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Don't Mess With the Mistletoe is a Christmas and Holiday Festival pick #holidayromcom #giveaway



Title: DON’T MESS WITH THE MISTLETOE – A Dickens Holiday Romance ( Book 18 ) Dorrit’s Diner

 

Author: Peggy Jaeger

 

Genre: Holiday romcom, smalltown, workplace romance, Opposites attract, friends to lovers

 

Book Blurb:

 

It’s the holiday season in the tiny town of Dickens and pilot Michael Charles is home for his annual visit. His wanderlust has him itching to get back up in the skies as soon as possible, especially since he’s got a full schedule of rich and famous clients waiting to be transported to warm, exotic locales for the winter.


When his heavily pregnant sisters present him with a plan to give their workaholic mother some time off from managing the family diner, he balks. But one look at how tired the woman who took him into her home and heart is, and Michael agrees to run Dorrit’s Diner for a month so Amy Charles can get some well-deserved rest.


He’ll be back in the skies by the New Year.


The diner staff functions like a well-oiled machine, most of them long-term employees. The exception is new waitress Julia Maryland. The beautiful blonde has a past filled with heartache, a charming six-year-old daughter, and a smile Michael could spend the day getting lost in. But starting a relationship with her wouldn’t be wise because his visit is temporary and Julia seems like a permanent kind of girl.


When a family emergency requires him to rethink and reassess his life, Michael wonders if it’s time he becomes a permanent kind of man.

 

Excerpt:

 

“You know we’re all adopted, right? Abra, Sasha and me?”


She nodded. “Someone mentioned it. I can’t remember who. But I think it’s wonderful Amy and Andy wanted to share their home and their hearts.”


He leaned against the sink ledge and crossed his arms over his chest. “I told you to make a point.”


She lifted her gaze, the mug warming in her hands.


“You can have a biological family and hope it’s the dream family everyone wants. Most of the time, though, it isn’t. The perfect family is almost always a fantasy. Or you can make a family with the people you open your heart to, like you said. The people you choose to be your family. Amy chose us. And I thank whoever’s in charge,” he pointed upward, “every single day she did. I truthfully don’t think I’d be alive today if she hadn’t.”


Immediately he regretted saying it. For the second time, with her, he’d divulged a little bit of what he’d always kept hidden, what he’d always considered too much to share. Why did it feel so easy, though, to say things to her he’d never given breath to with any other woman?


“That’s…awful to even consider.”


He shrugged. “Like I said, the perfect family dream is just that. A dream.”


He pushed off the ledge and turned around to wash the dishes he’d had rinsing. Before he could turn the water on, Julia’s hand wound around his bicep.


His gaze flicked to it. Her fingers didn’t even meet halfway around the muscle. Had he noticed how small her hands were before now? How long and slender her fingers were, the nails naked and buffed to a natural shine? Heat, flaming heat, singed through his shirt at her touch. It was a wonder smoke wasn’t billowing up from his arm from where she gripped it.


A worry line dragged her brows together.


“What’s wrong?” he asked, staying still, fearful if he moved he’d give in to temptation and rub his thumb along that thin line to soothe it away.


“The time before you came to Amy?” A nervous flick of her tongue wet her lips.


Michael swallowed and tried to ignore how much the little move made parts of his anatomy twitch. “What about it?”


“Can you…will you…tell me about it?”


His breath hissed like a steam valve opening.


The line disappeared as her eyes opened wide, her gaze mating with his as she waited for him to speak.


“I don’t talk about that time.” His throat was raw and dry like sandpaper. “It’s too…” He dropped his gazed to the sink, fisted his hands on the ledge. “I don’t even remember all that much.”


An outright lie. If pressed, Michael could recall every minute he’d spent in that closet, every cigarette the mean mad had put out on his flesh, every slap he’d suffered across his face and back.


Disappointment shadowed her gaze. Julia dropped her hand from his arm and nodded.


Backing away from him she said in a shaky voice, “Of course. I understand. I’m…sorry. Never mind. Sorry.”


When she dropped her gaze to the floor, a bullet of regret tore through him. He pulled in another bracing breath before forgetting all about the dishes and turning around to face her.


“I was four when I came to Amy,” he said.


