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I was blessed this year with so many wonderful things. Despite their return a handful of weeks ago, I managed to spend a blissful five months without migraines, and anyone who suffers from them, knows that is something to truly be thankful for. I also had two novellas published so close to the holidays this year. You Belong With Me, and the one I am here to celebrate with you all during the Blissemas 2016 event (http://blissemas.co.uk/), Love and Snowball Fights. Sometimes we find ourselves faced with adversity in our lives that we can choose to either rise up and face or turn tail and run. Which one would you choose if you were in Lane's shoes?
|Cover artist © Bree Archer|
Lane was set upon by many demons early on in his young life, from losing his parents at the tender age of 15, ending up in a harsh foster care system, to being bounced around from foster home to foster home. His experiences pushed him behind a wall, causing him to remain painfully shy and socially awkward, to the point where he moved around enough to remain friendless. Until he hits Christmas Valley and befriends Tal, the man who owns Tal's Bar and Grill, and the brother of the one man who force him from behind the carefully erected shields he'd built over the years.
Trey is a loud, brash, yet protective alpha male who would do anything for his family, including intimidating someone smaller than him if he thought that person was out to hurt someone he loved. His first impression of Lane is tainted by the many drifters who have come through Tal's place, using and abusing his brother's good nature, but over time Trey comes to realize Lane is exactly who he appears to be.
A snowstorm on Christmas Eve brings them into close quarters and the embers spark between them, smoldering slowly, but surely.
To say thank you to all my readers for their support over the years and to those who have followed me along on my blog tour as I have released Love and Snowball Fights, I am giving away a $25 Dreamspinner Press Gift Card along with an eBook copy of any of my backlog. All you have to do to enter is comment and tell me what YOU are most thankful for this past year? What happened to you this year that you are grateful for? That's it! :)
Lane Freeman supposed there were worse places to be dumped than a place named Christmas Valley. After being ejected from the foster care system, he spent the past five years hitchhiking and moving around. But six months of a steady job at Tal’s Bar and Grill, an apartment, and even a three-legged cat, have him almost ready to risk putting down a few roots when Tal’s brother comes home for the holidays.
Dallas firefighter Trey Jenkins reluctantly accepts that Lane isn’t like the other drifters who’ve come through his brother’s place. A fragile attraction begins to bloom between them, in spite of the many reasons they both have to fight it. Trey wants to give Lane a family, but experience has taught Lane to depend on no one but himself. Will winter love burn hot in a town called Christmas Valley, or will Lane return to his wandering ways?
Trey’s ankle felt much better that morning, if his desire to dig out the front sidewalk of his parents’ home was any indication. Lane warred with the urge to help and the side of himself demanding he remain as far away from Trey as possible. The kindness in him won out, and after he’d dressed in a pair of jeans two sizes too big for him, held up by a borrowed belt, and the long-sleeved shirt he wore the day they left his apartment, which Mrs. Jenkins had somehow washed without him knowing, he put on his boots and grabbed his hoodie and jacket.
When Trey came downstairs, he frowned at Lane. “You should stay inside where it’s warm.”
Lane ignored the bite of rejection and shook his head. “I want to help.”
Trey studied him for a long moment and then sighed. “Let’s at least see if Ma has an extra pair of gloves somewhere.”
Minutes later Lane had a snow shovel in his hand and was working beside Trey to clear out the walkway to the street and the driveway. They wouldn’t be able to drive until the snowplows came through, but this way it was already done. He saw others in the neighborhood doing the same thing, and the mindless activity soothed him as he dumped each shovelful away from the walk. Several times he bumped into Trey but merely apologized and continued to work. When they reached the end of the pathway, the muscles in Lane’s arms quivered and he couldn’t help his heavy breathing. Trey, of course, was barely winded. Lane made a face but started digging toward the cars.
“You can go inside and rest now if you want to. I can finish this up,” Trey said.
Lane shook his head. “I’m fine.”
He thought he heard Trey whisper, “Stubborn,” but ignored the comment and kept digging. The crunch of the snow giving way to the shovel gave him a deep sense of satisfaction.
