12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Maggie & Clay from Find You in the Dark by A. Meredith Walters (excerpt and giveaways)

Find You in the Dark 

Maggie and Clay Special Christmas Scene
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Maggie Young had the market on normal. Normal friends, normal parents, normal grades…normal life. 
Until him.
Clayton Reed was running from his past and an army of personal demons that threatened to take him down. He never thought he had a chance at happiness.
Until her.
Maggie thought their love could overcome anything. Clay thought she was all he needed to fix his messy life. 
That together, they could face the world.

But the darkness is always waiting. 

Sometimes the greatest obstacle to true love is within yourself.
“I forgot to get whipped cream! You can’t have pie without whipped cream!” Maggie ran around our kitchen, reminding me a bit of a headless chicken.
I sat at the table, waving a spoon of peas in front of our daughter’s mouth, hoping she’d swallow them this time and not spit them all over my shirt.
No such luck.
One face full of green gook later and I declared dinnertime officially over.
“Every thing will be perfect,” I assured Maggie, kissing the back of her neck as she stood at the counter chopping up lettuce for the salad.
She stopped her frantic preparations and leaned back into me for a moment. 
“This is our first Christmas with everyone here. I just want everything to be nice,” she said softly. I wrapped my arms around her middle and she put her hands over mine.
“We have everything we need for the best Christmas ever. You need to relax and enjoy it,” I urged her.  
She nodded, dropping the knife onto the cutting board and going to get our daughter out of her high chair. 
The little girl was the spitting image of Maggie. And watching the two of them rub noses, Maggie laughing as our daughter nuzzled into my wife’s neck, I couldn’t help but remember that night, two years ago when I had been scared to death to start this chapter of my life. Terrified to be a dad. Worried like hell I’d fuck it all up and be the sort of parent that my own had been. Worthless.
And in an instant, my whole universe had changed…
“Clay…wake up!” I groaned and tried to roll away from whatever was jabbing me in the side. I pulled the covers up over my head, trying to stay resolutely asleep.
No such luck.
Next came the full body shaking.
“Wake the fuck up!” 
I felt a full on titty twister on my nipple and yelped, sitting up in bed. I rubbed my bleary eyes, trying to figure out what was going on.
Maggie was stood beside me, her hands cradling her swollen belly and she looked ready to kill me. 
“What is it? Is the house on fire?” I asked groggily, turning on my bedside light so I could see what the emergency was.
Maggie scowled at me and then she doubled over, moaning so loudly I was sure the neighbors would hear. I jumped out of bed and put my arms around her. 
Shit. I knew what this was.
We had been preparing for this moment for the last seven months. 
I had stopped taking my sleep meds three weeks ago so that I would be able to do what I needed to do when the time came.
But it didn’t stop the freak out that threatened to take me down.
“We have to go to the hospital. Now!” she yelled, squeezing my hand so tightly that she cut off the circulation to my fingers. 
I stood there, rigid, unable to move. A thousand panicky worries flooded my head at her plea. Up until now, the idea of having a child had been some sort of abstract concept. It had been the natural progression in our life together.
We had been married for two years. We had bought our first house last summer. And now we were expecting our first child.
And I was also still fighting my way through the dark fog of my daily struggles with my mental illness.
Bi-polar disorder didn’t care that you wanted your life to be normal. It didn’t give a shit if you had a million and one expectations for what you wanted to do and be. It was the merciless bitch that would never quite relinquish its hold on your world. 
On your mind. 
It was the taunting tease in the back of your head that whispered you’ll always be mine.
I had been riddled with the terror that I would pass this on to my child. That he or her would suffer the way I had. How would I be able to live with the knowledge that I had given this to someone who depended on me? 
I had spent most of my therapy sessions over the last six months discussing this very point. I had read the research and knew that bi-polar disorder could be hereditary and that my child had a 10-25% chance of developing the illness themselves.
But Maggie wanted a baby.
I wanted a baby. 
I wanted the chance to be the parent mine had never been. To prove I was more than the people who had given me life.
We both wanted that perfect person that embodied the love we felt so deeply for one another.
Wasn’t it the worst kind of selfish to want something so badly, no matter the consequences? 
How could I knowingly give the worst part of myself to a helpless child?
Maggie and I hadn’t been trying for a child when she had gotten pregnant. But we hadn’t been trying to prevent it either. How naïve I had been at the time to think I was emotionally ready for this step.
In the years since we said I do, Maggie and I had struggled hard to build the life we wanted together. It was anything but smooth sailing. I was still riddled with doubt and self-loathing. Maggie still worried that I would backslide into the person I had been before. 
Counseling had become as commonplace for our relationship as dinners and movies. It was how our relationship functioned. It was how we, together, flourished.
It was the only way we could be the healthy, functional couple we wanted to be.
So when Maggie announced that she was expecting, I had, at first, been over the moon. We had thrown ourselves into buying every random piece of marketed baby crap that was out there. 
Maggie was glowing. She had never been more beautiful in my eyes. Her parents were ecstatic. Daniel and Rachel were down right giddy, already planning future play dates for our children. Ruby had burst into tears and promised to fly up and help after the baby was born.
But then the dark part of my brain started to take over and I began to question what I was doing. What sort of parent did I hope to be? I could barely take care of myself! What did I know about taking care of someone else?
I was setting myself up for the worst kind of failure. The kind you didn’t bounce back from.
Of course Maggie didn’t follow my doom and gloom logic.
“You’ll be a fantastic father, Clay. I would never be taking this journey with you if I weren’t completely certain of you. Of us.” She would say emphatically when she recognized the characteristic pessimism on my face.
And her confidence would pull me out of whatever black place I had gone to. 
She always did.
And I had learned ways to hold onto the light when she’d hand it to me.
It’s what made us work. It’s what would get us through anything.
Except right now all I could feel was total and complete emotional chaos as I helped my very pregnant wife to the car, stopping periodically so she could yowl in pain and grip my hand hard to cut off circulation.
Shit, who knew Maggie May Reed was capable of channeling the Incredible Hulk? She was fucking scary.
“If you don’t get me to the hospital in the next ten minutes I’m going pop a fucking squat and this baby is going to fall on the floor mat!” she growled, clenching her fists as another contraction hit her body.
“We’re almost there,” I assured her, trying like hell to hide how close I was to screaming with her. Seeing her in pain was horrible. Not knowing what would come after all this was over was freaking torture. 
“Stop driving like an old lady and put your foot down! Drive like you’ve got some balls!” Maggie roared, gripping my arm and piercing my skin with her talon like nails. 
“It’ll be fine, I promise, baby.” I tried to be consoling. Okay, so maybe I was teetering on the edge of placating and perhaps that wasn’t the best course of action when dealing with your wife whose body was currently trying to expel a baby.
I winced and tried not to swerve the car off the road. “This is all your fault, you shithead,” Maggie yowled just before letting out a guttural groan. “It hurts, Clay. Why didn’t they tell me how much it would hurt?” she panted.
I swung the car into the hospital parking lot, found the first available spot and practically flew out of the vehicle. I grabbed Maggie’s bag from the trunk and then ran around to the side of the car, tripping over a soda can.
I caught myself before falling on my ass and opened the door for Maggie. I tried to calm myself down, knowing that my freaking out would only make the entire situation worse. Maggie needed me to be strong.
I was so used to Maggie being my rock. She was the one I had leaned on for so long that it was discombobulating trying to assimilate to a new role. 
Because Maggie needed me. 
I wrapped my arm around her back and supported her weight as I practically carried her to the door of the ER. We checked in at reception and while the nurse went to get a wheelchair, I leaned down and cupped Maggie’s face in my hands.
“I love you so much,” I said softly, kissing her lips. 
Her beautiful face was pinched in pain and I knew just standing there was taking everything out of her. But for the time being she didn’t appear to be wishing me bodily harm. Her face only radiated the same love that I knew shown from mine.
“I love you too, Clay. So very much,” she whispered back just before she doubled over as another contraction hit. And then she wasn’t loving me so much as cursing my very existence. And if this were any other time but during the delivery of our first child, I would have been gutted by the hateful string of curses spewing from her normally pretty mouth.
“You fucking asshole! If you ever think about doing this to me again, I’ll cut your nut sack off and shove it up your ass!” she screamed as a nurse wheeled her to labor and delivery.
I wanted to hide my face in embarrassment. Maggie May Reed had morphed into some sort of petrifying she-demon. The nurse, a plump redhead whose nametag read Nurse Randall, bit her lip to keep from laughing. Smart move, because Maggie wasn’t in the frame of mind to understand the humor.
I tried to take her hand to reassure her but she swatted me away. “Back the fuck off, Clay. Just back. The. Fuck. Off!” she grit out as her nostrils flared. 
Two minutes later, after the contraction had subsided she held her hand out, tears streaming down her face. “Don’t leave me, Clay! I need you!” she pleaded and I sighed, already exhausted by the rollercoaster. Shit if this is what Maggie had to put up with from me throughout the course of our relationship, I owed her a bigger apology than I had ever imagined. 
Nurse Randall took us into a private delivery room and gently took one of Maggie’s arms. I quickly went to my wife’s side and took her other one. We ever so carefully led her to the bed. 
Maggie laid her head on my shoulder, the epitome of the docile mother-to-be. 
I waited on pins-and-needles, wondering when the pain crazed, gutter mouthed, scary person would take her place.
I didn’t have to wait long.
One minute and forty-eight seconds later (yes, people, I timed it), she was screaming in between her guttural, rage fueled tirade. Maggie could have given Linda Blair a run for her money. Paging The fucking Exorcist!
I let Maggie grip my hand in hers and tried not to wince like a pussy when she squeezed it tight enough to crack bone. 
All worry, all possibility of negative self-doubt, disappeared over the course of the next eight hours. My entire focus was on not being murdered by the love of my life. 
When I wasn’t terrified of her, I couldn’t help but be absolutely awe-struck by the immense wave of love that seemed to grow stronger and stronger with each passing moment.
After all we had been through together, I honestly hadn’t thought I could adore this woman any more than I already did. 
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Because watching her struggle to bring our child into the world, I thought I would burst with an almost crippling love.
This was the kind of love that could destroy everything. It could decimate villages and level mountains.
But it could also end world fucking hunger.
It was an awesome and powerful thing. Something that you couldn’t explain unless you’ve experienced it. 
And when the time came for Maggie to push, I breathed with her. I counted as she bore down for the doctor. I almost hyperventilated and had the nurses asking if I needed to lie down. Yeah, that wasn’t embarrassing at all. 
But in the end, in that perfect, indescribable moment, when our daughter came into the world, every struggle, every messed up bump in my road, diminished into nothing. 
None of it mattered.
Because I had this. 
Maggie sobbed as she pushed our baby from her body and my heart clenched at the sound of that first, thready cry. 
The nurses surged forward and scooped our baby up and went to clean her off and to check her over. 
I looked down at Maggie. She stared up at me with her red-rimmed brown eyes and tears falling down her cheeks. I brushed the hair from her face and leaned down to kiss her dry lips. 
“You are the most amazingly, beautiful woman in the world,” I whispered against her mouth. “I love you so damn much.”
Maggie’s lips trembled as I kissed her over and over again. 
“Are you ready to meet the most beautiful little girl ever?” Nurse Randall asked, her face beaming. 
Maggie and I both nodded as the nurse laid the tiny bundle on Maggie’s chest. I kneeled down and knew with an absolute certainty that my heart would never belong only to Maggie again. 
Just as I had given it to my wife all those years ago, I now gave it to this perfect little baby who we had made…together.
Maggie couldn’t stop crying. And then I was crying. And we were both crying as we touched and kissed and cooed over our miracle.
“You want to go to your daddy?” Maggie asked our girl. 
I was a dad.
And that title meant more to me than anything else in the entire universe.
And I would do everything I could to deserve everything that name encompassed. I would be the dad this beautiful baby needed me to be.
I was scared to death to hold her. She was so tiny. So fragile. Her eyes were closed, her lips pursed in a bow. She was gorgeous. My heart overflowed. I sniffled through my tears. I was freaking mess.
I could barely breathe over the ache in my chest. I wanted to tuck this brand new little person inside of me and never let her go. My protectiveness had already kicked in with a vengeance.
And the most shocking thing of all was that I didn’t look down at her and wonder about the million and one ways I could screw this whole dad thing up. I didn’t begin to analyze what it would mean for her to be my daughter. What she may face as she got older given my history.
None of that even entered my mind.
Because all I could think was that this was my chance to do it all right.
And god damn it, I would!
“What are you going to name her?” Nurse Randall asked. 
Maggie and I looked at each other, our eyes meeting in absolute understanding. Then in unison we stared down at our daughter. 
“Hope,” I said, smiling through my tears. 
“Don’t touch that, Hope!” Maggie called out, watching our now two-year old daughter pulling ornaments off our massive tree. Laura Young, Maggie’s mother, swooped in and grabbed her granddaughter before the tiny whirling dervish could carve a path of destruction through the Christmas decorations.
I sat on the couch beside Daniel, as he held his three-month-old son, Oscar, who was sleeping peacefully through the mayhem. 
My aunt Ruby sat on the floor with Rachel and Daniel’s daughter, Poppy, who never wasted a moment to show off her newly acquired reading skills. Maggie was trying to listen to the conversation going on between her father and Rachel but spent most of her time watching Hope.
This was my life. 
How did I end up so lucky?
I was surrounded by my friends and family and absolutely everything I could ever have dreamed of. 
My heart was full.
My mind was clear.
My life was mine. 
Maggie met my eyes from across the room.
I love you, she mouthed to me, her eyes twinkling in that way that was always only ever for me.
I love you, I mouthed back, knowing this kind of happiness was the forever kind.
Merry Christmas!!!

