On the second day of Christmas, these two turtle doves are stuck together…
As a doctor, my practice is my priority and leaves little time for dating. It's the furthest thing in my mind.
To my surprise, one night is all it takes for me to fall for her, even though I know next to nothing about her.
I never thought I'd see my mystery woman again, but like a holiday miracle, she shows up at my clinic one night with her young daughter.
Every minute I’m with them only makes me fall harder, but our situation isn’t so simple.
Getting stuck in a closet with Isabel just days before Christmas might be the gift we didn’t know we needed.
Release date: December 2, 2021
Publisher: Georgia Coffman
Print pages: 99
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Stuck at Christmas
“Either you haven’t had enough to drink or you really hate charities,” a soothing voice sounds next to me as a flash of wavy brown hair crosses my periphery.
I drag my gaze over the tables covered in white linens. In the middle of each one are centerpieces more decadent than I’d see at a wedding. They match the color scheme of the numerous Christmas trees, which are draped with extravagant holiday garlands that are almost blinding.
But that’s how my best friend does this sort of thing. Nothing is too much to celebrate a noble organization, and the charity of honor tonight is definitely that.
Contrary to the woman’s second guess, it’s part of the reason I’m at this fundraiser right now. My family and I have a close connection with Darby’s Dreamers, an organization that helps families adopt children with Down Syndrome. A family friend adopted their two boys with the organization’s assistance, and I’m here for support.
As if in slow motion—thanks to the few flutes of champagne I’ve had—I keep turning until I’m looking at the woman to my right. She’s in a deep mauve velvet dress, leaning over the bar and sliding her new drink toward herself as she studies me.
She’s the one who came in late. We’d already begun the third course by the time she took her seat at the table next to mine, but her tardiness wasn’t what caught my attention like it did many of the other guests.
I noticed her because it was hard not to.
Her dress hugs her body like she’s doing it a favor by wearing it, and up close, she’s even more stunning.
I tilt my head toward her and plaster a smile on my face. “Excuse me?”
She points a slender finger at me from around the stem of her martini glass. “You look like you’ve just come out of a Brazilian wax. Like you’re in pain.”
I raise my eyebrows, my lips twitching. My fingers tremble to pull the suffocating bow tie from around my neck, but her curious once-over stops me.
She holds the toothpick of olives to the side as she sips her drink, then licks her lips, sparkles dancing in her dark brown eyes like fireflies in the evening. “Who made you come out here tonight?”
I turn my attention back to the dance floor as the song comes to an end, and Carter and Tessa pull apart, smiling at each other like loons on their honeymoon. I nod toward them and glance at the woman next to me. “My best friend and little sister. I’m here for the charity, but also for them. Trying to be the bigger man or whatever and be okay with their…” I grind my teeth, biting out the last word. “Relationship.”
“Glad to see it’s going well for you.” She smiles, and my witty response gets caught in my throat.
Her beauty is indisputable. She’s elegant, and even when she was running late, she was graceful, seemingly uncaring that people were staring. She sat with her head held high as though we had just started eating too early.
Her long, silky chestnut hair cascades around her shoulders in loose waves that appear effortless, but having a sister, I know it probably took a while to achieve that look.
On top of it all, her smile is beyond gorgeous. It lights up her entire face brighter than the chandeliers across the ceiling.
“Are you going to be grumpy all night? If so, I can find someone else to chat up.” She lifts one eyebrow in challenge and sips her drink, her gaze never leaving mine.
I crack a crooked grin. “Grumpy?”
Her cheeky smile falters. “Right. That’s not exactly how grown-ups talk, huh?”
“What?” I chuckle, furrowing my brows.
“Graham, there you are.” Tessa appears to my left, taking me by surprise. “Dance with us.”
“Why?” I ask warily as I set my drink on the bar, already moving toward her. She’s my sister. No matter how pissed I am that she’s now dating my best friend, I can never say no to her or stay mad at her forever.
I hate to say it, but I can’t be mad at Carter for the next fifty years, either, like I previously wanted to. He’s groveled for weeks.
I thought he would’ve thrown in the towel after a couple days, but he’s been texting, calling, and wanting to meet me for coffee or dinner for weeks.
I did finally accept an in-person meeting with him—I could only use my busy schedule at the clinic as an excuse for so long. The truth is, my job as a physician does keep me busy, but it’s not like I can’t get away for coffee, at the very least.
“Carter’s schmoozing guests—aka moneybags—and I wanted to dance with you, anyway. It’s not a crime to want to spend time with my brother.” She shrugs, pulling me onto the dance floor.
I glance over my shoulder to excuse myself from the intriguing woman, but she’s no longer there. Neither is her drink.
Damn. I didn’t even get her name.
