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One hot holiday, p.1

One Hot Holiday, page 1

 

One Hot Holiday
 


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One Hot Holiday


  She’s running for her life. He’s the safe haven she never expected to find. The holiday season is about to get HOT.

  Hiding out for the holiday season in the heart of the South? Not something that Haley Quick ever expected to have on her to-do list but then…she never expected her ex to want her dead, either. Turns out, life is full of surprises. Time to deal. Haley has ditched New York for a crazy little dot on the map known as Point Hope, Alabama. It’s a town gone extra crazy for the holidays, and Haley is sticking out like a sore thumb with her very much Grinch-self.

  But enter sexy sheriff Spencer Lane…Tall, muscled, and made with an extra dose of sex appeal, he is exactly the kind of man that Haley should be avoiding. He’s charming, he looks way too good in a Santa hat, and, oh, yes, he’s her new landlord. The hits just keep coming. She can’t afford to let Spencer learn all of her secrets, a tough job since she is living with the man. No sex, though. It’s purely a business relationship. Except…the holidays in the South sure do get HOT. Or maybe that’s just sexy Spencer. Usually, Haley falls for the bad guy. It’s the whole reason she’s running for her life. She can’t help but wonder…What would it be like to fall for a man like Spencer?

  He just got his Christmas wish.

  Sheriff Spencer Lane can’t believe his luck. The most beautiful, fascinating woman he’s ever seen has just dropped into his life like a gift from, well, the big guy in red. Only the problem is that Haley seems to think Spencer is some by-the-book, nice guy. Probably because of the badge. And if she wants him to be the hero, that’s a role that he’s happy to play for her. But the truth is, Spencer has plenty of darkness inside, too. An ex Navy SEAL, he knows how to get sh—um, stuff done. He also knows how to be very, very naughty.

  When danger threatens his Haley, all bets are off. No one is going to hurt her. No one is going to threaten her. Not in his town. Not on his watch. The nice guy will show Haley just how bad he can be.

  Fake snow, a parade of wild elves, and a stalker ex don’t make for the merriest of times, but in Point Hope, anything can happen—and it usually does. Ready for a steamy story that will get you in the ho-ho-ho spirit? Settle back, curl up with Spencer, and have yourself a jolly old time.

  By Cynthia Eden

  This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real people, places, or events are not intentional and are purely the result of coincidence. The characters, places, and events in this story are fictional.

  Copyright ©2019 by Cindy Roussos

  All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form without the express written consent of the author except for the use of small quotes or excerpts used in book reviews.

  Copy-editing by: JRT Editing

  (build 2)

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  One Hot Holiday

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Epilogue

  Author’s Note

  About The Author

  For my readers,

  I wish you a holiday season filled with joy, magic, and, of course, romance.

  —Cynthia

  Chapter One

  The gorgeous blonde in the tight jeans, sexy boots, and long, brown coat was about to get her sweet ass run over by a group of elves.

  She hauled a suitcase behind her, dragging the massive beast on its clunking wheels as she tried to cross the road. She didn’t seem aware of the approaching elves, even though they were ringing their bells like maniacs and singing Christmas carols at the top of their very healthy lungs. The elves careened down the street on their decorated bikes. Bikes covered in merry green and red ribbons, some even sporting twinkling holiday lights. Seriously, it should have been hard to miss them.

  The blonde missed them.

  She plodded along, her head down, her curly hair sliding over her face, and Sheriff Spencer Lane knew that he had to act. After all, his job was to serve and protect.

  The elves sang out, “Have a holly, jolly Christmas—”

  Just as Spencer made his move. He lunged into the street, raced toward the woman, and locked an arm around her waist. She screamed when he touched her, and he was pretty sure a delicate fist drove at him, but he grabbed her and her luggage, and he rushed out of the line of fire right before the elves came barreling by on their bikes…one after the other after the other…

  “Let me go!”

  He immediately did. The elves kept flying past them. And singing. Their voices would haunt his dreams. No, not dreams. Nightmares. Definitely his nightmares.

  “Listen, buddy, what in the hell are you—” She stopped. Her gaze was locked on his chest. Or rather, on the shiny star that was clipped to his breast pocket. She stared at the star and a tremble shook her body.

  “Sorry, ma’am,” Spencer told her, keeping his voice mild. “But you were about to get mowed down by the elves, and with them singing so…” Badly, so very badly. God, would some singing lessons kill them? “Ah, loudly, I didn’t think you’d hear a warning.” He inclined his head toward her, but she didn’t see the movement. She was still too busy staring at his star. So he lifted a hand and brushed it over the star. A casual flick of his fingers to get her attention. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t get hurt.”

  As if the movement of his hand had broken some kind of spell, her gaze snapped up to his. She blinked, then her lips—luscious, red lips—parted.

  But she didn’t speak. She just stared.

  Huh. Okay. Well, he decided to do some staring, too. And, damn, but Spencer liked the view he had. Sexy. Beautiful. Her face was a delicate oval. Her nose was a cute friggin’ button. Her lips—Jesus, no way he’d be forgetting that sensual mouth anytime soon—were full and bow-shaped. Big, hoop earrings hung from her cute little lobes, and a red scarf slid down her body. A body that he’d already noticed was in very fine form.

