Friday, December 13, 2019

Hero Profile, Excerpt & Giveaway ~ A MISTLETOE KISS FOR THE SINGLE DAD by Traci Douglass


A Mistletoe Kiss for the Single Dad
by: Traci Douglass
Genre: Contemporary Medical Romance/Christmas
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin Medical Romances
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Second chance…

…under the mistletoe!

GP Nick Marlowe returned to his hometown to focus on raising his young son. The last person he expects to see in Bayside is high-flying Beverly Hills surgeon Belle! The childhood sweetheart he’d let go so she could pursue her dream of attending medical school. Only, now they’re working side by side to reopen her late aunt’s free Christmas Eve clinic, their magical connection returns… Could a mistletoe kiss spark another chance—just in time for Christmas?

Name: Nick Marlowe

Age: 36

Date of birth: May 19, 1983

Physical Description: Six-three, brown hair, brown eyes.

Occupation: Former Pediatric surgeon, now working as a family doctor in his hometown of Bayside, Michigan.

3 likes in no particular order:
Hockey (Go Blackhawks!)
House of Flavors Blue Moon ice cream
Sailing and fishing on Lake Michigan in the summer

3 dislikes in no particular order:
Long lines
Rude people
Pretense (Nick likes to keep it real)

Drink of choice: Lucky Penny Ale from the Jamesport Brewing Co. in Ludington, MI

Favorite food: Big Buster Burger from Pat’s Diner in Bayside

Favorite song: The Boxer (feat. Mumford and Sons & Paul Simon) by James Douglas. It’s a remake of the Simon and Garfunkel tune and just super powerful, man. Gets you right in the feels every time. An oldie but a goodie.

Choice of transportation: His Hemi-V8 pickup truck, Mabel.

Favorite way to spend an evening: By the fire at home with Belle and Connor, just chilling and watching TV or playing games.

Best memory to date: Christmas night at the Bayside town tree when Belle said she stay in Bayside with me and Connor.

If you could have a do over, what would you do differently?
Hmm, good question. Looking back now, I think maybe I wouldn’t have been so quick to let Belle go after high school. Would’ve tried harder to find a way to make things work even though we were on different sides of the country. Not sure though, since I do think everything happens for a reason, and maybe we wouldn’t be where we are now—together and happy and planning our wedding for next Spring—if we hadn’t had that time apart. And no way would I miss out on having Connor either. That kid’s my life, man.

Is it possible to survive tragedy and find happiness again?
Pfft. (Gestures at himself.) Living proof right here. There were times in my past where I wasn’t sure I’d survive, it hurt so bad. Like losing my first wife, Vicki. Or like letting Belle go. Those were dark, dark days. But those things also make you stronger, teach you lessons that perhaps you couldn’t learn any other way. And I can honestly say that today, I’ve never been happier. So yes, you can absolutely survive and even thrive after tragedy. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving. Having a support system helps too. And something to live for, whether it’s work or family or even a pet. Just something to make you get out of bed in the morning.

Most romantic gesture:
That I’ve done? Hmm. Well, Belle seemed to appreciate that picnic on the top of the dune at the state park. Even though it was winter and we froze our butts off, it was nice. Brought back lots of old memories… and feelings.

Words to live by:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going,” by Winston Churchill. I really admire him and his tenacity and character as he dealt with the worst times of WWII. Also, another one of his quotes I keep the wall in my office, “Never, never, never give up.” I mean, a person who just keeps trying, no matter how hard or difficult or fruitless things may seem? That’s a person who can’t be defeated!

Half an hour later they walked down the sidewalk on Main Street through the lightly falling snow, Connor and his friend Eric between them. It was night already—darkness fell quickly in the Michigan winter. The streetlights cast a bright orange glow across the glittering ground.

“Wow. The town looks gorgeous all decorated for Christmas,” Belle said, admiring the twinkling lights in a store’s window display as they passed. “Beautiful.”

“Yeah, it is.” Nick drew in a breath and shuffled his feet.

After their unexpected conversation back in the restaurant, he was still trying to wrap his head around the fact he’d bared his soul to her about Vicki. And while the ache of guilt in his chest still lingered, getting things out in the open seemed to have lessened the burden somehow. If he’d taken the time to think about it beforehand, overanalyzing like he usually did, he’d never have brought it up with Belle. Maybe he’d felt comfortable because of her confession in the car about seeing him with Vicki. Man, those words had knocked him for another loop. He’d had no idea she’d visited, or her mistaken assumptions.

