Julie Campbell needs to get Mr. McCarthy’s attention to pitch her business plan. But the man is not only busy, but an old fashioned, archaic oaf. She does everything for her job as the manager of an exclusive mall—she’s even dressed like an elf to help out one night. Her altruistic act leads her to the hot Santa… who she sees talking to Mr. McCarthy like they’re good friends. So, she comes over and pretends to be with Santa to get Mr. McCarthy’s attention—which ends up leading to a fake date.
All that Paxton Thurman wants is a holiday season without his family worrying about him since his breakup. When he’s disguised as Santa because of losing a bet, he meets a sexy blonde who summons him to go to a party with her, without knowing he’s a moneyed tech guru and nephew of the man Julie is trying to impress. She likes him for him, and he’ll take that any day. But a little lie snowballs into her mistrusting him on a much bigger issue. When he realizes she’s the one for him, he needs to show her where his loyalty lies—before he loses her for good.
Seeing the mall Santa speaking with the Mall owner, Julie Campbell makes a move that will mean some fast talking on her part.
Paxton doesn’t call her out on it, but thinks of a way to make it work for him as well. First he needs to know exactly what she wants to pitch to Alan McCarthy.
This is a favorite scene.
He straightened his shoulders, leaning closer, regarding her with interest. “Why does this mean so much to you? I can feel it in your voice.”
She bit back a smile. “I’m an only child, and my mom worked a lot growing up. I used to hang out with my cousins. They’re a few years younger than me, really sweet girls. Amy is on the spectrum and Carly has severe ADHD and some learning disabilities,” she said, affection softening her tone.
“We used to go to the parks, but whenever we went to the malls or stores, they’d feel overstimulated by the large number of toys stacking the shelves, the bright colors, the endless noise of an overcrowded space.”
“And they inspired you to build their own place?” he asked, a pang of admiration in his expression.
“Yes.” She knew she couldn’t do much for their cousin’s childhood now, as they were older—one of them attending college. But she could help the other kids and their parents who wanted a safe place to hang out. A place where their kids wouldn’t be judged or bullied.
The waiter returned, bringing him his drink and a couple of appetizers. She hadn’t paid attention when he’d ordered them. When the waiter took their orders and left, Paxton shifted his attention to her.
“Sounds like a good idea. Why do you need him? Can’t you find another investor?”
“Because Mr. McCarthy is a guru in the toy department,” she said, reminding him how Mr. McCarthy had amassed his wealth—by not only investing in toys, but creating a few very successful ones. Then, he’d branched out to malls and other assets. “He’s well respected not only in the community, but in the country. He’d be a phenomenal endorsement. Besides, I want to show him I’m intelligent and capable, and one day tell him how I had to ask a guy to accompany me to a pitch and make him regret he didn’t hear me out sooner,” she said. The latter was a selfish motivation, she knew, but she’d enjoy it just the same.
He raised his tumbler to his lips. “That’s ambitious. I like it.”
A surge of excitement traveled through her. She’d shared her dream with former boyfriends before, but she never felt like they listened or really believed in her. Something about Paxton encouraged her. “Good. Have you worked with him before? I forgot to ask where you know him from.”
He shrugged. “We kind of know the same people.”
“Ah. I get it.” She didn’t, but she got the sense he didn’t want to tell more. She also doubted that Mall Santa was the average mall Santa. He had a good knowledge about business and had picked this expensive restaurant. “Do you have any tips for me?”
“Look him in the eye. And don’t dim your light when you’re talking to him because you’ve heard he’s sexist.”
Good advice. She would have been more aggressive before but, also as a general manager of one of Mr. McCarthy’s properties, would hate for him to think of her as pushy and avoid her altogether in the future. But if she didn’t make herself heard, she’d never come through to him. “I’ve heard? He is sexist.”
“Yes, but you’re here to welcome him to the twenty-first century.”
She tilted her head to give him a good look. “What’s your day job? Motivational speaker?”
