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One hot holiday, p.7

One Hot Holiday, page 7


One Hot Holiday

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He wasn’t hesitant. He was confident. Seductive. His lips and tongue were amazing—no other word for it. Spencer wasn’t some bumbling kisser. He was a man who kissed like he damn well knew what he was doing. Not too wet. Not too hard. Seducing. Claiming.


  She wanted more. So much more.

  He caught her lower lip between his teeth. Gave a sensual nip.

  She moaned again.

  Then his tongue was thrusting back into her mouth. She met him full force. Her body pressed to his as she tried to get as close to him as possible. Her breasts were aching, the tight nipples thrusting against the cotton of her shirt, and she knew he had to feel them pushing against his chest.

  Haley was so turned on that she wanted to rub her whole body against his, and it was all just from a kiss.

  A simple kiss.

  He lifted his head.

  Her breath rushed out.

  “I don’t know what it was like for you, Haley.” His voice was deep and hard. A sensual rumble. “But for me, the second time was just as fucking fantastic as the first.”

  She licked her lips and tasted him. But Haley shook her head. A very definite no.

  A furrow appeared on his forehead.

  “It wasn’t as fantastic,” she told him seriously. Her voice had turned way husky. “It was even better.” How was that possible? Shaken, aching, she spun away from him. “Good night, Spence.” Spence.

  She hurried up the stairs.

  “I think you’re right. It was better.” A pause. “Kinda makes you wonder what it will be like next time.”

  She almost tripped.

  “Sweet dreams, Haley. I’ll see you in the morning.”

  No, he wouldn’t. Because she would be long gone when the sun rose.

  Chapter Six

  Spencer crossed his arms over his chest as he stood near the gate at the front of his property. A quick glance at the lighted dial of his watch showed him that it was nearing six a.m. He figured he wouldn’t have much longer to wait…

  Then he heard the grinding. A very distinct sound.

  Right on time.

  The grinding came for a few more moments, then Haley ambled into view. The sun was just starting to rise. Faint streaks of red and gold slid across the sky. Haley’s head was down, and her blonde curls tumbled over her face as she pulled the big, rolling suitcase behind her. The wheels were grinding over the pavement. He waited a bit longer, and she still didn’t glance up, so…

  “You need a hand with that?”

  Her head whipped back, and she stared at him with wide eyes. Her breath heaved in and out. In and… “Jesus! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

  Are you trying to sneak away when my back is turned? Instead of asking that question, he merely said, “I was trying to give you a hand with your luggage. It appears that you are…going somewhere.”

  Her lips clamped together. She kicked the suitcase a bit behind her, as if it hid the freaking thing. The move would have almost been adorable, if she hadn’t been trying to leave him.

  Haley didn’t respond.

  He sighed. “You’re running away.”

  “I am not. I am walking out to the road because my ride should be here soon.”

  He lifted an eyebrow.

  “I called one of those ride share services. The friendly fellow will be arriving any moment.” She bit her lower lip. “You realized I was going to leave? Leave, not run.”

  You’re running, baby. You’re terrified, and I need you to trust me. “I figured it out last night when you kissed me.” He dropped his hands and stalked toward her.

  Her shoulders stiffened.

  “No.” Spencer shook his head. “Not gonna happen. You don’t ever need to be afraid of me.” He waved toward the road. “You want to leave, you do it. Your choice.” Always, your choice. He closed the rest of the distance between them and stopped in front of her. “But you want to stay, if you want to have someone on your side who will keep you safe from whatever nightmare is following you, then you choose to stay with me. You choose me, got it?”

  Her head tilted back. “You don’t know me.”

  “You sure about that? Because I know you like to drink a glass of milk to help you sleep. I know your mouth is soft and sweet, and I’ve never gotten lost in a kiss the way I do with you.”

  Her cheeks flushed.

  “I know you like to listen to the sound of the waves, and I know that when you smell a Christmas tree, you smile just for a moment, before you catch yourself. And I know—unfortunately, I know—what it looks like when you’re afraid.”

