As the holidays descend, three single women take a thoroughly modern approach to good old-fashioned romance, and wonder if the best—and most complicated—gift of all is just a click, tap, or swipe away…
Like a Christmas miracle, the Build a Boyfriend App lets you simply input the stats of your dream man, and witty texts, passionate emails, and hot Instagram pics start flooding in. No more awkward questions or pitying looks as you face the holidays alone!
But even the best technology has its glitches. When real-life emotions come into play, this trio of twenty-somethings find themselves in a tangle of crossed signals, flying wrapping paper, disastrous Christmas parties…and surprising kisses.
Yet despite the confusion of their mistletoe misadventures, when the New Year dawns, these very satisfied women just may find themselves waking up with true love beside them.
New York Times Bestselling Author Cat Johnson
“Loaded with tender emotions and red hot love scenes” Fresh Fiction on One Night with a Cowboy
USA Today Bestselling Author Kate Angell
“A sparkling writer who combines humor and sizzling romance.” Kirkus Reviews
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Cat Johnson writes contemporary romance in genres including military and western. Known for her unique marketing and research techniques, she has sponsored pro bull riders, owns a collection of camouflage and western footwear for book signings, and a fair number of her consultants wear combat or cowboy boots for a living. For more visit CatJohnson.net.
USA Today bestselling author Kate Angell lives in Naples, Florida. She’s an animal lover, avid reader, and sports fan. Bookstores are her second home. She takes coffee breaks at Starbucks. Her philosophy: Out of chaos comes calmness. Enjoy the peace. Please visit her on Facebook or at www.kateangell.com.
Allyson Charles lives in Northern California. She’s the author of the contemporary romances Putting Out Old Flames and The Christmas Tree (Kensington Lyrical). A former attorney, she happily ditched those suits and now works in her pajamas writing about men’s briefs instead of legal briefs. When she’s not writing, she’s probably engaged in one of her favorite hobbies: napping, eating, or martial arts (That last one almost makes up for the first two, right?). One of Allyson’s greatest disappointments is living in a state that doesn’t have any Cracker Barrels in it. You can find her at www.allysoncharles.com or @1allysoncharles.
Read an Excerpt
That Mistletoe Moment
By CAT JOHNSON, KATE ANGELL, Allyson Charles
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All rights reserved.
A Boyfriend by Christmas
To the accompaniment of the pounding drumbeat of marching band music, a three-story-high, inflatable, cartoon-shaped balloon floated across the screen of the living room television.
Across the apartment in the kitchen, Noelle kept one eye on the cranberries bubbling in the pot on the stove while also watching the progress of the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.
The homemade cranberry sauce was Noelle's signature dish. The secret ingredient — bourbon — melded with the flavors of the candied orange peel and cinnamon sticks to add the perfect zing to what was normally boring old cranberry sauce.
Her boyfriend, George, loved it.
George had been the boy next door — literally. His parents lived next to her parents and they grew up next to each other, but they'd never been high school sweethearts.
Actually, he'd never paid any attention to her when they'd been younger. That had changed the summer they'd both been home from college between junior and senior year. They'd been dating ever since.
That his parents and hers were neighbors had made holidays simple over the five years they'd been together. Today they'd have dinner with George's parents and two brothers, and then walk next door for dessert with her family.
Noelle had offered to make her cranberries for dinner at George's house. It was an impressive recipe, but deceivingly simple to make, so she had no problem cooking while watching the parade.
Sometimes having a small apartment had its perks. Not many, but today, being able to see the living room TV from the kitchen area across the room was definitely one of them.
She never missed watching the parade. It put her in the holiday spirit.
Just the anticipation of all the hustle and bustle that started this weekend and raced full speed ahead until Christmas had Noelle singing along with the festive song on the television.
It was a busy, frenzied, crazy time of year — and she loved every minute of it. The shopping. The wrapping. The decorating. The baking.
George didn't love Christmas with quite the intensity that she did, but he'd agreed to go with her to pick out her tree tomorrow. He'd inevitably try to talk her into a smaller one, like he did last year, but Noelle was sticking to her guns. This year, she wanted a huge tree, no matter what he said.
The ringing of her cell phone broke into Noelle's thoughts.
