Title: Christmas Holiday Hearts
Author: Kris Pearson
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Ellie McKenna urgently needs a temporary home and a few weeks’ work to get her life back on track. A short term Christmas contract tutoring twin daughters on a huge coastal farm sounds ideal – until, too late, she meets the billionaire owner.
Ellie’s dream job turns into her worst nightmare once she discovers the man she’ll be working for is her long-ago holiday fling. He gave her the hottest memories of her life – and a son he knows nothing about. Now she’s trapped on beautiful Wharemoana Estate, torn away from her wonderful boy while she tries to resist his still-so-tempting father.
Tony Robinson is grieving and guilt-stricken after the slow death of his unsuitable wife. He’s shocked to see the temporary teacher is the beautiful holiday lover he’s never forgotten… that he’s been given a second chance to romance the woman he should never have lost touch with. To his displeasure he finds that although their fierce attraction still rages red-hot, she’s determined to keep him out of her life.
Ellie fights him any way she can, but Tony is so much more of a man now – and could undoubtedly steal Callum away with his wealth and power. She knows he’d love a son after having two daughters. An older son who’s the absolute image of him. Concealing her secret baby’s existence gets harder and harder as the long summer days grind by.
“I’m stuck,” she yelled.
The twins giggled and shrieked. They’d led her out to see the ducks, and Ellie now stood ankle-deep in gloopy mud. The innocent looking little stream that ran a hundred yards from the house had saturated the ground and turned part of it into a bog.
“Come on, Ellie,” Antonia squealed.
“It’s easy,” Carolyn yelled.
Ellie sighed deeply, rolled her jeans up another couple of turns, and slid her feet from her sandals. She fished them out of the disgusting mess, hoping that might make it easier to escape. A hot blush raced up her neck and over her face—her authority was disappearing fast. She needed this job and didn’t want to jeopardise her chances of keeping it. A short-term contract with accommodation over the summer school holiday was more than she’d dared hoped for—and perfect apart from the obvious fly in the ointment called Tony. She’d somehow have to cope with him. And hope she survived.
She pulled first one foot out of the ooze and repositioned it, then the other. Slowly she stepped free.
Tony listened with half an ear to the excited chatter and laughter. There’d not been enough of that in his life lately; he strolled out from his farm office to investigate.
The corners of his mouth twitched when he found Ellie on the gravelled driveway, mucky sandals held aloft by their straps. She hobbled along, exclaiming as the sharp stones bit into the soft soles of her feet.
“Been led astray, have you?” he called, picking up speed, scooping her into his arms and carrying her, protesting vigorously, across to one of the other buildings.
“Let me go, you clown!”
“You can’t walk over this on your tender townie feet,” he said, holding her firmly across his chest.
“This is no way for your twins to see their tutor,” she grumped.
“Did you two do that on purpose?” he asked, looking back over his shoulder and nearly brushing Ellie’s lips with his own as he turned. Her sweet breath caressed his face. Her perfume floated on the warm air, teasing his senses.
Keep your distance. Treat it as a joke.
He shot her an amused glance, hoping that would work. Her blue eyes sparked with challenge only inches from his. Their bodies rubbed together as he walked... the sweetest of tortures and sharpest of provocations. One of his hands practically cupped her breast.
“No, Daddy,” the twins chorused.
“You weigh no more than you did at eighteen,” he murmured in Ellie’s ear as he carried her. “I can feel your bones—among other things...”
Ellie fumed and struggled, but succeeded only in making him smile more broadly and tighten his grip on her. “Relax, Ellie. You’re safe enough now.”
“I was safe enough a minute back. I made it out of your wretched bog under my own steam.”
“I mean safe enough with me.” He gave her a small shake to emphasise the word. “You seem—edgy?” he said, reluctantly setting her down next to one of the other farm buildings. He turned on a tap with a garden hose attached.
