Holiday Affair

By: Lisa Plumley

Smacking her hands on his chest, she backed Reid up to the bed. Then she tipped him onto it. She studied him. Lasciviously.

“You know what?” she asked in a dreamy voice. “I think I’m starting to feel the wonder of Christmas already.”

“I think that’s my line,” Reid told her, grinning. “You’re supposed to be teaching me about Christmas, remember?”

“Oh yeah?” Karina asked. “Well, get ready to learn, then.”

The two of them smiled at each other, entirely in sync.

Then Karina jumped on the bed and lost herself in the moment, knowing that forever after she would associate the mingled fragrances of mistletoe, bayberry, and dog biscuits with the single most sexually gratifying night of her life.

She hoped.

Almost half an hour later, she knew.

Fa la la. Fa la la. Fa la LAAAA!

Wiggling her bare toes with utter satisfaction, Karina shot a smug smile at Reid. He panted beside her, lying sideways on the bed, half tangled in the snowman-print flannel sheets. At the wonderful, amazing, hot-hot-hot sight of him, she sighed.

“So…how do you like Christmas now?” she asked.

“I’m not sure.” He rolled over and kissed her, then ran his hands along the length of her naked torso. “I think I need another lesson to find out. I might need several more lessons.”

“Do you really think you’re up for it?”

Saucily, Reid raised his eyebrows. He aimed his gaze lower. Much lower. All the way down to his…mischief maker.

“Oh, I’m up for it,” he confirmed. Then he pulled her into his arms again, gave her a smile, and proceeded to prove it.

Naughty or nice is way overrated, Karina decided as she felt Reid’s body cover hers, igniting a new burst of giddiness and heat in her midsection. Naughty wins, all the way….

Chapter One

December 15th

San Diego, California

“Michael, wait. Let me help you with that.”

With a hasty glance in her rearview mirror, Karina Barrett scrambled out of her old Corolla. On the sidewalk just beyond her parked car, her children stopped to wait for her. Olivia patted her blond bangs, preparing for another day of fifth grade at Marsden Elementary School. Josh clutched a plastic tray of supermarket-baked cupcakes for his third grade class and shifted from foot to foot beside his sister. Michael, in first grade now and proud of it, blithely kept on walking. His backpack nearly dwarfed him. The poster board in his hands wobbled and bowed, making it almost impossible for him to see where he was going.

“No, thanks!” He shook his head. “I don’t need any help.”

“Oh, yes, you do.” Karina reached him seconds before he careened into another student. With deft fingers, she plucked the poster board from Michael’s hands. At the sight of the copious cotton ball “snow” glued to the front, she smiled. “This poster is so cute, Michael. But it’s almost as big as you are!”

“No, it’s not,” her son protested. “I’m way bigger!”

He wasn’t. Not yet. Thank goodness. But Karina had already parented one boy through this superhero-loving, wanting-to-be-big stage. She knew better than to disagree outright. While she weighed her options, other students swarmed past them, talking and laughing and occasionally skateboarding toward the building.

Only in California. Or at least, not in Minnesota or another state where December brought snowstorms and icicles instead of sunny days at the beach and afternoons spent shopping for surfboards and flip-flops. After today, it would officially be winter break—the run-up to Christmas and all its festivities.

But despite the plastic “evergreen” wreath wired to the grille of the Ford Explorer parked behind her car and the poinsettia-printed, sequin-bedecked blouse worn by Michael’s teacher as she motioned for her students to line up at the edge of the playground, it didn’t feel much like Christmas to Karina.

Maybe because she wasn’t ready for Christmas yet. Not this year. Or possibly ever again. The whole idea of confronting the holidays made her feel downright woozy. She’d been avoiding it for as long as she could. But now—on the last full day of school—she couldn’t sidestep the issue any longer.