Jennifer McClendon's taking a long overdue vacation to try and forget the betrayal from her unfaithful boyfriend. What better way than to have some fun with the handsome software engineer she meets on the sun-drenched tropical island? What could it hurt? No strings, no attachments, no worries--or so she thought...
Simeon Baker wanted more than just one night with Jennifer, but a tragic accident leaves him hospitalized with no way to find her again. Fate steps in four years later and Simeon realizes Jennifer didn’t leave the island with only good memories. If he can convince Jennifer to give them a chance to build a true family, this might just be their best Christmas ever.
Each book in the McClendon Holiday series is STANDALONE:
* A McClendon Thanksgiving
* The Christmas Promise
* A Husband by New Year's
* Be My Valentine
About the Author
Sean began writing romance at the encouragement of her dear friend Christian Fiction Author Jacquelin Thomas. After the release of her first two novels TOTAL BLISS and WITH THIS RING in 2005&2006, Sean continued to work diligently at her craft and her next novel.
FROM THIS MOMENT, the second installment in the Hearts and Flowers Series, was released in January 2011. At an early age, Sean found that she loved words and tried to read everything she could get her hands on. She joined her first book club “Sweet Pickles” at the age of 7. Writing would come later, when she wrote short stories for her own enjoyment, then she wrote the Easter play for the youth at her church at the age of 12.
Sean, a graphic/web designer loves building websites and graphics almost as much as she loves writing her stories. She loves working in her church and lives in Northwest Indiana with her family.
Read an Excerpt
Jennifer McClendon maneuvered into the parking space set aside for visitors and shut off the engine. She picked up the oversize tote and the decorative shopping bag stamped with the boutique's logo resting on the passenger seat, unable to stop herself from sneaking a peek at the gauzy fabric swaddled in black-and-white tissue paper. She still hadn't decided if she would wear her ankle-length silk organza garment in alternating stripes of shocking pink, royal blue and emerald green with a flowing skirt and narrow straps crisscrossing her back, on the first or last night of her vacation with the love of her life.
She and her boyfriend had been planning a vacation in a warm and sunny place for the past six months. He surprised her late one evening with two tickets to Anguilla, and Jennifer had been more than excited ever since. She couldn't believe that she would be spending five sensual nights and six glorious days with her love, Roderick Taylor.
Her luck, or lack thereof with the opposite sex, had been minus zero until the day he walked inside Lavish Locks, the beauty shop she managed. Roderick, a cable television installer, was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome.
Everything about him exuded confidence and she found him to be very likeable. Giselle, their master barber, had been cutting his hair for the past year. Several times, Jennifer had caught him staring at her, but dismissed him because he'd never approached her. One day after he'd been serviced, he came over to her station, introduced himself and invited her out to lunch. She accepted. Their relationship started slow because Jennifer wasn't one to move fast when it came to men. But she and Roderick got along well and had a lot in common, so their relationship became easy and aboveboard. She never had to pretend to be anyone else but herself and she liked it.
Jennifer's step was light as she slipped out of the car and made her way through the parking lot, up the staircase, to Roderick's apartment. A slight frown covered her face when she spotted his late-model sedan parked in his assigned space, which meant he'd come home. She'd just spoken to him an hour earlier letting him know that she needed to add some things to the suitcase, but it wouldn't be until later because she had an appointment at her home. Roderick informed her that he wouldn't be home until late because his service call roster was full for the day.
Jennifer would have come earlier, but she needed to wait for the plumber to arrive to fix a slow leak in her kitchen sink. Since she and Roderick had planned to leave in the next two days, she was afraid that if it wasn't repaired, she'd come back to a mess.
The plumber diagnosed the problem quickly and assured her that it would be a simple, inexpensive fix.
Now that the leak had been taken care of, Jennifer decided to drop by Roderick's place to put her new things in her suitcase. While there, she figured she would also surprise him by preparing a nice candlelight dinner for them.
Before, she would always call to make sure he was home before she dropped by. He surprised her by handing her a small white box, which she thought was a piece of jewelry. But when she opened it, she saw the single long, gold-colored key. He said he'd wanted to take their relationship to the next level and the key was a symbol of his commitment to her and their relationship, though it was another month before Jennifer handed him the keys to her place.
Their exchanging of keys indicated trust, something she hadn't experienced with the other men she'd dated. Their special moments were the days when the salon was closed and she would come over and prepare dinner. She would wait for Roderick to shower and change, then they would sit down to eat by candlelight in the dining room or during the colder months on the floor in the living room in front of the fireplace. Her involvement with him brought out her romantic instincts. It was so easy to please Roderick and have him reciprocate in kind.
In anothe&rgrave; two days their relationship would take a new direction when they would vacation together for the first time. Roderick had suggested she sleep over and early the next morning a driver would take them to the airport for their flight to a private island for a week of total rest and relaxation. When she'd complained of coming home exhausted after standing on her feet for hours styling hair, he surprised her with a card and an open invitation for them to unwind in the Caribbean. After rescheduling the shifts of her employees Jennifer told him to make the reservations.
