A collection of heartwarming holiday stories from today's stars of passionate romance!
LINDA LAEL MILLER
delivers a holiday miracle in the bittersweet tale of a young woman who can't hide her broken heart -- or her past -- when she returns to her hometown. But a sexy widower may just help her discover the true meaning of home in "Christmas of the Red Chiefs."
spins a fairy tale come true in "Once Upon a Christmas." They flirted as teenagers, but it takes time -- and some divine intervention -- to bring two star-crossed lovers together at last.
pairs fire and ice in "Meltdown," the sensual tale of a Cuban-American PR whiz whose job description includes thawing out her CEO boss's frosty image. Will their sparks torch into flames of passion?
ROXANNE ST. CLAIRE
unwraps the thrills of Christmas in New York, where a female bodyguard toys with a dangerous desire for a mysterious hunk while protecting his young daughter. It's a risky game with passion as the prize in "You Can Count on Me."
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September 25, 2006
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Excerpt from I'll Be Home for Christmas by Linda Lael Miller
From Christmas of the Red Chiefs
The bus door opened with a pneumatic whoosh, alongside the Mega-Pumper gas station, and expelled my twelve-year-old stepdaughter Marlie and me on the exhale. Marlie juggled her backpack and fashionably tiny purse while I schlepped a weekender and my tote bag.
We were the last two passengers, arriving in a place where neither of us wanted to be -- my hometown of Bent Tree Creek, California -- and as we stood there on the asphalt, our ears stinging from a snow-laced breeze and our most recent scathing argument, my heart attempted a swan dive and belly flopped instead.
"It so seriously sucks that we don't even have a car," Marlie said. Toes curled over the edge of the precipice between childhood and raging adolescence, she'd recently morphed from a sweet and very girly girl into the reigning mistress of hormonal contempt.
I raised the collar of my too-thin coat against the bitter cold and stifled a sigh. These days Marlie did enough sighing for both of us, but it wasn't as if she didn't have reason. Her dad and my husband, Craig Wagner, had been killed in the crash of a small private plane eighteen months before. Since then, we'd lost a lot -- the beach bungalow in San Diego, the family printing business, two cars, and a lot of illusions.
At least I'd lost my illusions. Marlie was still clinging to hers, and who could blame her? She was so very young, and the world she'd known before Craig's death had collapsed around her.
Her Real Mother -- recently, Marlie had taken to capitalizing the words every time she uttered them, lest I think for one moment she was talking about me, mama non grata -- worked as a pole dancer in some second-rate club in Reno, when she wasn't in rehab for alcohol and/or drugs. Brenda, stage name: Bambi, was a subject we mostly avoided.
"Yes," I agreed, remembering my vintage MG roadster with a pang. "It sucks that we don't have a car." My eyes burned, but it wasn't an opportune time to cry. I had two rules about shedding tears: I had to be alone, and I had five minutes to feel sorry for myself, max. At first, when I'd found out Craig had let all but one of his life insurance policies lapse, lied to me about our financial situation in general, and left us with a pile of debt, I'd actually set one of those little electronic kitchen timers to make sure I didn't go over the time limit for helpless weeping.
Of course there had been good times with Craig -- he'd been handsome, funny, and full of life, but now those things seemed more like half-forgotten dreams than reality.
While the bus driver unloaded the rest of our earthly belongings -- stuffed into four large suitcases and two moving boxes sealed with copious amounts of duct tape -- Marlie took in her new surroundings.