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Nerdy or Nice

Wanting Drake Slater – it's more wrong than Santa in a Speedo.

A nerdy girl meets her match in this fun holiday romance from a USA TODAY Bestseller: Drake Slater – even his name screams trouble. With his killer looks and cocky smile, some might say he's the good kind of trouble, the kind that even smart girls can't resist.

It's an oh-so festive thought, but I'd be a fool to get jolly for it. Unlike my carefree mom, I know that muscular pretty-boys are a recipe for disaster. Having witnessed far too many disasters already, I stick to guys of the other variety – nerdy or nice, preferably both.

Even then, I still play it safe.

Too safe?

It never felt that way…until my swanky new cat-sitting gig has me crossing paths with a certain someone I can't quite figure out. Who is this guy, anyway? A slick pickup artist? A basement-dwelling mooch? Or something else entirely?

It's one Santa-sized mystery. But I do know one thing for sure. Thanks to my policy of playing it safe, my life has gotten way too stale, like a Christmas cookie left out too long for the big guy.

Sure, I've avoided those horrible lows, but what about those spectacular highs? What about kisses at midnight and dancing until dawn? What about seducing a stranger or following your heart?

It all begs a serious question. What if playing it safe is the riskiest thing of all?

 

Sneak Peek

Chapter 1

The customer looked seriously disgruntled – and maybe a little drunk. His ruddy face scrunched in confusion as he said, "You're the wrong kind of elf."

So I'd heard. Repeatedly. Still, I plastered on my sunniest smile. "Yeah, well, we can't all be Christmas elves."

God, what a nightmare. For the holidays, I'd taken a part-time job wrapping gifts at the area's largest department store. Only minutes before my shift, I'd discovered that tonight was dress-up night.

Not in dresses.

But in Christmas gear.

By text, I'd received an official list of appropriate costumes. And right there in the third slot down had been the word, "Elf."

So here I was. Being short of costumes, time, and money, I'd worked with what I had – a shimmering blue cloak and fake pointy ears. Therefore, I looked ready to defend Helm's Deep – except with no bow.

Or sword.

Mostly, I just had my dignity.

In front of me, the customer slurred, "Your costume blows."

Alright, scratch the dignity.

The time was just past eleven – not a.m., but p.m. – and I still had an hour to go. Normally, the store closed at nine, but with Christmas exactly a week away, we were staying open extra late for the store's Magical Midnight Marathon.

It didn't feel so magical to me. But of course, this had nothing to do with my job and everything to do with the romantic roller-coaster I'd been riding for the past month.

On the upside, a broken heart was just the thing to distract me from my aching feet. By now, I'd been standing for nearly nine hours, and my arches were paying the price.

Already, I'd wrapped at least a hundred gifts, maybe more. But sometime within the last hour or so, the crowds had finally cleared, leaving me at the wrapping station alone until this guy had shown up.

His hands were empty, and he pushed no cart. Still, I felt compelled to ask, "So…do you have something you need wrapped?"

His shoulders slumped. "No."

So why are you here? 

But I didn't say it, because my tuition wasn't going to pay itself. Instead, I plastered on another smile. "Well, then you'd better get shopping, huh?"

"I guess," the guy grumbled. "Got any ideas?"

"For who?" And then, at his cloudy expression, I felt the need to clarify. "I mean, who are you shopping for?"

"The wife, that's who." He gave a dramatic groan. "God, I hate shopping."

I had to give the guy at least some credit. Lots of guys waited 'til Christmas Eve. But not this guy. Grumpy or not, he was trying, right? "Hey, look on the bright side," I said. "You've still got a week to go."

"So?"

"So I'm just saying, it's not an emergency yet."

"The hell it isn't," he grumbled. "Last year, I put it off so long, all the good stuff was gone." He gave a drunken snort. "Got my wife a coffee maker. You can guess how that went over."

"Oh come on," I said with a reassuring smile. "That's not so bad. Everyone likes coffee, right?"

"Not the wife," he scoffed. "She doesn't even drink the stuff."

My smile faltered. "So…why'd you get her a coffee maker?"

"I dunno. I figured maybe she'd wanna try something new." He sighed. "But she didn't, so this year, I've gotta hit a home run." He leaned forward to steady himself on the counter. "Do you know, I just spent two hours at the Tankard, trying to come up with ideas?"

The Tankard was a pub located just across the street. Huh. Now that I thought about it, this wasn't the first guy who looked like he'd had one tankard too many.

In front of me, the customer gave another groan. "But I got nothin'."

He looked so despondent that my heart went out to him. "How about…" I shifted from foot to foot, wishing that I'd worn sneakers instead of heels. "An electronic foot massager?"

He perked up. "You know, she is recovering from a twisted ankle."

I perked up, too. "Really?"

"And she's always griping about her feet. She's a nurse, so she's on 'em a lot."
I smiled. "See?"

He glanced wildly around. "So, you got any?"

"Foot massagers? Sure." I pointed to my left. "There's a sale in electronics."

He grinned. "Oh, yeah?"

I nodded. "Yeah, and you can test them out for yourself. I heard the one with the remote is really nice."

"A remote. Yeah." He was nodding now. "Yeah," he said again, this time with more gusto. "I'm gonna go do that."

He turned away, but then turned back with a sheepish smile. "Hey, sorry for razzing you about the costume. I mean, it's not the worst one I saw tonight." He grimaced. "You see the guy in hardware? He's got this reindeer thing going on, just about scared the piss out of me."

I knew which costume he meant. But in Bill's defense, no one had specifically banned the use of real antlers for tonight's event.

As the customer hustled off toward the massagers, I stared after him, feeling just a little bit wistful. The guy obviously loved his wife.

Something sad squeezed at my heart. I loved someone, too.

Or at least, I thought I had – until I realized how hopeless it all was. The thing with my guy had ended well before the coffee-maker stage.

I blinked away sudden tears, only to blink again when I saw a guy who looked uncannily like him heading in my direction.
My pulse gave a crazy little jump.

He didn't just look like him. He was him.

As our gazes locked, I felt myself swallow. He was tall with wavy blond hair and an impressive build. But it wasn't his handsome face – or even his spectacular body – that had caused me to fall too hard and too fast.

It was the person he was inside – or at least, the person I thought he was until yesterday morning, when everything had gotten all twisted up.

I hadn't seen him since – or talked to him either – and for a darn good reason. Or at least that's what I'd been telling myself.

But now, as our gazed held across the distance, I wasn't so sure.

What was he doing here, anyway?

(End of Sneak Peek)

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The Kitten Cove Christmas Trilogy

Nerdy or Nice is the second in a 2022 holiday trilogy starring three quirky cat-sitters and the dashing men who claim their hearts. Each book in this festively angsty series can be read as a standalone.

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