He chuckled. “Hardly. What do you think I am?”
“You’re one of those digital influencers. You post pictures about health and fitness and get paid for ads. But it’s not steady income, the reason why you take second jobs here and there.”
Amusement glinted in his eyes. An energy bounced between them, and she shuddered, like every part of her became super aware of him. Her breasts constrained against her bra, her breath caught in her throat.
“Not close. Software developer.”
Hmm… beauty and brains. She sank her teeth on her lower lip, to keep from voicing that thought. But when she glanced at him, his gaze dropped to her lips and she drew in a long breath. “Nice. How did you get the Santa gig?” Besides a few employees who had volunteered for overtime money, most of the Santas were hired by Bruce, the HR director, who usually used a local talent agency.
“I know Bruce. We went out drinking and had a bet. I lost and had to be Santa for one day. Though he did that so he wouldn’t have to find cover.”
As a general manager, she made a mental note to talk to Bruce about randomly recruiting people without previous experience to work on mall events. Though still… well played. “What would you have gotten if you had won?” she asked, taking a piece of bruschetta to her mouth.
“He’d have to dress as a clown while running some errands for me.”
A chuckle floated up her throat, and she almost spewed the bruschetta. “That I’d like to see.”
Paxton’s eyes searched for hers, and he curled his lip at the corner of his mouth. A silent exchange took place between them, and she hoped her body was signaling the right message. Because the way he stared at her twisted her insides, then melted them for good measure. “Meeting you makes me glad I lost the bet. And I hate losing,” he said, his voice dropping an octave.
A hot stir unraveled in her body, warming parts of her that usually didn’t feel hot. The area behind her ears, her neck… She swallowed. The sensation arrowed lower, at the pit of her stomach, then on her sex. Get ahold of yourself.
If she gave in, she’d be distracted. She wanted to be taken seriously and needed no extra drama. One thing was for Alan to believe she was dating someone to get her a leg up and an opportunity to pitch. Another thing, quite different, would be to indulge in the searing attraction to Paxton and lose sight of what was important.
Other dates would come. None like this, but they’d come.
Another opportunity to get in Alan McCarthy’s good graces? Hardly.
She placed her hands on her laps, her fingers fidgeting with the napkin. Then she pulled what she hoped was her most serious expression. “I’m flattered, but while I appreciate your help, I’m not interested in dating. I’m laser focused on this pitch, and I don’t want to get distracted.”
“Understood,” he said. “Tell me more about the project…”
Holiday Fake-Out: Bad Santa – Carmen Falcone Kindle Locations (803-848).
His reaction to her plan is more than positive and he tells her what he wants in return for getting Alan to listen. Julie will be his pretend date at his family Christmas in Tahoe.
A few ups and downs, tears, giggles and a quite a bit of sizzle!
5 Contented Purrs for Carmen!
Laurel Greer & Dee Holmes
Pro-hockey star Noel Beckett is determined to avoid his family’s holiday chaos and anything remotely festive. Enter his sister’s roommate Gwen Darling, a curvy artist with a heart of gold who lives for the season. Wanting to sprinkle some glitter over Noel’s Grinchiness, she dares him to be her holiday plus-one.
Noel’s not one to back away from a dare, and he expects his grumpy ways to be validated. But Yule shenanigans and flirty Christmas games with Gwen break through the hot athlete’s commitment to all things Scroogy. Why does she feel like the dash of magic he’s been missing? Is this a Holidare they both can win?
Hockey Star Noel ‘Beck’ Beckett hates the holiday season, he grumps through the whole time. However, he’s not one to turn down a bet especially if winning means he gets his sister Autumn and her best friend Gwen into a more secure apartment in his building.
It’s up to Gwen to convince him the holidays are fun and she’s more than up to the task.
The first event on the list is a corporate charity event run by the Renagades, Noel’s team. Gwen surprises him right off the bat and the rest of the evening goes off without a hitch and he has to admit he ended up having fun. Gwen does too, and realizes that it was really because of each other. She also recognizes she’s falling for Beck.
