Christmas Getaway: Claus And Effect\Caught At Christmas\Candy Canes And Crossfire

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9780373837298: Christmas Getaway: Claus And Effect\Caught At Christmas\Candy Canes And Crossfire

Take Eloise. First she's kidnapped by Santa, and now she's camping out in an abandoned lighthouse with the most infuriatingly intoxicating cop she's ever met. Is she sleeping with the enemy...or the man destined to make her Mrs. Claus?

Meanwhile Jean is abducted to a remote ranch, stuck teaching a handsome Texas Ranger how to enjoy a little sensual Christmas cheer.

And Molly? Her nuptials are shot up and her fiancé's a no-show, but when she arrives at a supposedly private Australian hideaway to recoup, she's not alone... and the heat is enough to melt the mere memory of a white Christmas.

Three women, connected by friendship and fate, are taking cover...with men sexy enough to unwrap!

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

James Fitzpatrick, known to his co-workers as Fitz, his mother as Jimmy-boy, his stepfather as That Kid, and most of the women he met as a heartless bastard, slid through the shadows, blending in silently. It was a cold night in Boston— the wind was blowing, but at least the snow had stopped for the time being. Two weeks before Christmas and the snow on the ground was wet and slushy. He was wearing black Converse All Stars, because they were fast and light and blended in with the night. They were also made of canvas and soaked with wet, dirty snow.

His feet were the least of his problems. The patrol car was cruising past the alleyway, the bright beam of light scouring every corner, but he was skinny enough to duck back, flattening himself against the brick wall, holding his breath. He didn't want to have to shoot another cop, but he wouldn't hesitate if he had to. Right now there wasn't room for sentiment. He was out to survive, at all costs.

The police cruiser kept moving, but he didn't allow himself to relax, even for a moment. Two blocks over, the Downtown Crossing district was jammed with shoppers, and there was always the possibility he could blend in with them. But the police were everywhere, searching for him, and he couldn't count on luck.

He slid out of the shadows, cursing as the pain lanced him. The bullet had gone straight through him, ruining the expensive leather jacket his ex-girlfriend had given him, which was probably a good thing. He was tempted to dump it, but he was bleeding like a pig. The cops didn't know they'd winged him, but it would be easy enough to follow the blood trail.

He bent down and scooped up a handful of the dirty snow, packing it against his side where the bullet had grazed him, letting out a low, profane litany of curses under his breath. The rapidly melting slush should slow the bleeding down, just enough so that they'd lose his trail. In the meantime he had to find a way to get the hell out of there and find the woman he'd targeted.

He could hear the noise of the crowd two blocks over, the incessant ringing of the bells from the sidewalk Santas. If he didn't figure out how to get out of Boston fast, he was going to end up dead. Boston cops had a habit of shooting to kill when one of their own was shot, and Detective Grady Barber was dead. The man who killed him had to pay.

He turned the corner, keeping close to the sides of the building. Macy's and Farnham's were up ahead, along with the various big discount stores that had taken over the rest of the stately old department stores his mother had loved. He could see the lights up ahead, the crowds milling. He couldn't hide in the shadows forever. She'd be in there somewhere, but with the hole in his side he couldn't wait forever for her to emerge.

He glanced down at his side. He was wearing a black T-shirt, and any blood would be hard to spot. He could stay in the shadows and wait for them to find him, shoot him.

Or he could move.

And James Fitzpatrick moved.

"That is the most hideous dress I have ever seen in my life," Jackie said, never one to mince words.

Dr. Eloise Pollard ignored her, staring at her reflection in the three angled mirrors. "You're right," she said. "Nothing I can do about it. It belonged to Richard's mother and he's insisting it would break her heart if I didn't wear it. I'm just lucky that Farnham's is willing to do the alterations on it."

Jackie shook her head. "I wouldn't call that luck. It serves you right for waiting 'til the last minute to choose a wedding dress. If I know the old bat she's just trying to make you look ridiculous so Richard will change his mind. Even with professional alterations you're going to look like something out of Gone With the Wind."

Ellie closed her eyes for a moment, hoping when she opened them the reflection would be better. It wasn't. She looked like a giant wedding cake, festooned with garlands of lace. Exactly the wrong look for her strong, big-boned body. "It's just for one day, and it means a lot to Richard. And isn't that what matters?"

"Absolutely not. If you go into a marriage trying to please your fathead of a husband you're doomed from the start," Jackie said, leaning back against the dressing-room wall.

"He's not a fathead."

"I would have thought an Aussie would have more common sense," Jackie went on, undeterred. "You're all supposed to be practical and down-to-earth. Richard has a stick up his ass. He'll probably want you to stop practicing medicine and stay home to raise his fatheaded children."

