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Book 3: A Very Merry Mess (Cider Cove Sweet RomCom) eBook PREORDER

Book 3: A Very Merry Mess (Cider Cove Sweet RomCom) eBook PREORDER

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Sometimes the holidays are messy...

Christmas is the season of joy, mistletoe, and, unfortunately for Ryanne, the pressure of bringing home a date. When she vents to Elliott, her best friend and co-manager at the small-town office supply store, he impulsively grabs her phone and texts her mother that they're dating.

Date. Ing.

Ryanne:

I'm utterly speechless.

Elliott Hutson, the man who knows all my secrets, the one who's never been serious with anyone, and the picture of Male Perfection that makes my pulse leap and frog, has now dived headfirst into my family drama. And as much as I pretend to be annoyed, I can't deny the flutter in my heart.

I've never had a fake boyfriend beforegetting a real one is hard enoughbut Elliott makes everything look so easy. And I'm absolutely positive the twinkling lights and Justin Bieber Christmas tunes are influencing the way he keeps dropping his gaze to my mouth.

Or maybe I'm not absolutely positive. Maybe The Biebs really does make true love happen.

As we navigate the slippery slope of fake dating, the lines between pretend and reality blur. Our stolen glances over family meals become lingering looks. Our playful banter near sprigs of mistletoe turns into something charged with real emotion.

Suddenly, the festive chaos around us isn't the only thing that's messy.

Our feelings are too.

And as the countdown to Christmas ticks on, I start to wonder if this holiday ruse might lead to the most unexpected gift of all true love.

Will this façade end with the holiday season, or can we unwrap a future together we never saw coming?

Maybe at Christmastime, the most unexpected love story can unfold.

This book will release on October 1, 2024. Preorder today, and get an email from BookFunnel when it releases. Then read on any device!

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

I have no idea what to do with the stares. Everyone seems to be looking at us, and I can’t decide if it’s me in this designer gown, or Elliott in his sport coat that used to be his grandfather’s, or the awful combination of us.

Almond, peanut, chili nut, peanut butter. I recite the nutty M&M flavors to try to maintain my sanity, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Everyone just keeps staring and staring and staring.

“Don’t they have their own problems?” I mutter to myself.

“What?” Elliott leans his head toward me, but I don’t want to explain to him. I just shake my head, and he turns toward me as a couple squeezes by him in this crowded lobby. “Do you want something to drink?”

“Heavens, yes,” I say.

He plucks a drink from the tray and hands it to me, no smile in sight. “Is being out with me so bad?”

“What?”

“You look like you’ve stepped in something foul.” He lifts his champagne to his lips and takes a sip. He makes a face and lowers it, and I know he won’t taste it again.

“I’m just…” Something. I don’t know what. Concussed? I’d have to be to agree to come to this couples’ movie night with him. 

“Elliott,” someone female says before I can come up with an explanation. The woman’s face brightens, and she doesn’t see me as she moves into brush her lips along Ell’s cheek. No one ever sees me, so I’m not sure why this tall blonde should. Or why it irritates me so much that she’s now introducing her girlfriend to him.

Not that they’re dating. They just came to this together, which is single-white-female code for, “I’m single, Elliott. Do you want to go out with me sometime?”

I take another sip—much bigger than Elliott’s of my drink and wait for her to walk away. “She was flirting hardcore with you.”

“She was not.” His smile drops, and I seriously don’t know why he’s so annoyed tonight. He’s the one who asked me out.

“Was,” I say, and not two seconds pass before another woman says, “Elliott Hutson? Holy gators and cattails, it is you!” Squealing happens, and this woman full-on hugs the man I can’t drive from my mind no matter how many M&M flavors I recite, or how many bags of candy I eat.

I stand politely silent and invisible while Elliott chats up yet another woman, and then turns into me once more. He looks a little flushed, which only pushes all my buttons in the wrong way. “I want to go home.”

He blinks at me, his expression going blank. “What?”

“In case you haven’t noticed,” I say. “And why should you? I’m invisible to everyone, including you. I always have been.” My chest rolls left and right like a big ship on stormy seas. “I’m just standing here while you chat it up with all your potential girlfriends. Is that why you brought me? So you’d have an excuse to come and meet women?”

“Whoa, whoa,” Elliott says, holding up both hands. “I’m not here to meet women.”

I snort-scoff and look away. “Sure. That’s how it totally seems.” I drain the last of my champagne. If he doesn’t want to take me home, I can call a ride. It’s not that hard. “I’m leaving.” I head for the door, and Elliott is right at my side.

“Ry,” he says. “You don’t want to see the movie?”

I push out of the theater, and the cooler air out here clears my head slightly. My face still feels too hot, and the alcohol still burns down my throat. Me and drinking is never a good idea, and I feel my tongue getting looser by the moment.

“I do,” I say. “But it’s just—it feels weird to be here with you.”

“Why?”

“Because.” I stop and stare right at him. “Can’t you feel it too? It’s just weird. I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.”

“Try.”

I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, as if I’m in an active military unit and have learned to control my thoughts and emotions through breath. I have not. 

“It’s weird, Elliott, because everyone here is a couple. It’s couples’ movie night, with pink champagne.” I wave my arm to make this a big deal. “And chocolate covered strawberries, and oh, we’ll be passing out blankets because the theater gets a little cold.” I sweep my arms left and right with each—romantic—thing.

I glare at him. “And yet, you’ve told me at least fourteen thousand times that this is not a date.” I indicate my gorgeous dress. “But I’m all dressed up. Claudia curled my hair. I’m wearing eyeliner, Ell. Eye. Liner.” I sigh when he still stands there, mute.