Next up is Gwen’s family’s Yule celebration, that one is so much fun, lots of laughter and more!
“Would you all just stop?” Gwen snaps. She’s rigid, stiff underneath all the soft layers of her clothes. “We are getting settled, then we’re finishing our decorations. That’s it. Nothing to see here.”
This is it.
The moment to take this mostly enjoyable gathering and make sure she absolutely doesn’t enjoy herself. I shouldn’t do it, not when this family has been nothing but kind since the moment I climbed out of the car.
But I play to win.
“Hey.” I cup her cheek. “They’re just teasing.” Granted, the Darlings are teasing in a ribald, interfering way, but there’s love under the jokes and gestures. A comfort with each other that makes me miss the days when things were easier between my sister, Mom, and me. We might not have had much—and Mom and I had to work hard to create something special for Autumn—but we made it happen.
Now I have lots, and I wish they’d still let me try.
Gwen’s cheek warms my palm.
“I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable,” she murmurs, gaze luminous and earnest, not resisting my thumb idly stroking her soft skin.
“My team spent many a season learning about inclusive locker-room conduct, but let’s be honest—it’s still eighty percent twig-and-berries related.”
Speaking of berries.
I glance pointedly up at the mistletoe. She grips my arm. “Don’t get any ideas, Beck. I was not kidding about the family legend thing.”
“You don’t want to kiss me?” Her lips part. “I didn’t say that, but—”
I lean down, taking her lips with mine.
Her small gasp is worth the gentle harassment her family dishes out behind us. She tastes like sage, tastes like more. With a hitching breath, she surrenders, rising on her tiptoes, melting into my embrace. I splay my hands on her hips, holding her to me, soaking in the pleasure rippling through my limbs. Building in all the places her soft body is pressing into mine. And I don’t give a shit that we have an audience and we’re just doing this because of silly holiday tradition. All I need to do right now is kiss this woman until it’s time to get back on the ferry and return to the city.
Wind teases my hair and curls around the back of my neck.
She jolts away from me, hands flying to hold down her skirt against the back of her thighs. “Beck. What are you thinking?”
Shit, did she think I was going to start groping her or something?
I rock back on my heels, off kilter. I touch my fingers to my tingling lips and lift and eyebrow in what I hope comes across as that was fun and keeps the oh, and it also blew my mind part under wraps. Swallowing hard, I do my best to pretend it was no big thing. “You wanted to show me the magic of the season.”
“Not that kind of magic.” Color spills into her kiss-flushed cheeks. “My skirt flipped up.”
“It was just a draft.” Swiveling my gaze, I check for an open window or door that could have been at fault. But everything seems secure, and it isn’t windy outside, so a sudden breeze makes no sense.
“No such thing as just a draft, Noel,” Rhiannon calls over her shoulder, and I notice she’s ushering the watching family members back outside. “Life and love don’t come with dress rehearsals.”
“Nope.” Stone gives me a clap on the shoulder. “You’re done, son.”
Another inexplicable breeze rushes through the closed window, as if to punctuate the statement. I stare at Gwen, at those perfect lips I’ve just kissed.
All the skepticism in the world doesn’t stop me from wondering if Stone is right. I’ve happily avoided relationships for the past few years.
But I have no idea how to walk away from Gwen.
Holiday Fake-Out: The Holidare – Laurel Greer & Dee Holmes, Kindle Locations (22033-22064).
With everything that is happening between them a hockey game before his family’s Christmas provides even more fun and games.
A fun read with laughter, a few tears and sizzling heat.
5 Contented Purrs for Laurel and Dee!
She’s the one who got away. The one I’ve never been able to forget. The one who can never forgive me for the mistakes I’ve made. Now, it’s my grandmother’s dying wish to see Maggie and I married. If we can stay married for year, there’s a fortune on the line. But first we have to spend Christmas with my family and convince them we’re in love. For me, that part is easy, because I’ve never gotten over Maggie. But I broke her heart once. Can I convince her that, for me, this isn’t about the money and that I don’t want her for just one year. I want her forever.
