Brilliant chemist Maggie Bell has a knack for choosing Mr. Wrong, and with yet another lonely Christmas looming, she decides it's time to alter the equation--and seek out someone who seems totally wrong for her. Eureka! The heart is a genius. . .
Behind on her bills, B&B owner Hope receives an unlikely guest--stranded solicitor Danny, who's been threatening to put her out of business. Funny how the holidays can bring people together no matter how much they resist. . .
Born rebel or overgrown man child, Matt is the kind of man no woman can tame--until an unexpected encounter with his nemesis, Cami, at the office holiday party proves there's an exception to every rule. . .
"Count on Jill Shalvis for a witty, steamy, unput-downable love story." --Robyn Carr
"Shalvis makes me laugh, makes me cry, makes me sigh with pure pleasure." --Susan Andersen
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Merry and Bright
By Jill Shalvis
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Kensington Publishing Corporation
All rights reserved.
Finding Mr. Right
For two months, Maggie Bell walked past him every day on her way out of the office, and every day she took in that tall, leanly muscled body, those incredibly well-fitted Levi's hanging low on his hips thanks to his tool belt, and forgot everything else just to take it all in.
Take him in.
As the guy in charge of earthquake retrofitting her office building, he usually carried a roll of architectural plans in one hand and a radio in his other as he dealt with his men, looking confident—not to mention smoking-hot—and every day she thought the same thing.
She actually knew him, at least vaguely. Not that he'd remember, but twelve years ago they'd gone to high school together for one semester. Back then, she'd been a bookworm and a true science geek, and little had changed. Jacob Wahler had been the basketball star, a tough kid, though kind enough to be the only guy on his team to ever bother to smile at her. Twice she'd helped him with his chemistry homework, and then there'd been that one time he'd asked her to shut the door—when she'd walked in on him in a dark classroom with his hands down the jeans of a cheerleader.
God, she'd hated high school.
Twelve years, and she'd not ever looked back, but she was looking now. Jacob had gotten a little taller, and had filled out that long rangy body, which now appeared to be rock hard and clearly honed from the physicality of his job. And then there was everything from the neck up, which packed just as much sexual heat as the rest of him. Dark hair curling just past his collar, even darker eyes, olive skin, and a quick smile capable of melting Greenland faster than global warming.
But no matter how gorgeous, she reminded herself that guys like him weren't her fantasy, and never had been. She was a cerebral woman, and she went for cerebral men.
It was her thing.
Unfortunately her thing wasn't working so well. Somehow her Mr. Right always turned into Mr. Wrong, but she had other issues to worry about, such as her job.
She was lead chemist at Data Tech, a company run by two brothers, scientists who together employed other scientists on the cutting edge of technology. Tim and Scott West funded individual projects and innovative inventions that they deemed impressive and viable.
She planned on being both impressive and viable. In light of that goal, she'd been working on a skin care technology that acted as a drug delivery for cancer prevention treatments and gene repair agents. The idea wasn't new, it was actually in the preliminary experimental stages at many labs across the world, but no one had been consistently successful, not yet. She was close to it though, possibly within the next year or so—if Data Tech continued to fund her.
Tim and Scott had a lot to gain in her success, as they would claim the fame and fortune from it. Maggie didn't care about that, what she cared about was revolutionizing the delivery of drugs to the bloodstream. Every time she thought about it and the possibilities—treating skin cancer, for example, a method which could have saved her own mother—she felt so hopeful about the future, about saving lives, that she could hardly stand it.
What this meant, what it had meant for two long years, was work, work, and more work, and little-to-no social life—hence drooling after Jacob Wahler, aka Sexy Contractor Guy. Today alone she'd been in her lab since eight A.M., and as it was six P.M. now, her eyes were a little blurry. She knew she needed to call it a day and go home to the empty condo she'd bought last year.
Unbelievably, here it was again, a week before Christmas and she'd scarcely noticed the festive decorations all around her, much less even pulled out her own boxed tree and Christmas stocking for Santa. And really, what could Santa possibly bring her anyway?