“And you look so…so amazing in that jacket. And it somehow goes with that silly t-shirt and those—” I look down to his pants. They’re not really jeans, but they’re not really khakis either. He has to wear black pants to work, and they’re kind of like that, but a washed out blue.

“Pants,” I finish lamely. “So it feels like a date, and it’s weird, because we’re not dating, but I don’t want to have all this datey stuff so you can chit-chat with other women.” I wipe my hand across my forehead, and oh, Claudia is going to be so mad at me. She spent a long time in hair and makeup with me, and I’m smearing it everywhere.

If I go home now, Lizzie and Tahlia will have a million questions. Everywhere I turn, I run into some major roadblock. 

“Let’s go walk around the Christmas Market,” I say. “Maybe we can get into the Living Bethlehem on standby.” I start walking toward the town square, and Ell comes with me.

He doesn’t touch me, and he doesn’t address anything I’ve just said. I wonder what it would be like to simply blow away. Would anyone notice? Would he? 

I could duck between the theater and the diner, and I wonder how long it would take before Ell realizes I’m not sauntering along at his side.

My chest pinches, and I pull in a breath to try to stem the hurt now blitzing through me. I’m so tired of being invisible, especially to him. To my parents. To everyone.

Technically, I know I’m not. My roommates see and love me. I want more, and maybe that makes me selfish. I’m not sure.

My phone zings, and I don’t even bother to look at it. “That’ll be my mother.” She doesn’t listen to me either. 

“Yeah? Is she still asking about the Christmas party?”

“Several times each day,” I say. “My sister is probably going to get engaged, and Momma says I need to be there.” I sigh as my phone chimes again, and we pause on the cusp of the square so I can take it out and read her texts.

“Ry, it’s December seventh. I must book airplane tickets in the next couple of days. I’m happy to pay for yours and a guest. Please let me know immediately what I should do.” I look over to Elliott, and for the first time since he showed up on the porch at the Big House, he looks like himself. 

Dazzling eyes, with that hint of mischievousness in them. Half-smile, slightly crooked. Adorable dimple. Straight, white teeth, and all the dashing and debonair of a true Hollywood heartthrob.

“Let me see.” He holds out his hand, and I pass over my phone the way I have plenty of times before. 

I look away and spot a hot chocolate station. Because of Claudia, I know more about this festival than the average attendee, and that hot chocolate is free. “I’m going to get some hot chocolate. Want some?”

“Sure.” 

I walk away, wishing I was dressed more like those who’ve come to the square tonight. Jeans, sweaters, even a scarf or two, probably just for festivities sake. I wait my turn, then fill two paper cups with hot chocolate. It’s steaming and thick, and the first thing I have to smile about tonight.

I approach Ell and we do a trade—he takes the hot chocolate; I take back my phone. “What should I tell her?”

He calmly takes a sip of his hot chocolate. “I answered her for you.”

My heartbeat thrashes against my ribcage. “What now?” He’s never done that before. He reads my texts and tells me what to say. He doesn’t actually type it out and say it.

“Yeah, yep,” he says, and that makes me pause and blink. Yeah, yep. That’s what Elliott says when he’s nervous.

“Well, what did you say?” I lift my hot chocolate to my lips and blow gently. I like things hot that are supposed to be hot, but I like my taste buds to function too.

I start to take a sip, and oh, yeah, that’s rich, full, and the perfect amount of chocolatey flavor.

“I told her you needed two tickets,” he says calmly. “One for you and one for me.”

The hot chocolate in my mouth spews out—all over his father’s jacket, that funny tee, and those sexy pants.

He stands there and takes it, not moving a single muscle. When I can get a breath, I pant and say, “What? Do you know what this means?” 

Elliott finally blinks, and he reaches down to the hem of that shirt and lifts it to wipe his chin and neck. In doing so, he’s completely flashing me his abs and chest, and raspberry birthday cake with fudge brownies, the man has muscles.

“Yes, Ry,” he says. “It means your momma now thinks we’re dating.”

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A brand-new romantic comedy series that will have you laughing out loud, wishing you lived in the South, and swooning for all the Boys Next Door!

6 single roommates. One Big House in the suburbs of Charleston. 6 guys who either live or work right next door to our curvy heroines...

These couples don't particularly get along, but they're all dealing with the forced proximity issues - until they realize that the hot guy next door is actually really... sweet.

  • Book 1: A Very Terrible Text

    Sometimes the thumbs slip…


    She’s finally joined the dating app everyone in Cider Cove is raving about…when she accidentally sends a message about wanting to meet up for a first date to her enemy.

    Read now! 
  • Book 2: A Very Bad Bet

    Sometimes a wager only makes things more fun...

    She’s got seniority over the obnoxious grump next door, and she's determined to beat him out for the top job in their charming hometown. But a bold bet spins their rivalry into a flirty attraction that could change everything.

    Read now! 
  • Book 3: A Very Merry mess

    Sometimes the holidays are messy...

    Christmas is the season of joy, mistletoe, and, unfortunately for Ryanne, the pressure of bringing home a date. When she vents to Elliott, her best friend and co-manager at the small-town office supply store, he impulsively grabs her phone and texts her mother that they're dating.

    Date. Ing.

    Preorder now! 

Escape to the beach today with single moms, single dads, and that one old lady that knows everyone in town... This sweet and clean romance series is sure to have the heartfelt love stories and heartwarming women's fiction you're looking for. Travel to Hawthorne Harbor for these hometown heroes without leaving your house!

Read this series if you like: 

✔ Second chance romance

✔ Sweet Beach Reads

✔ Contemporary romance

✔ Later in life romance

✔ Friends to lovers romance

✔ Enemies to lovers romance

✔ Small-town romance

✔ Military romance

✔ Single-dad romance

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