Husband for the Holidays

Early from Harlequin:
Oct 1, 2024
Other Retailers:
Oct 22, 2024

A fake engagement, brother’s best friend, forbidden, Christmas romance by USA TODAY bestselling author Dani Collins.

A billionaire for Christmas…
or for life?

To Konstantin Galanis, heiress Eloise Martin was always strictly off-limits. Too young, too innocent—and his late best friend’s sister. Then he spots her in snowy Manhattan dressed as a Christmas elf, and discovers she’s chosen destitution over a loveless marriage. The steely tycoon feels duty-bound to offer her protection with his own festive proposal…

The kiss Konstantin turned down years ago still haunts Eloise. Accepting his convenient ring is an act of desperation, and every minute in his intoxicating presence inflames her hopeless desire. Has Konstantin saved her from the cold…yet condemned her to burn?

Husband for the Holidays

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The direct-from-Harlequin edition of this book is available on October 1, 2024.
The other editions are available on October 22, 2024.
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I have to deliver these toys. I’ll lose my job if I don’t.
— Eloise, Husband for the Holidays

When my editor asked if I wanted to write a Christmas-themed story, she gave me a gift. She said, “For some reason, I’m picturing a department store elf.”

How fun is that? I couldn’t wait to put poor Eloise into a horrible costume completely with curly-toe shoes, pointy ears, and fake yarn braids.

After losing her beloved brother, Eloise is very down on her luck. Her stepfather is trying to marry her off and not only holds the purse strings, he’s got her mother fooled into believing she doesn’t need help. Eloise is making ends meet with a thankless job that requires she dress as an elf and deliver toys for the Twelve Days of Christmas to all the most exclusive high-rises in New York.

She’s feeling pretty wretched, thinking her life can’t get any worse when she bumps into her brother’s best friend, her massive lifetime crush, Konstantin. He’s appalled to see what’s become of her and feels like a heel for not checking on her sooner so he does what any good Presents hero does: he completely takes over her life and offers her a marriage of convenience!

Konstantin never had a proper Christmas and, despite her current circumstances, Eloise really does love the season so she’s determined to make it fun for him. I adore this sexy, sentimental holiday romance and hope you do, too.

Husband for the Holidays



Seven years ago…

The door closed behind her brother and Eloise Martin was left alone with the enigmatic Konstantin Galanis.

Her seventeen-year-old heart began to pound. Not with fear. Not exactly. Ilias was only running to the corner for eggnog and would be back in five minutes, but she was still overcome by something between awe and dread, as though she’d been left alone with a tiger and the promise that he doesn’t bite.

Like heck. From what she’d read of his business acumen, Konstantin picked his teeth with the bones of his enemies every morning.

He was king of the jungle magnificent, too. He wore a stylish knitted pullover in ivory with brown suede patches on the elbows and the tops of his shoulders. His jeans were black, matching his short boots. His hair was cut short around his ears and was rakishly windswept on top. Given it was late afternoon, a hint of shadow was coming in on his jaw, framing his somber mouth and accentuating the hollows in his cheeks. His brows were strong thick lines over eyes that were cast down to ignore her in favor of his phone.

This crush of hers was silly. Childish. She knew it was, but she’d never been able to shake it. While her friends swooned over a cute actor or a boy band star, she secretly took screenshots of Konstantin from news releases and imagined a world where she was part of his life.

It was so immature! Especially when she was looking at him now and all she felt was intimidated and mesmerized.

He must have sensed her staring. His spiky lashes lifted and his dark brown gaze snared hers. Her pupils dilated in reaction. The lights on the tree suddenly seemed to paint the whole room in psychedelic reds and blues and golds and greens.

Quit gawking, she ordered herself and shakily turned back to the tree she was supposed to be decorating.

She didn’t allow herself to look over her shoulder. He’d probably gone back to reading his phone, but her acute awareness of him had her imagining she felt his gaze traveling down her back and bottom and legs. She grew clumsy as she took each ornament from its case and looped it onto a branch.