Years ago Maggie and Brooks were best friends on the way to becoming more. Brooks’ father put a stop to that and in the process two hearts were broken.
Now Brooks’ grandmother has asked Maggie to visit, she has something to discuss with her. Maggie loves Gran almost as much as her own Nana, the two of them had been best friends. She always meant to visit more often but since her Nana died it’s been difficult. One big surprise Brooks is there as well, and really Maggie doesn’t want to stay, but she does to hear out Gran. Of course she wants the impossible, for her and Brooks to marry. She doesn’t agree right away, having to think this whole thing through.
Not wanting to disappoint Gran, Maggie finally agrees.
This is a favorite scene.
I got the text from Maggie last night shortly before midnight.
Maggie: courthouse tomorrow at noon.
That was all she said, but I, of course, knew what it meant. It’s ten right now and I’m sitting in the conference room at the Sol-Com offices I share with my two partners, Jackson and Cooper. Jackson and his wife, Kaitlyn, who also works here look at me like I’ve grown a second head when I explain my afternoon plans. Cooper, the lucky bastard is home with a sick kiddo.
Jackson shakes his head. “You’re going to have to explain that again.”
“The bottom line is, I’m going to the courthouse at noon and getting married,” I say.
“Have you been dating someone and keeping it a secret?” Kaitlyn asks.
“No. It’s complicated.”
Kaitlyn gives me a side eye, waggling her pointer finger back and forth between Jackson and her. “We’re pretty smart. I think you’ll be able to explain it.”
So much for keeping this on the down low.
I sigh, trying to decide exactly how little information I can dole out. Because I do not want this to be a big thing.
“My grandmother isn’t doing well. It’s her dying wish to see me married.”
Kaitlyn leans forward, her eyes gleaming with mischief. “Oh, this is all very soap-opera-drama-y. Tell me more. Did you hire a stranger on the internet to pretend to be your wife? Because that could end very badly. I think I’ve seen a Dateline with that plot and the guy ended up dead in a ditch.”
“No, Jesus. I’m not marrying a stranger. It’s someone I know.”
“Oh, even better!” She rubs her hands together with Machiavellian glee.
“Better than Brooks ending up dead in a ditch?” Jackson asks, looking at his wife with amusement.
“Obviously.” She leans back in her chair, angling her body towards his so their shoulders brush with easy familiarity and she looks over at him. “They could end up realizing they’re perfect for each other and falling in l—.”
I cut her off with a slice of my hand. “No one is going to fall in love here. It’s not that kind of situation. We’re not you two.” I point at both of them, because they ended up getting together when he went with her to her parent’s house for Thanksgiving one year. I never heard the whole story behind that, and I don’t want to know. “This is just to appease my grandmother. She wants to include Maggie in her will, but she’s afraid my dad will throw a fit and hold everything up in probate. If Maggie and I are married, it simplifies things. That’s it. Now can we get back to—”
“Wait a second.” Jackson sits forward. “Maggie? The Maggie.”
“Yes, her name is Maggie. Maggie Prince.”
“But this is your Maggie?”
Fuck my life.
“No. She’s not my Maggie. She’s just Maggie.”
Kaitlyn, who’s been looking back and forth between us like she’s watching a damn tennis match, gestures wildly. “Will someone please tell me who Maggie is? I’m dying of curiosity over here!”
“Maggie is The One. His one that got away.”
“No, she’s not. I don’t have a one.”
Kaitlyn gives me a shrewd look. “Well, apparently, you do have a one.”
“I really don’t,” I say dryly.
Is Maggie special? Yes. Unforgettable? Yep. But it’s not like she’s the only woman for me.
Just because I haven’t found anyone better in the last twelve years, does not mean she’s The One.
“I think I need more details,” Kaitlyn says. Before I can protest, she shakes her finger at me. “Because I’m not sure I trust you to know whether or not she’s The One.”
