A Candlewood Falls Novel
Christmas is about to get Wilde!
All Lacey Wilde wants for Christmas is to open her long-awaited Bed & Breakfast. When her only guest is a sexy stranger who claims her adopted Military Working Dog is his, Lacey isn’t about to lose her fur baby—or her heart—to charming Marine veteran Dean Hunter.
But the K-9 controversy is the least of their troubles. Danger lurks in the shadows of Candlelight Inn, and someone will stop at nothing to steal Lacey’s heirloom ornaments. Can Dean protect the woman he’s fallen for against a deadly threat, or will this Christmas be their last?
Lacey was all ready for her bed and breakfast to open on New Year’s, but a storm came through causing a tree to fall on the gazebo part of the wraparound porch. She has to get fixed quickly in order to pass the final inspection prior to opening for guests.
She’s part of the Victorian Homes Christmas Tour this year even though she can’t have overnight guests. It’s a wild turn out with some interesting characters. One little old lady in particular, a Ms. Brandt, has some interesting recollections while on the tour.
Dean Hunter arrives at the B&B just as the tour does. He’s jumping the gun, not waiting for the military to inform Lacey her adoption of Remi is invalid. He joins the tour and admires the architecture since there’s no way to have a private conversation during it.
Needless to say, there is quite the confrontation when Sam returns with Remi after the tour. Dean does leave without his dog and promises not to be far away when she gets the paperwork. Unfortunately, he also discovers he has no wallet. He has to wait until morning to replace the cards he cancelled so finds a parking lot to sleep in, only to be confronted by the police.
That’s when Lacey calls about an intruder on her property and finding Dean’s wallet.
This is a favorite scene.
“I heard you and the cop talking. Any idea who might want to snoop around your house?”
“No.” She’d been pondering that question since Officer Foley told her Dean wasn’t her man. “I mean, I guess it’s possible that someone might’ve been sneaking into the orchard for Sam’s Happles.”
“Do people do that? Steal apples from orchards at night?”
“Happles.” She emphasized the ‘h’. “It’s short for Happy Apples.” His confusion prompted an explanation. “He’s a plant geneticist. He bred a mood-altering apple.”
“You mean like some kind of apple marijuana?”
She chuckled. “Not that kind of mood-altering. His Happles increase the brain chemicals that make you happy. You know, like chocolate makes you feel good? There was a big write up about it in the paper. Some people falsely believe his apples can cure depression. depression. They can’t. He’s been getting tons of calls about them. They’ve all been harvested weeks ago, but I guess if someone didn’t know that, they might sneak into the orchard to try to steal them.”
“Sounds like these Happles can invite trouble. You need a security system on your house and orchard.”
“Too much money.”
“You live alone?”
Why did he have to display genuine concern? She didn’t want another reason to like him. She was supposed to be angry with him, and yet a strong urge begged her to invite him inside for a nice cup of hot chocolate. He must be freezing without his jacket.
From the heat trapped inside of it, Dean generated a great deal of warmth. He made her hot, anyway.
“I live with Sam, but he’s staying at his girlfriend’s tonight. I have Remi to protect me, though.” Until you take her away.
“Sam’s your brother, then?”
“Yes.” Was it her imagination or did he seem relieved to know that? Her stomach fluttered like it used to right before a guy would ask her out, which was ridiculous under the circumstances. “Why were you sleeping in your car? There’s a hotel two towns over.”
“Had to cancel my credit cards.”
He shrugged. “I’ve slept in worse places and under worse conditions.” The glow of the porch light caught a far off look in his eye as if he were remembering terrible things.
A little guilt crept into her heart. Sometimes she forgot other people had to deal with their own personal hells.
The officer returned to the porch, and she took a step back from Dean.
“I didn’t see any broken windows or tampering of the house,” he said. “There was nothing unusual in the yard or woods. Since there’ve been a few burglaries nearby in recent months, I’ll let the other officers know to increase patrols in the area.”
Increase patrols for what? Who were they looking for? A shadowy figure wasn’t much for the police to go on.
Officer Foley returned his flashlight to his duty belt. “There really isn’t anything more I can do right now. If you hear or see anything else, call us.”
“Thank you, officer.”
He turned to Dean. “There’s a hotel two towns over.”
“Thank you, officer, but Ms. Wilde owns a bed and breakfast.”
