Santa Brought A Sonñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Wintersoft’s CEO is on a husband hunt
for his daughter. Trouble is, Emily has uncovered his scheme. But can she marry off the eligible executives before Dad sets his crazy plan in motion?
“Come with me.”
Reed laced his fingers with hers and led her to the Christmas tree.
“Tonight Timmy told me what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas.”
“What’s that?” Samantha asked.
“A new dad.”
She blew out a puff of air. Reed was here, but she didn’t know what that meant long-term for herself or their son. “That’s a tall order even for Kris Kringle.”
“I’d hate for Timmy to be disappointed on Christmas morning.” Mischief glimmered in his eyes. “Santa’s already brought me a son, but there’s something else I desire.”
“Wh-what’s that?” She swallowed. Hard.
He pulled a small box from between the branches of the tree and handed it to her. “Open this first.”
Discover a guilt-free way to enjoy this holiday season. Treat yourself to four calorie-free, but oh-so-satisfying brand-new Silhouette Romance titles this month.
Start with Santa Brought a Son (#1698) by Melissa McClone. This heartwarming reunion romance is the fourth book in Silhouette Romance’s new six-book continuity, MARRYING THE BOSS’s DAUGHTER.
Would a duty-bound prince forsake tradition to marry an enchanting commoner? Find out in The Prince & the Marriage Pact (#1699), the latest episode in THE CARRAMER TRUST miniseries by reader favorite Valerie Parv.
Then, it’s anyone’s guess if a wacky survival challenge can end happily ever after. Join the fun as the romantic winners of a crazy contest are revealed in The Bachelor’s Dare (#1700) by Shirley Jump.
And in Donna Clayton’s The Nanny’s Plan (#1701), a would-be sophisticate is put through the ringer by a drop-dead gorgeous, absentminded professor and his rascally twin nephews.
So pick a cozy spot, relax and enjoy all four of these tender holiday confections that Silhouette Romance has cooked up just for you.
Mavis C. Allen
Associate Senior Editor
Santa Brought a Son
Books by Melissa McClone
If the Ring Fits…#1431
The Wedding Lullaby #1485
His Band of Gold #1537
In Deep Waters #1608
The Wedding Adventure #1661 Santa Brought a Son #1698
Fianc? for the Night
With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, the last thing Melissa McClone ever thought she would be doing is writing romance novels, but analyzing engines for a major U.S.
airline just couldn’t compete with her “happily-ever-afters.”
When she isn’t writing, caring for her three young children or doing laundry, Melissa loves to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, her cats and a good book. She enjoys watching home-decorating shows to get ideas for her house—a 1939 cottage that is slowly being renovated.
Melissa lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, with her own real-life hero husband, two daughters, son, two lovable but oh-so-spoiled indoor cats and a no-longer-stray out-door kitty who decided to call the garage home. Melissa loves to hear from readers. You can write to her at P.O. Box 63, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.
As “Jingle Bells” played from speakers hidden among the fake snow and icicles at the mall’s version of the North Pole, Timmy Wilson stared at the line of kids waiting to visit Santa Claus. He was almost eight years old, too old to believe in Santa, let alone sit on his lap, but Grandma told him this was important to his mom so here he was.
“Tell Santa what you want for Christmas,” Grandma said.
“Shouldn’t Santa know what every kid wants?”
Grandma sighed. “That’s what your father used to say.”
Timmy missed his dad more than anything. He’d been in Heaven for three years, and Timmy figured his dad must play baseball everyday up there. “I wish he was here and could teach me how to throw a curve ball.”
She blinked. “Me, too, Timmy. Me, too.”
A girl, wearing an elf’s costume and pointy shoes, led him to Santa, who sat in a large chair. It sort of reminded Timmy of a king’s throne. This Santa had a real beard and small gold-rimmed glasses. His fancy red suit looked new, and his black leather boots shone. Much better than the Santa from the Main Street Thanksgiving Parade.
Timmy glanced around hoping none of his little league teammates were at the mall, too. He could just imagine the teasing he’d get if they saw him.
“Would you rather sit or stand?” Santa asked.
“Stand,” Timmy admitted, “but the picture is for my mom and she’d probably like me on your lap.”
Santa patted his knee. “Climb up. We’ll make it fast.”
Timmy sat on Santa’s lap. It wasn’t so bad. This Santa didn’t wear padding. He also smelled good, sort of like a candy cane and a cookie.
Mrs. Claus stood behind a camera. “Smile.”
The flash blinded Timmy. He rubbed his eyes.
“What do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked.
“I already sent you a letter.” The picture had been taken. Now all Timmy wanted was to be done so he could get a smoothie. “After Thanksgiving.”
