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Rule Number Two
Never look a redhead straight in the eyes
Two hours ago, I shot off a text to my son and his aunt Faith, apologizing profusely that I was stuck in traffic. It was quickly worked out; Nathaniel was more than happy to walk the four blocks to his favorite store on Main Street in Holiday Springs, Winterfield’s Sweet Spot, to wait for Faith’s one employee at Bookland bookstore to cover her so that she could meet Nathaniel and they could walk back to her place and wait for me.
Thirty minutes later, he called me.
“Dad,” he whispered, and I felt anxiety’s invisible claw grip my chest so tight I almost couldn’t respond.
“Is everything all right?”
“Then why are you whispering? Is aunt Faith—”
“I’m in her bathroom. I did a really bad thing, and I didn’t want her to know.”
My body tensed, and I willed myself to be calm when I reminded him, “You can tell me anything, Nathaniel, you know this.”
He proceeded to tell me what had happened, and I was less than impressed with whoever this new employee at Winterfield’s was.
For fuck’s sake, aside from the owners, Elden and Gloria Winterfield, their daughter Nellie—who wouldn’t ever speak to Nathaniel that way because she wants me—I’d never had an unpleasant experience in the Sweet Spot, and neither had Nathaniel.
Nellie typically worked the after-school and evening hours alone, and she would never give Nathaniel a hard time. Because just like the rest of the single, divorced, or widowed women, from the ages of eighteen to eighty, she’d all but told me she’d like nothing more than to warm my bed.
Come to think of it, no one gave Nathaniel a hard time; the entire town adored him, spoiled him rotten. And although I am not a fan of a child being handed the moon, the fact that this new employee was downright rude to my son pissed me off.
“I’ll stop by and have a chat with this person before coming to Bookland.”
“Dad, don’t be mean,” left his mouth in a whisper, and I was taken aback.
“When am I ever mean?” I huffed and quickly added, “And why, in this instance, should I not be? Someone was rude to my son and—”
“Just don’t, Dad. I was wrong. Plus, she looked like she was having—”
“Don’t make excuses for someone’s poor behavior, Nathaniel. If she was rude—”
“She looked like she was having a crummy day. Nobody deserves a crummy day. Everyone deserves to be happy.”
And this is what therapy does for a child.
Not that I’m against therapy. Hell, it could have possibly saved my son’s life. Those weekly visits with Dr. Shapiro have made a positive impact on him, but now, he’s so damn deep it’s disturbing. Especially to a British man who was raised to hide emotions. Nathaniel being more in touch with his inner self and being extremely mature for his age is still often jarring.
I’m quite certain losing his mum took away the naïveté that most kids are lucky enough to carry with them, well past his age. The bottom line is, Nathaniel sure knows just what to say to kick me in the heart, making me less the stereotypical emotionless British gentleman by the year. I’m not less of a man because of it. In fact, I think he makes me more of a man.
Yet, he causes me to worry.
I shiver, imagining the second-worst day of my life when Nathaniel told me he wanted to go to heaven with his mum because he didn’t feel like he even knew her anymore.
That comment changed everything, and it brought us here, to the US, to be close to her family so that the memories he was losing might be brought back. Vacations during Christmastime in Holiday Springs with Hope’s family were some of the best times of our lives. No place made Hope or Nathaniel happier, which in turn, made me … happy.
I didn’t expect to plant deeper roots in this quaint town than we had in London. But seeing the bright smile on Nathaniel’s face when I casually mentioned moving here or witnessing his utter joy when he played in the snow and watching him laugh with Hope’s sister, Faith changed all that. They baked cookies and sang along to holiday tunes, the same ones he used to sing with his mum. I guess I hadn’t even realized how long it had been since he truly smiled and seeing that made leaving London the easy choice. In fact, Nathaniel isn’t the only one who finally began smiling once we made Holiday Springs our home. Coming here felt an awful lot like breathing again. Until then, I hadn’t realized I was suffocating until I finally took a large breath and inhaled this fresh air and a giant step back away from the business Hope and I had built together. In London, life was work. But here, work is a part of life.
Having to honor Nathaniel’s request that I would not be rude to this person who gave him hell today, I still need to make my presence known. Be seen as a proper father to a decent young man. Pulling up in front of the Sweet Spot, I pulled off my helmet, slid on my glasses, and stepped off my bike before hurrying across the street before they close at six p.m.
