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Instalove Christmas

Instalove Christmas

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Hope Ford brings you five of her steamy, instalove Christmas books in one collection.

Totally Smitten
Her Christmas Soldier
V Card For Christmas
Sleighing Mr. Right
Mason: Mail Order Brides for Christmas

Main Tropes

  • Protective Man
  • Curvy Woman
  • Ex-Con
  • Tattoo Artist
  • OTT
  • All the Feels

Synopsis

USA Today Bestselling Author Hope Ford brings you five of her steamy, instalove Christmas books in one collection.

Totally Smitten – When my “fake” boyfriend cancels, I take my boss home with me for Christmas. Can I keep my feelings for him hidden?

Her Christmas Soldier - She shows up at my door and gives me a glimpse of what I’ve been missing. I can be her Christmas Soldier… but now I’m wondering how I’m going to let her go.

V Card For Christmas – He asked me to be his fake wife... I gave him my V Card.

Sleighing Mr. Right - I have to figure out how to make him my Mr. Right… instead of my Mr. Right Now.

Mason: Mail Order Brides for Christmas - He’s a scarred, gruff, military man that wants to be left alone... but then he met his wife.

Intro to Chapter 1

Chapter 1 from Totally Smitten

Baker

“What’s wrong?” I ask Tara, my administrative
assistant. She’s sitting at her desk with a pile of tissues around her. She’s
obviously added more tinsel and garland since I left this morning even though I’ve told her over and over the office doesn’t need decorating.

She looks up at me as if she’s surprised to see me standing at the door. She must really be upset if she didn’t hear my dually truck pull up in front of our trailer. The walls in here are pretty thin.

“Nothing, I’m fine,” she tells me with a sniffle.

“I’ve never pegged you as a liar,” I tell her, always straight to the point.

She bursts out sobbing. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I shouldn’t lie to you. I’m upset,” she admits, holding up the wadded-up tissue in her hand as if that’s proof. She must not realize that the way her eyes are swollen red and her face is blotchy
is a dead giveaway.

Tara Scott is one of the most dependable, hardworking, loyal workers I’ve ever had. Most days, I don’t know what I’d do without her. She comes in early, leaves late, gives me things I need for meetings before I need them. She’s a godsend.

Honestly, the only complaint that I could have for her is her incessant want to cover every bare inch of the office in holiday cheer at Christmas time. Other than that, she’s
perfect.

I sit down in the chair across from her. I’ve sat in this chair a hundred times to dictate notes
or to have her help me strategize something. But right now it’s different. I’ve
never seen her upset, and to say it bothers me is an understatement. Tara is way
too friendly and kind to be hurting. “Tell me what happened. What’s wrong?” I’m
already thinking back on the day, wondering who could have been in the office
and upset her. The visitors we get are usually the construction workers, but
all of my guys know not to mess with Tara. They know she’s special to me. I’ve
threatened them enough that it’s comical now when they come to the office. If
I’m not here, they stand in the entryway with the door open. Tara doesn’t
understand it. But she doesn’t need to. Not yet.

She takes a deep breath and sits back in her chair. I ignore the clock on the wall that just
struck six pm and is playing a Christmas tune. I barely hold back the roll of my eyes and encourage her. “C’mon, you can tell me.”

“My date cancelled on me,” she half whispers, half sobs.

“Date?” I asked, surprised. Probably too surprised by the hurt on her face. I clear my throat. “I didn’t know you were dating anyone.”

Tara is pretty in a plain way. She wears big thick glasses that cover half her face. Her long brown hair is always up in a bun, and she’s curvy. Although I have to admit that I’ve always noticed how sweet her curves are and usually have to force myself to look away from them.

She’s old fashioned in a lot of ways and uses words that make her seem way older than her twenty-three years.

“I’m not dating anyone.”

Confused, I tell her, “I don’t understand.”

“I hired someone to go home with me… to act like my boyfriend. And well, he has the flu. They’re looking for a replacement, but with it being the holidays, they just don’t
know…”

“Tara, slow down. You hired a stranger to act like your boyfriend? What if he’s a crazy person? A psycho. Anything. What were you thinking?” My anxiety just went up a notch, and
I don’t know if it’s because she’s talking about dating or the fact she was going to take a stranger home with her.

