Jingle Bell Beard
by Julie Kriss
Book 3 in the Kringle Family Christmas Trilogy
My to do list:
Revive my crashed PR career.
Turn around the Kringle family business by Christmas.
Convince my ex-boyfriend, NHL legend Matt “the Mountain” Kringle, to help me, even though I broke his heart when we were seventeen.
Matt is huge, he’s hot, and he’s the grumpiest player in the league. I’ll have to brave his bad attitude and his sexy beard if I want him to help bail out the family business and put my career back on track. I’ll also have to try to forget - again - what an amazing kisser he is.
None of it is going to be easy. Not when Matt’s arrival in town leads to the Airport Incident and the Candy Cane Scandal - talk about embarrassing. But as Matt and I navigate disaster after disaster together, I’ll have to get over the fact that I never got over him. And that love with Matt is a game I just might want to play.
Don't judge me, but I didn't realize that these books were from the same authors that wrote the Kane Christmas books. I do that sometimes. Just jump into a book, not fully processing the authors name, until I finish the book. I, for some reason, thought that S. Doyle wrote the entire series - probably because she wrote the last Kane Christmas book, and then the first Kringle Family Christmas book.. But when I read this novella, I thought to myself "this seem different". And it turns out the same author who wrote My Fake Christmas Fiancé - the one novella in the series I didn't like - wrote this one. So I am disappointed, because I was looking forward to this one!
The overall story arc for these characters was boring. The characters themselves were likeable, but meh. Forgettable. There was no chemistry. No tension. The steamy scenes were boring compared to the past two ... it just felt so out of place in the trilogy. But I think the worst part for me was the conversation between Ethan and Matt not matching with the last book.
While I didn't enjoy this book as much as the other two, I wouldn't pass up the chance to read these books. Who can say no to short, steamy, and mostly entertaining holiday stories, afterall?
Jasmine: “I’m back!”
I shouted at no one.
Jasmine: “No more shifts as a mall elf! Bite me, Santa and your wandering hands!” Reporter: “Do you think you’ll recover from the neck injury by New Year’s?”
I was never inviting these reporters anywhere again.
Reporter: “Or the groin injury? Or the ankle?”
Matt: “My neck is fine.”
Matt was definitely angry now.
Matt: “My ankle is fine. There is nothing wrong with my groin. Every doctor in Chicago has looked at my groin. My groin is fine.”
Jasmine: “Stop saying groin!”
I hissed at him under my breath.
Reporter: “Still, the groin injury was—”
Matt: “Two years ago,”
Matt: “I’m telling you, it’s fine. You want to see my scans? I’ll show them to you. I’ll show you my groin right now.”
Jasmine: “Stop saying groin,”
I said, audibly this time. Ethan stepped up to the microphone, putting a hand on Matt’s shoulder.
Ethan: “Trust me, you don’t want to look at my brother’s groin. You’ll never recover.”
Everyone laughed, and the tension eased down. Kristen stepped to Matt’s other side.
Kristen: “If you’re all worried about my brother’s fitness, don’t. I plan to put him to work. I’m not going to let him sit around and drink beer while Ethan and I do all the work.”
More laughter. Ethan took another turn.
Ethan: “It’s amazing. My little brother is going to do actual work at the family business. For once. Considering he hasn’t come home in years while I did everything.”
Matt: “I work. I make more money than you.”
Ethan: “Maybe, but I’m the smart brother.”
Matt: “I’m taller,”
Ethan: “I’m better looking.”
What was this? A game of one-upmanship between brothers? This wasn’t in the script. They were supposed to be happy to see each other, a warm family. Team Kringle. Not this.
Matt: “It’s funny,”
Matt was saying to Ethan.
Matt: “I can’t remember the last time anyone called a press conference when you landed at an airport. Oh right—never.”
Ethan: “At least I have a good personality, and I haven’t been dumped by a supermodel,”
Ethan shot back. This was a disaster. I was thinking of doing something drastic—like tripping the fire alarm—when Matt motioned to the model who had given him the flowers. When she approached, he politely gave the flowers back to her.
Matt: “Pardon me,”
he said into the microphone.
Matt: “Family business.”
Then he turned, grabbed Ethan’s jersey, and yanked the hem over his head like they were on the ice. And all hell broke loose. Matt: “That wasn’t the agreement. We agreed that you owe me.”
