Title: Holiday Hunks: Brendan’s Christmas Surprise
Author: Katie O’Sullivan
Genre: Contemporary Romance
After a career-ending injury, hockey bad boy Brendan MacDonald needs time to reevaluate. Without a college degree or any skills to fall back on, he’s got no alternate plan for what to do with the rest of his life. Not a clue. Spending Christmas on Cape Cod for a family wedding sounds like a good time to figure it all out… and maybe reconnect with the one woman from his past he can’t stop thinking about.
Paige Wheeler planned her life with precision, counting down the days until she could put her home town in the rearview mirror for good. Until that one fateful Christmas Eve when all her careful planning went out the window. Five years later, she’s still on Cape Cod living with her parents, working a job she doesn’t like and trying to formulate a new plan. When a certain hockey player comes home for the holidays, Paige must decide whether to let him back into her life… and share the secret she’s been keeping all these years.
“I’m glad you’re home for the holidays, Romeo. I know it means a lot to Aunt Maeve.”
Brendan took a swig of the beer, shrugging off his cousin’s use of the nickname. He couldn’t help it if more people knew him from the underwear ads than the hockey arena. “Yeah, Mom seems pretty happy to have me around. I had a helluva time convincing her to let me come out on my crutches tonight without her joining us. As it is, she insisted on driving me into town and dropping me off so I’m definitely going to need a ride home.”
Ed laughed. “No problem. Between all the cousins, I’m sure one of us will take pity on you and give you a lift.”
“Sounds good.” Brendan’s gaze drifted passed Ed and landed on the woman standing at the bar, trying to flag down the bartender. Skin the color of caramel latte, with her hair done in rows of braids twirled around her head and cascading down her back, soft curves that could make a grown man believe in heaven… a jolt ran through him as if he’d been struck by lightning. Not able to tear his eyes from her face, he nudged Laura’s shoulder. “Who’s the girl on the other side of Ed?”
Laura leaned to the left to look. “Paige Wheeler? I’m sure you know her. Her brother Jeff played hockey with you at Nauset. Weren’t you and he friends at one point?”
“Little Paige?” He snuck another look. “It couldn’t be. She’s, like, way older than Paige.” He pictured the little girl in pigtails in his memories, compared to the shapely woman at the bar with the sophisticated hair and sharp cheekbones. His heart started to beat faster as he drank in the sight of her standing there, her lips pursed into the most adorable pout as the bartender continued to ignore her.
Laura laughed out loud. “People grow up, you know. The world keeps moving forward, even here on Cape Cod.”
“I know,” he said, irritated by her laughter. This wasn’t funny. Not at all. And why the fuck were the bartenders ignoring her? He raised a hand. A bartender was there in seconds.
“Can I get you something, Mr. MacDonald?” The woman was probably his age, although he didn’t know her, which meant she was a washashore. She knew his name, so she was probably a hockey fan. Big blonde hair, big tits, large brown eyes that practically screamed, take me home with you.
He smiled at her. “Yes, you can…” He paused and raised one eyebrow, waiting for her to fill in her name.
“Stacie. My name is Stacie,” she supplied, her voice a little breathless.
“Nice to meet you Stacie. I’m Brendan.” He stuck his hand across the bar and she shook it with rapt attention and a giggle.
“I know who you are, Romeo. I have a poster of one of your BVD ads hanging on my dorm wall.” She giggled again. “What can I get you to drink?”
“The thing is, Stacie, my friend Paige over here has been waiting for a bit now.” He nodded in her direction and Paige raised both eyebrows over widened eyes. “Can you get her drink first?”
“Sure thing, Romeo. Anything for you.” She cocked her head toward the other woman. “What can I get for you, hon?”
“A pitcher of light beer for my table, and three glasses.” When the bartender walked away, Paige smiled at Brendan, her big brown eyes alight with pleasure. “Thanks for the assist, MacDonald.”
“Anytime, Wheeler.” She moved over to stand next to his stool, bumping her shoulder against his arm. Paige had always been like a little sister to him, chasing after him and Jeff on the ice, but his thoughts right this minute were anything but brotherly. He tried to remind himself this wasn’t some puck bunny, but one of his oldest friend. “So you still playing hockey with the boys?”
