TEN fun, romantic holiday novellas by ten New York Times & USA Today bestselling authors
An all-star gathering of some of today’s most popular NYT and USA Today bestselling romance authors together in a fun-filled collection…holiday style! With the overwhelming response to the bestselling, chart-topping summer boxed set, we’ve brought together even MORE of your favorite authors for a winter compilation, and this time, we’ve giftwrapped TEN stories for your e-reading pleasure. From the funny & sweet, to the steamy & heartfelt, each novella is packed with a whole lot of romance, and hand-picked to infuse perfectly-portioned holiday cheer into your busy days this season…along with hot bursts of holiday steam for those winter nights.
If I Return — by USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett
Wild Irish Christmas — by New York Times bestselling author Mari Carr
Seducing Santa — by New York Times bestselling author Janelle Denison (aka Erika Wilde)
Decking Drew — by New York Times bestselling author Violet Duke
Fairies & Wishes — by USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson (aka Monica Murphy)
Twelve Dates of Christmas — by New York Times bestselling author Jessie Evans
Holiday Spirit — by New York Times bestselling author Cathryn Fox
Unwrapped — by New York Times bestselling author Melody Grace
A Christmas Heat Wave — by New York Times bestselling author Alannah Lynne
His Christmas Wish — by New York Times bestselling author Marquita Valentine
I’m about to step outside of the proverbial box.
Pushing away from the elevator wall I had been leaning against, I walk up to Jack, bringing my body close into his. Looking into his face, I see his nostrils flare and unbidden desire leap into his eyes. It’s all the encouragement I need before I smooth my hands up over his chest, winding them behind his neck. My fingers graze over the stubble of his short haircut. I’m pleased when his arms wrap around my waist to draw me in closer. I waste no further time before pulling his head down to me, until our lips meet softly.
Despite the fact my inhibitions are lowered, despite the fact I boldly put myself in Jack’s arms, and despite the fact that his eyes were heated as our lips moved toward one another, the kiss is surprisingly sweet. It’s nothing more than a gentle meeting of our lips. Our mouths are slightly parted as we move against one another, tilting our heads first to one side, and then another as we explore.
Even though the kiss is soft and sweet, I still feel a warmth spreading through my body. It causes me to want more… to experience Jack on the next level. Tentatively, my tongue pushes forward into his mouth and at first he stills. I can feel his fingers flex into my lower back, and I push my tongue in just a little farther, taking a swipe at his.
He answers me with a groan and then he’s gripping my head, holding me in place so his tongue can take charge.
And I let him.
Letting go, for once in my life, I let Jack have his way with my mouth. He deepens the kiss and I can’t help the sigh that escapes me. He eats it up, pleading for more by the insistent way his lips move against mine.
Even though we seem to both be drowning in the kiss, I find myself wanting to submerge further into him. Desire floods my senses and my body moves without thinking. I push myself closer to him, our bodies connecting. My breasts mash into chest and I can feel his hardness against my stomach. I push closer yet, wanting—no, needing—the contact.
This kiss… this amazing kiss. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s full of passion and fire. I realize that my prior kisses have been lukewarm at best. Energy courses through me at the thought of what else I’ve been missing. The shy introvert is gone and I can feel my inner sex kitten awakening.
And I’m ready… ready to let her prowl because the passion that flows between us has firmly shut boring Hope Camden away.
“What do you say? Ready to get to know each other a little better?” I reach over and take a sip of his drink, slowly licking the moisture off my lips.
“Why not?” he gives me a grin that turns my insides to molten honey. “This should be good.”
I have to catch my breath. All night, I’ve been at war with myself: trying not to flirt with him or make a fool of myself. But now, I’m suddenly reckless. Unleashed. Now I’ve spied a crack in his cool, collected attitude, I’m not going to let this chance slide by, not without a fight.
Daniel blinks once, then lowers himself slowly back on the barstool beside me. I have to catch my breath. All night, I’ve been at war with myself: I just want him, more than I can stand.
“You first,” I announce, slowly crossing my legs.
Daniel looks down at the fabric riding up over my thighs, then back up at me.
Of course. A guy like him is an open book: nothing to hide. “Hmm,” I muse, “That’s easy, truth.”
If I’m going to push him, it needs to be something good. “Where’s thecraziest place you’ve ever had sex?”
“Nowhere. I’ve always just done it the regular way, on a bed.”
I stare in disbelief. “Seriously? Not even in the backseat of a car? The gym locker rooms? The rooftop of the student lounge?” I prompt.
Daniel looks bashful. “I guess I’m just boring like that. Why, where’s yours?”
I think for a moment. “Backstage at a rock show, up against the amps. He lasted like, two seconds flat and I nearly went deaf… and electrocuted,” I shake my head, giving a wry smile at the memory.
“Sounds painful.” Daniel laughs, and I lose myself in his eyes. The tequila is warm in my bloodstream, mingling with desire and recklessness in one heady cocktail that’s impossible to ignore as I sit here, inches away from Daniel, his tanned forearm resting casually on the bar between us, close enough to touch…
I snap back to reality. “What?”
Daniel gives me a patient smile. “I said, why bother nearly killing yourself like that? It doesn’t sound like it was even worth your while.”
I shrug. “It was an experience.”
“Jumping off a cliff is an experience,” Daniel points out. “You going to try that too?”
“No, it’s like…” I try to gather my thoughts, “This is it, my wild adventurous youth. One day, I’m going to be settled down with a kid and a minivan, and, and, a Costco clubcard. I want to be able to look back and say, I lived. I had adventures. You know?”
“Nope,” Daniel makes a face. “I’ve been on the same path since school, I never did anything crazy.”
My heart catches. I force myself to meet his eyes. “It’s never too late to try.”
EXTRAS: FAVORITE RECIPES
Sawyer’s Favorite Holiday Recipe
This one’s my absolute favorite holiday recipe!
Ingredients: 3 large eggs, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 cup pecans, finely chopped, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling. Two 3ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature1 stick butter (1/2 cup), room temperature1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 17 1/2 by 12 1/2inch jellyroll pan.With an electric mixer, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin and lemon juice until smooth. Sift together the flour, ginger, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the sifted ingredients to the egg mixture and blend until fully combined. Spread the batter in the jellyroll pan. Sprinkle the dough with the chopped pecans. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 14 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes.Invert the cake onto a wire rack. Sprinkle some of the confectioner’ sugar on a large tea towel and carefully transfer the warm cake to the towel, folding the sides of the towel over the cake. Roll the cake up in the towel and cool in the refrigerator thoroughly for about 45 minutes.With an electric mixer, combine the confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla and beat until smooth. Carefully unroll the cooled cake and spread the mixture on top of the cake. Gently reroll the cake up and refrigerate it until you’re ready to slice and serve. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Melody’s Favorite Holiday Recipe
One of my favorite fall/festive recipes is ‘Mom’s Apple Cake’ from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. It’s a delicious, buttery cake that’s perfect for gettogethers: just add whipped cream or icecream, or even eat some for breakfast like I do. (recipe courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen)
Mom’s Apple Cake
Ingredients: 6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 5 tablespoons sugar, 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup vegetable oil, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 4 eggs, 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and unmolding onto a platter.