Mistletoe kisses, Christmas wishes and the joy of falling in love
A Gift from the Heart by Celeste O. Norfleet
The ex who broke Janelle Truman's heart is back to save her father's company. Janelle can't believe that workaholic Tyson Croft has transformed into a caring family man. But Tyson knows what really matters nowand it all starts with one unforgettable Christmas
Mine by Christmas by Janice Sims
All of tech mogul Adam Benson's success can't make up for the mistake he made by breaking up with Sage Andrews. Could a holiday weekend in breathtaking Vienna be the chance he needs to prove to the beautiful attorney that his flame for her burns hotter than ever?
A Family for Christmas by Felicia Mason
Upscale retailer Renee Armstrong moved to the suburbs to give her daughter a fresh start. She never expected to cross paths with someone like Trey Calloway, the sexy single dad living next door. With the Yuletide in full swing, will they discover the exquisite gift of a new beginning together?
About the Author
With the publication of Temptation's Song in July 2010, Janice Sims celebrates fourteen years as a romance writer. In fourteen years she's published seventeen novels and had nine stories included in anthologies. When asked why she writes romances, she smiles and says it's the only genre in which happily ever after is a foregone conclusion. Plus, where else are you going to find a perfect male?
Felicia Mason is a motivational speaker and award-winning author. She has received awards from Romantic Times, Affaire de
Coeur and Midwest Fiction Writers. Glamour magazine readers named her first novel, For the Love of You, one of their all-time favorite love stories, and her novel Rhapsody was made into a television film.
Read an Excerpt
"Hey, girl, you were supposed to call me when you got home."
"I didn't call because I'm not home yet."
"What? Where are you?"
Janelle Truman shifted her cell phone to her other ear as she tugged and pulled the collar of her cashmere coat up around her neck. "I'm in a cab. I just left the airport."
"Are you kidding me? Your flight landed almost three and a half hours ago. Why are you just now leaving the airport?"
"Nya, it's Sunday night, three days before Christmas. The security lines are outrageous and Customs took way longer than I expected."
"See, none of this would have happened if you'd just listened to me. I told you I had a friend headed this way from Dubai. He could have easily picked you up in Tanzania, no problem. You would have cleared Customs while sitting on his private plane, sipping champagne and singing Christmas carols. All you had to do was "
Janelle sighed and rolled her eyes. This was the last thing she needed right now. After an eighteen-hour double shift at the small medical center just outside of Dodoma and then traveling for the past twenty-six hours in every kind of vehicle imaginable, she didn't need a lecture from her stepsister.
Granted, Nya Kent, with her father's money and infinite resources and her own vast connections, was Janelle's go-to person for any problem that needed to be solved, but right now she was a nagging pain.
" and that would be it. But you never listen to me."
"There's a reason for that, Nya, but right now I'm way too tired to argue with you."
"You're rightget some rest. We'll talk over lunch tomorrow. You can tell me everything."
"Lunch tomorrow," Janelle repeated.
"Well, of course. You didn't think I'd forget our annual pre-Christmas lunch, did you? Unfortunately, Mia can't make it this year with the baby, but I'm flying down in the morning. You don't seriously think I'm not gonna see my big sister after she's been hiding in Africa for the past two and a half years? We have a lunch reservation at the Chesterfield for twelve o'clock."
"I didn't know they were open for lunch."
"They're not," Nya said nonchalantly. "You see, I have this friend who."
Janelle shook her head. She'd learned long ago that Nya had an uncanny ability to make things happen that others would find nearly impossible. "I'm too tired to ask how you got them to open for lunch. And, for your information, I haven't been hiding in Africa. I've been opening and working in a children's relief clinic. Medics International is an extremely important organization. Their work is vital and I was lucky to help them."
"Like I said, we'll talk about it tomorrow over lunch. It's just a shame Mia won't be able to join us. Apparently our darling little nephew has been keeping her awake day and night. Hey, you're a pediatrician. Can't you do something to help?"
