Christmas With Penny Reid!

Beard in Waiting
Penny Reid
“You know what’s difficult?” The actress gracing my television screen sniffed, blinking away tears and lowering her eyes to the snowy sidewalk. “Loving you, Carter.” She shook her head and my heart twisted wistfully and she added on a whisper, “Loving. You.”
The camera panned to the hero, his square jaw tense, his eyes and mouth betraying inner turmoil. Tall, dark, and handsome hurried forward and he embraced his love while emotion rushed to my eyes. The music swelled. He cupped her jaw. He kissed her.
I sighed.
My daughter also sighed.
Ah… fictional love.
I glanced at Jennifer, she glanced at me, and then we sighed together.
“That was a good one.” Her eyes were shining and her smile bloomed sweet and misty.
Our tradition every December had always been to watch Hallmark Christmas Movies. Despite everything we’d been through over the last year, all the changes—good and bad—we hadn’t broken this tradition. I loved a good, heartfelt, uncomplicated, fictional romance. I always had. And so did my Jennifer.
“Pass the clicker.” I made a grabbing motion with my hand and she passed it over.
“My favorite was the second one, with the animal shelter and the vet.” Jennifer’s smile was dreamy and warm.
“That one was good. The production values are getting better every year,” I commented, scooching forward on the sofa as my eyes moved over the mess of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and the remains of Jennifer’s fantastic ginger bread cookies.
She’d used orange peel in the cookies, almond extract in the frosting, and candied ginger as part of the decoration—all her idea. I grinned at the spread of sugar.
Everything we’d just eaten used to be contraband under this roof. My husband—soon to be my ex-husband—hadn’t tolerated sweets in the house throughout our marriage. Truth was, he had me so keyed up about gaining weight, I’d spilled a lot of that anxiety over to my daughter.
Shame on me.
In the year since I’d kicked the bastard out, I’d put on fifteen pounds and enjoyed every single bite of the cakes and cookies and wine and cocktails that helped me get here.
“It’s getting late and the forecast called for snow overnight. Do you want any more of these gingerbread men?” Jennifer reached to wrap up the expertly decorated cookies.
“Just leave them be.” I stood, shooing away her efforts to tidy.
“Momma, let me help clean up.”
“No need. You’re right, it’s getting late. That man of yours will be storming in here any second if I don’t get you home on time.”
Jennifer pressed her lips together, looking pleased but also suppressing laughter. She knew what I was talking about.
“He didn’t storm in.”
“He did too. And he was wielding an axe.”
Jennifer laughed. “That was part of my Halloween costume.”
“Red Riding Hood and the Woods-woman.” I lifted my eyes to the heavens.
“Cletus made an adorable Red Riding Hood.” Jennifer pulled on her coat and turned for the door. “Admit it.”
“He dressed up like the hood of a car, Jennifer. A red car. He’s a nut,” I said, because he was a nut. My son-in-law was one of a kind.
“You know you adore him.” She prodded, wagging her eyebrows.
“Of course I do. But I wish he wouldn’t hide mistletoe all over my house. If he wants to kiss his wife then he should kiss his wife. He doesn’t need to bring a hemiparasitic plant into the house or make up stories about it being good luck.”
“He didn’t say it was good luck. He said it would—”
“’Deliver unto me a very merry Christmas.’ Yes. I remember his pronouncement.” I dismissed Cletus’s prediction and gazed at my daughter with warm affection. “I think I’ve found all of the bunches he left tied to the ceiling, thank goodness. Obviously, he loves you. Actually, it’s obvious he more than loves you. He worships you. And I’m glad because I don’t want you to settle for anything less.”
She gave me a tight, bracing smile, but said nothing. I knew why. She didn’t want me to continue, she didn’t want me to say what was on my mind.
But I couldn’t help it.
“And another thing—”
“Oh dear Lord, please don’t say it!”
“I hope he makes sure you orgasm before he does. Every. Single. Time. Do you hear me? A man—if he’s worth his salt—can do it. He can do it several times before, during, and after he pleases himself.”
