- N. N. Light
Holly Bough Inn by @lcarrollbradd is a Wintertime Reading Event pick #sweetromance #giveaway
Title: Holly Bough Inn, Christmas at the Inn, book 4
Author: Linda Carroll-Bradd
Genre: Sweet contemporary romance
Writer Kayleigh is spending Christmas away from her young son and just wants to be Kayleigh-the-woman during her vacation in a friend’s inn. Ex-Ranger Vonn needs to make a decision and wants some ski therapy. A chance encounter on the side of a road brings them together. But, after days of spending time together, will the unexpected appearance of her son cause a rift in the relationship?
“Hmm, do I want a vanilla gingerbread latte or a pumpkin spice cappuccino?”
“If you’re questioning a choice, could you step out of line? Some of us know what we want.”
What nerve. Sucking in a breath, Kayleigh spun to face a tall, black-haired man who stood with muscled arms crossed over his broad chest. He was dressed all in black—ball cap, tight shirt, cargo pants, heavy boots. Dark stubble covered his jaw that was set like granite. “Well, someone needs a little holiday cheer. What is your choice, sir?”
“Black coffee.” His gaze narrowed.
She turned toward the server and smiled. “One medium gingerbread latte and add his large black coffee to my bill, please.”
Kayleigh glanced over her shoulder. “But it is, because obviously, my delay in making a flavor decision offended you. In the spirit of the season and good will toward men, I insist.” She gave him a fake smile, then slapped a ten-dollar bill onto the counter, and moved to the edge of the dining room.
In the restaurant, a young woman with long hair set up a music stand. She leaned over and lifted her guitar case onto a stool.
Kayleigh would love to slide into a chair and listen to a couple songs but Tisha was counting on her to show up this evening. Movement caught her attention, and she watched Vonn walk out of the restaurant, coffee cup in hand. Turning toward the counter, she spotted the server’s high sign and went to collect her latte.
Exiting the restaurant, she shivered at the onslaught of cold air. The difference in temperatures from her house and the mountains always surprised her. Parked next to Lemondrop was the big black truck that she’d encountered several times already.
The guy dressed in black sat behind the wheel, his chin dipped as he stared at his phone.
She set her cup on the roof, then reached into the back seat and grabbed an insulated jacket to put on before climbing into Lemondrop. The latte filled her mouth with spicy goodness, and she backed away from the restaurant. Piles of snow rose in irregular mounds at the side of the asphalt and in front of the porch. Plows had cleared the road so she didn’t have to worry about paying someone to put on chains.
In less than thirty minutes, she’d arrive at the inn for a wonderful week with her best friend. Tisha always planned lots of daily activities for the guests. So Kayleigh would be busy enough that she hopefully wouldn’t miss Danilo to the point of distraction. She merged Lemondrop into the line of cars headed toward the ski resort town and sipped her flavorful drink.
Fingers tapping on the steering wheel to the beat, she soon forgot the rude man. A sign appeared for the first road that led to several church-run camps. Right about here was where radio reception from her favorite Los Angeles station got fuzzy, but she could still catch most of the lyrics.
Around the next curve, a red Check Engine light flashed on the dashboard.
“No, no, no. What is going on?” Kayleigh peered ahead for a sign announcing the next safe place to pull over. Her father’s admonition about not ever driving with a lit trouble light rang though her head. Don’t damage Lemondrop—the car she bought for cash with the first-year royalties from her initial book series. She steered into the next turnout and punched on her hazard lights. This far up the mountain was past all the Cal-Trans call boxes. Kayleigh lifted her cellphone from the outside pocket of her purse and check the signal strength.
Now she had to wait for a Good Samaritan to come along. She depressed the lock button. Maybe that person had cell service, and she could call Todd to come collect her. But could she accept help from a random stranger who stopped? Moreno pretty much ruined her trust in anyone keeping his or her word. Bright lights brightened the interior of her car. A glance into both the rearview and side mirrors gave only one clue about the vehicle—that it was taller than hers. Maybe she’d get lucky and the driver was the deputy sheriff, who lived in the tiny town she’d passed.
Footsteps moved closer on the pavement.
She tensed, then breathed out a long breath. Inside the car, she was safe.
Bare knuckles rapped on the driver’s window.
Turning, she stared at a set of muscled abs covered by a tight, black thermal shirt. Oh my. With a cheek pressed to the cold window, she glanced upward. Her pulse beat a bit faster. Lit by the truck’s headlights, the man’s face was cast in shadow. But she still recognized him.
The dark-haired man leaned down. “What’s wrong?”
Relieved she could hear him clearly from inside the SUV, she waved a hand toward the dashboard. “The check engine light came on. If you have phone service, could I borrow your cell?”
“Pop the hood.” He walked toward the front of the car.
Here was a man used to issuing orders and being obeyed. She scrunched down in the seat enough so she could watch his hands through the slit between the open hood and the base of the windshield.
Angling his head in all directions, he touched engine parts and moved hoses.
At least, the guy looked like he knew what he was doing. Unlike Moreno, who relied on the dealer to keep his luxury sedan running. Kayleigh stared at Coffee Guy’s hands and imagined submitting herself to his tactile inspection. Sucking in a breath, she straightened. Heat flamed her cheeks, and she grabbed for her cup, sipping her cooling coffee.
Being a divorced single mother for the past two years hadn’t allowed much time for dating. But that was no excuse for her thoughts to veer into a weird direction. But with a total stranger?
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
This sweet romance features an ex-Army Ranger and a single mother who are uncertain about getting back into the dating life. The mountain inn in a small town provides a cozy setting for their relationship to bloom amidst meals around the table and holiday activities.
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As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication--a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, award-winning author Linda now writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from her home in the southern California mountains.
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