Authors: Katlyn Duncan
This year, if Hadley wrote her dream Christmas list it would go something like this:
1. Spend every waking – and sleeping – moment with her incredibly gorgeous boyfriend, Will.
2. Figure out what’s been bugging him lately. Yes, going away to college has been tough… but it’s time they reconnected.
3. Enjoy a sparkling Christmas in New York City, gazing at the Rockefeller tree, going ice skating, and drinking steaming mugs of cocoa in Central Park.
So driving off to spend Christmas in a rustic cabin in the woods wasn’t exactly the plan. But when it comes to her irresistible and at times impossible boyfriend, nothing’s ever that simple. And as fantasies of an icy Times Square are replaced by a clumsily-decorated tree, making snowmen and the warmth of a log fire, Hadley feels herself falling in love all over again.
Except does Will have something to tell her that could change Hadley’s happily-ever-after Christmas dreams into a not-so-winter wonderland after all?
‘The epitome of a summertime read.’
Rather Be Reading
‘Fans of sweet romances and light reads will flock to cheer on Hadley and Will’s romance blossom.’
Pretty Little Pages
‘I definitely recommend
if you are looking for a great romance but that’s not completely light and fuzzy. The writing is fantastic and the romance PERFECT <3’
Lose Time Reading
‘I really loved this book from the beginning to the very end. It was a book that you couldn’t put down because you wanted to see if this couple would ever get together and fall in love.’ 4.5 stars from
Once Upon a Twilight
really reminded me of Colleen Hoover’s Hopeless that I loved and even though it wasn’t as intense, the writing itself was incredible.’
Spiced Latte Reads
was a sweet best-friends romance with a large dose of drama. It is an ideal summer read.’
‘Katlyn Duncan’s YA debut,
, is a thrilling ride that will leave you breathless for the next page, and curious to find the true soul we nurture within.’ Jennifer Murgia, author of the
Between These Lines
‘Wow! Talk about a completely unique concept with tons of new ideas, roles, and characters that took me on an exhilarating adventure.’ 4.5 stars from
I ♥ Bookie Nookie Reviews
is a BRILLIANT read! …This is one of those books to look out for.’ 5 stars from
A Diary of a Book Addict
The Life After
has been reading and writing since before she can remember; her earliest memories involve dragging her mom to the store to get the latest
book. She earned two science degrees and currently works in the medical field. She spends her free time writing, reading, and renovating her Victorian “fixer upper” in southern New England with her husband.
I’m still riding my end-of-final-exams high when I reach Will’s doorstep. I pull out the spare key Will gave me after he signed the lease to his apartment days after he made the decision to come with me to Manhattan while I attended NYU, and it would only be a few more weeks until he started college for himself. The familiar twinge I’ve been ignoring the past few months pinches at my chest and I do my best to disregard it.
I open the door slowly, unsure if Will’s roommate and co-worker, Nathaniel, is in the nude again. Seeing him twice was enough for me. But the living room is dark with no sign of life. I close the door behind me and allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Nathaniel insisted on keeping the place like a cave with black curtains. On those rare Sunday mornings when I woke up in Will’s apartment, I could see the appeal. There was enough noise coming from outside the window; at least there was little light so we could pretend we didn’t sleep the day away.
I could navigate this place in the dark but, in an apartment with two boys, there were always booby traps on the floor. And I don’t feel like tripping over anything or waking up the grumpy downstairs neighbors. A pile of blankets is strewn across the couch, but I can’t make out a body underneath it.
“Nathaniel?” I whisper, but the pile of blankets doesn’t move. I’m inches away and poke at it with my finger, realizing it’s only blankets with no body underneath. He was probably watching TV—reality shows are his thing—and shuffled off to bed after the late shift.
A light from the galley kitchen around the corner catches my attention. Someone is in there. I hear the distinct
of the milk jug cap. I smile to myself. Another thing I’ve learned about Will since we’ve been together is his love for milk at random points in the night, right out of the carton.
I slip past the couch and silently drop my purse on the coffee table, avoiding bowls and plates with various food cemented to them. I slowly tiptoe towards the kitchen. I imagine surprising my hopefully shirtless tousle-haired boyfriend who I haven’t properly seen in two weeks other than the random video chat in between studying for finals. That twinge pokes harder at me. Don’t kid yourself Hadley, it’s been longer than two weeks.
When I enter the kitchen, I don’t see the man I love shirtless. Instead I see the curve of lace black panties barely hidden under Will’s button-down work dress shirt. The girl stands up from the refrigerator and pulls out a milk carton with Will’s name written in permanent marker. Her long black hair slides over her shoulder, revealing her profile. Any other person could assume she must be here for Nathaniel, but his predilection for men suggests otherwise.