“I’ll do it,” she insisted, but he quickly squatted beside her, rinsing the mud away, running his hands over her ankles and feet. Loving the excuse of having his hands on her again.
So fast, so easily, after all this time.
“This little piggy went to market...” he said, tweaking her smallest toe.
“And this little piggy got none,” she snapped.
“Had none,” he corrected, glancing up at her, knowing full well what she’d meant, and not intending to let her get away with it. She’d felt fantastic in his arms. He’d drawn in the scent of her hair and skin... enjoyed the same sweet fragrance that had turned him on so long ago.
She’d plummeted back into his life like a stone into a still pond, causing ripples—ripples of longing to recapture their time together. Ellie had excited and challenged him, and messed with his mind far more than he’d been willing to admit back then.
And she had no husband in the way.
Was she his reward for enduring the last two bitter years of marriage to Julia? Followed by the months of guilt-ridden regret as he watched her slowly die?
Did he deserve such a prize after ruining Julia’s life?
He sighed deeply as he finished smoothing his hands over Ellie’s fine-boned ankles, and turned his attention to her sandals. Eventually he handed them back to her. “They’ll get you back to the house, anyway. Put them somewhere warm to dry out and they might recover.”
Ellie eased the damp straps back over her feet. No doubt Tony had seen they were the cheapest of the cheap. It was humiliating to be reduced to this; the minimum of possessions, and none of them beautiful.
Even before the fire, she’d had very little. Now she had even less. She felt the embarrassment keenly, assuming his wife owned European shoes, designer clothes, and expensive jewellery. Wharemoana was huge and superbly maintained. Money was plainly available in generous quantities. Even the twins’ everyday clothes had labels she’d seen only in the glossy magazines of the school staffroom. Another world—not hers.
She shook her head in an attempt to clear such thoughts away. Why was she worrying about her appearance all of a sudden? The last thing she wanted was to attract Tony. There was plenty on her plate already. “Thank you,” she said ungraciously, and hurried inside to collect other shoes from her meagre selection.
Her bedroom mirror told the tale all too clearly. She was flushed and huge-eyed. Tousled and trembling. And he’d only been washing her muddy feet and disgusting old sandals...
How would she survive if he decided to seriously turn his potent charm on her? But of course he wouldn’t. His wife had died quite recently. He’d have no interest in the temporary teacher.
Why is your featured book a must-read?
This novel is set very close to where I grew up. The scene on the cover is the reverse of the view from my mother’s kitchen window. (i.e. we saw the other side of that big hill, which is called Te Mata.) It was very nice going ‘back home’ and creating a story that was right in my own territory. I think it brings a definite personal touch and immediacy to it.
Oddly, it swam into my mind while we were on holiday in Sydney, Australia, when I saw a spectacular young man beside the hotel swimming pool. He was far too young for me (sob!) but I could see how a long-ago affair with someone like him could be brought into the present day – with all the complications an unexpected child would entail. It’s a hot love affair from the past, a hot love affair from the present, and maybe a chance to right the wrongs that time and distance caused.
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Kris Pearson loves words, and uses them to make the world a happier place by creating people who are perfect for each other – although maybe they can’t see that to start with!
She began writing at her local radio station in New Zealand. After living in Italy and London she returned home and worked in TV, radio again, several advertising agencies, and then spent happy years as a retail ad manager. Totally hooked on fabrics, she followed this by surprising everyone and going into business with her husband as a curtain installer and working for some of the capital city’s top designers. Good for her body, and it freed up her brain to write fiction. In more than twenty years she hasn’t fallen off her ladder once through drifting into romantic dreams, but she’s certainly seen many beautiful homes and met wonderful people, and may just have stolen glimpses of them for the books.
If you love contemporary romance in exotic settings, that’s what she writes. They're mostly sexy stories about couples who fall in love and into bed along the way, just like real people do. She’s the author of eighteen novels, three of which were finalists in New Zealand’s Clendon Award. Each can be read as a stand-alone, but some make up linked series.