Christmas Cheer! That’s the cry heard on Christmas Eve morning in our house. The first person who calls out that magical phrase gets to open a present. So let’s hear a chorus of “Christmas Cheer” from everyone because I have presents for you all: a copy of my Christmas romantic comedy, Nobody’s Cinderella.
Just go to Smashwords to claim your free copy. Use Coupon Code CX72Y (not case-sensitive). Remember to enter the code prior to completing checkout. The code expires the morning of December 24 at 10:00 a.m. CST.
I also have a grand prize for some lucky reader. Eligibility: anyone living in the lower 48 states. Just leave a comment with your email address (don’t post it as a hot link—write it out). I’ll randomly choose 1 winner of a Swag Bag, packed with goodies. The winner will be chosen on or before Jan. 3, 2014, and the winner contacted by email.
Now, let’s talk Holiday!
Eggnog or hot chocolate? Both!
Share one of your favorite holiday memories. When I was very young, my older brother and I awoke shortly after midnight. As quiet as little mice, we crept to the Christmas tree and saw that Santa had visited. We also saw that there were two identical gifts under the tree so we knew they were for us. I can still recall how amazed we were to discover Mickey Mouse flashlights. They were small and looked like a Pez dispenser. We spent the rest of the night shining the flashlights on the ceiling, drawing pictures with the light in the dark, giggling, and waiting for our parents to awaken.
What is your favorite Christmas tradition? When our kids were young, we started a tradition that continues to this day. After all the presents were opened, there seemed to be a pause—almost an anticlimactic moment. That year, I impulsively grabbed some torn wrapping paper, balled it up, and tossed it at my husband. The kids froze. Eyes wide they stared at me. My husband laughed, made a quick wad of paper, and threw it at me as I dived for cover behind a wing chair. Within moments, a flurry of paper wads were launched. We screamed, laughed, raced around looking for cover, and threw paper wads until we were all breathless from laughter. The gift wrap war has taken place every year since then. Sometimes I think we could get away with no presents under the tree—just mounds of torn paper and tangled ribbons.
What is your favorite holiday song? I love music. It’s hard to pick 1 favorite so here are a few favorites. Serious: O Holy Night, Silent Night, and White Christmas. Pop: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, Please Come Home for Christmas by The Eagles, and Santa Baby by Bernadette Peters.
What is your favorite holiday movie? It’s a Wonderful Life. I watch it every year, and I still cry when Jimmy Stewart shouts: “I want to live again!”
What is something on your gift wish list? Peace on earth. Hey, I believe in optimism.
What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? Spending time with family and friends. Cooking and baking the family’s favorite meals and special treats. Playing games, singing songs, and just having a fun time.
What do you do on Christmas Eve? Attend Candlelight services at church and then have family and friends over for special refreshments.
What tops your tree? I have several trees and a star tops each one. A multi-planed brass star on the main tree in the living room, a red cardinal on the tree in the den, and a crystal star on the small 4′ trees on either side of the fireplace.
Where would you spend the holiday if you could go anywhere in the world? Paris or Rome. The Eiffel Tower is beautiful in the winter darkness, outlined with lights. There’s just something so magical about Paris at Christmas. My other choice would be Rome, the Eternal City. Even though I’m not Catholic, I like the idea of Christmas Eve services with the throng of faithful at The Vatican.
Every year I send a Christmas Newsletter and always include a special family recipe. This year, I’m sending out my mom’s Lazy Peach Cobbler recipe. She made this all the time when I was growing up. It’s super easy and so delicious. I usually make this as an easy dessert on Christmas Eve. Enjoy!
Lazy Peach Cobbler
1 cup milk
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter
1 large can sliced peaches in heavy syrup
Turn oven to 350 degrees. Spray oblong casserole dish (I use a 9×13 glass dish.) Remove butter from wrapper and place the stick of butter in the casserole dish. Place dish in oven so butter will melt while oven is pre-heating.