  He cleared his throat. Get your shit together, man. “Are you…visiting?” Spencer finally asked. Be visiting. Be visiting and be single.

  She licked her lower lip.

  Fuck me. He cleared his throat and tried to ignore the growing hard-on he had for her. The sheriff was supposed to be professional, dammit. He did not start drooling every time he saw a pretty woman. “Ah, do you need any assistance?”

  She backed up. Not just one step—but like five fast steps. The elves were still racing behind her—most of the town was dressed for the practice run of the holiday parade—so he had to grab his mystery lady again before she got hit.

  His hands closed around her shoulders, and he pulled her back against him. “Be careful.” His voice had lowered. “I don’t want you hurt.”

  Her scent wrapped around him. She smelled like raspberries and cream. Sweet. Delectable.

  “You’re…a cop.”

  Oh, yeah, there was a whole lot of tension in her voice.

  Spencer let her go. He tried a smile for her. It was his…I’m harmless. Don’t be scared of me smile. It usually worked. “I’m the sheriff here.” He nodded. “Sheriff Spencer Lane, at your service.” He gave a little incline of his head—

  Fear.

  He knew it when he saw it, and fe
ar was suddenly stamped on her pretty face. Spencer didn’t like that, not one bit. Tension snaked through his body. “What’s wrong?”

  At his question, the fear vanished. A smooth mask slipped over her face. “Why, nothing. Just a little jarred by the…” She looked over her shoulder and waved vaguely with one hand. “Elves?”

  He wasn’t going to buy her act. Too late, he’d already seen her fear. Now he was focused, and his instincts were screaming at him. He wasn’t just some small-town cop. He’d been a SEAL, he’d been a private government operative, and he’d even been a bodyguard for the rich and famous during a very short stint in his life. He’d seen shit that would traumatize most folks. Hell, wasn’t that the reason he’d retired back home to his sleepy little town of Point Hope, Alabama? To get away from the madness for a while?

  “Why are there elves on bicycles?” She tucked a curling lock of hair behind one ear. “Is that a normal thing here?”

  Normal? Ha. Like that beast existed in this town. “There’s not a whole lot of normal in Point Hope. That’s a point of pride for us.”

  Her eyes widened. Night had blossomed in the town, but there was plenty of light. Another Point Hope tradition—holiday lights were everywhere. Like…everywhere. Big, sweeping trees lined the streets and storefronts, and every single tree was decked out with small, white lights. The soft glow allowed Spencer to see that her eyes were the darkest, deepest shade of green imaginable.

  Unforgettable.

  “Normal is boring,” he added, his voice gruff. “Life is much more fun when you’re coloring outside of the lines.”

  “I…” She looked away.

  Something tells me there isn’t a single boring thing about you. “Didn’t catch your name,” he told her, trying to sound polite.

  Her gaze jumped back to him. “I’m…Haley. Haley, ah, Quick.”

  There was the faintest hesitation there. A hesitation that had his instincts blaring. Had the woman just given him a fake name? So not boring. He offered his hand to her. “Welcome to Point Hope, Mrs. Quick.”

  “Oh, I’m not married.”

  Excellent to know. He smiled.

  Her fingers reached for his. Her touch was tentative, and her skin was insanely soft. His fingers curled around hers. Warmth surged through his whole body, a quick, electric jolt. She gave a little gasp and immediately yanked her hand back.

  So she’d felt the spark of attraction, too. Another excellent-to-know point.

  “You didn’t tell me why elves are on bicycles.”

  He liked her voice. It was warm and rich, and every now and then, he caught the faint wisp of an accent. New York. Upper New York.

  “They’re prepping for the annual holiday parade. We had a few incidents last year.” When you were wearing a full elf costume, peddling a decorated beast of a bike, ringing bells, singing, and throwing candy to kids who came out to watch your parade…well, not everyone was coordinated enough to pull off that mega combo. The results had been very unfortunate and not pretty. Elf bike pile-ups weren’t ever fun. “So we’re taking precautions and doing a run-through this year for safety.” They’d ditched the candy treats portion of the event so the elves could keep their hands on the bikes.

  “Right. Safety.” She looked at the ground. Spied her suitcase and made a grab for it. “Thanks for the save. I was lost in my own head and didn’t even hear them coming.” She gave a quick wave. “Nice to meet you, Sheriff Lane.”

  She turned away. He should have let her go. It would have been gentlemanly not to say—

  “Liar.”

  Haley stiffened. “Excuse me?” Her head swung toward him.

  He put his hands on his hips. “I called you a liar.”

  Her mouth opened. Closed. Then… “That’s rude.”

  His own lips twitched. “True. But you didn’t think it was nice to meet me.”

  “I—how do you know that?”

  At least she wasn’t lying again.

  Spencer closed the distance between them. Maybe his nostrils flared so he could pull in her sweet scent. The woman truly smelled incredible. Good enough to eat. “Because as soon as you saw this…” He tapped the star on his chest. “You tensed up. You became afraid.”

