This tale is part of my Maple Leaf Series!
Great. She knew it. These were the last moments she’d ever spend with Alex. He’d enjoyed the kiss, but it was too weird and he didn’t want to cross that line and they’d be going their separate ways now. It was over. She’d have no one to listen to her stories, to peel her off the ceiling when work got too stressful, to drink with at The Clumsy Grasshopper, to binge watch The Office with, to laugh with. She’d probably lose Mark and Erin in the deal too because Mark was Alex’s brother. He’d have to take Alex’s side.
An image of her all alone in a rocking chair, just staring out her apartment window flashed into her mind. Cats meowed at her feet and wrestled with one another to get into her lap.
No. Not cats. She couldn’t become that lady. She would use all her newfound free time to toss herself into her work instead. She’d be a superstar architect. Yeah, that was what she’d do. She didn’t need a social life—or a love life. She’d make designing buildings her life.
Still, the meowing wouldn’t stop in her head.
“Look at me, Dayna.” Alex’s voice surprised her. Oh, he was still here. He hadn’t walked out yet.
Why was he still here?
She didn’t want to look at him. Looking at him meant seeing his gorgeous hazel eyes, that sexy stubble, those addictive lips. Looking at him meant saying goodbye to the best person she’d ever known. Someone who had shown her that she was more than her father’s punching bag. Someone who had ultimately gotten her out of her bad family situation when he’d gotten so mad at her father and called the police. Someone who had saved her on too many occasions to count.
Who would save her now?
“We’re not going to be best friends anymore.” After taking off his ski jacket, Alex sat back on the bed. This time he was at the curve of her waist. Close enough to feel the heat of his body. “We’re going to be more than that. Much more.”
Slowly, he leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers.
At first, Dayna was too stunned to kiss him back, but it didn’t take long for instinct and desire to take over. Good Lord, where had he learned to kiss? And why hadn’t they done this years ago?
He shifted closer and cupped her face with his left hand as he deepened the kiss. His right hand burrowed up into her hair, his fingers scraping wonderfully against her scalp. When she slid her hands to his shoulders and pulled him closer, a hum rumbled in his throat and threatened to undo her right then and there.
Alex ended the kiss with a few light nips to her bottom lip then rested his forehead against hers. “Do you remember when we first met?”
“Yes.” How could she forget? He’d been the new kid in fifth grade and the principal had escorted him into Mrs. Tarat’s class. His black hair had been combed neatly into place. His clothes were ironed, matched, and fit his lanky body. No hand-me-downs there. Dayna instantly wanted to meet his parents and see if they’d adopt her. Clearly they knew how to take care of a child. Hers didn’t have a clue.
His hazel eyes had searched the room with a nervous squirrely edge to them, but when his gaze had landed on Dayna, his expression had relaxed and she’d immediately raised her hand.
“Yes, Dayna?” Mrs. Tarat had asked as she rifled around on the bookshelves, trying to locate extra materials for the new kid.
“He can sit over here.” Dayna had pointed to the empty desk beside her. “I’ll show him what we’re working on.”
A look of gratitude and relief had washed over Mrs. Tarat’s face. “Thank you, Dayna. That would be perfect.”
With a little nudge from the principal, Alex had walked down the aisle and taken the seat next to Dayna. He smelled clean and his smile was friendly.
“I’m Alex Simmons.” He’d held his hand out to her.
She’d wiped her palm on her jean skirt and shook his hand. “Dayna Birchfield.” She’d waited for him to ask her about the purple and black bruise on her forearm. The one her father had put there when he’d grabbed her by the arm as she’d tried to run from him two nights ago.
But Alex hadn’t commented on it. He’d simply given her another smile. One that made Dayna feel as if everything would be all right one day.
They’d let go of each other’s hands pretty quickly because shaking hands with the opposite sex in fifth grade would get the rumor mill a-spinnin’ in no time. Dayna hadn’t wanted her recess totally destroyed by taunting and teasing.
She’d liked shaking Alex’s hand though. His grip had been solid as if he’d hold on even in times of trouble.
Now he dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose. “I think I’ve loved you since then. I love you now too.”
Those were words she hadn’t heard growing up. I love you. Her parents had never said they loved her. Her father hadn’t loved her and her mother was too busy avoiding her father’s fists to bother saying it or showing it.
Alex had said it now and he’d been showing it for years. He was the only one who’d ever loved her.
“I love you, Alex.” God, it felt so right to say that to him. “So what have we been doing all this time?” She’d wasted a lot of effort on dating losers. So had he.
“Well, to put it in terms you’ll understand, my dear architect, we’ve been building a foundation. A very solid one.” He scooted behind her to sit against the headboard and tugged her back so she leaned against him. Wrapping his arms around her, he nibbled on her neck by her earlobe, making her entire body vibrate with need.
“And now it’s up to physics, my dear engineer,” she said. “We can just fall. In love.”
Alex laughed, the sound husky in Dayna’s ear. “Gravity. Love. It’s all the same principles.”
She leaned her head back so she could see his face. “So kissing you wasn’t a stupid idea?”
He caught her lips in a heated kiss then smiled. “Does that feel like a stupid idea?”
“Not even a little bit. In fact, it feels like my best crazy idea ever.”
She nestled against him, his laughter and his body doing more to warm her than the blankets on the bed. She’d been pretty upset over spraining her ankle, but being bed-bound didn’t seem as bad anymore. Not with Alex there too.
“So we can’t ski anymore.” He gestured down to her elevated ankle. “What shall we do instead?” His mouth was back on her neck, his stubble tickling in just the right way.
“Well, it is almost Christmas and there is still that mistletoe up there.” She pointed up to the sprig that now looked like the most beautiful plant on Earth.
Alex tightened his arms around her. “I could unwrap this present then and kiss it all over.” He slid his hand around to her stomach and tunneled under her thermal T-shirt.
Dayna arched into his touch. “Sounds like a perfect plan.” She pulled his head down for another kiss. “Merry Christmas, Alex.”
It really would be the last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe. Anyone other than Alex.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Tune in tomorrow for holiday fun from Author Leah St. James!
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.