Jake Sanders comes home for Christmas after a dreary semester filled with sleepless nights and a cheating boyfriend. Finding a new man is the last thing on his mind until he discovers that Ben Swinburne now owns the bakery where they both once worked.
Five years ago, Jake and Ben shared a single kiss, and Jake has never forgotten the way Ben’s lips felt against his. When Ben catches Jake under the mistletoe, passion ignites between them.
This time around, Ben wants more than one kiss, but Jake isn’t sure he’s ready for another relationship. Can Jake move past his pain and open his heart, or will he miss out on a second chance with the man of his dreams?
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When I pulled into my parents’ driveway, I couldn’t help but smile at the crazy colored lights snaking along the roofline, outlining every window, and circling the porch columns. Strands of glittery reindeer lights covered the azaleas lining the front of the house, and bells tinkled in the breeze.
My mom loved Christmas, and every year she sent my dad outside on the day after Thanksgiving with string after string of lights, admonishing him to cover every available space with them. This year, a bevy of penguins had joined the animatronic reindeer and polar bears on the lawn. I could imagine my dad shaking his head as he set them out. But making my mother happy made him happy, so no matter how much he grumbled about the decorations, he always did his best to turn our home into a winter wonderland.
It was good to be home. I’d been avoiding my family, using the excuse of my tough-as-hell vet school schedule, but really I’d been depressed ever since I got dumped by my cheating bastard of a boyfriend a few months ago. I wasn’t good company for anyone.
I grabbed my duffle bag and my laptop from the backseat and headed to the door smiling as one of the penguins greeted me with “Merry Christmas from Winterville”.
“Mom! I’m home!” I called as I pushed the door open.
“Jake!” She rushed from the kitchen wearing one of her many Christmas aprons. That day’s selection was an appalling shade of green with little Santas all over it. She raced down the hall, and I gathered her up in a tight hug. Yep, it was good to be home.
I took a deep breath, drinking in the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. “Chicken and dumplings?”
My mom smiled. “You know I always make your favorites when you come home.”
I gave her a kiss. “Thanks, Mom. Did you make chocolate cake too?”
She laughed. “That’s your sister’s treat, not that you won’t eat your share.”
“When will Lauren be here?” My sister and I had always been close, and I regretted not calling her more in the past few months.
“Not for a few hours. Come on and put your things in your room.” My mom started up the stairs, and I followed, grinning at the greenery that circled the railing and imagining my dad complaining about the whole damn house smelling like a pine forest.
I slung my duffle bag on my old bed and set up my laptop as Mom chattered about old friends of mine who’d gotten married and former teachers who’d retired and other local tidbits. I was about to inquire about our plans for the next few days when she said, “You’ll never guess who bought Highland Bakery a few months ago.”
My heart sped up as it always did when I thought about the bakery. Remembering the years I’d worked there meant thinking about Ben, my high school crush. He was five years older than me, and he had refused to go out with me until I graduated. I’d counted the days, waiting for my fantasies to come true. Then, a few months before graduation, he told me he’d finally saved up enough money for chef school. I was thrilled for him until I found out he’d be moving. We shared an amazing kiss that night, and I’ve never forgotten the feel of his lips on mine.
“Marsha sold the place?” I asked as I untangled my laptop cord.
“I told you she was thinking about retiring.”
My heart beat even faster when I turned and saw that my mom had a look like she was up to something. “Who bought it?”