  She swallowed. Fiddled with the suitcase.

  “You came to my town afraid. Last night, the break-in spooked you even more because you think your past caught up to you. But you don’t trust me enough to help you. You want to run.” Now he shook his head. “You don’t have to do that. Take a chance on me. I can help you.”

  A car slowly rolled to a stop near the gate. The driver opened the door. “Uh, I’m here for Haley Quick?”

  She didn’t look at the driver. Her gaze stayed on Spencer. “I wish I’d met you before.” There was longing in her voice.

  He wanted to grab her, hold her tight, and not ever let her go. Instead, he locked down every muscle in his body. “You’ve met me now. Fuck the past.”

  She pushed up on her toes and kissed him. Her lips were open, warm and sweet, and that electric charge he felt whenever they kissed surged through him. Kissing her ignited a white-hot need within him, and he wanted to stop playing the fucking gentleman and just take.

  But she was backing away. “I didn’t know it could feel like that. Every time…” Her voice was low, just for him as she confessed, “I kiss you, and everything goes crazy.”

  Didn’t she get that crazy could be good? It could be exactly what she needed.

  “You don’t want me in your life, Spence.”

  Yes, he fucking did.

  She stepped around him, rolling that damn bag with her. He heard her check the driver’s info out, and he was glad she was being safe. Reviewing the tag number, making sure this was the guy who was supposed to pick her up, doing everything right.


  She’s still leaving me.

  Spencer marched forward. He took the bag from her. Put it in the car. Then he stared down at her. “Come back to me.”

  Her eyes widened.

  “When you get on the road and you realize that you don’t have to keep running, come back to me.”

  Her lower lip started to tremble. She caught it. Bit it.

  And he backed away. He didn’t say a word as she climbed into the car and the nervous driver winced.

  “Sorry, man,” he muttered as he appeared super uncomfortable. “Didn’t realize this was a break-up scene. Getting dumped during the holidays sucks but—”

  “Screw off,” Spencer told him flatly.

  “Well, merry Christmas to you, too, buddy.” The man gave him a cheery wave with one finger and climbed into the car. A few minutes later, the vehicle was heading down the road.

  Haley was gone.


  “So you want to get dropped off at the nearest bus station?” The driver’s voice was all chipper as he adjusted the radio and holiday tunes filled the car. “I’ll have you there in no time.”

  She glanced back through the rear windshield. She didn’t see Spencer any longer. He was gone.

  “Broke up with the boyfriend and you’re heading home to family, huh? Good thing. Family is where you should be during this time of the year.”

  She didn’t have any family. Her parents were dead. She didn’t have a home.

  She had…

  “Come back to me.” Spencer’s voice whispered through her mind.

  Her hand lifted and her fingers touched her lips. The last kiss had been a mistake. She should have stayed away from him. Now she could feel him. Now she could taste him. Now…

  “Take a chance on me.” Why couldn’t she get
his words out of her head?

  “Miss?” The driver cleared his throat. “You good back there?”

  Good? Nope. Not even close.

  “You changed your mind? You know where you want to go?”

  She knew. She wanted Spencer. She’d said that he didn’t know her, and his response had made her insides quiver. Had anyone ever said sweet things like that to her?

  And she’d realized that she knew him, too.

  She knew the people in the town respected him. Knew that he went out of his way to keep everyone safe, even diving into the path of oncoming elves. She knew that he had a killer voice and that he could kiss ever-so-amazingly well under the mistletoe…and everywhere else, too.

  She knew he wasn’t afraid to jump into action when a threat appeared. Knew he was chivalrous enough to carry a lady so she wouldn’t step on broken shards of a mug. Knew that he was one heck of a handyman because his home repairs had been super impressive to her.

  Knew that he had a wild side because he liked to drive his motorcycle…and because he’d been a Navy SEAL.

  Knew that he had abs for days. Days. Nights. Weeks.

  Knew that he hadn’t pushed her. Hadn’t pressured her.

