Spotlight Tour – Mistletoe Between Friends by Samantha Chase

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Two gorgeous stories about the most romantic time of the year…

The holidays don’t have to be fraught with tension, as lifelong friends Lily Cavanaugh and Cameron Greene discover in Mistletoe Between Friends when they cook up a scheme to fool their family and friends.

The Snowflake Inn shows rivals Grace Brodie and Riley Walsh that Christmas is a time when dreams come true—even if you’ve given up on those dreams long ago.

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Mistletoe Between Friends

Monday morning came way too soon for Lily. She’d given herself multiple pep talks and reminded herself how important it was to do the right thing for Cam.

It just sucked that the right thing for Cam was going to be torture for her.

Ever on time, Cameron arrived to pick Lily up at exactly 7:00 a.m. Knowing he was a stickler about time, she’d made sure that she was ready and waiting for him. But she could tell by the look on his face when she opened the door that he was surprised she was ready.

“What?” she asked.

Cam looked her up and down and then at the suitcase beside her. “You’re ready,” he said with just a hint of disbelief.

A shy smile crept across Lily’s face. “You told me you’d be here at seven, so I was ready for seven. Actually, I was ready at six forty-five. Impressive, right?”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “You’re never ready when I tell you what time I’m coming to pick you up. I build a cushion for Lily time.”

The smile shifted to playful annoyance as Lily cocked a hip and crossed her arms over her chest. “If it would make you feel better, I can change clothes and decide that I want a bowl of cereal before we leave.”

“No, no,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I’m sorry. I guess I should have just said thank you, right?”

“No,” she corrected. “You should have offered to put my suitcase in the car because all this chitchat will make us late.” Without another word, Cameron reached beyond Lily and grabbed her case while she locked up her condo. “I watched the Weather Channel last night while I was packing, and they said it’s going to snow while we’re up there. Won’t that be beautiful? We can see snow in Central Park!”

Cam shrugged; he’d never given much thought to snow in Manhattan and didn’t care about it now. They lived just outside of Raleigh, so it wasn’t as if they’d never seen snow before. But that was just one of the things about Lily he adored—that the little things in life made her happy.

Lily had a bigger heart than anyone he’d ever known. He knew that even though she made light of it, she was easily hurt by her family. It didn’t help that her parents always made her feel like she wasn’t living up to her full potential, or that she had an older sister everyone seemed to think walked on water. Cam knew the real Lily. If anyone took the time to get to know her and saw beyond her inability to find a career, they’d see a person who’d give them the world.

For as far back as Cameron could remember, he’d been in love with Lily Cavanaugh. While everyone else around them treated him like a freak because of his intelligence, Lily always considered him Cam, her friend. He’d never once thought about telling her how he felt because the last thing he wanted was to lose Lily as his friend. Most days, she was the only one who kept him sane.

And now he was going to have her to himself for nearly a week.

Once they were on the road, Cam glanced over at Lily and saw the serene smile on her face. “What are you thinking about right now?” he asked.

“Actually, I was wondering if we were going to play the part of boyfriend and girlfriend during your conference or if we were waiting to kick it into gear when we got back.”

He nodded and then pondered the situation. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try out the act around my colleagues before we return home.” His tone was rather cut and dried, like he was talking about a root canal.

“How about a little enthusiasm, champ?” she asked sarcastically. “This was your idea, remember? And if we’re going to pull this off and get four months of freedom from our parents, you can’t talk about our relationship like it’s a chore.”

Cam turned to look at her as if she were crazy. “Talk about our relationship? It’s seven fifteen in the morning, Lil. We haven’t been around anybody except each other. What do you want me to do?”

She sighed. “You’ll need to show a little more excitement if you’re going to be believable as my boyfriend.”

What had he gotten himself into? “Why, exactly, do I have to do that?”

