparkle in his eyes made her think that this man could definitely be trouble.
“We’ve been sold out since last December. The room you have was canceled only minutes before your call.”
“You’re right. That is lucky, Miss…”
“Just Gina, no Miss needed.” She smiled at him.
“Well, then, Gina. You can call me Owen. Any chance a guy could get a nightcap?"
“Certainly. We have a full bar and serve whenever the mood strikes. Would you like it brought up to your room?”
“If it’s not an imposition I’d rather enjoy it here. I have to tell you. I’m not one for all the holiday rigmarole, but I’m very impressed with Forever Christmas.”
“Is this your first time visiting Glenville?”
“Umm, I’ve been here a time or two.”
“May I ask if you’re here for business or pleasure?”
“Well, we’ll do our best to make your stay with us pleasant. Make yourself comfortable,” Gina said as she pointed in the direction of the main room and café. She walked around the side of the desk, furthest from Owen. “I’ll be right back.”
“What a beautiful dog,” Owen said. “You’re not taking her away on my account, are you?”
“She’s still a puppy and as such becomes overly friendly sometimes. I don’t want her trying to crawl up in your lap.”
“She’s fine. Let her stay. What’s her name?”
“Angel. If you really don't mind, then I’ll have her lay down.” Angel did as told.
“Impressive. Especially for a puppy.”
“She’s a work in progress.” Gina leaned down to give Angel a reassuring rub on her head.
“What would you like to drink?”
“I’d love a Hot Toddy. I don’t remember when I last had one.”
“Coming up.” Gina took Angel with her and placed her back in a down position where she could keep an eye on her. She noticed Owen didn’t sit. He was walking around the rooms studying everything. He stopped at each of the Christmas trees and admired one of Juliet’s leaded-glass table lamps. He saw another piece by her and walked over to get a better look.
“Here you are,” Gina said a few minutes later returning with the drink and a small selection of cookies.
“Thank you.” He sipped the drink and sighed contentedly.

Joanne Jaytanie (Christmas Chemistry)

Joanne writes romantic suspense and paranormal. As an avid dog-lover, you will meet a four-legged character in nearly all her books. A transplant from upstate New York, she lives with her husband and Doberman, on the Olympic Peninsula with a panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains. In her previous life, Joanne showed dogs and managed her husband’s forensic engineering firm.




The Christmas Challenge, by Kim Hornsby

When self-help blogger and psychologist, Tori Jackson, enters her own Christmas Challenge to be sociable, she fears that after a hermit year inside her apartment, the social windfall of a destination wedding might be too much too fast. Dr. Jed Kingfisher arrives at Mistletoe Lodge for the wedding and realizes it was his video of Tori being jilted at the altar that sent her into hiding almost two years ago. Luckily Tori has no idea who took the soul-sucking viral video that made her an internet joke. In the days before the wedding, Tori emerges from her lodge room to follow her blog’s advice on being social and finds a friend in the handsome doctor. When Tori needs Jed’s medical attention, he realizes he’s falling for the pretty psychologist and if he’s going to have any chance with her, he needs to come clean about the video or walk away.


Tori’s heart was racing as she listened to Maddy talk about how she came to choose her firstdance song for the wedding. Racing, not because she was worried the man who spilled coffee on her might have recognized her face from the viral video. Her heart raced for other reasons that she couldn’t identify, or tamp down. Now, she knew she’d been mistaken about the first look the handsome man gave her in apology. It hadn’t been recognition. It was almost as though this stranger was seeing inside her soul.

Kim Hornsby (The Christmas Challenge)

Kim Hornsby is a Bestselling, multi Award-Winning Author, having shared space on the top five bestseller list with J.D. Robb, Nicolas Sparks and Stephen King. She’s also an Award-Winning screenwriter having won Best First Screenplay with the Los Angeles Film Awards. Two of her Christmas Romance screenplays are slotted for filming in early 2020 to air on a network that shares its name with a greeting card company. Once juggling teaching scuba with singing at Maui hotels, she now juggles rearing kids and dogs with writing page turning novels and screenplays.

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A Southern Lights Christmas by Lauren Gayle

Mack is a Minnesota man determined to spend at least one Christmas of his life in a milder climate with no snow. He books a stay at the Southern Lights Mistletoe Lodge in southwest Louisiana, prepared for warmer temps and no complications. 