Where had she left it? She'd had it last night ... and it had been almost dead, so she'd plugged it in.
After remembering that, she followed the sound to the cluttered area on the counter that she used as a desk. She tracked the cord from the wall outlet down and finally reeled in the cell, dislodging a few store flyers that she'd tossed on top. One fluttered to the floor as she hit the button to answer the call and pressed it to her ear.
"Aren't we chipper today?" Her sister Nikki's reply was less cheery than Noelle's greeting had been.
"What's not to be chipper about?"
"Besides my crappy part-time job and living in Mom and Dad's house until I finish my dissertation? Um, I don't know. Global warming? The war in the Middle East? The —"
"Okay, okay. Party pooper. Did you watch the parade?"
"Yes, I'm watching the parade. Mom has it on, on every TV in the house, so she won't miss any of it while she runs around getting ready for today. I can't believe you get out of having dinner here."
"I'm not getting out of it. We're spending half the day with George's family and half with mine. You know that."
"But you don't have to watch Great-Grandpa spit his food across the table every time he talks with his mouth full. And you don't have to listen to Aunt Anna hint for hours that I should be married by now."
Eating dinner at George's had some definite perks. "Don't worry. I'll get to enjoy all of that fun over dessert."
"No, you won't. You have George to dangle in front of them as a potential husband."
She did, didn't she? Noelle grinned as Nikki continued. "And by the time you get here, Great-Grandpa will be snoring in the recliner, so smart planning on your part, Noelle."
"Thank you. It was, wasn't it?"
"Brat." Nikki laughed. "I'll forgive you if you drop off some of your cranberry sauce on your way to the Higginses' for dinner. I'm going to need the bourbon you put in there."
"I told you all the alcohol content burns away."
"And I told you I don't believe that, so bring some over."
"Okay. Fine." It was the least she could do, considering Nikki really was bearing the full burden of the family this holiday, while Noelle had shaved her time down considerably. "Let me go. See you later."
"Okay. Don't be too late," Nikki warned.
"I won't." As she disconnected the call, Noelle considered that her sister was correct about Aunt Anna being obsessed with seeing them both married. Maybe Noelle would soon have news in that department, since this year things felt different between her and George.
The way he had taken her shopping with him to look at furniture for his new place. And the way he'd rented not the one-bedroom the Realtor had first shown him, but instead the more expensive two-bedroom, as if next year there could be two people living there.
A man didn't invest almost five years in a relationship unless he had plans to spend a lifetime with the woman. Noelle was ready to settle down and start that life.
The timing was right. He was finished with grad school and was well on the way to building the career he'd always dreamed of. And Noelle's lease was up the first of the year, but she'd been dragging her feet about signing a new one.
The truth was, she hadn't renewed the lease yet because maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't need her own apartment next year. Perhaps there would be a diamond ring under the tree for her from George this year.
Her mother had gotten married at twenty-five. Noelle was turning twenty-five the day after Christmas.
Her mother always joked that Noelle was meant to be a December twenty-fifth baby, but in true Noelle fashion, she'd been late. Her tardiness drove the always-punctual George crazy, but differences between people was what made life interesting. She truly believed that.
Nikki might not agree with Noelle's "opposites attract" theory, but what did she know? She was single and Noelle had been dating the same man since college. It was clear which was the more knowledgeable sister when it came to relationships.
And this time next year, Noelle could be preparing for her own guests for Thanksgiving dinner in her and George's place.
Noelle dipped a spoon into the cranberries, blew on the steaming mixture, and then brought it to her lips for a taste.
Perfection. Even better than usual.
She had tweaked the proportions a tad this year. This might be her best batch yet.
If this cranberry sauce was any indication, her holiday season was off to a stellar start. George's mother — possibly Noelle's future mother-in-law — would be so impressed.
On the television, the parade was coming to a close as Santa Claus appeared on the screen, his elves skipping along the avenue on either side of the sleigh.
Noelle drew in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. Another year's parade had come to a successful conclusion and now it was time for her to get moving. She had to shower, do her hair, and then pick the perfect outfit.
She should probably put the cranberries in the serving dish first so that would be done. Then she could soak the pot while she was getting herself ready.