Kaitlyn is feisty and tenacious and it’s pretty obvious I’m not getting out of this. So, I stifle a groan and start talking.
“Basically, she’s my childhood best friend. We grew up together and our grandmothers always wanted us to be together. But it wasn’t meant to be. End of story.”
“Obviously, that’s not the end of the story.” Kaitlyn makes a keep-it-coming gesture. “Were you ever together together? How is she the one that got away? Why did you let her go? I need more details.”
“No, we weren’t ever together.”
“Hmmm…” Kaitlyn makes a grumble of obvious suspicion. “So where did it all go wrong?”
“Basically, my dad is an ass and so I never pursued anything with Maggie because I didn’t want him to be horrible to her. And frankly, when I was nineteen, I wasn’t exactly sure that I wasn’t going to grow up and become him. I didn’t want that for her. So I walked away.”
Holiday Fake-Out: Marry Christmas – Kat Baxter, Kindle Locations (26879-26917).
Quite the tangled web here and lots of family drama. The thing is these two really do belong together.
A fun read with laughter, some tears, some anger and some sizzle.
5 Contented Purrs for Kat!
I’ve always been a player. A football player, that is. In the dating game, though, I only have eyes for one girl. Sydney Porter, team publicist MVP, all-around hottie…and my ex-girlfriend. Christmas comes early for me and I’m traded back to my home team mid-season. Of course, I run straight into Sydney—and a big problem. See, I never actually told my family we broke up. Now my mom wants the happy couple home for the holidays.
After saving Sydney from a work snafu, she owes me. I sweet talk her into going along with my fake dating plan, but I only have until Christmas. Can I convince her we belong together or will the magic between us disappear forever once the mistletoe comes down?
Nick Milton and Sidney Porter had once been a thing. When he was traded to Arizona, Sidney broke up with him and took a PR job with the team he left.
Sidney was in a meeting with the team’s CMO and her boss when she hears Nick’s voice. She doesn’t want to see him or talk to him. Her feelings really are still raw. Yet when her boss asks about the Gala Nick gets her out of it.
Now he asks the favor he needs in order to survive Christmas with his family.
This is a favorite scene.
“You can’t be serious,” Sydney said, shaking her head as she pushed past me into the bright hallway. “This isn’t anywhere close to a fair deal. The Copley Gala is one night; you’re asking me to go home with you for a week!”
I tagged along beside her down the hall, keeping pace and grinning, pissing her off even more. “Yeah, I hope you can negotiate a better deal with the shoe company.”
She punched my bicep and I pretended to flinch.
“Watch it—these guns are worth a lot to this team.”
“Right, how could I forget? Can’t go injuring the talent.”
“Exactly. C’mon, Syd, please? I know you always stay in the city for Christmas. It would mean a lot to me if you’d do this.” I gave her my best puppy dog eyes, praying she’d agree to the deal.
Sydney rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe I’m even considering doing this with you. We work together now; it’s a huge HR no-no.”
“No one has to know and besides, it’ll be fun. Way better than the Gala.”
She paused, tipping her head to the side before answering. “Fine. Since you just rescued me from a solid twenty-four hours’ worth of work, I’ll go. But it has to be on the DL. I need this job.”
“I get it. I do, too. This is going to be fantastic, though.” I grinned at her, a quick blast of relief flooding through me. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning around nine. That way we can avoid rush hour. Be sure to pack something to wear for Christmas Eve service and the neighborhood party we go to every year.”
“Ugh. I hate you.”
“That’s the Christmas spirit,” I teased.
“One week, Nick. That’s it.” She waved her index finger in my direction as a reminder.
“I hear you. That’s the deal.”
She thrust her hand out and we shook on it.
“See you tomorrow morning,” I said, thrilled I’d actually convinced her to go with me.
Sydney rolled her eyes one more time for dramatic effect, then flounced away. My eyes followed her perfect ass until she stepped into the elevator. I shot her a quick wave as the doors slid shut; she just shook her head at me.
