He was the boy next door. As soon as he gave me my first kiss, I gave him my heart. He was supposed to be my forever–until I caught him kissing my best friend under the mistletoe.

In the five years I’ve been gone, I never once thought about the boy becoming a man. I definitely didn’t expect my heart to stop beating the moment I heard his voice again. And I most definitely didn’t anticipate him being hell bent on winning me back.

From his pine green eyes, to his charming smile, he seems like the perfect holiday gift. But, is a little Christmas magic enough to thaw my heart?

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I’m curled up on the couch under a fluffy blanket, my little Yorkie snuggled in my lap as I stare absently at the flames flickering in the fireplace. I wish my mom was still here because she would know exactly what to say to make me feel better. Or at least what I should do when it comes to Max. I somehow managed to avoid him for the better part of five years, and truly believed that enough time had passed that when I did see him again, he would have no effect on me at all. So much for wishful thinking.

But, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I ran into him.  There are less than a thousand people living in Green Mountain Valley. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, and also everyone else’s business. Even if I hadn’t come face to face with him today, I’m sure someone would have shared the news that I was in town. I reach toward the side table for my wine, but freeze in place when I hear a knock at the door.

Before I can even think about who it might be, the ball of fur that was sleeping so soundly just a second ago, darts out of my lap, charging toward the foyer, barking at the top of his little lungs. I throw the blanket off myself as I rise, chasing after him, scooping him up as I pull the door open. “Quiet, you little monster.”

“Is that who was making all that noise?”

For the second time today, my heart beat stalls, my head snapping up. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I do live right next door.” He shrugs, one side of his mouth quirking up in a hesitant smile.

I twist my head as I peer out the door, noting the Christmas lights brightening the porch of the house a few thousand yards away. I arch one brow as I turn back to him. “You’re still living at your parent’s house?”

“It’s mine now.” He extends his fingers just under the dog’s nose to let him sniff and then lowers them to scratch under his chin. “What’s this guy’s name?”

“Hercules.” I frown, looking down at the dog and then back toward the house. “What do you mean it’s yours now?”

“Well, if that’s not the definition of ironic, I’m not sure what is.” He chuckles, a grin lighting up his face, and I hate my pulse races just the slightest as I note again how much more attractive he’s become with age.

“Will you stop changing the subject?” I counter, an edge to my voice caused by my own confusion. “You always do that.”

“I thought we were talking about your dog.” He leans against the doorjamb, looking over my shoulder into the house. I know he wants me to ask him in, but that is not happening. No way. No how.

“I was talking about your parent’s house.” I roll my eyes. “Never mind.” I let out a huff. “Why are you here again?”

“I brought you this.” It’s then, as he’s raising his arm, that I see he’s carrying a basket. I take in the contents as he holds it out to me, my mouth falling open but silent as he continues. “I didn’t mean to scare you out of the market earlier.”

I gape at his offering another minute before logic clicks into place and realize now I have to let him in. Well, shit. Score one for Maxwell.