“Cam, everyone who knows me knows that I’m a fairly happy-go-lucky person. You and I are complete opposites. I’m going to have to tone it down a little, but on the flip side, you’re going to have to kick it up a notch. You know, crack a smile or a joke once in a while. Laugh.” She looked at him quizzically. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

Honestly, he didn’t. When he had devised the plan to have a make-believe romance with Lily to survive the holidays, Cam had simply thought that by saying they were involved, people would get off their backs. But as Lily explained the complexities of the situation, he realized he was greatly unprepared.

And that was simply unacceptable.

Taking a fortifying breath, he said, “Okay. It’s not like we have to play twenty questions to know each other better. We already know everything about each other. What do you suggest?”

“Well,” she said, “it would probably help if we held hands when out in public.”

Cameron considered her suggestions and—without reacting in any way, shape, or form—decided that this wasn’t going to be such a bad thing after all. He’d finally have the opportunity to touch Lily, to kiss Lily, and it was all her idea. He really was brilliant.

“Seems simple enough,” Cam said. “Done.” He reached for her hand and held it while he focused on the road and drove one-handed. He wouldn’t normally do that because safety dictated that he drive with his hands in the ten-and-two position. It took all of thirty seconds for him to start to squirm.

“This is physically painful for you, isn’t it?”

“What? No,” he denied although he was lying through his teeth. He wanted to concentrate on the feel of her hand in his, but couldn’t when they were on the road.

Lily pulled her hand away and almost burst out laughing at how quickly Cam’s hand went back to the steering wheel. “Okay, baby steps. We’ll only hold hands when we’re walking. How does that sound?” She smiled at the annoyance on Cam’s face.

“Safety isn’t something to take lightly, Lily.”

“Of course it isn’t,” she agreed. “I mean, driving twenty miles under the speed limit and one-handed? What was I thinking?”

“It’s a little early for all of this sarcasm,” he said dryly. “So other than hand-holding, what am I supposed to do?”

Was he kidding? At this rate, she could probably convince him to act out every one of her fantasies that she’d ever had about him. But that would be wrong.

Wouldn’t it?

Yes, yes, yes. Bad Lily! What were you thinking?

“Kissing,” she said before she could stop herself. “We’ll probably have to kiss in front of people from time to time. And none of that buddy-buddy, on-the-cheek stuff. Like…real kissing.”

Bad, bad Lily!

She saw him considering the idea from all sides as usual. He never agreed to anything without thinking it through. “I guess I can,” he said, seeming bored with the idea.

“That’s the spirit,” she said and was relieved to see them turning onto the exit ramp for the airport. If all went well, within a matter of hours she would be walking around Manhattan with Cam and presenting the image of a happy couple.

Project Girlfriend had begun!

The Snowflake Inn

She was feeling the burn and could clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel—or in this case, the clearing in the trees that meant the parking lot was close—when it happened. Her knee buckled. A cry of dismay escaped before she could help it, and next thing she knew, she was on the ground.

“Dammit,” she cried, pulling her knee to her chest as she rocked. “Why now?” Tears threatened to fall, and all she could think about was the walk to the car and how painful it was going to be. As much as her physical therapist had told her recovery would take time, Grace felt like her body had betrayed her.

“Are you all right?” a deep male voice said from behind her.

Uh-oh… Cute Angry Guy is here, and he’s talking to me! Looking up…and up…and up, her eyes finally met his. Holy cow.

“Miss?”

Oh, right. He asked you a question. “What? Oh, sorry… Um… Yes, I’m fine,” she stammered and tried again to stand. But her darn knee wasn’t quite onboard with the rest of her, and she went down again. She muttered a curse and felt a blush creep up her cheeks in embarrassment.

He quirked a brow as he looked at her. “You don’t look like you’re fine,” he said seriously and crouched beside her. “Did you hurt your knee?”

Grace nodded. “About six months ago in a skiing accident. I was in rehab and physical therapy for months. I just decided to try to go back to my jogging routine—at a slower pace, of course—and I thought I was doing okay. Until about five minutes ago.”

Cute Angry Guy nodded. “You probably just pushed yourself a little too hard.”

She shook her head. “In therapy, I can run twice as long without any issues.”

“That’s on a treadmill. This is an uneven jogging path. It’s completely different.”

