Friday, December 19, 2014

New Adult Christmas Blog Hop-(Chanel Cleeton) International School series Bonus Scene w/ Giveaway






It's a ‪#‎NAChristmas!


Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the holidays with thirteen New Adult authors. Check out every stop leading up to December 24 to get excerpts, exclusive content, and hopefully a cutie under the mistletoe! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter to win a grand prize pack of an ebook from every author!


 

 
FRENCH KISSED by Chanel Cleeton

 
December 1, 2014

International School Book 3

New Adult Contemporary Romance

 
BOOK SUMMARY:


On the surface, Fleur Marceaux has it all. If only the facade matched reality. With one year left at the International School in London, Fleur’s struggling to graduate, her love life is a mess, and she can’t stop thinking about Max, her ex-boyfriend’s best friend. But all that pales compared to the blackmailer determined to destroy her. 



There’s a social hierarchy at the International School and Max Tucker is outside the velvet ropes. After watching Fleur break his friend’s heart, Max knows to stay away from trouble, despite the crush he’s had on her since freshman year. But when they’re partnered on a project, Max learns there’s more to Fleur than meets the eye, and she just might be worth the wild ride. 



The more time they spend together, the further Max falls. And when a kiss awakens a passion Fleur never imagined, she’s unable to resist Max, who she had thought was all wrong for her but might be the only thing that’s right. But will he stand by her when her secrets are revealed?



Don’t miss the final book in the International School series. This New Adult romance is recommended for readers 17 and up.
 

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Goodreads
 
 
BONUS SCENE:

This scene takes place after the events in French Kissed…

 

I woke late, the Paris sun shining through my bedroom window. I reached across the bed and found cool silk rather than Max’s warm body. I leaned over, glancing at the alarm clock, wincing slightly at the time. In my defense, he’d wanted to ring in Christmas last night in his own unique fashion, and I’d been more than happy to do my part. I figured I’d earned a lazy morning in bed…I just wished I had someone to keep me company.

I threw on the cashmere robe at the foot of my bed, tying it tightly around my waist, and went off in search of my man. I reached the hallway and ran into Maggie.

She grinned. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” I repeated, figuring I was going to have to start learning the American way of things.

Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “I guess I don’t need to ask if you had a good night last night.”

I could actually feel my cheeks flaming. It wasn’t lost on me that I could be…loud.

I groaned. “Tell me you guys didn’t hear me having sex.”

“We didn’t hear you having sex.” She grinned. “But if we did, then I just have to say, well-done, Max.”

I fought to keep the smile off my face. She didn’t know the half of it. We’d been apart for weeks and he’d taken our reunion very seriously.

“Although, Samir might have mentioned something about wanting to pour bleach in his ears.”

I made a face at that. I didn’t blame him. If the roles had been reversed, I would have died if I’d heard my cousin having sex.

“Where is Samir?” I asked, trying to change the subject.

“I don’t know. I, uh, slept in, too.”

I stifled a snort. I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one ringing in Christmas between the sheets.

We walked down the long, marble hallway, headed toward the formal rooms. We froze at the sound in the entryway, voices reaching us.

Max and Samir stood in front of the giant Christmas tree Maggie had convinced us to put up, their arms full of wrapped presents with giant bows. Some of the presents were beautiful—elegant paper that definitely looked professionally packaged, with easily recognizable paper in familiar store colors. Other presents had wrinkled edges, pockets of wrapping bunched at the sides, images of snowmen and candy canes on the paper.

The sight of presents Max had so obviously wrapped brought a lump to my throat.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a family Christmas. Usually my parents just deposited some money in my account and called it my Christmas gift. But Max had clearly gone out—gone shopping—and then tried to wrap them himself.

I loved him. So much.

“Did you remember to put the tags from Santa on some of the gifts?” Max asked.

Samir made a noise and muttered something in Arabic under his breath.

Maggie grinned.

“No.”

Max glared at him. “You need to do some gifts from Santa. It’s tradition.”

Samir looked like he was about to lose his patience. I had no clue how long they’d been up arranging gifts under the tree, just that it definitely hadn’t looked like this when we went to bed last night.

More Arabic from Samir.

