Read Home for the Holidays Online

Authors: Ros Baxter

Home for the Holidays (4 page)

BOOK: Home for the Holidays
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The Spring she’d finished school.  Working with Mark on the float for the Halloween parade.  She’d had that bloody mermaid costume on and Mark had begged her: just one kiss. 

Mark, the most serious of all the Canning boys. 

The serious, careful second child.  The one she should have loved. He was so damned sweet.

And she’d said yes. Just one kiss. As they’d waited under the sheet for the great unveiling.

But the timing was all wrong, and as they yanked the cover off for the great reveal, the hook had caught on her costume and pulled it away.  And instead of what she was, a nice girl trying out a kiss with the boy she should have loved, she became Lizzie Gibson, the girl who stood naked in front of the whole town and kissed another Canning boy.

No-one blamed her,
any woman in Glory between eight and eighty would have kissed beautiful, sweet Mark Canning.  No-one blamed her, but everyone saw her.

And no-one, not even her parents, would ever have believed it was anything other than what they saw.

“And then that bloody Christmas  wedding,” she hiccupped, feeling suddenly a long, long way from sober. “And the thought was so awful, he ran away.  No wonder I can’t stand Christmas.”

Jim picked up both Beth’s hands, and turned her to him carefully.  “Beth,” he said, and she was surprised to hear him, finally, get it right.  “Look at me.”

She did, even though the combined effect of the whiskey and his nearness made her want to lean in to him, maybe even crawl over and snuggle into his lap.

Jim’s eyes seemed riveted to her mouth.  Then he closed them briefly, shaking his head like he was trying to clear it.
  “It wasn’t like that.  Mark leaving, I mean.  You gotta know.  It wasn’t you.”

“Sure felt like me.” And it had.  The humiliation.  As if the whole thing hadn’t been humiliating enough. “You know,” Beth ploughed on.  “To this day, I still wonder.  Why did he want me to kiss him so badly? If I was so awful he ran away
right after he married me? Why the hell did he want to kiss me?”

“Because you were nice,” Jim said softly, touching her cheek with one long finger.  “And he was trying to find out.”

“Find out what?”  Beth studied Jim’s face and saw the answer there. “Oh,” Suddenly it all made sense. Why sweet, sensible Mark Canning had wanted to kiss her so badly, and then ran out on her as soon as they got hitched.  “Poor thing.”

“Yes,” Jim said.  “Poor Mark.  And now he feels like he can’t come back here.  Even though he could.”  He clenched his fists.  “I would always make sure it was okay for him.”

“No-one ever believed us,” Beth said.  “That we weren’t, y’ that float.”

“I did,” Jim said, picking up one of her hands and putting up to his chest.  “Cross my heart, I always did.”

She felt the pound-pound of his heart through his white t-shirt, and her hand itched to feel the warmth of his skin under it.  “Why?”

“Because I
always knew Mark was different,” he said.  “And...”

He studied his hands, opening and closing them. 


“And because I
wanted to,” he said.  “I wanted to believe it had all been the accident you said. ”

“Why?”  Beth felt like some kind of robot, on repeat.

Jim reached up and stroked the side of Beth’s face. Time seemed to stretch painfully as she held his eyes while he stroked the sensitive skin there. “Because I could never stand the idea of you wanting anyone else,” he said.  “Not even one of my brothers.”  He paused, bringing his hand down.  She watched it curl into a fist in his lap. “Especially one of my brothers.”

“Really?”  Was this really possible?  Could he really mean that
how it sounded?  This man who had been the boy she’d wanted since she knew how to want?  The boy who’d watched her get linked to every one of his three brothers?

“Really,” he smiled.  “Beth, don’t you remember?”  His face was so dark, his eyes so narrowed, his lips so full and half-open, she didn’t need to ask him what he meant.  Until now, she always thought she dreamed it.

“Yes,” she said.  “I do.”

“It was only a week or two before the thing with Mark.  I always wanted to wait, ‘til you were finished with school.”

