Escape Publishing: Holiday Bundle

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Today, the spotlight is on a holiday bundle from Escape Publishing/Harlequin!! Learn about each book in this bundle and then watch the Tiffany Talks Books facebook page later for a chance to win all of the books in this bundle!!!

the january wish

 

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As designated driver, Sylvia delivered everyone to their respective homes at the end of the night, and lastly, Larissa. Her fiancé, Luke was at his buck’s night. Larissa said he’d be crashing at a mate’s house, and hoped he wouldn’t end up tied to a tree in the middle of nowhere with his eyebrows shaved and wearing nothing but an adult nappy.
‘Thanks for driving us all, hun,’ Larissa said as Sylvia walked her inside. ‘And thanks for not letting me overdo the champers!’
Despite Sylvia’s persistent asking if anyone wanted a refill, she managed to keep Larissa from having too much bubbly after Larissa had stressed how she didn’t want a repeat of her engagement party, where she’d thrown up during her father’s speech. It was the alcohol of course, but as the embarrassing event occurred right when he’d got talking about Larissa and Luke producing a Toyota Tarago full of grandchildren, who could really be sure?
‘I hope you enjoyed the night, Riss. I did,’ said Sylvia.
‘I know you did! Who are you and what have you done with my friend?’ She forced open Sylvia’s jaw and peered inside. ‘Hello! Sylvia, are you in there?’
‘Stop it, you!’ Sylvia gently slapped her on the arm.
‘Can I take off this God‐awful thing now?’ Larissa tugged at her Bride‐To‐Be tiara, trapped in her hairsprayed hair. ‘Ouch!’ When she finally pulled it from the top of her head, her hair looked like Cameron Diaz’s in the movie There’s Something About Mary.
Sylvia covered her mouth but laughter escaped, and only intensified when she led Larissa to the hall mirror to show her the post‐tiara hairdo. They both sunk to the floor, Sylvia’s belly aching from laughing so much. Then something surprising happened. Sylvia felt her stomach muscles contracting again, but not from laughter. Bubbles of emotion fizzed up inside,
finally reaching her eyes which stung like she’d accidentally squirted them with lemon juice. Tears flooded her face, and sobs replaced the laughter.
Larissa’s laughter subsided, and she looked at Sylvia with concern. ‘Are you…crying?’
Sylvia nodded, as more tears joined the deluge.
‘What…what’s wrong?’ Larissa shuffled along the floor to sit next to Sylvia.
Sylvia tried to speak, but every time she opened her mouth the sobs got a head start. She forced a breath of composure, not sure how long it would last, and blurted out everything that was on her mind. ‘I met her! I met Grace and she fainted and we had dinner but before that Richard found out and dumped me so I went out and I met Mark and I ate too much cake and now we work together and I’m so upset about Richard but then I started thinking of Mark and shaving cream and tomorrow I’m seeing Grace again but — ’
