Main Stocking Stuffers
Stocking StuffersErin McLellan
Sasha Holiday is so over the holidays after getting left at the altar last Christmas Eve. But as the marketing maven for Lady Robin’s Intimate Implements, she’s stuck not-so-merrily pitching naughty toys at a romance book club’s Christmas party. Her loathing of the yuletide only intensifies as a snowstorm rolls in and traps her at the Winterberry Inn. Stranded with her is Perry Winters—a hot bearded book club member trimmed in flannel and tattoos. Perry’s a romantic with an unerring belief in the magic of the season, and he recognizes a Christmas miracle when he sees it. Brave, smart, and confident—Sasha Holiday is a gift. And the gifts keep coming when she suggests they pass the time with some no-strings fun. After all, she has a big bag of toys that would make even Santa want to stay in bed on Christmas Eve. But the frisky festivities turn complicated as feelings spark between Sasha and Perry. Perry wants to see Sasha once the snow clears, but Sasha is reluctant to take the relationship sleigh ride again. Perry will have to show her that love is more than just a holiday feeling.
Stocking Stuffers A So Over the Holidays Novella Erin McLellan Copyright © 2019 by Erin McLellan Stocking Stuffers All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-7321734-4-6 Cover Artist: Cate Ashwood, http://www.cateashwooddesigns.com Editing: Edie Danford Proofreading: Susan Selva, https://www.lescourtauthorservices.com No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. For inquiries, contact Erin McLellan at www.erinmclellan.com. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Content Warnings: explicit sex including minor kink; discussion of deceased family members For more info about these warnings, visit https://smarturl.it/StockingStuffersCWs. Praise for Stocking Stuffers "I loved Stocking Stuffers! The sexual tension sizzled from start to finish. McLellan weaves sex toys, experimentation and curiosity perfectly into the intimate moments between Sasha and Perry … Get this book as a gift to yourself for the holidays!" —Rachel Kramer Bussel, editor of Best Women's Erotica of the Year Series “Steamy, snowed-in fun with a fabulous, sex-positive heroine and a smitten, blushing hero who will make romance readers swoon. Grab the tinsel and the toys because Stocking Stuffers will put you in a festive, sexy mood!” —Layla Reyne, RITA Finalist and bestselling author of Dine With Me and the Fog City Trilogy “With a Scrooge-like heroine who owns her sexuality with a boldness that is admirable and refreshing, and a sensitive hero who's a lover of romance books and family, Stocking Stuffers is a fun, kinky and yes, swoony, holiday romance packed with laughs, hot sex, emotion and a love that will have you rooting for the happily ever after in ugly Christmas sweaters.” —Naima Simone, USA Today bestselling author “Utterly delightful! Fans of witty, smart m/f rom com will flock to these holiday sexy shenanigans. Sexy and the perfect length for a night by the fire, this is everything I like to see in a holiday novella!” —Annabeth Albert, author of the Frozen Hearts Series "Stocking Stuffers is a fun, sexy holiday story that's exactly the right blend of naughty and nice." —Anna Zabo, author of the Twisted Wishes Series “I was completely charmed by this sexy Christmas story—STOCKING STUFFERS is the perfect mix of naughty and nice with a wicked wit and a swoony happy ever after to get you into the holiday spirit!” —Vanessa North, RITA and Lambda Literary Award Finalist Blurb Sasha Holiday is so over the holidays after getting left at the altar last Christmas Eve. But as the marketing maven for Lady Robin’s Intimate Implements, she’s stuck not-so-merrily pitching naughty toys at a romance book club’s Christmas party. Her loathing of the yuletide only intensifies as a snowstorm rolls in and traps her at the Winterberry Inn. Stranded with her is Perry Winters—a hot bearded book club member trimmed in flannel and tattoos. Perry’s a romantic with an unerring belief in the magic of the season, and he recognizes a Christmas miracle when he sees it. Brave, smart, and confident—Sasha Holiday is a gift. And the gifts keep coming when she suggests they pass the time with some no-strings fun. After all, she has a big bag of toys that would make even Santa want to stay in bed on Christmas Eve. But the frisky festivities turn complicated as feelings spark between Sasha and Perry. Perry wants to see Sasha once the snow clears, but Sasha is reluctant to take the relationship sleigh ride again. Perry will have to show her that love is more than just a holiday feeling. To Karen Kiely, for being the best writing buddy. HEA or GTFO Contents Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Epilogue More SO OVER THE HOLIDAYS! Also by Erin McLellan Acknowledgments About the Author Chapter One Sasha lifted the toy from her huge red bag with a flourish, and the jingle bells on her reindeer antlers tinkled merrily. “This little darling, the Love Bite, is my favorite of the bunch.” She displayed the toy in her hands like a model on The Price is Right. She’d found, after years of peddling her wares to anyone and everyone who would listen, that drama sells. Especially at Christmas. “The handle is ergonomic, and it’s sturdy. Frankly, there is nothing I hate more than a flimsy sex toy.” The Staunchly Raunchy Book Club members tittered, and Sasha grinned. “Y’all know what I’m mean. I can tell.” Gently teasing the clients was one of Sasha’s customer service tricks. She was adept at figuring out which Lady Robin’s Intimate Implements partygoers were gregarious and bantering with them. But today, Sasha’s heart wasn’t exactly full of holiday cheer or consumerism. She felt like the fake elf at the party, and she’d never been a very good faker. “The Love Bite uses suction technology, and I swear to the Ghost of Good Orgasms Past, it’s the closest to real oral I’ve ever found in a sex toy. You just place the head over your clit and it creates a suck-and-release sensation,” she said matter-of-factly. Sasha normally loved filling in at a Lady Robin’s sales party when one of the regular reps called in sick. She loved chatting with the clients, and she definitely loved the commission money. But she hated Christmas, so this party sucked. Sasha passed the Love Bite to Valerie, the party’s hostess and a beautiful femme lesbian, who tested the suction on her thumb. “Oh, very nice,” Valerie said. “I might give up the girlfriend search for this baby.” She waved the Love Bite at her friends. “This is my new girlfriend now!” Sasha couldn’t hold in her professional pride. “Plus, it’s waterproof.” Sasha’s friend, Robin, had started Lady Robin’s Intimate Implements, a boutique sex toy and lingerie company, as a pop-up shop seven years ago. Sasha had been the whole of the marketing department for the first three years before their company had exploded into a multi-city operation. They supplemented their online and local vendor sales with bridal showers and birthday parties attended by their salaried marketing reps. This was the first book club they’d been commissioned for, as far as Sasha knew. Their company had made Robin, and Sasha by extension, stockings full of cash. A blast of wind hit the Winterberry Inn, causing the old house to creak and rattle. Sasha whipped around to see out the big bay window. It was dark out there, and she desperately hoped the expected snow and ice held off until she was home. Her darling baby—a restored 1984 VW Bug—was a disaster on icy roads. Valerie, who owned the Winterberry Inn and was definitely the evil mastermind of the Staunchly Raunchy Book Club, called a pause on the proceedings to get everyone mulled wine and spiked eggnog. Sasha took the brief reprieve to glance around the luxurious hearth room. The inn was a cozy bed and breakfast with seemingly endless rooms and Christmas charm in every nook and cranny. The hearth room spilled over with Christmas bobbles, garland, boxwood wreaths, and lights. A huge spruce tree, decked out in glittery gold, was activating Sasha’s allergies. Christmas made her itch, even when it was beautiful. Maybe especially when it was beautiful. Once the book club members were back in their circle of seats, Sasha pulled a paddle out of her bag and pasted on a fake smile. “We don’t have a huge variety of impact-play instruments, like crops or whips, but if you’re in the market for that, I can give you suggestions for other vendors. We only have one paddle, but it’s exceptional, if I do say so myself.” She brandished the wooden paddle Robin had created for the holidays. It had a word etched into the wide, flat end. “You can personalize the word, so it could be your name or your partner’s name. Other common words are BABY or SLUT. This is our Christmas edition, you know, if Santa gets you going.” The group laughed as she handed off the paddle adorned with the word HO! The book club members had been discussing a BDSM romance novel when she’d arrived, and the group erupted in chatter as they deliberated over whether the characters in the book would have enjoyed such play. Sounded like they definitely would have been down. Sasha listened to them with half an ear as she removed the last items from her bag. For a perverse second, she wished her roller bag was velvet, like Santa’s, rather than boring nylon. Velvet would match the red dress she’d donned in the hopes of appearing to be a bundle of cheer. False cheer, but whatever. Once the room quieted down, Sasha displayed her final toys. “Last but not least, next month we’re debuting a new line called Prick Me, for the person or persons in your life with dicks and prostates, but we have a bit of stock available for purchase today. Call it a sexy sneak peek.” She waved one of the toys—a holly-green cylinder with an opening on one end. “Here is our Fancy Fleshstroker, which comes in twelve diverse skin tones and several fun colors. These have a soft, silky interior and are super easy to clean. We’re also debuting two vibrating prostate massagers of differing shapes, named, quite simply, the P-Spot Pulse and Pulse 2.” She held them up and demonstrated how to turn them both on. A quiet, earnest-looking white woman named Louise laughed. “This might sound stupid, but can you explain how those work?” Sasha smiled, a real one this time, and put her proverbial sex-educator cap on. “So the prostate is a gland in front of the rectum in people born with penises and prostates. It has tons of pleasure sensors, so it can feel good when it’s stimulated. A lot of people with prostates enjoy having theirs touched, and that isn’t specific to certain sexualities. Prostate play can result in some pretty spectacular orgasms. With consent, of course, all you have to do is lube this baby up and insert it into—” A big thump resounded almost directly behind her, and she dropped the toys onto the hardwood floor. Somehow, the vibrator on the Pulse 2 was activated on impact, so it buzzed and danced all over the place. As she scrambled down to grab the toy, trying not to flash everyone since her holiday dress was short, Valerie shouted, “Perry! What are you doing here?” Sasha got the toy turned off before twisting around. There was a man standing in the entryway of the room, a gym bag—evidently full of bricks considering the noise it had made when hitting the ground—by his feet. Hot damn. He was the type of man who could make her Christmas knickers twist. Tall, lean, pale, with dark curly hair and a beard. Plus, he was staring at her like she was a piece of rum cake. She wanted to be his rum cake. Double damn. He ran a hand roughly through his hair. “I drove in a day early to beat the winter storm, which didn’t work. It’s already icy out there. I didn’t expect to walk in on my favorite book club getting a sex-toy demo.” He didn’t take his eyes off Sasha. Chuckles filled the room, and Sasha slowly stood up. No one seemed particularly perturbed about being interrupted by this man. Instead, the room was alight with excitement at his arrival. She smoothed her red velvet dress down with one hand while clutching the sex toys in the other. Her stupid antlers jingled. Valerie waved an arm dismissively. “Well, you showed up a day early, so …” “So?” He was still staring at Sasha, his gaze tracking over her face. “So maybe it’s your own fault if your delicate constitution can’t handle talk of prostate massagers,” Sasha said with an extra dose of sass. A grin slowly spread across his face, and dear God, he was hotter than she’d realized. “Fair assessment. I’m sorry, we’ve never met. I’m Perry Winters.” He finally drew his attention away from her and checked out the members of the Staunchly Raunchy Book Club. “I think I know all the other Raunchies here, but not you.” Raunchies? Was that what they called themselves? Because that was adorable. He stuck his hand out, and Sasha stumbled on her way over to shake it. His hand was sturdy and huge. Occasionally, Sasha loved the feel of soft, delicate hands, but Perry was making her crave large, strong, and callused. “Sasha, and I’m just the sex-toy marketeer.” His eyes darkened deliciously at that. “I doubt you’re just anything.” “Perry’s my brother,” Valerie said. “He used to be in our book club before he moved to Topeka, like a dweeb.” His hand began to slip from Sasha’s, and she jerked her palm from his. They’d held on too long. “You were in this book club?” she asked. He was one of the Raunchies? “Yes. I like to read,” he said, as if it were that simple. Which, really, it was. “That’s awesome,” she said. And sexy. She kept that part to herself. “Hey Perry, have you read the newest Minnesota Motorcycle Club book?” asked Andie, a petite black woman. She was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater with kittens on the front and had slapped a nametag on her chest that said, Holiday Pussy. Sasha wanted to be her best friend. Perry smiled warmly. “I haven’t. I DNF’ed the last one, but maybe I’ll give the new one a shot,” he said. Most of that went over Sasha’s head, so she returned to her seat and sat primly, waiting for the group to calm down again. After the excitement of Perry’s arrival wore off, Sasha looked to Valerie to see if she could continue. “Right! Sorry, Sasha. We’ll let you wrap up, then we’ll dive into our game of Dirty Book Dirty Santa.” “Sounds good.” Sasha eyed Perry, who’d pulled a folding chair into the circle and was watching her, unconcerned. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d hand-sold sex toys to men, but he made her skin prickle. Made her feel squirmy and excited all at once. She cleared her throat. “As I was saying, here are our prostate massagers. Use lube.” She directed that last comment at Perry. Rosiness rushed up his cheeks above the line of his beard as he smiled. A blusher. Mayday, too cute for words! Without stopping to swoon, she continued, “I’ve also got a catalog for lingerie and underthings that you’re welcome to peruse. Our lingerie is size and gender inclusive with a select range of bras, garters, slips, undies, binders, compression gaffs, and strap-on bottoms, all with Lady Robin’s rock-and-roll flair. Now, does anyone have any questions?” Louise raised her hand timidly. “Yes?” Louise bit her lip and glanced at Perry. He was a former Raunchy, so they were probably used to him being present, but Louise was obviously not comfortable asking this question in front of him. Perry stood up abruptly. “Oh man, that eggnog smells amazing. I’ll be back.” He rushed toward the breakfast room where the food and drinks were set up. With a smile, Sasha watched his long legs and tight ass waltz from the room. He was a blusher and considerate of women’s feelings. She wanted a bite. Once he was gone, Louise laughed. “Gosh, sorry. I couldn’t ask this in front of him. Do you have anything in double-F sizing?” “Definitely. Everything, including our bralettes.” A few other book club members had questions about sizing and prices as well. As Sasha answered, another huge gust of wind made the house shudder and the lights flicker. She needed to hurry so she could get home before the roads were too treacherous for her Bug. “Here are the order forms. I have some stock with me today, but if I don’t have what you want, we guarantee its arrival in five business days anywhere in the continental US. Feel free to check out the items on display. If no one has any questions, I’m going to run to the restroom real quick.” Valerie directed Sasha to the closest bathroom in a hallway off the huge, gorgeous kitchen, which was also decorated with all manner of garland and Christmas candles. There was a centerpiece made of a grapevine wreath, red garden roses, and berries on the kitchen island. Sasha stopped and stared at it, her heartbeat in her throat. It was eerily similar to the centerpieces she’d made a year ago for her wedding, only a lot fancier. Like a gut punch, it halted her in her tracks. Blood suddenly thundered in her ears, and her stomach pitched, a metallic taste hitting the back of her tongue. She had to squelch the urge to swipe the centerpiece off the counter and hurried out of the room instead. Once Sasha was alone in the hallway, she leaned against the wall and tried to slow the frantic patter of her heartbeat. Her phone buzzed in her hand, which was more effective in distracting her than the deep breathing. It was a weather alert. They were in a Blizzard Warning. Fucking great. She also had a text message from her older sister, Rosie. Rosie: Roads are horrible on the west side of city. Hope you’re not out being wild. Sasha: I’m wrapping up a Lady Robin’s party. Will leave soon. Rosie was a worrier and a pessimist. Sasha was sure their little brother, Benji, had received a similar message. Rosie: Who the hell plans a sex toy party right before X-mas? You need to get home now! A laugh worked its way out of Sasha’s throat, surprising her. Sasha: The dirtiest and coolest book club ever, that’s who. Sex toys make the best stocking stuffers. Rosie: Very funny. Sasha: I am. I’ll text when I leave. This place is out in the boonies, so I have at least an hour drive to get home. It wasn’t really the boonies. There were plenty of other properties around, but to a city girl like Sasha, it might as well have been the great frontier. “Sasha?” She jumped at Perry’s deep voice and bobbled her phone until it slithered through her fingers and skittered across the floor. Thank God for super-protective cases. “Baby Jesus! Stop making me drop things.” “Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He swooped down and picked up her cell phone. Their fingers brushed when he handed it back, and she shivered. He smelled of cedar. She liked it. A lot. Maybe he was a lumberjack. He was wearing flannel. He smiled, his eyes bright. “I feel like I crashed your sales pitch. I’m sorry if I made it awkward.” “Don’t worry. I’m not shy.” His gaze landed on her lips before jerking away. “I think half the book club is heading out soon, and the rest are staying at the inn to wait out the storm. They’re drawing names for a book exchange rather than playing Dirty Santa.” “Oh, that’s good. I’ll go get their orders, so I can head home too.” He took a deep breath. “This might be out of line but would you go to dinner with me sometime this week?” Her pulse galloped off like a herd of reindeer. She hadn’t been on a date date in ages. Dates led to expectations and crossed boundaries. She hadn’t dated since … well, since the worst Christmas ever had soured the idea of relationships for her forever. Being left at the altar on Christmas Eve did that to you. Rather than spill her issues on an unsuspecting hot guy, she said, “A date? All you know about me is that I sell sex toys for a living.” Some people thought that made her available or even a slut. “No. I know you’re smart and confident, and I like your voice. There’s this lilt when you speak, like you’re always having a great time and everything is funny. And your hair. I like your hair.” “Wow. Thank you.” A few of her regular lovers had not been fans of her hair when she’d chopped it into a pixie cut a few months ago. Needless to say, they weren’t her lovers anymore. He ran an unsteady hand across his chin and lips. In the darkness of the hallway, she couldn’t see his eyes clearly. She wondered what color they were, wanted to see them alight with pleasure. She had a feeling Perry would be delightfully expressive and genuine in bed. “I’m not the best at this,” he said, voice shaky. “You’re actually doing pretty awesome.” “Really?” “Yeah, really, but I’m not the dating type. And regardless, don’t you live in Topeka?” His smile withered, and she had the irrational urge to cup his cheek. What was happening to her? She wanted to blame her sudden soppy, sweet feelings on the Christmas cheer in the air. It was like those parasitic spores that latched onto everything, multiplied, then smothered their host. “I did live in Topeka. I, uh, I’m not … My living situation is complicated.” “I’m not in the market for complicated,” she said. “Though, you’re super cute, so I’d probably be game for a night together. A one-night stand, basically. But not tonight because, you know, snow and ice and rear-wheel drive. I need to get home.” His mouth had gone a little slack, and she inwardly cringed. She tended to steamroll people. Men especially expected her to be more circumspect about her sexual appetites and romantic boundaries, but that wasn’t her problem. It was theirs. “I’m sorry. I can’t tell if you’re rejecting me or propositioning me,” he finally said. The corners of his eyes crinkled. “Both.” “I like you,” he said decisively, and she laughed. “I’m a bit much, I’ve been told. I like to fuck, eat, masturbate, and read, and I don’t do any of those in moderation. Still interested?” She had no idea why she was unleashing all her sass on him. Maybe to scare him off. Or to see if he’d stick around. “I’m definitely still interested, Sasha.” “Then here’s my number.” She rattled it off for him, and he hurriedly input it into his cell. They smiled at each other like two dorky teenagers before the sound of someone humming a Christmas carol in the kitchen jolted them apart. “I’ll be out in a second to wrap up everyone’s orders. I need to hit the road before the Bug can’t make it up the driveway,” she said. “I wondered whose car that was.” “My baby brother restored it for me a couple years ago. He’s a little genius.” She grinned just thinking about her brother, who at six foot four was in no way little or a baby. “It’s beautiful.” “I know.” She winked and slipped into the bathroom. The partiers were almost done drawing names for their romance novel exchange when she returned, so Sasha prepared to fill and file their orders. Once they wrapped up, she clapped her hands once. “Okay, Staunchly Raunchy Book Club, does anyone have questions? I’m ready to take your orders if you have any.” A stack of order forms were passed in her direction. Her payout for this party would be a nice holiday bonus. Maybe she’d take her siblings out to their favorite Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. It took her about ten minutes to distribute the stock she had with her, accept payments, fill out receipts, and file the remaining orders. By the time she’d sold her last Love Bite, the wind was howling and whipping snow against the huge windows of the hearth room. She didn’t even have an ice scraper in her car. Her grandmother was probably rolling in her grave over how unprepared Sasha was for bad weather. “Thank you for doing this,” Valerie said with a solemnity that might have been due to too much mulled wine. Louise nodded and bit her lip. “I’ve wanted to try out a vibrator, but I’ve been too self-conscious to go into a shop, and I wasn’t sure how to pick one online. Some of the companies look sketchy.” “That’s why I love this job. We want to make it easier and more comfortable for people to find and purchase what they want and need,” Sasha said, dropping her voice to give the three of them privacy. “Sex toys are fun, and they’re essential for some people, particularly women, to get off. There’s nothing shameful or wrong about that. Technology is a wonderful thing.” “Exactly,” Louise whispered, tucking her long, frizzy brown hair behind her ears. “We read so many sex-positive romance novels where the heroines have all this sexual agency, but here I am—too chickenshit to buy a vibrator. Well, no more. I bought two.” “Good.” Sasha grinned at her and made a mental note to include a couple of coupons with Louise and Valerie’s orders. “I’m happy you scheduled Lady Robin’s for your holiday party. This was such a fun group.” “You’re welcome to join the book club! We’re always excited to indoctrinate unsuspecting humans into our romance novel cult,” Valerie pitched in. “Thank you, but I’m not exactly local. I live on the far side of the city, over an hour away, but I’d love book recommendations. I enjoy thrillers, so maybe romantic suspense? I’ll give you my email.” Valerie whooped and rushed off to get a pen and paper. Sasha smiled in her wake. Valerie was beautiful, especially now, when she was flushed, uninhibited, and excited about books. Perry and Valerie both had dark curly hair and killer smiles. They could have been twins. But there was something about Perry, something that hit her right in the chest. What was that exactly? Chemistry, maybe? Lust? Sometimes she was knocked over by it, by that rush of adrenaline