My cousin had mellowed a lot since he and Maggie had gotten together, but he was a whole other beast from Max, but he didn’t do Christmas with his family, and the image of him celebrating a holiday he clearly knew nothing about was hilarious. He looked frustrated, and yet, by the impressive display of gifts that looked like they were for Maggie, I figured he’d tried his best.

“How about the hot cocoa?” Max asked, his tone sounding equally frustrated. “Is it ready?”

I snickered. Samir really looked like he was ready to lose it. We’d both grown up with chefs. I’d bet my favorite Birkin bag that he’d never made cocoa in his life.

I figured we had thirty seconds before they noticed us standing there watching them because Maggie looked about ready to burst out laughing.

“It’s ready,” Samir grumbled. “And the cookies for Santa are on a tray.”

And just like that, Maggie’s eyes went from laughter to complete and total adoration.

Yep. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to make her happy. Even if it meant giving her a traditional American Christmas when she was spending her holiday away from her family, with her half French, half Lebanese boyfriend who had never celebrated Christmas like this in his life, her best friend—and I’d totally own that up until Christmas Eve last night when Max had surprised me and given me the best present ever, I’d never been a big fan of the holidays—and her boyfriend’s best friend who seemed determined to single-handedly bring Christmas cheer to us all.

And then the boys turned, and their gazes landed on us, and I watched as the two most important guys in my life gifted us with smiles that brought a lump to my throat.

Yep. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

We went into their arms, Samir’s gaze on Maggie, Max’s arms around me, and everything else fell away.

We spent the morning laughing, drinking cocoa and eating cookies, opening gift after gift, and when it was all said and done, and we all collapsed on the sofas, surrounded by crumpled wrapping paper and discarded bows, my gaze connected with Maggie’s across the room, and we both smiled and I knew—

 Love was the greatest gift of all.
 

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BOOK LINKS:

 
 I SEE LONDON (International School Book #1)




 
 LONDON FALLING (International School Book #2):

Amazon 
 
 

 
 
 
 
AUTHOR INFORMATION:



Originally a Florida girl, CHANEL CLEETON moved to London where she received a bachelor’s degree from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever, until fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise and a fighter pilot with smooth dance moves swept her off her feet. Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in Asia.

Law school made Chanel realize she’d rather spend her days writing sexy stories than in a courtroom, and she hasn’t looked back since. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she’s happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, her three pups, and her fighter pilot husband. 

She is the author of I SEE LONDON and LONDON FALLING, published by Harlequin HQN, the upcoming FRENCH KISSED, and FLIRTING WITH SCANDAL, the first book in a new three-book series to be released by Penguin/Berkley in 2015. 
 

 


 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Adult Christmas Blog Hop (Angie Sandro) Dark Paradise Bonus Scene w/ Giveaway






It's a ‪#‎NAChristmas!


Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the holidays with thirteen New Adult authors. Check out every stop leading up to December 24 to get excerpts, exclusive content, and hopefully a cutie under the mistletoe! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter to win a grand prize pack of an ebook from every author!




Dark Paradise Series Bonus Scene takes place after DARK REDEMPTION and introduces DARK EMBRACE, releasing July 7, 2015.


 NOT A DULL NEW YEAR IN PARADISE




Landry’s firm grip on my hand keeps me from being swept up in the thick crowd of jostling college students packing the entrance of the Blue Diamond Saloon. I’ll never get used to being surrounded by so many people, both living and dead.

I press closer to Landry, almost stepping on his heels.

He turns sideways, putting my back to the wall. “You doing okay, Mala?”

“Just a bit of a headache,” I yell, trying to be heard over the Zydeco music playing over the loudspeakers. “I’ll be fine.”

His black eyebrows dip into a frown.

At the back of the room, a stage is being set up for the New Year’s Eve live show by my favorite group—Phantom Cat. Hot damn. We’re partying—Creole style.

Reminded of why I came tonight, I rise on tiptoe so I’m closer to Landry’s ear. This, of course, puts me within nipping distance of temptation. I can’t help myself, so I cave and take a nibble on his delicious earlobe before saying, “Thanks again for the best Christmas gift ever!”

My lips move from his ear to the side of his neck. God, he tastes good.

