Luke’s Gift

by

Kaylie Newell

After serving in the Army, Luke Harlow returns home in time for the holidays to help his brothers raise their twelve-year-old half-sister. With his new job as Marietta’s police officer, Luke finds himself in the middle of a festive mystery that the entire town will want solved before Christmas morning.

Mary Best is Marietta Courier’s most promising young reporter. When she starts spending time with sexy Luke Harlow to write an article about his heroic military service, she begins to suspect there’s more to this new police recruit than meets the eye. He’s kind, generous, and very mysterious. When anonymous gifts start appearing around town for people in need, Mary knows there’s a story there. A magical one. It doesn’t take long for the breadcrumbs to lead right back to Luke.

As the gifts pile up, so does everyone’s urge to unmask Marietta’s secret Santa. Luke is deeply private, and Mary is deeply curious- opposites who’ll find themselves tumbling toward each other amidst the snowy backdrop of a town fully embraced in the spirit of Christmas. But when Mary uncovers Luke’s secret, will she be able to bury her reporter’s instincts for the sake of love? And will Luke finally be able to trust someone with his heart?

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Mary must’ve been staring because Leon elbowed her in the ribs.

“He asked your name,” he said.

She smiled, embarrassed. “Mary. Mary Best.”

The tall police officer with the hazel eyes and sandy-blond hair bent his head and scratched something in his notebook. “And you’re the one who called it in?”

“I am, Officer,” Leon said. “I called when she started getting belligerent.”

“And by belligerent, you mean…”

“She refused to leave,” Mary answered. “Called us a few names, that kind of thing.”

The officer glanced up. He was so good-looking, it was almost ridiculous. Everything from his tanned, corded forearms to his sun-kissed hair, practically screamed surfer. The expression on his face was serious, though. His eyes were kind but guarded, and she guessed he’d probably been on enough of these calls to get fairly sick of them.

Her belly did a weird flip-flop thing when his gaze settled on hers.

“I’m sorry about that, ma’am. We’ll try and get this sorted out quickly so you folks can get back to work.”

Mary didn’t think she’d ever been called ma’am before. But decided she liked it. A lot.

He looked at her a second longer, then smiled. Dear Lord.The man had dimples that cut deep into each cheek. He was clean shaven, but there was a shadow on his jaw that promised a great beard if he skipped shaving for a day or two.

She let her gaze drop to his black, glossy jacket where a gold badge glinted underneath the fluorescent lights of the office. Then looked at his matching nametag, which read Officer L. Harlow.

Harlow… Harlow…She knew that name from somewhere.

Leon glanced over, and she realized he’d said something.

“Hmm?”

“I said, I can take it from here if you want. Since you’re on deadline?”

Crap.She’d almost forgotten. She was working on an article about a bond measure that had passed. Not nearly as exciting as staring at Officer Hottie all morning long. This wasn’t like her. She’d grown up around cops. She’d never been as swayed by the sexy authority thing as her friends. But this guy… This guy was different. There was something about him, or maybe about the way he looked at her, that was different.Could be just her libido talking, but she didn’t think so.

“Harlow…”

He looked up again. “Yes?”

“Sorry. I just recognize your name, but I’m not sure from where.”

He clicked his pen and tucked it back in his chest pocket. “I’ve been gone a while, but I grew up here. Maybe that’s it.”

“Do you have family in Marietta?”

She really needed to shut it. But she had a reporter’s brain, and those tended to be inconveniently nosey.

“I do. A brother and a younger sister.”

He obviously wasn’t going to volunteer names, so she bit her tongue, forcing herself to show some restraint. But he nagged at her just the same.

“Okay, well…thanks for coming by, Officer,” she said lamely.

“No problem. I’m sure Mrs. Franklin’s cooled off by now. You’ll probably get an apology tomorrow.”

Mary didn’t think so. She’d seen the way Betsy Franklin had looked ten minutes before, like she wanted to rip Mary’s blouse off and strangle her with it. But it was a nice thought.

She gazed up at him. She had no idea how old he was, but judging from the sexy crinkles radiating from the corners of his eyes, she guessed he was older than her. Old enough that she felt like she was in high school again, lusting after one of her brother’s friends on the wrestling team.

“Okay,” she said. “Thank you. And merry Christmas, Officer.”

“Merry Christmas to you, too.”

And there were those dimples again.

End of Excerpt