and discomfort, when she wanted someone. When the thrumming in her pulse spiked from, Oh, I like their smile, to, Oh, I want to sit on their face. But this dose of Perry felt exceptionally potent. Gender had never factored into it for her. She liked women. She liked men. And she liked people who were both or neither or fluid. But regardless of gender, she had a type. Unexpected. Adventurous. Expressive. Emotional. She had no idea if Perry had any or all those characteristics, but she couldn’t help but hope he’d call her eventually so she could find out. Valerie rushed back over with a notepad and pen as Sasha finished packing up her bag of unsold toys. Sasha was writing out her email address for Valerie when Perry materialized beside them. Sasha, of course, jumped at his sudden appearance and dropped the fucking pen. He picked it up for her. “Dray is giving a bunch of people a ride home since they have that huge minivan with the all-wheel drive. Andie and Karen are hoping to stay here until the storm clears if you have space,” Perry told Valerie. “We have enough rooms,” Valerie said. “Do you have space for me too?” Louise asked. “Absolutely.” Valerie winked at Louise, which made her blush. Then Valerie turned to Sasha. “Will you be able to make it home? You could stay here. We always have room at this inn.” “Oh, uh. No, I better not.” Sasha glanced at Perry. It was tempting, but she didn’t think she could survive the Christmas extravaganza going on at this place for longer than a few more minutes. “I appreciate the offer, though.” “Of course,” Valerie said. “Thanks again for coming. I think I’ve officially hosted the best Staunchly Raunchy Book Club Christmas Party ever.” “Yeah, those toys will make awesome stocking stuffers,” Perry said. “That’s what I said!” Sasha exclaimed. “Batteries not included, though.” Perry tipped his head back and laughed, his whole face transforming, opening up with humor and happiness. And oh man, she loved a good laugh. She had to wrench her gaze away from him before she was caught staring. “I’m going to brave the weather and head out.” Valerie, amazingly, gave her a hug before she hurried away to see the other guests off. An unusual emotion lumped in Sasha’s throat at the two seconds of friendly contact. She wasn’t much of a hugger. Her grandma had been the bearer of hugs in the family, and maybe she and her siblings had been working at a deficit, because a platonic hug from a stranger at Christmas shouldn’t have made her want to bawl. Perry’s voice brought her out of her navel gazing. “It’s bad out there. You sure you’ll be okay?” He was watching her closely. Now she could see that he had hazel eyes, an intriguing mix of green and brown. The lights from the Christmas tree reflected in them like stars. “I’ll be fine.” “All right. I’ll walk you out.” She donned her coat and trudged out into the snow, pulling her two roller bags of sex toys—lighter than when she’d first arrived—behind her. The snow was mixed with pelting ice. The door handle on her VW Bug was so cold it burned her hand when she opened it. Perry helped her load the bags. A solid coating of ice covered the back window, but it wasn’t as thick on the sides and front. She turned the car on and flipped the heater to defrost. “I don’t have an ice scraper,” she said, embarrassed. She was a strong, capable, independent woman, and it sucked to be caught unprepared. She parked in a parking garage at her apartment and at work, so her car wasn’t sitting out in the elements very often. “I think I have two. Hold on.” He rushed over to a hulking silver SUV and pulled one long-handled and one smaller scraper out of the backseat. He handed her the bigger one, then without a word, started in on the back window. She attacked the ice on the front window with a vengeance, taking out her frustration, sexual and otherwise. She was seriously regretting the red velvet dress, thigh-high fishnets, and black stilettos. This was the worst winter-weather outfit ever, and her coat wasn’t doing much to cut the cold. They finished quickly, which was great, since Sasha was freezing her snowballs off. Perry took a step closer to her. He had snow frosting his dark curls and beard. “I don’t feel good about this. The weather is atrocious,” he said. “I’ll be fine,” she repeated, glancing up the huge hill she’d have to drive to make it out of the Winterberry Inn’s driveway. It was an ice rink. If ice rinks had a twelve percent grade. This was a horrible idea. “I’m going to text you, so you have my number. Will you call if you have any issues getting home?” Perry asked. “Sure. It was nice to meet you, Perry. I hope you text me sometime but, you know, not just because of a little winter weather.” “Oh, I plan to.” He swooped in and kissed her briefly on the cheek, barely a touch. But his lips were warm against her chilled skin, and it sent a shimmery arc of heat through her. She shivered, and he must have misinterpreted it, because he opened her driver’s side door, and said, “Get in before you catch a chill.” Catch a chill? She was mouthing those words to herself, a small smile flirting on the edges of her mouth, as she put the car into gear. What an old-fashioned phrase. Perry waved at her, and her smile grew. She started the steep climb up the driveway. Maybe Perry was really into those historical romances her sister enjoyed—the ones with dukes and scandals and carriage rides. She could almost see him as a brooding Regency hero, except his smile was too unrestrained. Next she imagined him shirtless and in a clench with a woman in a beautiful fancy dress, because why not? It was such a pleasant fantasy that the first skid of her baby’s tires came as a total surprise. Adrenaline exploded in her gut like a pipe bomb. She was suddenly too hot, and the sticky, bitter taste of fear burst on her tongue. What if her car’s traction wasn’t good enough to get up the hill? Her engine was a dinosaur. She was a month late on changing the oil because she was obviously irresponsible. Then her Bug shuddered, the tires stopped spinning, and the car slipped backward. Chapter Two Perry watched as Sasha’s clunker chugged up the driveway. He was concerned her car wouldn’t make it up the hill. As kids, he and Valerie had raced skateboards down that slope, seeing how fast they could go, the wind whipping against their faces until it was like they were flying. Surely, old ass Volkswagen Bugs were not built to climb icy, Midwestern hills. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, helped along by the Christmas lights flashing from the eaves of the inn and the snow blanketing the ground. Sasha surprisingly made it most of the way up the hill with no problem, and he was about to go back inside, when her taillights abruptly pitched to the right, then slid backward. “Shit,” he said under his breath, panic shooting his heart into his throat. Her VW Bug slipped all the way down the hill before her brakes reengaged and she came to an abrupt stop. She pushed her door open, and he rushed over. Her jaw was tight, her delicate mouth pinched. But it was her eyes that alarmed him. The blue of her irises was nearly invisible—her eyes much too dilated, even for the darkness. He crouched down next to her. “Sasha. Are you hurt?” “What? No. I didn’t hit anything. The ice just made my car slide. I think I need more power to make it out.” He grimaced. The problem with this driveway was that there was no room to build up the momentum she needed, especially in the ice. His family had gotten snowed in here for that very reason at least five times that he could remember; though, it had never happened to him as an adult. “I’m going to try again in a lower gear,” she said. Her hands were shaking on the steering wheel, probably from adrenaline. He wanted to rub them, still them, but he suspected she wouldn’t appreciate that right now. “Okay.” “Stand back. If I slide down, I don’t want to hit you.” “Sure thing.” He stepped farther into the yard and the rapidly accumulating snow. Visibility was getting worse. The thought of her driving home in this weather hurt his stomach. She accelerated up the hill but only made it about halfway before her wheels locked up, then spun out again, flinging snow and ice everywhere. This time she managed to stop on the hill and not slide down, but she couldn’t budge. She eventually reversed back down the slope and rolled down her window. “Fuck.” “Yeah,” he said. “I think Val has some kitty litter I could try spreading at that steepest bit, see if it gives you the traction you need.” “Yes please, Mr. Winters.” After finding half a bag in the lean-to garden shed, he climbed up the hill until he reached the problem area and scattered the gravelly kitty litter. With a wave of his arm, he indicated she should try to drive up again. The ice and snow mixture was hitting him square in the face, obscuring his vision and soaking him through. His teeth chattered as the Bug started up the hill. No dice. The car skidded to the right and the wheels spun out. Sasha quickly wrangled the car back under control and guided it down the driveway. She reached the bottom of the hill as Valerie walked out of the front of the inn and waved. The snow was falling harder now, almost whiteout conditions, making it hard to see. Sasha climbed out of her car as he made his way to her, her bright red skirt and green coat a homing beacon to him through the blizzard. “I’m screwed,” she said as she pulled out her phone. “I wonder if an Uber could meet me at the top of the driveway. Fuck, that will be expensive. I live so far away, and then I’d be without my car on the other side of the city.” Her hands were shaking, and Perry didn’t know if it was adrenaline or the cold. He lightly touched her elbow. “I could drive you home.” He did have a big SUV, after all. Val obviously didn’t like that idea. She shook her head immediately. “Too dangerous. Conditions are deteriorating too fast for anyone to be on the road. Not you, not Sasha, not an Uber driver.” Sasha let out a long, gut-wrenching sigh. “Yeah. Shit.” “You can stay here,” Perry said. “I’m sure there’s an open room, isn’t there, Val? And if not, I could always sleep on the couch in the carriage house.” Val nodded, seeming to think out loud. “Louise can stay in the extra room of the carriage house with me, and the love birds will be in the Jack Pine Room.” “Who are the love birds?” Sasha asked. “Karen and Andie. They’re newlyweds. Let’s see,” Valerie said. “The Boltons left a day early to miss the storm, so the Blue Spruce Room is open. We can put you there, Sasha, on the house of course, hon. Perry, I planned to give you the Red Cedar Room since it’s your favorite.” Excitement rushed through Perry. In the Red Cedar Room, he’d only be separated by an en suite from Sasha. Which, actually, she might not be crazy about. “We’d be sharing a bathroom,” he told Sasha, so she wouldn’t be surprised. Her eyes got big. “Cozy.” “Hey,” he whispered, trying to cut Valerie, his nosy sister, out of the conversation. “If that makes you uncomfortable, I understand. I can sleep on Valerie’s sofa.” “Pshh. It’s fine, hot stuff. Told you I wasn’t shy.” This time Sasha reached for his arm, placing a reassuring hand on him. He couldn’t help but lean into her touch, and she watched his face without wavering, a flash of heat in her eyes. Valerie cackled. “Okay, that tension is thick as fruitcake, just saying!” Perry closed his eyes and prayed for the icy ground to open up and swallow him whole. Sometimes older sisters sucked. Sasha snorted a laugh before stomping her feet, like she was trying to keep warm. Her shoes were shiny black pumps, and his brain split in two trying to decide if he loved the way they made her legs appear miles long or if he was worried about her toes and frostbite. She must have followed his gaze, because she said, “Inappropriate footwear. Name of my memoir.” “They look nice, at least.” They looked more than nice. Sexy. “Cold, though.” “I bet.” “What do you think? You okay staying here until the blizzard passes?” he asked. “That could be days, right? Wasn’t that the forecast? It wasn’t supposed to hit until tomorrow morning, though.” “Weathermen are crooks,” Perry said with a smile. “Let’s get you inside. You’re trembling.” He retrieved her sex-toy bags, which scrambled his brain a bit with lust, before they walked inside together. “I don’t have any extra clothes. Or a toothbrush.” She lifted an unsteady hand to her forehead. “I’m sorry. I feel so unprepared.” “Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll loan you some comfy stuff,” Valerie said. “And we have any type of toiletry you’ll need. Lucky you got snowed in at a bed and breakfast. Hospitality is kind of my thing.” Perry and Valerie led Sasha