A man ...
That thought came out of nowhere but it was true. She wanted a man for Christmas. She realized it was sexist and anti-feminist, and set women back decades but she didn't care. She was a chemist, a woman with a brain who knew how to use it, and she was using it now to wish for a man.
Tonight she'd settle for a man-made orgasm ...
Wow, she was more tired than she'd thought, and she slipped out of her lab coat, flipped off the lights in the lab, and headed into her connecting office. There she shut her laptop and slid it into her briefcase. She was going to go home, find her Christmas decorations, and get festive. Maybe sip some eggnog and try to figure out how to get unalone. She walked out of her office and into the construction zone as she headed toward the elevators and told herself in the grand scheme of things, she was fine. Fine.
Okay, that was a few too many fines, but she really was.
"Hey, Mags." Scott West, boss number one, poked his head out of his office, having to peer around a ladder. He was very cute, which usually made her dizzy if she looked at him too long. He wore a white lab coat over his expensive Hugo Boss shirt and pants, looking like a very expensive Doogie Howser. He was a nice catch, and they'd gone out once several weeks back, and that had been really nice, too. But then he'd gone traveling, and she'd been buried in her lab testing and reporting on the results, and ... and they'd not gotten together again.
"Did you get a look at the showroom today?" he asked.
The showroom was on the lobby floor, filled with all the inventions Data Tech had funded, like the rainmaker that harvested water from the air, a motorized pool lounger, a human exoskeleton that could carry heavy loads over long distances, snorkel radio gear, lightbulb sheets, and any of a hundred other wild and crazy things.
"There's a new exhibit," he told her. "Floating furniture made with matching sets of repelling magnets. The couch can support up to two thousand pounds, can you believe it? How cool is that, a floating couch?"
"Very," she said, wondering who would want a floating couch.
He smiled. "I'm putting one in my office. They're carrying it up now. Want to stick around and see?"
Was he gearing up to finally ask her out again? Unlike Jacob, Scott was her type. She knew this. He was cerebral, brilliant really, and extremely into science, which made him perfect.
"Hey." This from boss number two, who poked his head out of his office, right next to his brother's.
They were identical twins. Crazily competitive twins, with Tim into robotics and Scott into molecular bionics. They ran Data Tech as a legacy to their father, while each doing their damnedest to one up the other, at work, at play, in any way they could.
Tim tossed a glass vial to Maggie. Her latest formula, which she'd given him a few days ago. "It's beautiful," he told her. "But we've added a secret ingredient. Let us know what you think."
She held the vial up to the light but didn't see any change. "What is it?"
"Tim," Scott said, suddenly looking unhappy. "I—"
"Just something to smooth the formula," Tim said over Scott. "It's a secret until you let us know if you like it."
"I'll try it out tonight." She'd been running test groups on the drug delivery formula using Vitamin B3 and other essential oils as the drug of choice. So far, she'd been inconsistently successful, but she would get there.
"Tim." Scott sent his brother a long look. "I thought we—you know I wanted to ..."
"Spit it out, bro."
But Scott appeared to have lost his words, and just glanced at his brother.
"Lethologica," Maggie said. "The state of not being able to find the word you want." She patted Scott's arm. "Don't worry, it happens to me all the time, it'll pass."
Scott blinked and she smiled, but he didn't return it. "I'll test it for you," he said instead, reaching for the vial. "No need for you to have to."
"Oh, no, that's okay. I don't mind at all."
"She doesn't mind," Tim said to Scott. "Let it go. 'Night, Maggie."
Maggie looked at Scott, who clearly wasn't going to ask her out now. " 'Night."
"Maggie." Scott eyed the vial. "I really think—"
"'Night," Tim repeated, putting a hand over his twin's face and pushing him back into his office. "Don't have too much fun tonight, Maggie."