Mix milk, flour, and sugar together, blending well. Remove dish from oven if the butter has melted completely. Pour batter evenly over the melted butter.
Pour the can of peaches, liquid and all, over the batter. Return casserole dish to oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Serve hot from the oven with or without a scoop of Blue Belle Vanilla Ice Cream on top. It’s delicious hot, warm, or cool—plain or with ice cream or whipped cream on top. This will be a favorite.
Darcy Benton is the oldest cliche in the world—a woman in love with her boss. Other than that, she’s no-nonsense, practical, mature, and sober. She’s just the kind of woman Chase Whitaker wants as head of accounting for his company. She’s definitely not the kind of woman he wants in his bed.
Enter Darcy’s meddling, matchmaking best friend who has a plan to transform Darcy into a hottie designed to attract Chase’s interest. All it takes? A couple of little lies.
Oh, and a wish on a Christmas star. Darcy should have heeded that old advice: be careful what you wish for.
Excerpt, Nobody’s Cinderella
By Joan Reeves©2011
Darcy Benton wondered if she needed to check into a hospital. Her nervous system seemed to have shorted out, producing feet that felt like blocks of ice and hands that perspired as if it were July rather than December. Her heart raced faster than a quarter horse, and her face felt as warm as a passive solar collector at the end of a hot Texas day.
Releasing her white-knuckled grip on the strap of her new black leather handbag, Darcy opened it and fished out one of the tissues she’d stashed inside.
Hoping that the man who’d created this shock to her system was still engrossed in reading her resume, she furtively wiped her palms. For good measure, she blotted her damp forehead.
Her eyes strayed to the man on the power side of the mahogany desk. Chase Whitaker was the owner of Sunbelt Oil Producers, one of the many small independent energy companies in San Antonio. His attention remained fixed on the paper he held.
Chase. She tried the name out in her mind. She liked it. It was unusual and suited him perfectly. She’d researched him online so she knew he was only twenty-eight and had already made his mark in the volatile exploration and production side of the oil business.
Feeling hot and cold by turns, Darcy examined his features as intently as he studied her resume. His face easily rivaled any male heart throb on the silver screen. To characterize his dark blue eyes as bedroom eyes was an old cliche, but it was certainly true. Bedroom eyes. The phrase made Darcy tingle.
His thick ebony hair made her fingers itch with the desire to slide through the silky black strands. Just thinking about touching him made her sigh. And his mouth! Oh, my goodness! Darcy couldn’t even put words to the feelings incited by his full, chiseled lips. Another sigh escaped her.
At the soft sound, Chase shifted. His eyes flickered to her then back to her resume. Darcy felt the blush begin beneath her prim white blouse and creep upwards until it reached her face. This would never do. She blotted her forehead again, surprised at how damp the tissue felt.
Frowning, she looked at it. Her eyes widened in shock. Blue ink practically dripped from the sodden wad of tissue. Horrified, she stared dumbly at the blue ink that colored her finger tips and rimmed her unpainted nails.
If any of her three brothers had been in the room, she’d have accused them of playing another of their dumb practical jokes. But this time, she only had herself–and a cheap ballpoint pen that had leaked over the contents of her expensive new purse–to blame for her failure to achieve the sophisticated femininity she wanted. Somehow, she thought in despair, she always ended up feeling and looking like the gangly kid who’d tried to outdo her older siblings in every sport.
Resigned, Darcy opened both palms. Blue ink–indelible blue at that–mottled her pale skin. She looked at the shiny brass and glass table next to her chair, with the ridiculous hope that there would be a box of tissues beneath the small Christmas tree decorated with tiny gold oil wells. No such luck. Desperate, she wiped her palms up and down the sides of her navy skirt.
With a prayer on her lips, Darcy looked at her hands again. The mottling had been replaced by wide smeary streaks. Great! Just great! It was no use. The ink wasn’t going anywhere. She closed her hands into tight fists, trying to hide the stains.
