Book 4 of The Love on Chance Avenue Series

Classic Romance

read an excerpt →

She’s swearing off men, but the rules don’t apply to him…

Charity Wright has a history of picking the wrong guys and has decided to swear off men for the month of December—no dates, no kisses, no holiday romance—a decision made all that much harder when she meets the man who could be her Mr. Right, Marietta native and professional baseball player, Quinn Douglas.

Just out of a long term relationship, Quinn Douglas isn’t looking for love at the Little Teton Resort, and he certainly isn’t interested in a girl from home, but now that he’s met Charity, he can’t get her out of his mind.  Charity even has him rethinking his career and life on the road.  Is Charity the missing piece he’s been looking for?

Classic Romance

Not Christmas Without You

read an excerpt →

She’s swearing off men, but the rules don’t apply to him…

Charity Wright has a history of picking the wrong guys and has decided to swear off men for the month of December—no dates, no kisses, no holiday romance—a decision made all that much harder when she meets the man who could be her Mr. Right, Marietta native and professional baseball player, Quinn Douglas.

Just out of a long term relationship, Quinn Douglas isn’t looking for love at the Little Teton Resort, and he certainly isn’t interested in a girl from home, but now that he’s met Charity, he can’t get her out of his mind.  Charity even has him rethinking his career and life on the road.  Is Charity the missing piece he’s been looking for?

Not Christmas Without You

Book 4 of The Love on Chance Avenue Series

Classic Romance

Tule Publishing

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Not Christmas Without You

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Douglas Quincy was beautiful, and maybe men shouldn’t be beautiful, but he was. He was tall and rugged and fit. Very fit. He had a body, and then he had that face. That face.

And that mouth.

A little shiver of appreciation rushed through Charity Wright as tried not to stare at Douglas’s mouth. Not easy when he was standing this close, and his mouth was just above her, his firm lips curved in a rueful smile.

He was a sports writer but he didn’t look like a writer. No, he was virile, and masculine, with dark blonde hair on the shaggy side, and lots of scruff on his square jaw. He looked confident and sexy and completely at ease with himself, even though they’d just peeled themselves off the ice after a massive collision that included fourteen odd travel agents who apparently couldn’t skate to save their lives.

Charity wiped frost from her mittens and then brushed more ice from her backside. “That was epic,” she laughed. “It was like roller derby ice-skating.”

And it had been epic when Marianne, one of two travel agents from California, careened across the outdoor ice rink, arms flapping, legs wobbling, wildly out of control, heading straight towards Douglas, her mouth open in a screech of terror. Douglas did what he could to stop her, but unfortunately there was a pair of panicked skaters behind Douglas, and they fell, tripping him and Marianne. And from there it was like dominoes, with every skater falling one after the other until everyone was down on the ice. Fortunately, no one was hurt. But it must have been quite a sight to see for those working the Little Teton resort’s ice rink tonight.

“With senior citizen ladies, no less,” Douglas said ruefully, untangling a strand of Charity’s long blonde hair from her ear. “I hope they’re okay. I hope you’re okay, Tricia,” he added.

His touch sent a frisson of pleasure through her, even as her stomach fell when he called her Tricia. She wished she could just tell him the truth. She wished she could come clean and confess that she wasn’t a travel agent, and that she wasn’t really Tricia Thorpe, manager of Marietta Travel, but Charity Wright, the receptionist at Melk Real Estate, two blocks down from Marietta Travel, and that Sam Melk, owner of Melk Real Estate, had given Charity the week off to lick her wounds and decide if she could handle working at Melk, because her lying, cheating boyfriend (ex-boyfriend) was a top realtor at Melk and Sam wanted Charity to take some time and decide if she could handle working with Greg in a professional capacity.

Charity had told Douglas about her bad breakup. But she’d left out the true nature of her job, as well as the decision she was trying to make—should she continue at Melk Real Estate, or was it time to find a new job? She’d been at Melk Real Estate for over three years, and Greg had only been there the past two years. Why should she leave just because Greg was a two-timing shmuck? But would it be easy facing him each day?

Nervous about the future, uneasy with her deception, she leaned against the rink railing, fingers knotted together as she gazed out over the now empty ice, thinking it was probably a good thing that the travel agent familiarization trip was ending in the morning. She didn’t think she could play this role much longer. She wasn’t an actress, and she didn’t like being dishonest with Douglas. But then, she hadn’t expected to come to Wyoming and meet someone like him.

She’d come to this cute little Wyoming ski town to escape her heart and all the stupid decisions she’d made because Charity had a history of falling for the wrong guy. Every. Single. Time.

Now here she was, hanging out with the most gorgeous guy she had ever met, a man who also happen to be impossibly smart and funny and nice. He was in short the whole package. And she was falling again. Falling for him.

