Unwrappedby Erin McCarthy
Santa in a Kilt
USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman
The wind-whipped December sands of the isle of Kinloch invigorate Kira MacLeod as she sets out to tame rugged Shay Callaghan, a Scottish bachelor as wary of a wedding ring as a snowman is of the hot sun./b>/b>
Mistletoe and mischief are this season's hottest gifts. . .
Santa in a Kilt
USA Today bestselling author Donna Kauffman
The wind-whipped December sands of the isle of Kinloch invigorate Kira MacLeod as she sets out to tame rugged Shay Callaghan, a Scottish bachelor as wary of a wedding ring as a snowman is of the hot sun.
New York Times bestselling author Erin McCarthy
While a blizzard blankets the world outside, Blue Farrow burrows into the arms of her highway hunk at the No Tell Motel. Nice and oh-so-naughty, Blue and her man open up to each other as they keep the Yule log burning.
National bestselling author Kate Angell
Snowed under in Chicago, free spirit Allie is trapped in Dutton's department store on Christmas Eve when the lights go off and our snow angel finds herself face to face with a dashing retail heir and her host for a night of winter wonder. . .
Read an Excerpt
By Erin McCarthy Donna Kauffman Kate Angell
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Santa can suck it." Blue Farrow kept an eye on the highway and tried to hit the buttons on the radio to change the station. She was going to grind her teeth down to nubs if she had to listen to Christmas songs for another twelve hours. It was like an IV drip of sugar and spice and it was making her cranky.
Was she the only one who thought a fat dude hanging around on your roof was a bit creepy? And why were those elves so happy in that Harry Connick Jr. song? Rum in the eggnog, that's why. Not to mention since when did three ships ever go pulling straight up to Bethlehem? She wasn't aware it was a major port city.
Yep. She was feeling in total harmony with Scrooge. "Bah, Humbug," she muttered when her only options on the radio seemed to be all Christmas all the time or pounding rap music.
Blue had never been a big fan of Christmas, never having experienced a normal one in her childhood since her flaky mother (yes, flaky considering she'd named her daughter after a color) had done Christmas experimental style every year, never the same way twice, disregarding any of her daughter's requests. The trend on feeling tacked onto her parents' Christmas had continued into Blue's adulthood, and this year she had been determined to have a great holiday all on her terms, booking herself on a cruise with her two equally single friends. She had turned down her mother's invitation to spend the holiday with an indigenous South American tribe and her father's request to join him with his barely legal wife and their baby girl, and instead she was going to sip cocktails in a bikini.
The road in front of her was barely visible, the snow crashing down with pounding determination, the highway slick and ominous, the hours ticking by as Blue barely made progress in the treacherous conditions. Planning to drive to Miami from Ohio instead of flying had been a financial decision and would give Blue the chance to make a pit stop in Tennessee and visit her old friend from high school, but the only thing heading south at the moment was her vacation. It was Christmas Eve, her cruise ship departed in twenty hours, and she'd only made a hundred miles in six hours, the blizzard swirling around her mocking the brilliance of her plan as she drove through the middle of nowhere Kentucky.
She was going to have to stop in Lexington and see if she could catch a flight to Miami, screw the cost. Not that planes would be taking off in this weather, but maybe by morning. If she flew out first thing, she could be in Florida in plenty of time for her four o'clock sail time. All she had to do was make it to Lexington without losing her sanity from being pummeled with schmaltzy Christmas carols or without losing control of her car in the snow.
When she leaned over and hit the radio again and found the Rolling Stones she nearly wept in gratitude. Classic rock she could handle.
But not her car. As the highway unexpectedly curved and dipped, she fishtailed in the thick snow.
Blue only managed a weak, "Oh, crap," before she gripped the hell out of the wheel and slid sideways down the pavement, wanting to scream, but unable to make a sound.
She was going to die.
