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Smitten with Candy Canes - Smitten with Travel #4

Smitten with Candy Canes - Smitten with Travel #4

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Snowflakes and love are in the air in this sweet Christmas romantic comedy novella set in Finland.

Smitten with Travel Series - Book #4

Why You'll Love This Book!

  • Set in Santa's Village, Finland
  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Fake Relationship
  • Comical Elves
  • Closed Door Romance - No Sex Scenes or Language
  • Happily Ever After


Snowflakes and love are in the air in this sweet Christmas romantic comedy set in Finland.

When Zoe is stuck working with her arch-enemy, Max, in Santa’s Village over the holidays, she thinks things can’t get any worse. But when Max convinces her to pretend that they’re a couple, Zoe quickly realizes that this is going to go down in the books as the worst Christmas ever.

Having to fake being Max’s girlfriend isn’t easy, especially when he’s constantly flirting with every other woman beside her. All Zoe wants to do is clobber him over the head with a giant candy cane. But as they spend more time together, Zoe sees a more vulnerable side of Max that almost makes her forget why she hates him so much.

Will the spirit of the Christmas season soften Zoe’s heart and help her realize that what she feels for Max isn’t fake after all?

If you like quirky characters, happily ever afters, and mischievous elves, you’ll love Zoe and Max’s story.

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1 - Unlucky Number Thirteen

As I board the plane, I remind myself that I’m not a superstitious kind of girl.

Well, except when it comes to hedgehogs. Why anyone thinks they’re adorable is beyond me. The creatures have spines, people, spines. If that’s not a dead giveaway that they’re bad news, I don’t know what is.

Need more convincing about hedgehogs? Ask me about the time a certain photographer thought it would be funny if . . .

Actually, let’s not talk about that. The last thing I need to be reminded of is how Max Guerrero made me look like an idiot.

Stop thinking about that jerk, Zoe. Focus on getting to your seat without spilling your peppermint mocha.

Taking a deep breath, I tighten my grip on my coffee cup. As I inch down the aisle, I scan the row numbers, looking for my seat. When I reach row thirteen, my stomach twists into knots. I can’t figure out what’s going on. Thirteen is just a number. I don’t buy into that mumbo-jumbo that the number thirteen is unlucky. So why am I so anxious? Why do I have this feeling that something horrible is about to happen?

“Lady, are you gonna take your seat?”

I smile apologetically at the man behind me, then squeeze into the aisle seat. Balancing my cup in one hand, I set my purse on the seat next to me. Once I’m settled, I take a cautious sip of my mocha and end up burning the tip of my tongue. Removing the lid to cool it down, I smile at the sight of crushed up candy cane pieces nestled on top of whipped cream. You can keep your gingerbread and eggnog lattes. Nothing says Christmas like peppermint to me.

Of course, what really says Christmas is my mom’s candy cane cheesecake, but I won’t be getting any this year. My family is back in California, while I’m heading to Finland to write a travel article on Santa’s Village. My mom and sister were understanding. This is a great assignment, but still, Christmas won’t be the same without them.

A young boy, maybe five or six years old, pops his head over the seat in front of me, distracting me from my thoughts of working over Christmas. He bounces up and down on his mother’s lap, clutching a small toy truck in one hand. Then he giggles and flings the toy in my direction.

Guess where it lands. Yep, in my mocha. I wipe whipped cream out of my eyes, then groan when I look down at my coat. What used to be a cute pink puffer jacket is now a brown splotchy mess.

“Gimme my truck,” the boy says.

“Say ‘please,’ Christopher,” his mother prompts automatically, unaware of what damage her son’s truck has done.The boy holds out his hand.

“Gimme my truck, please.”

I fish the toy out of my cup, then wipe it off with a napkin. Christopher grins when I hand it to him, even remembering to say thank you. After shoving the cup into the seat back pocket, I try to remove the mocha stains from my coat. This is no job for a couple of crumpled up napkins. It’s hopeless. What I need to do is wash it out with water, but people are still boarding. There’s no way I’ll be able to get to the bathroom.

As I take off my jacket, I glance up at my row number. Maybe it is unlucky after all. My jacket is probably ruined. Oh, well, if that’s the extent of my bad luck, it isn’t the end of the world.

I look over at the empty seat next to me, pull my phone out of my purse, and call my manager, Nicole.

“Hey, Zoe,” she says. “I thought you’d be in the air by now.”

“Yeah, me too. But I guess it’s a good thing that the flight’s been delayed because Alyssa hasn’t turned up yet. She never showed in the boarding area.”

“Didn’t you get my email?” Nicole asks.

“No. What’s up?”

“Um, there’s been a little change of plans,” Nicole says. “Alyssa broke her ankle.”

“Oh, no, that’s terrible,” I say. “How did she do that?”


I furrow my brow. “It’s December. Who goes skydiving in the winter?”

“She was taking photographs for an article on extreme sports in France,” Nicole says. “She’s bummed because she was supposed to go ice climbing after Christmas, but that’s not going to happen now.”

“She probably would have been bored on this trip,” I say. “The most adventurous thing on the itinerary is dog sledding.”

“She’s a professional, like you.” Nicole says. “Boredom doesn’t factor into it. You write travel articles about places you would never dream of visiting on your own, right?”

I chuckle. “That’s true. You’d never catch me flying to Santa’s Village without pay.”