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary and New Adult Romance.

A. Meredith spent ten years as a counselor for at risk teens and children. First working at a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program and then later a program for children with severe emotional and mental health issues. Her former clients and their stories continue to influence every aspect of her writing.

When not writing (or being tortured with all manner of beauty products at the hand of her very imaginative and extremely girly 7 year old daughter), she is eating chocolate, watching reality television that could rot your brain and reading a smutty novel or two.

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Neil & Elaina from Cherry Girl Love by Raine Miller (excerpt and giveaways)

Cherry Girl 
Neil & Elaina Special Christmas Scene

Elaina Morrison has loved Neil McManus her whole life. She doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t love him. Through heartbreaking tragedy and years of separation, her love holds true…until life stomps all over her heart, shattering her perfect dream, teaching her how hard it is to let go.

Real life doesn’t have anything on romantic dreams though, as these two have learned repeatedly. It sucks big time, leaving painful scars in its wake. 
But Neil isn’t giving up. He’s endured years of longing and sacrifice to wait for her. Always a soldier, he knows his way around a battlefield, and winning Elaina is no different. So that’s precisely what Neil is going to do. He’ll go in fighting, and make Elaina see what he already knows.
That she will forever be his Cherry Girl…

A Scottish Christmas

24 December
The Scottish winters were quite a step up from London’s constant wet. The only difference was several degrees colder temperatures. And constant wet. I couldn’t complain too much though, and I never would, because I was blissfully happy being up in Scotland were it was very cold, and very wet, because I had my man to keep me warm when I felt the chill. He never let me get chilled anyway. I smiled secretly and thought about just how warm he’d made me in our bed this morning when he woke me up. And last night before we fell asleep.

No, Neil was a dedicated husband when it came to seeing to his wife’s every comfort and pleasure. Or, more accurately—pleasures.

We’d only been married for eleven weeks, but were still newlyweds in our heads where it mattered. Just a little more than a year ago, we’d come crashing back together after so long apart. I’d learned to accept that we were meant to be—and that nothing could have kept us from our fate to be with one another. We were truly destined to be together.

Our journey to get to this point, had been a painful one, but that was all in the past now. Neil and I both learned so much along the way. Like when you get a second chance, you held onto it with everything you had in you, and thanked God you were given the gift.

Which reminded me—I needed to sneak out so I could pick up Neil’s Christmas gift.

I hoped I could manage it without him discovering and trying to come with me. He didn’t like me driving alone. Maybe it was his job in the security field that made him so protective of me, but my man was a tad too overdone in that department sometimes. I was working on training him out of it though. I had my methods.

I hated to hurt his feelings by saying no, but this was an errand, which needed to remain solo. My only partner in crime was Batesman, the man in charge of running this place. I think in the olden days, such a person was called a steward. I thought of Pride and Prejudice, probably my favorite novel of all time, and how Mr. Darcy had a steward to run the estate for him when he was away on business.

Batesman lived here in Scotland and took care of the place when we were in London working at Blackstone Security International, and he looked after us when we were here visiting, which was mainly at the weekends. Neil tried to get us up here at least one weekend a month, but since it was the holidays, Neil and Ethan, had ordered BSI closed through New Year’s, with only a skeletal staff on hand to secure any events. The bosses were on holiday for the holidays. We had ten more days before work called us back home to London. Glorious. Ten. Days.

Neil said this was our place to make up for all the years we had lost. And my man was determined to do that for us. He told me all the time. He also liked to have me all to himself, just the two of us alone, spending time together doing the simple things that we had both learned not to take for granted.

I cracked an even bigger smile, thinking about how he’d taken his time with me this morning, waking me up from a sound sleep in the most delicious way, or I should say—his tongue.

Neil didn’t hold back with me in the bedroom. If he wanted to try something, he told me, or sometimes he just did what he wanted, and then asked me if it was okay. Typical man. Go for it first, ask later.

But I didn’t mind his tactics.

I was okay with everything my man did for me. And my body had the luxurious aches and marks on my skin to prove it this morning.

He liked to mark me. He also wanted me pregnant.

Maybe it was his lack of a normal family life growing up that made him crave the stability of a family. Neil wanted kids.

We were working on it. Very diligently.

I grinned as I rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and ran smack dab into a hard chest that carried the scent of my man.

“I’ve got you now,” he said, as his arms came out to snatch me. He picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. “Mmmmm, I like that, beautiful wife.” He walked us up to the nearest wall, set me against it, and proceeded to kiss me senseless.

 photo tumblr_mnc1ieOGX81qa1ujlo1_250_zpsec648de4.gif

“I like it too.” I managed to mumble behind soft lips and an even softer tongue that continued to own me. He was seriously dangerous with those lips of his.

