The bestselling Hero’s Welcomes series continues with a juicy Christmas romance set in Seaside, North Carolina, where a bustling military base keeps this small town stocked with dedicated, lovable heroes.Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days a year, Allison Carmichael doesn’t mind being single. It sure beats dating another loser, and it keeps her heart safe. Then there’s that three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth day: Christmas Eve, the traditional time her entire family gathers together—and gangs up on her, demanding to know when she’s going to get married. This year, she swears, is going be different. And that’s why, at a charity auction she’s throwing on-base, she buys herself a man.Sergeant Troy Matthews insists that he’s not for sale. His time is, though, and he’s happy to donate it. Happier still when he learns the identity of the winning bidder: the redhead with the killer good looks and smart mouth who runs the veteran’s center. Allison needs Troy’s help to fool her family into believing they’re an item, and he’s all too happy to indulge her. But by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, their little charade is working a little too well . . . because Troy’s falling head over heels.
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“So there’s one thing I now know about you. You’re a good liar.” Allison folded her arms at her chest.
“Good, maybe. But I value honesty. Sometimes lying to someone is for their own good, though. A little white lie never really hurt anyone. Here’s one for you,” he leaned in closer and lowered his voice, “I have absolutely no interest in dating you, either.”
Her cheeks flushed.
“And I don’t think you’re the most beautiful woman in this room, and the thought of taking you out does not appeal to me whatsoever.” He shook his head. “Nope, not one little bit.”
She smiled. “Now I know two things about you. You lie well and you’re a smooth talker. So, do you agree to my proposal?”
Troy could just say yes, but he was enjoying engaging her in a conversation. “You know, when I was kid, Christmas was always magical. I’d sit with the toy catalog and create this huge, mile-long list of the things I wanted. I never got so excited about a pencil and paper.”
“Did you get everything on the list?” she asked.
“So your family had money?”
He nodded. His family practically owned the town he’d grown up in. He didn’t know what it felt like to want for something until his cousin Dale had died in 9-11, the deciding factor in him joining the military. “I figure the more money raised for those kids, the better their Christmas will be.”
“That’s my goal. I want this to be the best Christmas Mercy’s kids have ever had.”
“So, if I have to take you out . . .” He trailed off, smiling at her.
“We’re just going to talk. Have a meal or something together. No kissing, no handholding.”
Troy held up his hands. “I’m an honorable guy. I don’t force myself on women. Truth is, I usually have to fight them off.” He winked again.
“And you can’t act like that when you meet my mother.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“All flirty and charming. She’ll never believe that I’d fall for someone like that.”
He tried not to take offense because no matter what she was saying, she was attracted to him. He could see it in her dilated pupils and the way her chest rose just slightly under her racing pulse. “No? What kind of guy exactly would you fall for?”
Allison looked around the room. There was still a nice-sized crowd laughing and mingling. Christmas music filled the merry air. “I wouldn’t fall for any kind of guy right now. That’s why I’m pretending with you.”
Annie Rains is a contemporary romance author who writes small town love stories set in fictional towns on the coast of North Carolina. Raised in one of America’s largest military communities, Annie often features heroes who fight for their countries, while also fighting for a place to call home and a good woman to love. When Annie isn’t writing, she’s spending time with her husband and 3 children, or reading a book by one of her favorite authors.
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