Prepare to have your toes curled by some of the holiday's hunkiest heroes in this hot, hot, hot collection. . .
Donna Kauffman Unleashed
Hired to watch a billionaire's pets over the holidays, Emma Lafferty ends up trapped in a mansion with her employer's sexy great-nephew--and heir--whose motives are as shady as his desire is crystal clear. . ..
Jill Shalvis Finding Mr. Right
With another lonely Christmas looming, the brilliant Maggie Bell has a eureka moment when she decides Jacob Wahler, a rough and rippling contractor, is so wrong he has to be oh-so-right. . .
HelenKay Dimon Can You Hand Me the Tape?
One week before Christmas, Natalie Pritchard loses the naughty tape she made for her now-ex-boyfriend. Only her nemesis, the sexy criminal defense attorney Spencer Donovan, can help--but can she afford his price?
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About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis has written over two dozen romance novels. She's a three time National Reader's Choice award winner, a RITA and Holt finalist, and has numerous romantic comedy awards, including: Career Achievement in Love and Laughter from RT Book Reviews, and the Mad Cap Award. Her previous books include: The Sweetest Thing, Smart and Sexy, To All a Good Night. Jill lives with her family in Truckee, California (near Lake Tahoe). Visit her website at jillshalvis.com.
HelenKay Dimon balances her day job as a divorce lawyer with her love of reading and writing romance. She was a two-time finalist in Lori Foster's online Brava Novella Contest and hasn't stopped writing since. HelenKay and her husband, James, live in Maryland.
Read an Excerpt
To All a Good Night
By Donna Kauffman Jill Shalvis Helenkay Dimon BRAVA BOOKS
Copyright © 2008 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.
Chapter One Emma Lafferty's life had gone to the dogs. Literally. And to the cats. And the parakeets, goldfish, hamsters, even the occasional potbelly pig. What it and her fledgling pet-sitting service hadn't gone to was her bank account. Not enough, anyway.
She glanced quickly-again-at the Google map printout she'd made based on the reams of detailed information she'd gotten from Lionel Hamilton's assistant. She'd always done better with a visual map rather than the go-south-on-route-whatever type instructions. Who knew which way south was? As luck would have it-her luck anyway-the aerial route had looked a lot simpler online. Of course, online, she hadn't been trying to find a strange house in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, during a surprise winter ice storm.
"Happy holidays to me," she muttered, squinting through the permanently fogged windshield of her beloved, but beat-up Land Rover.
She cracked the windows a bit farther, hoping in vain that would help clear the view a bit more, then rolled her side window down enough to reach out and slap the wiper against the windshield. Again. The rapidly building crust didn't even budge. Her headlights barely penetrated the sheet of dense gray in front of her. Regardless, she couldn't risk getting out on such a narrow, winding road. One oncoming vehicleand she'd be toast.
She slowed as she reached the peak of yet another long hill, bracing herself for the drive down the other side. Actually, a controlled slide was probably the best she could hope for at this point. "Why," she muttered through chattering teeth. "Why did I agree to this?"
She knew why. Chelsea, her best friend and cohort since their days together at Tech, had sold her on what had, admittedly, sounded like a pretty sweet deal. Chelsea was in Human Resources at Hamilton Industries, and she'd heard through the grapevine that the grand poobah himself, Lionel Hamilton, was looking for someone to take care of his home and assorted pets over the holidays. A sudden change in dates for a scheduled business trip to the Far East had, apparently, thrown a last-minute wrench into his holiday plans.
Emma had thought it odd that one of Lionel's many household staffers hadn't taken on the job, but Chelsea explained that he'd already surprised them with an extended vacation for the two weeks over Christmas and New Year's and didn't want to rescind the offer.
The dilemma for Emma had been that the job required her to live on premises as both house sitter and pet sitter, and, being that he housed his pets at his weekend residence, said premises was a good two hours outside of town. Which meant she'd have to turn her regular clients down. During one of the busiest seasons of the year. But the pay was ridiculously good, and while she certainly wanted to make her newly established client base happy, Chelsea had also pointed out that doing a good job for Lionel Hamilton might be her ticket to building the kind of clientele any business would love to have. The kind with deep pockets and no time to manage their own lives, much less their own pets. So, Emma had crossed her fingers ... and taken the deal.
Hamilton Industries was a conglomerate that owned most of Randolph County, Virginia, and employed pretty much everyone in it. Everyone except Emma. She'd removed herself from their payroll seven months earlier when a small inheritance had given her the gumption to do what she'd always wanted to do-open her own business.