‘Whoa! Sylvia, slow down!’ Larissa placed her hands over Sylvia’s cheeks. ‘Take a breath…good,’ she said while demonstrating a deep breath. ‘Okay now, who’s Mark, who’s Grace, and…oh my God, Richard dumped you? Why didn’t you say anything before?’
‘I didn’t want to spoil your night,’ Sylvia said, sniffing.
‘Hey, you shouldn’t have worried about that; you should have called me as soon as it happened, I would have come over.’ Larissa pulled Sylvia close to her. ‘So what happened, why did he break up with you?’
‘He didn’t want to be with someone who had children,’ Sylvia replied.
‘But you don’t have…hang on, what, you mean he found out what happened all those years ago and held that against you?’
‘Not exactly, sort of, um…’ Sylvia took another deep breath and turned her body to face Larissa. ‘Grace. She’s my daughter. She found me, two days ago. And we had dinner last night.’ A lone tear dribbled down to join the moist gloss over Sylvia’s cheeks. ‘I met my baby.’
‘Oh my God. Sylvia, I can’t believe it.’ Larissa slumped against the wall. ‘What’s she like?’
Sylvia smiled. ‘She’s beautiful.’
They spoke for a long time, reminiscing about their high school days, and Sylvia shared everything she’d learned about Grace so far. Larissa convinced Sylvia to stay at her place for the night, since it was technically morning anyway, and set her alarm to make sure Sylvia would have time to dash home and get showered and ready for her day with Grace.
‘Oh hey, you didn’t say who Mark was.’ Larissa looked quizzically at Sylvia.
‘Oh yeah, I met him at Café Lagoon the night Richard and I broke up, and the next day he turned up at work.’
‘As a patient?’
‘No, a colleague. He does alternative medicine,’ Sylvia stated.
‘Cool.’
‘Cool?’
‘Yeah, I might book in for an appointment. Maybe he can give me something to keep calm on the big day.’
‘I doubt it.’ Sylvia crossed her arms.
‘Do you have something against this guy?’
‘No, I just prefer my system of medicine, that’s all. Plus, there’s something about him that irritates me, he seems so perfect and together, I don’t know,’ Sylvia said.
‘Is he nice to you?’
‘Well, yes, but — ’
‘Does Joyce seem to like him?’
‘Yes, but — ’
‘Is he hot?’
Sylvia stared at Larissa for a moment, aware of her sneaky game. Then she licked her finger and touched it to her arm, making a sizzling sound with her tongue.
‘So you like him, hey?’ Larissa poked Sylvia’s ribs.
‘No, of course not. Just because he’s hot doesn’t mean I like him.’ Heat flushed Sylvia’s face.
‘Okay, fair enough. I won’t pry any further. C’mon, let me set you up in the spare room.’ Larissa linked her arm under Sylvia’s and helped her up.
Sylvia wouldn’t be hung‐over in the morning, but she felt the thick fog of exhaustion seeping through her body.
Larissa turned over the sheets on the spare bed and fluffed the pillow, then paused. ‘So what was that thing you mentioned, about…shaving cream?’
Sylvia’s flush returned. ‘Don’t ask.’ She smiled as she hopped into the bed and pulled the sheet over her face.