I spoke from experience.
Granted, my experience was relatively new, but it was real-world experience nevertheless. Kip, my ex, may have been as skilled as a handless, tongueless eunuch, but I knew for a fact—FOR A FACT—that not all men were terrible between the sheets. In fact, some men were very, very good between the sheets.
Or on top of the sheets.
Or on top of a table.
Or on the floor.
“Momma . . .“ Jennifer covered her face and shook her head. “Can we not talk about this?”
“If that man truly loves you, he’ll keep you satisfied. I don’t care how many times I have to say it, I don’t want you to—”
“You don’t want me to waste twenty-six years without an orgasm and fifteen years without sex. Yes. I know.” She finished for me, her soft voice held an edge of exhausted mortification.
But I didn’t care if this discussion embarrassed her. “You need to stand up for yourself early on in the relationship, otherwise men will just walk all over you and steal your feminine power.”
Her hands fell away from her face and she opened her arms, an exasperated expression on her pretty features. “I have to go.”
“You know I tell you these things because I care about you and your feminine power.” I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed as she groaned unhappily. Ignoring the sound, I continued. “I’m ashamed of myself that I never talked to you about these things, that it took your father cheating for me to open my eyes. I’ve been watching those videos and following that blog, about sexual healing, and I think you should too.”
“I’m not watching your videos, momma.”
“I wish you would. That woman is so knowledgeable and she’ll teach you how to please yourself—”
I may have held on too long, held her too tightly, but . . . I missed her. And I missed hugs.
My ex may not have been good for much, but once my business started turning a good profit, he’d been free with his hugs. He’d been stingy with everything else, though. I’d recently tried to remember the last time we’d kissed and I couldn’t.
In retrospect, given all the facts, I should have realized his abhorrence for good food was the first sign that his soul was black as midnight.
I could have blamed my blindness on being so young when we got married, but I wouldn’t. I didn’t shirk my responsibility. I accepted and I learned from it and I moved on.
Granted, I’d been seventeen and he’d been twenty seven. For so many years, where he led I followed. Eventually, I found my footing with business, came into my own with the hotel and the bakery. I’d been running all over hell's half acre trying to be successful, to please him, to make him proud. I’d succeeded making money, but in every other way that mattered, he’d been in control.
The second sign of his dark heart was his antipathy about my satisfaction in the bedroom. He didn’t care whether or not I orgasmed during sex, he never had. As far as I was concerned, that fact alone officially made him evil incarnate.
And the third sign was how he treated our children.
Actually, that hadn’t been a sign. How he treated my sweet children was a neon billboard, but I’d been too stupid and stubborn and—
“Momma. Please. I have to go.”
Sighing, I released my daughter, a twinge of guilt making it difficult to breathe, and nodded. “Alright. But be safe.”
Jennifer gave me one more smile and I admired my beautiful daughter—beautiful inside and out—and couldn’t help but feel sad that she’d been forced to be strong in spite of her father, not because of him.
She turned for the foyer and I trailed after her. “Are you warm enough? Can I send you home with anything?”
“No. I’m good. Thank you, momma.”
“Okay.” I fretted. Watching Jennifer leave never got easier. I longed for the days of her childhood. I would have done so many things differently.
So many things . . .
Before I knew it, my girl was out the door, in her car, and waving from the driver’s seat. I waved back, pulling my cardigan tighter around my shoulders and rubbing my arms as I fought a shiver.
It was cold. Cold to the tune of twenty-seven degrees and on the verge of snowing. Best she goes home now, before the roads get slick.
Once her taillights disappeared down the driveway I closed the door and locked it, allowing myself one more nostalgic sigh before turning back for the living room, glancing at the Christmas tree, and crossing to the couch.
I was alone.
So I picked up a cookie and walked to my bedroom.
Vilma—the life coach I’d been following on social media since my separation—said that I needed to reclaim my feminine power. I’d given it away over the course of my bad marriage, given it to my husband every day I didn’t demand his respect and support, demand that he be a husband to me in all the ways that mattered.
