NY Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal
Noah Elliott used to be a beloved member of the Starlight Bend community, until a tragedy turns to an ultimate betrayal and he is driven into solitude. His face horribly scarred, he retreats to his mountain top mansion–until a stubborn social worker is brave enough to face the beast, and ask for a special Christmas wish to help a sick child. When Noah agrees to help, he never considers he might fall for the spitfire, do-gooder. But when she offers love as the solution, will he be able to let go of the past?
Josephine Whitman has one shot at making a holiday wish come true–and it all hinges on Noah Elliott. She gets him to agree to host a Winter Carnival, and finds herself intrigued by the gruff, fascinating man hiding a bruised heart. But will her love be enough for him to take a chance on a brand new future?
This novella was originally released in Holiday Heat: The Men of Starlight Bend.
I think this is my favorite of the Starlight Bend books. This one grabs you by the heartstrings and doesn’t let go.
Josephine ‘Joey’ Whitman is a social worker and she loves the holidays. When she takes a star from the Wishing Tree she knows she’ll do everything she can to make this child’s wish come true. Even confront Noah Elliot.
Noah Elliot had done everything to help this town flourish, now he’s a recluse in his mansion towering over the town. The town he once loved turned on him, so he did the same. He considers himself to be a monster anyway with the scars he received on that fateful day so very long ago.
The child’s wish is for a carnival like the town once had, full of rides, games and excitement for everyone to enjoy. There is only one way Josephine can make this happen, and she’s going to see Noah Elliot even if it kills her.
This is a favorite scene.
Joey was going to die.
Hysterical laughter bubbled up from her numb lips and escaped into the biting air. Her face hurt. Her fingers throbbed with a combination of heat and cold that nearly made her weep. Her feet had long been numb in her boots. She feared if she tried to move them, a toe might literally snap off.
This had been a stupid plan, but what man lets a woman freeze to death? Noah Elliott had refused to speak with her when she’d called. He refused to respond to her email messages. And now, he refused to let her in from a sure death.
There was no way she could get past the gates, and the police had threatened her with trespassing if she stepped foot on his property. With precious time ticking away, she’d figured she’d set up a beach chair in front of his security gates and not move. In her bag, she packed protein bars and water. She’d layered up with double socks and long underwear but after hours sitting unmoving in the cold, mother nature had definitely won this competition.
Along with Noah Elliott.
The man honestly didn’t care if she got frostbite and died. Unfortunately, this only made her so damn mad, she’d decided to play a ridiculous game of chicken to make her point.
Now she was going to die right in front of his house and Owen wouldn’t get his wish.
Her foster mother had warned her about her stubbornness. She only wished it generated more body heat.
Joey reached for her phone to call emergency services to save her since she couldn’t move, not even the scant few feet to actually get arrested.
As she fumbled for the phone, a loud squeaking noise interrupted her thoughts, followed by the mountain shaking. The gates were opening.
Her frozen mouth gaped. Like in a movie, the massive gates slowly parted, inch by inch. She forced her numb limbs to move before he changed his mind. Leaving the chair and her car, she gripped her bag and began making the slow ascent toward the mansion. Blinking against the furious hammering of snow, she stretched out one foot in front of the other, climbing higher and higher, in what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was less than a ten minute walk, until she was finally on a walkway.
Joey had no time to take in the stunning landscape bathed in pure white as she kept her head down, fighting the wind working against her. As she arrived at the mansion, the heavy wooden double doors opened, and a tall, white haired man dressed in an impeccable black suit stood before her. “Good evening, Madame,” he said in a deep, cultured voice. “Please come in. Let me take your coat. I’ve made tea and coffee, so you can warm yourself by the fire.”
She tried to speak, but her teeth chattered so rapidly it was impossible. He helped her remove her coat, hat, and gloves, and quickly placed a thick afghan around her shoulders. Joey buried herself in the blessed warmth, beginning to shake harder. “Th-th-th-thank you.”
“Your boots too, Madame.” She pulled them off, and he deftly gathered up her pile of wet gear and her purse. Joey tried to ask why he was taking her purse, but she was still unable to form words. “I’ll be with you shortly. Please make your way into the sitting room and sit by the fire.” He motioned toward the room on the right, and then disappeared.
Still shaking, she pulled the afghan tighter around her body and stepped into the sitting room.
High backed velvet red chairs lay in a perfect half moon around a massive brick fireplace. Her bare-feet padded over a richly detailed Oriental carpet in burgundy and royal blue. The glittering crystal chandelier hung from an arched ceiling in clear glass. Joey tilted her head up, and it was as if stars floated down from the sky. Gold and taupe textured wallpaper cloaked the room in pure royalty.
She sat gingerly on the winged back chair, stretching out her hands and feet to the crackling flames of the fire. The numbness had finally began to melt away. A burning sensation rushed to her limbs, causing her to wince a bit, but it didn’t bother her one bit. She’d done it. She’d entered the mansion and she hadn’t died.
Joey figured that was enough of a victory for now.
She sat, content, though a tad frightened, noticing the gorgeous gold candlesticks and matching mantel clock.
Suddenly, her skin tingled as she sensed another presence in the room. She turned around, and came face to face with a beautiful black lab, poised in the doorway. Tail wagging, head cocked, the dog studied her in perfect silence, assessing her presence, but obviously not a dog to be feared. A smile curved her lips. “Hey boy,” she said softly. She turned her palm upwards. “Maybe you can help me finally meet the mysterious Noah Elliott. Tell him I’m not here to make any trouble. I’d just like to talk to him about something very important.”
“I’ve known you for a few seconds and you’ve already lied to me. You’re nothing but trouble, lady.”
She sucked in her breath. The dog responded to the dark, timbre of the masculine voice with a more vigorous wagging tail and his paws pranced with excitement. Her body responded to the voice in a similar fashion. As if waking from a long slumber, her tummy slid and tumbled, and her entire being stilled, then sighed in exquisite pleasure. A voice like that could be bottled and sold to women like the genie’s lamp. It was a voice meant to whisper naughty, dirty things to a woman in the deep of the night, and then follow up with some naughty, dirty actions.
Heart beating with anticipation, she waited to see the man attached to the voice.
Probst, Jennifer. The Grinch of Starlight Bend. Holiday Heat: The Men of Starlight Bend. Kindle Locations (6148-6187). Bella Media Management. Kindle Edition.
Sheer determination had gotten her into the mansion, but convincing Noah to help was going to take a lot more.
A convoluted tale, of past pain, emotional and physical for both of them. A relationship neither can avoid, surprises at every turn and plenty of tears along with some heat.
5 Contented Purrs for Jennifer!
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Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.
She is the NYT, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her book, The Marriage Bargain, was ranked #6 on Amazon’s Best Books for 2012, and spent 26 weeks on the NY Times. Her work has been translated in over a dozen countries, sold over a million copies, and was dubbed a “romance phenom” by Kirkus Reviews. She loves hearing from readers.