White-Hot Holiday

By: Coleen Kwan

Aaron cleared his throat, startling her. “I want to apologize again for my rudeness earlier on,” he said. “I don’t know what got into me.”

She waved her hand. “Please, don’t worry about it. You’re a guest here. Just enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks.” He nodded, hesitated before adding, “I’m usually not so frank with someone I’ve just met. It must be you.” He grinned, white teeth gleaming in the dusk.

Her heart flipped at his dimpled smile. Damn, she hated the visceral impact he had on her. Was he flirting with her, or just being friendly? She’d hate to misinterpret his actions. But what did it matter anyway? He was leaving in a few days, and in the meantime he’d be too busy catching up with Luke to bother her. Besides, they were patently incompatible, so even if he were flirting with her, and she was a sucker for his dimples, nothing would ever come of it.

“Yeah, must be.” Shrugging, she affected a nonchalant grin. “I was too nosy. But don’t worry. I’ve forgotten about it.”

“Oh?” His smile lingered. “I kinda liked it.”

“You like hating Christmas?”

“I liked being honest about it. With you.’” His mouth edged up again.

She took a deep breath. “I see. Should I just call you the Big Bah Humbug, then?”

“Maybe not when Chloe’s around, but you can call me anything when we’re alone.”

A nervy feeling twitched in her stomach at the idea of being alone with Aaron. She waved at the twinkling Christmas lights Luke had strung up around the deck. “In case you hadn’t noticed, this is a bah-humbug-free zone.”

His eyes continued to glimmer at her. “I can see we have an interesting few days ahead of us.” Linking his hands behind his head, he stretched out in his chair, and as he did so, his polo shirt rode up a few inches, revealing a slice of firm, toned abdomen.

Naomi gulped and gripped her hands together as attraction simmered in her. Luke had warned her about Aaron’s charm, and she’d assured him she was immune. But wasn’t that fast becoming a lie?

Chapter Two

Someone was shaking him by the shoulder. Aaron opened his eyes to find Luke standing at his bedside. His friend was fully dressed and wore an expression of contained concern.

“What’s up?” Aaron pushed himself upright and tried to blink the sleep away from his eyes. Early morning light filtered through the drapes.

“Something’s come up.” Luke jingled keys in the pocket of his jacket. “It’s Tyler’s mother. She’s been admitted to hospital, and we have to drive up to Sydney right away.”

“Is it serious?” Aaron rolled out of bed and stood, his sleepiness ebbing away.

“We’re not sure. Something to do with her heart. I’m sorry to do this to you, but I don’t know how long we’ll be away.”

“Hey, don’t worry about me at all. Just go with Tyler. She’ll need your support. You’ll be taking Chloe, too?”

“Yeah.” Luke paused, eyeing him keenly. “So you’ll be okay hanging out here with Naomi?”

“Of course.” Aaron rubbed his chest. Now why did the idea of being alone with Naomi cause his spirits to lift so much? “Like I said, don’t worry about me.”

Luke was silent for a few seconds. “You know all about Naomi’s rough year.” He shifted his stance, folding his arms.

Aaron met his eyes, read the nuance in his words, and nodded.

“I’d really appreciate it if you kept an eye out for her while we’re gone,” Luke said. “In case she needs help.”

“Oh, sure.” He wasn’t certain Naomi needed any help from him, but it would be more than pleasant to ‘keep an eye’ on her. “Don’t worry about anything here.”

Aaron pulled on a shirt over his sleep shorts, then walked with Luke down the hallway.

In the living room, Tyler was zipping up bags while Naomi held a sleepy Chloe in her arms and Milo whined anxiously. Tyler’s gaze flew straight to Luke, her face tight with worry. He moved over to her and clasped her hand in silent support. Aaron picked up the two packed bags and followed everyone out into the early morning air. In minutes, the Maguires were packed, and their car pulled out of the driveway.

“I hope it’s nothing serious.” Naomi rubbed her arms as she stared after the car.

Despite the situation, Aaron couldn’t help noticing her just-woken-up appearance. Clad in a loose, white T-shirt and gingham shorts, with her hair sleep mussed and face scrubbed clean, she looked soft and touchable, the mild sunshine bathing her in gauzy radiance.

Top Books