Melissa McClone.

Santa Brought A Son







Wintersofts 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.

Whats that? Samantha asked.

A new dad.

She blew out a puff of air. Reed was here, but she didnt know what that meant long-term for herself or their son. Thats a tall order even for Kris Kringle.

Id hate for Timmy to be disappointed on Christmas morning. Mischief glimmered in his eyes. Santas already brought me a son, but theres something else I desire.

Wh-whats that? She swallowed. Hard.

He pulled a small box from between the branches of the tree and handed it to her. Open this first.

Dear Reader,

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 Romances new six-book continuity, MARRYING THE BOSSs 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, its anyones 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 Bachelors Dare (#1700) by Shirley Jump.

And in Donna Claytons The Nannys 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.

Happy holidays!

Mavis C. Allen

Associate Senior Editor

Santa Brought a Son
Melissa McClone


www.millsandboon.co.uk

For Rose

Books by Melissa McClone

Silhouette Romance

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

Yours Truly

Fianc? for the Night

MELISSA McCLONE

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 couldnt compete with her happily-ever-afters.

When she isnt 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 housea 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.


Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Epilogue

Prologue

As Jingle Bells played from speakers hidden among the fake snow and icicles at the malls 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.

Shouldnt Santa know what every kid wants?

Grandma sighed. Thats what your father used to say.

Timmy missed his dad more than anything. Hed 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 elfs costume and pointy shoes, led him to Santa, who sat in a large chair. It sort of reminded Timmy of a kings 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 hed get if they saw him.

Would you rather sit or stand? Santa asked.

Stand, Timmy admitted, but the picture is for my mom and shed probably like me on your lap.

Santa patted his knee. Climb up. Well make it fast.

Timmy sat on Santas lap. It wasnt so bad. This Santa didnt 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.

Thats right. You asked for a Gameboy Advance, a skateboard and a book on pitching. Santas blue eyes twinkled. But theres something else you want, something you havent told anyone about.

No way. He couldnt know that. Not unless he had super-mind-reading power or if he was the real thing. And if he was the real SantaTimmy felt all shivery inside like the time Grandpa let him eat chocolate cake with ice cream for breakfast. He nodded. Can you

Thats a big request, Santa answered before Timmy could get the words out. Ill try, but I might need a little help. Its 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?

Ill believe in anything if it gets me a new dad.

Chapter One

The wedding invitation sat in the middle of Reed Connorss 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, its Mark Slayter, his best friends familiar voice said. Long time no see, bud. I know youre busy, but were trying to get a final head count for the caterer so I need to know whether youre coming to the wedding or not. All the guys will be there and wed love to see you. Its been too long. Dont 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 Reeds 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 theyd 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 hed been with Samanthaa lovesick fool. Not surprising. Hed been the stereotypical geek and could have written the book on being a high school loser. Hed 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 Marks wedding was impossible.

Working lateagain? A cheery, feminine voice asked from the doorway of his office.

He didnt have to look up to know it was Carmella Lopez, Executive Assistant to CEO Lloyd Winters. She reminded him of everyones 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.

Its not that late. Reed glanced out the window behind him and saw lights from the other Boston skyscrapers in the night sky. Hed 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 shouldnt talk. Youre here, too.

Lloyd likes me to be around when hes in the office.

You treat him too well.

Hes a goodboss.

Exactly. Reed grinned. Dont want the boss to think Im 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. Ill read it tonight.

Its already so late. Carmellas 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 hed traveled to with his joba job he loved more than anything. Ensuring Wintersofts product names and marketing strategies were meaningful and translatable into all markets and cultures was challenging. Dealing with all the planning surrounding a new products introduction when he could never count on the delivery date could be a huge headache and stress, but he wouldnt change a thing. At twenty-eight, he was the youngest V.P. at the company and he wasnt about to stop there.

She pointed to the top of Reeds cluttered desk. Is that a wedding invitation?

He nodded. Carmella stuck her nose into everyones business, but he didnt 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 Wintersofts 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 Im going to stop drinking the water around here.