Smells heavenly too. He’s wearing the cologne I bought him. We’d spent Christmas Eve at the hospital with my cousin Dena, opening presents and playing a prank on her doctor. Dr. Alonso Estrada’s still on my shit list after he blindsided me with his decision to take my cousin off life support. The pictures we got of him at the hospital Christmas party, hammered on spiked hooch and dirty dancing with a blow-up doll, ensures he’s blackmailable. So I didn’t hesitate to spring Dena from the hospital. A night out with friends and music will help her mood. She’s been really depressed being stuck alone in a hospital room for the holidays.

Dena passes her ticket to the bouncer. Tommy and Maggie also make it past the gatekeeper and join us. It’s been months since I’ve seen the newlyweds. They’re living the married life and attending college. As much as marriage scares the stuffing out of me, I’m kind of envious of the happy couple.

I glance down at my engagement ring and smile. It sure is pretty under the strobe lights.

Dena nudges my side, and I lean in to hear her. “So, have you settled on a wedding date?”

 I shake my head. “Not yet.”

 Her crystal blue eyes darken. “Life’s short, you know. Don’t screw around for a someday that may never come. If you love each other, why wait?”

My mouth opens then snaps shut. Really? What can I say? She’s right.

Landry’s cool about tying the knot. I’m the one who wants to wait. And for what? It’s stupid, really. 
“T-Dog, let’s get some refreshments while the ladies find a table,” Landry tells Tommy.

I reluctantly release Landry’s hand and latch onto Maggie and Dena instead. We thread through the crowd and find a booth close to the stage. 
“Phantom Cat isn’t supposed to play for a couple of hours,” I yell to Dena. “Are you excited?”

She grins and does a happy dance. The satiny fabric of her short, cobalt-blue dress spins around her legs. She gets some appreciative glances from a group of college guys sitting at the table across from us. When she notices, heat floods her cheeks, but she gives them a saucy smile and receives whistles and a “Hey baby, you’re so fine” in return. I’m thrilled by her reaction. It’s like a heavy weight lifts off her shoulders. I haven’t seen her this happy in months.

Dena slides into the booth and drums her fingers on the table. “I can’t wait.”

“Me either.” I reach across the table to take her hands in mine. She still seems so fragile. “Sure you’re feeling okay? If this is too much—”
 

“Hell no!” She squeezes my hand. “I’d have to fall back into a coma to miss the band. Stop worrying. Tonight’s all about ringing in the New Year. All the bad stuff that happened is behind us.”

Saints, I hope that’s true. “Yeah, cheers to a new year.”

Landry lightly touches my back, and I slide across the seat so he’ll have room. He sets a glass full of a lime green liquid on the table and two glasses of iced tea in front of me and Dena.
 

“What’s this?” I tap his glass with a finger.
 

“Midori Sour. Do you want to taste it?”
 

I stare at a drink so green it reminds me of liquid luck. I consider taking a sip, but memories of helping Mama off the bathroom floor after puking out all but her soul keeps my fingers folded on my lap. “Nah, I’m the designated driver, remember?”
 

“One little sip.” He lays his arm across the back of the booth. “Maybe it’ll loosen you up. You’ve been wound up tighter than a spring since coming home from work.”
 

“It’s this new homicide I’m consulting on for the sheriff’s office.” I lean closer so only he can hear. Nobody else at the table knows my secret. I’m a ghost-whisperer—the seventh daughter in a line of witches stretching all the way back to Africa. “A guy was burned to death. Bessie asked if I could contact his spirit to find out what happened.”
 

“Did you?” He brushes my curls over my shoulder and massages the nape of my neck.

“No, I couldn’t sense him.” My muscles go gooey from his touch. “He must’ve passed over to the other side. The strange part was the residual taint over the crime scene. It reminded me of how it felt on White Oak Island. And if that’s the case, then this is bad, Landry. Real bad.” A chill runs down my spine.

Landry catches my shiver and pulls me into his arms. I lay my head on his broad shoulder and soak up his warmth. God, I love this man so much. Why am I stressing over a murder when I should be enjoying being with my family and friends? Like Dena said, life’s short. And in two hours, it’ll be a whole new year.

“To hell with it, let’s dance.” I slide from the booth and hold out my hand. “Come on. But watch those big feet. I need my toes.”
 

