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Unwrapping Holly
Author: Lisa Renee Jones


About Unwrapping Holly

 In this Christmas novella, a tightly-wound workaholic is getting unwrapped by a handsome stranger…

 Holly Redding has come home to enjoy the holidays with her family and, hopefully, to escape a case of writer’s block. So when a chance encounter with a sexy local proves to be too much of a heart-racing distraction, she vows to keep her distance. But in a small town like Haven, New Hampshire, it’s hard to avoid Cole Wiley—and their undeniable chemistry.

 Cole wants Holly the moment she bumps into him. She may act a little icy since their stolen kiss, but he knows how to make her melt. If Cole gets his way, the two of them might be ringing in the New Year—and a new life—together…



Chapter One

 Holly Redding sat in front of the crackling fireplace of her parents’ New Hampshire living room and sipped the decadent dark chocolate concoction in her Santa mug. How her mother made it taste so rich and perfect, she did not know and she didn’t care. It was the closest she’d come to sin, or satisfaction, in about six months, so she planned to enjoy every last drop. With one more sip she finished it off, set the cup aside, and began unpacking Christmas ornaments from a box, the perfect ending to a quaint Thanksgiving dinner with just her and her parents.

 Murphy, the family Labrador retriever, appeared by Holly’s feet and nuzzled her hand. Well trained by her longtime pet, Holly absently stroked his head, thinking of the days to come. The rest of the Redding clan would be showing up over the course of the next few weeks for the traditional holiday celebration; her two younger sisters, their younger brother, and a number of other friends and family members. It would be insanely wonderful and no doubt filled with a typical family rumble here or there.

 Holly laughed as she thought of last year’s Christmas. Prior to Christmas morning, Mason and Rachel had discovered that they’d gotten Mom the same perfect present, and the fight over who had to trade theirs in for something else had ensued. Holly and her youngest sister, Tori had been more than happy to volunteer to take credit for the gift and to let them pick another one, but as she’d suspected, they had suddenly managed to compromise and had then shared credit for the “perfect” gift.

 Smiling to herself, Holly remembered how easily they had fallen for that little nudge and wondered if any other families the size of theirs were able to call a gathering anything but “eventful.” Her family kept things interesting, to say the least. Still, the calm before the storm was enjoyable. Everything about the big sprawling farmhouse and its many memories said “cozy family holiday” to her. And as tempting as it was to tuck her feet beneath herself and snuggle into her parents’ overstuffed brown couch, to simply soak in the warmth, there was a tree to be trimmed that could not wait. Tomorrow there would be no holiday playtime for her. The whole point in coming home a month before her siblings was to take advantage of the quiet, and break through a wicked case of writer’s block.

 After dreaming of the chance to leave her day job as a criminal attorney and focus on her next legal thriller full-time, she had learned that her fourth book had snagged a run on the USA Today list and had turned that dream into reality. That was sixty days ago, and she hadn’t written a page worth reading since. It was as if she had simply lost every creative bone she once owned—a fact she secretly attributed to a burning desire to move home. That one was hard to admit, considering she had once said she wanted to escape small-town living, never to look back. But when her mother suggested she spend a month in her late grandma Redding’s cottage to write, she’d agreed. This was a chance to evaluate her urge to move home without any confessions required or any decision-making pressure. And since the cottage was only a short walk from the main house, she’d be close to family.

 Holly dug through the decoration box, searching for the ornament hangers and finding none. She shoved her long, blond hair from her eyes and pushed to her feet. Where were Mom and Dad anyway? They’d been checking on that pie a long time.

 She padded socked feet across the carpet and pushed open the kitchen door. Huh. The kitchen was empty. A muffled laugh drew her gaze to the pantry. Another muffled sound, this time a moan. Oh my God! Mom and Dad are getting it on in the pantry.

 Blood rushed to Holly’s cheeks, and she half ran from the kitchen. She rushed to the sofa and reached for her boots, shoving her feet inside. Good Lord, she was thirty years old, and her parents had a better sex life than she did. Of course, anyone who had a sex life had a better one than she did.

 She darted for the door and pushed her arms into her white, down-filled parka. Reaching for her scarf, she wrapped it around her neck and snagged her purse and keys. Her suitcase was still by the door, since she’d arrived that evening just in time for dinner.

 She hesitated and then yelled out, “Running to the store! Be back in . . .” How long did they need to, uh, finish? She wasn’t taking any chances. “Be back in an hour!”

 Ten minutes later, Holly pulled into The Tavern, a familiar stomping ground for the Redding siblings during their visits home. Big fluffy snowflakes floated around her blue Toyota Camry as Holly parked among numerous cars in front of what appeared to be a surprisingly busy establishment.

 Holly shoved open the rental-car door, a smile touching her lips as she stepped into the winter wonderland of the snowstorm and stared in awe at the flakes glistening like crystal stars in the glow of the streetlights. This was how the holidays were supposed to be—wintry white. Back in Houston, the temperature was seventy degrees, and people were still in shorts. A glass of Irish coffee and a walk down memory lane sounded perfect right about now. She turned and stared at the white blanket of snow already covering her windows, walking backward as she did.

 “You aren’t in Texas anymore, sweetheart,” she whispered with a laugh, shoving her gloved hands into the pockets of her coat as she turned to The Tavern and ran smack into a hard body.

 “Whoa there, sweetheart,” came the deep, rumbling male voice.

 Holly rotated around and blinked at the man standing a mere two steps away, her jaw dropping at the pure heat he exuded despite the chilly winter night. At well over six feet tall, the hunky male transformed faded jeans and a dark jacket into the things fantasies were made of—her fantasies to be exact. The ones she’d been having when she should have been writing the next chapter of her book. She swallowed hard as she noted the snow dusting his dark, wavy hair. It was the kind of hair that a girl would want to run her fingers through while calling his name—or really just calling out, “Oh God.” Actually, any affirmation that indicated immense pleasure would do quite nicely.

 Inwardly, she shook herself and cleared her lust-laden throat. “Sorry about that,” she offered. “I just got home and the snow, I . . .” She stopped herself. She was rambling. She was an attorney. She never rambled. Determined to gain some composure, she straightened her spine, standing taller. “I should have been watching where I was going.”

 For an instant, Holly thought she saw amusement dance in the deep brown eyes staring back at her but changed her mind at his reply. “Yes. You should have been.” His square jaw was set firm, no humor in his ruggedly handsome face. “And I see only one way to solve this.”

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