Hot for the Holidays by Susanna Carr
The silver tinsel looked like it had
been ravaged. One spot had been crushed, another part
A long stretch of the decorative string was twisted, the
fanning out wildly. It was beyond repair.
Maybe no one would notice. Rachel grabbed
for a tack from her desk. Once she pinned it back up, she
the damage with a few well-placed Christmas cards.
"Whoa, Rachel." She recognized
her friend Nikki's voice at the doorway. "What happened to
Shoot. So much for no one noticing.
Rachel felt the unfamiliar heat sting her cheeks. Was she
Terrific. She used to think she was physiologically
incapable of showing
embarrassment. The inability had come in handy many times
over the years.
"It was a wild party last night,"
Rachel said, keeping her head low and her attention on the
so Nikki couldn't see her blush.
"The office Christmas party?"
Nikki asked in disbelief. Rachel heard her friend step into
space. "Were we at the same party?"
"Pretty sure," she muttered
as she drove the thumbtack into the wall with more force
Nikki's attention was drawn to Rachel's
desk. "What happened to your chair?"
"Uh . . . nothing." She wanted
to wince at the lame answer.
"It's totally destroyed."
Nikki gave the wheels a kick and watched the lopsided piece
sag. "It looks like there was an orgy in here. . . ."
All of Rachel's muscles locked. She
knew there was no getting out of this. She watched Nikki's
dread. She saw her friend's eyes flicker over the cubicle,
every damning piece of evidence.
"Rachel Bartlett, what were you
doing last night?" Her voice dropped low as delight shone
eyes. "More importantly, who were you doing it
Rachel carefully avoided eye contact.
"Nikki, seriously. This is me you're talking to. I've given
my wild ways." Give or take a relapse. Like the one last
"Still?" Nikki looked like
she wanted to shake some sense into her. "I was hoping that
"I like the new and improved me."
"We could debate on the improved,"
Nikki muttered, frowning at Rachel's tight ponytail, button-
baggy jeans, and chunky shoes. "You know, there's nothing
with a little cleavage, especially with the size of your--"
"Thanks, but I'm comfortable with
what I'm wearing." Rachel wasn't going to apologize for the
outfit. Her wardrobe suited her new life in a quiet
mountain town, and
her new job as a graphic artist. She was getting used to
look, but Nikki still missed the old Rachel. "I need to get
"Yeah, fine." Nikki looked
around the cubicle one last time. "So you didn't get
She didn't want to lie to her friend,
but she wasn't ready to reveal how badly she relapsed.
Nikki would encourage
it and she needed to be stricter with herself more than
settled for a partial truth. "I came into work and found my
looking like this."
"Bummer." Nikki tsked.
She tilted her head as she studied the bald patches on the
"Who do you think it was?"
Rachel shrugged. She wasn't going to
make this worse by pointing any fingers. "It could be
"I bet it was Leah." Nikki
looked over at the nearby empty cubicle. "She was all over
Rachel was about to disagree when she
caught the faint sound of footsteps coming down the
corridor. She knew
that purposeful, confident stride anywhere.
Nikki's voice faded to nothing as Rachel's
heart started to pound. The last time her heart pounded
rib cage like this was two years ago. It was right before
she got caught
by the cops for skinny-dipping in a park fountain. Sadly,
was not the most stupid moment of her life, but the fiasco,
with a heavy
fine, was a turning point and helped her get on the
straight and narrow.
She recognized the pulse-tripping,
heart-pounding, nerve-racking feelings. Caused by the one
guy who could
make her go wilder than she had imagined.
