Tanya Michaels

Mistletoe Hero

The fourth book in the 4 Seasons in Mistletoe series, 2009

Dear Reader,

I first “met” the character of Arianne Waide when I wrote her as a supporting role in a Christmas novella several years ago. She has always been fun to write and has made cameo appearances throughout my 4 SEASONS IN MISTLETOE series (often when giving her older brothers a piece of her mind). Readers have asked if she would have her own book, and I knew Arianne deserved to find love with a special, unforgettable hero!

In the close-knit community of Mistletoe, Georgia, Gabe Sloan is an outsider. His family history and a long-ago mistake have never truly allowed him to belong. When a tiny yet stubborn blonde good-naturedly bullies him into lending his time to a local fundraiser, Gabe decides to make this favor a farewell gesture. He’s lived in Mistletoe without being a part of it for far too long, and he decides the best way to get closure from the past is to leave. But he didn’t count on Arianne Waide’s impulsive quest to help him mend fences with the town-and he certainly didn’t count on falling for her.

Authors aren’t supposed to have “favorite” characters from our books; we love them all, the same way moms appreciate their children’s unique personalities. Still, I have to admit that Arianne and Gabe are very special to me. Whether this is your first visit to Mistletoe or your fourth, I hope you enjoy watching their story unfold.

Happy reading!


For Jarrad. I love you.

Chapter One

“I vote you seduce him,” Arianne Waide drawled.

“What?” Quinn Keller’s shock came through the phone as clearly as if she’d been standing right there in the store. “Ari, I talked to the guy for ten seconds at the faculty welcome mixer, along with about sixty other people introducing themselves. He probably doesn’t know I’m alive.”

He would if you seduced him. But Arianne had only been teasing about that-it was a strategy she’d cultivated during her adolescence to deal with her parents and overprotective older brothers. Start with something outrageous first so that when you asked for what you really wanted, they were relieved to give it to you.

“All right, so not a full-fledged seduction,” Arianne relented. “Why not just drop by his classroom tomorrow morning and ask if you can buy him lunch and answer any questions he has about the school or the town? Or, at the very least, recruit him to help you with the fall festival.”

Silence stretched across the line as Quinn considered. “I could do that.”

“Of course you could,” Arianne encouraged.

“It’s not that I’m shy,” Quinn said, a touch defensively. “It’s just…I’m so used to already knowing everyone in Mistletoe that I forget how to meet new people.”

“I understand.” In theory. Like Quinn, Arianne also grew up in the small north Georgia town of Mistletoe, but Arianne didn’t have a bashful bone in her body. The youngest of three siblings, she’d learned early how to vie for attention and how to stick up for herself, often going toe-to-toe with her brother Tanner, who’d been the family prankster in his misspent youth.

Quinn sighed. “I should let you get back to work.”

Arianne looked around the empty store her family had owned for three generations. Outside, parking lot lights reflected off the relentless drizzle that had made it such a chilly October day. “I promised Dad I’d finish the inventory report tonight, but I’m glad you called. This place is deserted. David bolted right at five so he could rush home and coo over the baby, and Dad’s eating dinner with Mom and won’t be back for another hour. I was getting tired of my own company.”

Quinn laughed. “That’s hard to imagine. Your company’s always so…interesting.”

“If I didn’t know what a sweet woman you are, Quinn Keller, I’d have the sneaking suspicion I’d just been zinged.”

“No comment.”

“I’m hanging up on you now,” Arianne said. “But promise you’ll take my advice to heart?”

“I always do.”

Quinn wasn’t the only one. As Arianne put the phone back in its cradle, she indulged in a moment of self- satisfaction. She’d given romantic counsel to everyone from her older brothers to her brothers’ wives to town pet- sitter Brenna Pierce. And she did so with enough confidence and wisdom that people listened, rarely questioning why they were taking suggestions from a woman who’d never actually had a serious relationship herself. She’d had opportunities, but had skirted any lasting, exclusive commitments.

The copper bell over the door jarred her from her thoughts and she turned with an automatic “Welcome to Waide Supply,” even though she knew it was probably her father bringing takeout for her.

Nope. Her breath caught. Definitely not dear old dad. Instead, it was Gabe Sloan.

Her body trembled from the cool draft that swept inside, and she huddled deeper into her oversize cranberry sweater. “Hi.”

Without breaking stride, Gabe nodded a hello in her direction, playing the strong, silent stereotype to the hilt. He was in here two or three times a week, but Arianne doubted he’d said a cumulative dozen words to her. Quinn characterized him as a mysterious loner. Having grown up with brothers, Arianne was less inclined to romanticize a guy.

Still, she had no trouble admitting that Gabe was one sexy man. At least six feet tall, he was well-muscled from continuous hours of manual labor. He’d let his jet-black hair grow shaggy so that it tempted a woman to brush his bangs away from his clear gray eyes. Physically, everything about him invited contact: silky, collar-length hair just right for running your fingers through, broad shoulders that looked perfect for leaning against. His self-contained manner, however, projected a different message.

If Arianne had been busy with other customers, or if her brother and father were here with her, it would have been easier to ignore Gabe’s presence. But the two of them alone on a rainy night created an almost intimate atmosphere. She put the inventory report on the counter in front of her, but couldn’t help tracking Gabe down the aisle where hoses and spigots were kept.

Because shopping opportunities in Mistletoe were limited, Waide Supply provided a wide assortment of merchandise, serving as sort of a catch-all retailer for townspeople, but it was primarily a hardware store. Gabe, who earned his living as a self-employed handyman, was one of their best customers. As far as Arianne knew, he didn’t advertise beyond a magnetic truck sign that read Sloan Carpentry and Odd Jobs. In Mistletoe, word of mouth went a long way, but still…Didn’t the guy know how much a few well-applied business techniques could help him? The familiar urge to give unsolicited advice bubbled within her.

Smiling wryly, Arianne imagined his reaction. Somehow she doubted that Gabe was as persuadable as Quinn or even Arianne’s stubborn father, Zachariah Waide. Then again, Arianne liked challenges. Her smile grew as she

Вы читаете Mistletoe Hero
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату