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Authors: H.M. Ward

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BOOK: Christmas Kisses
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He sighs loudly, obviously annoyed with me. “Listen, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than sleepi
ng in
the car. If you have some
where else we can go, somewhere closer…?”

I shake my head. “The dorms are the closest. Is there anyone else there?”

He grins, “Why, you don’t want to sleep with me?”

My back straightens and I
visibly
flinch. It’s mortifying. “No, I just…”

“You just, what?” He looks at me for a moment and then turns off the charm, but I’m still drawn to him. Damn him. Why does he have to be so
droolworthy
?

“I just don’t want to have to explain to people why I’m at your place in the morning.”

He looks at me like I’ve hit my head one too many times. “It snowed, Holly. They aren’t stupid. Everyone knows you don’t want me like that.”

My lips part.
I start to correct him, to ask who thinks that, but I snap my jaw shut. Maybe he doesn’t know
how I feel about him
? Is it possible?

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER

 

5

 

 

RYAN

 

I glance at Holly’s face and can see something there, but I can’t tell what. The idea of going back to
the dorm wasn’t a bad one. It’ll be
warm, and we
can
crash there for the night. I
just have
to keep my hands off of her. I nearly lost it at the diner. When her skin brushes against mine, every part of me flares to life.
I can’t
not
react to her
caress
.
My body responds whether I want it to or not.

She follows me across the parking lot and we stand in front of the dorm. It’s quiet. The snow falls faster now, sticking to everything it touches. Holly’s dark hair glitters with touches of snow and ice. She looks so beautiful that I want to reach out and touch her face, and feel her silky hair between my fingers. I glance at
Holly
and she has that unreadable expression in her eyes. I walk a little bit in front of her, because I’ll take her hand if I walk next to her, and reach for my card. We stop before the door. No one is here. Everyone went home for the holidays. Technically, I’d signed out along with everyone else. I swipe the card and the black case flashes a green light at me. I pull the door open and let Holly pass through. Her perfume fills my head, making me
breath in another gulp before she passes. It’s intoxicating—she’s
intoxicating
.

I close the door and walk down the hall. Usually the dorm is bustling with people, but not today. We walk to the elevators and I push the up button. Holly is quiet, like she’s considering sleeping in the snow just so she doesn’
t have to do this
. I don’t understand her
. She runs hot and cold. One second she’s g
azing at my lips
,
and
the next she’s shut down and won’t even look at me.

I talk to her over my shoulder as I head toward my room.
“Have you been up here before?”
She shakes her head. “I thought you might. Nicole lives in the other tower. Basically each unit is a bedroom, with two beds and
a sink. The showers are down the hall.”

She looks around as we pass by doors that all look identical. “You like it here?”

Her question surprises me. “Yeah, I suppose so. I wasn’t sure if I would, I mean
,
it’s like picking up the high school version of me and moving him 20 miles west. Having so many classmates around makes it feel the same, but there are lots of differences too.”

I stop in front of my door and slide my huge key into the lock.
While the rest of the school i
s bursting with modern technology, the
y still use
brass keys for the
dorm
doors. I guess it was more secure and less of a headache for the staff. No one has to reset a brass key when it

s left next to
a cell phone too long. I push open the door, knowing my room was clean before I left. I didn’t intend on coming back until after New Year

s.

I hold the door open and Holly glances at me. The way those brown eyes slip across my face and then my
chest,
makes my heart beat harder. She passes in front of me and I manage not to sweep her in
to
my arms and shower her with kisses. I smile, thinking about. Of course, she picks that second to turn and look at me.

Her head tilts to the side, making her long hair fall over her shoulder. “What’s that smile for?”

I shrug. Hiding things from her is impossible. She seems to have been made with a direct link to my
thoughts, and uses it frequently. I answer honestly, “You.”

“Oh,” she says and turns around, looking at the room. She steps between the two beds and her eyes swiftly pass over the things on each side of the room. She points to the left and says, “That’s your side, isn’t it?” I nod. She smiles and tucks a curl behind her ear. Her eyes flick up and meet mine for half a bea
t before returning to the bed. There’s no
where else to sit and the room is insanely small.

