This was the last place she expected to spend Christmas. Ankle deep in hay and horseshit. Nose running in the frosty winter air whistling through the cracks in the old barn walls. Fingers just about numb around the pitchfork handle.
Seriously? You’re using a pitchfork? On Christmas?
Lyndie McDowell shook her head while she spread fresh hay in the last stall. She should be wearing a fancy dress—something red and sparkly. Something that would turn heads as she walked into Trent Wister’s family home in Newport, Rhode Island. She’d received an official invitation from Trent’s mother herself with the words We’re so looking forward to meeting you written in the perfect handwriting of a well-to-do society woman. A woman, who had raised—well, paid a nanny to raise—four sons, all of them successful lawyers.
Trent was the oldest and by Lyndie’s eye, the handsomest of the brothers with his neatly styled brown hair, clean-shaven face, and bright blue eyes. The man brought buckets full of hotness to a tailored suit too, and she remembered actually sighing aloud the first time she’d seen him.
Lyndie was the lead detective on a high profile case and waited to enter the courtroom when Trent walked by. Everything shifted down to slow motion. Her partner, Zak Preston, had been saying something to her, but she didn’t register the words as Trent stopped to regard her.
“You’re gorgeous.” His smile was a hook on the end of a fishing pole.
She had willingly gotten caught.
“Thanks,” she’d managed to say after a few awkward seconds of silence. She remembered trying to smooth out her curly, brown hair which had a mind of its own.
Trent reached into his jacket pocket and produced a business card. Holding it out to her, he’d said, “We must have dinner, Blue Eyes. Call me.”
She stared at the card. Zak plucked the card from Trent’s outstretched hand.
With another killer smile, Trent gave her a slow once-over that promised many things—naughty, naughty things—and then he was gone in the sea of dark-suited lawyers, uniformed cops, and shackled criminals.
“What was that?” Zak said.
“Huh?” Lyndie rubbed her eyes as if waking from a dream. A really awesome dream.
“That guy has some balls.” Zak crossed his arms across his chest, looking like his typical protective self. “How did he know you and I weren’t together?”
At that, Lyndie laughed, a deep, snorting, can’t-catch-your-breath laugh. “You and me? No one would believe that.”
He grinned in that way that had female suspects confessing on the spot. “You’re right. What was I thinking?” He handed her Trent’s card, then ran his hand through his already messy black hair.
“You going to call him?” He narrowed sharp, forest green eyes at her.
“Has it been at least a year since I’ve been properly laid?” She’d tucked the card into her cleavage, making Zak chuckle. “I deserve a present like him.”
She had a really, really good time with that present over the last six months. Trent was amazing. He took her to expensive restaurants, blew her mind with over-the-top getaways, dazzled her with Broadway shows and so many other wonderfully romantic dates. When they made love, she forgot everything but him. He was attentive and considerate and passionate. So passionate.
It was heaven.
Until she drove to his office three days before Christmas to surprise him with two packed suitcases and plane tickets to Rhode Island so they could get to his family home earlier than planned. She walked up to his secretary’s desk as she had millions of times. The older woman looked at her like she was watching a Godzilla-sized tarantula approach.
Weird. Mona’s always been so cordial.
Lyndie put that aside and offered Mona a friendly smile before rounding the corner and plowing right into Trent’s office.
Her eyes hadn’t been able to process the scene at first.
Why were there black high-heeled shoes and women’s clothing scattered like jacks across the ultra-polished wood floor of Trent’s office?
Why were soft moans and gasps emanating from the burgundy leather couch Lyndie knew was just beyond the half wall to her right?
Why was the photograph of Lyndie in Paris Trent kept on his desk missing?
“Oh, Trent, we need to do this more than every Wednesday,” came a sultry voice from beyond the half wall, followed by bodily noises that belonged on adult-only programming.
Lyndie felt an instant stomach ache as the intellectual portion of her brain brought the rest of her to the logical conclusion.
Trent was a dick. Or more specifically, Trent’s dick was a dick and had been busy. Quite busy by the sound of it.
And so, that’s how Lyndie ended up on her grandmother’s farm in Pennsylvania for Christmas instead of in a Newport mansion, drinking champagne and eating shrimp cocktail.