“I want to take you back up to our bed and do some more things that I know you like.” He thrust his hips forward and hit me right where it counted. His stamina for sex was astounding to me, and something I hoped never changed, but it wasn’t happening right now.

“Nope, Captain. I can’t.”

He pulled away from my lips and gave me his soulful chocolate eyes. “But why not?”

“I have important work to do and an errand to run.” I hoped he would take my explanation, but accepted the likelihood of that happening to be about nil.

“Where are we going then?” he asked, still pressing that impressive erection right up against me. Yeah, he knew what he was doing all right—tempting me with his body and the promise of more explosive orgasms. Resisting him was not going to be easy, but right now, it had to be done.

“We are not. I have somewhere I need to be—”

“I’ll drive you wherever you want to go,” he interrupted, “where is that?” The look on his face made it difficult to say the next part.

“I have to go alone on this errand. You can’t come along.” I stuck out my bottom lip and mimed a sad face.

He started to shake his head at me, but I brought my hand up to his cheek. I’d learned that touching my man on the face soothed him when I needed to get my point across, and he was less than thrilled with the situation. Me driving around Scotland on my own in winter and along country roads? More than qualified as one of those situations that made my husband less than thrilled.

He grew still and waited for me to explain, his brown eyes searching my face. When I was not forthcoming, he tried again.

“Why can’t I drive you? I won’t be a pest. Promise.”

“You can’t come along because I am going to get your Christmas present.”

Silence. Pouty face. Sigh with a bit of eye narrowing.

“Do you know that you have the most adorable pouty face that is possible for a man to have, and not look like a little girl?”

“Is it working?” he shot back sarcastically.

“’Fraid not, Captain.”

“Well then, it’s utterly useless to me then, now isn’t it?”

God, he was hard to resist when he pouted and made the metaphorical knife twist into my heart. And beautifully handsome and smelling like heaven. Evil torture is what he was doing to me.

Didn’t matter. I still wasn’t letting him come with me.


Later that evening

“You look like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, Mrs. McManus.”

“Is that so, Captain?”

“Very much so.”

“Well you look nearly back to normal after your pouty fit from earlier,” she said with that sass that made my cock sit up and beg.

“And I know just what put me back to normal, as you call it.” And I most certainly did know. As soon as she’d arrived back to the house after her gift errand, I’d carried her upstairs and kept her in bed for the rest of the afternoon making love. Having Elaina all to myself was something I didn’t think I would ever get enough of. All of those years without her made me an overbearing arse sometimes, I know, but she seemed to put up with me without too much complaint.

“I want to give you your Christmas gift tonight if you don’t mind,” she said with a grin. “I just can’t stand waiting until the morning.”

“Hmmmm…isn’t that sacrilege?” I teased. Secretly I was more than pleased by her suggestion. Exchanging gifts tonight would work even better for me as well.

“Maybe, but my gift can’t wait until tomorrow. Like literally can’t wait.”

I kissed her on her puffy red lips and grinned. “Okay.”

“Well that was easy. You must really want to know what I’ve gotten for you,” she sang.

“Of course I do, but even more than that, I don’t want to wait to give you your gift from me either. I say let’s do this.”

Her smile lit up her face, making me want to kiss her first. “Okay, deal. I need to go get it. Be right back.” She sailed out of the room, and I took off to find Batesman. He’d been helping me with my gift for Elaina. The man was seriously capable of just about anything and everything. And he did it all so fuckin’ well. Boggled the mind how some people could be so damn good at such a variety of things. I knocked on his door in the east wing and called out in case he’d already turned in for the night. Tomorrow was going to be a long day. We had many guests joining us tomorrow. Things were going to be crazy with so many people coming up to Scotland, but what the hell was a big house for if you never used it for anything… “Batesman? Is it ready to go now? My wife has decided to exchange gifts tonight instead of the morning.

He poked his head through the door crack and addressed me in that formal voice of his. “Sir, I have madam’s gift right here.” He shoved a basket at me and then closed his door again.

I frowned. Weird. Maybe Batesman hated Christmas or something. Some people had such bad experiences growing up; they found holidays like Christmas difficult to stomach. I’d had mostly good ones growing up, a few bad ones when times were not so nice, but didn’t everybody? Everything was golden now.

I took my basket and walked back to the room we’d been in before.

Elaina was already there, and sitting on the sofa, looking at the Christmas” tree. I still think she trumped the tree. Any day. Any time. She was the most beautiful thing in the room.

She frowned at my basket though. She probably was going to hate the gift, but I hoped not. It sure seemed like a great idea at the time I thought of it though.

“Who wants to go first?” I asked.

“You?” she suggested. “Sit down beside me, my darling.” She patted the couch right next to her.

I sat down and placed the basket on the floor.

“Close your eyes, beautiful wife.” She complied as she always did so easily. Make my cock rock hard when she got submissive like that. Later, lad. I reached into the basket and took out the soft, sleepy bundle, setting it carefully onto her lap. “You can open your eyes now.”

“Oh. My. God.” Her hands reached down to pick up the puppy and bring him up to her face for closer inspection.

“Not really a god, just a little pup,” I teased. “Blue Merle Great Dane to be exact. “Happy Christmas, darlin’, I hope you like him. I thought we could use a dog around the place, you know, for protection.”

“Did you now?” she asked absently, as she nuzzled the puppy, which was now a little more awake than he’d been just a minute ago. “My turn, Captain. Close your eyes, please.”

I did as she asked and heard the shuffling around of movement as she rose from the couch, and then felt something warm set down in my lap. Could it be possible?

“You can open up now, Captain.”

I opened my eyes to find another puppy looking up at me with blue eyes and a cocked head of inquisitiveness. This one was lighter in color than the little male I’d picked out for Elaina earlier, but was clearly from the same litter of Blue Merle Great Danes. Batesman must have been enjoying himself immensely over this little newlywed spectacle we’d provided for him today.

“We have very good taste in dogs, beautiful wife.”

“Obviously, Captain.” She leaned forward to kiss me. “Happy Christmas, my darling.”

Boy puppy from Neil.                    Girl puppy from Elaina.

Raine Miller has been reading romance novels since she picked up that first Barbara Cartland book at the tender age of thirteen. And it’s a safe bet she’ll never stop, because now she writes them too! Granted Raine’s stories are edgy enough to turn Ms. Cartland in her grave, but to her way of thinking, a hot, sexy hero never goes out of fashion. A part-time teacher and writer of sexy romance stories every other chance she gets pretty much fills her days. She has a handsome prince of a husband, and two brilliant sons to pull her back into the real world if the writing takes her too far away. Her sons know she likes to write stories, but gratefully have never asked to read any, thank God! Raine loves to hear from readers and to chat about the characters in her books.

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of AJ and Mia from Beat of the Heart by Katie Ashley (excerpt and giveaways)

