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Small Town Christmas
By Jill Shalvis
By Hope Ramsay
By Katie Lane
Formats and Prices
Format:ebook (Digital original) $2.99 $3.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 1, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Kissing Santa Claus
NASCAR driver Logan Perrish returns to Lucky Harbor, Washington, with love in his heart and a ring in his pocket. But can Sandy Jansen forget the past and give him a second chance? Or will Logan be spending another Christmas alone?
I’ll Be Home for Christmas
After ignoring the advice of Miz Miriam Randall, local matchmaker, Annie Roberts expects another hum drum holiday in Last Chance, South Carolina. But when a stray cat arrives in the arms of Army sergeant Matt Jasper, a calico named Holly just may be the best matchmaker of all.
O Little Town of Bramble
All Ethan Miller wants for Christmas is to celebrate in Bramble, Texas, with family and friends. But when his childhood neighbor, Samantha Henderson, comes home for the holiday, Ethan realizes that the girl-next-door could be the girl of his dreams.
• Kissing Santa Claus by Jill Shalvis
• I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Hope Ramsay
• O Little Town of Bramble by Katie Lane
Table of Contents
• Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis
• Welcome to Last Chance by Hope Ramsay
• Going Cowboy Crazy by Katie Lane
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Kissing Santa Claus
"Merry Christmas," Sandy Jansen murmured to herself, staring in her office mirror. She closed her eyes, trying to avoid the sadness in her own reflection. She loved Christmas, loved the decorations, loved the festivities, loved the joy of the entire season, but this year that joy was sorely lacking.
It had been for five months, ever since the day she'd watched Logan Perrish's very fine ass walk out of her life.
It was silly because she'd known he was just a fling. Hell, it'd even been her idea. But she hadn't known that she'd miss the NASCAR star as much as she had.
Or that all these months later, she'd still remember his smile, his warm, dark eyes, how she'd melted at the sight of him. And when he'd touched her… well. She'd gone up in flames for him, all of her, including her damn heart.
Sandy opened her eyes but didn't meet her own gaze again. Instead she looked at the rest of her. As the town clerk of Lucky Harbor, she'd come to the annual employee Christmas cocktail party in a cute little red dress, her "holiday" dress, which never failed to cheer her up. Being all of five foot two was a bit of a problem, but her four-inch Manolo knockoffs helped.
What hadn't helped her was the costume she now had on over her sexy little red dress, complete with a stuffed belly and butt, white beard and wig, red fur-lined hat, and the final touch, thick wire-rimmed glasses.
From outside her office and down the hall, there was only silence. The party had emptied out, leaving her alone in the building. Tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, everyone in town would be here for the annual Christmas parade, which Santa would head up in the same 1972 Buick convertible, aka rust bucket, that they'd been using for years. The evening would culminate at the end of the pier, with all the kids lining up to sit on Santa's lap so they could whisper their holiday wish.
Sandy's wish, if anyone had asked, would be that Anderson hadn't caught the flu so he could play Santa as planned. She'd tried to get a last-minute replacement, oh how she'd tried. But Jax Cullen, Lucky Harbor's mayor, was master of ceremonies of the parade. Ford Walker and resident hottie had taken his new fiancée to Palm Springs for a holiday getaway. Sandy's third and final choice, Sheriff Sawyer Thompson, was going to be on duty at the parade, handling crowd control.
There was no one else to ask, which panicked Sandy. No one but her… She took her roll of town clerk very seriously, but this… this was going over and above the call of duty. Yet all she could think of was the kids of Lucky Harbor, and how disappointed they'd be without Santa. Dammit. She sighed and took one last look at herself. She did actually look a little bit like Santa, albeit a very short one.
"You, Sandy Jansen," she told her reflection. "Are a sucker."
The biggest. And she had a broken heart to prove it. With a sigh, she reached around behind her to unzip the Santa costume, but the zipper wouldn't budge. She tried again. And then again. "Really?" she said to the room in general, most specifically to her karma. "Are you kidding me?"
Karma wasn't listening. The zipper was stuck.
"Dammit," she said, and tried again to no avail. "Well, isn't this just perfect." With an eye roll, she snatched up her purse and her keys and headed out into the night, hoping a neighbor was still up. But if anyone so much as smiled at this I Love Lucy predicament, Sandy was going to smack them. "Christmas," she muttered, but it wasn't annoyance she felt so much as bone-deep sadness. Her family was back East. She didn't have a date, and she felt… alone. It was a feeling that someone who'd grown up as the nerd, the bookworm in a family of charismatic, outgoing people, should be familiar with by now. Shaking her head at herself, she hurried out to her car, her heels clicking on the asphalt, and she realized how she must look in the Santa costume—with her heels.
Santa in drag…
Good thing she was all alone. Except she wasn't.
