Home > Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(11)

Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(11)
Author: J. Kenner

Maybe the man I’ve been looking for has been right under my nose my whole life.

I tilt my head as I smile at him. “So do you really have to go in on Christmas Eve?”

“All part of being a big-shot lawyer in a huge law firm,” he quips. “We’re filing an appellate brief on the twenty-sixth, and if I don’t have the draft on Maynard’s desk by the time I leave tonight, I’ll have to cancel my trip tomorrow.” He moves to sit on the edge of my bed, then reaches for my hand. “Although I wish I wasn’t going. Especially now.”

“Me, too.”

“You could come with me.”

“No chance in hell,” I say. Ollie is going back home to Texas to see his parents for a few days. Theoretically, I could go with him, but that would require seeing my mother. And just the thought makes me queasy.

“You don’t have to see her,” he says, because Ollie knows exactly why I have no desire to go to Dallas. “We can stay at a hotel. Veg in the spa. I’ll go back to the house without you, do the loving son thing, and then come back and spend time with you in the evenings.” He lifts my hands and kisses my fingertips. “My treat. This year’s bonus was pretty damn nice. I’m happy to share the love.”

“No thanks. I’ll just drive you to the airport in the morning.” Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m determined not to go. Because he’s right. I don’t have to see my mother. And it’s not like work is keeping me tied to LA. I have my own business that is reasonably portable, especially over the holidays. Plus, I’ve been seriously overworked lately, and a spa week sounds like heaven. But something about going with him just doesn’t feel right.

I bite back a frown, my thoughts in a jumble. It’s not Ollie. Why would it be? Being with him is good, after all. Nice and warm and safe.

And, no, last night wasn’t full of knock-you-off-your-feet passion, but honestly, I don’t believe in those storybook tales. Besides, I’m not a woman who likes to lose control.

“You’re sure?”

I nod. “It’s not you. It’s Texas,” I decide. “I escaped. Going back is like the opposite of a Christmas present.”

He nods, and because he really is my best friend, I know that he gets it. “Fair enough. But you realize this means I’ll have no excuse not to stay at my parents’ house. They’re going to expect me to sit and watch their Murder, She Wrote DVDs. One after the other after the other.”

I laugh. “And you will, because you’re a good son.”

“If your mom comes over? What should I say?”

“Don’t tell her shit about me unless she asks. And then just say I’m doing fabulously.”

But I don’t expect that my mother will ask Ollie any more than she’ll bother to call me over the holidays. I’m not my sister, Ashley, so why would she think about it at all?

Ollie glances at the clock, then bends down to kiss me. It’s a gentle peck, sweet but oddly settled. And despite the fact that I’ve already told myself that I neither need nor want nor believe in wild passion, I can’t help but feel weirdly disappointed. As if we skipped right over courtship and settled straight into a boring marital rhythm.

Where the hell are these thoughts coming from?

“Go on,” I say, motioning for him to leave. “Go start working toward another fabulous bonus. I’ll see you tonight?”

“Absolutely,” he says.

I nod, but I don’t believe him. When Ollie’s working on a brief, dinner usually falls by the wayside. I don’t expect that either Christmas Eve or this new shift in our relationship will change that.

I hear the front door slam, and instead of feeling a loss, I feel the strangest sense of relief.

I shake my head, frustrated with myself, and decide it’s just the tension that comes from the shift from friend-friend to girlfriend. Perfectly normal. Perfectly understandable.

Then I climb out of bed, pull on a pair of yoga pants and a tank top, and head into the kitchen for coffee.

The condo’s two bedrooms and one bath are at the top of two stairs. If you’re descending, the dining table is on the left and the galley-style kitchen is on the right, with the front door and living area pretty much filling the space in front. It’s still early, and Jamie, my best friend and roommate, rarely drags herself out of bed before noon, so I’m surprised to see that the coffeepot is half full, and even more surprised to find Jamie at the table, nursing a mug so full of cream that the coffee looks white.

“You’re up,” I say. “Merry Christmas Eve.”

She narrows her eyes at me. “It would be merry, except my parents are incapable of remembering that I’m two hours behind them. They called an hour ago. Ugh.”

I turn away and pour my own mug so that she can’t see my smile. Jamie has great parents. If it were legal, I’d have them adopt me.

“So you and the O-man have a good time last night? Then again, maybe I shouldn’t call him the O-man,” she says mischievously. “I didn’t hear any screams of pleasure coming from your room in the wee hours.”

“Seriously, James?”

She holds up her hands in surrender. “Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But, honestly, I’m right, aren’t I? You two didn’t just share the bed for sleeping, did you?”

“God, you’re nosy.”

“Ha!” She can’t keep the triumph out of her voice. “About damn time.”

“You think so?” I take my coffee and slide into the seat opposite her.

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