Wednesday, September 26, 2018

HOT WINTER NIGHTS (HEARTBREAKER BAY #6)


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Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis
Release Date: September 25, 2018

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Hot Winter Nights, a stand-alone Heartbreaker Bay romance, by Jill Shalvis is a sexy romance in which hero Lucas Knight wakes up with a woman in his bed with no memory of how that happened. What the heck?

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.
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Download Today!
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2vt20Yc
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2MtoY7T
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2OhyFXu
Paperback: https://amzn.to/2Mw1oYl
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2vxyP6a

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Excerpt:
“You’re staring at me funny,” he said.

Probably because she was confused over how badly she wanted him. Okay, not so suddenly, but still, denial had been her friend and now that friend had deserted her. “No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You’re staring at me like …”

She turned her back on him and grimaced to herself, knowing exactly how she’d been staring at him. “Like I’m annoyed by your presence?” she asked.

“Like I’m dinner.”

She closed her eyes. “Oh, please,” she said on a low laugh. “I’ve slept with you now. Trust me, I don’t need a repeat.”

“So you keep saying.”

His voice sounded right in her ear now. He’d moved, shifting close enough that his chest nearly brushed the entire length of her spine. She could feel the heat of him and nearly moaned. Nearly. But she caught herself. It was just that his body heat was soaking into her and she found herself wanting to back into him. He smelled amazing and he was still dressed from his job, and that was a shocking turn on too. As was the sexy smirk she heard in his voice.

Which didn’t make any sense. From the time she’d come into her sexuality as a teenager, complete with all the baggage of her kidnapping still hanging over her head, she’d only ever felt comfortable when she was the one doing the charming and chasing. She’d dated guys here and there, all very different from her brother and men like Lucas. They’d been … beta. Not pushovers, but non-threatening. Nice and sweet. Emotionally available.

The exact opposite of Lucas.

But the truth was, no one had ever really invested in her, and she wasn’t sure Lucas was the investing type either. In fact, she was fairly positive he wasn’t, but it still felt a little bit like he was chasing her and she wasn’t at all certain what to do with that.



About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.

Jill lives with her family in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters (Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is mostly coincidental). She does most of her writing on her deck surrounded by more animals than humans. Which is quite astonishing considering she’s a city girl who was plucked from the wilds of L.A. to the wilds of the Sierra’s. Most of her books come from a combination of hard work, cookies, and hot guy pics, and not necessarily in that order.

Jill often travels to reader weekends & conventions where she LOVES getting to meet and hang-out with readers. The only problem being she tends to get lost in her hotels. So if you ever see Jill Shalvis roaming the halls, someone please return her immediately.

Connect with the Author:
Tumblr: http://jillshalvis.tumblr.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JillShalvis/



Liza's Review:

I devour each and every book my Jill Shalvis as soon as it hits my hands. Hot Winter Nights was no different, in fact I actually went without sleep to read more of this story. I've wanted Molly Malone's story pretty much from the moment we met her and have to say her story was so worth the wait. I can't say I saw Molly and Lucas working as a couple when we first met these characters, but they really are a perfect match.  

Both Molly and Lucas have so much in common when it comes to having something in their pasts that keeps them from really moving forward with relationships. However, Molly isn't letting any physical limitations stop her from investigating a Bad Santa. As Lucas still isn't released for full duty both Archer and Molly's brother Joe expect him to keep her out of trouble. Lucas quickly sees that Molly is so much more than just an office manager and she has the smarts and the skills to be a great investigator. 

Lucas and Molly also have the most amazing chemistry and really do seem to become friends before they move into a physical relationship...though Lucas thinks something did happen between them for a time. I loved they each could share their stories about their pasts with each other and it helped them to grow closer. The fact they couldn't keep their hands off one another once they finally made love, only made me fall in love with them as a couple faster.

