This tale is part of my Maple Leaf Series!
This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe. How could she have been so dumb? Dayna Birchfield was famous among her friends for coming up with crazy ideas. But kissing Alex Simmons? Her freaking best friend in the entire universe?
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
And now he’d booked it out of her room. At warp speed.
Dayna would have followed him—probably—if her ankle wasn’t sprained from her amateur skiing expedition in the mountains of Vermont. Another one of her ridiculous ideas.
“Let’s go skiing,” she’d announced two weeks ago while hanging at The Clumsy Grasshopper with Alex, his brother, Mark, and Mark’s wife, Erin. The four of them met regularly at the Boston pub which Alex’s friend, Grady, owned and operated. The steak sandwiches were to die for, but it was Grady’s sexy Irish accent that kept Dayna coming back. Too bad the hot bartender was already taken. All the good guys were.
Except for Alex.
“Skiing?” Alex’s dark brows had crinkled over his big hazel eyes. “You can’t walk on the semi-level sidewalks of Boston without falling on your rump. Do you actually think skiing will be easier, Miss Graceful?” He’d grinned like he had a million times before, but the black stubble he’d let grow around his mouth and jaw recently had turned that grin into something… potent.
Shaking her head, Dayna had glared at him hard enough to melt the December snow outside, but the dude was right. If the opportunity to stumble, trip, or crash head first into anything presented itself, her body would snatch at that chance. She tried to be careful. She did. Honestly. Gravity just had it out for her.
“I saw a ski weekend ad for Hinsdale Inn in Vermont,” she’d said, choosing to ignore Alex’s comment—and his stubble—and address Mark and Erin instead. “We could get a few rooms, ski, drink hot cocoa, have a Scrabble tournament. Our own little Christmas party in the woods.”
“If there’s Scrabble, I’m in,” Mark had said.
“Playing Scrabble with a writer is no fun.” Alex had finished off the last of his beer. “The rest of us don’t stand a chance.”
“The rest of you i-d-i-o-t-s, you mean?” Mark had ducked when Alex flicked the cap of his beer at him.
“If Dayna wants to ski, I say we ski.” Erin had nodded at Dayna, the woman’s brown eyes narrowing as if she’d come to a conclusion of some kind. “How many hockey, baseball, and football games have we gone to because you two morons wanted to go?” She’d gestured between the brothers then looked pointedly at Alex. “Besides, you’ve been working too hard.”
Alex wouldn’t be Alex if he wasn’t working too hard. Dayna had been best friends with him since the fifth grade and even back then he’d always gone the extra mile on just about everything. She’d really appreciated him working hard to be her best friend all these years. It wasn’t always easy. Being her friend.
And now I’ve destroyed it all with one damn kiss.
Dayna flopped her head back on the pillows stuffed behind her. Pillows Alex himself had positioned and plumped for her. The weekend had been going well. They’d arrived at Hinsdale Inn without incident even though the roads were snowy. Lily and Rick Stannard who owned the inn had been more than welcoming, and Alex had been super patient as he’d taught Dayna the basics of skiing. He’d mentioned many principles of physics in his instruction, but that was how Alex explained the world. Through science. He made sure she understood though before releasing her on the mountain. Everything had been great.
Until Dayna’s feet got all tangled up with her skis and her left ankle had not emerged victorious. Physics was no friend of hers. The pain had sucked as had the emergency room visit.
Alex carrying her down the mountain, however, had not sucked. His muscled arms were strong, his hard body warm, and the up close view of that stubble was killer. Was he giving off a new pheromone or something? Had he always been this hot? Why was she only noticing over this last month that Alex Simmons could, in fact, be The One?
He’d always been there for her. When her father beat her mother and then went looking for his next victim, Alex, who had lived next door, had opened his bedroom window and let her climb in. He’d assured her she was safe. He’d promised to protect her. He’d distracted her with comic books, video games and baseball cards—all the things a boy considered treasures. He’d shared them with her without a second thought. He’d stayed awake until she fell asleep under his Scooby Doo sleeping bag he’d set up on the small couch in his bedroom for her. He’d brought her food. Mostly Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, because let’s face it, everything was better with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
They’d been friends all through school, college included, and when he’d landed a job as an aerospace engineer, she’d figured he’d leave Boston far behind.
But the genius hadn’t.
He’d stuck around. “I can rocket science anywhere, Dayna. Why not here? This is home.”
Boston was home. Maybe there were other things that made the city home too. Dayna didn’t know for sure, so they’d just continued being best friends. She asked him about rocket sciencing and he asked her about architecting. They talked, chilled, best friended. Just like always. They dated other people then immediately texted each other to point out the inadequacies of the potentials. These conversations usually ended in complete hysterics and one of them suggesting meeting up at The Clumsy Grasshopper.
Bottom line? Dayna preferred Alex’s company over anyone else’s.
Clearly he didn’t feel the same way. Or maybe her breath had been rancid when she’d pointed out the mistletoe hanging over the bed and smashed her mouth against his in possibly her most impulsive move ever.
She cupped her hands over her mouth and breathed out a puff of air. After inhaling deeply, her final assessment was that no, her breath wasn’t rancid. Nonetheless, she was alone in her room. Alex had left. She didn’t know if he would return. Oh, God, what if he didn’t return?
He did kiss me back though.
There was that. He had every chance to push her away before their lips locked. He could have said, “I’d rather you didn’t kiss me, Dayna.” He’d had time to slip off her bed and get out of range.
But he hadn’t.
His warm lips had softened against hers, that stubble scraping pleasantly against her skin. He’d smelled like fresh winter air and Christmas magic. The red and black checkered flannel shirt he wore had been soft beneath her hands as she’d gripped his broad shoulders. He’d opened his mouth when her tongue sought entrance. He’d even hooked his big, calloused man hand on the back of her neck. He’d moaned. She was certain of it.
Then he’d ripped his mouth free of hers and darted for the door like a spooked animal.
Dayna looked up at the mistletoe still hanging from the canopy of the four-poster log bed. It looked so harmless, but it had the ability to ruin everything.
Tune in tomorrow for Chapter Two!
Want more holiday fun? Visit my website to read More Than Biscotti, a short Christmas novella, or Midnight Mistletoe, another short holiday novella, for FREE! Just scroll down to the bottom of the "Books" page.