Landry laughs as he takes my hand and leads me beneath the strobe lights. The crowd shifts to allow us entrance, and we weave through the gyrating bodies to reach the middle of the dance floor. The music stirs a primitive part of my soul, overwhelming conscious thought. My body pulses with the rhythm of the drums and the trumpets’ soulful beat.

A hand runs down my swiveling hips, pulling me against familiar chiseled abs. I wrap my arms around Landry’s neck and hold him tight. My eyes close, and I relax into his arms. We sway slowly to the music, not even following the throbbing rhythm. Landry rests his chin on top of my head. His breaths brush across my hair, and his hands rest on my hips. Time passes in slow motion. The crowd around us ebbs and flows. Neither of us notices until a form moves directly into my line of sight.

 Lieutenant Bessie Caine gestures from the side of the dance floor. She’s dressed in her uniform, which means she’s here on official business. I meet her worried gaze and stop dead in the middle of the dance floor. A chill of premonition fills me. “Something’s wrong.”

Landry’s arms tighten. “You’re gonna miss Phantom Cat.”
 

“I’m sorry.” Regret tinges my voice.

Landry doesn’t say another word. He leads me through the crowd. Each step toward Bessie feels like walking through molasses. Dread presses heavier and heavier upon my chest. By the time we reach her side, my legs tremble with the weight of remaining upright.

Bessie nods to Landry, then turns to me. “We’ve got another one.”

She means a murder victim.

Landry pulls me into his arms. “Since you won’t be here …” His mouth steals my whispered apology, and I melt against his chest. He kisses me breathless, then pulls back to press one last goodbye kiss on the tip of my nose. “Happy New Year. Be safe. And kick ass.”
 

“Always. Love you.” 

 He walks off, leaving me alone with Bessie and the news I don’t want to hear, but have to know to do my job. Time freezes. A million scenarios of what happened and the possible outcomes race through my mind as I ask the next question. “Did the vic burn like the last guy?”
 
 
DARK PARADISE (Dark Paradise, #1)

 
GOODREADS

“A vivid and entertaining storyteller, Sandro is an exciting new writer to watch." —J.A. Redmerksi, New York Times bestselling author

 DARK LEGACY

Mala LaCroix has spent her whole life trying to escape her destiny. As the last in a long line of “witch women,” she rejects the notion of spirits and hoodoo and instead does her best to blend in. But when she finds a dead body floating in the bayou behind her house, Mala taps into powers she never knew she had. She’s haunted by visions of the dead girl, demanding justice and vengeance.

DEADLY SECRETS


Landry Prince has always had a crush on Mala, but when Mala discovers his sister, murdered and marked in some sort of Satanic ritual, he starts to wonder if all the rumors about the LaCroix family are true. Yet after Mala uses her connection to the spirit world to identify his sister’s killer, he starts to form his own bond to her . . . a very physical one. As they move closer to each other and closer to the truth, Mala and Landry must risk everything—their families, their love, and even their lives.
 


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Angie Sandro was born at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Within six weeks, she began the first of eleven relocations throughout the United States, Spain, and Guam before the age of eighteen.

Friends were left behind. The only constants in her life were her family and the books she shipped wherever she went. Traveling the world inspired her imagination and allowed her to create her own imaginary friends. Visits to her father's family in Louisiana inspired this story. Angie now lives in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an overweight Labrador.







 


 

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Adult Christmas Blog Hop (Claire Wallis) PUSH Excerpt w/ Giveaway






It's a ‪#‎NAChristmas!


Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the holidays with thirteen New Adult authors. Check out every stop leading up to December 24 to get excerpts, exclusive content, and hopefully a cutie under the mistletoe! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter to win a grand prize pack of an ebook from every author!

 
BLURB FOR PUSH:

I feel like I am wrapped in a cyclone. Everything is whirling around me, drawing the air out of my lungs and filling me with the best kind of turmoil. Every time his tongue slides against mine, a prickle in my gut tells me how right we are together. How much I need David. How much I need us.

I hope the cyclone never stops.

