Jingle Bell Hell, an all-new awkward meets sexy rom com from New York Times bestselling author Denise Grover Swank and USA Today bestselling author A.R. Casella is available now!
She’s a sexually repressed control freak. He’s a muscular ex-con with heavier baggage than Santa’s toy bag. They’re everything each other never wanted.
I’m usually the first person on my block to decorate for Christmas. This year? Humbug.
My six-year-old son, Aidan, just had a meltdown after learning some hard truths from a drunk Santa impersonator, and I can no longer deny we both need help. Change is hard for Aidan, and right now he’s dealing with several big ones, including A) his father abandoning us, B) our move to Asheville, and C) the Santa snafu.
And me? I’m a control freak, and my life is more out-of-control than a sled on ice.
That’s why I agree to let Aidan join Butterfly Buddies, a group that matches kids with adult mentors.
It’s also why I agree to a mentor of my own—terrifying, pink-haired Nicole, who wants to help me live life on the wild side. Her advice is strangely compelling, especially after I meet Aidan’s new “buddy,” a gorgeous tattooed hunk of a man who makes me wish there weren’t cobwebs in my…well, you know.
Mary O’Shea is sexy as hell, but she doesn’t know it.
She also doesn’t know I’m an ex-con, and if she finds out that I served three years in prison, extenuating circumstances won’t matter to her.
The last thing I should do is get attached to her kid…or her, but I didn’t get in this position by making good decisions.
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Jace reaches toward my face, and my heart feels like it’s about to beat out of my chest as his fingers near the soft flesh of my cheek. When he tucks an escaped lock of hair behind my ear, I almost melt into a puddle.
“You’re a good mom,” he says. “And you were probably right. It might not be a good idea for Aidan to get too attached to me, and me to him, given that you and I are attracted to each other.”
Shock roils through me. It’s as if I’ve opened my eyes and found myself on a different planet, where the ground is as solid as a bounce house and left is right and right is left.
No, it’s not possible.
I gawk at him, taking in his sparkling eyes, the golden ends of his hair, and that short beard that shouldn’t look good, but oh God, it looks really good…
“Did you just say…?” I start.
It’s then that Aidan bursts through the door, holding something in his hand. He thrusts it out in front of him, scrunching his nose. “Did you get me this, Mom? It came in the box with my game. It was in a container, but I took it out.”
Shock renders me mute and still, like a pillar of salt. Especially since I can feel the intense scrutiny of Jace’s eyes. There’s no way Aidan knows what he’s holding, but Jace must know.
No, no, no, no, no, this can’t be happening.
The vibrator wasn’t supposed to come until tomorrow. Why would they pack it with a children’s board game?
A twisted sense of humor? A lack of reasonable bathroom breaks in the warehouse?
Aidan waves the bright pink vibrator around.
“There’s a little rabbit on it. Is it some kind of toy for Christmas? The package says it’s a magic wand that’s supposed to make people moan, but they spelled magic with a k, and it didn’t come with a spell book or anything.” He pulls a face. “I guess I can just use it with the Harry Potter spells. It does vibrate like it’s doing magic, and it can whirl in circles too.”
A short laugh sputters out of Jace.
My face is so red, it might as well be a fire truck. Magik wand. At least the name offers a reasonable explanation. For a six-year-old. God help me, I can’t bear to look at Jace.
I make a grab for the vibrator, but Aidan evades me.
“Why’d you get it in pink, Mom? You know green’s my favorite color.”
Jace clears his throat, but nope, I still can’t look at him. He’s not laughing anymore, but I know he probably wants to. Who wouldn’t? If he did feel some sort of passing attraction to me before this, he certainly doesn’t now.
“Aidan,” Jace says slowly, his voice husky. “There are toys for adults too. That’s probably something your mom got as a treat for herself, although I’m sure she’ll get you a Harry Potter wand for Christmas if you want one. Let her have it.”
Aidan does, which is what I wanted, but then I have a vibrator in my hand.I think for a moment and then stuff it into my bag. The tip instantly pops out, unmistakable.
What is happening to me?
“It must be some kind of mistake,” I say, finally forcing myself to meet Jace’s gaze. “I didn’t order this. I wouldn’t…”
I thought I’d see laughter there, because he’s only human, but all traces of it are gone, and now he’s looking at me like I’m the last slice of birthday cake at an office birthday party. No, like I’m the first.
About Denise Grover Swank
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten houses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period.
Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in her own mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.) Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to perform many unspeakable tasks. She has six children and hasn’t lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe.
Connect with Denise
About A.R. Casella
A.R. CASELLA is a freelance developmental editor by day, writer by night. She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and a variable number of fish. Her pastimes include chasing around her toddler, baking delicious treats, and occasional bouts of crocheting. Any Luck at All, co-written with New York Times bestselling author Denise Grover Swank, is her first book.