Her pulse gave a violent skip as Justin
O'Rourke came into view. His head was tucked down as he
his worn olive green jacket, revealing a navy blue merino
She hungrily stared at him, noticing
everything from his short brown hair that looked like he
ran his hands
through it a few times this morning to the dark stubble
angular jaw. Her gaze skimmed the hard planes of his chest
to his lean
hips to the way his soft, faded jeans clung to his strong
Justin pushed the sweater sleeves up,
exposing an intricate dragon tattoo that curled along his
The colors were dark and muted, the fierce lines
emphasizing the dragon's
savagery, but Rachel always saw the beauty and power of the
Realizing that she was staring, Rachel
made herself look away. Her gaze collided with Justin's.
His light blue
eyes were playful. Mischievous. This guy was a charmer. He
his way into bed and out of trouble.
"Hello, Rachel." His low
and rough voice sent a tingling flutter down her spine.
Only two words
from him and her self-control was ready to splinter.
Rachel gritted her teeth. "Good
morning, Justin." If he noticed how forced her greeting
didn't show it.
"Hey, Justin." Nikki motioned
for him to come forward. "Get a load of Rachel's office."
Rachel winced. That was the last thing
she wanted, but before she could come up with a reasonable
stepped inside the cubicle. She was immediately aware of
the tight fit.
She stood next to him, so close that
she felt his body heat. His scent distracted her. It was
and irresistible. She wanted to move closer. So close until
pressing against each other.
"Wow," Justin said.
Rachel's head jerked up. She momentarily
forgot about the state of her work space. She had to keep
saying anything. "Nikki is under the impression someone had
night in my cubicle," she said in a rush.
Justin looked over at her with a lazy
grin. "I'd say."
Rachel felt the blush zooming up her
neck and flooding across her face. She glared at
him. "She's trying
to figure out who."
"Oh." Justin looked at Nikki.
Rachel went completely still. Her muscles
froze with such intensity that she was surprised she didn't
Her breath caught in her throat as her stomach gave a
"Who is it?" Nikki asked
excitedly. The woman always enjoyed a good gossip session.
"You see where that tinsel is
worn off?" He pointed at the portion that Rachel had just
back up. "That could only happen from friction. Hot and
Rachel blinked several times, but it
didn't work. She couldn't get rid of the memory when Justin
against the wall. They had been naked, their skin flushed
their lips clinging together as they gasped for their next
arms and legs were wrapped tightly around Justin as he
drove into her,
the cubicle wall shaking with each thrust.
"You're making that up,"
Nikki declared as she smacked him on the arm with her palm.
"I'm simply offering my expert
opinion," Justin said. "You need to find someone who has
burn on their back."
Rachel squirmed as her shoulder blades
began to sting. She stopped the moment she saw Justin smile
at her telltale
"And they probably have bruises
on their legs from giving a lap dance on that." Justin
at the broken chair.
Rachel squeezed her sore legs together
as heat flashed through her body. She had felt sexy and
she mesmerized Justin with her moves. Christmas songs had
the party a floor below them, but she and Justin had found
rhythm that kept them going long after the chair broke.
"I'm gonna have to disagree with
you there," Nikki said. "It could have been Cosmo's
sex position of the day. Yesterday's was called the
"So all you have to do is look
for someone with rug burn and bruises," Rachel interrupted
Nikki gave a thorough description. "That's going to be
since it's the dead of winter and everyone's covered up."
"That's true," Nikki said
with great disappointment.
Justin suddenly crouched down and reached
under her desk, his hand grazing Rachel's leg. She flinched
"And"--Justin retrieved something
small and pearly white--"the guilty party is missing this
Damn, she missed that. Rachel curled
her hands into fists. She wasn't going to snatch it away.
how much she wanted to.
Justin stood to his full height as
he tossed the button in his hand. Rachel's head bobbed up
and down as
she focused on the pearl. "Probably happened while they
each other's clothes off."
Rachel tugged at her shirt collar as
she remembered brazenly tearing off her ivory lace blouse
herself to Justin. But her wanton behavior had hit a new
she clawed off Justin's clothes.
Nikki studied the pearl button in Justin's
hand. "Wow, you're good."
"So I've been told." Justin
gave a sidelong look in Rachel's