Reaching For Christmas: A Bloo Moose Romance
If you love stories with a hot, hunky and very protective hero with a romantic streak, and strong, resilient and determined heroine who loves with her whole heart, then this book is a must read.Rebmay
Exhausted from a tour promoting his latest thriller, Max Fortini needs space to figure out if he has another book in him. Instead, he finds a dog snoring in his guest room and a sexy intruder in his bed. Exactly where he's always wanted her. Except she's sleeping with a gun under her pillow.
Max puts together clues while Lil tries to keep her secrets. But when the felon seeks revenge, they'll have to trust each other if they're going to make it through to Christmas.
Reaching For Christmas is the fifth book in the Bloo Moose Romance series. Each book can be read as a standalone. The book contains some strong language and sexy times. Enjoy the read!
Release date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Jemi Fraser @ Just Jemi Books
Print pages: 186
Content advisory: The book contains some strong language and sexy times. Enjoy the read!
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Reaching For Christmas: A Bloo Moose Romance
Bump In The Night
Like any self-respecting thriller writer, Max Fortini’s home was in the middle of the woods, snugged up to the edge of a bluff that edged straight down to the sea. Well, Bloo Moose Lake, but close enough.
Right now, he wished he lived in town rather than having to fight the snow and sleet up the secluded Vermont road to his home.
After driving more than twelve hours that day, all he wanted was a cold beer and his bed.
His truck had four-wheel drive but he’d been in North Carolina so his snow tires remained in his garage instead of on the truck. The book tour and writers’ conference had been good but exhausting. Being on show all the time drained him.
His heritage might be Italian through and through but Max was far more like his mom than his gregarious dad. Mario loved everyone and wanted to talk to everyone. Every last one. Antonia preferred to spend her time in the restaurant’s kitchen deciding what her customers wanted to eat.
He’d missed them, but he was going to take a few days before letting anyone know he was home. If he needed it, he could have almost a week to himself.
Then maybe the ideas running around in his head would finally coalesce into the next book.
The fear that he’d never find another good storyline was wearing him down. He was so damn sick of the same stories. Serial killer. Tough ass investigator. Gorgeous woman in the killer’s crosshairs.
He wanted something different.
But his agent and publisher both balked at the idea.
And what about his fans?
Did he owe them more of the same?
Would he lose them if he broke the pattern?
Maybe two days of sleep would help. Hotels were fine, but there was nothing like his own bed. Looking out over the lake. Floor to ceiling windows that captured the best sunsets in the world.
Discovering Egyptian cotton had changed his life.
As had the multiple shower heads in his state-of-the-art shower.
The truck crested the last hill with only a slip or two.
Of course, the long driveway hadn’t been plowed. No one expected this much snow this early in the season. It happened fairly regularly, but no one was ever quite ready.
If he’d let his buddies know he was headed home, they’d have cleared it for him, but he’d rather deal with the snow than people at the moment.
Automated security lights popped on as he entered the clearing and Max slowed to enjoy the view. Snow whipped through the space, looking both forbidding and welcoming at the same time.
His friend Rayce had helped with the design of the place so that it fit into their world of Bloo Moose. Windows everywhere. Balconies too. Even a damn turret. What good was making a shit-ton of money unless you could have your very own circular office looking out over your lands?
Laughing at himself, Max eased up to the first garage door and pushed the button to open it. He wouldn’t even have to haul himself out into the blizzard to drag his gear inside.
Except as the garage door opened, it revealed a car in the slot for his truck. A car that didn’t belong to him. A shitbox of a car that he didn’t recognize.
He was too tired to deal with intruders. What kind of intruder backed into a garage?
For a few seconds, Max stared at the car and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He should probably call his police chief buddy, but it was the middle of the damn night.
There were no tracks in the drive up to the house so whoever owned the car had been there since before the snow started.
Maybe one of his buddies had bought a car and left it there to work on it. Possible, but he didn’t know anyone who would buy the piece of crap facing him. He was surprised it had made the hill to the house.
Max’s eyes roved over the rest of the house, but the only lights showing were the security ones.
