Title: In Mistletoe
Author: Tammy L. Bailey
Genre: Contemporary Romance
At twenty-five, Grace Evans is steadily picking up the pieces of everyone else’s life. So, when her younger sister decides to turn into a runaway bride just four weeks before the wedding, Grace, drops everything to chase after her and bring her back home. Only, when the trail leads to Mistletoe, Washington, she finds herself at the mercy of the town’s most handsome and emotionally unavailable bachelor. Ex-Army officer, Ayden McCabe, has three creeds in life: never make the first move, never fall in love, and never take anyone to Mistletoe’s Christmas Dance. Wanting nothing more than to keep his matchmaking sister from meddling in his personal life, he agrees to help Grace if she agrees to play his girlfriend. Too brunette and meek for his taste, Ayden believes Grace can’t tempt him enough to break any of his creeds. He could not be more wrong.
Ayden downed the rest of his beer, unsure whether what he was about to do was a brilliant idea or one drastic and tragic mistake. He knew nothing about Grace Evans except that she was uncommonly pretty with perhaps more freckles on her small nose than most women he knew. She also appeared a bit unorganized and seemed to carry the weight of the world on her small shoulders. He had no doubt most of that world didn’t even belong to her.
However, she was nice and didn’t seem to want anything from him except a room. As he planned his next move, she exited the bathroom behind Rachel, her fine features perplexed and pinched into careful deliberation. At least she didn’t head straight for the exit; she ambled toward their booth.
When she sat down, she tucked a wisp of dark shoulder-length hair behind an ear, a nervous habit he found innocent and sensual at the same time. Not that he liked to memorize a woman’s attributes; he did find her deep hazel eyes intriguing, especially when she narrowed them in serious thought.
“I guess I was wrong about you. You are very popular around here,” she said, peeking up from her timidity.
He chuckled and sank against the cushioned seat, believing Grace Evans presented him with more problems than he was ready to handle. Yet, he knew she awarded him a solution to at least one of them.
On a gamble, he shifted forward and drew out the flyer he’d ripped off the wooden post a few feet from them. On the table before her, he flattened out the edge and tapped the center where his face lay wrinkled and distorted.
“Not that I agree one should try and find someone who has voluntarily disappeared, but I want to propose a scheme of sorts. I can help you find your sister, but I need something from you in exchange.”
She glanced up, her glittering eyes narrowing to distrusting slits in the muted lamp light. He thought about recanting his thoughts, convinced no one would ever believe she’d caught his attention, for he preferred them taller, a little vain, and more liberated. This girl, on the other hand, barely cleared his chin, possessed not one conceited bone in her small body, and appeared, at present, as cautious and jittery as a baby rabbit ready to bolt.
He waited for the displeasure of such a woman to sink into his gut, causing him to change his mind. When, after a few moments of glancing at her wondrous brown-hazel eyes, his body reacted more with temptation than reluctance.
“You need me, Grace. I can see it. I can feel it. And I can help you.”
She shook her head, making him wonder how often she accepted help from anyone. Too stubborn to give up on her, he settled in and presented his case. “My sister—her name’s Maggie—has it in her romantic head that if I find a woman to settle down with, I won’t sell Hearth’s Gate. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Grace’s pretty gaze narrowed. “Okay…but I don’t understand how I can help.”
He smiled at her naïveté. “All I’m asking you to do between us locating your sister, is stay close to me, pose as my girlfriend, and in the end, crush and leave me a dejected mess. Maybe then Maggie will stop interfering in my personal life.”
Grace blinked long lashes at him. “Girlfriend? But…I-I don’t think I could…be your girlfriend or even do something so heartless.”
He had to laugh at her innocent response. “Grace, I have no intention of losing myself in the charade. I’m just asking you to help teach my sister a lesson.”
The sooner the better, he thought. He needed to sell Hearth’s Gate in order to pay for the low bid his construction company made on the county contract. With Maggie breathing down his back about keeping it, this was no different from what their mother did to their father. Although he’d loved his mother, she was a woman who spent so much time planning everyone else’s life, she didn’t even stop to consider what his father or anyone else wanted. Now, they were both gone. Losing someone, Ayden realized, made one reevaluate their life and the burden of loving another human being.
“So, all I have to do is to pretend to be in love with you?”
He shook himself from his thoughts and narrowed his gaze, afraid to say the wrong thing lest she run screaming from O’Shannon’s, or worse, get lost in the sham and declare them engaged by the Christmas Eve Eve Dance. This was a thin rope he had to cross. A very thin rope.
“Love is an awfully strong word, Miss Evans. Besides, it will only be for a week, just long enough to convince Maggie she can stop trying to find me a wife.”
Grace chewed on her bottom lip and blinked her hypnotic eyes. “Will your sister believe you’ve met someone and fallen in love in such a short amount of time?”
Valid question. “Ah, you don’t know Maggie. She’s a hopeless romantic…love at first sight, that sort of nonsense. But just in case, we’ll try and avoid her at all cost, until we know enough about each other to pull this off.”
He grinned, enjoying waiting for Grace’s answer. In the meantime, he waved to the nearest waitress his sister had yet to fix him up with, signaling her to bring them another round.
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What I love most about the holiday season:
Buying presents for my boys, Warm fires, My sister-in-law’s Buckeyes and Cookie Tray, and Hallmark Holiday Movies.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
I believe In Mistletoe is more than a holiday romance. It’s a book about healing old wounds and starting over. In July 2017 Book of the Month at Long and Short Reviews, Mistflower wrote, “ "In Mistletoe captured my heart from the first page. Has this book been made into a Hallmark Christmas movie yet? I won't be surprised to find out if it has or if it is going to be made into one eventually." - Reviewed by Mistflower
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Tammy L. Bailey writes both historical and contemporary fiction with clever, romantic, and unexpected escapes combining delicious tension and laugh out loud humor. Before she began writing romance, Tammy served in both the active Army and the Air National Guard. She was once asked if she wanted to become a navigator on a C-130. However, after getting lost to the recruiter's office, she was persuaded to choose another job. Today, she lives with her husband and two sons in Northeast Ohio where she balances her time between family, her full-time job as a nursing secretary, and being a writer. Whether it's historical or contemporary romance, for her, there must always be a happy ending.
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