She lifted her head, zeroed in on his face.


“Five when she and Andy petitioned to adopt me.”


“So young,” she mumbled. “Barely more than a baby.”


Had he ever been young? Some days, when he thought about that time, he felt as if he’d been born old and jaded.


“What happened when you were four?”


Resigned to it now, he thrust his chin toward the table indicating she should sit. When she did, he took the chair opposite her. He leaned his arms down on the table, and folded his hands together.


“My mother was killed by the man she lived with. The man we lived with.”


“Not your father?”


He shook his head. “I have no idea who my biological father is.”


That line made another appearance.


“My mother was a…prostitute and a drug addict. She sold herself to pay for the junk she took. She – we – lived with her pimp. Who was also her supplier.  A DNA test proved he wasn’t my birth father. The thought is it was one of her customers or maybe even someone from her before-life.”


Julia stretched out a hand and laid it against his folded ones. Warmth instantly shot through him again at her touch. “I’m so sorry.”


He simply inclined his head.


“I don’t have any information about who she was or where she came from. She had no fingerprints on file so she was never arrested, which is surprising considering what she did for a living. The working theory has always been she was a runaway, but she wasn’t listed in any database from parents looking for her. There were no official papers about her in the apartment or anywhere the social worker could find. No one ever came forward to claim her after she was killed.”


“That’s so incredibly sad. What was her name?”


“Her pimp said it was Destiny, no last name.” He shrugged. “That’s the name she went by on the street according to other prostitutes who knew her. Most likely it wasn’t her real name, but.” Another shrug.


When he’d left home and started his adult life he’d tried to find out. His first paycheck he’d spent on a private investigator who, after several months, told him no DNA had been taken from her, so any ancestry sites were a no-go.


“Do you remember anything about her? What she looked like, or the sound of her voice?”


“I remember every single thing about her, from the color of her hair and eyes, down to the way she talked with a slight lisp,” he said, robotically. “I remember her singing me to sleep sometimes.”


He also remembered the sound of her screams as she died, but couldn’t bring himself to voice that. Not to Julia.


“You had a DNA test, so does that mean the man who killed her was caught?”


“Yeah. Arrested and sent to prison where he was serving a life sentence until another inmate shanked him in the shower. Him and my mother had a fight. They were always fighting. Screaming at one another until he hit her to shut her up. It usually worked. This one was big. He went to slap her and I jumped in the way. He caught me and shoved me in a closet, a place he’d put me whenever he didn’t want to deal with me.” He dragged a hand through one side of his hair. “I was in that closet more times than I wasn’t. He shoved a chair against the door this time so I couldn’t open it. That’s where they found me.”


“They?’’


“The police and a social worker. The man killed my mother and then tried to run away so he wouldn’t be caught.”


“Leaving you locked in a closet.” Her sweet face changed into something he didn’t recognize. Hard and drawn, her lips going flat, her shoulders lifting.


“Yeah.”


“For how long?”


“I didn’t know. At four I couldn’t read, didn’t know how to tell time. I’d never been to school or even daycare. I just knew it was longer than usual. When I got older and started asking questions, Amy told me they estimated my mother had been dead for a least two days when they found her.”


Her gasp startled him.


Her other hand snaked across the table and she slid both of them into his and squeezed. Her face changed again, from hard and angry back to soft and caring. “I can’t even fathom how frightened you must have been.”


Terrified and needing to pee so much it was painful were both what he remembered most of all.


“The social worker found me in the closet. Neighbors told her there was usually a boy in the apartment. She pulled me out, then covered my eyes so I wouldn’t see my mother, lying there, in a pool of her drying blood.”


My God, Michael.”


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Share a holiday family tradition:

 

Every year while we decorate the house we blast Christmas music on the cd player, then once the house is all decked out we watch A CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.

 

Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood?

 

It’s the perfect small town, friends to lovers story about coming home for the holidays and realizing there really is no place like home.

 

Giveaway –

 

One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon gift card

 

 

Open internationally.

 

Runs December 1 – 31

 

Drawing will be held on January 2, 2024.

 


Author Biography:

 

Peggy Jaeger writes contemporary romance stories about strong women, the families who support them and the men who can’t live without them. Her romances make you believe in the happily ever afters.

 

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