Oh, I am so ready for Christmas reads! (But not Christmas–I’ve just barely started shopping…)
This Christmas, get ready to be nice… and naughty.
by Carmen Falcone
After doing time for a crime she didn’t commit, paramedic nurse Sydney Bell avoids trouble at all costs. Yet, trouble comes knocking on her door when a dying patient begs her to deliver a mysterious message to hunky Argentine investor Alejandro Soto.
Alejandro needs to publish the one book that will help restore his image and aid his uncle’s political campaign. It’s full steam ahead until a feisty redheaded woman storms into his office and offers a clue to his biographer’s death. He’s skeptical about Sydney, and laughs it off but after she’s attacked, Alejandro realizes he has no choice but to protect her, whether she likes it or not. He can’t have another death on his conscience.
A crazy attraction threatens to make Sydney surrender to her Argentine savior, but will she be ready for the Christmas scandals that will rock them along the way?
by Michele de Winton
All Gabby Phillips wants is a Christmas without drama. Fat chance. Not when the new owner of her department store is tall, dark and dangerous, Nicolas Morganti, the man she ran out on. The same man her father stole half a million dollars from and the man her body still craves in the deepest hours of the night. Now she has to keep her cool, and her biggest secret – because if he finds out he has a son, he might just take the last scrap of Christmas spirit she’s got left.
Nicolas Morganti always gets what he wants. This Christmas that includes his competitor’s huge department store chain. But when he’s told money is missing and that Gabrielle Phillips works there, it doesn’t take him long to point the finger. Nobody’s ever run out on him before, and the way Gabby left was colder than a snow storm. Now it’s time to settle the score. Revenge can be gift wrapped, right?
“You storm into my office and want to investigate me? Sweetheart, this isn’t an episode of Law & Order.” He stretched to his full height and walked closer to her. The temperature dropped a few degrees as he stared into her hazel eyes. “You told me you had a message for me. What is it?” he asked, skeptical. If nothing else, his former fiancée Carla had provided him with a PhD in reading women’s body language.
She lifted her chin, and he wished he could come closer and assess her—and savor her—like the bouquet of a new wine. What an interesting woman. Freckles peppered her nose and high cheekbones, and her lips thinned into a tight line. Her jaw was a tad too square. His gaze dropped to her soft neck; there was a line above her collar where her skin was swollen and marred. Wondering how she’d gotten that scar, he cocked his head for a better view, but she moved and her scar disappeared into her cotton shirt. How big was it? By the time his eyes reached hers again, she had taken a couple steps away from him.
She ran her fingers along the collar of her shirt. “Maybe this was a mistake.”
She started to walk away, but he reached out and took her elbow. “You don’t walk in here, do this little show, and leave. Tell me whatever you came to say.” How sick was he of women playing games? Extremely.
Fear flickered in her eyes, and she turned her attention to his fingers clasping her flesh. She yanked back her arm, clenched her teeth. “Don’t touch me.”
That’s…different. He shook his head and offered her more space, lifting his hands in surrender. “I won’t touch you,” he said, his drawl a notch smoother. “Just tell me.”
“Frank Lewis tried to tell me something. It was hard to understand him, but he mentioned your name, and said he was sorry for…putting you at risk.”
A chuckle floated up his throat. “Are you serious? What else did he say?”
“That was it,” she said.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Sydney Bell. Listen, I have no ulterior motive to come here—and trust me, I have no talent for pranks. That’s what he told me before he lost consciousness.”
He inhaled and peered at her. Ever since he’d touched her, she’d lost some of her apparent composure.
Shuffling her feet, she finally studied his office, without as much as a smile of approval. Her attitude hinted that all she wanted was a distraction.
“Right. And I should take your word for it?”
“You can ask my coworker Patty if you don’t believe me.”
“Did you tell the police?” The last thing he wanted was an absurd rumor to make it to the headlines. What could possibly Frank have on him to put him at risk? With his uncle’s reelection campaign in full speed, his family couldn’t afford a scandal. Another one.
“No.” Her expression changed, fear crept in around her eyes. Alejandro’s hackles raised but she didn’t give him a chance to dig into why she kept the police out of it. “Look, sometimes people say weird things when they think they’re injured. It seemed odd at the time but I was trying not to make too much of it. Then this morning, I checked the news and saw that he died. I figured, maybe I should pass that message on.”
