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Today's Steal Is...
This steal is perfect if you are ever snowbound and need a great holiday read.
Snowbound with Mr. Wrong by Barbara White Daille is on sale for just 99¢!
So be sure to add this first installment in the Snowflake Valley series to your bookshelf today.
Worst. Day. Ever. After Lyssa Barnett’s sister tricks her into reprising her role at Snowflake Valley’s annual children’s party, she doesn’t think anything can be worse than squeezing into her too-small elf costume. Then tall, dark, and way too handsome Nick Tavlock shows up to play Santa…and an unexpected storm leaves them snowbound in the isolated lodge. The last thing Nick wants is to spend a cozy Christmas Eve with a trio of kids and the woman who dumped him. But as much as Lyssa frustrates him, he can’t stop thinking about her. And soon, he’s fighting very un-Santa-like thoughts of kissing a certain sexy Miss Elf under the mistletoe. As Nick starts to fall for Lyssa all over again, he knows it will take nothing short of a miracle to have Lyssa in his arms on Christmas Day.
The elf suit definitely hadn’t felt this tight a year ago.
Sitting half-dressed in a virtual stranger’s bedroom, Lyssa Barnett muttered under her breath as she continued to struggle into her green velvet costume. She should have known better than to give in to her sister’s pleas for help with this Christmas party again. After all, it wasn’t as if what happened after last year’s party had ultimately left her with such pleasant memories.
Amber had assigned Lyssa the largest bedroom in her boss’s private ski lodge for her transformation into Miss Elf. One glance into the full-length mirror on the closet door proved they had a major problem with that plan.
This year’s Santa—whoever he was—might have to make his appearance at the town’s children’s party without a happy helper. Last year’s Santa—
Trying not to think about him, she yanked so fiercely on the capped-sleeved bodice, she lost her balance and nearly slid off the edge of the bed.
A knock sounded on the closed door. “Lyssa, it’s me.”
“Come in, Amber,” she said grimly.
When she saw the frown on her sister’s face, a pang of guilt ran through her. She dreaded the thought of adding to Amber’s troubles. A year younger than Lyssa and the single mom of a four-month-old, she already had plenty of things to worry her, not even counting this afternoon’s Christmas party.
“Everything all right?” Amber asked.
“No, it’s not. This thing doesn’t fit, and I know why.” In Snowflake Valley, the Christmas season started in April and rolled right on to January. Now, three days before the year’s biggest holiday, the gift shop she managed was full to bursting with homemade goodies. Unfortunately, so was she.
She sucked in her stomach, leaned over, and tugged harder. “I can’t turn around in Holidaze without someone giving me something fattening to taste-test.”
“Is that the only reason?” Amber paused, then added in a rush, “Your cravings for comfort food don’t have something to do with Nick?”
“I told you, I’m over him.” So what if her snacking habits had shot out of control at the end of this summer, right after she’d split up with the man. “It’s not him, it’s my suppliers. Every single one of those ladies bakes like an angel. But get any two of them together, and they fight like the devil to make sure I sample whatever new goodie they’ve come up with. And you know how I feel about sweets.” Lyssa groaned, then raised her brows and leaned forward encouragingly. “Why don’t you play elf this year?”
Amber nearly jumped a step backward. “No, thank you. I have to run the show.”
Her parties were legendary, but her annual Christmas gathering for the children of Snowflake Valley topped them all. That hadbeen especially true last year, the first time she’d held the party at the lodge, not too many months after she had been hired to work here. Amber held multiple jobs as a caretaker and, occasionally, as a live-in cook, maid, and housekeeper when the lodge owner came to stay.
All the parents who had attended the previous party were looking forward to today’s event almost as much as the kids were. It gave the adults a chance to enjoy life on a higher plane, in more ways than one. The lodge sprawled nearly at the peak of a snow-capped mountain, far above the more drool-worthy homes of the millionaires and film stars who owned property in this most popular ski area of Nevada. Amber loved her job here, claiming the spectacular views more than made up for the isolation. Lyssa had her own ideas about her sister’s devotion to duty.
Besides, she didn’t see the appeal of being stuck alone so far from the valley. She preferred the tight-knit community of their hometown—even if the neighbors did spend way too much time in everyone else’s business. And she definitely loved the coziness of her small shop.