Hot Winter Nights is a feel good, super sexy, funny story with just the right amount of mystery of the Bad Santa thrown in to keep readers guessing a bit. Jill Shalvis has been an auto-buy author for me for years and her Heartbreaker Bay series is one of her best ever. I highly recommend each and every book in this series to readers who love fun, sexy, and emotional stories.


Rating: 5 Stars (B+)

FINDING FATE


We are thrilled to be bringing you the release of FINDING FATE by Kennedy L. Mitchell. FINDING FATE is a brand new sexy romantic suspense story that you don't want to miss--be sure to grab your copy today!





About FINDING FATE


Three men hunt her. Two eager to harm and one desperate to save. Who will get to her first?

FINDING FATE is a sexy, standalone romantic suspense where love grows in the most unlikely of places.

Master hacker Fate Haley has one objective on her mind – vengeance. A year after an unthinkable tragedy destroys her family, Fate has the two men responsible in her sights and a plan in place to ensure they won’t slip through the CIA’s fingers again. At the edge of insanity, Fate’s prepared to risk it all until he slips in one dark night set on saving her.

Nash Bartley enjoys his new gig with the Contract Special Operations team. The constant travel and dangerous missions keep distance between him and any potential long-term relationship. He’s done that before and swore he’ll never do it again. Until the woman he’s sent to rescue blindsides his heart, altering his outlook on love and the future.

Attraction sizzles the moment the two meet and affection blooms during the long humid nights in the African jungle. When the evil zeroes in, Nash is forced to sacrifice a piece of himself to protect the woman he’s grown to love. But will it be enough to save them both?

Can this unlikely duo abandon their wounded pasts and let go of their secrets for a chance at a happily ever after?


Grab your copy of FINDING FATE today!

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Angus & Robertson








About KENNEDY L. MITCHELL

Kennedy lives in Dallas with her husband, son, and 80lb Goldendoodle who still believes he’s a lap dog. A bookworm at heart, Kennedy loves to snuggle up in bed or by the campfire with an unputdownable book. She began writing two years ago with Falling for the Chance and has no plans of stopping. Her novels are witty, action-packed, and offer enough steam for a great facial. If you like strong heroines and sexy, tattooed men who can’t keep their hands off them, then this author is the one for you.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | BookBub | Amazon | Newsletter

NIKKI'S REVIEW:

What pulled me to this book initially was the blurb. I'm a sucker for romantic suspense. And the cover is pretty damn delicious too!

The opening of the book hooked me. I was totally involved and then...BAM! I find out the heroine wears unicorn and Strawberry Shortcake hoodies. Now, I know this might not bother some readers, and some may say it's not important, but it totally threw me out of the story. I just couldn't take her seriously. She's 27, but seemed so juvenile. She certainly didn't scream sexy...at all. But, I digress, I pushed on.

The plot was full of pulse pounding suspense and mystery. I loved the fact that the heroine was out for blood thirsty revenge. I'm a little sadistic like that! After I got over the childish wardrobe of Fate, I warmed up to her. She's strong and sassy, which is some of my favourite traits in a heroine. 

Nash seems to be a bit of a loose cannon, but I liked him just the same. The chemistry between Fate and Nash sparked from the get go. 

As far as romantic suspenses go, this one was good. It had the usual elements that I look for, and plenty of sizzling heat. This is the first book I've read by Ms. Mitchell, and I'm definitely going to have a look at her backlist!

Rating: 3.5 Stars (B)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

FINDING FATE RELEASE DAY BLITZ


We are thrilled to be bringing you the release of FINDING FATE by Kennedy L. Mitchell. FINDING FATE is a brand new sexy romantic suspense story that you don't want to miss--be sure to grab your copy today!





About FINDING FATE


Three men hunt her. Two eager to harm and one desperate to save. Who will get to her first?

FINDING FATE is a sexy, standalone romantic suspense where love grows in the most unlikely of places.

