Looking for the perfect holiday read? Lauren Hawkeye's CHRISTMAS SANCTUARY is available now! Read a sneak peek below and grab your copy today!
About CHRISTMAS SANCTUARYEmma Kelly needs a Christmas miracle.
Nick Shepherd loves his life in Salt Spring Island, where he sculpts in a studio with the grizzled and talented artist Mike Nagorski. Mike's estranged daughter, Emma Kelly, arrives in their quiet haven, and though Nick is immediately drawn to her, he tries to resist his feelings. There may be Christmas magic in the air, but Nick knows it can't last forever...
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Get a CHRISTMAS SANCTUARY Sneak PeekNick wasn’t sure how he knew someone was there, but something made him look away from his work. Standing not five feet away from his worktable was a leggy blonde dressed in fitted black pants and a thick pale-pink sweater. Her hair, a startling shade of white-blond, was pulled back neatly in a ponytail, and her arms were tightly crossed in an obvious attempt to ward off the cold that Nick didn’t feel when he was working.
Annoyed at the interruption, he pushed his visor up off of his face. The woman’s lips formed a soft O as she made a breathy little sound that caught his attention.
“Like what you see?” He grinned as his sudden desire eclipsed any irritation he felt at the disruption. “I’ve got more I can show you if you’re interested.”
This time when she inhaled sharply, the sound carried insult. “I’m looking for Michael Nagorski.”
Her voice—wow. If he’d been intrigued by her just because of the way her sweater hugged her curves, he was downright turned on by the slow drawl in her voice, sweet as a ripe peach. “I was told I could find him here.”
“Just you and me here.” Tugging off his protective mask and elbow-length gloves, he tossed them on the table and picked up a bottle of water, chugging half of it down in big, messy gulps. “And much as I like being all up close with you, you’re going to want to step back a bit. Be a shame for these sparks to hit that pretty face of yours.”
She frowned, her eyes narrowing, and he felt—almost—like he should bite his tongue. He’d perfected his flirtatious patter, and on the island here, even back on the mainland, it worked just fine.
This woman clearly wasn’t impressed. Nor was she moving to do what he said—instead she stayed exactly where she was. “You’re wearing far less than I am. That can’t be safe.”
He shrugged the comment off. Yeah, he should be fully covered when he worked. No, he wasn’t going to change his work uniform, now or ever. When he wore too much clothing, his creativity was stifled. He’d rather risk the scars.
Not that the piece he was working on was going all that well, anyway. Furrowing his brow, he glared over at the shelf that held Michael’s most recent creations. His mentor had never been blocked. Probably because he did his best work when he was depressed, a pretty habitual state of being for him.
That sweet southern drawl melted into his consciousness again, drawing his attention back to the woman standing in his garage.
“I said, when do you reckon he’ll be back?” The look in her pale-blue eyes was full of exasperation, and something about the way she compressed her lips tugged at his mind.
She looked like…no. No way.
“Who are you, exactly?” Stepping closer, he watched her spine straighten as he looked her up and down. The Game of Thrones dragon-lady hair color…the tall, slender frame. The same crinkle of frustration that Nick had seen on Mike’s face a million times, usually directed at him.
“My name is Emma Kelly.” Her words floated in honey, sweet and heavy. So different from Mike’s clearly enunciated voice.
She wasn’t old enough to be a sibling, yet the resemblance was undeniable. The next logical relation would be a daughter.
“I’m his…it seems that Mr. Nagorski would be…my father.” Well. That confirmed it.
Mike had never mentioned a daughter to Nick. Not that it was any of his business, but he was surprised. Shocked, actually. He’d met Mike ten years ago when he’d signed with the same agent as the older man. Mike hadn’t been too happy when Hannah had pushed him into mentoring her new client, and Nick hadn’t been overly thrilled to be receiving advice from someone who was so sure he was right all the time. Somehow they’d pushed through their differences, and Nick was pretty sure he was the closest friend that Mike had. Hell, the whole reason that he was on Salt Spring Island in the first place was to keep an eye on his friend, who was prone to slip into deep depressive episodes without someone nudging him along.
Okay, that was about half the reason. But it was a generous half. Mike was an antisocial creature, happiest when he was alone in the studio or camping in the woods, and Nick knew he was pretty much the only confidant that the other man had. Which was why he was startled that he’d never heard even a whisper of a daughter from his friend.
“The woman—Emma—cleared her throat, and Nick realized that she was waiting for more information. Where she could find Mike, probably, or when he would be back.
His attention went to her lips again as she ran a delicate pink tongue over them, leaving a sheen of moisture behind. Usually, when he was attracted to a woman, he didn’t hesitate to flirt, to use deliberately cocky words and arrogant charm to draw her into his bed. Or onto his worktable—that would work, too.
Emma, though? She was clearly not impressed by his tricks. He couldn’t deny that it intrigued him.
It occurred to him that the reason Mike had never mentioned her might be because he didn’t know she existed. As his friend, the best thing Nick could do was get her out of the way long enough for him to give Mike some warning.
Pulling his attention away from those full lips again, he felt a strangely strong surge of disappointment. Nick usually used sex to help him achieve that blankness of mind that he needed to chase away his grief, but he suspected that if he had this southern lady beneath him, it would be more than that.
She was Mike’s daughter. And there was no way he would hurt his closest friend by sleeping with his kid. Especially if Mike didn’t know he had one. So, she had to go. And he’d learned that the best way to chase women off was just to be himself—after all, there was a thin line between arrogant charm and asshole.
He looked up at her again, at her long legs and white-blond hair, both obviously inherited from Mike. The instant attraction to her was potent, yet at the same time the clear reminder of who she was—the daughter of his best friend—created an uncomfortable dissonance in his mind.
He and Mike had been friends for a long time. The fact that he even found Emma attractive was enough to bring guilt weighing down on him.
“Well, baby, I’m afraid Mike isn’t going to be coming back anytime soon,” he said as he turned back to his torch, reaching for his gloves. “So unless you want to stick around and entertain me until he does, I’m going to have to ask you to go.”