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Something Beginning With Mistletoe: Something Borrowed, #3
Something Beginning With Mistletoe: Something Borrowed, #3
Something Beginning With Mistletoe: Something Borrowed, #3
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Something Beginning With Mistletoe: Something Borrowed, #3

Автор Louisa George

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She's the Grinch who hates Christmas. He's determined to make this the best holiday season ever. What they need is a Christmas miracle. What they have is a match made in candy cane hell…

 

But when Faith and Blake are forced to work together to make Christmas dreams come true for a local kindergarten, things start to heat up between them. A kiss under the mistletoe is only the start of the thaw…

This Christmas, can Blake melt Faith's heart and show her that miracles can happen…? Don't miss this enemies to lovers holiday fun.

Book 3 in the Something Borrowed series, but can be read as a standalone.

ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательLouisa George
Дата выпуска15 окт. 2017 г.
ISBN9781386718208
Something Beginning With Mistletoe: Something Borrowed, #3
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Louisa George

Award-winning author Louisa George has been an avid reader her whole life. In between chapters she managed to train as a nurse, marry her doctor hero and have two sons. Now she writes chapters of her own in the medical romance, contemporary romance and women's fiction genres. Louisa's books have variously been nominated for the coveted RITA Award, and the NZ Koru Award and have been translated into twelve languages. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

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    Something Beginning With Mistletoe - Louisa George

    Chapter 1

    ‘If that woman doesn’t stop scraping away at The Little Drummer Boy pretty damned soon, I’m going to shove her violin bow up her pa rum bum bum bum,’ Faith Langley grumbled as she finished wiping down her pub counter.

    She breathed a sigh of relief as the front door closed, shutting off the offensive noise and the blast of Arctic wind that seemed to seep into her bones, beyond grateful to see her best friend Jenna sauntering over with a large planner under her arm. ‘It sounds like a migraine feels. What is it about Christmas that makes everyone think they can busk? Outside my pub? I’m sure it’s stopping people coming in.’

    ‘Grinch.’ Jenna laughed. ‘I love it. It gets me in the mood.’

    ‘For leaving the country on the next flight out, yes.’ To the Caribbean, or Mongolia. Anywhere that didn’t go completely Christmas crazy for the last two months of the year. Make that four months; the supermarkets had mince pies on sale on the first day of September.

    Did they eat mince pies in Mongolia?

    ‘Well, I’m definitely in the mood for Christmas. I can’t wait. Only three weeks to go, and it’s going to be such fun.’ Jenna’s smile was well and truly fixed. Ever since she’d hooked up with her new guy she’d been wearing a grin the size of the Millennium Bridge. And for her first proper little family Christmas she’d started to embrace the whole festive spirit with such sweet gusto it made Faith’s teeth hurt.

    Just the sight of all that cheap tinsel in the market was enough to send her into a panic. She hated December. So many memories whipped through her, twisting her heart.

    Dear Santa, please can we skip Christmas and fast forward to eating creme eggs and hot cross buns?

    Jenna sighed one of those I’m so happy sighs she did every few minutes that made Faith yearn for just a little of that kind of feeling. She tried to consciously relax her tightened stomach and make a joke. ‘Hmm. Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but bah humbug and all that.’

    ‘Oh sweetie, I know. I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I’ve had some really shitty Christmases too.’ Jenna plonked her folder on the bar and tipped up Faith’s chin with her fingers. ‘Things can get better. I promise you. They will.’

    ‘Says the wonder woman whose daughter just had her nursery school unexpectedly close early. And now has a new business to run, with a child at her heels, as well as Christmas prep.’

    It hadn’t skipped Faith’s attention that the queues outside Jenna’s florist shop next door were sometimes backed up along the pavement, and she often closed a lot later than advertised. Which was great for cash flow, but hard on a working parent.

    ‘That’s why I’m so grateful to Chloe and Mum for looking after her when I need them to.’ Jenna shrugged. ‘It’s also why I’m coming to this local business network meeting tonight—to see if I can drum up support to help the kids. The nursery lost a lot of stuff in that fire, although I’m just grateful it happened at night when the kids weren’t there. They need a bit of help now, though, and someone’s bound to say yes. Christmas brings out the best in people.’

    ‘Yes, well, you always were optimistic. I, however, prefer to stay completely realistic.’ No one was bringing her Gramps back, ergo, Christmas was always going to be crap. For a few years he’d made her almost believe in the magic, but now she was right back to knowing that Christmas sucked. She moved away from Jenna’s hand. She had a feeling that if brief physical contact turned into a hug she’d start to cry, and that would be mortifying.

    Jenna’s eyes were warm and soft and understanding. ‘I’m sorry for getting carried away before.’

    ‘Don’t be silly.’ Faith didn’t want her friend to feel sad, just because she did. ‘You deserve to have the best Christmas. Really.’

    ‘What are you doing for the big day?’

    ‘What big day?’

    ‘Christmas day, of course.’ Jenna blinked. ‘Do you want to come to ours for lunch? I mean…I’ll check with Nick and see if he doesn’t mind. You shouldn’t be on your own. The first two years are the worst. Believe me, I know.’

