Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Tawdra Kandle’s Ava and Liam from I Choose You.
The path of true love was a bumpy one for Ava and Liam. He was her best friend’s ex-boyfriend, son of a local politician and the campus playboy. She was a hard-working, single-minded scholarship student with no time for romance. They were the couple least likely to succeed.
But almost two years later, love is better than ever. Liam’s pursuing his dream of being a college professor, and Ava’s the rising star at a local ad agency. But Liam still has one more goal: marrying the girl who changed his life.
Neither of them realizes that making it to the big day might be their greatest challenge yet. Between his parents’ acrimonious divorce and her family’s ideas of how to plan the perfect wedding, it’ll take the strength of their love—and a little help from their friends–to see them through to happily-ever-after.
Make sure you stick around to the end and earn another entry into the Black Friday $50 Amazon giftcard giveaway.
Ava and Liam
Ava tossed down the garish red and green plaid scarf. “It’s less than two weeks before our wedding day, and you decide we need to go Christmas shopping?”
I grinned and picked up the scarf, folding it over my arm. “Why not? It’s not like we have anything to do, is it?”
When her eyebrow shot up and her eyes narrowed, I took one step back, holding up both hands in front of me. “I’m kidding. I know you’re beyond stressed right now. But in case you forgot, we’re getting married on December 21st, and we’ll be on our honeymoon for Christmas.”
“Just like we planned.” She tilted her head, as though challenging me to argue.
“Just like we planned.” I nodded in agreement. “So we need to have all our gifts ready and dropped off to your parents and my mom before the wedding. Oh, and don’t forget Giff and Jeff, and Julia and Jesse, too.”
“Have you ever heard of gift cards, Liam?” Ava hissed at me. I think she was about to say more, but a large woman coming down the aisle ploughed into my fiancée, knocking her into my arms.
Not that I was complaining, of course. Her softness was crushed against my chest, and her arms slid around me as she clung to keep from going down.
“Baby, if you wanted me to hold you, all you had to do was say.” I ran my hands up her rib cage and lifted her just enough to drop my lips onto her mouth. At first, she resisted, but after a moment, I felt her relax into me.
“I know what you’re doing, and it’s not going to work.” Her voice was muffled against my cheek.
“What, feel up my girlfriend?” I let my fingers spread, sweeping them along the underside of her breast.
“No. Distract me, make me laugh, so that I’ll go along with your storm-the-mall plan.” She glanced around us and shuddered. “I mean, Liam. . .just look at this place. It’s bedlam. Two weeks until Christmas, and people go crazy. They’re like sharks. They smell blood, and they’re going in for the kill.”
“That’s kind of a dark metaphor for what’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?” I looked at the mobs of people trying to make their way through the department store and out into the mall. “It’s not really so bad, if you try to focus on the good stuff happening.”
“Oh, you mean, like the two women over there about to come to blows over the last coin-counting bank? Something neither of them would probably even consider buying at any other time of the year?” Ava pursed her lips.
“No, I mean like the older lady over there.” I indicated with a nod of my head toward the corner of the men’s department. “See that woman with the stroller? Her baby was screaming a minute ago while she was digging through the ties. That other lady came over to her, said something, and then she knelt and talked to the baby. Calmed him down. She just gave a little bit of her own time and energy to help someone else. A stranger.” I leaned in to murmur into Ava’s ear. “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Ava Brown.”
Her lips twitched, and I knew I was getting to her.
“Okay, I’ll give you that one. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m swamped at work, getting ready for the time I’m going to miss after the wedding, and my mom and Giff are calling every day with more wedding planning questions. . .and here we are. We could be doing all our shopping on line. Like sane and normal people. I don’t get why you dragged us out here.”
I pulled her close again. “Shopping on line is easy and convenient, but it lacks some of the tradition.” I used one finger to sweep a few strands of dark hair from her eyes. “This year, we’re starting traditions we can continue the rest of our lives. I think every year, we should make it a point to go out together shopping, just the two of us.”
“Really? I can think of some better traditions we can establish.” She reached up and kissed me under the chin.
“I like that idea, too. But no reason we can’t do both. Just think of it. . .” I ran a hand down her back, soothing and teasing at the same time. “When we have kids, we’ll call up your mom and tell her we need to do our Christmas shopping. Ask her to babysit. Then once we ditch the rugrats—”
“Hey, don’t call our precious babies rugrats.” Ava put her hands on her hips.
