When a young woman hires her hometown’s former bad boy to be her pretend fiance for the holidays, she finds she can’t wrap up her feelings as easily as a Christmas gift. New York jewelry designer Graceann Palmer has two days to find a fiance to bring home to Pennsylvania for the holidays so her matchmaking mama will quit fixing her up with jerks. The Falcon, a motorcycle-riding, leather-clad former high school crush, helped her out once before.
Maybe he’ll do it again. Jake Falco, man of many mysteries, is back in town on a mission-one the people of Spirit Lake most likely won’t appreciate. When Graceann presents him with her crazy scheme, it gives him something he’s always wanted-a chance to get to know Graceann. It also gives him the perfect opportunity to add fuel to his project of revenge. But as Jake and Graceann grow closer, their engagement-of-convenience begins to feel like the real deal-until Jake’s secrets are revealed.
Can a relationship that began with lies and secrets bloom like a rare Christmas rose into happily-ever-after?
In a bind and need a fiancé for the holidays? Hmmm… sounds like a wicked good time just waiting to happen. But what this turned out to be was a sweet and romantic story about overcoming the past and finding your way into the future, with a sweet little twist of needing a date for the holidays.
If it’s true that there’s no place like home for the holidays, then Spirit Lake is the kind of place I want to find myself in come Christmas! The serene beauty of this town combined with the charm and grace that it possesses is just enough to make anyone want to spend a quiet Christmas morning there. But for Graceann, this poses a bigger issue than one would think. She has spent so much time trying to make her life her own without her mother trying to set her up with every “fit” available bachelor to be found. She wants to do her own thing. She wants to live her own life. She knows she doesn’t need a man to do it but, if she is going to have a man in her life, he will be one of her choosing.
But there is the problem… she knows if she goes home for the holidays without a man, her mom will provide one for her. So she comes up with a great plan to bring home her friend, pass him off as her fiancé and get through the holidays with her family. But when her buddy bails at the last minute, Graceann has two days to find a fiancé. So she does what any right minded woman would do… wait what? First of all, I don’t know any right minded women who would even thing about this. But it makes for a good spin on the story…
So she sees him in a diner one day, back in town. Nobody knows why, but this is her chance to find a fiancé for Christmas. But what happens when Jake Falco accepts her invitation to be her loving and adoring groom for the holidays?
Jake has his own mysteries and unique qualities that no one in this town sees. The only thing they seem to see is the shell of a boy he once was. Still amazingly hot, he is not in town to prove to anyone what he is like or who he really is. They will always see him for what he was. The bad boy that grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. But what he really wants is to take a moment to see how the other half of the town lived. He wanted to experience something he never could growing up.
But when a simply complex business deal changes everything for the entire family and everyone involved, what will happen? Will a romance bloom out of a business arrangement? Will Graceann find a way to wean herself from her mother’s matchmaking skills? Will Jake realize that everything he thought was true about this town change?
I loved this story. It made me long for big white fluffy flakes, a yappy dog and a warm fire with cocoa…and it is July! But there is no better time to start thinking about all of the holiday adventures you can have once the weather turns cold than the middle of a sweltering heat!
This book was sweet, patient and romantic. It makes you believe in the hope for the future even if life hadn’t always dealt you a fair hand. It is a simple reminder that no matter what happens in life, if you are surrounded by the people you love, there is no such thing in the unimaginable. This is a sweet story and makes so many wonderful holiday memories come to mind. It was a nice change for a simple holiday romance, that was pretty complex once you put all of the pieces of the story together.
I loved this book! It was a nice little twist on a holiday love.
“I have two days to find a fiancé.” Ignoring the anxiety that tightened her stomach, Graceann Palmer dipped her fork into her apple pie à la mode and slipped the tasty treat into her mouth.
Her friend Kate sat next to her at the counter in the quaint fifties-era Spirit Lake Diner, located just outside the small Pennsylvania town of the same name. Kate grinned. “You could advertise online: Fiancé wanted for Christmas. Good pay. Temporary position.”