  He waited for another lie. He’d always been good at spotting liars.

  And good at spotting trouble.

  While Haley Quick was as sexy as the best sin he’d ever seen, he also knew that the woman was trouble. From the top of her blonde head to the bottom of those sexy boots.

  When she didn’t speak, he prompted, “Want to tell me why you were afraid?”

  “I was afraid because I was almost run down by about thirty elves on bicycles.”

  His head cocked. “That the story you’re going with?”

  “That’s what happened. I was grabbed by a stranger—”

  Spencer winced. “I was trying to save you.”

  “And nearly run down. That kind of situation would stress anyone.” Her gaze held his. A challenge if he’d ever seen one.

  Did she have any idea how very much he loved a challenge? Spencer nodded. “Fair enough. But, just so you know, you don’t need to be afraid of me. I’m one of the good guys.”

  She laughed. “That’s adorable.” Haley shook her head. “But there is no such thing as a good guy.” She turned on her heel. Dragged the clunking suitcase toward the crosswalk. “Good-bye, Sheriff Lane.”

  Bam. That was how you dismissed a man. He watched her walk away with her chin up, her suitcase rolling, and her shoulders thrown back.

  Haley Quick. I am sure I will be seeing you again.

  He turned away and—

  An elf on a wobbly bike barreled right into him.

  “Sonofabitch,” Spencer growled as they both went down.

  ***

  Haley stopped in front of a massive, wrought-iron gate. She sucked in a deep breath and decided that she was grateful for the fact that, just two weeks before Christmas, the temperature was a warm seventy degrees. She’d walked from the main “downtown” area of Point Hope in order to get to this destination. Walked along a sidewalk lined with an assortment of flowers. Beautiful, blooming flowers…in December. Every street corner had been lit with a glowing lantern and a merry wreath. The night had been quiet, just punctuated by the random sound of insects.

  This place…it was so very far from her home. New York wasn’t ever quiet. There were always people talking. Cars buzzing by. Sirens screaming in the night. There was always activity and excitement, and that energy had fed her soul.

  She’d loved New York. Adored her life there as a gallery manager. She loved the shows. The pulse of the city. The art. The parties. And then…

  Then it had all been taken away from her. In a blink, she’d lost everything she’d worked so hard to achieve.

  Don’t think about it. Not right now. You’re almost safe. She just had to get past the gate and get to the room she’d rented. When she’d been planning her escape, she’d found this tiny place online. A rental that she could afford, in a place as far and as different from New York as possible. The perfect place to hide.

  He won’t ever think to look for me here. He would think that she needed big cities. Fancy hotel rooms. He won’t find me.

  “Ahem.”

  Haley spun around.

  The sheriff was behind her. The ridiculously sexy sheriff who’d maybe saved her from an accident in town. There were flickering gas lights on either side of the wrought-iron gate, and those lights let her see him—well, not perfectly—but well enough to recognize the absolute trouble that he was.

  “Are you following me?” Haley demanded as she put a hand over her racing heart.

  “Nope. In fact, I was here first.”

  Her gaze shot around. “Where’s your car?”

  “Where’s yours?”

  Her hand fell. “I don’t have one. I walked here from town.”

  “And you were…dropped off in town?”

  She did not like the suspicion
in his tone. Or the fact that he’s been following me. She totally didn’t buy that he’d been there first. “I was dropped off, yes. Just a few clicks on my phone and I had a driver who brought me to my destination.” Only she hadn’t wanted him to take her completely to her final destination. Just in case she was tracked. Just in case someone eventually paid off the driver to get her location.

  So she’d been dropped off downtown. After her run-in with the elves and the sheriff, she’d walked to…

  Here.

  The sheriff crossed his arms over his chest.

  A very wide and muscled chest. This wasn’t some hick sheriff—and, confession, she’d rather imagined that a town like Point Hope would have a hick sheriff. Someone who spoke with a super heavy drawl and enjoyed drinking sweet tea on a wide porch. Spencer Lane didn’t have a heavy drawl. Instead, he kind of sounded like Matthew McConaughey. And he looked jacked. Like he worked out every single day and enjoyed the hell out of his workouts. He was probably around six two, with linebacker shoulders, thick black hair, and he had dark eyes that had seemed to see right through her.

  Liar.

  He’d pegged her correctly. She was a liar. And she’d continue to be one because she was worried about the little matter of her survival.

  “There a reason you’re loitering out here, ma’am?” he asked.

  Loitering? Her spine snapped straight up. “Listen, stalker sheriff…”

  Did he laugh? She wasn’t laughing.

  “I happen to be renting a space at this address. I wasn’t loitering. I was preparing to go inside.”

  “Ah…” A sharp nod. “That’s right. The owner does rent out the guest cottage, but to my knowledge, that cottage is scheduled to be occupied by a Luke Shaw.”

  Oh, no. If he knew who was renting the cottage…

  “I mean, that is the name I was given when I was contacted through the rental site,” he continued smoothly. “I was told that Luke Shaw would be paying in cash for the property when he arrived. I know most folks require a credit card to secure a rental, but, hey, it’s the holidays, so I decided to be generous.”

 
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