With a sigh, Max turned off the truck, unplugged his phone from the charger, and stepped into the biting wind.
Whoever had taken his spot was going to get an earful.
Inside the garage, Max took a look around, trying to get a sense of what was happening. If this was one of his books, there’d be one hell of a trap waiting inside.
The garage looked mostly normal. The security system was engaged and active. The Harley sat untouched in its bay. The workshop area looked okay too. Max moved that way and grabbed a crowbar, hoping he didn’t need it.
When he got to the door leading to the house, he found a pair of sneakers that didn’t belong to him.
Lined up neatly against the wall.
In case he was wrong, Max kept the crowbar in one hand and his phone ready to dial Dave in the other.
Inside the kitchen, the light burned above the stove showing that it was empty, except for the coffee cup and mixing bowl in the drying rack. The scent of chocolate hung in the air.
Max put the crowbar back before returning to the main floor. He wouldn’t need it with this particular intruder.
He didn’t find her on the couch as he’d expected. Or in the media room. Climbing the stairs, he noticed the door to his bedroom was wide open. Not the way he’d left it.
Sure enough, Max entered the master bedroom to find it illuminated beautifully by the full moon.
Illuminated enough to show a small mound right smack-dab in the middle of his bed, sleeping on his expensive sheets and covered with his duvet.
Right where he’d always imagined her.
Lilianne LaChance, aka Lil, aka Lil’ Pest, aka his buddies’ little sister, had found her way into his bed.
Seeing as she had exactly zero ideas of the fantasies he’d built around her in that particular spot, she obviously didn’t expect him home just yet.
Why wasn’t she staying at the family Lodge with Gage or with one of the twins?
She’d begged off Thanksgiving, saying she had too much work to do because she’d stayed on to add another major to her schooling
She’d begged off a lot of visits home in the last couple of years and none of them could find out why. As much as the woman talked a mile a minute, she was shutting them all out. Telling them everything was fine. Normal.
But it wasn’t and they were all worried.
None of which explained why she was sleeping in his bed at dark-o’clock a couple of weeks before Christmas.
Her hair was pulled back into a braid so it wasn’t spilled across his pillows as he’d always imagined, but it gave him a good look at her face in the moonlight.
Her brow was furrowed and her mouth was turned down.
Like hell everything was fine.
Giving himself a shake, Max moved to the bathroom and took a long, hot shower. Then a blast of cold, because with Lil in his bed he was going to need that.
Wearing only his boxer-briefs, he was heading to the guest room, when Lil started whimpering. She curled up into a ball and cried out in pain. Max moved to the side of the bed and called her name, but she didn’t stop moaning.
Max sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her hair, talking soft nonsense to her. Eventually, she calmed and drifted into regular sleep but he kept sitting there and stroking her hair for a while.
What had brought her here?
Finally, Max shoved to his feet and headed down to the guest room. He’d get some sleep and find the answers in the morning.
The snoring that came from the guest room surprised him. Lil had brought someone else? At least she didn’t have a man with her in his bed. Then he’d have to kill him.
Max pushed the door all the way open, wishing he’d kept the crowbar after all.
In the middle of his guest bed, on top of another expensive duvet and Egyptian cotton sheets lay a huge dog.
On his back with his paws up in the air and his head tilted to the side.
He lay in the midst of bags. Max had been around Lil enough to recognize camera bags and bags for computer accessories.
The dog appeared to be a boxer mixed with Great Dane or Yeti. Easy to identify as male with all of his goods displayed for the world to see.
When Max tried to wake the dog, to get him to move his lazy ass off the bed, it simply opened one eye, licked its lips, then went back to sleep.
“Come on, dumbass, get off the bed.”
He didn’t even open his eye for that one.
That left the option of one of the couches on the main floor or the one at the top of the stairs.
Or his own bed.
He sure wasn’t bunking with the drool monster and he was beyond exhausted.
Max grabbed a blanket out of the closet on the way back to his room and lay down on top of the bed, as far from Lil as he could get.