Master hacker Fate Haley has one objective on her mind – vengeance. A year after an unthinkable tragedy destroys her family, Fate has the two men responsible in her sights and a plan in place to ensure they won’t slip through the CIA’s fingers again. At the edge of insanity, Fate’s prepared to risk it all until he slips in one dark night set on saving her.

Nash Bartley enjoys his new gig with the Contract Special Operations team. The constant travel and dangerous missions keep distance between him and any potential long-term relationship. He’s done that before and swore he’ll never do it again. Until the woman he’s sent to rescue blindsides his heart, altering his outlook on love and the future.

Attraction sizzles the moment the two meet and affection blooms during the long humid nights in the African jungle. When the evil zeroes in, Nash is forced to sacrifice a piece of himself to protect the woman he’s grown to love. But will it be enough to save them both?

Can this unlikely duo abandon their wounded pasts and let go of their secrets for a chance at a happily ever after?


Grab your copy of FINDING FATE today!

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Angus & Robertson








About KENNEDY L. MITCHELL

Kennedy lives in Dallas with her husband, son, and 80lb Goldendoodle who still believes he’s a lap dog. A bookworm at heart, Kennedy loves to snuggle up in bed or by the campfire with an unputdownable book. She began writing two years ago with Falling for the Chance and has no plans of stopping. Her novels are witty, action-packed, and offer enough steam for a great facial. If you like strong heroines and sexy, tattooed men who can’t keep their hands off them, then this author is the one for you.

HOT WINER NIGHT RELEASE BLITZ


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Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis
Release Date: September 25, 2018

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Hot Winter Nights, a stand-alone Heartbreaker Bay romance, by Jill Shalvis is a sexy romance in which hero Lucas Knight wakes up with a woman in his bed with no memory of how that happened. What the heck?

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .

 Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

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Download Today!
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2vt20Yc
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2MtoY7T
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2OhyFXu
Paperback: https://amzn.to/2Mw1oYl
Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2vxyP6a


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About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.

Jill lives with her family in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters (Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is mostly coincidental). She does most of her writing on her deck surrounded by more animals than humans. Which is quite astonishing considering she’s a city girl who was plucked from the wilds of L.A. to the wilds of the Sierra’s. Most of her books come from a combination of hard work, cookies, and hot guy pics, and not necessarily in that order.

Jill often travels to reader weekends & conventions where she LOVES getting to meet and hang-out with readers. The only problem being she tends to get lost in her hotels. So if you ever see Jill Shalvis roaming the halls, someone please return her immediately.


Connect with the Author:
Tumblr: http://jillshalvis.tumblr.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JillShalvis/






THE CHRISTMAS WISHING TREE BLOG TOUR

Summary:
Sometimes life’s most magical journeys bring you back to where it all began…From USA Today bestselling author Emily March comes The Christmas Wishing Tree, an enchanting account of the magic and miracle of Christmas.

A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn’t hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.

Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications —until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they’ll both find the miracle they’ve been looking for all along…

A delightful Christmas novel in the New York Timesbestselling Eternity Springs series.

Buy Links:


Liza's Review:

The Eternity Springs series from Emily March is one of my favorites. I especially love her Christmas novel release each year and have to say The Christmas Wishing Tree was another wonderful addition to the series.

Devin Murphy is one of the yummiest heroes from this series. He is so sweet with his family and when a little boy calls his loaner phone thinking he is calling Santa, he rolls with it and talks to Reilly from Nashville. Devin keeps trying to reach Reilly's mom, but unknown to him she is dealing with a stalker so she is super cautious when answering unknown numbers calling her cell phone. Jenna Stockton is such a strong character. She adopted Reilly when his biological mom passed away and will do anything on earth to keep her son safe. 

On Jenna and Reilly's first trip to Eternity Springs, they don't actually meet Devin as he is in Australia, but they do meet and spend time with his entire family. Jenna and Reilly felt so at home while in Eternity Springs, I just knew they would be back. Especially as Celeste Blessing takes them both under her wings and teaches them all about the Christmas Wishing Tree. I adore each and ever scene with Celeste and look forward to her time on the page in each book. She just gives me all the happy feels, and I love how she bring so much good to each story.