Beat of the Heart
AJ & Mia Special Christmas Scene

After years of bad relationships and a cheating ex-fiancé, twenty-eight-year-old Mia Martinelli prefers healing her patients’ hearts on the Cardiac Care floor rather than risking having her heart broken again. But that all comes to a screeching halt when caring for the head roadie for Runaway Train puts her into the orbit of drummer and Latin Lover, AJ Resendiz. After a scorching weekend of steamy passion, Mia’s intention of getting out with her heart unscathed is challenged by the stud with the wicked sense of humor, especially when he wants to continue seeing her. But when the harsh reality of AJ’s hoard of female admirers sends her insecurities into overdrive, Mia bails, leaving him handcuffed to his bathroom shower.
AJ never imagined that after two weeks of the best sex and female companionship he’d ever experienced, he would need rescued by his band mates from his shower prison. Although he tries to forget the sensual brunette whose curves made his mouth water, AJ can’t get her out of his mind…or his heart. Months later when he finally seeks Mia for answers as to why she left, nothing could prepare him for their life-altering reunion. 
Can AJ prove to Mia that regardless of the women after his body, his heart belongs only to her?
I was in the middle of a very X-rated dream involving Mia wearing nothing but a sparkly red Santa’s hat. She was riding me hard and fast when a high-pitched squeal brought me out heaven and back into reality. In a matter of seconds, that squeal became a full on scream, and I knew it was time to get up and at it for my Bella. After I threw back the sheets, I staggered out of the bed, grinding the sleep from my eyes. Glancing over at the clock, I saw it was one in the afternoon. Mia had left Bella with me, so she could go Christmas shopping with Abby. 
As I bent over the frilly, pink Pack N Play wedged into the corner of the bus’s bedroom, Bella’s tiny features were crumpled in rage. Her fists waved angrily back and forth, like at any moment she was going to knock the hell out of whoever she could get her hands on. She was truly Mia’s kid. Okay, fine, maybe she had inherited a little bit of both of our temperaments. 
“Easy mi princesa.” 
At my words, Bella popped open her once pinched shut eyes and stared up at me. “What’s wrong, mi amor?” I asked as I reached over to pick her up. 
Her screaming quieted to snubbing as I took her in my arms. Kissing the top of dark head full of hair, I inhaled of her sweet baby smell. “It’s okay. Daddy’s here now.” I felt around on her diaper to see if she was wet. “Hmm, you feel dry to me.” Raising her above my face, I did the usual sniff test of her butt to see if there was another surprise lurking. “Nope, good to go there. So you must be hungry, huh?” At her hiccupped reply, I started for the bedroom door. “Let’s go get some of the milk mommy pumped for you before she left.” 
When I got to the kitchen, I found Rhys seated at the table in boxers slurping on a bowl of cereal. “You slept in too, huh?”
“Yeah. Last night’s show was killer.” He motioned to Bella. “Not to mention her three a.m. scream-fest.”
I winced. “Sorry dude.”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. It’s not like we haven’t kept each other awake before with screaming chicks.”
I laughed. “True.”
Balancing Bella in one arm, I opened the fridge. I scanned the shelves twice, but I still didn’t see the container Mia always left. “Hey man, have you see Bella’s milk?”
“You know, the milk that Mia pumps for Bella.”
When I glanced up from the fridge, Rhys had paled. “Uh…is that it on the counter?” 
Closing the fridge, I peered over to the counter to see the empty container. “Yeah, that’s it. But why is it empty?” 
“Oh fucking hell,” Rhys groaned before bolting from the table. The next thing I knew he was in the bathroom heaving his guts up. 
The prospect of not eating didn’t sit well with Bella, and she decided the best way to let it be known was to start screaming again. “Shit!” I exclaimed as I started fumbling around in the cabinets for some formula. Thankfully, the bus door flew open, and Mia came clattering up the stairs. At the sound of Bella’s cries, Mia dropped her packages and hustled back to us. “What happened?” she asked as she took Bella into her arms. 
“She’s hungry.”
“Why did you feed her the milk I left?”
“Um…” I rubbed the back of my neck and tried to think of how to explain what had happened. I knew Rhys would be even sicker if Mia knew he’d accidentally drunk her milk, and I was pretty sure she’d be absolutely mortified. “I…accidentally dropped it.” 
Mia smiled. “You stugats.” 
My eyes widened. “Hey, I know that one from The Soprano’s. But you’re right. I am a stupid dick.”
She reached up with her left hand to cup my cheek—the one that glittered with her engagement ring. “But I love you anyway.” 
Bella squealed in rage, signaling it was time to get with the feeding program. Mia glanced over her shoulder. “Will you bring the packages back to the bedroom while I feed her?”
“Sure, mi amor.” 
“Don’t peek.”
“I won’t.” I gathered up the bags and started for the bedroom. As I passed the bathroom, I rapped on the door. “You okay, man?”
“I’ll live,” Rhys moaned. 
I grimaced as I went on into the bedroom. When I got inside, Mia was on the bed feeding Bella. I put the bags in the corner. “So you bought me something today, huh?”
Mia smiled. “Maybe.”
Eyeing one of the multicolored bags, I asked, “Is it something sexy for you to wear for my eyes only?”
She rolled her eyes. “You wish.”
“You know all I want for Christmas is you,” I teased as I sat down next to her. 
“You have me. Always,” she replied. 
“Best. Present. Ever,” I murmured, before learning in to kiss her. When I pulled away, I grinned. “You’re the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”
Mia threw her head back and laughed. “You’re terrible.” 
“But you love me anyway.” 
“Yes, I do.” At Bella’s cooing, Mia glanced down and smiled. “So you think your naughty daddy’s pretty funny too, huh?” She closed up shop by bringing Bella to her shoulder to burp her. 
“She finished already?” I asked, rubbing Bella’s back. 
“I think she just wanted a snack.” 
“More like she wanted to give her old man some hell by waking him up from a perfectly good sex dream.”
Mia’s dark eyes widened. “AJ!”
I laughed at her outrage. “It was about you, amorcito mio.” 
“I don’t care. Don’t say sex in front of Bella.”
“Like she even knows what it is.”
“I don’t care,” Mia huffed. 
I shook my head and grinned. “You’re so cute when you get riled.” At Mia’s, ‘You do not want to go there with me’ look, I held up my hands in defeat. “Fine, fine. You know, you haven’t told me what you wanted for Christmas.”
Mia sighed. “All I want is to be off this bus in time to get a live tree for Bella’s first Christmas.”
“Last show is the nineteenth. Then we head home.”
Mia quirked her brows. “You’ll take us to the tree farm the moment we get back to Georgia?”
I lifted my hand and swiped my chest. “Scout’s Honor.”
 “And you promise to go with me to take Bella to see Santa Claus?”
Oh shit. That was something I sure as hell hadn’t bargained on. All I could see in my mind was a crowded mall with a line full of screaming kids—you know, a true hell on earth. “Um, well…”
“AJ, it’s her first time sitting on Santa’s lap. I know she would want her Daddy there for that.”
“Please, she can’t even sit up yet. I highly doubt she’s going to be sitting on Santa’s lap.”
“Fine. Be that way.” 
At her tone, I knew I was in trouble. “If I don’t go with you to see Santa, I’m probably not going to be doing much decking of your halls this holiday season, am I?”
“Are you making some sexual innuendo with deck the halls?”
With a smirk, I said, “Don’t say sex in front of Bella.”
Mia shook her head. “AJ, you drive me crazy!”
“But you love me anyway, right?”
She huffed out a frustrated breath. “Yes, I do. More than you can ever imagine.”
“Aw, thanks, amorcito mio,” I said. After I gave her a smacking kiss on the lips, I winked. “You wore me down. I’ll go with you to take Bella to see Santa.”
Her dark eyes lit up. “Really?”
“Yeah, really.”
“Thank you, thank you!” she cried before kissing me. As she rubbed my cheek, she said, “I can’t wait to spend our first Christmas together as a family.” 
“Me too.”  I took her face in my hands. “Thank you for coming out on the road with me. I know this isn’t how you saw your life or how you thought you’d be spending your first December with Bella.”
“It’s okay. All that matters is I’m with the two people I love most in the world—my amazing husband and my daughter.” 
“I feel the same way. Always.”
Katie Ashley is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best-Selling author of The Proposition. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her two very spoiled dogs and one outnumbered cat. She has a slight obsession with Pinterest, The Golden Girls, Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Supernatural, Designing Women, and Scooby-Doo.
She spent 11 1/2 years educating the Youth of America aka teaching MS and HS English until she left to write full time in December 2012.
She also writes Young Adult fiction under the name Krista Ashe.

Book 1 Runaway Train: Music of the Heart

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Mac and Daniel from Temporary Bliss by BJ Harvey (excerpt and giveaways)

Temporary Bliss

Mac and Daniel Special Christmas Scene
Makenna Lewis cringes at any mention of the word commitment. She doesn’t want or need a relationship, but she does like sex (who doesn’t). 
That explains Noah, Sean, and Zander, her three ‘friends with benefits’. 
They know the score, they know they’re not the only one, and each of them provide her with a different physical need that she craves and enjoys. 
Until a late night encounter with the delicious Daniel Winters turns her preconceived notion of no-commitment completely on its head. 
Soon she finds herself feeling things she vowed never to feel again, and when Daniel pushes for more than she’s willing to give, she falters. 
What do you do when something that you’ve known to be so wrong in the past feels so damn right? 
If you’re Mac, you run and hide. 
But is Daniel the type of man who takes no for an answer? 
Blissful Christmas by BJ Harvey

“Wake up, gorgeous,” I hear a husky voice whisper from the warm hard body currently cocooning mine. 
I shake my head ever so slightly which simply earns a thrust of morning wood against my ass and a deep chuckle that speaks to my loins. 
“Mac, it’s Christmas. You need to wake up so I can give you my present.” I feel the bed shift as I assume he sits up behind me against the deep oak headboard of our king sized bed. 
“I’d rather have the present that was offered to me a minute ago as long as I can just lie here. We can role play. Sleepy, pregnant girlfriend with a horny, rabid superhero swooping in to save the day. Or make my day, if you’re good enough that is.” I giggle as I feel Daniel’s arms wrap around my waist and rub my belly, waking up the spawn inside. 
“Shh, no talking. You’ll wake them up, and it’s way too soon to be worrying about the kids hearing us.” He nips my earlobe before sucking it into his mouth. Damn, that man knows the right buttons to push. 
The hand on my belly moves upwards to my now larger than life boobs; definitely one of Daniel’s favorite pregnancy side effects. Knowing that I’ll soon be unable to think straight, I reach my arm behind me and find his weapon of mass impregnation—hey, the name stuck, alright? Blame Kate!—straining towards me. Enveloping him in my hand, I slowly stroke up and down, adding a signature twist at the end to keep him on his toes.
His hand moves quickly from my aching breasts, and under my silk, mistletoe panties, finding me wet and raring to go; another positive side effect of this procreation business. 
“Mac,” he growls. “Don’t start something you’re not gonna finish.”
“Wasn’t planning on it.”
He pulls his hand away leaving me to whimper at the loss. “Good because I think it’s time for you to sit up.”
“On your cock?” I add, rolling over to face him. 
“On your knees, gorgeous. It’s my turn to give, and if I’m not mistaken, I have some mistletoe to kiss.”
I’m 31 years old and live in New Zealand, the most beautiful country in the world. 
I love reading, and started writing my first novel, Lost in Distraction in December 2012. Before that I’d written business and website articles professionally but never fiction. I love the indie community, authors, bloggers and readers alike and have met so many awesome people that I now call dear friends. 
I’m a huge music lover as well. I REALLY love music. If there isn’t music playing, something is wrong. And it’s a wide range of music too, I might surprise you with my eclectic tastes. 
I’m also a wife, mother of two gorgeous girls and currently working for myself as well as studying full time to become an accountant of all things. I also have a Bachelor of Communications. 
My author inspirations are: Michelle Leighton, Barbara Elsborg and Kristen Ashley. 