Now she glared at him. “Thanks for pointing out the obvious,” she snapped. If she had better luck, she’d be able to jump to her feet and walk away with a sassy sway to her hips.

Clearly, she had no luck. On her third attempt at standing, Cute Angry Guy wrapped a strong arm around her back and helped her to her feet. “Thank you,” she said quietly and did her best to disengage from his embrace. But he didn’t let her go. Looking up, Grace found herself trapped by the bluest eyes she had ever seen. Her breath seemed to catch, and she couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe. The only thing saving her from complete and total embarrassment was the fact that he seemed just as mesmerized by her as she was by him.

“Can you walk?” he finally asked, his voice sounding rough to her ears. Nodding weakly, unwilling to break their eye contact, she tried once again to move away, but his arm seemed to tighten around her. “I’ll walk you to your car.”

He clearly wasn’t big on conversation. At the moment, that suited Grace just fine because she was having a hard time remembering how to form words. Cute Angry Guy was big and a feast for all of her senses, but she had to be careful to remember that he was a stranger. She knew nothing about him, and as much as she wanted to ask him at least a dozen questions, there was something to be said for companionable silence.

And walking really close together.

Deciding to just enjoy the moment, Grace pressed herself more firmly against his warm, solid frame and began to walk slowly with him toward her car. With the way they had been seeing each other all around town for the past couple of days, she figured he’d know which car was hers without her saying anything.

Sure enough, he did.

As they approached her little white sedan, they stopped and Grace pulled her keys out of her jacket pocket. It was then that she realized what a complete mess she must look like: black leggings, white jacket, and a green wool scarf to match her green socks…ugh. And then there was the hair.

She was so not going to think about the hair.

Normally after her jog, Grace would take a few minutes in the car to relax and apply some lip gloss and fix her hair before going anyplace else. That was why she hadn’t been worried about approaching him the other day in Starbucks. But now that he’d seen her in this—well, in all her ill-fated glory—she was certain her current appearance had killed any attraction (real or imagined).

Quickly and painfully.

Awesome.

“So, um…thanks for the help,” she said, feeling awkward. She fidgeted with her hair, doing her best to tame it, and cursed herself for refusing to wear a hat. At least a hat could have camouflaged the flyaway mess.

His lips twitched with an almost-smile as he watched her fidget around. “Are you going to be okay to drive?”

Grace ran her hand through her hair and cursed when it got stuck. With a wince, she pulled it out and forced herself to play with her keys and try to remain calm. “Yes,” she said, wishing that the parking lot would just open up beneath her and take her away. “I’ll be fine. I’ll go home and do the whole ice-and-heat thing, take some ibuprofen, and call it a day.”

“You should probably call your therapist and let him take a look at it.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have one here.”

“Then you should set up an appointment for when you get home.”

Grace gave him an odd look. “Get home? I am home. I live here.”

Now it was Cute Angry Guy’s turn to give her an odd look. “You live here?”

She nodded. “I just moved here about six weeks ago. I thought I was done with therapy, so I haven’t bothered to look up a therapist. But I guess I’ll have to now.” She shrugged and turned to unlock her car. Once the door was open, she turned and forced a smile on her face. “Anyway,” she said and did her best to relax, “thank you for the help.”

“My pleasure.” His voice was deep and a little rough, and Grace almost wanted to purr. Hearing the word pleasure come from that mouth—which was pretty spectacular too—had her heart rate going into overdrive.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” she said brightly and sat in the car, wincing slightly as she bent her leg.

“Don’t wait to find a therapist. Call the one you know and see if you can get a referral.”

“Thanks, I will.” She was just about to ask his name, but he turned and walked away. And the rear view was as enticing as the front one. Grace almost had to fan herself. Her first instinct was to call out to him, but really, it was probably better not to. If he had been following her these past couple of days, wouldn’t he have asked for her name or phone number? The fact he hadn’t just proved Grace was imagining things. Bad hair and wardrobe aside, the man couldn’t seem to get away from her fast enough.