Emma Searfoss has spent a lifetime trying to escape her abusive stepfather. It's why she moved far away from home. It's why she's kept no ties with her remaining family. And it's why she's got a major rage problem. When her neighbor shows up to fix the kitchen in her new apartment, his enigmatic charm calms the fire in her. David is cool and collected, and he makes Emma feel safe for the first time ever. But David has his own chilling past—his six previous girlfriends have all disappeared without a trace. Emma's walking a dangerous line, but David's pull is intoxicating. And impossible to resist…

 Buy links for PUSH:  Amazon: / Barnes and Noble: /  iBooks:
 
 

 
Excerpt of PUSH by Claire Wallis

 
Ten minutes after I finish unloading the groceries, there is a knock on my door. Even though I know it is David, I peer out the peephole before I open it.

 "Hey," he says, with both hands in his pockets now.

"Hey," I say. "Everything okay?" He looks a little shaken. Or maybe I am just overly sensitive because of last night's online revelation. I don't know.

"Yeah. Everything's fine," he says with resignation. "I was just talking to Carl. We’re thinking of moving our poker game to different digs, and he isn't happy about it. That’s what Brad and I had to deal with yesterday. Carl can't fucking stumble home drunk if we go to this new place. He's such an ass."

"Yeah, I only met him twice, but he definitely set off my ass alarm. I can spot them a mile away."

David's face lightens immediately. "Ass alarm, huh? Is that like Gay-dar?"

"Yeah, kinda. Only an ass alarm is far more valuable. Keeps out the riffraff." I am smiling now, and David's head sinks to his chest and shakes back and forth. I think he is laughing at me, and frankly, I deserve it. Ass alarm. God, I am a loser.

"Good to know you've got one of those. I'll have to watch myself," he says, raising his head. "I guess all those shitty-ass boyfriends you had really lit it up, didn’t they?"

"Like a goddamned Christmas tree."

He is grinning again and shaking his head. I turn around and walk back into my apartment. I hear him follow me and close the door behind him.

"So, we still on for dinner tonight?" he asks. "You wanna just stay in and get some pizza or something?"

"Sure," I say, stopping short of the kitchen and turning to him, "and maybe we can watch one of the hundreds of man movies you've got up there. It was like a big box of testosterone. I grew hair on my chest just looking at them." I am teasing him, and I'm not quite sure how he is going to take it.

"Hair on your chest, huh? You should check out the other box of movies I've got up there. They'll make your hairy chest blush." Ahhh, so he does have a box of porn. I knew it.
 
"I doubt it. My brothers got the best of me already on that front. I stopped blushing at porn when I was eleven."

I don't think David knows what to say in response to my remark, so instead of talking, he comes over, wraps his arms around me, and kisses the top of my head. He holds me like this for a minute or two, then lets go and steps back.

"I'm sorry," he says.

We spend the evening eating pizza and watching Dirty Harry. When the movie is over, we sit on my couch, talking. We talk about our favorite movies, our middle names and our mutual love of Cheetos. David makes me laugh. Makes me feel at home. Makes me feel comfortable in my own company. There is something about him that is so real, so solid. He is soothing, which sounds utterly ridiculous, but I don't know how else to describe his temperament. I feel natural talking to him. It is genuine and sincere. And even though I am looking for sorrow, I don't see a single hint of it. At least not when he is with me. He is right. We are pretty great together.

 
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About the Author:

Claire Wallis has penned hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles over the last ten years, with science playing the lead role in almost all of them. Though non-fiction writing will forever be her first love, fiction has unexpectedly swooped in, hooked her by the soul, and become her true love. As a result of this coup d’état, Claire’s writing career has made a complete U-turn, and instead of rocks, plants, insects, and microbes, she is now putting human characters in the lead.

Claire’s previous jobs include working at a limestone quarry, hawking vegetables at a farmer’s market, clerking at the dollar store, and convincing new mothers that they need to renew their subscription to that parenting magazine in order for their child to survive. She lives in Pennsylvania with her amazingly awesome husband and son.

Find her online:

 




Monday, December 15, 2014

New Adult Christmas Blog Hop (Kristine Wyllys) WILD ONES Bonus Scene W/ Giveaway

NAChristmasBanner
 
 
It's a #NAChristmas
 
Thanks for joining us as we celebrate the holidays with thirteen New Adult authors. Check out every stop leading up to December 24 to get excerpts, exclusive content, and hopefully a cutie under the mistletoe! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter to win a grand prize pack of an ebook from every author!

