I missed so much after the attack and I didn’t go to college. The story was salacious with two extremely rich and powerful families at the center of it all. The media was a nightmare and the details were everywhere. I didn’t even want to leave the house back then, so I decided to skip college and help my dad with his company. I’ve been doing that ever since and haven’t exactly had the opportunity to meet a man working from home with my family.
Once again, my mind drifts back to Jensen as I pull the first batch of cookies out of the oven. I take a deep breath, loving the sweet smell of cinnamon and fall. Christmas is coming and the stir of anticipation is all around me. It’s my favorite time of year and I love to cook. My stomach growls and I know I should wait for them to cool, but I can’t stop myself. I take a bite of the hot cookie and I moan at the flavor.
I turn when I hear my cell phone ring in the distance. I must have laid in down in the laundry room. I put the half-eaten cookie down and walk out of the kitchen. From the sound of the ring, I know it’s my brother calling me.
When I walk through the living room I stop when I see the broad back of a man in a suit. At my small gasp of surprise, he turns and my eyes land on Jensen. He’s even more handsome than the picture, and bigger, too. In fact, that look on his face is impossibly more annoyed than the one my brother sent. Everything about him is more than I anticipated, but nothing prepared me for the raw attraction that’s pulling me towards him.
“There’s no way I’m making it to the house before you. Take my key and I’ll meet you there,” Brian says as he slaps his keys in my hands and goes back to sending an email.
“It’s fine. I can stay,” I say, looking down at the set of keys.
“There’s no point in both of us having to wait on the builder. My dad should be here any second and he’s going to give me the plans. I’ll be fifteen minutes behind you, tops. That will give you enough time to say hey to Sage and settle in.”
I feel the grumble of complaint climb up my throat and he holds up his hand to stop me.
“You’re not getting a hotel. My place has more than enough bedrooms, and it will give us a chance to go over work stuff this weekend.”
“I said one night.” I can’t keep the irritation out of my voice.
“No, you agreed to come to my family Thanksgiving dinner for one night. You’re staying at my place until Sunday.”
I clench my teeth and feel my jaw pop. I want to protest, but he’s right. I just thought I could get him to agree that it was only one night and it would be my excuse to get out of there. It’s not that I don’t appreciate his hospitality, but I don’t like being anyone’s charity case.
“Stop doing that or you’re going to break a tooth,” he says, not looking up from his screen.
“I have work I could be doing, too.”
“And you can do that as soon as you get to my place. Sage will have the Wi-Fi password and you can kick back until I get there. Dinner tonight is at seven. I’ll come swing by and get the two of you and then we can go out to eat. We can have an early night tonight and then go to my parents’ in the morning.”
“I thought you said fifteen minutes?” I correct, and he shrugs.
“I’ll be there as quick as I can.”
Again, he doesn’t look up and I sigh. It’s no use because I’m not getting out of this and I regret ever answering him honestly when he asked me if I had plans for the holiday. Next time I’m going to lie and make up a family member.
When I was young I used to pretend my imaginary family spent holidays traveling the world. It was one way to escape the foster family’s house I was stuck in. I remember one Christmas sitting in my room and closing my eyes as I imagined a ski trip in Europe. I even opened the window to make it cold, but as soon as my foster mom found out she yelled at me for wasting the heat and made me give my one present to another kid. I don’t like to think back on the time before I got out of there, but now I really could go to Europe for Christmas if I wanted. I’ve gotten used to being alone and maybe it would be nice by myself.