She already knew how this would in. Badly.

“Well, everyone seems to be in one piece,” she said huskily. “That’s a good thing.”

“Definitely. I was worried about the older gals from Vancouver, but they popped up right away.”

“I think Canadians are known for their toughness.”

He laughed, flashing more white teeth. “Is that so?”

“So I’ve heard. I’ve never been to Canada, but I’ve met some from Calgary who have houses over at Flathead Lake and they’re all really lovely. Intrepid hikers.”

His lips curled. “Intrepid. That’s a good word.”

“I hoped you’d appreciate it.” She suddenly felt shy beneath his inspection. “You must travel to Canada to cover sports.”

He hesitated a moment then nodded. “I do like Canada. I’ve quite a few friends there.”

“One day I hope to go to Banff and Lake Louise.”

“I’m surprised as a travel agent you haven’t been yet.”

“Maybe this is my year. If I can drive to Wyoming, I can certainly drive to Canada—“ she broke off as Marianne appeared and gave Douglas a grateful hug for saving her.

“My pleasure,” he assured her gallantly.

Marianne beamed. “Your mother raised you right. You’re such a gentleman. Tell her I approve.”

His smile faded. His head momentarily dipped. “Will do,” he said gruffly.

He was quiet after Marianne and her friends continued on. Charity looked up at him, wondering what had happened to change the mood. He’d been so relaxed a moment before but he suddenly seemed pensive. “You okay?” she asked.

He nodded. “Yeah.” He glanced out at the still empty rink. “Do you want to get back out there, or have you had enough?”

She rubbed her hip. “I think I’m done.”

“Wish I’d been able to break your fall.”

“But then you wouldn’t have saved Marianne and she would have gone down too hard, and let’s be honest, at sixty, she’s far more likely to break something than me.”

“You’re a sweetheart,” he said, his deep voice a husky rumble that seemed to dance all the way through her, making her feel far more than she wanted to feel.

She didn’t know which made her more breathless, his deep voice or the words he’d said. You’re a sweetheart. Somehow he made it sound like the most wonderful endearment she’d ever heard. But that was what had made these past four days so wonderful. Douglas Quincy was so different from the men she usually met. He was smart, really smart, and kind, and considerate. He had a fantastic sense of humor and when he looked at her, he seemed to see her, really see her, and it made her feel so warm and fizzy on the inside. Gloriously warm and fizzy, which worried her, because she had a tendency to fall for all the wrong people and smart, confident, handsome Douglas lived in Seattle, not Marietta, Montana and tomorrow he’d be gone and she didn’t need to become attached.

“I’m not,” she demurred, giving her imagination a fierce tug. She needed to get her hopes and dreams in hand. She was already feeling too tender. Tender was bad. Wistful was worse. She’d come here to Little Teton Resort to put some distance between her and her embarrassing breakup. The last thing she needed to do was jump from the fire into the frying pan. Her heart was still banged up from Greg who had two-timed her and nearly everyone in Marietta had known it, but her. It had been painful that her own sister had to tell her that her boyfriend was a creep and a cheat. Charity still hurt from the shame. She had to protect what remained of her pride and self-esteem.

“But you are,” Douglas insisted. “You’re pretty fun. I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you this week. I’m sorry it’s ending tomorrow.”

Her heart turned over yet again. He made her feel so many things, and maybe that’s what scared her so much. But how could she not feel something? He was interesting and appealing, and when he smiled at her, like he was smiling at her now, it just made everything inside of her go hot, and cold, and deliciously shivery.

He had the best smile she’d ever seen. His teeth were perfect, and his lips were perfect, and when he smiled a dimple appeared at the corner of his perfect mouth.

He really needed to stop smiling at her. He was making her feel things and she couldn’t feel more things, not when she was already warm and tingly, with the lovely tingly sensation coursing through her, making her hope. Dream. “I’m glad I met you,” she said carefully. “And glad you saved Marianne and then picked up all the other ladies and that one man from the ice. You can skate.”

“I played a lot of hockey growing up.”

“Is that how you got into sports writing?”

“You could say that. I’ve always loved sports.”

“So what else did you play growing up?”

“Football, basketball….baseball.”

“Did you play in college?”

“I did.”

“When did you stop playing to be a writer?”

He hesitated. “When I realized you can’t play forever.”

She grimaced. “True. You have to pay bills.”

He laughed, a big laugh that was another deep rumble, and the rumble burrowed deep into her heart. She could fall hard for him. She could.

But she couldn’t.

