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Authors: Natalie-Nicole Bates,Sharon Kleve,Jennifer Conner,Angela Ford

Christmas Romance (The Best Christmas Romance of 2016): The Love List Christmas

BOOK: Christmas Romance (The Best Christmas Romance of 2016): The Love List Christmas
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Christmas Romance

The Love List Christmas

Collection

Natalie-Nicole Bates

Sharon Kleve

Jennifer Conner

Angela Ford

Excerpts from Christmas Romance

The Love List Christmas Collection

Four Sweet Christmas Romances from some of your favorite authors!

Excerpt from Surprise! You’re a Chritsmas Bride -  Natalie-Nicole Bates

Her walkway was covered in a sheet of ice and absolutely treacherous. With every stepin her heels, she was sure she would fall. Fall in front of this lovely man. But before theworst could happen, he took her arm and led her to the front door.

“There you go, all safe and sound. Just as I promised…ah…what is your name?”

“Maisey.”

“Sweet name,” he said with a smile. “I’m Sean.”

“Lovely to meet you, Sean,” she said politely.

“Same to you, Maisey.”

Excerpt from Christmas Kisses & Wishes -  Sharon Kleve

“Gran, I’ve tried your idea and it just isn’t working.” I gazed out into the snow-topped trees as Scorch, my Pug, bumped my leg with his head to get my attention and a scratch.

“Honey, you haven’t given it a chance.” From Gran’s crisp, firm tone, there wasn’t room for negotiation.

“I love the holidays. I want to spend them with you and not in a town where I don’t know anyone.” Snow was accumulating quickly outside the condo I had rented. The newscaster predicted five inches by morning. Brunswick, Maine was beautiful covered in pristine white snow, but it made it hard to get around.

“You have three more months on your adventure. Spend the holidays somewhere you’ve never been before and then if it’s not right for you, come home.”

“Okay. I’ll give it three more months,” I grumbled and Scorch barked.

“Give Scorch a hug for me.” Gran laughed. “I miss the little guy.”

“I will and he misses you, too.” Scorch sat on my foot, and I scratched behind his ear. “If the weather allows it, I’m flying into Sea-Tac International Airport tomorrow and spending a few days tasting Western Washington’s wines. Then, I might take a drive over to the Eastern side of Washington. There’s a small town called Vine Grove that I’m especially interested in. If the wine is good as I’ve read, I’ll send you a couple cases for Christmas.”

“Sounds wonderful, honey. Now, as much as I love and miss you, I want you to find happiness and I don’t think it’s here in Charleston.”

“I know. I have to find my own place and start over.”

“You will. Maybe Washington is that place.”

“Maybe…”

Excerpt from A Home for Christmas
- Jennifer Conner

“I’m a problem solver, remember. But, I do have another problem, and I’m not sure what the right answer is. I’ve wanted to kiss you since the first night I saw you again at the bar.”

Her heart sped up. “What’s stopping you?”

“Right now…I don’t know. I feel that you’re afraid to take a chance with another man. But, I’d like to think that I’m not the men from your past.”

“I see that with everything you do. You’re the problem-solver…what do you want to do?” she asked barely above a whisper.

Editon enfolded her within his arms, and she met his gaze. He took her face in a soft caress, but there was a hint of hesitation. She moved to him, erasing the hesitation in both their minds to draw his face to hers. Kady quivered at the sweet tenderness of his kiss as their lips touched.

Excerpt from Christmas Country Wishes - Angela Ford

The November air delivered a chill. The week before had carried the warm breeze of autumn and its beautiful array of colors. She’d grown up on the west coast and loved the drizzle and the mist. It only made the air fresh and everything it touched, so lush. But tonight she’d appreciated Ethel’s advice to wear a jacket. The dampness she felt would only be the beginning of her first experience, not only in the country; but a colder one. She anticipated the first snowfall. Actually, the thought thrilled her.

She’d dreamt of a white Christmas since she was a child. Her new life would now make that wish come true. She’d made a more recent wish as a grown woman. But she hadn’t yet met him. The man she’d changed her zip code for. She’d heard Becca mention his name at the hospital but Dakota hadn’t yet met him. He’d left on a trip before she arrived and was due back the next day. Excitement raced through her as she walked toward Que Syrah Syrah. Not only to meet her new friends for their wine and chat night but for the next day. She’d finally meet him.

D
akota settled into her new job at the hospital and continued to meet friendly folks. She couldn’t believe she’d only been in town for a week. It seemed to her like she’d been there her entire life. She remembered the names of everyone she’d met, especially Tristan; the other man who hadn’t left her thoughts.

