This five-star rated anthology contains four sensual tales set over the Christmas period – Snowed In by Alice Raine, The Sharpness of Holly by Demelza Hart, A Valentine for Christmas by K D Grace and my own Christmas for One. It’s guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.
…talking about Christmas for One, my story in the Cariad anthology, Love Under The Mistletoe, and why spending Christmas away from home can be an adventure in many ways. Find out more here.
…talking about Christmas For One, my story in the Cariad Love Under The Mistletoe collection and why men in Santa suits are sexy. Follow this link to find out more.
Rounding off this four-day Naughty Corner special to celebrate the release of the Xcite Cariad Love Under The Mistletoe collection, my guest today is Demelza Hart, author of the deliciously rude Suited To You trilogy. She’s talking about her story, The Sharpness of Holly.
Thanks for having me over, Liz. It’s great to be here and really helping me get into the Christmas spirit!
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. So said an aunt of mine one year after another argument with my mother. And it was Christmas. Of course it was Christmas. It’s strange, isn’t it? We so look forward to Christmas and associate the arrival of family as something nostalgically wonderful which is sure to be great, but it invariably goes horribly wrong. There are disagreements about how to cook the turkey. Or the sprouts. Or the pudding. There’s that moment when you find every single person present has bought everyone else the Downton Abbey companion book. There’s the bratty child who hates all her toys even though the whole of Hamleys has been bought for her. There’s the uncle who drinks too much and approaches Monopoly like he’s Alan Sugar. There’s the silent teenager who may well poison everyone with the Buck’s Fizz he’s been lurking beside. There are the two aunts who have to bring up that incident twenty three years earlier which everyone has been trying so hard to forget since.
The Family Christmas. It can take a whole year to get over it and for wounds to heal, but the following year we do it all again. Alcohol helps, of course.
Holly Merchant, the eponymous character in my story, The Sharpness of Holly, the final story in the Love under the Mistletoe anthology, has an ambivalent view of her family and their ritual Christmas gathering in an aunt’s large country house. On the one hand, she can’t stand any of them and wishes she was as far away as possible. On the other, she loves to tuck herself somewhere out of sight and spy on their strange personalities and interactions. This year for Holly things are a bit different. Her sister, Rosa (the pretty one, as she is always reminded), from whom she’s grown apart since childhood, is coming for Christmas for the first time in years. And she’s bringing a man. The prickly Holly doesn’t do men (or women, as her sister often tells people) and the thought of the family simpering over Rosa’s new boyfriend, Daniel – sure to be as dull as all the others – turns her stomach.
But when Daniel arrives, he isn’t dull or boring. Enigmatic, intense and sardonically witty, Daniel is like no other boyfriend Rosa has ever brought along before. In fact, despite trying hard to hate him, Holly finds him fascinating and undeniably attractive. And when Daniel starts to pay more attention to her than to her sister, Holly struggles to keep her normally controlled feelings in check. But how will these new desires and experiences play out against the backdrop of her mad family’s Christmas?
I loved writing this story. It has all my favourite elements: a dark, brooding man; a feisty young heroine, inexperienced but keen to learn; a touch of the illicit; a large country house with plenty of dark corners for dark secrets; and a cold, star-canopied walk home along country lanes after Midnight Mass! All the right ingredients for a Christmas romance. Oh the weather outside is frightful, but, trust me, the heat between Holly and Daniel is so delightful.
Enjoy this little taster. Here, Holly thinks she’s found the perfect hiding spot during the family’s traditional Christmas game of Hide and Seek.
Holly liked being unseen; she liked tormenting them; she liked teasing them with her absence so much that they would become rigid with frustration. The family needed a thorn in their side.
So she hid. It had been a long time already. There was a long curtain in the dining room in front of a high window. If she stood absolutely still she could hide easily in the folds.
She could hear bored voices calling for her to come out. But she stayed there, enjoying the muffled, enclosed space, dark and cosseting and warm. She listened intently. Were those footsteps approaching? No. Nobody could be that quiet. It must have been the floorboards settling. She pressed herself against the window and held her breath, turning away and squeezing her eyes shut. She felt inexplicably excited, like she had as a child.
