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One hot holiday, p.5

One Hot Holiday, page 5

 

One Hot Holiday
 


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  She hadn’t believed him then.

  And he hadn’t believed his words would come back to bite him in the ass so quickly. They had. Because Haley Quick—the sexiest woman he’d met in ages—had just put him in the nice guy zone.

  Sure, sure, she’d called him a good guy, but he knew what she meant.

  Sonofabitch. She might as well have slapped him in the friend zone. He whirled away. His body was tight and hard and he needed a very icy shower…

  She thought he was nice. Fucking hell.

  Chapter Four

  This was so embarrassing. Especially after the night they’d had so far but…

  Haley lifted her hand and rapped against Spencer’s front door. She quickly shoved her hands behind her back and tried to school her expression. The man had just left her twenty minutes ago. Right after she’d told him that basically—nope, nothing is going to happen between us. Because it couldn’t happen. Could not. If he got too close and learned her secrets, she’d be royally screwed—

  The door swung open.

  Screwed. She was well and truly screwed.

  Her lips parted. Her heart raced. And her eyes dropped.

  Spencer was wet and wearing a towel. Only a towel. A white towel that he’d hurriedly knotted around his lean hips and the towel appeared to be in major jeopardy of falling. One little tug, and Haley was sure it would drop.

  She forced her gaze to jerk away from the top of the towel. From the fabric that simply needed a tiny tug to come loose. Her stare lifted, and she saw abs. Abs for freaking days. The man must work out like a beast because he was ripped. Ripped enough to make a woman drool. Or moan. Maybe both.

  Definitely both.

  Water droplets snaked down his abs. Such lickable abs.

  Look up. She made her eyes rise even more. Shoulders. There. She’d look at his—wow, his shoulders were even broader than she’d thought before. Wide and strong.

  “Haley?” He waved his hand in front of her face.

  Crap. Focus.

  Spencer took the hand he’d just waved and shoved it through his wet hair. “What’s the emergency?”

  “Shower.” Wonderful. She’d managed to croak one whole word because, obviously, she was amazing.

  “Yeah, yeah, sorry.” He glanced down at his body.

  So did she.

  No wonder Keri had been all on Team Spencer. Most of the women in the town were no doubt Team Spencer.

  “I was in the shower,” he continued gruffly. “I’d just gotten out when I heard you knock. I thought it might be an emergency, so I rushed to the door.” His gaze flew back to her. “Is it an emergency?” His stare was flat and hard. “Is something wrong? Did something scare you?”

  “No.”

  He waited.

  She should say something else. Jeez. What was wrong with her? She’d seen naked bodies before. He wasn’t even completely naked. He was just wet. In a towel. And ripped. So, so ripped. “You should…put some clothes on.” She shook her head. “No, I’ll just come back. It can wait.” She spun on her heel—

  He snagged her hand. “Just come inside.”

  Haley glanced back at him.

  “I’ll put on clothes. You come inside. You tell me what’s wrong.”

  “It’s really not a big deal.” He had faint calluses on his fingertips. They were slightly rough against her skin, and his touch was so warm.

  Spencer let her go. “Big enough of a deal for you to come knocking.” His hand dropped to his towel.

  She did not look down again.

  “Come on in,” he told her as he turned and headed into the house.

  His back was just as strong and muscled as his front. He had a tattoo on his left shoulder. It looked like… “Is that a trident?”

  His shoulders stiffened. “Yep.”

  Beneath the trident, she saw a faint, red scar. Actually, there was another scar on his back, too. Lower down. She found herself hurrying forward, and her hand rose to touch his back. Her fingers skimmed over his skin—

  Spencer whirled around and grabbed her wrist. His grip was tight, but not at all painful. “Probably shouldn’t do that,” he gritted out.

  “I—”

  “Dammit. Your wrist.” He immediately eased his hold, and his fingers moved to brush carefully over the fading bruises there. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

  “You didn’t.”

  His fingers caressed her skin once more. Did he feel the way her pulse was suddenly racing?

