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Love Me By Christmas
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A sexy, standalone novel from the New York Times & USA TODAY bestselling author of the Play-by-Play series and Hope series.
Ellie Washington lost her husband in a tragedy five years ago at Christmas. She wouldn’t have made it through her grief if not for her husband’s brother, Nick, who helped her pick up the pieces of her shattered life. And with every year, her feelings for Nick have grown. Now she realizes she might be in love with him, but that’s not fair, because Nick deserves a life that isn’t about his brother’s widow and son.
Sharing his life with Ellie and her son has been the balm that soothed Nick’s soul after losing his brother. Now that friendship has turned into something deeper. Nick doesn’t want to upset the status quo, but someone has to make the first move, and it’s time they figure out if their feelings are real. Nick believes in what they have. He also believes in Christmas miracles, and he thinks they’re both long overdue for one.
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“Do you want me to bring the Christmas decorations down from the attic?”
Ellie Washington tensed. She hated this time of year. And even though it would be five years this holiday season, she still missed her husband, John.
She turned to John’s older brother, Nick, and forced a smile. “I guess. Sure.”
Nick leaned against the kitchen counter. In many ways he resembled John. Tall, lean, dark good looks. But John had been her sweet, button-down shirt and khaki pants nerd—a financial planner by trade who’d worn the same look at home.
Nick was a grease monkey, an auto mechanic who owned a shop a few miles from his house. He wore jeans and T-shirts that were often smudged and dirty. His black hair was always a bit too long, and his eyes were a sea blue, whereas John had had green eyes.
She missed John’s eyes, that way they used to crinkle at the corners when he laughed.
Still stuck in the past, Ellie. Five years later, you’re still thinking about John.
Time to move on.
She knew it, and yet she still felt…stuck. As if she couldn’t quite find that joy that used to be hers.
Especially at the holidays, which was always tough.
But this year was going to be different.
“Hey, Ellie. You listening?”
She blinked, lost in the memories. “Sorry. What?”
“I said I thought maybe we’d take Henry and get a tree this weekend.”
Her stomach knotted. John had died at Christmastime five years ago. Henry had been growing in her belly and they’d stood in front of the tree, John rubbing her belly bump and the two of them dreaming about the following year, when there would be a new baby in their house.
And then her husband had died and her life had gone to hell. It had taken her a long time to get over that, to be able to function again as a living, breathing human.
She thought she was doing pretty damn well at the functioning part. The living part? Maybe not so much.
Nick came over and pulled her against him. “You’re thinking about John.”
He always seemed to know her so well, knew her moods and even her reflective moments. That came from spending so much time together over the past five years.
She looked up at him. “Yes.”
He rubbed her back. “We can put off the tree and the decorations if you want.”
She pulled away. “Nope. We can’t. Henry loves Christmas. You love Christmas, probably even more than Henry does. I’ll get into it once all the decorations are up just like I always do.”
He tipped her chin back with his fingers. “Like you always do?”
She let her lips lift, just a little. “Okay, buddy. Maybe I’m not all that jolly this time of year, but I’m working on it.
And if she wasn’t all gung ho about Christmas, okay, so maybe she was still a work in progress there. Her husband had died in a fire on Christmas Eve when she’d been at work. John, exhausted and overworked, had fallen asleep. Faulty wiring had sparked a fire in their old house and he’d died from smoke inhalation.
“So…what do you think this year?” Nick asked. “A noble fir?”
She shook herself out of the bad memories. Bad memories were for the past, and she refused to live in the past anymore. “That sounds great.”
Nick picked up his phone. “We could go today. There’s still plenty of time before it gets dark.”
“Or we could wait until tomorrow.”
Nick cracked a smile. “Yeah, because why do something today we could do tomorrow instead? Especially something you don’t really want to do, right?”
He gave her that look that told her he knew her all too well. And of course he did.
“Maybe we could wait a few days?” She cast him a hopeful look.
He responded with his signature smile. “Sure.”
She wouldn’t let him see the relief that swept through her. Instead, she offered up a smile. “Thanks, Nick.”
“Hey, no big deal.”
“It is a big deal. You have no idea how much everything you’ve done for me, and for Henry, has meant to me.”
“Whoa. Where did that come from? And no thanks is necessary, Ellie. You’re family.”
Family. Yeah, that’s what they were to each other. But they were also so much more. At least now. Back then when John died, they’d been each other’s saviors.
She’d moved into his house five years ago. She’d had nowhere else to go. She didn’t have family. When she’d married John, his family had become her family. And after the fire, it had been Nick who’d taken her in and become her lifeline.
She hadn’t meant to stay at Nick’s house this long. But she’d been five months pregnant with Henry when John had died, and finding a new place to live had been impossible at that time. Then she’d given birth and Henry had been an infant and Nick had told her he had three bedrooms and there was no hurry.