Suddenly, from nowhere, a hand was placed over her mouth. She tried to scream but any sound was muffled against the large palm. At the same time another hand held her arm remarkably tightly.
‘I seem to have found you,’ said a voice.
She struggled, trying to break free but unable to. The hold on her was too tight. Her anger at her discovery was heightened by the electrifying frustration of being constrained.
‘I’d advise you to stop struggling. I’m not going to let go of you so there’s no point. I want to turn you around but you’re not to make a sound, do you understand? That would spoil the game.’
Holly felt like kicking back, hurting him, but she found herself instead acquiescing. She nodded, and she was turned around to face her captor.
She looked into the shadows at Daniel’s beautiful face. He was fixing her with that same intense gaze. His hand was still clamped over her mouth.
She tried wriggling to escape again, but only half-heartedly this time, testing him almost, to see how he would react. She had her answer when, with leopard-like fluidity, he moved her arms behind her back and pinned them to her with his hand encircling both her wrists. It resulted in her full length being pressed hard and flush against him.
Her insides threatened to leap out of her. Her heart was pounding. As much as she hated him for managing to capture her like this, she was dizzy with excitement. She adored the lean hardness of him and did nothing to shy away from the contact. He was still staring into her, his gaze only a flicker away. ‘I told you to be quiet,’ he murmured. She watched his mouth as he spoke, the way his lips curled slightly, his neat white teeth, the quick flicker of the tip of his tongue. The heavy seep between her legs was betraying her and she pressed her thighs together to relieve it. He smirked.
‘Am I hurting you?’ he asked.
She gave a slight nod. He was; her arms were pulled tight and it was giving her pins and needles, but she found she didn’t really mind.
Her affirmation didn’t seem to bother him. He didn’t apologise nor did he relax his hold. In fact, he seemed to pull her in even harder.
He was breathing as heavily as her. ‘If I release your mouth, you must promise me you won’t make a noise. Do you promise?’
She nodded again. Slowly, she felt the tightness of warm skin across her lips relaxing. His palm was within her reach. She had half a desire to lick it, half to bite it.
An irritated voice sounded suddenly in the room. ‘Where’s Holly? For God’s sake, you’d have thought she’d have given up by now.’
It was Rosa.
Daniel didn’t release his grip on her arms. Her eyes widened as she heard her sister just on the other side of the curtain, but she couldn’t move, neither did she want to. Daniel was tormenting her. His breath was so close it hushed over her cheek.
He didn’t say anymore, but as her sister searched the room beyond, he moved in closer and closer, bending his head to hers. She wanted it so much she could scream. Closer.
‘Holly?’ called Rosa from the other side of the curtain. ‘This is bloody tedious now, you know.’
Closer. That perfect mocking mouth. His lips met hers.
I hope you and enjoy this and the other fabulous stories in this festive anthology. Come and join me elsewhere: On Facebook
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Today I’d like to welcome the fabulous K D Grace to the Naughty Corner. She’s talking about her story in the Love Under The Mistletoe Xcite Cariad Christmas collection.
Thanks for having me over, Liz, to celebrate the release of Cariad’s fabulous Christmas collection, Love Under the Mistletoe. I’m very privileged to be between the covers with you, Alice Raine, and Demelza Hart with my novella, A Valentine for Christmas. It’s lovely to be in such sexy company.
I’d like to talk a bit about decorations. I’m sure all of us have fond memories that involve decorating … something. As a child, I used to love the decorating of the tree and the house at Christmas time. And then there was the wrapping of the presents. My mother got wise early on and started putting everything – even my own gifts in boxes, taping them securely shut, and letting me take care of all the wrapping. I could get pretty creative with some shiny paper, a bit of tinsel, a roll of cello tape and some ribbon. My mother got out of the wrapping, which she loathed, and had hours of quiet entertainment for her very energetic daughter. Result!