The cranberry sauce was still hot, but it would cool soon enough. It would probably cool even faster in the dish rather than in the hot pan. She moved to the cabinet and opened the door, surveying the choices.
She'd started collecting antiques in college. It seemed a person couldn't drive two miles in New England without passing an antique shop.
One stop on a sunny fall day at a little place along the side of the road had led to another and another.
Soon Noelle and her roommate were going antiquing every Sunday. She became addicted to the hunt. To the thrill of finding a gem amid the junk.
It was exhilarating and meant that when she'd gotten her own apartment, she had a great collection. Hot chocolate pots, teacups and saucers, and Depression-era glass were her collection's main focus.
The rich deep garnet color caught her eye and she spied a ruby-red glass bowl.
George usually rolled his eyes when he opened her cabinets and saw the precarious stacks of mismatched pieces on the shelves, but even he was going to have to admit that her cranberry sauce would look perfect in this bowl on the Thanksgiving table.
Feeling justified that her love of collecting was going to be proven very useful today, she stretched and took down the whole stack of vintage dishes. She set them on the counter and gingerly extracted the bowl she wanted from under the dishes piled on top.
She ran the prized bowl under the faucet to rinse off any dust and then set it on the counter next to the stovetop just as her cell phone rang again. She saw George's name appear on the readout and jumped to answer it.
"Uh, yeah. You too. Are you meeting me at my parents', or do I have to come over there and pick you up?" he asked.
"Um, I can meet you there, I guess."
"Okay. Good. Mom says to be there at two o'clock."
"I will. And I have my special cranberry sauce." As she cradled the phone on one shoulder, Noelle lifted the pot off the burner and began to pour the piping-hot mixture into the bowl. It wasn't even half full when she heard the crack.
Horrified, she sucked in a loud breath.
"What's wrong?" George asked.
"Oh my God. I think I just broke one of my favorite antique serving dishes."
The berries must have been too hot. Unlike modern glassware, Depression-era glass must not be able to withstand much heat. Or maybe there had been a hairline crack or an invisible flaw in the glass itself.
"You shouldn't be using those things for food anyway. They're probably full of lead and who knows what other poisons."
It was silly to be so attached to an object, but she really had loved that little ruby-red bowl.
Fighting tears, she drew in a breath. "I guess."
She put the pot and its remaining contents back on the burner. She'd have to throw away what was in the broken bowl, which meant she'd barely have enough left in the pot to take to George's parents' house for dinner. Never mind dropping off any extra for her sister.
Was it too late to run out to the store for the ingredients to make more?
What time did stores close on Thanksgiving? And even if the store was open, would they have fresh cranberries left?
"I gotta go and shower. I'll see you at Mom and Dad's." George's voice on the phone dragged Noelle out of her thoughts.
Head still spinning about her cranberry mess, she gathered herself and drew in a breath. "Okay. Love you."
"Yeah, you too. 'Bye." The click signaled he'd hung up.
Noelle lowered the cell and sighed as she eyed the bloodred juice oozing out of the crack in the bowl and all over her counter.
Just a little bump in the road. Even as she tossed the beloved bowl and the ruined cranberry sauce into the trash can, she wasn't giving up on this holiday season.
Fueled with determination, Noelle threw on clothes that wouldn't embarrass her, grabbed her purse and jacket, and ran out the door.
She drove directly to the big megastore, where she'd most likely be able to find the cranberries.
After parking in the first spot she saw in the lot, Noelle ran to the entrance and breathed in relief when the automatic doors slid smoothly open. At least they were open.
One worry down. One more to go. She made a beeline for the produce and stalked up one side of the aisle and then down the other searching for whole bagged cranberries.
If she'd needed Brussels sprouts she'd have been fine, but the cranberries were eluding her.
Just when her hopes were beginning to wane, she spotted a tall, dark-haired man in front of her. He was so broad and muscular she would have noticed him anyway. But the fact that he had not one but two bags of cranberries in his hand had her running toward him.
"Oh, thank God." She realized she'd said it aloud when he turned to level golden-brown eyes on her as he cocked one dark brow up. "Sorry. I just really need cranberries and I was afraid they'd be out."
He cringed. "They are out now. These are the last two bags."