If there hadn't been anyone else on the road, she might have managed to regain control. But there was no stopping the impact when she swung into the lane next to her, right in the path of an SUV. She wasn't the only idiot on the road and now they were going to die together.
Blue closed her eyes and hoped there were bikinis and margaritas in the afterlife.
Santa was the man. Christian Dawes sang along to the radio at the top of his lungs, the song reminding him of his childhood, when he had listened carefully on Christmas Eve for the telltale sound of reindeer paws. Tossing the trail mix out for the reindeer to chomp on, putting the cookies on a plate for Santa, the magic and wonder and awe of waking up to a ton of presents, those were some of his best memories.
Someday when he had his own kids, he'd create all of those special moments for them, but right now Christian was content to play awesome uncle, arriving on Christmas Eve loaded down with presents for all his nieces and nephews. His trunk was stuffed with spoils, and he'd brought enough candy to earn glares from his two sisters and potentially make someone sick. But it wasn't Christmas until a kid stuffed his face with candy then hurled after a session on the sit and spin. That's what home videos and infamous family stories were made of.
Unfortunately the lousy weather was slowing him down on his drive from Cincinnati to Lexington. He'd left work later than he'd intended anyway, then by the time he'd hit Kentucky, he'd been forced down to thirty miles an hour because apparently the road crews had taken the holiday off and had decided not to plow. He hoped his family wasn't holding up dinner for him at his parents' house.
If he wasn't gripping the steering wheel so hard he would call someone and let them know he still had a couple of hours ahead of him, but he had no intention of reaching for his phone. A glance to the right showed a car next to him, but other than that, he could barely see the road in front of him. He needed Santa to dip down and give him a lift in his sleigh or it was going to be midnight before he arrived.
What he didn't need was a car accident.
In his peripheral vision, he saw the car next to him slide, spinning out so fast that Christian only had time to swear and tap his brakes before he hit the car with a crunch and they went careening towards the guardrail. When his SUV stopped moving a few seconds later, despite his efforts to turn the skid, he had the other car pinned against the railing.
"Shit!" Christian turned off his car and leaped out, almost taking a header in the thick snow, but terrified that he'd injured someone. "Are you okay?" he asked, yelling through the howling snow as he peered into the driver's side window.
The major impact of his SUV's front end had been in the backseat and trunk, so he hoped if there was an injury it wasn't serious. But with the snow smacking him in the face and the window plastered with wet flakes, he couldn't really see anything.
He knocked on the glass and when it started to slide down, he sighed in relief.
"Are you okay?" he said again now that the person in front of him could hear him.
"Are you okay?" she said simultaneously.
And Christian became aware that he was staring at the most strikingly beautiful woman he'd ever seen in his whole life.
Chapter TwoBlue sat in her car chest heaving, nodding rapidly to the man staring at her in concern as she tried to calm down. She was alive. Not dead. Everything on her body was intact and she had no pain.
"I'm fine. God, that was scary. I'm sorry, it was my fault, I skidded."
He leaned forward into the window, his face coming inches from hers. "Say that again, the wind is really howling."
"I said I'm sorry," she repeated loudly, suddenly aware that the guy she'd collided with was damn cute.
Wearing a knit winter hat and a camel colored jacket, he looked very rugged and outdoorsy, his chin sporting some scruff that matched the color of his coat. He had deep brown eyes and when his mouth spread into a grin, he had a warm, crooked smile.
"Well, you don't have to yell at me," he said, tone teasing.
Blue felt her heart rate returning to normal and at his words she felt her shoulders drop in relief. She laughed. "Okay, I'll leave that to your wife."
It was a comment she would have made to any man under the circumstances, but she had to admit she was a little curious what his answer would be.
"No wife. No girlfriend. No one at all to yell at me."
Yes. Not that it mattered. At all. But she could hear the flirt creeping into her voice. "Then I guess this was a thrill for you."
He laughed. "Totally. I'm going to move my car then we'll just have to back yours up, okay? Let's see if we can get you back on the road."