a sprite's tale

 

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The vines holding me prisoner whipped away, retracting back into the dense undergrowth of the surrounding bush. I was free. But I didn’t care, because hovering before me — her wonderfully sweet sex still pressed to my mouth, iridescent wings a blur of color — was my captor. My bushland sprite.
My bushland sprite?
The possessive pronoun barely registered in my brain. I was totally and utterly fixated on the creature before me, the female who’d made my body feel like it was a thrumming charge of raw electricity.
Luminous copper‐red hair tumbled about her head, spilled down her bowed back, almost a living entity in itself. Her pale flesh seemed to glow, highlighting the perfect structure of her lithe body, a body still at right angles to mine.
I grabbed her hips with my now free hands, holding her. Imprisoning her. I was free of her vines, but I wasn’t free of her. Not at all. I should have pushed her away and returned to the beach, but I didn’t.
I did not want to round‐up reindeer and deliver presents. Not even close.
I wanted to see her face, her eyes, as I plunged my cock into her sex.
I wanted to make her scream that melodic, musical scream of release again as I fucked her like I’d never fucked a being in my life.
Wanted to and was going to.
With a savage action, I flipped her over. It was a risky move. Her wings were still beating. She could shoot away from me the moment my hands lost contact with her warm, smooth flesh, but something told me she wouldn’t.
And she didn’t. Instead, bare feet mere inches from the ground, wings a rainbow blur, hair a fire‐red halo about her delicate heart‐shaped face, she stared at me with eyes the color of new holly leaves…and captured my mouth with hers.
I tasted myself on her lips and tongue. I knew she tasted her own pleasure on mine. The small whimper in the back of her throat when her tongue met mine told me so. As did the way she pressed her sublimely naked body to mine, her small but exquisite breasts crushing against my sweat‐slicked chest, her smooth mon grinding against my throbbing, pulsing, aching cock.
Her arms slid around my neck and she buried her fingers in my hair, pulling me closer into her ravenous kiss. Our teeth clicked, our tongues mated and fresh hot blood surged into my already rigid shaft.
I lifted my hands — my free hands — from her hips. Cupped one over her left breast and squeezed her perfectly formed ass with the other. Her nipples puckered and I pinched the left one between my knuckles, reveling in its rock‐hard response. The desire to close my lips and teeth around that nub of eager flesh almost stopped my heart and I groaned into her mouth.
As if she knew what I so hungered for, she broke the kiss, staring deeply into my eyes. ‘Please,’ she murmured. Her fingers knotted in my hair and she tugged my head to her chest, arching her back so her breasts thrust up to meet my mouth.
I took her nipple between my lips, drew it deeply past my teeth. Laved it with my tongue. She arched against me, her wings beating against my hand on her ass like gossamer whips. The sensation was wild. Erotic. I suckled harder on her nipple and mauled her butt, kneading the toned muscles until my fingers brushed the tight hole between each cheek. She whimpered again and writhed in my hold. ‘By the Elf Lord.’
Her cry sent my pulse flying. Sprites never utter their deity’s name. She’d committed something akin to blasphemy and it was because of my touch. Her nails scored lines of fire down my neck and across my shoulders, her moans growing louder with every pull, suck and bite I gave her nipple. She ground her hips harder to mine, her mons punishing my turgid cock. The torture — for that was what it was, torture for making her wait — made my body thrum with need. My balls felt ready to burst, swollen and heavy with want. I shifted slightly, using the tree trunk behind me as a vertical support, until the distended head of my cock nudged between her thighs.
Her soft, sodden pussy‐lips slid along its length, a creamy kiss that turned my blood to molten desire. I moved again, rolling my hips, dragging the length of my cock over her velvet‐soft sex. Her heat branded my flesh and I closed my teeth down on her nipple, fighting for control, knowing if I didn’t bury myself in the damp tightness of her pussy soon I would come on her inner thighs. Gods, I’d never — never — felt so aroused. Was she bewitching me? I didn’t think it possible.
There are many paranormal creatures in this world, but my uncle and his bloodline are the rarest — we cannot be psychologically affected by the magic of others. A safety precaution to make sure no malevolent being chose to disrupt Christmas by turning the Claus family to catatonic vegetables or something. But how could she be making me so…so…so fucking hers in such a short space of time?
I would be yours forever…
The soft voice floated through my mind, a whisper as incredulous as it was adamant. Gods, I didn’t want to let her go. Ever.
A swift gasp burst from her lips and suddenly her sublime body tensed. She grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked my head up, staring into my eyes with a feverish intensity. ‘I
heard you. In my head.’ We stared at each other for a long moment, her sex and thighs pressed to my straining cock, her hands in my hair, my hands on her body. ‘I heard you,’ she repeated in a whisper. In my head.
My heart hammered. My blood roared in my ears. I heard her too. In my head. But what did it mean?