Beth smiled.  “And you were back from...the place.”

He nodded
, and his face flushed slightly.  “I’d cleaned up my act.  It was kinda hard, growing up without parents.  Pa did his best, but...”

She nodded.  She knew how it had been for him. For all of them. No wonder they were so wild.

“But I was different by then,” he said.  “And so I came to you, that night.”

“I remember,” she said.  “What did you want?”

She remembered it so well. He stood there, outside Sweethearts, the little cafe she’d been working in over the break.  Wearing his best jeans and lace-up shoes. 

He leaned on the streetlight and asked her how she was.  She’d been so tongue-tied, so over-awed by the fact of him, there in front of her, talking to her, she hadn’t been able to say anything.

He ran his fingers through his hair. “I wanted to ask you out.  I had a whole speech prepared.”

She frowned. “But you didn’t.”

“No.” He said it quietly.

“Why not?”
Good God, why not?
How different might everything have been if he had just asked her?

He looked frankly into her face. “Because you blanked me.”

“No, I didn’t.”
No way.

“You did.  And then after Mark.  Well, I figured maybe it was him you wanted...”

“I was nervous,” Beth said.  “So nervous.”

Jim leaned closer – slowly, slowly.  Like he was afraid Beth might bolt if he made a sudden movement. 

But Beth wasn’t going anywhere. 

She’d wanted this for twelve years.

Her mouth opened even before his lips touched hers.  And when they did, every nerve ending stood up and sang an aria.  His lips were sweet and hot and pushed against hers.  When his tongue slid inside her mouth, her tummy slipped and swooned like the teenage girl she had been, watching him leaning on the lamp-post in his lace-up shoes, waiting to ask her out.

He kissed her and kissed her like he was never going to stop.  And her skin responded, lighting up under his attention.

His big hands held her face, and then an arm slipped around her back and dragged her down under him on the couch.

The hot press of his body on hers was heavy and satisfying.  She wondered if Beth would approve of her necking with this man here, on her father’s couch.

Then she realised she didn’t give a damn.

Lizzie wanted Jim. And Beth was just going to have to lie back and enjoy the ride.

Before she had time to form a coherent thought, Jim moved off her.  Her body protested his absence bitchily, and her eyes fluttered open to see what manner of offence might have caused him to do something so cruel.  But it was okay.  He was still there, standing in front of her, the zipper of his jeans agonisingly at eye level.  Before she could ask what he was doing, he slid his arms under her and picked her up.  His chest was warm and his breath ragged.  He carefully kneeled and brought her onto the rug on the floor, laying her down in front of the fire.

“I want to kiss you here, on this rug, in front of the fire,” he said, his voice satisfyingly raspy.  Before she could say
you can kiss me wherever you want
, he spoke again. “I’ve been thinking about doing it since I stepped in here yesterday. I want to see your face properly, in the firelight.”

She lay back on the thick shag, her mother’s one nod towards decadence, and closed her eyes again.  “You look like a sculpture,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Lying there like that.” 

Her eyes fluttered open.  “So do you,” she said, reaching up to trace the side of his face with one finger, brushing lightly over his beard and trailing her finger down his neck to the v of his long t-shirt. And it was true.  His face was so dark and layered, all the planes and dips of an interesting life.  His lashes threw shadows on his cheeks in the firelight and she wanted to close his eyes and kiss them.  James Canning.  Here, with her, on her mother’s shag rug.  She peeped up at her father’s portrait.

Avert your gaze, Daddy, you’re not going to like this one little bit.

Jim’s mouth moved down, very slowly, to meet hers.  He tasted like whiskey and wantonness and she wanted more, more, more.

His stubble scratched her cheeks, lighting them up and making them tender.  He rolled his body half onto hers, and the press of him accentuated the sensation of his lips.  As his tongue pushed into her mouth, he pushed one thigh between her legs, opening them as he rammed his hips against hers. The twin sensations of his tongue and his thigh almost undid her. 