A thought had him bolting upright and sliding his hand under his pillow and then Lil’s.
The pistol was loaded and ready to go.
What had her scared enough to sleep with a loaded gun?
Max took out the bullets, slid them and the gun into his nightside table and closed the drawer.
He rolled onto his side to keep an eye on Lil and then couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. He’d figured out what was going on in the morning.
Lil tried her best to stay asleep. When she was asleep, the fear didn’t win. And for the first time in three years, she’d slept for more than an hour at a time.
Max’s home was like paradise. A haven from the last three years of hell.
She’d been too jacked up when she’d arrived to head straight to bed, so she’d made cookies first.
Double chocolate chip.
And then she’d eaten far too many of them while she watched the flakes float down and cover the ground relentlessly. It had only taken a couple of hours for the snow to blanket the area and enclose her safely in her cocoon.
Well, Max’s cocoon. Which only increased the safety factor.
And she’d slept.
The light streaming through the amazing floor-to-ceiling windows in front of her told her she’d even slept through half of the night.
What a glorious feeling.
Deciding she was awake and that she actually felt rested, Lil stretched. Time to get up and do something about the lack of baked goods in Max’s freezer. It would be her thank you for borrowing his space.
Not that he knew it yet, but he wouldn’t mind.
Lil rolled onto her back and stretched again. This time her arm bumped into something solid and alive.
“You know you’re not supposed to be on the bed, Thor. Max will not be happy.”
A very human sigh came from the other side of the bed.
Lil screamed and lunged for the gun under her pillow even as strong arms grabbed for her.
She screamed again and again as she fought against the man and searched for the gun. Where was it?
How had she let down her guard?
Not a chance. She shoved with her knee and felt triumphant at the very male groan. But the hands didn’t loosen their hold.
“Lil’ Pest, it’s me.”
Lil’ Pest? Only one person called her that. Max?
Her hesitation gave the man enough time to flop her onto her back and hold her down by the simple expedient of lying on top of her.
His head was in the crook of her neck, and she felt him nod even as he let out another groan.
“Glad those self-defense lessons we gave you paid off.” Then he let out a string of heartfelt curses.
She tried to feel bad, she really did, but fear continued to course through her veins.
“You scared the crap out of me.” Her heart was still racing like she’d run a couple of miles. Which she’d been forcing herself to do every day for three years.
She could have killed him. “I’m glad I didn’t shoot you.”
Max grunted out a laugh but didn’t move from his position. “Me too, but we’ll have to wait and see how much damage you did cause.”
He could always make her laugh.
Just as he could always scare her deep down to her bones with his stories.
For the past three years, she’d often felt like she’d lived inside one of Max’s tales. And reading his books over and over again had helped her cope.
Bad stuff happened in his books all the time. Most of it so much worse than what had happened to her. Reading as Dominic Lyons figured it all out and saved the girl and the day always made her feel better, stronger.
If these characters could survive and get stronger, so could she.
While the rest of Max remained immobile, his hands relaxed where he’d held her wrists to stop her from hitting or scratching him. His thumbs stroked her wrists gently.
Even when she wished for more.
Because he was best buddies with her three older brothers, he’d always seen her as a little sister. Even when her teenage crush had been painfully obvious. Maybe especially then.
At least these days, she was better at concealing her emotions.
Lil’ Pest was only one of the nicknames he called her, but it told her everything she needed to know. Little sister material. When she really wanted to upgrade that status to lover. Girlfriend. More?
Being on the bed covered by a Max-blanket and having him stroke her wrists wasn’t making it easy to hide her feelings. And she had to because she couldn’t handle it if she lost his friendship or saw pity in his eyes.
She let his comfortable weight and gentle movements calm her down until the seriousness of what could have happened really hit her. “My God, Max, I really could have shot you.”
What if she’d killed him in her desperation to protect herself?
“Nope. I unloaded and moved the gun.”
Max leaned up onto his elbows but didn’t move the rest of him. “Why the hell are you sleeping with a loaded gun under your pillow? My pillow. You could have shot your own brains out.”