Before I’d discovered Vilma, I’d made a few reckless choices. One in particular that—though I didn’t regret it, didn’t regret him and what had happened between us—I realized now it hadn’t been healthy behavior.
Sure, he’d administered my first orgasm since high-school (so my second orgasm ever). And that same night he’d also given me my third, fourth, and fifth. But he wasn’t . . . well, we weren’t suited. And that was that.
Vilma said the worst thing to do after the end of a marriage was jump into bed with someone else, try to fill the void with another person, and I’d done just that.
But now I knew better.
Therefore, he and our night together were firmly in the past. As part of my healing process, I found pleasure in myself whenever I noticed being alone. It was part of learning to love myself, who I was. I needed to be not just enough, but more than that. I was my best friend, my best partner, my best lover.
I took this advice very seriously and credited it with the permanent, satisfied smile I wore most days.
With the warm feelings still floating around in my belly from five hours of Hallmark movies, I crossed to my dresser and took out the black nightie trimmed with red lace, divested myself of clothes, and took my time slipping it on.
Then I let my hair down, eying myself in the mirror and wondering for maybe the hundredth time since separating from Kip whether or not I should dye it red.
I’d always wanted to be a redhead. I’d talked about it for years, but Kip said no one would take me seriously if I did.
Well, screw him.
I decided then and there that I would make an appointment with Darla for after Christmas and dye my hair red as a cardinal’s feathers. Leaving my bedroom dressed only in the nightie—because, why not? I was by myself and it was four days after Christmas. I’d taken the entire week off from work. I could walk around this house naked as a possum if I wanted, no one would see or care.
I tiptoed to the living room and grabbed another cookie, washing it down with a cup of eggnog—the good stuff with generous amounts of rum and brandy, not the store bought imitation for Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists—then packed away the remainder of our picnic.
But I did grab the bottle of brandy and a lowball glass.
As soon as the living room was tidy, I claimed the chair closest to the gas lit fireplace, snuggled under a blanket, poured myself two fingers of brandy, and picked up my eReader.
Since Jennifer’s relationship with Cletus Winston started last year, I’d become friendly with his only sister, Ashley. And Ashley was a reader. And Ashley had given me a list of the best dirty books to read during my alone time.
Suffice to say, Ashley Winston-Runous was now one of my favorite people on the planet.
The wind kicked up, whistling through the trees and windows. I noticed the snow coming down just before I lost myself to my book. About a half-hour later, the lights flickered off, then on, then off again. I glanced around, seeing they weren’t coming back on, and shrugged. I had my fire, blanket, and brandy to keep me warm. My eReader was fully charged and backlit. If needs be, I could sleep by the fireplace.
An hour passed. Then another. Maybe another after that. I didn’t know, I lost track of time. It was a real good book. The plot was better than the sex scenes, so I kept on reading. I was just coming to the second to last chapter—where all the good stuff happens—when a knock sounded on my front door.
Startled, I glanced at the clock over the fireplace. It was past midnight.
Now who in tarnation—
Another knock followed, louder this time and lasting for a longer period of time.
Frowning, I reluctantly set my eReader to one side and wrapped myself in the large blanket. The unknown person knocked a third time, even more insistent than before.
“I hear you, I hear you. Keep your britches on,” I muttered, making sure the blanket covered me from neck to ankle, then squinted through the peephole.
Oh my God . . .
It was dark, and I couldn’t see his face, but I knew who it was.
I knew.
Startled, I stiffened and reared back, my heart jumping to my throat.
“Diane?” he called, his Texas drawl meeting my ears and melting bones.
I blinked into the darkness, holding my breath, unsure how to proceed.
“Open the door, gorgeous,” he said, “It’s cold out here.”

Swallowing my shock and apprehension, I called back, “You’re barking up the wrong tree, Mr. Repo. Kindly remove yourself from my porch.”
I bit my bottom lip, straining my ears, and waited. I was greeted only by silence.
