It’s XOXO AD’s 12 Days of Christmas! To “stuff your stocking” before Santa arrives later in the month, we’re bringing you holiday excerpts each day, from now through December 12. Be sure to check back every day for a heartwarming, ho-ho-holiday treat!

Christine FeehanToday’s treat is from Christine Feehan’s Rocky Mountain Miracle. When Cole Steele, a womanizer rumored to have killed his father, meets Maia Armstrong, a veterinarian rumored to practice magic, the sizzling romance could melt all the snow on his Wyoming ranch. And when an injured horse brings them together, Cole can’t help but believe that Maia casts spells on animals—and men. What else could explain the burning passion he feels for her and the thawing of his heart just in time for Christmas?

Maia watched Cole’s face as he talked on the phone. He gave very little away with his expression, but something was wrong. She saw the way his hand tightened around the neck of the beer bottle. He’d been absently stroking it, almost seductively, and now he gripped it as if he wanted to throttle something. Cole abruptly broke the connection and shoved the cell phone into his pocket, stood up and looked directly at her.

At once her heart began to accelerate, pounding in her chest. His gaze was cold, hard, and very direct. He began to walk toward her with long strides, a ruthless stamp on his features and purpose in every step. For the first time, she faltered in her playing, losing the rhythm that was so much a part of her. The band ground to a halt. There was a sudden silence in the bar.

“Come on. I need you out at the ranch. Let’s go.” Cole’s voice brooked no argument.

Maia studied his harsh expression. He reached out and caught her arm, nearly pulling her off her stool. “I said now.”

A murmur of protest went around the room. It didn’t deter Cole in the least. He crowded closer to her.

Maia glanced around the bar, a quick appraisal of the situation, then her gaze was back on his face. Implacable resolve. He didn’t care that others might come to her rescue. He was perfectly prepared to fight, and worse, he might win.

His fingers tightened around her arm. “You don’t want me to carry you out,” he warned.

“You don’t want me to slap your face either,” Maia said, her gaze flicking coolly over his face. “Let’s go.”

“Don’t ever do that again,” Maia warned. She paused just outside of the bar to take a deep, calming breath of the night air. “I know something upset you, and believe me, that’s the only reason I’m out here with you right now. I am not the kind of woman you can order around.”

Cole looked down at her, at the smoldering anger he saw in her eyes. It was snowing large flakes, falling softly and mutely between them. He reached out, his fingers curling around the nape of her neck, and pulled her toward him, his mouth taking possession of hers before she could protest.

She expected his kiss to be as wild and dominating as he was, but it was just the opposite. His mouth was incredibly gentle on hers, soft but firm, a whisper of fire, his lips brushing at hers with a disarming tenderness. He lifted his head, his blue eyes nearly dazzling her.

Cole could feel his heart thudding hard, too hard. There was a curious melting sensation in the region of his stomach, and his body reacted instantly to the close proximity of hers. He knew immediately he had made a big mistake. Maia Armstrong was no ordinary woman, and he was going to get burned if he didn’t regain some control, and fast. His fingers massaged the nape of her neck, brushing caresses in her soft hair. He was renowned for his control, yet she seemed to turn him inside out. His careful defenses didn’t work with her.

Maia managed to pull away from him. “If this emergency is some sham to get me to your ranch for more of that . . .” She glared at him and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, desperate to remove his taste. His kiss had felt like a brand, making fire race from his lips and tongue to her belly, lower still, so that she’d felt her body go liquid with desire for him. And he’d barely touched her.

“That was an apology. And stop trying to wipe it off.” He caught her wrist, pulling her hand away from her mouth, satisfaction mixing with something else in his eyes, something that could have been alarm. He led her across the parking lot. “I’m used to giving orders and getting things done. We have to get to the ranch immediately and telling you to come seemed like the fastest way to accomplish that.”


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