Home for the Holidays (Siren Publishing Classic) (3 page)

BOOK: Home for the Holidays (Siren Publishing Classic)
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Of course, she was dressed for visiting the parents, so he couldn’t see much. She was wearing a long mock-neck teal sweater over a pair of dark leggings and thigh-high boots. She looked good and she knew it. She wasn’t skinny, but she didn’t want to be. She had a healthy BMI and was very fit, working out regularly at the gym and running 10K races. She was bustier than she would have liked to be, as she felt that at five foot four she was just a little unbalanced, but you couldn’t diet off boobs, so she tried to dress to minimize them.

She turned and smiled at him, and leaned back to enjoy the ride. She was a good driver, but she did hate driving in this weather. She found she liked sitting up here in the truck. She could get used to this. Maybe she’d trade her Viper in for a pickup truck.

The F-250 ate up the distance quickly, and before she knew it, they were at the turnoff for the lake and then the turnoff toward the house. And they could see the house practically from the time they made the left turn to circle the lake. Even surrounded by trees, she could see that almost every light in the house was on. She guessed that they were keeping a lookout for her and also reminding her, in that way the families do, of the time she wasn’t paying attention and drove by the place and had to circle the lake.

When he was driving up toward the house, Nelly directed him to the sheltered spot beside the house. She knew the family was saving that for her. And, yes, they were waiting for her. She could see them looking out the various windows, but they saw the strange truck, and with the heavy rain, they were hesitating until they could figure out if it was her. Her saviour got out of the truck while she was trying to spot family members in the various windows, opened the truck door, and helped her down.

The rain was coming down hard now, so she instinctively grabbed his hand and made a run for the veranda. Her mom rushed out and hugged her tight. Then her dad came out and shook hands. “Edward O’Malley.”

“Jack O’Dell.” O’Dell? Wasn’t that the name on the truck? Before she could say anything, her mother launched herself at Jack, hugging him tightly.

“Jack? I thought your name was John?”

“Well, I guess technically it is, but I’ve always been called Jack to differentiate me from my father when Mom was yelling.”

“Well, Jack it is then. Come in, come in, and take that wet jacket off. Edward, go get their bags.” Then she bustled Jack into the house, leaving Nelly and her dad staring at each other, grinning broadly. Her dad wasn’t a physically demonstrative man, but that smile spoke volumes.

She could see Michael and Ned peeking out the doorway, making faces like they were twelve and not thirty-five. Her dad saw them, too.

“You two. If you aren’t going to bother greeting your sister, then you can make yourselves useful and get her bags from the truck.” And then he put his arm around her and led her into the house. Luckily Shawn was there with a towel and a hot cup of chocolate.

Her father’s brow wrinkled. He might be pushing seventy, but he never forgot a face. And then he smiled.

“Jack O’Dell. John O’Dell’s son, right? I think I used to take all my cars to your dad. I still take them in to the shop in Rushton. Nelly, I must say I approve of this young man.”

“So, Jack. How long are you planning to stay with us? Nelly wasn’t even sure you were coming. Said something about work, but I’m very pleased you could make it.”

She could see Jack’s face. At first it was very carefully composed, but then he looked around at her and gave her a big wink.

Jack found himself enjoying the situation and was very tempted to put her on the spot, but as much fun as it might be, embarrassing her probably wouldn’t help his chances if he wanted to see more of her in the future, and he did. “Unfortunately, I can’t stay long. We actually drove up here in separate vehicles so I could head out after dinner, but Nelly had some car trouble. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, but I’ll have someone come out Friday to tow the car back to the shop and have a look at it.”

“Do you still work on cars? I think I remember you as a boy helping out your dad in the shop. He was so proud. How’s he doing?”

“Mom and Dad are cruising the Caribbean. Their first time. I got a text. They are having a great time and already planning the next one.”