I love champagne and shrimp cocktail.
She’d be lucky to get a warm beer and a tuna fish sandwich here. Before Gran left for a cross-country holiday in an RV with her new boyfriend, Chester, she’d called Lyndie to come babysit the horses. Being pretty full of herself with her Big Successful Lawyer, Lyndie told Gran she couldn’t do it. She had better things to do.
Calling Gran to say she didn’t have better things to do sucked. Royally.
It was better than moping around her New York apartment.
“Because moping in Pennsylvania is way more productive, right, Rusty?” She ran a hand along the palomino’s mane, finger combing out some of the knots.
Lyndie rested her head against Rusty’s neck. The horse did her a solid favor and pushed back against her. At least someone enjoyed her company.
After a gentle slap to Rusty’s back, Lyndie checked the latches on the other three horses’ stalls, making sure no one would be able to escape and have a wild evening in the dark, snowy woods of Pennsylvania.
Wild evening? Those two words are an unknown in these parts.
The only thing she had scheduled tonight was microwave popcorn and a Meg Ryan movie marathon. Her transformation to Complete Loser was almost complete.
Grumbling to herself, Lyndie stomped up the back porch stairs of Gran’s farmhouse and stepped into the kitchen. She unlaced her boots, beyond surprised that no horseshit had adhered to the soles. Setting them aside, she shed Gran’s wool-lined flannel shirt and hung it on the peg by the door.
Wool-lined flannel shirt. Ugh.
If the guys at the precinct saw her wearing that, she’d never hear the end of it. Zak would make country bumpkin jokes for months. That thought made her smile a little. Her partner could be a ginormous pain in the ass, but a day didn’t go by where he didn’t make her crack up about something. He was the funniest guy she knew and the only guy who always did exactly what he said he’d do. He never let her down.
She moved further into the kitchen to get microwaving that popcorn when her cell phone rang.
“Speak of the Devil,” she said after seeing Zak’s picture on the screen.
“Who are you speaking about me to? The horses?” Zak’s voice was a lifeline.
“I guess I was more thinking of the Devil instead of speaking.”
“Spend a lot of time thinking about me?”
“Not if I can help it.” This was another thing she loved about Zak—the banter, the barbs, the busting of balls.
“Ouch. I’m mortally wounded.”
“You’ll survive,” she said. “Why are you calling me on Christmas?”
“I felt bad for your sorry, yet shapely ass. All by yourself in Amish country.”
“I’m not in Amish country.”
“You’re on a farm in Pennsylvania, Lyndie. What’s the difference?”
He laughed, a deep, husky rumble that thawed her somehow.
“What are your plans for tonight?” he asked.
She looked at the microwave then the lumpy couch in Gran’s living room. “I’m going to go night ice-skating with the hot guy that lives next door. Then he’s going to make me a magnificent dinner, complete with a decadent dessert. Finally, we’ll strip our clothes off, slowly, and worship each other until the sun comes up tomorrow.”
“Popcorn and a movie, huh?”
“Shut up, Zak.”
“What, don’t I get any partner points for checking up on you?”
He did. He so did.
“I’ll add them to the ledger after my night of amazing sex with the neighbor.”
“Who is—and I’m just guessing here—under five feet tall, about seventy-five years old, missing multiple teeth, and hairy as a gorilla.” He could hardly finish without chuckling. “How’d I do?”
“And I repeat, shut up.” But she was laughing too, because he’d described old Mr. Franshaw next door perfectly.
“You’ll be okay tonight?” Zak’s voice was serious.
“Sure. Just going to slip into my Totally Pathetic T-shirt and veg. I’ll be fine. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas, Zak.” She knew he was with his sister’s family. His niece and nephew were no doubt climbing all over their favorite uncle.
“You could have—”
“Come with you,” she finished. “I know, but I’m really fine. Honest. I’ll see you next week.”
“Okay.” He was quiet for a minute. “Merry Christmas, Lyndie.”
“Merry Christmas, Zak.”She hung up the phone, feeling lonelier than before she’d picked it up.
Tune in tomorrow for Chapter Two!
In the meantime, hop on over to my website and download another holiday short story, Midnight Mistletoe, for FREE!
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