I checked the peephole again and, sure enough, he’d stepped off the porch. The silhouette of him lingered at the edge of it. I could tell by how he was standing that he was, in truth, very cold. My heart pinged at the sight.
I watched him sigh, his breath a cloud of faint white illuminated by the full moon. It was still snowing—a lot—and his black leather jacket was dotted with snowflakes.
“Diane, my bike is under a tree off the main road near your drive.” He lifted his voice, explaining, and I watched him rub his forehead with gloved fingers; the big biker sounded mighty tired. “I spun out on the black ice and crashed. I’m not injured, but my cell don’t work. The bike won’t start. It’s too far to walk back to town or to the club. The only other houses on this stretch are the sheriff and the Winstons, and I aint knocking on either of those doors past midnight. I’d get shot. Or worse.”
I pressed my palm to my heart, willing it to slow and stepped back from the peephole, my other hand automatically lifting to the deadbolt. But I didn’t turn it. I was at war with myself.
On the one hand, he was a dangerous man. Second in command with the Iron Wraiths. I knew he had a gun on him, likely more than one. He did bad things and ordered others to also do bad things. And he was unrepentant. The man lived hard and fast.
But I also knew he made love soft and slow. And then he made love hard and fast. And then he took requests afterward for one or the other.
“Now, gorgeous, I’m asking you to please let me in. Because it’s colder than a witch’s tit out here and I might be literally freezing to death.”
He was right and that decided things. I couldn’t leave him outside to freeze to death.
Gripping the blanket tight to my throat with one hand, I unlocked the deadbolt, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
He stood at the edge of the porch, his hands on his hips, his chin tilted up to look at me.
“Come on in, then. I can’t have you freeze to death on my porch,” I said tightly, wanting to be clear that I was only allowing him to enter my house under dire circumstances. But then, not liking how rude that sounded, I added, “Have you had supper?”
I didn’t see his smile. I felt it. I felt it in the air, how it shifted, how the snow hurried to the earth and fell both quickly and quietly. For some reason, how the snow journeyed to the ground struck me as poignant, or important. But before I could think too much about it, Repo was climbing my porch stairs.
His motorcycle boots made barely a sound and soon he was almost to the door. I backed up two steps, holding the door open and letting him pass.
Now, I was not a tall woman. I was a short woman. At five feet even, I’d grown accustomed to wearing four inch heals over the course of my life as a matter of fact. My ex was five foot eight, fine-boned, and worked his whole life in an office—and that had suited me just fine. I’d liked that he never overwhelmed me physically.
The last time I’d seen Repo I’d been wearing the aforementioned four inch heels. And I’d been tipsy, drunk on both vodka and rage. Presently, I didn’t have any shoes on. So a six foot male with a big frame, broad shoulders, and undoubtedly accustomed to manual labor felt like a goliath.
Regardless, I refused to be intimidated. I was Diane Donner. I was the most successful and influential person of property and business in East Tennessee—aside from Judge Payton. But he didn’t really count since he owned the mill and everyone knew the only reason the mill was profitable was Billy Winston’s leadership.
Repo paused just beyond the front door, glancing around the darkness like he could see just fine by the moonlight filtering in through the windows. I closed the door, not letting myself think about who I’d just allowed into my house and what we’d done the last time we were alone.
I would not think about that. I would not think about how he’d touched me, how his large, tanned, rough hands had looked on my body. I would not think about how he’d savored my skin and palmed my breasts and bent me over and—
“No,” he said, startling me.
I glanced at Repo over my shoulder, feeling flushed. “No?”
“No.” We were standing very close, so I both saw and felt his eyes move over my face as he spoke. “No, I haven’t had supper,” came his quiet reply.
“Oh,” I said on a short exhale, realizing quite suddenly that I was out of breath. “Let’s get you, uh, fed.” I marched past him, calling over my shoulder, “Take your shoes off, if you please. And there’s brandy in the living room. Help yourself.”