Shifting the bag and her tote, she unlocked the door, walked in and closed it quietly. Her rolling luggage sat in the entryway, and it took less than a minute for her to unzip it, place the shopping bag with the dress inside, and zip it up again. Setting her tote on the straight-back chair and keys on the small mahogany table, Jennifer made her way through the living room and down a narrow hallway to the bedroom. The door was slightly ajar and when she pushed it open she wanted to believe she was hallucinating. Her gaze was focused on Roderick's naked butt and a pair of slender legs wrapped around his waist.
Jennifer swayed slightly, praying her knees would not give out on her. The words she just overheard were the very ones he'd said to her in the throes of ecstasy, and he was now saying them to another woman. She willed her feet to move, but they appeared cemented to the floor. She must have made a sound because the woman raised her head and their eyes met and fused. There came another sound, and this time it was from the woman who screamed as if she'd been impaled by a sharp object.
Roderick stopped in mid-stroke, glancing over his shoulder. "Damn!"
Jennifer was galvanized into action as she turned and ran. She didn't remember grabbing her tote or her luggage as she struggled to open the door and haul the heavy bag down the staircase to the parking lot. What she did recall was not picking up the keys to Roderick's apartment and his calling for her to come back.
She knew she had the advantage because it would take some time for him to pull on clothes to cover his nakedness. Somehow she managed to hoist the luggage into the trunk of her car and come around to the driver's side door before she saw him running toward her, yelling.
"Jenn, baby, wait."
Jennifer stood with her hand on the door handle when he approached her. She didn't allow him to say anything.
"Roderick, why are you making a public display of yourself out here? Had I known you were going to be home and busy, I would have called, so you could get yourself together."
Jennifer willed herself to show her strength and not her weakness because the man she loved had betrayed her. She adjusted her footing so that she could stand straight and not let him see how devastated she really was by his actions. Many thoughts swirled in her head and if she acted on them, they could easily land her in prison.
Roderick reached out to Jennifer. "But, I, I thought — " "Don't think, sweetheart. Clearly, that's too hard for you. You might mess things up." Jennifer pushed off, opened the door and jumped inside, dismissing his presence.
Starting the car, she heard him yelling, "Jenn, baby, please don't leave things like this between us!"
Ignoring his words, she shifted into drive. If Roderick wanted to get run over, she'd oblige him — it would get some of her frustration out for his miserable act.
Jennifer drove out of the lot in a burst of speed with unseeing eyes until she reached her apartment building. Roderick's name and number came up on the dashboard screen and she punched the button to ignore the call. There was nothing he could do or say to explain why he had to sleep with another woman when they were supposed to be together.
She pulled into the first parking space she could find in the parking lot of her apartment building, then took the elevator to her floor, all while moving like an automaton. Hot tears pricked the backs of her eyelids as she struggled not to break down completely. Not here. Not yet, she told herself as she managed a brittle smile for the elderly woman who lived on the third floor. It wasn't until the doors opened and the woman stepped out of the elevator car that Jennifer found she couldn't stop her legs from shaking. Her mind went completely blank when after several futile attempts she managed to open the door to her apartment. She locked it, then applied the security latch when she remembered Roderick still had the key to her apartment. "Damn, now I've got to get my key back from that bastard," she said aloud.
Like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs, she took off each article of clothing leaving them on the floor as she managed to get to the bathroom without collapsing. Walking into the shower stall, she turned on the cold water. The icy spray pelted her like sleet on a frigid Chicago winter day, but she welcomed the pain because it dulled the vision of her man screwing another woman. Sliding down the tiles, she dropped to her knees on the shower floor, her heart pounding in her chest.
"What's wrong with me?" she whispered. "Wasn't I enough for you?" she asked, continuing her monologue. Jennifer cursed Roderick, then asked for forgiveness for wishing him dead. Tears fell, mingling with the falling water, and she somehow found the strength to reach up and turn the water off.
Jennifer lost track of time, but when she felt her legs cramping she knew she had to get up. Pushing to her feet, she walked out of the shower stall and wrapped a large bath sheet around her chilled body. She took another one, wrapping it like a turban around her head.
Walking on bare feet, she entered the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of white wine. It was almost full because she wasn't much of a drinker. It was mostly there for Roderick. Using her teeth, she uncorked it, spat out the cork, and put the bottle to her mouth. Whenever she drank anything alcoholic it was always with food, but this time was different. She wasn't drinking to complement fish or chicken, she needed to dull her senses enough to fall asleep. Carrying the bottle, she went to her bedroom and crawled into bed. Jennifer took another deep swallow, welcoming the warmth spreading throughout her chest.
The phone on the nightstand rang and she looked at it as if she'd never seen it before. It was rare for anyone to call her on the landline. Glancing over at the display, she recognized the number to Roderick's cell. "Oh hell no!" she said. She had no intention of saying another word to him ever again. She wished she didn't have to hear his voice but she knew he would continue to try to plead his case.
