Christmas and romance are in the air…
It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.
So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?
Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!
Lucy and Aria have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
Standing beneath the steady stream of hot water without the overhead shower wetting my hair isn’t easy but it’s so refreshing. By the time I’ve dried, changed my underwear and donned the crease-resistant, long-sleeved top rolled up in my hand luggage, I at least have a bit of my sparkle back. A quick brush of my hair, a squirt of deodorant and then perfume, and I’m done.
Making my way back into the open area of the lounge and scanning around the sea of occupied seats, I look for Cary. His head appears above the crowded masses as he stands to wave at me and I head in his direction. He, too, is looking a little more refreshed, I notice as I sink down very gratefully into the squishy leather seat next to him.
‘I was hoping to grab four seats so we could put our feet up and lay out as some have already done but it’s just too busy at the moment. If you want, I’ll stay here with the bags and you go and have a look at the buffet. Water and soft drinks are off to the side in the fridge. Coffee is at the far end, over there. It’s all a bit calorie-laden but it will keep us going until we board.’
Sauntering off, I resist the temptation to turn around to see if Cary is watching me as I walk away. His brisk business manner and hmm… how can I describe it? That almost uptight, driven vibe I’d come to expect from him is diminishing by the second. I don’t recognise the much more relaxed and normal human being he’s turning into. Even his tone of voice is beginning to lose that slightly caustic, haughty edge.
The buffet is immaculately presented but it is all rather stodgy food. There are little cakes and pastries, sandwiches and wraps, with a few bowls of different types of salad. But there is also a platter of dates, which I love. The coffee machine is the push button sort, but the cups are on the small side and it seems to only dispense what looks like a double espresso or a smaller Americano.
Looking around as I walk back to Cary, I see predominantly Westerners surrounding us. There are several men dressed in thawbs, the long white shirt over loose pants. I can’t see any women in the traditional long, black abayas at all. Most travellers are flying out to the UK or European destinations, no doubt eagerly heading home for Christmas.
As I sit down to savour the dark, pleasingly bitter coffee, Cary heads off in the direction of the buffet area. When he returns he’s bearing a plate piled high with food.
‘I know I’ve passed over the healthy stuff, but I need carbs,’ he comments as he settles down next to me.
I watch as he stuffs a whole mini croissant into his mouth in one and I guess a look of surprise flickers over my face.
‘Sorry. I really am starving,’ he admits.
I nibble on a vegetable wrap rather daintily as he watches me.
‘You’re obviously a lot more relaxed now the exhibition is over,’ I say as soon as my mouth is empty.
‘Am I?’ He seems surprised by my remark. ‘Look, I’m sorry if I’ve seemed a bit… uptight but it’s been the year from hell. I guess I didn’t realise just how wound-up I’ve been and I’m sorry if you’ve felt the effects of that. It wasn’t my intention, I can assure you, and I value your opinion and your professionalism.’ The look he gives me is genuine. For some stupid reason it makes my stomach flutter. An apology and a genuine look of remorse – I’m overcome.
In an attempt to move on rather quickly, I say the first innocuous thing that comes into my head.
‘What are your plans for Christmas?’
He frowns. ‘Taking part in the obligatory family festivities. And you?’
I nod. ‘I wish I could say I was looking forward to a wonderfully relaxing break, but I’d be lying.’
***** end of extract*****
Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy.
Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.
Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.
Magic Under the Mistletoe was released by Aria on 5th September.