In the kitchen, I switched my brain to autopilot and made the man a turkey sandwich with leftovers from Christmas. Jennifer had brought three kinds of pie, so I cut him a slice of each—pumpkin cinnamon, rum pecan, and coconut custard—grabbing a napkin and fork from the drawer. Arranging everything on a tray, I carried it to the living room.
I stopped short, my mouth growing inexplicably dry at the sight of his broad back. Warming himself by the fire, the big man didn’t turn as I entered, but I saw he’d taken off his shoes as requested. He’d also removed his jacket and gloves, leaving him in dark jeans, dark socks, and a charcoal grey thermal that highlighted how wide his shoulders were and how his midsection tapered to narrow hips.
He was so… so… manly. Manly in a way I’d rarely been exposed to over the course of my steady, straightforward life.
My ex hadn’t been manly. Sure, he’d been in good shape, exercised and took good care of his body. I thought he’d been enlightened. I thought he’d been sensitive, an advocate for equal opportunity and women’s rights, proud of me for being the breadwinner and happy to spend the money. But he hadn’t. He’d used the guise of feminism to hide his weakness, selfishness, and impotency.
My father was a drunk and a dissolute disappointment. He’d been a philanderer, soft and spoiled, having stepped out on my mother countless times. I didn’t consider him manly. Quite the opposite. He was weak and bitter.
My grandfather was manly. Of course he’d been seventy when I was born. I’d only known him in his later years.
The Sherriff was manly in a way that reminded me of Repo now, so was Fire chief McClure. And they were both happily married to exceptional women.
Those Winston boys were also manly. Yet they were young. So very young.
But Repo . . . not too old, not too young, not married. Like momma bear’s porridge, he was just right.
Except, you know, a criminal.
“You look like you don’t know whether to check your ass or scratch your watch.”
“Pardon?” I blinked at him, realizing I’d been standing at the precipice of the room, lost to my thoughts about manliness.
He cracked a half smile, his dark brown eyes moving over me with plain amusement. The fire highlighted the angles and lines of his handsome face, made him look distinguished instead of disreputable.
Repo’s attention lingered on my neck and chest, his shoulders rising and falling with a deep breath before saying quietly, “Never mind. Let me help you with that tray.”
“Oh. Oh no. I’ve got it.” I crossed to the coffee table and placed it on the surface then checked my side table for the brandy. He hadn’t touched it. “Let me get you a glass, do you want a blanket?”
“No, thank you.” The big man cleared his throat, like he’d wanted to say something else but had abstained due to superior self-control.
I felt his eyes on me as I moved to the sideboard to select a tumbler, noticing that the blanket around my shoulders had become loose. I wrapped it more firmly around myself then poured a double for my guest, turning and placing it on the coffee table next to his tray.
“Please. Sit.” I gestured to the sofa as I reclaimed my place on the chair by the fire, tucking my legs under me. “Eat.”
His gaze moved over me for a lingering moment and I watched his chest rise and fall with another voluminous breath before he finally walked to the sofa, sat, and studied the tray of food.
“This looks . . .” he swallowed, his tongue darting out to lick his lips. “This looks delicious. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” I studied him as I sipped my brandy, inwardly smiling by this rough man and his unexpected display of good manners. The last time we’d been together, he hadn’t been so well behaved. Granted, I’d shown up at a biker bar, dressed like a teenager, looking for trouble.
In my fine house, surrounded by my fine things, everything was different.
We’d been in his world then, we were in my world now.
He ate in silence for a bit, his eyes studying the room, seemingly cataloging all my belongings. At length, when the sandwich was gone and so were two slices of pie, he lifted his chin toward a painting above my head.
“Is that a Wyeth?”
I didn’t need to look to answer, but I was surprised he’d recognized the artist. “Yes. Andrew Wyeth.”
His steady gaze lowered to me and the side of his mouth framed by his salt and pepper beard hitched. “Don’t sound so surprised, gorgeous. I’m not as dumb as I look.”
I tilted my head back and forth in a considering motion, peering down my nose at him. “You don’t look dumb, Mr. Repo.”
