Her Christmas Secret by @melissamcclone is an Indie Authors pick #sweetromance #indiereads #giveaway
Title: Her Christmas Secret
Author: Melissa McClone
Genre: Holiday Sweet Contemporary Romance
Sean Hughes likes being single—much to his family’s dismay. They want him to settle down…now. When he gives fun-loving snowboarder Zoe Flynn a ride to the slopes, Sean hatches a plan to throw off his matchmaking relatives. He asks Zoe to pose as his girlfriend at Thanksgiving dinner, which will take the pressure off him and make the evening more enjoyable all around. Zoe agrees to be Sean’s fake girlfriend. Who wouldn’t want a free meal or a chance to hang out with the handsome mountain rescuer and his adorable husky? When an injury occurs, the two are forced to continue their one-night ruse. As Christmas approaches, make-believe turns into reality. But Zoe has a secret…a big one. Is their new relationship strong enough to withstand the truth, or will she find herself with no one to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?
At the base of the road leading up to Timberline Lodge stood a snowboarder. A large, overstuffed backpack sat at his feet along with a board. The image of the kid hoping for a ride made a great visual. Sean would mention that to the advertising firm his snowboard manufacturing company used. They were already discussing next season’s promo campaign.
Sean pulled off to the side of the road and rolled down the passenger window.
A burst of frigid air rushed in. Denali, his Siberian Husky, stuck her head out.
The snowboarder straightened. “Hi.”
Not a kid. A woman. Even better.
“Hey,” Sean greeted.
A wool beanie hid her hair. The fit of her jacket made him wonder what curves hid underneath.
“Beautiful dog,” she said.
“Thanks.” The woman was pretty herself with pink cheeks and glossed lips. Her orange, green, and black patterned outerwear coordinated with the graphics on her board. More unisex than feminine. Not one of his snowboards, but she gave off the vibe of being the type of rider more interested in fashion than in function. He didn’t mind. Sean had a soft spot for snow bunnies, especially ones who boarded. “Heading up for a taste of the fresh powder?”
“I hear it’s light and fluffy. My favorite kind.” Hopeful clear blue eyes fringed with thick lashes met his. “Have room for one more?”
She was young. Early twenties, maybe. But cute. Very cute. She’d be turning some heads on the slopes today the way she’d already turned his.
He shifted the truck’s gear stick into the park position. “I’ll get your stuff.”
Her face lit up. “Thanks, but I’ve got it.”
Independent. Sean liked that. Much better than the women who wanted him to do everything for them.
In the rearview mirror, he watched as she put her things into the back. He appreciated how careful she was to avoid his splitboard and the prototype bindings he’d been working on. She kicked the snow from her boots, climbed in the cab, and closed the door.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am you stopped.” After pulling off her mittens, she wiggled her fingers in front of the dashboard vents. “Oh, the heat feels so good.”
She smelled good. Citrusy like grapefruit. He wouldn’t mind seeing if she tasted as good as she smelled. “Been waiting long?”
“It felt like forever.” She fumbled with the seat belt until the buckle clicked into place. “But it was probably only twenty minutes or so. There isn’t as much traffic as I thought there’d be this morning.”
“Most people won’t head up until later.” He shifted gears, pressed on the gas pedal, and drove up the curving road to Timberline Lodge. “The lifts don’t open until nine.”
“That explains why.” She rubbed her hands together. “I’m Zoe.”
“Sean Hughes.” Walls of snow from the plow lined each side of the road. “This is Denali.”
“Nice to meet you both.”
Denali rubbed her muzzle against Zoe’s cheek.
“Off.” Sean’s gaze focused on Zoe’s high cheekbones. The dog obeyed. “She’s very friendly.”
“I see that.” Zoe glanced at the window behind them. “I noticed an OMSAR sticker on the window.”
“Oregon Mountain Search and Rescue.”
She fiddled with the mittens she’d dropped on her lap. “You guys are on TV a lot.”
“When something happens on the mountain, the media flocks to Timberline. Otherwise, they pretty much leave us alone.”
“I suppose bad things happen up there.”
“Sometimes.” He thought about fellow OMSAR member and good friend Nick Bishop who had died almost seven years ago while climbing on the Reid Headwall. “Accidents can happen to the best climbers.”
“I’d like to climb a mountain someday.”
“There isn’t much in this world that beats standing on a summit,” he said enthusiastically. “But getting to the top and home safely are the most important parts. You need to be prepared.”
With a nod, she rested her left hand on a contented Denali.
Sean noticed her bare ring finger. He’d bet she had a boyfriend. Still, awareness buzzed through him.
“Before I forget,” she said. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Same to you.” At least Thanksgiving was only one day. That made it a hundred percent better than Christmas, when the chorus of “When are you settling down?” questions drowned out the carols. “You’re not from around here.”
She stiffened. “Why do you say that?”
“A local would know what time the lifts open.”
Her cheeks remained pink, even though the temperature in the cab wasn’t cold. The women he dated rarely blushed, but Sean found it charming.
“I got a ride up from Portland yesterday. Spent the night at the Hood Hamlet Hostel. I wanted to get an early start this morning.” She rubbed Denali. “Spending the day on the slopes before Thanksgiving dinner is a family tradition, but I may have started too early.”
“Are you meeting your family later?”
“No.” She stared out the window. “I’m on my own this year.”
Maybe there wasn’t a boyfriend in the picture. At least not a serious one.
“Lucky you.” Sean negotiated the truck around a tight curve. “I wish I were on my own today.”
Zoe angled toward him. “But it’s Thanksgiving.”
She eyed him suspiciously. “The holidays are a time to spend with family.”
“I know,” he admitted. “That’s why I’ll be at my parents’ house this afternoon with more than three dozen extended family members. Picture total chaos with cooking in the kitchen, football blaring on the TV in the living room, kids running around screaming, and my uncle Marty snoring in the recliner. It’s so crazy you can’t even keep track of the football score.”
Lips parted, she leaned forward until the seat belt tightened across her. “It sounds wonderful to me.”
Zoe’s tone was wistful, a little sad. Maybe she wasn’t as keen on spending Thanksgiving by herself as he would be. Sean couldn’t deny his attraction. “You want to come?”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What makes your featured book a must-read?
This story is my take on the movie While You Were Sleeping where one little white lie explodes into a huge thing. The hero and heroine are opposites, and neither wants to disappoint their families. Both are far from perfect, but together they find what they didn’t know was missing in their lives. Her Christmas Secret is like a Hallmark Christmas movie in book form. It’ll leave a smile on your face and your heart sighing.
Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card:
Open Internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs December 7 – December 15, 2021.
Winner will be drawn on December 16, 2021.
USA TODAY bestselling author Melissa McClone writes heartwarming women’s fiction and sweet contemporary romance novels. She lives with her husband and has three young adult children. When she’s not writing relatable characters and sigh-worthy happy endings, she spends her time in the rainy Pacific Northwest reading from her Kindle’s ever-growing TBR, napping with her dog and two cats, and decorating her Happy Planner.
Social Media Links:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MelissaMcCloneBooks/
McClone Troopers Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/McCloneTroopers/
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-McClone/e/B001HOIG4K