In this romantic novelette, Bruce Van Buren appears on the surface to be one of Los Angeles’ most eligible bachelors: mid-thirties, chiseled good looks, hard driven ambition, and co-owner of a billion dollar restaurant empire. But his drive for perfection at work has ended up in his sacrificing a satisfying personal life or anything resembling real romance.
Lydia Jenkins is a naturally radiantly beautiful single mom that yearns to spend more time with her three year old twin boys, but her grueling job working under workaholic Bruce Van Buren leaves her forced to make a tough choice between supporting her children and family time.
When a few holiday season coincidences bring them together outside of the office will they recognize that what’s been missing in their lives may have been right before them the whole time?
Tabitha Foster is also the author of “Short Order Daddy, Surprise Billionaire: The Van Buren Brothers, Book One.”
This title also includes a bonus chapter from Madison Martin’s Christmas themed romance “Toying With Temptation.”
“That deadline won't be a problem, will it, Ms. Jenkins? The day after tomorrow?” Bruce Van Buren said, taking off his black-rimmed spectacles and rubbing his eyes. He stretched out in his desk chair, and for a moment the tautness of his business shirt gave a glimpse into the hard athletic body he kept hidden under layers of formal business clothing. It had been a decidedly long day leading up to the holidays, but his number one concern was a new product launch at his family's chain of Mexican restaurants, Tio Jose's.
“You mean Christmas Eve?” Lydia Jenkins said, smoothing down her honey colored skirt, and willing herself to stay calm. Was this guy really giving her a hard deadline for Christmas Eve? In her six months working there as a freelance contract marketing executive, she had observed Bruce Van Buren's constant focus on business and nothing but business. But, damn. Didn't the guy ever take a break?
“Christmas Eve?” Bruce said, absentmindedly. He glanced at his desk calendar to confirm the date. “So, it is. Will there be any issues with that?”
Before Lydia had a chance to answer, his mind was already on his partners' meeting with his brothers Max and Jack. The three of them had inherited the billion dollar nationwide chain and had taken it from the brink of bankruptcy back to a national leader in the biz. Although if pressed, Bruce would confess that he felt he did more than his fair share of the work. Max, the oldest, had discovered domestic bliss when he married, Allie, an independent restaurateur herself, and adopted Allie's seven year old boy CJ. By the time their newborn, Josue, arrived, Max's transition to super dad was complete. It wasn't that Max completely left work behind, but he had a strict out the door at five o’clock policy which drove Bruce crazy. After all, didn't Max remember how much happened after five?
Jack, the youngest of the three brothers, had always been the most carefree. With his shoulder length blondish brown hair he kept in a ponytail, twinkling ocean blue eyes, and various tattoos on his arms, he turned constant female heads. Jack loved the attention, too, which made it hard for him to give the 110% Bruce thought should be coming from everyone.
That left Bruce, or so he thought, to put out the crucial last minute fires.
“Ms. Jenkins? Will that date be okay?” Bruce repeated.
Lydia shifted in her seat and slightly bristled at the Ms. Jenkins. No matter how many times she had asked him to call her by her first name he always fell back on the formal. So. Damn. Uptight.
“I guess it will have to be okay,” she said, sounding a little terse, before quickly adding, “It will be no problem.”
No matter how much Bruce Van Buren got under her skin she needed this job. She had her boys at home to think about. The twins, Jonah and Dante, had just turned three, and she had used what little downtime she could to prepare a fun visit from Santa and some much needed quality time. Yet, here again, she found herself torn between motherhood and paying the bills. When the boys were born, she and her husband Isaac had been over the moon...or so she thought. Isaac left six months later for Costa Rica saying he wasn't meant to deal with the responsibility of having a family. It broke her heart that her boys wouldn't know what it meant to have a father, and with her having to work so much to keep them afloat...each day was a struggle. Thank God for Mrs. Swartz next door who had become the boys' babysitter/substitute grandmother.
“I...uh...appreciate that, Ms. Jenkins,” Bruce said, staring down at a file he wanted to review before the meeting with his brothers. “Launching Loco Taco Tres in February is essential to Valentine's Day.”
Lydia knew his tone meant that she had been formally dismissed, and she also couldn't imagine just how excited anyone would get over a new taco combo on Valentine's Day. But it was her job to drum up the enthusiasm, and if Lydia wasn't one thing, she wasn't a quitter. She'd come up with a killer promotion even if meant missing yet another important moment in the twins' lives so she could keep food on their table.
“Of course. I'll keep you apprised of the marketing strategy,” she said, getting up from her chair.
She did a quick survey of Bruce's desk. Beyond organized was one way to put it. Every pen, every paperclip, and every file was neatly and strategically placed on the desk.
“That'll be all," Bruce said reading his file, as if to drive the point home.
“Of course,” Lydia said, turning and walking out.
For a brief moment, Bruce looked up as she left his office and noticed that she was actually a very beautiful woman. How had he not seen that before? The long flowing tawny curls, alabaster skin, and the curvaceous figure combination was quite striking. She had real woman curves and wasn't built like a stick as so many women in Los Angeles were. As soon as he realized his attention had drifted, he refocused on the files. No point in spending time thinking of Ms. Jenkins. Bruce did not mix business and pleasure.