“Like I’d get a real upstanding guy that way,” Graceann said.
Kate shot her a sympathetic smile. “Face it. You’ll have to tell your family you lied.”
Bing Crosby’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas flowed from the jukebox, mocking Graceann. Her lie had caught up with her. She would come home for Christmas, minus a made-up fiancé.
Graceann finished her pie and pushed the plate away. “Tell my family the truth and have my mom try to fix me up with someone like the dentist she invited to spend the holidays with us last year? Boring, conceited, and he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Yuck.”
The door opened, bringing in a fresh round of cold, snowy late December air. Shivering, Graceann drew her sweater closer around her.
“I wouldn’t mind finding that under my Christmas tree,” Kate said.
Graceann followed her friend’s gaze to the tall man who’d just entered the diner. Dressed all in black—black motorcycle boots, black jeans, black leather jacket—and walking with the lithe grace of a panther, he took a seat at the other end of the counter. She studied him while he studied the menu. He had classic “bad boy” written all over his features—sharp cheekbones, dark stubble on a square jaw, and midnight black hair tied into a ponytail. Long, tapered fingers held the menu.
Suddenly, he looked up. Clear blue eyes connected with hers. Recognition spiked through her and sent her pulse jumping like a kid on Christmas morning.
“The Falcon,” she whispered.
“What?” Kate gasped. “You’re right. It is The Falcon.”
His full lips tilted in a slow, sexy grin, showing even white teeth. He nodded at them before turning his attention to the waitress. After he gave his order, he didn’t look in their direction again.
Kate gripped Graceann’s arm, her fingers digging into Graceann’s flesh beneath the heavy sweater. “Wow. The Falcon. I heard he left town the day after his graduation from Spirit Lake High fourteen years ago and hasn’t been heard from since.”
“Wonder what he’s doing back here,” Graceann said. In school, she’d had a crush on The Falcon even though he was two years ahead of her. She’d never told anyone, not even Kate.
“He’s a little scruffy,” Kate said.
“Scruffy, my tush. He’s hot.”
Kate grabbed her arm again as Graceann lifted her coffee mug. Coffee sloshed over the sides onto the counter. Setting the mug down, Graceann gave her friend an exasperated look. “What?”
“I have it,” Kate said. “Your fiancé.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The Falcon. I’ll bet he’ll pretend to be your fiancé. After Zach bowed out, you said you’d be willing to pay someone. The Falcon always needed cash. Do it. Ask him.”
“You’re crazy. I haven’t seen him in fourteen years. He could be a serial killer for all we know.”
Kate shook her head. “He’s not. We would have heard.” She leaned closer. “You’ll be at your grandmother’s with the whole family. You’ll be safe. Your grandmother is old-fashioned. She’ll put you in separate rooms. It’s not like he’s a total stranger. Bring him to meet the family, pretend you’re wildly in love. Your mom will quit trying to fix you up. After the holidays you won’t ever have to see him again. Once you’re back in New York, you can tell your family you broke the engagement. That’s what you planned to do with Zach.”
Graceann put a hand up. “This is the craziest idea you’ve ever had, and you’ve had plenty. I can’t ask this guy to go along with my scheme. I’ll have to resign myself to fending off another loser my mom pushes at me. She means well, but she won’t accept that I’m not interested in marriage. After what Michael did, my whole family feels sorry for me. I don’t want or need their pity.”
“Michael was a jerk. He didn’t deserve you. Listen to me, Graceann. Ask. The. Falcon. What could it hurt to at least ask?”
“His name is Jake, and I’ll think about it.”
“Don’t wait too long. He’ll be out of here and you’ll have missed your chance.”
Graceann sipped her coffee and stole glances at Jake Falco. Maybe Kate was right. Jake had always been nice to her and had even come to her aid once when the mean girls were harassing her. He might help her out now. At her grandmother’s, they’d be surrounded by family. She wouldn’t be alone with him. Her gut feelings were usually on target, so she’d learned to listen. She’d ignored her instincts with Michael and look how that had turned out. Something was telling her to go ahead and take a chance on Jake.
