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Under the Mistletoe
SERIES: Celebration, Book 3
GENRE: Holiday, Small Town
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: 20,000 to 34,999 (small novella)
HERO’S AGE: 30-39
HEROINE’S AGE: 25-29
HEAT LEVEL: Mostly Sweet (Shut The Door, Honey)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: Just a little (No “F” Bombs, but a little other stuff, no explicit sex)
Frankie Denton liked his life exactly the way it was. As the owner of a successful auto repair shop, the idea of adding a wife and kids to the mix never crossed his mind – until the day the sassy redhead he’d met at a friend’s wedding informs him she’s pregnant, a result of their one-night stand. Resolved to do the right thing, nonplussed when she declines his marriage proposal, he sets out to prove he’s not only husband material, but father material as well.
After spending an exhilarating night in the arms of the sexy mechanic she met in Celebration, Roxie Malone discovers she’s expecting. Embracing the prospect of motherhood, determined to raise the baby on her own, she’s shocked when Frankie steps up, demonstrating time and again that he’s eager to be part of their lives. But she has first-hand experience that fathers don’t always keep the promises they make, and she’s hesitant to put her trust in a man she hardly knows.
Frankie has a lot to contend with in order to win Roxie over; a jealous friend who wants to marry her himself, a complication with her pregnancy, and a misunderstanding that threatens to drive them apart permanently. Faced with the possibility of losing the family he never knew he wanted, he scrambles to find a way to convince her they should be together. With Christmas just around the corner, will he get the gift he wants most?
READ AN EXCERPT
He saw her before she saw him, his pace quickening when he spotted her red hair. Hurrying toward the bench where she was seated, the exuberant greeting he was about to deliver died on his lips, his smile fading as she stood up and faced him.
“Uh…” The connection between his brain and mouth shut down, rendering him speechless. His eyes, which had lighted upon her face, were now glued to her belly. Her very pregnant belly. Taking a step back, he shook his head to clear his vision, certain the hot sun was creating a mirage even though he was standing in the shade. It took a minute to realize she was talking to him. “What?”
“I asked if you’re okay. You look a little pale.” Roxie bit the inside of her cheek to keep from grinning. She knew her appearance was a shock, but at the same time, it was so damn good to see him. Her hormones, which had been flowing triple-time as of late, ratcheted up a notch, adding extra warmth to her already overheated body. “Why don’t we sit down.”
Frankie blinked, completely overwhelmed. “Uh, yeah, sure,” he said, sinking onto the bench.
“Everything okay over here?” A tall, slender woman with exquisite features appeared out of nowhere and hovered over them. She glanced from one face to the other, and back again, her eyes narrowing ominously.
“We’re fine,” Roxie assured her, wondering if it was a lie. “Celeste, this is Frankie. Frankie, Celeste, my best friend.”
“Hi.” Frankie didn’t intimidate easily, but the woman shooting daggers at him looked like she meant business. “How do you do?”
Before Celeste could answer, Roxie spoke up. “She’s fine. She’s going to wait for me over there, aren’t you?” Scowling pointedly, she motioned her head towards the pavilion.
“Right. I’ll be over there if you need me,” Celeste said, making ‘if’ sound like ‘when’.
“She’s kind of intense,” Frankie observed, waiting until the woman was out of earshot to comment.
“She’s protective,” Roxie corrected. “I’d be lost without her.”
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t-”
“No; it’s okay.”
They both fell silent, the sounds from the ballgame drifting over. Frankie had a million questions he wanted to ask, but only one took form. “Is it mine?”
Roxie grimaced. His blunt approach to the subject of her pregnancy bothered her, but she realized he had every right to ask. It was, after all, the reason she’d called him. “Yes; they’re yours.”
“They?” Frankie’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re having twins?”
“I am.” Her eyes shone as she rubbed her hand across her swollen belly. From the moment she’d discovered she was expecting – well, maybe not the exact moment – her maternal instincts had kicked in, and the recent revelation that she was carrying two babies rather than one intensified that reaction.
“How far along are you?”
“Almost thirty-one weeks.” She watched him gaze off into the distance. “Doing the math? Don’t strain yourself. I got pregnant on New Year’s. No question.”
Frankie flushed. “I didn’t mean-”
“Sure you did.” She gave a short laugh. “Unfortunately for you, I hadn’t been with anyone else for more than a year before, and no one since. I’m afraid you’re it.”
Washing his hands over his face, Frankie waited for his brain to catch up to his emotions. This wasn’t what he’d been expecting when she’d asked to meet. His excitement at seeing Roxie had withered the moment he laid eyes on her; not because he was the father of her babies, but because there were babies. For months, he’d envisioned the scenario, and it’d involved a lot more physical contact – hugging, kissing, engaging in certain activities that were illegal in public – and a lot less sitting around in uncomfortable silence. Since her phone call, his expectations had risen to such heights that he’d convinced himself their reunion would rival those found only in romance novels.
One look at her in her current state and his libido took a dive, guilt rushing in to fill the void because if it was at all possible, she was more beautiful than he remembered, protruding belly and all. Sneaking a quick glance at her face, he found her studying him, her expression serene. How was that possible when his world was turning upside-down?
As if reading his thoughts, she said, “I’ve had longer to get used to it.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…I should’ve said…” He trailed off weakly before adding, “Congratulations.”
Of all the reactions he was expecting, Roxie bursting into laughter wasn’t one of them. “Did I say something funny?”
Wiping her eyes, she dialed back her mirth. “No. Not at all. I apologize; my emotions are all over the place lately.”
“I can imagine.”
“Why don’t we start at the beginning?”
His mouth twitched. “I think it’s a little late for that, don’t you?”
Meet Kristine Raymond
Kristine Raymond didn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up until later in life. If you haven’t guessed, it’s being an author. Since writing and publishing her first book in 2013, she’s gone on to complete two romance series – one historical western and one contemporary – write an anecdotal, non-fiction short about her first year as an indie author, and try her hand at contemporary erotic drama. When she’s not writing, she’s learning how to navigate the publishing and promotional side of the business. When she’s not doing that, she enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.
Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Books + Main, and BookBub. You can also visit her website at www.kristineraymond.com to keep up with her latest news.