"No, Nya, I can't. He's a baby. That's what they do." She shivered and tugged at her collar again. "Man, I'm freezing."
"Of course you're freezingit's winter in Baltimore. You have to reacclimatize your body to this weather. You've been hiding in the middle of the Serengeti desert for too long."
"I was not hiding," Janelle insisted.
"Two words. Tyson Croft."
Janelle stilled at Nya's words. Two words, one namethat was all it took to spin her world around all over again. She gripped her collar tighter and tensed as her heart trembled. Then she released a long-held breath. "For the last time, I was not hiding, and Tyson Croft had nothing to do with my going to Africa," Janelle emphasized.
Nya laughed. "Okay, okay, but remember, JanelleI know you, and I was there. Two and a half years ago you and Tyson had the epic romance of the century. When he walked away, you went all the way to Africa to forget him. Tell me, did it work? Are you over him?"
"Yes," Janelle said too quickly.
"We'll see," Nya said. "And we'll talk about it " she began.
"I know. I know." Janelle yawned loudly "We'll talk about it tomorrow."
Nya interrupted her yawning. "Girl, you really do sound tired."
"Tired isn't the word. I'm worn-out, beat-down, bone-weary exhausted, and on top of that, I'm already beginning to experience symptoms of jet lag from the multiple time-zone changes. My focus is near zero and all I can think about is crawling into my own bed and sleeping for the next few hours."
"Well, I'm just happy you're home. I missed you."
"I missed you, too."
"And you're really finished with Medics International?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm done. Five months working all over Africa, five months in Tanzania, seven months in Kenya, six months in Ethiopia and another six months back in Tanzania is enough. The experience was invaluable. As a pediatrician there I learned more in the past few years than in all my years of medical school. But it's time to move on and come home. I just have to give my formal notice."
"Good. All right, get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay, good night."
Janelle ended the call and stifled another yawn as the cab continued through the downtown area. It was almost ten o'clock at night and, surprisingly, the streets were bustling with activity. The stores were still open and holiday shoppers were out and loaded down with bags of gifts. It was less than a week before Christmas and she hadn't done anything.
This used to be her favorite time of year, but that was a long time ago. Now the holidays just seemed to fade in and fade out. She told herself that she was always too busy with school or with work, but she knew that wasn't true. Her mother had died on Christmas Day. Nothing would ever change that.
She yawned again. Right now, the only thing keeping her awake were the too-often craterlike potholes littering the streets that kept her body rocking and rolling like a bobble-headed doll.
No, that wasn't the truth. Who was she kidding? It was Nya's two words that stayed with her. Tyson Croft. He had exploded into her life and swept her off her feet. She'd fallen in love with him the second she'd seen him. At one point he'd been everything to her. She'd even considered giving up being a doctor to be with him. But that was another lifetime ago.
She shook her head, as if to clear her thoughts, and then stared out the window, trying to focus on the sights as they passed. Twinkling Christmas lights sparkled down every street, and holiday decorations covered lawns and topped roofs. This was Baltimore, her hometown, a whole world away from the past two and a half years of her life. The city had been torn down, rebuilt, trashed, revitalized and torn down again so many times she'd lost count.
Now everything that was once familiar looked foreign to her. The asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks were a far cry from the arid Serengeti desert and the lush greenery surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro. The cab drove past a sign pointing to the massive Johns Hopkins Hospital complex. She smiled, remembering her years there in med school and during her residency. They had been the best years of her career. She made a mental note to stop by to visit with her friend and mentor, Dr. Richardson. But right now her body needed rest.
She closed her eyes and tried to relax in the tattered leather seat. The scents of the car's pine air freshener and the driver's musk and cheap aftershave assaulted her senses. Years ago the smell would have provoked stomach-wrenching nausea, but not anymore. She'd smelled worsemuch worse. Her life was far different from when she'd grown up as the charmed daughter of a wealthy real-estate developer.
She hadn't spoken to her father in a few days, so he had no idea she was coming home. He didn't expect her until after the holidays. She smiled. This was going to be the perfect surprise holiday gift for him.
