When a snowstorm pummels the western half of the country,
three couples find once off-limits love just in time for Christmas.
Novella by Jennifer Ryan
Ridge Novella by Maisey Yates
Novella by Lia Riley
From Jennifer Ryan Close to Perfect
Ten years ago…
Dex sat on the hard bench outside the Sheriff’s office knowing he hadn’t done anything wrong, but shaking in his Converse just the same after a deputy showed up at the high school batting cage, cuffed him, and brought him down to the station. They charged him with stealing a car, drinking and driving, and in a drunken stupor, ditching the car in Crawford Pond.
The car had been pulled out of the murky water, a case of beer in the back seat—mostly empty cans—along with his baseball cap with the MVP pin the team awarded him last season.
How the hell did it get there?
Laurie walked out of her father’s office and turned the butterflies in his stomach into hummingbirds.
Oh God. I’m in deep shit.
He’d thought landing Laurie as his girlfriend made him big shit. Hell, he was seventeen and she had a hot body he wanted to get his hands on, even if she never let him past second base.
Then he met someone…different. Interesting. Nice.
Abigail Swain was barely sixteen and in the senior class. She was that smart. Really smart.
Paired together for a science class project, he’d gotten to know her and wondered why he’d never really noticed her. Small town, small school, still, she kept under the radar. Her parents believed school was more important than friends. Instead of spending her free time playing sports or hanging out at the diner downtown with other girls, she spent every spare minute at church or studying.
Abigail might come off weird and brainy, but really she was shy…quiet. And genuinely nice. A perfect target for Laurie, who made it known she didn’t like him spending time with Abigail, even for a class project.
Five days into working with Abigail something inside him shifted while she explained the intricacies of photosynthesis right off the top of her head. The way her eyes lit up. She planted her chin in her palm and looked right at him. Open and filled with kindness, she did something to his insides. He moved without thinking about it, leaned across the coffee table in his living room, and tentatively pressed his lips to hers in a soft kiss. He didn’t know why he had to do it until their lips touched and the wonder and softening in her eyes undid him. To his surprise, she kissed him back, and if he hadn’t been sitting on the floor already, he’d have hit his knees.
That kiss changed everything and put a lot of things into perspective. Like he’d rather be with someone he liked and enjoyed spending time with. He and Laurie had more fights than good times and it wore thin. Quick. Despite Laurie’s many protests, he ended things with her with a promise that he wouldn’t back out of taking her to the dance so she wouldn’t be humiliated and have to go alone.
From that moment on, he secretly spent more and more time with Abigail, though they kept their relationship hidden. Something about the way her overprotective father hovered nearby when they worked on their project at her house warned him that she’d get into deep trouble if her parents knew about them. Abby never said so, but he got the sense she feared her own dad.
As the mayor of their town, he had a reputation for advocating strict morals. A lot of people outside their church congregation found him judgmental. Including Dex.
He might not be valedictorian material, but he made better than good grades, was the best pitcher and hitter Crystal Creek High ever had, and he planned to take his team to the championships this spring. He had baseball and college to look forward to over the next couple of years and still Mayor Swain looked at him like he was nothing but a thing.
His dad sat beside him, ready to do battle, and nudged him with an elbow in his side. “Laurie’s here. She probably told her father the two of you were at the dance all night, and you couldn’t have stolen that car.” The hope in his father’s voice destroyed Dex.
I am so screwed.
Laurie walked right past him, smiling that sweet smile he and the other guys she’d caught in her web knew hid her devious side. She was out for blood. Since her dad was the sheriff, he had a feeling she was going to get it. Every last drop she thought she deserved because he’d had the audacity to dump her and ruined her plan to get back together at the dance.
The sheriff waved them into his office. “Let’s go, Dex. You’ve got some explaining to do.”
“Listen, Sheriff, Dex had nothing to do with the theft of that car, or how it ended up in the pond. Dex was at the dance with Laurie last night.”
Dex wished he deserved his father’s devotion and unwavering confidence. He wasn’t guilty of the charges, but he wasn’t innocent either.
“Step into my office, Steve. We’ll just see what Dex has to say about what really happened last night.”
His father turned and gave him one of those dad looks, telling him without words that Dex had better have a good explanation for not telling the whole truth this morning over breakfast about how great the dance was last night.
Dex took a seat in front of the Sheriff’s desk and refused to say anything. Not until the Sheriff gave up whatever he thought he knew. Or rather, what Laurie wanted her father to believe.
Dex stared up at his father, standing with anger flashing in his eyes after the sheriff laid out the evidence against Dex.
“Why didn’t you take Laurie home?” his father asked.
“She didn’t want to leave with me, said she’d get a friend to take her home, so I left.”
“And you can’t account for your time after leaving the dance,” the sheriff pointed out, an angry I’ve-got-you gleam in his eyes.
