Her Favorite Holiday Gift (Silhouette Special Edition)

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9780373249343: Her Favorite Holiday Gift (Silhouette Special Edition)

Colleen Delaney would never forget the night she and Eric Nelson went from law school sparring partners to lovers. Now, after years apart, the irresistible attorney was back in her life in a major way as they went head-to-head in a high-stakes case.

With the future of the Taka-Hanson hotel empire at stake, Eric couldn't afford to lose. But he was up against a gorgeous, take-noprisoners lawyer just as determined to win. If only their attraction would stop getting in the way. That was when Eric decided to give Colleen a special gift for the holidays—one that came straight from the heart.

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About the Author:

Lynda Sandoval is a former police officer turned fiction writer with fourteen adult books to her credit. Her first book for teens, Who's Your Daddy?, won the National Readers' Choice Award for young adult fiction from Romance Writers of America and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. When Lynda is procrastinating, she loves to quilt, hike, garden, make jewelry, bid obsessively on eBay, and read everything she can get her hands on. She lives in Denver with the world's coolest cairn terrier, Smidgey.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Colleen Delaney strode from the executive conference room, shoulders back and head held high... barely. She'd gone a full ten rounds in the ring of office politics and taken her fair share of cheap blows. But in the end, she'd prevailed. The Ned Jones case was all hers.

She should feel triumphant. Exhilarated. Vindicated.

Instead, anger rolled through her veins like spilled mercury, fluid and shining and toxic. The sting of unshed tears burned her eyes and the mere notion of letting them fall deepened her anger. Showing weakness within the palatial walls of McTierney, Wenzel, Scott and Framus?

Not an option.

Not for her.

Not ever.

After all these years of grinding through the grunt cases, winning the unwinnables, never uttering a complaint, she'd still had to beg the partners for a boon assignment that should've been hers without question. Unbelievable. She'd devoted her entire law career to this firm, had more than earned their respect—or should've, considering her impeccable track record in the courtroom, her professionalism, her team attitude. The partners should've acknowledged all that and rewarded her for it with the Jones case—minus the battle. Because she deserved it, plain and simple. But there was that one small detail....

She was female.

Her jaw tightened.

It wasn't exactly a secret that women weren't welcome in this boys' club, not even when the woman in question kicked the boys' butts all over Chicago's legal system and proved herself more than worthy.

Repeatedly.

McTierney, Wenzel, Scott and Framus, Attor-neys-at-Law, had a long history of pressing female lawyers against that glass ceiling until they couldn't breathe anymore. Until they lost their fight. Until they simply... left. Ironically, it was the main reason Colleen had sought out this firm in the first place, which sometimes made her wonder about her sanity. But that infamous glass ceiling lured her as the penultimate challenge. She wanted to punch her fist straight through it in honor of all the excellent female attorneys who'd come and gone, who'd been treated like dirt, who'd given up.

Colleen Delaney didn't give up.

She wouldbe the one who busted through to a full partner position if it killed her. The boys could smell her single-minded ambition like prey scenting a hungry lioness on the hunt. It only made them scramble even harder to prevent her from succeeding. Maybe that was her problem. She was too good at her job, too unwilling to be placed into some societal box, too much of a fighter. Yeah? Well, too bad. The old boys could try to keep Lioness Delaney in her place all they wanted. It wouldn't work.

What if you get married?

What if you decide to have babies?

What if you put the firm at a disadvantage because of your damn biological clock?

A new wave of fury crested and broke over her as she recalled the numerous times she'd heard carefully phrased versions of those inconceivable questions while being told some pimple-faced male junior attorney had leapfrogged her for a promotion that should've been hers, for a career-making case that should've landed on her desk. The partners couldn't state outright that she wasn't getting ahead because she was female, of course. But somehow they always managed to drive the point home without crossing any discriminatory lines.

Her conservative Prada pumps echoed like combat boots on the stark marble hallway that led to the cramped, windowless office where she planned to spend as many hours as it took to win this all-important case. Because one thing was certain:

They could give her the worst office in the entire building.

They could downplay her talents and use her reproductive system or the fact that she had the occasional pedicure as an excuse for holding her back.

They could ignore her achievements and treat her like a junior law clerk.

But if she succeeded in winning Ned Jones versus Taka-Hanson, aka Working Man versus The Corporate Monster? No way in hell could Mick McTierney, Richard Wenzel, Harrison Scott or Bill Framus justify not making her partner, and they damn well knew it. This time, she held the reins.

Safely behind the locked door of her claustrophobic cube of an office, she chucked the case files into a messy manila fan on her marred desktop, sank into her chair, rested her forehead in her uncharacteristically shaky hands.

Deep breaths. Calm. Cool.