When Jenna's stalker strikes again after they leave Nashville, Eternity Spring seems like a safe place to visit again, only this time "Santa Devin" is back in town. As Jenna and Reilly are in hiding, they didn't expect to run into the Murphy clan or anyone else they knew from the last visit. Once Jenna shares her stalker situation, Devin and all his friends immediately step up to find a way to help find her stalker. I love how the town of Eternity Springs pretty much always takes care of anyone they see as theirs, and Jenna and Reilly were definitely theirs after their very first visit. 

I loved how quickly Devin and Jenna connected to one another. I loved the slow build to their relationship, as it wouldn't have worked for me for them to move faster. They had great chemistry, and I loved that Devin seemed to fall in love with Reilly every bit as much as he fell in love with Jenna. I did hate that Devin let his past initially get in the way of what could be a happy future with Jenna and Reilly. They were pretty much the perfect family from the moment they met in person. 

I love that with each new book in the Eternity Springs series, readers get to spend time with characters from other books. It makes it easy to pick up a book at any point within the series and not feel completely lost. As you see characters from other books, they backstory is always shared and just makes each story even richer than it would be on its own. While I normally reach books in a series in order, I found the Eternity Springs book after several books had been released, and had no trouble starting the series several books in and not feeling lost. Emily March pulls me in with each new book in this series and makes me want more. The Eternity Springs series is the perfect series for any romance readers who enjoy a sweet and emotional story.

Rating: 4 Stars (B)
Review copy provided by publisher

Author Bio: 
Emily March is the New York TimesPublishers Weekly, and USA Todaybestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springsseries. Publishers Weeklycalls March a "master of delightful banter," and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers WeeklyLibrary Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeƱo relish has made her a tailgating legend.

Social Links:


Twitter: @EmilyMarchBooks
Facebook: Emily March
Pinterest: Emily March



EXCERPT

THE CHRISTMAS WISHING TREE
An Eternity Springs Novel
Emily March
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Chapter One


NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Christmas carols played softly in the background. The scent of spiced cider perfumed the air. Shoppers munched happily on gingerbread cookies and perused the bookshelves for that perfect gift.
Dr. Jenna Stockton imagined ripping the halo off the angel’s head and choking her with it. Instead, she reached deep within herself for patience and managed to find a smile for the costumed character behind the bookstore counter. “If I could speak with your manager, please?”
“She’s awfully busy.”
Jenna thought of the ridiculous length of her own to-do list as she fought to keep her smile from turning into a sneer. “Yes, well, it’s that time of year, isn’t it? Your manager?”
The little angel gave a haughty sniff, and then said, “If you’ll step out of line, please?”
Without missing a beat, the angel turned a bright smile toward the woman waiting behind Jenna. “I’m sosorry for this unfortunate delay, ma’am. I’ll be as quick as I possibly can.”
Jenna didn’t snarl like a rabid dog. She didn’t. She smiled at the woman behind her in line. Sweetly. Without canines.
The woman and the four people behind her each gave Jenna an annoyed glower. She gave them all a smile too, then reached for the nearest book, which she pretended to read until the clerk returned, accompanied by a fiftysomething woman dressed like an elf. The angel gestured toward Jenna and said, “This is the one, Ms. Thomas.”
The elf spoke in a harried tone. “May I help you?”
“I hope so.” Especially considering that I went out of my way to support a local business rather than ordering online. Jenna set down the paperback. “I placed a special order two weeks ago and someone from this store called me last week to tell me it was in. However, your … angel … can’t find it in your computer system, so she insists I’m mistaken.”
“Do you have your receipt?”
“Not with me, no.”
“Well, if you’ll come back—”
“I don’t have time to come back. I ordered the books for an event that begins”—Jenna checked her watch—“in forty-five minutes. I’d like you to check your stock room. My name is Jenna Stockton.”
“Ms. Stockton, I can’t—”
“I ordered thirty copies of New Adventures in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room.”
“Oh.” The manager pursed her lips. “Oh. I recall that order.”
“Good.”
Then the manager winced. Uh-oh. Maybe not so good. Jenna drew a deep, calming breath, then asked, “If you will get it for me, please?”
“Oh dear.”
Jenna closed her eyes.
“I’m afraid we had some internal miscommunication. We sold out of our stock of that particular title and an employee unfortunately failed to notice the hold notice on your order. She put them on the shelf.”
“How many are left?”
“It’s a popular title,” the manager hedged.
Jenna leaned forward. “The books are for pediatric cancer patients at Children’s Hospital. The Christmas party is at four o’clock.”
“Oh dear,” the manager repeated. “Four o’clock you say?”
Jenna nodded curtly.
“I’ll call our distributor. If you can stop back by—”
“You’ll need to deliver them directly to the hospital. To the attention of Dr. Jenna Stockton.” She removed a card from her purse and handed it to the manager. “Here’s the address. Take them to the information desk in the lobby. I’ll tell the volunteers working there to expect them.”
“But we don’t have a delivery—”
Jenna folded her arms and gave the manager her best take-no-prisoners look.
“I’ll do my best to have them there by four, Dr. Stockton. I apologize for the inconvenience. Now, is there anything else I can help you with? I saw you looking at the new Liza Holcomb thriller.” She picked up the book and handed it to Jenna. “It’s a fabulous book. Scariest stalker story I’ve read in years.”
Jenna quickly returned the book to the display table. A stalker story? That was all she needed. “No, thank you. All I need today is what I ordered. Thank you for the help. You have my phone number. I trust if there is any further problem, you will give me an immediate call?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“Perfect. Merry Christmas, Ms. Thomas.”
“Merry Christmas to you too, Dr. Stockton.” The manager gave her a bright smile that didn’t quite hide the worry in her eyes.
Jenna headed for the door, glancing over her shoulder before pushing it open. The elf was on the phone, the angel had been replaced at the register by a reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman was on hands and knees beside the urn of mulled cider wiping up a spill. She sighed. Angels with attitude aside, she liked this little store. She really hoped they didn’t let her and the children down.
Outside, the jangle from the Salvation Army bell ringer mingled with the shrieks and laughter of children embroiled in a snowball fight in the park across the street. Jenna tugged leather gloves from her coat pocket and pulled them on as she walked to the street corner and waited for the light to change. Her gaze drifted back to the snowball warriors. It did her heart good to see healthy, happy children playing, especially after a morning like this one.
