Welcome to the blog tour for GIFTED, the first book in the adult contemporary holiday romance series, Clear Security Holidays, by Ainsley St Claire. See below for information on the book and series, buy links, and an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Series: Clear Security Holidays #1
Author: Ainsley St Claire
Genre: Adult Contemporary Holiday Romance
Release Date: November 18, 2019
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
How do things fall apart so easily?
As a former teacher, my mission is to keep the disadvantaged youth of our city engaged with school. My non-profit has been wildly successful with the kids, but now I’m forty mentors short for the Christmas season. It didn’t look like we would be able to find enough help, until Jim Adelson got involved. He may have solved my mentor problem, but he’s created another: I can’t concentrate with this panty melting God around.
The community has been good to me. I’d built my successful security business with hard work and determination, and when I got approached to help Kate Monroe’s non-profit, it seemed a fitting way to give back. I’d offer to spend time with some kids, but it’s Kate that I find myself wanting to spend time with. With beauty obvious to everyone, and a compassionate heart she wears on her sleeve, she has me reevaluating my priorities.
When the children’s Christmas gifts go missing, Jim and Kate are forced together in the hunt.
Can true love fight through the drama to find a happy ending?
Gifted is the first book in the holiday series Clear Security Holidays. This is a standalone holiday romance suspense novel, but characters from the Venture Capital series and from Tech Billionaires can be known to make appearances.
Forty kids won’t have a Christmas, and it’s all my fault.
Over two hundred kids from middle schools across the city and county of San Francisco—from some of the most at-risk areas—met the requirements for our contest, and I’m forty donor/mentors short for our upcoming celebration. At two hundred dollars apiece, I don’t know what I’m going to do. How do I break a promise I made to these kids on the first day of school? Go to school for seventy-five days, don’t be absent, don’t be late, and get a passing grade. If you accomplish all that, you’ll get a two-hundred-dollar shopping spree at Bullseye.
Some people think “paying kids to go to school” is a bad thing. But we get paid to come to work, and some people play solitaire on their computers while they sit there. How is that not paying you for just showing up? In a lot of low-income areas—in San Francisco and elsewhere—over half of the students that complete middle school never walk into a high school, and less than ten percent of those who do will go on to graduate. Life isn’t easy for these kids, and going to school every day is not easy with so many distractions. But with some incentive, we see improvement.
To make those incentives happen, I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to fund these last few students and find mentors to spend the day with them while they shop. I’ve tapped my network, and it’s pretty dry. But I can’t disappoint these kids; they’ve had enough disappointment in their lives.
I open the app to my bank account: three hundred dollars. I was going to use that money for my rent next month, and, you know, to feed myself. Right now, there’s no man in my life to make sure I get at least an occasional dinner. I check the account for my Visa card, and I can squeeze out maybe two thousand dollars to cover ten kids. But that still leaves me with thirty more, and still no mentors. Crap! What am I going to do?
Tess walks into my office. “Isn’t this great? We’ve never had this many kids, ever! This could mean we have at least a hundred more kids graduate, and fifteen of those will go on to college, plus sixty more to trade schools. This is amazing. Are we going to be ready?”
I force a smile. “I hope so. We’re short a few donor/mentors.”
“In this town, people spend two hundred dollars on dinner without a second thought. We should be able to find a few that will support a good cause.”
“I hope so. I’ve reached out to our board members and asked them to check with their network.”
“How many donors are we short?”
“Forty. I can leverage my credit card for ten of those, but I’m not sure how we’re going to be able to make this work.”
“Kate, if anyone will get this figured out, it’s you. Last year we had barely one hundred kids complete this project. This year we have over two hundred. You need to celebrate that.”
“I will when I lock down the rest of the people we need.”
“Well, then don’t be shy. Bug those board members.”
But that may not be enough. Somehow, I need to get to the big players in town.
“What about your new board member?” Tess asks.
“That’s Stephanie Paulson, and she does seem pretty well-connected. She must know a few people that can help us.”
I’ve asked her about this a few times during our meetings, but I need to try again in writing. I don’t think my board members realize how tough it is to keep a nonprofit up and running in this city.
I craft a carefully worded email to remind Stephanie of our remaining need and looming deadline, trying to sound just the right amount of desperate. We’re only a five-year-old nonprofit, but we’re making a difference. I can feel it in my bones. However, if we can’t make this happen for all the kids who earned it, we may not recover.
I send my message, and after just a few minutes, an email pops up.
To: Katherine Monroe
From: Stephanie Paulson
Subject: RE: Brighter Future Christmas Party
I’m sorry I keep forgetting. Thanks for the email reminder. I’ve forwarded your note to everyone in my contact list with your information. We should be able to come up with more than forty donors. We’re only asking them for $200 and a Saturday morning, for goodness sake! The party on Christmas Eve is a bonus! Let me know if you don’t hear from enough and I’ll rattle the cages, but at the very minimum, I’ll send over a check for $5,000 you can use for the party.
Keep up the good work.
Suddenly, I can take a deep breath again. This guarantees the needed money, and I’m on the road to having the volunteers as well. That’s probably the most important part. These kids need mentors, and spending the day with adults who’ve accomplished something means a lot.
My phone interrupts my thoughts. “Kate Monroe,” I answer.
“Hello, Miss Monroe? This is Jamal Jenkins.”
“Hey, Jamal. How are you?”
“I’m doin’ real good. I just wanted to make sure you saw that my name was on the list again this year.”
“You better believe I saw your name. I’m very proud of you.”
“Jose made it, too. And we have four other friends who made it this year. Once they learned they could get two hundred dollars of stuff for just going to school, they were joining us.”
“I can’t wait to see you guys on Saturday when you pick out your gifts.”
“I’ve got a list,” he says proudly. “Is it okay if I bring my baby sister to the party on Christmas Eve?”
“Of course, and your grandmother, too.”
“Just make sure the Santa you get this year is a little more realistic.”
I laugh. Last year’s Santa was our CPA, and he’s tall and really skinny. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Great. See you at Bullseye next Saturday.”
“I can’t wait.”
I worked as a teacher for five years, and it’s the hardest job there is. Not only are you responsible for educating the next generation, but many students have so much going on in their personal life that you end up being their mentor, friend, confidant, and sometimes parent as well. That’s exactly why I decided to start Brighter Future.
About the Author
Ainsley St Claire is a Romantic Suspense Author and Adventurer on a lifelong mission to craft sultry storylines and steamy love scenes that captivate her readers. To date, she is best known for her series Venture Capitalists.
An avid reader since the age of four, Ainsley’s love of books knew no genre. After reading, came her love of writing, fully immersing herself in the colorful, impassioned world of contemporary romance.
Ainsley’s passion immediately shifted to a vocation when during a night of terrible insomnia, her first book came to her. Ultimately, this is what inspired her to take that next big step. The moment she wrote her first story, the rest was history.
Currently, Ainsley is in the midst of writing a nine-book series called “Venture Capitalist.”
When she isn’t being a bookworm or typing away her next story on her computer, Ainsley enjoys spending quality family time with her loved ones. She is happily married to her amazing soulmate and is a proud mother of two rambunctious boys. She is also a scotch aficionada and lover of good food (especially melt-in-your-mouth, velvety chocolate). Outside of books, family, and food, Ainsley is a professional sports spectator and an equally as terrible golfer and tennis player..
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