Author’s Choice. I always love and hate this one. Choosing is always difficult…

But, I think in the spirit of the season and winter and cold (in some places), we’ll go with something that lends itself to a little warming up…


Jane walked away from the large window in the kitchen that overlooked downtown. Edward was out with his mystery man and Jane couldn’t wait to find out who it was. She had a feeling she knew the man, but Edward hadn’t talked about anyone in recent weeks. Not that she would have been paying much attention. It wasn’t until he arranged the set up with Graham that she’d started coming out of her fog.

“Right,” she whispered to herself. With a nervous but determined stride, she went into her bedroom.

The closets in the loft were huge, walk-in style that more than one person at a time could occupy. It was one of the reasons she and Edward had bought it. He had more clothes and shoes than any woman she knew, and he used every inch of his closet, part of hers, and part of the one they used for storage.

She pulled out the box from the back corner of her closet before she could change her mind. It was time to get over it with and move on. There were days she forgot it was stashed in the back corner and there were other days when it tormented the crap out of her. And score another point for Edward. Dumping Cowboy Surfer into her lap, while deceptive, was very motivating.

Her relationship with Phillip had been the first long-term one she’d had since college. She had to admit that though it hadn’t been all warm and fuzzy, there’d been a certain pleasantness that had worked for them. She didn’t know she needed passion and heat, didn’t know anything had been missing on her side. Now that she’d met Cowboy Surfer, she wanted to explore all those things his kiss brought to life. She wanted more of those tingles, more of those ripples through the deepest part of her.

His kiss had been brief — just a touch of his lips to hers — but the shot of heat between her legs and the triple-time thumping of her heart in her chest had been enough to send her running. She hadn’t been able to shake it, either on the drive home or in the time since she’d arrived home. And him showing up…well, that just added sexual fuel to a fire she wasn’t quite sure what to do with or how to put out.

Right now though, the box and its contents had to go. She hadn’t opened it since the day Phillip had left it at her door, and she was ready to purge Phillip and the memories of him, her humiliation at his electronic dumping, everything associated with their relationship.

So, what was she supposed to do with it? There wasn’t a fireplace for her to burn it all. There was the Dumpster behind the building she could toss it in. Would that be healing enough? In a poetic kind of way perhaps. Tossing away the material of their relationship as he’d tossed her away. Yes, that might work. Had he really tossed her away, though, or had he simply moved on to something that might work better for him? And why was she suddenly questioning everything?

She’d have to walk across the alley and…on second thought, no. She wasn’t fond of the alley in the daytime, so no way was she going out there in the dark. What was she going to do? Put it back in the closet?

An image of Graham popped into her head, the heat from his body, the scent of him, the look in his eyes when he’d lifted his head from kissing her… “Oh hell no, the box has to go.”

Her only other option was the roof. She and Edward had a patio set and one of those small outdoor fire pits, but she’d never used it on her own. Did they have any firewood? Or was the thing gas powered? Damn, she didn’t know. She set the box on a barstool. In the kitchen, she started rummaging through the junk drawer looking for the instruction manual for the fire pit. Could she put the stuff in it without burning the whole building down?

The knock on the door caught her off guard and without thinking, she opened it. “Graham. What are you doing here again?”

“I brought dinner.” To prove the truth of his statement, he held up the pizza box he held in one hand. In his other hand he held a soda bottle.

The scents of cheese and tomato sauce wafted through the open doorway. Dammit. Jane hung her head and shook it, but quickly looked up again. “I don’t suppose you’ll take no for an answer again, huh?”

“Nope.” He walked in when she stepped back. She was defeated and she knew it. Edward had her number and it appeared he’d shared that inside information with Graham.

She shut the door. “I did make it clear though that I’m not dating.”

“You did, but I don’t think I believe you. Not completely, at least.”

“Not completely?”

“Nope. You might not be dating anyone else, but I think you want to date me.”

“Oh the ego.” Graham grinned, megawatt, and set the pizza box on the counter.

“Why are you insisting on having dinner?”

“You need to eat.”

“Well, I’m busy and don’t have time,” She grumbled and went back to rifling through the drawer she’d been in previously, hoping he’d get the hint if she ignored him. Looking anywhere, including in a drawer, was better than looking at him. The damn man was right, at least in the wanting him sense. Dating, though, had nothing to do with what she wanted to do with him.

Not yet anyway.

Where had Edward put the damn instructions? Could they be on the roof in the storage bench with all their outdoor eating supplies? It would be logical, much more so than them being stuck here in the kitchen. She slammed the drawer shut after she put everything back in then counted to a hundred. She didn’t want to face Graham again yet and the truth of how much she did in fact want him. She didn’t trust herself around him. Her heavily fortified defenses weren’t so strong when she was around him. Infatuation at first sight was new to her and she hadn’t had time to process it.

When she finally did turn toward him, he’d taken his coat off and laid it over the end of the counter. He still wore a dark blue sweater, and another pair of jeans that hugged his hips and thighs. Then there were the boots… Oh God. He was impeccable, stylish, and she, wasn’t. Oh God.

“Ready to eat, or talk, or…?”

Jane lifted an eyebrow. “Or?”

“Mmm hmmm. Or.”

