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Lea Coll

Christmas In July Ebook Bundle

Christmas In July Ebook Bundle

Regular price £32.00 GBP
Regular price £55.00 GBP Sale price £32.00 GBP
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🎄It's sizzling hot outside - just in time to celebrate Christmas in July! A limited edition collection of holiday romances. Get ready to be snowed-in with one bed and a grumpy mountain man.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “If you like Hallmark movies with spice, snow, and hot drinks... then you will love these books!” - Jana, Goodreads Reviewer

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "“With these books, it's going to be Christmas all year long!” - Geri, Book Reviewer

Chapter 1 - Look Inside

“Can you cover for me? It’s coming down hard and fast, sooner than the meteorologists predicted,” Ava asked as I rested my stockinged feet on the rustic coffee table.

My weather app warned of a blizzard, with a second system possible in the coming days. I’d packed an overnight bag for this very possibility.

The lights from the Christmas tree twinkled on the blank screen of the TV mounted over the fire crackling in the fireplace. The smell of fresh pine and evergreens permeated the air. 

“It should be quiet. Two of the guests already canceled, asking if they can push back their reservations.”

The evening stretched out before me. I imagined drinking hot chocolate and eating some of the leftover pastries from Ava’s bakery while watching holiday movies. 

“Someone reserved the first-floor room yesterday, but I can’t imagine he’ll travel in this.” Ava’s voice trailed off like she’d covered the speaker, a young girl’s voice talking in the background. Probably one of her niece’s.

I hummed in agreement. Looking out the French doors to the garden, the snow was coming down at a good clip with an occasional gust of wind rattling the panes. The yard was lit with twinkling lights. I loved snow, especially at Christmas. Growing up in Maryland, it was a rare treat if it snowed before January. 

“We have a generator in the shed in case the power goes out. When Cade renovated the B & B, he re-wired it so it powers the water heater and kitchen appliances. It’ll heat the first floor, but you’ll still need to keep the fire going. There’s plenty of wood by the shed. Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“Don’t worry about anything. I’ve got this.” She’d showed me where the generator was and where to hook it up.

“Thanks, MacKenzie. I owe you one.” Ava hung up with promises to cover my shifts the few days around New Year’s to make up for it.

As the owner’s sister, and manager, Ava lived in the attic apartment. She’d recently opened a bakery in the marketplace, hiring me to help part-time at the B & B. 

I rested my head on the back of the overstuffed cushions of the couch. Excitement surged through me. I was alone. There was no one to cater to at the hotel. I could pretend I was a guest, donning one of the plush robes, slipping into the soft slippers, and maybe even dipping my toes into the jetted tub of the first-floor suite while I played holiday music on my phone. The night stretched out before me.

Getting up to make hot chocolate, and to see what pastries Ava left for the evening, a pounding on the door startled me.

I covered my rapidly beating heart with my hand, wondering if it was the last-minute guest Ava mentioned. Then I hurried to the foyer, not bothering to look out the window before pulling open the door. The only sound was the fresh-cut wreath swaying from the force.

The snow flurries stung my face. The porch lights illuminated the man standing in front of me, fist raised as if to knock again. 

Relief flooded his expression before he ducked his head, brushing past me. “I wasn’t sure if anyone would be here.”

I closed the door against the cold.

The man stomped his feet on the rug, shaking the snow from his coat. Head bowed, his brown hair was streaked with blond, longer on the top, shorter on the sides. “I rented a room late last night. I hope it’s still available. I have nowhere else to go. I’m—”

His voice was deep with a tone I couldn’t place. When he glanced up, his wet eyelashes framed achingly familiar blue eyes. 

“Ben. Ben Levine,” I breathed, not quite believing it was him.

He looked away quickly, pulling off his gloves, toeing off his boots. “That’s right.”

I’m sure his name was listed on the reservation calendar had I bothered to check. “You don’t remember?”

My heart dropped to my feet. 

Looking up slowly, recognition stole over his face. “Mac.”

I smiled at the nickname as memories assaulted me—talking to my new neighbor through a drainage pipe in our backyard, finding out he was one of three brothers, not the girl I’d hoped for. He’d still become my friend. “I go by MacKenzie now.”

I didn’t bother to point out he was the only one who ever called me Mac. We were neighbors first, then friends—never more than that no matter how much my youthful heart longed for him to see me as something more. 

“MacKenzie.” He said the name as if testing it for the first time. “You look—” his gaze traveled from the top of my head to my feet, heating me as he went, “great.”

My heart pinched that he hadn’t said beautiful or gorgeous. I’d dated my college boyfriend for years, thinking I’d finally moved on. Now my childhood crush was back, staying in my B & B. We were stuck here together.

Glancing down at my chunky red sweater I’d thrown on over black leggings, I laughed lightly. “I wasn’t expecting anyone in this weather.”

“The other guests—”

I glanced over at the computer on the counter as if it held the answer. “All canceled.”

“Are you sure it’s okay if I stay?”

Technically it was fine. The only problem was that my heart wouldn’t survive being snowed in with him. “You can’t stay with your parents?”

“My brother, Shane, is married with three kids. It’s a little crazy at the house when he’s visiting. I thought it would be quieter somewhere else.”

His eyes slid away from me, making me think there was more he wasn’t saying. His mom complained that he didn’t visit on holidays. I’d always wondered if I was the reason since I had a standing invitation to join the Levines.

Realizing I’d been staring for longer than was polite, I said, “Let me get your key. I’ll just check to make sure your room is ready.”

Walking him down the hall to the first-floor suite, I couldn’t help but think it was a good thing I hadn’t been in his bathtub when he knocked. That would have been awkward. 

I unlocked and pushed the door open. 