With a depressed sigh, Grace pulled the car door shut and decided to cut her losses and go. The drive through the small downtown area didn’t take long, and when she saw Starbucks coming up, she decided she could deal with the pain for a little bit longer. A white-chocolate peppermint mocha would go a long way in helping her deal with it, of that she was certain.

It didn’t take long to park, and then she was surrounded by people she was coming to know. She smiled and made small talk while she waited her turn in line at the coffee shop. When one person was left in front of her, Grace felt an odd tingle go down her spine. Turning her head, she had to suppress a grin. There in the doorway stood Cute Angry Guy, and if her eyes weren’t deceiving her, he was doing his best to suppress his own smile.

She wished he’d stop trying to hide it. With a face like that, he had to have a smile that was positively breathtaking. Certain she’d never really know, Grace turned her attention back to the counter and placed her order as she made her way to the register to pay. She was mentally congratulating herself on the fact she hadn’t turned around again. Self-control—she’d known she had it in her somewhere.

“Thank you,” Grace said with a smile as she took the hot beverage from the young barista. Turning slowly in the crowd, she made her way carefully to the door, still doing her best to not look around and see if cute-angry-smirking-guy was still there. I guess I’ll never know, she sighed inwardly and headed back out to her car.

If her knee hadn’t been in so much pain, Grace was certain she’d have a little pep in her step. Being rescued by a sexy stranger was certainly a great way to start her day. A quick glance at her watch showed she needed to get moving or she’d be late for work. And with so much on the line, the last thing she wanted to do was mess that up.

Although she doubted anyone would blame her if they had seen the sexy reason for her delay.

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New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Teaching creative writing to students from elementary through high school motivated Samantha to take that step as well. Since then, she has become a NYT and USA today bestselling author. She lives with her husband of 24 years and their two sons in North Carolina.

Blog Tour – Dog Tags for Christmas

Three heartwarming military homecoming stories. 

 

DOG TAGS FOR CHRISTMAS
Holiday Anthology
Lindsay McKenna, J.M. Madden 
& KaLyn Cooper
Released Oct 6th, 2016
Men and women in the armed forces are often away from home, family and their beloved pets for the holidays. But this year, three service members will be home for Christmas in heartwarming military homecoming stories by New York Times Bestselling Authors Lindsay McKenna, KaLyn Cooper and J.M. Madden.
 
Snowflake’s
Gift by Lindsay McKenna
 
Two veterans—one human, one canine—have returned to
Montana to recover from the traumas of war. Former Army Ranger Nick Conway
depended on his WMD dog Snowflake to help him navigate IEDs on the battlefield.
Now he needs his best friend to help him cope with his PTSD and acclimate to
civilian life. When he meets Holly McGuire and agrees to help her deliver meals
to the elderly, her inner light calls to him, but his demons hold him back from
giving in to his attraction. But Snowflake takes an immediate shine to the
kindhearted Holly—and he has never led Nick down the wrong path.  
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Snow was coming down hard in town as Nick drove the van toward the shut-in area at four p.m. The smell of spaghetti and buttered, garlic toast filled the vehicle. Myra had made sweet potato cupcakes for dessert, and he stole one before they left the charity facility. It was nearly Thanksgiving and he was looking forward to taking Holly to his folks place for the afternoon and evening. The wipers were rhythmically swinging back and forth, throwing off the heavy, wet flakes. The roads were salted, but still Nick was wary of invisible black ice. In the late afternoon the heat of the day was gone and things got slick real fast.

“Oh dear,” Holly called, sitting up, pointing out her passenger-side window. “Look, Nick!”

Snowflake, who stood between them, heard the pitch of her voice change, and whined.

Nick slowed and pulled over to the curb, then looked to where she was pointing. There was a yellow Labrador moving awkwardly through the belly deep snow between two brick buildings. Her ribs were prominent even though she had a short, thick winter coat on. “She’s starving,” he muttered, scowling. “It looks like a female Lab. She’s too dainty looking to be a male.”