“Ilias said you came to New York to settle some business with him.” Nerves made her voice off-key and sharp.

Silence, except for the music switching to “Santa Baby.”

She looked over at him.

He was looking at her, which made her pulse hitch.

“Yes,” he replied.

“I don’t…” She cleared her throat, feeling extra awkward. “I know that Galanis is a freight and shipping enterprise, but I don’t know what you do there.” She had the impression it was more involved than managing an inherited fortune the way her brother did.

“I oversee it. We’re expanding into media and tech so it’s being rebranded as KGE.”

“You run it by yourself?” She hung the next ornament and glanced over.

“I have employees.”

He made her feel gauche, quirking his mouth in that ironic way.

“I meant that it sounds like a lot to shoulder for one person.” He was twenty-five, same as Ilias, even though he projected an air that was light-years ahead of everyone on the planet in maturity and life experience. “I only wondered if you have brothers or sisters who help?” Ilias had never mentioned any siblings and gossip sites were distressingly vague when it came to Konstantin’s personal life.

“No,” Konstantin replied.

“Other family?” His grandfather had died a few years ago.


This was going well. “Pets?” she asked facetiously.

“No,” he pronounced dryly. “What do you really want to know? How I came to live with my grandfather? I don’t talk about it.”

Well, that was clear enough, wasn’t it?

“I wasn’t trying to be nosy.” She ignored the sting of his less than subtle rebuff and hung another ornament, this one shaped like an icicle. The heat in her cheeks should have caused it to melt into a puddle on the floor. “You and Ilias have been friends forever.” Since their boarding school days in England. “But he’s never told me much about you.”

Ilias had rarely brought his friend around. Aside from early glimpses over the tablet, Eloise had only seen Konstantin in person a handful of times. This was the first time in well over five years that she’d spoken to him in person, but she’d been idolizing him from the first time she heard his voice.


“What? I mean, pardon?” She had forgotten what they were talking about.

“I’m glad he doesn’t gossip about me. I’m a private person.”

Okay, then.

She stifled a sigh and looked toward the door. Was Ilias milking the cow and growing the nutmeg himself? What was taking him so long?

She moved to the dining table and started to carry one of the chairs toward the tree.

“What are you doing?” Konstantin was beside her in three long strides, sending a jolt of electricity through her blood.

“I’m a shortcake.” She was pointing out the obvious. It was the bane of her existence that she was barely five feet tall, especially at times like this when she found herself staring into the middle of a man’s chest, feeling at every disadvantage because of her size. “I can’t reach the top branches.”

“I’ll do it. Show me what you want.” He replaced the chair, body almost brushing hers, fritzing her brain cells.

He moved to the tree and waited with bored expectation.

“I’m not one of those people with a rigid set of rules around how the tree looks.” She made herself move closer even though she was walking right up to the tiger with his razor-sharp claws and giant teeth. “I just pick something from the box and stick it in a bare spot.”

It wasn’t rocket science, but he took the frosted globe from her hand, held it near a top branch, then looked at her again.

“Sure.” She shrugged.

A snowflake went next, then a snowman. Each time, he checked with her before he looped the string around the branch.

“Have you never decorated a tree before?” she asked with bemusement.


“I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Mom hasn’t hung her own decorations in years. If I hadn’t come to spend the holidays with Ilias, he probably wouldn’t bother, either. I like doing it, though. Put this one here.” She extended the reindeer as high as she could.

His fingers brushed hers as he took it.

They were standing really close. Close enough that she caught the faded scent of his aftershave and the traces of the rum he’d taken straight because they’d run out of eggnog.

The music switched to Mariah Carey crooning “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

As Eloise looked up at him, Konstantin looked down at her and their gazes tangled. The world tilted and Eloise fell into an abyss.

Oh. Something happened within her. She had always felt giddy and nervous around him. Awestruck. She thought he was beautiful and compelling and she had always longed for him to like her. To notice her.

She hadn’t realized it would be like this, though. She was old enough that she garnered sexual attention. Sometimes it was flattering, other times unwelcome.