It wasn’t more than a couple of feet into the mountain of snow between the walk and the driveway that he felt something hit his back. Lane jerked up and turned to stare wide-eyed at Trey, who smirked at him and casually tossed another snowball in the air, waiting to see what Lane would do.
“I can’t believe you just did that!” Lane exclaimed. He scooped up a handful of snow and threw it at Trey. Some of it hit his chest, but it scattered as it flew through the air, making little to no impact. Trey raised an eyebrow, but instead of saying anything, he lobbed the one he held at Lane. Lane attempted to sidestep, but it grazed his arm.
The gloves were off and they started lobbing snow at one another. Trey had the clear advantage, having had many snowball fights in his life. Lane guessed Trey was going easy on him, though. He couldn’t stop laughing, ducking behind mounds of snow to avoid whatever Trey threw his way. The longer they played, the more confident Lane became. He crafted each ball quick and sure, compressing it tighter as their fun continued, but it was the final snowball that hit Trey square in the face that ended their game.
Lane gasped in horror and rushed out from behind the barricade as Trey fell backward into a mound of white. “Trey!”
Lane almost slipped as he skidded to a stop next to where Trey lay. Trey’s eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving.
Lane dropped to his knees next to Trey. “Oh, my god, Trey. I’m sorry! Please be okay!” He leaned over and started brushing the snow from Trey’s face, wincing at how red Trey’s nose and forehead looked. “Trey,” Lane pleaded and shook Trey gently.
Suddenly Trey reached up and grabbed Lane around the waist, twisting them until Lane lay beneath him. Lane gave a sound of protest, but it was cut off when Trey held a snowball he hadn’t noticed before over him. “That wasn’t very nice,” Trey husked.
“I-I’m sorry,” Lane stuttered, very aware of Trey’s hard body on top of his. “I didn’t mean to. Are you okay?”
Trey’s eyes crinkled at the corner and one side of his mouth came up in a half smile. “All’s fair in love and snowball fights, Lane.”
He dangled the snowball closer to Lane’s face. “You wouldn’t,” Lane protested, ignoring the comment about love.
Chuckling, Trey shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. I’ll make you a deal.”
Lane swallowed. “What is it?”
“Go back inside and rest while I finish clearing the driveway or….” Trey lowered the snowball a bit more.
For a half a second Lane considered it and then said, “No.”
Trey clucked his tongue a couple of times. “You really are a glutton for punishment.”
Lane glared up at him. “I’m not going to sit around and do nothing while you’re out here with an injured ankle.”
He saw a slight hesitance in Trey’s posturing, but it disappeared rapidly. Trey kept his word, but he didn’t shove it in Lane’s face as Lane expected, squeezing his eyes shut in preparation. Oh no. Trey chose to stuff it down the front of Lane’s shirt. Lane gasped at the icy chill, eyes flying open to stare in shock at Trey, who had a wide grin on his face. He remained still for several seconds, absorbing what Trey had done and feeling the ice melt against his skin, sliding down his chest.
Instead of getting mad, Lane chose to get even. He grabbed as much snow as he could from beside him and shoved it up the back of Trey’s leather jacket and under his shirt. Trey let out an exclamation of shock and sat up to fluff out his clothes in order to dislodge the ice. Seeing his chance, Lane squirmed out from under Trey and stood. He went to move around Trey but wasn’t fast enough. Trey tumbled him down in the snow once more. Lane let out an “oomph” as he hit the hard white surface.
“The last person who did something like that didn’t survive,” Trey growled, eyes twinkling to show Lane he wasn’t serious. Their faces were even closer to one another than before, and Lane noticed a small white scar at the corner of Trey’s mouth and the dark flecks of brown hidden in the steel of Trey’s irises.
“It was only fair,” Lane wheezed.
Trey grunted. “Maybe so, but I can’t let that trespass go.”
Lane wriggled under Trey, attempting to get free once more. His movements caused Trey’s eyes to darken to that liquid silver, and he halted, not really knowing what to do. He was tired of fighting it, but at the same time, knew he should hold strong against the only thing that lay in Trey’s direction: pain.
“Lane?” Trey queried.
“Can I kiss you?”
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