I hold Tessa’s hand and sway to the music with her. Over her head, I search the crowded room for a sinful velvet dress and soft curls I’d love to tangle my hands in, but I come up empty. When did so many people get here? It’s like searching the flecks of snow on the ground outside.
“Carter did a good job filling the room up,” Tessa says, then spins under my arm.
When she’s facing me again, I say, “That’s exactly what I was thinking. Did I say it out loud?”
“No.” She giggles, and her eyes shine. “You know me well, but guess what, brother? I know you too. Although I’ve never seen you drink as much as you have tonight.” Her amused expression falters as she eyes me, and it’s obvious she’s silently urging me to explain myself.
I let go of her waist to dig the heel of my palm over one eye, then resume dancing, my gaze still traveling over the room for the mystery woman.
“Graham?” Tessa squeezes my hand, drawing my attention back to her. “You sure you’re okay with this? With Carter and me?”
I shake my head, which makes me dizzy. I’ve had several drinks—mostly the ones I downed when I first walked in here—and they must all be hitting me at once. I thought I had eaten enough to settle my buzz, but no such luck. I smile down at Tessa and squeeze her hand back. “I’ll be fine with you and my best friend.” I roll my eyes at that last part. “But I need some water. And air. I had more to drink than I thought.”
She nods, stepping away as her hands slide back to her sides. “I’ll get you some water.”
“Not necessary.” I glance over her shoulder at Carter. “Your boyfriend is cutting in.”
“One of these days, you’re going to have to say it without cringing.” Carter stares pointedly at me, a sharp gleam in his eyes.
“We’ll see,” I challenge, narrowing my gaze.
I mess with him some more, drudging up dirt I have on him. Given that I’ve known the guy since college—over fifteen years—I know a lot.
After a good laugh down memory lane, I leave them to slow dance and make out like no one’s watching.
I’m dealing with their new relationship in my own way, but I can’t deny how happy they both look tonight. It’s more obvious than a common cold.
Not that I think their relationship is the equivalent of a sniffling, boogered mess, but like I said—I’m dealing.
Doesn’t mean I can’t give my best friend hell in the process.
I fidget with my bow tie and jacket as I make my way outside—I’m more suited for an open white coat than a restrictive tux. Before I reach the doors, a server offers me champagne, but I shake my head and decline.
Water is in my best interest right now. I’m not drunk, but I’m definitely too buzzed to drive myself home. Thankfully, Carter sent a car, which I have to admit was a thoughtful gesture.
People, especially the media around this area, like to speculate that he’s an irresponsible billionaire, but I’ve known him for far too long and can’t agree. He might be an ass on occasion, but he’s always been more than his bank account, which also helps alleviate the headache he’s caused by dating my sister.
In the hall outside the event room, I shuffle to a station set up with water. I fill a cup to the brim and down it, letting the cool and refreshing liquid stream down my throat like a waterfall.
I grab another and walk along the paisley carpet toward the double doors, which I hope will lead me to fresh air.
Once I push them open, I find more than that.
The mystery woman.
She stands with her back to me, her hair lightly swaying in the chilling wind. She leans over the rail, and the city stretches beyond her, the lights of New York twinkling all around like stars across the sky. Which is nice since we can’t see the actual stars above, not with all the light pollution from the city.
I study her silhouette, and as I inch closer, I note how tense she is. She seems lost in thought and uncaring that she’s shivering. It’s December, after all, and although it’s taking a break for now, snow has been falling all day.
As I approach, I shrug my jacket off. “You’re either upset or you really hate charities,” I say, my voice unintentionally raspy.
When she looks up at me, her expression softens. Her frown transforms into a smile as she accepts my jacket and wraps it around her shoulders. “It’s the first one, but I’d rather not talk about it.” She turns to face the city again.
I nod, rocking on my heels and steeling myself against the rush of wind that swoops between us.
“Your friend in there—Carter? You seemed to have patched things up with him.” She raises her arm to lean her elbow on the rail and rests her chin in her palm.
I dip my head, stiffening again as another cold gust whips through my short hair. “We’ll be fine, but I’m not done giving him a hard time.”
She raises her eyebrows.
Sighing, I lean my elbows on the rail next to her and clasp my fingers together. My words escape in a quick rush like I’m afraid they won’t come out otherwise. “He was always the arrogant one of our group. In college, he was the one ladies flocked to even before they knew he was a billionaire. And now my sister is one of them. She’s like a groupie.”
The woman covers her mouth with her dainty left hand as she giggles, and although the adorable sound briefly catches my attention—it’s a youthful laugh that echoes pleasantly over the city noise—I zero in on her bare ring finger.
“It’s not funny,” I manage and clear my throat.