“Really?” He grinned, a flash of white teeth, a twinkle in his eye. His voice lowered an octave as he asked, “What do I look like, then?”
“Complicated,” I answered without thinking too much about it.
“Funny. I was just thinking the same thing about you.” His grin deepened and one of his eyebrows inched higher than the other.
I ignored that leading statement, because it couldn’t lead anywhere productive, and changed the subject back to art. “Where’d you learn about Andrew Wyeth?”
His grin fell, just a smidge, and he wiped his mouth with the napkin, leaning back on the sofa.
I didn’t really expect him to answer, so I was surprised when he turned his gaze to the fire and said, “A woman, not unlike you, thought I required some culture. She thought . . . well, she thought I’d benefit from an education that extended to subjects beyond my upbringing.” He glanced at his hands, huffing a humorless laugh. “She thought she could make me something different. Something better.”
“Better than what?” I had so many questions, but this one felt like the most pressing.
His eyes cut to mine and I felt the weight of them instantly, like a touch. Like he’d grabbed me with both hands.
“Oh, now Diane. You know the answer to that.” His tenor was low, gravelly, and he gestured mildly to my house as his mouth curved in a sardonic smile. “I’m dirt in your fingernails, gorgeous. No use being polite about it.”
I frowned at his assessment of himself. “That’s an overly dramatic simplification, Repo.”
“Whatever you say.” He shrugged, his tone still gentle yet holding an unmistakable edge of bitterness.
We stared at each other for a time—me watching him, him being watched—neither of us willing to speak.
Lord help me, I was curious. I wasn’t usually the curious sort, more interested in the doing of things rather than the pondering of things. If a task required more than a half-hour of thought, I was of the mind that it should be delegated. Let an expert handle the details and just give me the summary.
But not tonight. Not with him. Not in the dark. Not after two glasses of brandy, a sexy book on my mind, and silk on my skin.
It was almost one year—to the day—since I’d walked into the Iron Wraith’s club. Last December I’d called it a Christmas present to myself. I might’ve spent the twelve months since engaging in healthy behaviors, but the memory of my indulgence, with him, had never been far from my mind.
And I wanted to know the truth, about so many things.
So I blurted, “Why did you hit on me last year? When I showed up at the club?”
His eyebrows jumped a tick on his forehead, his eyes widening a smidge. But his features smoothed otherwise, the tension in his shoulders dissipating. Though the question seemed to surprise him, apparently it also relaxed him.
“What a ridiculous question.” He both smiled and frowned at me, his eyes skating down then up my form.
“How so?”
“A beautiful woman walks into my club, dressed like you were—”
“How was I dressed?”
“Like you wanted to get laid.”
“I guess I did want to ‘get laid,’” I mused, grinning and laughing despite myself, despite his crass reply. Or maybe because of it. “Okay, go on.”
He chuckled and the deep rumble made me shiver, sent spikes of lovely feminine awareness racing over my skin.
“What else is there to say?”
“What were you thinking? When you saw me?”
“I was surprised, to see you there.” He paused, his eyes narrowing, like he was debating his words.
He bit his lip, chewed on it, his gaze growing distant and hazy as though he were remembering all those months ago.
Finally he said, “And I hoped you’d let me touch you. Make you feel good.”
My smile widened. A tingling warmth spread from chest to my fingertips and low in belly. “And I did.”
“Yes. You did.” His grin waned even as his gaze heated. Repo swept his eyes over me, or what he could see of me wrapped in the blanket. “And then you disappeared.”
I tilted my head to the side, again his stare feeling like a touch, like he was grabbing me with both hands. “I didn’t disappear. We live in the same place.”
He chuckled again, but this time it was devoid of humor. “No.”
“No, Diane. We do not live in the same place.” He leaned forward, his elbows connecting with his knees, his hands clasped in front of him.
Lifting an eyebrow, I challenged, “We most certainly do. In fact, it’s less than fifteen miles between my house and your club.”
“Worlds apart,” he countered simply, but he looked amused.
