COZY HOLIDAY STORIES – ALL FOR FREE!

instagramI’m pleased to announce the release of a collection of Christmas short stories, Bright Lights and Candle Glow. You can download this anthology for FREE!

This collection from eight talented authors boasts short stories set during the winter holiday season. These tales encompass sober themes, heartwarming messages, and uplifting endings, appropriate for the winter season or all year long.

Arranged in chronological order, witness winter miracles from the mid-1800s through modern day, running the spectrum from somber to lighthearted.

  • Learn the meaning of the season from a Civil War soldier.
  • Go from rags to riches with a 1920s mobster.
  • Relive a fond holiday activity with a helpful Grinchy neighbor.
  • Create new holiday memories with a 1970s ranching family.
  • Meet a new friend whose advice rekindles the magic of the season.
  • Experience Christmas from a wise, aged perspective.
  • Cross cultures and beliefs to create a new holiday tradition.
  • Celebrate the season with estranged family after a life-changing revelation.

These stories are sure to enhance your experience of the holiday season. It’s a holiday-themed compilation of short stories with heavy messages and uplifting endings sure to warm the heart in the cold winter months.

Click here to download now!

Saturday Spotlight – Christmas Pets and Kisses Boxed Set #XmasPets #CoverReveal

SIXTEEN ALL-NEW, NEVER-BEFORE-PUBLISHED SWEET (PG-rated) CHRISTMAS ROMANCES from NY Times, USA Today, and Award Winning Authors – 99c for a limited time!
Ring in the Christmas cheer with sixteen all-new sweet and heart-warming romances from New York Times, USA Today and National bestselling authors. Don’t miss out on this romantic collection of Christmas tails…uh, tales as adorable pets with fins, paws, feathers, and hooves bring holiday magic with the gift of true love
Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor
Every Christmas Vicky hides so she doesn’t have to celebrate the date she lost her husband and son. She doesn’t want to see anyone but when she finds a dog’s lost ball she meets Jon, a wounded ex-soldier who’s struggling with his own problems. This brave man touches Vicky’s shattered heart and makes her realize she can’t hide forever. With his support, can she find the strength to love again?
Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk
Tabloid pictures of charming laywer, Josh Dutton, threaten his father’s senatorial campaign. The family decides he needs a sweet ‘temporary fiancée’ to repair the damage. With only her German shepherd for friend, Emma struggles with problems. Attraction sizzles between Josh and Emma but no one mentions the ‘fake fiancée’ detail. When the truth surfaces will Josh be able to prove that his kisses were not part of a charade?
Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis
Widow Marnie Haywood wants Christmas hosting her in-laws to go smoothly. And it would – if her handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard would stop coming over, mooching food, and stealing kisses.
His Christmas Promise – Alicia Street
A stray dog with a penchant for giving warm and fuzzy love finds refuge with an ex-Army helicopter pilot and helps restore his bedridden grandmother’s will to live. It seems like a Christmas miracle until the bachelor war vet discovers the mutt belongs to a little girl who wants him back—and a single mom who makes him rethink his freewheeling ways and maybe even believe in love.
We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – Nikki Lynn Barrett
Widower Lance Rossiter wants nothing to do with the pet ferret who caused his daughter to be hit by a car. Widow Cara McLean is shocked by the ferret her son finds and wants to keep. When Lance and Cara meet, sparks fly and love suddenly seems possible. Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?
Christmas Lovebirds – Rachelle Ayala
Melisa Hart has a soft spot for her brother Connor’s ex-best buddy, Rob Reed, who slept with Connor’s girlfriend. When her pet lovebird is mixed up with Rob’s, Melisa discovers he’s always cared about her. Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
Christmas on Cougar Mountain – Nancy Radke
Hard-working Zoey is dedicated to helping children learn, and has built her business to the neglect of having a family. When she rescues a dog on the freeway, she discovers that the escape artist brings a family with him, including a boy she would like to help, and as love grows, a man she would like to keep. But will Kellen ever trust her to help his son, much less give her his heart?
The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
The last thing Toni wants for Christmas is more responsibility, but her daughter has other ideas. A near accident not only brings them a dog in need of a home, but Matthias Laing, who Toni would prefer to keep in the past.
Tails, Time, and St. Nick – Mary Leo
Kris Timemaker has inherited a magical clock. Using the clock’s magic for anyone other than St. Nick on Christmas Eve has some grave consequences, but when his daughter’s beloved Westie goes missing, and his estranged wife asks for his help, Kris has no choice but to take a chance with time and try to win back his family in the process.
Graced – Jade Kerrion
Connor Bradley doesn’t have time for distractions, not while juggling single parenthood and his clinic on five hours of sleep a night. He most certainly doesn’t have time for Noelle, the high school flirt, who is prettier and more irresistible than he remembers. When Noelle’s father’s heart attack derails Connor’s plans for his first Christmas without his wife, Noelle wants to save the day for his adorable children, but can she also find her way into Connor’s guarded heart?
Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau
Aspiring decorator Cali Johnson moves to New York City—lonely, afraid, and far from home during the holidays. When she finds a lost cat in her apartment building, she strikes up an odd friendship with his reclusive owner, Marcus Ritz. If only she knew what he was hiding.

Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick
When newly divorced Molly retreats to a family cabin with Gracie, her ten-year-old daughter, she’s surprised to find her childhood crush, Nick, still living in the area. Can a small kitty named Minty help Gracie accept the love developing between Nick and Molly in time for her first Christmas in the mountains of North Carolina?
The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver
Ashley McLaughlin is struggling to move on from her husband’s infidelity. Brennan wants to make amends for his transgression. Their young daughter, Hayley, has only one wish for Christmas- for her family to be together again. When Hayley suffers a head injury after a fall from her horse, will it help her get her wish? Or do the wounds from Brennan’s betrayal run too deep for Ashley to forgive?
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?
Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady
Anne Hurd returns to the Pocono’s to help her elderly grandfather. Six years earlier Kyle Shafer disappeared from her life. She rescues a kitten, takes her to a vet who turns out to be Kyle. Kyle can’t believe Anne walked back into his life. Will he scare her away, or will she give him another chance? Kyle decides to take a chance and try for the love he gave up on.
The Impossible Rescue – Annamaria Bazzi
Christmas is no joy for Julia who’s gambling husband comes around only to ask for money. When a handsome stranger and his cute Pomeranian puppy moves in next door, Julia feels guilty for their mutual attraction. Michael’s not the rescuing type, but when he spies Julia’s husband haranguing her for holiday cash, anger flares and he is determined to rescue Julia from another miserable Christmas.