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Trevor and Eva from Pretending She’s His by Kelsie Leverich (excerpt and giveaways)

Pretending She’s His

Trevor & Eva Special Christmas Scene

New York Times bestselling author Kelsie Leverich continues her series in her new Hard Feelings novella, where a tempting little lie turns into so much more…
Eva Riley is the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding and it just so happens that her ex is the best man. Eva’s a straight shooter and definitely not the damsel-in-distress type. But with her pride on the line and her ex’s heart on his sleeve, there might not be enough champagne in the world to get her through this weekend…
Trevor Owens may be one hell of a good friend to Eva, but he’s always wanted to get the fiery redhead between the sheets. So he swoops in and offers a solution to her ex problem: they can pretend to be together—just for the weekend. But when their little game of make-believe is over, will they be able to tell what’s real and what’s only pretend?
Christmas Magic: Eva and Trevor Christmas Special
Chapter One
Eva finally pulled from Trevor’s embrace after debating whether or not she could curl up inside his coat, wrapped in his arms, and stay the remainder of her leave tucked warmly against him. She was back in New York for crying out loud–and Eva was from the South. Northern winters could kiss her ass.
The airport was packed, and baggage claim was a freakin’ nightmare, not to mention her plane had been delayed for over an hour because of the weather. White Christmases were over-rated.
“I still don’t understand why I had to come here for Christmas. I live in Georgia now, we could have spent our holiday without fear of losing our toes but instead”–she bounced around in her cowboy boots, trying to add circulation to her freezing feet while Trevor opened the truck door for her–“we just stomped across a sheet of ice covered in four inches of snow.”
“If your worried about losing body parts, I have a pretty fool proof way of keeping you warm.”
“Why, Trevor Owens. Are you trying to pull an excuse to get me naked in your bed?” Eva said, leaning into him.
His hands plowed through her curls, dampened from the falling snow. “And if I was?” He brought his mouth to hers, fusing his lips to her jaw. The warmth of his mouth thawed her chilled skin.
“Baby,” she said, rising up on her toes, burring her face into the curve of his neck as he continued to nibble and tease her jaw. “You know you don’t need an excuse anymore, just say the word and I’ll be naked and ready.”
“Word,” he murmured into her neck.
“I’d prefer a bed, with a blanket–but okay”–wiggling from his hold she unzipped her coat and pulled the scarf from her neck–“I could go for a backseat quickie.”
His finger tightened in her hair, her scalp prickling from the gentle tug. “Don’t fuckin’ tease me, Red. I haven’t seen you in a month.”
“Yeah,” she said, unbuttoning the top button of her jeans. “I know. Like I said, I could go for a backseat quickie.”
An anguished groan vibrated through Trevor’s chest. Latching onto her hips, he hoisted her up and put her in the cab of the truck. “Slide your ass over, woman.”
“No buts.”
Laughing, she scooted across the old, cracked leather of the truck bench so Trevor could climb inside. “Don’t say I never offered. I was ready to give you hot sex in an airport parking lot…and you shot me down.”
Cutting his eyes to hers, he frowned, his full bottom lip tightening in a line. Whether from amusement or frustration, she wasn’t sure. “Give me the right time and place, and I’ll hold you to that offer, sweetheart. But right now, despite how badly I want to bury myself so deep inside you just to remind you how loud I can make you scream, I can’t.”
“Got any good reasons to go with that little threat of yours?”
“Oh, baby. That wasn’t a threat. That was a promise.”
“Yeah, yeah. Less insinuations and more explanations.”
Glancing at her, he smiled. And God how she missed that smile and those gunmetal gray eyes. They smoldered with mischief, his mouth taunting a scheme with it’s uneven tilt to the corner. 
“Trevor Owens, what are you going to do?”
Oh, if that wasn’t a bold faced lie she didn’t know what was. “I’m calling your bullshit, baby. Spill it.”
He adjusted his hands on the steering wheel, angling away from her slightly as he dipped his left shoulder into the seat. Trevor may be a lot of things, but he was a horrible liar. “You’re just going to have to wait and see.”
“Trev!” she whined, the back of her hand thumping against his arm. “I only like surprises if I know about them!”
His deep baritone laugh saturated the car with his elation, fogging the windshield. “You do realize if you know what it is, then it isn’t a surprise.”
“Just tell me.”
“And what fun would that be? It’s Christmas, Red. Let me have my fun.”
Inhaling a deep breath, she huffed out a sigh. “Fiinnne. Because I love you, I will let you have your Christmas fun…”
Straightening back in his seat, he curled his fingers around her knee, pulling her across the bench seat so she was pressed up against his side, draping his arm over her shoulders. This–this is what she needed. What she missed these last four weeks. To hell with the snow and the carols and lights and trees and presents. All she needed–all she wanted–was this man right here.
Cradling against his side, she wrapped her arm around his hard stomach, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Trevor frowned down at her. “You want to tell me what all that was about?”
“What what was about?”
“Your bah humbug, Christmas hating attitude.”
Eva shrugged. “Christmas just isn’t my thing.”
“Not your thing?”
“Not my thing.”
Tilting his head down, Trevor’s lips skimmed the top of her head, kissing her quickly twice. “You wanna tell me why?”
The thing Eva loved most about her relationship with Trevor was how easy it was. After being friends for nearly six years, they knew almost everything there was to know about each other before they broke down the “friends” wall and…well for lack of better words….did it. Okay, there were better words. Screwed, fucked, bumped uglies…Point was, things had always been easy between them. No secrets, no drama.
“You swear you wont laugh?”
“Red,” he warned, narrowing his eyes at her. “You know I wont laugh at you, baby.”
Sighing, she sat up, pulling her legs under her, and faced Trevor. “I never believed in Santa Clause.”
She braced for it, waited for the smirk to form or the laugh–but when he looked at her, sadness inked his eyes. “Never?” he asked.
“So you never sat on Santa’s lap or wrote him a letter or stayed up all night trying to see him?”
“Never. My parents were realists, didn’t want us to put our faith into a fantasy only to be disappointed. So they never did the Santa thing so Christmas was pretty much another Thanksgiving, only our parents bought my sister and I a few gifts.”
Trevor’s hand weaved through her curls, his thumb brushing across her cheekbone. “I’m sorry, Red.”
Well that wasn’t the reaction she anticipated. “Sorry? What are you sorry?”
“Because, you missed out on all the good stuff. You missed out on important childhood memories, baby. You never felt the magic of Christmas. No wonder you don’t like it.”
“I never said I didn’t like it–its just not my thing.”
“Well,” he said, pulling her back to him, tucking her in the crock of his arm. “Good thing you’ve got me this year.” Whipping his truck into his Battalion Headquarters parking lot–a little too quickly given the ice on the road–he parked and nodded toward the building. “Luckily your surprise works as a double for phase one of my new mission to get your sexy ass excited about Christmas.”
“Don’t start, woman. Come on,” he said, stepping out of the truck,then reaching his hand out to her to pull her out.
As soon as they walked inside, Eva’s worries slammed her in the gut. A Christmas party. Complete with a company pitch-in, running, screaming children, presents, and to top it off, Santa. “This is your idea to get me in the Christmas spirit? Seems more like my reason to get drunk tonight.”
Laughing, Trevor grabbed her hand, whispering kisses across her knuckles as he led her through the room. “Trust me, you’re gonna love Santa.”
Digging the heels of her boots into the floor, she planted herself in place. “Santa? Really, Trev? No way.”
“Oh, come on, Red. Everyone has to sit on Santa’s lap at least once in there life.”
She rolled her eyes and slumped forward as she allowed him to pull her to the back of the room where an over-sized candy cane throne resting in the back corner was seating a very jolly Santa with a line of kids stretching across the entire wall. Trevor, always the ladies-man, sauntered to the front of the line where a little girl, probably around six, was standing, waiting for the next turn to sit on Santa’s lap.
Squatting down in front of her he said, “Hey, princess. See this beautifully lady I’ve got with me?” The little girl peered up curiously at Eva, her crisp green eyes probing her with silent questions.
“Yeah?” she asked.
“Well, you see, she’s never sat on Santa’s lap before.”
“Never?” Her little voice was full of sad surprise.
“Never. Do you think you could let her go before her? I’m worried she will chicken out if I make her stand in line.”
The little girl smiled, then reaching out her arm, she grabbed Eva’s hand, tugging her the few feet to Santa.
“Thank you,” Eva said, smiling down at a sweet, chubby faced little girl.
“You’re welcome, And don’t worry” she whispered. “I was scared the first time I met Santa too.” Then turning around she ran back to the line.
“Ho Ho Ho. Come on over here and tell Santa what you want for Christmas.”
Oh great, prime opportunity for Santa to cop a feel.
“Go on, Red,” Trevor encouraged as he stepped up beside her. 
Eva shook her head. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Santa patted his thigh and Eva sat down on the cheap, rented pants of the Santa suit. “So, tell me young lady, what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas this year?”
That voice. She knew that voice. Jerking her head to the side to face him, she stared into soft, gray eyes lined with age and fatigue–and the joy of a smile. She knew those eyes too, she stared at a nearly identical pair every time she looked into Trevor’s.
Tears welled in Eva’s eyes. She looked back at Trev who was watching her carefully with a smile on his face–one that matched the one she felt pulled across hers. “Mr. Owens?” she asked.
“You can call me Santa today, young lady.”
She inhaled relief.
Only five months ago she was visiting Trevor’s dad in a hospital while he fought an inoperable tumor, barely even able to recognize his own son. Now he was in New York–dressed up as Santa Claus at his son’s Company Christmas party. That old man had wrapped himself around her finger then wedged himself into her heart, and she was afraid she would never see him again. Yet, here he was, sitting in a candy cane chair, talking to children about what they wanted for Christmas. Magic. That was definitely Christmas magic.
“But how?” she asked.
“I still have my bad days, and I’m not sure how many more Christmases I’ve got. Call it Christmas magic, but Now, tell me what you want for Christmas.”
She smiled, shooting a glance at Trevor. “I think I’ve pretty much got it all. 
After all the kids got hyper and anxious as they waited for their turn, she’s finally said god-buy and made her way back to Trevor. That was definite Christmas magic, seeing him again. “I’ve gotta hand it to ya, Trev. That was a pretty great surprise. I have to say–best Santa. So what’s phase two?”
“Mistletoe. And I’ve hung about fifty above my bed. Think that’ll get me a couple kisses.” 
“Fifty, huh? I think we can do better than a kiss.”
I am a wife and a mommy to two adorable knuckleheads, hair stylist by day, writer by night. My crazy life revolves around my family (to include two dogs and a cat) and most of the time, actually all of the time, it’s a crazy mess – but I love it! Drinking wine and reading books helps 🙂
I’m a sucker for Romance, add some toe curling smut and I’m done for!
My passion is writing. It’s the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, the thing I think about in between packing lunches and giving baths, and the thing I think about when I close my eyes at night. A book can teleport you to another life, to another world. It can sweep you off your feet, make you fall in love, break your heart and heal your soul. I love reading for those reasons, and I love writing for those reasons.


