See, this isn’t so bad.
Lyndie had on her favorite yoga pants with a cozy hooded sweatshirt and a thermal T-shirt underneath. Gran’s afghan was draped over her legs and Meg Ryan was telling Tom Hanks that daisies were happy flowers in You’ve Got Mail. All was good. All was fine. Nothing wrong with a thirty-five year old woman spending Christmas alone on her grandmother’s couch.
Except that everything was wrong with it.
Lyndie ripped off the afghan and headed to the kitchen for some tea. If she was going to act like a senior citizen, she should at least have tea. Maybe she could find Gran’s knitting needles and make her own goddamn afghan.
As she stood at the kitchen sink filling a mug with water, a knock sounded on the front door. At least it sounded like a knock. But it couldn’t be. Not on Christmas.
Ignoring what she’d thought she’d heard, Lyndie walked to the microwave and put her mug inside. She punched in the time and was just about to hit the start button when the knock echoed in the foyer again.
Her detective reflexes kicked in and she opened the drawer by the dishwasher where she’d hidden her gun. She was probably overreacting, but she’d feel even dumber if she got killed opening the door because she hadn’t brought her weapon.
She crept down the hallway to the foyer and nudged the curtains on the closest window aside with the nose of her weapon. The outside floodlight was on, but she couldn’t see the front steps from that angle. Fresh boot tracks and paw prints made a trail in the snow up the walkway though. Gran’s overgrown hedges blocked the view to the driveway so she couldn’t see if a vehicle was parked there.
A third knock resonated off the door, followed by a deep, “Lyndie?” and a bark.
Wait a minute…
She knew that bark. She knew that voice.
It couldn’t be.
She ripped open the door to find Zak and Spock standing on the front steps. “What are you guys doing here?” Why did Zak look so delicious in his jeans, black boots, and black ski jacket?
“We’re delivering these.” He held up a metal tin with a green and red holly design all over it.
“What is it?” She still couldn’t believe her partner was standing there. That he’d driven all the way to Pennsylvania on Christmas. With his dog.
“Well, invite me in, Lydnie, and I’ll show you what it is. It’s freezing out here. A guy needs some warming up.”
His green gaze connected with hers in a way that torched something inside her. Something that she hadn’t allowed herself to feel. Not for Zak anyway.
“Umm, yeah. Come in.” Why hadn’t she already invited him in? What was wrong with her? It was just Zak, the man she saw almost every single day. The man she trusted with her life when they were on the job. The man who she’d been thinking about while watching Meg and Tom fall in love with each other in the movie.
Why had you been thinking of Zak and falling in love? Those two things didn’t go together. Did they?
Zak brushed past her and slipped his jacket off as his dog trotted behind him. She watched Zak move, her eyes resting on the way his backside filled his blue jeans, the way his long legs carried him forward with powerful, confident steps, the way his shoulders rippled with toned muscles beneath his green thermal shirt.
Why hadn’t she noticed how hot he was before?
Spock settled on the wood floor in front of the television while Zak threw himself onto the couch and patted the space beside him. “Come here.”
Lyndie couldn’t swallow. Something tingled in her stomach. Well, okay, if she was being honest, it really wasn’t in her stomach. Zak just looked so comfortable on Gran’s couch. The way he was grinning at her was doing crazy things to her body.
“Come on, Lyndie. Here, Lyndie, girl.” He used his higher, dog-calling voice as he wiggled the tin.
Snapping out of her stupor, she put her gun back in the kitchen drawer and walked toward him. She sat on the other end of the couch, two cushions between them. She folded her legs in front of her and tried to smooth her hair which had to look like a clown wig right about now. Why hadn’t she worn something else? Her yoga pants and hoodie were the definition of unsexy.
Oh shit, why are you thinking of being sexy with Zak?
It was as if someone had come along with a giant pencil and was erasing the normal Lyndie who had been perfectly content just working with Zak. In Normal Lyndie’s place, that pencil was drawing a sexually-charged, hungry—so hungry—woman who wanted nothing more than to strip her loyal partner down to his skin.
Zak pulled the lid off the tin and revealed an assortment of holiday cookies.
“Are these Theresa’s?” She’d had Theresa’s sweets before. The woman was a freaking magician with sugar and flour.
