The Perfect Present

The Perfect Present

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Overview

The Perfect Present by Rochelle Alers, Cheris Hodges, Pamela Yaye

Make your heart merry and unwrap these delightful stories of seasonal romance . . .
 
A CHRISTMAS LAYOVER Rochelle Alers
When Navy SEAL Captain Noah Crawford and elementary school teacher Sierra Nelson meet on a plane headed east from San Diego, they’re glad to pass the time in friendly conversation. But when a freak storm grounds them, Sierra offers Noah a place to spend the night—with her extended family, all of whom assume they’re a couple. And as the holiday spirit infuses every moment they spend together, they both begin to wonder if a relationship is a special gift they didn’t expect . . .
 
THE CHRISTMAS LESSON Cheris Hodges
Kayla Matthews isn’t looking forward to heading home this Christmas. Divorced and struggling, nothing has turned out the way she expected—including her childhood friend, DeShawn Carter. Now the high school principal, he’s also the kind of man she’s always dreamed about. But before the holidays are over, Kayla has a chance to reclaim everything she once thought she wanted—or prove to DeShawn that they have a second chance worth celebrating . . .
 
CHRISTMAS WITH YOU Pamela Yaye
Celebrity stylist Maya Malone can’t find anything joyous about the season, not since her ex-fiancé left her on Christmas Eve. But one look at suave, sexy sports agent Marc Cunningham is almost enough to change her mind. Their instant attraction feels like the best sort of present, except for one very large obstacle—Maya’s NFL star big brother, Marc’s new client. It will take more than holiday spirit to convince everyone involved that Marc and Maya’s connection will make the angels sing . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496710185
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 09/26/2017
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 637,166
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ROCHELLE ALERS has more than eighty titles and nearly two million copies of her novels in print. She is a regular on the bestseller lists, often chosen by Black Expressions Book Club, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Emma Award, Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing, the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award and the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Iota Theta Zeta chapter and her interests include gourmet cooking and traveling. A full‑time writer, Ms. Alers lives in a charming hamlet on Long Island.
 
CHERIS HODGES was bitten by the writing bug at an early age and always knew she wanted to be a writer. She wrote her first romance novel, Revelations, after having a vivid dream about the characters. She hopped out of bed at 2 a.m. and started writing. A graduate of Johnson C. Smith University and a winner of the NC Press Association’s community journalism award, Cheris lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she is a freelance journalist. She loves hearing from her readers. You can find Cheris on Twitter @cherishodges and on Facebook at Cheris Hodges.
 
PAMELA YAYE has a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education, and her love of African-American fiction inspired her to pursue a career in writing romance. When Pamela’s not writing about strong, feisty heroines and the alpha males who love them, this busy wife, mother, and teacher is watching sports, experimenting in the kitchen, or planning her next family vacation. Pamela lives in Alberta, Canada, with her real-life hero, and adorable, but mischievous son and daughter. To learn more about Pamela and her steamy romance novels, visit PamelaYaye.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Waiting in the aisle for several passengers to store their bags in the overhead bins, Sierra Nelson shifted her carry-on in an attempt not to bump those already seated in the aircraft. It was days before Christmas, and when she arrived at the airport, she was slightly taken aback at the throngs waiting in line to check luggage, obtain boarding passes, and go through security checkpoints. Not only had the flight been delayed two hours and overbooked, but there were a few passengers that were willing to give up their seats to be put up in nearby hotels, along with vouchers for future flights. Sierra had decided within seconds of the announcement that she would not be one of those amenable to taking a later flight.

She had booked the trip to fly from San Diego to Chicago more than three months in advance, had enrolled in TSA precheck, packed light, and printed her boarding pass, but the prior preparation did little to quell her impatience to be in the air and on her way to Chicago for a weeklong stay with her extended family. She found her seat in the middle of the aircraft, stored her bag, sat, secured the seat belt, and stared out the window at baggage handlers loading luggage onto a conveyor belt.

She saw a shadow out of the corner of her eye and looked up to find a man dressed in blue navy fatigues. Their eyes met for an instant, both sharing a hint of a smile, before Sierra refocused her attention on the activity going on outside the jet. His warmth and the clean scent of his cologne swept over her when he sat and secured his belt. A flight attendant, checking and closing overhead bins, stopped at their row.

"Captain Crawford, a gentleman in first class has offered to exchange seats with you."

Noah Crawford smiled. "Please thank him for me, but I prefer sitting here."

She gave him a warm smile. "I'll let him know."

Waiting until the woman continued down the aisle, Sierra turned to stare at the navy captain, her breath momentarily catching in her chest. To say he was gorgeous was an understatement. His deep-set, brown eyes glowed like smoky quartz in a complexion that reminded her of golden-brown autumn leaves. A bold nose, strong mouth, and high cheekbones made for an arresting face that garnered a second glance.