And what child doesn’t love the Christmas pageant? It was the perfect opportunity to decorate ourselves with cardboard and glitter angel wings and tinsel haloes. I’ve always been a bit of a magpie. I love things that glitter and shine, and I’m sure you can well imagine how suited I am to a halo J
We live in the age of elaborate body decoration. I mean even if you’d never get a tattoo for yourself (not brave enough, me) how can you not love to look at them and admire how beautiful some of them are. Then there’s body piercing, hair colour, cut and styles, and manicures and pedicures have evolved into a whole new art form. A few hours at a salon and you can emerge a whole new person. Let’s not forget shoes and handbags, clothes and make-up. Practical or not, we humans love to decorate our bodies. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we humans love to decorate just about everything, and nothing gives us a better chance to do just that than Christmas and New Year.
Gerard Jasper, the hero in A Valentine for Christmas, isn’t keen on decorations. In fact, he hates the holiday season, and would gladly skip it if he could. In spite of his loathing of the season, he condescends to let his housekeeper put up a tree every year because she’s been with his family for a long time. Imagine his surprise when he comes home on Christmas Eve after a hard day at the office and finds someone has left him a gift under that Christmas tree. That gift really doesn’t need much unwrapping because that gift is a woman, and that woman is wearing nothing but the red velvet ribbons that bind her wrists and ankles and the sprig of mistletoe adorning her hair.
Which brings us to a completely different level of body decoration – love bites, red marks from spanking, a little bit of rug burn on the knees and elbows, lovely red welts across a bare bottom. And let’s not forget those stylish little bruises left by fingertips when they grasp at and curl around tender flesh in the throes of passion. Though some body decoration is not meant for public viewing, very little body art makes the wearer, nor the creator, prouder. The body art of passion implies possession. It’s a physical way of saying I belong to you, and you’ve left your mark on me. And even if no one else knows or sees, I’ll know. I’ll know from the tenderness, I’ll know every time I sit down, I’ll know every time I get dressed or get undressed. Those marks will remind me of passion and wild abandon; they’ll remind me of the act of physically coming together, and I’ll be sorry to see those lovely body decorations fade, while at the same time I’ll be looking forward to the next ones. Those lovely decorations are not seasonal. They’re a symbol of possessing and being possessed and, for humans, the need to belong to someone is at least as old as the need to decorate our bodies.
Blurb A Valentine for Christmas:
All work and no play, bah humbugging CEO, Gerard Jasper’s, anonymous Christmas gift is actually a Valentine — Moira ‘R.M.’ Valentine, the mysterious CEO of the Valentine Corporation. Moira’s walk on the wild side has accidentally landed her naked and bound with red ribbon under Gerard’s tree – not good when their companies are negotiating the deal of a lifetime. When two lonely people with enough baggage to fill a 747 come together for Christmas, the fireworks rivals New Years at Times Square, but can they overcome their pasts to give each other the true gift — a merger of hearts?
Excerpt from A Valentine for Christmas:
It was late when Gerard got home – even later than he’d anticipated, but that was fine. Being tired enough to sleep for a week made facing the next few days a lot easier. He shoved out of his jacket and slung it over the ladder-back chair by the door, then loosened his tie, somehow not finding the strength to actually remove it completely. Ignoring the evergreen bunting strung across the balcony above the stairs, he made his way into his study. From the credenza across from his desk, he poured himself a whiskey, neat, then dropped into the Cordovan leather chair beside the fireplace. He tossed back the shot, then closed his eyes. He only intended to rest them for a few minutes before he went to the kitchen where he knew Olga had left food prepared for him. He’d specifically overseen the menu this time to make certain not a slice of turkey nor a smidge of cranberry sauce darkened the fridge. It was bad enough his apartment was decked out like Rockefeller Center, but at least he could dictate his own meals.
Yes, he had only planned to close his eyes for a minute, but it was a scuffling sound and a soft moan that startled him from sleep and from dreams of falling into deep, icy water. He opened his eyes and looked around. In the silence he could hear heavy breathing. There was another moan. He exhaled slowly and looked around the room. Carefully, cautiously, he leaned forward in the chair, wrapped his fingers around the poker in front of the fireplace and pulled it free from its stand. Holding his breath, he came slowly to his feet.
