Title: When You Find Love
Author: Willa Blair
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When Scottish antiques appraiser Caitlin Paterson accepts a commission in the Hamptons, 'tis the season for Christmas miracles. Too bad she doesn't have one handy.
Successful businessman Holt Ridley resents being forced by his great-aunt's bequest to winter at the family estate he has hated since childhood. Still, the enticing appraiser he finds there is an unexpected holiday gift—or is she?
Among the furnishings Caitlin is tasked with evaluating, she discovers the key to a centuries-old heartache that plagues Holt's family. Caitlin longs to help Holt find the happiness that eluded him his entire life—but this secret could destroy everything.
“I saw you through the back windows,” Holt said, stopping as soon as he reached the sand to remove his shoes and socks and roll up his pants. “Ah, warm sand, cool air. Can’t beat the combination.”
Caitlin had intended to wander the beach alone, but decided she would do her best to enjoy Holt’s company, too. “And cold water?” She gestured toward the dark green water lapping at the shoreline. He seemed more relaxed, less stand-offish than he had the past two days. Perhaps getting away from the house was good for him.
“Probably colder than you’re used to.”
Caitlin kicked off her shoes and tugged off her socks, then rolled up her pants legs. “I think a highland loch would be colder than the ocean this time of year.”
Holt shook his head. “I don’t know…”
She heard his rising intonation as a challenge and decided to accept it. Walking into the water until it was ankle deep, she fought to keep her expression serene. “It is cold, but nowhere near as cold as it would be in the Highlands.”
Holt snorted and moved toward her. She heard the breath he sucked in as soon as his toes touched the water, but he kept going, reaching her and passing until the surge hit just below his knees. “The tide’s coming in. The deeper you go, the colder it gets.”
Caitlin joined him. Holt was a few inches taller, so the water hit her legs just above the knee. “Nay. I swim in colder lochs in the summer.” As soon as she finished speaking, a wave rounding the point rushed the shore and knocked her off her feet.
Caitlin came up spluttering, wet and chilled through, her teeth chattering. It took a moment for her to realize Holt’s arms were around her. He’d gotten wet saving her, but he was marginally warmer than she, so she clung to him. He pushed her hair out of her face as she held onto him and she caught her breath at his expression—pensive and dar. Then he scooped her up and carried her back to shore, where he put her down.
“Are you okay?”
“I will be once we get back inside.” In her haste to collect her shoes and run back to the house, she stepped on something and fell flat-out onto the sand. She pushed up onto her knees and Holt helped her the rest of the way up.
“I never said you had to fall at my feet,” he teased.
Caitlin took a breath, trying to come up with a suitably snarky response. Before she could speak, Holt crouched next to her.
“You’re bleeding! Give me your foot. No, the other one.”
The red staining the sand where she’d been standing surprised her. “I didn’t feel anything.”
“Probably because your foot’s so cold.” Holt brushed sand from her injured foot and inspected the bottom. “The cut’s under the heel. The edges look clean, so maybe you stepped on a broken piece of glass.” He studied the sand around them, then let go of her foot and stood. “Stay put for a second. I don’t know where whatever cut you is, but I don’t want you to step on it again.”
“Um…what about you?”
“I’m tough.” Holt gave her a grin, then went back to business. “I’m going to put on my shoes, grab yours, then carry you back to the house. Mrs. Smith must keep a first aid kit somewhere.”
“How bad is it?” Caitlin did her best to ignore her reaction to Holt’s unexpected grin—there was no reason why it should make her insides melt. She was too cold for that nonsense. Instead, she turned her foot from side to side, but she could only see bloody sand, not the cut.
“I don’t think it needs stitches.” Holt brushed sand from his feet with his socks, then slipped on his shoes. “But you’ll need to let it heal before you run your next marathon.”
“No problem then. I don’t have one scheduled until….oh, never.”
He handed her her shoes. “Okay, up you go.” He had her up in his arms before she had time to object that she could probably wrap the injury in her socks and walk on the toes of that foot.
Secure in his arms, Caitlin decided she’d keep her mouth shut. Being snuggled against his body, warmed by his heat, was worth a small cut on her foot. She couldn’t believe stand-offish Holt taking care of her like this. “Do you often rescue damsels in distress?”
He snorted and shrugged off her question. But he held her close and gazed at her in a way that she couldn’t mistake, pupils dilated and gaze heated. His hand warmed her back as he carried her toward the house.
Then he looked away. “I don’t often get the opportunity. Women nowadays want to rescue themselves.”
Another reason to be glad she hadn’t insisted on walking. “I’d think you’d have lasses throwing themselves at your feet, a big strong, handsome lad like you.”
Flustered, Caitlin couldn’t believe she’d just said that, but Holt was giving her that look again, so maybe making a fool of herself had been worth it. “I’m sorry I was so clumsy,” she added, hoping to restore some semblance of her dignity. Yet, that look in his eye told her he wanted her.
“You weren’t clumsy. You were unlucky.”
So he was ignoring her description of him. Maybe he thought she was making fun of him. But she’d meant every word. Especially now that she was this close to him, with the muscles of his arms burning into her back and the backs of her thighs, his hand curled around her leg, holding her against his chest. She lifted her hand, wrapped it around his neck and tunneled her fingers into his hair, telling herself she only meant to warm them. When he leaned his head back into her hand, Caitlin traced his cheek with her other hand. “Thank you.”
“Not necessary. You’d have done the same for me.”
“Well, except for the carrying you to the house part, I suppose.”
What I love most about the holiday season:
The lights, the message that peace is possible, and of course, spending time with friends and family.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
It’s a Finalist in the Short Contemporary category of the prestigious Booksellers’ Best Award Contest!
“I definitely recommend reading this book with a nice cup of hot cocoa sitting by a Christmas tree. It’s better than a movie on the Hallmark channel.”
“The ending was so fantastic, I didn’t want it to end. If you love fantasy romance, you’ll be smitten with When You Find Love.”
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon (US) gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US account to win.
Runs July 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on August 2.