It had never felt reciprocal. Not until now. The sensation was like an implosion that compressed heat into her, then expanded in an all-over blush of pleasure.

Konstantin looked at her the way a man looked at a woman and whatever cocoon she’d been occupying was suddenly too confining. She wanted to break out and step out and open herself. She felt fragile as a butterfly, but weighted, too. As though her blood were made of molasses.

That’s what his eyes were made of, she thought distantly: dark gold bittersweet molasses. And his mouth…

Her heart fluttered as she willed him to kiss her.

The keypad beeped and the lock hummed. Ilias called out, “They didn’t have the good kind. We’ll have to make do.”

Konstantin moved to the table where he’d left his phone and pocketed it, then met Ilias in the foyer.

“I have to get back to Athens.”

“What? Why?”

Ilias’s shock echoed hers. She moved closer to eavesdrop, hearing the rustle of Konstantin’s overcoat as he slipped it on. His voice lowered, but she heard his rumbled words.

“Your sister is cute, but I don’t want to encourage her.”

Oh, Gawd.

She covered her face, mortified that she’d misinterpreted that moment and made such a fool of herself that Konstantin couldn’t even stick around to face her.

“I’d hoped she’d grown out of that.” Ilias’s voice held humor. “Thanks for not making me call you out for pistols at dawn. We’ll talk soon.”

The door closed and she wanted to run into her room and hide. She made herself go back to the tree and pretend she hadn’t overheard anything.

“That looks good,” Ilias said behind her. At least he was kind enough not to tease her.

“I think so,” she lied, refusing to look at him. She hated this tree. The whole season was ruined. Based on how sick she felt, she doubted she would ever enjoy Christmas again.

Chapter One

Present day…

The Twelve Days of Christmas was turning into twelve nights of acute anxiety.

Eloise glanced again to be sure she had the right name on the present and knocked on the door of the Manhattan high-rise apartment.

A woman in silk slacks and a cowl-neck sweater answered the door. Her blond hair was in a ponytail, but the loose, messy kind that had been teased to look casual. Her makeup was fresh enough to signal she had plans for the evening. She gave Eloise’s elf costume a pithy once-over and sighed.

Eloise knew what an atrocity it was. Even the smallest uniform had been too big for her and the fabric was so cheap static made it cling in all the wrong places. Plaits of orange yarn protruded from either side of her green bent cone hat behind pointed ears. The whole thing was probably askew because the yarn was itchy and she kept flicking it away from her face. Fake fur trimmed the green vest she wore over a long-sleeved turtleneck of red-and-white stripes. Her green skirt fell to mid-thigh and ended in triangles adorned with bells. Her legs were made to look like candy canes complete with shoes that turned up at the toes.

She was a caricature looking at a version of the affluent person she used to be.

“Good evening,” she said with a polite smile. “I believe the doorman announced me? You ordered Twelve Days for Noah?”

“My sister-in-law did. She must be mad at me.” The woman turned to call out, “Noah? There’s someone here to see you.”

“Again?” A four-year-old boy ran to the door in his pajamas.

“Hi, Noah!” Eloise crouched and dug deep for a voice that was playful and filled with the magic and wonder of the season. “I’m Merrilee. I think you met Rocket yesterday? I’m another one of Santa’s helpers. He asked me to bring you this.” She offered the gift.

Cool!” He grabbed the gift. “Can I open it?” He was already retreating back into the apartment.

“Say thank you first,” the woman said in a harried voice.

“Thank you,” Noah called back, but he was gone.

“See you tomorrow,” Eloise said as she stood, but the door was already shutting in her face. “Merry Christmas,” she added, faint and facetious.

She might once have been as rich and well-dressed as that woman, but she had never been that awful to people who were just trying to make ends meet. She had definitely taken for granted living in places like this, though. And having plans on Tuesday night and being showered with gifts just because.