Emma's former job in accounting would have led to a nice, stable career. She was good at her job, and it was a dependable source of income. The only problem was it bored her to tears. In fact, she'd hated it. The idea of toting up long columns of numbers for the rest of her natural days left her feeling numb inside. She didn't want to be numb. At twenty-nine, she was too young to be numb.
She smacked the dashboard, trying to beat the heater into functioning, not missing the irony as her teeth chattered so hard her jaw hurt. "So, I open my own business, and I'm still numb. Just literally, now."
Three treacherous hills and numerous Hail Mary's later, Emma finally spied the huge wrought iron gate, announcing the entrance to Lionel Hamilton's mountain getaway. As she made her way slowly up the immense circular drive, she found herself wondering, if this was the weekend house, what did his everyday house looked like?
It was amazing even beyond what she and Chelsea had imagined during the hours of animated discussion they'd indulged in since she'd agreed to take the job. The massive marble pillars and soaring double-door entrance alone would have sent her best friend into gossip nirvana, Emma thought as she navigated her way around to the separate garage in the rear. Not that she wasn't goggling over the place herself. In fact, she could hardly wait to get settled in so she could call Chelsea and share every detail.
She used the garage door opener that had been messengered to her, along with a small, bound notebook containing the most anal-retentive, detailed list of instructions, notes, and maps she'd ever seen in her life-and was profoundly grateful to have, as she'd accepted the job without ever directly speaking to Mr. Hamilton. She'd gotten a handful of his assistants instead, over the phone, via e-mail, and text message, all of them borderline frantic to make certain she followed the notebook to the letter. Emma had assured the seemingly harried crew that she'd be fine, privately wondering what the hell she'd really signed on for. Then the notebook had arrived. And she'd been a little worried ever since. Maybe more than a little.
Hamilton apparently micromanaged his pets and his home the way he did his assistants. It was no wonder his employees sounded like they needed antacid chasers with every meal. She was close to that herself, and she hadn't even officially started the job yet.
Reminding herself how great the payday was going to be, plus the potential future clients the job would nab, Emma took a deep breath and eased her Land Rover into the ten-car garage. She then spent the next several minutes jaw-dropped as she stared at the half dozen or so very shiny, very expensive cars. She pulled in next to a midnight-blue Maserati and parked, then patted the dash of her Land Rover. "Don't let them make you feel bad. You have character."
She turned on the overhead light, sighing in relief when it didn't flicker back off, then consulted the first of the many detailed house maps in the addendum section of the notebook. After making sure the garage door was closed behind her and the alarm light activated, she grabbed two of her lighter bags, and made her way to the main house through an enclosed passageway. Once she made sure she could get in and move around without setting off the alarm system, she'd unpack the rest. But first she wanted to go introduce herself to her charges.
They didn't come to meet her at the door, but her notebook had explained that they would be penned up off the kitchen in the back, awaiting her arrival. She just followed the barking. And a voice shouting, "Welcome! Right this way!"
She wound her way through the expansive foyer, around the central staircase, then down one long hallway before finally coming to the double swinging doors that led to the kitchen. If you wanted to call it that. It did, indeed, have kitchen appliances and a large workstation in the center of one part of the immense room. That was the smaller part, though there was nothing small about it. Martha Stewart would weep for such a well-appointed kitchen space. But Emma's attention was drawn to the rest of the room, starting with the overlarge, low, round table, patterned in beautiful detailed mosaic tiles. The chairs surrounding it were cushioned with heavy brown and burgundy pillows and the whole thing was framed with an immense stone fireplace.
"Welcome! Right this way!"
Smiling, she went over to the huge wrought iron aviary and smiled at the rather imperious African Grey perched inside. "You must be Cicero."
"Cicero!" he repeated. "Welcome!" Then he whistled a beautiful tune that Emma didn't know the title of, but couldn't help laughing at, as she enjoyed his little show. She then turned her attention to the series of French doors leading to the enclosed, equally impressive, sunroom off the back of the kitchen. Most of her one-bedroom apartment would fit in that space. Behind the doors waited a tail-thumping basset hound named Jack, and Martha, a Harlequin Great Dane.
"Hi, guys," she said, accepting their enthusiastic welcome with a sincere smile and open arms. They made quick friends, then she found their leads and specially tailored doggie jackets right where the notebook said they would be. Thankfully, they were both used to wearing their Burberry plaid winter-wear and didn't struggle too much as she slid on the lined pieces and strapped them and their leads into place.