The cab turned the corner and drove down the quiet street. It stopped in front of her two-story town house, located just a few blocks from Inner Harbor. She smiled, looking up at her own private sanctuary. A gift from her father when she'd graduated medical school, it had been hers for five years, but she had yet to really live there.
Janelle paid the driver, giving him a generous tip. He immediately hopped out, helped gather her luggage from the trunk and placed it up the steps by the front door.
Now, barely half-awake, she unlocked the front door, turned off the security system and then immediately stopped. Her heart lurched as she slowly looked around. Something was very wrong.
She must have been too tired to realize it. This wasn't her town house. For one thing, this home had furniture. Hers didn't, except for a bedroom set. "Oh, my God," she whispered, realizing she'd just broken into someone's home. She quietly stepped back and looked at the address number plate beneath the outside security light, then checked the front-door key still in her hand. It had opened the door with ease and her coded number had turned off the security alarm, so this had to be her home. She continued into the small foyer. That was when she heard the laughter and realized that she wasn't alone. Her heart jumped.
There was only one logical conclusionsquatters.
The word leaped out at her like a snake from the bush. She tensed just thinking it. She was all too familiar with squatters. They were extremely common in many places in Africa. Mostly displaced refugees in fear of their lives, they moved into an area and took over completely. Some were compliant and assimilated with ease. Others were more fierce and forceful. They came. They usurped the resources. They stayed. Getting them to leave was nearly impossible. She continued looking around, knowing already that this was going to be a nightmare.
She walked in and examined the living-room area more closely. There were no crates, wooden pallets, cushions or discarded debris on the floor. No empty alcohol bottles, no drug paraphernalia and no stomach-turning stench.
Instead there was a huge television, beautiful Oriental rugs, stunning accent tables with lamps and very-expensive-looking mahogany wood furniture. None of which was hers. Her once-rigid and antiseptic living environment, devoid of personal effects, was now a family setting ripped from the pages of Architectural Digest. So, unless squatters had upgraded their game a thousand percent, there was something else going on here.
She relaxed a bit, then took a few more steps into the room, noting a cartoon movie muted and frozen on the large flat-screen television. There was also a kid's puzzle and a few children's books scattered on the floor. The last thing she needed to deal with right now was a squatting family with children at Christmastime.
"Who are you?"
Janelle turned quickly and looked down, seeing a small child peeking around the corner at her. She was holding a doll and wearing pink pajamas with a sparkling little crown on her head.
"You're not s'posed to be here," the child added. "This is my daddy's castle."
"No, sweetheart," Janelle said slowly, "I am supposed to be here. This is my home."
"Aneka, who are you talking to, child?" asked a female voice.
"The lady with the bags," the little girl said.
"What lady with the bags?"
"Hello?" Janelle called out to whoever was with the child.
"Who the ?" There was a loud rush of movement and an older woman came hurrying out from the kitchen area. "Aneka, get over here now. Who are you? We don't have any money and we're not " She stopped and looked more closely at Janelle.
An instant later she smiled joyfully. "Well, I'll be. Janelle, child, is that you?" The woman walked over, grinning from ear to ear, her arms wide-open. She grabbed Janelle in a huge bear hug. "Welcome home."
"Mrs. Ivers," Janelle said, finally recognizing the older woman as her neighbor from across the street.
"Well, of course it's me. Who else would it be? Child, you scared me half to death. You're a sight for sore eyes. It's been almost a year since you've been home."
"Mrs. Ivers, what are you doing here?"
"Me? Babysitting. What in the world are you doing coming in here this late at night?"
"I live here," she said with uncertainty as she looked around. "At least, I used to live here. It doesn't much look like I do anymore."
"Well, of course you live here." Mrs. Ivers's smile widened. "Where else would you live? It's so good to see you. You must be exhausted. But I thought you weren't coming home until after the first of the year. At least that's what your father told me."
"Mrs. Ivers, what's going on? Why are you here with this little girl? Who is she and where are all my things?"