Right. The car accident. The fact that he was standing in the middle of a blizzard. Her crunched vehicle. Those were relevant. Not his dimples or broad shoulders.
"Wait for me to move before you try to back up."
Blue became aware that her teeth were chattering. "Got it." As soon as he walked away, she rolled her window back up and turned up the heat. She wasn't wearing a coat and it was finger-numbing, nipple-raising cold outside.
For a split second as he pulled his SUV back onto the road in front of her, heading in the correct direction, Blue wondered if he would just take off and leave her there. But her cynicism, while well honed, didn't even last a full minute before it was obvious he was walking back to her car, pulling gloves onto his hands. His bottom half, which hadn't been visible before, was just as hot as the top. Those were nice jeans, hugging in the right places.
Blue hoped there would be a multitude of smoking hot guys on the cruise because her sex drive had kicked into high gear for whatever reason.
"Okay, try to back up and I'll guide you," he said when she rolled her window back down.
She did, and her tires just spun in the snow. "Damn." She leaned her head out. "How deep is it?"
"Pretty deep. And you can't rock it because you're halfway through the guardrail. If you accelerate too hard you could go off the cliff."
Yeah, no thanks. Blue frowned at her steering wheel. This complicated things. She tried to reverse again, but her car spun ominously to the left.
"You need to get out of the car. This is looking dangerous. We'll call you a tow."
Leave it to her to screw up a vacation by nearly driving off a cliff. Turning her car off, silencing John Lennon mid-lament, she grabbed her purse and her jacket and pushed the door open. She wasn't wearing appropriate shoes. She had wanted to be comfortable so she was wearing zebra print ballet flats with jeans, a vintage Motley Crue T-shirt and a funky red scarf. Her jacket was a thin black velvet designed for indoor use more so than out. This was going to suck. A lot. Much more than listening to Santa and his ho ho hos.
The wind slapped her in the face as she pulled on her jacket and tried to button it. After a few seconds, she realized it was futile and tried not to whimper as snow cascaded over her mostly bare feet. Her nose instantly froze, her shoulders hunched in revolt, and her jeans decided at that moment to slid down, allowing her midriff to be pummeled by wet fat flakes.
At least her companion was looking at her in sympathy. "Come sit in my car while we call somebody."
By the time they hiked the twenty feet to his car and Blue slid into the passenger seat, her mouth was stuck open as little gasps of horror escaped. Her entire body felt like someone had repeatedly stabbed her with a million sharp pins. Her companion had turned his car off in the interim so it wasn't really any warmer than it was outside, but at least there was no wind and no snow smacking her in the face and torturing her feet. She stomped her shoes to remove the excess snow and tried not to whimper.
He cranked on the car and the heat and looked at her. "Is that the only jacket you have?"
"This is it unless I want to change into flip-flops. I'm going on a cruise. I didn't want a bunch of winter stuff with me." Blue touched her nose. It was still there, despite her not being able to feel it.
"Here." He leaned into the backseat and rifled through a bag. He emerged with two wool socks. "Put these on."
They were like crack to the addict, dangling in front of Blue, as tantalizing as a winning lottery ticket. But it seemed really weird to take socks from a stranger. "Don't you need these?"
"They're just socks. I can get more." He gave her a look of amusement. "Just put them on. You look like a Popsicle. But a cute one."
That made a certain body part unthaw slightly. "Thanks." As she kicked her ballet flats off and bent her knee so she could drag on one of the thick socks, she added, "I'm Blue, by the way."
"What?" He looked at her, his expression one of confusion. "Don't worry, you'll warm up. I don't think you're at risk for hypothermia yet."
Blue laughed. "No. I mean, I'm Blue. That's my name." She abandoned the sock for a minute and stuck out her hand to him. "Blue Mariposa Farrow. Pleased to meet you."
Understanding hit Christian and he felt like a first-class idiot. "Oh, shit, sorry. I'm Christian Dawes. Nice to meet you too, though I wouldn't have minded better circumstances."
