COMING NOVEMBER 12TH
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Just One Kiss
The heart wants what it wants and mine has never stopped wanting her.
London Canterbury and I were never meant to be.
Her family was rich. She was cheer captain. The most popular girl in our school while I was the opposite. Poor, nerdy, and invisible.
Eight years ago, I kissed the hell out of her, knowing I was never going to see her again.
Or so I thought.
Because here I am, rescuing none other than London who crashed her car into a tree in the middle of a blizzard.
Right before Christmas.
Now she’s stuck in my house. In my head. Back in my heart before I ever have a chance to stop it.
As the storm intensifies outside so does the fire between us.
Despite all that, I know this is too good to last. That eventually the storm will end and she’ll leave.
But losing her is no longer an option.
I’m hoping that sometimes all it takes to fall in love is just one kiss…
JUST ONE KISS is a funny and steamy, second chance, snowed in, holiday romance that will make you swoon! It's a complete standalone.
“Knew he was a killer first time that I saw him…” Taylor Swift, unfortunately, sings through my speakers as Betsy howls appreciatively, snuggling into my side and bumping my shoulder with her nose.
“Don’t cuddle up to me,” I warn her. “We really need to have a serious discussion about your taste in music. It’s insanely emasculating that I allow my dog to dictate the music choice in my own truck. If anyone ever saw this, I’d never hear the end of it.”
Not that anyone is ever in my truck besides me or Betsy, but still. It wouldn’t be good. And really any excuse to get rid of this once and for all, I’ll take.
Betsy is undeterred by my threats. She knows they’re baseless.
She nudges me again, barks, and I sigh, pressing a button on my steering wheel to turn up the angsty chick music. When I rescued her from the shelter last month, this is what came with her. Taylor Swift. “It’s the only thing that soothes her,” the girl told me with a gleam in her eye as she tried, and failed, to hide her smile.
So here we are. Driving along the snow-covered highway, headed home with a truck full of groceries that will last us well through the new year, listening to Taylor belt out song after song. Some pop. Some country.
All giving me a headache.
I have the plow on the front of my truck up, but as the snow is really coming down, I’m starting to debate lowering it to clear some of the highway. If not just for me, but other motorists coming this way as it doesn’t seem like the state has started plowing yet.
This storm hit us quickly and a bit unexpectedly.
What was supposed to be a small dusting, just a few inches, has turned into a nice old nor’easter, complete with ice and wind and buckets of heavy snow. Personally, I love it when it gets like this. I hunker down in my shop and ignore the outside world. No tourists I have to make nice with coming through. Just me and my work.
Well, and now Betsy.
But uninterrupted peace and quiet.
Exactly the way I like to spend the holidays.
Just as I decelerate and lower the plow to tackle some of the heavy wet stuff, Betsy starts barking. Loud and urgently. She shuffles across her seat, pressing her snout against the foggy glass, scratching at the door.
“What’s up, girl? I can’t let you out here. The snow is coming down too hard. We’ll be home in fifteen minutes. You can hold it until then.”
But she’s not giving up, growing more demanding by the second, and that’s when I catch it—the flash of glowing red amidst the white about fifty yards off into the woods.
Shit. A car must have lost control and crashed.
“Alright, girl. I see it. Calm down.” I pat Betsy’s back, slowing down and plowing my way over to the side of the highway. I don’t dare take the truck into the bank. Though it could probably handle it, I’d rather not risk getting stuck myself. I stop, placing the truck in park and narrowing my eyes through the windshield, trying to get a better look at what I’m facing.
The tiny sporty convertible looks like it hit a tree, but I can’t see anyone. They’re probably still in the car instead of trying to brave the elements. I’m tempted to call the police, but I need to know the situation of the driver or other passengers before I do that.
If it’s just the car that’s stuck and no one is hurt, I can call Earl, who might be able to drag it out of here before things get any worse.
But if they’re hurt, that’s a different story.
The nearest hospital from here is a solid thirty miles away and in this weather, that might as well be a hundred.
“You stay here,” I tell Betsy, zipping up my coat and throwing my hood over my beany because it’s cold as hell out. I hit the button for my hazard lights and open the door against the blustering icy wind and snow that assault me instantly. I jump down, right into over a foot of snow, some of it from the storm we had last week and shut the door behind me.
Tucking myself in, I jog in my boots as quickly as I can manage over toward the car that is still running. The front fender is crushed up against the tree, but otherwise it seems okay. I reach the driver’s side door, spotting a dark form inside pressed against the seat. I can’t make out much as the windows are entirely fogged over with condensation, so I knock.
“Hey,” I call out, trying not to scare them. “You okay in there?”
“Yes. I think so,” a female voice returns, but she makes no move to open the door. I nearly roll my eyes.
“Do you need some help?”
“Did you call the police?”
“Ma’am, are you alone in the car? Are you hurt?”
“I, um. Yeah, I’m alone.” I hear her curse something out. “I have no cell service. No cell service,” she repeats. “How is that possible? My phone works everywhere in the city.”
Great. One of these people.
“Maybe it’s time I update my carrier? What do you think?”
I think, more like I’m hoping, she’s just in shock or scared and not actually asking my opinion on her cell phone carrier.
“Can you open the door for me?” I would try it myself, but that’s not a good idea with a lone female who appears to be slightly dazed.
I hear the door click open and the cabin light inside the car flips on. She’s still buckled in and no airbag deployed, which means it hopefully wasn’t much of an impact. But then she turns to look up at me and her entire face is covered with smeared blood, oozing from a laceration on her hairline.
