The Trouble with Christmas, an all-new opposites attract romance from USA Today bestselling author Amy Andrews, is available now!
All Suzanne St. Michelle wants is an over-the-top, eggnog-induced holiday with her best friend in Credence, Colorado. But when her hoity-toity parents insist she come home for Christmas in New York, she blurts out that her sexy landlord is actually her boyfriend and she can’t leave him—Joshy loves Christmas. The more twinkle lights the better.
Rancher Joshua Grady does not love Christmas. Or company, or chatty women. Unfortunately for him, the chattiest woman ever has rented the cottage on his ranch, invited her rich, art-scene parents, and now insists he play “fake rancher boyfriend” in a production of the Hokiest Christmas Ever. And somehow…she gets him to agree.
Apparently, he’ll do anything to get his quiet life back. At least there’s mistletoe every two feet—and kissing Suzy is surprisingly easy. But in the midst of acres of tinsel, far too many tacky Christmas sweaters, and a tree that can be seen from space, he’s starting to want what he lost when he was a kid—a family. Too bad it’s with a woman heading back to New York before the ball drops…
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Except now there was no music. And that was bothering him, because he suddenly realized he was thinking about her—something he’d been trying not to do. Had her power gone out? Was she sick? Had she fallen in the cottage and smacked her head on the stone floor? Had some kind of seizure? Was she unconscious? Had she decided to up and leave?
Yeah, right…he should be so lucky.
Grady shook his head, growling to himself as he flicked off the running faucet and plunged his hands into the steaming-hot sink of water, washing off the caked-on muck from his hands and arms and chest courtesy of a calf that had gotten itself bogged in a freezing quagmire caused by recent rain and melting almost-frozen ground.
He’d managed to rope it out with the help of two of his hands, its plaintive mooing and the distress of its mother keeping everyone focused on the job but somehow, when they were almost there, he’d managed to lose his balance and fall into the frigid mud.
His hands had laughed their asses off as they’d dragged his out of the muck.
The hot water felt good on his chilled skin as he picked up the cake of soap and lathered his arms and chest and neck. He needed a real shower, of course, but he’d learned a long time ago to wash up before he went inside. The plumbing in the mudroom was way more forgiving than the more delicate pipes inside the cabin.
Thankfully his jeans weren’t as mucky. Ordinarily he’d have stripped them off in the mudroom, too, and walked from the barn to the cabin in his underwear—isolated living did have its advantages—but he wasn’t about to do that with Suzanne St. Michellenearby.
And great…just great. He was thinking about her again.
He obviously wasn’t getting laid enough. Just how long hadit been since he’d been with a woman? Well over a year ago. Probably closer to two. Because that had to be it, that had to be the reason he couldn’t stop thinking about the curvy New Yorker even though she’d stayed on her turf exactly as he had demanded.
Reaching with one hand for the fresh towel that hung over the hook above the sink, he pulled the plug with the other, then proceeded to towel dry. At least up until he heard a faint gasp and spun around to find the woman on his mind standing just inside the doorway, her curves hidden in a huge red coat, that green knitted cap pulled down low over her forehead and ears.
His hands paused mid drying the back of his neck. The room wasn’t big, maybe five feet by five feet, which meant she was way closer to him than he was comfortable with, given his state of undress.
“Oh…I’m…sorry.” Her breath misted into the frigid air as her voice faltered. “I didn’t know you were in here.”
Her eyes fell to his chest, zeroed in on the nickel-size scar just beneath his right collarbone courtesy of some shrapnel, before straying to his pecs and abs for what seemed like forever, the awkward silence stretching. Normally Grady wouldn’t bother filling it because silences were where he felt most comfortable and the other person generally rushed in to fill them up. But Suzanne wasn’t bothering, either.
At least not with her mouth anyway.
Her eyes were a different story. They were having an entire conversation as they roved all over his chest. She was looking at him like he was a slice of one of Annie’s pies, and Christ if that wasn’t like a bullet straight to his dick. The kind of friendly fire he could do without.
Fucking hell. He didn’t want to be pie. Not this woman’s. Not any woman’s. He wanted to be…tofu. Nobody lusted after tofu.
“Had some trouble with a calf.” Grady felt like an explanation might help the situation, but he still felt like an idiot making small talk.
“Was it being born?” She pulled her gaze from his abs to his eyes. “Did you have to stick your hand up inside and drag it out? I saw that on a documentary once and couldn’t believe how messy it was. And how calm the mother was. I mean, I’m not sure I’d be okay to just stand there while someone stuck their entire arm up my hoo-ha, right?”
She hesitated for a moment like she’d done the first day they’d met, like she wasn’t sure this was a topic for polite conversation. But her mouth had already committed, so she jutted her chin and went for it.
“I know it has to be done and, let’s face it, a calf is much bigger than a man’s arm—”
Her gaze dropped to his arms via the scar, his chest, and his belly button. She was looking at him like pie again. Annie’s pecan pie with melted butter. Sweet and savory all at once. An orgasm for the tongue.
Not tofu. Plain, tasteless, orgasmlessTofu.