up the stairs to the Blue Spruce Room. When he opened the door for her, she stumbled back into him. “Yikes.” He peeked around her to see what had spooked her, but nothing was out of the ordinary. “What’s wrong?” Valerie asked. Sasha seemed to shake it off. “Oh, nothing. Wasn’t expecting it to be so … seasonal, that’s all.” Valerie and Perry glanced at each other and laughed. Winterberry Inn had been in their family for three generations. It was known for its Christmas charm. During the other seasons, Valerie toned it down, but winter was in their blood, literally. “You can blame our grandfather for that,” Perry said. “He set the precedent of a Christmas tree in every room back when party lines and rotary phones were a thing.” Valerie squeezed Sasha’s shoulders gently. “I’m going to go grab you pajamas. Perry can show you around in the meantime.” “Cool, cool, cool,” Sasha whispered under her breath. She rolled her bags into the Blue Spruce Room. “Ah, Christmas lights on the four-post bed. Neat. And berry swag around the window—okie dokie. I see there are glittery pinecones on my bedside table. That’s … something.” “Oh my God. You hate Christmas!” Perry leaned against the doorjamb and grinned. “I do not!” She whipped around and stared at him. “Okay. That’s a lie. I despise it. And it’s like Christmas afterbirth in this place.” “Gross.” “I agree.” They smiled at each other before Perry had to shake himself. He could stare at her all night. She was gorgeous. And also only interested in sex, which was not usually his cup of tea. Wait. That came out wrong. He wasn’t bad at sex. Correction—he didn’t think he was bad at sex. He’d never had complaints. He’d never had a one-night stand either and wasn’t sure if he’d excel in that arena. In fact, his recent career and love-life shakeups had made him doubt himself in more ways than one. “Let me give you that tour.” He offered her his elbow. She rolled her eyes and her grin widened, finally seeming to relax a little. Then she shucked off her green trench coat and threw it on top of the plaid bedspread. “Lead the way, Mr. Winters.” “Gladly, Miss …?” “Holiday.” “Ah, festive.” “Shut up.” She tucked her hand into his elbow, a pleasant, warm pressure, and he led her out of the room. “This whole hallway is guest rooms, as are the ones a floor up. I’m here.” He pointed to his door as they passed it. They walked down the staircase, which was adorned with balsam fir garland and tasteful white twinkle lights. He loved the smell of the house at Christmas, loved the mix of greenery and lights and warmth. Nostalgia from his childhood hit him in the chest. He’d missed this. Maybe coming home after his career had fallen apart in Topeka had been the right decision after all. A fresh start was exactly what he needed. When they reached the foyer, he pointed to the basket of blankets. “If you want to sit on the front porch, feel free to take a blanket from here. I can’t imagine that’d be fun in the blizzard, though.” They walked into the formal sitting room. This was his least favorite room. It was stuffy, even when covered in Christmas. Next was the breakfast room, which still had refreshments from the Staunchly Raunchy Book Club party. “This is where Val and her chef serve breakfast every morning. But you can come in here anytime. There’s always baked goods.” He picked up a leftover chocolate éclair, but as he moved it to his mouth, Sasha grabbed his hand and directed it to her mouth instead. His breath caught and his eyes were drawn to her lips as they wrapped around the pastry. She took a bite, never breaking eye contact. “Fuck,” he hissed, his whole body firing with lust. “What do we have here?” a woman said from the doorway, humor in her voice. Andie Romero—biggest troublemaker in all the land. She was wearing a Christmas sweater with cats on it. Perry closed his eyes, sad about the interruption, and Sasha turned away from them both, choking on a laugh, her mouth full. Karen Romero, Andie’s wife, waltzed up next to Andie. Karen was a middle-aged, five-foot-nothing FBI intelligence analyst, who could command a room with nothing more than an arched brow. Perry wished he had her presence. “They were canoodling,” Andie whispered. “Were not,” Perry said like a five-year-old. He wished they’d been canoodling. Sasha managed to swallow her mouthful of éclair around her laughter before turning back toward the women. “Perry was very kindly showing me around, considering I’m stranded here.” “At least you’re in the best of company,” Karen said, teasingly tossing her locs over her shoulder. “Thank you, Karen.” Perry was touched she’d say that. “I mean us.” Karen grinned at Sasha. “Come on. We’ll show you where the stingy Winters keep the wine.” “It’s called a wine cellar. Not exactly a secret,” Perry said. “Yeah, but most guests don’t get the security code. We’re special. Karen interrogated it out of Valerie,” Andie said. “Follow us, kiddos. Bring your éclair.” Karen and Andie led them through the breakfast room into the hearth room. The fire had died down to glowing embers, making it cozy and warm. The Romeros didn’t stop to admire the charm. They grabbed Sasha’s hands and dragged her through the formal dining room—all decked out with boxwood wreaths, winterberries, and unlit candles—to the laundry room and the cellar door. “The code is 1225,” Karen said. “Christmas.” “Cute,” Sasha said. She reached back for the éclair Perry was holding, and he handed it over. She grinned. The wine cellar wasn’t anything special, but the Romeros gasped in excitement and started talking a mile a minute. “What type of wine do you like?” Perry asked Sasha, while their chaperones were distracted. She shrugged and ran her finger over a dusty bottle. “Cheap and red. Maybe boxed.” “Oh dear,” he said. “That will not do at all.” “Are you a wine snob?” She lowered her voice. “I refuse to sleep with a wine snob.” He pressed a hand to his chest. “I’m not a snob. I have taste. There’s a difference.” Though being newly unemployed had made his wine obsession a bit complicated, but that was what was wonderful about having a sister with a well-stocked cellar. Andie appeared in front of them, a grin lighting up her expressive face. She was wearing black lipstick and looked like a total badass. “Hey, wine snob. You choose. You’ll know what’s too expensive. We don’t want to piss your sister off when we filch it.” He watched as Sasha finished her chocolate éclair, her lips wrapping around the luscious dessert. He knew just the thing. Humming, he stepped over to the short, squatty bottles of port and late harvest zins. The 2013 Venge Vineyard Late Harvest Zinfandel. Perfect. Karen strolled over and nicked it from his hands. “A dessert wine when only one of us has had dessert.” She threw a glance over her shoulder at Sasha. “How fitting.” “Let’s go back upstairs and have dessert, then, ladies.” Perry tried to send Karen his most winning smile, hoping to charm his favorite FBI analyst. After a long beat of side-eye, Karen said, “I like where your mind’s at, kid.” She took Andie by the hand, still holding the wine bottle, and directed them out of the cellar. They reached the hearth room. Someone had set it back to rights from the Staunchly Raunchy Book Club, so there was no longer a circle of chairs. It was once again a cozy sitting area with the wood-burning fireplace as the centerpiece. “Why don’t you all sit,” he said. “I’ll get us wine glasses and the desserts.” “I’ll help,” Sasha said. Perry gathered up four wine glasses and a corkscrew, and Sasha grabbed the platter of leftover desserts and a stack of small plates. There were chocolate éclairs, apple tarts, slices of German chocolate cake, chocolate-covered cherries, and lemon bars. “God, who made all this? It looks amazing,” Sasha said. “Probably Valerie. The inn has a chef, Eden, but Valerie was a pastry chef before taking over here, and she likes to flex those baking muscles every once in a while. Plus, the chocolate cake is our mother’s recipe.” They slipped back into the hearth room and were met with quite the romantic display. Andie and Karen had cuddled up on a loveseat and were whispering with their heads together. Karen laughed at something Andie said in her ear, a secret, soft laugh that was completely at odds with her usual toughness. Then she lifted Andie’s fingers to her lips to kiss her knuckles. “Sweet,” Perry said quietly. Sasha smiled, but it was almost pained. Sad. “Yep. Very.” “Oh, there you two are! Bring us the corkscrew, slowpoke,” Andie called to Perry from across the room. Sasha dished out their desserts for them. Perry opened the wine and poured everyone generous helpings. He grabbed an éclair—Sasha had eaten his earlier—and settled down into a large, comfy wingback chair next to the fire. Sasha selected a few chocolate-covered cherries and a piece of German chocolate cake. Perry couldn’t take his eyes off of her as she took her first bite of cake. She hummed happily, watching the fireplace, then took a sip of wine. The deep red of the wine against the berry-color of her lips made him dizzy and hot. He wanted her to love the wine. He wanted her to love the cake. Hell, he just didn’t want her to be incredibly upset about being stuck here at his family’s legacy. Here with him. She moaned. “Shit, this is good.” Karen and Andie agreed, eating their desserts with relish. They all sat in comfortable silence. A log rolled in the fireplace and split apart, causing crackles and a slight flare of flames. Karen pulled out her phone and fiddled with it for a few seconds. Then Christmas music floated from its speakers. A Bing Crosby classic. Perry smiled. There was a blizzard outside, and his whole life was packed into cardboard boxes in the back of his SUV, and he hadn’t told his sister that he’d lost his job, but this—this right here, with Sasha and the Romeros and Bing Crosby—was perfection. Sasha stood abruptly, like her cushy armchair was on fire. “I need to go.” “Are you okay?” Perry started to stand, but she waved him down. She finished the rest of her wine in a couple gulps, which scandalized him. “I should call my sister, let her know what happened. She’ll be worried.” She held up the empty dessert plate and wine glass, as if she’d forgotten they were in her hands. “Uh, I’ll go put these—” “I’ll take them.” Perry gently removed them from her hold. “No worries.” She nodded stiffly. “Thank you.” Then she was out of the room, her velvet dress swinging around her thighs. “Someone’s allergic to Christmas music,” Karen quipped dryly. “Doesn’t take FBI training to see that.” “She needs a little holiday loving, I bet,” Andie added. Perry snorted. “Busybodies.” But he couldn’t stop watching the doorway Sasha had left through. What if she was freaked out about being here? What could he do to ease her mind, make her comfortable? Karen snapped her fingers at him. “Loverboy, go find her. Make sure she’s okay.” She lowered her voice. “Get laid.” He shook his head. “No, I’ll help you two clean up and—” “We’ll do it,” Andie piped in. “Anyway, we want to make out, and you’re killing the mood.” Now it was his turn to stand like his seat was on fire. “Fair enough.” He didn’t actually think he’d find Sasha, especially if she’d retreated to her room, but he didn’t want to cramp Karen and Andie’s style. Both of them had demanding jobs—Karen a FBI analyst and Andie a bartender and PhD student—so maybe they were using their snowed-in status as an excuse for a romantic getaway. This was a wonderful place for that. In fact, the inn was renowned for the romantic Winterberry Christmas Couples’ Soiree, but he’d never brought a woman to it. It was hard to be romantic at a B and B run by his own sister. As he reached the second-floor landing, movement in a nearby sitting room caught his eye. He peeked through the doorway. The room had no fewer than four small Christmas trees tucked into every available space, and in the corner, there was an old upright piano that was permanently out of key. These trees were strung with red wooden beads and threaded popcorn. A model train set circled the largest pine. Sasha was as still as an ice sculpture in front of the large window. She’d pulled aside the curtains, and the reflections of the Christmas lights in the glass cast a warm glow around her head, like a halo. “Snow’s getting worse,” she said, without glancing back at him. “Seems like it.” “My sister said the news is calling it a snow-pocalypse. They always say that though, don’t they? Hope they’re exaggerating. I could be stranded here for days, if not.” “That wouldn’t be so bad, would it? At the very least, there will be awesome desserts.” She turned to him. He sat on the piano bench, facing her. “There might be other perks as well,” she said softly, her