Why had this happened when she wanted so desperately to make an impression on Chase Whitaker? And not just because she wanted him to hire her. The man stirred something inside her that she’d never felt in all her twenty-three years. Just looking at his hands made her quiver like a taut wire on a piano.
Her music teacher mother would describe his large, well-formed hands with long, shapely fingers, as pianist hands. The bronze of his hands contrasted sharply with the turned up cuffs of his starched white shirt. The thing Darcy liked most about his hands was the absence of a wedding ring on his left hand.
That brought her up short. Get a grip, Darcy Benton, she scolded herself. You’re here for a job–not a romantic entanglement. As if she would know how to have a romantic entanglement. Even if the opportunity presented itself. She needed to stifle her overactive imagination.
She found herself praying that she would get this accounting position. And not just because she had to start repaying her student loans. She wanted it because of him. She looked at Chase Whitaker again. Another sigh escaped her. Chase glanced up, his dark blue eyes sharp and penetrating. He frowned. Surely, he couldn’t know what she’d been thinking? She felt her blush intensify. As she watched, he slowly wiped his hand across his forehead. His hand. Those bedroom eyes. He mesmerized Darcy. Feeling light-headed, she uncrossed her legs, knocking over her briefcase. “Sorry,” she mumbled. She rolled her eyes to the ceiling in disgust. Could she possibly be more clumsy?
Then she realized that he seemed to look, not at her eyes, but about an inch above them. His irresistible mouth twitched as if a smile struggled to break free of restraint. He stood, and Darcy’s mouth went dry as her gaze climbed his tall, broad-shouldered frame.
When she’d first entered his office, she’d had the unusual pleasure of looking up to meet his eyes, rather than down, as she usually did. She felt absurdly pleased that he was a few inches taller than her five feet eleven inches.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a snowy white square of linen and walked around the desk and offered it to her. “This should help.”
Taken aback, she frowned. He touched his forehead again, making a wiping motion. Suddenly, horrified understanding flooded her. Quickly, she swiped the handkerchief across her forehead and wasn’t surprised to see it come away streaked in blue. She didn’t even want to think about what her she must look like.
She returned his handkerchief. Chase carefully folded it and laid it on his desk top. He remained standing, towering over her. She wished he would go back to his chair.
“Thank you, Mr. Whitaker,” she said, acting as if nothing were wrong. Her voice was brisk and cool. She was afraid to let any warmth creep into her voice for fear she’d cry, or worse, that he’d discover how breathless she felt with him so near.
Each time she looked at him, she felt so peculiar, like the time her three brothers had dared her to climb the giant pine tree in the back yard, and she’d fallen, knocking the breath out of her.
Belatedly, she realized that he was talking. She focused hard and caught the end of his sentence. “–give you a chance. We’d wanted someone with experience, but we’re willing to take you on, though we try not to hire straight out of college. However, your class standing was excellent, and you seem like a mature, sober young woman.”
His eyes swept her up and down, from the tight knot of hair forced into submission by half a tube of gel, to the black, square-framed glasses. Those sexy eyes of his quickly took in the severe navy suit, pristine white blouse, and floppy navy bow tie.
The book she’d read on dressing for success had said this was the outfit professional women wore. She’d plunked down her credit card in hopes that the severe clothing would change her image from a basketball-playing tomboy to a stunning corporate diva. Maybe she should have checked the copyright date in the book, she thought, feeling uncertain.
His sexy eyes reached her size ten feet clad in sensible, low-heeled shoes–ugly black patent leather flats that, Darcy knew, no fashionable woman her age would be caught dead wearing. But Darcy had thought they’d be perfect in case the owner of Sunbelt Oil turned out to be on the short side.
Chase cleared his throat. “And you are obviously sensible and practical.” He smiled.
Mature? Sober? Sensible? Practical?
