An Ex for Christmas

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She’s making a list—and checking it twice. But is there a nice guy among all her naughty exes? The New York Times bestselling author of Blurred Lines returns with a charming friends-to-lovers rom-com.

“Lauren Layne writes characters I want to tackle and keep as my best friends, woven into smart, sexy, utterly romantic tales of love.”—Violet Duke

When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.

Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.

Accolades

“Charming, witty, and sexy—An Ex for Christmas was so easy to devour! It had everything you want in a holiday read including a hunky best friend and quite a few tumultuous mistletoe scenes. Honestly, who knew mistletoe could be so hot?!”—R. S. Grey, USA Today bestselling author

“Witty and romantic . . . a definite must-read. . . . Don’t forget your warm fuzzy socks!”—Heidi McLaughlin, New York Times bestselling author of Stripped Bare

“I love friends-to-lovers, but add in a mysterious stranger, the funniest quest ever, plus the magic of Christmas? An Ex for Christmas is the perfect present for the season!”—Melanie Moreland, New York Times bestselling author of My Image of You

“This was a sweet, fun, relaxing read. It makes you want to curl up in front of the fire while the snow comes down and the smell of Christmas cookies fills the air.”—Garden of Reden Book Blog

“For Lauren Layne, emotion is a central character. Her tales are stories of courage, instances of heartache and in the case of An Ex for Christmas, comedy in all its shining glory. . . . Laughter and romance go hand and hand. Light and airy delight!”—Hopeless Romantic

“Funny, fresh, and absolutely adorable! One of the most enchanting holiday stories I’ve read.”—Tawna Fenske, USA Today bestselling author

“Holly jolly fun! Layne’s friends-to-lovers holiday tale checked every box on my list.”—Jessica Lemmon, author of the Real Love series

“I would recommend An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne, if you enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope or books by authors Penny Reid, Jessica Lemmon, Jen Frederick and Tawna Fenske.”—Book Magic

“I don’t think this book could have been any better. I loved it. I didn’t want it to end.”—Obsessive Book Nerd

“An Ex for Christmas is a page-turner because HEAs are a definite must for a holiday romance!”—JG, Deluged with Books Cafe

“This was such a great story. I laughed, cried and even laughed while I cried. This author never disappoints.”—Kitty’s Book Spot

“Oh how I loved this story! As soon as I cracked the cover, Ms. Layne’s wonderful characters took over, and took me on a blissful little literary journey.”—Red’s Romance Reviews

“It’s delightful, and just oozes joy from every page. No doubt, lovers of all things holidays and romance will devour this magical read”—Nick and Nereyda’s Infinite Book List

“An Ex for Christmas has a wonderful fairytale feel to the narrative perfect for the run up to Christmas to set the mood, adding an air of hope to the holidays.”—Book Angel Booktopia

“I know I’ll be re-reading An Ex for Christmas—not just during the holiday season, but anytime throughout the year. It’s sexy, fun, heartwarming, and an outright delight to read.”—Heroes and Heartbreakers

Excerpts

"Is it true that guys think women in elf costumes are hot?”

He gives me an incredulous look. “What?”

“You know,” I say, gesturing at midthigh. “Striped socks? Short green skirt? Cute little hat?”

He shakes his head. “Times like this, I deserve an award for having a female best friend.”

“It’s not like I asked you to take me shopping for the outfit. I’m just saying if I volunteered to dress up like an elf at the annual Christmas parade, would that be hot?”

“Quit being weird.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“You’ve decided he wasn’t the one because his hands are like Cornish game hens.”

“Yup.”

For a second Mark only stares at me. Then he rubs his temples. “How is it we’ve been friends for a decade, and you can still surprise me?”

Best friends,” I specify.

He merely shakes his head.

“And how exactly were you going to chop down the tree and get it into the truck by yourself?”

I grin. “I wasn’t.”

Mark sighs. “I’m going with you, aren’t I?”

“Yup.”

“And that was your plan all along, wasn’t it?”

“Definitely.”

“This one.”

Mark stands beside me and gives it a skeptical once-over. “What about that patch of dead branches in the middle?”

“Beauty mark.”

“The way the top curves to the right?”

“She’s curvy.”

“’K. What about the dead bird on the left?”

I gasp and frantically look for the dead bird, then sock his shoulder when I realize he’s joking. “Wait, one more thing . . .”

I dig my key chain out of my coat pocket, giving my travel Magic 8 ball a quick shake.

It is certain.

I show the response to Mark, who rolls his eyes.

A moment later my eyes widen in surprise when I feel a hard male body against my back. “Um, what are you doing?”

Instead of answering he reaches around me and maneuvers my hands as he wants them around the saw, then places the saw against the base of the trunk.