eyes assessing. “Oh yeah?” “Yep.” She took a few steps until she was standing right in front of his legs. He had to tip his head back to see her face. Their closeness, the sudden heat between their bodies, his exposed throat—it made his breath catch and hitch with longing. She ran a light fingertip over his Adam’s apple, and he swallowed thickly. “Follow me, Perry.” She strode from the room, and he did what any person with half a brain would. He obeyed. He caught up with her at the door to the Blue Spruce Room, where she grabbed his hand and pulled him inside but didn’t close the door behind them. She let go of his hand and knelt in front of the red roller bags she’d deposited at the foot of her bed. What in the world was she doing? She bent down and fiddled for a second before reappearing in front of him. “Uh, thanks for helping me try to get up the hill today and for showing me around. And for the wine and chocolate. You’re very nice.” “I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that helpful.” “Still. You got wet and cold, and now you’ll probably catch that chill.” She pulled a long, rectangular box from behind her back. “Here. Take this. On the house. As thanks.” “Oh, you don’t need to do that. You don’t owe me anything,” he said but instinctually took the box when she handed it over. She backed away and zipped up her bag, not looking at him. “Did you just give me a sex toy?” After a beat, she said, “A super nice one, yeah. It’s our sparkly gold version. I wish I’d gifted it more smoothly, but I don’t regret it.” He glanced up and laughed. “Fancy Fleshstroker.” “Stop chuckling and accept this inappropriate token of my appreciation. Merry Christmas to you,” she snarked, and he laughed harder. “I’ve never used a sex toy. I’m not sure I’d know what to do with this.” “It’s not exactly rocket science. It’s about as handy as, well, your hand.” “Are … gizmos like this necessary, though?” A sharp grin spread across her face. She was absolutely beautiful. “Gizmos? You’re asking the woman who is the head of marketing for a successful sex-toy company if she thinks they’re necessary?” Oh, she was out of his league. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend.” “You didn’t. But to answer your question—no, they’re not always necessary. Sometimes they’re simply fun. I bet you’d have fun with that.” She gestured to the box in his hand. “Toys can increase pleasure or spice up sex. Some people with clits can’t come without vibration. How necessary are sex toys to them? I’d say pretty essential. Have you heard of the orgasm gap?” “Yeah.” “One of my goals—one of the goals of Lady Robin’s Intimate Implements—is to show that it doesn’t have to be that way. Sex toys can help a person discover what they like, what they don’t, what they need, how their partners can please them, and how they can please themselves. We strive to empower our customers to take control of their sexual pleasure. That’s why my friend Robin started the company, and why I wanted onboard.” It was as if she’d hit him over the head with a bag of coal. He’d felt the same way when he’d walked into the hearth room earlier and seen her standing there in front of the Raunchies with a prostate massager in her hand. Sasha was a good salesperson—professional, passionate, confident—and it turned him on to an inappropriate degree. Turned him on enough to ignore the fact that he normally wasn’t at all interested in one-night stands but would happily fall at her feet for one. “I have to admit, I really enjoy listening to you talk about sex toys,” he said. A hush fell between them, thick with tension. “So,” she said. “Relationships are not my cup of eggnog.” “Yeah, I remember.” “But here we are, snowed in, and I have a big red bag of toys …” “And I could be your willing student?” “You have no idea how much I want to teach you some things.” “I’d love that.” He took a deep breath. “I’ve never done this, though.” It felt like there was a flock of turtledoves roosting in his stomach. “Sex?” “With a stranger.” “Well, lucky you, because I’m an awesome stranger, not a sucky one. And we don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.” She glanced toward the doorway on the far side of the room. “Does that lead to the en suite bathroom we share?” “Yes. It’s only accessible from our rooms, not the hallway.” “Oh, convenient. Come with me.” She headed toward the bathroom, tugging one of her roller bags behind her. “Bring the Fleshstroker!” she called. When he finally picked his tongue up off the floor and trailed her into the bathroom, locking the door behind him, he couldn’t do much besides stare. She’d long-since ditched the reindeer antlers, and her silky, dark-blonde hair shone in the lights of the bathroom. Her hair was perfectly her. Sweet and edgy at the same time. So short that it drew focus to her big blue eyes and adorably pointy chin. She also had curves galore, with an ass that made him want to worship her. Plus, she was washing a black dildo in the pedestal sink. It was obviously new because the packaging was littered around the vanity. With a grin over her shoulder, she said, “Hand me the Fleshstroker.” He tore into the box and passed it over. She washed and dried the internal sleeve quickly. The whole process surprised him. He hadn’t expected the Fleshstroker to have removable pieces, and he probably wouldn’t have thought to clean it before use. She loaded batteries into the black toy, and it sprang to life in her hand before she clicked the vibrator off. The lights in the bathroom were too bright, and the overhead fan drowned out his panting. He loved this bathroom. It was retro, with white and navy tile, a claw-foot tub, and a modern shower. He checked to make sure the door leading into his room was locked as well. He had no idea what was about to happen, but he was in. He was her faithful student. He was hers. For tonight, he belonged to her. “You still with me?” she whispered, sidling closer. “I want to kiss you so badly I can hardly breathe.” The words blurted out of him, like he had no control over his own mouth. “Oh, good answer.” Then her lips were right there, right under his. The electricity of that first touch weakened his knees. Weakened him but made him feel stronger too. Her fingers immediately tangled in his hair, and he had to shut down a groan. It had been too long since someone had touched him like it was integral to be skin to skin, lips to lips. And oh, damn, her lips. They were soft and sweet, and she kissed him with absolutely no reservations or timidity. She went for it. All in, like she was hungry for his lips and tongue and teeth. Their kiss lit up his whole body. He skimmed his fingertips across the back of her neck and down the long line of her spine. His hands ached to clutch and cup and manhandle. “Grab my ass,” she whispered against his lips, as if she’d read his mind. “I don’t want polite.” Well, hell. He could try impolite for once. He snuck his hands down to her thighs and rucked her pretty red dress up around her waist. Then he grabbed her bare butt, his thumbs skimming the top of her satiny thong. God, she felt amazing. “What do you want?” he said in her ear, causing her to shiver. “I’ll give you whatever you want.” “How about today I teach you the benefits of toys during a little mutual masturbation.” She smiled up at him, and his heartbeat thundered in his ears. She had a deep dimple in her cheek, and he couldn’t help but press his lips to it. “Today? Will you teach me something different tomorrow?” “If you’re lucky.” “It could be the twelve days of Christmas sex toys. A new gizmo every day.” She chuckled, and he kissed her again. She tasted like his favorite wine. When she pulled back for a breath, he sang, “On the first day of Christmas, my …” They gazed at each other, stuck. “My fuck buddy gave to me?” she suggested Laughter bubbled up inside him, and her laughter followed until they were both giggling and holding each other up. She unbuttoned his jeans and shucked them to his knees. Suddenly sober, he yanked her toward him, and she wrapped one of her legs around his waist so his erection pressed against her core through their underwear. “Watching you make yourself come would honestly be the hottest thing ever,” he said, his voice ragged. He’d never done that. Never watched someone or let someone watch him. The thought of having her eyes on him heightened the thrumming desire in his gut to almost unbearable levels. His emotions were ping-ponging around, from giddiness to hair-on-fire lust. He couldn’t keep up with himself. A small smile tripped across her face. “Hold that thought.” She pulled out of his arms and rifled through her roller bag until she came up with a bottle of lube. Then she grabbed the dildo and Fleshstroker from the vanity. “What’s that one called?” he asked, nodding toward the slim, slightly curved dildo with a cute appendage popping off the side. “The Double Trouble. I’ve never tried this one. You can help me christen it.” “Sure.” His voice was faint, his mind reeling and skin prickling. She was going to burn him up before he’d even gotten his dick out. “What’s it do? Besides the obvious.” “It’s a vibrating dildo with a clitoral stimulator. The vibration is so strong it’s supposed to feel like thrusting, so you’ll have thrusting against your G-spot on the inside and pulsation against your clit on the outside at the same time. It’s very popular. I created an awesome marketing campaign for it.” “I can imagine.” After a quick glance around the bathroom, she backed up against the far wall adjacent to the claw-foot tub. He shuffled after her, his pants around his knees. Being disheveled and half undressed was weirdly doing it for him. She pulled off her thong and handed it over. “Hold this.” “Oh. God. Okay.” He wrapped the silky slip of fabric around his wrist and threaded his fingers into her short hair, tipping her head back. Red lipstick was slightly smeared around the corners of her lips from their kisses. “What next?” “Pull your boxers down.” Her voice was huskier than before. He kept one hand in her hair and pushed his underwear down with the other, her thong tangled around his arm. “Nice prick,” she said. “Now watch.” Her eyelids fluttered and a breathy sigh slipped past her lush lips. She put the Double Trouble to use. The vibrator was nearly silent, but she certainly wasn’t. She was sexy and vocal and completely debauched. Pink bloomed up her cheeks, and her mouth dropped open. She propped one of her feet up on the lip of the bathtub. Her shiny pumps and sheer black stockings caught and held his attention as he let his free hand travel up her calf to her smooth, thick thigh. “These leg things are doing something to me,” he said. He traced the lacy top of the fishnet stockings. They had seams that ran down the back of her legs. “They’re called thigh-highs.” “I want to lick them. Want to lick all of you.” She moaned and pushed the toy in to the hilt. The black silicone was vibrant against the pink of her pussy. Heat spread up his limbs, sparking in his gut. He grabbed his dick and sucked her bottom lip into his mouth. This was too wild, but he’d never felt freer. Never felt so shocked by the touch of his own hand. “Wait,” she breathed. “Squirt some lube in here and use this.” She held up the gold Fleshstroker. He hadn’t realized she’d still been holding it. The toy resembled a sparkly flashlight but with a slit on the end. He dribbled lube onto the opening, then balanced it on the tip of his dick. “So, I just jerk off with this?” he asked. Her breath was thundering out of her, the color high on her cheeks. She nodded. “Drive that cunt like you stole it, baby.” A shock of lust shot through him at her words, like lightning in his veins. Like hearing the word cunt drip from her dirty mouth had electrocuted him. He pressed the Fleshstroker down over the head of his cock. A surprised grunt rumbled out of him. She grinned. “Good, huh?” “Holy shit.” His knees shook as he stroked the toy down his length. The internal sleeve was silky and warm around him. He fell against her hungrily, pushing her harder against the bathroom wall, and threaded his free hand back into her hair. Her foot was still propped up on the tub next to them, and he marveled over the way she’d opened up. She moaned again, this time in her throat, as she took his tongue into her mouth and sucked. A shudder worked its way up his spine and his balls tightened. He ripped his mouth away from her, totally dazed, and way too close. He slowed his hand and tried to breathe. “So good, Sasha.” She flicked her gaze up, and it was full of humor and happiness and fun, but her mouth was slack with pleasure. Her hips twitched as she rode the toy harder, her movements precise and measured. She