CARINA_0114_9781426897870_WildOnes
 
 

Wild Ones Blurb and Buy Links:


 Bri Martin likes her skirts too short, her heels too high, and trouble close at hand. So when big, brooding underground boxer Luke Turner comes into the bar where she works and starts a fight before she brings his first drink, she can't help being intrigued. Luke is everything she never wanted and everything she can't resist.

Soon, Luke is showing up everywhere Bri is, and she can't break free of his hold on her, nor does she want to. When her best friend turns on her, it's Luke who is there. When Luke's opponent comes after her to send Luke a message, it's he who comes to her rescue.

Before Bri knows it, she's caught in the midst of a rivalry between her boyfriend and her boss, both of whom are not content to settle their scores inside the ring. She swore she'd never live this life, so like the one she once ran from. But only by confronting her past can she decide where her future lies…and whether Luke can be a part of it.

Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks


   
BONUS WILD ONES CHRISTMAS SCENE:


 

            "You've got to be kidding me," I muttered, running a hand through my hair, slick with sweat from the gym. Before me sat the saddest sight I'd ever laid eyes on. Considering I'd grown up with a mom who could barely take care of herself in the worst parts of town, that was saying something.

            "Who's kidding who about what?" Bri's voice floated down the hall from our bedroom. She'd be back there getting ready for work, squeezing into shorts a little too short and a skin-tight tank despite the frigid temperatures outside. I'd grumble a little under my breath as she left and she'd shoot me a look over her shoulder. One that said the others could look, but only I got to touch. I might grumble only to see it. I liked the reminder.

            "What the hell is this?" I gestured toward the leaning, nearly-bare, fire hazard in front of me, as though she could see. I didn't have to see her to feel her frown.

            "You better not be talking about my tree."

            "This is not a tree. This is probably against the effing lease, is what it is."

            "Hey!" There it was. That fire in her voice that ignited the fire in me. "I got that special!"

            "On special? Tell the truth. You got it for free, didn't you?"

            "Damn it, Luke!" I glanced toward the hallway where she stood like an angel of death, of destruction, like my every dream that ended in wet sheets. She tossed her hair back and planted her hands on her hips. Hips that were bare, save for those hands. I wanted to replace them with mine.

            Focus, Turner. She was angry.

            "What?"

            "That was supposed to be a surprise!  And you're standing there with your judgy little eyes, making fun of it."

            I gave the tree in front of me a suspicious look. "The hell else am I supposed to do? Other than get it out of here before the building manager comes by and sees I'm inviting a fire. Is that the surprise? We're gonna burn down the complex?"

            "The surprise -" Her voice kicked up a notch, shrill and dangerous. We were treading into troubled waters and she was the siren waiting in the waves to finish me off.  "Is I got us a tree. Our first tree for our first Christmas together. But that doesn't even matter because you're an ass."

            I shouldn't have been turned. I shouldn't have looked at her in all her righteous anger, standing there in her bra and tiny shorts, vibrating with her rage. That rage was always my downfall. Had been since the beginning.

            I felt myself growing hard.

            She stomped past me, shrugging her shirt on. All long legs, fiery eyes, and radiating fury. I reached for her arm and she all but snarled.

            "Don't. Touch. Me." Each word was a bite. A threat and a dare. Under normal circumstances, I'd have nudged the fire burning in her. Just a little. Because that's what we liked. We liked the clash then the crash. But I held back. There was something else there, something in the set of her mouth and the way her chin quivered.

            Bri was hurt. There was few things that cut me straight to the bone and her pain was at the top of that short list.

            I reached for her again, despite her warning, and she jerked away as though scalded. She shook her head, hair whipping, and she was gone, all but sprinting to the door and into the dark that lay beyond. I didn't chase. Not even when I heard her car start up and back out like the hounds of hell were after her.

            I crossed the two steps over to the couch and dropped on to it, letting my head fall, sweaty hair falling into my eyes. I needed a shower. I needed to change out of my gym shorts and unravel the tape still on my hands. I needed to make this right.

            Never was sure how to do that.

            "Our first Christmas together," she'd said. But below that, I heard what she wasn't saying. I haven't had a Christmas before.

            I was on my feet before I realized what I was doing, pulling back on my coat and grabbing my keys.