  Knew that he’d watched her drive away, but told her to come back to him.

  “Ahem.” The driver cleared his throat once more. “Does the silence mean we should keep heading for the bus station or did you have another destination in mind?”

  Haley blinked and her head turned so that she wasn’t looking back any longer. After all, what was the point in looking back? There was nothing good to see in the past. “I know exactly where I’m going.”


  “You seem a little…extra pissy today, Spence.”

  Spencer glanced up from his computer and narrowed his eyes on the deputy who’d just spoken. Deputy Titus Malone beamed back at him. Titus had been working at the station for the last year, and the guy was a good deputy. Not just good, but amazing. He didn’t take shit from anyone, he always arrived for his shift on time, and the fellow genuinely loved his job. Wins all around. But today…

  “Don’t start with me, Titus.”

  “Is this about that trouble at your place last night…or, rather, trouble with the lady at your place last night?” Titus wiggled his brows.

  Spencer let out a long sigh as he leaned back in his chair. “You don’t want to go there.”

  Now Titus winced. “Aw, man, that bad, huh? Look why don’t you come with me to Maureen’s bar? I know you’re off duty. Let’s get out of here. You can’t be moping around this place all night.”

  Why not? Wasn’t like anyone was waiting at home for him.

  “Do not be a buzz kill. I need you to be my wingman.” Titus nodded briskly. “Got my eye on a certain lady, but you know it always helps when you come in with a good wingman at your side.”

  Like Titus needed a good wingman. The ladies were crazy about him. They whispered and giggled about how he looked just like the actor Shamar Moore. Titus kept his head smoothly shaved, and his dark eyes twinkled…even when he was busting perps. His grin was infectious, and damn if even the bad guys didn’t start to like him.

  “Come on,” Titus urged as his voice turned wheedling. “I bet they will even let you sing karaoke if you ask nicely.”

  “Fuck off,” Spencer grumbled.

  Titus only laughed. “Bro, get your lovesick ass out of the chair. Let’s move.”

  If Titus wasn’t his best friend, Spencer would have told him to fuck off yet again. But they’d been SEALs together. They’d survived a nightmare together, and Titus—despite his easy smiles—had a world of pain inside of him. He was as close to Spencer as a brother, and Spencer knew the guy was trying to get him out of his funk.

  A fucking funk. He was down because Haley had left him. They’d just met. Yes, they had explosive chemistry. Yes, she made him feel alive for the first time since he’d come back to the US after his deployments but…

  She was gone.

  And I’m worried that trouble is chasing her.

  “You look like you lost your best friend, man. It’s sad. So sad.” Titus lifted his hands. “Because your best friend is standing right here.” He pointed to himself. “Now get your ass up and come with me to the bar. Don’t make me ask again.”

  Fine. Fine. He stood. Grabbed his old, beat-up jacket. He’d already changed out of his uniform hours ago, and now he wore jeans and a black shirt. He shouldered into the jacket.

  “That’s what I’m talking about,” Titus said approvingly. “One woman is not worth this much angst.”

  “Angst?” His eyes turned to slits. “You did not use that fucking word.”

  Titus turned away. “Yeah, well, glad your angsty ass is up.”

  The man was such a sonofabitch. The kind of sonofabitch that you always wanted at your side because he looked after you. Spencer threw an arm around Titus’s shoulders. “All right. All right. Who’s the lady you’re after tonight?”


  There were a lot of strangers at Maureen’s bar. Most of the visitors came in the spring for the big arts festival. Then others headed to town for summer vacation.

  Strangers during the holidays? Well, they were usually in town because they came to visit family members. Point Hope received a few snow birds, too, but most of the birds preferred to head on down to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach and stay directly on the Gulf of Mexico, not on the bay.

  When they entered the bar, Spencer immediately took stock of the faces there. The locals. The newcomers. He was always assessing threats, a leftover habit from his SEAL days. Back then, you always had to know where your threats were coming from. If you made a mistake, people could die.