“It is a little,” she says as she holds her thumb and forefinger an inch apart. Dropping her arm, she angles her body to face me. “If it’s any help, I think Carter’s a good guy. He gets a bad rap from the media, but he’s done so much to help various charities. He doesn’t just make donations, either. Like tonight—one of his goals is to raise awareness. He invited journalists and reporters to cover the event, and he sent brochures and such to the magazines that couldn’t send reps.”
“Shit, maybe you should date him,” I grumble as my frown sets in place like a bad tattoo.
She throws her head back and laughs as if it’s a ridiculous suggestion, which makes me relax. “No, no, no.” She waves her hand in front of her face. “Just no.”
I spin and lean my back against the rail, eyeing the red tint on her nose like that of a certain reindeer. “What’s your name?”
She turns her gaze up to meet mine, her expression coy as she seemingly fights a smile. “Now, why would you want to know such a thing?”
“So I can include it in my phone when you give me your number.” I wink, grinning like I’ve already gotten her information typed and saved into my contacts.
“And here I thought Carter was the arrogant one.” She tsks. The twinkle in her eyes grows brighter and more mischievous as she says, “What if we don’t exchange names?”
Disappointment settles in the pit of my stomach, but it’s quickly replaced by intrigue. What is she saying?
“I’m sorry?” I lean in, and my fingertips are mere inches from her, itching to wrap themselves around her hip and pull her closer.
She meets me halfway, her body melting against mine as she takes on a hooded and confident expression that wasn’t there before. “What if we have a little fun, instead? No names or obligations attached?” she suggests, her voice low and seductive.
I blink, then drop my attention to her fingers that wrap around my loosened bow tie and pull it the rest of the way undone.
The bustling city below us seems to freeze, along with the dew on cars and the once-swaying limbs of the few trees lining the sidewalks.
For a moment, it’s like my blood stills in my veins.
But as she grips the ends of my bow tie and tugs me down toward her face, my body comes alive again.
Blood rushes south.
Nerve endings fire.
Anticipation jolts me into action.
She lifts onto her tiptoes, her lips parted and ready for me, and I give in to this strong temptation.
I capture her mouth with mine, grazing my lips across hers and reveling in the rush of kissing a stranger. My kiss is easy at first, slow and deliberate as I savor her.
She tastes of mint, like she’s just eaten a candy cane, and the faintest hint of vodka is there too. I lap it all up as I sweep my tongue across her soft bottom lip.
This night has taken a turn for the better, indeed.
I smooth her hair back with both hands until I’m cradling her head and angling it so that I can dive my tongue deeper into her welcoming mouth.
A soft whimper escapes her as she sighs with content and wraps her arms around my waist.
I take one step toward her, closing the tiny gap between us and pulling her flush against me as I explore her mouth like I’ll find answers to solve the mystery of this woman.
She’s fucking sexy and sweet.
Responsive and dizzying.
Her hand flies to my neck, gripping the back of it like it’s her tether to this building so she doesn’t fall over the side of it, and our kiss turns frantic.
I wrap my arms around her waist, the tent between my legs now rock-hard and so damn obvious.
She pulls back with a gasp, her red lipstick smudged across the top, hiding the dip of her swollen bowed lips. “I have an idea,” she rasps, her eyelids heavy with desire.
I nod so fast it makes me lightheaded.
She grabs my hand and whirls around, but I stop us as an important thought pierces through to the forefront of my foggy brain. “Wait—how much have you had to drink?”
“One and a half martinis. I get more drunk off whiskey-glazed pork. You?”
“Drunk enough not to risk driving myself home, but sober enough to perform CPR if needed.”
Biting her lip, she grabs my hand again and marches toward the event hall like she’s on a mission. And I fucking follow her like it’s my last day on Earth.
When we enter the crowded space, Michael Bublé’s cover of “White Christmas” is muffled by my thundering heart in my ears, and as we slip past the guests, down the hall toward an empty closet, I’m sure I’ve died.
Once we rush inside, she clicks the door shut and leans her back against it, facing me.
Inviting me to continue what we started outside.
The smell and dim light above us allow me to note we’re in a custodial closet. If I checked, I’m certain I’d find mops, bleach, and other cleaning supplies.
But I don’t stop.
I hardly think about anything at all, other than the subtle hardening of this captivating woman’s nipples, which is more and more visible the longer we stare at each other. Running my tongue along my lips to wet them, I step toward her and capture her mouth with mine again, relishing the silence.
I’m not normally one for casual hookups—in a dusty closet, no less—but she’s an exception.
Tonight, I indulge in a fantasy with this person I’ve never met. One whose name I don’t even know. But she’s a woman I already know I’ll never forget.
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