the holiday survival guide

 

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The body burns up to 50% more calories in the cold. Make sure you eat plenty.
The Holiday Survival Guide, page 27
Crikey, it was bright. Erica stretched out tight muscles, trying to pull her usual yoga stances as best she could in big padded clothes and snow that came up to mid calf. It came up to her waist when she lost her balance and fell over. It hadn’t snowed in the night – their tracks from the previous day were still clear, but there was still more pure, virgin snow than she’d ever seen in her life.
She felt like a child. Letting out a shriek of laughter, Erica staggered to her feet then bent down and scooped up a handful of snow. It packed into a tight ball when she squeezed it. Turning around, she eyed Nathan, who was crouched at the edge of the tent, doing something with the contents of a small plastic box.
The snowball was flying in his direction before she could even think. She scooped up another, sent that the same way. It landed on one wide shoulder with a satisfying thwack, leaving a dusting of white on his black jacket.
For a moment, everything stilled. Then Nathan slowly turned his head. Slipping off his sunglasses, he regarded Erica with cool eyes. Despite the chill that surrounded her, creeping into the pores of her skin and gaps between her bones, she felt the heat of that look right into the pit of her stomach.
He rose slowly to his feet. One of the huskies approached him, winding itself around his long legs.
Uh‐oh.
He bent down, scooped up a handful of snow, moulding it into a ball just as she had done, only his ball was at least three times the size of hers. He tossed it between his gloved hands, and Erica had a split second to realise that his aim would be undeniably perfect before his arm went back and the ball shot in her direction.
It hit her smack on the thigh. ‘Ow!’ she shouted, rubbing at the spot as the sting flashed to maximum then faded almost as quickly as it had come. ‘That hurt!’
‘That,’ he said, patting his leg and bringing the dog to heel as he walked towards her, ‘was a warning.’
Erica folded her arms protectively over her chest as he approached. She didn’t know why it felt vitally important to cover that part of her body, but it did. The tips of her breasts felt hard as she squashed them down. Hard and aware. ‘Spoilsport,’ she muttered. ‘What’s the harm in a snowball fight?’
‘We can have a snowball fight, if that’s what you want.’ He looked down at her. ‘I was just letting you know that you’ll lose. And I won’t go easy on you just because you’re a girl and you make pathetic little excuses for missiles and your aim is rubbish.’
‘My aim is not rubbish,’ she retorted. ‘I hit you, didn’t I?’
‘Where were you intending to hit me?’
‘In the head.’
‘Is that so?’
Erica nodded. The movement brought her hat slipping down over her forehead until the edge of it rested on her sunglasses. Nathan reached out and pushed it back into position. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, then he pulled off his glove and touched his knuckles against her cheek.
The breath stuttered in her lungs as awareness exploded inside her. It was nothing more than the slightest of touches. He could just have been checking her temperature. According to the survival guide, most body heat was lost through the head, so it figured that included the face. But Erica felt herself react as strongly to it as if he’d slipped his hand between her legs. What she wouldn’t give for a moose to make an appearance right now.
‘Why in the head?’ he said softly.
Erica blinked. ‘It’s a big target,’ she told him. ‘Not easy to miss.’
‘Are you saying I’ve got a big head?’
‘Let’s face it,’ she said. ‘You’re pretty big everywhere.’ And he was. A great giant of a man, with big hands and big feet. He could so easily overpower her. It would take nothing. And yet more than anything, his size made her feel protected and safe.
Safe enough to risk throwing a snowball at his head.
Nathan raised an eyebrow. He stared down at her for a long moment, and for that moment Erica found herself wondering if he was going to kiss her again. Hoping for it, even.
The fire she could see burning in those beautiful storm grey eyes seemed to flare, then just as abruptly, it disappeared, hidden behind the silvery curve of his sunglasses.
Erica found herself staring at her own warped reflection. Her cheeks were pink, as was her mouth. Tatty strands of hair stuck out from under her hat, and she remembered all too late that she hadn’t washed, or cleaned her teeth, or done any of the other things she would normally do in the morning to make herself feel human. Her stomach chose that moment to give a long, loud growl, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten either.
Yet knowing all this didn’t make it easy for her to step back. She’d been attracted to him as he’d scaled mountains and survived deserts right there on her TV screen, but that had been private and safe. This situation was anything but.
And suddenly Nathan Wilde’s size, his big everything, didn’t make her feel safe anymore.
With that thought firmly in mind, Erica stepped away, turning to the side so she wouldn’t have to look at him. She set her gaze on the husky sitting patiently next to Nathan’s bulky, black rucksack. The dog lifted one paw and licked it, then set it back on the ground and stared at her.
‘Don’t look at me like that, buster,’ she said. ‘I’ve always wanted to try dog steak.’
A hand met her shoulder and propelled her firmly forwards. ‘Eat my dog and I’ll shoot you,’ he said.
‘Didn’t know the two of you were that close,’ Erica replied, trying to get the pace he wanted without stumbling. She had to take twice as many steps as he did to cover the same ground.
‘A man needs company.’
‘Then why are you here?’ Erica stopped trying to keep up with him. She reached back, pushed his hand away from her shoulder. ‘It’s not exactly social central.’
‘I like it here,’ he said, striding past her towards the sled. ‘Because it’s not social central.’
‘How do you go from being on TV and being famous to living like a hermit?’
‘I didn’t go on TV to get famous,’ he said. ‘I learned so much in the army, and I wanted to teach what I knew to other people. It seemed like a good way to do it.’
‘So where do you live? When you’re not having snowball fights and sleeping in a tent with strange women?’