There was more scuffling and a sharp, low grunt. It sounded as though it were coming from behind the Christmas tree. Fucking tree was a health hazard, a fire hazard, and Twyla never stopped to think that it was perfect for a thief to hide behind, though how the hell anyone could have gotten past his security was beyond him. He tightened his grip on the poker and raised it like a baseball bat. Bracing himself, he took a step forward, but the next moan he heard was decidedly feminine and it was coming from under the tree! With a quick movement, he reached for the lamp near the chair and switched it on, and the moan became a little yelp of surprise.
‘What the …’ Words died in his mouth as he lowered his arm and dropped the poker against the chair. He blinked twice then rubbed his eyes. Surely he still had to be dreaming. Thought this dream beat the hell out of the usual drowning dream. There was another moan and, as his eyes adjusted to the light, he realized it came from the woman lying on her side under the tree. She was completely naked except for the red velvet ribbons that seductively bound her wrists and her ankles. The only other thing she wore was a sprig of mistletoe pinned in the muss of thick dark hair that fell over her shoulders partially obscuring breasts that were obviously full enough to balance the rest of a figure that curved dangerously in all the right places. Even in that confused post-wake-up state, Gerard’s cock got the picture just fine, thank you! But what the hell was a naked woman doing tied up beneath his Christmas tree?
Before he could ask, the woman moaned again – louder this time – and doubled over as though she were in pain.
‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ he asked, dropping to his knees, forgetting the fact that this chick had invaded his privacy.
‘Oh, God!’ She gasped. ‘It’s my leg. I have a cramp. In my left hip and it’s making my butt numb.’ She bit back a curse that he was pretty sure would have curled his hair if she’d let it fly. But he figured perhaps she was on her best behavior – red ribbons, mistletoe and all.
It was then that both he and his cock remembered, at exactly the same time, that she was tied up. He was in complete control. He settled on his haunches and folded his arms across his chest. ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ he asked.
She moaned again and tried to shift to a more comfortable position, which made her breasts bounce and her hair slide away to reveal nipples darkened and stiff atop goose-fleshed areolae. ‘I’m your Christmas present.’
He blinked. ‘My what?’
‘Christmas present? You know, happy holidays, noel, peace on earth … ouch! Oh hell that hurts.’ She hissed between barely parted lips and writhed in a way that should have made him sympathetic, but only made him hornier. ‘Could you please untie me so I can take care of this cramp.’
‘My Christmas present?’
‘Yup. Ouch! Ow! Please!’
‘From whom?’ Oh fuck, the more she shifted and shimmied, the more her breasts bounced and they were exquisite, and the more they bounced, the more of his brain function rerouted itself to his cock.
‘I don’t know,’ she bit back. ‘It’s a surprise.’
‘Clearly,’ he said. ‘But how do I know you’re for real?’ Surely Terrill and Twyla wouldn’t be so cheeky. Would they? He added quickly, ‘How do I know that the minute I untie you, you won’t try shoot me and rob me?’
She gave him a sour look. ‘Seriously? Where would I put a gun?’
His eyes followed down the curves of her body to the juncture between her legs with its tight nest of dark curls.
Whatever it was she was about to say, she swallowed it and offered a forced smile that was not quite coquettish, and all the sexier for it. ‘You’re welcome to frisk me.’ She nodded down over he belly. ‘Just please untie me so I can work out this damned cramp.’
He studied her for a long moment while she writhed and bit a full bottom lip he found himself wanting to taste. ‘It was pretty ballsy of someone, anyone really, to send me a prostitute as a Christmas present.’ He leaned forward. ‘I don’t need to buy sex, you know?’
‘I’m not a prostitute and you’re not buying me.’ She sucked back a sharp breath. ‘I’m a gift. Pleeeeese,’ she begged, ‘Untie me.’
I don’t need a gift. I didn’t ask for a gift.’
‘Of course you didn’t ask. That’s why they call it a gift.’ She practically bounced off the floor as another wave of pain hit.
‘I still don’t trust you,’ he said. ‘But I don’t like to see a woman in pain either.’ He heaved a hard-put-upon sigh and leaned forward, pulling her into his arms. She yelped as he scrambled to his feet and moved to the leather sofa in front of the fireplace. But instead of laying her down on it, he sat and turned her over his knee. What the hell was he doing? He should untie her, toss her in a taxi and send her on her way.