She led them both out into the cold, damp of the night as the ice and snow continued to pelt down. "Sorry, critters. I know this isn't the best of situations, here." As she carefully led them across the patio, lights sprang on in the trees, illuminating the immediate area, which was mostly wooded and slanted immediately uphill. The dogs were obviously used to the topography as they easily led her up a snow- and ice-covered path. The heavy layer of leaves and pine needles beneath the slippery surface provided much needed traction as their feet broke through the crusty surface. Still, she was huffing a little as they finally made it to a clearing at the top of the rise. The lighting cast an eerie glow through the mixture of snowflakes and slanted streaks of ice pellets, making her wonder what it must be like up here on a clear night. She spied two stone benches and evenly spaced mounds around the circumference, which were probably gardens or landscaped areas around the edges of the clearing, before becoming wooded once again.
Fortunately, the dogs made quick work of the business at hand, and they were soon heading back down the path and into the house. Where, just as the book noted, there were towels and a brush to loosen leaves and burrs, and chunks of ice, in this case, if needed. She quickly removed their leads and jackets, and rubbed them both down. Jack especially seemed to love this part of the deal, and squirmed in rhapsodic delight, while Martha spent most of the time sniffing Emma and trying to give her a dog-tongue facial. At least they were going to be easy to get along with.
"Welcome!" Cicero greeted them as Emma let all three of them into the kitchen area. "Right this way!"
She found the dogs' water dishes and topped them off, cleaned Cicero's as well, then rubbed her hands as she decided what to do next. First, she placed a quick call to her parents, letting them know she'd arrived safely, and once again assured them she would be fine, and yes, she was definitely going to miss seeing them for the holidays. She hung up, feeling a bit homesick. Christmas was her favorite time of year to go home to Connecticut. And though disappointed at not seeing their only daughter over the holidays, her mom and dad understood about the business decision she'd made and had supported her, for which she was very grateful. She thought about calling Chelsea, but decided to put that off until she'd settled in and seen more of the place. Which was, admittedly, calling to her. So, she also put off the plan of heading back out to the garage to get the rest of her things in favor of exploring. Otherwise known as snooping around.
She dug a bag of pretzels and a bottle of water out of one of the satchels she had carried in, and crunched on a few while she consulted the maps in the addendum section of the notebook.
"Snack time for Cicero! Snack time. I'm the pretty bird. Pretty bird!" There was a repeat performance of the whistled song, with a new flourish at the end.
She laughed and shook her finger at the Grey. "I've been well warned about your charming ways, mister. You're not going to wheedle junk food from me. You'll get your bedtime piece of mango, and that's it."
In response, Cicero gave her a wolf whistle, then laughed, quite impressed with himself.
Shaking her head and smiling, Emma balanced the notebook, the pretzels, and her water bottle, and wandered back to the main foyer, trying to decide where to explore first. Jack and Martha followed, quite happy to be off on another trek. She'd been informed that as long as she was in residence, they had the run of the house, but were to be put out in the Florida room if she had to leave for any reason. So she waved a hand toward the stairs. "Shall we?"
Martha loped easily up the wide marble staircase, while Jack took his time as his stubby little legs required a bit more effort to heave his long body from one riser to the next. But his tail was wagging the whole time, so she left him to his labors and went back to consulting the maps as she climbed to the second floor landing.
An hour later, she was quite thankful for the addendum maps, as she'd be hopelessly lost without them. Actually, even with them she'd gotten herself somewhat turned around, out at the end of the west wing-at least she was pretty sure it was west. Even the dogs had given up on the adventure and trotted off after some time, to God knew where. She was sure they'd find her when they got hungry or wanted to go out, so she wasn't too concerned about that. But she was getting hungry herself and she had no idea how to get back to the kitchen, much less the garage, or the rooms she'd been assigned to stay in.
She was stumbling down a dark corridor, unable to find the hall light switch, when a very deep male voice said, "If you're a burglar, then might I direct your attention downstairs to the formal dining room. The silver tea set alone would keep you in much better stealth gear for at least the next decade. At the very least, you'd be able to afford a flashlight."
Emma let out a strangled yelp as her heart leapt straight to her throat, then she froze in the darkness. Except for the animals, she was supposed to be completely alone. Not so much as a valet or sous chef was to be on the premises for the next twelve days. Of course, the notebook did say that Cicero had a lengthy and amazing vocabulary. But he was at least two floors away. And she doubted he knew how to use the house speaker system. Armed with the notebook and not much else, Emma decided offense was the best defense. "Please state who you are and how you got in here. Security has already been alerted, so you'd best-"
Rich male laughter cut her off. "You must be the sitter."
"Which must make you the burglar, then," she shot back, nerves getting the better of her.
