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Authors: Victoria H. Smith

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BOOK: Holiday Fling
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Oh, yeah. They were just in the middle of a robbery a moment ago.

She turned to see him scanning the room and quickly discovered what he did—there were no windows to exit from. Tarrah took in their environment of holiday decorations and partially consumed food. “Looks like we’re in a break room. They probably don’t want the employees escaping.” She laughed.
How lame am I?

He chuckled, revealing a wonderful smile when he did. “Right. We could try another room?”

Tarrah grew nervous. She didn’t want to go back out there. She could be shot, but she didn’t want to be left alone in here, either. She followed him to the door.

He jiggled the handle. “It’s locked.”

“One of the tellers must have pressed a silent alarm. We must be on lockdown.”

He nodded. “Do you have a cell phone? I left everything in the car but my wallet. I wasn’t intending on coming in here today.”

She shook her head. “Same here.”

He put his hands on his hips. “Well, aren’t we a pair?”

She bit her lip. God, he was handsome.

“Looks like we’ll just have to sweat it out, huh?”

Tarrah could think of worse things than spending a few hours with a handsome stranger, but then she recalled her previous engagement and really could think of something better she could be doing. It made her heart sink at the thought.

 

Chapter Four

“So what’s your name?” the stranger asked.

Tarrah pulled his shirt away from her head and held out her hand. “Tarrah. Tarrah Reid.”

He slipped his hand into hers, his cheeks stiffening as he held back a smile.

Tarrah sighed, knowing exactly what he was thinking. She was completely aware of the fact that she held the name of a famous Hollywood actress. The association actually helped with her “Christmas floozy” persona during the holidays, so she’d never really minded. “I was named before she was famous, and my name is pronounced differently. The ‘a’ is short.”

He pulled his hand away, nodding. “I got that and I wasn’t going to say anything.”

“Sure. Okay, so what’s your name?”

“Nothing spectacular. Just Chase.”

Tarrah’s heart fluttered. That was a hot name. “Well, ‘just Chase,’ how should we kill the time while we wait?”

He shrugged. “We could get to know one another.”

Worked for her.

He scratched his chin. “We could be here a while. Let’s make a game of it.”

Oh?
Her heart thumped over the sounds of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” playing in the room as she wondered what he had in mind. When she saw Chase pick up not one, but a
few
decks of playing cards, her body tingled all over. He must want to play a serious game of strip poker. She was happy she decided to wear her red lacy number.

He gestured her to the chairs, her head spinning with excitement.

She placed her white coat around her chair, then took a seat, crossing her legs. She observed Chase’s actions with heightened interest, her pumps bobbing up and down restlessly. Her brows knit as she watched him take all the Jacks out and shuffle them into two of the decks. She’d only played poker a few times in her life, but this didn’t look like any game she was used to.

He glanced up. “We can play Slap Jack. Whoever slaps the Jack first gets to ask a question.”

Tarrah slouched in her chair. “Great.” She plastered on a fake grin.

“Now the answerer must be completely honest. Odds are we won’t be seeing one another again, so what’s the point in lying, right?”

Her spirits rose. This could get naughty very fast, but odds were it wouldn’t. This guy seemed really sweet and she really needed to stop with these kinds of thoughts anyway. She had Swanson. Chase was just a really hot stranger who wanted to play an innocent game of Slap Jack. That was all he was to her, a handsome stranger…right? “Okay. Why so many decks though?”

He grinned. “More Jacks equals more questions.”

She nodded.

Chase divided the deck, handing her half. “Ready?”

“Yep.”

One by one they laid down their cards. The tension was thick as Tarrah waited for that first Jack to slap her hand down on, but then her attention veered toward Chase. Her hands were on autopilot after she did that. She watched him place down his cards and every time he did, his arm muscle twitched, growing stiff until it relaxed when he brought his hand back. Her mouth gaped, as she studied his moves, finding them fascinating. A loud noise reverberated about the room and she jolted, practically launching out of her chair.

“You okay, Tarrah?” He chuckled.

She put her hand to her chest, now realizing the smacking sound she heard was Chase’s hand on a Jack she’d placed.
Get a grip, girl.
“Yeah. Sorry.”