Stopping for a passing truck, I look at my wristwatch and curse the fact that I am so late and that I have to stop to teach this woman a lesson.
By the door of the Sweet Spot, a woman yells, “Well, halle-fuckin-lujah!”
Even knowing damn well this stranger, this auburn-haired foul-mouthed woman who had been harsh with Nathaniel, I couldn’t help but get a kick out of her obvious don’t-give-a-shit attitude.
Clearly, she doesn’t know that if Maybell, across the street at the diner, heard her cursing, specifically in the context in which she did, she would drag her arse to church seven days a week to pray over her. I’d pay a pretty penny to bear witness to that.
From two steps behind her, as she digs in her purse, I ask, “Do you need a hand?”
Her purse goes flying, as do her keys, and I have to literally bite my damn lip to stop from laughing at the mess she’s made.
She completely ignores me, which of course, I’m not the least bit used to when it comes to women. As nice of a break from the barracudas as it is, I can’t help but mess with her a little bit, use my charm to rile her up—in the most gentlemanly like fashion—for dealing with Nathaniel the way she did. The truth is, had I been in her situation—I’d have called his parents.
She squats down, picking up a Halloween haul worthy amount of sweets, so I decide to ‘help her out.’ When I walk around in front of her and begin to bend down to do just that, she looks up. As her mouth falls open, I clamp mine shut.
She is quite stunning, beautiful in fact, and I am glad to be wearing my sunglasses, or she’d probably be looking into a mirrored image of the wonder I see in her eyes as she looks at me.
Christ, she is… something else.
I begin to clean up the sweets spilled onto the pavement as she continues to look at me, shamelessly checking me out. The confidence it takes to be so obvious is alluring. As is the fact that she is not playing coy to be cute, which coincidentally makes her even more alluring.
Her pale green eyes are absolutely stunning, her nearly perfect heart-shaped face, the color of smooth ivory; absolutely gorgeous.
As much as I love a redhead, hers is dark red, nearly mahogany brown, and although pulled up in a careless bun, it looks as if it feels like silk and begs to be tugged.
She finally looks away and begins frantically throwing the sweets in her bag, her face turning a beautiful shade of blush. Quickly, I bent down and gathered handfuls of sweets to assist her.
A frown forms on her lips as we stand, and I know I must still say my piece.
“My son was here. He took a sweet from you?” Her eyes widen as I reach into her purse to grab a sweet. I unwrap it ceremoniously and pop it in my mouth, chewing slowly as I wait for her to say something, anything. Instead, she stares at my lips as I chew, so I make sure to take my damn time.
I reach in my pocket and feel for two nickel-size coins, pulling them out and opening my palm to her. “For his and mine.”
When she doesn’t take them, I drop them in her purse. She opens and shuts her perfect shaped lips in an attempt to respond. I can’t help but smile.
Finally, she responds and does so looking above my head. “You should teach him not to take things without paying for them.” Her voice quivers, and I wonder what else I can do to make her sound like that.
“Well, I must say you’re obviously a pro at making boys quake. He told me about the verbal tongue lashing you gave him. Let me assure you,” I look her over as unabashedly as she had me, and when my eyes settle on hers, “he wasn’t trying to starve you.”
I nod as I turn and walk away, feeling her eyes right where I want them, on my arse. From what I’ve been told, it’s my second-best feature.
From Bestselling Authors MJ Fields and Jessica Ruben comes a laugh-out-loud romance with steamy banter, British accents, wild best friends, set in the picture perfect holiday hometown located in the snowy foothills of Colorado, with the happiest of endings!
The snowy road salted, the coast was cleared, and everything was turning up tinsel.
Hard earned Ivy League education? Check.
Dream career in New York City? Check.
Swoon worthy fiancé, who is heir to billions? Also, check.
Until my life collapsed like a clapboard house in a blizzard.
I retreat to my small hometown of Holiday Springs, where life is like a snow globe, feeling like all of my failings are on full display.
Once I get my bearings straight, I’ll trade my old snow boots for brand new stilettos and strut back to New York City.
Nothing seems to go right until I meet a hot, British, single father with an adorable son.
He may be too good to be true.
As Holiday Springs transforms into a winter wonderland, so does my belief that this Christmas I may receive the greatest gift of all: Love.
Cover Designer: Kari March Designs
Release Date: November 29, 2020
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