  Probably.

  She cleared her throat. “I shouldn’t have touched you. I’m sorry.”

  He’d been staring at her wrist, but at her words, Spencer’s gaze rose and his stare pinned her. “You saw the scars.”

  “Yes.”

  His lips quirked. “Don’t sound so sad. They don’t hurt anymore.”

  But they’d obviously hurt very badly once. “You were shot.”

  He let her go. “Just so you know, the towel fell when I grabbed you.”

  Her gaze whipped down, then immediately back up. She whirled around and gave him her back.

  His soft laughter followed her. Then… “I’m covered, but so that doesn’t happen again, I’m going to put on clothes.”

  She’d left the front door open when she followed him inside. Haley hurried toward it. Shut it. Flipped the lock.

  The sound of his footsteps padded away.

  She decided it was time to breathe again. She sucked in a deep, heavy breath. Let it out. Took about five more deep breaths before she turned around and stared at—

  Wow. A huge Christmas tree. Had to be at least sixteen feet tall. The thing was massive. Spencer’s den had one of those crazy, tall ceilings—at least two stories. There was a snaking, wooden staircase that led upstairs, and the massive tree was right next to it. The tree hadn’t been decorated yet. The tree just waited. The scent of fresh pine filled the air.

  She took a few steps toward the tree. Her hand reached out to touch one of the branches.

  “Sorry. I’m decent now. You don’t have to worry about any other flasher scenes.”

  Her hand yanked back. Haley turned toward Spencer. He stood a few feet away, clad in a pair of jeans that hugged his hips and powerful thighs. His feet were bare, and come on, the man even had good-looking toes. Tanned feet. Big feet. The big feet fit, though, going along with his big—

  “Like the tree?” Spencer asked with a wave of his hand.

  He hadn’t put on a shirt and his muscles flexed with the movement.

  “Haley?”

  She nodded. “I…it’s almost as big as the one at Rockefeller.”

  Spencer laughed. “Doubtful. It was supposed to go at the high school, but there was a mix-up and two trees were delivered. Didn’t want the farm to lose out on the money, so I bought it and had it delivered here.” He headed toward the tree. “You probably think it’s crazy for me to have that tree here, huh? A giant tree and just me in the house?”

  She looked back at the tree. “I think it’s quite beautiful.” Her voice had softened. She hadn’t thought she needed Christmas this year. This year was supposed to be about surviving. Escape. But… “I don’t think it’s crazy at all.”

  “Great. Then you can help me decorate it tomorrow.”

  She could help him do what now?

  Haley slanted him a suspicious glance, but he gave her his wide, reassuring smile. God, the man was too gorgeous. Gorgeous men were trouble. Trouble. Even nice gorgeous men.

  “Want to tell me your emergency?” He took another step toward her. “What sent you running to my door?”

  “I…” She cleared her throat. “It’s not a big deal. It could wait until tomorrow. The, uh, hot water stopped working in the shower.” She hadn’t been able to get it to heat up. “I just was coming by…” Her voice trailed away.

  He winked at her. “Because I’m the landlord and you want me to fix that shit right away?”

  “Um, yes, please.”

  He laughed. “You don
’t ever have to ‘please’ me. I’ll take a look right now.” Spencer started to turn away.

  She bounded toward him. Touched his arm. “No, it can totally wait—”

  She’d meant to touch his arm. Her fingers had missed her goal. She’d wound up touching his chest and now her hand was doing a crazy lingering thing that could not be good. No way. No day. “It can wait,” Haley repeated softly.

  “No. You want warm water, so I’m getting it for you.”

  Was his voice deeper? Darker? Seemed that way. She pulled back her hand. Fisted her fingers. A few moments later, they were leaving his place and heading to her cottage. He’d snagged a t-shirt and running shoes on his way out. She led the way, but as she got closer to her cottage, her steps slowed.

  She stared at the little cottage. Then her slow steps stopped.

  “Haley? What’s up?”

