Series Title A Chicago Christmas Series
Titles in Order of Publication Dante’s Gift, Paper Love, Merry Christmas, Henry
Author Aubrey Wynne
Genre Contemporary Sweet Holiday Romance
Publisher Plato Publishing
Kathleen James has put her practical side away for once and looks forward to the perfect romantic evening: an intimate dinner with the man of her dreams—and an engagement ring. She is not prepared to hear that he wants to bring his grandmother back from Italy to live with him.
Dominic Lawrence has planned this marriage proposal for six months. Nothing can go wrong—until his Nonna calls. Now he must interrupt the tenderest night of Katie’s life with the news that another woman will be under their roof.
When Antonia’s sister dies, she finds herself longing to be back in the states. An Italian wartime bride from the ‘40s, she knows how precious love can be. Can her own story of an American soldier and a very special collie once again bring two hearts together at Christmas?
Growing up in a Papua New Guinea mission, Joss Palmateer is a gentle soul with a unique view of life. Still adjusting to a new home in the U.S and the sudden loss of her mother, love is the last thing on her mind.
Sexy physical therapist, Ben Montgomery, meets his sister’s friend and the sparks fly. He takes it as a challenge when she ignores his advances, but it’s her extraordinary inner beauty that captures his heart.
With the help of a stray homing pigeon and an old origami legend, Ben sets an unwavering course of romance to win her love.
Merry Christmas, Henry
A holiday fantasy short story for the romantic.
Henry, a shy and talented artist, moonlights as a security guard at a museum and loses his heart to a beautiful, melancholy woman in a painting. As his obsession grows, he finds a kindred soul who helps him in his search for happiness. On Christmas Eve, Henry dares to take a chance on love and fulfill his dream.
Excerpt from Dante’s Gift —
Excerpt from present day romance:
The scent of turkey met her at Dom’s front door. For a moment, apprehension swept through her at the thought of helping in the kitchen. Then a handsome man stood before her, and she couldn’t wipe the foolish smile off her face. Instead of saying something stupid, she held out the wine.
“In a holiday bag, no less,” Dom said, eyebrows raised. He stepped back to let her in, grabbed her hand, and spun her around to face him. “You look stunning.”
“I just thought that the burlap would give it extra protection if I dropped it, and they only seemed to have holiday wine bags in stock and—”
One finger covered her mouth. As his head slowly lowered, she could feel his breath on her face; heat raced through her core. By the time their lips touched, her legs had turned to jello; she clung to him for support.
Gently pushing her toward the wall, he pressed his length against her and whispered, “I need to make you mine, legally, before I lose all control. You have no idea the affect you have on me, do you?”
“I think that is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me,” she said breathless. “Kiss me like that again… please?”
“I’d be happy to oblige if you tell me that isn’t my grandmother standing in the doorway watching us.”
Katie looked over to see Antonia, a wide grin on her face, and quickly pushed on the hard chest that pinned her to the wall. She ran a hand through her hair as the blood rushed to her face.
“Oh Nico, such good Italian blood in you. And not even any mistletoe out yet.” Antonia wiped her hands on her apron and waved to the young couple. “Come now, we have work to do before we play.”
The two followed her in like reprimanded children who showed no remorse, holding hands and snickering. This is silly but it feels so good. Katie accepted the apron and as she pulled the straps behind her, strong hands covered hers.
“Let me,” he whispered in her ear. “I’m good at tying knots.”
Excerpt from WWII romance:
The pilot with wheat-colored hair put his elbows on the counter and leaned toward her. “I could buy thirty loaves of bread at home for that much lettuce.”
“But you are not home, soldier. You are here, in Benevento, and a sticky bun is 100 lire.” She meant to be rude but his soft brown gaze made her heart race as if she’d just chased Dante across the field. His smile went to his eyes, adding crinkles to the corners, and made her own lips turn up. “The cost of supplies is very expensive these days, as you know.”
“So I’ve heard. Give me five,” he said with a wink. “Maybe I can sweet talk the captain into putting me back into a plane.”