Christmas was coming early for me this year and I intended to make the most of our time together.
Holiday Fake-Out: Mr. Right Under The Mistletoe – Kara Kendrick, Kindle Locations (27799-27814).
Now Sidney has to play the girlfriend he never left and he’s out to win her back.
Another fun read, with laughter some confusion, and just the right amount of sizzle.
5 Contented Purrs for Kara!
King, aka the King Maker, was destined to rule a secret empire since childhood. He’s terrified world leaders and lorded over the world’s financial and political sectors from the shadows for years. No opportunity is too risky if it’s for Probus’ objective: to balance world power to protect humanity. The centuries old moral code was all that mattered. Until now. In order to save his one childhood friend, he must undertake a dangerous mission—one only one woman can accomplish. He was strong enough to walk away from temptation once. Surely he can do so again.
Joy “Diamond” Winniford was raised in a family of thieves committed to a cause: save humanity from the shadows by stealing whatever intel or asset Probus needs. Few know about her secret life. Only one man has the power to upturn her carefully constructed world. When he reenters her life with a job, she knows turning him down is the safest play. But she’s never played it safe and spending weeks pretending to be the infamous King Maker’s girlfriend is a temptation she can’t refuse. He may have escaped her once, but she’s not about to let him get away again.
As this novella opens we find Probus has a problem, some of their branches are getting out of control. It’s Joy ‘Diamond’ Winniford who brings this to King’s attention. That initial problem has now escalated a bit and it’s time to bring in some outside help, especially since they’re involved.
Joy isn’t happy and doesn’t think anyone could possibly be better than her hacker, Maze. She does agree to work with the King and the outsiders, but only if Maze verifies they are better.
This is a favorite scene for many reasons.
King had faced down presidents and world leaders his entire life, but nothing could have prepared him for this moment. The video image came to life on the screen. His adrenaline surged as an ache radiated in his chest. He rubbed the area and willed his mind to focus.
The young man he’d last seen wasn’t anywhere in the man’s face, nor his stance. He stood behind a blonde woman seated at a conference table. Emotion rushed across Ramon’s face for a second, then vanished beneath a hardness he’d never wanted to see on the only friend he’d ever had.
King’s eyes burned as his breathing quickened.
“I’m Bree,” the blonde said. “This is my friend Zoey, or Zero D. Beside her is Edge. Then Quillery. And I’m sure you know Ramon.” She paused. “And you are?”
“I’m Diamond,” Joy said. “To my left is Bridge. To my right is the King Maker, or King.” She squeezed his shoulder and pushed him into a chair. “We’ve conferenced in a friend of mine, Maze. I’m not sure what King shared with you, but he seems to think you’d be better help for what we need than Maze. I doubt that, but we’re here anyway.”
“Holy shit,” Maze whispered. Her eyes widened as she appeared on a split screen. “Diamond, I’m going to kick your ass when this is over.”
“Maze. What’s wrong?”
“Th-that’s…” The fuchsia-haired woman blinked a couple times. “Fuck. They’re still there. Okay, this is happening. Ease off on the attitude, friend. I can’t do a tenth of what they can.”
Joy didn’t comment. Her hand continued running down King’s back, moving in circles that calmed the shock rolling through him. Seeing Ramon after so long…
He ran a hand down his face and leaned back.
“Why don’t you tell us what you need,” Edge suggested as she leaned forward. “I’m not sure why you think we’d help you with anything, King. We were pretty clear in our last conversation that we didn’t want another.”
King’s gaze cut to Ramon once again. His heart thudded hard in his chest. He had so many questions. None of them involved the job.
“We have roughly three weeks to establish a cover for me as King’s lover so that I can get into a secured Knightwind location and procure intel and anything else they have about your tech. Since it’s my ass on the line here, I think that puts the ball in our court on deciding what we require to help you.” Joy leaned back in her chair. “You’ll be talking with me. King is here as a formality until he decides otherwise.”