“Never tried cruising myself. Maybe we’ll give it a try, eh, Candy?” He smiled at his wife, who was trying to drag Nelly into the kitchen. “Now you go with your mother, Nelly. I want to show Jack my newest toy. I’ve got a ‘68 Mustang Cobra with only 100,000 miles on it. It needs some work, but I can’t wait. I wouldn’t mind if you took a look at it though. Maybe give some advice?” He led Jack away by the arm, with Nelly’s brothers following close behind. He looked up at her and rolled his eyes, but smiled while he was doing it, and didn’t look all that put out, especially when the Cobra was mentioned. She could see the change in his expression. He was as excited by that hunk of metal as her father was.

She let her mother and Shawn lead her into the kitchen.

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Chris is on kid duty downstairs in the family room. They are tuckered out after a full day playing in the snow. I’m to bring you down shortly. Justine and Kelly will be here tomorrow.”

And that’s when Shawn made her mistake. She hesitated. Nelly knew she was dying to ask about Jack, but no way Nelly wanted to deal with any more questions than required. And she knew her mom couldn’t go after her to ask questions, because she had the meal to prepare, and she never, ever let another woman in her kitchen. Men, on the other hand, she put to work with the chopping and washing and any other manual labour during meal preparation. So Nelly took the opening.

“I’m dying to see the kids.” She escaped downstairs to the family room. She was quickly mobbed, and there was no chance to talk about Jack while she tried to figure out what to do. With the bad weather and the fact that her dad had that stupid new car, there was no way he was getting away after dinner. But the house was huge. He could crash somewhere tonight and head out in the morning.

It was sweet of him to play along. She’d figure out some way for him to gracefully leave without actually telling the family the truth. And then at some time in the future, but definitely before Christmas, they’d “break up” and her family would be sad and harass her, but she certainly couldn’t expect him to keep playing along.

Hopefully, she’d be able to get him alone for a few minutes to figure out a plan.

A few minutes later, her brother Ned came downstairs, the water dripping off his hair. “Sis, Mom says you looked like a drowned rat when you came in. Now that you’ve had time to greet the kids, you have half an hour to go upstairs and make yourself presentable so you don’t scare away Jack. The parents seem to really like this one. I have no idea how you landed him, but you have to keep him around at least until he can teach me and Michael how to rebuild an engine. Oh, and you owe me. Dad made me go out and get your stuff and put it in your usual room.” With that, he turned and headed back up the stairs.

Shawn looked her up and down. Nelly looked at her enquiringly. Shawn nodded. “Drowned rat, partially dried. Not a pretty picture.”

Nelly headed up the back stairs to her old room on the third floor. The house was actually a former inn that her dad bought when her mom was expecting number six. After renovations, it had twelve bedrooms, and each bedroom had its own bathroom. It was in a great location but needed a lot of renovations, which all of the kids had helped with. And it was just a half-hour commute from their dad’s work and with great schools in the area for all the kids. It was far bigger than they had needed, but her mom and dad were looking down the road to children and grandchildren all gathering in their home.

She checked her watch. She had time for a quick shower to warm up. She wouldn’t have time to wash and dry her hair, but hopefully it wasn’t too bad. She didn’t have time to unpack right now, so she grabbed her bag and took it into the bathroom with her and placed it on the closed toilet seat.

It would be nice to be back in her old room, even if it was just for a night. It was so warm and cosy, with a nice big bed and the handmade quilt her mother hand made when she was expecting Nelly. The only thing missing from her room was a fireplace, but you couldn’t have everything. Her room was cosy and had a great view.

Fifteen minutes later, she was feeling much better. She’d showered, the water nice and hot, brushed out her hair and tied it back, and fixed her makeup, since the raccoon look wasn’t in this year or any year. Then she wrapped herself in a big fluffy towel, picked up her bag, and went back to her bedroom to dress.

She was surprised and slightly unnerved to see a man undressing in her bedroom.