12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Brody & Kacie from Room For You by Beth Ehemann (excerpt and giveaways)

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Brody & Kacie from Room For You by Beth Ehemann (excerpt and giveaways)

Brody & Kacie Special Christmas Scene

“That thing is way too big!” Kacie said with wide eyes.

I turned away from the huge pine tree, half covered in snow and cocked an eyebrow at her. Grinning, I couldn’t help myself, “Why, thank you.”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head, “I meant the tree.”

“Come on, the bigger the better, right?” I wiggled my eyebrows at her, “At least that’s what you’ve always said.” I watched with pure delight as her eyes bugged out of her head and darted toward the girls who were throwing snow at each other, blissfully unaware that I was making sexual innuendos at their mother.

“I don’t even know what to say to you right now.” Kacie giggled.

“Say yes. Let’s get this one. I know it’s big, but think of how fun it’ll be to decorate.”

“I don’t even think we have enough ornaments to cover half that tree.”

“Oh, I’ll take care of that, don’t you worry.”

“What do you think, girls?” Kacie looked to them for approval. They jumped up and down and started chanting my name as I grabbed the saw. “Brody! Brody!”

Sophia had given us the very important job of picking out the 2013 Christmas tree for the family room at the Inn. Kacie said they normally went to the church Christmas tree lot and grabbed one, but that wasn’t gonna fly. I wanted to show the Twinkies a real, old-fashioned Christmas this year. We bundled up in our snow pants and boots and drove out to Sullivan’s tree farm. After grabbing a cup of hot chocolate from the warming house, we loaded onto a big, wooden wagon pulled by Mr. Sullivan’s tractor. He drove us out about a quarter of a mile and dropped us off amongst rows and rows of trees to pick from. As we hopped off the wagon, I grabbed a saw from the small box and off we went to find the perfect one. It only took about 15 minutes before I spotted it. It was a beautiful, twelve-foot tall Balsam Fir and it was screaming at me to take it home. I felt like Clark Griswold himself, determined to conquer that giant beast.

I started at the base and sawed slowly until only a small section of trunk remained attached.

“Twinkies! Come help me give it a push!” I called to Lucy and Piper.


12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Blair and Kevin from A kiss for Christmas by C.C. Wood (excerpt and giveaways)

Blair & Kevin from A Kiss For Christmas

Blair Bolton has lusted after Kevin Masters, her best friend’s older brother, for almost six years. She never thought he might feel the same.

One kiss under the mistletoe changes everything and Kevin realizes he can’t let Blair go. Now, he has to convince her they have something special, something that can last forever.

Blair swayed a little as she looked at the pictures and Kevin gently grasped her elbow. She jumped slightly when his hand cupped her and twisted her head to look up at him. Even in her four inch stilettos, Blair was almost six inches shorter than Kevin but he liked how tiny she felt next to him. She blinked up at him and smiled dreamily.
“I love these pictures. Your family always looks so happy.”
Kevin looked into her eyes and, without thought, touched her face with his free hand. “We usually are happy.”
For the first time in the years they had known each other, Blair leaned into Kevin’s touch. She didn’t realize it, but every time he got close to her, she usually tensed and shied away slightly. He tried not to let it bother him. He knew he was a big guy and that some women were intimidated by that but he hated that Blair might feel that way. When she leaned towards him and pushed her cheek against his hand, he felt triumphant.
“Where’s what’s-his-name?” he asked.
Blair looked up at him, her brow crinkled. It was an adorable look. “Who?”
“Your boyfriend?” he prodded, leaving his hand against her cheek.
She sighed. “We broke up. He wanted the perfect Stepford girlfriend and I wanted to kick him every time he ‘corrected’ my behavior, so we parted ways.”
Kevin stilled. He’d never much cared for Blair’s boyfriends, but he really worried when she started dating the last one. That guy had seemed genuinely nice, he was a doctor, and they seemed serious. Kaylie had confided in him that she thought Blair might be getting married. Something about the idea of Blair marrying some other guy made his gut hurt but he never would have acknowledged it.
Suddenly, he noticed Blair was looking above them and followed her gaze. Dangling from the ceiling was a huge sprig of mistletoe. Kevin grinned. Blair wasn’t dating the dipshit doctor anymore and they were standing together under the mistletoe. He tilted his chin down to look at Blair. She was looking at his face again, rather than the sprig above them, and her expression was still a little dreamy.
Gently, Kevin used his hands on her face to pull her forward. She stumbled into him and put her hands on his sides to help balance. Her eyes widened and her lips parted. Kevin decided that he really liked that look. It was even more adorable than her confused brow crinkle.
“Um, Kevin, what are you doing?” she asked.
He leaned forward and smelled the fruity scent of sweet wine on her breath. Kevin wondered if he would be able to taste it in her mouth.
“I’m kissing you under the mistletoe,” he murmured.
Blair tried to resist for a split second before she melted against his chest. Kevin realized he liked that even more than her facial expressions. Her body felt heavenly against his.
“Okay,” she whispered.
His lips touched hers lightly at first. Her mouth was so soft. Kevin moved his hands from her face down to her hips and around her back to pull her in closer. He swiped his tongue across her bottom lip. He really wanted her to open her mouth so he could see if she tasted as sweet as she smelled.

A native Texan, C.C. grew up either reading or playing the piano.

Years later, she’s still not grown up and doing the same things. Since the voices in her head never shut up, C.C. decided to try and profit from their crazy stories and started writing books.

Now that she has a baby girl at home, C.C.’s non-writing time is usually spent cleaning up poopy diapers or feeding the poop machine. Sometimes she teaches piano, cooks, or spends time bugging her hubby and two beagles.

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Ana & Elijah from Welcome to Sugartown by Carmen Jenner (excerpt and giveaways

Welcome to Sugartown

Ana & Elijah Special Christmas Scene

Ana Belle never wanted anything more than to hang up her apron, jump on her Vespa and ride off into the sunset, leaving Sugartown in the dust. 
Elijah Cade never wanted anything more than a hot meal, a side of hot arse and a soft place to lay his head at night where he could forget about his past. 
But you know what they say about wanting: you always want what you can’t have. 
Nineteen year-old virgin Ana is about to discover that’s not quite true because a six foot three, hotter than hell, tattooed, Aussie sex god just rode into town. He’s had a taste of her pie and he wants more– no really, Ana bakes pies for a living, get your mind out of the gutter. 
She’d be willing to hand over everything tied up in a big red bow, there’s just one problem; Elijah has secrets dirtier than last week’s underwear. Secrets that won’t just break Ana’s heart, but put her life at risk, too. When those secrets come to light, their relationship is pushed to breaking point. 
Add to that a psychotic nympho best friend, an overbearing father, a cuter than humanly possible kid brother, a wanton womanizing cousin, the ex from hell, and more pies than you could poke a … err … stick … at. 
And you thought small towns were boring. 
Welcome to Sugartown. 
*Content Warning. Intended for a mature 18+ audience. Contains explicit sex, oodles of profanity and a crap-tonne of AWKWARD.