What Early Reviewers Are Saying

Golden Christmas – Helen Scott Taylor
Two wounded hearts are brought together at Christmas by a golden retriever puppy.
“I found this to be well written and so heartwarming,… You are going to love this story as well as each one in this box-set.” – Cynthia, Page by Page Inside-Out Reviews
“I enjoyed this book so very much! It’s hard to go wrong with a hunky wounded warrior and not just one, but two precious pups!!” – Sandra D on Goodreads
“It is a really sweet story about second chances and it will touch your heart as it touched mine.” – Winnie Lim on Goodreads
Two Loves for Christmas – Mona Risk
Her German shepherd is her only friend until Josh teams up with Rino to love and protect her.
“This is not only a story featuring romance, but it has a touch of suspense too. Romance, suspense, danger and a German Shepherd – definitely a great combination. You’ll love this as much as I did.” ~ Winnie Lim
“This story is a romance story with a hint on danger and suspense. This story will definitely keep you interested.” ~ Julie Fowler
“Will Emma truly change Josh? Will they fall in love? This was a really enjoyable book!” ~ Kimberly Dawn
Dog-Gone Christmas – Melinda Curtis
A handsome neighbor and his friendly St. Bernard mooch food and kisses from a merry widow.
“It’s a sweet love story, with a bit of angst, a lot of humor, and some lovely kisses. I really enjoyed this story, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more from this author.” – Elizabeth Robbins from Goodreads
“Dog-Gone Christmas by Melinda Curtis is a sweet story. It is all about new beginnings and forgiveness.” – Julia David from Goodreads
“Dog-Gone Christmas is a sweet love story with some angst and humor involving a dog owner, his neighbor, and a dog — be prepared to laugh out loud at times.” – JoAnne from Goodreads
We Wish You A Ferret Christmas – Nikki Lynn Barrett
Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?
“As with every other Nikki Lynn Barrett book, I loved the characters and was drawn into the story immediately. You can’t go wrong reading a book by Mrs. Barrett and this is another example of that.”
“Nothing makes me happier than a book that deals with difficult issues and really gets down to the heart of the matter and how hard it can be…Such an amazing read and it really touches the heart!”
“We Wish you a Ferret Christmas is just the perfect story for getting us prepared for the holiday. Loved it.”
Christmas Lovebirds – Rachelle Ayala
Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
“I love it when authors add in a little animal love, too! It feels almost like 2 romances in one.” – Nikki from Goodreads
“This story is a great reminder of what the Christmas season is truly about…family and forgiveness.” – Julie Fowler
“It had laughter, love, heartache, forgiveness, and two little lovebirds that had their own thing going on.” – Lisa Longstreth
The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
A near accident brings Toni and her daughter a homeless dog and a man she’d prefer to keep in her past.
Ms. Campbell has hit the nail on the head with what love is all about. Bravo!—Rose Morales
The characters are lovely from the beginning and especially Jade and Ridley, the puppy, who actually steal the show.—Sally Stackhouse
It was sweet, refreshing and a good balance of how a blended family comes together.—Celeste Williams
Graced – Jade Kerrion
Noelle, armed with several goldfish and a kitten, brings Christmas cheer to a widower and his children.
“You definitely are on an emotional rollercoaster while reading Graced.”—Julie Fowler
“Graced is a must read that will pull on your heart strings.”—Terri Merkel
Unexpected Gift – Chantel Rhondeau
Far from home, a lonely young woman strikes up a friendship with a lost cat and his secretive owner.
“Unexpected Gift was truly heartwarming and a very different kind of love story. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop.” – Maria Diaz
“An emotionally turbulent, yet sweetly poignant, reminder that love has the power to heal all wounds.” – Liza Robbins
“What an incredible heart-warming story on true love that grows from the inside and not based on appearances.” – Rebecca Austin
Minty’s Kiss – P.C. Zick
One kitten, a broken-hearted girl, and long lost loves are brought together for a special mountain Christmas.
“I loved this novella. It is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I liked her style of writing. This author has succeeded brilliantly.” ~Sally Stackhouse
“This story right here screamed made for TV. I love the Hallmark channel, and I could see this being played out there.” ~Celeste Williams
“This is a sweet story of love lost and regained, which will certainly put you in the Christmas spirit. If the rest of the stories are half as entertaining as this one, then readers will be well served.” ~David Lawlor
The Christmas Wish – Michele Shriver
Will a fall from a horse bring Hayley’s parents back together in time for Christmas?
“This was a great novella and I love the writing around it and how Hayley and Thunder showed Ashley and Brennan what really matters!”- Rebecca Austin
“Michele Shriver has once again given us another heartwarming story.”- Elizabeth Clinton
“This is another great read by Michele Shriver! Loved the sweet family story centered around Christmas!!”- Jill Snead
Dante’s Gift – Aubrey Wynne
Seventy years ago, a collie mix brought two hearts together in war torn Italy. Will their story help their grandson find his own Christmas love?
“Wynne has crafted a beautiful short story guaranteed to warm your heart and make you sigh.” ~ Kishan Paul, author of Blind Love and The Second Wife
“It is a story of romance…that will have you misty-eyed.” ~ Celeste Williams ~ Goodreads Reviewer
“This is a really beautiful love story that will touch everyone’s heart and brings tears to your eyes.” ~ Winnie Lim ~ Top Goodreads Reviewer
Mavy’s Christmas Miracle – Sharon Coady
Anne takes a rescue kitten to the vet, only to discover he’s the man who broke her heart.
“I just couldn’t put down! Very sweet, family oriented reading… A definite “feel good” story that is at home around the holidays or any season! I heartily recommend this story!” ~ Holly Lachman-Militello
“This story is full of Christmas hope, dreams of lost love found and family. I couldn’t put it down. A delightful tale you will read again.” ~ Karen Baird-Butler
“..this story is phenomenal. Love the characters and the plot is amazing. I couldn’t put it down. Would highly recommend this to anyone that loves a good romance!!” ~ Delina Parker
Available Now!

ONE DAY TO GO AND ONE LAST SNEAK PEEK AT CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES

 
Golden Christmas by Helen Scott Taylor
Every Christmas Vicky hides so she doesn’t have to celebrate the date she lost her husband and son. She doesn’t want to see anyone but when she finds a dog’s lost ball she meets Jon, a wounded ex-soldier who’s struggling with his own problems. This brave man touches Vicky’s shattered heart and makes her realize she can’t hide forever. With his support, can she find the strength to love again?

