Wednesday, December 21, 2016
25 Days of Christmas - Forever Yours This New Year's Night by L.A. Sartor - $0.99!
Jennifer Malone Can't Believe What's Happening To Her...
How dare he? Granted she's far from home, dining alone on Christmas Eve. But that doesn't give Major Brice Young—the cocky man who'd out-experted her on a big cyber forensics case months ago—the right to invite himself to her table and then do what he did.
Brice Young Can't Believe He Did What He Just Did...
Stupid move. Brice needs Jennifer Malone to be the beta tester of his new cyber defense program and he bet he'd just ruined his chances. Why on earth did he come here at all, let alone do what he just did? Would Jen still show up at tomorrow's meeting and agree to work with him on testing his new system?
Can Two Prior Adversaries Work Together?
Getting Jen to test his new system is Brice's priority until he discovers she is so much more than the icy cyber geek she portrays to the world. Jen fights to keep her distance, despite Brice's undeniable charm. There is no way she ever mixes business with pleasure, especially with a recently divorced man…or can magic happen on this New Year's Night?
Stepping into her kitchen gave her a moment alone, a second to catch her breath and steady herself. She and Brice hadn't been apart since this morning unless you counted using the jet's facilities, and she was surrounded by his presence. Then there was the subtle connection she'd felt since they'd left the Pentagon.
A sense of fitting with someone.
A feeling she didn't want or trust. Liar, you'd love to have a relationship that was equal, witty, fun.
Pushing that fruitless thought aside, she turned to the fridge and pulled out bacon, eggs, veggies, cheese and bread.
Jen hadn't been kidding when she said she liked to cook. It was something she learned from Annie, who was by far the better cook. But Jen knew if she did it more often, they would be neck and neck in any cooking competition.
She stopped turning the bacon as she realized she used the word competition. Why did she think everything had to be a test of who was better?
"I hope you're letting that cool enough for me to nibble on?"
She blinked at Brice's pleading voice and realized she still held the bacon midair in her tongs. "Sorry, it's not quite done. Another few minutes. Did you want to get your bag unpacked?"
"Sure, show me the room."
Jen pointed to the small building at the edge of her yard.
"Ah, your lab.
"You're really going to make me sleep in your lab?"
"Sure. You'll feel right at home."
Turning the heat down so the bacon wouldn't burn, Jen moved to the back door and turned on the yard lights, illuminating the pathway, covered by a good foot of snow.
"You'll have to walk through the white stuff, but you'll be okay once you get a path going."
"I need boots."
She looked down to see his shoes. "Seriously, you wore loafers to Colorado in winter?" Jen almost caved and told him about the guest suite in the house, but decided at least for tonight to give tit for tat. No reservations, then deal with it.
And she had this sneaking sense that Brice thought if he smiled hard enough, she'd cave. No way, this was business. She knew too much about him already. He was gorgeous, but he was divorced.
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with loafers, you guys plow sidewalks in Colorado right?"
"Right. Public sidewalks."
And he was funny.
Keeping her face straight was an effort, but she won the battle as Brice's shoulders slumped. He trudged out of the kitchen as she bit down her smile. Returning moments later, suitcase and laptop in hand.
"Bacon will be ready by the time you unpack."
Stepping out into the snowy night, he looked back at her with big, sad, puppy-dog eyes.
Oh, mean trick.
Instead of giving in, she waved cheerfully, and Brice turned back to carving a path through the snow to the lab.
Guilt bit her and she turned on the walkway heating system. The bluestone-paved path, which ran from her house to the lab, had tubing beneath it that pumped heated antifreeze through the lines. A neat solution she'd had installed when years ago at 2 a.m. in the morning—after tossing, turning and punching her pillow—Jen finally figured out the solution to a complex problem that had plagued her for a week.
Not wanting to risk waiting until the morning to try out her idea, she ran across the snowy yard, slipped, and fell on her bum. It didn't hurt, but snow filled her sweatpants and fell down her shirt.
The next day she made a call to her landscapers and had the heating system on order.
Annie hadn't understood why Jen didn't want the lab in her house. After all, Annie often burned the midnight oil, and her office was right across the hall from her bedroom. But after Jen had explained that either Todd or Susan-her two employees, might need to come to her private lab to work on a problem or check a solution, Annie got it.
So she'd built the lab in what was originally going to be the pool house. She sure as hell didn't have time to care for or even use a pool. At least not at this point in her life.
The back door opened, letting in a blast of frigid air as Brice walked in. Perfect. The last of the bacon was just finished cooking.
He took off his shoes, and she laughed when she realized he'd put plastic bags over them for protection. "Did you find everything?"
"Yeah, cozy set up, even a couch, which I can barely fit on."
She smiled at his beseeching expression and sized up his six-foot-plus frame. "Nice try. It pulls out into a bed. Why buy a simple couch when you can get a bed as well?"
"If it's anything like the bed in the apartment I'm renting, I'll sleep on the floor."
"It's very comfortable, so no worries." She put the bacon onto a paper-towel-lined platter and held it out to Brice. "Careful, it's hot."
He ate one piece quickly and reached for another. "This is really good, where'd you buy it?"
His eyebrows rose. "No, really."
"Yes, really. It's one of my splurges and reminds me of home. I order a few pounds every couple of months from a small farm outside the town I grew up in. I keep some in the freezer."
"And your eggs, where do they come from?"
Again, unbidden laughter rolled up from her belly. She had to be careful—this man had made her laugh more in a few hours than several of her more recent dates did during their entire time together. "There’s this awesome place called a market, King Soopers, to be exact."
"Hmmm, I've heard of those kinds of stores, but they scare me."
"You're what, at least thirty-eight, and a grocery store scares you?"
"Forty, and yes, they do."
"How are you at chopping up peppers?"
"Which end of the knife do I use?" he said with a grin. "But I can learn, if you'll teach me."
Teach him? Standing body next to body while she showed him how to curl his fingers under on top of the food and make the proper undulating movement with the knife?
"Seriously?" She looked at him, mouth open. "Shucks?"
"Sure, it's a perfectly good word."
"For a boy from Kansas," Jen said in a lighthearted tone.
"Found me out."
"There are other words in the dictionary. Yes, I grew up on a farm in Kansas. And I only use shucks when I'm trying to get into a lady's good graces."
"Huh, that's an interesting technique. Okay, no knives for you. How are you with a bottle opener?"
"Expert, gold medaled in the sport. Point out the bottle"
"It's in the fridge, the pinot grigio, if that's okay with you." She handed him the opener.
He nodded and looked around, then headed in the right direction toward the refrigerator, covered in wood that matched her cabinets.