Okay, they were acting strange. But who was she to judge? As for having fun, ha. After a lifetime of being the nerd, of going to Stanford three years ahead of her peers, of completing college before anyone her age had even begun, she'd gotten damn good at not having fun.
And wasn't that just the problem.
Turning, she walked to the elevator. She could see Jacob and his crew at work, just down the hall. He stood on a ladder, pulling a hammer out of his tool belt, reaching far above him to a ceiling tile, that long, hard body all stretched taut ...
The elevator dinged and she stepped into it, craning her neck, not to see all the pretty decorations, but to catch the last view of Jacob's tush as the doors slid shut. Was Scott's butt that cute? Since he always wore a white lab coat, she couldn't say.
Outside, she drew in a breath of the cool L.A. evening air and headed to her car as her cell phone rang. It was her sister Janie, a UCLA professor who did not have the geek gene. Nope, Janie had somehow snagged a normal life for herself. She'd married and brought two beautiful kids into the world, and was determined to make sure Maggie did the same.
"Hey, Mags." Janie's mouth was clearly full. "Sorry, chocolate stuck in my teeth."
"Don't tell me you're still eating leftover Halloween candy."
"A Baby Ruth bar. Sinful, I'm telling you. Why do you think they call it a Baby Ruth? Why not a Baby Jane or something?"
"It was supposedly named for Grover Cleveland's baby daughter."
"Your brain works in the oddest ways."
"Uh-huh. And do you also know if you're coming for Christmas Eve?"
"Bringing the pumpkin pie."
"Spending the night?"
"Wouldn't want to miss Santa."
A lie, and they both knew it. Maggie just didn't want to be alone in her condo on Christmas morning. "What am I supposed to get you for Christmas, by the way? You already have everything you could want."
"You could bring a date."
When Maggie laughed, Janie sighed. "Well, you could try. Your Mr. Right is just right around the corner, I know it."
"Yes, but which corner?" Maggie stopped beside her sensible Toyota and searched for her keys, blowing out an irritated breath when she realized she was completely blocked in by Tim's not sensible Porsche. "Dammit." She whirled back to the building. "I have to go kill my boss."
"Invite someone from work," Janie said. "Not the boss you're going to kill, but the other one."
"I want him to ask me out. But my Mr. Rights all seem gun shy."
"Then invite a Mr. Wrong."
"You mean purposely go out with someone who isn't right for me?"
"Honey, you've gone two years without sex. What do you have to lose by changing tactics? I mean, honest to God, your good parts are going to wither from nonuse."
"Well, what am I supposed to do, just take off my clothes and have wild sex with the first guy I come across?"
"Yes," Janie said. "The first wrong guy, the one you wouldn't normally go out with."
"You want me to have sex with Mr. Wrong."
"Use a condom."
Maggie laughed. "You can't be serious."
"Seriously serious. You need to go for the first Mr. Wrong to cross your path—as long as he's not an ax murderer or rapist," she qualified. "And probably he should have a job and love his mother. That can be my Christmas present—you having sex with Mr. Wrong. Promise me."
Since that was as unlikely to happen as having sex with a Mr. Right, Maggie laughed as she walked back into the building. Back on the sixth floor, she dodged through the obstacle course of construction equipment. The construction crew was desperately trying to finish before Christmas, and apparently they were working late tonight. Still on the phone with her sister, she ducked under a ladder, over a cord, and then around a huge stack of unused drywall, catching her shoulder on the sharp edge. She heard the rip of her coat and sighed as she dropped her briefcase to look. "Dammit."
"What?" Janie asked. "Mr. Wrong?"
"No! Jeez. Hold on." She bent for her briefcase, just as someone beat her to it, scooping up the loose change that had spilled out.
"Thanks—" Maggie lifted her head and froze at the wide chest in her vision.
A chest that once upon a time she'd dreamed about in chemistry. She took the coins from Jacob's big, work-roughened palm, her nerves suddenly crackling as well as all the good spots Janie had mentioned, which meant that they hadn't withered up, at least not yet. "Three quarters, four dimes, and four pennies," she said. "$1.19."