I realize that she’s uncomfortable. She twists her fingers the way she does when she’s nervous. Her lips part, like she’s going to say something, but she doesn’t. My god, if she acts like this all night, I’ll lose my mind.

Grinning, I walk toward her and say, “It’s okay. You can sit. I swear it’s clean. I haven’t had sex on it in a week. Or
has it been a
day?” I stroke my chin, feel
ing the stubble under my finger
tips.

She smirks.
“A week?”

For some reason
,
she takes me seriously. “I’m kidding, Connelly. Damn,
woman
. You still think I’m a male slut, don’t you?”

“Well, there seems to be a never-ending line of blondes behind you… under you.” She smiles as she says it.

“Ah, my kryptonite—blondes with silky hair.
You figured me out.” I swirl a finger in the air, while thinking, wondering, if she realizes that’s not my type at all.

Holly’s my type. Everything from the way her hair curls to the shape of
her body, to that sharp
tongue
that I want to suck into my mouth and kiss. God, how does she not see it? I’m practically drooling on her. I
hold out my hand. “Sit. My room
mate is a bit of a freak, so don’t touch his crap unless you want him to kill me when he gets back.”

“Hmmm.
My own hit
man.”
She raises her dark brows and taps a slender finger to her lips. “I could ditch my Caprice and get a Fiat, let him do all my dirty work.”

I laugh. I can’t help it.
The way she says it and that look on her face makes it funny.
“A Fiat?”

She smiles. “It’s my dream car. I think I could fit three of them inside the
beast
.” She turns toward me, her hands pressing into her arms as she folds them over her chest.

“That’s your dream car?” I ask, goading her. But she doesn’t take my bait. She just stands there, inches from me, staring at me. Her eyes flick between my hair and my eyes, occasionally drifting to my lips. I wonder if I have ketchup on my face and she’s too nice to tell me. Why else would she be looking at my mouth?

She nods once, slowly
,
and steps toward me. “I suppose you want something that’s more typical male. Like a midlife crisis car?”

“Of course.
Why do you think guys have a midlife crisis
,
anyway? It’s to get the car, babe.”

She laughs. Her eyes drift to my mouth again and stay there.
No one says anything. I hear my
heart beating faster and Holly’s shallow breaths. Her hand lifts like she’s going to do
something, but she only touches her hair, pushing a stray curl away from her glittering eyes. It takes everything in me to stay where I am. I couldn’t sleep with her and just blow it off the next day. The woman had worked her way too far under my skin for anything like that. If I had half a brain, I would have made a joke and laughed, but I had no brain. Holly makes my mind retreat and my
body flare
to life.

My hands lift
on their own
and rest on her waist. That little black dress is so sexy. The fabric is smooth beneath my hands. Holly doesn’t shirk me off. Instead she lifts her arms and places them at my
shoulders. We stay like that—dancing when there’s no music—h
er body rocking, moving from foot to foot, her hips sway
ing
beneath my hands. I step closer to her, wishing that I could read her mind, but she won’t look at me. Her eyes
remain
lowered and her
thick lashes conceal her thoughts
.

Holly’s
fingers find the nape of my neck and tangle in my hair. Her body is so close to mine, nearly pressed flat against me, but not. Only certain parts brush, like her
chest
against m
ine
. It makes me want to press her whole body against
me
. I wonder what she’s doing, what she’s thinking, but I can’t ruin the moment. It’s one of those times that I’ll replay in my mind when she’s gone. Because one thing is certain, Holly isn’t staying in New York. As soon as New Years is over, she’ll be
flying
back down to the hee-haw state without me. I try not to think about it. I try to be happy
with things the way they are now, but I can’t leave it alone.

“Holly?” I breathe her name.

She makes a purring
noise
in my ear, before saying, “Yes?”
She sounds content, so I don’t know why I feel the need to push her away, but I do. Her head snaps up and she looks at me like I
just woke her from a dream.