  Her gaze remained on the cottage. “I shut and locked the front door when I left.” Lights blazed from inside, and the door was wide open.

  He didn’t ask her if she was sure. Didn’t ask if she hadn’t left in a hurry and made a mistake. He grabbed her hand and immediately pulled her back.

  “Wait, I—”

  “No waiting.” He lifted her over his shoulder. Seriously, Spencer hoisted her up and put her over his shoulder and her mouth dropped open because that was the last move she’d expected. Haley got a fast and up-close view of Spencer’s ass as he rushed back to his place. In a flash, he unlocked the door and deposited her inside.

  His eyes were cold. His stare flat and hard. “You stay here.” He disappeared into the study on his right for a moment, then came back out with a gun in his hand. “Lock the door behind me and stay here.”

  “Spencer—”

  “If someone is in your place, I don’t want you anywhere near the cottage. Stay here.”

  “But—but shouldn’t you call for backup or something?”

  He frowned at her. “Sweetheart, I am backup.”

  That was a crazy badass thing to say and she opened her mouth to tell him that, but it was too late. He’d already left. Her fingers were shaking when she locked the door.

  ***

  Spencer’s steps were dead silent as he entered the cottage. He’d been trained to move stealthily, and he knew how to secure an area. He took his time on the search, not wanting to miss anything and not planning to give any intruders the chance to jump him. As he made his way through the cottage, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. No furniture overturned. No signs of a search or robbery.

  The cottage was quiet. Still. One by one, he checked the rooms until he was in Haley’s bedroom. His gaze darted to the left and right. He checked the closet. Under the bed. Her bathroom. Everything was clear. And, again, everything seemed undisturbed.

  He took a step back. Haley had unpacked her suitcase. Her clothes hung neatly in the closet. Two pairs of shoes were carefully positioned on the closet floor. She had a few make-up items on the bathroom sink.

  Everything seemed normal. But…

  His head turned. The door that led to the little patio area was closed. Spencer strode toward it, and his hand lifted toward the lock.

  Broken.

  The lock had been broken on the door, so that anyone who might want to come into Haley’s bedroom—anyone who wanted to sneak inside from the patio—could just waltz right in. While she was sleeping?

  Fuck, no.

  He opened the door and stepped outside. The moon gave him enough light to see down below—the winding steps on the wooden staircase that led down to the small beach and the bay. The long dock that snaked out over the water. No one was there. At least, no one that he saw.

  But every instinct he had screamed at him that someone had been in the cottage that night. And the broken lock in her bedroom…

  That was bothering him the most.

  Okay, so maybe the intruder had gotten in that way. Gotten in through the easiest lock, realized there wasn’t anything too valuable inside and run out the front door but…

  The TV wasn’t taken. None of the appliances were stolen. And they were all high end.

  But the intruder could have come through the back, tried to find a quick grab and then run out the front door when he hadn’t seen anything small enough for a fast snatch and grab.

  Or…

  Or the intruder didn’t want to take anything. He’d been looking for someone. He’d been looking for Haley, and when she hadn’t been here, he’d left?

  Spencer didn’t like the options. None of them. And fucking especially not option number two. He did another sweep. Then he headed down to the beach. He’d grabbed his phone when he left his house, and he used it to call the sheriff’s station now. He wanted the cottage checked for prints. Sure, a smart thief would use gloves, but in his experience, thieves weren’t always smart.

  Sometimes, they were dumbasses.

  After he finished his call, he continued the search. The waves crashed into the shore as he looked along the beach. He used the light from his phone to sweep along the sand. If anyone had come that way, he’d see footprints.

  There were none. No tracks at all in the sand.

  He glanced back up at the stairs. At the lights that shone from his house and from the cottage. He’d left Haley up there. What if the intruder hadn’t left? What if he’d just been biding his time and waiting for her to be alone again?

  Spencer bounded back up the stairs. He was damn thorough as he made his way back to the main house. The property’s front gate was closed. Secured. There was a camera out there, so he’d be checking it ASAP. Spencer circled back to the house, and he kept the gun in his hand. He reached for the doorknob—

  The door yanked open.