    Faith dredged up a little of the courage her friend had shown for the last few years, being a widowed single mum. ‘No way, you’re looking forward to having just the three of you together. I’m fine on my own. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it, but I guess I’ll just hang out here like last year. I think that’s best.’

    She stroked the beautiful, pitted, old wooden counter. Gramps always loved Christmas so much and invited as many people as he could for lunch; a great masterpiece of cooking along with music and laughter and presents for all. He’d been like a real live Santa Claus with his cheer and joy. Every year she’d watch him work so hard to make sure everyone’s needs were taken care of. He’d introduce her to all the punters, so proud of his granddaughter who could pour a decent pint by the age of ten.

    Faith’s stomach tightened even more. She missed him so much. Missed his jolly smile, the gentle way he’d spoken to her. The way he’d taken her in and given her a home when her mother left.

    She’d loved his belief in the magic of Christmas. His belief in her. Almost two years had gone by since she’d lost him, but it felt like a lifetime.

    Jenna’s smile turned cautious. ‘Hey, why don’t you invite your mum over? Or go over to Spain to see her? Families need to pull together at holiday times.’

    Families. Panic ripped through Faith’s chest. ‘There I was thinking you wanted me to enjoy Christmas.’

    ‘She hasn’t invited you over there?’

    ‘Knowing Mum she won’t be in Malaga by then. She’ll have moved on. It’s what she does.’ Faith took a deep breath—time to change the subject. ‘Right then, should we go through for the meeting?’

    ‘Yes. Absolutely. Chloe sends her apologies but she has a wedding planning meeting and it’s Mum’s ghost-hunting night, so it’s just me representing the Cassidy clan today. Function room?’

    ‘Sure. Lead on.’ The prospect of the local business network monthly meeting may not have given Faith all the happy vibes she craved, but at least they weren’t going to be deep in festive talk. She hoped. ‘I’ve got the chairs sorted. I’ll just pop into the kitchen, grab the snacks and ask Geri to cover for me out front.’

    Having sorted out staffing for the bar, Faith added the finishing touches to a large tray of sandwiches. Then she picked it up and backed her way through the swing door into the function room, which was really just the back half of her big, bright pub cordoned off by a sliding partition wall.

    Judging by the buzz of voices, many of the local business owners had arrived. Good. Lots of people to talk to. Keep busy. Keep busy.

    As she edged backwards she felt her bum collide with something hard. ‘Whoa! What the…?’

    Whipping round, she checked she hadn’t knocked anything over. No chance. She’d collided with a…thigh. Strong. Solid. Clad in very nice suit fabric. Dark charcoal. Not quite black. It was a very good-looking thigh.

    Could thighs be good-looking? This one most definitely was.

    She followed the line of his suit trousers to his jacket and then up to his face. The kind of strong, defined jaw that wouldn’t look out of place on a professional athlete, an air of determination and strength, tortoiseshell glasses framing brown eyes the colour of a decent aged peaty scotch. And a mouth that looked as if it hadn’t seen a smile for a long time.

    Oh. Her stomach started to knot tighter and her cheeks blazed. As if her year couldn’t get any worse.

    Blake Delacourte.

    Mr Bigshot to Faith and her friends, an in-joke about the apparently highly successful businessman who was renovating the building across the road into a gin den bar thing. She’d met him once briefly and it hadn’t gone well. Truth be told, she’d kind of threatened him. A little. Well, a lot.

    She hadn’t meant to, but she’d been having a bad day. A bad year. And finding out competition was moving in across the road hadn’t settled well with her. It wasn’t anything personal, just basic economics. After Gramps had died she’d sunk all her savings into the pub and now a new bar on her patch was a threat.

    And she’d voiced that opinion loudly. Warned him not to open the bar or he’d regret it. Rude, Jenna had told her later. Very rude indeed.

    She’d had the chance to meet him a few times since, but had avoided any contact in case her mouth got the better of her. It had a habit of doing that. It was the grief. She hoped.

    Although Gramps had always told her she wore her heart on her sleeve rather too much. Plus, she preferred to avoid further conflict rather than inviting it in.

    So she was a coward as well as a Grinch. Great. She just hoped that the forget-fairy had wiped Mr Bigshot’s memory of their last conversation.

    ‘Hello.’ Embarrassment shot through her. ‘Um…why are you here?’

    ‘I was invited by Mrs Singh from the hardware store.’

    Anjini. The most connected woman in the area. Faith gestured to the woman in the bright fuchsia sari chatting to the hairdressers from up near the overbridge. ‘Of course you were. She’s definitely someone who likes to know everyone. Be careful, before too long she’ll know more about you than you know yourself.’ Faith gave him a wink. Trying to be friendly. Friendlier.

    There was still no smile. So he definitely remembered their last conversation then. Oh dear. ‘This is the local business network meeting?’

    ‘Yes.’

    His irises flashed little sparks of gold. ‘And I’m a local business owner. Here to network.’

    ‘Okay. Well, yes you are. There’s nothing formal about the meetings unless anyone has something particular they want to discuss. We just mix and chat and hopefully can help each other out and do something good for the community.’ She pointed towards a group of shop owners talking about the new pedestrian crossing. ‘Go for your life.’ Please.