“Hurry it up,” Amber begged. “The kids are already arriving and there’s no way that costume will fit me. I haven’t lost the baby weight yet.” She frowned again. “And speaking of baby, she’s still colicky.”
“Don’t worry. Mom told you Penny will outgrow it.” Lyssa gave another ferocious tug. At last, the costume fell into place, though she didn’t have much hope for the seams holding together.
After a quick inspection in the mirror, she marched across the room. “All right, let’s get this party started. The sooner Santa gives out his gifts, the sooner you can get my niece home.” She opened the door and stepped into the long hallway.
Turning back, she found Amber right behind her, her expression still troubled. “Penny will be fine,” Lyssa said as reassuringly as she could. What did she know about kids, except that she’d grown up in a house full of them? “It runs in the family—Mom says we were all colicky.”
“It’s not that. I—“
“Miss Elf! Miss Elf!”
Excited voices drowned out Amber’s voice. Shoes squeaking on the polished wood floor, a half-dozen kids pounded down the hallway and skidded to a stop in front of them.
A familiar blond-haired five-year-old tugged on Lyssa’s green velvet skirt. “Where’s Santa Claus?”
“To tell you the truth, Tommy,” she said, “I don’t know. But I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. Let’s go and see if we can find him.”
Amber shot her an agonized look. “Lys— Umm…Miss Elf.”
“It’s okay, Miss Amber.” A ten-year-old named Mollie leaned toward them both and whispered, “I know she’s really Miss Lyssa.”
With a family that included five sisters and two brothers in one very small town, allowing the kids to use the Barnetts’ first names was the easiest way to avoid complete confusion. Only their oldest sister, a teacher, was actually called “Miss Barnett.” She taught Mollie’s class at Snowflake Valley Elementary. And Mollie was a very bright student.
Lyssa watched Amber give the girl a strained smile. As soon as Mollie turned away, Amber grabbed Lyssa’s arm. “I need to talk to you alone for just a min—“
“Later, Miss Amber.” Lyssa flashed an apologetic smile at her even as she took Tommy’s hand to stop him from yanking on her skirt. As tight as her outfit was, she didn’t need any additional stress on the material. “Gotta go—Santa’s waiting.”
A child now held her by each hand, pulling her along the hallway like a couple of tugboats towing a barge.
They entered an immense living room, the heart of the lodge, where an open staircase climbed to lofts jutting into space above their heads. Beyond them, the ceiling soared upward, creating an echo chamber for the noise and laughter from the crowd.
“Miss Elf! Miss Elf!”
Her arrival hadn’t gone unnoticed by the children in the room. She smiled and returned the greetings with her own cheery hellos.
The youngest kids gazed at her with wonderment in their eyes. The older ones gave smug grins at knowing her true identity. The adults smiled and pretended not to see her at all.
Suddenly, the loudest noise she’d heard yet cut through the din. The bellow came from a sturdy, well-padded individual with a white beard and a fur-trimmed red suit, who shouted his familiar “Ho, ho, ho.”
No, no, no, Lyssa chanted silently. It can’t be.
But that voice…she could have picked that voice out from among any Santas, anywhere. Her vision blurred, filling with twinkling lights though she wasn’t anywhere near the Christmas tree. She knew her face had turned as white as Santa’s fake beard.
No wonder Amber had wanted a moment alone with Miss Elf. Amber always rounded up the volunteers for the Christmas party. She knew exactly who was inside that Santa suit. The man Lyssa had met and played assistant to at last year’s party. The man she didn’t want to be near now.
From across the room, Amber sent Lyssa a wannabe-innocent glance before slipping away in the direction of the kitchen.
Lyssa looked frantically at the people around her. If her sister couldn’t fit into the elf costume, plenty of other women here could. Surely one of the neighbors would take pity on a friend and save her from this situation.
Of course, they didn’t know there was a situation to save her from.
In any case, time and the two kids tugging on her hands worked against her. She felt herself towed along by her pint-sized escorts, aided by the sea of children flowing around all three of them. With growing horror, she saw her every reluctant but inevitable step bringing her closer to Santa Claus, the jolly old elf she’d split up with this summer. The one she had hoped never to see again.
The man who—no matter what fibs she’d told Amber—had well and truly broken her heart.
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