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Authors: Jessie Evans

Tags: #second chance romance, #western romance, #friends to lovers, #holiday romance

Twelve Dates of Christmas: The Ballad of Lula Jo (Lonesome Point)

BOOK: Twelve Dates of Christmas: The Ballad of Lula Jo (Lonesome Point)
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Table of Contents

Title Page

All Rights Reserved

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Twelve Dates of Christmas:

The Ballad of Lula Jo

 

A Lonesome Point Holiday Novella

 

By Jessie Evans

All Rights Reserved

 

Copyright
The Twelve Dates of Christmas
© 2014 Jessie D. Evans
www.jessieevansauthor.com

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. This contemporary western romance is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. This e-book is licensed for your personal use only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with, especially if you enjoy hot, sexy, emotional novels featuring alpha cowboys. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work. Cover design © by Violet Duke. Edited by Robin Leone Editorial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

Eleven years ago

 

Lula

 

 

The desert night was cool, the Christmas carnival cast downtown Lonesome Point, Texas in giddy splashes of color and light, and the air smelled of hot chocolate, cookies, evergreen trees, and unadulterated happiness. The old west town came alive on December twenty-fourth when the shops on Main Street brought their wares out to the sidewalk for the annual holiday sale, a carnival set up in the square, and mistletoe hung from every street lamp, issuing an invitation to romance that only a Scrooge could refuse.

And Tallulah Josephine Watson was no Scrooge.

She’d deliberately staked out a spot beneath a clump of mistletoe, across the street from the Blue Saloon Hotel, and her lips were tingling with anticipation. She could feel it in her bones, in her fluttering belly, in her feet that couldn’t seem to stand still. She paced back and forth in her red ballet flats, purchased to match her red dress with the Peter Pan collar and the scandalous hemline. Her green eyes scanned the lamp-lit street, determined to spot Carter the moment he turned the corner.

Lula wanted to remember every single second of tonight, the night the man of her dreams asked her to marry him. He’d told her to dress for a special evening, and she had it on good authority—her Aunt Cathy, who owned the jewelry store—that he’d been in to the Lonesome Point Mining Company to purchase a diamond ring a few days ago. Visions of romantic proposals under the mistletoe had been floating through Lula’s head ever since. She couldn’t wait to say yes to the most fascinating, funny, adventurous, gorgeous man she’d ever met.

Carter was an archeologist and treasure hunter who’d been working the mesa around Lonesome Point’s ghost town for the past two years. He’d come to southwest Texas hoping to find gold bars hidden in the hills by a notorious wild west outlaw and stayed to help a team of paleontologists unearth dinosaur bones in the desert nearby. He joked that he’d come to Lonesome Point hunting treasure, but the only time he’d struck gold was when he met Lula Jo.

She felt exactly the same way.

Lula swung in a giddy circle, sending her skirt twirling around her thighs. She was going to say yes to forever with Carter in a few short hours! The thought made her stretch her arms over her head and blow a celebratory kiss to the stars in the cool winter sky.

“Hope you have some of those left for me,” a deep voice rumbled from behind her. A moment later, Carter’s muscular arms were around her waist, lifting her feet off the ground as he pressed a kiss to the curve of her neck.

“How do you always manage to sneak up on me?” Lula asked, giggling. “I think you’re part mountain lion.”

“Part ninja,” Carter corrected, smiling against her skin. “Self-trained ninja—the most dangerous kind. All the stealth, none of the honor code.”

“Ninjas didn’t have a code. They were assassins who specialized in covert espionage in feudal Japan.” Her laughter turned to a sigh of contentment as she shifted in Carter’s arms and looped her wrists around his neck. “You’re thinking of samurai. They’re the ones who had a code.”

“Hmm…as smart as you are sexy.” His melted chocolate eyes wrinkled at the edges as he smiled, making Lula’s heart feel like it was still spinning in circles. “I’ve missed you since yesterday.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” she said, brushing his soft brown curls from his forehead. God, he was wonderful. He was everything she wanted in a man—handsome, intelligent, funny, unpredictable, taller than her own lanky five-ten, and so sexy her knees still went weak every time they kissed.

"You ready for a night of adventure?” He hugged her closer, setting her nerves to fizzing. “Because I’ve got plans for you, L.J. I’m going to make all your secret Christmas wishes come true.”

Lula bit back a squeal of excitement. “I can’t wait. But before we go, I need you to take advantage of the situation I’ve arranged right here.” She pointed one finger to the air above their heads, making a little circle with her arm as she arched one brow.

Carter looked up, a slow, sinful smile spreading across his face as he spotted the mistletoe. “I love the way you think.”

“And I love you,” Lula whispered as his mouth dropped to hers, and he kissed her the way Carter always kissed her—with a focused intensity that left no doubt she was the only woman in his heart.