Thank fuck. Concern flashed on Bridge’s face when he looked at King.
“This is what you meant with that vague message about a threat you’d handle,” Bree said. “What sort of intel could they possibly have we’d care about?”
“Great question. Given what little we know about your tech, most of what we’re working on are assumptions, but I’ll give you what I can prove.” Joy held up a finger. “First, we came into possession of a destroyed drone several of our U.S. based assets were very interested in. Rather than allow them the access they wanted, King took it upon himself to secure the tech by having me steal it from Cuban authorities who found it in the destroyed wreckage of a facility. Does that sound familiar?”
Joy didn’t give them a chance to answer. She held up a second finger and continued. “A seven-figure contract was put out to secure that asset from King’s possession. Few would dare attempt that job given who we are, yet many have attempted to force my hand.”
“They don’t know you’re Probus,” Quillery said.
“They don’t. My name within the underground is the Queen of Diamonds. There’s no procurement I can’t handle if the pay is good.” She paused once again and glanced over at King. “He has decided to share what happened next.”
He hadn’t, but he wasn’t going to stop her now. She’d taken the initiative for the conversation to cover his freak out.
“Maze helped me look into the job. It took a few not-so-fun intel gathering sessions, but we tracked the source as being someone from within Knightwind,” Joy said. “There was more, which we’ve since cleaned up on our end.”
“You had assets working with them,” Edge said.
“We did,” King said, finding his voice for the first time. “Several of our stateside assets became greedy and wanted to acquire power outside of our arena. Power that went against our Probus mission. As Diamond said, we’ve cleaned house. The drone we have will be returned to you if you wish. I locked it up and no one in Probus has looked at it, other than myself and Bridge.”
“It’s probably not even ours,” Bree said with a shrug. “Carlisle Industries stole old designs of mine and attempted to replicate our tech. Very poorly.”
King grunted. Interesting.
“Let’s assume the intel Knightwind has is worth obtaining,” Quillery said. “What do you want from us?”
“The new leader of Knightwind has invited me to a holiday dinner. Diamond will accompany me as my date. They will vet her thoroughly beforehand, which we will need assistance for.”
“You need a cover, one that will pass their investigation without appearing fake,” Zoey said. She nodded and tapped on her laptop a few moments. “Okay, Joy. Here’s the situation.”
Joy tensed beside him. He’d warned her they were good.
“Yes, we know who you are,” Zoey said. “Just like we know who Maze and Bridge are as well. Congrats, King. You’re the first person HERA can’t trace at all.”
He glared at the women. Keeping his gaze from Ramon made it simpler to focus on what mattered. “Can you help?”
King was used to world leaders cowering before him. He didn’t expect the women to ignore his question as the four chatted amongst themselves as though he wasn’t on the video call. Amused, he listened as they rattled off their thoughts like drunken squirrels. He understood very little of what they said.
“She needs a semi-dirty cover, one that would fit the presumed Probus mold of a lower-level employee,” Maze said amidst their conversation. “They clearly know King is the King Maker. I don’t even understand why they’d invite him, but this isn’t my world, nor do I want it to be. But that’s what I’d do. Make her fit the mold they expect, but not be who she is or what she does.”
“So not a thief, but still Probus.” Zoey nodded. “Smart.”
“We dug into Probus,” Edge said.
King tensed. He’d expected as much from The Arsenal. They weren’t the best in the private paramilitary arena without going the distance.
Those gits he’d taken care of had put Probus on The Arsenal’s radar—a fact he didn’t like.
“And?” King asked.
“Handlers are the lone known position within your organization,” Edge replied. “No one seems to question how you obtain your information or control assets. They should, but they don’t. Which means the safest cover for Diamond would be a handler.”
“Okay,” Joy said.
“Mimicking a known handler’s background would strengthen her cover,” Quillery said. “Is there a woman known to be a handler, yet not recognized when seen?”