“I drove around in my truck for a while to cool down after the fight with Laurie.”
The sheriff snorted and rolled his eyes. “I suggest you call a lawyer and come up with a better defense than the bullshit you’re feeding your father.” The sheriff stood and waved them out of the office.
Dex walked out behind his dad in a daze. Even his father seemed at a loss for words. Dex wanted to explain what really happened, but couldn’t give them the whole truth. If Abigail’s strict parents found out he was seeing her behind their backs, she’d be in deep shit.
His father pulled out his cell and dialed.
“Who are you calling?”
“A lawyer,” he snapped, then moved a few steps away.
The sheriff stepped out of his office ready to process Dex and lock him up.
His dad glared and bit out, “Sheriff, you don’t have any proof he was in that car. I could drive a truck through the holes in that story. It’s Dex’s word against Laurie’s.”
“His hat was found in the vehicle. He claims he’s never been in the vehicle, nor does he know or associate with Mr. Fowler. Laurie, along with her friend, saw him on their way home.” The sheriff turned on Dex. “We’ll book you for DUI, grand theft auto, and destruction of property. You’re looking at three years minimum.”
Abigail stepped through the door and stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes wide with shock as the sheriff’s last words sank into Dex’s head. He’d spend the next three years in jail. No scholarship. No college education. No life as he’d planned it. This charge would follow him the rest of his life.
He’d lost everything.
Tasty Talks with the authors of SNOWBOUND AT CHRISTMAS
Describe yourself in five words or less.
Smart, spunky, giggly, fun-size, chocoholic.
What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?
The first kiss. I love the buildup to that moment, the anticipation, and the spark that finally ignites when two people give in to the connection that draws them together.
What are you favorite types of stories to read?
I write suspenseful contemporary romance, and I love to read suspense, but when I need a break from that, I escape into historical romance. I love a roguish Viscount or sexy Scottish Laird.
What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan
Troublemaker by Linda Howard
Breath of Scandal by Sandra Brown
What comes next?
Why, another Montana Men novel, of course.
Ford Kendrick gave up his one true love ten years ago to save the legacy his parents left behind for him and his brothers and get Jamie away from her abusive mother. He thought he sent Jamie away for her own good, but when she returns from the military broken in body, heart, and soul, he’ll do everything in his power to make his Firefly happy and shine again. When a friend from her past shows up and a secret revealed puts Jamie’s life at risk, Ford will put HIS COWBOY HEART on the line to protect Jamie.
A la Twitter style, please describe your book in 140 characters or less.
Wise-cracking ex marine gets stranded in blizzard with the ex-girlfriend who never forgave him for breaking her heart
What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?
I love me a good kissing scene
What gave you the most trouble with this story?
Keeping it short, novellas are such fun to write, but a little challenging because there is always a little more you wish you could include.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Name one thing you won’t leave home without.
Can you tell us a little about your book?
Mia is visiting her friend’s family for Christmas in Copper Ridge, and she and her friend’s older brother, Devlin, are the first to arrive at the lodge. Mia has always had a crush on Devlin, but she’s never had the courage to make a move. But then a storm whips up and leaves the two of them stranded overnight…and Mia figures it might be about time to make her some Christmas magic with the man she’s always fantasized about.
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
Well, I love a cheerful heroine and a grumpy hero, especially for a holiday story. And I also love a good girl and a bad boy (with tattoos no less). Adding that forbidden element of her being his younger sister’s BFF, and a snowstorm, just seemed logical. 😉
Name three things on your desk right now.
A Diet Coke can (don’t judge me) my RITA (yay!) and a little iron mouse my husband gave me for Christmas.
What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?
I love banter. I love writing fights, I love any back and forth between the hero and heroine. And I love it most of all when a scene of banter takes a nosedive into double entendre and suddenly what started out light gets really tense and sexy.
What 5 things should readers know about you? I don’t take myself very seriously. I really do love sweet potato fries (which is why they’re mentioned in a lot of my books). I LOVE writing, I really do. I’m left handed. I can sing a mean country song.
How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?
I’ve always fiddled around with stories, but I first finished a book in 2007. I was inspired by reading the Harlequin Presents line, and then by a contest Harlequin ran. I thought: Well, I should write something and enter the contest! That won’t feel like real rejection! I didn’t place in the contest, but at that point I’d written so much of the book I knew I had to finish. I did, and I sent it in, and eventually sold that book.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
They say writers should write every day, and I think that’s great advice to build good habits. But I would also add: finish the book. Don’t just write beginnings over and over. You need to practice seeing a project through to completion. No excuses. The biggest trap I see people falling into is being eternal starters, or eternal polishers or editors. Nope. Write the book, finish the book. Let it go. Do it all over again.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thanks for all the support. Readers are so important, and I’m so, so grateful for mine!