I gestured for him to walk in ahead of me. “Will this be okay?”

Fresh cut greenery was draped over the window with a red bow. Each room had been outfitted with a real tree with a separate theme. This one was decorated with Annapolis finds, colorful crabs and sailboats, white anchors, and birds intermixed with blue and white bulbs.  

He perused the room before resting his gaze on me. “This is perfect.”

Was he talking about the room or me? Did I even want to go down that road again, the one where I hoped every word, every touch meant he was interested in me?

“Will you be staying here, too?”

“I’ll sleep in the attic.” It was a good thing we would be sleeping several floors apart. Being in the same house as my childhood crush was a temptation I didn’t need.

The lights flickered then went off. Panic curled in my belly. Even though I should have been expecting it, it was like all of the air in the room was sucked out. A band tightened around my chest.

“Mac.” His voice was low and deep, filled with concern as I sensed rather than saw him move toward me.

I couldn’t speak. My hand fluttered uselessly to my neck.

I couldn’t even make out a shadow of his form. Instead, I focused on where the window was supposed to be. Not even a sliver of light poked through. The curtains must have been drawn tight. 

The smell of masculine spice registered before hands settled lightly on my shoulders. “Are you still afraid of the dark?”

As kids, I’d hid in the shed in his backyard during a game of hide-and-seek. It had taken him so long to find me, I’d gotten scared. I couldn’t call out or move. I was frozen in my chosen spot.

I nodded, forgetting he couldn’t see me.

“Is that a yes?” I sensed rather than saw him move toward me.

“Uh-huh,” I finally croaked out.

His arms surrounded me as he pulled me into the warmth of his body. I tucked my head into his chest, breathing in his scent, absorbing his warmth. “You’re okay. You’re safe.”

The same words he’d uttered when he’d found me in the shed, shaking uncontrollably. The same words that cemented my crush.

I snuggled in closer to ease the trembling of my limbs. It felt so good to be close to him again. The press of his hard pecs under my cheek and the strength in his biceps told me he’d filled out since high school. The smell of pine mixed with his scent—something spicy and masculine. 

Lifting my face, still unable to see him, I said, “I feel silly being afraid of the dark.”

He smoothed the hair out of my face, his movements clumsy in the dark. “It’s my fault. I was the one who took so long to find you that day.”

I shook my head. “It wasn’t.”

I didn’t have any hard feelings when I thought about that day, only warm, mushy ones. 

I swear I felt the ghost of a kiss on the top of my head before he said, “Let’s go find some candles.”

He kept an arm wrapped tightly around my waist as he slowly maneuvered me out the door and into the hallway.

“We have lanterns in the foyer closet. There’s a generator in the shed.” My words came out in short pants. I didn’t feel strong enough to go to the shed.

“We’ll find them.” 

I let his voice soothe me as we slowly made our way, following the light from the fireplace.

I showed him the lanterns we kept in the foyer closet. He handed me one, placing others around the room so it felt warm and cozy. “Will you be okay by the fire? I’ll go see about the generator.”

I nodded, not trusting my voice. My heart was beating rapidly but not because I was still scared. It was because I was still attracted to him, but I wasn’t a girl anymore, and he wasn’t a boy. We were adults, staying in this B & B together for whoever knows how long. 

Earlier I’d been excited for a night alone. Now I was excited for an entirely different reason. I had Ben all to myself. There weren’t any pesky brothers interfering or high school girls to distract him. It was just him and me. Was I brave enough to ask him why we stopped being friends? 

He hadn’t moved from his spot. He was probably worried after I’d gotten scared when the lights went out.

Drawing strength from his steady presence, I said, “I’ll be fine. The generator’s in the shed out back.”

I pointed through the French doors to the building with a small wreath on the door.

Looking around, he said, “Where’s your phone?”

I swung the lantern around the room until I found it on the coffee table where I’d left it after talking to Ava. 

He gave his number to me while I inputted it, sending him a text so he’d have mine. 

“Call me if you need me.”

“Thank you.” I wanted to think I could have handled the lights going out and getting the generator started on my own, but I was grateful he was here to help. When we were kids, he made me feel comforted and safe. It was bittersweet to see that nothing had changed.

My traitorous heart still held out hope that he’d notice me.

He nodded. “I’ll be right back.” 

“I’ll be here waiting.” It was no different when we were kids. My parents were rarely at home, and when they were, they weren’t attentive like Ben’s parents. It wasn’t uncommon for them to forget to make me dinner or sign my school papers. 

Ben’s family quickly adopted me as one of their own, making sure I’d eaten and gotten my homework done. They became the family I’d always wanted. As we got older, my friendship with Ben turned into a crush.

At some point, Ben pulled away. He had other interests―sports and girls. I still held on to hope that he’d notice me as more than a friend, but he never did.

 I was too scared of rejection to tell him the truth—my crush started that day in the shed and grew from there. Like a flower searching for the sun in a forest, I was constantly yearning for something I couldn’t have, wondering what I’d done wrong. It hurt too much to compare myself to his high school girlfriend, Britney. She was girly, confident, and popular. With no sister or parent to guide me, I was lost when it came to social cues and style. 

Ben went away to college, and I stayed. I no longer had to watch him date someone else. I’d hoped if I ever saw him again, I wouldn’t feel even a twinge of what I’d felt then. But I was wrong. If anything, I felt a stronger attraction to him.

To distract myself from the fact that Ben was here, and we were snowed in together, I collected extra batteries for the lanterns and lit candles in the kitchen and living room to make the space inviting. 

I had to remind myself that Ben was only here for a short time. Nothing would happen between us, no matter how much I wanted it to or how romantic the setting was.

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