Thursday, December 12, 2013

All I Want for Christmas by Sydney Somers

We're back with more holiday short stories to celebrate Sweater Season Nine Naughty Novelists style.

Now it's time to catch up with the former bad girl and unrepentant bad boy from Promise Harbor this holiday season!


All I Want For Christmas


The house had been trashed. Again.

Only this time it wasn’t someone with a grudge against Hayley that turned their small house on the lake into a nightmare.

Correction: a Christmas Do-It-Yourself nightmare.

Jackson set his bag on the floor, taking a cautious step into the living room. It was impossible to move more than a foot at a time without stepping on ribbon, tinsel, ornaments, ceramic reindeer and…

He cocked his head. “Is Santa mooning his elves?”

“It belonged to my Gramps,” came the muffled response from upstairs.

The eye-sore of a decoration certainly looked like something Coach would have put on display in his den.
Jackson grabbed his bag and jogged up the stairs, avoiding piles of wrapping paper, Christmas lights and more ornaments.

“Where did all this stuff come from?”

“The attic.” Hayley climbed down the ladder in the middle of the hallway, her blonde hair falling out of her pony tail. Rainbow-colored sparkles from the decorations dotted her cheeks and hair. Dust covered the front of her navy T-shirt, one particularly dark smudge staining her forehead.

And she was still the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

He took a step toward her, thinking he’d start with dusting off the blue sparkles closest to the corner of her mouth and work his way to the lips parting in a grin that made him damn glad he’d come home to Promise Harbor.

To Hayley.

His foot snagged on a string of lights, bringing him up short.

“Problem?” Her smile widened.

He moved fast, snaring her wrist before she could dart out of reach. “Not particularly.” He tugged her toward him, not stopping until she was flush against him—every soft and sexy inch. Had it only been a few hours since he’d grudgingly let her leave their bed?

What the hell had he been thinking?

Hayley’s breath caught. “I know that look, Knight.”

“Good.” He slipped his arm around her back, the heat from her body chasing away the chill from the snowy December day. “Then I don’t need to explain what happens next.”

Next being the moment he forgot everything but the intoxicating taste of Hayley’s mouth. Thoughts of kissing her long and slow had been distracting him all morning. Now that he had her back in his arms, he wasn’t letting go.

The ring of Hayley’s cell phone disagreed, and somehow he knew it was the precinct calling. The last two times—at Stone’s a couple hours ago, and at Barney’s Chowder House before that—they’d been interrupted by a call about a police case Hayley was working.

He let his forehead drop to hers. “Isn’t it your day off?”

She silenced the ring and stuffed the phone back into her pocket. “I’ll call them back in a minute.”

He scanned the surrounding chaos. “Before or after you finish waging war with Mrs. Claus?”

Her lips curved. “I was looking for my nan’s angel.”

He wasn’t sure how she could find anything when the house looked like the morning after a keg party at Santa’s Workshop. “You know it’s going to take more than an angel to help you overcome that bad girl reputation, right?”

Stepping back, she punched him playfully in the arm. “And you’d know all about bad reputations, wouldn’t you?”

The move made the bag rustle against his leg, and he remembered the reason he’d left Stone’s Sports Bar in the middle of helping Hayley’s brother get set up for tonight.

“Speaking of naughty behavior…” He dug into his bag and pulled out his present for her. “I got this for you to wear.”

Arching a brow, she unfolded the sweater. “Eat me?”

He slid effortlessly back into her personal space—his favorite place to be. “Not a problem.”

Laughing, she squirmed out of his arms, holding up the sweater with the giant gingerbread cookie on the front. She pointed to the words that matched the red gumdrops on the cookie. “It says, ‘Eat Me’.”

Grinning, he pulled out the one he’d ordered online for himself and held it up to his chest.

“Merry Christmas You Filthy Animal,” she read. “Matt picked that one out, didn’t he?” When he nodded, she continued, “There won’t be a party if I don’t find that angel. Gramps put it on the tree at Stone’s every year. It’s tradition.”

“And it wasn’t in the attic?”

She shook her head, some of the laughter fading from her eyes. “I need to find it.”

Jackson imagined that this year, the first without both her nan and gramps, that it was more important to her than ever. Together they’d find it, and without losing her to the sadness she’d been trying to hide for the last few days.

“Do you know what’ll help?”

“Sex,” she said, reading his mind easily, “will not help.”

“I think you’ve been misinformed. Sex helps everything.”

Laughing, she retrieved her phone. “I need to check work, and you need to check the shed for me. Maybe Gramps stuck more decorations in there.” She’d already turned away, her fingers dialing, and missed seeing him shudder.