Thirty-two-year-old Natalie is a young widow of one year, on her reluctant way to the Bahamas with her well-meaning but smothering parents. When a last minute change of plan arises, she jumps on it, arriving at the lodge with a rented car and a suitcase packed with nothing but swimwear, sarongs, and sundresses. 

After a first icy encounter, the two develop an easy camaraderie. When a rare and far-reaching Arctic blast
covers the south with a foot of bone-chilling, wet snow, Mack and Natalie experience the reality of winter in a southern town. Can the two new friends keep each other warm and toasty through the inconveniences of closed roadways, frozen pipes, power outages and frigid temps?


The carolers finished their final stirring rendition of “Oh Holy Night” as an older couple with three small children stood in the doorway of their home and clapped. Dozens of farewells later, the group headed back to the sixteen-foot-long trailer lined on both sides with rectangular bales of hay layered with various quilts and blankets.
Natalie stood back, patiently waited her turn to mount as Beth explained the last couple’s current situation. 
“Their only daughter and her husband were taken from them in a boating accident this past summer and they’re raising their three grandchildren. It’s such a tragedy.” She clucked her tongue. “No life insurance of any kind. The Guilbeauxs were making it fine on their retirement income but now, with the three grands to raise, Mr. James had to take a job as a security officer down at the court house. They refuse to touch any of the children’s social security checks and put all of it straight into savings for them. Ms. Mary has her hands full with the two youngest ones but insists she wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Natalie turned back, studied the modest wood frame home on a corner lot—well-maintained from the looks of it. Someone had found the time to adorn the porch with colored lights and a bevy of Christmas decorations. She knew that kind of loss, respected the effort it took to keep the Christmas spirit for their grandchildren.
“You coming, Nat?”
She turned, faced a somber Mack who held his hand out to help her up onto the platform. “I guess I am.” She took his hand and stepped up. The two of them occupied the last two seats on a single hay bale. 
Mack pulled the heavy quilt over both of their legs. “Sad story, huh? Now I know why Drew said they were saving the best house for last.”
“Those poor babies.” It took an effort not to release the words on a sob. “It’s their first Christmas without parents.” She shook her head. “Almost makes me glad Craig and I didn’t have children.” Almost. If they had, at least she’d have a part of him left, but to raise a child alone …
“Single parenting can’t be easy.”
She blinked at his insightful comment. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
“But did you see their little faces light up when they saw those gifts? It’s like my old gramps used to say—you haven’t seen Christmas until you’ve seen it through the eyes of a child.”  “No doubt.” How different would her life be if she had a child or two? Deep in contemplation, his gentle nudge to her shoulder shook her from her thoughts. She glanced up into his concerned face. “Sorry, did you say something?”
“I didn’t want you to get lost in thoughts of what might have been. I’ve learned when I do that, I sometimes miss out on what’s happening now.”
Natalie allowed herself another minute to detach herself from those feelings before she rejoined the singing for the ride back to the lodge. She listened to other conversations around her, but kept her thoughts and comments to herself until they reached their destination. 
The Brunson’s big yellow dog bounded off the porch, his tail wagging gleefully. “There’s ol’ Duke—our welcoming committee!” Drew called out. 
Mack exited first and bent over to ruffle Duke’s coat.  He straightened and extended his hand to help Natalie out of the trailer. “Last ones in has its perks; we get to be first ones out.”
She smiled and stepped down, pulled her gloved hand out of his as soon as her foot hit solid ground. Beth invited everyone into the Lodge for cookies and hot cocoa. Some of the carolers begged off, claiming to have things to tend to, either pertaining to the approaching cold front or other family gatherings. Others joined them inside. A few left shortly after, armed with goody bags of cookies.
“So, who’s joining us out in back at the fire pit tonight?” Drew called out. “It could be our last chance before Christmas. This should be the last mild evening we have for the next several days.” 
“I’m there!” Mack turned his smiling face to Natalie. “How about you, Nat? You up for some S’mores around the fire pit?”
She placed her hand over her belly. “I’m too full for S’mores, but I’m always up for a good campfire.”
Drew had the pit logs blazing within minutes while a dozen people circled chairs around the iron pit on the stone paved patio. The colored Christmas lights along the roofline competed with the dancing light of the flames, casting a cozy glow over the faces in the circle. The lights were dim enough not to interfere with the display of stars scattered against the velvety blackness of the night sky.
Mack occupied the vacant chair beside Natalie. She studied his handsome face in the firelight, the blue of his eyes darkened by shadows. “You know my story, Mack—so what’s yours?” He released his breath in a rush. “Not much to tell. I chose an Army career over college out of high school. I left when we lost my dad to a massive stroke six years later. I’m the only child and mom needed me home.”
“And …” Natalie prodded, wanting more.
“And that’s it. I’ve cared for my mom, worked, and dug us both out of the snow for the last twelve Minnesota winters.” 
A quick mental calculation put his age at or around thirty-six. “No time for a wife or girlfriend—or some kind of significant other?” 
“I’ve had two fiancées. The first one called it off.” Mack’s chuckle was barely audible over the low murmurs surrounding them. “She decided she could do better.” He faced her, a one-sided
grin pulling at his mouth. “You could have just come out and asked.”
She pulled her shoulders back and lifted her chin. “Not my business.”
“Anyway, I called the second one off. I realized I’d been going through the motions and she deserved better—someone who truly loved her.” He stretched out his long legs. “I haven’t met anyone else who’s made me want to put myself out there like that again.” He faced her. “Now you know I’m straight, and I know that you’ve got a soft heart when it comes to children.” He paused a few seconds. “How long were you and your husband together?”
She took a deep breath and dove in. “We met our senior year of college, dated for two years, and married for eight.” She blinked several times. “The accident happened a year ago—from today.”
“Oh.” He opened his mouth, closed it again. “I’m sorry for—”
She raised her hand to cut him off. “I started the line of questioning—it’s only fair. Besides,
I’m better than I thought I’d be at this point.” She leaned forward in her chair. “I still miss Craig so badly, but just after it happened—I couldn’t imagine life without him.” 
“Anyone who truly loved their spouse must feel that way, at least for a while.”
She settled back in her chair, crossed her arms tightly against her chest. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I struggled with it, to the point that anger began to replace pain.”
“That’s a universal stage in the grieving process. Everyone experiences anger at their loved ones for leaving them.”
 She placed one hand on her chest. “My anger was with God. How dare he take away my husband? How dare he? I was furious and ready to toss out all my spiritual beliefs. Then I heard some televangelist preaching that God tests us by bringing storms into our lives. Whether it’s in the form of a death, or temptation, or coveting—He will test us in order to assess our commitment to Him.”
Mack nodded. “I believe that. I’ve seen it happen many times. I’ve seen some stand up to it, and others fall on their faces. Men and women who had everything they needed in life then lost it all for various reasons—everything from addictions to adultery. There’s no winner.”
Natalie faced him. “Right? It’s easy to think you’re a good person—a Godly person, even— if everything has always gone your way. It’s only when people are tested that the truth is revealed.”
“So that was your ‘Aha’ moment?”
“I guess so—that’s when I began to pull myself up a day at a time. Every morning I’d wake and tell myself to identify at least one good thing about each day. Every night I’d think back and find something and realized those good things had been there all along.” Her gaze locked on to his. “That’s when I began to live again.”