Excerpt

Music pounded in Vicky’s head in time with the thud of her feet on the dirt path as she ran. She concentrated on the rhythm to fend off the memories that circled just below the surface, like demons trying to grab her ankles and drag her down.
Cold nipped her cheeks, and her breath billowed in smoky plumes as she ran up the incline to the higher path. The thermometer outside her rental property had indicated it was around freezing, even though the sky was bright blue and the sun was on her face.
As she reached the top of the ridge, the rolling English landscape of the North Cotswolds lay before her. Rosemoor Hall, a Jacobean manor house, presided majestically over its twelve acres of manicured gardens, the golden hues of its Cotswold stone walls shining in the sun.
Every year she rented an isolated country property a week before Christmas, and this year she was staying in the manor’s gatehouse. She stocked up on groceries and if she were lucky, could go for the whole time without seeing another living soul.
Fifty acres of gardens, parkland, and farmland lay around the manor house, and she had access to all the land. Apparently the house was open to the public during the summer season, but at this time of year it was closed up, giving her miles of empty paths to run.
Vicky surveyed the historic house and briefly imagined the interior—the huge fireplaces, the four-poster beds, and the antiques the house likely contained. Once she had a passion for old houses and loved visiting them. Her interest started at school when she did a history project on the Victorians. She’d even kept a journal of the visits she’d made to various historic houses around the country. But that felt like a lifetime ago now.
Her feet slapped against the frozen ground, giving a satisfying jolt with each step, and Vicky tried to focus on her music again. She managed for a few minutes before her attention wandered back to the scenery. Giving up on the monotonous tune, she pulled out her earbuds. The sun was surprisingly warm for December. Where it touched the whitened grass by the house, streaks of green appeared as the ice melted.
As she ran on, the front of the house came into view. A man with a golden Labrador stood on the half-acre rectangle of frosted grass outside the front door. Tall and lean, clad in jeans, a blue winter jacket, and a dark wool hat, the man drew back an arm and hurled a yellow tennis ball.
“Go on, girl. Fetch it.” His voice rang out, deep and cultured, a note of enthusiasm and pleasure in his tone.
The dog streaked off across the icy grass and grabbed the yellow tennis ball in its mouth, then loped back to the man, sat, and dropped the ball obediently into his outstretched hand.
“Good girl.” The man bent and smoothed the dog’s head, talking more softly so Vicky couldn’t make out the words. Then she realized her feet had stopped moving and she was standing still, watching.
She blew out a breath of irritation with herself. She didn’t want contact with anyone who might be happy and celebrating Christmas. She just wanted to be alone to mourn.
Pulling her attention away from the scene below, she continued, focusing instead on the distant trees dotted across the acres of parkland, huge old oaks and sweet chestnuts, their bare branches skeletal against the blue sky.
Yet the strange attraction of the man drew her attention again. In her peripheral vision, she saw him toss the ball a couple more times and pet his dog, but she made sure she kept running.
When she reached a fork in the path, she decided to take the right turn, away from the house and the unwanted distraction. Yet her feet went the other way, carrying her along the route that circled the house, keeping the man and dog in view.
She was closer to them now, only fifty yards away. Elevated on the bank in her bright pink-and-blue running gear as she was, he must have noticed her, but he didn’t look her way. He drew back his arm and tossed with incredible power. The tennis ball arced through the air, bounced on the chest-high stone wall surrounding the lawn, and hit a tree.
The Labrador took off after it, jumped up at the wall a few times, then stood with its front paws against the interlocking rocks and barked.
“Get the ball, Honey.” The man stared after the dog, but he didn’t move to retrieve the ball. Couldn’t he see he’d thrown it too hard and it was lost outside the wall?
Vicky halted and stepped off the path to get a better view. From up here, she could see the yellow ball was stuck in a tree, wedged between a branch and the trunk.
Should she say something? She didn’t want to get involved and have to talk to anyone, but the dog was frantically jumping up at the wall now. It had obviously seen the ball but couldn’t reach it.
“Go on, girl. Fetch it, Honey.” The guy bent and held out his hand to receive the ball.
What was he, some kind of idiot?
Vicky sucked in a chilly breath and shook her head. She should have taken the other path. “The ball’s in a tree,” she shouted.
The man’s head jerked up as if he hadn’t seen her. “Oh, thanks. I didn’t know.”
He reached behind him and grabbed something resting against the wall at his back—a white cane.
Vicky pressed a hand over her mouth with a burn of shamed surprise as he held the cane in front of him and walked forward slowly.
No wonder he hadn’t seen her. No wonder he hadn’t noticed the ball was out of his dog’s reach. She felt bad now for thinking he was an idiot.
“I know where the ball is,” she shouted. “I’ll get it for you.”
Vicky ran down some lichen-encrusted stone steps to the lower level and jogged across the crisp grass to where the dog was standing up against the wall, whining.
“Hey there, girl.” She pulled off her gloves and patted the dog’s silky head. Then getting a firm hold on top of the wall, she pushed her toe in a gap between the rocks, climbed up, and worked the ball loose from the tree before dropping it to the eager dog.
She jumped down and turned to face the man as he reached her. He was a good-looking guy, his lips curved in a friendly smile. His eyes were dark brown and looked perfectly all right, except they didn’t move normally. It was strange to be standing here in front of him and know he couldn’t see her.
“Thanks. I let rip a bit with that last throw. Usually when I do that, it bounces back off the wall. I must have aimed too high.” He pulled off a glove and held out his hand. “Jonathan Bramwell.” He nodded back over his shoulder. “I have an apartment in the house. I assume you’re staying in one of the estate cottages over Christmas.”
The word Christmas stung Vicky as she slipped her hand into his strong, warm grip. “Yes. I’m staying in the gatehouse.” To avoid Christmas, she added silently.
“This is Honey, who’s very grateful to have her ball back.” Jonathan’s smile widened as he stroked behind the dog’s ears. “Say thank you to…” His head came up, almost as if he were looking at her. “You didn’t tell me your name.”
“Vicky Jones.”
“Say thank you to Vicky, girl.”
Honey nuzzled Vicky’s hand, her tail wagging and her intelligent brown eyes warm and friendly.
“It was my pleasure, Honey.” Vicky stroked the dog’s velvet ears and realized it really was a pleasure to pet this sweet dog. Not much touched her these days. She was surprised such a simple thing affected her so much.
“Do you need to get back quickly?” Jonathan asked.
Vicky shook her head and realized he couldn’t see that. “No. I was out for a run.”
“Come inside and have a cup of tea, then,” he said, a hopeful note in his voice. “When you have time, I’ll give you the guided tour, if you like. I do that in the summer when we’re open to the public. I know Rosemoor Hall like the back of my hand, so I can do it from memory. The place hasn’t changed much since I was a kid,” he added with a laugh.
Vicky was already shaking her head again, the motion instinctive as she stepped back to distance herself. The old Vicky would have jumped at a private tour of such a beautiful manor house, but since the accident that took her husband and son, she couldn’t summon enthusiasm for anything. She didn’t want to have to make small talk because it invariably got around to family.
“You don’t have to stay long,” Jonathan said.
Honey pursued her, nudging Vicky’s leg with her nose, a pleading look in her eyes. Or perhaps Vicky imagined that.
“Thank you for the invitation, but I don’t want to cause you any inconvenience.”
“You won’t. It’ll be nice to have someone to talk to.” Jonathan pulled off his wool cap, revealing shaggy dark hair, and rubbed at a scar on his forehead. “Actually, you could do me a favor, if you don’t mind. I have a migraine coming on and I can’t find my medication. If you could spare a few minutes, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d take a look. I think the packet might have fallen down behind the cabinet.”
Vicky hesitated for a moment, but how could she refuse?
• • •
Three steps up from the grass to the gravel, then fifteen steps to the house. Jonathan counted silently, noticing the change in temperature as he moved from the sunny lawn to the shadow of Rosemoor Hall. He held his cane out and tapped the wall, a sharp ringing sound against the Cotswold stone, once, twice, three times before the corner, then he turned along the side and continued until the hollow tap of his cane on the wooden back door.
He reached for the handle and turned it. The fresh, clean, frosty air gave way to the familiar smell of polish and seasoned wood inside the house. The footsteps behind him stopped as he held the door open.
Jonathan felt bad asking a complete stranger for help, especially a woman who was reluctant; he could hear it in her voice and her hesitant steps. It went against every instinct he had to impose on others, but it was a matter of survival. The migraines were bad enough if he took the medication; he didn’t want to suffer twenty-four hours of even worse pain. He could call one of his cousins, but they both led busy lives and he didn’t want to impose.
“I’m sorry,” he said, catching Vicky’s subtle floral fragrance as she walked in and passed him. “It won’t take long.”
“It’s okay. I’m not in a hurry.”
He noticed the embarrassment in her voice. Even people he’d known before he lost his sight were uncomfortable around him now. Some didn’t know what to say, and he understood how they felt. In the old days, he’d have probably been the same way.
He caught Vicky’s fragrance again, and it summoned an image of a tall, slender woman wearing a yellow summer dress with flowing dark hair over her shoulders. Of course, Vicky wouldn’t be dressed like this in December. She’d said she was running. The image morphed, and the woman in his head now wore form-fitting Lycra.
He pressed the side of his fist to his mouth and cleared his throat as he banished the evocative image and the flash of desire. It had been four years since a woman who wasn’t either a member of staff, family, or a medical professional had entered his apartment. Sometimes he wondered if he’d ever meet a woman who was interested in him again. Not that Vicky was here for a social visit, of course. He was certain she’d much rather be outside running.
Four steps along the flagstone corridor, the grit on the soles of his shoes crunching. He’d forgotten to wipe his feet, but it was too late now. He tapped his cane on the wall and found the opening to the bottom of the narrow wooden staircase. This used to be the servants’ staircase when he was a boy—a lifetime ago.
He gripped the handrail, the wood sliding beneath his palm, polished smooth by thousands of hands over the last four hundred years. Familiar with the run and rise of each stair, he mounted them quickly and stepped onto the carpet in the upper hallway.
“My apartment is just down here.” With a hand to the wall, he took eight steps, then touched the varnished door that he only ever locked in the summer when members of the public visited the house.
Jonathan pushed on the door, and Honey’s sleek body brushed his leg. He angled his head and listened, half fearing Vicky had doubled back and gone, but the faint rustling of fabric and her sigh reassured him she was still there.
In his rooms, Jonathan could move about easily. He kept everything in its place and had a clear mental map of the space. “My medication is in a tray on my chest of drawers in the bedroom. If you want to follow me.” He’d thought he had a few hours before the headache got worse, but it was bad already.
An uncomfortable prickle of heat up his neck made him feel like a teenage boy asking a girl to his room for the first time, awkward and clumsy and not sure what to do.
His fingers rose to the scar on his forehead. He massaged the ridge of skin that marked the near-fatal head injury. He hated being blind and scarred. Sometimes he even forgot he was the lucky one. He’d escaped the twisted wreck of the Army Mastiff alive after it ran over an IED. Three of the men under his command had died there.
About the Author
 
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Helen Scott Taylor lives in South West England near Plymouth in Devon between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast. As well as her wonderful, long-suffering husband, she shares her home with a Westie who digs up the garden searching for voles, and an elderly cat who adores treats.
Golden Christmas is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read Golden Christmas  by Helen Scott Taylor

Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99cAmazon US ~ B&N ~ iTunes ~ Kobo ~ Amazon UKGoogle

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A FERRET KIND OF CHRISTMAS FROM BEST SELLING AUTHOR NIKKI LYNN BARRETT

Unique and original – one of the sweet romances stars a cute ferret! Check out this excerpt, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love.


