Dahlia stood in front of the mirror with the blow dryer blasting on high and wondered if her hair would ever get dry. Holding the unwieldy blower in one hand, she applied eyeshadow with the other. She wasn’t brave enough to attempt mascara. The way her luck was going today, she’d blind herself. Deciding she could live with slightly damp hair, she turned off the machine and set it on the counter.
While she finished her eye-makeup, she pictured her savior from the snowbank stepping out of the shower and drying off as he got ready for his date. While her imagination was working overtime, she added six-pack abs and a sprinkling of dark, silky chest hair. Her reflection took on a distinctly pink hue. Despite the heavy jacket, she’d bet money he had those abs she’d dreamed up. Not that I’ll ever get the chance to find out if I’m right.
With a sigh, she pulled her hair up into a high ponytail, quickly braided one section, and wrapped it around the band, then pinned it in place. The rest of her mane cascaded down her bare back past her bra strap. Simple but elegant was the look she hoped to achieve since she didn’t have time for fancy. She added long, teardrop earrings then headed into her closet. Her go-to black cocktail dress could be dressed up or down. She added strappy black heels guaranteed to make her feet hurt and adjusted the neckline for an off the shoulder look.
Pausing to glance in the mirror, she made a face. Not bad considering the time crunch. At least she wouldn’t embarrass her date. She scooped up a soft white wrap she’d dropped on her bed and snapped off the bedroom light just as a knock sounded at the front door. Score one for being ready on time. She fist-pumped the air.
At least he hadn’t caught her still in her underwear.
She hurried toward the entry and carefully lifted the boutonnière she’d made earlier in the day off the table where she’d left it. Too late to change my mind about this date now. Pausing to take a steadying breath, she threw open the door.
The man waiting on the other side wore a smoke-gray suit that stretched across broad shoulders. Dark hair brushed his collar, and warm brown eyes stared at her from a freshly shaven face. Her jaw sagged a little.
“What are you doing here?” she blurted. “Did you follow me home?”
The warmth faded. “Do I look like a stalker?”
“No, you look like...” She swallowed the words on her tongue…a wet dream. “Never mind.” Her cheeks heated. “I’m a little confused. I was expecting my blind date.”
The twinkle in the chocolatey brown depths returned. “And I’m here to pick up mine for the Christmas Eve party.”
She glanced down at the familiar orchid corsage he held as her heartrate quickened. “I guess that’s not for your girlfriend, after all.”
“Not yet.” His smile returned. “We’ll see how the evening goes.”
Her knees weakened. “It looks like my luck has finally changed, but there’s one thing I don’t understand.”
Stepping back, she waved him inside. “Why the heck would you need a blind date? You’re…” She gave him a slow perusal. “Okay, I’ll just say it…extremely hot. Any single woman in town would probably pay to date you.”
He grinned as he shut the door behind him. “I haven’t met any of them yet.” He reached for her hand. “You’re so pretty, you take my breath away. I could ask the same question. Why would you agree to a blind date?”
She shrugged. “After the last guy I went out with mentioned he still lives with his practically ex-wife, I decided to take a break from dating. I only agreed to go tonight because Joanie wouldn’t take no for an answer.” She licked suddenly dry lips. “I’ll have to thank her for her persistence.”
“I doubted Rob when he told me you were a knock-out. I should have had more faith in my cousin.”
Dahlia let out a long breath as anticipation filled her. “I guess we should go to the party.”
“Not until I put this on you.” He slid the band holding the flowers over her wrist. “If I hadn’t stopped to get a corsage, I’d still be nervous right now. As it is, I feel like we’re old friends. We’ve helped each other out, and I already know plenty about you.”
Stepping closer, she pinned the single white rosebud accented with a fern frond to his lapel and glanced up. “What, exactly, after being acquainted for a couple of hours, do you think you know about me?”
“I know you have a kind heart and can’t resist a person in need.”
“I could say the same about you.”
“Okay, I know you can swear like a sailor.”
She felt another blush creeping up her neck. “I only swear when I’ve exhausted all my other options.”
“Getting stuck in a snowbank certainly qualifies.”
“I thought so.”
“I also know you have a delicate touch.” He stroked the soft orchid petal at her wrist then closed his hand over her fingers.”
“I’ve learned a few things about you, too. I know you aren’t afraid to go after what you want. You didn’t let the closed sign stop you.” She broke off when he tightened his hold on her.
“Just so you know, I planned to come by the flower shop again after Christmas.”
She looked into his eyes. “You did?”
He nodded. “I didn’t think hitting on you when I was buying flowers for another woman was a good idea. Plus, you had a date.”
“I certainly do.”
“The best blind date ever. A Christmas miracle.” He touched her cheek. “Dahlia?”
“What?” Her voice was breathless.
“Do I have to wait until this date is over to kiss you?”
Her heart stopped then surged ahead like a galloping horse. “So far, our relationship has been pretty unconventional, so I don’t think we need to follow any hard, fast rules.”
“Thank God, because I’ve wanted to kiss you ever since I saw you standing in your store, surrounded by flowers, looking even more beautiful than all the roses on your Christmas tree.” He bent closer and touched her lips with his.
Dahlia raised a hand to the back of his neck as he deepened the contact. He smelled fresh, like the forest, and tasted even better. When he finally pulled back, she grabbed the entry table to steady herself. “Wow.”
“Yeah, wow. Thank you for that.”
“Thank you.” She stared into his eyes and saw promises reflected there. “Merry Christmas, Zane.”
“Merry Christmas, Dahlia.”
* * * *