I let go of her waist and walk away, even though I ache for her touch. Opening a dresser, I toss her a tee shirt. She catches it. “Yo
u can sleep in that, unless you’re
comfy in your garters and boots.”

She stares at me. Those brown eyes meet mine and silently berate me for being a dick, but I have to. I can’t let her start something that she won’t finish. Holly smiles and holds up the shirt. “Thanks. I’ll wait a bit to put it
on, if that’s okay with you?” I nod. She looks around and asks, “Where’s your TV?
Stereo
?”

“I brought that stuff home. I didn’t think I’d be coming back
so soon
.” She nods and glances around.

“So, what are we going to do until bed?”

The way she says
bed
makes my throat tighten. She glances at me, suddenly shy again. I want to take her in my arms and hold her. I push the thought away and break eye contact. “We can play games. I have cards, dice, and that kind of crap. Actually, it’s my roommates, but I’ll risk getting whacked so we have something to do.”
Besides each other.
I
suck
in a deep breath and grab the cards.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER

 

6

 

HOLLY

 

I feel strange standing in his room. I have no idea how I’m supposed to stay here
and not touch him. Every time Ryan
gets within
reach, I want to pull him to me
and hold on tight. Maybe I should go out into the snow and cool off. Naughty thoughts keep popping up in my mind, and his blue eyes make me nuts.

Ryan
sits on the floor and opens a deck of cards. I sit across from him and unzip my boots. I pull my legs out and wiggle my toes. I tuck my legs under me, but the dress is too short. It
hikes up and he can see the lace at the top of my thigh highs and the tip of the garter strap. Crap. I shift and pull at the dress. It barely covers the stockings. When I glance up, Ryan’s eyes are on my legs. He looks away quickly, like he was caught doing something he shouldn’t.

“So, what’s the game?” I ask, trying to ignore the heat in his gaze.

“Strip poker.
What else would I chose? You chose the game.” He shuffles and doesn’t look at me. He seems agitated and I don’t know what I’ve done. I shouldn’t have touched him before. I bet he thinks he has to rebuff my advances all night and is worried about it. I make a vow to keep my hands to myself. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Or not.

I watch Ryan’s hands on th
e deck, the way they move. If
his fingers
could
trail down my chest, just for a m
oment
, I’d die. I know I would. There’s no way I could live through that, and yet.

Oh, fuck.
Pick a game. I don’t know any card games except Old Maid, War, and—“Go Fish.” I smile like I’m serious when he looks up.

Ryan laughs and shakes his head. “
Okay,
and what are the stakes?” He deals cards and lets me make the rules of this crazy little card game.

I move to pull my knees into my chest and stop. Damn dress. I want to sit on the floor with him the way we used to, when I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, not this. I shift my legs. His eyes follow the movement, but he
doesn’t comment. “Winner gets to ch
o
ose the next game.”

“And the loser?”

“Does
a booty
dance in the snow.” Yeah, that sounds good and clean, right? Plus
,
it

s freezing and should cool off my flaming panties pretty fast. I intend to lose. I suck at every card game invented.
I’m a guaranteed loser.

“A booty dance?”
he asks.

“Yeah, are you up for it? Or is that too
girlie
for you?”

He sh
r
ug
s his shoul
ders, “
Nope,
and y
ou know that you’re the one who’s going to be dancing, right?”

“Booty dance,” I correct.

“What’s the difference?”

“Regular dancing doesn’t count. You have to wildly shake your booty.”

“Ah, so it’s meant to be freezing and humiliating?”

“Yup.”
I rub my palms together and pick up my cards. “Hello. My name is Holly Connelly. You killed my Caprice. Prepare to die.”

He grins at me, but it mixes with another expression, like he thinks I might be crazy. Well, that’s okay. I am crazy. I’m in his room, alone, in the middle of
a
snow storm playing Go Fish. Of course I’m crazy. “Come on,
pokey,
pick a card so I can kick your ass.” I talk trash like I’m trying to win and by the third round, I’m clearly losing.