“I’ll do it.” She stood before she lost her nerve.
Dressed for the outdoors, Jake waited by the front door with Graceann for Lorrie to bring Isabella. Graceann leaned in to whisper to him. “You were really laying it on thick back there in the kitchen.”
She looked so adorably self-righteous with her eyes flashing. He suppressed a laugh, knowing even a smile would get him a punch in the arm. Giving her what he hoped was an innocent look, he said, “I want to spoil you, sweetheart.”
“I’m not you’re sweetheart, angel.”
“Who says you’re not?”
Before Graceann could answer, Lorrie came down the stairs holding a bundled-up Isabella. When she got to the bottom step, she let the little girl down. Isabella waddled over to Graceann and held out her arms. Laughing, Graceann picked her up. “You can barely move in all these clothes, sweetie.” She kissed Isabella on her cheek.
“I don’t want her to catch cold,” Lorrie said.
“She can’t move enough to catch a snowflake,” Graceann said.
Jake opened the door. “Let’s go build that snowman.”
Later, a giggling Isabella helped Jake and Graceann roll a huge snowball into place for the base of the snowman. The little girl was covered with snow. “You look like a snowman yourself,” Jake said. Isabella giggled louder.
Graceann knelt to brush snow off Isabella’s coat and adjust the little girl’s hat. At the picture of maternal love, Jake reeled with unexpected longing. Fragments of memories rose in him like spirits arising from a mist—his mother adjusting his hat in the same way Graceann fixed Isabella’s; his mother holding him against her chest in a tender embrace. When he was small, his mom always wore rose-scented perfume. Even now the scent of roses reminded him of her. He had so few memories of loving times with his mother. Too soon, the roses were replaced by the stench of alcohol.
Uneasy with his painful trip down memory lane, Jake gathered snow and molded it between his hands until he had a perfectly formed ball. Today was a time for fun, the kind of fun he barely remembered with his own parents. He readied his arm for the pitch.
Finished with the little girl’s hat, Graceann stood. Her eyes grew wide when she saw the snowball. “Oh, no, you don’t,” she said, laughing. She scooped up a clump of snow to throw at him, but he was too fast. His snowball hit her in the shoulder.
Before he could throw another one, she quickly formed a ball and threw it, hitting him in the arm.
Laughing, Isabella danced around them. “Me, me!” she shouted.
“Over here, Izzie,” Graceann said. “Girls against the guy.”
“I’m outnumbered,” Jake said in mock fright.
The intense snowball fight was the most fun Jake had had in more years than he could remember. His leather jacket was covered with snow, but he didn’t care. He deliberately took a very long time making each snowball to give the females, especially Isabella, ample time to pummel him.
Graceann and Isabella’s laughter tinkled in the clear air, a happy, carefree sound that shot an unfamiliar feeling of joy to his heart. With a saucy smile for him, Graceann handed Isabella a perfectly formed snowball to throw. His chest tightened. Graceann had never looked more sweet than she did at this moment, with her thick hair flying around her face and her cheeks pink from the cold. Her full lips—.
He had no more time to think as Isabella’s snowball hit him in the heart. Clutching his chest, Jake fell onto the snow. Isabella squealed with delight. The females high-fived each other.
Jake’s laughter joined theirs. No matter what happened between him and Graceann, this Christmas with the Palmer family would go down as his happiest ever.
About Cara Marsi
Cara Marsi, an award-winning author and self-proclaimed TV junkie, is a former corporate drone and cubicle dweller. Freed of her fabric-covered cage, she can now indulge her love of all things romance. She craves books with happy endings and loves to write about independent heroines and the strong heroes who love them. And she loves to put her characters in dangerous situations or situations merely dangerous to their hearts and watch them fight for the happy endings they deserve.
An eclectic author, Cara is published in romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She’s also published numerous short romance stories in national women’s magazines and online. When not traveling or dreaming of traveling, Cara and her husband live on the East Coast in a house ruled by their fat black diva of a cat named Killer.