We Wish You A Ferret Christmas by Nikki Lynn Barrett

Widower Lance Rossiter wants nothing to do with the pet ferret who caused his daughter to be hit by a car. Widow Cara McLean is shocked by the ferret her son finds and wants to keep. When Lance and Cara meet, sparks fly and love suddenly seems possible. Can a lost and found ferret bring two fractured families together?

Excerpt

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you….” Children’s voices blended with a few adult ones filled the hallways.
Seriously? Lance Rossiter glanced up from the magazine he’d barely been looking at anyway to peer out the hospital room door. Christmas carolers? So people still did things like that? He found it a little disheartening that Christmas tunes were sung as a background noise to beeping machines- one of them currently hooked up to his five year old daughter to monitor her breathing.
Fine. Maybe some people felt the need to surround themselves with the holiday. He could put on a little cheer and go with the flow. He loved Christmas, as did Tamara, but his bad mood reflected on his first reaction to wave off the cheery carolers.
Nah, really they were a welcome sound. Plastering on a smile, he stood and quietly moved toward the holiday cheerers. He watched as the group of around eight or more kids with two adults slowly walked down the hospital hallways singing. In their hands, they each carried a bag. Lance spotted a teddy bear hanging out of one of them. So not only were they singing, but bringing gifts as well. Maybe a get-well effort? Kind of like candy stripers, or whatever you call them. They weren’t over-the-top loud, and their harmonies blended well. Others had taken up his idea and lined the doors of hospital rooms. Some were wearing a smile, but others were unsure what to make of the whole scene. When the kids spread out and handed each person a bag, his heart melted. Well, this wasn’t something he saw every day. What a sweet gesture. Whoever organized this event deserved a medal. This was a perfect way to brighten a sick child’s day.
A little sandy blond haired boy Lance guessed to be about seven trailed behind. He wasn’t singing, and his face was masked into one of confusion and worry. The woman leading the group stopped, smiled, and held her hand out to him. “Come on, Alex. Don’t be afraid,” she soothed. “You love music.”
The boy didn’t reach for her hand. He trailed close behind the woman, but didn’t make eye contact with her. His gaze was cast downward. The child shuffled his feet along the tile.
“Look up at me, please,” the woman said softly. The rest of their party continued down the hall singing. The kid clutched the gift bag.
Lance should have gone inside, but he continued to watch the two. Most of the other patients and family members had already disappeared from the doorway, probably taking pictures of the goodies, posting them on social media, and sharing them with the patients.
“No! Leave me alone!” The boy screamed and ran from her, barreling straight towards Lance. Startled, he took a step back as the boy plowed into him, ran into the room, and closed himself off in the bathroom.
Alrighty then. Talk about awkward.
“I’m so terribly sorry!” The woman’s cheeks reddened as she darted toward him. “I’d hoped for a better outcome today.” She shoved her frizzy brown curls from her face.
Unsure what to do or say, Lance shrugged his shoulders. “Kids will be kids.” He stared back at Tamara and hoped this situation could be resolved quickly. He felt for the little boy, who was obviously having some kind of meltdown. He also sympathized with the woman, who’d become very flustered and nervous.
“Alex, please come out of the bathroom. I don’t want to have to call your mom. She’s very busy at work today,” she coaxed from outside the door.
The sound of crying wafted through the walls. Lance didn’t want to sit back down, but standing around seemed like the wrong thing to do. He didn’t want to leave the room in search of a nurse or someone else who could help, either. He blew out a breath and hoped to hide his exasperation. While patient and understanding, he silently pleaded with no one in particular for this to get situated quickly.
The woman glanced back at him again. “I really am sorry-”
“It happens.” He waved it off, but Lance wished he’d never walked toward the door. Would that have stopped the little boy from running into his room? Maybe not. Thank God for little favors, though. Tamara hadn’t woken from her nap to this mess.
The woman pulled out a cell phone and, in a desperate plea, spoke into it. “Cara? I’m sorry to bother you, but Alex locked himself in a bathroom at the hospital. In a patient’s room. I think it’s best you come down here.”
Lance stifled a groan. This could take a while.
As the boy inside the bathroom continued to wail, the sound of Christmas carolers on TV now drew his attention, singing the same song he’d just heard.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas….”
Some Christmas.
*****

Cara McLean ignored the frustrated mixed with pity stare from her boss as once again she had to leave her desk for another meltdown rescue. Alex had been been having meltdown after meltdown at school, and more frequently she continued to go there to coax him out of a room. It wasn’t really the teachers’ faults. They didn’t know how to handle him.
Just before school, Alex had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, after countless appointments and evaluations. She’d dodged the suggestions for months about moving Alex to a more private school setting. He was a bright kid and had a lot of talent, but it appeared his behavioral issues were going to be in the way of regular learning.
It took her a long time to accept it, and Cara hoped the damage hadn’t already been done. She’d agonized over the decision and the pros and cons of it since the diagnosis. It didn’t help being a widowed mom of two and going at this alone, especially since Cara had attempted to convince her late husband that something wasn’t right with Alex. No, he’d avoided the subject and said she was paranoid. Nothing could be wrong with his son.
Now, things were spiraling out of control. Time to actually get something done about it. Swiping at stray tears, she swallowed her regrets, then headed toward her car to drive to the hospital. Ten minutes later, she arrived in the crowded parking lot. Cara called Jean to find out where they were.
“Still in the room. The others have gone on to keep things normal.” There was a frantic note in Jean’s voice. “I made that mistake again- mentioning for him to look at me- and he got extremely agitated. I’m sorry.”
Suppressing a sigh, Cara asked for the room number, then hung up and made her way.
Alex’s cries could be heard all the way down the hall. And no nurses helped? What about the patient in the room? Cheeks heated, Cara stepped up her pace. Nurses stood outside the door, baffled and unsure what to do.
“Excuse me, but that’s my son in there. I’ll get him out. I’m so sorry.” Cara apologized as she blew past them and bumped full force into a body. “I’m-”
Strong arms held her steady. “Careful there.” Her skin tingled where the man’s hands still rested.
Cara stared up into the blue eyes of a gorgeous man. Oh, this must be his room, or at least a member of his family, as this was the children’s ward. There was compassion, curiosity, and a whole lot of torture in those eyes. What a disaster! He continued to study her, and Cara was frozen in place. His bangs drifted across tan skin along his forehead. A tiny mole close to his hairline caught her attention for a moment. Sucking in a breath, Cara realized she’d better move, instead of staring back at this man.
“I’ll have my son out of the bathroom in just a second,” she whispered, regaining her composure and jerking out of his hold. He dropped his hands to his sides. No wedding ring on his left hand. Why did she even look? A shiver rippled through her. Cara briefly searched the room. Her heart ached for the pale young girl in the bed with her eyes closed.
Could this day get any worse? Failure and worry settled over her shoulder like a heavy weight. She needed to coax Alex out of that bathroom, take him home, and make the necessary calls.
Cara ignored the stares and walked with rubbery legs to the door and knocked. “Come on out, Alex. I’m here. Please open the door, okay?” Her voice came out weak and squeaky. Ugh. She dared not to look back at the blue eyed man behind her, though she had to really work at that. Who cared what he thought about her? She’d never see him again. After today, Cara could wake up and forget about this encounter. But those eyes, the way they carried so much, really ate at her. He had a story to tell, but she’d never hear it.
“Mommy?” Alex’s voice came out small and uncertain. What was he doing in there? Had he hurt himself? Was he curled up on the floor, trembling and scared? It bugged her to no end how she couldn’t understand her son sometimes. What went on in his busy brain? What did he think and feel when hit with these meltdowns? Most people who weren’t up to date with signs and symptoms of Asperger’s would naturally assume a spoiled brat temper tantrum. Cara knew better, but she didn’t feel like explaining herself every single time Alex had a meltdown. And it happened more and more in public. What should she do, not go out any more to avoid it? That wasn’t the right answer, but she had no idea how to avoid that type of behavior. It all came down to wishing she could understand, so that making decisions would be easier.
“Yes, buddy. I’m here. Come on out so we can talk. There’s a little girl who needs her rest, and we’re in the way.” She kept her voice calm. No loudness, no distractions. Cara hoped for the best.
For a fraction of a minute, no one said anything. The crying stopped, but no other sounds came from behind the bathroom door. Cara anticipated a wail, a shout, something. Then after the hesitance, the door opened and Alex ran straight into her arms. Cara couldn’t be sure, but she thought she heard several sighs of relief.
Yeah, they did what she felt like doing. Tears formed in her eyes as she held her son. “Will you say sorry to the nice man for barging into his room?”
Alex’s lower lip quivered. Big eyes stared back at her, but her son did just what she asked. He pulled out of Cara’s hug and stood before the man. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay,” the man awkwardly replied. “I accept your apology.”
“Give him the gift bag for the little girl, Alex.” Jean broke her silence, prodding him gently.
He thrust out his hand, still clutching the bag. “Here you go.”
Mr. Blue Eyes smiled. Dimples. Oh, he had dimples. “Thank you, Alex.” Not a tone of disdain, not even an irritated scowl. He could have really pitched a fit, but the man took it all in stride. Cara sent him a look of relief and a silent thank you. His gaze lingered on her for a lot longer than she anticipated. Alex hung back behind Cara. She blinked, breaking eye contact with the man so she could focus. Time to get out of here.
Cara led Alex out of the room. Jean followed, making more apologizes to the man. Nurses had finally scattered away from the door, but the faster Cara got out of here, the better.
“Cara-” Jean started once they were down the hall. She’d bet Jean had a lot to say right about now.
“I know, okay? I get it. I’m going to make those calls and look into getting him in the school you guys keep suggesting!” She didn’t mean to yell. Her loud voice echoed off the beige walls. Keep calm, keep calm. The last thing she needed was to upset Alex because she got all riled up and defensive.
Jean blanched. “I wasn’t going to say that. It’ll be good for him, though. I was going to apologize because I pushed again for eye contact. That’s what set him off.”
Shaking her head, Cara turned away again, keeping her arm on Alex’s shoulder. Jean was a good teacher, wonderful and patient, but Cara knew that she wasn’t equipped to deal with a child with Asperger’s when the rest of the kids were mainstreamed students.
“Cara.”
Keeping her tongue in check, she faced the teacher.
“It’s not your fault.”
The words were meant to be a comfort and a help, but they weren’t at this very moment. Giving Jean a curt nod, she walked Alex out of the hospital, attempting to put her emotions in check.
Lately, she took everything to heart, blaming herself. How could she not understand her son? Why did she feel so helpless? As Alex’s mother, Cara should have some sort of idea how to handle these situations, but she didn’t.
And it bothered the heck out of her.