He pulled the pile into his deck. “Well, I guess the first question goes to me. You go to school?”

That was an easy one. “Yep. I’m a senior at the university downtown.”

He started the game up again. This time, she fought the distraction of Chase’s muscles and won the round. “Now, you. Same question.”

“I’m actually going into my last semester of med school. I’m starting my residency right after that.”

Good god, a doctor?
As if she didn’t already have a reason for wanting to nip off those freckles. “That’s cool.” She played it off like it was no big deal.

Chase took the next round. “Any brothers or sisters?”

“Nope. Just little ole’ me, and I’m about to whip your tail at this game. I was warming up before.”

He bit his lip, failing to hide his amusement. “All right, Ms. Reid, let’s see what you got.”

She limbered up and the two went at it. Tarrah couldn’t help the smile she wore the whole time.

 

Chapter Five

A few hours later, Chase and Tarrah sat listening to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”…and she now had most of the deck.

Chase sat back and rubbed his flat stomach with his minimal deck of cards. “You weren’t lying. You’re seriously kicking my ass.”

Tarrah grinned. “What can I say? I had a lot of free time to play during my childhood.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty crazy living in all the places you lived.”

Tarrah slouched a bit, but tried not to let on how much his comment affected her. “Yeah, well, what about you? I still haven’t been to California. What’s it like there?”

“Hot. Let’s get back into this.” He rubbed his palms together, gearing up for another round.

Why did it seem like he just dodged her statement? Shrugging it off, she lifted her hand to start again.

“Ugh, this is terrible.” Chase’s face contorted as he glanced up to the break room speakers. “Christmas music can be so cheesy when it isn’t the classics.”

Tarrah crossed her arms. “I happen to like N*Sync.”

He smirked. “Why am I not surprised? You and about every other twenty-something girl living in the continental United States. You sound like my cousin. She was obsessed with them.”

“She sounds like a smart girl. My roommate and I adore them. In fact, we have one of their framed posters up on the wall.”

His brows shot up. “Now you really sound like my cousin. I happened to be keen on Britney Spears during that time. The girl couldn’t sing worth a damn, but she sure was nice to look at.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

She shook her head. “Such a guy thing to say.”

His jaw dropped opened. “Well, what about you Ms. ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’?”

“The fact that you know those lyrics tells me you followed them, too.” She winked.

He grasped his cards in his hands and a sudden hungry expression took his face.

Tarrah’s heart stopped as she gazed at him.
What is he thinking?

“I’m about to win this back and kick your tail.”

She sighed and got into position like him.

He won the next round. “What did I tell you? Okay, so where were you headed before you got held up with America’s Favorite Redhead?”

She chuckled. “America’s Favorite Redhead is Ron Howard.”

He laughed. “Seriously, where were you going tonight?”

As Tarrah’s thoughts went to her and Swanson, her face blazed like fire. Would she get out of here soon? “I was going to stay with my roommate’s family. I stay with them every year since my parents are overseas.”

He eyed her, crossing his arms. “Why do I feel like there’s more to it than that?”

She held in a gasp. “What do you mean?” Her eyes shifted to the side.

“Well, your cheeks went as red as my hair.”

Goddammit.

“Well?”

She fumbled with her cards. “You already got your question.”

“Okay. I’ll find out soon.”

Like hell he was. She’d win this next round.

 

Chapter Six

Tarrah lost the next round. Chase now watched her with a smug grin on his face.

“Well? We could be here all night, Tarrah.”

She fidgeted. “You’re…You’re going to think I’m a ‘ho,” she whispered, her cheeks warm.

His brows shot up. He obviously wasn’t expecting that to come out of her mouth. He controlled his shock after a few seconds, his expression becoming neutral. “I will not. Whatever you say, I won’t judge you. We’re strangers and probably won’t see each other again. No big deal. So go ahead.”

She sighed. He was right. What did she have to lose? “Um, well, every Christmas break when I stay with my roommate’s family…I hook up with her cousin on Christmas Eve. I look forward to it every year.”