"There's a lot more legroom in first class," she said softly when he attempted to shift into a more comfortable position to accommodate his long legs.

He smiled, displaying a single dimple in his left cheek. "That's okay. I like where I'm sitting."

Sierra lowered her eyes, chiding herself for being presumptuous — something about which she occasionally lectured her fourth grade students whenever one tried explaining what another meant. "I'm sorry for intruding."

"There's no need to apologize, Miss ..."

"Sierra Nelson," she said, introducing herself.

He took her hand, which disappeared in his larger one. "Noah Crawford."

She smiled, bringing his gaze to linger on her parted lips. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Captain Crawford, and thank you for your service to our country."

*
Noah released her hand, angled his head, and studied the woman less than a foot away. There was something about her round face that reminded him of a doll's. He found her flawless nut-brown complexion, delicate features, and sensual mouth mesmerizing. His eyes lingered on her short curly hair before moving down to large, slanting brown eyes with flecks of gold. He found them to be strangely beautiful; they reminded him of cat's-eye marbles.

"You're quite welcome. Are you going to Boston?"

"No. I'm getting off in Chicago." The flight was scheduled to make a layover at O'Hare before continuing on to Logan Airport.

"Is Chicago home for you?" he asked.

Sierra shook her head. "It was when growing up. How about you? Is Boston home for you?"

Noah nodded. "Yes. My mother and sisters still live there. I've tried to get Mom to move to the West Coast, but she doesn't want to be that far from her grandchildren. She also claims she loves the change of seasons."

"I'm just the opposite, because it took me one season to get used to not wearing a winter coat. However, I always keep one or two in my closet whenever I travel back east because the last time I was in the Windy City, it snowed. And I was there on spring break."

"You're a teacher." His question was a statement.

"Yes."

"What grade do you teach?"

"Right now, I'm teaching fourth graders."

"Do you like it?"

She smiled. "I love teaching."

"Why do you live in California rather than in Illinois?" Noah asked her.

"I came out here to go to college, found a position, and then stayed. Why did you join the navy?" she asked Noah.

He stared at the seat in front of him. "I went to the Naval Academy at Annapolis."

Her eyes grew wide. "Congratulations. Should I assume you're a lifer?"

Noah paused, wondering how much he wanted to divulge to a woman who was a complete stranger. However, there was something about Sierra that made it so easy for him to talk to her. "For now, I am."

"Then you have a lot in common with my father and brothers."

"They're lifers?"

"My father was, and now my three brothers are following in his footsteps. Dad gave the army thirty years before he retired. Daniel is active army, Mark is a marine currently deployed in Afghanistan, and Luke is an army reservist. This is the first Christmas in years, with the exception of Mark, that we'll be all together."

"Are they married?"

"Yes. So I'm auntie to quite a few nieces and nephews."

His eyebrows lifted questioningly. "You don't have any children?"

Sierra shook her head. "No. I still have time before I add to my parents' ever-increasing number of grandbabies."

"Are they putting any pressure on you to give them a grandchild?"

"Not really. My parents know that I don't do well with pressure. As the only girl, I've always marched to the beat of a different drum. Even as young boys my brothers were obsessed with anything military," she said, smiling. "My grandfather was stationed in Korea, while my father fought in Vietnam, so when growing up all they heard were war stories. They all went to military school and from there it was ROTC, and eventually they became commissioned officers."

"So, you were an army brat?"

"Only for the first six years of my life. My mother was of the mind that a military base was no place to raise a girl, so she was able to convince my father that she should move back to Chicago before he was transferred to a base in Alaska."

Their conversation ended when the captain's voice came through the cabin, informing the passengers and flight crew they were preparing for liftoff. Sierra stared at the back of the seat in front of her and gripped the armrests as the aircraft picked up speed. She closed her eyes and sucked in a lungful of air as the jet went airborne.

"You can open your eyes now," crooned a deep voice in her ear.

She opened her eyes and let out an audible breath. "You can let go of my hand now." Noah had placed his left hand over her right.

"You're afraid of flying?"

A smile parted Sierra's lips. "No. I just don't like liftoffs and landings."

"Do you want me to hold your hand when we touch down at O'Hare?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "That's not funny, Captain America."

Noah affected a wide grin, exhibiting a mouth filled with large, straight, white teeth. "Captain America is a comic book action hero."

"And you're not?"