About the Author


USA Today bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett I’m an avid lover of books. I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, completing my first “book” by fifth grade in one of those one subject spiral notebooks. I have a passion for music, photography, jewelry and all things creative. I live in Arizona with my husband and son, but dream of being somewhere much colder and stormier. For now, I’ll have to live that life through my characters and stick it out with the summer heat.

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RACHELLE AYALA’S CHRISTMAS LOVEBIRDS SNEAK PEEK!

I am very pleased to welcome one of my favorite authors, Rachelle Ayala. When I started Author Wednesday more than two years ago, Rachelle was my first guest. Click here to read my very first interview. Rachelle is also the reason I’ve ventured into writing romances. Through her Romance in a Month class, I learned about the genre and became inspired by her energy. She’s also the creator and leader of the Christmas Pets & Kisses box set. Today, I am very pleased to offer a sneak peek at her story in the box set. I hope you enjoy!

Christmas Lovebirds by Rachelle Ayala
Melisa Hart has a soft spot for her brother Connor’s ex-best buddy, Rob Reed, who slept with Connor’s girlfriend. When her pet lovebird is mixed up with Rob’s, Melisa discovers he’s always cared about her. Can two little lovebirds and Christmas cheer open Melisa’s heart to giving Rob another chance?
Excerpt

“Come here, cutie pie. Step up.” Melisa Hart stuck her finger into the birdcage for her lovebird, Cassie. “That’s a good girl.”
Her entire class of kindergarteners held themselves still in barely suppressed excitement.
“Can I hold her?” her most talkative student, Bree, squealed.
“It’s ‘may I hold her,’ and, no, not right now.” Melisa brought her bird’s beak to her lips and let Cassie take a nibble, which was her version of a kiss.
“Eweee!” Mattie, the tallest boy in the class, shouted, pointing. “She kissed the bird on the lips.”
“Beak,” Bree corrected Mattie. “Birds don’t have lips.”
“Oh yeah?” Mattie retorted. “How do you know? Bird Brain Bree.”
Melisa stuck Cassie on her shoulder and put her hands over her hips. “Class. What did I say about teasing? Is it nice or mean?”
“Mean,” the children shouted in unison, startling Cassie, whose wings flapped briefly.
“Inside voices,” Melisa reminded the children. “Cassie gets scared easily.”
“Will she fly?” Mattie asked.
“Of course she can fly.” Bree turned her nose up at the taller boy. “Everyone knows birds can fly.”
“Actually, she has her wings clipped to keep her safe.” Melisa tickled Cassie under her wing and said, “Scratchy.”
The little bird lifted her wing and spread out the feathers.
“You’re stupid.” Mattie stuck his tongue out at Bree.
“That’s enough,” Melisa said. “Mattie, go back to your sharing chair. Bree, you too. Talking out of turn. The rest of you will get to line up and hold Cassie.”
“But I wasn’t being mean,” Bree said.
“You were belittling Mattie and talking without raising your hand. Go.”
She stomped back to her chair, her blond curls bouncing. “My Papa’s getting me a big bird for Christmas.”
“You too, Mattie.” Melisa pointed toward the boy’s chair.
“Screech,” Mattie shrieked and flapped his arms at Cassie.
The bird squeaked and flapped her stubby wings. She lifted straight up like a helicopter, hit her head on the ceiling and landed on the top of a row of hanging overhead lights.
The rest of the class jumped up and down, pointing and yelling.
“She can fly.”
“Come here, little birdie.”
“Is she stuck up there? Is a fireman going to get her?”
“Oh look, she’s scared.”
“Everyone, take your chairs,” Melisa said as calmly as she could. “Sharing time is over.”
“Ahhh …” the children complained.
Melisa glanced at the wall clock. Ten more minutes until Christmas break. As much as she loved her students, their energy and excitement with Christmas drawing near meant they couldn’t sit still or follow directions.
She passed out the green candy Christmas trees she made by drizzling melted candy over straight pretzel sticks, along with a flyer about the Giving Tree Toy Drive at the Reed Christmas Tree Farm. Bring a wrapped toy and take a picture with a pet bird, ride in a firetruck, and other fun activities.
When the bell rang, Melisa stood at the door and wished all the children a happy vacation and New Year. She kept one eye peeled for Cassie, in case she made a break for the open doorway, but the little bird seemed content to perch high above her and preen her colorful feathers.
“Bye, Miss Hart,” Bree waved her candy Christmas tree. “I want to take a picture with Cassie. How are you getting her down?”
“The janitor has a ladder.”
“My Papa’s coming home.” Bree nodded. “I prayed real hard.”
“He will, sweetie.” Melisa caught the eye of Ella, Bree’s aunt, and reassured. “I’m also praying for him.”
Bree’s father was a war veteran who’d gone back to Afghanistan for a humanitarian trip. He’d been taken hostage by terrorists, but the news reported that he was safe and had been airlifted to Germany to be debriefed, and hopefully able to return by Christmas.
“Are you going to the Christmas Tree Farm tomorrow with Cassie?” Ella took the green pamphlet from Bree and helped her unwrap the Christmas tree candy.
“If I can get her down from the light.” Melisa pointed to her bird. “How about you?”
“Bree, you want to go to the toy drive?” Ella ruffled Bree’s head.
“Yes, I want to hold Ms. Hart’s birdie and take a picture. But we have to bring a toy.”
“Then let’s go to the toy store and pick one up,” Ella said, winking at Melisa. “Maybe we’ll see your teacher there tomorrow.”
“Sure thing.” Melisa said to her friend from UC Berkeley where they’d taken student teaching classes together. “Let’s have coffee some time and catch up now that school’s over.”
“Great. I’ll text you,” Ella said as she took Bree’s hand.
Once all the students were gone, Melisa shut the door and called Larry, the custodian. After she got Cassie down, she’d have to get her wings trimmed again, despite what the guys on the bird forum argued.
Clipping was for Cassie’s safety. She’d heard too many stories of birds flying away, landing in frying pans, or crashing into windows to be persuaded by the free-flight people, especially that arrogant guy with the handle Lovebone who claimed his parrot regularly flew outdoors and hadn’t gotten lost yet.
These days, anyone could say anything on the internet without proof.
Melisa climbed onto a table and held her finger, waving it up and down as a landing strip. “Come on, Cassie. Don’t be afraid. Fly to me, baby. Come on.”
The bird bent low and arched her wings, shaking and considering, but unable to figure out a way down. She’d been so frightened by Mattie that instinct took over, but now that she was calm, she couldn’t bring herself to try.
Melisa turned on her cell phone to check her messages. Maybe she’d ask Lovebone how he got his bird to fly to him.
# # #
Dr. Rob Reed was running late. He hated evening shifts, and these days, they were getting slammed, especially with the increased ambulance traffic due to all the holiday parties and their drinking and carousing activities.
He whistled for his bird, Casey, a lovebird he rescued from his irresponsible actor brother who was the king of the impulse buy. The little bird flew skillfully, hovering a second before landing on his outstretched finger.
“Good boy,” Rob said, handing him a sunflower seed. He tucked the bird inside his cage. “Papa has to go to work. Sorry I have to cover you early tonight.”
Rob was an emergency room doctor working shifts that jumped around without rhyme or reason. He’d go from twelve-hour overnight shifts, to sixteen-hour six AM to ten PM shifts, to ambulance rides to transfer critical patients. But it was the evening shifts that relegated his dating life to a big fat zero.
Not that he could complain. He was making good money for a young doctor fresh out of residency, and this year, he’d purchased a cabin in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. Not bad for a twenty-nine-year-old.
San Francisco General was the only level-one trauma center for the entire City of San Francisco and northern San Mateo county. Once Rob was on the job, he was on. No time for phone calls, internet, chit-chat, or even catching a bite to eat.
After packing his food in thermal packs, he checked the free flight parrot forum where he was the moderator.
There was a message from HaveAHart, a kindergarten teacher who was a newbie bird mama.
My little bird had a fright in the classroom and she’s perched on the overhead light bar. She seems to be trying to fly to me, bending low and lifting her wings, but she’s not taking off. What do I do?
He dashed a reply.
Call a fireman. It’s easier for a bird who doesn’t know how to fly to go up, but it’s scary to come down. Your bird doesn’t have the confidence to fly, so to her, it’s like jumping off a cliff.
He shut his laptop. There really was nothing he could do. Why did these people never listen until they were in trouble? Clipping wings was like chopping a man’s legs off. Rob was sorry he was so grouchy, but he’d bet her bird had other problems too, probably feather-picking, incessant screaming, and other pathological behavior that came from not being able to do what came naturally—fly.