  Haley stood there. Her eyes were wide, and her face was too pale.

  “I didn’t see anyone.” He entered. Put the gun down on a nearby table. Secured the door. “I’ve got a crew coming by to check for prints because someone sure as hell was in the cottage. The door in the bedroom had its lock broken. I’m just fucking glad you weren’t there when—”

  She hugged him. Threw her body against his and hugged him tight. “I’m glad you were with me,” she muttered. “Very, very glad.”

  His hands closed around her shoulders. And he wondered what would have happened if Haley had been in the bedroom when the intruder slipped inside…

  Just what might the sonofabitch have done to her?

  Spencer’s hold tightened on her.

  Chapter Five

  “You’re staying here.”

  Haley turned toward him. She had her hands tucked in the back pockets of her jeans, and her loose sweater slid off one shoulder. “Is your team done with the cottage?”

  “Yes.” Though they’d turned up nothing. “Even got new locks on the doors.”

  She gave a decisive nod as her hair slid over her shoulders. “Great. Then I can get out of your way and—”

  He moved into her path. “You’re staying here.”

  She cut him a narrowed glance. “That sounds like an order.” And her voice sounded like she was less than pleased to be receiving an order from him.

  Too bad. “That’s because it is. Someone broke into the cottage. My property. You could have been hurt while you were there, and that would have been on me.” Rage burned beneath his skin. He hated the thought of her in danger. “You asked about a security system when you first arrived, and I should’ve had it put in today.” He’d screwed up. She’d almost paid the price. “I assure you, the company will be here first thing tomorrow, and you’ll be safe. Until then, you aren’t getting back in the cottage. You’re staying with me.”

  She backed up a step. “That’s very…gentlemanly of you and all—”

  Gentlemanly? Great, they were back to the nice category. He growled, “I’m not feeling fucking gentlemanly tonight. The door that was broken led straight to your bedroom. You could’ve been hurt.”

  Her breath caught. Something flashed in her eyes, an emotion he couldn
t quite name. “I get that you feel responsible because you own the cottage, but this isn’t on you.”

  Who the hell else was it on? “My property. You’re staying here.” He wasn’t going to debate this. Her safety came first.

  But she straightened her shoulders and jutted out her cute chin. “Right. The cottage is yours. I’m not.”

  I’d damn well like for you to be. He barely bit back those words. Now probably wasn’t the right time for them. Correction, it definitely wasn’t the right time for them.

  “You can’t tell me where to stay or what to do. So, thanks…” She stepped around him. “But I’ve got—”

  “You’re scared.” Time to cut through the BS.

  She faltered.

  “No, make that terrified. When we went back to the cottage, and the door was open, I could see the terror. Hell, I could practically smell it on you.” He reached for her hand. Carefully, he lifted her wrist. The bruises had faded more to a yellowish color. “It’s all related. You’re running. You ran from the bastard who did this, and now you’re afraid he’s found you.”

  “He hasn’t,” she retorted quickly. Her voice was a bit sharp.

  Ah. So I’m right.

  “He hasn’t.” She tugged her wrist away. “I left and I didn’t exactly leave a forwarding address. There is no way he found me this quickly.”

  Spencer crossed his arms over his chest. The better to not grab her. “You trying to convince me of that? Or yourself?”

  She raked a hand through her loose curls. “I heard your deputies talking. They figured it was probably some punk kid. They mentioned that you get the occasional break-in around here. Even small-town USA has crimes. It’s the holidays, and one of your deputies said the intruder could’ve been looking for expensive gifts to grab. Since none were there, he ran as fast as he could.”

  A few things nagged at him. Like the fact that…“The intruder wasn’t caught on the camera near the gate.”

  “Yes, because he knew how to avoid it. Even punk kids can avoid certain things.” Her words came out quickly. “There are woods on either side of your property. He could have darted through there and made his big escape.”

 
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