Christmas Romance 2016

The Love List Christmas Collection

A Books to Go Now Publication

Copyright © Natalie-Nicole Bates-Sharon Kleve-Jennifer Conner-Angela Ford 2016

Books to Go Now

Cover Design by Romance Novel Covers Now

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Also published on Smashwords

For information on the cover illustration and design, contact [email protected]

First eBook Edition –October 2016

Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

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Surprise! You’re a

Christmas Bride

Naatalie-Nicole Bates

Maisey Gates felt beyond tired. As she sat back in the plush chair, her brown eyes glazed over.  An hour or so earlier, sheʼd been home and contemplating staying there, but the need for friendly human contact pushed her out of her warm home and into a taxi.

Sheʼd only lived in the area a short period of time when she stumbled upon the Que Syrah Syrah Wine Shop, and decided to go in for a few bottles of red to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. What she found, in addition to wine, was a lovely group of women who met periodically for what she understood to be a book club, but was more of a social gab session with wine and delicious snacks.

As Maiseyʼs mind drifted to thoughts of deadlines and an upcoming photo shoot for an extremely popular wedding blog she hadn’t even began to prepare for, a basket was placed on her lap, she hadn’t even noticed who put it there.  She reached in, figuring it was some delightful petit fours or chocolate treats, instead, what she retrieved was a folded up sliver of stationery.

“Oh…what is this? Some type of Secret Santa?” Immediately, a slew of gift ideas entered her brain. Recently, sheʼd received samples of gorgeous, nature-based items such as the tiniest rosebuds ever, along with slivers of precious metals, all enclosed in resin. There were necklaces, rings, and earrings to delight any girly-girl.

“Not really,” answered Tegan, the wine shopʼs owner. “It’s the man you›ve chosen from The Love List.

“What? ˮ She heard a bit of a chuckle resonating around the group, and Maisey wondered how long sheʼd drifted off in the chair to miss this latest, likely crazy idea.

  “The names of eligible bachelors are on those slips of paper. Nice guys who have been thoroughly vetted and approved.   All you do is call and ask the guy out whose name is on the paper you chose from the basket,” Tegan explained.

  At once, Maisey dropped the folded piece of paper back into the basket and passed it on. She was wide awake now. “No thank you. This doesn’t sound like a very nice game. Besides, I’m not open to rejection or blind dates. That’s not my thing.”

  “I’ll give it a go,” Finn piped up. She was fairly new to the little group. “There are so few eligible men around, and at least these guys come with somewhat of a recommendation.”

  “Me, too.” Dakota sighed. “Holiday parties are the worst without someone on your arm.”

  At that moment, a horn blared outside the shop.

 
Just in time
.
The perfect escape

  Maisey jumped to her feet and grabbed for her jacket. “Well, ladies, that’s my taxi calling. It’s been a pleasure, as always, but I’ve got work waiting for me at home.” A chorus of good-byes followed, and Maisey headed to the door, prepared to exit.

  “Maisey, wait!”

  She turned at the sound of her name, only to be beaned on the nose with a wadded up piece of paper. She caught it at the last second before it hit the floor.

  “Just take it,” Tegan implored. “You never know; you might get lucky.”

  The cabbie honked again.

  Maisey shrugged, forced a smile, and made a production of putting the paper in her pocket. There was no need to upset anyone or be Little Miss Negative, especially with new friends. “Goodbye everyone, and we’ll talk soon,” she said in her cheeriest voice and then stepped outside. She had no intention of calling a stranger out of the blue and asking him out. She wasn’t that desperate for a date.

  In just the few hours since sheʼd left home, the weather had gone from as mild as one could expect for the last days of November, to a full-on freezing. No snow, but a blustery cold that permeated through her jacket, and an icy rain pelted down.

  As Maisey slipped into the back seat of the taxi, she was grateful to be heading back home, and even more grateful she worked from her converted attic—well, her house, anyway. It didn’t feel like home yet. Hopefully it would…sooner or later.

  Less than five minutes into what should have been a fifteen-minute taxi ride at most, the taxi began to shake and shimmy, and an unpleasant electrical smell filtered the air before coming to a sputtering stop.

 
Just what I need
.

  Without as much as a word to Maisey, the cabbie got on the phone with what sounded to be first, his dispatcher, then to some type of emergency recovery service.

  “Excuse me,” Maisey began as soon as he disconnected the phone. “Is this going to be a problem for me?”

  He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

  She rolled her eyes. Already tired, it wouldnʼt take much for her to cross the line into impatient and irritated. “Can you call for another taxi to take me home?”