About the Author

I love the magic of the Christmas season filled with family and the spirit of giving and helping others. From romantic suspense to sweet contemporaries, I write from my heart and love to include children and pets in my stories. My stories range from steamy to sweet, so be sure to check the reader’s guide at my website.
Christmas Lovebirds is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read Christmas Lovebirds by Rachelle Ayala
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HOW ABOUT ANOTHER SNEAK PEEK AT CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES?


Christmas on Cougar Mountain – Nancy Radke

Hard-working Zoey is dedicated to helping children learn, and has built her business to the neglect of having a family. When she rescues a dog on the freeway, she discovers that the escape artist brings a family with him, including a boy she would like to help, and as love grows, a man she would like to keep. But will Kellen ever trust her to help his son, much less give her his heart?t.

Excerpt

A dog… on the freeway! Or just about. A lovely Border Collie, it was walking up the on-ramp, headed into deadly traffic. Zoey’s headlights picked up the shadowy form as she drove past.
Quickly decelerating, she pulled over to the edge and stopped, throwing on her emergency flashers. She hadn’t reached the actual freeway yet, she still had about thirty feet before the lanes merged. Watching for any cars coming up the on-ramp behind her, she opened her driver’s door and stepped out into the pouring rain. It was December in Seattle, so she was used to it. She splashed around to the back of her car and called the dog.
“Here boy. Here girl.” What did you call a dog when you were a total stranger? “Come on.” She bent forward and patted her hands against her legs. Zoey had grown up on a farm in Idaho and was no stranger to animals. She used her very best, soft coaxing voice, one that had saved the lives of lambs and other baby animals who had lost their mamas and had to be coaxed into eating. “Come on, pet. This is no place for you. You’ll get killed, or cause a pile-up, as people try to miss you. Come on, sweet.”
The dog paused, looking about, totally bewildered, then looked toward her, head low. Hers was the only encouraging, friendly voice around, and Zoey called again, wishing she had even part of a sandwich to help bring the dog to her. The rain soaked her hair and shoes and made short work of her raincoat. She could feel the moisture working its way around the collar.
“Come on. Would you like to go for a ride?”
The collie lifted its head.
“Ride? Go for a ride?”
That evidently meant something, and Zoey hurried over to the passenger door and opened it. “Get in! Ride.”
The dog bounded forward and leaped into her car. She shut the door quickly. None too soon, as two cars made the turn and were headed up the ramp, their headlights blinding her. She waited for them to swerve around and pass on by, then she rounded her car, cracked open the driver’s door, and slipped inside.
A wet tongue greeted her, adding to the wetness on her face. The dog was halfway onto the driver’s seat, thoroughly soaked, and Zoey had to push it away so that she could sit down. It put a wet paw on her arm and licked her face, treating her like a long lost friend, giving her a big doggy “thank you.”
“Down. Get down,” she protested, thankful that she had chosen to travel in her jeans and heavy coat, rather than in her better clothes.
The dog immediately jumped down on the floor and sat there, head cocked to one side, as if to say, “Now what?”
She stared out into the pouring rain. Almost a monsoon. Now that she had the collie off the freeway, what was she going to do with it? She was still close to Bellevue, although not familiar with this neighborhood.
“Well, I’m not going to have to worry that you’ll bite me,” she said, flipping on her turn signal and accelerating onto the freeway. “Let’s hope your owner had a chip put in you.”
She continued alongside the freeway for a few hundred feet, then pulled back off it, following the cloverleaf around. She drove down to the small shopping mall where she had stopped to get some coffee. There should be a veterinarian somewhere close. She didn’t want to take the dog with her, out of the area where she found it, in case the owners were looking for it.
Flipping on her phone, she searched for a nearby vet’s office. She found an animal hospital about a mile away, and drove to it.
Leaving the dog in the car, she tried the office door. Still open.
“Hi. I found a dog on the freeway, and would like to see if it has a locator chip,” she called across the room to the attendant.
“Sure. Bring him in.”
Zoey still wasn’t sure if the dog was male or female, so checked when she opened the door to take it out. Male.
He ran happily ahead of her, but when she said “Heel,” he came in close to her left side and stayed there.
“Well, someone has been teaching you manners,” she said, opening the vet’s door and going inside.
“He doesn’t look like he’s been injured,” the lady said, as they approached her.
“No. He was running up the on-ramp when I got him.”
The attendant petted the dog on the head and got a sweeping tail wag response. “Good boy. He might have been following his owner’s car. Dogs do that, expecting to get picked up. Then they get lost or hurt.”
“If so, he might be from around here. I picked him up on this exit.”
The lady scanned him along the back and shoulder. “No chip. Probably a family pet, and so no one thought to put in a chip. Do you want to leave him here?”
“What will you do with him?”
“We’ll send him to one of the pet rescue groups. If they can’t find his owner, they’ll put him out for adoption. If no one takes him, he’ll be put down.”
“That would be a shame. He’s a nice dog. Well trained. I think I’ll leave my name and number with you, and take the dog. You know what he looks like. If someone calls looking for him, you can send them to me.”
“Do you have room for him?”
“Yes. I have a large enclosed porch where he can stay.” Zoey wrote down her name and phone number on a pad and handed it to the attendant. “I put ‘Found Dog’ beside my name.”
“Border Collie. Male,” the attendant said, and added the words to the paper. Then she tore off the note and stuck it on a bulletin board on the wall behind her.
Zoey looked at all the notes. There were a lot of them. “All lost dogs?”
“Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds… you name it. Even a rooster. We get a lot of missing pets this time of year. Folks get busy with the Christmas holidays and forget to check their animals. Or they think someone else in the family has done it.”
That wouldn’t be her, Zoey thought. Her family was still in Idaho.
“Come along, Dog.”
“You’d better name him. Do you want a leash?”
“A name?” Zoey’s mind stayed blank. What would she name the dog?
“Call him Jack. Just something rather than ‘Dog.'”
“OK. Jack was my grandfather’s name. I can remember that.”
“Have you had a dog before?”
“Not recently. But my folks had dogs. There was always one or two around.”
Leashes and collars hung on a rack near the counter. Should she get one? She might only have this dog for one day. She realized she wanted Jack. He would keep the nights from being so long. He probably wouldn’t sleep out on her porch, after all.
“I’ll take a leash and collar.” She chose a serviceable-looking set from the rack and put it on Jack. Sixty dollars. She could afford it, and pulled out her credit card.
The attendant ran the card and handed it back to her. “There you go. Don’t get too attached. Owners have a habit of showing up out of the woodwork, when you figure they never will.”
“Thanks for the warning.” She put the collar and leash on the dog. “Come on, Jack.” The collie followed her to the door and waited while she opened it. “Good dog. Heel.”
Jack positioned himself on her left side and stayed that way out to the car. She opened the door and he looked at her. “Get in.”
Thus invited, he jumped inside. She went around the car and joined him.
“There is no way I’d let anyone put you down,” she told him, giving him a scratch behind the ears. “Even if you chewed holes in my boots. I’m a sucker for a lost animal. Besides, you’ll make the kids feel at home.” And herself less lonely. She didn’t say it, but she thought it.
Zoey’s biological clock was ticking. She was almost twenty-eight and had no man interested in her. She had tried gym membership, but couldn’t stand the smell. Online dating seemed too risky. Her work kept her so busy, she really didn’t have time for dating. She had spent her college-age years getting her business going, and hadn’t met anyone.
Now she wished she had spent a little time looking around, “husband hunting,” but it had seemed so important to find a place where she could work. She had tried renting a duplex, where she could live in one side and work in the other, but it wasn’t set up the way she wanted it, and the double rent was just as expensive as a house. So she had bought a new house, built the way she wanted it.
She felt left behind. As lost as this dog. The eligible men had all settled down with someone else. She was going to have to make some changes in her life. Schedule more vacations. Join some clubs. Go out and meet people. Pray about it more often.
