I love kilts, Christmas, chocolate, hot chocolate and even hotter heroes. Add all those together with heaping spoonful of love and you have my new Christmas novella–A KILTED CHRISTMAS WISH! (Oh and guess what??? The hero–Aaron Sutherland–is a descendant of the Sutherlands from my Stolen Bride series!)
Down on her luck with men, Darla Strider wonders if she’ll ever meet her own kilted hero. Considering she lives in present day New York City, the likelihood of that happening is nil. She’s certain only a Christmas wish could make her dreams come true. Until the day Aaron Sutherland walks into her café, and changes her whole world.
Leaving his pain in Scotland for life in the States, the last thing Aaron has in mind is hooking up with a city girl. But one look at Darla and she’s got him singing All I Want for Christmas is You.
Want to read an excerpt? How about all of Chapter One??? Enjoy!
Highlanders. Oh, she wished.
Darla Strider, hopeless romantic and cynical love hater, tossed the Scottish romance novel she’d been reading aside. Highlander’s Reward… Ultra alpha hero, fiercely loyal, powerful, hot body, good in bed, not to mention his kilt… When was she going to get her reward? The Scottish hero from the novel certainly wasn’t going to leap from the pages, long sexy hair flowing, sword glinting, eyes filled with desire and ask her out to dinner followed by mind-blowing sex—except in her fantasies. And in her fantasies, she would say, yes, a thousand times yes, throwing herself into his waiting, muscular arms.
Leaning an elbow on the counter of her gourmet deli and resting her chin in her hand, she gazed out the paned glass onto the busy, holiday-adorned Manhattan street. Any minute the lunchtime rush would begin. Thank goodness her chef was in today. With Amanda, her hostess/waitress, out sick, the counter was going to get crazy. Reading time was over for the next few hours. What did it matter, anyway? She was beginning to be overly bitter about romance and a reminder of that was the last thing she needed.
One miserable, failed date after another. A couple of meaningless relationships and a series of messy nights bumping uglies. Romance, for Darla, was dead.
What she wouldn’t give to have a Highlander walk through her door that very moment. At least a free year’s supply of her prized veggie and goat cheese panini. To hear his brogue stroke her like a caress while he told her how beautiful he thought she was. She smirked. For that, she’d throw in a daily glass of sangria.
Never going to happen.
She glanced over at the miniature Christmas tree tucked into the corner near the window. Stockings hung from its branches, all in the name of holiday cheer. A little bronzed Santa sat nestled in the branches, surrounded by twinkling white lights and silver tinsel.
“Santa,” she murmured. “Please bring me one of these Highland heroes for Christmas.”
Oh, God, now she was resorting to talking to inanimate objects. Hopeless.
The bell over the door dinged. Swiping her hands on her snowman-covered apron as she stood straight and plastered a smile on her face, Darla resisted the urge to gasp at the gorgeous man who walked through the entrance. Dressed in a dazzling fitted, charcoal-gray suit, with a light blue dress shirt and shiny black tie, he looked like he’d just walked off a billboard titled, Every Woman’s Dream. Dark hair, slightly on the longish side, clean shaven, chiseled features—and those eyes. Gray as storm clouds and just as unpredictable.
Darla swallowed her shock and cocked her head slightly. “Welcome to City Café,” she said, silently cursing the slight shake in her voice. She clutched her fingers together behind her back, then quickly brought them around front when she realized she’d thrust her breasts forward, too.
A delicious grin curled his lips and his eyes raked over her making Darla wish she’d chosen her good jeans today. The ones that made her butt look bootylicious instead of I-eat-too-much-chocolicious.
“Thanks,” he said.
Darla did a double-take, her mouth falling open at least an inch. She definitely detected some sort of accent. Her heart sped up and she gave a furtive glance at Santa. Sounded Scottish, but it was hard to decipher from one syllable. There was no way… She was delusional, that was all.
“Would you like to eat in or carryout?” she managed.
He studied her for a few skips of her heartbeat. There was a wicked glint in his eyes. The kind that would normally make her melt. Okay, fine. She admitted it, the way he was looking at her, she was bound to go boneless if he didn’t look away.
“I’d like a table,” he said.
Holy, fucking, Santa Claus!
The man spoke with the most discernible Scottish brogue. Knees going weak, Darla gripped the counter to hold herself up. She blinked, staring at him and then back at her Christmas tree. Was this a joke? No. Couldn’t be. Just a coincidence. A huge coincidence. No stars-aligning, tragic romance bull, just chance.
“Is that all right?” he asked, staring around the café when she didn’t respond.
The door opened, bell dinging, as a group of three walked in, dusting snow off their sleeves. The noise pulled her out of her trance, and Darla jerked into motion, grabbing a menu.
“Yes, yes, of course.” She skidded around the side of the counter and took him to the table closest to her—selfish really. She wanted the ability to stare at him while she worked. Ugh. Maybe she should convince him to take his order to go?