obviously knew exactly what she needed to make herself come. It was inspiring and sexy as hell. “I love seeing my thong on your wrist,” she said. “Hot watching you touch yourself.” He glanced down at her black panties wrapped around his arm. It pushed him closer to the edge, and he had to bite his lip to keep from shouting. “Fuck, I can’t believe how incredible this feels,” he choked out. “I’m really wet. And close.” Her thigh trembled, and she tilted her head back against the wall, her neck bared to him. He mouthed at the hollow of her throat, then dragged his fingers from her hair, down the center of her chest, until they landed at the juncture of her body. She wasn’t simply wet around the toy. She was drenched. “Oh fuck.” He traced his finger around the pulsing silicone bulb nestled against her clit. “Are you about to come?” he asked, his voice shot. She gasped and nodded, so he took a half-step back, his fingers still touching her slickness. “I want to be able to see you. Want to hear you.” He worked the Fleshstroker over himself harder. Faster. Their gazes snagged on each other, a moment of perfect eye contact, and a tiny piece of his heart snapped. This was better than he ever could have imagined, and he hated that it wasn’t for keeps. Suddenly, her breath hitched, her eyes closed, and her back bowed. She came apart on the Double Trouble, a tiny cry escaping, and it was so fucking gorgeous. So uninhibited. The room spun. Warmth spread through his body, tension winding its way down his spine. He leaned in and kissed the sweet, sweaty join of her neck and shoulder and grabbed a handful of her ass. He was nearly there, right on the cusp of losing it. “Sasha?” a voice called from the direction of the Blue Spruce Room. It was followed swiftly by a muffled knock. “Shit. Fuck,” Perry said under his breath. His sister. “Fuck.” Sasha removed her foot from the lip of the tub, crowding in his embrace, and slapped a hand over his mouth. “This okay?” she asked him softly, breath hot in his ear. He nodded frantically. “Good. Go faster.” It was too much, too amazing. And the thrill of almost being caught, of having to be quiet—his eyes rolled back, his body shaking. Right there. He was right there. “Come for me, Perry,” she whispered. Her teeth tugged his earlobe. His body locked up, and she smothered his groan with her hand as he filled the Fleshstroker with his spunk. It had only been a few seconds from the moment Valerie knocked, but he felt like time slowed as he quaked through his orgasm. His knees almost buckled, and his vision went as white as the blizzard outside. “Hey, Valerie!” Sasha yelled to his sister in the other room, without lifting her hand from Perry’s mouth. “Hold on. I’m in the bathroom.” She casually held the Double Trouble in her other fist. It was wet and shiny from her arousal. “Okay. I have the coziest, best pajamas in the world for you,” Valerie said, her voice way too close for comfort. She was probably in the doorway to the Blue Spruce Room. They’d stupidly left it open. Sasha dropped her hand from Perry’s mouth. He caught her wrist and kissed her palm lightly. Something soft and maybe vulnerable flashed through her eyes before she backed away from him. He reached for her, but she neatly sidestepped him, wiggling until her dress fell back into place. After quickly fixing her hair where his hands had mussed it, she glanced at him in the mirror. She seemed totally unfazed. Calm and cool and not at all like she’d had an orgasm that had turned the room upside down. Not like him. He couldn’t see straight. “Shit,” he said again. She started cleaning her vibrator off in the sink. He hadn’t moved. “Did I break you?” she whispered teasingly. He shook his head. Then nodded. “I’m guessing you don’t want her to know, right?” Sasha said. “Your sister.” “No,” he choked out. Of course he didn’t want his sister to know he’d just jacked off. With a bright gold Fancy Fleshstroker. “Then you better lock this door behind me.” She tilted her forehead toward his crotch. “You keep that, but I’d wash it out now rather than later.” With that, she was out the door. He stared down at the Fleshstroker and pulled it gingerly off his sensitive dick. It was messy with his come. He was thankful Sasha wasn’t there to see him blush. Chapter Three Sasha slipped into her room and tried to calm the pounding of her heart. She knew she was flushed, but hopefully, Valerie wouldn’t realize why. “Hey!” Sasha said, too cheerfully. “Sorry about that.” Valerie was standing in the doorway of the room, half in the hallway, clutching a pile of clothes. “No problem. Sorry for taking so long rounding this stuff up. I was finding pajamas for Louise, Andie, and Karen too, which was a bit complicated since we’re all different sizes. Luckily, my ex left a bunch of sweats that will fit Karen, little slip that she is.” Valerie chattered away, laying out the clothes she’d found for Sasha. Sasha sat down next to her, which is when she realized Perry must still have had her underwear wrapped around his wrist. She had to stifle a laugh. What a bizarre day. “Here are a couple pairs of sweats, some Tshirts, a few sweatshirts, and several pairs of socks. I think it should all fit you, since we’re close to the same size, though the sweats might be too long. Also, here’s a bag of travel-size toiletries.” Sasha peeked into the bag to see shampoo, soap, face wash, deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. “I’m sure it’ll work. I’m not picky.” “What’s your shoe size?” “Eight.” “Oh, that’s good. I’ll bring you slippers tomorrow so you have them if you need ’em. It sounds like we could be snowed in for a few days.” Sasha bit back a groan, not wanting to insult Valerie and her hospitality. There were worse places to be stranded than a nice B and B, but damn. This place was so Christmassy it rolled her stomach. At least she’d found a fuck buddy. One who made her feel open and soft, which was an indication that sleeping with Perry was a huge mistake. She didn’t do vulnerable. “I’m sorry I’m stranded. I hope you’re not going to too much trouble for me.” “Nah. It’ll be fun. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are getting snowed in here with quirky guests and my mom and grandparents and Perry. As teenagers, we got stuck here on New Year’s Eve once. You’d have thought the world was ending, I was so devastated. I didn’t get to kiss my secret girlfriend at midnight. Perry made me spiked hot chocolate and watched chick flicks with me.” She laughed. “God, he was such a sweet kid.” Imagining Perry and Valerie as teenagers running around this place—it couldn’t have been further from her childhood. Raised by an overworked and underpaid grandma. Parents out of the picture. A home full of hardships. But love too. Her grandma had filled Sasha’s life with so much love, and she missed her every day, especially this time of year. “Perry seems like a sweet adult as well. He gave me wine and chocolate cake.” And the best kisses she’d had in ages. And a pretty rocking orgasm. “Yeah. He’s the romantic in the family,” Valerie said with a mischievous smile. Uh-oh. That was not what Sasha wanted to hear. A slightly awkward silence followed at that. Sasha cleared her throat and stared at the floor. “Well, I’ll let you get to sleep.” Valerie snapped back into her role as host. “My chef won’t be able to come in with the weather so bad, so breakfast is all on me tomorrow. I’ll serve at nine, but if you’re early or late, no problem. We’ll get you fixed up, I promise. Any food allergies or sensitivities?” Sasha shook her head. “Okay. Goodnight, Sasha. If you need anything, my number is on the pad of paper on your bedside table. And Perry is next door. He can help you too.” “Thank you. I really appreciate everything you’re doing for me.” “Of course.” Valerie gave her another one of those quick hugs, and like the first time, it choked Sasha up with emotion. Once she was alone, she changed into a pair of velour sweats and a T-shirt, then fell back onto her bed. There was a small water spot on the ceiling, and it filled her with relief. She wasn’t sure she could handle this cozy-ass place if there weren’t some underlying imperfections to cut the flawlessness. Christmas lights wrapped around the posts of the bed and flickered through the filmy canopy curtains. She was too exhausted and satisfied to get up and turn the twinkle lights off. She should go retrieve her Double Trouble from the bathroom counter, but she didn’t want to run into Perry. Plus, if she left it there, it would give him something to think about. She liked that idea a lot. Thinking about Perry made her simultaneously nervous and excited. Mid-orgasm Perry was her new favorite Perry. He’d been delightfully tousled, his hair a mess of sweat-damp curls and his clothes all askew. She suddenly wished that they’d done something that was a little more naked, more horizontal. She wanted to see his whole, long body on display. Wanted that exposed feeling of being naked together, of skin on bare skin. Talk about a red flag. At least Valerie had presented an easy escape, a way to disengage. If Valerie hadn’t knocked, Sasha would probably have taken an extra second to stare, then an extra second to kiss him. Perry’s enticing sweetness was a disaster waiting to happen, so thank God they were on the same, no-strings page. With that last thought in her head, she snuggled down into the softest, most comfortable bed ever. Then she fell asleep. Sasha woke up to a blaring, God-awful noise coming from her cell phone. She groggily stared at her screen. It was a weather alert. An extended Blizzard Warning. She tossed the phone toward her bedside table, but there was no bedside table there. Her phone hit a wall. She sat up straight in bed. Where the fuck was she? “Oh, no.” Falling back onto the bed, she buried her head under a pillow. The Winterberry Inn. That was why her room smelled like cinnamon and spruce trees. As the sound of the shower in the connected en suite shut off, warmth hit her cheeks and spread heat down her body. Perry must be in there. Naked. Seeing a naked Perry wouldn’t be a bad way to start the morning. But the bed was so comfortable, so snug. Instead of propositioning Perry again, she grabbed her phone from the floor, slid deeper under the plaid flannel covers, and texted her brother, Benji. Sasha: I need advice. Benji: Oh, girl talk? Sasha rolled her eyes. Benji texted her again before she could respond. Benji: I recommend the Rimmy. Whoever your partner is will love it. She laughed. The Rimmy was a Lady Robin’s butt plug. It had beads that moved around the neck, which was supposed to mimic the feel of being rimmed. Her brother was a menace. Sasha: I’m stuck in a Hallmark movie. There’s a Christmas tree in my room, and I bet I get bullied into singing carols by the end of the day. What the hell should I do? She fully expected Benji, her cynical little brother, to tell her to slick on black nail polish and embrace her hatred of the season. Her siblings knew how much Christmas got to her. They’d been there during the fallout of her broken engagement, had helped pick her up when she was sure she’d never get out of bed, and had trashed thousands of dollars of Christmas wedding decorations for her so she’d never have to see them again. Benji: Fa la la la la, bitch. Well, he was a dead end. Sasha: I should have asked the divorcée. Benji: Only if you wanted to listen to Rosie fuss over you. Sasha groaned. A meddling, worried sister was the last thing she needed. Sasha: You suck. Benji: Like a pro. She wrinkled her nose. Sasha: That’s enough of that. Are you at your apartment? Do you have all the bread and milk you’ll need? As Sasha checked up on her brother—he had two older sisters who loved to fuss over him—ensuring he wasn’t going to starve during the snow-pocalypse, thin light started to filter through her window. She crawled out of bed and peeked outside. It was a solid white hellscape. Another day in holiday paradise. Once the shower shut off and she heard Perry’s door to the bathroom close, she snuck into the en suite. Her Double Trouble was still on the counter, which filled her with ridiculous giddiness. She grabbed the toy and brought it into the shower with her. It was waterproof after all. As the water rushed over her head, she let her mind wander and rubbed the vibrator over her clit. Images flashed through her mind, some fragmented and disjointed. She conjured up the lips, the eyes, the smile of a woman she’d slept with last month. She pushed the Double Trouble inside her pussy, upping the vibration. Good, so good. A different smile hit her unexpectedly. Perry’s. The huskiness of his voice. The uninhibited ring of his laugh. His open, expressive face. Oh fuck. Heat ripped through her as more images of him burst through her brain. The corded muscles in his neck standing in stark relief. The bones of his hand as it worked the Fancy Fleshstroker. His eyes rolling back. His fingertips slipping through the slickness of her arousal. She had to bite her wrist to muffle her cries as she came. Once the ripples of pleasure began to ebb, she slumped against the wall of the shower in shock. She was officially giving the Double Trouble her stamp of approval. But where Perry Winters was concerned, she was so fucked. She finished showering, using shampoo and soap that smelled like peppermint, because of course even the toiletries in this place were Christmas-themed. Out of the clothes Valerie had lent her, she chose a pair of loose sweatpants and a sweatshirt that said Matriarchy Knows Best. When she finally made it downstairs, Valerie and Perry were in the kitchen cooking cherry-stuffed French toast together. From the doorway of the kitchen, Sasha watched as Valerie hip-bumped Perry out of the way. They laughed and teased each other, until Valerie started singing a Christmas carol. Hell no. Sasha was out. She wasn’t sure she could deal with either Valerie’s Christmas cheer or Perry’s morning sexiness. She turned and ran smack-dab into Louise, who was fresh faced and had snow in her hair. “Oh!” Sasha said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.” “It’s okay. I just braved the trek from the carriage house. I’ve never seen snow this bad. It’s up to my knees out there. I’m all wind-whipped.” “I’m guessing it’s too bad to drive, then,” Sasha said glumly. She’d been hoping she could make it home today, but their snowed-in status was only worsening. “Definitely, even if our cars could make it up the driveway. The newscasters this morning were saying the interstate is shut down between here and the city because they can’t get crews out there to rescue people who get stranded.” “Good morning, ladies,” Valerie called from the kitchen, evidently spotting them. “Oh, Louise, you’re a snow angel!” Louise blushed prettily and glanced down with a grin. That was interesting. “Good morning,” Sasha said. “How’d you guys sleep?” Perry shot her a tiny, ironic smile. “Like a baby.” “Great.” Sasha glanced at Valerie. “And you?” “Awesome. That early Christmas present I bought myself was a great investment.” Sasha snorted, easily catching Valerie’s meaning. Perry wasn’t so quick. “What’d you buy yourself?” He was concentrating on stirring some kind of cream and cherry mixture. “A vibrator.” Perry’s head snapped up and he dropped his spoon into the bowl. His gaze traveled between Sasha and Valerie. “Oh.” A deep blush spread over his cheeks and down his neck. “I did not need to know that.” “Nope, but you asked, ding dong,” Valerie said. Sasha, Louise, and Valerie all laughed at his obvious discomfort. Sasha felt almost honored that everyone had had such a nice sex-toy-filled evening. “Perry, why don’t you get Sasha and Louise coffee or tea?” Valerie said. He nodded, seemingly grateful to escape the teasing. He got Sasha and Louise set up in the breakfast room with the fanciest, tastiest coffee Sasha had ever had. Within thirty minutes, the room was full of the other guests. It was mostly couples. Only one family had kids, and they had a brood of four. They ranged in age from a toddler to a teenager who reminded Sasha of Benji at that age. Black clothing, dyed black hair, eyeliner. She wanted to ask the kid if he liked My Chemical Romance. At least there was one other person who seemed as disgusted by the Christmas cheer as she was. Valerie floated into the breakfast room on a wave of sweet-smelling baked goods. “Okay folks, we have cherry-stuffed French toast, applewood-smoked bacon and facon, for the vegetarians in the group, buttermilk biscuits, apricot preserves, and eggs made to order.” Valerie and Perry laid out platters of food on the tables family-style. It all looked too good to eat, but she’d manage. Somehow. Sasha loaded up a plate with French toast, bacon, and a hard-fried egg. As everyone else was serving themselves, Perry sat down next to her. Sasha tried to focus on the food in front of her, so she wouldn’t ogle the man beside her. The French toast was buttery, the cherry stuffing tart enough to cut the sweetness of the syrup. It was probably the best meal she’d had in ages, which wasn’t a surprise considering she more or less lived on popcorn, chips and salsa, and grilled cheese sandwiches. And Indian takeout. Lots and lots of takeout. On her second bite, she failed at stifling a moan, which made Perry jerk beside her. Oops. She licked her fork and shot him a wink. He practically growled and squeezed her knee under the table. Heat spread up her leg and settled in her stomach. He leaned in and whispered, “You’re being naughty.” She smiled, oddly pleased, then glanced up to catch Karen and Andie watching them, assessing them. Sasha didn’t like that at all. The newlyweds were plotting. “Alrighty, guests!” Valerie said from the front of the room. Both Perry and Sasha jerked, and Perry yanked his hand away. “As you can see, a few people weren’t able to make it home due to the weather after last night’s private party, and we’re stranded until at least tomorrow. The interstate is closed down from here all the way into the city, so we’re stuck. Luckily, I’ve been planning Christmassy snowed-in activities in my head for years!” The teenager groaned so Sasha didn’t have to. Ah, a kindred spirit. Valerie didn’t slow down for one second. “I have a bunch of made-for-TV Christmas movies cued up in the den. I’ll be baking gingersnaps and sugar cookies later today, and anyone can join me. We’ll also have an ornament-making station here in the breakfast room after lunch. Lastly, if you want to brave the blizzard to sled in the backyard, the hill down to the carriage house is fantastic. Of course, you’re welcome to get up to your own brand of fun. There are board games, books, magazines, and DVDs in the den that are yours for the taking. You have free reign of the entire house, except for other people’s rooms, so make yourself at home.” Everyone broke apart after that. Perry stood and stretched, giving Sasha an eye-level view of his treasure trail, which she managed not to lick. Barely. Maybe they could fuck all day. No one was watching so she lightly traced his hipbone with a fingertip. He jumped a mile, then grinned at her. “I think I’m going to head back to my room,” she said, giving him a pointed look. “Maybe braid my hair or take a nap.” Never mind that her hair was way too short for braids and she’d just woken up from an awesome night’s sleep. He nodded. “Yeah, braids. I’m good with that.” “Great.” She stood from her seat at the table, ready to escape for some playtime. Maybe she’d show Perry the Rimmy after all. She was pretty sure she had one that hadn’t sold the night before. She could expense it. Valerie appeared beside her and looped her arms through Sasha’s and Perry’s elbows. “Perry, guess which movie I have ready to go first this morning. It’s your favorite.” “My Amnesiac Christmas?” “Yep!” Sasha stared at Perry in horror and admiration. He was kind of a weirdo, and she kind of liked that. He smiled shyly. “What? I love tropes.” Valerie laughed and pushed them toward the den. “You better get in there to watch it before Karen puts on ESPN. I promised Louise Christmas movies, but she’ll be too shy to speak up if someone changes the channel.” Perry shot Valerie a mock glare. “You need to promise Louise something else. Like a date.” So it was like that. Sasha had wondered. “Shhh. I’m working on it,” Valerie said, matching his semi-seriousness. “These things take finesse. She’s skittish. Now get out of here. I need to clean up.” “I could help you,” Sasha said. She’d rather do the dishes than watch Christmas movies. And she hated dishes. In fact, maybe being snowed-in here in the Christmas-verse was worth it to escape the mountain of dishes at her own place. “Nah, you go on. I prefer to clean on my own. Gives me time to think.” Valerie playfully pushed them from the room. “I hope this isn’t a trend,” Sasha said glumly as they trudged into the den. “What?” Perry asked. “Getting cock blocked.” Unfortunately, it was a trend. Every time Sasha and Perry tried to sneak away in the coming hours, they were pulled into a different Winter Wonderland activity. Sasha gritted her teeth through two Christmas movies—My Amnesiac Christmas and Toyland’s Secret Baby. They got talked into icing sugar cookies next, then Karen and Andie dragged them into the sitting room with the piano to sing carols with Valerie and Louise. After an off-key, and off-color, rendition of “Santa Baby,” Sasha tried to edge toward the exit. She was not a singer, and she certainly wasn’t enjoying this. As if sensing her escape, Andie turned around from the keyboard and said to Sasha, “You trade places with Karen.” Karen, who had a rocking singing voice, grinned and shuffled Sasha into her spot. Now she was farther from the door and freedom. Next they sang “Silver Bells.” Sasha’s teeth hurt it was so sweet. Everyone seemed so happy, and she was miserable. “Sasha, why don’t you take another step back. You’re blocking my light a little,” Andie said, which was frankly untrue, but Sasha would do anything to get away from the singing. “Perry, you’re a baritone, aren’t you? You should go stand by Sasha.” What did him being a baritone have to do with her? Perry flicked his gaze up at the ceiling and Sasha followed his eyes. Mistletoe. Andie had been maneuvering her underneath the mistletoe. Sasha scowled. She was perfectly happy fucking around with Perry, but she was not falling prey to any holiday matchmaking. Relationships weren’t her thing. She wanted nothing to do with the sugar plum hearts dancing in Andie’s eyes. The women in the room were watching the drama play out with glee. “Stop it,” Sasha said, and everyone laughed. “I think I’m done singing. If you’ll excuse me.” She escaped the nightmare caroling. Perry caught up with her before she reached the Blue Spruce Room. “I’m sorry about that,” he said, touching her shoulder lightly. “I didn’t have anything to do with it.” He sighed. “Well, maybe they can see that I’m kind of lost over how much I like you, but I didn’t put them up to it.” She stared up at him. “You shouldn’t like me. I’m not girlfriend material.” “I didn’t ask you to be my girlfriend. I know where you stand, Sasha.” “Once the snow-pocalypse is over so is this.” She gestured between them. The muscle in his jaw twitched almost imperceptibly. “I know. Doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I think I’m allowed.” He smiled at her, and she was lost herself. All it took was a flash of his straight, white teeth to make her soften. Damn it. He cupped her cheek gently. “Come on. I want to show you my favorite room in the house. It’s a secret room.” “Really?” “Yeah, and you’re going to love it.” “Why?” she asked. “It’s the only room Val doesn’t decorate for Christmas.” She closed her eyes. Oh man, someone was getting his dick sucked later. “Lead the way.” Chapter Four Sasha slipped into the Blue Spruce Room to discreetly grab a handful of … uh … implements before following Perry up to the third floor. Luckily, the baggy sweats and sweatshirt she was wearing had large pockets. Once they reached the third floor, Perry stopped in front of the door at the end of the hallway. It was locked, but he had a key. He opened the door, which led to narrow, steep stairs. “We’re not going to find your wife locked away up there, are we?” He glanced over his shoulder with a confused smile. “Huh? No. I’m not married.” “Nor Mr. Rochester’s wife?” Perry’s laugh echoed through the stairway. “No, but I’m sure there is a copy of Jane Eyre.” “Ooo, exciting!” The room came slowly into view, and it took her breath away. It was a huge attic room with a pitched cedar roof and white shiplap walls. Someone had built bookshelves into the large triangle-shaped wall at the end of the room, and there was an old-fashioned record player next to retro blue velvet furniture. The floor was a dark wood, but their footsteps were muffled by a soft white rug. A door off to the right caught Sasha’s eye. She pushed it open to find a small shower and bathroom. God, this was all the space she’d ever need. It was perfect. “I love it.” Perry’s warm smile was worth the price of admission for this whole stupid snowed-in adventure. “This is where my grandparents lived until it was too hard for them to make it up the stairs. Once Valerie took over the daily operations of the inn, she turned it into a personal library.” “What about your parents? Where are they?” “My dad passed when we were young. My mom and