The McGavin Brothers
All she wants for Christmas is a fake fiancé...
Just once Hayley Bennett would like to spend the holidays at her parents’ house without feeling as if she’s stepped onto the set of The Bachelorette. Her mom’s been planning her wedding since the day she was born, but thirty years later, Hayley hasn’t come up with a groom. Or has she?
Air Force vet and Southerner Badger Calhoun is delighted to be Hayley’s seatmate on the flight from Denver to Eagles Nest. He’s visiting his buddy Ryker McGavin for the holidays, but when he discovers Hayley needs a guy she can present to her marriage-minded momma as her fiancé, he’s all in. Pretending to be her devoted boyfriend is a no-brainer. He can’t resist helping a beautiful damsel in distress.
But when the holiday ends, can he just walk away?
Hayley's mom gave her a quick hug. “Oh, honey, he’s perfect.”
“He is?” Hayley caught herself. “I mean, yes, he certainly is.”
“The minute I saw him I knew he was right for you.” Her mom took dessert plates out of the cupboard and set them on the counter. “But I never dreamed he’d be the perfect son-in-law for your father. He’s going to love having Badger in the family.”
“Mom, we’re almost engaged, but it’s a little early to toss around terms like son-in-law.”
“You’ll be engaged before this vacation is over. I saw the look in his eye.”
“That man’s crazy about you.” She took a pumpkin pie and a can of whipped cream out of the refrigerator. “Would you please switch on the coffee? It’s ready to go.” She took a knife out of the wooden block on the counter. “I just wish I could call him Thaddeus. It’s so much more elegant.”
“But he hates the name.” Hayley turned on the coffee pot and took mugs down from the cabinet above it.
“How can he? He’s named after his father and grandfather!”
Hayley had considered that, too, especially after finding out that he’d chosen Eagles Nest over Atlanta for his first stateside Christmas. But she wasn’t willing to share her speculations with her mother. “Maybe he was teased in school.”
“I suppose he could have been. Kids will do that.” Her mom sliced the pie. “But I love that kind of tradition. I wanted to name Luke after your father but he wouldn’t hear of it. He’s never been overly fond of his name, either. I guess I should be grateful he doesn’t want to be called Raccoon or Porcupine.”
“I like Badger. It’s—”
“Did I hear my name mentioned?” The man in question appeared in the kitchen doorway.
She looked over at him. Sure enough, he was standing smack dab under the mistletoe. Her mother always hung it there to go with her holiday apron that said Kiss the Cook. “I was just saying to Mom that I like your nickname.”
“And I don’t dislike it,” her mother said. “But I think your given name has a certain ring to it. I hope you’re planning to use it on the wedding invitations.”
Hayley gulped. “Mom, we haven’t exactly—”
“Don’t worry.” He gave her a quick glance. “We’ll use it on the invitations.”
“The pie looks amazin’. I came in to see if I could carry anything in for you.”
“That would be lovely.” Her mom glanced at him. “Hayley,” she said in a sing-song voice. “Look where he’s standing.”
“What?” He turned right and then left. “Is this a bad place?”
“Oh, no, you’re in the exact right place,” her mom said. “Go on, Hayley. Claim your kiss.”
He looked up and spied the mistletoe. “Aha.” Amusement flickered in his eyes as Hayley approached. “Guess I’m caught.”
“Seems like it.” She couldn’t be tentative about this kiss if she wanted her mom to believe they were madly in love. Her heart beat so loud she was scared he could hear it or worse yet, her mom could.
Arms at his sides, he watched her.
“First time under the mistletoe.” She slid her palms up his solid chest. The guy had some serious muscles. And surprise, surprise, his heart was going fast, too.
“Then you best make it good, darlin’.”
She stepped closer and gazed into eyes that had darkened to the color of rich chocolate. “Can’t make it too good with Mom in the room.”
“You two lovebirds just pretend I’m not here.”
His mouth twitched as if he might be holding back laughter. Great mouth. Full. Sensuous. Dizzy with anticipation, she raised up on tiptoe and pressed her lips against his.