“That’s right. You asked for a Gameboy Advance, a skateboard and a book on pitching.” Santa’s blue eyes twinkled. “But there’s something else you want, something you haven’t told anyone about.”
No way. He couldn’t know that. Not unless he had super-mind-reading power or if he was the real thing. And if he was the real Santa…Timmy felt all shivery inside like the time Grandpa let him eat chocolate cake with ice cream for breakfast. He nodded. “Can you…”
“That’s a big request,” Santa answered before Timmy could get the words out. “I’ll try, but I might need a little help. It’s a busy time of year. Maybe an elf could help me out. Or an angel.” Santa adjusted his glasses. “Christmas is a time for miracles. Do you believe in miracles, Timmy?”
“I’ll believe in anything if it gets me a new dad.”
The wedding invitation sat in the middle of Reed Connors’s desk. The embossed ivory card should have blended in with the other pieces of paper competing for his attention, but the invitation might as well have been printed on orange fluorescent paper. No way could he ignore it any longer.
Reed had received the invitation a month ago. His best friend from high school was getting married. But Reed had been too busy to reply, had shoved the damn thing in his briefcase and forgotten about it. Until now.
He replayed the voice mail message.
“Hey, Reed, it’s Mark Slayter,” his best friend’s familiar voice said. “Long time no see, bud. I know you’re busy, but we’re trying to get a final head count for the caterer so I need to know whether you’re coming to the wedding or not. All the guys will be there and we’d love to see you. It’s been too long. Don’t know if it makes a difference, but Samantha Wilson will be there, too. I know you remember her, even if you forgot the rest of us losers. Take care, dude, and let me know ASAP.”
Mark would mention Samantha Brown Wilson. No one else knew about Reed’s special friendship with the most beautiful, most popular girl at Fernville High School, and Mark had never told a soul, even though the group of nerds they’d hung out with pretty much shared everything. Reed had never had a friend as loyal as Mark had been. Reed doubted he ever would.
Thinking back, he remembered what a fool he’d been with Samantha—a lovesick fool. Not surprising. He’d been the stereotypical geek and could have written the book on being a high school loser. He’d come a long way since then.
As Reed stared at his schedule for December, he tapped his pen against a stack of manila folders. The rapid tattoo helped him concentrate when he brainstormed the newest marketing strategy and tried to build brand equity for Wintersoft Software, but in this case it was only making an annoying sound. A trip to Frankfurt, a conference in San Jose, a tradeshow in Las Vegas. Meetings with investment analysts. A trip to Fernville, Virginia, for Mark’s wedding was impossible.
“Working late…again?” A cheery, feminine voice asked from the doorway of his office.
He didn’t have to look up to know it was Carmella Lopez, Executive Assistant to CEO Lloyd Winters. She reminded him of everyone’s favorite aunt except she dressed like the perfect professional in stylish jacket and skirt ensembles, cooked the most amazing rice and beans this side of the Rio Grande and was easier to confide in than an anonymous bartender.
“It’s not that late.” Reed glanced out the window behind him and saw lights from the other Boston skyscrapers in the night sky. He’d not only missed the sunset, but dinner. Worse, he was still wearing his jacket and tie. “Lost track of time.”
“Seems to be a habit of yours.” The warmth of her smile echoed in her voice.
“You shouldn’t talk. You’re here, too.”
“Lloyd likes me to be around when he’s in the office.”
“You treat him too well.”
“He’s a good…boss.”
“Exactly.” Reed grinned. “Don’t want the boss to think I’m a slackard.”
“With the hours you put in, no one would think that.” She walked to his desk and handed him a folder. “Lloyd wants you to review the latest info on the Utopia project.”
Reed placed it on the top of the media plan and advertising-effectiveness reports in his jam-packed in box and made a mental note to call Nate Leeman, Senior V.P. of Technology, to see if Utopia was on schedule or not. “I’ll read it tonight.”
“It’s already so late.” Carmella’s gaze clouded with concern. “You have to sleep sometime.”
“Who needs sleep when I have all this?” He motioned to his office full of artwork from the countries he’d traveled to with his job—a job he loved more than anything. Ensuring Wintersoft’s product names and marketing strategies were meaningful and translatable into all markets and cultures was challenging. Dealing with all the planning surrounding a new product’s introduction when he could never count on the delivery date could be a huge headache and stress, but he wouldn’t change a thing. At twenty-eight, he was the youngest V.P. at the company and he wasn’t about to stop there.
She pointed to the top of Reed’s cluttered desk. “Is that a wedding invitation?”
He nodded. Carmella stuck her nose into everyone’s business, but he didn’t mind. She truly cared about her coworkers and dispensed advice with motherly warmth.
“Is another V.P. getting married?”