Ryan laughs. “Better get that booty dance ready. I believe I kicked your ass.” He puts down his last two cards and I pout.

“Another round?”

“Hell, no.
We’re going outside right now.” He jumps up and take
s
my arm, pulling me up with him. I pause trying to grab my boots, and he lets me pull them on. I zip them quickly and act like I’m dreading it. When we push through the front doors, I walk out onto the snow
covered front lawn of the dorm.

I glance back at him. The cold air fills my lungs, stinging my cheeks and whipping my hair across my face. God, he looks beautiful. He stands there watching me as the snow falls around him. There’s a street light behind
Ryan’s
head that casts a golden glow around his face. I thought the snow would chill me, help me snap out of it, but it doesn’t.
Awh
, crap
.

The longer I wait, the worse it’ll be.
I turn abruptly and hold my hands
up and shake my butt. I turn around 360 degrees, laughing and doing a kickass booty dance, when I see Ryan’s face. He’s smiling so hard that it looks like his cheeks will crack. The wind whips at the hem of my dress lifting it, and my hands smack it bac
k down. My body is frozen. Snow
flakes cling to my skin and melt. I stop and look at him.

I open my mouth to say something, but he cuts me off. “That was the best booty dance, I have ever seen. And I mean, in my entire life.”

I grin. I can’t help it. I love making him laugh. “Well, that’s the only one you’re going to see tonight. I’m not losing again.”

“Good thing you went first. Now I know exactly how silly I’ll look. It’s a
good threat to
those of
us
who
have never booty danced before.”

We laugh like lunatics and go back to his room, play another game—this time War—and after a do-over, and another retry, I lose all three times. Every time I lost the stakes
compounded
,
which means my booty dance has
to be three times
as long. As we exit the elevators, I’m
laughing.

I jump into the snow, glad to have the cold air clearing my head. The wind whips my hair about as I shake my butt and dance. Ryan watches me with his arms folded across his chest and a tight smile on his mouth. On my second rotation, I run over and pull his hands so he’s standing with me in the snow. I twist and wiggle and bump my hip into his. He laughs, watching me. By the time I
turn a full circle, there isn’t a hint of laughter on his face.

Ryan
holds out his hand, “Come on. Let’s go back in.” I take it and feel a zing shoot through my chest. It darts through my body
,
warming me. I can’t stand it, but I can’t let go either.

Ryan presses the elevator button and the doors open. It’s still
waiting
there
since
no one is around. We walk in and he presses the button for his floor. Then he takes my other hand and holds both my palms together under his. He blows his warm breath onto them, trying to warm me.

“You’re freezing,” he says and does it again, but his lips brush against my palm this time. I
suck
in a breath. My heart slams into my ribs and I can’t breathe. Ryan looks into my eyes and I melt.

I can’t stop it. I can’
t contain it anymore. I take Ryan’s
hand and press his finger to my lips, returning the sensation he just shot through me. Ryan stills and lets me. I kiss one finger
, gently pressing my lips to the tip of his warm finger, while I hold his palm with my other hand. My bottom lip sticks a little as I pull away. I do it again, but this time I nip his finger with my teeth as I kiss. I don’t look at him. I don’t want to see his reaction. I feel so lost, like I’m floating. Nothing grounds
me,
nothing calls me back to keep me from making these stupid mistakes.

When I move to kiss the third finger, he presses me against the wall and says, “Don’t.” He stands there, pressing into me, pinning me in place as his head dips and his lips linger
dangerously close to mine.
I shiver, even though I’m hot. I can’t speak. I can’t move. My heart pounds in my ears. The heat pours off his body. His muscles are tense, and he work
s his jaw. He’s angry. He must b
e. Ryan backs off when the elevator dings and the doors open.

He walks out, the muscles in his arms corded tightly and
he
runs his fingers through his hair. I remain on the elevator. I don’t follow him out. I can’t. I can’t do this, whatever it is, that he wants me to do. I can’t flirt all night and not touch him. I can’t bear it.

 

 

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