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Protecting His Assets

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Once Upon a Christmas

The holidays are a time for family, celebration—and the Dukes of Ravenglass to fall in love. Spend the Christmas season with the Wynter family, as the Dukes of Ravenglass find their happily-ever-afters in this delightful, heartfelt collection that spans from the Regency era to the present day.

In A Price Above Rubies by Maggie Robinson, set in the Regency era, paid companion Helen Lowe doesn’t know the man she shares her first-ever dance—and first-ever kiss—is Gabriel Wynter, a reclusive, notorious duke. When Helen flees after being exposed, she leaves behind something of far greater value than a glass slipper. Can Gabriel find her, return it, and finally open his heart?

In the Victorian-era set, Never Have I Ever Fallen in Love with a Duke by Tiffany Clare, Alexander Wynter has a problem—his best friend’s younger sister grew up. When he agreed to help Emily MacCallon make her debut, he didn’t expect the beautiful, alluring woman before him—or for her to lead him on such a merry chase. Alexander knows one thing: the only man she’ll be kissing forever and ever is him.

In the World War II-set, Loving Lord Spy by J.K. Coi, Winnie Jenkins, a combat nurse, and Lord David Wynter, an injured British spy, fall in love at the worst possible time. Each of them owes a duty to their country and must go their separate ways. They promise that when the war is finally over, they’ll meet in Hyde Park on Christmas morning . . . but agree that if one of them doesn't make it, the other won't seek out the reason why. Can they keep their appointment? Or will secrets, lies, and the perils of war keep them apart?

A missed connection gets a second chance in the present-day contemporary romance, Saved by the Belle by Elyssa Patrick. Seven years ago, Kit Wynter met the woman of his dreams. Even after all this time, he’s never been able to forget the American girl who captured his heart. When Belle Sweeney answers his ad—for she, too, never forgot him—it feels like there’s something still there. Spending the holiday at Ravenglass Abbey is the perfect opportunity to figure out if this is love.

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excerpt

December 22, 1944...

Winnie sidled up to the door of the supply tent—one of the only buildings in camp with real walls and a real door, because of the valuable supplies that were stored inside. She reached for the doorknob but it was gone. She squinted and saw the dark outline of it on the ground not far away, beside a large rock, and realized someone must have bashed it right off.

She held her breath and pulled the door open just a crack. The shadows inside were thick and it was impossible to see, but someone was there. And he wasn’t being exactly stealthy.

She put a hand over her mouth to keep from gasping as explicit curse words burned her ears. She was in a war camp, so she’d been subjected to her share of cursing, but his choices were truly inventive. A combination of English, German, Italian, and even a language she couldn’t recognize.

There was another crash then, and the intruder groaned. He had to have stumbled into the cabinet lining the back wall.

“Who goes?” she called into the shadows. There was sudden silence and the man went completely still. She should go for help, but couldn’t let him get away with their much-needed medicine. “I know you’re in here,” she added with a bravado that sounded forced even to her own ears.

She opened the door wider and peered in. “If you’re looking for opium, you won’t find it here,” she bluffed, slowly stepping inside.

A disembodied grunt. Whoever he was, he knew she was lying. She took another step and tucked the tent flap around the inner post to prop the door open, hoping to let in the meager glow of moonlight coming through the cloudy night sky. It didn’t help at all. The shadows continued to dominate.

She squinted and slowly reached for the neck of a bottle sitting on the shelf closest to her. She smashed it against the iron frame. Its contents splashed up her wrist and the smell of alcohol permeated. Now he was trapped. They couldn’t afford to lose any more supplies. She should hold him back with the broken glass and call for backup.

At the same time, she understood desperation, especially at this time of year when the children at home were singing in the streets about forgiveness and joy for all. She didn’t know the circumstances that had driven this man to sneaking and thievery, and it was not her place to sit in judgment upon him.

In the spirit of Christmas, she decided to give him a chance to do the right thing. “If you drop whatever it is you’re trying to steal, I will do everything I can to help you overcome your addiction. And I won’t tell anyone about this.”

She inched another step deeper into the darkness, but couldn’t sense him in front of her anymore. It was like tracking a ghost.

The door suddenly slammed shut, cutting off even that small amount of light. Before she could spin around he’d slipped behind her so stealthily she hadn’t even heard him. One hand clamped over her mouth and his other closed like a vise around her midsection, pinning her arm to her side so that she couldn’t wield her makeshift weapon against him.

It happened so suddenly, her head spun trying to process the fact that she was now the one who was trapped.
“Lass di flasche fallen.”

Her blood froze and her heart pounded. Her situation had suddenly gone from risky to deadly. “I don’t understand German.” Her voice came out as a squeak and her knees wobbled.

The man’s arm unfurled from her waist, but only so that he could grab her wrist. He shook it until she dropped the broken bottle to the wooden plank floor. The clatter made her wince and bite her lip.

Fear. Desperation. Had it only been a moment ago she’d been thinking about the things it made people do? Now the familiar sour taste of it was in her own mouth. Without thinking too much, she snapped her head back and bashed him in the nose, trying to shake his palm from over her mouth. She would not let him hurt her. She’d come all the way from England to prove she wasn’t a victim, and refused to let this stranger in the dark take that victory from her.

The man grunted but didn’t let her go like she’d planned. He dropped the hand from her mouth but dipped his head close, into the crook of her neck as he growled out more words that she couldn’t understand. The hand on her wrist moved to her throat, forcing her head back and her chin up. That she understood. It was a warning. He could snap her neck in a second, and would do it if she screamed.

He was a wall of indomitable muscle at her back, but something was wrong with him. His quickened breaths raised gooseflesh all the way to her toes, and his hands shook ever so slightly. They felt clammy and cold on her skin. Waves of heat rolled off him, penetrating right through her thick woolen dress. Something else penetrated her dress, too. Wet and warm.

Realization dawned. Blood. From a wound somewhere around his midsection. “You’re hurt,” she whispered, biting her lip. He’d been speaking German. Was he one of the enemy? Had he been shot in the skirmish this morning? Could he even have been the one who’d made it necessary for Winnie to amputate an English soldier’s leg this evening? She tried not to think about that. She would not let a man bleed to death, even if he was a German. “Let me help you.”

He snorted. Well, at least he understood English, which meant there was a chance she could reason with him. “I’m a nurse. You need medical attention. I can—”

His hand tightened on her throat, cutting her off with a choked gurgle, but he didn’t take it any farther than that. He could easily strangle her unconscious, or pull a knife and slit her throat, leaving her dead on the floor while he ransacked the tent, and nobody would find her until morning. But he didn’t. Surprisingly, he hesitated.
At that moment, the door opened again and a thin sliver of light filtered in.

Winnie seized the opportunity. This time, she knew where to hit him. She aimed her elbow for his gut and kicked his shin with the heel of her boot for good measure.

He let out a pained whoof and stumbled back, clutching his side. With a hiss of victory, Winnie grabbed the first thing she could reach—a metal box from the supply shelf next to her—and brought it down over his head.
As the soldier tumbled to the floor like a sack of potatoes, she looked up to see a lieutenant standing in the doorway, mouth hanging open in obvious shock. This unit was strictly medical services only. The lieutenant must be passing through. In fact, she remembered hearing about his arrival earlier that day, just before heading into surgery.

“What’s going on in here?” he asked in a low voice that nevertheless thundered in her ears.

“Sir!” she started nervously, straightening. She dropped the metal box as if it had become hot to the touch. “I . . . I wasn’t . . . I didn’t . . . It’s a Nazi. I think I . . . I’ve incapacitated an enemy intruder.”