"Hey, they'll be my fatheaded children, too," Ellie protested. "And I can keep my practice and be a mother at the same time. It'll just require a little juggling."

"I don't see Richard as a juggler." Jackie pushed away from the wall. "I need a cigarette. Take off that godforsaken dress and come with me."

"I don't enable," Ellie said absently. "And the dress isn't that bad, is it?"

"It is."

"I'm getting married in a week—I don't think there's anything I can do about it." She tugged at one ruffle, trying to smooth down the frilliness. She should have known better. Women who were six feet tall didn't look good in girly-girl ruffles, particularly if they were possessed of a traditional hourglass figure. She should have told Richard no, should have chosen something plain, something that would disguise her voluptuous curves like her lab coat.

"I'm going for a cigarette," Jackie said again. "I'll meet you outside when you come to your senses."

"Don't hold your breath," Ellie muttered. There were times in her life when she didn't have much of a choice, and this was one of them. She wanted to marry Richard—he was the perfect man for her. Tall enough, elegant, old-Boston money that had at first dazzled her. She'd had no one left in Australia when she came to Boston for her residency, and no reason to go back. Richard came equipped with a new family—his gorgon of a mother, his three overbred sisters, who looked at her as if she were a rabid dog, and three totally cowed brothers-in-law. All Richard's sisters had flat-out refused to wear The Dress, and she should have realized why.

She sighed. Worse things had happened in this life. She reached behind to unzip the dress, only to encounter an endless row of silk-covered buttons that she couldn't even begin to unfasten without dislocating her shoulder.

"Bloody hell," she muttered. Jackie had fastened the damned thing for her, and now her friend was off polluting her lungs and the less-than-pristine air of downtown Boston, while Ellie was trapped inside this spun-sugar creation, waiting for the tailor who would alter it for her.

To top it all off, an alarm suddenly blared through the sound system, drowning out the manic cheer of "Holly Jolly Christmas."

"We've been ordered to evacuate the building by the Boston Police Department. Please make your way to the nearest exit in an orderly fashion. There is no need to panic. Leave your packages behind—you'll be allowed in to collect them as soon as we're given the all-clear."

Ellie yanked harder on the dress, but the buttons held. The siren kept blaring, so loud that it was giving her an instant headache. A moment later one of the staff knocked on the door. "We need to leave the building, Dr. Pollard," she said. "Please come now."

Ellie could just hear her over the noise of the alarm. She shoved her feet into her turquoise Crocs, grabbed her purse and headed for the door.

The woman had already gone, along with the location of the overcoat Ellie had given her, and the crowds were heading for the escalators like a herd of cattle heading for the slaughterhouse. She had no choice but to join them, holding her pouffy skirts close to her body and mentally cursing. At least Jackie was already outside.

The escalators weren't working, and they had to walk down them. Ellie nearly went flying when she hit the uneven last few steps, but there were enough people packed around her to keep her from falling. In the distance she could see the glass-fronted doorways leading out to Washington Street, and snowflakes had begun to drift down once more.

"Happy bloody Christmas," she muttered, letting herself be swept along by the crowd, spilling out onto the slushy Boston streets with what seemed like thousands of other shoppers.

There was no way she could find Jackie in all that confusion. The police were herding people away from the building, and they were armed to the teeth, an unnerving sight. She could hear people muttering—terrorists in Farnham's department store? A mad bomber?

People were starting to panic, and she felt herself being pushed and pulled by the crowd, shoved away from the building as the police entered it at a run, their guns drawn.

"Crap," she said, unnerved, as she was shoved against another body.

A body in red. She found herself eye-to-eye with one of the sidewalk Santas. His face was covered with the fake silk beard and wig—only his eyes were visible. They weren't reassuring. He had cold, bleak eyes, with long dark lashes, and the snow fell on them, melting instantly.

"Excuse me, Santa," she said breathlessly, trying to move away from him.

His white-gloved hand came down on her arm so hard she let out a squeak of pain. "Where's your car?" he demanded, his voice rough, dangerous.

"My car?" she echoed. "Are you out of your mind... ?" Her voice trailed off as she felt the metal jab against her rib cage.

"Do you know what that is?" Santa said.

"I expect it's a gun," she said in a calm voice.

"You're right. Now where's your damned car?"

"I took the T," she said.

"No, you didn't. You have car keys hanging off your purse. Now where the hell is your car? Don't make me hurt you."

His fingers were digging hard into her forearm. She was going to be bruised for her wedding, she thought, feeling a little giddy. "The parking lot on Winter Street."

"Take me there."

"Listen, you just take the keys," she said, reaching for her purse to fumble with them. "It's a blue Toyota, license plate EKU-893. I won't tell anyone...."

"Start walking," he said. The pressure on her arm didn't lessen. "Now."<...

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