    He paused.

    ‘Or do you need me to introduce you?’ But all she knew of him was that he drove a flash car, wore expensive clothes and preferred to keep his renovations and building under big white plastic wrapping. And no, she wasn’t a bit interested in what he was going to reveal when he took the wrapping off. Not at all. She hadn’t tried to peer through a torn bit late at night just after closing. Honestly.

    He was just an enigma. No one knew anything more about him, and there was a lot of speculation.

    Now here he was, all designer shoes and suits and lightly tousled hair that oddly made her want to shove her fingers in and smooth it down. And the kind of confident manner that gave her hives.

    Oh, and the good-looking thighs. She couldn’t forget them. Having touched them, she definitely couldn’t forget them. She edged away from him feeling altogether discombobulated. She put it down to irritation and embarrassment.

    He nodded. ‘I can manage. Thank you.’

    Before he turned away, Jenna came and took the tray out of Faith’s hands and placed it on the large table in the middle of the function room. ‘Don’t forget, Faith,’ she said, helpfully. ‘As chair of the group you should give Mr…er…Delacourte an official welcome to the network.’

    ‘Oh. Yes.’

    He watched Jenna walk away then leant in closer to Faith. ‘And an apology.’

    ‘What for?’ She took a step away from him and from his scent, which was subtle, spicy and very masculine. And for some strange reason was making her want to step closer to him.

    No can do.

    ‘You know very well what for.’ His eyebrows rose. ‘You need to apologise for the delightful welcome to the neighbourhood you gave me last time we met. How did it go? Something about competition not being good for me? You warned me—or was it a threat?—that things wouldn’t go well for me here.’

    She winced. ‘You caught me on a bad day.’

    ‘So you’ll be pleased to know things are going very well.’

    ‘Thrilled.’ Did he want her to smile and get out the bunting? ‘You picked a good place for a business.’

    ‘Of course, I did my homework.’ He was so damned haughty. ‘Is that what you call an apology?’

    ‘It’s the best you’re going to get. Or do you want me to prostrate myself on the floor and beg for your forgiveness?’

    She bit back the answer the second her words were out. When her defences rose, her reaction was always to attack. After years of trying to get her to stop taking everything so personally, and almost succeeding, Gramps would be turning in his grave. But how did you stop the excruciating pain of embarrassment and the urge to run and hide from mistakes? A sharp heat in the centre of her chest flared and she was back to age nine, standing in the playground surrounded by a whole school full of kids and being laughed at. And worse, blamed for something she hadn’t done.

    Bigshot smiled and a little dimple twinkled in his left cheek. On another day, in another life, she might even have thought it interesting. But right now it just made the heat in her chest intensify to an all-over body rash.

    ‘Hey, whatever turns you on,’ he said wryly. ‘But just a quick sorry would suffice.’

    ‘No can do.’ Not a chance. No way. He was happy making her squirm in embarrassment and no man was worth that. Least of all someone who would probably swipe half her customers once that plastic wrapping was removed.

    She called everyone to sit down for a moment. ‘You can do your mingling in a minute. I’d just like to welcome the new members…’ She looked around and saw there was only the one. ‘Er, member. Mr Blake Delacourte. Blake, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.’

    He stood, pushing his glasses up his nose. ‘Blake Delacourte of Delacourte Holdings. Property development. Just adding the finishing touches to Ginspiration in the old butcher’s shop. It’s going to have a retro buzz, pretty casual. If you know of anyone looking for work I’ll have some vacancies when we open.’

    ‘When will that be, Blake?’ Anjini waved and smiled at him. ‘Glad you could make it.’

    He smiled back at her and Faith could have sworn Anjini fanned herself. Maybe…did she…flutter her eyelashes at him? Traitor. ‘There’s going to be a big New Year’s Eve launch party.’ He cast his eyes around the room. ‘Of course, you’re all invited. It’ll be a good one. I promise.’

    She had to hand it to him, he was a smooth operator with his dimple and smile and invitations to all and sundry. All of whom appeared to be nodding and smiling and murmuring things about fresh ideas and new blood and talent.

    ‘Okay, then.’ Faith raised her hand. ‘Thanks for the introduction, Blake. I’m sure you’ll find everyone around here friendly and helpful.’ She caught his amused gaze and swallowed hard. So, maybe most people were.

    His eyes were really something. And that dimple was…super annoying. ‘If you have any questions just ask away. Right, I think it’s time for some food and drink.’

    Jenna scraped her chair back and stood. ‘Oh. Wait. Just one more thing while we have everyone’s attention. It’s a biggie and I really hope the network can help out.’

    Faith sat and let her friend take the floor. ‘Sure thing, Jenna, shoot.’

    Jenna’s hands twisted into each other. ‘It’s just that, as you all know, Portobello Daycare had a major electrical fire that gutted the place last week, and has had to temporarily close. They’re on track to reopen after Christmas, but are looking for somewhere to hold their Christmas party. Any suggestions of anyone who can help?’ She looked round and grinned expectantly. ‘Please? Thirty

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