She looked at the shelf and saw the empty place where the cranberries used to be, right between a big display of oranges on one side and a row of boxed figs on the other.
Sure. Figs they had plenty of, but except for the two bags the hulking hottie held captive in his hands, there were no more cranberries.
It was irrational, she knew, but Noelle suddenly felt close to tears as she said, "Oh. Okay."
She'd turned to go when he said, "Wait."
Spinning back, she watched him draw in a deep breath, expanding his broad chest to even greater proportions beneath his U.S. Navy sweatshirt. "Take one."
She resisted the urge to grab the bag out of his hand. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. Mom always makes much too much cranberry sauce anyway. She'll be fine with just the one. It'll save my poor dad from eating it on everything for the next month. To be perfectly honest, her cranberry sauce is not very good."
"Oh no. I'm sorry."
He dismissed her concern with a wave of one hand. "It's all right. We humor her and pretend we like it."
Noelle considered for barely a second before she said, "You know what? I have a really good recipe for cranberry sauce. It's got orange and bourbon and brown sugar. Would you like me to send it to you?"
She laughed. "That was enthusiastic."
He smiled until it crinkled his eyes in the corners. "You had me at bourbon."
"Yeah, that part usually wins over the men." She laughed as she punched the ingredients and quick instructions into a new text in her cell phone. "Here. Put your cell number in there and hit Send. That will text you my recipe."
"Great. And I'll thank you in advance on behalf of my father and all of the others attending today's dinner who won't be subjected to my mother's cranberry sauce." He punched in the numbers and handed the cell back.
She took the phone. "It's the least I can do, considering you're giving me one of your bags."
"It's my pleasure ..." He extended his hand and frowned. "I'm sorry, I don't even know your name."
"Noelle." She juggled the bag to her left hand so she could grasp his right one.
"Nathan," she repeated as she felt how strong and warm his grip was. "Um, well, I'd better get going. Got to cook these berries. Thank you again. And Happy Thanksgiving."
He finally released his hold on her hand. "Happy Thanksgiving to you, too."
After one final glance at her, he tossed his bag of berries in the cart and steered it down the aisle in the opposite direction.
Noelle pulled herself out of the daze the encounter had put her in. She didn't have any time to waste.
She headed for the cash register with what might be the last bag of cranberries in all of Connecticut. All thanks to the generosity of one kind stranger.
"Nice of you to come." Nikki's sarcasm was clear in her tone and her expression.
Noelle scowled at her sister. "We couldn't run out the moment we finished eating dinner. That would have been rude."
Besides, she'd enjoyed spending time with George's parents and two brothers.
"Sure. First no cranberry sauce, and now you slide in right before dessert."
"I texted you about what happened with the cranberries."
"I know. I got the text. Doesn't mean I was happy about it."
Noelle blew out a short breath. "I was pretty upset about it myself. Believe me."
"So, how was it over there? Are Glen and Gordy still idiots?"
Noelle cocked a brow at Nikki. "Be nice. They're George's brothers."
"Doesn't mean they can't be idiots." Finally Nikki sighed beneath the weight of Noelle's stare. "Fine. I'll be nice. Now, hang up your coat and come inside. I've borne the burden of our crazy relatives alone long enough."
Noelle slipped her peacoat off her arms and hung it on one of the hooks just inside the back door as Nikki frowned.
"Where is George anyway?"
"He'll be here in a minute. He just wanted to say good-bye to his brothers."
"All right, good. That means we can drink. I'll pour you one."
"What are you talking about? I could still drink if he was around. He wouldn't stop me."
"Oh, he wouldn't stop you, but those passive-aggressive comments and glances of his are enough to make me want to guzzle straight out of the bottle. I swear, that man acts like he's an eighty-year-old woman sometimes."
"I'm serious. Aunt Anna is cooler than George." Nikki kept her voice low, but Noelle still glanced at the doorway of the kitchen to make sure their aunt hadn't overheard.
Excerpted from That Mistletoe Moment by CAT JOHNSON, KATE ANGELL, Allyson Charles. Copyright © 2016 Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
A BOYFRIEND BY CHRISTMAS,
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS ...,
HER FAVORITE PRESENT,