Jasmine: “That was before you jerseyed your brother in front of everyone at my press conference. I worked hard on that. You need to pay.”
Matt: “I already paid when Kristen gave me a nipple twist.”
Her eyes widened.
Jasmine: “Was that what that was? I saw her reach into your jacket when the fight started.”
Matt: “It’s her most painful move.”
I winced just remembering it. My nipple still hurt.
Matt: “Ethan and I both learned to avoid it early. My sister is a menace. And her fingers are strong.”
Jas bit the inside of her lip. I could tell she was trying not to smile.
Matt: “You wouldn’t find it funny if it was your nipple,” Matt: “What do you know about this guy? Did you do a background check? He could be a convicted criminal.”
The spoon clattered as Paul dropped it into his bowl again.
Paul: “You know, I’m sitting right here,”
he growled back at me.
Paul: “And I’m not a criminal.”
Matt: “That’s exactly what a fucking criminal would say,"
Paul: “What do you think I’m gonna do, exactly?”
Paul looked around.
Paul: “Steal some newspapers? The beer out of your dad’s fridge? A Christmas tree?”
Matt: “How the fuck would I know?” Kristen: “Matt, you’re not paying. You can pay for your room by doing anything Jasmine tells you to do so we get publicity.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, feeling a headache coming on.
Matt: “I already agreed to that.”
my sister emphasized, pointing at me.
Kristen: “You are all hers. You belong to her. If she tells you to walk a tightrope naked in the cold, you do it. Got me?”
Matt: “Got you,” Jasmine: “Go up there. Oh, and Matt?”
He turned his scowl to me.
Jasmine: “Please don’t jersey Mayor Ethel. She’s eighty-six.”
He didn’t laugh.
Matt: “Very funny, Jas,”
Matt: “At least I don’t have scabies.”
That was a low blow, and it took me half a minute to come up with a comeback. Matt was already climbing the stairs to the dais when I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted,
Jasmine: “Are you sure?”
He didn’t acknowledge me. Jasmine: “That candy cane looks kind of dirty when you hold it like that,”
Matt: “I know. I don’t care.”
Jasmine: “Okay, well. I checked with the volunteers, and we don’t actually have to leave with the candy cane. It was just a ceremonial thing. They put it in storage to give to someone else next year.”
Matt: “What a ripoff,”
Matt: “I thought all these years in the NHL would pay off. I guess I was wrong.”
Jasmine: “I guess your millions will have to console you, along with the pop stars and supermodels and whatnot.”
Matt: “I’d rather have this candy cane.” For the first time, she sounded defeated. My indestructible Jasmine, my ray of sunshine, the most optimistic and resilient woman I’d ever known. There was no way in a thousand fucking years I’d let her feel defeated.
Matt: “It’s okay, babe. Don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine. I have the answer.”
Jasmine: “How, Matt? What answer?”
Matt: “It’s easy. We’re dating.” Matt: "I was the one who got you into this mess by grabbing your ass—”
Matt: “The jury’s out on that. Your ass is a magnet to me. There may have been some intention.” Ethan: “You need to come up with a plan, little brother. The next act. Matt Kringle two-point-oh. Matt Kringle with upgraded RAM. The next chapter in the Matt Kringle saga—”
Matt: “I get it. The Empire Strikes Back, but Matt Kringle.”
Ethan: “You’re not at Return of the Jedi yet. But you’re done with A New Hope.”
He leaned back in his chair.
Ethan: “Hey, I have an idea. Want to watch Star Wars?” Jasmine: “Okay, well. He asked me out after we broke up—”
Matt: “After you broke up with me,”
Jasmine: “Fine. After I was very, very stupid and broke up with you. Are you satisfied?”
Matt: “A little.” I hefted him up against my side, lifting him off the ground. Except for the cast, he didn’t weigh very much. I lifted him up one step, then another.
Matt: “This is just great,”
Matt: “Someone’s gonna take a picture, I can feel it. I’ve already been on the internet for groping Jasmine. Now I’m gonna be on the internet for abducting an old man.”
Obligingly, Dad turned his head and shouted for the benefit of the passers-by.
Chris: “This is Matt Kringle, and he’s not abducting me! He is my son! I am participating of my own free will!”