"Oh, your father had everything moved out and put in storage about a month ago. I'm here babysitting Aneka while her father's at work. He should be home soon."
"I still don't understand. Who are these people, and why are they living in my house?"
"Your father said it would be okay for the time being."
"My father?" she questioned. "Why would he say that? Why wouldn't I mind my home being taken over while I'm away?" she added sarcastically as she pulled out her cell phone and called her father's home. There was no answer.
She called his cell phone. Again, no answer. She sighed. "He must be out to dinner or in a meeting."
"Things have changed, Janelle."
"What do you mean?" Janelle asked. Just then the microwave beeped. Mrs. Ivers turned and headed back into the kitchen. Seconds later the aroma of buttered popcorn filled the room. Janelle followed the scent and the little girl trailed after her.
"My name is Princess Aneka," she said as her tiny little fingers held tight to her doll.
Janelle looked down at the mass of dark curls and ringlets looping just below her shoulders. Her dark eyes shone brightly as she looked up. The child was adorable. "It's very nice to meet you, Princess Aneka," Janelle said as she continued into her kitchen. "Mrs. Ivers, I'm exhausted. Would you please just take Aneka to your house? We can straighten all this out tomorrow."
"Perhaps you should speak with your father first. My guess is that he's still at the office."
"No, he never works this late," Janelle said as she looked at her watch, realizing that it was still on Tanzania time.
"That was before."
"What do you mean? Before what?"
"You need to talk to your father," Mrs. Ivers reiterated.
Janelle shook her head with annoyance. All she wanted was to go to sleep, but that was clearly not going to happen anytime soon. "Fine."
She dialed her father's private office number, expecting no answer since the company should have been closed hours earlier. To her surprise someone picked up the phone.
Janelle frowned. It was a man's voice, but not her father's. The voice seemed familiar, but that was impossible. It couldn't be. "Yes, I'd like to speak with Ben Truman, please."
"He's unavailable at the moment."
"Just tell him it's his daughter."
"Janelle?" he said.
"Yes. Who is this?"
There was a short pause as the man's voice softened. "I'm sorry. Your father's unavailable. You might want to call back tomorrow morning."
"No, I don't want to call back tomorrow morning. I need to speak with him tonight, right now."
"I'm sorry. I'll tell him you called."
"Fine," she snapped. Annoyed, she disconnected the call and looked across the kitchen. "What's going on, Mrs.
Mrs. Ivers shook her head. "Your father ran into some financial trouble a while back. He's working on fixing it."
"What do you mean 'financial trouble'? What's going on and who's the man answering my father's private line this late at night?"
"Go to the office, Janelle, and talk to your father. Here, take my car," Mrs. Ivers said as she grabbed her purse and began digging for her keys. She found them and handed them to Janelle.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This Holiday Magic is made up of three melt your heart stories… *In A gift from the heart, by Celeste O. Norfleet, Tyson Croft returns, after leaving suddenly years ago, to help Janelle Truman’s father save his company; Tyson still loves Janelle and hopes to win her back. Can Janelle forgive him for leaving her the way he did? Will she? *In Mine by Christmas, by Janice Sims, High School sweethearts, Adam Benson and Sage Andrews calls it quits after going separate ways entering college only to discover, years later, they still love one another. Adam does all he can to win Sage’s heart again but she’s closed her heart to love forever; Will Adam be able to melt Sage’s heart and make her his again? *In A Family for Christmas, by Felicia Mason, Single mom, Renee Armstrong, and her daughter moves to the suburbs for a fresh start; She meets her neighbor, Trey Calloway and his daughter and there is instant attraction between them but hesitates acting on it because of their girls. Will they take a chance and become a family for Christmas. I highly recommend this book for your holiday read, you won’t be disappointed.
Janice Sim's Mines by Christmas is a quaint short story that is the essence of choosing badly. This is exactly what Adam Benson did when he ended the relationship Sage Andrews and broke her heart. Years later, he tries to win her back and hopes to do so during a holiday weekend in Vienna. We get to see if she can give him another chance and they can be reunited.