“Right there,” he says, his breath warm on my cheek.

For several horrifying, humiliating moments, I forget that this is Mark. I forget that it’s my best friend, the guy who’s seen me puke after a vicious case of food poisoning, the guy who I’ve sat side-by-side with, in my ugliest sweats, watching Lord of the Rings (all of them) while eating nothing but cold pizza and way too much popcorn.

But for whatever reason, this moment right here feels different. I feel his strength, his sheer bigness. He’s hard to my soft, big to my petite. Because, yes, he makes me feel petite, and that’s nice.

I tell myself the awareness is just because he’s so warm against my back compared to the cold ground beneath me. It’s the contrast of the two sensations—that’s all.

Then his hand closes over mine, maneuvering the saw a little higher on the trunk, and I nearly whimper. He too has removed his gloves, and his big palms are warm and strong on the backs of my much smaller hands.

“There,” he murmurs, his voice just a tiny bit raspy. “It’s not quite as thick higher up the trunk.”

Annnnnnd now we’re talking about thickness. And trunks.

My mouth is entirely dry, and my body . . . not so cold.

Get it together, Byrne.

He holds my hand a second longer than necessary, waiting for me to meet his eyes. “Even without the baby on the way, he was never going to be the one.”

“You don’t know that.”

Mark drops the mistletoe in my lap. “Don’t I?”

He slams the door before I can figure out what the heck that’s supposed to mean.

I take a bite of cracker. “Nah. It was more embarrassing than anything. Did I tell you he didn’t even recognize me? I know it was a high school relationship, but come on. He touched my boobs.”

Mark gives a slight smile. “Your boobs are memorable?”

I thought so,” I say with a touch of grumpiness.

I’m about to put another cracker in my mouth when I catch Mark’s gaze lingering on said boobs.

I blink a little in surprise, and I almost joke about it, except I don’t, because . . . I don’t know why.

The thought of him looking at my female parts makes me . . . tingly. And not at all platonically.

Danger.

A moment later I feel warm fingers on my cheek, and I open my eyes to see he’s pulled off one of his gloves and is using his bare hand to brush the snow away from my face.

His fingers gently glide over my right cheekbone, then my left, lingering just a little.

I want to smile. Or say thank you. Or recapture the playfulness of just a few seconds ago, which is rapidly transitioning into something . . .

Not playful.

His expression is all business as he goes about brushing the ice crystals off my face, but when his palm sweeps over my lower face, I swear he seems to cradle my jaw, just for a second. The way he traces his fingertips over my eyebrows is just as gentle.

He doesn’t meet my eyes. Not once. Not until he lowers his hand, his fingertips brushing over my lips at the very moment his gaze lifts to mine.

It feels like an electric shock.

The touch of his fingers on my lips, the heat of his gaze, the weight of his body pinning mine to the ground . . .

Mark’s gone very still, his eyes dark as they study my face, searching for answers I know he won’t find, because I don’t even know them.

“Please,” I whisper, tugging my hand from his.

He shifts his grip, his thumb brushing over the pulse of my inner wrist, lingering for just the slightest moment . . .

Then he lets me go and steps back, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched against the cold.

“Damn you, Kelly,” Mark says in a low voice, disrupting my thoughts. “Damn you.”

Mark steps toward me and sets his fingers beneath my chin, using his thumb to nudge my face up to his, much as he did last night beneath the mistletoe.

Except this time, when he lowers his face to mine, he kisses me for real.

Mark’s mouth moves hungrily over mine, his hands sliding to my waist as he walks me backward a few steps, kicking the door shut with a decisive slam.

I should be freaked out—I know I should, but truthfully what’s freaking me out more isn’t how wrong this is but how absurdly right it feels. As though his mouth was made for mine, as though we should have been doing this a long time ago.

I wind my arm around his neck, letting him pull me even closer. His hand slips under my sweater, his palm warm on my back . . .

He cups the back of my head and rests his forehead on mine. “I have never thought of you like a sister.”

“Sure, but you know what I mean. All this time you’ve never wanted me like that, and I’m afraid you’ll remember all the reasons you didn’t, and—”

Mark stamps out my babbling with a searing kiss. “I’ve wanted,” he says against my mouth, a little gruffly. “God, how I’ve wanted.”

One-Liners
  • What to read if you love Hallmark Christmas movies.
  • What to read if you wish Hallmark Christmas movies were a little bit steamy.
  • Perfect for fans of Hallmark Christmas movies.
  • She's making a list ... and getting it wrong.
  • All she wants for Christmas ... is her best friend?
  • A superstitious woman is determined to reconnect with all her ex-boyfriends after a psychic tells her she's already met her one-true-love. Not on board with her plan? Her best friend Mark ...