My mouth drops open as the seconds drag on. I have no words, but millions of thoughts swirl through my mind. Horrible thoughts. Will and this chick naked thoughts. I came here to surprise Will. Maybe he thought I was still in my finals and didn’t bother hiding his side-piece? I envision our entire relationship flushing down the proverbial toilet as this girl takes my place. The place of a girlfriend who hasn’t had time for her boyfriend for much of the past four months.
She closes the door and turns around. We’re shrouded in darkness again and I blink a few times to readjust my eyes. She flies back against the refrigerator, knocking a few magnets to the ground.
“Holy shit!” Her hand covers her mouth and she reaches for the light switch under the cabinets. If at all possible, seeing her in full light flares the jealousy that burns inside my chest. How can she be even more attractive in the horrible green-tinged light above the sink? My cheeks burn.
“You scared the shit out of me, Hadley.”
My name on her lips strikes me and I come out with the lamest response. “How do you know my name?”
A slow smile spreads across her face. “Will’s told me all about you.”
His name sends waves of adrenaline through me. I can’t look at this girl. Without another word I spin on my heel and march towards his room. I’ve had enough of her face, I need to hear it from the horse’s mouth. The cheating horse’s mouth. Heat pricks at the back of my eyes but I turn the handle of his door and push it open. It slams off the wall, but all I can focus on is his wide-eyed stare. His chest is bare but I ignore the adorable tousled bedhead I hoped to see a minute ago as he finishes pulling up his boxers.
My voice has returned. “Who is she?”
Will’s gaze flicks over my shoulder. I can feel the girl there but I don’t turn around. My breathing is ragged with each passing silent second. But he does something I don’t expect.
“What’s so funny?” I ask, my voice finally betraying the jumble of emotions flooding me.
“Hadley,” he says shaking his head. “Becky is my sister. Stepsister.”
I balk. “You’re sleeping with your step sister?”
Becky snorts from the other room.
This time I turn around. I only see her legs resting over the side of the couch.
I turn back around and Will is in front of me, grinning. “I am not sleeping with my stepsister. She’s been staying over. On the couch,” he adds the last part quickly.
This is the first time I’ve heard of her existence. My leftover rage has my hands shaking. I clasp them together. “Since when do you have a stepsister?”
“That’s my fault,” Becky offers.
I turn around to face her.
She flicks on the lamp on the side table. “I had a different idea of meeting the infamous Hadley Beauman that Will hardly stops talking about.” She winks at him then continues. “But my idiot boyfriend broke up with me last week and locked me out of the apartment. I needed a place to crash.”
I narrow my eyes at Will. He leans against the door frame, massaging the back of his neck. He’s uncomfortable.
At least it’s not just me.
I glance at Becky. “Excuse us for a minute.”
I brush past Will, entering his room. He closes the door.
I turn the light on, not wanting any more surprises. “She’s been here for a week and you didn’t tell me?” I try to steady my voice, but it cracks. Ever since Will came back to our hometown after his two year disappearance from my life, he held secrets from me. But I thought that was over when we made it official and moved to a new city together.
Will leans his back against the dresser, meeting my eyes. “We haven’t seen each other in two weeks. You were distracted with finals. She’s been here for me…”
She’s been here for him since I wasn’t. “Will, I can’t just give up on school to hang out with you. That might have worked a few months ago, but I really want to do well.”
He crosses the room and fixes his gorgeous hazel eyes on me. I fight to keep my stern expression even though I want to melt into his arms. His warm hands wrap around my wrists and he pulls me closer to him, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “I understand that. But Becky wanted to meet you properly. She wanted to wine and dine you.” He smirks. “Well, she wanted
to wine and dine the both of you.”
He cracks my facade and I drop my head, resting my cheek against his bare chest. His arms wrap around me and I inhale. He smells like soap. One thing he never forgets is to shower after a shift at the restaurant.
“I’m so stupid,” I say against his chest. I don’t really know how to tell him about my insecurities over our relationship for the past month. I have my own life and he never complained, so I have no right to go off on him like I did. Especially over his family.
“You’re not stupid,” he says, his chest vibrating against my cheek. “A little crazy, maybe. But not stupid.”
I chuck him lightly on the arm and lean my head back. I stand on my tip toes and press my lips against his grin.
“School’s over,” I say, a little breathless after kissing him. I didn’t realize how much I missed him. “And you promised we’d see the tree.”
He bites his lower lip. “Again?”
Little did he know I made daily side-trips from class just to see the amazing spectacle at Rockefeller.
“At night,” I protest. “When you can actually see how pretty it is.”