It doesn’t look terrible, scalp injuries bleed like a bastard, but she definitely needs medical attention. “Are you hurt anywhere else? Your neck or back?”
She shakes her head.
“No. Just my forehead. The cold air feels good. I should have rolled down the window when I started to feel faint. Bear Grylls would be so disappointed in my survival skills.”
My eyebrows hit my hairline. “Huh?”
“Never mind.” She waves me away.
“Can you get out of the car? You’re bleeding and you need help.”
She grunts, searching around at her lap. “Please don’t mention the blood. I’m barely hanging on with that. I ran out of tissues and it’s just… yeah, I hate blood. It totally freaks me out.” She lets out a bitter, humorless laugh. “For a girl who grew up in New England, you’d think I would be better prepared, but no. I drove up here in my car instead of renting one or stopping to get one of my father’s. Speaking of which, he’s going to kill me. I decided I couldn’t meet my deadline with my family breathing down my neck, so I stayed in the city until the last minute. Now look at me. I’m a mess. And there’s blood. So much blood.”
“How hard did you hit your head?”
She makes some kind of scoffing, snorting sound in the back of her throat. “I’m going to take that as a serious question and not a dig that’s questioning my sanity in this moment because that would be insanely rude and ill-timed. But to answer your question, I’m honestly not sure. Should there be this much blood?”
“How about you start with unbuckling your seat belt, okay? The snow is coming down pretty hard and I’d like to get you out of here.”
She presses the button on her car, shutting it off and stuffing her phone back into her purse. She unbuckles her seat belt, her midnight hair sticking to the side of her face. Touching her forehead, she winces at the blood coating her fingers. What I can see of her face turns white as a sheet.
“I really am a mess.” She pants out a few choppy breaths, her body swaying slightly. “My father is not going to be happy with me. Did I already say that? Do you have any idea how aggravating it is to be told, I told you so, from your father who is always right?”
"No,” I tell her in all seriousness, the familiar pinch accompanying the word whenever I think about my father. “Come on.” I hold out my hand to her and she slides her small, warm hand into mine. A weird spark of static electricity hits my skin, but I quickly shake it off as I pull her up gently, letting her do most of the work so I can assess the extent of her injuries.
“My knee hurts,” she says just as she buckles, my arms coming out reflexively to catch her. “Yikes. I’m really in trouble, aren’t I?” She tilts her chin up, her bloody face meeting mine until she opens her eyes and I find myself staring helplessly into a field of lavender, startling and unexpected, I’ve only seen this color once before.
She blinks a few times, though I can’t seem to manage the action. Hell, I can’t even breathe. The space in my chest that was previously little more than a dead lump is suddenly sprinting so hard it sounds like a freight train running through my ears.
“I know your face,” she whispers, her voice drifting. Tilting her head in my arms, she leans farther into me on a sleepy breath. She manages a half-smile, but she’s slipping fast. “Though I don’t remember the beard the last time I saw it,” she murmurs, her eyes closing and her body growing limp in my arms. I catch her as she tries to fall through my hands, adjusting her until I’m lifting her up, tucking her protectively into my chest.
For a second, I stare down at the unconscious woman in my arms, unable to move from the sideswipe of shock that’s radiating through me.
It seems impossible that it’s her, though I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s just that seeing her again feels like someone kicked me in the gut before shoving my head under water.
I brush some of her matted hair from her face, just so I know. Just so I can confirm what every other piece of me is already acutely aware of. Snow falls on her, melting as it hits her warm, pale face, sticky with blood. She shudders in my arms, her eyes scrunching as if she’s in pain.
“It’s okay. I’ve got you.”
Without another sound, I turn on my heels and march her back to my truck, trudging through freezing cold and heavy snow that’s almost already covered my tracks though it’s been no more than ten minutes. I force myself not to think. Not to go back in time.
I just act on instinct.
Shuffling her small body in my arms, I open the door to my warm car, Betsy sitting on the seat with large, brown, curious eyes.
“In the back, girl. We’ve got company.”
Without argument, Betsy does as she’s told. Goddamn Taylor Swift is still having a laugh at me as I slide… London Canterbury onto the passenger seat of my truck. I shift her over, mindful of her injuries, and reach across, buckling her in.
I don’t take a deep breath.
I refuse to inhale her sweet fragrance that hits me square in the chest, so familiar and so exotic and so…
I clear my throat, staring at her face.
She really is a mess and I pop open the glove box, taking out some wipes I have and clean up her face a bit. I don’t even know why I’m bothering right now. Hell, I’m still standing in the snow with the fucking door open.
But once she’s cleaned up, I put the wipes away and watch her for a very long second as visions of her float helplessly through my mind. “Right, then. Only one thing to do.” I slam the door shut, trudge back to her car, gather her stuff from the inside of her car and pop the trunk. I find the suitcases I assumed I would and grab them, carrying them both back to my truck.
I hop in, tossing both of the designer bags onto the seat beside Betsy and slam my door shut, shivering against the cold and snow that has saturated my jeans and down into my socks inside my boots.
I chance one more glimpse at a passed-out London and then put the truck in drive, the plow in the front ready to guide our way. I dial up Earl and tell him where he can find her Porsche, asking him to tow it over to my place.
I glance down at London one last time, making sure she’s buckled in and as comfortable as she can be. Like a star in my hand, I already feel the burn of this woman on my skin. I clear the thoughts away and pull out from the side of the road, heading home.
It seems Betsy and I have an unexpected guest.
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