A warning claxon clanged in his head, the “common-sense portion of his brain warning him that to take this evening as anything more than casual fun between friends would be beyond stupid. And Nick wasn’t dumb. Not normally. But having Belle back here again, especially at holiday time, when memories crowded every corner, must have made him sentimental. That’s the excuse he was going with anyway.

“Can Eric and I go check out the bandstand, Dad?” Connor asked, nearly bursting at the seams with excitement. “Please?”

“Fine,” Nick said, releasing a little bit of his precious control. “But be careful. And look both ways before you cross the street.”

Connor and Eric raced on ahead, leaving Nick and Belle to stroll on alone. They each carried a refill cup of hot cocoa from Piper Cove and the sweet strains of “Silent Night” drifted from the concert in the park. As they neared the festivities, things got busier and crowds jostled, all heading to the same destination.

Belle stopped a few times to avoid getting bumped and Nick placed his free hand in the small of her back to guide her safely into Bayside Community Park.

“Wow. This looks the same as I remember.” The hint of awe in her voice made him smile. The normally quiet town green was bustling tonight, packed with people awaiting the tree lighting. A huge pine stood in the middle of the square, decorated and waiting for someone to flip the switch. The mayor stood on a small stage in front of the bandstand, trying to entertain the gathered crowds and preparing for her emcee duties.

“Thanks again for inviting me,” Belle said, leaning closer so he could hear. Her heat penetrated the wool of his coat and the sweet scent of flowers and soap tickled his nose.

Nick watched her while she looked at the tree, remembering the last time they’d been here together. Their last Christmas before high-school graduation, the night of their trip up to the dunes. That night had been the first time they’d slept together. They’d both been virgins. He wondered if Belle was remembering the evening too.

“Lots of families in the area now, huh?” She glanced up at him before dodging out of the path of a little girl with long blonde hair running straight for them. He slipped his arm around her waist to steady her, then let Belle go when it started to feel too good.

“Yeah. This event always brings the whole community together.” He didn’t miss the twinge of sadness in her eyes and his own heart tugged in sympathy. Losing Marlene had to be tougher on her than she was letting on, especially at this time of year. A sudden urge to ease that pain welled up inside him, and he shifted his attention to safer territory, the vendor stalls near the side of the park. “They’ve got cinnamon-sugar roasted almonds. Want some?”

“Yum! Sounds good,” she said.

Nick bought a bag for them to share.

“I wonder what color the lights will be this year,” he said as they leaned against the brick wall of Gustaffson’s World Emporium to watch the ceremonies, the building helping to block the biting wind stirring off Lake Michigan.

Belle smiled. “I think they were purple the first time Aunt Marlene brought me here.”

“Then silver.” Nick squinted through the crowds, keeping an eye on Connor and Eric near the bandstand. “And red the following year.”

“Right. They change them a lot. Who knows what it’ll be this year? Maybe all three?”

“Maybe.” Nick moved closer to her as more people gathered around them, his heart squeezing with their shared memories.

“Last year they were blue,” he said after clearing his throat. A lump of emotion seemed to have gathered there, making his words emerge gruffer than he’d intended. “Connor called it a Smurf tree.”

“Nice.” Belle laughed and returned her attention to the crowds. The band started a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells” and people pressed closer as they sang along. Belle linked arms with him so they wouldn’t get separated.

Connor and Eric returned, and his son tapped Nick on the elbow. “Dad?”

The countdown to the tree lighting began.

Ten, nine...

Nick was looking at the tree and not his son. “Turn around, Con. They’re getting ready to flip the switch.”

“Dad!” His son yelled, tapping his arm hard. “Look!”

Nick frowned down at his son. “What?”

“Mistletoe.” Connor pointed up above Nick’s head.

A quick look skyward had Nick’s heart plummeting. Damn. He should’ve paid more attention when choosing a spot to stand. Belle too glanced upward then met Nick’s gaze, a hint of shock and mirth in her emerald eyes.

Eight, seven, six…

“Forget it, Con,” Nick said, shaking his head. “Doesn’t count when you’re just friends.”

“Yeah?” his son grumbled. “Then why did you make me kiss old Mrs. Wooten on the cheek at the grocery store? She’s not even my friend. She’s my teacher. It was yucky.”

Belle snorted. “He makes a good point.”

“That was different,” Nick said, ignoring the heat rising from beneath the collar of his coat. Of all the times and places to have Connor notice the mistletoe, it would have to be now. And Belle wasn’t helping at all, standing there chuckling.

Five, four, three…

“C’mon, Dad. It’s tradition.”

