Updated: Jan 17
An Ex for Christmas
by Lauren Layne
Published by Loveswept
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.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy #RomCom Sweet & Fun
An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne is a short and sweet romantic comedy, that centers around superstitious, horoscope believing Kelly Byrne, who encounters a stranger on her way home upstate for Christmas, telling her she will find the love of her life by Christmas, and it is someone she already knows. So Kelly makes a list of her ex-boyfriends, expecting to find her "one". What she doesn't expect, is the feelings she starts to develop for her best friend for the last ten years, Mark Blakely, and if she caves to the sudden sexual tension between them, will it destroy the most important relationship to her, their friendship?
So, confession time.
I hate Hallmark movies.
Please don't throw your cyber trash at me.
I just can't get over bad acting, despite them being romances that, hell, I love. Lauren Layne can always be counted on for a fun and light romance, and this cute friends-to-lovers story hits all the points in what you would want for a) a romance, and b) a Christmas story. I got all the feels reading this, and I won't lie, shed a tear or two. Was it predictable? Sure! But I couldn't put it down. Lauren Layne has a way of tugging on your heartstrings for sure.
The characters were so freaking adorable in this book! Kelly is one of those sweetheart, perky types, who loves her family and friends with everything she has. Mark kinda reminds me of my husband in his personality. I love how thinks Kelly's beliefs in superstition is ridiculous, but tolerates them (unless it's getting in the way ..._ Openly admits he is unromantic (although, obviously, he is with the right person), and his dry sense of humor plays really well with Kelly's extroverted personality. They were a really well written pair.
If you are a lover of annual Hallmark Christmas movies ( or if you are not, like myself ), you will love An Ex for Christmas. It's short, so you don't have to invest a lot of time into it, its super adorable, the chemistry is hot, its entertaining ... you won't go wrong with this little Christmas love story.
Kelly: "Besides, my horoscope says I'm due for a brush with bad luck today. I'm pretty sure it was dropping my mascara into the toilet this morning, but I'd be nuts to get on a plane with that sort of forecast."
Kelly: "You'll never guess what happened to me at the train station."
Kelly: "Okay, if I tell you, you have to not roll your eyes and tell me I'm a crackpot. Promise?"
Kelly: "Is it true that guys think women in elf costumes are hot?"
He gives me an incredulous look.
Kelly: "You know,"
gesturing at midthigh
Kelly: "Striped socks? Short green skirt? Cute little hat?"
He shakes his head
Mark: "Times like this, I deserve an award for having a female best friend."
Kelly: "You think Starbucks is overrated."
Mark: "I also think I can buy my way out of this conversation with a froufrou peppermint whatever."
Kelly: "You're not wrong."
Jack: "Hey, man. Got anything good on tap these days?"
Mark: "No. Nothing good. Went out of my way to stock the shittiest beer I could find."
Kelly: "So, my mistletoe test with Jack."
He closes his eyes.
Kelly: "It was ... well, it was conclusive, but not in the good way."
He sighs in resignation and opens his eyes.
Kelly: "Eh. Well, we kissed ... and ... What are those little chickens you serve at the restaurant sometimes? But they're not called chickens."
Mark: "Cornish game hens?"
Kelly: "Right. Those. Anyway, the second Jack put his hands on my waist, all I could think was that his hands felt like Cornish game hens. Like ham hands, except ... little chicken hands."
Mark: "You've decided he wasn't the one because his hands are like Cornish game hens."
Mark: "What do you need it for?"
Kelly: "I don't have a Christmas tree yet."
Mark: "So, you want to not only borrow my truck, but fill it with pine needles."
Kelly: "It's a truck. It's supposed to have a messy destiny."
Mark: "How do trees have character?"
Kelly: "You know, quirks. Flaws. Bald spots. I never trust anyone that's too perfect."
Mark: "I'm perfect."
I smile at his matter-of-fact tone.
Kelly: "Yes, honey. Maybe that's why we've never dated, you see? You're too smart, too good-looking, too confident."
Kelly: "This one."
Mark stands beside me and gives it a skeptical once-over.
Mark: "What about that patch of dead branches in the middle?"
Kelly: "Beauty mark."
Mark: "The way the top curves to the right?"
Kelly: "She's curvy."
Mark: "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.
he murmurs, his voice just a tiny bit raspy
Mark: "It's not quite as thick higher up the trunk."
Annnnnnnd now we're talking about thickness. And trunks.
I groan when I see Rigby. His holiday sweater is now totally covered in brown mud.