            There was a hardware store down the street, a mom and pop operation that managed, somehow, to stay open despite the big box stores in the town over. Maybe because assholes like me had to use it last minute. The fluorescents were too harsh, the Christmas music coming from overhead too cheery as I snatched up a cart just inside the door. I filled it without pausing to think or consider. Lights, ropes of flimsy, shiny stuff the packaging claimed was something called garland. Bulbs, ornaments, and stockings. If my eyes landed on it, in it went, until it looked like Christmas puked inside of the cart.

            I paused at the small display of fake trees, some already lit, some as dark as Bri's eyes. The biggest. She deserved the biggest. A Rockefeller monstrosity of a tree that came with lights and I'd fill it up with more lights until it was a beacon and our living room on fire with its glow. But she'd chosen the Charlie Brown number and Bri got what she wanted. I made sure of that.

            The cashier eyed the tape on my hands curiously as I piled the belt up in front of her. "You hurt yourself?" she asked, between humming Jingle Bells in time with the store's speakers. I grunted in response, fighting to keep from tapping my foot as she ran each item up at a maddeningly slow pace. Finally, I shoved a wad of bills at her when she was through.

            "Keep the change." I didn't stick around to hear any protests.

            Bri would be at work for a few more hours, which was good. I'd need all that time to get things together. Unlike her, this wasn't my first Christmas, but it might as well have been. It was the first one I'd ever had as an adult. Ever had a reason to celebrate.

            Her eyes were wary when she finally came in, until she caught sight of the spectacle before her. She let out a small gasp, softer than anything I thought Bri capable of.

            "You like it?" The cheesy Santa hat, so effing ridiculous, itched my forehead. Her lips quirked, before she let out a bark of laughter.

            "You in that hat or the rest of it?"

            "All of it."

            "You kept my tree," she said instead of answering.

            "It's still an ugly son of a bitch."

            She grinned at me, impossibly large and brighter than a thousand decorated trees.

            "It is. Looks a little better under all those decorations, though."

            "It barely held them. It's weak and scrawny. I almost bought a different one."

            "So why didn't you?" She wasn't looking at me. Instead, she was staring at the tree, at the rest of the lights I'd strung around the room, the stockings I'd hung on the wall since we didn't have a fireplace.

            "Because this one is special."

            She turned, her eyes either warmer than I'd ever seen them or a trick of the light. She launched herself at me, tiny fingers clutching at my shoulders, around my neck, grabbing my hair as I heaved her up against my chest and her legs locked around my hips. She was kissing me, only she wasn't, because her lips were against mine but they were repeating, "I love you I love you I love you" and I'd fill up our apartment with every sad, ugly tree if it meant this. Her happiness and her wrapped around me, emotion she normally didn't show spilling from her.

            She nipped at my bottom lip and I smiled.

            "I didn't forget anything, did I?" I asked. "I'll go back."

            Because if I'm addicted to your fire, I'm an effing goner for this, I didn't add. I think she heard it anyway.

            "One thing," she whispered against my throat. "You forgot one thing."

            "What's that?" It came out husky and my hands tightened on her thighs. She somehow managed to wiggle closer, until she was molded against me.

            "Mistletoe."

            "Mistletoe?"

            "Mistletoe."

            She slid down my body, igniting every nerve-ending on the way, then grabbed my hand.

            "But we don't need it."

            And with a look, the look I didn't get before she left for work, she dragged me toward the bedroom.

            "We don't have to go back there," I offered, my eyes firmly on those little hips wiggling in front of me. She glanced over her shoulder, eyes dark with her fire and her desire.

            "No?"

            "First Christmas," I said. "Let's stay right in here."

            "Make our own holy night?"

"Exactly." I pulled her against me. "But it won't be silent, Sugar."

 



 
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About the author:


author
Kristine Wyllys is a hopeless romantic and an impossible dreamer with wild hair and trashy sunglasses. Born in the north, she spent the first half of her life in a town full of college kids and dying automotive plants outside of Detroit. These days she dances around a dusty kitchen in the south with a baby on each hip and the boy she fell in love with at fifteen.

A poet at heart, Kristine is author of New Adult Contemporary Romance that bites like a junkyard dog. She's got a thing for words, twangy music, Elvis, Diet Mountain Dew in a can, and geeky shows. She's never met a smartphone she couldn't destroy, a pizza she didn't fall in love with, or a pair of pants she didn't resent having to wear.











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