Ugh. The kid wouldn’t let it go. Persistence. Another trait he’d inherited from his mom. At the reminder of his wife, Nick waited for the familiar slash of guilt, but for some reason it didn’t come. Instead, there was a bitter-sweet sting of longing.

Longing for connection, for peace, for companionship.

On stage, the mayor’s hand hovered over the red button to light the tree. Belle bumped into his side, smiling up at him, as radiant as the sun. The same way she’d done their senior year of high school. The same night they’d consummated their relationship. The same night they’d confessed their love...

Two, one…

The crowd gasped as the tree lights flickered on, casting a bright fuchsia glow over the park, but Nick only had eyes for Belle.

“Does kind of seem a shame to waste it, huh?” he said, blood pounding loudly in his ears and adrenaline singing in his veins, drowning out the carolers around them. All his attention was focused on her pink lips, wondering if she tasted as sweet as he remembered.

People swayed around them, pushing him and Belle closer still. Her face was so close, her eyes darkening as their bodies brushed. Their breath mingled, frosting on the chilly air. Time seemed to halt as they seemed to really see each of for the first time after all these years.

Need drove him to take charge. Need and want and years of pent-up denial.

Nick gave up the fight and bent to brush his lips over Belle’s.

One quick peck then he’d be done.

People cheered and the band played another Christmas tune, but instead of pulling away, as he’d intended, Nick snuggled Belle closer. She tasted of sugar and cinnamon and chocolate, her body tense against him before she relaxed. Then her free hand was clutching his shoulder and he shivered despite the heat thundering through his bloodstream.

It was as good as he remembered. It was just as right. It was...

Over.

“Hey, Dad?” Connor tugged on his sleeve, forcing Nick and Belle apart. “Can Eric and I go back up to the bandstand now?”

“Uh...” Dumbfounded, Nick just nodded. His breath was jagged, and he couldn’t seem to stop staring at Belle. At her lips, which were still parted. At her eyes, which were wide and looked as shocked as he felt. At her flushed cheeks, which showed he hadn’t been the only one affected by their impulsive kiss.

“Yeah,” he managed to say finally, turning away to toss the remains of his now-cold hot chocolate in a nearby bin. He took a deep breath and collected himself before facing Belle again.

“Sorry. Guess I got carried away.”

“Me too,” she said, her husky tone sending ripples of awareness through him.

She threw her cup in the trash as well, then crossed her arms, rubbing them against the chill. “We should, um, probably get going. I need to be up early in the morning.”

“Right. Sure.” Nick called for Connor then started back for his truck, not daring to put his hand on Belle’s back again to herd her through the people for fear he might not let her go. His pulse still pounded loudly in his ears and his lips tingled from their kiss. He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened between them tonight, only that things had definitely changed.

For better or worse remained to be seen.

Purchase A Mistletoe Kiss for the Single Dad from:

🎄 You can read my review of A Mistletoe Kiss for the Single Dad here. 🎄

USA Today Bestselling Author Traci Douglass writes fiction bursting with romance, usually mixed with a healthy portion of snark. Her stories feature sizzling heroes with quick wits and troubled pasts and smart, independent heroines who always give as good as they get. Her books are published with Harlequin/Mills & Boon, Entangled Publishing, and Tule Publishing.

She’s an active member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Indiana Romance Writers of America (IRWA), and the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Places to find Traci Douglass:

Traci is giving away 2 digital copies of A MISTLETOE KISS FOR THE SINGLE DAD. Giveaway is open internationally.


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10 comments:

  1. One year, my dad managed to make a Christmas tree on the side of our house with lights that were stuck thru aluminum pie tins. This helped with both the shape and reflective quality of the lights. Definitely a project I will never forget, it took him a long time and looked pretty good to this elementary kid back then!

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    1. What a great memory! And so inventive too. Thanks so much for sharing! ❤️

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  2. My aunt came to visit one year, it was snowing a lot. We went all out decorating the house inside out.

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    1. Fun! Sounds like it was a happy holiday indeed! 😊

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  3. From a long time ago...my grandparents had all 10 grandchildren for a stayover Christmas. It was hectic, but a lot of fun. It still is a vivid memory.

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    1. Wow! That's a lot of kids. Kudos to your grandparents for doing that, Debra. Great vivid memories indeed! ❤️

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  4. Taking my kids up to my parents and us all enjoying Christmas together. Great times and memories!

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  5. I loved taking the time and being with my family on Christmas morning. It was wonderful.

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  6. My first Christmas with my husband ❤

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  7. These are really great responses. Thank you all for entering. The winner have been selected and emails have been sent to them.

    ReplyDelete

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