“Santa’s Village could surprise you,” Nicole says. “I can’t imagine a more magical place to spend Christmas.”

“Well, if you say so . . . ouch!” I pause to retrieve Christopher’s truck from the top of my head. I give the little boy a warning look, then press the phone back to my ear. “Since we don’t have a photographer, what do you want to do about pictures? I guess I can always take some on my phone.”

“Yeah, that’s not a good idea,” she says. “I’ve seen your Instagram account. What is with your thumbs? They’re in every single picture.”

“They’re little ego-maniacs, trying to steal the limelight. Seriously, what do you want to do about pictures?”

“Well, I have arranged for another photographer.” Nicole clears her throat. “I’m not sure how to tell you this, but—”

“Hang on a sec,” I tell her as a commotion at the front of the plane distracts me. Leaning into the aisle, I see a man help an older woman place her suitcase into the overhead bin. His back is turned to me, but there’s something familiar about his tall athletic frame, his broad shoulders, and his dark curly hair. When he turns, I gasp.

Actually, maybe it was less of a gasp and more of a subdued shriek. I’m sitting in the middle of a crowded plane, so it’s not like I’d yell at the top of my lungs. But a subdued shriek? Well, that seems appropriate given who I just saw. Turns out the number thirteen really is unlucky.

“Is everything okay, Zoe?” Nicole asks.

“No, not really,” I say, enunciating each word. “Want to tell me why Max Guerrero is on my flight?”

“You need a photographer and Max was available.” Nicole laughs nervously. “It’s better than thumbs in all the pictures.”

I scowl. “I’d rather cuddle up with a hedgehog than work with that man.”

“But hedgehogs freak you out,” she says.


“Hmm, fear of hedgehogs. I think that’s called skatzochoirophobia.”

“Did your friend, Ginny, tell you that?” I ask.

“Uh-huh. You know how I’ve been trying to get her to come work for the magazine. But her fear of flying makes things more complicated.”

“Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem.” I take a sip of my mocha, then add, “I’m glad I’m only afraid of hedgehogs.”

“That’s not entirely true. You’re afraid of Max.”

“Afraid of Max? Me? You’re joking.”

“Sorry, I stand corrected. You’re scared of your feelings for Max. I heard what happened between the two of you in Germany.”

“It was one kiss,” I say. “One, horrible, awful kiss. Thankfully, we haven’t worked together since.”

I suspect the tone of my voice was a bit shrill. I might have even let out another one of those subdued shrieks because it seems like everyone on the plane is looking at me.

Everyone, that is, except Max. He’s too busy standing in the aisle flirting with a flight attendant. She’s twirling a curl of hair around one of her fingers while he whispers something in her ear.

I grin as a voice over the speakers interrupts their little romantic moment.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I apologize for the delay. Please take your seats at this time for departure. Flying time from London to Finland is three hours and thirty-six minutes. If we’re lucky, we might spot Santa Claus taking his reindeer out for a test flight before the big day.”

All the kids on board, plus some of the adults, start cheering at the mention of Santa. I get how spending Christmas in Santa’s Village would be the perfect family vacation, but for someone like me, in their twenties without children, I just didn’t get it.

“Zoe Randolph, what a pleasant surprise.” I look up and see Max towering over me, a cocky grin on his face. “Nicole didn’t tell me we’d be working together.”

“Oh, come off it,” I tell him. “You knew about this.”

“Okay, I did.” He shrugs, then points at the window seat. “Can I have the aisle seat? I have long legs.”

I arch an eyebrow. “I do too.”

“Funny, I never noticed.”

The flight attendant sashays down the aisle. She places her hand on Max’s arm, bats her eyelashes, and says, “Sir, please take your seat.”

“Sure thing, Chanel.”

As he winks at her, I roll my eyes. This chick might be named Chanel, but her perfume doesn’t smell anything like those classic scents. Instead, her fragrance is a cross between bubblegum and doggy doo-doo—definitely not a winning combination.

Why would Max be interested in someone like Chanel? Oh, yeah, he flirts with every woman, no matter what kind of perfume they wear.

I stand and indicate the window seat. He looks me up and down slowly, then says, “You do have long legs.”

After we’re seated and buckled in, he tosses me a candy cane. “Merry Christmas.”

I wrinkle my nose and toss it back. “I don’t like candy canes.”

Okay, we both know that’s not exactly the truth. I adore candy canes. Candy cane cheesecake, candy cane cookies, candy cane fudge . . . you get the idea. But there’s no way I’m telling Max about my obsession.

“I thought everybody liked candy canes,” Max says.

“Not this girl,” I say. “Why don’t you give it to that flight attendant, Chanel?”

“Actually, she gave it to me.”

“Let me see if I’ve got this right,” I say, shaking my head. “You’re trying to re-gift a candy cane?”

“Lighten up, Zoe. It’s just a piece of candy. It’s not like it means anything.” Max offers it to the little boy sitting in front of us. Then he leans back and gives me a lazy smile. “You’re not going to try to kiss me on this trip like you did in Germany, are you?”

I fling my in-flight magazine at him, then jam my earbuds in and turn up the volume on my phone. While I listen to Eartha Kitt sing Santa Baby, I remind myself that I’m a professional. I’m flying to Finland to do a job. I can put up with Max Guerrero for a week. Right?

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