“You and I have a date under the mistletoe later,” he called out, trying to shake off memories that still made him twitchy.

“I know.” She glanced back over her shoulder. “I saw the stuff you already tacked to the ceiling, over the bed.”


Four hours later they still hadn’t found the angel.

People were starting to trickle in to Stone’s and Hayley had almost given up on finding the tree topper. They’d spent the last two hours going through every box in the storage room next to the bar, hoping it had been packed away here last Christmas.

“You sure you don’t need some ice on that?” Matt gestured to her left cheek.

She opened one of the last boxes. “It’s nothing.” On the way in to follow up on a new development at work, she’d pulled a guy over for driving under the influence. She still wasn’t sure if the guy had indulged in too much, or not enough, holiday cheer. Either way, he’d resisted arrest at first, leaving her with the bruise.

“I doubt Jackson will think it’s nothing.”

It was nothing compared to the bruises Jackson had ended up with during his professional hockey career.
Shrugging, she moved on to the last box.  “It has to be here somewhere.”

“Maybe nan’s ghost hid it.”

Hayley rolled her eyes.

“She took Jackson’s keys last week.”

“Jackson misplaced his keys.” Along with his wallet two weeks ago, favorite coffee mug three weeks before that, and his laptop two months before that.

“Uh-huh.” Matt didn’t even pretend to look convinced. “You’re sure nan’s angel wasn’t in the shed? Gramps kept all kinds of stuff in there.” Matt paused. “Sorry. It is too soon to mention the S-word?”

“You want to clean this all up yourself, don’t you?”

 “C’mon. It couldn’t have been that bad.”

Hayley’s trigger finger disagreed. “If you’re so convinced, I’m happy to sign you up for the police demonstration we run at our Spring Fair booth every year.”

“That’s cold, Hayley.” Matt set aside the last box he’d emptied and stepped to the door to survey the crowd. Music drifted in, the soft notes of Bing Crosby’s I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas riding on the air. “I think we’re going to have more people than last year.”

“You should get out there. I’ll finish up in here.” She started repacking some of the boxes.

“Cleaning up can wait.”

“I won’t be long.”

Matt nodded. “Good, because I promised some people that you’d tell them all about how you arrested Jackson the night before the Wedding That Wasn’t.” Grinning, he vanished out the door.

Great.

Although she was pretty sure they’d been through every box. Hayley scanned the storage closet one more time. A few minutes, a chorus of greetings rang out in the pub, and she knew that Jackson had arrived.
And when his tall frame blocked the doorway, she could tell by the look on his face that someone had already told him about her cheek.

“Tell me you locked the bastard in a cell with a bunch of very lonely men.”

Hayley laughed, sliding into the arms that she knew would fight the whole world for her. He tipped her chin up, his thumb drifting across her cheek. She still hadn’t found the angel, but being with Jackson made her feel better instantly.

Being with him always made her feel better.

Six months ago she never would have imagined that Promise Harbor’s unrepentant bad boy would have stolen her heart. Even more surprisingly, though, she’d stolen his, and she felt it every time he looked at her, reached for her hand or whispered how much he loved her as she was drifting off to sleep.

“Did you at least punch him back?”

She snuggled against his chest, smiling at the sight of his sweater. “If we’d been on the ice, I definitely would have.”

Turning her around, he nudged her out the door. “I think we both need a drink.”

Before she could ask why he needed a drink, Matt walked up to them, his eyes wide. “It was waiting for me.”

“What was?”

“The angel.”

Jackson frowned, glanced at Hayley. “How much spiked Egg Nog has he been drinking tonight?”

She slipped her arm around Jackson’s waist, but kept her eyes on her brother. “What are you talking about?”

“The tree topper. I walked into the kitchen and nan’s angel was sitting in the middle of the counter. Waiting for me,” he added, his voice lowered. He visibly shuddered.

“You must have carried a box in there and forgot about it—” Jackson began.

“No. It wasn’t in there, earlier.”

“Matt?”

They all turned at the sound of Bernice’s voice. The town’s resident gossip queen held up a giant costume bear head. “Where do you want him?”

“Doesn’t she know that it’s reindeer season?” Jackson asked.

“Gramps promised her months ago that she could prop him up in the corner this Christmas.” Although their former high school mascot costume was looking a little rough around the edges these days. Soon he’d no doubt be covered in tinsel and lights and look more festive than the oversized Charlie Brown tree Matt had talked her into. The only thing missing from the lopsided tree in the corner was Linus’s blanket.  