Regardless of whatittook, she'd end up on top this time. Screw the glass ceiling. This case was her golden opportunity to shatter it to hell, once and for all. She'd show them. At this point in her career, she had no choice. She didn't want to start over when she was this close to making partner, making history in the firm.

And—sad but true—she'd rather die than end up with a life like her mother's, molding herself into the perfect little wife when the right man—or any willing man—came along. Colleen loved her mother, but she didn't respect her. Couldn't. Sure, she felt guilty about that, but what could she do? The main thing Colleen had learned growing up with her mother's example? She'd rather be hated but respected than loved and pitied.

She didn't need love to thrive.

She needed success.

Autonomy.

So there it was. She would win this case, damn it, and nab the partner position she should've had years ago. And, now that her goal was in sight, nothing, absolutely nothing on earth, could throw her off course.

Eric Nelson was staring slack-jawed with disbelief at the paper he held when the door to his temporary work space—a rarely used conference room at Taka-Hanson headquarters—opened. He glanced up to see his old friend Jack Hanson shoulder halfway past the doorjamb and pause.

"Am I interrupting?" Jack gripped the edge of the door. "I knocked, but—"

Eric shuffled the papers aside and shook off his preoccupation. "Not at all. What's up?"

"Wanted to run something by you." Jack crossed the room and sprawled in the chair on the opposite side of the expansive table. He pulled his chin back and studied Eric for a good long stretch. "You look like you've just seen a ghost, pal. Everything okay?"

No. Everything was the opposite of okay. Eric glanced out the window at the gray Chicago skyline. Snow had begun to fall in fat, wet flakes.

Perfect backdrop for his mood.

He hadn't hesitated when Jack asked him to represent Taka-Hanson for this trumped-up wrongful termination case. The two of them went back to their law-school years, and Eric never said no to a friend in need. The high-profile status of the case didn't hurt either. He relished the challenge.

Or, he'd thought so until he'd read the name of the counsel for the plaintiff. Turning back from the window, Eric shook his head, aware he'd been lost in his own thoughts. "Yeah, I'm... Actually, let me ask you something." He shoved his fingers through his already uncooperative hair, blew out a breath. He couldn't bluff Jack Hanson. Did he really want to? "You remember much about law school?"

A wistfulness passed over Jack's expression like swift-moving cloud shadow. Eric knew Jack still missed practicing law, though working for the family business had been the right move after the Hanson patriarch had passed away a few years ago. Losing Jack had been a blow to the law firm, though. One they still felt.

"Every minute of it," Jack said. "Best years of my life, until I met my lovely wife, that is. Why?"

Eric grimaced. "The name Colleen Delaney ring a bell?"

Jack barked a short laugh and interlaced his fingers behind his head. "Your three-year headache?"

"Migraine," Eric said, but it wasn't the entire truth. She was also the woman who'd stolen his heart, then crushed it. But he'd ignore that aspect of the problem. "That woman was a pain in my—"

"Hot, though," Jack pointed out, aiming a finger Eric's way. "You have to admit that. And you did start out as friends, if memory serves."

Eric shrugged, not about to touch on the topic of Colleen Delaney's "hotness," or what could've been a long-lasting friendship...maybe more...if things hadn't spiraled horribly out of control. "Not for long."

"What happened with that? You never told me."

And he never would. I fell for her and she unceremoniously dumped me? Uh, no. That wasn't an admission one guy made to another. "Our personalities didn't mesh," he said instead. "Butting heads with an obstinate woman isn't my idea of a good time." Making love to Colleen by the glow of the streetlight streaming into her apartment window? That had been a good time. Better, actually. It had been an emotional epiphany—or so he'd thought.

Jack nodded slowly. "You two did fight like an old married couple. You know, I always suspected there was something between the pair of you."

Eric's ears flamed. He tried to forget that magical night. One of their typical beer-infused legal debates had escalated into something more. So much more. Something amazing—until it all crumbled.

Talk about a colossal mistake.

After one unforgettable night spent in her bed, her personality had done a complete one-eighty. Before that, they'd debated in a friendly way, hung out, studied together and shared a mutual, sizzling attraction. Afterward, her steel walls had slammed down, leaving him strictly on the outside and without a key.

Clearly, he'd been a one-off. If only he'd known that before his heart had gotten involved. Oh, well. Once the sting of the dismissal eased, he'd realized it was for the best. Opposites may attract, but he and Colleen were more like water and electricity than yin and yang. Their kind of opposite was never good. At least, that's what he told himself. "An old married couple who despised each other and never should've gotten hitched in the first place," he said.

"Indeed." Jack cocked his head to one side. "But why the blast from the past?"

"Seems the past is going to explode into the present." He spun the paper he'd been reading around to face Jack. "Delaney's representing Ned Jones."

"You've got to be—" Jack leaned forward and scanned the...

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