She turned on the windshield wipers and drove home to their rapid thumping. At top speed they still couldn’t keep the windshield clear of the heavy rain. Like everyone else on the freeway, she slowed down to forty miles an hour.
The dog in the car made a difference. She had made this trip many times, to and from the airport, but always by herself. Just the presence of a living, breathing being in the car beside her made a difference. He couldn’t talk back to her, but she chatted away to him, happy to have a companion for the journey.
“Do you know you are both beautiful and intelligent?” she asked Jack. “I don’t expect I’m going to get to keep you very long, not a dog like you. But if your owner is out of town or somewhere, I wouldn’t want you to end up at a shelter and go to someone else. Or get put down. I’ll take care of you. You really are a sweetie. You don’t look very old.”
In reply, he steamed up the windows and filled the air with the smell of wet dog, but she was very glad to have him.


About the Author

Author Nancy Radke, started out writing full-length, modern romance and suspense stories, then switched to novella length for her western series, The Traherns, and now writes both, usually two or three books at the same time. She has published ten Sisters of Spirit books, including Christmas on Cougar Mountain, thirteen Trahern books, and one book of a new Brothers of Spirit series. A former special education teacher, her education background shows when she includes history, or in this case, reading problems, in her books. Her books are G-rated, no sex, no swearing.


Christmas on Cougar Mountain is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read Christmas on Cougar Mountain by Nancy Radke



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AND THE HITS KEEP ON COMING – SNEAK PEEK CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES

The Vet’s Christmas Pet – J.L. Campbell
The last thing Toni wants for Christmas is more responsibility, but her daughter has other ideas. A near accident not only brings them a dog in need of a home, but Matthias Laing, who Toni would prefer to keep in the past.
Excerpt

I watched Matthias’ hands, fascinated by his gentle handling of the dog’s paw. Then his words pierced the cloud surrounding my brain. “His leg is bruised, but not broken.”
“But, it’s not my—”
“When you get home, apply some ice to the area for twenty minutes.” He smiled, showing an even row of teeth I remembered well. His gesture also reminded me of the small space we’d been crammed into for the last ten minutes. He rubbed the dog’s forehead, bringing my attention back to the size of his hands.
“I hope this little guy is smart enough to stay off that leg,” he said, “but if not, ensure he doesn’t run or jump on it.”
“He’s not—”
“Talk to Melanie about the bill,” Matthias said, handing me the dog, which I wasn’t too enthusiastic about touching, since I didn’t know where he’d been. At least he seemed clean and didn’t smell.
“It’s great seeing you again,” Matthias added, oblivious to the panic he’d unleashed in my brain.
Bill? I could only hope his fee wouldn’t amount to more than I could afford. Doctor’s fees on the island were out of the reach of some people and vet bills were even more expensive.
I wasn’t even sure I’d hit the damn dog, but Jade insisted that we bring the dog in because she thought I’d run over it. We should have been home by now, but here we were having a stray dog examined by the last man I expected to meet again in life.
“Can I hold him, Mommy?” Jade said, shifting from one foot to the other.
I looked at Matthias, to be sure it would be okay. When he nodded, I answered Jade. “Sure.”
I put the dog in her arms, sighing. What was I going to do with a dog when I could barely take care of the two of us?
I sighed again and that’s when Matthias frowned. “Is something wrong?”
“I was trying to tell you this isn’t my dog.”
His forehead crinkled and one of his eyebrows arched into a questioning expression. “Really? Then how did you end up with him?”
“We were coming down from Jade’s school and the dog ran across the road. Jade thought I hit him.” I shrugged. “That’s why we’re here.”
Matthias peeled off the gloves he’d been wearing and then scratched the back of his head. The motion of his arm parted his coat and revealed a pale-green shirt and a tie several shades deeper. Spiffy dressing for a dog-doctor, I thought. When our eyes met, he smiled as if he’d guessed what I was thinking.
He scratched his scalp again and frowned. “So, would you like me to keep him overnight while you try and find the owner?”
My eyes widened and I knew I was looking at him as if he’d suggested something illegal. I had no intention of searching for the dog’s owner or getting involved with an animal I didn’t own, but that left the question of what to do with him.
As if the dog understood what was happening, he tipped his dark head to one side and put on a sad expression, which didn’t fool me. He was probably an impostor, because if I was right about his breed, there was some Pit Bull in there somewhere and I’d heard horror stories on the news about them ravaging children. I shook my head, wondering under what unlucky star I’d been born.
Jade clutched the puppy to her chest and whined, interrupting my pity party. “Why can’t we keep him, Mommy?”
“Because he’s not our dog and his family is missing him.”
“No they’re not.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, if they cared about him, he wouldn’t be on the street.”
“He probably got out by accident.”
“See?”
“What?”
“If you care about your dog, you don’t leave the gate open so he can escape.”
Matthias folded both arms across his chest and leaned against the doorway of the examination room as if settling in for the evening’s entertainment.
I flung him a glare, but that only expanded his smile.
“This isn’t funny,” I said through my teeth.
I threw him another desperate glance or two before he cleared his throat and dialed down his smile. “Tell you what, Jade. Maybe I can try and help your Mommy find his owners.”
Ever the realist, Jade frowned. “How are you going to do that?”
Speaking as if he was conversing with an adult, Matthias said, “Well, we can put a community service announcement on the radio and see if anybody comes forward.”
Jade considered that for a minute before her brows cleared. “Okay, but won’t Ridley be lonely here tonight?”
“Ridley?” I held on to Jade’s shoulder to get her to look at me. “Hon, you can’t name the dog. He doesn’t belong to us.”
She squeezed her lips together and put on her stubborn face, which always reminded me of her father. “Every dog needs a name.”
“And his family knows what it is.”
Jade looked at Matthias as if to invite him to back up her argument. After meeting my gaze for long seconds, Matthias dipped his head.
“What your Mom says is true, but anyway … ” Here, Matthias slipped me a glance. “Ridley won’t be lonely tonight because we have a few other patients that are staying over.”
Jade’s eyes went wide. “You mean this is a dog hospital too?”
“Not exactly, but … would you like to look around?”
“Yeah!” Jade shot a fist into the air and came close to dropping the dog, who scrabbled at her uniform with his paws.
A sigh worked its way up from my belly and I glared at Matthias. “We do have to be on our way home.”
“I’m sure your husband will understand if you’re running a bit late.”
Jade now stood between Matthias and me. “She doesn’t have one anymore,” she said.
Matthias’ curiosity was clear when our eyes met, but he was speaking to Jade when he asked, “What doesn’t she have anymore?”
“A husband. Mommy said she and Daddy were no longer compati—”
“Never mind that,” I said, prodding her toward the doorway.
Amusement brightened Matthias’ eyes and curved his lips. It was clear he saw through my evasive action. “Tell you what,” he said, “I’ll talk to Melanie about the bill and you can wait while I give Jade the tour.”
Great, now I’d be wasting more time in Matthias’ space when I needed to get home to the one hundred and one things that filled my evenings.
Jade walked ahead of us with the dog still pressed to her clothes, which would be crawling with dog hairs. Good thing she wasn’t allergic, but I’d be the one who had to de-hair her clothes before getting them into the washing machine.
In the waiting room, I sat and pulled out my smartphone while Matthias spoke with the woman at the desk. I stopped listening after he pointed to me and said, “Mrs. Barnett’s dog … “
As if I hadn’t told him I didn’t own the stumpy thing, with the brownish-black coat, that had captivated Jade.
Despite trying to focus on my own business, I couldn’t help looking up when Matthias left the office with Jade. A little over eighteen years had passed since I last had contact with him, so seeing him earlier had been a shock.
Our conversation had been stilted at first, and Jade’s eyes were like shiny marbles as she looked back and forth at us. I could only hope she’d forgotten about that by now, otherwise she’d ask a ton of questions and I wasn’t prepared to say much, if anything, about my history with Matthias.