“There are several,” King admitted. He glanced over at Bridge. “Who’s known by Knightwind?”
Probus rarely kept people on staff once they were exposed, but a few were necessary. That fell within Bridge’s territory more than King’s, though.
“Seven of Hearts,” Bridge said quickly. “We exposed her three months ago to handle the last of our internal intel issues. She’s still in play and known, but in the shadows.”
“Which means Knightwind knows there is a Seven of Hearts, but not who she is specifically,” King clarified. “Send her record to them.”
Bridge nodded and opened his laptop. Silence descended as he forwarded the asset’s record to The Arsenal.
“I trust what we share will be contained within this specific operation and not used for other reasons,” King said.
“Of course,” Quillery said. “We have no desire to cross your path as long as you stay out of ours.”
“Understood. Maze and Bridge can assist with whatever you need. What is the timetable for having the cover secured?” King asked.
“Two hours,” Zoey said. “Probably less, but I want to build deep enough so Knightwind can crawl all the way down and get lost.”
“She’s very good at what she does,” Edge said. “By the time she’s done, Joy’s cover will be good enough to truly exist.”
Excellent. King’s gaze moved to Ramon once again. “It’s good to see you in a good place, Ramon.”
“Life outside that world is worth living.” He touched Bree’s hair. “Hopefully we can have that ice cream very soon. It’s been too long.”
He remembered. Emotion clogged King’s throat as he blinked back the burning sensation in his eyes. “It has.”
“We’ll be in touch before the dinner,” Edge said. “We can assist from here.”
Holiday Fake-Out: The Billionaire’s Naughty Thief – Cara Carnes, Kindle Locations (25620-25693).
A very interesting relationship that further develops as this story progresses.
This is a fun and suspenseful read with action, family, a reunion, romance and some sizzle.
5 Contented Purrs for Cara!
Carmen Falcone learned at an early age that fantasizing about fictional characters beat doing math homework any day. Brazilian by birth and traveler by nature, she moved to Central Texas after college and met her broody Swiss husband–living proof that opposites attract.
She found in writing her deepest passion and the best excuse to avoid the healthy lifestyle everyone keeps talking about. When she’s not lost in the world of romance, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, being walked by her three crazy pugs, reading, catching up with friends, and chatting with random people in the checkout line.
She loves to procrastinate, so please indulge her and drop her a line. For more info, visit her website.
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Raised in a small town on Vancouver Island, Laurel grew up skiing and boating by day and reading romances under the covers by flashlight at night. Ever committed to the proper placement of the Canadian “eh,” she loves to write books with snapping sexual tension and second chances. She lives outside Vancouver with her law-talking husband and two daughters, and fills her creative well by continuing to stay up way too late reading, chugging vats of tea, and falling down Pinterest rabbit holes.
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A Canadian author obsessed with unlikely loves, Dee enjoys creating rich worlds and finding humor in unexpected places. In her other writing life, she explores monsters and their love lives in paranormal romance and urban fantasy—and might have a penchant for zombies. The characters she enjoys don’t sit in some narrow box and do what they’re told. Whether battling an office party or facing fantastical terrain on distant planets, her characters are defying expectations and finding true love.
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her family and a menagerie of animals.
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Kara Kendrick writes fun and flirty Contemporary Romance destined to give you all the feels. A reformed English major, she also has a master’s in counseling and was an elementary school counselor in her pre-mom life. She loves the beach, wine, and rock-hard abs, not necessarily in that order. When she’s not dreaming up Happily Ever After’s, you can find her chasing after her boy-girl twins, working out semi-hardish, or walking her adorable Shiba pups with her husband, who’s not too bad himself.
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Born in small-town Texas, Cara Carnes was a princess, a pirate, fashion model, actress, rock star and Jon Bon Jovi’s wife all before the age of 13. In reality, her fascination for enthralling worlds took seed somewhere amidst a somewhat dull day job and a wonderful life filled with family and friends. When she’s not cemented to her chair, Cara loves traveling, photography and reading.
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