Chapter Four

 

It only took her a moment to realize it must be Jack. He had his jeans unbuttoned and was pulling his T-shirt over his head. She found herself admiring the view. He was as well muscled as she suspected. And they looked like muscles gained from working hard and not at the gym. These muscles weren’t just for show. She admired his firm pecs and his amazing six-pack. His strong chest was lightly furred, and she followed the “treasure trail” down to the gaping opening of his jeans. She was taking in this enchanting sight when he finished pulling the tee over his head, dropped it on the bed, and turned to walk toward the bathroom so abruptly that he almost bumped into her. He grabbed her upper arms to steady both of them.

For a moment, they stared at each other. She felt the warmth rise in her face and her bag drop to the floor, followed by her towel.

He looked down at her. She could feel the heat rise up her chest even as her nipples tightened in excitement. He noticed, too, and grinned wickedly before leaning down to kiss her gently on her mouth. Luckily he still gripped her upper arms or she would have wound herself around him like a limpet. As it was, he pulled her close enough that should could feel that sexy chest hair rubbing against her nipples, further stimulating them, and she could feel his arousal pressing against her as he released her arms and pulled her closer, running his hands down her back, stopping at her buttocks, gripping them and pulling her close to him, grinding her against his erection. She kissed him back with passion. Who knew where it would go? It was crazy, but she couldn’t help herself.

She was saved by the bell, or rather the knock.

“Fifteen-minute warning, sis. Mom will not tolerate lateness.”

They slowly moved apart. Both were breathing heavily. Nelly grabbed her towel and wrapped it around her as she moved away. She could see Jack grin as he went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Oh crap. She should have realized that her mother would put them in the same room. The house was packed to the rafters, and she had kind of oversold her relationship with John in order to get her mom to back off. And her mother didn’t know that Jack and John were not the same person. And her damned weak will. She’d been attracted to him since they met, but she couldn’t cloud the situation with sex.

She heard the sound of the shower in the bathroom. Double crap. She had better dress quickly. She didn’t want to be naked when he came out. She threw on a bra and underwear. She had her pants on and was just picking up a short-sleeved sweater when he came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. My, my. He really was magnificent looking. He was smiling approvingly at her, and she realized she was standing there in her bra. Quickly she donned her top and grabbed her purse.

“I’ll see you downstairs in the dining room.”

She hurried out of the room to the sound of his laughter. It was going to be a long evening.

But it turned out to be a fun evening. It was only the night before Thanksgiving, so her mom did a buffet. The family scattered, with some down in the family room with the kids and some in the den watching some football and yet others in the living room talking cars. And, of course, Jack was stuck with her brothers and dad as they picked his brains about rebuilding the Cobra.

She sighed. Maybe that was for the best.

“Maybe you should go rescue him.” Nelly jumped at the unexpected sound of her sister-in-law’s voice in her ear.

Nelly dragged her eyes off Jack and looked at Shawn, shaking her head. “No. I think he’s safer with Dad and the boys talking cars than getting grilled by Mom.”

Shawn looked at Nelly, who blushed. “There’s something up with you two. I don’t know what it is. I see how you look at each other and there’s heat. But you don’t seem like you’ve been together for months.”

Shawn was far too perceptive. Nelly mumbled something and fled to another room. She ended up playing video games with the kids for a couple of hours. At ten, their parents rounded them up and put them to bed. She followed them up and headed to bed herself. She figured that he wouldn’t agree to sleep in the tub, and she couldn’t send him downstairs to sleep on the couch. The bed was big. She picked up a couple of the decorative pillows and lined them up the centre of the bed. Then she quickly stripped off what she was wearing and put on a tank top and sweatpants. Then she slid into bed with her back to the pile of pillows and tried to will herself to sleep.

She must have dropped off, because the next thing she was aware of was the other side of the bed dipping down as Jack slid in. Within minutes she could hear his steady breathing and knew he must have fallen asleep. She relaxed and fell back to sleep quickly.

Chapter Five
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