“She’s terribly thin,” Holly said, worried. “I wonder if someone dumped her—they do that all the time around here. I hate it.”

“No collar on her, either,” Nick agreed. The Lab was about a hundred-feet down the alley between the two buildings, slugging it out with the snow. Nick heard Holly make a little sound of urgency. She had such a big heart, and she hated to see animals or humans suffer.

Nick knew she wanted to get out and try to call the dog over to her. From the looks of the animal, her light-brown eyes wild looking, tongue lolling out of her mouth, her fur matted, he intuitively knew this was a dog that had been left behind a long time ago to fend for herself.

“She’s feral,” he warned Holly. She turned, her huge, blue eyes filled with tears. “She won’t let us near her. I’m sorry.” And he was. It wouldn’t be the first dog dumped here that Nick had found, or that Holly had come upon around the building of one of her shut-ins. They had a no-kill shelter here, and this Lab would have had a warm place to stay, food, and care if they could befriend her.

“Can’t we do something for her, Nick?”

 
SEAL’s Christmas Dream by J.M. Madden

When Veterinarian Willow James’ office is broken into, it’s natural that she
turn to her soul mate, former Navy SEAL K9 handler Joe Flynn, to track down the
culprits. The trail leads to a notorious Pit-Bull fighting ring. It may take a
Christmas miracle and a helpful nudge from an old partner to get everyone home
safely.

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Willow sighed when she heard Sue’s voice call out that Flynn had just pulled in. They had just gotten caught up on their schedule and now whatever animal he’d brought in would probably throw them off again. Well, shoot.

Running her hand over her belly she smoothed her shirt. It didn’t matter what she looked like right now—considering he was probably bringing in an emergency—but she always wanted to be pretty for him, and six months after having the baby it was a little harder. Between running around like a chicken with her head cut off keeping her business running, taking care of little Raven and trying to be a present wife, she was run ragged.

Automatically, she smiled when Flynn walked in the door. Her big, handsome husband still had his shades on, but when he looked at her his hard, bearded face softened into a smile. That small connection had only gotten stronger in the time they’d been together, and she truly cherished it. Maya, the mixed breed German Shepherd mutt paced around him, prancing anxiously.

Willow’s gaze fell to the towel wrapped bundle in his arms. A black nose peeked out of the folds.

“You brought me a raccoon?” she asked incredulously.

Flynn flashed her an even broader grin and leaned over for a quick kiss. Willow wanted to linger but forced herself to pull away. She looked down at the animal.

Flynn turned the bundle until he could show her the back end. “Looks like he’s been hit by a car, maybe. I chased him across three lanes of traffic before I could catch him.”

She scowled at the knowledge. “You be careful doing that. Denver drivers can be crazy.”

Reaching out she probed at the hanging back leg. “Yes. I would say you’re right. I’ll dose him up with pain medication and splint this leg, then we can call the wildlife rehab center to come pick him up. They have their own vet that specializes in exotic animals. He doesn’t look very old so he should recover fairly well as long as he gets this fixed soon.”

Flynn nodded, manipulating the animal as she needed him moved. When she glanced up she realized he’d been staring at her for several long moments.

“What?” she asked defensively.

He’d shoved his shades to the top of his head. His dark gray eyes were lit with wonderful softness. “Nothing. I’m just peeking down your shirt. I can’t believe how beautiful you are.”

Willow grinned up at the love of her life. A year ago she never would have imagined she could be in this position, but things had seriously changed. Flynn had gone from a frequent client in her veterinarian’s office bringing her strays to her hero then her soulmate. He was everything she could imagine having. And he’d already become the amazing father she had imagined him to be.

The raccoon fought a little, trying to get free, but Flynn restrained him like a professional, biceps pumped. Willow worked quickly, giving the animal a light sedation before lightly splinting the back leg. Then she let Flynn carry the animal to one of the portable carriers in back.

