Authors: Kinsley Gibb
Tags: #southern, #holiday, #christmas, #small town, #wedding, #alpha male, #male and female romance
Charlie shrugged because she’d witnessed
Anabelle’s childhood so there was no debate.
“The fact that my aunt and uncle took her on
this tour has given me a reprieve.”
“I don’t want to know what she’d think about
this whole Cupid’s Match experiment.” She shuddered.
Besides, it’s fun watching you evade your mom. Maybe I’ll
learn how to deal with you since you two are so similar.”
Charlie made a face. “I’ll hang out here a
little longer.” She picked up a recent Kitchen and Bath Design
magazine and threw herself onto Anabelle’s treasured Barcelona
Anabelle turned back to the screen. “I’ll
look for fifteen more minutes then I have to switch gears and
finish the Turner presentation for tomorrow.”
“It’s going to take time to go through the
“College was easier. Hot guys were
Charlie wore a smug look. “Yes they
“The men I know now are either married, gay
or completely inappropriate.”
“You have a limited circle of male
“No kidding. Finding possible men to sleep
with is not as easy as in the movies.”
Charlie’s eyes widened. “So you’re that
serious about getting back into the game? Good thing we added the
sex god qualification.”
“Are you kidding? It’s been so long that
every guy who walks through the door has starred in my
Charlie gave her a pointed look. “Even
Walter, the UPS guy, was an older gentleman
with portly proportions. “Okay, not
devotion to his wife of thirty five years has kept him in the
“What about my brothers?”
“Eww, no. They’re practically my brothers,
“Uh huh, but what about Derek?”
Anabelle avoided Charlie’s eyes and
pretended she hadn’t heard her. There was no way she would
incriminate herself to the mistress of torture but she felt her
face grow hot.
“Ah hah! I knew it. I knew it. I knew it.”
Charlie jumped up and pointed at Anabelle.
“Knew what exactly?”
There was no choice but to play dumb or
she’d never hear the end of it.
“You’ve imagined Derek naked!” Charlie
danced about, clapping her hands.
“You look like a demented monkey when you do
that, you know.”
“So? No one’s around and don’t change the
Her face continued to burn because she was
totally guilty of imagining Derek naked along with a hundred and
one other wicked things.
“You should give him a try Anabelle. He’s
ever since he moved here.”
“Why?” She drew back and glared at her as if
she took a personal offense. “Derek is hot.”
“Yes but he’s also young, which is not on my
“So. Who cares? These are different
“I’d feel like a dirty old lady. I can
almost hear my mother’s lecture on the impropriety of it all.”
“You’re mother is stuck in a time warp and
she’s raised you with those silly notions as well. Men have been
dating younger women for ages and no one cares anymore. Besides, he
can’t be that much younger than us.”
“Doesn’t matter. I have a strict age range.
See?” She clicked on her profile.
Charlie shook her head. “Up to four years
older? That’s too limiting and I think you’re missing some great
possibilities thinking that way.”
She shrugged. “We’ll see. There’s bound to
be an age appropriate guy in that database.”
She wasn’t interested in a relationship with
a younger man. Or at least she didn’t want to be interested in a
“I know you don’t like talking about
specifics, but when you say it’s been a long time, what are we
Anabelle paused, not sure she wanted to
confess everything. Charlie was the one who had no qualms about
discussing her social life while Anabelle listened and laughed.
Anabelle never had anything to dish about. It was embarrassing how
little she knew about the male/female relationship but considering
her first and only sexual partner had been a closeted gay man maybe
it was understandable. Claire hadn’t explained the birds and the
bees to her, so Anabelle had learned by reading the Clan of the
Cave Bears. She remembered questioning the mechanics of sex then
and although Gavin had been sweet and since he’d a virgin too,
which should have warned her, he hadn’t brought about any earth
shattering orgasm the editors at Cosmo wrote about.