The lot was empty but for her rundown Toyota and another car, a convertible BMW.
And leaning against her car as if he belonged there was the cool, sophisticated, gorgeous Logan Perrish, as if she'd conjured him out of her nightly fantasies. Except in her nightly fantasies, he returned her rambling but heartfelt e-mails…
Clearly she was hallucinating. Because no way would karma be so cruel as to stick her in the Santa costume and then produce the man who'd crushed her.
At the low, almost unbearably familiar voice that she'd expected to never hear again, she dropped her keys. To give herself a desperately needed moment, she bent over, and her hat and wig fell off. What were the chances he'd believe she really was Santa?
Dammit! Oh, how she wished she could turn back time. Because then, when she'd gotten that sexy "hey, babe" voice mail message a few days after he'd left, she wouldn't have then poured her heart out to him via e-mail.
To which he'd never responded…
She scooped up both the hat and the keys and hugged them to her padded belly as she straightened and shook her head wildly. Nope, not Sandy. No Sandy here—
"It is. It's you," he murmured, and then laughed.
Which settled it. He'd hurt her and laughed at her. She tended toward a mild-mannered and easygoing temperament, but this was too much for her. She was going to have to kill him.
Logan pushed off of Sandy's car and shook his head. He couldn't believe it when, through the mist of the frosty night, came a very short, round Santa, wobbling through the lot toward Sandy's car.
In four-inch FMPs.
It hadn't been until Santa dropped the hat and wig that he realized he recognized that wavy mass of dark hair. Choking out a laugh, he took a step toward her. His smiled faded when she just stared at him. Her baby blues, usually so soft and warm, were putting out a chill to rival the December night air.
Not exactly the welcome he'd envisioned. And he had envisioned. His fantasies had involved her throwing herself at him, and shortly thereafter divesting them both of all clothing.
"Hey," he said. "You okay?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
Hmm. That didn't sound like she was gearing up to throw herself at him at all, much less anything indecent after that. Logan looked at her thoughtfully, rubbing his jaw. In his world, decisions were made in split seconds. Sandy had always made him want to slow down and enjoy. Take his time… It was to his shame that he hadn't realized how much she meant to him until he left Lucky Harbor.
He was going to have to leave again, but not until he'd made her his. Which apparently wasn't going to be as easy as he'd thought. He took another step toward her, but her hand came up, eyes flashing, and she pointed at him. "No. Do not touch me."
They'd spent a week together, during which she'd spent a fair amount of time begging him to touch her. He'd loved touching her. In fact, he'd spent seven long nights doing just that… every inch.
Logan wasn't unsure of much. Of anything, really, not that he could think of. Things tended to go his way. Sure, there'd been a failure or two along the way, and disappointments, even heartbreak.
But mostly things fell right into his lap. His mom had always told him it was because he was the last of seven kids, born early. He'd been in a rush to get ahead of the pack from the get-go, and that had never changed. Which is what made the sweet, warm Sandy Jansen so confusing. He'd wanted her, he'd had her, and that should have been the end of the story.
Except that after their one-week, holy-shit-hot affair, he'd left Lucky Harbor, gone back to the racing world, and then proceeded to do nothing but think of her. He'd called her. What had he said? Hell, he couldn't remember. Probably just "hey," but she hadn't returned the call. He'd had his manager send a round-trip ticket to his next race, but she hadn't shown up.
He could admit, he'd been surprised. Disconcerted.
And utterly bewildered.
People called him back. Women called him back. He'd busied himself with his season, telling himself it didn't matter. There were other women, lots of them.
But not a single one had attracted him. It'd been five months since he'd seen or heard from Sandy, and he should have been over it, but he wasn't. So he'd come to see why…
Sexy Claus was tugging at something behind her, and swearing the air blue. "Goddamn, stupid, shitty, crappy, piece-of-shit zipper…"
"Do you kiss Mrs. Claus with that mouth?" he teased.
She stopped wriggling and narrowed her eyes at him.
Okay, so she wasn't amused. He'd figured they'd be naked by now, sweaty and working their way toward round two.
"Need help?" he asked.
"Not from you."
There was no one else in the parking lot. Across the street was the diner and the pier, and that lot was full. There was a group of Christmas carolers standing outside the diner, doing a rowdy rendition of "Jingle Bells."
Sandy yanked off the wire-rimmed glasses and began to look more like herself. Well, except for that red suit, which was making her look wider than she was tall.
"And what are you even doing here?" she asked, but then, without waiting for an answer, she reached past him and unlocked her door, tossing in her purse, the Santa hat, and the wig. She tried to slide in behind the wheel, but she wouldn't fit with her padded belly. "Cheese and rice!" she burst out, and with a deep sigh, dropped her head to the roof of her car and thunked it a few times.
