“So there’s one thing I now know about you. You’re a good liar.” Allison folded her arms at her chest.
“Good, maybe. But I value honesty. Sometimes lying to someone is for their own good, though. A little white lie never really hurt anyone. Here’s one for you,” he leaned in closer and lowered his voice, “I have absolutely no interest in dating you, either.”
Her cheeks flushed.
“And I don’t think you’re the most beautiful woman in this room, and the thought of taking you out does not appeal to me whatsoever.” He shook his head. “Nope, not one little bit.”
She smiled. “Now I know two things about you. You lie well and you’re a smooth talker. So, do you agree to my proposal?”
Troy could just say yes, but he was enjoying engaging her in a conversation. “You know, when I was kid, Christmas was always magical. I’d sit with the toy catalog and create this huge, mile-long list of the things I wanted. I never got so excited about a pencil and paper.”
“Did you get everything on the list?” she asked.
“So your family had money?”
He nodded. His family practically owned the town he’d grown up in. He didn’t know what it felt like to want for something until his cousin Dale had died in 9-11, the deciding factor in him joining the military. “I figure the more money raised for those kids, the better their Christmas will be.”
“That’s my goal. I want this to be the best Christmas Mercy’s kids have ever had.”
“So, if I have to take you out . . .” He trailed off, smiling at her.
“We’re just going to talk. Have a meal or something together. No kissing, no handholding.”
Troy held up his hands. “I’m an honorable guy. I don’t force myself on women. Truth is, I usually have to fight them off.” He winked again.
“And you can’t act like that when you meet my mother.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“All flirty and charming. She’ll never believe that I’d fall for someone like that.”
He tried not to take offense because no matter what she was saying, she was attracted to him. He could see it in her dilated pupils and the way her chest rose just slightly under her racing pulse. “No? What kind of guy exactly would you fall for?”
Allison looked around the room. There was still a nice-sized crowd laughing and mingling. Christmas music filled the merry air. “I wouldn’t fall for any kind of guy right now. That’s why I’m pretending with you.”
I really liked Allison and Troy together; the whole buying-a-guy-to-be-your-fake-date-for-a-family-gathering is becoming a bit of a troupe, but it still works for me. Plenty of room for chemistry and denying feelings and all that good stuff that just works when it’s done well. Throw in the fact that an anti-Christmas Marine manages to get his Christmas mojo back and yeah, it’s going to be a win all around. Throw in orphans, and I’m a goner.
I was a little bummed that we didn’t really see Troy working with his K-9 partner much (or at all, really–he spends time with him towards the end, and that was about it) but we don’t really see either of them at work all that much throughout. All the more couple time, then, which it’s hard to argue with 😉
The one aspect of the story that made me a little nuts, though, was Allison’s tendency to overreact to…things. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there’s two times where something happens and she goes completely around the bend over them. Like, her brand-new-relationship’s-finished kind of over the bend. That part had me gripping my ereader a bit more firmly than usual and giving her a squinty-eyed glare, but since it’s a romance I knew she’d come to her senses…eventually.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
USA Today Bestselling Author, Annie Rains, is a contemporary romance author who writes small town love stories set in fictional towns on the coast of North Carolina. Raised in one of America’s largest military communities, Annie often features heroes who fight for their countries, while also fighting for a place to call home and a good woman to love. When Annie isn’t writing, she’s spending time with her husband and 3 children, or reading a book by one of her favorite authors.