More laughter. Which, despite being sexy as all hell, did little to calm her down. Because, though she'd been joking, the idea that she'd been on the job for less than two hours and had already allowed a thief into the house was just a perverse enough thing that it would actually happen to her.
The large shadow moved closer and she was deep into the fight-or-flight debate when a soft click sounded and the hallway was illuminated with a series of crystal wall sconces. Emma's first glance at her unexpected guest did little to balance her equilibrium.
Whoever he was, he beat her five-foot-nine height by a good half foot, which made the fight thing rather moot. Flight probably wasn't going to get her very far, either. He had the kind of broad shoulders, tapered waist and well-built legs her defensive line coach dad would recruit in a blink, and charming rascal dimples topped by twinkling blue eyes her Irish mother would swoon over as she served him beef stew and biscuits.
Emma, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea what to do with him.
Chapter Two Trevor Hamilton took in the unexpected sight before him. She was tall and quite capable-looking. Certainly looked up to the task of riding herd over the ungainly Martha, while staring down Cicero even on his most demanding days. She was doing a pretty damn good job of staring him down, and he knew that to be a challenge. When he wanted it to be, anyway. He wondered where Lionel had found her. Despite her quite capable demeanor, she didn't look nearly stressed out enough to be on his regular payroll.
"Lionel Hamilton is my uncle," he told her. "My great uncle, that is. His younger brother, Aloysius, was my grandfather. He passed on when I was little, so Lionel was sort of my substitute grandpa."
If his family cred did him any justice in her eyes, it was hard to tell from her steady regard. She was attractive, in an unconventional way, he decided. She had a head of thick, very unruly russet curls that tumbled over her shoulders and down her back and made a man want to bury his hands fist-deep. Her cheekbones were sharp, probably more so due to the set of her jaw at the moment. Her eyes, so far as he could tell, were a nondescript hazel, and yet easily held his own in a way that, admittedly, intrigued him. Her mouth ... now there's where he got tripped up just a little. It was wide, with a deep bottom lip that begged to be nipped at while being kissed. He'd bet big money they were as soft as they were lush.
<%TOC%> Contents UNLEASHED by Donna Kauffman....................1
Excerpted from To All a Good Night by Donna Kauffman Jill Shalvis Helenkay Dimon
Copyright © 2008 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
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.
FINDING MR. RIGHT by Jill Shalvis....................111
CAN YOU HAND ME THE TAPE? by HelenKay Dimon....................203
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have loved all the other ones I have read except this one....I was very disappointed! I would not recommend at all!
I usually love these books. I actually didn't even finish it. Just skimmed it and was too bored to finish. I gave it to a charity--would not even want to past it on to a friend. Have read Jill Shalvis before and she was ok but book was definately not worth the price or, more importantly, the time.
Not bad. Not bad at all. To All A Good Night was a delicious holiday read filled with sexy men and spunky women. Lots of heat and delightful adventure. Basically it's some good not-so-clean Christmas fun ;) There's no real connecting theme other than, maybe, finding love when you least expect it? I really loved two of the stories (Shalvis and Dimon). Both are easily 5 star stories. They're fun and sexy with great characters and storylines that felt complete and fit the characters. I didn't love Kauffman's contribution. It started off strong but fizzled and fell into the rushed category. Ex- after less than 24 hours knowing each other the two are going to move in together and she's going to move states to be with him. Really? Eh not for me. But overall an excellent anthology!
Three of today's hottest romance authors warm the holiday season win To All A Good Night.
Unleashed by Donna Kauffman has pet sitter Emma Lafferty working for a billionaire CEO during the holiday season. She was told that it would just be her and the pets. Emma ends up meeting the man's great nephew Trevor Hamilton. Trevor is searching for answers about his heritage. Emma and Trevor find love in the most unlikely of places.
Jill Shalvis's Finding Mr. Right has brilliant chemist Maggie Bell fed up with always ending up with Mr. Wrong when they started out as Mr. Right. She decides to go against type and have a wicked fling with hunky contractor Jacob Wahler. Jacob Wahler is amazed that someone as smart and beautiful as Maggie would give him the time of day. What starts as a no strings affair grabs both of them by the heart strings.
HelenKay Dimon's Hand Me The Tape has Natalie Pritchard turning to attorney Spencer Donovan for help. After dumping her ex she needs help getting a risque tape back. Since Spencer is in partnership with her ex, to Natalie its logical to turn to Spencer. Spencer isn't so sure. He never really noticed his partners girlfriend before but he sure is now.
To All A Good Night has three warm and toasty stories to get every romance lover in the holiday spirit. Each story is funny and all out sexy. You can't go wrong picking up this delightful Christmas anthology.
TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT Donna Kauffman*** Emma Lafferty agrees to house sit and pet sit for an eccentric billionaire over the holidays, knowing the pay and references it would generate would be a hefty boost to her new pet sitting business. When she arrives at his country home in the middle of an ice storm, the last thing she expects to find is the gorgeous great-grandson of the CEO, and although she doesn't quite believe the story he's telling about why he's there, she finds his charm irresistible.***** Trevor Hamilton knew his great-uncle was going out of the country for two weeks and was certain he could pay off whoever had been hired to pet sit so he could search the mansion for clues to a family secret - a secret that has eaten at him for several years. It immediately becomes clear that Emma isn't budging. It isn't long before Trevor is totally captivated by Emma and he finds himself questioning the importance of the supposed family secret in comparison to his desire to build a relationship with Emma.***** Emma and Trevor are absolutely charming together, despite a slightly rocky start. The sparks fly immediately, although they're a little hesitant to trust each other. Trevor's questions and doubts about his place in his family is heartening, as is Emma's gentle persuasion for him to do whatever is necessary to ease his mind and allow him to find the peace he has desperately wanted for several years.***** FINDING MR. RIGHT Jill Shalvis*** Maggie Bell is a chemistry genius, working extremely long days on what she hopes is the next medical miracle. Maggie seems to be a Mr. Wrong magnet - finding him time and time again. When she decides to just go ahead and find Mr. Wrong right off the bat, who better than her high school crush, Jacob Wheeler, a contractor who is working in her building. The trouble is, once the two start spending time together, Jacob is beginning to look more and more like Mr. Right.***** Seeing Maggie for the first time since high school, Jacob is incredulous that he's never noticed how beautiful she is. When he learns that she's decided to 'use' him as her Mr. Wrong, he decides to make the most of it and convince her that he wants more than a temporary fling, encouraging her to use her lab for more than test slides.***** Jill Shalvis has done a great job with this reunion story. Past familiarity spares Maggie and Jacob time in the 'getting to know you' stage and despite their differences in profession, they find that there's a definite attraction that both are eager to investigate and research. Add a little intrigue and danger and Maggie and Jacob's story is especially interesting.***** CAN YOU HAND ME THE TAPE? HelenKay Dimon*** Natalie Pritchard breaks her engagement to a sleazy, self-centered jerk only to discover that he's unknowingly in possession of a naughty tape she made for him in an effort to boost her self-confidence. She decides the only person she can go to for help is her ex's law partner, Spencer Donovan. To say that Natalie and Spencer don't see eye to eye is an understatement and it takes tremendous courage for her to even talk to him about the tape. Somewhere in the course of their meetings to discuss strategy, the two share their secrets and feelings and soon begin to see each other in a totally different light.***** Spencer Donovan would be the first to admit that he had never really noticed Natalie before. As the fiancee of his law partner she was off-limits so he had no reason to check her out as a woman. Now that she's no longer taken and has requested his help, he has checked her out - and plans to continue checking her out. Because Natlie's self-esteem is nearly broken, Spence knows that a soft-touch is needed. He's counting on gentle attentions and the success of a grand gesture to prove to Natalie that she's the perfect woman for him, just the way she is.***** HelenKay Dimon has written Natalie with vulnerabilities that are shared by so many women. Spencer sees these vul
¿Unleashed¿ by Donna Kauffman. Through her best friend who works in the personnel department of Hamilton Conglomerates, Emma Lafferty is hired to house sit and pet sit for the firm¿s CEO billionaire Lionel Hamilton. At his vast Randolph County estate, his great-nephew Trevor arrives. Trevor wants Emma to leave as he searches for something while Emma wants Trevor to leave because she does not trust him. As they warily watch one another an attraction ignites.------------- ¿Finding Mr. Right¿ by Jill Shalvis. Data Tech lead chemist Maggie Bell is working on a skin cancer cure, but laments about how she only dates wrong Mr. Rights. Her sister tells her to drop the brainy and go for the brawny like contractor Jacob Wheeler whom she tutored in high school. He is attracted to the trivia queen, who tests lotions and other items given to her by the twins running the firm.--------------- ¿Can You Hand Me the Tape? by Helen Kay Dimon. After Natalie Pritchard broke up with Charles Adams, she hates asking his legal partner Spencer Donovan for a favor. She wants him to ¿steal¿ a tape that Charles has of her naked. Spencer who is ending his partnership with obnoxious Charles reluctantly agrees.------------- These are three fun contemporary romances in which the lead female falls in love with someone whom they assume could never love them back the hunks prove them wrong.----------- Harriet Klausner