“Not that I know of.” In the past three months, three of Wintersoft’s male executives had gotten married or engaged. First Matt Burke, then Grant Lawson and the latest, Brett Hamilton. The whole thing made Reed wary. Marriage was the last thing on his mind. Work left little time for casual dating, let alone anything more serious. “Brett had better be the last one or I’m going to stop drinking the water around here.”
“Now that Arianna has had her twins, we’ll have to see if that’s in the water, too.”
“Not funny.” A girlfriend was a time drain, but children? Forget it. His job left no room for a family. He had the perfect life. Why spoil a good thing?
“So who’s getting married?” Carmella asked.
“My best friend from high school.”
“Sounds like fun.”
About as much fun as a four-day marketing blitz through ten European countries with your boss at your side. “I’m not going.”
Carmella sat in the chair opposite his desk. “Why not?”
“Too busy.” Work was the way to achieve all he wanted. Reed had tasted success and wanted more. That took a sacrifice—his personal life—but it was worth it. “I’ll send a nice gift.”
“But if he was your best friend…”
Reed shrugged, though blowing off Mark’s wedding might be a bigger deal than Reed was making it. “I was close to Mark and the few others we hung out with, but we all drifted apart after high school.”
“He still invited you,” Carmella said. “That has to count for something.”
“I get invited to a lot of weddings.” Reed stared at the invitation. “Co-workers, work-related acquaintances who just want something from me.”
“Your friend only wants a day. That isn’t a lot to ask of a best friend.”
“If I didn’t have so much work—”
She tsked. “Work is an excuse.”
Reed didn’t—couldn’t—answer. Carmella had a way of seeing through a person. She considered it a gift, but on more than one occasion, like now, he wished she’d returned it and exchanged it for another.
“It’s the same one you used when I asked why you haven’t been in a serious relationship since you started at Wintersoft.”
“I date,” he said finally.
“But never the same woman.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
“There is if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life alone.” She stared at him with an observant gleam in her eyes. “I’m wondering if there isn’t another reason. The only woman you’ve mentioned by name is Samantha, your high school sweetheart. I know that was years ago, but are you sure you got over her?”
Carmella didn’t look convinced.
“Samantha wasn’t my sweetheart,” Reed admitted. Only in his dreams had she been his. Except for six wonderful days. “We were only together a short time when I was in college. I was too much of a geek to have a girlfriend in high school. Brainy not brawny.”
“You must have been a late bloomer because you have both now.”
“Thanks.” Reed had struggled and worked hard to become the man he was today.
“So…will she be at the wedding?”
“Yes.” He thought about Samantha. Her long, silky blond hair. Her sparkling blue eyes. Her warm, seductive laughter. Reed’s collar felt a little tight. He loosened his tie. “And so will her husband,” he added more for his benefit than Carmella’s.
Her eyes widened. “Samantha got married? When?”
“I’m not sure. She was two years younger than me.” But Reed knew who she’d married—Art Wilson, the one she’d chosen over him. In a way, Reed owed Samantha. If she had chosen him instead, he doubted he would have been so focused in college and in making his dreams a reality.
“When was the last time you saw her?”
“Spring break of my sophomore year of college,” he answered. “That’s the last time I was in Fernville. Once my parents moved here to Boston and my friends went away to college, there was no reason to go back.”
“Your friend’s wedding sounds like a very good reason.”
Patrick, Wes and Dan would probably attend, too. Reed hadn’t seen them in years. Or Mark for that matter. The wedding would be a lot of fun. Reed stared at his schedule. There had to be a way….
Carmella picked up the response card. “You’ve missed the deadline, but don’t let that stop you.”
If Reed sent someone else to the conference in San Jose, he would free up enough time to go to the wedding. “I won’t.”
As she handed him the response card, her brow wrinkled. “So you’re going to the wedding?”
Reed smiled. “I’m going.”
“He’s going,” Carmella whispered to Emily Winters when she stepped into the crowded elevator about to descend from the fiftieth floor.
Emily knew the “he” in question was Reed Connors. Handsome, ambitious and a few years younger than her—Reed was not only a co-worker, but also one of the potential husband candidates her father most likely had in mind. No way did she want her father telling any of her fellow co-workers they should take an interest in her. Talk about embarrassing. Not to mention the fact she wasn’t interested in getting married, period.
The other passengers exited on the forty-ninth floor. The doors closed. Emily hit the stop button. No one could eavesdrop on them here. “What about the girl from Reed’s hometown?”
“She’s going, too,” Carmella admitted. “But she got married.”
So much for that plan. Emily massaged her temples.
“Who knows if she’s still married,” Carmella said. “But if she is, Reed needs to get her out of his system so he can fall in love with someone else. He’s not as over her as he thinks.”
“And if she’s not married?”