“So?” Lacey said. He wasn’t about to stay here.
“So, I need a bed. And breakfast.”
Why did her thoughts turn to her four-poster mahogany queen with shirtless Dean—all sexy and tempting—lying beneath her covers? Her breath hitched and mouth dried. She hadn’t thought of a real-life man in that way in a long time. Her fantasies had been reserved for completely unattainable men like actors and musicians. Good to know that her libido had returned to normal.
Remission had many perks.
Remembering that she didn’t have a certificate of occupancy yet and that she stood in front of an officer of the law, she cleared her throat. “I’m not open for business. Especially not to men looking to take my dog.”
“Then you’re in luck. I’m not taking your dog. I’m taking mine. But not until Christmas Eve.”
She gritted her teeth. “Well, I don’t have my CO yet.”
“Then how were you able to have a houseful of guests this afternoon?”
“The quirks of a small town. I can’t open my business to paying customers, but I can have guests visit my residence like anyone else in town can.”
“Then consider me a guest.”
She crossed her arms and gave him a pointed glare. “Guest would imply you’re welcome here.”
“Come on, Lacey. I need a place to stay.” He snapped his finger as if remembering something. “And you need a carpenter to fix your porch. That’s a win-win situation, right there. Plus, it gives me a chance to visit with Remi.”
That was the whole point wasn’t it? She didn’t want Dean hanging around Remi. What if the dog wanted to be with him over her? She didn’t think she could handle that on top of everything else.
The look on officer Foley’s face said he wasn’t getting involved but was monitoring the situation in case of trouble.
Except for demanding his dog back, Dean didn’t seem like the trouble-causing type. Men who caused trouble don’t offer up their jackets or help elderly women or politely admire her ornaments.
Why did that sound dirtier than it should have?
Plus, if he fixed the porch, Sam could go to Vermont with Faith and Lily tomorrow. She really wanted to give that to Sam. Besides, letting Dean Hunter stay the week wouldn’t sway her from meeting with Carter River to explore her legal options regarding Remi. “Fine. You can stay. But you can’t be with Remi all day. I want to spend as much time with her before you take her. Got it?”
“Alright then. Should we shake on it?” She offered her hand.
“We can if you’d like, but I always keep my promises.”
“You’d better.” His hand slid into hers like the first time they’d shook hello. He had piqued her interest then, an attractive stranger with a sexy accent. And wouldn’t you know it, he still piqued her interest. Why couldn’t they have met under different circumstances? If he hadn’t come for Remi, she totally would have fallen for this guy.
“You good, Ms. Wilde?” Officer Foley said.
“I’m good. Mr. Hunter will stay in the carriage house.” Away from her and away from Remi. “Thank you for coming out and checking on the place.”
He nodded and then left them alone on the porch.
Fawcett, K.M.; Falls, Candlewood. Wilde Christmas: A Candlewood Falls Novel (Small Town Wilde Romance Book 2) (Kindle Locations 710-762). Kindle Edition.
With Dean fixing her porch, Sam leaves for Vermont with Faith and Lily.
It seems that’s when things start getting a bit crazy. First Lacey’s ex shows up wanting his cut of her Christmas ornaments. He seems to think they are actual Ulbrichts and worth a lot of money. Not that he has any rights to anything in her home since the divorce is final.
Plenty of suspense and intrigue as Lacey and Dean try to figure out how Lacey’s family came to have the ornaments and some action as someone tries to get their hands on them.
All while Dean and Lacey start down the path of romance.
I look forward to the next books in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for K.M.!
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K.M. Fawcett is the author of the thrilling science fiction romance series, The Survival Race and is one of 3 authors in the small-town contemporary romance shared world series of Candlewood Falls. She writes stories featuring underdogs and fish-out-of-water characters who find their place in the universe. She believes in happy endings and true love conquering all.
She and her husband—the inspiration for all her heroes (and some of her villains)—own Tenchi Dojo in NJ, where they teach traditional Okinawan karate and kobudo (weapons). K.M. incorporates two decades of martial arts experience into her stories to create strong, kick-ass characters who aren’t afraid to fight for the life and love they deserve.
Wielding the world as her office, K.M. exhausted many hours writing in parked cars (waiting for kids at drum lessons and ballet classes), on airplanes, at a local coffee shop, outdoors, and in her home library with two mischievous cats vying for attention.