About the Author


J.L. Campbell is an award-winning, Jamaican author who writes romantic suspense, women’s fiction, new and young adult novels. She has written thirteen books, three novellas and two short story collections.
Her novels include the Island Adventure Romance series, which currently has four exciting, stand-alone stories and features feisty women and determined men. Campbell is a certified editor, who also writes non-fiction.
The Vet’s Christmas Pet is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read The Vet’s Christmas Pet by J.L. Campbell
Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99c


SNEAK PEEK – MINTY’S KISS IN CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES

I’m proud to present an excerpt from my addition to Christmas Pets & Kisses. Minty’s Kiss is set in the Smoky Mountains during the holidays. I hope you enjoy reading a little bit from the first pages of this romantic novella.

Minty’s Kiss – P. C. Zick
When newly divorced Molly retreats to a family cabin with Gracie, her ten-year-old daughter, she’s surprised to find her childhood crush, Nick, still living in the area. Can a small kitty named Minty help Gracie accept the love developing between Nick and Molly in time for her first Christmas in the mountains of North Carolina?
Excerpt

Prologue

The bundle of black fur became Molly’s trusted companion the year she turned ten. It was her consolation prize for being the child of two people who hated one another so much they ended their marriage right before Christmas. Molly’s father brought the kitty over on Christmas Eve, and left it in a box with holes in the top under the Christmas tree. When Molly and her mother returned from midnight Mass, she heard squeaks coming from a box laden with a large red ribbon, sitting beneath the tree.
“A kitty!” she screamed when she tore open the top. She pulled the furry creature out of the box. The squeaking stopped only to be replaced by a loud purr.
“That purr is bigger than it is,” her mother said as she knelt down on the carpet next to Molly. “Your father finally got one thing right this Christmas.”
Molly ignored her mother as she buried her nose in his fur. “We need food, Mommy. Everything’s closed.”
“Go look in the kitchen.”
She carried her present with her and found cans of food and a box filled with litter on the floor by the sink.
“Just point it to the box, and everything should be fine.”
“Is it a girl or a boy?” Molly asked as she carried the fur ball to the litter box.
“It’s going to be hard to tell with all that fur. Knowing your father, he got you a male cat.”
“I think I’ll name him Harold. I think he’s a boy.”
“Harold? Why?”
“It fits. I like it.”
“It’s not very cat-like, but I suppose you’ll do what you want no matter what I say. Just like your father.”
Harold helped Molly ignore her mother and her bitterness over the divorce. He became her constant companion and confidant during the dark days of the winter, holed up in the mountain cabin in North Carolina. Her father’s family owned it, but her mother decided she would start her new life as a single mom in the Smoky Mountains, even though she never liked the cabin. Marilyn Irving enjoyed going to the theater and shopping at the mall. When the family did come to the cabin for vacations, Marilyn complained about the backwardness of Murphy, the closest town, and the rural area surrounding them. Her decision to move to the cabin came as an effort at revenge because Molly’s father enjoyed escaping to the mountains, and he loved the cabin. Since he initiated the divorce, he wasn’t in a position to deny his daughter and ex-wife much of anything.
“Molly, Nick is here.” The announcement came on Christmas afternoon as Molly sat on the kitchen floor playing with Harold. Nick was one of the only reasons she hadn’t protested too much when her mother made the surprising announcement about moving to Murphy.
“I see Santa was very good to you.” He knelt down next to her and gave Harold a rub on the head.
“Meet Harold. Harold, this is my friend Nick.”
Nick, two years older than Molly, reached for the kitty and rolled him over on his back in his arms. “People don’t think cats like their undersides rubbed like dogs do, but if you scratch right here on the chest between the front paws, most of them love it.” He scratched Harold in that spot and instantly his eyes closed and his purring machine started working.
“He loves it.” She looked at Nick with his blonde hair falling down into his eyes. He still wore his down jacket, but had pulled off his knit cap.
“How’s it going, Molly?” Nick looked at her with his bright blue eyes, and she lost herself in his gaze.
“It’s better now that you and Harold are here,” she said.
“My mom said you’ve moved here for good.”
“That’s what she says.” Molly nodded her head toward the living room where her mother sat reading a novel. “I hate her. She’s so mean.”
“It’s tough, isn’t it?” Nick reached for her brown hair and rubbed her head. “You just come find me anytime you need a friend, you hear?”
Molly nodded, and right there, on the kitchen floor, she vowed that one day she would marry Nick.
About the Author


P.C. Zick describes herself as “a storyteller no matter what I write.” And she writes in a variety of genres, including romance, contemporary fiction, and nonfiction. Her female characters are strong and sexy and her male heroes are easy to love. She’s won various awards for her essays, columns, editorials, articles, and fiction. When she’s not at the computer, she’s boating, kayaking, golfing, and just generally enjoying life with her husband—a lost love from her youth who resurfaced six years ago. Talk about a romantic story!
Minty’s Kiss is EXCLUSIVE to Christmas Pets & Kisses from October 6 – November 6, so pre-order Christmas Pets & Kisses today and be the first of your friends to read Minty’s Kiss by P.C. Zick
Get into the Christmas spirit with CHRISTMAS PETS & KISSES. Limited time offer, so grab your set today! ONLY 99c