While settling into a new career in a new community, Ivy is determined not to let the holiday season pass her by. Enter the grownup advent calendar: twenty-four days of festivities to celebrate Christmas. What begins as a bit of fun turns into a mission to spread cheer when she meets Everett. After learning about his bad Christmas attitude, she invites him to join her quest. Despite his initial reservations, Everett quickly gets caught up in the spirit of the calendar. But when new feelings surface and are impossible to ignore, Everett’s inner curmudgeon threatens to put a damper on the whole experience.
This holiday novella from Laura Chapman brings the warmth of the holiday season to life.
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Romantic comedy junkie Natalie lives out those fantasies in real life three New Year’s Eves in a row when fate throws her together with the same handsome stranger. A heartbreaking turn of events leaves her swearing off of love, forevers, and the holidays (bah humbug). That is until the mystery man from her past reappears years later. Over a holiday season, Natalie struggles to reconcile the whimsical notions of her past with the practical sensibilities she has worked so hard to develop. With the countdown to a new year looming, she must decide whether or not she is willing to give happily ever after another shot.
In this holiday novella by Laura Chapman, celebrate the holiday season with a love story about second, and fifth, chances and learning to trust your heart.
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From What Happens at Midnight
Gross. Just, gross. I push away from the random guy trying to shove his random tongue down my throat and swipe the saliva from my face.
This does not make the list of ways I want to ring in the new year. I’m not opposed to locking lips at midnight on New Year’s Eve given the chance to do it right. But I don’t support an unexpected smooch from a drunk creeper who doesn’t understand the meaning of personal space. And he missed his mark. There’s nothing sexy about having a tongue thrust up your nose. Trust me on this one.
Out of all the bars on Sixth Street, I had to stumble into this one. Full of scuzzy guys I don’t find appealing. I’m more into the quiet, gentleman type, who doesn’t seem to exist outside of a Jane Austen novel or Nora Ephron movie.
If only my roommate, Mallory, had more refined taste, too. She met some fuzzy-chinned man wearing flannel and torn khakis an hour ago, and I haven’t seen her since. I don’t expect to see her again until tomorrow morning. She sent me the “don’t wait up” look she’s been giving since we were freshmen in college. Maybe someday I’ll be the one sending her the “I’m going to get lucky” signal.
Until then, I should probably do something about this guy. I slip away from the wall so he can’t corner me again. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Oh, come on,” Nose Licker says. His eyes go a little droopy, probably in an attempt to be sultry. It doesn’t work. “No one wants to be alone when the clock strikes midnight.”
“Maybe some of us do.”
He steps toward me, swaying a little. Too many Jäger bombs and whiskey sours will do that to a person. “I’ll show you a good time.”
“Again, thanks, but no thanks.”
“I can—” He breaks off and turns his attention to my right. I shift my gaze in time to catch another stranger, this one even more imposing, slipping an arm around my shoulder.
“There you are,” the man says. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Sorry I disappeared for so long.”
I stare up at him dumbly. Who is this guy with the dark hair that curls ever so slightly around his ears and a strong, tanned jaw? Did I meet him somewhere and forget? Or is he another loser desperately trying to take advantage of a single woman’s sentimental side on a holiday? At least he’s in better control of himself.
Nose Licker’s droopy eyes narrow even more. “Who are you?”
“I’m her boyfriend,” the stranger says loudly. I’m about to protest, but he turns and whispers, “Go with me on this.”
“Is this true?” Nose Licker asks, having the nerve to appear taken aback. “After everything we’ve been through, you’ve had a boyfriend this whole time?”
“That’s right,” I lie. “I can’t figure out what came over me.”
“She must have been charmed by your good looks,” my fake boyfriend says. “We’re terribly sorry for any confusion.”
Nose Licker glances back and forth between us. I’m immobilized in the stranger’s arms. I want this to work, but I can’t believe it will.
“Okay.” Nose Licker steps back with his hands up. “My bad.”
He turns on his heel in search of another conquest. Seriously? I realize I wanted him to leave me alone, but he gave me up that easily? I can’t decide whether to be relieved or offended.
The new guy lets out a whistle and releases his loose hold on me. “That was crazy.”
“Yeah.” He’s telling me. He wasn’t here for the whole exchange. I’m sure he caught the disaster of a kiss, but he missed the buildup, which included Nose Licker’s recitation of his favorite lines from Dumb and Dumber and The Big Lebowski. They’re both hilarious movies, but they didn’t work as proper foreplay in this situation. Especially because he butchered all the best quotes. “Thanks for your help.”
“You were managing it okay on your own.” His lip curves up. “But I figured you wouldn’t mind if I expedited the process.”
“Not at all.” I give a little laugh to mask my awkwardness. “This is not how I imagined myself celebrating my first grown-up New Year’s Eve.”
A dark eyebrow flies up. “Oh yeah?”
“In college, I was always back home for the holidays. And while my family is nice enough, I was always excited about what it might be like once I was living on my own. I’d have my life a little more together, and I’d be at some swanky party getting ready to kiss my date, Ryan Gosling.”
His face scrunches. “Gosling. I should have figured as much.”
My eyes narrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He’s an obvious choice.”
“And who would you have as your imaginary New Year’s date that’s so much more original?”
“There’s only one woman for me.” His dark eyes turn glassy as he probably paints a mental picture of some perfectly coiffed model wearing a skin-tight sequined dress to accentuate her perfect figure. “She’s adventurous and can handle herself in any situation. She’s a little bit older, but that means more experience. She defines beauty, mystery, and class. She’s led a fascinating life and would have a lot to offer in the ways of conversation.”
“From Resident Evil?”
“I get it.” I nod slowly, letting that information sink in. “You’re a nerd.”
I wish I could crawl into a hole and hide the second I’ve said it. I can’t believe I insulted a stranger—a nice and handsome one by all appearances—only a few minutes after he helped me out.
Instead of being offended, he actually laughs. “How’d you guess?”