She dragged her oversized velvet sack full of gifts back to the elevator. It was affixed to a square of wood on casters and was worse than walking a dog, wandering every direction and clipping her heel when she least expected it.

Once in the elevator, she dug for the next parcel, checking the time and the address on her phone. The building was only a few blocks away, but dragging this cloth bag through the streets was a lot harder than it looked. Snow clogged up the casters and—

Wait. Were there two kids at this next address? She pawed deeper into the bag, vaguely aware the elevator had halted and the doors opened to the lobby. This one? She turned the gift over inside the bag.

“Up or out?” a gruff male voice asked with tested patience.

That voice.

She jerked her attention upward and recognition crashed over her along with a hormonal rush of yearning that nearly took out her knees.

Oh, my God.

Horror followed because she did not want Konstantin Galanis to see her like this.

He wasn’t even looking at her. His profile was every bit as remote and compelling as she remembered, every bit as dismissive as he stood to the side, holding the open door to give her room to exit while he looked toward the front doors of the building.

He was as impossibly good-looking as she remembered, too, broodingly handsome with his black hair and stern brow and strong freshly shaved jaw. His overcoat hung open over a cranberry-colored jacket, a pleated shirt and tuxedo trousers.

Did he live in this building? Or—

He started to turn his head, probably wondering what was taking her so long. She ducked her head in panic, wanting to dive into this giant sack of hers and disappear. Hunching her chin into her chest, she scurried past him, sack veering uncontrollably behind her.

“Hey. How’d that go?” the overly friendly doorman asked her as he brought her coat and boots from his parcel shelf behind his desk.

“Fine.” Horrible. Worst night ever and she had some doozies to compare to.

“Are you coming back tomorrow?” He was mid-twenties, same as her. His smile invited her to linger and chat, but she didn’t have time. Or inclination.

“Depends on the schedule. I’m a spare, covering for whoever calls in, but it’s only Day Four. I’m sure I’ll be back here at some point.” As she spoke, she hurried to toe off her silly shoes and zipped into her knee-high boots, then shrugged on her coat, still feeling as though Konstantin were standing over there staring at her when he had definitely already forgotten about her and was twenty stories up by now.

“Let me give you my number. Maybe we can have a drink—” The doorman’s expression changed into one that was more professional. “I’m sorry, sir. Is there a problem with the elevator?”

Eloise glanced up from tucking her curly shoes into the sack, realizing that Konstantin was still here in the lobby, still holding the doors open while he stared at her with a thunderstruck look on his face.

No! Her stomach curdled. She ducked her head again, skipped the switch of hat and finding her gloves. She didn’t even belt her coat before she yanked the sack toward the door, desperate to get away before—


No, no, no.

She pushed out the door, cringing more from hearing her name behind her than the slap in the face of a blustery winter evening in New York.

She kept walking, letting the door drop closed behind her. It was rude. So rude. But it had been bad enough that he’d seen her like this and hadn’t recognized her. Why should he? It had been six years since her brother’s funeral. Before that, it had been that awful Christmas when she had imprinted on him like a duckling on a drake.

“Eloise.” He was right behind her, commanding her to stop.

“I’m on a tight schedule,” she said, refusing to look at him. “Children are waiting.”

It was true. The sort of indulgent parent who booked twelve days of personal deliveries for their children were not the type to be inconvenienced. If they said the delivery should happen before little Sally went to bed at seven o’clock, then that was the time the knock should resound on the door.

And who had designed these stupid sacks? Satan? She felt as though she were pulling a fully loaded sled.

“You can spare me five minutes.” Konstantin caught her arm.

Even through the layers of her coat and shirt, she felt the sizzle. She had managed to convince herself that weird moment seven years ago had been the product of a desperate, juvenile imagination. That she was over her crush and didn’t expect any man to save her, least of all this one.

But, ugh. She immediately felt the pull. The draw.

She shook it and him off.

“I really can’t.” She pressed on to the end of the block, then had to stop to wait for the walk signal.