That wasn’t a question she was ready to answer. Not yet and maybe not ever.
“I know how to handle a gun, Max. You know that.”
“Which doesn’t answer the question.”
Their faces were so close together, she could lose herself in those deep, dark eyes of his. So dark as to be black unless you were lucky enough to be close enough to see the flecks of gold and brown. Not many, but she could watch his eyes forever.
They stared at each other for a dozen heartbeats while he waited for an answer she wasn’t willing to give.
Max always had more patience than Lil. She knew most people had more patience than she could ever hope to possess. Being the youngest of four and the only girl meant she’d spent most of her life trying to catch up or keep up with the boys.
And Max had been one of the boys for as long as she could remember.
Until she’d received that first camera. Everything looked different through the lens. And Lil had seen things differently through the lens as well.
When she’d looked at Max, she’d seen not just a boy who liked to tell scary stories and torment her with nicknames. She’d also seen a boy turning into a man.
A good man who made her yearn for much more.
With him right on top of pretty much every inch of her, she couldn’t stop that wanting, but she could keep it out of her eyes.
“So, Lil’ Chatter Box isn’t going to answer the question?”
The amusement in his voice didn’t match his eyes. They remained serious as he studied her.
Eventually, he frowned. “You haven’t been sleeping. Tell me what’s going on, Lil.”
She gave her head a little shake and he frowned more deeply.
“Something’s been off for the last couple of years. We didn’t push, but it’s still bugging you. You need to let us in.”
No, she really didn’t. She had this.
It was the unexpectedness of the latest twist that had sent her running underground.
The whole ordeal was supposed to be over. She’d planned on having a normal Christmas with her family. Making up for three years of missed time and lies.
She’d even considered if it might be time to share. Now that it was supposed to be safe to do so.
She’d wanted to have a normal life again. Enjoy Christmas. A white Christmas with all the trimmings. Gingerbread and sugar cookies. Snowmen and snowball fights. Decorating. Time with her family. And Max.
She really just wanted to feel safe.
Which at the moment she certainly did.
What would happen if she kissed him? Would he return the kiss or pat her on the head like she was a puppy?
An unearthly howl broke their stare-down. Max flinched then moved. In an instant, the gun was reloaded and in his hand. And he was protecting her with his body.
Her heart tumbled a little further into love.
“It’s okay, Max. It’s Thor.”
He didn’t take his eyes off the door or move an inch. “Thor?”
“I got a dog. Thor.”
“The ugly behemoth sleeping belly up on the bed in my guest room?”
“I told him to stay off the bed.”
Max engaged the safety and unloaded the gun, then put it all in the drawer.
Thor let out another howl and Max turned to stare at her. “Why would you get a dog that makes that ungodly sound?”
She wasn’t about to tell him she was looking for protection. “He wouldn’t let me leave the shelter without him.”
Max grunted and ran his hands over his face. “I haven’t had enough sleep for this.”
Guilt sliced through her. “I’m sorry. No one expected you home until next week. I didn’t think I’d bother you by being here.”
She started to slide out of bed. She’d grab her things and go. She could always stay at the Lodge.
Going back to Boston wasn’t an option.
She’d just have to deal with her brothers and their questions.
Max grabbed her hand before she could get up. He waited until she looked at him.
“You’re not bothering me, Lil. You’re never bothering me. Scaring the hell out of me, sure, but you’re not bothering me. You don’t have to leave. Let me grab a couple of hours sleep and we’ll figure this out.”
It wasn’t phrased as a question but he didn’t let go of her hand as he waited for her agreement.
“Fine. I’ll take Thor out and I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Promise me you’ll still be here when I wake up.”
Lil sighed. She couldn’t break a promise and he knew it. “Fine. I’ll be here. I promise.”
He searched her eyes and must have been satisfied with what he saw because he nodded and let go of her hand.
As she got up to grab her clothes, Max rolled back into the blanket and was asleep before she left the room.
She’d invaded his bed and instead of waking her up and kicking her out, he’d grabbed a blanket and slept on top of the covers.
No wonder she was in love with this man.
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