A Welcome to Sugartown Christmas


“Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin Hood is gay, Wonder Woman lost her titties flying Jackson’s way—”
“Hey, Jackarse, if you don’t quit singing that freaking song I’m going to ram this candy cane right up your arse.” Holly yells above the ear-raping horror that is Jack’s singing and waves her big, fuck off candy cane in the air.
“Kinky.” Jack replies and goes about humming the tune just to fuck with her as he swigs back a mouthful of beer. Holly looks about ready to shank his stupid arse.
It never fails to amaze me just how fucked up those two are. I mean, Jesus, how screwed up can one relationship get?
Oh … right.
Dave the publican chuckles to himself from across the room. Apparently he and Bob have become close over this last year with everything that’s happened. I’ve certainly received enough phone calls from Dave to come pick Bob’s drunk arse up in the middle of the night before he tossed him out on the street. Dave’s pretty cool, he’s a little rough around the edges, but he’s a good guy. He sure as shit saw me hitting the bottle hard at the bar when Ana and I broke up and he was good enough about it to ignore the fact that on several occasions I’d reached my limit and needed to be thrown out. 
Ana comes and drapes herself over my lap and then rests her head on my shoulder—and sadly no, she’s not naked on account of her dad occupying the recliner beside us. Dude’s sitting in my favourite chair. I think about the night I made her come all over that seat and feel a smug sense of satisfaction before I remember Bob has this uncanny ability to tell what I’m thinking at the shittiest of times. Like last night as Ana bent over placing presents in front of the tree in that cute little sexy Santa nightie I bought for her and the skirt rode up to that spot just below her arse cheeks and I cleared my throat and pretended like I didn’t have a boner the size of the north pole, Bob had simply looked at me and uttered four words, “That’s my daughter kid.”
“Yeah, and I wanna fuck her every which way from Sunday,” had been my reply. Okay, I didn’t really say that. I might enjoy living on the edge but I aint got a bloody death wish.
I glance at the swallow necklace I gave her last year and run my fingertips over the matching set of tats on her wrists before softly kissing each of them. She stares up at me with that look that says she wants me to bend her over the dresser and show her the true meaning of giving.
I am one fucking lucky bastard.
While Bob nurses his eighth beer and Holly tears Jack a new one for singing that stupid fucking song again, Sammy rifles through the mountain of wrapping paper under the tree, searching for even more shit than he already got. We all kinda spoiled him this year, I know presents don’t count for shit when you have the kinda year he had, but I don’t know, I guess we all thought he deserved to have a good one.
I think the Christmas lollies must be kicking in because from outta nowhere he shoots up from beneath the tree and runs tearing from the room with a shout of, “I bet therths more prethenth hiding thomewhere.”
“You’d think he wouldda had enough with the bloody truckload of money I spent on him.”
“You did great, Dad.” Ana says and smiles over at Bob. He looks like he’s aged ten years in just one, and I’m reminded that it’s not just Sammy who’s been dealing with shit.
Dave pulls me into a conversation about fixing the carburettor in his shitty old Cileca when Sammy comes barrelling into the room clutching a box and screaming, “I found one, I found one!”
“Well who’s it from?” Ana asks.
“Thanta! Ith from Thanta Clauth!”
Sammy’s engrossed in tearing off the black packaging, it’s sorta like it’s been wrapped in black plastic.
“So you think if I swing by tomorrow you can take a look at it?” Dave asks, derailing my train of thought.
“Yeah, sure.” I mutter half-heartedly. I’m not really even paying attention on account of this weird feeling worming its way through my gut. Maybe I shouldda skipped that extra slice of Pavlova for desert?
Sammy’s still trying hard to get the package open, his tongue pokes out in concentration and he turns his back on us, I guess he doesn’t cope well under pressure.
“Thinally!” he shouts and the wrapping falls to the floor. Something’s not right here. 
I glance at it a moment before I really see it, see the bright pink post-it I attached in place of a present label.
Baby girl,
Saw this and thought of you.

It seems only right you should think of me when you use it. 

Love always,

Suck me off Santa. 

Oh shit!

“Ah, Sammy. That one’s not for you, buddy.”
“Cool. A butterfly fath mathsk!” He ignores me and tears into the bright pink packaging. “It even hath a remote control.”
I am a fucking dead man.
Ana turns to me with a questioning glance and whispers, “Butterfly face mask? Did you buy him that?”
“Not exactly.”
My seven year old mate faces the room and the beautiful pink Venus Butterfly that I bought so I could see my smoking hot woman getting herself off as she goes about her day is attached to his face. He hits the switch and the butterfly roars to life. I swear the buzz is so loud in the deathly quiet that it makes me want to cover my ears. Ana, Bob, Dave the publican, Jack and even Holly can do nothing but watch on in abject horror and then Sammy says, “Ha! Iths tickling my noths,” and the entire room erupts with laughter.
The whole room except Ana, who turns to me and voices exactly what I already knew, “You are a dead man.”
“Merry Christmas?” I say with a sheepish smile.
“Dead, Cade.”
Carmen Jenner is a thirty-something author, doctor, pilot and CIA agent.
She’s also a compulsive, flagrant prevaricator who gets to make things up for a living.
While Sugartown may not technically exist, Carmen grew up in a small Australian town just like it, and just like her characters, she always longed for something more.They didn’t have an Elijah Cade, though. If they did, you can be sure she would have never left.
Her debut novel,Welcome to Sugartown, releases November 3, 2013.
Catch up on all the news from the Sugartown Series at: http://www.welcometosugartown.blogspot.com.au
Keep a look out for the follow up novels in the Sugartown Series:

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12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Schooner & Mia from Searching for Moore by Julie Richman (excerpt and giveaways)


Schooner & Mia Special Christmas Scene

Attended by reality TV star wannabes and Southern California social climbers, Schooner Moore knows the party his wife is throwing for his forty-third birthday has little to do with him and everything to do with her social standing in Orange County. The evening turns out to hold more surprises than just his wife’s Botoxed friends groping at his privates, when a conversation with his old college roommate, Beau, reveals the biggest surprise of the night.

Beau has had contact on Facebook with Mia Silver. Just hearing her name sends Schooner into a tailspin, as he is now just a Friend Request away from the one who got away when she disappeared without a goodbye, leaving him wondering why she left.

A serial failure at romance, Manhattan boutique ad agency owner, Mia, gets a blindside of her own when a Facebook Friend Request from first love, Schooner, appears in her email. Going with her gut reaction, Mia hits accept, propelling her past to catch up with her in a New York minute, as a forceful Schooner is determined to understand what tore them apart and to explore the possibility of a second chance at love.

From a 1980’s Southern California college campus and a devastating first love to present day New York City, Searching for Moore explores how technology has eradicated the divide between our past and our present, and asks whether you would give up everything to reconnect with The One in a single keystroke?

Prequel: The Christmas Before…
Lying on the soft down comforter they had dragged in front of the fireplace, he held her tightly to his still heaving, muscular chest. Kissing the top of her head, the way he always had, Schooner Moore worked to steady his breath as he listened to Mia trying to regain hers. 
“Do you have any idea of what you do to me, Baby Girl?”
Looking up at him, her ombre green eyes glistened in the fire’s light, “It’s smoochal.”
She knew how to make him smile. They had a language all their own, as if no one else existed when they were together.
Wrapping his arms around her tighter, this was a moment he already knew would become a memory that would forever be held close. Silently, from where they lie, they gazed out the floor to ceiling window, watching snowflakes dance in the lantern-shaped streetlights below, gently swirling and pirouetting around the glass enclosures before scurrying off on a gust of wind. Schooner knew that on this Christmas Eve, he was finally, for the first time in his life, experiencing Christmas as it had existed in his dreams. For over twenty years, holding Mia Silver in his arms was the present for which he had wished and waited.
“You want to go out and play in it, don’t you?” Mia’s devil smile was daring him.
“The last time I was in snow with you, you threw a snowball at my head.” He pulled her naked body on top of his, grabbing her ass and pressing her down onto him, so that she could feel her effect.
“Yes, I did,” she laughed at the twenty-something year old memory from back when they were in college. Grinding herself down onto him, still so sensitive from making love, she gasped, her eyes attesting to both the surprise and delight.
“I fell in love with you that day,” he admitted, spellbound, as he gazed up into her eyes. He had dreamed of her eyes for so very long and now they were returning every bit of love he was telegraphing at them.
“Well, you were late to that party, Pretty Boy.”
Throwing his head back with laughter, he was in awe of this woman. Pretty Boy. Ha. She was never afraid to call him out on his shit and he loved her for it. She loved him for him. Not because he looked like a movie star, or because he was built like an Olympic athlete, and she certainly wasn’t fazed that he was rich as sin. She saw through all the masks and loved him for what was behind them. Masks were never needed around her. With Mia, it was so easy just to be. As it always had been.
Flipping her onto her back, he pushed the curls from her eyes. “I’m never letting you go again, you know that.”
Her simple nod told him everything he needed to know. Everything he had waited over twenty years to hear. 
She was his. 
And he would never lose her again.
” ♫… if only in my dreams …♫ ” 
That iconic, melancholic phrase, one that got to him every single time he heard it, snapped him out of his reverie, just as the song was ending. Taking a deep breath of sea air and letting it out slowly, he realized he was daydreaming of her once again. 
Shaking his head to clear away the leftover vestiges of his fantasy, he acknowledged that it had been a while, a long while, since she had last invaded his thoughts. He didn’t let himself go there very often anymore. There was just no point.
Tonight, on Christmas Eve, he felt particularly alone as he sat on the deck of his sailboat, the lights of home, and Newport Beach Harbor, in the not too far distance. I’ll Be Home for Christmas playing on the radio turned out to be the trigger, the thing that sent him hurtling back in time, back to her.
Reaching for the bottle of single malt scotch, he freshened his drink. He was actually glad that no one had wanted to go out on a late night sail with him. He needed to be alone and yet, he didn’t end up alone. Tonight she had found him.
Under the stars, in the dark of night, was always when he felt closest to her. Bringing back ancient memories, memories that always elicited his real smile and a sting at the back of his eyes. The whole world had been before them as they would lie on a blanket on the grass at the center of their college campus, picking out constellations, laughing at the irreverent names they made up for them, looking for “signs” from the universe and dreaming of what the future was going to hold for them … together. 
A future that would never come to pass.
Looking up at the stars, Schooner called them out on their treason, “Liars,” he pointed at them, scotch glass still in hand, “freaking, twinkling little liars.”
Shaking his head at the sky, he knew it was time to call it a night, as he stepped down into the boat’s cockpit and started the engine for his journey home.
What Schooner did not see that night, as he turned away from the sky, was the heaven’s almost immediate response to his harsh reproach, with a very clear answer of its own. As if screaming at him in a language all its own, ranting about miracles and hope and faith and second chances, a bright white blaze streaked over his head, slashing the night sky. 
The universe had finally rewarded him with a sign.
But, on that lonely Christmas Eve, as Schooner Moore focused on making his way back to safe harbor, he never saw the universe’s unmistakable message.

