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A Crystal Falls Novella
Love by Christmas is a small-town friends-to-lovers story set in a snowy ski-lodge with a dash of banter, a sprinkling of Christmas cheer, and a generous helping of steamy kisses.
Julia Preston is done with Christmas. After her marriage went south last Christmas, all she wants to do is escape to Cancun for the holidays and recover from a grueling divorce. At least that’s the plan until her best friend Lincoln calls and suggests she meet him in the ski-town of Crystal Falls, Colorado.
After years on the road and nearly no time at home, Olympic skier Lincoln Kidd just wants to see his best friend Julia for Christmas. So when a sponsored ski trip takes the championship athlete to Crystal Falls, he invites her to join him for a weekend at the lodge.
The friends catch up over skiing, drinking hot chocolate by the fire, plenty of good-natured banter, and a few unexpected kisses. As it gets closer to Christmas and their relationship begins to change, Lincoln realizes his feelings for Julia run even deeper than he’d ever imagined.
But as the relationship moves from friends to the possibility of being lovers, Julia has to decide if she’s ready to take the plunge into a relationship again and potentially ruin the best friendship she’s ever had.
Fans of Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips – and anyone who enjoys skiing, sipping wine in front of a fire, and trading good-natured insults with a close friend – will find plenty of reasons to fall in love with Christmas all over again.
An Excerpt from Love by Christmas
They exited the lift and made their way toward the lodge. The heat inside felt good after being outside for more than three hours. Julia made a beeline for the seats near the fire and he followed with their skis.
“I’ll go get us something to drink. Hot chocolate okay?”
She nodded and smiled and he made his way to the bar. So far this trip had been a big fat bust. He hadn’t been able to make a complete run without screwing something up. He was already burnt out on the sponsorship work and the trip had only just begun. He’d wrecked his best friend’s vacation by dragging her up to the lodge when she would have rather been on a beach. And as he opened himself up to this line of thinking all of his failures began to wash over him and he suddenly felt all of his thirty-four years.
He leaned on the bar and waited until the hot chocolate was ready. Tried not to get too down. He knew how bad it could get, running over his past mistakes. Best to think of something else.
He grabbed the steaming paper cups that the bartender set in front of him and made his way back to Julia, took a seat beside her. The room was crowded and noisy. He handed her one of the cups and leaned in when she started to speak.
“Neil was quite the skier, you know.”
“Yeah. He had a season pass up here. Breckinridge too. He always tried to get me to go with him. Funny, I never did. But you ask me once and here I am, following you like a damn puppy.”
Lincoln couldn’t help but feel a little flutter. “I know, it’s a curse. Women never say no to me.”
“Ha! In your dreams, buddy. I know all about you and women. Or lack thereof.”
“Hey! That’s what you think. There’s actually a whole other side that you’ve never seen. You have no idea what Olympic village is like. Women throw themselves at medalists, you know.”
“You were pretty spectacular out there. I think you should take up skiing.” Now that she seemed to be feeling better, he couldn’t help but rib her a little.
She rolled her eyes and took one of the cups from him. “Don’t push it, bub.”
He chuckled and watched the corners of her mouth turn up, loving to see her smile. It had been too long without her.
“Really though, you weren’t that bad.”
“Ha! I’ll have the bruises on my ass to prove otherwise.”
They chatted some more, watched the people move in and out of the lobby.
“I should probably go. I promised to meet a couple of college friends for coffee this afternoon,” Julia told him finally when she finished the last of her drink.
“Oh, sure. Of course.”
“What are you doing later? You free for dinner?”
He frowned. “I’ve got a sponsor dinner.” His heart sank when her face fell and felt like an ass for convincing her to give up her plans at the beach to hang out alone in a ski lodge. And ski, which she obviously hated.
“Okay. I guess maybe I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Before he could reply she stood and gathered her rented ski gear.
“Hey, Julia?” She turned around and he couldn’t help but see the sparkle in her eyes, focus on the moisture on her beautiful lips. Suddenly all he could think about was kissing her.
“Would you be my date tonight?”
“I don’t know. Won’t there be media there or something? You know how they are. There could be talk about us being together.”
“So what? Let them talk. I’m sick to death of worrying about all of this. Besides, would it be so bad to be mistaken for my girlfriend?”
Julia blushed and lowered her eyes. Lincoln’s cheeks grew hot. Why’d he always have to put his foot in his mouth with her? But he’d meant it. More and more he was beginning to think that it might be exactly what he wanted, for her to be his girlfriend. He knew it was probably a mistake, but after being with her the last couple of days, he realized that he didn’t care anymore. He was willing to jeopardize their friendship for something more with her. And he also knew that a friendship as strong as theirs could withstand it if something did go wrong.