White-Hot Holiday

By: Coleen Kwan

“I’m sure Luke will call the minute they have news,” he said, trying not to stare too blatantly.

As they reentered the house, Milo stuck close to Naomi, whimpering in confusion. She scooped up the puppy in her arms and headed for the kitchen. “You deserve a treat, don’t you, poor little munchkin.”

Aaron followed, admiring the view of Naomi’s legs stretching out beneath her shorts. Luke had warned him to keep his hands off his niece. How was he going to keep that promise when she was so scantily dressed? And it wasn’t as if she were actively discouraging him. She could have gotten dressed instead of leaning against the kitchen counter feeding doggie treats to Milo. And though she lavished attention on the puppy, he caught her glancing at him, as if she were checking him out, too. He rubbed his chest, suddenly glad of his regular gym sessions and racquet ball games. He wasn’t a muscle-bound beefcake, but he was in good physical shape.

Naomi gave the dog one last cuddle before lowering him to the floor. “I need to make a few phone calls. Tyler was too upset to do them, so I volunteered. And then I have to get ready for work. Will you be okay hanging out here by yourself?”

Why did both she and Luke think he needed amusing like a bored school kid on vacation?

“Don’t worry about me,” he said. “But how do you get to work? I didn’t notice another car in the driveway.”

“I use my bicycle. It’s only about fifteen minutes, and it’s good exercise.”

That explained why her legs were so invitingly toned. He wondered if they were as smooth to the touch as they appeared and instantly thrust the question from his mind. “Will you be able to cope at work with Tyler gone?”

Naomi lifted her shoulders. “I’ll have to. Ally—that’s Tyler’s business partner—can’t do too many extra hours because she’s about ten months pregnant.”

“I’ll help you.”

“You?” Her mouth fell open.

“Yes, me.” He waved away her incredulity. “I’m not doing anything.”

“But you’re on holiday. You’re not supposed to do anything.”

“I can hardly rest around here while you and a heavily pregnant woman are run ragged by hordes of Christmas shoppers.”

“But you…” She seemed at a loss for words. “But you hate Christmas. I don’t want you scaring our customers away.”

“I’ll keep my opinions to myself,” he said soothingly. Somehow he needed her to accept his help. He blandished a smile on her. “I’m very good at customer service. See these dimples here?” He pointed at his cheek. “They’re my secret weapon. I’ve closed major deals with them.”

A smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “I see. So dimples are worth more than an MBA from Columbia?”

“Used judiciously, yes. They don’t teach you the proper use of dimples at Columbia. It comes from experience.”

Her smile widened, her indigo eyes sparkled, and for a moment he basked in their warmth. But then she appeared to remember that she wasn’t supposed to like him, and her lips straightened into a prim line as she smoothed down her T-shirt. “Very well,” she said, sounding every inch the schoolteacher. “You and your dimples can help out today.”

Forty minutes later, they’d showered, changed, and breakfasted. As they left the house and approached his Porsche, Naomi let out a sigh.

“We’ll be turning heads in that,” she said, not sounding pleased.

“That’s what it’s designed for.”

Aaron opened the passenger door for her and copped an eyeful of shapely leg as she eased into the low-slung seat. Dressed in a leaf-green linen dress that ended several inches above her knee and flat leather sandals, she looked both competent and lovely. It was too bad about the Maguires’ family emergency, but spending more time with Naomi was a great consolation.

As he maneuvered the sports car down the street and inadvertently revved it, her fingers dug into the red leather seat.

“Sorry,” he murmured. “Still getting used to driving this thing.”

“A nice, sedate Corolla would have been more than adequate.”

He gnashed the gears and winced. “A Corolla? What’s the fun in that? Besides, I’m not going to impress any women in a Corolla.”

She instantly stiffened, as he’d suspected she would. “Well, I’m definitely not impressed,” she began hotly, before she hesitated and shot him an uncertain glance. “You’re ribbing me, aren’t you?”

He chuckled. “I guess I am, unless you are secretly impressed by my car.”

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