Yeah, no. She so didn’t need to know what he meant by “or.” Maybe she could bore the shit out of him during dinner so he’d leave and she could dispose of the box o’crap in peace. But, if she did that, what were the chances he’d want to see her again? Which was the whole point; purging the past so she could have a fucking fantastic present with the Cowboy Surfer standing just over there looking smug and hot and more yummy than the pizza smelled.

“What are you looking for? Can I help?”

“Nothing and no.”

She pulled a couple of plates from the cabinet beside the fridge and snagged clean glasses from the dish drain. “So, Graham, what do you do? For a living, that is.”

He took the glasses from her and laughed. Again. Though this time she was sure it wasn’t at her. That was progress and a good thing. What wasn’t a good thing was the thought she could listen to him laugh all day and night and never tire of it. It was rich and deep, matching the rest of him.

She watched him in her kitchen. He dwarfed everything, including her. He was so tall compared to her five feet four and if he stood in the middle of the small space, he could probably touch each surface without having to move. He depressed the button on the ice maker, filling the glasses with ice cubes. She should tell him she preferred crushed just to irritate him.

He turned toward her and put the glasses on the counter, then opened the bottle of soda he’d brought as well. “I write articles for travel magazines and other publications.”

Well, she’d have never pegged him as the writing sort. He looked like he belonged on horseback, on a motorcycle, or on a surfboard, but not behind a desk writing articles. “Travel writing, huh? That’s got to be interesting.”

“It is.” He set her glass up on the bar and opened the box of pizza. “I get to try a lot of new things and see a lot of new places. It keeps life fresh. I’ll have to bring you with me sometime.”

Oh, he didn’t need to say something like that. She’d love to go with him, anywhere, everywhere, so long as there was a bed and a naked him. Funny things were going on inside her and between her legs, yet all he did was put pizza on two plates, and talk to her. She picked up one of the plates and glasses. “I think you need to leave right after dinner.” Before I tackle you to the floor, have my way with you, and believe every word out of your beautiful mouth.

When she walked around to the other side of the counter, her eyes lit on the box. Oh shit. The frustrating man had made her forget all about it. She didn’t want to call attention to it and she didn’t want him asking her about it, not that she thought he’d care, but still… Setting her food and drink on the bar, she reached for the box and dumped it haphazardly into her purple chair.

He slid onto a barstool. “No, you don’t.”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

Taking a bite of his pizza, he winked at her. The insufferable man winked at her. What the hell? She wasn’t going to be able to resist him if he kept acting all hot and sexy and interested. And that’s all it was, right, just an act? Right.

But if that was so, then why had he come back?

She glared at him as he ate, seemingly unconcerned with their little disagreement, unlike her who was completely obsessed with it. When he reached for another slice, she watched the movement of his hand, his long, tan fingers, and the way they gripped the crust to pull the piece away from the rest of the pie. What would it feel like to have those fingers pull on her nipples, wrap themselves in her hair and tug, dig deep between her legs?

She mentally shook herself. He had her all twisted up inside and wanting things she’d never really cared about wanting before.

Sex was just sex.

“Not going to eat?” He nodded toward the untouched food in front of her.

She had to admit the pizza smelled heavenly and man, did she love ooey-gooey pepperoni and extra cheese pizza. She could have dinner with him and then she would usher him out the door. No harm, no foul.

She’d never eaten so fast in her life. She had a cursory taste of the cheese and the sauce, the pepperoni which had a slight spicy kick to it, and the crunchy but chewy crust. She gulped down her drink, too. “Done. Are you finished?”

“Not by a long shot.” He glanced down at her plate, then started chewing slower. “So, what’s in the box you were in such a hurry to move?”

She shrugged and feigned nonchalance. “Nothing.”

“You sure? ‘Cause you seem pretty protective of it. Does it have all your naughty girl lingerie in it?”

“You wish.” Jane got up and took her plate around to the sink and suddenly wished she had some naughty girl lingerie. Damn man put all sorts of impractical ideas in her head. She wanted another piece of pizza, but…oh what the hell. She picked up another piece and ate it at a slower pace, savoring the deliciousness.

“Yes, I do wish. Very much so. If it’s not naughty nighties, then what’s in it?”

“Nothing I want to talk about.”

He regarded her silently for a minute that almost had her squirming before nodding his head. “Okay. I won’t ask again.”


“At least not tonight. I’ve got other plans.”

The last was said as he reached over and wiped the tomato sauce from the side of her mouth. She was so tempted to lick it off his finger, but bit her tongue holding back a groan while watching him do it instead. “I’ve got other plans as well. So, thank you for dinner, but it’s time for you to go. Again. For good this time. No coming back tomorrow night with dessert.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” He got up as well and followed her, but when she went to open the door for him, he kept going into the living area, his boots echoing on the wood floors. “What are you doing?” Then her gaze lowered to his ass in those denims and every nerve in her body came alive. It had to be illegal to look that hot.

As she stood there, resolved to usher him out despite his effect on her, he proceeded to move the box from her chair and take a seat.

“Why are you sitting down? I said you should leave.”

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Taige Crenshaw
HelenKay Dimon
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Delilah Devlin
Eliza Gayle
Lauren Dane
Felicity Heaton
Shelli Stevens

Have a happy Saturday, y’all…


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