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UndertheMistletoe99 cents! If you like things sweet with a touch of spice, this is your story. Grab it now and cuddle up to a cowboy!

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Alex Cooper shook her empty glass and winked. “We’re in Vegas, aren’t we?”  She pulled  down the arm of the machine getting a ding ding in response.

“Good thing we have a room.” Tara waved over a nearby waitress who happily obliged. “You haven’t had alcohol since…?”

“A year.”

Tara’s eyes widened. “That’s a long time.”

“I think I deserve this.”

“Of course you do.”

Alex nodded and stretched a kink out of her back. They’d been sitting at the slot machines for a while. “I’m so glad you invited me along on this adventure. I can’t believe I almost said no. Too bad I must leave tomorrow because I’m already dreading it. Is it too late to come down with an illness? The flu maybe? Jen from work has been out sick for a week. I could blame it on her.”

 “You really do hate the idea of visiting your parents.”

“I’d rather have my teeth pulled.” Alex leaned against the slot machine as she grabbed the handle and pulled down again. The display spun and the music chimed. Nothing. “A little luck here might ease the pain.”

The waitress brought their drinks and Tara clinked her bottle against the rim of Alex’s glass. “Well, then cheers and here’s hoping you win big. Or at least get a buzz and forget about tomorrow.”

Sipping the sweet and tangy cocktail, Alex licked every drop from her lips. “I could drink a ton of these and not get drunk. They are delicious. I wonder if they’d give me the recipe?”

“Sure you could.” Tara wagged her eyebrows. “You haven’t peed yet have you?”

 “What does peeing have to do with my cocktail?” Alex wrinkled her nose.

 “Pee once and you will be a goner.”

“Interesting.” Alex swirled her straw and took another sip. “Just remember, we agreed not to do anything stupid. A buzz is never an excuse for stupidity.”

“We’re only here for one night. I say we live a little.” Tara shrugged and gave her long curls a toss over one shoulder. “You did remember to pack up the condoms, right?”

“A girl always has to be safe, but I won’t be using them. One night here just doesn’t seem to be enough though. All the lights, the joy…this is what the holidays are all about. But I’ll catch a flight home where the holiday becomes a winter wonderland massacre.” Alex twirled her finger and rolled her eyes.

“Girl, you know it’s not that bad and you should be glad you’re getting a break. Too much work makes a woman boring. Just think…a vacation. You can sleep in, relax and do whatever it is that you do in snow-covered Montana. I hope you bought a cute pair of snow boots. The ones with the fringes and balls we saw last week.”

“It’s not the time off that I hate. I get to travel to my hometown where I’ll be tortured because of my relationship status. What’s wrong with being single anyway?” She sighed. “And even if I did have a viable excuse not to go, I’d still feel guilty if I missed the holiday with my folks. My little sister Stacy has news to share. I’m sure she’s going to announce that she and her high school sweetheart have finally decided to tie the knot after six years of dating bliss. I’ll have another ugly maid of honor dress to add to my collection. I can already see the remorseful glances directed my way from the wedding guests, especially my Aunt Patty… “poor girl, always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. My mom tells me all the time that my eggs are drying up at the speed of a race horse and I’ll end up with ten cats that I refer to as my kids. I think cats are easier than men. They don’t argue. Leave the toilet seat up. Or cheat.”

“Sweetie, I think you’ve had too many of these.” Tara reached over and pushed Alex’s glass to the side. “First, you sound as if thirty-two is the end of the world. You’re still young with lots of time for relationships and family. Your parents are awesome—a little kooky and intrusive—but they have your best interest at heart. It’s only normal for them to want you to marry so you can pop kids out one after another—real kids, not cats. Having a baby around can make people feel younger.”

Alex rolled a tendril of her hair around her finger. “Are you siding with them?” She hiccupped.

 “No, I’m on your side.”