"That's fast math."
Yes, her brain always sped up when she was anxious. Plus, there was the other thing. She was also a little revved up. Sexually speaking. Which was Janie's fault, she decided, for putting the idea of hot sex in her head in the first place. "A dollar and nineteen cents is the largest amount of money in coins you can have and still not be able to make change for a dollar."
He blinked, then nodded. "That's ... inter-esting."
"It's fact." Oh, God. Shut up.
"Who's that?" Janie whispered in her ear. "Who are you talking to? A man? It's got to be a man because you're spouting off useless trivia like you do when you're nervous. Oh! He's your Mr. Wrong, isn't he? Ask him to have hot sex with you!"
"Hush," Maggie said, and Jacob blinked again. Oh, God. "Not you." She stood, and he did the same, giving her a quick peek of him close up and personal. His scuffed work boots, the mile-long legs and lean hips, covered in Levi's, all faded and stressed white in all the right places, of which there appeared to be a tantalizing many. God bless denim ... "Thanks, Jacob."
At his surprise, she nodded. "Yeah, we know each other, or used to. Chem 101, your junior year at South Pasadena High. Before you moved to New Orleans."
"Maggie Bell?" His eyes warmed. "I remember now. You came up directly from eighth grade, right? You saved my ass that year."
"Jacob ..." Janie whispered in her ear. "I don't remember a Jacob. Is he cute?"
Yeah, he was cute. Cute like a wild cheetah. As in look but don't touch. And while she stood there, still enjoying his jeans—what was with her?—her mouth ran loose. "Until you and your crew started retrofitting the building, the dress code around here was pretty much limited to white lab coats."
His mouth quirked. "I can't climb ladders in a white lab coat."
"No, no it's okay." So okay. "I get tired of looking at all that white anyway. So it's good that you're not." Oh, just shut up already! "Wearing one," she added weakly.
"You should probably not talk anymore," Janie said, ever so helpfully over the phone.
Maggie bit her lip to keep it shut. He was so close, so big. And she felt a little like a doe caught in the headlights.
"You tore your coat," he said, and fingered the hole.
At his touch, her body tightened, and her mouth opened again. "It's okay. I tend to do things like this a lot."
"Run into drywall?"
"Run into stuff, period." Someone had opened a window, and the evening breeze came in, as well as the sounds from the street six floors below. Traffic, an airplane, a sudden blare of a horn so loud she jumped.
"Just a car," he said.
"In the tone of an F."
"All car horns are in the chord of F."
He did that eyebrow arch thing again.
"Jesus, Mags. Stop talking!" Janie demanded in her ear.
"Okay, I've really got to go."
"Wait!" Janie yelled. "Ask him out first, you promised! You have to do him, and get him to do you—"
Excerpted from Merry and Bright by Jill Shalvis. Copyright © 2013 Kensington Publishing Corporation. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
"Finding Mr. Right".................... 1
"Bah, Handsome!".................... 117
"Ms. Humbug".................... 213
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
All three stories were very cute and sweet. I would have enjoyed them even more if they were longer and more elaborate, but short and sweet was ok too.