  But this place was far, far from his dark past. There was no blood and death in the cheerful bar. There were no men with guns waiting to fire. No attacks from enemies. There were just people singing. Dancing. There were holiday lights twinkling.

  And…there was a gorgeous blonde woman with curling hair and green eyes dressed in tight jeans and a loose red sweater. She stood behind the bar, and she tossed him a nervous smile.

  Spencer blinked.

  That particular blonde wasn’t supposed to be there. She’d left him that morning.

  Titus slapped him on the back. “For historical accuracy, it should be noted that I am the greatest wingman of all time.”

  Spencer swung his head toward his friend. “How—”

  “Happened to stop by earlier and saw her.” A wink. “You’re welcome.” His attention drifted to a nearby table and a group of ladies who gave him delighted waves. “Ah…duty calls. Got to go.”

  He strode away.

  “You’re off duty,” Spencer muttered. But, yeah, he was going to owe Titus. He’d give the guy a case of whiskey for Christmas. Spencer’s gaze swung back to Haley.

  She was staring at him.

  He couldn’t look anywhere but at her. He crossed the room in an instant and stood against the bar.

  Her smile came quickly. “Hi.”

  “What the hell are you doing here?”

  Her smile dimmed.

  Okay, shit, he needed to dial things back. Way back.

  “You’re upset that I stayed?” She started to back away.

  His hand flew out and curled around her wrist. “I’m thrilled you’re here. Just thought—all day—that you were gone.” And he didn’t want to let her go again. If he let her go, he was afraid that she might vanish. How could he have missed someone—so much—that he’d only just met?

  He was in serious trouble. The kind of trouble that wrecked a man’s life.

  His trouble glanced down, and her long lashes hid her green gaze from him. “I was going to leave, and then I realized you were right.”

  Look at me, baby.

  Her lashes lifted.

  “I am glad you’re here,” he told her softly. His thumb brushed along her inner wrist. “I would love to know what made you decide to stay.”

Her pulse gave a quick jerk beneath his touch. “I decided it was time to stop running.”

  You need to tell me what you’re running from. Because…hell, maybe he’d been digging deeper into her life that day since he’d been so freaking worried about Haley going off on her own. Whatever waited in her past was bad, and he hated for her to be afraid. By nature, he was a fixer. He wanted to help make things better for the people around him.

  He wanted to do everything possible to make Haley’s life better.

  “I decided that I needed to give Point Hope a better try.” She smiled at him. “I hear the town has one really amazing Christmas parade. Something about an army of elves on bikes. Don’t want to miss that.”

  He found himself smiling back at her. “You know we’re trying to break the world record for the number of elves on bikes this year.”

  Her eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

  He laughed. “I’m glad you’re here.” Very, very glad. He’d felt hollow all day, but now that he was with her, everything seemed right again. “You know, I bet we could put you in that parade if you wanted. Something tells me you’d be cute as hell with a pair of elf ears.”

  Before she could respond, someone called out to her, asking for a drink.

  “Hold that thought,” Haley murmured. She hurried away.

  Spencer made a mental note to tell Haley that the hot water had been fixed in her cottage. He’d worked on it, in case she came back. He settled down on the barstool and spun around, letting his gaze sweep over the crowd. Titus was…occupied. Well occupied by three women. Couples were leaned in close together. A table to the right had a group of women obviously enjoying a ladies’ night, and laughter spilled from them. Behind the ladies…

  Spencer tensed. What’s up with that?

  Behind the ladies, a man slouched at a table. His back was pressed to the wall, and a half-empty drink waited in front of him. The guy didn’t seem to be interested in the drink. Or the festivities in the bar. Instead, his attention was focused…

  Spencer followed the stranger’s glance…

  On Haley.

  On a Haley who smiled as she talked to the customers at the end of the bar.

  Spencer’s gaze darted back to the stranger. Something about the stranger’s focus didn’t sit well with him. The man wasn’t watching Haley with admiration or attraction. Just a single focus that set off alarm bells for Spencer.

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