“Lauren Layne writes characters I want to tackle and keep as my best friends, woven into smart, sexy, utterly romantic tales of love.”—Violet Duke
When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.
Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.
Praise for An Ex for Christmas
“Charming, witty, and sexy—An Ex for Christmas was so easy to devour! It had everything you want in a holiday read including a hunky best friend and quite a few tumultuous mistletoe scenes. Honestly, who knew mistletoe could be so hot?!”—R. S. Grey, USA Today bestselling author
Lauren Layne’s New York Times bestselling Oxford Novel series can be read in any order:
I WISH YOU WERE MINE
SOMEONE LIKE YOU
I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE
I THINK I LOVE YOU
Don’t miss any of Lauren Layne’s hot reads:
The Love Unexpectedly series: BLURRED LINES | GOOD GIRL | LOVE STORY | WALK OF SHAME | AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS
The Sex, Love & Stiletto series: AFTER THE KISS | LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH | JUST ONE NIGHT | THE TROUBLE WITH LOVE
The Redemption series: ISN’T SHE LOVELY | BROKEN | CRUSHED
The I Do, I Don’t series: READY TO RUN | RUNAWAY GROOM
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
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“I’m with your mother on this one, Kell,” Dad says. “I don’t like you spending Christmas alone. Doesn’t sit well.”
“I’m not alone,” I say for the 999th time since I surprised them with this trip back in October. “Mark’s parents invited me over for Christmas Eve. Christmas Day I’m going to eat cookies all day in my pajamas. Mark can come, too. If he’s lucky.”
My dad’s in the passenger seat, and reaches over to clamp Mark on the shoulder. “Thanks, son. You know how she gets around the holidays.”
I roll my eyes. “She gets appropriately merry, and will be even more jolly if she knows her parents are having the time of their lives sipping champagne on an enormous boat while whale-watching.”
Mom sighs. “It really is a dream come true. Thank you, sweetie. It must have been so expensive.”
“You two are worth it.”
It was crazy expensive. But they really are worth it. And truth be told, up until yesterday I had been experiencing tiny twinges of melancholy at the thought of waking up on Christmas morning without them.
But courtesy of my new plan, I have high hopes that my Christmas morning will involve naked time with me and the love of my life by the light of the Christmas tree.
I don’t tell my parents that bit. Obviously.
Mark catches my eyes in the rearview mirror as though reading my thoughts, and I give him a finger-wiggle wave.
He looks away, and a few minutes later, we’re at the airport and unloading my parents’ six suitcases at the curb. Yes. Six.
Mom is hugging me over and over, telling me yet again that I can go spend time with Great-Aunt Velda in Charlotte if I get a case of “the lonelies.”
“I’ll be fine,” I soothe, fluffing her gray hair affectionately. “I have Rigby and Mark and half the town to watch over me.”
Mark hauls the last of my parents’ suitcases out of his truck bed.
“All right, Byrnes. You’re all set,” he says.
Mark knows my parents—especially my mom—would fuss over me all day, so after flagging down someone to help with their luggage, which allows time for one more hug, Mark opens the front door of his truck and all but shoves me inside.
He closes the doors, then hugs my mom and does a man-hug thing with my dad, all while I look on and wave enthusiastically.
I continue to wave as he gets behind the wheel and pulls away from the curb. I wave and wave until they’re out of sight, then slump back against the seat with the tiniest of sighs. “I hope they have fun.”
“Can’t you just check your crystal ball and find out?”
I give him a ha ha look, then punish him for his comment by fiddling with the radio until I find the station that plays nothing but Christmas songs in December. Then I add it to his preset radio stations, replacing his favorite rock station. That’ll teach him to mock me.
“So, my ex list,” I begin, rummaging around in his console for the mini candy canes I stashed there last week. He does a double take, obviously not knowing they were there until just now.
I hold one up, offering it to him.
“To the candy, or to listening to me talk about my plan?” I say, peeling the cellophane off a candy cane and sticking the non-hook end in my mouth.
“Both,” he says, turning his attention back to the road.
I honor his wishes. For about thirty seconds.
“The list is kind of depressingly short,” I say.
“I never realized just how pathetic my love life was. Did you?”
Mark checks his mirror and changes lanes. “Can we not?”
“I didn’t include any of my boyfriends before tenth grade. Do you think I should have?”
He snorts. “What, your prepubescent affair with Kyle Cameron wasn’t one for the ages?”
I ignore this. “I also crossed off anyone that was married—”
“—or anyone that was mean.”
Mark looks over sharply. “Who was mean to you?”
I smile at his protectiveness. “Jeff Downing from eleventh grade was kind of a jerk. Called me fat.”
Mark makes a growling noise. “Who else?”
“Elton Drake. Stockbroker I dated a couple years ago. Yelled a lot.”
“Just bark, right? No bite?”
I pat his arm. “Just bark. And I kicked him to the curb.”
He gives a terse nod. “All right. So, who is on the list? How many people we talking?”
“And you’re going to believe a little old lady that one of them is your soulmate, or some shit like that?”
I study his profile. “Why are you so grumpy about this? You have Sheila. Why shouldn’t I have someone, too?”
Mark scratches his cheek. “I’m not saying I don’t want you to be happy. I just think if you were going to be happy with any of those guys, you would have been. You broke up with them for a reason.”
“Well, to be fair, three of the seven broke up with me.”
I smile at his loyalty. “Totally. Which is why I need to figure out a way to show them what they’re missing. Is it true that guys think women in elf costumes are hot?”
He gives me an incredulous look. “What?”
“You know,” I say, gesturing at midthigh. “Striped socks? Short green skirt? Cute little hat?”
He shakes his head. “Times like this, I deserve an award for having a female best friend.”
“It’s not like I asked you to take me shopping for the outfit. I’m just saying if I volunteered to dress up like an elf at the annual Christmas parade, would that be hot?”
“Quit being weird.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Because it was a ridiculous question. Starbucks?”
I give him a suspicious look. “You think Starbucks is overrated.”
“I also think I can buy my way out of this conversation with a froufrou peppermint whatever.”
“You’re not wrong,” I concede, crunching on my candy cane. “No more elf talk in exchange for a peppermint mocha Frappuccino, extra sprinkles. But . . . I do want your help on how I should approach Jack.”
“But he’s your friend.”
“Which is why I pass,” Mark says, pulling into the Starbucks parking lot. “I don’t want to get into the middle of you two. Again.”
A valid point. Jack Chance and I burned hot and heavy for about eight months in one of those volatile, fight-a-lot relationships that are as exhilarating as they are exhausting. Poor Mark had played mediator more times than I care to admit.
“Just tell me if he’s seeing anyone,” I plead. “One little answer, then I’ll leave you alone.”
In response, Mark climbs out of the truck and slams the door.
“Okay then,” I mutter.
I start to follow Mark into the coffee shop, but at the last minute I pull out my cellphone and send a quick text message. If Jack’s schedule at the sheriff’s office is anything like it used to be, he’ll be up early on weekends but off tonight.
Hey, it’s Kelly. (Just in case he deleted my phone number—like I said, things were messy there toward the end.) You free to catch up? Dinner tonight?
Must be a slow morning at the station, because his response is almost immediate: hey babe long time! dinner sounds good, where when?
I smile in triumph. How about Salt and Cedar, 7 pm?
perfect c u then.
I try not to cringe at the memory of how much his lack of punctuation and proper capitalization made me crazy.
I drop my phone back in my purse and scamper after Mark, to warn him that his two best friends will be dining at his restaurant tonight—together.
Oh, and I need to figure out how to convince him to hang some mistletoe . . .