One of these days, Blue decided, he really
did need to learn to say no. Why the hell a Dallas radio station thought
any of their listeners would want to make a trip to September for a Christmas
tree was beyond him. But marketing wasn’t his thing, and he’d
agreed to meet with the rep from the radio station before thinking the
idea all the way through. At least nothing legal or binding had been
Turning onto his long, winding drive, he wondered again why he hadn’t called
this whole thing off days ago. Hell, it was barely a month until Christmas. The
station’s contact name and number were scratched right there on the chalkboard
back in his store office. Yet when he’d finally looked up this afternoon
from the tons of work still waiting, he’d realized the rep would’ve
left Dallas hours before.
He’d had no choice but to save his spreadsheet, shut down his laptop, grab
his coat and hit the road. And obviously it was even later than he’d thought,
he grumbled, grunting as his pickup bounced through the gate and into the clearing
surrounding the house.
An electric blue Mercedes Kompressor sat parked alongside the covered, wrap-around
porch. Feeling perversely inconvenienced, he parked directly behind, catching
a flash of movement near the porch swing before climbing down from the cab.
He had a buttload of orders to see to for Miller’s Annual New Year’s
Deals. He should be spending the evening at work, not making like the nice Christmas
tree farmer at home. When his father asked about the delay in orders, Blue would
remind the older man whose idea it was four years ago to plant all those damn
pine seedlings. And who hadn’t ended up sticking around to see the venture
With his work boots crunching on the crushed shell drive, Blue headed for the
porch steps, determined to send the station’s rep packing and get his own
butt back to the store.
“Sorry I’m late,” he said, mounting the four steps in two strides. “I
got caught up at the office.” But that was all of his hit-the-road spiel
he had time to get out before coming face-to-face with his past.
Jessie Buchanan had grown into a hell of a woman.
She wore black leather, black silk and black denim: a motorcycle jacket, a low-cut
T-shirt and tight, skinny jeans. Her skin was as porcelain-pale as ever, her
eyes brilliantly knowing. Her toenails were painted a deep lush red; she had
on the strangest looking pair of heeled sandals he’d ever seen. Lace-up
and velvet and black.
She looked nothing like the girl he remembered, the girl who’d turned his
gut inside out when she’d licked her lips and begged. Not for what she
wanted; it had never been about what she wanted. It had always been about what
she wanted to do. For him. To him. He choked back the memory, took the last step
onto the porch and stopped. He wondered what she was up to. He wondered if he
wanted to know.
Fists shoved into jeans pockets and shoulders hunched forward against the cold,
he acknowledged her with no more than the suggestion of a nod. “Jess.”
“Hi, Blue.” She walked toward him, her hips swaying in that same
seductive walk he’d seen for years in his dreams. “You’re looking
She looked better than good. She looked like the breakfast he craved when he
rolled out of bed, the sinful dessert he never took time to savor. He lived on
fast food and coffee, his life having become a series of quickies when his back
had been turned.
And now here was Jessie Buchanan, looking like a bad girl who understood quickies
well. The thought stirred the primitive heat seeing her had kindled deep between
“It’s the air.” He pulled in a huge breath. “The clean
country living. It does a body good.”
“You’re full of shit,” she said and moved even closer. “You
“And I see you’re still a mouthy little thing.” Only she wasn’t
so little at all. She wasn’t any taller; she just seemed so, her presence
that of a lioness, confident, proud, where once she’d been more mousy and
meek, skittish and easily cowed. Except with him. Never with him.
And then she was in his arms, saying hello with her body and smelling like the
sunshine missing from these dreary winter days. His arms went around her waist;
hers wrapped around his neck.
He nuzzled his face to her hair and breathed deeply, remembering, reliving, aching
from more than the press of her thighs to his, her belly to his, her breasts
to his chest where his heart had started to thunder.
He stepped back and set her away, holding her upper arms because he didn’t
want her to bolt just yet and wasn’t sure if she’d broken herself
of the habit. And then he found himself shaking his head. This woman, this Jessie.
Bolting looked to be the furthest thing from her mind. Long dark lashes swept
down, swept up, her eyes as green as he remembered, as green as pine seedlings
soaking up summer’s sun, as green as winter’s harvest of Christmas
trees. The trees . . . Goddammit! She was here because of the Christmas trees.
He released her as if he’d been felled by an axe. The victorious look on
her face confirmed his suspicion. “You’re from the radio station,
aren’t you?” Her growing smile stirred the coals of his wariness.
He moved back into her space, towering above her, glaring down. “What the
hell’s going on?”
She ran a hand through her silky black hair, shoving it back from her face. She
licked her lips and started to turn away. He wasn’t going to let it happen.
They were separated now by ten inches, not ten years, and he held home field
He reached out, ran his hand along the side of her neck, his fingers into the
hair at her nape, and cupped the back of her skull. “I’m waiting
here, Jess. I want an answer.”
She nodded, a smile playing along the line of her lips slick from the touch of
her tongue and tinted a dark winter rose. “You used to be more trusting.”
He snorted. “I used to be eighteen.”
“So did I,” she said, turning her face to press her lips, the tip
of her tongue, the barest edge of her teeth, to the inside of his forearm. “We’re
both older now, Blue. And hopefully more than a little bit wiser.”
His pride ordered him to let her go. His cock that remembered that warm and wet
mouth told him to pull her body to his. “Being wiser is the reason I don’t
trust you. If you set this up . . . if you set me up . . . so help me I’ll—”
“You’ll do what? Turn me over your knee?”
Why did she look like that’s exactly what she wanted him to do? Not fifteen
minutes ago he’d been working on a plan to get out of this deal with the
radio station. Now the idea didn’t seem like the same waste of time—except
he knew that’s exactly what it was.
He couldn’t work with this woman. Fuck her, yeah. But deal with her professionally?
Keep their contact strictly business when she was the last person on earth he’d
have invited back into his life?
He hated her even more now that she was standing here, her lips parted and her
breathing labored, making him forget why he had never wanted to see her again.
He needed to remember her leaving, the way she had given but half of the story,
never telling him the whole truth. He tilted her head back, stared directly down
into her eyes. His pulse roared in his ears—and in his pants, where his
non-thinking head wanted a rough-and-raw pounding revenge.
“I think you’d better get back in that fancy import of yours and
get the hell back to Dallas before you regret having come here.”
“You haven’t even heard my proposal yet.” She caught at her
lower lip with her teeth, once, twice.
The fog of breath she exhaled surrounded him, a warm cocoon in the rapidly frosting
air. It was all Blue could do not to slide his hand into her panties and see
if she was as slick and wet as the look in her eyes promised.
“I don’t need to hear it. This Christmas tree thing isn’t going
to happen. There’s only one thing that ever worked between us, Jess. And
I don’t think you’re here to sleep with me.”