Nurse Katie Reiter’s nemesis, Dr. Nash Leham is back in Blueberry Springs and he came for one thing—Katie. Will their battles turn to stolen kisses in the midst of a Christmas storm or will Katie find her happily ever after in the arms of another?
Katie loves to be in control, and so does Nash. And while the two may have butted heads in the past, when a family member falls ill on Christmas Eve, Katie knows there is only one doctor in Blueberry Springs that she trusts to help the Reiter’s pull through in the midst of the blizzard.
But what she doesn’t count on is how her heart begins to sing for the man she’s always considered an enemy…
Eggnog & Candy Canes, the Christmas novella, is the third book in the Blueberry Springs series. Read it as a standalone or a part of the full set!
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SNEAK PEEK: CHAPTER 1
There was only one way to make the already dreaded holiday season worse.
And thanks to nurse Katie Reiter’s cousin, the staffing director of the Blueberry Springs hospital—a man Katie had believed to be on her side when he’d loaded her schedule with requested shifts blanketing December 24 to 26—it was happening.
Nash Leham, her arch nemesis and biggest rival for the title of the Most Organized and Detail-oriented Staff Member, was back.
“Hello, Katie.” Nash’s blue eyes sized her up and she felt as though they were delving into her soul in a way she’d forgotten was possible. And seeing a lot more than she allowed most to see.
She scooted behind the nurses’ station. “Hello, Dr. Leham,” she said curtly, before mentally slapping herself for forgetting their old game. She’d meant to be cool and aloof, calling him “Doctor,” a title that was much too formal for Blueberry Springs, instead of giving him what he wanted—authority. Although that game was from back when he’d been engaged to her best friend, now sister-in-law. Back before he’d become the jilted groom, and returned to his natural habitat—the city. And now Katie had just handed Mr. Alpha Top Dog a one-up by calling him Dr. Leham instead of Nash.
Maybe she could blame the holiday season for softening her edges.
Or maybe she needed to pull herself together.
“Welcome back.” She quickly rearranged files, hiding her In Style and French fashion magazines, and generally attempting to appear completely organized. Being bare-bones staff for Christmas Eve, Katie had taken the rare luxury of spreading out the files she was working on. People said that Nash had changed after Beth dumped him, but there were only so many ways a guy like him would change, and Katie was pretty sure he was still capable of his “let’s keep our patients safe by staying organized” lectures.
“Looking for double pay to afford that perfect life and snappy style of yours?” she asked. Okay, so she was being a bit of a you-know-what, but they hadn’t exactly gotten along in the past and she might as well remind him that she wasn’t about to fawn over him like the other nurses used to.
And yeah, her conscience was reminding her that they’d done good work together and that he was actually a decent guy who had tried to do well by her friend, but it hadn’t worked out. Beth was over it; Katie should be, too.
Except she was pretty sure that if she softened her stance in their mini war he would go in for the proverbial kill. The man had so many rules and regulations memorized, as well as that fat stick shoved so far up his hiney it was a miracle he could bend over to tie his polished Oxfords. Only a man such as Nash could make her life hell for the next few days, and she’d taken these extra holiday shifts to chill out and avoid situations that would make her head explode, thank you very much.
“You like my style?” Nash asked, eyes narrowed.
Yes. Now go away. Forever.
In truth, she loved the fact that Nash never wore stained, worn-out or disheveled attire. He exuded classy confidence and his blond hair was always perfect. She’d hated his old Blueberry Springs condo for only one reason: she’d wanted it to be hers. It had been a homey blend of comfort, style, and modern simplicity. In other words, it had stood for everything Katie didn’t have in her life.
“Above my station?” he asked.
“Not exactly.” She smoothed her ponytail. “Just trying to be bigger and better than everyone else. As usual.”
He leaned against the counter and whispered in a low, suggestive voice that sent shivers through her soul,
“Maybe I am bigger and better than everyone else, Katie Reiter.”
Okay, that was a different side of Nash. Definitely. She needed to close her mouth and stop imagining him taking her in the little storage closet just down the hall, her name on his lips as he…
Oh, wow. This whole being on the rebound after being dumped by one’s long-term boyfriend was messing with her brain. That’s what it had to be. Not…lust. Not for Nash.
He grinned, as if knowing the effect he was having, and patted the counter’s worn surface. “I’m back for two days.”
“Is it day two?” she asked hopefully. The sooner he was out of here the better.
Nash’s serious blue eyes took her in. She smoothed her ponytail again and stood a tad taller, matching his height. Hm. She could have sworn she was taller than he was.
“Day one. Hour one.” He straightened his crisp, white doctor’s coat. “Filling in. Being a nice guy. All that. It is possible, you know.”
“How did I not know you were coming? I must have missed the hounds of hell howling to announce your imminent arrival.”
“Well, Miss Head Nurse, I know this is may be news to you, so I’ll break it to you gently. The gist of it is you don’t know everything.”
What. A. Jerk.
“I didn’t miss you one iota.”
His eyes darkened with what she could have sworn was disappointment, if it had been pretty much anyone other than Nash.