“Shhhhh.” I touched a finger to her lips. “As I was saying, once we leave our precious babies with your parents, we’ll go do a little shopping, just so we’re not lying to your mother, and then we’ll go out for romantic dinner for two, and then we’ll go home and have a few hours of intense, hot sex.”
“Hmm.” Ava smiled up at me. “Okay, I think you’ve sold me on that. Now how much shopping do we have to do before we get to the good part of the evening?”
I held up the plaid scarf. “First things first. I think Giff’ll love this. You know how he likes his scarves. So we just need something for Julia and Jesse, and then your parents and my mom.”
Ava snorted. “Easy-peasy, huh? Do you have any ideas?”
I shrugged. “Let’s wander a little. We’ll figure it out.”
We paid for Giff’s scarf, and then on our way out of the department store, Ava spied a picnic basket, fully-loaded with plastic plates, wine goblets, silverware and even a blanket.
“That would be perfect for Jules and Jesse.” She picked it up, examining the price tag. “And it’s on sale. They can use this before the baby comes and after, too.”
We made the purchase and ventured out into the mall. Nat King Cole was crooning over the buzz of shoppers. Fake evergreen swags, accented with red velvet bows, hung from railings and store fronts. The wide aisles teemed with people, all trying to go in different directions.
I led Ava through the crowds. We ducked into the small store that I happened to know was my mom’s favorite place to shop. We found a perfume set that I figured would make her happy.
“Any ideas for your folks?” I laced my fingers through Ava’s.
She frowned. “Not really. They’re so hard to buy presents for.”
“Why don’t we stop for some coffee, then and mull it over.” I pointed to a café nestled on the corner, right off the mall courtyard where Santa was set up with his picture-taking crew. A long line of tired parents and excited children waited in line to see the man with the red suit and the long white beard.
Ava found a table for us while I bought the coffee and biscotti. We sat in silence for a few minutes, people-watching. When Tony Bennett came on over the coffee shop’s sound system, Ava sat up straight.
“That’s it.” She shot me a triumphant grin. “I just remembered. . .Tony Bennett is going to be in Atlantic City in February. My mom and dad absolutely adore him. Let’s get the tickets for the show. It’ll be the best gift we could ever give them.”
I held up my fist to bump hers. “Excellent. Hey, what if I get four tickets, so we can go, too?”
She smiled as she leaned in to kiss my cheek. “You’re brilliant.”
“Just a little.” I winked at her.
“So what do you want for Christmas?” A deep voice behind me made me jerk around. Santa, in all of his splendor, stood behind me, his thumbs hooked over the suspenders on his broad chest.
“Uh. . .” I glanced at Ava, silently asking for help. She shook her head, giggling. I was on my own. “Peace on earth?”
Santa chuckled, his belly moving up and down. “Well, naturally, but I was thinking perhaps you might want to ask for something a little more personal.”
I dropped my eyes to look at my beautiful fiancée. Her black hair fell in fat curls over her shoulders, and her gorgeous brown eyes shone with love. She was the most amazing woman I’d ever known, and somehow she’d chosen me. I could live the rest of my life never needing anything else.
“Actually, Santa, you see this breathtaking woman right here? She’s my girl. She’s agreed to be my wife, and we’re getting married in a little less than two weeks. The day she said yes, I got the only gift I’m ever going to need.” I lifted our linked hands and kissed her knuckles. “So maybe you can use my wish for someone else. Someone who hasn’t found his own happily-ever-after.”
Santa’s eyes twinkled. “Now that’s the kind of thing I like to hear.” He laid a gloved hand on each of our shoulders. “Blessings on you both, on your wedding day and on every day of the rest of your lives. And merry Christmas.” He turned and melted into the crowd.
I looked at Ava, my lips curling. “So how about that for a little holiday magic?”
She laid her cheek against my hand. “As long as I have you, I have all the magic I need in my life. Holiday or otherwise.” She bent forward and brought her lips to mine.
“Merry Christmas, Liam.”
Meet Tawdra Kandle!
Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books run from YA paranormal romance (THE KING SERIES), through NA paranormal and contemporary romance (THE SERENDIPITY DUET, PERFECT DISH, THE ONE TRILOGY) to adult contemporary and paramystery romance (CRYSTAL COVE BOOKS and RECIPE FOR DEATH SERIES). She lives in central Florida with a husband, kids, sweet pup and too many cats. And yeah, she rocks purple hair.
Want to purchase Tawdra’s novels?
Perfect Dish Books
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