When the walk signal flashed on, she crossed the street and cut through the park headed for her car, which she’d left in a lot a block away. Her thoughts returned to her to-do list. She could save a few minutes if she bought cookies at the grocery store instead of making the extra stop at the bakery before picking up Reilly from daycare. But she’d promised Reilly a gingerbread man from—
Whack.
Something cold and wet stung her cheek. What in the world? Reflexively, Jenna lifted her hand to her face and the remnants of … a snowball. She’d been hit with a snowball. Had the battlefield moved without her noticing and she’d been struck by an errant shot? Or had the attack been deliberate? If that was the case, one of these heathens was about to get a piece of her mind.
But when she turned to identify the culprit seconds after the snowball landed, her gaze skidded over a group of youngsters to an adult standing nearby. The pockets of a black wool coat concealed the man’s hands. A black knit cap pulled low on his brow and the matching scarf looped around his face shielded everything but his eyes.
Eyes that watched her.
A shiver of fear skidded down Jenna’s spine. She whirled around and picked up her pace. By the time she reached her car, she was all but running. She thumbed the key fob and unlocked the door as she approached, then locked it again the moment she was inside. She sat behind the steering wheel breathing hard, her heart pounding. Her gaze locked on the path through the park.
Nobody had followed her. Chased her. She’d let her imagination run wild.
“You didn’t imagine the face full of snow,” she muttered.
She should call the cops. File a report.
Sure. Be one of “those people.” Tie up a law enforcement officer’s time over a child’s prank. Because surely, that’s all it had been. One of those kids probably threw the snowball, and the guy dressed in black probably saw it as it flew by. He’d watched her to see if she’d pitch a fit about it.
She slipped her key into the ignition, started the car, and did her best to dismiss the incident. Forty minutes later—after stops at the dry cleaners, grocery, bakery, and party store—she made it back to the office in time for her one-thirty appointment with five minutes to spare. If she’d checked her rearview mirror more often than usual and paid close attention to those around her as she completed her errands, well, she was simply being responsible.
Whenever she had a few free minutes during the rest of the afternoon, her thoughts drifted back to the troubling events of recent months. The harassment had begun in October, although for the first few weeks, she hadn’t recognized the threat. Everyone got hang-up calls. She explained away the texts as wrong numbers. But once online orders she hadn’t placed began showing up on her doorstep, she realized she had a problem.
She’d thought she’d been a victim of identity theft. She’d spent an entire weekend canceling cards and changing accounts. Then last week when a particularly difficult case kept her at the hospital until early morning hours, she came out to the physician’s section of the parking garage and found the air had been released from each of her tires.
Random vandalism, the police said. Teenage pranks. Jenna wasn’t so certain, but she didn’t know who would be doing this to her or why.
As she exited Exam Room 4, her receptionist met her with the news that her three o’clock was a no-show, which meant she was done for the day. Jenna tucked away her dark worries and turned her thoughts to the light and bright. Now she’d have time to pick up Reilly from school rather than have his after-school caregiver drop him off at the hospital.
Luck was with her for a change because a parking place became available just as she pulled up. As she got out of her car, a bell rang, and the door to the kindergarten classroom opened. Reilly was the third youngster out.
“Mom!” exclaimed her six-year-old son. “You’re here! It’s time for the Christmas party, isn’t it? Is it time for the party? Is Santa going to be there? I have my list all ready.”
“Hello, little man. Yes, it’s time for the Christmas party and yes, Santa has promised to make an appearance.”
“I’m so excited!”
“Me too, Reilly. Me too.”
She’d been trying to make the Santa visit happen for two weeks now. Because kids grew up so fast these days, she knew that this might be the last year that Reilly believed in Santa Claus. Jenna had wanted to make it a special event for them both.
For the initial effort, she had planned an all-day Saturday holiday adventure beginning with breakfast at a pancake house, followed by shopping for gifts for Reilly’s friends, then a matinee performance of Rudolphat the children’s theater, and culminating with a visit to Santa’s Wonderland and a conversation with the big man himself. They’d had a great time eating and shopping and watching the play, but as they left the theater, her pager had gone off. She’d tried again the following Saturday with a different itinerary, but with similar Santa results. She and Reilly both were counting on “The third time is the charm” axiom working today.
Arriving at the hospital, she took advantage of valet parking due to the amount of party supplies she had to tote inside. She loaded up a collapsible wheeled cart with gifts and decorations and bakery boxes, then Reilly helped her tug it inside, where she approached the information desk with trepidation. “I’m Dr. Stockton. Do I have a package waiting, I hope?”