"No kidding. And don't worry about not catching my name. I'm well aware it's unusual. My mom was going for unique and lovely territory, but she just landed in weird."
Blue went back to struggling with his sock, and as Christian watched her long and elegant fingers, and took in that wide smile below her high cheekbones, he thought that the name actually suited her. She had black hair with blunt bangs, the sides angling down past her chin. Her eyes had dark shadow on them and her fingernails were painted a deep blue. There was something very edgy yet playful about her appearance and her expressions. He'd only spent ten minutes with her and he could already see that she emoted with exaggerated facial expressions. She did the eyebrow arch, the head tilt, and a whole variety of movements with her lips.
Lips that he wouldn't mind being on his.
"It's definitely a unique name, but it's actually very pretty. Mariposa is butterfly in Spanish, isn't it?"
"Yes." Blue finished with the socks and sighed. "Ah, that feels good. And if you think Blue Butterfly is a pretty name for a grown woman you're smoking something and I don't mean a Marlboro. It's a corny name. But I'm used to being Blue." She did a fake drumroll on her knees and grinned. "Ba dum dum."
Christian laughed. "Well, I guess my parents went for the obvious. My sisters' names are Mary and Elizabeth. I think if they could have gotten away with naming me Jesus they would have."
"See, my mom would have just gone for it. So be grateful."
He was perfectly content sitting in his warm car staring at her, but Blue pulled her cell phone out of her purse.
"I better call someone if I hope to ever get out of here."
Right. Her wrecked car. Christian picked his phone up out of the cup holder, figuring he should call his family and warn them of the delay. Except he had no bars on his cell phone. He tried to call his mom anyway but it didn't do anything. "Is your phone working?"
Blue was frowning at her own cell phone and holding it up in the air. "No. Damn, this could be a problem."
"It must be the hill messing things up." They had slid to a stop nestled in a curve where the highway had been carved out of a steep hill. Given the curve and the incline, it was no wonder Blue had lost control in the piled-up snow. Christian rolled down his window and stuck his phone out, hoping miraculously it would start working. It didn't.
"Where are we? Are we close to an exit? I guess I'll have to walk."
Christian dropped his phone back down and hit the button to put his window back up. Then he shot the woman next to him an incredulous look. "Are you crazy? You can't walk in this. And if you think for one minute that I would let you walk in this, then you have another think coming. It's probably two miles to the next exit and you're half naked."
"I'm not half-naked!" Her face scrunched up. Okay, maybe that had been melodramatic but he was appalled at the thought of her walking in a blizzard with a velvet jacket without gloves and those stupid girl shoes that exposed the tops of her feet. Sexy, yes, practical, no.
"Well, you're certainly not dressed for taking a stroll in a snowstorm. And I would be a complete jerk if I let you do that. I can drive you to the exit, it's no problem."
Her mouth opened like she was going to argue, but then she just nodded. "Okay, thanks, I appreciate it."
"I'm going to run back and grab your suitcase. You might be stuck in town in a motel overnight before they can tow your car." Seeing her about to protest, Christian argued, "And before you say you can do it, just let me do it. I'm wearing boots."
Excerpted from Unwrapped by Erin McCarthy Donna Kauffman Kate Angell Copyright © 2011 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Erin McCarthy, the author of A Date with the Other Side, Bad Boys Online, Smart Mouth, Houston, We Have a Problem, and Mouth to Mouth.
Donna Kauffman is the USA Today bestselling author of chick lit, paranormal romance, and sexy romance. Beverly Brandt writes chick lit and women'sfiction, as well as romantic adventure under a psuedonym. Alesia Holliday is the author of American Idle and Nice Girls Finish First, and she writes young adult novels under a pseudonym. Erin McCarthy is the USA Today bestselling author of Bad Boys Online, Smart Mouth, and A Date With the Other Side.
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The first book in the combo is nice, the other two - not so much.