Ever since her father left the family one Christmas, and her mother’s arrest another, Abby Lincoln has put her own needs last to take care of her siblings. Christmas is a day to get through, not a day to celebrate. Christmas tends to be the day that bad things happen. She plans to spend the holiday with a stack of books and lots of chocolate.
Zac, MP and Dominic—Abby’s best friends of fifteen years—have different plans for her. Now that she’s graduated college and her siblings have spread their wings and flown, the men think it’s time for Abby to be spoiled. They convince her to spend a long Christmas weekend in the beautiful, snowy mountains of Deep Creek Lake, MD where they intend to take care of her needs…if she’ll let them…in hopes of showing her a Merry Christmas, finally.
“Your bonus,” Zac said, leaning forward to hand her an envelope.
“Thanks,” she said, glancing first at Zac and then at the other two partners.
She held it in her fingers. Thick, heavier than she’d expected. Was she supposed to open it here, with all of them in the room?
“Open it,” Zac said.
She slipped a finger under the seal, pulled out a cheerful Christmas card that featured Santa by a glimmering tree with dozens of presents under it. She opened it, and a check filtered out onto her desk.
She glanced at Zac, who nodded. Why was she nervous all of a sudden? She unfolded the check. Ten thousand dollars.
Her eyes flew open. “What?” Oh, the things she could do with ten thousand dollars. For one thing, she could buy a new television, since her ex-boyfriend ran off with all of her electronics. “Guys!” Tears filled her eyes and she bolted from her chair and around her desk to give Zac a hug. She’d meant it as a thank you hug, but he folded his strong arms around her, and held her tight. Her heart flip-flopped, her pulse raced and she lowered her head to his hard chest. She could stay in his arms all day long and forget the worries of the world.
Dominic cleared his throat and someone tapped Abby’s shoulder.
Oh shit. Throw yourself at the guy, why don’t you? She eased her weight off Zac, and turned to face Dominic who stood beside them with his arms out.
“Where’s my hug?” he asked, raising a dark eyebrow. His head of inky black waves made her want to run her hand through it.
“Yeah, and mine?” MP, her reddish-blond friend asked.
Abby giggled and climbed off Zac’s lap, missing his body heat immediately. Not that she was cold. She just missed…him. She fell into Dominic’s strong arms. “You all get huge hugs.” He held her against his chest in a friendly hug.
She leaned back and then stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek, and he held her back for a moment, holding her forearms and holding her gaze. “You’re very welcome, beautiful.”
Her heart stammered at his words. Dominic, the Italian looker with a sharp mind, chiseled good looks and a knack for computer programming. The guy who could get any woman he wanted, and often did. And his nickname for her, his old high school friend, was “Beautiful.” Even though she was nowhere near beautiful. She had a plain freckled face, light auburn-brown hair, and no inclination for makeup or fancy hairdos.
She turned to MP, who bear-hugged her. Another man, another strong embrace. With three hot friends, why did she always pick the losers to date?
Oh yeah, money. The reason she was hugging these hot guys. She stood in front of the three of them with hands on her hips. “Can you really afford that?” She pointed to the check on her desk. “Ten thousand dollars, guy? That’s not a bonus, that’s a sixth of my salary.”
Zac chuckled and draped an arm around her. “Everyone got nice bonuses, but you got the biggest. After all, it was your marketing plan that doubled our clients this year.”
She smiled, remembering how the phone started ringing so often they’d had to hire an additional receptionist after she’d revamped the company web site to make it more user friendly. What a great feeling to help her three friends who had been there for her through everything.
“There’s a small catch,” Zac said.
“Yeah,” Dominic draped an arm around Zac’s shoulder, and MP stepped in to drape an arm around Dominic and one around Abby. In essence, a huddle with three hot guys and her. This day kept getting better and better.
Then it registered. “A catch? What kind of catch? And why are we huddling like it’s third down and ten?”
Zac smiled, and that was always an awesome sight. He was the most serious, most reserved of the three men. He usually wore a pensive expression or frown. “We want you to go away with us for Christmas.”
Abby backed out of the huddle. “No way. I’ve got a stack of good books, hot chocolate, and whipped cream waiting for me. Christmas day is mine and I’m not leaving the house.” She wasn’t going to slip on the ice, nobody was going to get sick, nobody would go to jail, and nobody would walk away from her. Not this year. She would celebrate Christmas with a book. No dangers there.
“One of our clients gave us the keys to his cabin in Deep Creek Lake, Abby.” Zac took both her hands in his and glanced at the other two men. “We’ll be skiing. You can still read.”
Abby narrowed her eyes at them. “You know I don’t do Christmas.”
Dominic shrugged. “It’s the first time none of us have a significant other at Christmas. Just the four of us. Nothing can go wrong.” He stuck out his bottom lip, which on most men would look pathetic. Somehow, he made it look sexy.
Abby shook her head. Part of her dreaded being alone on Christmas, but part of her looked forward to it, too.
Zac squeezed her hands. “There’s a hot tub on the deck at this cabin. And three fireplaces.”
“And a private heated indoor pool,” MP said.
“You get the master suite,” Dominic said. He whipped out his cell phone, pressed the screen, and held it in front of Abby’s face.