The ringing stopped and seconds later his voice came through on the answering machine. "Jenn, baby. Please pick up. I know you're there because you're not answering your cell phone."
"Oh, do you?" she said to the phone.
"Jenn, I have to explain," Roderick continued. "She means nothing to me. She's just someone I met. You're the one I want to spend the rest of my life with. Remember, baby, we're going away together in a couple of days, so if you don't want to talk to me tonight, then call me tomorrow. We ..." His words trailed off when the timed message ended.
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," Jennifer intoned. If anyone was going away, it would be her. She just had to figure out a way to leave him behind. Because they'd used her credit card to purchase the tickets, she wondered if she could get a refund. She called the travel agent who'd booked the trip and explained that he was no longer able to go. The representative told her that there would be a cancellation fee, but that she could in fact cancel. Jennifer didn't care about the fee or giving Roderick his half of the money back; she didn't want to see his face ever again.
Leaning over, she opened the drawer to the nightstand and took out the envelope holding the tickets. A sardonic smile crossed her face when she picked up Roderick's ticket and tore it in half. Reaching for the receiver, she dialed the number to building management, leaving a message that she needed the lock on her apartment changed as soon as possible.
She hadn't planned on going into the salon the next day, so she had all day to wait for building maintenance. Another thing on her to-do list was to write Roderick a check for the cost of his plane fare, mail it and reserve a car to get her to the airport. Not only did she want a little R&R, but she now needed it.
Glancing out the tiny passenger window, Jennifer clutched her diamond pendant necklace, a birthday gift from her sister Renee. Despite the recent turmoil in her life, she promised herself that nothing would stop her from going on this vacation and enjoying it.
Tears glazed over her eyes as she eyed the empty seat next to her, trying not to think about Roderick, his betrayal and her being so naive. As she glanced at the other passengers on the plane, she saw that signs of love were all around her. It was an unpleasant reminder of what could have been.
The couple sitting in front of her looked like they'd been married for many years. The middle-aged pair sat with their hands clasped together, leaning in close, whispering to each other. They were so engaged in their conversation, no one else seemed to matter.
She then looked over at the man and woman seated across the aisle next to her. The dark-haired gentleman's red-and-blue-striped tie was twisted and hanging to one side. The buttons on his crisp white shirt were loose while he buried his face so deep into the woman's bosom, Jennifer was surprised he could breathe and didn't have to come up for air.
The swell of the blonde-haired woman's breasts peeked out of her white silk blouse, while the short red skirt she wore rose well above her thighs. Jennifer loved attention like the next woman, but those two needed to get a room.
The flight attendant handed her a small can of soda and a plastic cup filled with ice cubes. She started to ask for two bottles of the vodka she'd seen the attendant give to the man across the aisle in front of her. But she had never drunk anything that strong and didn't want to be sick on vacation. She was already in her feelings and trying to fight the tears that kept forming every time she blinked, so she didn't want the alcohol to bring on more emotions.
Pulling the tab forward on the red can, she opened the soda, pouring it into the cup, watching the fizz rise to the top. Jennifer swirled the cup around so that the pop could get cold faster. Reaching down in her carry-on bag, she removed several hair-care and salon magazines. Always looking for a new technique, product or style that she could try on her customers, Jennifer flipped through and read the articles thoroughly, passing the time.
Several hours later, the flight attendant came on the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are making our final approach into St. Maarten's airport. Please fasten your seat belts in preparation for landing. Please remain seated until the captain has turned off the Fasten Seat Belt sign. We thank you again for flying United Airlines."
Jennifer dropped her empty cup and can into the trash as the crew came around, put away her reading material and made sure that her tray table was locked in position. She was disappointed that there were no direct flights to Anguilla, but after some research, she found that flying into Princess Juliana International Airport was her best option.
From there, she could either take a ferry across or take a seven-minute flight, so she chose the latter.
Jennifer pulled the bright orange cotton bolero jacket she wore over her maxi sun-dress closed and crossed her arms under her chest as she stared out of the airplane window during their approach to the airport. The brilliant turquoise-colored water seemed to go on for miles and miles, an amazing sight.
Once they landed and came to a stop, Jennifer gathered her belongings and followed the woman in front of her off the plane through the terminal as they headed toward customs. She overheard a couple walking with the crowd talking about not having to go to customs by asking for VIP services.
Jennifer tuned in a little closer and found out that she only needed to go to the transfer desk in order to take the flight to Anguilla. The Passenger Service Department would meet those travelers who asked for VIP services and assist with immigration, baggage claim and escort them to the gate. Jennifer was all too happy that she had paid the extra money for that amenity. At the checkpoint she only had to be scanned with an electronic wand then she was on her way. She didn't even have to take off her shoes like she had at O'Hare in Chicago.
Excerpted from "The Christmas Promise"
Copyright © 2017 Sean D. Young.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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