new year's kisses

 

 

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Wade let Emily follow him into the kitchen, but he refused to agree to her carrying anything. It all stacked neatly on the tray anyway, and it didn’t require two of them to cart it inside. Not that he’d say no to her accompanying him in the most mundane pursuits. She intrigued him. He’d watched her while they’d installed her centre’s alarm system and, as it was his company that supported the callouts when the alarm was triggered, Wade had frequently been in the position to observe her transition from cool business to gentle and nurturing. He was in no doubt she loved every one of those kids with every fibre of her being.
He couldn’t say it was her looks that drew him. Although she was a knockout, the first glimpse he’d gotten of her was less than attractive. She’d been finger painting and had every colour of the rainbow in small hand‐sized splotches from her face to her arse. The fact that she hadn’t felt the need to preen before showing him and his crew through the building had further pricked his interest. And now, dressed in the sexiest peace of black cloth he’d ever laid eyes on, she blew his mind and gained the attention of certain parts of his anatomy. Parts that would become obvious in their awareness if he didn’t put a lid on his libido.
Glancing at the microwave he noted the time and decided a little distraction was in order before he made a complete Neanderthal of himself and pushed her up against the nearest wall to take the kiss he was dying to steal. Of course he had plans for their first kiss, and their second. Their third. Fourth. Wade smiled. He planned to seduce her slowly, and what better way than New Year’s Eve when kissing the person in front of you was mandatory?
Wade offered her his hand. “Come on, I’ll give you a quick tour of the house before dinner.”
“I suppose we’re starting the tour in your bedroom?”
The kicked up corner of her mouth and the twinkle of mischief in her eyes made him laugh. He welcomed the lightening of tension in his gut. “If I thought for one second I could convince you to take a trip though my bedroom this early in our relationship, I’d offer. But you’re not that easy, Emily, and I wouldn’t be as interested as I am if you were.”
He reached for her hand and wove his fingers through hers. Without giving her time to comment on his revealing remark, he tugged her out of the kitchen and into the hall. She wasn’t interested in hearing just how interested he was. Emily Warner had barriers he doubted she knew about, but he saw them. He’d also seen how she dropped those walls completely with the children at her work and he wanted that. Wanted her to look at him with her heart and eyes open and take what he offered in return. And Wade had a bone deep belief he was willing to give her anything she asked.
“I’ve changed little from when my parents were alive, but this room.” He pushed open the door and grinned. “Vee calls it my man cave.”
Emily step inside and glanced around. “Well, I can see why it might deserve that tag. Who’s Vee?”
“My sister, Valentine.” He strode passed her to the control box on the back wall. “Check this out.” Pushing a few buttons he waited for the panels that covered the cinema screen to retract.
“Is that what I think it is?”
He grinned. “Yeah. Over eighteen feet of cinema perfection complete with surround sound stereo. Plus the room has been insulated with special acoustic materials to optimise the whole set up.”
“I’m not sure whether to be impressed or shocked that you have this kind of set up.” She turned to face him. “You’re not just an alarm guy, are you?”
Wade sobered, the smile slipping from his mouth. “Yes and no.” He scrubbed a hand down his face. He’d wanted tonight to be an introduction to who he was, but with each step he revealed more about himself than he had to anyone in a long time. “My company is successful, more than, but my parents left enough that neither my sister nor I ever have to work again.”
“Oh.”
He waited for more. Usually this was the point where a woman began to fawn all over him, something he hadn’t had a stomach for even before he became richer than God. But Emily surprised him. Again. She walked over, placed her hand in his, and squeezed gently. With no more than that, she proved his instincts right. Emily Warner wasn’t like any other woman he’d met, and he’d be a fool to let this opportunity to woo her into taking a chance on him slip by.
She tugged on his hand. “Show me the rest.”
Wade led her from the room, her hand snug inside his. The warmth and weight of her flesh threatened to take him back up that slippery slope of arousal, but he was determined to take his time. To do this right. He wasn’t ready to face the building emotions this woman provoked, but he was more than willing to explore them one step at a time. Sex would muddy the waters, and possibly scare her off.
“As I said, I’ve changed little. My mother used to redecorate regularly, so most of what they left is still in date to some degree.” Wade paused in the middle of the living room and looked at the well‐worn leather couch. “Then again maybe it’s time to get some new furniture.”
“No. You’re mother obviously had great style and the lived‐in furnishings stop the place from being ostentatious. The whole house, while I grant you is overwhelming, still manages to be welcoming. It’s inviting and the touches of personal knick‐knacks adds to the come‐in‐and‐take‐a‐load‐off vibe.”
He looked at her. “Wow. All that from a few pieces of furniture?”
Her cheeks flushed pink and she ducked her head a little, hiding her eyes. “It’s just the way I feel, like I’m a welcome friend who’s come to visit.”
“You are a friend and you’re welcome any time.” Wade turned towards the stairs. “Come on, let’s head upstairs.”
Before their feet hit the first step the gate intercom buzzed and he was forced to change direction. “That will be dinner. I need to let them in. Why don’t you go back outside to wait?”
“You don’t need help bringing everything out?”
Wade rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. “As much as I want to use any excuse I can to keep you by my side, the last thing I want you to do is carry your own dinner to the table.”
“But—”
He placed two fingers over her lips. “Don’t argue. Let me spoil you a little. I’m not asking any more than I’d expect if I’d taken you out to a restaurant.”

 

one sweet christmas

 

 