He didn’t look disgusted at all. In fact, he gazed at her in a nonchalant way and Tarrah couldn’t help but like him just a bit more. “That’s not that big of a deal. You’re in college, Tarrah. I’ve heard worse. Hell, you should hear some of my undergrad stories.” He chuckled.

Tarrah threaded her hand through her lengthy brown curls. He really was sweet. He didn’t make her feel ashamed or uncomfortable at all, and she liked that.

“Anyway, next round,” he said.

Tarrah won it, a huge grin on her face as she did. “What’s your ultimate Christmas wish?”

He put his cards on the table and his red lashes flicked up. “To dance with a beautiful girl on Christmas Eve to my favorite Christmas song.”

Tarrah put her cards down. “Oh? What’s your favorite Christmas song?”

“Nat King Cole. ‘The Christmas Song.’”

His words were so light she barely heard them, and her heart skipped a beat as the very lyrics of the song he stated played through the break room speakers. She glanced up to find Chase holding his hand out to her.

“May I have this dance?” His smile was warmer than the sun.

She slid her hand in his and he slipped his arm around her waist as she stood up. She had to tilt her head back to look up at him. He could have been a basketball player. Georgia and Swanson had height like his though, so she was used to it.

Chase led as they swayed to the music, his sapphire eyes locked on hers. “How’s your head?”

Tarrah removed her hand from his neck and touched her cut. She checked it out during one of their card-playing breaks and the cut was so small it would never be noticed behind her hair. “It feels fine, especially after ‘America’s Favorite Redhead’ came to the rescue.”

He smiled. “No big deal.”

“Yeah it was. And thanks for saving me earlier, even if it did result with you being stuck in here with me all night.” She laughed.

“I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be.”

Her cheeks went warm as Chase pulled her closer to him, their chests colliding. He slid his hand into her hair and her eyes shifted on his as she willingly accepted where this was about to go.

“Hey, you two okay?”

They both pulled apart to see a police officer at the door of the break room.

 

Chapter Seven

As Chase walked Tarrah to her car she couldn’t help but feel solemn. She was happy the robbers were apprehended and no one was hurt, but she couldn’t get what was about to happen out of her head. Chase was so close to her in that moment, his strong body warm against hers, and his full lips parted and awaiting… That almost kiss couldn’t have just been in her head, right? No. It wasn’t. Chase had been definitely about to kiss her, and now, she’d never know what that felt like. She knew she’d never see him again, and the thought made her heart heavy.

“Well, Tarrah it’s been fun.”

More than he knew. “Yeah. I hope wherever you’re headed…” Not able to find the words, she looked away. “I hope you have a great Christmas Eve.”

He nodded. “Same to you. And good luck with your ‘fling.’ I hope it doesn’t disappoint.”

She chuckled. “Thanks.”

They shared one last long look, then Tarrah opened her car door.

“Tarrah?”

She shot around. “Yes?”

He stepped forward, hands in his pockets. “Can I give you my email?”

Tarrah’s insides exploded in excitement. She knew it was only an email address, but damn was she excited. “Sure.”

Grinning, he pulled out a card and handed it to her. “It’s there on the card.”

She tried to keep her hands from shaking as she accepted it. She was so excited that she didn’t even look at it before putting it into her dress pocket. She then leaned into her car in a frenzy, ripped off a random bit of paper from inside her purse, and wrote her own email on it. “If you’re ever back in the Midwest shoot me an email,” she said as she wrote.

“Of course.”

She handed it to him and they both stared at each other for another long moment.

“I guess this is it then, huh?”

Tarrah fought to contain her sigh. “Yeah.”

His lips curved into a small smile. “Merry Christmas, Tarrah.”

“Merry Christmas, Chase.”

*

Tarrah’s usually raunchy tunes did nothing for her as she drove to the Stewart’s. She couldn’t even think about Swanson. Her mind was completely wrapped around Chase. How could she fall for someone so quickly? They’d only known each other a few hours, for Pete’s sake. She was frustrated beyond belief, but this time it wasn’t sexual frustration. This time, it was something more.

She pulled up in front of the Stewart’s large country brick home. She gathered the presents for Georgia’s family, her own bags, then headed toward the wide wooden door with the large Christmas wreath on the front.

BOOK: Holiday Fling
12.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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