Until the day Carter swept into her quiet, ordered world, Lula hadn’t believed she was destined for an epic romance. She was pretty in the willowy way of the women of her family, with short blond hair and pale green eyes, but she had never garnered much male attention. She was attractive, not beautiful, but that had never bothered her. She was happy to spend her time running her tea shop and collectible store, knitting lace with the tiny needles she’d inherited from her grandmother, and crafting porcelain dolls that had been her secret obsession since she was a little girl. She was a nerdy homebody who had preferred chocolate kisses to the real ones, and that had been just fine with her.

And then Carter happened. Sweet, sexy, unstoppable Carter who looked at her like she was the most beautiful woman in the world, had turned a homebody into a bona fide sex fiend, and insisted she was more fascinating than ancient Mayan tombs and dinosaur bones combined.

“Let’s go,” he said in a husky voice when they came up for air, long minutes later. “I’ve got a big night planned. But if we keep kissing, all I’ll want to do is take you back to your apartment and make you scream so loud everyone on Main Street will know what we’re doing.”

Lula’s body sparked to life at the thought, but getting naked under the Christmas tree would have to wait until the parade was over. “Considering half my family is at the carnival right now, and the other half is in the parade in an hour, I’ll pass on that. But run it by me later,” she added with a wink. “I have a feeling you might get lucky.”

“I’m already lucky.” Carter took her hand, giving it a squeeze that she felt from the tip of her chilled nose to the ends of her freshly-painted toes.

Only Carter could say
I love you
in the way he held her hand or brushed her hair from her face. Only Carter could make her feel like the town she’d lived in all her life was a place filled with fascinating secrets and untapped magic, instead of a dusty, though adorable, hamlet, barely clinging to its spot on the map.

Since the day Carter had arrived in Lonesome Point two years ago in his wide-brimmed fedora and battered blue jeans and set up camp in her tea shop, guzzling Earl Grey as he chatted her up about the ghost town, he had been making her fall in love with her hometown all over again. He found the treasures other people overlooked and embraced experiences many in sleepy Lonesome Point would call flat out crazy.

So Lula shouldn’t have been surprised to round the corner onto the Old Town Highway to see a sleigh on wheels and a team of four reindeer tied at the hitching post near the copy store.

But she
was
surprised and so thrilled that she couldn’t keep from clapping her hands in excitement. “They’re adorable!” she said, laughing. “Where did you find reindeer in the middle of the desert?”

“I borrowed them from the Santa’s village up the highway about half an hour,” Carter said, pride in his voice. “I figured it was past time for you to have your first sleigh ride. May I help you into your carriage, m’lady?”

By the time she and Carter were settled on the padded leather seat of the sleigh, Lula was grinning so hard her face hurt. Carter set the reindeer in motion with a soft “whup now,” and the sleigh moved smoothly down the two-lane highway leading toward the edge of town. The bells on the harnesses tinkled softly and the cool wind stung Lula’s cheeks, making her feel like she was in the middle of one of the Christmas movies she loved so much.

“This is perfect.” She looped her arm through Carter’s and squeezed. “This
was
one of my secret Christmas wishes.”

“I figured it would do until I can get you up to Alaska for a real sleigh ride,” he said. “My dad still has his cabin up there, and I have friends who will loan us dogs. We could go winter camping next Christmas.”

“Sounds miserable,” Lula said cheerfully as Carter turned left on Mesquite Lane, the last road before the highway narrowed. “I’ve never felt air colder than thirty-one degrees and that’s just fine with me. I’ll be a Texas girl ’til the day I die.”

“Oh, come on. Where’s your sense of adventure?” He nudged her shoulder. “I know there’s a wild child inside of you, Lu. You may have everyone else fooled, but I see the real Lula Jo.”

She fought a smile. “Wild and ‘enjoys freezing to death in the Alaskan wilderness’ are not the same thing. Now pull over, mister. I have a mission to accomplish.”

“And what’s that?” Carter asked, grinning as he tugged on the reins.

“You’ll see,” Lula said mysteriously, pointing to the side of the road.

Carter pulled the reindeer to a stop in the middle of the residential street, where bungalows from the 1920s and larger mid-century homes threatened to overflow their tiny yards. Most of the windows were dark—nearly the entire town was at the carnival and getting settled for the parade—but Christmas lights twinkled merrily from rooftops, shrubs, and around the neck of the giant plastic armadillo the Grant family was famous for resurrecting every year.

The Grant family’s display was obnoxious, but nothing compared to the last yard on the block, where floodlights illuminated the nearly one hundred garden gnomes that filled the front lawn. Lula’s great-aunt Louise had been collecting holiday garden gnomes for twenty years. Lula had been stealing one from Louise’s lawn for ten, ever since she was twelve years old and her brother had dared her to smuggle a gnome home in her backpack.

By now, The Mystery of the Missing Gnome was a holiday tradition in Lonesome Point and many of the people who came into Lula’s tea shop waited breathlessly for the annual theft announcement—covered by the town reporter, complete with gnome pictures. It was harmless fun, and Lula didn’t really care if she was caught one day. But she still did her best to practice stealth and to grab the gnome on a different day every year, so there was no pattern to her crime against gnome-kind.

BOOK: Twelve Dates of Christmas: The Ballad of Lula Jo (Lonesome Point)
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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