  “Oh…ah…let me see,” he said, once again making a call on his cell phone.

After a few minutes back and forth, he turned his upper body to the back seat where Maisey strove to remain patient. “Busy night. It’ll be about an hour or so before another driver can get here. In the meantime, you might as well get comfortable.”

  With that, Maisey completely lost patience. There was no way she was sitting in a taxi that smelled of stale cigarette smoke and old French fries, for an unknown amount of time. She tucked her handbag under her arm, opened the taxi door and got out. “I’ll walk.”

  The sidewalks glistened with ice as she stepped cautiously.
Why did she wear heels?
She thought miserably as the ice pelted her face and ruined her hair. It was going to be a long walk home, so she might as well suck it up and keep going.

  Only a few cars moved slowly along the dark streets. Of course, with the town being so small, there wasn’t much traffic any time of the day. She guessed people were smart enough to stay indoors, nice and warm. She couldn’t chastise herself too much though. It had been such a lovely day; she couldn’t have guessed it would disintegrate into winter in just a few short hours. Or that her luck would be so bad her taxi would break down and strand her without so much as a hat or mittens.

  Fifteen minutes into her walk home, the wind kicked up, whipping her now soaked, long dark hair across her face. Her fingers were so cold she was losing feeling, and she continuously flexed them in a futile attempt to keep them warm.

  Behind her, a vehicle crept closer and closer, the lights from its headlamps lighting her way on the sidewalk, like Hansel and Gretel following that trail of pebbles back to a home that was not warm or loving. 

           It was kind of ironic. She nearly chuckled at the thought. She was trying to make her way back to a house that while warm from central heat, held no love for its lone occupant. Aunt Rose was kind enough to care for her every summer while growing up. Upon Rose’s death only a few months earlier, Maisey was surprised to learn sheʼd inherited the old house. Of course, Aunt Rose never married, never had children, so perhaps she thought of Maisey in a maternal way.

  When the car behind her did not pass after some distance, a prickle of worry tingled her spine. Was someone following her? They had to be. Even in this bad weather, cars were moving quicker than the one behind her. She could pick up her pace, but her legs ached mercilessly in the heels that became ice skates as she tried to stay upright. She stopped. Maybe the car would continue on past her. Instead, it pulled to a slow stop next to her. When she turned to look, relief flooded over her.

  It was the police.

  The window on the passenger side descended, and a man wearing a police ball cap leaned over. “Are you okay there? It’s not really walking weather.”

  She nodded quickly. “As good as can be. My taxi broke down, so I’m forced to walk home.” She shifted her weight from foot to foot in a feeble attempt to keep warm. Once again, the wind whipped up and whistled through her sore ears.

  The door opened. “Get in. I’ll take you home.”

  Suddenly she was reminded of those bad B movies she watched late nights on satellite television, where the seemingly friendly policeman was actually a serial killer in disguise who preyed on vulnerable women. Sometimes though, it didn’t just happen in movies, it happened in real life too. Both her mother and Aunt Rose drummed into her brain,
donʼt talk to strangers
,
don’t get in their car, no matter how safe
…or— she paused her thoughts and took another look at him in the low light— or how cute they might be.

  “Thank you, but I’ll be okay.” She started to walk, but the police car kept pace.

  “You’ll freeze to death in this weather. It’s my job to protect and serve.”

  She stopped again. He sounded friendly enough. Still…

  “Do you need to see my identification?”

  “Oh, uh…no.” She chuckled nervously and wondered why she was acting so foolish. A police officer in what looked like a legitimate uniform, driving a clearly marked car was offering to drive her home in a warm car, out of the elements. He was a stranger for sure, but police were supposed to be the one kind of stranger you could actually trust. Yet, she remembered all those news stories and of course, late night television provided enough scary stories of imposters dressed as police officers with phony identification. Of course, if this guy was an imposter, he really took it all the way with the well-marked police car.

  Of course, she knew she was just spinning a story in her head. An over-active imagination borne from spending too much time alone while growing up. A trait which carried into her adulthood.

  “So hop in.”

  Finally, she gave in and climbed into the passenger seat. After all, she didn’t want to be rude to the kind officer who offered to drive her home. The other option was slowly freezing into a Frozen Charlotte.

  “Thank you so much.”  The warmth of the car’s heater seeped into her body, and one by one, her appendages magically regained feeling.

  “No problem. Where am I taking you?”

  “Blueberry Bush Road. If you can just drive to the beginning of the road, I’ll walk the rest of the way. I don’t want to keep you from your job. I know you’re not a taxi service.”