Still looking spooked, Matt gestured behind him. “I’m not going back in the kitchen alone.”

“If your nan wanted to haunt you, she would have left a butcher knife sitting there.”

Matt’s face paled. “Do I look like I need to be creeped out more than I already am?”

Grinning, Hayley followed her brother into the kitchen, noting the melted snow on the floor. She picked up the angel. “What to give me a hand with this?” she asked Jackson. She was pretty sure Matt might pass out if she asked him to even touch the ornament.

“No problem.”

More people had joined the gathering crowd out front, and Hayley exchanged greetings with half of them on the way to the tree.

She dragged over the small ladder sitting against the wall. “You overhead Matt talking about nan’s ghost, didn’t you?”

Jackson didn’t look surprised that she’d figured it out. “And the part about the shed.” He almost managed to say the word without twitching. “I came in through the back, realized that the vent in the closet feeds into the kitchen.”

Bracing a hand on Jackson’s shoulder, she slid the angel on top of the tree, not caring that the tree topper leaned at a 45 degree angle. “When are you going to tell him?”

Jackson glanced over to where Matt worked behind the bar. “Probably never.”

“So you found it in the shed after all, huh?”

Jackson nodded.

“And it wasn’t too traumatic?” she murmured, stepping down off the ladder.

He swatted her backside, easily reading the sarcasm in her voice. “You can make it up to me later.”

“I thought I was still making up for the first time?”

“Good point.” He leaned in, nipping her bottom lip. “Come with me. Grab your jacket first.”

Once she’d grabbed it from behind the bar and zipped it up, Jackson took her hand and led her outside.
Snow fell in big, fat flakes, blanketing the bar’s small parking lot. Multicolored Christmas lights hung from the lamp posts lining the street that was otherwise empty, making it feel like they were the only two people around.

He tugged her down the front steps and around the side of the building.

“What are we doing out here?”

“It’s hard to get you alone, Detective Stone.” He pressed her up against the wall, his body warm and strong.

One hand found the nape of her neck, pulling her mouth closer at the same time his thigh slipped between hers.

Her eyes slid shut at the soft, deliberate friction, her body melting into his. “You can get arrested for public indecency, you know.”

The slow tease of his mouth across hers turned into a smile, and she opened her eyes to find him grinning at her.

“I do have a reputation to uphold.”

Hayley slid her arms around his neck. “And we wouldn’t want the holiday season to get in the way of that.”

“As long as you’re with me, they can lock us up and throw away the key.” He tucked his face against her throat, his mouth hot enough to melt the icicles hanging from the roof.

“How can you make the thought of spending Christmas in jail sound crazy and romantic at the same time?”

He met her eyes, and the emotion in those stunning blue depths made her heart thump in her chest. “Because you are all I want for Christmas this year. And next year, and the year after, and the year after that…” His words trailed off as he captured her mouth in a devastating kiss.

One that promised dozens of years of ugly sweaters, pranks and moments that took her breath away.

Moments like this.


Want to know what really happened in the shed? Check out Hayley and Jackson's story! Or check out the entire Promise Harbor series at our Website.


BUSTED

Hockey star Jackson Knight has a hundred reasons not to return to Promise Harbor, but none of them are good enough to get him out of attending his best friend’s wedding. Even with a career-ending knee injury, every puck-bunny in town will be gunning for him.

Worse, getting a pair of cuffs slapped on him at the bachelor party could ruin any chance of getting back in the game, even as a coach. Unless he can convince the arresting officer to smooth things over—by going to the wedding as his date.

Hayley Stone figures posing as Jackson’s girlfriend is the least she can do to salvage his reputation. Plus, having a man with a toe-curling smile on her arm will keep her ex off her back.

What starts as a simple plan to deflect small-town pot-shots unexpectedly becomes a sizzling night that hits Jackson like a full-body-check to the heart. Now he’s determined to prove that she’s the best of reason of all to come home—for good.


Or read the first chapter here: http://www.sydneysomers.com/bookshelf/busted/


For more information about this event, check out last Friday's post or visit us on Facebook.





9 comments:

Kelly Jamieson said...

Love this story Syd! And I love Jackson. A lot. :-) So nice to visit again with him and Hayley!

KIM TALBOT said...

Awesome excerpt

basiaroze said...

Love it!!

Kimberly Mayberry said...

This was fantastic!!!

PG Forte said...

Oh, very nice story. :)

Meg Benjamin said...

Nice memories of Promise Harbor, Syd!

nancy said...

Loved it

Erin Nicholas said...

Jackson!!! :D

kmx2 said...

Now I want to read the whole book!