A Games People Play Christmas Novella
by HelenKay Dimon
About the Book
Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.
Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.
But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.
Garrett stared at the text message. It had come in a half hour ago. He’d missed it while he was parking his car in the airport lot. His flight to San Francisco left in an hour. He would have enough time to maneuver his way through security, grab a coffee and get to the gate, and even that was pushing it. Now this.
He’d been trying to win Lauren’s trust for months. With Christmas coming and her refusing to commit to seeing him, Garrett had booked a last-minute flight to visit with the only family he had left. His aunt and cousin, Lotti. The goal was to see his aunt before she left on a cruise then annoy Lotti for a few days before taking off on his own. That was about all the family time he could muster for this holiday.
His parents had died in a car crash exactly one month after he turned nineteen. Christmas Eve almost twelve years ago. He’d been in college and orphaned in a matter of minutes. Too much alcohol had accompanied what many suspected was a fight that had started at his dad’s work party and continued into the car . . . and then they were gone.
The devastation had lingered for so much longer than Garrett had expected. He was an adult when it happened, or almost. He knew he’d grieve but he’d thought that would end and then he’d move on. Being alone wouldn’t matter because he wasn’t a kid. He would be fine. But his aunt had known better and explained that type of mourning was a forever process. She’d wrapped him in a blanket of love and given him an extended family, and his cousin had become the little sister he never had.
They were expecting him. He’d promised to come out for a week before the holidays and maybe again after. They didn’t want him to be alone on the anniversary of his parents’ death, but he’d long ago learned that he operated better on his own that day. Quiet and still, wondering what could have been if his father had just called a cab.
For once December had rolled around and he wasn’t thinking only of his parents. He hadn’t buried himself in work to battle back the memories. That had been the plan, but now he had Lauren’s text.
You were right. Carl is not dead.
The clipped sentences fit Lauren. She wasn’t the flowery type. She was practical and beautiful and smart. She never volunteered information, except to insist their more than five-year age difference mattered. When he refused to accept that as an excuse for not going out with him because it was ridiculous, she informed him that she was a mess and that he could do better.
If she’d said she wasn’t interested, he would have walked away disappointed, but he would have gone. Not having dinner because of some perceived failing she had about herself? That part he couldn’t agree to.
For the first time since he’d met Lauren, she needed him. He hated the idea of her being targeted by a con man ex, but he loved that he was the one she had on speed dial for anything.
Yeah, his family trip could wait. They’d understand because that’s what they did. They were bone-deep decent. They gave him room and reeled him in now and then when he failed to call often enough. Lotti would give him shit for picking a woman over them, so he decided to keep that information quiet for now. He’d call this a work problem. He could almost see Lotti rolling her eyes at that one.
He dialed his aunt as he turned around and headed back to his car. A shot of anxiety surged through him, making him speed up the pace with each step. He had the sudden need to race to Annapolis.
Carl Gallagher’s being alive made Garrett want to kill him.
About Helenkay Dimon
HelenKay Dimon spent the years before becoming a romance author as a…divorce attorney. Not the usual transition, she knows. Good news is she now writes full time and is much happier. She has sold over thirty novels, novellas and shorts to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Kensington, Harlequin, Penguin, Samhain and Carina Press. Her nationally bestselling and award-winning books have been showcased in numerous venues and her books have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine. She is on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America and teaches fiction writing at UC San Diego and MiraCosta College.