"You're going to rattle something loose," Logan said.
She turned only her head and gave him an eat-shit-and-die look. "It's been five months, Logan."
Right to the heart. That was Sandy. She knew no other way. Out of all the women he'd known—and there'd been quite a few—she was the most open, the most direct. The most hardheaded. It was a huge part of the attraction for him, how she kept her own mind and didn't take any shit from him. He dropped the smile and got serious. "I told you I'd be back."
"Someday. You said you'd be back someday. You tell all the women that!"
Well, he'd meant it when he'd said it. Okay, so maybe he hadn't. Maybe it had been a line, but he'd changed. From the moment he'd left her, he'd changed. Not that she wanted to hear that from him right now. "It was a busy season, and I couldn't get away. If you'd have come to see me, this would have been a lot easier."
"I didn't want to be that girl."
She sighed. "The one who e-mails you her entire heart and then chases you around the whole frigging world."
"I usually stay within the continental United States."
This earned him another sigh.
Across the street, the carolers switched to "Oh Holy Night."
"And what e-mail?" Logan asked.
"You know what e-mail," she said, and she turned slightly, presenting him with her back. "Undo me."
"Is this a sexual invitation?"
She craned her neck and eyed him long and hard.
Okay, not a sexual invitation. Got it. He gently stroked her hair from her nape and reached for the zipper of the Santa costume, brushing her creamy skin with his fingertips.
She shivered, and he went still. Coincidence? To test, he ran the pad of his thumb over the same spot, and she shivered again. Ah, he thought with a surge of fierce relief. She wasn't completely over him, at least not yet. "I didn't get any e-mails, Sandy."
"Fine, so I went to spam. Whatever. I didn't get any e-mails from you at all."
This was true. He was more of an in-person sort of guy. "Know what I wished for from Santa?" he asked quietly.
She remained silent, but he knew by the stillness of her body that she was listening. She'd always listened to him, like no other. She'd listened, and she'd cared. He'd underestimated how much that meant to him. His fault. He'd clearly hurt her. Also his fault. But he was good at turning shit around.
"I wished for you," he said, and slowly unzipped her. His heart caught as the costume opened, revealing more creamy skin.
And nothing else.
Her breathing quickened, and so did his.
"Logan," she whispered.
"Yeah, babe?" Anything. God, anything you want. My car, my wallet, my life…
At the base of her spine, he ran into red silk. Before he could get any farther, she stepped clear and shrugged, and the Santa suit fell away, revealing the petite but lushly curved Sandy wearing a slinky red dress that made his mouth water. "There you are," he managed.
"Thanks." Bending, she scooped up the costume and shoved it into her car. "Appreciate it."
"What are you doing now?" he asked.
"Yes, right now. Let's go talk."
"I have a very busy schedule," she said. She glanced around her and narrowed her gaze on a group of carolers standing outside the diner across the street. "I'm supposed to be caroling. I have a date to be caroling."
She was making that up right on the spot. He knew it. She knew it. "You have a date. Caroling."
"That's right. He's probably over there right now, wondering why I'm standing here talking to you instead of holding his hand and singing with him." She gave him a narrow-eyed look. "You don't believe I could get a date? Because I have lots of dates."
She was warm, soft, sexy, and adorable. He believed she could date anyone she set her mind to. But no, he didn't believe she had a date tonight, caroling. "You'd best hurry over there then. Looks like they're getting ready to move on. I wouldn't want you to stand anyone up."
She lifted her chin to nose-bleed heights and crossed the street.
Logan remained where he was, watching. When Sandy walked up to the group of carolers, she glanced back.
It was dark so he couldn't be sure, but he thought maybe she bared her teeth at him before sidling up to one of the men. Then she glanced back again and shot Logan a "see?" look.
Logan gestured that she should do her thing. Sandy hesitated, then slipped her arm in the man's.
This earned her a startled stare; then the guy disentangled himself and shifted closer to the man on the other side of him. That man then curled a possessive arm around Sandy's "date," and they both shifted away from her.
The carolers finished their song and moved on.
Sandy came back across the street, and without a word to him, slid behind the wheel of her car, clearly intending to leave. She was a speedy thing.
But he was speedier. He blocked her move by stepping close, one hand on the roof, the other on the door, as he crouched down to look into her face.
Her eyes met his and softened, but then she shook her head and closed them. "Okay, so I didn't have a date tonight. Dammit."
With a sigh, she opened them again, and leveled him with those killer baby blues, which were filled with a shocking, staggering sadness. "Hey," he said gently, and unable to help himself, leaned in and kissed her lightly. "Missed you."
"Oh, Logan," she whispered, as if maybe she'd missed him too, but there was something in her voice that disturbed him.
She didn't believe him. "I should have told you sooner," he said. "I've been thinking about you. Wanting you."