“Would you mind if I sat by the window?” He shrugged, having the adorable awareness to look charming. “Just got into town and I do love to people watch.”
Darla managed to find her wit somewhere buried beneath the shock and drool. She gave a throaty laugh—hi-fiving herself for being sexy. “I love people watching, too. No problem.”
She led him over toward the Christmas tree, glaring at Santa as she went. Not fair for him to play such a cruel joke on her. “How’s this?”
Lord, was he ever…
A clearing throat behind Darla reminded her the line was starting to build. She felt her face heat. She might as well just strip off her clothes right then and there and offer herself over to her hot customer.
Instead, she handed him the menu and said, “I’ll be back in a moment to take your order.”
“Thanks.” He smiled at her.
Not the usual, thanks for the menu now leave me alone smile. No, this was a charming, I want to ask you to dinner smile. And if he asked, she might just find it impossible to say no.
Darla whirled back toward the counter, practically running behind it. Her limbs were tingling, going numb and she could barely catch her breath. Just a coincidence she kept telling herself.
And no dates. Even if he oozed sex on a platter. She wasn’t going down that road again. Besides, she had a half dozen people in line to attend to. Daydreaming about Mr. Hot Scotsman was only going to ruin her business. A chance she couldn’t take. The café was all she had. Her family was scattered across the country, and it wasn’t like she was going to beg a couch to crash on.
Jorge peeked his head around the corner from the kitchen, raising his brow. Darla pressed her lips together, suppressing a smile. Her chef knew her too damn well.
After taking the orders of those in line, she used the brief lull in traffic to rush back to her Scottish gentleman.
“I’m sorry about the wait. What would you like to have today?”
He flashed her that smile again and she gripped tight to her pen to keep from flinging it as her fingers twitched. Yeah, the last thing she needed was to poke out one of his gorgeous eyes.
“What is your favorite?” he asked.
“Hands down the roasted veggie panini, but if you’re in a meaty mood, the turkey and spinach pesto is amazing.”
“I’ll give yours a shot. If it’s not to my liking, I’ll have to come back tomorrow for the turkey.”
Her breath caught. He’d come back?
“That sounds great,” she rushed out. A blush crept up over her chest, a smile frozen on her lips. “I’m going to go put this in.” She hurried back to the kitchen, cursing herself for not being able to say something clever and witty, knowing she must look like a complete moron, mooning over the stranger like a woman who’d never seen a man before.
She’d been staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights. He probably thought she was crazy.
Plates started popping out of the kitchen window, and between taking more orders, she served lunches to those who were staying—including Mr. Hotstuff—and bagged up the to-go’s. Every time she looked toward the hottie by the Christmas tree he was watching her. A few times he tried to look away, pretending that he’d not been staring, but other times he smiled.
She was supposed to be the one staring—not him.
Damn. Double damn.
She’d vowed no more dates. Not one man was going to take off the metaphorical chastity belt she’d chained to her nether-regions. Not until she’d met a man worth it. Not until she felt that spark of love. No matter how much of a Scottish accent he had, or how much she wanted to stare into his stormy gray eyes.
Darla jerked her gaze to the annoyed looking woman. The sound of her customer’s foot tapping in front of the counter made Darla’s eye twitch.
“Welcome to City Café, how can I help you?” She plastered on her snappy customer service smile and listened to the woman complain about how she’d said hello to her about five times before Darla answered.
“So sorry, we’ve been swamped. My apologies.”
“Take out order for the Simpson Firm.”
Darla rummaged through the called in to-go’s and handed the woman two large recycled paper bags, filled with hers and Jorge’s famous paninis. She rang her up, exchanging cash and change with the woman was painful as she seemed to have an affinity to rolling her eyes.
“Enjoy.” Darla handed her the bag.
The woman didn’t bother to say thank you, but stormed out at such a jerky pace, making Darla fear she’d drop the order.
“Guess not everyone can be pleased.” Her Scottish friend had somehow managed to leave his chair and approach the counter without her noticing.
“Not always,” she said with a smile. “Are you all done?”
“Yes, best sandwich I’ve ever had. You run a great café.” He winked. “Very charming. Just like its owner.”
Her mouth fell open. Charming? He was starting with the compliments already?
“I didn’t catch your name. I’m Aaron.” He held out his hand.
She stared down at his hand for a little longer than was appropriate, but finally snapped out of it, slipping hers against his palm. His hand was warm. Fingers long.
“Are you open for dinner, Darla?” he asked.
Her stomach did a little flip and she nodded. “Um, yes, we are.”
“Darn. I was going to see if you were free to go out with me this evening. Maybe some other time.” He picked up one of the restaurant deli cards and stuck it in his pocket.
She opened her mouth to speak, but only succeeded in nodding. He flashed her one more heart-throbbing smile before walking out of the door, and potentially out of her life forever.
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