She couldn’t resist glancing up to see that he’d stayed right beside her, though. Damn him for keeping up with his long legs and no effort. He looked perfect, of course, with snowflakes landing on his dark hair and the collar of his overcoat turned up like a secret agent from the cold war. His eyes were still that depthless dark brown, not that she could tell in the flash of headlights and the liminal glow off the snow. She only remembered the color because she had been so fascinated by his eyes those other times. She wished she understood how his bottomless, steady gaze could cause such a trembling sensation inside her. When he looked straight at her this way, she felt as though he were pulling her soul from the depths of her body.

People began crossing the street. She lurched to go with them, to escape.

He caught the edge of her sack, preventing it from leaving the curb.

“I don’t want to get fired.” She turned back and tried to yank the edge from his grip, but he closed his fist tighter.

“Why are you working at all? At this?” His disparaging tone told her exactly what he thought of her job, but it was honest work. It was better than the forced marriage her stepfather had tried to sell her into.

That was the real humiliation. That her life had descended to this. Not just working to support herself. There was no shame in that. It was the part where she had failed to protect her mother and they were both victims of a con artist. It was the fact that she had allowed herself to live like a spoiled princess, never questioning where the money came from, so she’d been completely unequipped when the vault was slammed closed against her.

It was the fact that the one man her brother had looked up to was looking down on her.

Frustrated by all of that, she stepped around the sack so she was right beside him. She grabbed the velvet near where he held it and yanked it free of his grip, then turned to lurch across the street. But now the sack was in front of her, causing her to trip forward onto it.

In the same millisecond, the light changed. A car accelerated to take the corner before the oncoming traffic crossed the intersection.

There was a honk and a flash of a headlight, a shout and a sensation of being snatched out of the air like a sparrow into the claws of a hawk. There was a horrible crunching noise that made her cringe into the wall of wool as she waited for whatever injury she’d sustained to explode with pain.

“Look before you cross the street!” Konstantin’s harsh voice blasted against her ear. His arms were banded around her, squeezing the breath out of her. One hand was splayed on the back of her head, tucking her face into his overcoat.

She hadn’t been hit. She had fistfuls of his sleeves in her hands while her feet pedaled to find the sidewalk. Her heart was rattled and thumping, her ears ringing. The fragrance of aftershave filled her nostrils, going straight into her brain like a drug.

A wave of helplessness tried to engulf her, one that urged her to melt into his tempered strength and cry. She was cold and tired and hungry and scared. And there was also that older, ingrained and immature longing for exactly this: to be rescued and coddled and held by him.

She refused to buckle to any of that.

“Let me go,” she muttered, struggling even as he loosened his hold and let her slide to the ground.

He had to steady her as her foot slid in the slush, then she was free of his touch and felt utterly bereft.

“I have to—oh, no!” The sack had spilled off the curb. Two gifts were half crushed by tire tracks while the limp velvet sat in an icy puddle, collecting a dusting of wet snow. “What am I supposed to do now?”

“That could have been you. Do you realize that?” He sounded livid, which stung because she had only ever wanted his approval.

She started to bend, wanting to see if there was anything to be salvaged.

“You’re not crawling in the gutter after useless parcels.” He caught her back, his clasp on her arm keeping her standing beside him. “The sanitation people will clean it up when they do their rounds.”

“I have to deliver these toys. I’ll lose my job if I don’t.” She waved her free hand at the disaster.

“What sort of foolish job is it?”

“It’s called Twelve Days of Christmas. Parents sign up for twelve days of personal deliveries for their children. They’re expecting me.” She shook off his hold.

“They’ll survive. You may not,” he added scathingly. “Come.” He tried to turn her back the way they’d come.

She dug her boots into the clumping snow. “I need my job if I want to eat.” That had been a harsh lesson, but she’d sure learned it in the last eight months.

“I’ll feed you.” He looped his arm behind her in an arched cage that swept her along like a blade plowing snow. “While you eat, you can tell me what the hell has happened that you’re resorting to this.”

Her feet stumbled to keep up with him while her back absorbed his strength all the way into her blood cells.

“You’re acting like I’m dealing drugs.” She looked back at the carnage of her paycheck, losing any chance at keeping her job when a figure darted out of the shadows to claim the sack and what was left of the parcels. They dragged all of it around the corner.

She couldn’t begrudge someone living on the street for seizing an opportunity. She had a better understanding of poverty these days. She was even a little glad that some poor soul would enjoy something like a Secret Santa windfall, but it only reinforced that she was very fired.

Konstantin cursed under his breath and dropped his arm from around her as they arrived under the awning of the building they’d just left.

A beautiful woman had just walked out and—

Wait. Was that Gemma Wilkinson, the actress? She was red carpet–ready in a pine green gown under a black wrap. Her hair was up, her ears adorned with diamonds and her smoky eyes were trained on them with appalled astonishment.

“I asked Giles what was keeping you and he said you walked out. I thought you were having a cigarette.”

“Something has come up.” Konstantin didn’t introduce Eloise or even look at her, only told Gemma, “I can’t take you to the party tonight.”

Gemma’s incredulous laughter was aimed directly at Eloise in her crooked ears and ugly hat.

Where were catastrophic events when you needed them? Or even just a clear path of escape? A dog walker was behind her, the mesh of leashes hemming her into this curbside carnival act.

“Konstantin,” Gemma said in a purr of sensual warning. “If you don’t take me to that party tonight, you won’t take me anywhere. Ever.”

“Fair.” It was one of the most dispassionate responses Eloise had ever witnessed and she’d seen the complete lack of pity in the eyes of the landlord when he’d informed her and her roommate that rent would double on January first.

Konstantin withdrew his phone and brought it to his ear, saying to Gemma, “I need my car right now, but I can send it back for you if you like.”

“Oh, don’t bother,” Gemma said with subdued fury and spun to reenter the building.

The dog walker and the doorman and two passersby were all witnessing this drama. Eloise wanted to die. She truly did.

While Konstantin was on the phone, however, she seized the chance to call her supervisor—who was not paid nearly enough to care about the details of what had happened.

“So you’ll miss the last five deliveries?” she summed up briskly. “I’ll contact the customers and reschedule. You know I can’t use you again?”

“I know. I’ll turn in my uniform tomorrow. Oh. Except I lost the shoes.”

“I’ll tell head office you were hit by the car. That way they won’t take the cost of the gifts out of your pay.”

Wow. The Christmas spirit was alive and well. “Thanks. Merry Christmas.”

“You, too, hon.”

As she pocketed her phone, a gleaming SUV pulled up to the curb. Konstantin stepped forward to open the back door himself, waving her to climb inside.

“I think you’ve mistaken me for your date. I’ll head to the subway—”

“Get in.”

She curled her cold hands into fists, suspecting her gloves were in the lost sack since they weren’t in her pockets.

“You want to know what happened to make me take a job like this? I refused to buckle to an overbearing man.” Take that, she added with a lift of her chin that made the bell on her hat give a muted tinkle.

“How’s that working out for you?”

Not great, obviously. That didn’t mean she should buckle to him.

“Get in, Eloise. Or I’ll put you in.”

She held his I-mean-it stare and to her eternal shame, frissons of excitement curled through her abdomen. She wanted his hands on her. The sparks of attraction she’d always harbored for him continued to smolder inside her.

“Do I have to count to three?” His patronizing tone called her a child. It was the ultimate insult, considering the very adult things she’d had to deal with lately.

Somehow, she channeled the privileged socialite her mother had taught her to be.

“Since it’s your fault I lost my job, you may buy me dinner.” She held his gaze as she passed under his nose, then clambered into the vehicle with a musical rattle of the bells on her skirt.

Husband for the Holidays

is available for pre-order in the following formats:
Husband for the Holidays
Early from Harlequin: Oct 1, 2024
Other Retailers: Oct 22, 2024
Husband for the Holidays
Early from Harlequin: Oct 1, 2024
Other Retailers: Oct 22, 2024
Pages: 210

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