Maybe it’s time to open the box and get this man out of my system. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t found the one yet—because I’m hung up on this one I can’t have. And maybe, if I have him once, if we “pass the time,” I won’t think of him anymore. I’ll empty the box, fold it up, stuff it in the recycling bin, and walk away.
He nudges my knee with his. “Vanessa,” he says playfully. “What exactly do you mean when you say ‘caught up’?”
This is it. This is the chance the snowfall is giving me—to tell Shaw I need him to rid me of my desire for him. He’s the sickness and he’s the cure.
But how do I say I speak in Spanish when I’m thinking of you? I say your name in my native tongue when I slide my hand down my body at night. When you make me come in my fantasies. When I call out your name.
I take a deep breath.
You say it by saying it.
So I do, needing to crack open the box.
I say all of that in a rush of lightning-fast Spanish.
He blinks. “What?”
But I backpedal, because I want him to go first. I want him to want me so badly he dreams of me in Spanish, and he doesn’t even speak the language. “I said, when something tastes good, I say it in Spanish.”
He shakes his head as if he’s caught me. He leans closer, his eyes holding my gaze. “I don’t think that’s what you were saying.”
My stomach flips. A rush of heat zips through me. “What do you think I was saying?”
His eyes blaze. “I think you were saying something else.”
I glance at the fireplace, trying to find the courage but wanting him to find it too. I wrap my arms around my waist.
“Do you want me to build a fire?”
Sex and a fireplace? “Yes.”
He heads to the deck, grabs a few logs, and builds a fire. When it’s lit, he turns around and offers me his hand.
I gaze at his big hand. This is a clear step, and that’s what I’ve wanted from him.
I take it, loving the feel of his fingers wrapped around mine.
He pulls me up from the couch. “Want to sit by the fire?”
I’m on fire. “Yes.”
He tugs me down to the carpet in front of the flames. We sit cross-legged, looking at each other. “We’re not drinking hot cocoa to pass the time,” I whisper.
He shakes his head. “We’re not playing board games to pass the time.”
Right here looking at me is the man I’ve been in love with for more than a decade. He’s the one I want to go to the wedding with. He’s the one I either need to get under or get over.
“I’m supposed to go to Perri’s wedding with Jamie Sullivan,” I say, ripping off part of the Band-Aid.
His jaw ticks. His eyes narrow. “I heard,” he mutters as he lets go of my hand.
My brow knits. “You heard? What, is it like a rumor going around?”
“Doesn’t sound like it’s a rumor. Sounds like the truth.” And he sounds annoyed. “Is it true?” His voice is harsher than I’ve ever heard it, but I like what that knife’s edge in it tells me.
“Perri and Arden want me to go with him. It was Miriam’s idea.”
He’s silent for a beat, then he studies me like he can find all my truths in my eyes. “Is that what you want?”
I straighten my shoulders, returning to another question from before. “What do you think I said in Spanish?”
He stares at me, undressing me with his eyes, licking his lips. Then he rises on his knees, and the world slows.
It slides into this moment where he lifts his hand. Cups my cheek. Runs the pad of his thumb across my face.
I burn with longing.
And I melt from the terrifyingly wonderful awareness that this is happening.
He inches closer, his mouth on a fast track for mine, and whispers, “I think you said this.”
He captures my lips in a kiss.
I have a favorite kiss.
It wasn’t a hot and heavy one. It wasn’t one that led to frenzied, fevered sex.
The one that tops my list was nearly innocent. A mere brush of lips as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” played at my parents’ house one weekend when I was home from college.
Ten years ago, my friends gathered during break, drinking spiked eggnog, eating gingerbread cookies, and knocking back beer and wine.
I’d headed down the hallway to grab a bottle of wine, passing under the mistletoe that my parents—away in Mexico—had hung above a doorway.
When I turned around, Vanessa was walking toward me, wearing a red-and-white-checkered dress and a Mrs. Claus hat, looking like the hottest Santa’s helper I’d ever seen.
She’d had a few glasses of champagne. I’d had a few beers.