The clock is ticking down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and all Nora Hart and Miles Shephard can think about is kissing each other—even though they met just minutes before. Then, as fast as Miles enters Nora’s life, he’s gone… and she never even gets the name of the man she thinks might just be "the one." One year later, Nora and Miles are reunited. The chemistry between them is just as strong as they remember. But Miles broke her heart once before—and this time around, Nora’s not sure whether she can give love a second chance.
AFTER MIDNIGHT – Excerpt from Chapter 1
Her top was halter style, and she had great shoulders, strong and round. She wore a gray tweedy skirt and smooth black knee-high boots, and his unruly mind served up an image of her, naked except for those slick boots.
It wouldn’t go away, that picture of her. It wasn’t the flotsam and jetsam of his brain. It was a fully-formed idea.
He seriously considered the possibility of it.
Maybe the year didn’t have to slink out in shame. Maybe he could put a more emphatic end on it.
"Let me refill your drink," he said, reaching for the empty martini glass in her hand.
She gave him a big, genuine grin. "I’ve got a better idea."
"Let’s dance. I love dancing. I love this music."
She didn’t say it in a vampy way, but it shorted out something in his brain. It seemed like sexiness was something that happened to her accidentally while she was having more fun than the average woman could wring out of a New Year’s party. That was what made her so hot, he realized. She wasn’t trying particularly hard. She was just more here than most people were. More present, more vivid. And so she’d penetrated the fog he’d been wearing, like rifle fire through body armor.
Here was the thing. Numb had felt good. Numb had felt safe. Numb was what you were supposed to feel in his situation, when you were falsely suspected of embezzling more than three hundred thousand dollars from the non-profit organization you’d helped found and your fiancée told you adios, she didn’t think she was the stand-by-your-man type. You were supposed to lick your wounds and hide out for weeks, months, years. You were supposed to have as much life in you as a glacial boulder. You weren’t supposed to go to a New Year’s Eve party and spot some hot elf-witch chick with joie d’vivre busting out all over and get all hot and bothered.
Numb had felt good. This—alive, buzzing, raw, wide-open—felt dangerous.
"Hey, I get it," she said. "I’m not your type."
He shook his head. So far from the truth, it couldn’t find it with a lie detector.
"Is that a ‘No, you’re not my type,’ or a ‘No, you’ve got it all wrong.’"
"You’ve got that part dead wrong," he said, with some heat.
Her smile began at the corners of her mouth. "You like ’em younger."
They were grinning at each other now, and it felt good, something shaken loose inside. Freed.
"Less bossy. You’re not in the market. You’re married. You’re gay."
He laughed out loud at that, and he knew he’d dance with her. And probably not stop there. He’d think about the consequences, how it fit with his broke-ass life, later. After midnight. Next year.
"Okay, you’re not gay. Good, then, come on." And she grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the dance floor.
There was some kind of eighties theme going on with the music and ACDC’s "You Shook Me All Night Long" was playing. Well, that kind of erased all subtlety from the situation, didn’t it? And maybe that was for the best because his body had also decided to bypass subtlety and go for broke, and by the time she got her arms around his neck and slid against him, he was hard. Like really hard, so the shimmy of her hip against his crotch found him, no problem. She did it again and he wanted to simultaneously ask her to stop and beg her to do it again. Maybe it was something about the lyrics, which had always done it for him, even though he wasn’t quite old enough to have bumped and ground to this song at middle school dances.
Her breasts pressed to his chest, her thighs moved across his uncomfortably engorged dick, and she tilted her pelvis to grind on him. Okay, that wasn’t accidentally sexy, that was overtly take-what-you-want, go-for-broke sexy, and it notched his own arousal up about six levels. She smelled unbelievably good, strawberry-scented hair to match the color. He knew because he had his nose in it, and somehow his hands had found her ass and were guiding her movements against him. The friction there was the epicenter of something disturbingly fast-building, and he had to pull back a little from her, take it down a notch, because she was too much energy in his arms, too much pure, raw temptation.
He tried to think whether he’d ever wanted a total stranger like this, but he was pretty sure he hadn’t. He could blame the song, he could blame the speed with which she’d thawed his numbness, he could blame the evening, the anonymity, the unfamiliar city, the beautiful scenery, the holiday with all its Auld Lang Syne bonhomie, but at the bottom and the center of all the thinking and explaining there was just the feel of wanting her.
The music stopped, and he stepped back. The pressure that had been building in his dick waned enough for him to have a semi-coherent thought in his head, and it was this: I like this girl. A lot. Fuck.
"OK, people, we’re turning on the big TV! Five minutes to go!" Someone had stood on a chair to make that announcement, and now one wall of the room lit up with Times Square, a split screen between the crowd and the suspended disco ball.
She stood next to him. He didn’t look at her but he could feel the distance between them, exactly how far he’d have to lean to jostle her with his arm, his hip, his shoulder. Exactly how far he’d have to turn to press himself against her.
The countdown was at 4:06:52. All around them, people shifted and jockeyed for position, an unsubtle effort to end up near the person they'd least hate the idea of getting kissed by at midnight. Owen was still beside the tall blond. Go, Owen.
If Miles couldn't get him a medal for his acts of friendship this week, standing back while Owen got laid would be a good consolation prize.
Miles was feeling a lot better now about having chosen to stick this party out. Partially on Owen’s behalf, but also on his own. Because the woman next to him wasn’t the person he’d least hate the idea of getting kissed by at midnight. Not at all. Despite the fact that it wasn’t what he was supposed to feel, despite the fact that it made no sense and scared the hell out of him, she was the person he most wanted to kiss at midnight.
At that moment, he realized he’d never asked her name.
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About HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS
As leftover turkey and stuffing give way to stockings and little black dresses, this tantalizingly sexy eBook bundle offers up holiday-themed novellas from a trio of beloved romance authors. http://facebook.com/lisareneejones Lisa Renee Jones gives a dedicated reporter and a powerful businessman a chance to count their Thanksgiving blessings in Play with Me; http://maryannrivers.com Mary Ann Rivers presents Snowfall, the story of a woman who confronts a life-changing event—hopefully with a special man by her side—just in time for Christmas.
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