Excerpt: When a grumpy grinch meets his sunshiny, Christmas-loving neighbor…

“I’m your neighbor next door.” Peter pointed.

She looked that direction, then back at him, a slow smile blooming. “Nice to meet you I’m—”

He wasn’t here for chit chat. “I’m afraid that you put some of your Christmas lights up on my side of the roof.”

The woman, whose face was still mostly in shadow, blinked. That much he could see. “Sorry?” she asked.

Did her voice waver with humor?

“Your lights.” He pointed again. “I’m in the condo next to you on the left. Your lights are on part of my roof line.”

She looked over his shoulder and seemed to study the lights, which were glowing a bright rainbow of colors. “I don’t understand.”

What wasn’t to understand? “I don’t want them on my part of the roof.”

“It’s only one little area,” she countered in a reasonable tone that only set his teeth on edge. He got that tone from his mother and sister a lot lately.

He crossed his arms. Why was she arguing with him? His roof. His rules. “But it’s right under my bedroom window and it’s making it hard to sleep.”

“Oh.” She bit her lip. “Don’t you have curtains?”

Peter gritted his teeth. The man he’d been even a year ago would have probably laughed it off and not even brought it up. But him these days, and after two sleepless nights in a row… “I have blinds. It shows through.”

“Oh,” she said again. “But it’s Christmas.”


“The lights won’t be up more than a month and it would really throw the whole look off if I took them down. Do you think you could maybe handle it for that long?”


The slump of disappointment was almost comical, then she suddenly straightened. “What if I get you a sleep mask?”


Then she suddenly grinned and huffed at the same time, hands landing on her hips. “Do you not like Christmas, or something?”

Only she said it with such charm, that a tiny bit of his irritation trickled away. Not enough to give in though. “I like it fine. Just not when it’s shining in my bedroom window.”

A flash of white teeth in the shadow and her husky chuckle reached out through the cold and the dark and maybe even warmed him up a tiny bit.

Who was this woman? Most people these days didn’t argue with him. They just agreed or left him alone. His sister, Emily, said he could be intimidating when he wanted. So why was his neighbor laughing?

“Fine, fine,” she said. “I’ll take down that strip.”

About time. “That’s all I ask.” He gave a brusque nod then turned to head inside his own home.

“Hey,” she called after him. “Isn’t your name Peter?”

He pulled up sharply at that, swinging around to stare at her with a small pit if dread in his gut widening by the second. “How do you know that?”

The woman stepped out from behind the raised trunk of her car and the lights from her townhome illuminated her features. “We met a few years ago at Weber Haus. My name is Lara Wolfe.”

Recognition hit. Two years ago he, and several other single men, had flirted with her for a single night. Then he’d left to return to duty and oddly she’d stuck in his head for months after. Hard to forget a face like that though, or her soft grey eyes, or the air of fragility that had hung over her, tugging at every protective instinct he’d had.

 Peter hid a wince. Because the man she met two Christmases ago was not the same guy standing in front of her now.





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