She shrugs her shoulders, and I give her a pointed look. We know each other well enough that she knows I’m not going to just walk away from this conversation now.

She pulls her
shoulders back. “My parents are worried about me and want me to move home–”

“You can’t leave,” I tell her immediately. I’m not her boss—well, I’m her work boss, but I don’t have any say on what she can and can’t do, or where she can live. But just her saying they want her to move causes me to panic. I’ve tried to hide my feelings from her, but now I’m thinking I did the wrong thing.

“I’m not. But they
won’t let up. They are so worried about me. You’ve met my parents. You know how
wonderful they are, but they’re worried, and I hate what I’m doing to them. I
was selfish moving so far away, but I never thought they would be this stressed
out about it. And I know they’re right. I’m here. Three hours away from home. I
have no friends, no one to call if I’m sick or need something. Maybe they’re
right. I just need to admit I lied to them…”

I get lost in her
rambling. I know that Tara is different than most women, but I thought she was
happy here. I thought we were friends.

She’s sobbing again,
and because I can’t take it anymore, I stand up and circle the desk, sitting on
the edge of it and putting my hand on her shoulder. “First of all, you’re not
here alone. I’m your friend, and if you’re sick or ever need something, you
call me,” I tell her gruffly. I’ve never cared before about being soft or
dealing with emotion, but right now, I wish I was better at it.

“Second of all, what
exactly did you tell your parents about your boyfriend?”

“We’re friends?” she
asks me with surprise.

I’ve obviously done
too good hiding my feelings from her. She’s way too young for me and quite
frankly not the type of girl that would normally draw my interest. But there’s
something about her. I’ve started coming back to the office to make sure she
gets to her car safely, I’ve even followed her home a few times when it was
after dark. She’s brought out a protective instinct about me, and I sort of
don’t know what to do with it. “Yes, we’re friends. I mean. I know I’m your
boss, but I’d still call you my friend. So that means if you need something,
you call me.” I wait for the words to sink in before I ask her again. “So what
do your parents know about your boyfriend?”

“Nothing. I told
them we’d been dating a few months, but I wanted to wait to tell them all about
him until after they’d met him.” She shrugs her shoulders. “It bought me time
since I wasn’t sure who the dating agency would find for me.”

She pulls out her
phone and opens her internet app. “Maybe there’s another dating service I can
call.”

I barely stop myself
from ripping the phone from her hands. Calmly, I take the phone from her and
set it upside down on the desk. “I’ll do it,” I tell her.

She recoils from me
like I’m a poisonous snake. “Holy mackerel. What?” she asks.

I can’t help but
smirk at her reaction. In the beginning, I always thought she was joking when
she would throw out old fashioned slang. I thought she was trying to be funny.
But I’ve discovered that’s just the way she is. She doesn’t cuss. And she
always says off the wall things, but I’ve come to love that about her. However,
her reaction tells me everything I need to know about how she feels about me. I
thought for sure I had sensed she was interested in me too. Maybe I was way
off. She’s just not into you, Baker. Damn! “I’ll go
with you. I don’t like the idea of you taking some stranger.”

She jumps up from
her seat and starts pacing the room. “You can’t go with me. You’re my boss. I
could never ask you to do this.”

Still leaning on her
desk, I cross my arms and legs calmly. “You’re not asking me. I’m going. Plus,
you know me, it’s not like I had plans for Christmas.”

“You hate
Christmas!” she explodes.

“I don’t hate
Christmas. I just never celebrated it growing up, that’s all,” I tell her. Tara
doesn’t know a lot about my childhood. I don’t really talk about it.

She just stands
there and stares at me, still looking at me as if I have two heads or
something. “What? If you don’t think I’m the type of guy you want – I mean as
your fake boyfriend—then I understand.”

She shakes her head.
“It’s not that. No one is going to believe you”—she waves her hand toward
me—“are going to be interested in me.” And then points at herself.

I could tell her
that she’s lovely and has the biggest heart of anyone I know. That to me, she’s
beautiful, and I’d be lucky to have her on my arm. But I don’t say any of that.
I stand up to my full height, grab her by the shoulders, and look down in her
open-mouthed, surprised face. “So when do we leave?”

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