“Save your money, Ken. Your ears obviously ain’t got any better in the last ten minutes,” he answered, rubber-necking over the counter. “Get a load of that landing gear.”
Dante growled again but this time showed sharp, white teeth. “I don’t think he likes you much, Bob.”
“Well I don’t care for him, neither. Give me two of those, and we’ll get out of your hair.”
The men paid for the rolls and walked outside. She headed into the kitchen when that quiet, deep voice stopped her. “I’d like to apologize for my friend. He’s not a bad Joe once you get to know him.”
“I don’t think I care to,” she said without turning around.
“It looks like I may be making regular trips through your town. Do you work here often?” His tone dripped like honey from a ladle and poured over her; she felt her body turn toward him even as her brain told her “no.”
“My family owns it. I am here every day.”
“So your father is Guido?” He had resumed his place at the counter, balanced on his elbows again, inviting her back without a word.
She found herself leaning on the counter from the other side. “How do you know my father?”
“The sign says Guido’s Café.”
She laughed. “Yes, it does. So you are no private eye, eh?”
He whistled then. “You’d make Betty Grable green with envy when you smile. It makes those blue eyes sparkle like a fresh-cut diamond. You should do that more often.”
Her eyes lowered, embarrassed at the compliment and the image of the American pinup girl in a bathing suit. “You should go catch up with your friends.”
“My name is Ken Lawrence,” he said and held out his hand.
“Antonia Capriotti,” she replied and took his hand. A tingle shot down her center and curled her toes. “It is nice to meet you.”
“You’re blushing. Mmm, beautiful and modest. That’s a rare find, you know.” He held firmly onto her hand. “And who is this?”
She looked down at the silent collie. He hadn’t made a noise when this man reached across the counter and touched her. Odd. “Dante, our protector.”
“You need one, with mugs like Bob.” He made a kissing noise in the dog’s direction and slapped the counter. Dante jumped up, feet on the edge and barked. Ken reached over and scratched the dog behind his ears. “Good boy, you look like my old Schotzie.”
“You have a dog?”
“I did. Old man hit fourteen just before I left. Mom sent me his collar when he passed.”
“I’m sorry, they are just like one of the family, si?”
“Yes they are,” he agreed, giving Dante one more pat before he tipped his hat. “I hope to see you again soon, Antonia.”
She hugged the collie as the Yank left, a swagger to his walk. “What do you know that I don’t, hmm? I trust your instincts better than mine. Perhaps we’ll consider more conversation with this Americano if he returns.”
Excerpt from Paper Love —
“No, I categorize, I don’t judge. We’re all different. We all have a role in life.” He mirrored her pose. “So you’re argumentative.”
“Not usually, but you bring out the best in me.”
His laugh was so loud that it drew the attention of the others in the room. Joss’ face turned red. “And intelligent and beautiful.” His bright green eyes pinned hers and turned a smoky jade. “Go out with me. You won’t regret it.”
“Said the lion to the mouse.” But she couldn’t keep the smile from her face. He was arrogant but witty. Her mind craved the challenge he would provide if her body didn’t betray her first. Step away from the charming, to-die-for handsomeness of this man.
A brunette came up behind the couch, put her head between them and said in a breathy tone, “Don’t forget about the rest of your guests. You promised us a dance.”
“Indeed I did.” He stood up and held out a hand to Joss. “Would you care to dance?”
Joss shook her head. “No, I don’t dance.”
“Never.” The gauntlet has been thrown.
“I’ll ask again,” he said and turned to the blonde. “C’mon Jackie. Let’s swing.” Ben grabbed the girl’s hand and moved through the crowd. A whistle pierced the air.
“Swing time,” someone yelled and bodies started moving toward the large porch.
“Easy Breezy,” Becky called out as she swept past Joss. Interest piqued, she stood and moved toward the back of the house. An old tune, sounding like something from the thirties or forties filled the house. Four couples were on the dance floor, including Becky. She recognized two more of the Montgomery siblings, and then it was a blur of movement.