“Nah.” Her smile widened. “By the time I got to high school, another girl had started a women’s team. First on the Cape, so we had to travel all over the state for our games. But it worked out. In the end I got a hockey scholarship to UVM.”
“No shit? Good for you, Wheeler.” Hockey. This was something familiar they could talk about. “Are you still going at it like the Energizer Bunny?” When her eyes widened to the size of saucers he realized what he’s said and tried to recover, stumbling over his words. “Shit, I didn’t mean to make it sound like a come on. Not that you’re not gorgeous and all, and I’m sure you hear it all the time, but I didn’t mean to call you a bunny of any sort. I was talking about on the ice, you know? Remember our nickname for you? You’d wipe out and keep getting up time and time again, like the pink rabbit with the drum in the commercials.” Now he felt like an asshat, reminding her of how much they’d teased her when she tried to keep up.
Her cheeks reddened but her smile didn’t dim. She laid a hand over his, and he felt the warmth travel all the way up to his elbow. “I remember everything, MacDonald. Between the relentless ribbing you guys gave me and all the times you stayed behind to work with me on my slap shot, I’ve turned into one helluva hockey player.”
“Slap shots were always my specialty.”
She squeezed his hand and her smile widened. “And now they’re mine, too.”
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Share a holiday family tradition:
I love Christmas ornaments, and started my own collection when I was young with a small tree on my bedroom dresser. When I got married, my mother let me choose my favorite childhood ornaments from her collection (and all the ones I’d made in elementary school for the family tree.) Every year, I buy a new ornament for each of my kids and add the year, so that now each of them has their own collection of “real” ornaments that are special to each of them, as well as all the ones they made during their school years.
We buy a tree the day after Thanksgiving and start decorating. As I’m unwrapping the ornaments, I set aside the ones that are special to each child so that they can hang those on the tree themselves. The clay dinosaur Bree made in second grade during her everything-dinosaur phase. The papier-mache cow Andy made in fourth grade (made even more meaningful after he played the cow in his high school production of Into the Woods.) The pipe cleaner crystal experiment Sean created in high school chemistry. And the purchased ornaments as well – the Christmas Story leg lamp for Andy, the Star Wars themed ornaments for Sean, the collection of guitar shaped ornaments for Bree…. I relive each memory as I unwrap them, and the kids relive the memories as they hang them.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
For me, the Christmas season is about traditions. Getting together with family and friends and doing the same things – baking cookies, listening to holiday tunes, decorating the tree – year after year. Traditions are about togetherness and smell like cinnamon and fresh pine needles. Having traditions helps you remember what’s important about the holidays and about life. It’s not the presents or the parties. It’s the people you surround yourself with that make holidays special.
I love writing about the MacDonald family from Cape Cod because they’re a close-knit group of cousins whose parents all still live in the same small town they grew up in. The parents have holiday traditions, like getting together to bake cookies, and heading into Boston the day after Christmas for the Holiday Pops. The cousins also have holiday traditions, like getting together at the pub with all the other prodigals home for the holidays. (This one is a real thing, when all the returning college kids and twenty-somethings meet up at the Chatham Squire on December 26.)
The eight MacDonald cousins grew up closer than brothers, but each had his own path to follow. They’ve appeared in five of my novels now, starting as secondary characters in Breaking the Rules, the first book of my Cape Cod Rules series. Brendan’s Christmas Surprise is about family and forgiveness. Like many of my novels, this one is about figuring out what’s important in life and taking the chance.
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Katie O’Sullivan is an award-winning writer with over a dozen novels to her name, including My Kind of Crazy, Crazy About You, the Cape Cod Dating Rules series and the Son of a Mermaid series for teen readers: Descent, Defiance, and Deception. A recovering English major, she earned her degree at Colgate University and now lives on Cape Cod with her family and oversized puppy, drinking way too much coffee and inventing new excuses not to dust. She loves to read (and write) about alpha males, strong women, and the importance of family and friends. She writes YA and romantic suspense novels, as well as working as an editor and full-time technical writer. Which explains all the coffee.
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