“I know…I know what you’re saying. They love me. I love them. But going home for Christmas only means I’ll feel like a bigger disappointment. They never understand that I have a career and no time for a relationship. By the time my mom was my age she was married for over ten years with two kids. She’s a superwoman and I’m…well, just me.”

“Times have changed.”

“Try telling them that.” Rubbing her temples, she groaned. A nagging throbbing started in her forehead. Why did she do this to herself? Worry herself sick over facing her parents without a ring on her finger, or even a boyfriend. Alex had always been the people-pleaser. She’d even said “yes” to Trevor Yates when he’d asked her to the junior prom. Her mom had been happy, but Alex had spent the night listening to him go on and on about the chess club.

“Let’s face it, there are some advantages to being single—not needing to shave your legs every day, wearing granny panties whenever we want and going to bed with zit cream smeared all over. Downside—I miss sex, a lot.”

“Is that all you miss about a relationship?” Alex laughed.

“I miss a man when my vacuum gets clogged. Or when the drain stops up.” Tara pulled the lever on her machine and sighed. “Neither of us are winning tonight.”

“The night isn’t over yet.” Dropping more coins into the slot, Alex rubbed her hand together.

 “If you would have listened to me in the first place, this wouldn’t be an issue.”

Alex looked at her friend. “What are you talking about?”

“I told you…online dating for the holidays is the way to go. Find a suitable companion for the parties and family gatherings. After the holiday ends, part ways with a thank you and good luck. Heck, if you’re lucky, you find someone who is mouth-watering sexy and you’ll get two bangs for your buck, if you know what I mean.” She rolled her tongue over her bottom lip.

 “Oh I could see that now. Mom and Pop, I’d like you to meet my date for the holidays. He likes long walks on the beach, the outdoors, and women who are lonely enough to find a date online.”

“You shouldn’t knock it until you try it.” Tara thrummed her fingers on her bottle.

“Have you registered with a dating site?”

“No way.”

“So, you want me to try it out and tell you how it works?”

Tara’s eyes widened and her mouth slightly parted. “Don’t look, but sitting behind you is a couple of cowboys who I wouldn’t mind getting under a mistletoe this holiday.”

Not heeding her friend’s warning, Alex swiveled on the stool and immediately saw them—easily spotted because they were the only two cowboys in the casino. She made eye contact with the one wearing a brown hat and her toes curled. Blue eyes, chiseled jaw line and a smile that could knock a woman’s panties off—and that smile was directed her way. Her throat tightened and she brought the straw to her mouth, taking a long drink.

“See what I mean? Yum.” Tara sighed longingly.

“Yeah, they’re both cute.” She twisted on the stool and pulled the slot lever. Ding. A sea horse and two stars. Her luck wasn’t hitting.

“That’s it? Just cute? You don’t know a good thing when you see it.”

“A lot of people are lonely around this time of year and want a warm body and a glass of eggnog to snuggle up with. I don’t want to be anyone’s warm body. And I don’t particularly like eggnog.”

“Yeah, who’d want to be a man’s warm body? Sounds horrible,” Tara murmured. “A little bit of yum-yum in cowboy hat and boots would be too hollow for someone like you who’d rather tug on a slot lever instead of a man’s co—”

“Tara!” Alex blinked and shook the ice around in her almost empty glass. “I don’t have a problem with tugging on anything, but tonight I think we should concentrate on having fun, excluding men. You don’t want to be one of those chicks that wake up hitched to a stranger, do you?” There was a long pause. “Tara?”

“Who said anything about getting hitched? I was talking about easing an itch.” She rolled the tip of her tongue around the rim of her bottle.

 “I’ll know if that bottle comes up missing.” Alex laughed.

Tara turned back to the machine. “Come on winner! If I can’t have sexy cowboy then cash would certainly take away some of my loneliness.”

Alex caught another side-glance of the brawny cowboy who was still watching her. Her stomach did a flip and her fingers shook. He was on the prowl and she refused to be the hunted, but a little flirting wouldn’t hurt.

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