  He pulled onto the road, and crept along the icy street. “Believe it or not, this is a part of my job.  I can’t just drive by when I see someone walking in an ice storm.”

  “I appreciate it. I thought I was going to turn into, at best, one of those pretty antique Frozen Charlotte dolls.”

  “And worst?”

  “That I might be mistaken for a very large frozen fish stick in the gutter.”

  He laughed, and for some reason, it put Maisey at ease. It was a hearty, genuine laugh. She liked that.

      “Both images are bad, but I seriously doubt anyone would mistake you for a frozen fish stick.”

  “So, you know what a Frozen Charlotte is?” Maisey liked trivia, even if it was just idle trivia with a stranger.

  “If I remember correctly—and I’m not sure I do—there was once a lovely young woman named Charlotte who was going out for the evening with a group of friends for a sleigh ride in the snow. Her dress was so beautiful, she refused to put a coat over it. Somehow she became separated from her group of friends, and was found sometime later frozen like a doll in the snow.”

  “Wow, you’re correct! I’m impressed.”

  “Well, if that impresses you, doll factories, especially European ones, mass-produced Frozen Charlotte dolls throughout the nineteenth century. From my understanding, there are tons of these scary dolls of all sizes still being unearthed on the grounds of long demolished German doll factories.”

    Now that was impressive.

  “That’s also correct. I actually collect them, and use some of them to make cool jewelry when I have the time. I’m always on the lookout for them to come onto the market, especially the really tiny ones. Like you said, most come from the ruins of doll factories in Germany. I’d love to someday go there and see if I can find any. With my luck, when I got there, the land would be barren.” She paused and then turned to him. “How do you know so much about Frozen Charlotte history? I thought I was the only one who cared about it.”

  “I read a lot. Too much time on my hands, I guess. Especially a while back. I was in the hospital for a long while, then on to a rehabilitation facility for an extended period of time. Nothing to do most of the time but read. It’s better than thinking about your circumstances when you’re stuck in one of those places.” He paused, then quickly added. “Not that I’m ungrateful for all they did for me while I was there.”

   Rehabilitation facility? Drugs, alcohol? Probably not, she realized. More likely physical rehabilitation after a bad accident. She was curious, as she was a curious sort of girl. But it wasn’t her place to ask this stranger sheʼd known for less than ten minutes, to spill his story. So she chose to say nothing more about it.

  “This is your road?” he asked as they came upon Blueberry Bush Road.

  “It is. I don’t think there are too many roads called Blueberry Bush.”

  “Probably not,” he said as he turned the car to the road.

  “Oh, you can drop me here. I live all the way at the bottom of the road. I can walk.”

  “Nonsense, I can safely deliver you to your doorstep.”

  Who was she to argue? He was a nice guy. Friendly, sociable. Probably a married father of five. “Thank you. It’s number -forty-four. Way at the end.”

  “A quiet little road, isn’t it?” he asked. “Nice place to live.”

  “So far, so good. I’ve only lived here a few weeks. I used to spend summers here with my Aunt Rose. Not for a long time, though.”

  He pulled the car to a stop in her driveway and looked up at her home. “Great house!” he exclaimed.

  She tucked her clutch under her arm and prepared to get out of the car. “It needs a lot of work. But it’s big and it’s warm, and pretty much perfect to me.” When she opened the car door, she was surprised that he got out of the car as well.

  “I promised I’d deliver you to the doorstep,” he said. He was a nice guy, she pleasantly confirmed to herself. There were no weird or creepy vibes coming off him. Her walkway was covered in a sheet of ice and absolutely treacherous. With every step in her heels, she was sure she would fall. Fall in front of this lovely man. Before the worst could happen, he took her arm and led her to the front door. “There you go, all safe and sound. Just as I promised…ah…what is your name?”

  “Maisey.”

  “Sweet name,” he said with a smile. “I’m Sean.”

  “Lovely to meet you, Sean,” she said politely.

  “Same to you, Maisey.” Even in the dim light of the street lamps, she could see his eyes were light. Blue, she imagined. Blue as the suburban sky. He had the kind of face that became more handsome the longer she looked at him.

  “Well, thank you for the ride home.”

  “Again, no problem.” He didn’t seem in any way anxious to leave. Maybe she could invite him inside for a cup of coffee or cocoa. Just as a thank you for his kindness, she assured herself.

  “Would you like to come inside and have a hot drink? Just a little thanks for bringing me safely home?”

  “I’d like to, but I really need to get back on the road.”  From seemingly nowhere, he produced a business card held between two gloved fingers. “If you ever need a ride again, or anything else I can help you with.”

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