“Then your job got a whole lot easier.” Carmella laughed. “Chances are we’d have one less bachelor to worry about.”
Emily sighed. “If only we didn’t have to worry about any of them.”
“I agree, but we’re halfway there.” Excitement filled Carmella’s voice. “Three bachelors down, three to go.”
She made it sound so easy, and in a way it was. Carmella researched the men using their personnel files, and Emily found them their perfect match. But she hated having to resort to this. “I guess.”
Carmella’s brown eyes narrowed. “Isn’t this what you wanted? To make sure all six of the single male executives were off the market so your father couldn’t marry you off to one of them?”
Emily hesitated, torn by conflicting emotions. “Yes, but this whole matchmaking plan seems so crazy. I’ve been feeling…selfish.”
“Have you considered the alternative?” Carmella asked.
“Yes. And I’m not going to marry one of the three remaining bachelors.” Emily raised her chin. “They’re great guys, but I’m not ready to settle down. I just got the promotion and I need to concentrate on my career.”
“Work won’t keep you warm on a cold winter’s night.”
A smile tugged on the corners of Emily’s lips. “You sound like my father.”
“He loves you.”
“I know,” she said. “That’s why he’s so concerned about my marital status. But I already made the mistake of letting him pick out one husband from the company roster. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone, but I won’t marry another co-worker that he chooses for me.”
“Speaking of your ex-husband, Todd stopped by to see me.”
Carmella raised an arched brow. “And?”
“Nothing,” Emily admitted. “He’s upset over losing his job. The golden boy’s rocket isn’t climbing so high anymore and he doesn’t know what to do about it.”
“That’s not your fault.”
“If we hadn’t gotten married he’d still be working here and wouldn’t have had to take a job with another company and be laid off.” Frustration laced each of her words. Worry creased her forehead. “I wish my father understood why I don’t want to get into that situation again. It’s humiliating and wrong.”
“You mean the world to your father, Emily. He’d never do anything on purpose to embarrass you.”
“Then he should realize I’ll marry when I’m ready.” She pulled the stop button out and the elevator descended. “Not anytime before that.”
“What about our plan?” Carmella asked. “Should I keep researching the final three or stop?”
Doubts swirled in Emily’s mind. She thought about the three remaining bachelor executives: Reed Connors, Nate Leeman and Jack Devon. Nate was a brilliant workaholic who seemed to live at the office. Jack was a ladies’ man according to Boston Magazine, who named him one of the city’s “Fifty Hottest Bachelors,” and a mystery to all who worked with him. And Reed worked hard and had lofty ambitions that could play right into her father’s hand. “Let’s see what happens with Reed first.”
Samantha Wilson stood midway up the aisle of the empty church holding the bridesmaid bouquet she’d found on the altar and surveyed her hard work. On the end of each pew, a miniature wreath decorated with tiny berries, cinnamon sticks and pinecones hung from red-and-green-plaid ribbon tied in bows. At the front of the church, potted red and white poinsettias created a cascading effect on the steps leading up to the altar. And the altar was decorated with fresh pine boughs and garland. Pinecones, holly, berries and the same red-and-green-plaid ribbon from the pew wreaths provided a splash of color and texture to the greenery that filled the church with a christmasy pine scent.
A satisfied feeling settled in the center of her chest. The bride and groom had wanted a Christmas wedding theme, and Samantha had done her best to give it to them. Not only here, but at the reception site, too.
She ran through her mental checklist. Almost everything was ready. Soon the church would be filled with friends and family, witnesses to Mark Slayter’s and Kelli Jefferson’s exchange of wedding vows.
A lump formed in Samantha’s throat. As a girl, she’d dreamed about having a big wedding in a church overflowing with everyone she’d ever known, walking down the aisle with her father, wearing a white gown fit for a fairy princess. But reality had been a wedding at city hall with only her future in-laws, Helen and Frank Wilson, in attendance. Samantha’s parents hadn’t given her the courtesy of an RSVP. The only white on the floral-print dress she’d normally worn to church had been the collar.
No diamond ring or bouquet of roses or exotic honeymoon, either. She touched Helen’s strand of pearls for a moment and let go of them. So she didn’t get the wedding of her dreams. She got something much better.
Samantha noticed a crooked bow on a pew wreath. She shifted the bouquet to her left hand and adjusted the ribbon until it was perfect.
The name echoed in the church and she froze. No one had called her that in years. As she glanced toward the back, a man in a navy suit stepped from the vestibule. Dark-brown hair, warm chocolate eyes and a smile that made her legs feel like wilted rose stems. She tightened her grip on the bouquet. “Y-y-yes.”
“It is you,” Reed Connors said.
The closer he came, the harder it was to breathe. She clutched the end of a pew and took deep breaths until she was strong enough to face him.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî