We are, therefore, happy to announce the winner of the Contemporary Romance category: Emily Hendrickson, of Sanford, Maine, with her novel Mistletoe and Mischief. Pour yourself a cup, pull up a chair, and enjoy: Mistletoe and MischiefbyEmily Hendrickson CHAPTER ONE Erica Marks had about three minutes to sweet-talk her way around the biggest roadblock to her Christmas plans—a hard-headed, six-foot-two police barricade named Tyler Collins. With a calculating glance, she studied the stubborn male as he plunked his usual twenty-four-ounce French roast on the café counter. Extra cream, extra sugar, same as always. Based on his morning coffee routine, he should be sweeter by now. A whole lot sweeter. As far as she could tell, it didn’t seem to be working. “It’s on the house, Chief.” She nudged the to-go cup toward him as he reached for his wallet. “You know that.” “Tyler,” he corrected. “And you know I don’t feel comfortable not paying.” Anyone else hearing the no-debate tone in the man’s voice would have backed down. Erica flattened her palms on the counter and leaned toward the impossible male, now eye level with her as he bent to tug open the flap on his cargo pocket and dig out his wallet. “It’s Ian’s policy.” Her boss insisted on free coffee for any public service employee on duty. “Your job is to serve and protect. Ours is to provide liquid energy for those doing the serving and protecting.” She pulled back from the counter and flicked her fingers in a shooing motion at Maple Grove’s new chief of police. From the narrowed gaze he directed her way, he didn’t appreciate the gesture. “Come on,” she persisted, wondering how she expected sweet-talk to have an effect on someone a sugar overdose wouldn’t touch. “It’s our civic duty, all right?” And it made her feel a bit better about herself, considering his line of work and her own hang-ups. Besides, if she expected to pull off her plan at this late date, she needed every ounce of help, caffeinated or not. Tyler didn’t look as tired as he did yesterday. Maybe he’d be in a better mood, too, and she could find a way to sneak in one last pitch for her benefit idea for the St. Charles Home. Help the kids. Help reestablish herself as a citizen in good standing after her recent run-in with the boys in blue . . . though Tyler knew nothing of that little incident, and she sure didn’t plan to bring it up.
Ignoring her protest, Tyler flipped open his wallet and slid out some bills. “I appreciate the gesture, but it’s not necessary.” Before he could hand over payment, Erica swiveled away from the register and grabbed the tray of her homemade double-fudge brownies layered with mint frosting. With a beveled spatula, she slid a brownie out of the pan and onto a tray, resisting the urge to swipe the gooey chunk that broke off one corner and pop it into her mouth. “Seriously, Tyler. We go through this every single morning. You’re good.” “Exactly. And every single morning I have to leave cash with Tim or stuff it in the tip jar. Which makes me wonder—” he crammed bills in a cow-shaped glass jar then reached for his drink— “when you’re going to realize you’re running a business. Not a charity.” Speaking of charities . . . Seeing her moment of opportunity, Erica looked up from stacking the brownies and opened her mouth to make one last attempt to change his mind. And forgot what she was about to say.(Click here to continue.)Yvonne Anderson writes Fiction That Takes You Out of This World. Her debut novel,The Story in the Stars, was released in June 2011 by Risen Books. Besides being Novel Rocket’s contest captain, she flies a blog at www.YsWords.com.