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!
Bran’s Christmas Miracle
Bran opens the umbrella as I step out the passenger side of Dad’s four-runner. “This weather fucking sucks, Captain.”
“Don’t be a Grinch, embrace California in December.” I brush my lips over his scruffy cheek. “The rest of the country gets a White Christmas or Silver Bells. We score pelting rain.”
The Sacramento Mall’s parking lot is packed with fellow procrastinators. Bran ushers me around a giant puddle as his phone rings, barely audible over the downpour.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?”
“Nope, I’m here with you.” His half smile does double duty as a grimace. “Shopping.”
“You make it sound like medieval torture.”
“If malls existed in the fourteen hundreds, I’ve no doubt the Spanish inquisition would have put them to good use.”
“Sorry I left this to the last minute. Buying presents for my dad is so hard.”
Bran rubs against me as we step onto the sidewalk. “I’m the hard one, Captain.”
I nudge him back and tap my lower lip. “Maybe we can sneak into a department store dressing room. Have a little ho, ho, ho for two?” Got to say, the idea of Bran rocking into me while I watch in a three-way mirror has a certain appeal.
A low groan tears from his throat. “Maybe I’m in the holiday spirit after all.”
“Santa can put us both on the naughty list.” I giggle before a sobering realization douses my anticipation. “Crap, wait, aren’t there security cameras behind the mirrors to catch shoplifters?”
Bran opens the mall’s entrance door, pulling me close as we enter. His tongue slides up the backside of my ear, the place that always makes me shiver. “I’ll take my chances if you will.”
“Sorry, Tiger, the idea of a security guard watching my bare ass while polishing off a Krispy Kreme is killing my lady boner. Save it for the veranda.”
We’re crashing on the broken futon at Dad and Jessie’s tonight. It’s a little sucky, but I’m not kicking my baby brother, Wyatt, out of his nursery.
Bran grimaces. “But that means Chester will watch.”
“You and that chinchilla.” I roll my eyes. “What’s the deal? He’s adorable.”
“You mean a bloody nightmare. The way he looks at me?” Bran cringes. “It’s just not right.”
“Come to think of it, I’ve never seen him looking at anyone. He’s normally, a little, you know, preoccupied?” I make a subtle wack off motion.
A mother leaving Starbucks with her two small children gives us a dirty look.
“Hush! Can’t take you anywhere.”
“But you’re the one who--”
I poke him in the upper ribs, while debating a peppermint latte.
He yelps. “Bloody hell, Captain, not the ticklish spot.”
“Was that a squeak?” I poke again, harder. “Wow, didn’t know you could hit that octave.”
“Stop, stop,” he gasps, trying to twist free but laughing too hard to move.
“Pretty sure dropping f-bombs at the mall is illegal, especially on Christmas Eve.”
“Fine. Fine.” He throws up his arms in mock surrender. “Anything you say.”
We’ve made it to the mall’s center. An embossed sign reads “North Pole” and a red carpet leads to a bored looking Santa lounging on a velvet throne. There’s no line, guess everyone’s already taken their obligatory holiday pictures. An elf photographer absently jingles a bell.
Suddenly, I get an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea.
Bran’s green eyes widen a fraction. “Captain? That smile, it scares me.”
“Anything I say, huh?” I grab his jacket and tug him closer.
“Please tell me you’ve changed your mind about the dressing room.” He arches a brow, his expression wolfish. “That jumper does things to me.”
I glance at the ugly Christmas sweater Jessie’s mother knit me, it’s a picture of a sleigh and says “I believe.” As ugly sweaters go, this is probably their high lord and master, but I didn’t have the heart to reject it.
Obviously Bran finds my outfit hilarious.
I release my hold and cross my arms. “Just for that, you’re going to do whatever I say.”
“Fine, highness, what’s my punishment?”
I point at Santa Claus.
“No.” Horror takes root in his features. “No, no, no.”
“Hey, you said anything.” I shoot him a look. The look. “You can’t put caveats on what you’ll do for love. Don’t be Meatloaf”
A muscle twitches in his temple. “And what exactly do you want me to do?”
It takes epic restraint not to rub my hands together. Oh, man, this is going to be fun. “I want a picture of you on Santa’s lap.”
There’s a drawn out silence. “Little Drummer Boy” plays over the sound system.
“Captain.” His intense green eyes are panicked. “I can’t.”
I tap the toe of my boot on the ground. “What are the last four letters of American?”
He throws up his hands. “But I’m Australian.”
“You’re a token American now, even have a fancy new green card thanks to Zavtra.”
His phone rings again.
“Jesus, who keeps calling?” I ask.
He tugs out his smart phone and holds the call screen for my inspection. “Speak of the devil.”
“Z’s calling?” I shake my head. “On Christmas Eve?”
“He doesn’t get out much.”
“Your boss needs to get a life.”
“Or get laid.” Bran powers off the phone and shoves it in his pocket. “So,” his sigh is epic. “A photo of me with Santa Claus, huh?”
I bat my eyes. “Make my Christmas wish come true.”
“Bloody hell.” He hands me the umbrella and sets his shoulders as if preparing to face down a firing squad.
“You’ll do it?” My jaw drops.
“Of course.” His look is unfathomable. “You asked me too.”
I snort. “Since when does that ever make a difference?”
He gives my forehead a peck. “Consider this a holiday miracle.” He turns and strides up the red carpet, past the giant Christmas tree and reindeer cutouts, arms rigid at his sides. I press my fist to my mouth, stifling giggles.
There’s no way he’ll go through with this.
He exchanges a few curt words with the elf who glances in my direction with an amused expression before ushering Bran forward.
Santa straightens in his throne and hands Bran a candy cane. The elf nudges Bran’s shoulder, coaxes him to sit on the edge of the big man’s knee. Bran looks like he might commit murder, but he perches, doesn’t flinch, even when the elf shoves reindeer horns on his head.
The elf heads back to the camera and calls out, “One, Two, Three, Merry Christmas.”
Then Bran does it, he switches on a smile that lights up his whole face, and sets my damn heart afire. I’m so charmed that I can barely stand it.
Santa and Bran exchange a few more words before he stands and saunters toward me.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe you did that,” I say.
The elf motions for us to stay put as the printer hums to life.
“Merry Christmas, Captain.” He gives me a brusque kiss on the tip of my nose.
“So, naughty boy.” I whisper into the side of his neck. “Did Santa happen ask what you wanted for Christmas?”
“Yeah.” He braces my face between his hands and this time his kiss is slow and gentle. “I told him I already have it.”
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Lia Riley Bio:
Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult and Contemporary Adult romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling XXXX with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.
A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn't mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about future books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip.
She and her family live mostly in Northern California.
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