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A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING
Bar V5 Ranch Series
BY MELISSA McCLONE
A kiss is just a kiss…
Unless it’s under the mistletoe.
Ellie Smith is determined to make up for Christmases past by spreading holiday cheer throughout the Bar V5 dude ranch, but tech “bah, humbug” billionaire, Josiah Whittaker, refuses to bask in the spirit of the season.
Unwilling to let the geek-to-gorgeous Josiah win, Ellie plans to give him a Christmas he’ll never forget. But after a simple kiss under the mistletoe, Ellie and Josiah both start questioning everything. Can Christmas really bring the gift neither one of them were expecting: true love?
A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING
Bar V5 Ranch Series
BY MELISSA McCLONE
Ellie Smith stood in front of Room 104, holding a tray. Cookies and milk were typical of the welcome treats given on check-in day, but Nate had never asked her to “report back” on a guest after she finished her delivery.
Special treatment for Mr. Josiah Whittaker?
Most likely. And not surprising.
He was the Bar V5’s first billionaire guest. She couldn’t deny her curiosity. He’d been her late brother Buck’s high school classmate and friend. The two boys had been opposites. Josiah was brilliant, but struggled socially. Her brother was everyone’s best friend, but barely made passing grades. Somehow, they’d found common ground, even with Buck’s illness.
She knocked on the door.
“Go away, Nate.”
Only three words, but she recognized the pissed off tone.
“Not Nate.” She used her sunshine and daisies voice that had calmed riled guests in the past. “Ellie, with housekeeping, Mr. Whittaker.”
The ranch had a casual and laidback atmosphere compared to the fancy Graff Hotel in Marietta, but Meg Redstone Murphy, who was in charge of guest services at the Bar V5, had told Ellie to address guests with Mr., Mrs., or Ms. unless instructed otherwise.
“I’ve got enough towels and pillows,” he said.
Ellie blew out a frustrated breath. Why did everyone assume her only job was to deliver extra linens? No one noticed what she did unless something was missing or not working. But she hadn’t taken this job to receive compliments.
“I’m glad you have what you need.” She spoke through the door, trying to raise her cheery tone by a factor of ten. “I have something special for you.”
She stood there and waited. And waited. And waited.
Ellie knocked again. No response.
Stay or go? She ground the toe of her shoe against the floor. Hanging outside a guest’s door for more than a few minutes wasn’t first-class customer service. More like loitering or stalking.
Footsteps sounded on the other side of the door. “Are you still here?”
We aim to please at the Bar V5. She repeated the ranch’s motto, and then smiled. “Yes.”
The deadbolt clicked. The door opened three inches, maybe four, enough to see a thin space between the doorjamb and the edge of the door. “Welcome to the Bar V5.”
“There are a million other places I’d rather be than here.” His deep, gruff voice was a hundred and eighty degrees away from the shy, quiet geek she remembered. Ellie used to spy on him and her brother during their study sessions.
The door opened wider.
Oh, baby. Her mouth watered. Heat climbed up her neck.
Talk about a hottie.
This couldn’t be…him.
Over six feet tall, he wore khakis and a forest green hoodie. His brown hair was messy as if he’d been sleeping. The ends curled, begging to be wrapped around a finger. Hers? She tightened her grip on the tray.
The frown on his face should have made him unattractive, but she wanted to make the hard lines go away. Bet he’d be model gorgeous if he grinned.
Definitely not how she remembered him. That begged a question. This had to be him? Better make sure. “Mr. Whittaker?”
“Call me, Josiah.”
Okay, she had the right guy, but how had he turned into this?
She tried to reconcile the handsome man with the teenager, who carried a beat-up laptop and never took the time to shower. Tried and failed. She’d been fourteen the last time she saw him so maybe she’d forgotten what he’d looked like.
Who was she kidding? A fourteen-year-old girl would have remembered a guy this attractive. He’d changed. And, boy, did she like the changes.
“What do you have for me?” The words came out sharp, like staccato notes.
Heat crept up her face. Oh, no. She was staring like a swooning teen.
Ellie raised the tray. “Fresh-from-the-oven cookies and cold milk.”
Her voice sounded hoarse, a little husky.
His frown deepened. “Christmas cookies?”
“Two gingerbread ones. The rest are chocolate chip and peanut butter.” The choices had surprised Ellie, given how many types Rachel had baked today, until Nate explained chocolate chip and peanut butter were their guest’s two favorites.
Josiah took a closer look at the tray.
The whiff of soap and musk and something else Ellie couldn’t define put the delicious scent of the cookies to shame. She imagined his brown hair wet from the shower, water dripping onto his shoulders and down his chest to a fluffy, white towel wrapped low around his hips.
She jerked back. The carafe of milk almost toppled, but Josiah caught it in time.
He eyed her curiously. “Careful.”
No kidding. His image scorched her brain. What was going on? She’d learned the hard way to not fall for a guest, but this one was setting fantasies into motion.
His expectant look told her he was waiting for an answer.
“Spider,” she blurted. “I thought I saw a spider, but it wasn’t. A spider.”
Pathetic answer, but saying the truth would embarrass her into hiding for the rest of his stay. Which was a month long. That would get her in trouble. Or fired.
“At least it wasn’t a mouse,” he said.
“The barn cats take care of those.”
His gaze zeroed in on the cookies.
She remembered his eyes being hazel, but they looked closer to green, more like a grass-covered meadow than a grove of pine trees. Razor stubble covered his chin and gave him a sexy edge.
Sexy was the wrong adjective to associate with a guest, even if she were only looking. She swallowed, ignored her sweaty palms.
USA Today bestselling author, Melissa McClone has published over thirty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group and been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.
Links to Melissa’s website, blog, books, etc.
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Melissa_McClone_A_Christmas_Homecoming?id=gCvPCgAAQBAJ
In one scene of my story, a reindeer is mentioned. I thought it would be fun to put together a reindeer-themed prize pack. Which one of Santa’s reindeer is your favorite?
Answer in the comment section and one lucky winner will receive the reindeer prize pack that includes:
- Stuffed reindeer
- A Christmas Homecoming Keychain
- Hot pad
- Cupcake holders with reindeer and Santa picks
- Hot chocolate
- Sticker book
- Autographed Christmas title from my paperback backlist
** Open Internationally **
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!
Thanks, Melissa, for sharing your story with us!!