Oh boy.  Jimmy Canning sure knew how to kiss.  She tried not to think about how many girls and women he’d practised that particular skill on.  It didn’t matter. 

She remembered his words. 
Only one Lizzie Gibson.

He wanted

He pressed his thigh between her legs again, up towards her sex, and she bit down hard on his lip to stop herself from crying out with the tummy-dissolving thrill of it.

Then he reached up slowly and began to undo the buttons of the loose white blouse she was wearing.  She didn’t know what manner of premonition had made her discard the bra she had been going to wear underneath it – a solid, functional t-shirt bra – in favour of the delicate wispy slip of creamy lace she had opted for instead.  But right now she was glad of that premonition, because as he undid another button, the beautiful lingerie revealed itself and Beth wriggled happily at his sharp intake of breath.

“Oh Beth,” he said, running his fingertips over her breasts where they peeked out of the bra.  “You are so fuckin’ hot.”

Beth’s tummy bungee-jumped towards her toes at his words and the gravelly silk they were wrapped in.

She swallowed, tugging at his shirt.  “Your turn, big boy,” she croaked, wanting the shirt gone now.

“Patience, honey,” he scolded, capturing her hand and bringing it to his lips.  “You first.”

This didn’t seem very fair to Beth, but she was pretty sure Jim wasn’t raised on equity.  She looked hard into his green eyes and saw sheer determination.  A shiver ran, sweet and delicious, down her spine as she took in that look.  This was a man who was used to being in control. And right now he wanted to be in control of her. 

She considered pressing the issue, wanting very much to touch the skin of his chest.  She could see from the v of his t-shirt that it was brown and hard, sprinkled with a light smattering of golden brown hair.

On the other hand, she could just lie here and let him do what he wanted.  Her city girl principles objected, but that damn Lizzie, who had always wanted the boy who had become this beautiful man, overrruled her.  And Beth had a sneaking suspicion Lizzie had a point.

So she lay back, stretching like a cat on the shag, under his smoky gaze. He leaned forward and pushed a hand under her shoulders, lifting her just enough to remove the white shirt completely.  Once he liberated it, he screwed it up into a small, tight ball, and threw it hard over the back of the couch.  “Begone, evil thing,” he whispered, looking hard at Beth.  “That bloody shirt has been driving me mad all night. With all those cheeky buttons.”

Beth’s heart lifted at his words.  It felt so good to have this effect on him.  For the last twenty four hours he had been driving her demented, with that big, hard body of his moving around the house like he owned it, chopping wood, filling up her kitchen, fixing things.  His words gave her the confidence to arch her back slightly and push her breasts towards him. 

His eyes narrowed, then swept slowly over her breasts, encased in their lacy prison.  “That bra really needs to go too,” he said.  “Lucky I still have this handy.” 

He pulled a small but efficient-looking knife ou
t of his pocket.  Beth’s eyes widened as he flicked open a small silver blade.  “I’d never hurt you, Beth,” he whispered, moving the blade towards her bra and holding her eyes.  He slipped one finger under the centrepiece of her bra, and held the material up and away from her skin, before slicing through it with one precise movement with the blade.  “Open Sesame,” he said, grinning a slow, lazy grin as her breasts met the warm air.

Beth crossed her arms over her breasts, feeling suddenly exposed and shy.

But he could read her mind.  He placed the knife carefully on the fireplace, and turned back to her, lifting first one hand, then the other, from her chest and laying them by her sides, before holding them firmly in position. “Oh no you don’t,” he warned, his voice dark and dangerous.  “I said I want to look at you.”

Beth rolled her head to the side, not sure she could meet his eyes while he examined her naked chest.

But he wouldn’t have that either. “Look at me,” he commanded, turning her face towards his.  “Look at me looking at your beautiful tits.”

She didn’t want to, but his words were like a drug, like hypnosis.  She lifted her eyes to his and was almost shocked at the desire she saw there.  Jim was very focused, his eyes half-closed as he stared at her breasts.

BOOK: Home for the Holidays
3.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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