He sobered quickly. He couldn't reveal to Sierra that he was a Navy SEAL who had been involved in several Middle East maneuvers, and now at thirty-seven had spent more than half his life in the military. "No. I'm someone who has taken an oath to protect our country from all enemies foreign and domestic. That makes me a member of the US Armed Forces, not a hero, who just happens to be on my way to Boston to celebrate Christmas with my widowed mother, sisters, and their families."

Sierra felt properly chastised. "I'm sorry —"

"This is the second time you've apologized," he said, cutting her off. "And something tells me it's something you don't do very often."

"Not with men."

"Speaking of men," he drawled.

"What about them?"

"Will you be spending the holiday with your man?" Noah asked Sierra.

A beat passed. "No, because right now I'm not seeing anyone."

"I find that hard to believe. You're a beautiful and obviously intelligent woman, and men should be falling over themselves to become involved with you."

Sierra chewed her lip for several seconds. "Thanks for the compliment, but it's been several years since I've been in a relationship."

"Relationships are like grains of sand on a beach, they're too numerous to count," he drawled glibly.

She went completely still. "Are you always this facetious when it comes to talking about relationships? Or could it be you don't believe in love?"

Noah chuckled, the sound rumbling in his broad chest. "Oh, I believe in love."

"If you do, then why do you sound so cynical?"

Crossing his arms over his chest, he angled his head. "Most of the women I meet aren't willing to put up with me being shipped out at a moment's notice."

"It appears as if you're meeting the wrong women. Maybe you should look for women who grew up as military brats."

"Like you?"

A soft gasp slipped past Sierra's parted lips. "No! Not like me, because I told you I'm not an army brat."

Noah turned to look at her. "Have you ever dated someone in the military?"

She nodded. "Yes."

"What happened?"

"We went out for nearly a year, and then we decided to stop seeing each other because all he talked about was going back to Texas and taking over his father's dairy farm. At the ripe old age of twenty-three, I just couldn't see myself getting up at four in the morning to milk cows or muck out barns."

"I can definitely see your point. Farming isn't for the faint of heart."

"Are you speaking from experience?" Sierra asked.

He nodded. "I used to spend the summers on my grandfather's farm in North Carolina. Grandpa raised chickens and hogs. My job was to slop the hogs and then clean out their pens. The first time I did, I almost passed out because I tried holding my breath. I literally sucked it up, and after a few days I got used to the smell."

Time passed quickly as Sierra entertained him with accounts of the children she'd taught over the years, as flight attendants distributed soft drinks, cocktails, and coffee and tea along with snack boxes. Once all of the trash was collected, the cabin's lights were dimmed and minutes later everyone seemed to be of one accord when they settled down to sleep before the jet touched down in Chicago.

Noah watched Sierra remove a shawl from the tote she had secured under the seat, wrap it around her body, and then recline the seat back. "Wake me when we get to Chi-Town."

He nodded. He knew if he didn't try to get some sleep, jet lag would play havoc with his body's circadian rhythms. And knowing his mother, she would keep him up talking when he needed to sleep. Shifting, Noah tried to get into a more comfortable position, while silently cursing the airlines for decreasing the legroom when people were growing taller, not shorter. The last thing he saw through the windows were the jagged tops of the Rockies before he finally fell asleep.

*
Sierra woke with a start when she felt someone shake her shoulder. "What's the matter?"

"The pilot just announced that all airports along the East Coast from Maine to DC have been shut down because of blizzard conditions."

Her eyelids fluttered wildly. "Where are you going to stay?"

Noah pressed his mouth to her ear. "I'll try to get a room at a hotel or bed down in the airport until flights resume."

A shadow of alarm swept over her features. "No, you're not. There's no way I'm going to allow you to sleep on the floor in an airport when there's room at my folks' house. You can come home and stay with us until you can get a flight out."

"I've slept in worse places than an airport floor."

"That's not the point, Noah. You risk your life every time you put on that uniform, and I'd like to believe someone would offer to put my brothers up, given a similar situation."

"I can't impose on you like that."

"Yes, you can. Now, please don't argue with me, Captain Crawford. If I were to tell my father I didn't make the offer, he would disown me."

Noah's dimple winked at her when he smiled. "Not his precious baby girl."

Sierra felt a wave of heat in her face with his taunt. She lowered her eyes. "What's it going to be? Yes? No?"

Their gazes met and she saw something in his eyes that sent her pulse spinning. Had he thought she'd invited him to come home with her during the layover because she'd come on to him? If she was honest, she would openly admit that she found him incredibly attractive, but that's where it ended. Not only had she found him kind on the eyes but also easy to talk to.

"Yes," Noah said after a pregnant pause. "But I have to call my mother to let her know I'll be delayed."