Merry and Bright by Jill Shalvis Love that this book actually has three stories from Jill included. . Finding Mr. Right This book is about Maggie and she's a chemist and knows tons of random facts on any subject. She's given up on her social life to get to where she's at. She meets the contractor on the job working on the companies renovations and realizes Jacob who was once in her chemistry class is the contractor. Her sister wants a Christmas gift that Maggie will have sex with Mr. Wrong and Jacob hears their conversation and wants the job and before you know it, things get out of hand and her sister has her wish come true. Problem is someone was in the office at the time and she's not sure what's missing. Hot steamy sex and trouble when she learns her tire is flat-Jacob tells her it's been slashed. They find more trouble at her house and notify the police. They can't keep their hands off one another... Love hearing the technical side of her work and things she's uncovered. Love the mystery and the lots of sex combination. . Bah, Handsome! Hope O'Brien runs the B&B outside of Denver, CO and business is not really good. One stormy night a man appears-one of her girlfriends wishes her up a man with that knows how to use his sexual organs. Her step brothers accountant Danny Shaw, and he's not there to give her an extension. She intends to send the money and reassures him of that. For now he's stuck at the B&B and offers to help her-look over her financial records. She refuses and puts on a good face-til the water freezes up the next morning. Ben and Lori who live the next place over could help but the pipes are just one thing that's gone wrong. The whole places needs a major uplift. Hot steamy sex scenes. They get locked in the basement where the radiator is on and they start taking off layers of clothes...Ben and Lisa also come up with some ideas to get the two of them to spend time with one another. Danny leaves the firm and loves the country and plans for the B&B and wants to help her out of a jam... Misunderstandings get straightened out ... . Ms. Humbug City planner Cami Bennett is going to the Christmas party and all she can think about is O's, organization and order and of course organisms. Before she leaves she heads to the ladies room and encounters a couple having sex in the stall. She thinks it's Matt the mayor because of the shoes. Later at the party she is upstairs going through files and she thinks it's Ned behind the mask and it appears as if it's not him at all. Lots of miscommunications and they get to talk to learn why she thinks it's him that is spreading rumors. Hot steamy sex and they do team up to combat the culprit. They are taken unawares and a gun is pointed at them when they realize they have gone too far.... . I enjoy holiday reads but found the sex just a bit over the top and distracting from the story. I received this book from The Kennsington Books in exchange for my honest review.
~Reviewed by ANN & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog Jill Shalvis + Christmas stories = Happiness! That’s really all you have to know. MERRY AND BRIGHT is a Jill Shalvis orgy of her Christmas stories compiled together in one book. That being said, you may want to check and see if you’re already read these stories before since they are reprints of older titles. I haven’t read them and I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect since they are older works of my favourite author, but once I cracked into it, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. ALL the stories in this anthology are wonderfully written and sweet. I would definitely recommend this to Shalvis fans. FINDING MR. RIGHT – 4 stars Maggie Bell is a sweet and smart chemist who spews useless, but actually quite interesting information when she is nervous. When in the presence of a bad boy named Jacob, the normally composed brainiac suddenly turns into goo. It’s actually quite endearing and made me fall instantly in love with Maggie’s character. Jacob, the hero is a sinful bad boy who loves talking dirty. I can tell you I had absolutely no complaints about that! In this short, but scorching story, Shalvis really displays her talents as a writer. I don’t know how she is able to create such chemistry in such a short amount of time, but she nails it in this first kick-off story to the anthology. The only thing I would say is that it wraps up a little too quickly in the end, but the romance is fabulous! BAH, HANDSOME! – 4 stars Another sweet and sexy story by Shalvis takes a financially struggling B&B owner named Hope and her solicitor Danny and puts them together in a snow storm. With the help of Hope’s friend, Lori and her husband, Ben, they bring the two haters together until all there is is love! I adored Lori’s presence in this story. She added so much life and fun moments to the story. Hope’s character was more on the anal, uptight side and I didn’t like how she constantly rejected Danny’s offers for help. In the end, this story had so many LOL moments and some wonderfully cute and sweet moments as well, making it a perfect read for the holidays! MS. HUMBUG – 4 stars What happens when you put a recently betrayed woman with a rebel in nice shoes? Explosive chemistry, that’s what! Shalvis does it again with this short story featuring Cami and Matt. This story felt the shortest of them all, but it still packs quite the punch! The banter between Cami and Matt is so entertaining to read that I was smiling from ear-to-ear. There’s just so much heart in Shalvis’s stories that when you add the Christmas element to it all, it just makes for a delicious treat fit for the holidays! *Review copy provided by publisher
Stories were very short, and didnt feel up to usual quality
okay for a quick, cozy Christmas read.