Alejandro drew back and studied her. She arched a thin eyebrow at him and tilted her head to the side, which exposed a bit more of her scar. He leaned toward her, narrowed his eyes as if there were a way to see more. Was she a burn victim? Had she gotten in trouble with the law?
She cleared her throat, and pulled the hem of her collar up. “A—Are you done gawking at me?”
He shrugged. “You barge in and say I’m supposed to be at risk, well, it’s been a day, and I’m still doing just fine.” He returned to the glass console and drank a mouthful of whisky. The burning alcohol coated his throat and loosened his limbs, but still didn’t give him any of the answers he sought. Had his psycho ex sent this woman to rattle him? And if so, why? This silly little prank could throw him off. It was in bad taste, no doubt. Why would Carla do that? And why on earth would she go through Frank to get to him? It didn’t add up.
“Good for you, Mr. Soto. Then my work here is done.” She spun on her boots without as much as a farewell. A woman of few words. He lifted his glass, staring in her direction. Hell, he had to admire that.
Why not admire a bit more? Her cell beeped, and she pulled it to read a message. He quirked his head to glance at her ass, and imagined the great butt those jeans hid. But something stilled her. Her phone slipped from her hands.
He reached her in a couple of long strides. She bent to grab her phone, and he didn’t miss the trembling of her fingers as they gripped the screen.
“Are you okay?” he asked, though no, she didn’t seem okay.
Her spine locked into place, and she glanced at the phone once more before meeting his gaze. Her skin paled. She licked her upper lip and took a deep breath. Her eyes darkened to a murky brown, and a quick twitch told him she was trying too freaking hard to remain emotionless.
“You got some bad news?”
“It was an email from my work. Patty…is dead,” she whispered.
Cupping her chin in his hand he tipped her head up and looked into her flashing indigo eyes. Dynamite. No wonder she was such a good con-artist.
Closing his own eyes to avoid her hypnotic gaze softening his resolve, Nicolas waited. And, yes, she brushed her lips over his.
Her mouth fitted perfectly with his and she tasted of summer—the bright air of a sunny day, the crisp white wine she’d just drunk. For a countless moment the kiss was all there was. The mingling of their breath, their lips, their heartbeats.
But like it had in the Santa grotto, their passion grew quickly and without thought. Nicolas ran his hand from her chin to brush the soft fabric of her shirt. As if it had a mind of its own a button came undone with no effort from his fingers. Then another, and another. Soon her shirt was completely open and he lay her back on the sofa, his mouth moving down as he did so. Baring his teeth he nipped at her breast through the pale pink lace of her bra and she arched her back, thrusting herself upward to meet him. This was the Gabrielle he remembered. The woman of open passion and transparent need. She raked her hands through his hair and writhed under him, clearly as ready as he was to consummate their meeting.
“You feel so warm,” he whispered against her soft stomach. Yet the subdued light from the Christmas tree stole the usual olive tone of her skin and cast an alabaster hue to her body. She was so pale. So delicate. So ready.
Carmen Falcone learned at an early age that fantasizing about fictional characters beats doing math homework any day. Brazilian by birth and traveler by nature, she moved to Central Texas after college and met her broody Swiss husband—living proof that opposites attract. She found in writing her passion and the best excuse to avoid the healthy lifestyle everyone keeps bragging about. When she’s not lost in the word of romance, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, being walked by her three crazy pugs, reading, catching up with friends, and chatting with random people in the checkout line.
Michele de Winton loves sunshine, chardonnay, (preferably together), beaches, trees, great vegetarian food, steamy writing and happy endings. She’s been known to be an all round arty type and it’s no wonder that her first romance had a little sparkle of the stage tucked into its pages. Being a writer was not was she was supposed to be when she ‘grew up’ but then neither was being a dancer. Her poor parents. They thought that when she toddled off to law school they’d bred a responsible, useful adult and instead they got a performer and word junkie. Sometimes her performing past jumps into the dress up box and requires attention. But most of the time she’s content to stay in her PJs. All day. She writes surrounded by the whisper of trees from her home in New Zealand and with only intermittent interruptions from her two young sons and husband. (Okay more like regular interruptions, but dreaming is free.)
You can check out her other work or get in touch at www.micheledewinton.com