 
Noel’s Puppy Power by KaLyn Cooper

Tanner Hill is better at communicating with animals than women. That might be
why he hasn’t had a second date in over two years. He’s also been extremely
busy with his kennel that has become the premier training facility,
specializing in supplying dogs to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder. Then again, there is this psychologist he can’t get out of his head,
or his heart.Dr. Bailey Conrad would never allow the loss of half her right leg to an IED in
Iraq to stop her. Every day at the VA hospital, she sees patients who have lost
so much more to the war effort. It’s her goal in life to help as many vets as
possible to find a ‘new normal’, because she knows firsthand, it’s the internal
scars that can be the most difficult to heal.

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Hoping Bailey wouldn’t be grossed out, or worse yet, faint, Tanner warned, “Chrys is having her puppies—”

“Oh my gosh,” Bailey interrupted. “Are they all okay? How many did she have? When did she have them? This is such great news for your breeding program. I’ll bet you’re excited.”

“Whoa.” Tanner stopped the rapid fire of questions. “Take a breath. She was having them when you drove in so I have to warn you, the tree skirt is ruined. Giving birth isn’t pretty.”

“Ahhh, she had them under the Christmas tree?” Bailey hurried her steps. “I want to see.”

She’d obviously missed his point. “It’s going to be messy in there.”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a woman.” She took a step and her boot slid an inch, but balanced herself and kept on moving. “I know all about messes.”

Oh, he’d noticed all right. He’d seen her curvaceous little body in spandex-hugging running gear as she practiced for the regional qualifications for the Paralympics last year.

 
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Lindsay McKenna lives her life as a risk taker, and it shines through the books she loves to write: romance, adventure and suspense. She started writing at age thirteen and
continues to hone her writing skills to this day. She sold her first romance novel in 1981. The rest is history. 
Because she went into the military, this experience became the backbone of her writing—she is credited with writing the first military romance novel (Captive of Fate, 1983, Silhouette Special Edition) and has created a thriving sub-genre

within the romance field! As a New York Times Best Selling author, she has sold 23 million books and in 32 foreign languages in her career thus far. Her many experiences in the U.S. Navy are backdrop for her understanding of the military in general, and also her very successful Morgan’s Mercenaries, which is an ongoing series in Silhouette to this day! Forty-five books strong!


Lindsay has gone Indie in 2015 and has created a new family saga on par with Morgan’s Mercenaries It is known as the DELOS SERIES. There will be paperback and eBooks created under Blue Turtle Publishing, her company for her fans. Readers who love Morgan and his family are bound to fall in love with the Culver family. Delos is romantic suspense, which Lindsay is well known for. It took her five years to create and bring DELOS to her readers. It was worth the wait, but we’ll let you decide that. 
Lindsay loves to hear from her readers and loves to know what they’d like to see her write next. Stay up with the latest on the Delos Series here. Please visit her Web site at  www.lindsaymckenna.com. And be sure to sign up for her free quarterly newsletter. It contains exclusive content found nowhere else on the Net. Plus, giveaways and other surprises, to her loyal and faithful subscribers!

 

NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author J.M. Madden writes compelling romances between ‘combat modified’ military men and the women who love them. J.M. (the J stands for Jennifer, not Jim as she’s been asked MANY times!) loves any and all good love stories, most particularly her own. She has two beautiful children and a husband who always keeps her on her toes. J.M. was a Deputy Sheriff in Ohio for nine years, until hubby moved the clan to Kentucky. When not chasing the family around, she’s at the computer, reading and writing, perfecting her craft. She occasionally takes breaks to feed her animal horde and is trying to control her office-supply addiction, but both tasks are uphill battles. Happily, she is writing full-time and always has several projects in the works. She also dearly loves to hear from readers!

 

KaLyn Cooper’s romances blend fact and fiction with blazing heat and heart-pounding suspense. Twenty-two years as a military wife has shown KaLyn the world, and thirty years in PR taught her that fact can be stranger than fiction. She leaves it up to the reader to separate truth from imagination. She, her husband, and bird dog live in Eastern Tennessee on a micro-plantation filled with gardens, cattle, and quail. When she’s not writing, she’s at the shooting range or paddling on the river.

 

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