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Jackson’s stomach pulled into a tight, winding knot. He didn’t suffer from anxiety, so what was with the cold sweats? He drove the rental car along the recently ploughed highway, tipping his head side‐to‐side to relieve the tension in his neck. He left the highway, turning onto the exit ramp toward Redford Falls, and his stomach lurched again. Damn, what’s wrong with me?
The week before Christmas usually meant warm climates, partying with friends, surfing the high waves, and lounging by the pool with beautiful women. His latest business venture would make him millions. So much, he should be having the time of his life. But instead, he had been driving through a snowstorm on his way to a small backwoods town in the middle of nowhere.
Seven years since he’d last seen Redford Falls. A fight with his father and they hadn’t spoken since. Nor any communication with his younger brother, now with a wife and three children: a five‐year‐old niece and twin three‐year‐old nephews Jackson had yet to meet. The only family contact had been through his mother, and those hollow conversations were few and far between.
Confronting them after all these years would be stressful, even though Jackson longed to be greeted with open arms. Isn’t that how families were supposed to work? Forgive and forget? Well, so what if they didn’t? He’d done just fine on his own the past seven years. If they didn’t welcome him home, Jackson would turn around and leave town as quickly as the first time.
The real joke was how this whole journey back to Redford Falls had nothing to do with family drama. No, family wasn’t the reason for his return. She was.
He gripped the wheel, his knuckles white. The muscles in his neck pinched and pulled tight. Every sensible part of his brain told him to turn the car around, to get on that flight to paradise. He could always come back in the spring when the weather wasn’t so bitterly cold and miserable. He briefly closed his eyes, considering the option. A second later his focus returned, but it was a second too late as a rabbit darted onto the snow‐packed road in front of him. Jackson jerked the wheel to the right, to the left, and back to the right, before the front end of the car slammed into a snowbank. Damn! He jammed the gear‐shift into park as Thumper stopped to glance at the car and then hopped into the woods. If Jackson didn’t know better, he would have sworn that rabbit just smirked at him. What the heck?
He pounded his fist on the dash. Nine months he’d spent putting this business deal together. A deal that stood to make him more money than he ever imagined. Now everything hinged on one woman and a piece of paper.
He slipped his hand inside his breast pocket, pulled out the document, and unfolded it along the dash. The words seemed straightforward, and his lawyer had confirmed the authenticity.
The windshield wipers swished, smearing streaks of moisture and clearing white flakes off the window. He lifted his head and searched the snow‐masked landscape. If he didn’t move soon he’d be stuck. Jackson shifted the car into reverse and willed the tires to grip, smiling when they did. He backed away from the snowbank and pulled onto the road, double‐checking to make sure Thumper was no longer on the road. That darn rabbit was a nuisance, but not as much as this return trip home. He tucked the document back into his pocket. Driving would
require his complete focus. The stress and anxiety wearing his muscles, and thoughts, would be gone soon enough.
Twenty minutes later, Jackson slid the sedan into an angled parking spot in front of the chocolate shop. A walnut sign in the shape of a chocolate bar hung above the door. He flipped up the collar of his coat and stepped onto the pavement. The snow had stopped, but a north wind stung his bare face. He tucked his chin deeper into his coat collar and shoved his hands in his pockets.
Just as Jackson entered, a woman with shoulder‐length blonde hair flipped the sign in the window. ‘We’re closing, but feel free to browse, and if you see anything you like, let me know.’
Jackson definitely saw something he liked. A steamy visual crossed his mind of her, scantily clad on the beach. However, the gold wedding band on her finger derailed his wandering thoughts. So she was married. That didn’t mean he couldn’t flirt.
‘Thank you.’ He raked his gaze down the length of her. ‘I’m actually looking for Candice Cane. If memory serves, she used to practically live here.’
The cute woman blushed. ‘She’s in the bakery. I’ll get her.’
Jackson smiled at her backside, swaying as she walked to a room about halfway down the aisle. He brushed the snow from his shoulders and flipped his collar down.
The blonde returned, leading a tall slender woman through the door. She wiped a brown substance off her hands onto a red and green striped apron. Her smile evaporated the minute her eyes landed on him.
Jackson stepped back. This wasn’t the girl he remembered. That young girl had short, jet‐black hair and wore large glasses that slipped down her nose. Ordinary would have best described her. This girl…this woman who stood before him was far from a plain Jane. He soaked in her chocolate brown hair, the cobalt blue eyes, sleek nose, and her pink full lips. The dirty apron pulled tight around her slender waist highlighted the cleavage between her firm, creamy breasts and a set of long legs that went on for miles.
The sight of her took his breath away.
The knot in his stomach twisted. Jackson sputtered and choked. ‘Candice Cane.’
‘Well, if it isn’t Jackson Frost.’ She eyed the length of him, one hand resting on her hip. ‘What on earth brings you back home?’

secret santa

 

 