It was past confession time no matter how
embarrassed she felt because Charlie knew everything. And in this
case, she would bow to the master.
“Holy shit! Are you serious?”
“So that means—“
“Yep. The last two years of the marriage was
a loss. I thought he was too stressed from work.”
“Oh Anabelle. How are you not hating the
She shrugged. “Waste of energy, I
Most of the times she was okay with the
events. To forgive and forget had been easier than sustaining the
energy to hate, so she remained friends with Gavin and Kyle.
Friends and family had been baffled and in truth, it was
bittersweet watching them together, but it would have been worse to
remain with someone who didn’t recognize you as a treasure.
She wanted that.
Maybe she was a hopeless romantic, but there
“What bothers me the most are the whispers
speculating that I couldn’t keep Gavin’s interest, that I wasn’t
sexy enough, that I’m crappy in bed so he turned gay, as if that
“Oh honey. I’m sorry.”
“Yes. Well, coming from a long line of
strong Southern women, keeping my emotions contained is a rite of
passage and with Claire as a mother…you know how she hates
“Anabelle, there is nothing wrong with you
and I don’t want you to think, for a moment, that there is.”
“You’re putting yourself out there now and
that’s the first step. Just you wait. Someone is going to snatch
you up if you’ll give him a chance. No more looking through men as
if they were invisible. You better cut that shit out, right now.
That’s your mother’s influence. Jeez, after Gavin, you never gave
anyone a chance, so you haven’t had the chance to sow your wild
“Hmph…wild oats, right.” She sniffed through
Charlie wrapped her arms around
“Sorry for the waterworks. Certain times of
the month leave me more pitiful than I want.”
“I don’t blame you. Vent all you want. You
“I usually stuff myself full of Oreos.”
“Not this time.”
“Is there something wrong with me? Am I not
feminine enough? I want to be someone’s object of desire for once.
I want to inspire someone’s fantasy, not some psycho’s fantasy,
mind you, but a normal guy. Is that impossible?” She slapped her
hands on the table and stood.
“Of course not.”
“Do I have an invisible crown that screams,
‘hey look at me, I’m sugary sweet and too dainty for words?’
because, I’m not! I want hot, dirty sex!” she shouted.
Charlie’s response wasn’t what she’d
expected. Instead of a rousing, ‘here, here’ in support, Charlie
had an attack of sorts. She moaned and thumped her chest, clearing
her throat as if something were stuck.
“Charlie! What’s wrong?” Anabelle joined in
the thumping. “I can’t remember the Heimlich.” She grappled with
the phone. “I’m calling 911.”
Charlie grabbed her hand and shook her head,
her eyes were huge and red strands flew around her head like a
“What is it then?”
“You may want to give her some space,” a
deep voice said from behind.
Anabelle’s eyes widened and she snapped her
head around so fast she almost lost her balance.
“Oh, shit,” she whispered as she faced the
object of her many fantasies. The tide of humiliation threatened to
“I came by to install the unit but no one
responded to my knock. The door was unlocked…” Derek trailed off,
the tip of his ears were red which eliminated the possibility he
hadn’t overhead them.
rap. Double crap.
By then, Charlie’s coughing had dwindled
down to a slight wheeze but an unrelenting pressure squeezed
Anabelle’s head and made her see white spots while her face caught
Black hole open now
For the second time in five minutes, Derek
re-measured the blocking height and cursed his lack of focus. He
wasn’t normally like this and he blamed it squarely on the hot
brunette working at her desk.
Damn, but hearing the object of his
fantasies declare she wanted hot, dirty sex left him hard and
horny. The fact that he hadn’t yet hammered his thumb was a
He shouldn’t have eavesdropped. Hadn’t meant
to. He’d knocked several times but they’d been focused on their
conversation, they hadn’t heard him.
He snuck a glance at Anabelle and was
relieved she looked almost normal. Earlier, her face had been so
red he thought she was going to faint. Of course, if she had, he
would’ve been ready, willing and able to resuscitate her.
