I have an early Christmas gift for you!
My modern-day fairytale set during the holidays originally came out in the Once Upon a Christmas collection, but this year I'm rereleasing it as an audiobook! Here's the Amazon link to Christmas Ella, or...
A big thank you to those who've already reviewed it!!!
If you prefer, you can also read Christmas Ella as an ebook, and I included a sample for you here:
If Paxton King was anything like his stepsisters, picking him up from the airport was going to be a wicked job.
Location director Ella Goodwin hadn’t even gotten off her own plane when she’d received the call with this request. She stood at gate 3B in the rustic but rich airport of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, holding a makeshift sign with Paxton’s name on it and wishing she hadn’t had to leave her family during the holidays. Yes, the snow-covered Teton Mountains directly outside the windows of the airport were magnificent against the bright blue sky, but she had nobody to enjoy them with.
As passengers departed the flight from Alaska where the King family owned a gold mine, she focused on the door to the jet bridge. She didn’t know what Paxton looked like because he oversaw running the family business and had never before been on their reality show. Of course, as a first-class traveler, he should be one of the first off.
Ella’s eyes wandered from passenger to passenger. Older couples dressed in fur. Younger couples who looked like they’d already started celebrating New Year’s. Families in ski coats. Wannabe cowboys. She studied businessmen the closest, expecting Paxton to be a pretty boy in a tailored suit.
Paxton’s mother and stepsisters had arrived via their private jet from California already. Apparently, due to his stepsister Reese jumping onto the luggage conveyor belt and throwing cash in the air as it carried her in a circle around baggage claim, the driver who’d planned to pick up Paxton had been recruited to help escort his sister out.
If Ella was going to do her job for All That Glitters, she needed to get to town to double check reservations and set up shoots, but the new star of the show still hadn’t arrived. She grimaced as the line of arriving passengers dwindled.
Had Paxton missed her sign because he was too busy taking selfies on his phone when deboarding? Had he fallen asleep on the plane? Was he hitting on a flight attendant?
A bearded man in a red flannel and beanie pushed a classy older woman in a wheelchair through the door. The woman looked her way, but Ella’s gaze snagged on the man’s kind blue eyes. He nodded. Maybe even smiled. It was hard to see his lips turn up through the beard, but the corners of his eyes crinkled, making him appear friendly.
Ella’s heart pitter-pattered unexpectedly. She’d never been attracted to a man with a beard before. Of course, in California the look always seemed a little out of place, like the guy was having an identity crisis. Beards and surfboards were an odd combination. But nothing was odd about this lumberjack.
The tiny grey-haired woman in the wheelchair, pointed past Ella. The man looked away. A small sigh of disappointment escaped Ella’s lips. Then she noticed the gate agent closing the door to the jet bridge, and her heart lurched for a whole new reason.
“Wait.” She rushed forward. “The person I’m picking up hasn’t gotten off yet.”
The curvy Hispanic woman tossed her long hair but continued closing the door. “I’m sorry. Offload is complete. You should call your friend and see if they missed their flight.”
Ella ground her teeth together. Paxton King was not her friend. Part of her was even glad she didn’t have to deal with him now. Except for the fact that his stepsisters had planned a big New Year’s ball in his honor, and Ella would have to deal with them.
She rolled her eyes. There were so many other things she should be doing instead of babysitting an entitled heir.
The tinny tune to I’ll Be Home for Christmas chimed from her shoulder bag—Dad’s special ringtone. She dug her phone out of her purse, marveling at the irony of how she’d love to hop a plane to go home to be with her family for the holidays while Paxton King had every opportunity to be with his, and he’d squandered it.
She huffed before swiping her thumb across the screen and holding the phone to hear ear. “I arrived safely, Dad. Sorry I didn’t call right away. Rich asked me last minute if I would pick up Paxton King.”
“Good to know, princess.” Dad wasn’t the kind to worry. He just didn’t want her to feel alone this far away from home at her favorite time of year. “I hope you have a wonderful white Christmas.”
She clicked her tongue. “It hasn’t been wonderful so far. Paxton King didn’t make his flight.” She looked for the sign pointing toward baggage claim. Her next step would be to see if his luggage arrived without him. “I set up to film events every day this week, but if he’s not here, the rest of the family might want to hold off until he joins them. You know, if he’s capable of making it on a plane.”
“Now, Ella. You’ve missed flights before too.”
“One flight,” she corrected, watching the sweet family reunion as a preschooler ran toward the woman in the wheelchair. At least someone had the joy of the season. She averted her eyes before the lumberjack embraced the preschooler’s mother, who would likely be his wife. “I only missed that flight because the airline changed gates, and I didn’t hear the announcement since I was in the bathroom.”
“That could have happened to the King kid.”
“Ha.” She practically choked on her own sarcasm. “If Paxton King had to go to the bathroom, it would be from drinking too much alcohol. Though he probably missed his flight because he was picking up chicks in the bar. I should be glad he didn’t arrive. One less King I have to deal with.”
“I thought you’d never met the guy.” Dad’s normally lazy tone dipped with disapproval.
A tap on Ella’s shoulder drew her attention. She glanced back to find the lumberjack watching her with blue eyes that were even more intense up close. The heat of them could melt icicles. Her belly warmed from it.
She held up a finger to let the man know she’d be right with him. She’d give him her full attention. “I have to go, Dad,” she said into the phone. “I’ll let you know how it turns out with Paxton King, though I’m not expecting him to be any less selfish and manipulative than his sisters. I don’t even know the guy, and he’s already made my Christmas worse.”
“All right, princess. Wish I could be there with you.”
“Wish you could be here too. Don’t let Daisy open my gift until I have her on video chat.” She spoke as quickly as she could without being rude. “Love you. Bye.”
She swiped to hang up then stood tall in front of the lumberjack and his piercing gaze. Her heart shivered despite the way her cheeks burned. She wasn’t used to this kind of attention. Working with the Kings always kept her in the background. “Hi.” She flicked her gaze past him. Where had the lumberjack’s family disappeared to?
“Hi.” His eyes crinkled again, and he extended a hand to shake. “I just thought I should introduce myself before this gets any more embarrassing. I’m Paxton King.”
The sign slipped from Ella’s fingers. She couldn’t have been more shocked if she’d been Mary and he’d been one of the kings visiting baby Jesus.
Paxton didn’t blame the woman. He agreed with her astute judgements and avoided the television show as long as possible.
He also didn’t doubt his sisters had given this stranger reason to despise his family. He just wished he didn’t get lumped into the sum of their behavior. He’d look for a way to prove her assumptions wrong.
“I…I…” she stammered, fumbling with her phone in a rush to shake his hand. Her palm felt tiny but firm inside his grip. Cool and soft against his callouses. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you had a beard. Or that you’d be with someone else.” She stopped shaking to look around for the someone else she’d thought he was with.
Paxton released her hand to stroke his chin. He turned his head from side to side, displaying his profile. “You don’t like my beard?”
Her gaze slid back to study him. When her green eyes met his, they blinked rapidly. She slid her hands against her jeans. Then she looked down and jolted as she realized she’d stepped on top of the sign with his name on it.
“I do like it. It looks good on you.” Her eyes zinged to his once more as if afraid she’d revealed more than she wanted to. Her cheeks blossomed pink. “Beards are…uh…rugged.”
Paxton grinned. She was apparently afraid her compliment had come off as flirty, so she’d made it awkward instead. A refreshing change from the women who gushed to get his attention. It gave him the feeling he could trust her. It had been a long, long time since he’d felt that way around anyone.
She busied herself with bending over to pick up the sign then continued to focus on it as she straightened. “I’m sorry for what I said on the phone. That was completely unprofessional, no matter how I feel about your family.” Her eyes widened and met his again. “Not that there’s anything wrong with your family. Your family is…”
She froze, a deer in headlights. It reminded him of the story his mom liked to tell about the first time they’d visited Jackson Hole when he was in kindergarten. She’d said, “Look, Paxton. There’s a dear. Isn’t it pretty?” Paxton had responded, “Like you, Mommy.” Of course, his mom remembered it because it had been a compliment about her looks. But if he were to compare this woman in front of him to an animal, it would also be a deer.
She had dark brown hair, about chin length, neither curly nor straight. Kind of messy in a cute way. And she moved with ease. Graceful. But it was the edginess in her light green eyes that gave her the poise of a deer. Like she was watching him, waiting for his next move, ready to bound away.
“I’m the one who owes you an apology,” he said to calm her nerves. “I should have let you know I was the person you were waiting for before walking past. I was going to, but then Betty got all excited about her daughter and granddaughter coming to the gate to pick her up. I figured I’d let her have her moment then come back to introduce myself.”
The flash of fear in the woman’s eyes dimmed, though she continued to study him. “Who is Betty?”
Paxton looked over his shoulder to see if the older woman was still there, but the group had left already. “I met her on the plane. Neat lady. Used to edit a fashion magazine but now she runs a shop here in town. She was up in Alaska, buying Eskimo moccasins to sell.”
Shiny pink lips parted. “You offered to push a stranger’s wheelchair off the plane?”
Should he be offended that she was so shocked by his kindness? His sisters would be. He personally found it entertaining. Endearing. Maybe even a little attractive.
Most people looked past his family’s “eccentricities” because of their money. This woman had been prepared to dislike him for that very reason.
He shrugged. “Yeah.”
“Oh.” She stared a bit longer. “That’s nice.”
“You know what would be nice?” He studied her right back and couldn’t keep from smiling. “If we could finish our introductions. It’s really not fair how much you know about me when I don’t even know your name.”
I hope you enjoy the story, and may your Christmas season be magical!