This book is so chockful of funny, heartwarming AND steamy scenes—it’s hard to pick just one for an excerpt. The ugly Christmas sweater scene was fun and I think the live nativity scene is one of the most fun scenes I’ve ever written. This book has a fainting goat in it, so you know that’s going to cause some fun. But there is also a lot of Christmas magic and memories. And making a little girl’s Christmas dream come true.
There is an adorable dog that Holt finds under the porch of the bunkhouse and against his better judgement, he feeds it and gives it a blanket. Eventually, it finds its way into Holt’s house and both his and Lainie’s hearts. There was a scene I had a lot of fun writing when Holt and Lainie are talking about naming the dog….
Lainey sucked in a breath as she reached to pet the dog’s side. “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t you keep her? She’s obviously already attached to you.”
“She just likes me because I feed her. But look at her. She’s too friendly not to be someone’s pet.” After getting over her initial skittishness of the night before, the dog had been cuddly and affectionate, either following after them if they walked around the bunkhouse or rolling over for belly rubs if she was sitting next to them. “Some family is probably missing her.”
“I need to at least call the Humane Society and the sheriff’s office to see if someone’s looking for her.”
“Okay, but if no one claims her, then she’s for sure your dog. And you should totally name her something Christmas-themed, since this is the time of year when you found her. How about Holly? Or Mistletoe? Or how about Carol?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “What a great idea. Then I can always be reminded of this holiday I’m such a huge fan of. And also, if I were keeping her, there’s no way in hell I’d name my dog Carol. Or Mistletoe. Unless you want me to just turn in my man card right now.”
Her eyes went dreamy as she stroked a finger along his sizable bicep. “As if. And no, I’m quite partial to your man parts. I mean your manly parts. Wait, I mean your manliness.” She dropped her head into her hands. “Pretend I did not say that.”
“Too late. You already said you loved my man parts.”
“I said partial to…and anyway, we were talking about the dog. And thinking of ideas of what to name her.”
“You were thinking of what to name her. But I’d rather go back to talking about what you love about my—”
She held up her hand to cut him off. “What about Jingle or Snickerdoodle for a name?”
“For my man parts? I don’t think they’d take too kindly to being called Snickerdoodle, but Jingle Balls does have a certain holiday ring to it.”
She let out one of her hearty laughs, the kind that came from her belly and snuck out as a surprise. The kind that made his manly heart melt like butter on a hot biscuit. “We are not going to start talking about your Christmas balls again,” she said, still laughing. “How about Eggnog or Snowy? For the dog.”
He grimaced. “How about not?”
He was acting grumpy, but he was really having fun with her. Too much fun. She was so easy to be with, and not just to be with, but to be himself with. He was only this comfortable with a few select people. Although his comfortableness with her was also interspersed with moments of fluttering heartbeats and a racing pulse whenever their hands touched, or her shoulder brushed his, or if he caught a whiff of her delicious scent. Her nearness could send jittery nerves spiraling through his stomach that made him feel like a love-crazed teenager, which probably shaved several points off that man card they were just discussing.
She tapped her fingers to her lips. “Okay, I’ll stop with the too cutesy. But I really still like the idea of a Christmas name. Just give me a second. I know I can think of a good one. Hmm. I suppose Cindy Lou Who is out?”
He shrugged. “Not if I can shorten it and just call her Lou.”
It was a little after four, and Holt was just thinking maybe he’d call Lainey and see if she wanted to grab a pizza when his phone buzzed in his pocket. He smiled when he saw the call was from her and hoped she was going to invite him out as he tapped the screen and held the phone to his ear. “Hey, beautiful.”
“Oh, I’m so glad I got you,” she said, her voice sounding panicked and out of breath. “I need your help. It’s an emergency.”
“What kind of emergency?” he asked, already heading toward his truck. “I’m on my way. I’ll be there in two minutes. What do you need? Are you hurt? Should I call an ambulance? Or the police?”
“No, I’m fine. I mean, I’m not hurt. It’s not that kind of an emergency. It’s a Christmas emergency.”
He stopped in his tracks. “What the hell is a Christmas emergency?”
“I just got a call from the church. And the whole Caldwell family all just came down with the flu.”
“Well, I feel awful bad for the Caldwell family, but I’m not sure how that affects me or constitutes an emergency in my book. Christmas or otherwise.”
“The Caldwell family was in charge of the live Nativity scene that’s supposed to happen tonight in front of the church. The family is huge, so they were filling the majority of the roles and now all we have left is one wise man. They heard I’ve been playing pinch hitter for some events in town, so they called me and asked me to take it over.”
“And you said no, of course, since you’ve got so much going on with trying to run your own.” He held back a groan because he already knew she’d agreed to do it.
“No, I said yes, of course, because who’s going to say no to the church. And besides that, it’s just for a few hours tonight and how hard can it be?”
“Famous last words. So, what do you need from me?”
“Besides their whole family playing the parts, they were also supplying all the animals. I think they’ve still got the camel, but now I need an entire Nativity cast and as many barnyard animals as we can muster. Which is where you come in.”
“I can help rustle up some animals, but I sure as hell hope you’re not planning on me to fill in as one of the other wise men.”
“No, I’ve got them covered. I need you to be Joseph.”
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
“Yes, I’m sure. You think I’d just show up with an eight-foot Douglas Fir and a box of tinsel without checking with someone first?”
Although… he thought as an idea came to him. “How about we work out a trade?”
She cocked an eyebrow and shot out her hip. “What kind of trade? Because I’m not into any of that kinky stuff.”
He barked out a laugh as she dropped her head into her hands. “Good to know. Disappointing, but still good to know.”
She was worried about her heart getting ripped out. He hadn’t even been sure that he still had a heart—not until he saw her walk out onto her porch last week—then it suddenly exploded in his chest, and for the first time in years, it felt like it started beating again.
It’s kind of naughty, but this line from the book made me laugh….
“We don’t have to be there until noon,” he said, reaching for the buttons of her flannel shirt. “So, we’ve got plenty of time for me to unwrap you as my Christmas gift. And the good thing about me being a grinch is that I’ve got something that’ll grow three sizes.”