He nodded and selected one covered in powdered sugar. Holding it out to her, he said, “Open up.”
She knew it’d be stupid to deny she wanted to eat that cookie—and possibly the man. Leaning forward, she attempted to take the cookie from him with her teeth, but he wouldn’t let go.
“Bite,” he said.
When she raised her gaze to his, saw how he was looking at her with such intensity, such… emotion, she wondered where Gran kept the fire extinguisher. She was surely going to need it once she spontaneously combusted on the couch.
She bit down on the cookie and felt the powdered sugar dust her lips. She started to lick the sugar off, but Zak shook his head.
“Don’t.” He put down the other half of the cookie and scooted closer to her. “Let me.”
He leaned toward her, slowly, until he was close enough to feel his breath on her. Sliding his hand to her cheek, he closed the distance and pressed his incredibly smooth, full lips to hers. Powdered sugar mixed with his manly taste. Heat swirled around Lyndie and her hands slipped up Zak’s shoulders, her fingers threading together at the back of his neck to hold him there, in that moment, one she wanted to go on forever.
She heard unzipping, felt Zak tug her sweatshirt off her shoulders, smelled the scent of his shampoo as he gently coaxed her to her back on the couch. She burrowed her hands under his thermal shirt, under the T-shirt beneath, and pulled both off in one move.
A rumble sounded in his throat as he explored her mouth with his tongue gliding against hers. She shivered beneath him, and he stopped.
“Are you cold?”
“No.” The word came out on a whimper for she wanted—needed—his lips back on her.
“Good. Because you’ve got too many clothes on, partner.” He grinned wickedly as he pulled off her shirt and realized she wasn’t wearing a bra. “Why has it taken me so long to see how beautiful you are?”
“Because most of the time, we’re disguised as seedy people living lives of crime?” she offered.
“Maybe, but there’s no denying it, Lyndie. You’re perfect.”
After giving her breasts more attention than they’d ever had, he raked his fingers along her sides all the way down to the waist of her yoga pants. He peeled those off with her underwear and just looked at her, naked beneath him.
“So perfect,” he whispered.
It should have been weird. Being naked with Zak, but it wasn’t. Not even a little bit. Instead, the final puzzle piece locked into place, creating a whole picture, a picture she couldn’t see until this very moment.
She let him look a few seconds longer, relishing the expression on his face. One that said he wanted her. Badly. Then she flipped him to his back on the couch and removed the rest of his clothes.
“You’re pretty stunning yourself, Detective Preston.” She kissed a line up his sternum, over his slightly bearded chin, and ended at his mouth. “And now that you’re naked too we’ve evened the playing field.”
“Play. Yes. Let’s.” He scooped her up as he rose from the couch. “Where to?”
“Guest bedroom is that way.” She pointed down the hall.
He set her down on the bed and climbed up the length of her like a large animal. He was all muscle and scrumptious male and everything she had ever wanted, but she had to ask one question.
“What if this doesn’t work out?” She’d never forgive herself if they ruined their work partnership or their friendship by getting… involved.
He sat back so his phenomenal bottom pressed onto her thighs, and she almost couldn’t remember her own name, let alone the question she’d asked.
“Why wouldn’t it work out, Lyndie? Have I ever given you any reason not to trust me? Have I ever done anything meant to hurt you?”
“No. Never.” He’d only looked out for her. Always.
“Right. And you’ve never done anything to hurt me.”
“Except that time I broke your fingers in that safe door on the job. Remember?”
He laughed and wiggled his fingers. Fingers that certainly weren’t broken now as they trailed over her skin. “I remember, but that was an accident.” He played with the ends of her hair. “What’s happening between us now? This is no accident. This is purposeful.” He shifted to press himself against her and kiss her lips. “This is right.” He kissed her again, deeper this time. “This is your Christmas present.”
“I thought the cookies were for Christmas.”
“I’m much better for your health.” He traced a circle around her breasts with his index finger, making her arch closer to him. “Besides,” he said, “you told me you were going to have amazing sex tonight. I couldn’t let your Christmas wish go unfulfilled.”
And so, this was truly the last place she expected to spend Christmas, but as he kissed her again, Lyndie knew Zak Preston was the best Christmas present she’d ever received.
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