For a year, Anabelle Broussard had held him
at arm’s length. Whenever Dani, his pain in the ass little sister,
saw Anabelle on the appointment list, she harassed him to no end
about his ‘crush’ as she called it. Obsession was more accurate but
he let Dani keep it G-rated since she’d been there the day Anabelle
stumbled into the studio for the first time and he’d gone from
alpha male to a tongue-tied loser in seconds.
At that point, the studio hadn’t been open
long. He’d moved from Seattle months earlier to help their sister,
Dylan, with her kids after her husband had died. Florida weather
had been a strange change and it had taken some time to adjust to
the fact it could rain on the front side of his business yet be
sunny in the back.
Three o’clock summer storm with forty-five
degree rain had rolled in and along with it walked in Anabelle,
shaking her umbrella and looking like a wet dream come to life.
According to Dani, his tongue had rolled out
of his head while his eyes bugged out like a cartoon character.
Trust Dani to act out his moment of weakness as often as she could
for anyone who wanted to watch. She was damn lucky she was family
and he couldn’t fire her for insubordination.
He remembered distinctly the sight of
Anabelle as she shook out her dark, wet hair as if in slow motion.
Air had rushed from his lungs and left him floundering like someone
had dropped a load of two by fours on him by mistake.
That was the day he developed a
connoisseur’s eye for white silk blouses.
Anabelle may have chosen her top for its
classic lines but damn, add rain, and it turned into a Maxim cover
in a flash.
The image of twin hard bullets pushed
against the front of her wet top demanded his attention and has
since featured in many of his fantasies.
It was unfortunate that was the only time
she’d been less than polished in his company. For appointments she
wore business suits, cardigans or whatever professional dress
weather permitted, but there were no more thin, wet or barely there
shirts. She remained the ultimate professional, brisk and to the
point. She had meticulous taste and was a model client. And each
time he held her gaze for longer than conversation required, she’d
slide her gaze away, leaving him frustrated.
He hated how elusive she was and he wanted
to rattle her perfect façade for a glimpse of the real Anabelle.
There was no way the untouched façade she wore could be real since
she’d been married but he’d heard the local gossip about her
husband and it made him wonder. He shook his head at the stupid
ass. A part of him wanted to kick the guy’s ass for hurting her,
yet at the same time, he wanted to thank him for leaving the field
The impromptu inspection the other day had
been different, almost as if her protective armor had been absent.
For one thing, she hadn’t worn her customary business wear, had
looked casual even. And they way she’d looked at him, with heat,
had shocked the hell out of him. But when he responded, wanting to
draw her out, she’d retreated. But now, he knew what was
Anabelle hadn’t realized he’d been waiting
for a signal of interest for the better part of the year. There
would be no retreat for her now because he wasn’t about to
He’d been patient. Had waited as Dani had
suggested when he’d wanted to pursue her from the beginning but
Dani had been adamant that Anabelle needed time. So, reluctantly,
he’d adhered to the distinct ‘hands off’ signal she’d given.
But the other day he’d seen a clear green
Derek studied the object of his obsession.
Today she looked like a pin up model from the forties with her
black and white polka dotted shirt buttoned and tucked into a tight
knee length black skirt. The shirt was almost see-through. He
wondered if she realized he could make out the lines of her white
bra. She had a preference for lace, which was fast becoming his
favorite as well. The outfit wouldn’t normally be considered sexy
as it bordered on classic, except for the fuck me heels. Jeez, the
dichotomy of her choices kept him up literally and physically, more
nights than he preferred to count.
He wiped the sweat off his brow and snuck
another glance. She leaned over her desk and argued with Charlie
over something, he couldn’t hear but from their whispers and body
language, he guessed it was about him. He didn’t care because her
position showcased her perfect ass and he worked hard on not
swallowing his tongue. He wanted to stop and fully enjoy the view
without pretending to work but that would have been too