The crowd started to clap and sing along as if this was an expected part of the evening’s entertainment. Joss watched the couples twist, turn, shoot out in spins, and come back together. They bent and stretched, flapped their hands yet never stopped smiling. The pure delight on Becky’s face was contagious, and Joss began clapping along with the rest of the audience.
And then her eyes landed on Ben. His tall, muscular frame moved as gracefully as a cat but with the power of a bull. She couldn’t take her eyes from him. He spun the girl out and pulled her into his side, bent and moved forward, their feet pivoting back and forth in unison as they moved across the room. After another twirl, he pulled her into his chest, her face looking up at him with a huge expectant smile. His shirtsleeves strained against his muscled arms as he swung her up like a rag doll and tossed her against his hip, down against him for a brief moment as their eyes met, and back up on his other side.
When the song ended, she was as breathless as the dancers. He turned and searched the guests. His gaze latched onto her, traveling from her face to her heaving chest and back up to her eyes. That smile, those full lips, sent heat through her and dared her to come closer. The girl tugged at his arm, caught his attention for just a moment, and the spell was broken.
Excerpt from Merry Christmas, Henry —
“Hey, Henry, you want a little overtime?” the supervisor had asked. “Charlie called in sick and I could use an extra hand. Another rich collector remembered us in his will. We’ve got a pricey piece arriving in about an hour and I’d feel better with some extra security.”
Henry tried to wipe the smile off his face. Five years in the city and he still felt like a country bumpkin. “Sure.”
“The paper says a Rubens. Flemish, wasn’t he? But it’s a small one.”
Henry gave a whistle. “Impressive.”
“There’s a companion painting with it, artist unknown. We’ll have to find a spot for it in appreciation for the collector’s piece.”
An hour later, Henry held a priceless painting in his hands. God, he loved this job.
“The family probably figured they wouldn’t get any money out of the other one. But this one sure is a beauty,” the supervisor said as he reached for the Rubens.
“Yes, indeed,” Henry replied, as his eyes landed on the second painting. “Striking.”
Henry’s boss laughed. “I’m talking about this one, Bud. The little one is worth the big bucks!” His boss headed toward the office to start the paperwork on the new museum pieces.
“Yes, of course,” he murmured, but his attention remained focused on the woman in the larger painting.
She sat on the edge of a rocky cliff, her face slightly turned as if looking over the edge. Her legs were out to the side, knees bent, a long, olive-colored skirt spread around her haphazardly as if blown by the wind. The stormy ocean breakers rushed between jagged rocks then turned into frothy waves that lapped at the sand. The details in the picture were crisp and stark, the color was minimal—just the woman on a cliff with the turbulent water below. But the overall effect created a hauntingly beautiful scene.
He felt her distress, her sorrow. His fingers itched to reach out and pull her from the painting and hold her, soothe her, give her comfort. Henry knew that if she could turn and face him, he would be looking at the most exquisite creature he’d ever seen. His hand shook as he reached out to touch the canvas.
“Are you okay, Henry?”
Henry drew his hand back quickly as if he’d been caught in the act of—of what? Touching a frame? Good lord, he must be tired.
“What? Oh, yeah, I just need some sleep.” As Henry turned to leave, he took one last look at the woman who had just stolen his heart. Fate had given him a precious gift. He whistled “Angels We Have Heard on High” all the way home.
Merry Christmas, Henry
Bestselling and award-winning author Aubrey Wynne resides in the Midwest with her husband, dogs, horses, mule and barn cats. She is an elementary teacher by trade, champion of children and animals by conscience, and author by night. Obsessions include history, travel, trail riding, and all things Christmas.
Her short stories Merry Christmas, Henry and Pete’s Mighty Purty Privies won the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice in 2013 and 2014. Dante’s Gift, first in A Chicago Christmas series, received the 2016 Golden Quill, Aspen Gold, and Heart of Excellence awards.
Her upcoming series “A Vintage Romance” was inspired by tales of her stepfather, who served in the British Air Force in WWII. Wynne’s medieval fantasy series “Medieval Encounters” begins with Rolf’s Quest, 2016 NTRWA Great Expectations winner.
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