She didn’t need more heartache. She wasn’t in a place where she could risk more. And yet it was impossible to look away from his face. Douglas was handsome from afar, but devastating close. “I hope you’ll stay in touch,” she added, trying to pretend that her heart wasn’t pounding, not wanting him to know just how attracted she was to him. Not wanting him to realize how much she wanted him to kiss her. Wanting a kiss was dangerous.

She couldn’t let herself think like this. She had to keep him at arm’s length. Needed to keep it platonic so he wouldn’t have the power to hurt her.

And then as if heaven had heard her first prayer, and not the second one, Douglas drew her close and his head dropped, his mouth covering hers in a kiss.

The kiss was light and yet was so electric she felt every little bit of her come to life.

Trembling, she leaned closer, and he wrapped his arm around her, holding her against him, and he felt amazing. So much muscle, so much strength. He was warm and hard and real.

It was a kiss that made her eyes sting and her heart believe.

Like a fairy tale. Like a happy ever after…

He deepened the kiss, her lips parting beneath the pressure of his, and her head spun. Charity didn’t think she ever had a kiss like this. It was a kiss on her lips and yet her body warmed, and glowed.

How did he do that? How did he make a kiss whisper of hope? This kiss made her yearn for happiness and magic. If only happy-ever-afters really did come true. Because at thirty-three she was beginning to be afraid, wracked with doubt that the happy ever after would happen for her.

And just like that, reality returned.

Abruptly, she remembered who she was, and what she was doing, and it made her chest tighten and ache. This had to stop now. This beautiful, magical kiss was a mistake.

She said as much as soon as she pulled away. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “This isn’t right. I didn’t mean to lead you on.”

“No, I’m sorry.” Douglas took a step back and then another, before jamming his hands into his coat pockets. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“I really like you though,” she said quickly. Too quickly. “I enjoy you as a… friend. I need you as a friend.” It was true, too. He was the first man in a long time that had treated her with kindness and respect. He was the first man in ages who’d talked to her, really talked to her, asking her what she thought and what she wanted, and Charity realized that in so many of her relationships she was just an ornament. A decorative something that didn’t matter…

Her eyes burned and a lump filled her throat.

She couldn’t bear for him to become one of those men who treated friends one way and their girlfriend another.

He’d been so…awesome…this week at the ski resort and this is how she wanted to remember him. Kind and strong and awesome.

She’d told him things about herself that she wouldn’t have said if they weren’t strangers unlikely to see each other again. She’d revealed far more of herself then probably wise.

“I am a friend,” he said quietly.

She nodded. Good. She didn’t want to lose his friendship, and if they dated, it would change. He would change. If they became romantically involved, he wouldn’t be so kind and protective. He might take her for granted, treating her like—

She broke off, eyes stinging, throat aching.

She wasn’t dirt, and she was tired of feeling like she was dirt. It was her fault for allowing men to treat her badly. It’s why she’d come on this trip. It’s why her friend, Tricia Thorpe told her to take her place on the travel agent fam.

Tricia had wanted to get Charity out of town, thinking Charity would benefit from some time away from Marietta and its gossip about cheating Greg who’d been dating another woman in Livingston this entire year when she’d believed they were exclusive and serious, serious enough they’d discussed the future. Marriage. But it had been a game. He’d been playing her.

Mortifying.

“I feel like a jerk,” Douglas said gruffly. “I totally misread the situation.”

“It’s just that I don’t have a lot of friends like you,” she said unsteadily. “We had such a good time here. It would be great to stay in touch and that way if ever by chance, I’m in Seattle, we could have dinner, or if you’re ever this way again, we could meet for a drink or coffee.” She touched the tip of her tongue to her upper lip, her mouth dry. “That is, if we’re still friends. If I haven’t messed everything up.”

“You haven’t messed anything up.” His voice was deep, and apologetic. “If anyone is to blame, it’s me. I think I’m rusty. Been in a relationship so long I think I forgotten how be single.”

Charity shook her head. He’d done everything right. That was the problem. He had done every single thing right. He wasn’t to blame for the kiss in any way. She was the problem, the one with terrible self-esteem. “I better go back to my room and pack. I’m leaving early in the morning.” She gave him what she hoped was a bright smile. “Take care, and I look forward to reading your article on Wyoming ski resorts.”

“So if I want you to book me a trip somewhere, how do I find you?”

“I’m sure there are great travel agencies in Seattle.”

“Why can’t I use you?”

Color suffused her face, making her cheeks hot. “Well, I suppose if you’re ever desperate, you can find me in Marietta Travel.”

He gave her an odd look. “Marietta Travel….Wyoming?”

“No. Montana.”

“You’re from Marietta?”

“You’ve heard of it?”

His expression was almost incredulous. “I have.”

end of excerpt

Not Christmas Without You is available in the following formats:

Tule Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-949707-34-2

December 6, 2018

Not Christmas Without You

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