Why didn’t he just say she was so undesirable that a man ship-wrecked on a desert island for twenty years wouldn’t put the moves on her? Darcy fumed, insulted by his assessment. The rest of what he said faded into the background. Just once, why couldn’t she be seen as incredibly sexy and completely irresistible! Why couldn’t he be as attracted to her as she was to him?
When he offered her the accounting position for which she had applied, Darcy coolly thanked him. She knew she was being ridiculous, acting like a starry-eyed teenager in the throes of infatuation, but she couldn’t help it. She hadn’t had enough experience with infatuation to become blase about it.
She tried to work up some satisfaction at landing her first real job, but she felt more depressed than elated. Just get over it, she told herself. Even had she managed to attract Chase’s attention, she’d never have stood a chance.
Although she had limited experience with the opposite sex, Darcy recognized the kind of man Chase Whitaker was–a real heartbreaker. It was stamped on him as indelibly as the ink that stained her fingers. He was completely out of her league–from his sexy blue eyes to his delectable mouth.
“Welcome to Sunbelt Oil,” he said, offering his hand to her. Pulse pounding, Darcy stood and stepped toward him. She’d forgotten about her briefcase, but it hadn’t forgotten about her, she thought, as she stumbled over it.
Momentum pitched her toward Chase. He reached up and grabbed her hands, catching her before she did a half-gainer and landed face first at his feet.
Smoothly, his grip changed to a handshake. Laughter danced in his sexy eyes. “Again, welcome to Sunbelt,” he said smoothly.
“Thank you, Mr. Whitaker.” His touch was everything she had imagined it would be. His skin was warm to her icy hand. Her pulse beat erratically. The touch of his palm to hers was flame to dry tinder. Suddenly, Darcy fully understood the meaning of desire. Her pulse throbbed in places she hadn’t suspected could throb.
Mortified by her discovery, she jerked her hand back. She’d die if he ever knew how she felt! Determined that he never know how he affected her, she thanked him in a brisk, cool voice. She might as well squelch her hopeless romantic notions, Darcy told herself, because she knew that Chase Whitaker saw nothing, absolutely nothing, that attracted him.
Why couldn’t she be petite, cute, and sexy–with a flair for fashion rather than a killer hoop shot? Why did she have to be a tomboy who towered over nearly every man even in a state full of long, tall Texans?
Darcy managed a few strangled words conveying her pleasure at joining his company even as a horrible suspicion began forming in her mind. She rejected the idea. It was unthinkable! Perfectly ridiculous!
When Chase touched her elbow, Darcy knew she was a goner. He led her to the door, which was a good thing, because the way her head was spinning, she’d never have found it on her own.
Somehow, she found her way back to her little blue car in the parking lot. She was in such a hurry that she nearly knocked down an elderly white-haired man, bundled up in a red ski parka trimmed in white faux fur. Absently, she smiled at the white-bearded man and mumbled an apology. If she hadn’t been so shaken by her encounter with Chase Whitaker, she’d have been amused that he looked like Santa Clause. As it was, his appearance hardly made an impression because she was too busy bemoaning life’s cruel sense of humor.
In her car, huddled on the cold blue vinyl seat, Darcy stared at the office building and wondered which window was Chase’s? Softly, desperately, she asked, “What am I going to do?”
The icy temperatures made her breath visible, as if her plaintive question hung in the cold air. Working near Chase Whitaker, who had looked at her as if she were another piece of office furniture that he’d just acquired, was going to be impossible.
Darcy pounded the steering wheel with her cold, blue-stained hands. Crazy as it seemed, she had fallen in love at first sight with her handsome new boss.
My Chistmas Wish For You:
I wish you joy, peace, and happiness. Go forth and conquer the New Year armed with raging optimism and hope.
Visit me at JoanReeves.com; SlingWords.blogspot.com; and on Twitter: @JoanReeves.