Kelly: "Oh, baby. You're a mess."
Mark: "Sort of like his mom."
I glare at Mark as I begin to walk backward.
Kelly: "Happy now?"
He's watching Joey's retreating back with fake confusion
Mark: "Was he not the one?"
My eyes narrow
Kelly: "Did you know?"
Mark: "Know what - that he hasn't been pining over you all this time?"
Kelly: "That he's having a baby?"
Mark: "Nope. Sort of regretting I didn't see your face when you found out, though. What are you thinking ... stepmom?"
I jab a fist into his ribcage.
Mark: "Even without the baby on the way, he was never going to be the one."
Kelly: "You don't know that."
Mark drops the mistletoe in my lap
Mark: "Don't I?"
Kelly: "Where's his snowman costume?"
Mark: "Burned it."
Kelly: "I hope you didn't put it the washing machine - it's hand wash only."
Mark: "Yeah, Kelly. I hand washed a dog sweater. Sounds just like me."
Kelly: "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
Mark: "Your boobs are memorable?"
Kelly: "I thought so."
Mark: "You know, right, that those are going to be a bitch to remove. You've got all the cords tangled."
Kelly: "He who does not deck the halls does not get a say."
Mark: "Ah, I see. So does it also go that she who does not cook does not eat?"
Kelly: "Nope, does not go that way."
Mark: "It's not about being a size four. It's not about being a size anything."
Rigby hops up beside him, melting my sappy heart by putting his sweet face on Mark's knee. Then my heart turns into even more of a puddle, because Mark's big hand rests on the dog's head, his fingers rubbing gently.
I wince. Stupid girl.
Kelly: "CliffsNotes version? Psychic lady at the train station tells me that I've already met my one true love. And because I can actually feel my ovaries shriveling up and don't want to die an old maid, I decided to track down exactly who she's talking about."
Mark: "You're right."
I cup my ear and lean in
He pushes a wet gloved hand against my face
Mark: "Shut it. You know you're right."
Kelly: "Come inside. I'll make us a late lunch to thank you."
Mark: "Better idea. You come to my place, and I'll make us a late lunch."
Kelly: "But -"
Mark: "Kelly, I've had your cooking. The best thank-you you can give me is not to subject me to it."
Kelly: "Fair enough."
Kelly: "Seriously? You're going to walk me the twenty steps to my back door? What do you think's going to happen - I'll get lost and walk into a snowbank?"
Mark: "Remember the senior year camping trip when you got lost going to the porta-potties that were fifty feet away? They had to send out a search party."
Mark: "You don't need this stupid ball to decide."
Kelly: "Call it a stupid ball again and I'll knee your stupid balls."
He smiles and wraps an arm around my waist.
Mark: "No you won't."
Kelly: "I might!"
Mark: "All right. You need someone to make this decision for you?"
I nod and hold out my hands for the ball with a smile.
In response, he tosses it backward into the hall, where it rolls and collides with the wall
I try to go for it, but he wraps an arm around my waist, propelling me backward until my feet are off the ground and I land flat on my back on the bed with an oomf.
Mark follows me onto the bed, caging me in with his big body.
Mark: "Ask me."
he orders, pinning my wrists over my head with one hand.
Kelly: "Ask you what?"
Mark: "Ask me what you asked the damn ball."
Kelly: "Should I sleep with Mark again?"
His smile is slow and confident as he slowly lowers his body to mine.
Mark: "It is certain."
Mark: "You know me, Kelly. Better than anyone."
His thumbs brush against my cheeks tenderly, at odds with the fierce look on his face.
Mark: "You know me, so you know I don't like to share."
Kelly: "I know."
Mark: "What's it going to be, Kelly? Do we see where this thing with us goes? Or are you holding out for your Christmas miracle?"
Kelly: "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
Mark: "I've wanted. God, how I've wanted."
Kelly: "I didn't take you for a cuddler."
He's silent for a moment
Mark: "I'm not."
I pat his forearm, which is wrapped around my waist.
Kelly: "Hate to be the one to tell you this, but this right here? Cuddling."
Mark: "I meant that I'm not usually. Not before."
Kelly: "Not before ...?"
I feel him smile against my neck, stubbornly refusing to answer. I smile, too, because I know what he's not saying.
Not before me.
Kelly: "Are these the salted caramel shortbread brownies?"
Kelly: "You said you wouldn't make them anymore. That they weren't worth it."
He looks at me. Looks away.
Mark: "The look on your face right now is worth it."