“Even yours,” she continued, forcing her gaze back to his face, and it took Grady a moment to pick up the thread of her ramblings. She shuddered. “But no thank you. I mean, seriously, females of all species really do get a raw deal. I bet you if the males had to push out disproportionately bigger babies through the passage provided for the process, they’d have invented some kind of handy zipper system a long time ago. Some dude would have patented the bejesus out of it.”
She stopped abruptly, snapping her lips closed as if her mouth had finally received the frantic shut the fuck upmessages from her brain. Her cheeks looked pink, but then so did her nose, so it was probably just the nippy December weather.
Grady stared at her, not only at the amount of words she’d spoken but at the content of her monologue. “We…” He spoke because it felt like his turn, but he didn’t even know what to do about cows with zippers. “We don’t calve in winter.”
“Oh, right.” She nodded briskly, her cheeks definitely growing pinker now. “That makes sense. Who wants to be cold and in pain, right?”
She gave a funny little half smile that ended quickly and awkwardly. Then they just stood and stared at each other for several beats longer than was normal or even comfortable, their warm breaths misting into the air.
Tucking her hands into the pockets of her red coat, she said, “I hope it’s okay to have a look around?”
Grady gave a brief, terse nod. “Just don’t go too far or go near the animals.” Last thing he needed was to rescue some damn fool city slicker who’d wandered off and gotten herself lost.
She nodded absently as her gaze drifted again, licking over his chest, lingering on the scar. He should be freezing, half-naked in a room that was little more than an icebox, but with her looking at him like she was trying to commit every line and chest hair to memory, he only felt hot.
Really fucking hot. Melted butter on pecan pie hot.
“I hope—” Her voice sounded a little uneven, and she cleared her throat. “I hope my music hasn’t been disturbing you the last few days.”
He wasn’t sure why she was making small talk—although it was preferable to incessant observations about cow hoo-has and zippers. Nor was he sure why he was standing ramrod straight in front of her, thinking about pie when he should be grabbing the spare shirt he kept in the cupboard above the washbasin and getting decent.
But up had been down since the moment she’d arrived.
“It’s fine,” he dismissed. It hadn’t been the music that had been disturbing him, that was for sure.
She nodded again, glancing around the room briefly before settling her eyes back on his chest. “Well…I guess I’ll…” She didn’t finish the sentence as her gaze once again zeroed in on the scar, and her lips rolled together in contemplation. “Do you mind—?” She stepped forward and raised her hand tentatively.
When he didn’t move because he was paralyzed by the realization she was actually going to touch him, she became bolder, stepping in closer again as her fingers made contact. She was so close now, he could smell her. Coffee and snickerdoodles? And something sharp, maybe chemical. Paint, he supposed.
“Is it a bullet wound?”
Grady flinched as she touched the scar, her fingers like icicles as they sunk into the small indentation. He closed his eyes as heat bloomed from the center, spreading like a ripple, burning like a furnace down the length of his body.
Blood pulsed hard and thick, everywhere. Damn it, she might as well be wrapping that cold hand around the throbbing hardness pressing into the zipper of his fly. It was probably forty degrees in this concrete box, but it felt like a sauna, and it was an easy 120 inside his boxers.
He swallowed. “It’s from…shrapnel.”
He had no idea why he wasn’t stepping back. He should step back. He should have said, Yes, I do mind, told her it was none of her business. He should be finding a shirt.
Find a fucking shirt, idiot.
“Did it hurt?”
Surprised by the question, he glanced down to find the bulky knit of her hat a whisker away from brushing the underside of his chin. “Like a bastard.”
She looked up and they were close—her mouth was close—her fingers a balm to the old wound that still made his shoulder ache on cold winter mornings. His heart thumped like a jungle drum and god almighty, it was hot enough in here to grow bananas.
“Was it bad? Did you bleed a lot?”
His throat was dry as the concrete beneath his feet. “It bled some.” Then, finally getting his shit together, he took a step back, and her hand slid away.
If his distancing bothered her, she didn’t show it, just simply said, “Thank you for your service.”
Grady didn’t know what to say. He never knew what to say to this standard platitude. He appreciated the sentiment, but he’d just been doing his job. So he nodded, his pulse reverberating like a dinner gong in his ears, as she slowly backed out of the room and disappeared from sight.
Reaching for the sink, Grady gripped the curved edge in both his hands and hunched over, dropping his head down between his shoulder blades and taking some deep steadying breaths.
January could not come soon enough.
About Amy Andrews:
Amy is an Aussie author of hot contemporary romance who believes in multiple orgasms, mighty wangs and happily ever afters. She’s been penning them for over twenty years and has 70+ books to her name.
As well as unforgettable characters and great sex you’ll also be treated to some laughs and a dollop of quirk because Amy doesn’t seem to know how to write a book without a bit of both. You might also cry a little because there’s nothing she loves more than a laughy-criey book!
She also loves sunsets and rainbows, unicorns and mermaids, booze and travel. And her home that overlooks the ocean. She may also happen to believe she was a Roman goddess in her past life because its the only thing that explains her adoration for all things Italy.
Connect with Amy:
Twitter: @amyandrewsbooks http://bit.ly/2uYHcqQ