Author Julie A. Richman is a native New Yorker living deep in the heart of Texas. A creative writing major in college, reading and writing fiction has always been a passion. Julie began her corporate career in publishing in NYC and writing played a major role throughout her career as she created and wrote marketing, advertising, direct mail and fundraising materials for Fortune 500 corporations, advertising agencies and non-profit organizations. She is an award winning nature photographer plagued with insatiable wanderlust. Julie and her husband have one son and a white German Shepherd named Juneau.

12 Days of Christmas featuring A Special Holiday Scene of Keiran and Brynn from Love Untouched (excerpt and giveaways)

Love Untouched
Kieran & Brynn Special Christmas Scene

An athlete on the verge of greatness.

A woman who hit the lowest point in her life and fought her way back to the top.

Twenty four year-old Kieran Stone, the country’s number 1 swimmer, has loved one woman all his life – only to have that love unreturned. He has resigned himself to the reality that when it comes to love, he will never be someone’s first choice.

Twenty three year-old Brynn Tanner, sister to the country’s number 2 swimmer Milo Tanner, has emerged from her own battle and won the fight. But to Milo, she remains his little sister.

Here’s the thing about fate – it can be a cruel master.

When Kieran and Brynn are brought together by an unlikely circumstance, it sparks an attraction that neither of them are prepared for, but neither of them can control.

Three fragile hearts. Two fierce rivals. One woman forced to make a choice.

How do you choose between the one you would fight for and the one you once lived for?

Holiday Shopping with Kieran and Brynn


“Honey we could have ordered everything online and just have them delivered to us…” For the fifth time, I stated my case, “Now we’re stuck in these long lines.”
Brynn ignored my diatribe. She’s been ignoring me for the past half hour.
She kept circling the store, comparing her coupons (she called them deals) to the items on the shelves, the walls, and basically, everything inside in this awful mess of a place. 
I’ve been carrying this tiny shopping basket and so far, she’s only put three things inside it. For the past hour and a half. 
Okay maybe I’m exaggerating. It sure felt like it though.
A tiny squeal left her mouth as she stopped in front of the baking display aisle and bent down. 
Oh dang, her ass looked mighty fine in those super skinny jeans she’s started wearing – Ava’s influence no doubt.
“This is it Kieran!” she exclaimed, “We’ve hit the motherload!” 
Hallelujah. Now we can leave.
She was holding the stainless steel whisk and ladle…Hold on, we woke up early this morning for a bunch of whisks and ladles? What the hell?
“We’re here for those?” 
She pursed her lips, raised an eyebrow, and zoomed her ocean-colored gaze on me, “Well Mr. Stone, I did not say you had to be here with me. As a matter of fact, I tried to dissuade you into coming with me. It’s you who insisted and kept saying, ‘It’s okay honey. I’ll brave those mad shoppers for you.’”
Crossing her arms over the green coat she was wearing, the precious whisks hanging awkwardly on the side, she added, “If you keep complaining, go back in the car. Get some sleep and I’ll be there as soon as I’m done.” Looking at the diamond wrist watch I’d given her for her birthday, “By soon I mean in about three more hours.”
Without waiting for my response, she placed three sets of the whisk and ladle inside the shopping basket, turned her back from me, and walked away.
Dang. Now I’m in the doghouse.
She’d wanted me to stay home but I didn’t want her shopping alone during the craziest shopping days of the year. Her best friend Ava was in Moscow. They usually went Christmas shopping together. I’ve seen Brynn looking at the computer numerous times in the past weeks and writing notes on her phone on what she wanted to shop for.
“Is that you Kieran Stone?” A woman almost screamed behind me. I looked around and gave her a smile. She put her phone up and took a picture of me. She was joined by teeny-boppers, ladies who looked like they’d slapped on a tub-full of makeup this early in the morning, and some guys who were probably their husbands or significant others. Guys who were dragged to this shopping frenzy like me. Well, fine, Brynn didn’t drag me. I had insisted. 
In a matter of minutes, a small crowd had gathered in a circle around me. I signed my name on the slips of paper, napkins, but politely refused to put ink on what looked like a used tissue. I felt slightly agitated and distracted because Brynn had walked away from me and I really should be apologizing to her right now. I’d hate for her to go wandering out and about without me, when I had promised her that I’d do this with her. 
I loved what I do. Swimming. Collecting medals. But there’s a part of it that I constantly struggled with – fame.
I’m happy that I can inspire people to reach their dreams, achieve their full potential. And I have no problem signing my name if it made them happy. 
But when the press started glorifying me, projecting my image into something akin to the legends of the sport, I found myself retreating from the spotlight. 
I measured success by my own standards. My own records against my own time. If it happened to be that I surpass precedent records, then that’s great.
I’m not a legend. Not yet.
As the crowd around me grew larger, a small hand clasped on my left arm. It’s the hand I knew by heart. A hand I cherished with everything I have. 
“I’m here.” She whispered against my left ear, her vanilla scent assailing my senses. 
Amid the huge crowd that has yet to thin out, she’s the person who could block it all out for me. Outside of the water, she’s my calm. 
The thing with Brynn is that she just knows when to be there for me. I didn’t have to call or look for her, she’s just there when I need her the most. I could sign hundreds even thousands of autographs if I knew she was here safely by my side.
I paused signing, catching a glimpse of the security personnel hovering in the back, most likely ensuring that everything was okay. Tucking the small shopping basket on my right elbow, I tugged on her waist, pulling her closer on my side. I kissed the top of her head and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
She tilted her head up, love and understanding shimmering in her blue eyes, “I know.” 
The holiday music was playing inside the store, slightly muted by the buzzing of the crowd around us. I acknowledged the gracious thanks from young and old alike as I signed autographs. Now and again, I eyed Brynn on my side, she was laughing, smiling, and talking to my fans like they’ve been friends forever. I even heard some of the women comparing recipes with her. 
The store manager came out to greet us and helped move the crowd to the corner of the store so as not to cause further disruptions to the flow of shopping inside the store. 
When the crowd had thinned to five people, a little boy wearing a blue USA Swimming t-shirt asked me to pose for a picture with him. I moved to the side and bent down so I could be at his level. 
“When I grow up I want to be like you.” his brown eyes reflected admiration, his tiny hands lifting in the air, asking for a hug. 
His mom, who was carrying two big shopping bags, chimed in, “You’re his hero. He watches the Olympics because of you.”
Hugging him back, I said, “I’m gonna let you in a little secret, buddy.”
His ears perking up, he whispered, “What?”
“You do your best in everything that you do and make your mom happy.” I stated, mussing his hair a bit. “That’s the key to winning.”
“Yep.” I replied. “And of course, you gotta practice a lot.”
“Of course duh.” He high-fived me and left jumping happily in his mother’s hold. 
After the last of the crowd left, Brynn pointed to a spot in the store. “The mistletoes are over there.”
Grinning, I said, “You wanting a kiss honey?”
She leaned closer to me, standing taller, her loose blonde hair brighter against the dark green coat, “I don’t need an excuse, a mistletoe, to kiss you.”
That’s right. 
She pressed her mouth closer to mine, giving me a slight peck, fully aware that while we both wanted to do more, we were outside, in public.
“I love you.” I said against the brush of her lips.
“I love you too.” 
It didn’t matter how many times I’ve heard those words coming out of her mouth. Each time felt special, just as meaningful as the first time she’s said them. 
She loved me for me. There was no doubt about it. All facets of me. The athlete, the man, the sometimes annoying, impatient boyfriend. 
I loved her for her. Every side of her. 
The generous nurse.
The obsessive baker. 
The amazing woman, survivor.

And one day, maybe someday soon, she will be, Brynn Marie Stone – my wife.