Snippet © Debra Salonen:
With the entire table pressed into taste-testing service, Jonah stood and motioned for Krista to follow him across the room to an open space near a gorgeous holiday display. “Mom assured me this Santa thing won’t take every hour of every day. She said it’s gotten a lot easier since your partner set up an online presence.”
Krista tried not to inhale too deeply because his scent–a combination of winter fresh air, chocolate, and hint of pine–was too distracting. “We might consider creating a private Facebook group and doing the initial critique process for wishes there.”
He held up a hand for a high-five. “Great idea. Then, a few of us can meet here each morning to brainstorm ways to fill the agreed upon wishes and set a budget.”
The touch of his palm connected in a weird way that made her close her fingers in a fist as she dropped her hand to her side. “I may not be able to make every…” She pictured the check. “I’ll be here.”
“Me, too. It’ll be the incentive I need to walk the dogs early. Tonight, I’ll set up an overall plan and flowchart so we can track when and how our requests come in. We’ll need to do the same for the income side of things. I’m curious as to why the donation well suddenly went dry. The sooner we get our account set up online, the sooner we can track things in real time.”
Krista found his analytical approach reassuring. His grand gesture with the check might have had a bit of the theater behind it, but his approach to business was a lot like her own.
“Simple and transparent works for me. As I said earlier, my family is in show business. Nothing is ever straightforward when you’re surrounded by thespians.”
He moved a smidgen closer. “Simplicity of design is key to both my inventions and my business strategy. When I start overthinking something, I step back for a new perspective. I usually hop on my bike. Exercise is a great distraction for an overactive mind.”
“Well, this is Montana. Your bike riding is going to be limited to cycling in the gym for the next few months.”
She chewed on her bottom lip debating about how frank to be. He’d given her ten thousand reasons to say yes to this partnership, but what exactly would that involve? Her inner bullshit reader said he had to have another agenda. And she sure as heck never considered herself a spokesperson for Christmas.
“Blue Sky is my baby. Christmas is a one-off. Four weeks. Blow and go. It’s over and done and I’m looking at a new month, a new intern and no jobs lined up.”
“What about your partner? Is she out of the picture completely?”
Krista didn’t know and the not knowing kept her awake at night. She hated ambiguity. Black and white. Bottom line. Profit and loss. Those were her touchstones.
“Amanda should be able to provide backup by phone. But I want you to know that Blue Sky will always be my first priority.”
He held out his hand. “Understood.”
She shook it twice, intending to let go and return to their table, but as Sage passed by on her way to the counter, she said, “Mistletoe.”
Sage pointed up. “House rules. A kiss is mandatory.”
Krista groaned. She’d witnessed this bit of holiday mischief several times when she’d been in the shop. “But–“
Before she could express her protest, Jonah wrapped his arms around her–not unlike the way he had when he broke her fall. Only this time, he was in front of her. And his lips hovered an inch from hers, waiting for permission.
She closed her eyes and leaned in to get the silly kiss over.
The instant his lips touched hers, the magnitude of her mistake hit. Not only had Jonah Andrews been drinking her favorite cocoa, but the sweetness mixed with his natural chemistry created a potent combination that made her knees turn rubbery and her heart begin to pound. She kissed him back because she was powerless to do otherwise.
Luckily, a smattering of applause brought her back to her senses.
Cheeks burning, she turned and bowed. Being the daughter of an actor had to be good for something, right?
MONTANA SECRET SANTA is available now!
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Happy December, my friends! See you next week.