“Books,” the volunteer said. “Yes, they’re here.”
Yes!
She reached beneath the counter then pulled out a box. Jenna spied twice as many gift-wrapped items as she’d expected. The folded note taped to the front of the box read, “Your complete order is enclosed. In addition, please accept these thirty copies of the first book in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room series as a gift to the children from the staff here at Hawthorne Books.”
“Well, isn’t that nice?” Jenna murmured.
“Isn’t what nice, Mom?”
“The Christmas spirit.”
He nodded in all seriousness. “I love the Christmas spirit. I wish it could last all year long.”
“You and me both, little man. You and me both.”
The Christmas party that followed was a bittersweet success. Local and a few national celebrities showed up to shower attention and gifts and good cheer on the patients of Children’s Hospital and their families. It was always nice to see the smiles, but invariably, tears were shed too. The what-ifs and if-onlys were unavoidable. Hospital events always caused Jenna to hug Reilly a little tighter and spend a little more time on her nightly prayers.
The books Jenna gifted were well received by parents and patients alike. Reilly finally had his visit with Santa, and Jenna shed a tear or two of her own while she snapped photos of the moment with her phone.
In the car ride on their way home, Reilly bubbled about the party—the food, the games, the gifts. “There were a lot of dads there,” he observed. “Did you see, Mom? There were a whole bunch of dads.”
“Yes.” Then, in an effort to alter the direction of the conversation, she said, “I was surprised to see how many football players attended. How many autographs did you get?”
“I don’t know,” Reilly answered with a shrug before proving that he was not to be distracted. “I thought Dr. David would be there. Why didn’t Dr. David come?”
Oh, Reilly. Dr. David Henderson was Reilly’s pediatrician, a widowed father whom she’d dated briefly last summer. “I told you he moved back to Minnesota to be closer to Bella and Jessie’s grandparents. Dr. Larimer is your new doctor.”
Reilly gave a long sigh. “I pretended I forgot. I thought he would make a really good daddy for us, Mom.”
“Oh, Reilly.”
“We really do need a daddy.”
“Reilly,” Jenna said, warning in her tone. “Please. It’s been a long day. Let’s not get started on that subject again.”
“But, Mommy…”
She silenced him with a stern glance. Her son could be a terrier when he got an idea in his head, and lately, every time she turned around, he’d been yipping and yapping about needing a daddy.
How about I just order one online? Everything else was showing up at the house. She’d certainly have more use for a daddy for Reilly than a yodeling pickle electronic noisemaker.
She switched on the radio, which was tuned to the Christmas music station. Listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks hope that Christmas wouldn’t be late wasn’t much better than the yodeling pickle. However, the music did manage to distract Reilly, who sang along the rest of the way home, so she wasn’t about to complain.
Her son helped her unload the car, and then he dashed about the house turning on the lights of all of their Christmas decorations while Jenna sorted through the mail. One envelope in particular caught her notice. Whitewater Adventure Rafting on the Snake River? Her stomach took a sick little flip.
Dread filled her as she stared down at the envelope addressed to JENNA M. STOCKTON, MD.
This was coincidence, surely. Just bad timing of an advertisement that probably went to everyone in her zip code.
She slid the letter opener blade beneath the envelope flap and removed the folded paper.
A reservation for one. Paid in full. January 23rd at 10:00 a.m.
She dropped the paper as if it were on fire. Her hands trembled. Her heart pounded.
Her always-adventuring parents had drowned in a whitewater rafting accident seven years earlier … on January 23.
“Mom, can we read a story?”
Jenna saw her son standing in the doorway with his stuffed Rudolph beneath his arm. His request was a life preserver tossed to a drowning person. “Absolutely. I have a new book for us.”
Because she wasn’t on call tonight and she had no patients she suspected of being in imminent need of her services, she poured herself a glass of wine, traded her shoes for slippers, and settled into the overstuffed easy chair in the family room with the copy of The New Adventures in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room that she’d reserved for her own family. “In my lap, little man.”
He bounded over to her, his face alight with joy.
Story time was special for them both. She’d finished the first book and allowed herself to be talked into reading a second and a third. They were negotiating a fourth when she answered the doorbell to a pizza delivery she had not ordered.
By nine thirty, her doorbell had chimed eleven more times with deliveries of eleven more cheese and mushroom pizzas. Jenna was allergic to mushrooms.
At nine forty-five she called the police.


Copyright © 2018 by Emily March in The Christmas Wishing Tree and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.