Mark: "Can we please eat?"
Kelly: "Fine, fine. But remind me why we're eating out in your truck when there's an, oh, what's it called ... a restaurant a few feet away?"
Mark: "That place sucks."
Kelly: "Yeah, I've heard that. The owner and head chef's a real dick."
Kelly: "The only thing that matters is that you're happy."
Kelly: "There's mustard on this."
Mark: "Because I enjoy mustard."
Kelly: "I forgot that about you. You're lucky you're good in bed, because mustard's the worst."
Kelly: "Anyway, you were going to say I look ... ?"
Kelly: "Ooh, I'm sorry. The correct answer was hot and irresistible."
Mark: "Not sure I'm allowed to have those thoughts about my best friend. Not out loud, anyway."
Kelly: "For tonight, you're allowed to think of me as the girl you're sleeping with first and foremost."
Mark: "All right, then. The girl I'm sleeping with looks hot."
I say, holding up a finger.
Mark: "And irresistible."
Mark: "I'm liking this ensemble more and more."
he says, nudging my head back to kiss my neck.
Kelly: "Did I mention my thong is red? And tiny?"
Mark groans against my throat.
Mark: "Do we have to go to the parade?"
I push at his shoulders and step back, glancing at the clock.
Kelly: "We should go!"
Mark: "Should we?"
he asks sardonically, his eyes skimming greedily over my body.
I bite my lips
Kelly: "Don't. Don't do that, or Santa and the kids will be very disappointed by the lack of adorable elf."
Mark: "Better them disappointed than me."
Kelly: "Did you ... tell them?"
Mark: "Yeah, of course. I always tell me parents the details of my sex life. Don't you?"
Kelly: "Look, Mark. I chased after you. I'm not ready to end this yet."
Kelly: "I think I'm in love with you."
He goes very still, his gaze darkening with something that looks like hope before he shuts it down. Mark shakes his head.
Mark: "You think."
Kelly: "Well, I mean ... this is new, and -"
Mark: "It's not new, Kelly. I've been right here for ten years. Ten goddamn years I've waited for you to get over your childish assumptions that we're not meant for each other because of our birthdays, or because your damn Magic 8 ball didn't say 'soulmate' whenever you said my name, or whatever."
Kelly: "Mark -"
Mark: "Ten years, I've been right here waiting for you to see that I'm the one for you."
Mark: "I'm in love with you, Kelly. I've been in love with you since the day I met you. I loved you like a boy loves a girl back then, when you were the only one there for me. And now I love you like a man loves a woman, because you're the only one I want. For always."
My heart leaps, but he's not done.
His voice is sad. Resigned.
Mark: "But I don't ... I don't want to take it slow. I can't sit around and wait for you to figure out if you feel the same."
Kelly: "Mark -"
He lifts his hand to my cheek, and though the gestures gentle, the expression on his face is resigned, and my heart beats faster in panic.
Mark: "I can't keep waiting for you, Kelly. I can't keep wasting year after year hoping you'll feel the same, only to lose you every time a tarot card or crystal ball leads you elsewhere."
His lips are soft against mine, a whisper of a kiss that's both meltingly tender and heartbreakingly bittersweet
Kelly: "Mark. I told you I think I love you."
His smile is sad.
Mark: "I want more than 'I think," Kell. I deserve better."
Mark: "Marry me, Kelly. And don't give me any shit about it being too soon, because if there are two people who know each other inside and out, it's ones with ten years of history, most of that spent as neighbors and friends -"
Kelly: "Best friends. And co-parents of a fur baby."
Mark: "Right. So if you don't do it for me, do it for Rigby."
Her eyes flit over my shoulder
Kelly: "Your dog is by the door. He has to go to the bathroom."
Mark: "Your dog can bloody wait, and that's a hell of a topic for a time like this, Byrne. Answer the questions. And remember all that cheesy stuff you wrote on the posters when you answer."
She turns her head slightly, pressing a kiss to my hand.
Kelly: "Maybe I should ask the Magic 8 ball."
I'm anticipating this.
Mark: "Maybe you should."
She blinks in surprise, then glances down at the ball still in her hands, gives it a shake.
I don't bother looking down. I know what it says.
Then she laughs
Kelly: "Is there a 'no' option?"
Mark: "Definitely not."
Kelly: "How'd you rig a Magic 8 ball?"
Mark: "Kelly ..."
I'm damn close to begging now.
She leans forward and kisses my mouth
Kelly: "Yes. Yes, I'll marry you."