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December 24th
Christmas Eve
Jenn slipped into the dimly lit dining area just after nine in the morning. The rear of the restaurant was shrouded in darkness and she paused to listen, making sure she was the only one in the building. As she hoped, the place was empty and she’d have no trouble dropping off her Secret Santa gift without being seen. She’d be gone in less than ten minutes.
Satisfied she was the only one here, she made her way to the exquisitely decorated tree in the far corner. The lights were switched off now, but when the restaurant was open hundreds of fairy lights twinkled and sparkled along the branches, their brilliance highlighting the silver and red balls evenly placed around the tree. Jenn opened her bag and pulled out the neatly wrapped box.
Contrary to her initial intention, she’d thought long and hard before deciding what to give Morgan. In the end she’d gone with a framed mint‐copy of the magazine article featuring him and the restaurant that bore his name in a nationwide women’s magazine a couple of months ago. She was sure it wouldn’t be the best present he’d ever received, but she knew it would mean a lot to him because he took such pride in the business he’d built from scratch.
Placing it beneath the tree, she noticed a small card sized present with her name on it. That hadn’t been there last night. Curiosity had her curling her fingers into her palms to stop from reaching out to grab the gift. Everyone — whether rostered to work or not — would be collecting their gifts this afternoon and it looked like she was the last to place her contribution under the tree.
Backing away to avoid further temptation, she bumped into the table behind her, drawing a squeal from her throat and causing the tablecloth to spin sideways. Laughing at herself, Jenn straightened the cloth and headed for the door. She had things to do today before she started her shift at four. Not that she was in a rush to spend the next two days by herself in her quiet — empty — apartment, but she did need to stock up on food and drinks to see her through the holidays.
In her weaker moments she regretted not accepting Morgan’s invitation to spend Christmas with him and his family. But Jenn knew that was a selfish thought. She’d be the worst kind of company over the next few days and wouldn’t wish her certain‐to‐be‐miserable self on anyone, never mind the man who paid her wages.
She left the building through the side entrance, resetting the alarm and double‐checking the door was locked before she headed for her car. It was shaping up to be a hot day. The forecaster had said low thirties, but it was already hitting that midmorning and Jenn hadn’t even made it across the parking lot before a light coating of sweat covered her skin. She unlocked her car and opened the door as a motorbike roared into the car park and pulled up beside her.
Morgan.
She’d know his distinctive bike and helmet anywhere. Sucking in a breath she waited to see if he wanted her or if he just happened to be arriving at the restaurant when she was leaving.
He snapped up the visor on his helmet as he shut off the engine. ‘Just the person I wanted to see.’ His voice was muffled by the headgear, but it still had the power to send a shiver down her spine.
Jenn couldn’t help but watch as he kicked the stand down then slung his leg over the back of the seat. Decked out in skin‐tight faded denim and his leather biker jacket, he was mouth‐wateringly delicious and she couldn’t stop her body’s instinctive response. Her stomach dipped, her breasts grew heavy, and her sex clenched as moisture pooled in her undies.
‘Oh?’ It was more sigh than word and she cleared her throat to try again. ‘You were looking for me?’ The squeaky tone wasn’t much better.
‘Yep. I need some help and thought you might be up for it.’ His words vibrated through the mouth piece of his helmet, deepening his usual timbre. It skipped over her nerves like a troupe of tap‐dancers.
‘I’d love to help. When?’ She didn’t even bother to ask what he wanted help with. She’d pretty much do anything he asked. And wasn’t that a pathetic thought.
‘Around noon. I’m serving lunch and playing Santa at the Barstow home down in Bondi.’
‘The orphanage?’ Jenn had helped out twice before when Morgan had visited this particular establishment — one of many charities he donated time and money to around Sydney.
‘That’s the one. I’ll pick you up and drop you off. Save both of us trying to find parking.’
‘Oh, okay. Sure.’
‘Great. See you at about eleven thirty.’
A thought occurred to her. ‘How’d you know I was here?’
He grinned. ‘The alarm.’
Jenn glanced back at the building. ‘But I didn’t set it off.’
‘No, but the system records every deactivation and reactivation as well as the person entering or leaving.’
‘Oh.’ She hadn’t known the security was that elaborate.
‘It’s more than I need, but Wade and Brent hooked it up and you know how they’re always testing some new fandangled option.’ He shrugged. ‘I’m happy for them to use the place as a testing ground.’
She smiled. Morgan’s two best friends owned one of the largest security firms in Australia and Jenn knew all about their constant testing of new systems. She’d let Wade’s wife, Emily, talk her into letting them install an alarm on her apartment. Not that Jenn ever remembered to turn it on. Good thing she didn’t have anything worth stealing. ‘They are a little intense when it comes to security.’
Morgan laughed. ‘They just like playing with gadgets. Toys for grown up boys.’ He shook his head.
‘Uh‐huh, ‘cause that isn’t a toy for a grown up boy at all.’ She tipped her head in the direction of his bike.
‘This’ — he patted the seat — ‘Is no toy. It’s a serious machine.’
Jenn laughed. She wasn’t about to get into this argument with him. ‘Whatever you say.’
He scowled at her. ‘Mmm…you’ll keep. Anyway, got to go. See you in a few hours.’
Jenn couldn’t tear her gaze away as Morgan flipped his visor down and straddled the bike once more. The man was poetry in motion and had parts of her moving along with him. Giving herself a mental shake she tried to break the trance he had her in, but it was useless. She was mesmerised by the man.

white christmas

 

 

exclusiveexcerpt

 

 