Now that Arianna has had her twins, well have to see if thats 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 whos 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. Im 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 sacrificehis personal lifebut it was worth it. Ill send a nice gift.

But if he was your best friend

Reed shrugged, though blowing off Marks 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 isnt a lot to ask of a best friend.

If I didnt have so much work

She tsked. Work is an excuse.

Reed didntcouldntanswer. Carmella had a way of seeing through a person. She considered it a gift, but on more than one occasion, like now, he wished shed returned it and exchanged it for another.

Its the same one you used when I asked why you havent 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 dont want to spend the rest of your life alone. She stared at him with an observant gleam in her eyes. Im wondering if there isnt another reason. The only woman youve mentioned by name is Samantha, your high school sweetheart. I know that was years ago, but are you sure you got over her?

Yes.

Carmella didnt look convinced.

Samantha wasnt 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.

Sowill she be at the wedding?

Yes. He thought about Samantha. Her long, silky blond hair. Her sparkling blue eyes. Her warm, seductive laughter. Reeds collar felt a little tight. He loosened his tie. And so will her husband, he added more for his benefit than Carmellas.

Her eyes widened. Samantha got married? When?

Im not sure. She was two years younger than me. But Reed knew who shed marriedArt Wilson, the one shed 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. Thats 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 friends wedding sounds like a very good reason.

Patrick, Wes and Dan would probably attend, too. Reed hadnt 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. Youve missed the deadline, but dont 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 wont.

As she handed him the response card, her brow wrinkled. So youre going to the wedding?

Reed smiled. Im going.

Hes 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 herReed 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 wasnt 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 Reeds hometown?

Shes going, too, Carmella admitted. But she got married.

So much for that plan. Emily massaged her temples.

Who knows if shes 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. Hes not as over her as he thinks.

And if shes not married?

Then your job got a whole lot easier. Carmella laughed. Chances are wed have one less bachelor to worry about.

Emily sighed. If only we didnt have to worry about any of them.

I agree, but were halfway there. Excitement filled Carmellas 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.

Carmellas brown eyes narrowed. Isnt this what you wanted? To make sure all six of the single male executives were off the market so your father couldnt marry you off to one of them?

Emily hesitated, torn by conflicting emotions. Yes, but this whole matchmaking plan seems so crazy. Ive been feelingselfish.

Have you considered the alternative? Carmella asked.

Yes. And Im not going to marry one of the three remaining bachelors. Emily raised her chin. Theyre great guys, but Im not ready to settle down. I just got the promotion and I need to concentrate on my career.

Work wont keep you warm on a cold winters night.

A smile tugged on the corners of Emilys lips. You sound like my father.

He loves you.

I know, she said. Thats why hes so concerned about my marital status. But I already made the mistake of letting him pick out one husband from the company roster. I dont want to spend the rest of my life alone, but I wont marry another co-worker that he chooses for me.

Speaking of your ex-husband, Todd stopped by to see me.

Me, too.

Carmella raised an arched brow. And?

Nothing, Emily admitted. Hes upset over losing his job. The golden boys rocket isnt climbing so high anymore and he doesnt know what to do about it.

Thats not your fault.

If we hadnt gotten married hed still be working here and wouldnt 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 dont want to get into that situation again. Its humiliating and wrong.

You mean the world to your father, Emily. Hed never do anything on purpose to embarrass you.

Then he should realize Ill marry when Im 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 Emilys 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 citys 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 fathers hand. Lets see what happens with Reed first.

Samantha Wilson stood midway up the aisle of the empty church holding the bridesmaid bouquet shed 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 Slayters and Kelli Jeffersons exchange of wedding vows.

A lump formed in Samanthas throat. As a girl, shed dreamed about having a big wedding in a church overflowing with everyone shed 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. Samanthas parents hadnt given her the courtesy of an RSVP. The only white on the floral-print dress shed normally worn to church had been the collar.

No diamond ring or bouquet of roses or exotic honeymoon, either. She touched Helens strand of pearls for a moment and let go of them. So she didnt 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.

Sam?

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.





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