I scoffed. “That’s nonsense.”
“Nope. That’s reality, gorgeous.”
“So that’s why you never—never tried to contact me? After?” I didn’t feel vulnerable or insecure about our lack of interaction afterward. But I was curious. Simply . . . curious.
He didn’t respond right away. Instead he watched me and I noticed his breathing had become shallow.
I pressed, “Do you do that often?”
“Pick up strangers? Have mind blowing sex with women and then move on to the next?”
“Mind blowing?”
“Yes. Mind blowing. Earth shattering. Life altering.” I stood, waving my hand through the air for emphasis, and crossed to the sideboard. I needed more brandy for this conversation.
He stood too, grabbing his glass which I hadn’t realized until that moment was empty, and shadowed my steps. I uncapped the liquor and turned, finding him closer—and taller—than I’d expected. But I didn’t miss a beat. I refilled his glass, then I refilled mine, then I clinked our tumblers together and tilted my chin so I could catch his eyes.
As it turns out, I didn’t need to catch anything. He was giving them to me willingly.
“So, tell me, is this your modus operandi? If so,” I clinked our glasses together again, “on behalf of underserviced women everywhere, allow me to extend a sincere thanks.”
Before I could bring the glass to my lips, Repo set his tumbler on the side table and wrapped his large hand around my wrist, staying my movements. He shifted a step closer and I noticed his gaze had grown hooded as it traveled from my lips to eyes.
“Diane,” he whispered, his other hand moving to the blanket covering my shoulder. “Are you drunk?”
I shook my head, my heart all at once in my throat, my chest both heavy and light. “Not yet.”
“Good.” He nodded faintly, guiding my hand to the table and placing my glass next to his. “Because I’m going to tell you something and I want you to remember it tomorrow.”
“My name is Jason,” he said gruffly. “Call me Jason.”
“Okay. Jason.” I swallowed and nodded quickly as he gripped the blanket and tugged. I felt it slip over my shoulders and fall away, yet I made no move to grab it. I couldn’t. I was trapped, a thrilling sense of déjà vu holding me hostage.
“The answer is no.”
“No.” He formed the word slowly, meticulously, as though imparting a profound truth with great care. “I do not pick up strange women often. Or at all. I do not take a woman to my room, coax her out of her clothes with petting and kissing like teenagers, and then kneel before her. I do not eat pussy—ever—and I do not wait for a woman to come three times before taking my turn and becoming crazy with how badly I want to do it again. All of it.”
By the end of his speech I was panting.
And incredibly turned on.
I wondered if anyone in the history of the world had ever been as turned on as I was right that minute.
Probably not.
Not helping matters, Repo—I mean Jason—had replaced his hand on my shoulder as soon as the blanket fell away, his thumb pulling the strap of my nightie down my arm, baring my breast. He cupped me. I moaned.
“Now,” he said, no longer whispering; his deep voice wasn’t loud, but it also wasn’t soft, “I’m going kiss you. Everywhere. But not because I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind since last year, since last Christmas when you walked into my club.”
I shivered, my eyelids half blinking and I swayed towards him. “Then, why-why are you going to kiss me?”
“Because . . .” he bent, turning me, pressing my back against the high table as his hands slipped down my body to my thighs. “We’re standing under the mistletoe.”
I stared at him. Then I lifted my eyes and saw he was right.
The mistletoe. My son-in-law’s mistletoe. The one he’d hid in my house. The one I’d missed. The one he’d predicted would deliver unto me a very merry Christmas.
I gasped just before Jason’s lips met mine, just before he captured my moan and my newly filled glass of brandy crashed to the carpet.
But I didn’t care about that.
I could think about that tomorrow.
Because now, right now, I was too busy having a very merry Christmas.

Penny Reid is a USA Today Best Selling Author of romantic fiction. When she’s not immersed in penning smart romances she works in the biotech industry as a researcher. She's also a full-time mom to three diminutive adults (boy-8, girl-6, and girl-4 months), wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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