‘You’re gonna spank me?’ her voice came out high pitched and breathy. ‘I haven’t done anything.’
‘Might do, if you give me any grief,’ he said, realizing too late that draped across his lap as she was, she could definitely feel his erection. Well she was naked, wasn’t she? And he was a healthy male. How the hell was he supposed to respond? Besides, it wasn’t like she hadn’t been expecting to make him hard. ‘So tell me now,’ he said, keeping his voice as neutral as he did in the boardroom in spite of the message his body was giving, ‘where does it hurt?’
About K D Grace/Grace Marshall
Voted ETO Best Erotic Author of 2014, and a proud member of The Brit Babes, K D Grace believes Freud was right. In the end, it really IS all about sex, well sex and love. And nobody’s happier about that than she is, otherwise, what would she write about?
When she’s not writing, K D is veg gardening. When she’s not gardening, she’s walking. She walks her stories, and she’s serious about it. She and her husband have walked Coast to Coast across England, along with several other long-distance routes. For her, inspiration is directly proportionate to how quickly she wears out a pair of walking boots. She also enjoys martial arts, reading, watching the birds and anything that gets her outdoors.
KD has erotica published with SourceBooks, Xcite Books, Harper Collins Mischief Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, Erotic Review, Ravenous Romance, Sweetmeats Press and others.
K D’s critically acclaimed erotic romance novels include, The Initiation of Ms Holly, Fulfilling the Contract, The Pet Shop. Her paranormal erotic novel, Body Temperature and Rising, the first book of her Lakeland Witches trilogy, was listed as honorable mention on Violet Blue’s Top 12 Sex Books for 2011. Books two and three, Riding the Ether, and Elemental Fire, are now also available.
Find K D Here:
Today it’s my turn to talk about my story in the Xcite Cariad Christmas anthology, Love Under The Mistletoe – Christmas for One.
Christmas is a time for being with the ones you love –going to a midnight carol service, swapping presents, eating a huge dinner with the family and falling asleep in front of the Queen’s Speech. At least, that’s the traditional image, though a growing number of people are choosing to spend the holiday season alone. But what if that decision was forced on you? How would you react if the plans you’d made – not just for Christmas but the rest of your life – were irrevocably changed?
That’s the dilemma facing Dionne in Christmas for One. She’s planned a Christmas wedding, but when it becomes clear to her that marrying her fiancé, Richard, is the worst thing she could do she runs out on the church and resolves to get as far away from her well-meaning friends and family as she can.
This is the second story I’ve written for Xcite in which someone finds Mr Right in a foreign location at Christmastime. The first was the novella Christmas Rendezvous, which is set in a snowy Bruges. Here, the action takes place in Hawaii – somewhere I’ve never actually visited but which struck me as somewhere that couldn’t be more different from the usual winter landscape. It’s also the kind of place that attracts groups of tourists – like the party of senior citizens Dionne finds herself sitting with at the Christmas Day luau – or couples seeking a romantic getaway, rather than lone travellers. So how will Dionne cope?
When we’re on holiday we tend to present a new side of ourselves to the world. We’re more relaxed and carefree; willing to try new foods, new experiences, and to create a set of lasting memories to take back with us. Dionne, however, is at her lowest ebb when she reaches the paradise beach resort in Honolulu she’s picked as her bolthole. Luckily, hotel employee Scott is on hand to help her get over her heartbreak and that discover the magic of Christmas doesn’t fade, even if you are facing it alone.
Here’s the moment where Dionne meets Scott for the first time:
She hands me a key card, and I wait for the bellboy to come over. He’s tall, with blond hair that threatens to fall over one eye, and when he smiles, a cute little dimple appears in his cheek. The nametag on his burgundy waistcoat reads “SCOTT”.
‘Scott, could you take Ms Suvari to Room 24?’ the desk clerk instructs him.
‘Of course. May I take your bag, Ms Suvari?’
‘Please, call me Dionne, and there’s really no need …’
The tan leather carry-on isn’t heavy, but he’s already scooping it up out of my hand. When his fingers brush against the back of my palm, my skin seems to tingle in response, and I wonder if he feels it too. But already he’s heading for the elevator.
We take the short ride to the second floor, and step out into a quiet corridor.
‘Here we are.’ Scott takes the key card from me and opens the door.
I’ve been expecting the type of room that’s usually reserved for single travellers; a tiny box, stuck in some out-of-the-way corner, or so close to the elevator that the hum of machinery seeps through the walls. Instead, I find myself looking at a light, airy bedroom with a big, brass-framed bed, a low, cream leather couch, and a coffee table. A small balcony lets out on to the most breathtaking ocean view. The sun is already beginning to set, staining the sky in shades of red and gold.
‘This is really lovely,’ I murmur, reaching into my purse to find a couple of dollars for Scott’s tip. ‘Thank you.’
He gives me a little wink. ‘No problem, Ms – Dionne. And if there’s anything I can do to make your stay more pleasant …’
That sounds like a blatant invitation. Looking into those blue eyes, I recall the brief jolt of electricity that passed between us. But I’m clearly reading a little too much into his comment. ‘Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls,’ I quip.
‘Only the ones who look like they’ve been having a rough time.’
With that, Scott lets himself quietly out of the room. When I can at last tear my eyes away from the spectacular sunset, I pick up the folder on the coffee table. It contains all the information I could need about the resort, and lets me know that dinner is served in the restaurant until 9.30. Plenty of time for me to take a shower and change out of the crumpled clothes I’ve travelled in.
I hunt through my bag for a suitable outfit. Everything I’ve brought with me was intended for Richard’s eyes, from my floor-length black evening dress to my skimpy beachwear to underwear that’s all satin and lace. But there’s a short, floral sundress that I can accessorise with silver and jet jewellery and strappy heels; perfect for dining alone.
Once I’ve stowed everything else in the built-in closet, I take my wash bag through to the en-suite bathroom. It’s stocked with high-end toiletries, and a thick pile of fluffy white towels. Just the kind of luxury I need after everything that’s happened.
As I unzip the bag and reach for my toothbrush, my fingers close around a long, slim box. Intrigued, I fish it out, and don’t know whether to laugh or be shocked. It contains a small vibrator, in a fetching shade of pink, with a smooth shaft and tapered head. When I twist its base, it hums into life, so clearly whoever put it in here has thought of everything. There’s a sticky note attached to the packaging. Written in Jill’s big, looping handwriting are the words “To give your honeymoon a buzz!” She must have sneaked it into my bag while she was helping me put on my wedding dress this morning – and how long ago that seems now. Still, providing me with this toy supports her story that she didn’t have a clue about Richard cheating on me.
Part of me wonders where my rat of an ex-fiancé is right now. In the arms of Marcie Grace, most likely. Well, the two of them deserve each other. At least I found out the truth before it was too late; as humiliating as today has been, things would have been so much worse if I hadn’t learned about the affair until after I’d married him.
I turn the shower setting to “tropical”, letting the water beat down on me. The shower gel produces a creamy lather, rich with the scents of coconut and passion fruit, and it feels good to smooth it over my skin. When I close my eyes, a face swims into my mind. Scott, the cute bellboy with the sweet smile. I recall the last remark he made before he left the room, and wonder if my distress over Richard’s betrayal is really so evident.
It would be nice to have someone around who could help soothe the hurt away. Someone who, if only for a little while, could help remind me there are still plenty of decent, honest men in this world.
Almost without being aware of what I’m doing, I begin to concentrate on soaping up my breasts, brushing my nipples with the pads of my thumbs. In my imagination, Scott stands behind me in the shower stall, his body tight up against mine, and he’s the one who’s caressing my tits. The picture I’m creating is so vivid I swear I can feel the heavy bulk of his cock, trapped between our two bodies. His mouth is pressed to my neck, and he trails soft kisses all the way to the hollow at the base of my throat.
Is it wrong to be weaving a fantasy about a guy I’ve only exchanged a handful of words with? I don’t know, and right now, frankly, I don’t care.
Blurb: When Dionne runs out on her wedding ceremony, spending Christmas in Paradise, alone, seems like the perfect way to heal her heartbreak. But she hasn’t counted on meeting a very sexy Santa who will make this a sensual holiday to remember …