Valerie eventually took over until Valerie was experienced enough to run it on her own. I own quite a large share of it, but it’s Valerie’s baby. We grew up in the carriage house with Grandma and Grandpa up here. Now our mom is living it up in Hawaii with her much younger boyfriend.” Perry laughed, like he couldn’t be happier for his mother, and sat down on the blue sofa. Sasha moved toward the bookshelves. The books were arranged by genre, and unsurprisingly, a large portion were romances. She trailed a finger over a row of cracked spines. “And you live in Topeka and do what, exactly? I want to hear about your complicated living situation,” she said. These were probably topics they should have covered before their little bathroom foray last night, but she’d been able to tell Perry’s job was a sensitive subject for him, so she’d let the opportunity to learn more pass her by. To be honest, she normally knew someone better before she fooled around with them. Most of her partners in the last year, as well as the years before her failed engagement, had been friends, with only a handful of one-night stands mixed in. The corners of his mouth tipped down, and a wrinkle formed between his eyebrows. “I was a CPA, but I got laid off at the beginning of December.” He stared up at the ceiling, seeming to select his words carefully. “I didn’t see it coming. They cut the accounting department by a third and eliminated all the middle managers like me. They’d lost a big client and decided it’d be cheaper to outsource the work.” “That’s a horrible thing to happen right before Christmas.” He nodded, his lips tight. “I was overcome by this horrendous relief afterward.” “Oh.” “Yeah.” He smiled sadly. “I didn’t like my job, and I don’t think that’s an issue that’ll be fixed by getting a new job as an accountant for some other company. So when I was pulled into that office and my life was turned upside down, I thought there must be something wrong with me because I was elated. I could breathe again. I felt as if a door had been opened.” “Maybe it has.” “I haven’t told Valerie yet. She’ll worry over me, and I wasn’t ready for that. I needed to make a plan first, you know? Of course, my plan involves moving in with her. I should have asked her before I sold my furniture, packed the rest of my life into my SUV, and showed up in a snowstorm, huh?” Sasha laughed. “I’ve always heard Christmas is a great time to make huge, life-changing decisions.” He chuckled and scrubbed his hands down his face. “My girlfriend broke up with me after I lost my job. She didn’t understand why I’d put everything on the line, waste all my severance package, to chase a misshapen dream. It made me feel like I couldn’t trust my instincts about people. I’d thought we were solid together.” Her thoughts rebelled at the relationship talk, so she steered the conversation away from it. “What’s your dream?” She sat down next to him. He reached up and thumbed her bottom lip. The tug of his skin against hers resonated deep inside, like he’d plucked the harp string of her heart. “Flowers.” “Flowers?” “And trees. Horticulture, basically. I enrolled in a horticulture and landscape architecture program at the college in the city. I want to own my own landscaping company one day.” “Wow. That wasn’t what I expected.” He smiled, his thumb still on her mouth. “You wouldn’t be surprised if you’d seen me naked.” That shocked a laugh out of her. “Oh, is that so, mister? Are you made of tree bark?” “No. Ink.” He stood suddenly, right as her greedy hands were reaching to rip his clothes off. Nothing got her hotter than tattoos. She watched him as he fiddled with the record player. His back flexed as he lifted a record onto the stand. His shoulders were wide and strong, his waist narrow, his butt mouth-watering. When he turned back toward her, she snapped her gaze up from his derrière. He grinned. “Dance with me.” “What? No.” That skirted way too close to romance for her. Slow, sultry music filled the room. Eartha Kitt. At least it wasn’t her Christmas stuff. “Come on. It’s foreplay.” He pulled her up off the couch and into his arms. For one terrifying second, everything in the world felt right. Felt good. She melted against him. Maybe she could give in a little. Just until the end of the song. Sasha pressed their bodies together, slid her hands under the hem of his flannel shirt until she could touch his hot skin, and brushed her mouth against his bearded jaw. His hands threaded into her hair. The song was in French, and she had no idea what the words meant, but it was full of tenderness and yearning. She kissed him, trying to stem the rising tide of longing rushing in her blood. They swayed to the beat. “What’s in the pocket of your sweatshirt?” he murmured against her lips. “Feels like a dick.” “It is.” He kissed her harder, the slick, suggestive thrust of his tongue into her mouth weakening her knees. His hand snuck into the kangaroo pocket of her hoodie, then tossed the dildo onto the couch. “What’s in your sweatpants pockets?” “Wouldn’t you like to know,” she said tartly, as she unbuttoned the top buttons of his flannel shirt, then lifted it over his head. His skin glowed golden in the dim light of the attic, and she sluiced her hands over the muscles of his shoulders and back. He lifted one large palm up to grip her jaw and hold her steady as he kissed her. She caught a one-second glimpse of a tatted arm sleeve in muted, earthy colors. His other hand crept under her sweatshirt and trembled down the line of her spine. They rocked through one whole song, then another, their mouths fused together. Sasha was dizzy with want by the time Perry slid her sweatshirt over her head. As she pulled back to catch a breath, his arms still tangled around her, she got a better glimpse of his tattoos. His arm sleeve was all wildflowers, and he had a large magenta peony on his ribs. She pressed a hand to the peony, and he gasped. He was beautiful. His chest and stomach were rough with dark hair, his lips wet from their kisses, his cheeks flushed. They kissed and touched for the space of another song, their skin pressed together, until Sasha couldn’t handle it anymore. She pulled away. “I need … God, Perry.” Perry slipped a hand into her sweatpants pocket and found the nipple clamps, which Sasha had branded the Chained Melody Clamps due to the alternating black and white metal chain length that mirrored piano keys. His eyes got wide and wild, his face even more flushed. She shucked his pajama bottoms and boxers off, and he stepped out of them. He had tattooed vines twisting up his calves and painting his thighs. His body was a garden and one of the nicest she’d ever seen. “Sit down,” she said roughly. He sat on the sofa as if someone had cut his legs out from underneath him. “And buckle up.” He grinned, almost helplessly, like he couldn’t control his reactions to her. That grin echoed through her mind minutes later as she was kneeling between Perry’s legs and sucking on the blunt tip of his dick, edging him to oblivion. She took him a bit deeper and cupped his heavy, meaty balls. He spread his legs wider and let go of a desperate whine. She popped off his dick. Time to up the ante. Without warning, she leaned forward and sucked on one of his nipples. She’d noticed that needy glint in his eye when he’d found the clamps, and she suspected he was desperate for them. He cried out when her lips touched the sensitive nub, first one and then the other. She suckled and bit them until they were dusky rose and hard. Then she lifted the clamps off the couch. The Chained Melody Clamps were tweezer-style with silicone pinchers and a weighted connector chain. Great for beginners, not too rough, and easy to pull off. She rubbed a fingertip around his nipple. “Do you want this?” “Yes.” She watched his face closely as she clipped the first one on. His breath hissed out of him like a teakettle. “Still good?” “Uh-huh. Very.” She snapped the other one on, and his back bowed, his hips rising off the couch. “What do you want, Perry?” she asked as she kissed his chin. “Your mouth. On me, on my …” He shivered against her. “On your what?” Humor laced her voice, especially as he groaned brokenly, unable to answer. She kissed down his chest and rubbed her cheek in his hair. The mix of a thick pelt on his chest and beautiful botanicals on his skin made her lose her head. She loved hairy masc people. Every once in a while, she craved smooth skin, and curves, and softness. But sometimes she was in the mood to press her face into some unruly body hair, and holy hell, did Perry have that in spades. She returned to his cock and licked a stripe up the vein before tonguing his slit. He placed his hands in her hair but didn’t fist it or pull her onto his cock. She liked a lover with restraint. She glanced up and made eye contact. His breathing was erratic, his eyes wide and unwavering from her face. She’d been torturing him for so long now that his body was strung tight and damp with sweat. He’d not once complained or given any indication that he wasn’t thoroughly enjoying it, though. The vine of his tattoo snaked around the top of his thigh to his hipbone, and she followed it with her fingernail. He groaned when she reached the smooth skin over bone. “Didn’t know … that was an erogenous zone until you.” He trailed his hand down the back of her neck, and she sucked his crown, sighing at the burst of salt on her tongue. “Close. Getting close, Sasha.” She pulled off with an obscene pop, and he finally, finally, moaned out his frustration. “How’s it feel?” she asked. “The clamps.” “Sexy. Feels like I’m close to you, using toys with you. Ones you picked.” She froze, shocked by his honesty and the vulnerability rushing through her at his words. That hadn’t been her intention with this, but maybe she should’ve anticipated bonus emotions with Perry. She’d expected this to be a sexy little game but now was sure she’d misjudged. She looked him in the eye as she wrapped the weighted chain connecting the clamps around her index finger. He groaned when she tugged on the chain lightly. “I’m going to yank these off when you come. Are you ready for that?” He nodded very seriously. “Yes, beautiful.” Oh, he was such a gem. She laughed and sucked him back down, getting sloppy with it. He cried out and tensed. “Right there. I’m right there,” he chanted. As that first splash of jizz hit her tongue, she ruthlessly jerked the chain until she heard the snap as the clamps popped off his nipples. The noise he made was unreal as he flooded her mouth. Harsh and shocked and broken. After several shivering seconds, his hips twisted and he cupped her cheeks, gently pulling her off. “Was that okay?” she asked after swallowing, holding the nipple clamps up. “Yes.” He was out of breath but managed halting sentences. “It hurt so badly … and felt so incredible … like my pleasure and pain receptors were going haywire. I loved it.” They gazed at each other for a long moment. Then Perry snuck his hands under her arms and lifted her into his lap. He was all sweaty and flushed. “You’re beautiful,” he said again, but this time she had trouble laughing it off. She felt oddly defenseless with his taste on her lips. “Sweet-talker.” “You bet. Now it’s your turn.” He kissed her fiercely for long reality-shaking minutes but caught her hand as she tried to dip it to her pussy. Need was throbbing through her, harsh and alarming. He tumbled her down onto her back with her head on the arm of the sofa, then pulled her sweatpants off. “Commando today?” he murmured, gobbling up her body with his gaze. She’d landed on the dildo, so she tugged it out from underneath her and tossed it to him. “The only pair of panties I had ended up on your wrist last night. Do your worst.” Maybe if he made her come, if he focused all his formidable energy on her pleasure, she’d be able to recover some of those emotional walls she depended on, because they were dropping fast. Maybe if she made this all about sex, he wouldn’t see how his sweetness cracked through her, found her soft center, and ripped her apart. Perry sat up on his knees between her legs. “So wet for me already.” His voice was deep and rough, as if his control had shattered. He stared down at her until she squirmed. “I love giving head,” he said. “Want to feel you come on my face.” “Fuck,” she whispered. “What do you want?” “That, Perry. I want that!” “I plan to take my time. Make you my afternoon snack.” “Who are you?” she asked with a laugh, and he smiled. He kissed down her midline, over her pubic bone, and before his mouth connected with her clit, he hummed happily. Then he buried his face between her legs. She’d expected him to be shyer. To fiddle around and get his bearings. He didn’t need t