They stared at each other in silence and Katie wondered if he’d heard about the party she’d held when he’d finally returned to the city to resume his oh-so-amazing career somewhere not filled with backward, casual, unprofessional hicks. Old anger stirred as she thought of his consummate professional attitude and let’s-make-things-better, gung-ho persona.
In other words, it had been nice having him gone. Really nice.
“You look well,” he said. “Is Will treating you right?”
“Well, he dumped me, so yes. I suppose from your viewpoint, he is treating me right.” Go figure that the one time Nash deigned to ask about her life it was to poke a finger in the festering sore of being dumped when she’d been expecting an engagement ring.
Men. So typically unreliable.
Nash’s expression closed and Katie resisted the urge to ask about his own love life. Not because she wanted to know—it was Nash, after all. But because that would be a sore worth poking. It would also likely be the very definition of awkward, seeing as, one, her brother was the reason Nash wasn’t happily married to her best friend. And two, her best friend had dumped him. For her brother. Full circle. A whole big tangled ball of awkward.
Plus, add in the whole yay-he-left-town party thing.
“We have a suture in ER room three,” Nash said quietly.
He seemed bothered by her banter. Where was his usual spunk? His volley back over the net? That knowing smirk that used to drive her mad and make her vow to get further under his skin next time?
He couldn’t leave her hanging here as the big bad bitch, could he?
Well, he was Nash, so yes he could.
But maybe he really had changed. Which would mean she’d have to be nice.
Boo. Hiss. That wasn’t going to happen. Him playing Mr. Nice Guy was probably a game aimed at getting back at her for decorating his Beemer with streamers when he’d left town.
“Amy is dispensing meds, so you’re on.” He turned, glancing over his shoulder expectantly when she didn’t fall into step behind him like the perfect little nurse she was supposed to be.
She was starting to really despise nursing. Even more than usual.
“Of course,” she muttered, hanging back enough to prove that they were most definitely not walking together.
Approaching room three, where town gossip and newspaper reporter Liz Moss-Brady was apparently waiting for them, Nash turned, trapping Katie unexpectedly in a small, blaringly white corner. His eyes were serious and oh so blue. She froze, not knowing what to expect.
Hot diggedy, he smelled good. The same cologne as her brother, she’d guess, except on Nash it smelled…sexy. Definitely not an innocent scent. It was as though someone had taken all the testosterone in the world, all the sexiness and…no.
This was Nash. Her supervisor for the next two days.
She inhaled involuntarily. Yep, totally different than on her brother. On Nash, the scent was as though Daniel Craig and Ryan Gosling had morphed into one megasexy being that contained their appeal as well as the pull of a dreamy accent such as Pierce Brosnan’s and the primal ferocity of Wolverine.
All wrapped into one man. One scent.
And her body had noticed. Was definitely reacting. Knees weak and jelly-like. Pulse throbbing. Clammy anticipation swinging through her nerve endings. Check, check, checkity-check. Her body was gearing up in a way that was similar to the primal “give it to me”’ call of the wild. If she were a rhesus monkey, her butt cheeks would be a shocking red right now.
Ew. Not a sexy thought. And now she’d never be able to inhale around her brother without feeling incredibly uncomfortable.
Great. Thanks a lot, Nash Leham. You big monkey bottom.
“Katie,” Nash said in his serious-doctor-melodrama voice. “Can we just drop it?”
“Drop what?” She glanced at his hands. So perfect. Clean. Strong. Deft. No wonder he was a good doctor, a good surgeon and likely a very good lover.
She returned her attention to his face so fast she just about gave herself vertigo. What was her problem today? Unused hormones lingering around, not realizing that having been dumped she simply didn’t need them messing with her? Because it had been two simple, carefree weeks and the hormones should just go away and never come back until she said it was safe.
Right now? Not safe.
“This.” He pointed to her chest, then his own. “Whatever invisible thing we’ve been fighting, let’s drop it and enjoy the next couple of days.”
Katie tried to form words.
He smiled as though confiding in her, and her knees weakened again. “We’re a good team, Katie. One of the best. Let’s rock it out of the park.”
They were a good team. Even though they were always fighting and trying to one-up and cut each other off.
Well, no…that was mostly just her. Trying to take him down a notch. She couldn’t help it. She hated the fact that he always knew everything. And now he was telling her to get over it so they could be a team, because she was the one who always started it.
How embarrassingly immature of her—but only because he was totally calling her on it.
“We complement each other,” he continued. “You are incredibly organized and knowledgeable and I have always admired that.”
Katie sank against the wall. He was complimenting her? This wasn’t the first time he had, but it was the first time she’d actually listened and believed it to be true, not part of some overarching game. That was the difference. She’d been competing with him, but now he wanted a teammate.
However, you couldn’t always trust men, though. Take Will, for example. She’d bought him a five hundred dollar car stereo system, thinking she had to balance out an engagement ring. Now it turned out she was going to be one of many gracing the gift returns line in the city after the holidays. Couldn’t her ex at least hinted that he was leaning toward “I don’t” instead of “I do”?
“Now that there is no longer a conflict of interest between us, can we work together in harmony, Katie?”
She struggled to comprehend Nash’s words.
His coat brushed her Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer nursing scrubs. “Can we?”
END OF SNEAK PEEK
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