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A Christmas contemporary romance with some light domestic discipline elements.
Jared had left Danville, Kansas, a confused and angry teenager. The black sheep of his family, he'd done his best not to look back. Then a letter from home made it impossible for him to stay away. Holly was leaving Danville for a new life in California. Suddenly he was desperate to return home, to convince her to build a life with him. But convincing Holly proved to be more difficult than he'd thought. Holly had always loved Jared, but after fifteen years she'd given up hope of him returning to Danville and she'd decided to move on with her life, a life which didn't include Jared.
Fifteen years was a hell of a long time. Some people said you couldn’t go home again and Jared Danville had believed that. He’d left Danville, Kansas and done his best to never look back. Until now.
Sitting in his Lexus at the end of his parents’ long, winding driveway, he looked toward the massive Victorian house on the hill overlooking the town his great-great-something grandfather had founded. Every son and daughter of every generation since had stayed here, had brought wives and husbands here, and had helped grow the town. Except him. He hadn’t been able to stay another minute in small town USA.
Right now, with all the crazy turns in his life lately, small town Danville held a lot more appeal than it once had. Home.
He’d stopped celebrating Christmas altogether after he’d left here two days before Christmas almost fifteen years ago.
He squeezed his eyes shut on that raw memory. Pain. His upper left chest throbbed from too many hours sitting in one position and from trying to help steer with his left arm when his right arm got too tired. He needed to lie down, although he probably should take one of the pain pills first. Which he really didn’t want to do. He hated feeling weak, mentally or physically.
Disgusted, he opened his eyes. He shifted his gaze toward the cottage-style house next door, Holly Jacob’s home. How many times had they sat snuggled together on that porch swing? How many kisses had he stolen there with her mother inside the house? Sweet. Her kisses had been so sweet and yet filled with youthful passion. God, he missed them. Missed her.
His gaze hardened and moved to the For Sale sign only a few feet away from the Santa scene. His jaw tightened. He thought about the much-read and sadly wrinkled letter he’d received out of the blue from his dad just over three weeks ago. Talk about “creepy.” Just when he’d been thinking about selling out of the private security business. Just when he’d broken up with his second fiancée. Just when he’d been balanced in that precarious state of “there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll make it,” according to what his doctors had told his partners in the ICU. Somehow his parents had tracked him down. “Come home for Christmas, son.”
Something pinched in the region of his heart. Here he was after all these years. Home. He’d never thought this would happen. He’d left during a snowstorm in the middle of the night. Now he’d returned just after a snowstorm. The remnants of it were all around him. Cold. He felt chilled to the bone even in the heated car. Frustrated, too. “Holly is leaving us. You’d best come back and say your good-bye before it’s too late.”
He’d read that part of his father’s note while still groggy and in the hospital. The words had kick-started his heart again. He’d thought his father had meant she was dying. He’d dropped the note, started pulling out IV lines, and caused all kinds of warning alarms to go off. Nurses had streamed into the private room, even a doctor had raced inside. He’d been a crazed man determined to get the hell out of there to go to Holly. The only thing that had stopped him was one of the nurses finding the note and reading it to see what had set him off.
He leaned his head back. Now that he wasn’t driving, his mind was getting muddled. Tired, so tired. He’d left here a strong-willed, tough kid. He’d become even tougher, harder, more determined. He rubbed at his shoulder and smiled. His partners called him Alpha Stud on Steroids. There’d been plenty of times when he fit the title, mainly because he’d been searching for the right woman. The one who fit him, who understood him, who could keep up with him in bed. His gut told him that woman was Holly, had always been her, and would always be her.
He rotated his left shoulder. Damn but that hurt. His partners also called him Kick-ass Badass. At the moment he didn’t feel like he could kick anyone’s ass.
Something thudded against his windshield.
He immediately reached for the lock box beneath his seat and the gun inside. Then he noted the smashed snowball and the water dripping down from it. He sucked in a steadying breath and the tension eased from his body. A snowball? Someone would have had to work darn hard to scrape up enough snow to make a snowball from the spattering of snow on the lawns nearby.
Before he could open his door, five foot maybe two of clearly pissed off female stomped over to glare at him. He gaped in shock at brown eyes darkened so much they looked nearly black, at a perky nose scrunched in disgust, at pink lips pursed so tight her mouth had to hurt. Holly. Rigid with fury. Even buried within a thick, red ski jacket she looked so damn cute in a full-blown woman way he ached to pull her into his arms. He’d missed this hell on wheels. Yes, this was the only woman he’d ever wanted, would ever want.
She stepped back so he could get out of the car. But before he could speak, she snapped, “You sonofabitch!” And then she stormed away.
Not exactly a loving endearment, but he could work with it.