Sierra hadn't realized she had been holding her breath. "I'll call my brother as soon as we're on the ground, to let him know I'm bringing company." When she'd called her mother to give her the time of her arrival, Evelyn Nelson reassured her one of Sierra's brothers would pick her up. Days later, Evelyn returned the call to confirm that Daniel, who'd been granted a ten-day leave, would meet her at baggage claim.

CHAPTER 2

Noah held Sierra's carry-on as they wended their way through the terminal to baggage claim. Those awaiting connecting flights had claimed any solid surface to sit or recline. Mothers were attempting to comfort their fretful children, while those traveling on business were barking demands into their cell phones to book them into nearby hotels until flights resumed. Meanwhile, Daniel had sent Sierra a text that he was on his way and would meet her outside the terminal.

She realized she'd sounded a tad heavy-handed when coercing Noah to come home with her until flights were resumed, but after seeing the overcrowded terminal she felt vindicated. She stared at Noah's ramrod-straight back. He stood, hands clasped behind him, as he waited with the others disembarking at O'Hare for his bag to come around the conveyor belt. Stepping forward, he grasped a bag when an elderly man attempted to retrieve it. He lifted it with minimal effort and set it on the floor, nodding when the man thanked him.

Nearly fifteen minutes later, his large duffel appeared and Noah joined Sierra near the door. "My brother said we should wait outside for him."

Noah covered his head with a cap and, reaching for her carry-on, shouldered the door open. He glanced up at the steel-gray skies. It had begun to snow. "It looks as if the Northeast isn't the only area to get a white Christmas."

Sierra shivered as icy-cold wind stung her cheeks. "Let's hope not. If Chicago gets snowed in, then it's going to be a knockout punch for those waiting to leave the city." She took a quick glance at her watch. "Barring traffic, my brother should be here soon." The words were barely off her tongue when an SUV maneuvered up to the curb and the driver got out, dressed in desert fatigues. It was Mark, and not Daniel, who had come to meet her.

She gasped, as her heart pounded a runaway rhythm against her ribs. If his goal had been to surprise her, then he had, because Sierra felt her knees buckle slightly before she was able to regain her balance. She tried to make her feet move, but they refused to follow the dictates of her brain.

Once her brother was deployed to Afghanistan, she had made it a practice to stop every day at the church a block from her condo to say a prayer and light a candle for his safe return. Now seeing him in person was proof her prayers had been answered. One moment she was standing, and the next she found herself lifted off the ground as Mark crushed her against his body.

"No one told me that you'd come home."

Mark chuckled. "And no one said anything about your bringing your boyfriend home for Christmas," he countered, setting her on her feet. "I got in a couple of hours ago."

"He's not ..." Her words trailed off when Mark's cell phone rang.

Mark stared at Sierra as he answered the call. "Yes, Dad. Sierra's here with her boyfriend, and you should expect us in about an hour. Yes, I'll drive carefully." He rang off. "That was your father. It's apparent he's worried about his little princess."

Sierra curbed the urge to roll her eyes at her brother. She'd wanted to tell him that Noah wasn't her boyfriend, but it was too late because he'd announced to their father that she hadn't come home alone. "Mark, I'd like you to meet Noah Crawford."

Mark came to attention and saluted Noah. "I'm honored, Captain Crawford."

Noah extended his hand. "It's just Noah."

Mark shook the proffered hand. "Then Noah it is. And I'm Mark. Daniel told me Sierra was bringing company, but I never would've imagined her boyfriend would be military."

"It looks as if this is truly a night for surprises," Noah said, as Sierra opened her mouth to refute Mark's belief that they were romantically involved.

Reaching for Sierra's carry-on, Mark motioned with his head. "Let's get home before it really starts coming down. Noah, you can put your duffel in the back."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Perfect Present"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Kensington Publishing Corp..
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Also by Rochelle Alers,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
A Christmas Layover,
The Christmas Lesson,
Christmas with You,
Teaser chapter,

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The Perfect Present 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed each story and would recommend
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a book with multicultural romance novellas with a Christmas theme then this book just might be for you. Three short stories with happy endings for all of the characters all wrapped up with a Christmas bow. A Christmas Layover by Rochelle Alers: Two strangers meet on a plane and get stuck in Chicago. Sierra invites Captain Noah Crawford to her parents’ house to stay till he can fly to his destination and the two are thought to be a couple…play the part well…and admit feelings for one another before he flies away. The Christmas Lesson by Cheris Hodges High school friends that were almost more are given a chance to see if they can find love when Kayla returns home for the holidays. There is a bit of a financial problem at the school DeShawn is principal of that Kayla uses her skills to help out with. Christmas with You by Pamela Yaye Marc sees Maya and is stunned. There is a one night hookup that eventually becomes more even with a big brother trying to put a spanner in the works. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars