A Christmas Rekindled: A Bangers Tavern Romance
Three excerpts to give you the flavor of author Sadira Stone’s holiday story.
Blurb for A Christmas Rekindled
Bartender River Lundqvist has a damn good reason for hating Christmas. Bangers Tavern is the perfect place to lay low over the holidays—until Charlie walks in. His first encounter with the saucy server nine years ago was utter humiliation. Her reappearance stirs up powerful desires and hopes for a new start. But the timing is all wrong.
Back in Tacoma to care for her estranged dad over the holidays, freelance web designer Charlie Khoury braces herself for the suckiest Christmas ever. A temporary job at Bangers Tavern gives her a chance to escape Dad’s criticism and blow off some steam. But why does the hunky bartender seem to hate her?
A pretend girlfriend is just what River needs to keep his family off his back—until a kiss under the mistletoe flares hot enough to melt the North Pole. When greedy developers threaten Bangers Tavern, River and Charlie must team up to save it. Their sizzling chemistry feels like the real thing—but everyone knows rebound relationships don’t last.
Come to Bangers Tavern for an enemies-to-lovers tale of reconciliation, found family, holiday cocktails, and the steamiest Christmas miracle ever.
Passing with a keg of beer on a hand dolly, Eddie grunted and pointed up, grinning. Above the bar’s corner hung a clump of mistletoe, tied with a red ribbon.
River dropped his gaze to Charlie. Should he move in for that kiss he’d been fantasizing about since yesterday? Or wait for her to initiate?
She shrugged. “Can’t break tradition.” She took a step toward him. His heart double-timed in his chest. His vision went all soft and blurry. Nearer still…
She pivoted, grabbed Eddie’s jaw with both hands, and planted a loud smooch on his mouth. “Mwah. Merry Christmas, Eddie.”
The barback stumbled and nearly fell on his bony ass.
River didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Cursing softly under his breath, he trudged toward the bar. I push her father all the way down Sixth Ave, and she kisses Eddie?
A soft hand grasped his bicep. “C’mon, River. Don’t be mad.”
He turned, and she stepped in close. Really close. Her fingertips rested on his chest. Huge dark eyes twinkled with mischief. “I had to pay Eddie back for being a troublemaker.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Kissing me is trouble?”
Her hand slid to his nape. “Probably. But, you know, tradition…”
Her heaven-soft lips brushed his, and the din around them faded away. He wrapped his arms around her waist. Her tongue might be sharp, but every inch of her was warm, soft, luscious. A low, hungry sound deep in her throat called his dick to full attention. She angled her head and kissed him again, long and lingering. But when he touched the corner of her mouth with the tip of his tongue, she sucked in a breath and pulled away. “See, told ya.” She tapped his sternum. “Trouble.”
“Listen, I’m really sorry about that. I don’t usually get so emotional, but…” He shrugged. “The tree, the music, the people. Lots of memories, you know? Should have warned you.”
She planted her feet, forcing him to stop and face her. “Why didn’t you?”
His jaw muscles bunched. His eyebrows raised, then lowered. Lots going on behind that pretty face. “It’s hard. You’d think, after a year, it would be easier. It’s not.”
Her resentment evaporated. “No, it’s not. My dad put up the tacky old aluminum tree we used before my mom died. Last night, I came home and saw it sparkling in front of the fireplace, and I just bawled.” She swallowed the ache in her throat. “Christmas is an emotional time.”
He squeezed her hand. “How old were you when she died?”
He nodded. “And now you’re…”
He huffed a laugh. “Really? Thought you were older.”
She pulled away and socked his arm. “Thanks, pretty boy.”
“No, I mean—you’re gorgeous. Sophisticated. Confident.”
When she continued to glare, he pointed to his muddy boot. “Should I eat this now, or save it for dessert?”
Hard to stay mad at him when he made that sad-puppy, big-eyed expression. She crossed her arms. “And how old are you?”
“I’ll be twenty-nine the day after Christmas.”
“A Christmas baby, eh?” And not as young as I thought. Interesting.
“Yeah. I always got shortchanged on birthday presents. So.” He slid closer. “Thanks for coming. And for pretending. You saved my ass.”
A warning prickled along her spine, but she shoved it aside. She was only in town for a month or two. Consequences would be minimal. Besides, it was good to know she could still feel this rush of heat for someone new. Something about River tickled her in places numb since Marvin’s sudden departure.
She squared her shoulders and gazed boldly into his hazel-green eyes—rich brandy and stormy sea. A woman could get lost in there—or drunk. “Who says I was pretending? You do have a certain charm. And I’m going to hold you to your end of the bargain. Santa parade, tomorrow at three.”
He grinned and bit his lip. Shiny white teeth, plump pink flesh.
A tingle pulsed between her thighs.
Where’s the mistletoe when you need it?
Dawn nudged the bartender. “Kiara, say hi to Charlie. She’s gonna step in for Carla.”
Kiara flashed a bright smile. “Howdy, Charlie. Is it Charlene?”
“Charlotte.” She popped a tot into her mouth. Just as crispy as she remembered. “I’d shake your hand, but—” She waved her greasy fingers. “You all alone back there?”
The bartender rolled her eyes. “River’s late. Again. If he weren’t so charming, Dawn woulda canned his ass long ago.”
“Oho, charming, am I?” A deep baritone voice at her elbow spun Charlie around, but the guy had already slid behind the bar. Tall. Blond. Broad shoulders beneath a crisp black shirt. Lean but muscular, more like a dancer than a football player. His hair flopped into his eyes as he bent to scrub his hands. His short golden beard framed plush lips. Mismatched earrings: a small oval onyx on the left, a silver anchor on the right. Thick brown lashes.
Blue eyes, I’ll bet. Breath held, Charlie waited.
Greenish hazel with flecks of amber. His gaze flicked up and held hers for a moment that seemed to stretch on and on. Then those bright eyes scanned her from top to bottom. One eyebrow flicked up as his lips spread in a devilish smile. “Hello, new girl.”
Happy little fireflies danced in her stomach. Words stuck in her throat.
“Not so new.” Dawn smacked a stack of papers onto the bar.
Totally focused on pretty boy’s dazzling smile, Charlie hadn’t seen her old/new boss approach. She took the pen Dawn proffered, cleared her throat, and began scribbling her contact information.
“Charlie used to work here, about—what was it, hon’?”
“I, uh—started in ‘09, I think. And I left in ‘14.”
In an instant, River’s expression shuttered—brows lowered, eyes narrowed, lips clamped in a tight, straight line. He picked up a bar towel, flung it over his shoulder, and silently turned to the beer taps.
Dawn scowled and elbowed him. “Don’t be rude, River. Say hello to Charlie. She’s taking over for Carla.”
“Hello, Charlie.” His voice dripped icicles.
Kiara hip-bumped him. “Be nice, River. Who pissed in your Cheerios?”
Without further comment, he moved to the far end of the bar where a gaggle of college-age girls awaited refreshment. When River greeted them, they erupted in giggles. His high wattage smile reappeared as he muddled mint and cucumber in tall glasses, his forearm muscles flexing beneath tight sleeves.
Kiara leaned on the bar and sighed. “Real lady killer, that one. Earns more in tips than the rest of us combined.”
“I feel sorry for his girlfriend.” Charlie tilted her head toward the too-pretty jerk.
“Oh, he doesn’t—”
“Enough gossip.” Dawn shooed Kiara away, then leaned closer. “Sorry, kiddo. River’s usually such a charmer. I’ll have a word with him.”
“No worries, boss. I don’t need to join his fan club to work here.” She tilted her chin toward the end of the bar where River whipped out drinks with impressive speed and flair. “And I’ll give him a run for his money on those tips.”
Ever since her first kiss, Sadira’s been spinning steamy tales in her head. After leaving her teaching career in Germany, she finally tried her hand at writing one. Now she’s a happy citizen of Romancelandia, penning contemporary romance from her new home in Washington State, U.S.A. When not writing, which is seldom, she explores the Pacific Northwest with her charming husband, enjoys the local music scene, plays darts (pretty well), plays guitar (badly), and gobbles all the books. Visit Sadira at www.sadirastone.com.
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Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55430214-christmas-rekindled