Lauren Gayle (A Southern Lights Christmas)

Lauren Gayle lives in a small town tucked away in southwest Louisiana with her best friend, her husband of 25 years. She spends most days paying into her 401K at the J.O.B., hoping to avoid being a burden to her children in her old age. Most of her free time is spent pursuing her passion of writing, canning jams and jellies from various fruits harvested in her area, and cooking palatable delights or baking goodies for her hubby, co-workers, children and grandchildren. A voracious reader, she’s hopelessly addicted to her e-reader as a means of getting to sleep at night. 

Her first book, A Southern Lights Christmas, is available for pre-
order in the Christmas at Mistletoe Lodge box set with several other authors. Her contribution to the set is the first in a four-book Southern Lights series. She plans to release the others by summer of 2020. Lauren writes sweet southern romance with a touch of humor and inspirational flair.  

Lauren’s Links
Twitter: @LGayleAuthor
Bookbub: @laurengayleauthor

Instagram: @lgayle58 


Kim Hornsby said...

This is a wonderful posting for our set. When I approached these authors and asked everyone to write a new book for the set that includes a Mistletoe Lodge in the story, I knew it was a tall order. But ten GREAT authors rose to the call and I'm so grateful. What a wonderful set of 10 Books!! Remember to get it on Presale, before the price goes up. Presalers also get Chocolate recipes (yes I capitalized it!) and links to FREE Bonus Books!

J Jaytanie said...

Thanks, Kim! I am beyond honored to be included in this collection. Thank you.

rohit singh said...

very good articvle

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