"So this is what, a booty call?"
"I wanted to see you," he said, smart enough not to touch that question with a ten-foot pole.
"Your season's over now, right? Everyone's off for Christmas, and you got bored. You were probably on the West Coast visiting your San Francisco relatives, so you thought why the hell not look up that cute little brunette you hooked up with from Lucky Harbor because she was easy enough?"
He stared at her, stunned that she'd think that. "You're wrong."
"Yeah." And he pulled her into his arms and kissed her to prove it.
One moment, Sandy was sitting there behind the wheel of her car in her righteous resentment, and the next, Logan's lips had covered hers. His hand cupped her jaw, and he sucked hungrily on her bottom lip, like a starving man in search of a meal.
Confused, dizzy, and extremely turned on, she threw her arms around his neck and pressed even closer. Logan answered with a low, rough groan and stood up, pulling her out of the car with him. He threaded his fingers into her hair while his other arm slid around her hips, hauling her up onto her tiptoes for a better lineup of their parts.
And, oh Lord, how their parts lined up.
She heard herself moan with the sheer pleasure of his hard body. He broke the kiss to stare down at her with a triumphant gleam.
"What was that?" she demanded.
"A reminder of what we had."
"What we had was a fling," Sandy said. "A very hot, wonderful fling, but then you left."
"I had contractual obligations," he reminded her. "And you're not remembering all of it." He brushed his lips across hers. "We said we'd keep in touch because we had something."
"Yeah. Let me remind you just how much."
This kiss was deeper, hotter, and far more intimate as he opened his mouth over hers. She told herself to shove him away, to regain some badly needed dignity, but her brain sent the wrong message to her fingertips, and she hauled him closer instead, pushing herself against him. He was hard. Everywhere. She was on the edge, and he'd barely touched her. This did not say much about her will to resist him.
And truth be told, she had just about forgotten why she wanted to.
Because he made you fall for him—hard—and then he walked his sweet ass right out of your life. It hit her like a bucket of cold water. She unfisted her hands from his shirt and gave him a push.
Logan stepped back and looked at her from beneath his sexy, hooded eyes.
"Don't do that," she said, annoyed at her own breathlessness.
"Don't kiss you?"
"Don't kiss me. Don't touch me."
He smiled. "Because you can't resist me?"
His smile weakened her knees. She gave him another push and then slid into her car again. "And don't do that either."
"Smile." She turned the key and started her car. "In fact, don't anything in my presence. Go back to your bigger-than-life world, where women drape their panties on your hotel room doorknob and scream your name and want to be with you."
"I don't want to be with any of them. It's Christmas, and I want to be with you."
But could she really believe that? "You should go home, Logan."
He was quiet, too quiet, and she made the mistake of looking at him. He was standing there all leanly muscled and gorgeous by moonlight. "That's the thing, Sandy," he said, his voice low and husky. "I am home."
Until the season starts up again, she told herself, and revved her engine. "Stand back. I don't want to run over your foot."
Not a stupid man by any means, he took a step back, but his eyes never left hers. "I'm going to prove myself to you, Sandy."
Afraid of him doing just that, she hit the gas and drove off into the night. Don't look back…
She totally looked back. Logan was standing in the middle of the lot watching her go.
Sandy spent the evening staring at her bedroom ceiling, her body bereft and achy, like she'd betrayed it by not taking Logan home with her.
Sleep, she ordered herself. Concentrate.
But the truth was, she hadn't been able to concentrate in months. Sleeping through the night had become a forgotten luxury. Instead, she'd toss and turn, remembering the feel of Logan's hands and mouth on her body, and how he'd made her burn for him…
You could be burning right now, instead of lying here staring at the ceiling.
Ignoring herself, she gave up trying to sleep and showered, then drove to work. She pulled into the lot and blinked in surprise. The old '72 Buick was gone, replaced by a… BMW.
She stared at it, then strode into the building. "Where's the Buick?" she asked Kali, the front-desk clerk.
Kali was twenty-four, an avid snowboarder who supported her habit with this minimum-wage position, along with her minimum experience. She was quivering with excitement. "I can't tell you."
- "In this funny, heartwarming collection of short stories, three popular authors take readers home for the holidays to very different but equally enjoyable communities."—Library Journal
"Heartwarming and sexy...an abundance of chemistry, smoldering romance, and hilarious sisterly antics."
—Publishers Weekly on Simply Irresistible
Last Chance, South Carolina, is a caring community filled with the promise of hope. Come for a visit!"
—Lori Wilde, USA Today bestselling author of The Welcome Home Garden Club
"Pure Texas joy! You're gonna love it, darlin'."
—Joan Johnston, New York Times bestselling author of the Bitter Creek and Hawk's Way series
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2011
- Page Count
- 136 pages