“So,” he said, sitting cross‐legged in her cave and watching through her bioscope as the Hunters swarmed his ship. “Some Christmas, huh?”
He pulled a green vientamite‐gel stick from her pack and drove it into the snow to light the little cave. It glowed prettily and he laughed, dark and delicious. “Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…”
The tiny light was comforting and Tabi felt a thrill of relief that the Tyverians were blind.
Asha’s singing voice was beautiful – croaky but sweet, and she remembered he’d been a choirboy back in Sweetheart, Georgia, when the Earth had still been in one piece.
“We’re not supposed to celebrate Christmas,” she said. “It’s divisive when there are so few of us.”
“You always loved Christmas,” he said, punching her lightly. “Black market egg nog, remember?”
“Yup,” she said. “Now I hate it.”
“Egg nog?” He looked at her with wide brown eyes, all innocence.
“Christmas,” she spat.
“Me too,” he said.
The silence filled up the tiny cave. When he spoke again, the husky timbre made her jump. “You’ve sure become real charming these last ten years.”
“You wouldn’t know what I’ve become,” she said, turning her back to him and focusing on her breath. She needed to slow it right down to still the advance of the cold. It was a delicate balance, giving yourself over to the cold to hide your body pattern from the predators, but slowing your system down so the cold didn’t take you before they did.
Asha put a hand on her shoulder and twisted her to face him. “I know a few things,” he said, brown gaze settling gently on her face.
“Really?” She could feel her mouth set in an angry line and forced herself to relax. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
“Yup,” he said. He hadn’t lived in Georgia for seventeen years, not since he’d been an eleven‐year‐old boy. But he’d never lost that low, slow, bourbon‐sweet drawl.
“Shoot,” she said, turning fully to him and turning her palms upwards to indicate she was an open book.
“Well,” he said slowly, wriggling a little closer, and cocking his big, dark head a little. “I know you’re an Explorer.” He flicked a glance at her biopack. “And an Admiral‐class Explorer at that.” He whistled. “Impressive, for a twenty‐seven‐year‐old. You sure must have studied hard the last ten years.”
She stared him down. “I’ve learned some stuff,” she said. “Not much else to do on Mother Earth Five, once the gym gets old.”
He grinned, showing off white teeth and that familiar chipped front incisor. The charming feature piece that made his beauty bearable. “You never had any trouble finding kicks before.”
“That was a long time ago,” Tabi said.
“Ten years ain’t so long,” he growled at her, and she could have sworn she saw the smoky reflection of those kicks in his chocolate stare.
She shrugged. There was no way she was going to let him see the effect he was having on her, stretching out his long legs in her cave, and smiling in a way no man who’d just been shot out of the sky and hit with a shot of Narcan had any right to.
He motioned at the insignia again. “From what I hear, you’ve got to make a new discovery to make Admiral‐class.”
She nodded. “You know your Explorers,” she said. “You must have slept with a few.” He hissed satisfyingly, so she went on. “The Tyverians are my specialty. That’s why I’m here. Getting some samples, testing a theory. We need their vientamite, after all, so we need to know how to avoid getting eaten by them.”
He chuckled, and the sound stroked long fingers down her spine, rekindling old memories. “So I’m stuck in an ice cave on Tyver with exactly the right woman.” He motioned out to where his ship lay on the rocks. “What have you learned?”
Tabi shuddered. There was no way she was telling him her theory. Even thinking about it in such close proximity to Asha made her blush.
“Keep cold,” she hedged. “For now, that’s all you need to know.”
He stared at her, rubbing his big hand over a chin dark with end‐of‐day stubble. “These seven suns sure mess with your head,” he drawled. “I’m never quite sure when I’m due a shave.”
“Now,” she said, trying hard not to remember the scratch of that beard against her belly, her breasts, her… “Anyway,” she said. “That was kinda easy. The Explorer thing. No points for reading the uniform.” She crooked an eyebrow at him. “What else you got? What else do you think you know about me, after all these years?”
The grin slipped a little. “You don’t have a man,” he said, looking right into her eyes.
She laughed, and even to her own ears it sounded brittle and a little mean. “How’d you figure that, flyboy?”
He wriggled closer, although the confines of the cave meant he was already sitting close enough to remember his scent as it wrapped around her. The salty, fresh smell of him. Still the only man she knew who managed to smell like home, long after the Earth had been blown to bits and those who survived had become galactic gypsies.
She would not move away from him. She would not flinch. She would not give an inch.
Not even when he reached up a long‐fingered brown hand and gently brushed the spiky hair that framed her face. “The buzz cut gave it away,” he said.
She snorted at him. “Some men like short hair,” she said, trying hard to act like she didn’t notice that his fingers lingered on her hair.
“Nah, Tabysha,” he said. “They don’t.”
The arrogance of this man. He had always been this way. So freakin’ sure of himself. So long‐legged and honey‐voiced and bad, bad, bad.

 

Comments

  1. Jamie Wadowsky says:

    I love sitting with coffee while it is snowing and reading a holiday romance or story.
    FB name Jamie Gardner

  2. I love spending time with family and friends thru the holidays and reading stories about the holidays.

  3. I love holiday books!!!!

  4. Happy Birthday, Escape!
    So happy to see my story ‘One Sweet Christmas’ as part of your giveaway! 🙂

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