The strains of Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” drifted in the air as Christie Tate tried really, really hard to disappear inside the women’s restroom.
“Did you hear?” The more-than-slightly catty female voice asked from a few feet away.
Christie hunched her shoulders and stared at her heels.
“Charles Crenshaw is already seeing Vicki from accounting. I mean…what’s it been? A week? Two? He and Christie were—”
“I think he was seeing Vicki on the side,” another female voice chimed in, oozing sympathy.
Christie glanced at the gleaming black door, aware of the heat building in her cheeks. Was this what she’d become? A thirty-year-old woman hiding in a bathroom stall? She knew those voices. Marsha Chad, a marketing assistant, was the one with the fake sympathy. And the other one—
“I heard Charles thought Christie was just…boring,” said Lydia Clyde. “I mean the woman’s a genius, but when it comes to men and sex, she’s—”
Enough. Christie’s spine shot up at the same instant her hand slammed into the bathroom door. The door flew forward, and she caught the sound of two feminine gasps.
Her eyes narrowed as she took in the two women. “Lydia. Marsha.” So what if her cheeks were flaming? She wasn’t going to hide in the bathroom another second. Not thirteen anymore. Not the nerdy girl.
“Christie.” Lydia’s blue eyes bulged. “I didn’t realize you were—”
Christie jerked the faucet on and washed her hands. “For the record…” She lifted her head and met her own gaze in the mirror. Backbone, girl, backbone. How many times had she heard her mother say that over the years? Don’t ever let them see you break. “Sex with me is never boring.” She saw their jaws drop. Good. Great. She kept her chin up, kept her back straight, and with really fast steps, Christie was able to escape that hellhole.
And trade it for another one.
Christie burst from the women’s restroom and walked straight into the full-on madness that was the annual Christmas party for Tate Toys. Bright lights. Elaborate bows. Mechanical toys—trains and soldiers—that marched across the floor. Christmas trees. So many giant, colorful Christmas trees. Normally, she would have loved the sight, but right then, she just wanted to escape.
She sucked in a sharp breath and tasted pine. Christie glanced to her left and found her ex, Charles, arguing with Vicki under a giant piece of mistletoe. The pretty redhead’s hair tumbled down her back as she shook her head at Charles, then she jabbed a finger into his chest. Trouble in paradise?
I think he was seeing Vicki on the side. Lydia’s voice whispered through Christie’s mind.
A waiter sidled by her. Christie grabbed a flute of champagne and drained it in one gulp. Elvis kept singing.
Can’t get much bluer than this, buddy.
She marched forward, putting more distance between her and Charles. Can’t attack. Because that wouldn’t be classy. A lady couldn’t go up and jump on her ex’s back as she started to pound the crap out of him. A good girl wouldn’t do that. She’d been raised to be a good girl. Good girls became ladies, right?
But she was damn tired of being good. Damn tired of being gossiped about. Damn tired of it all.
Even tired of Elvis. And she loved the King.
Christie maneuvered through the crowd, stopping only to pick up a few more glasses of champagne. Oh, but that bubbly went down nice and fast. Some folks tried to talk to her, but if they didn’t have a tray of champagne flutes near them, she kept going.
Kept going until…
Until she reached the giant black chair that waited in the middle of the room. Santa’s chair.
Presents wrapped in red and green paper surrounded the massive chair. Small surprise gifts for all the staff at Tate Toys. Santa would be coming soon. He’d be there to hear all their Christmas wishes. There to make those wishes come true.
Christie’s fingers tightened on a champagne flute. Then she caught a glimpse of Santa, and she spilled the rest of her champagne over the front of her red reindeer sweater.
Santa was a stud.
Christie swallowed as she got a good look at the jolly old elf. Santa stood just inside the doorway of Tate Toys, a thick, red sack flung over his left shoulder—and what a nice shoulder it was. Actually, Santa had two nice shoulders. Nice, wide, broad shoulders that more than filled the red coat he wore.
Her gaze tracked slowly down his body. No shaking like a bowl-full-of-jelly there. Oh, no, that man—Santa—was built. Tall, strong. His muscled thighs stretched the red pants and his powerful legs disappeared into a pair of knee-high black boots.
Santa stalked toward her. A fluffy white and fake beard covered his face. A bright red hat hid his hair. All she could see were sparkling green eyes and high, tanned cheekbones.
“Have you been a good girl?” His voice was a dark, deep rumble of sound.
Christie licked her lips. “I—”
“Of course, she has,” a voice behind her said with a laugh. Her brother. Jeez, had Daniel caught her ogling Santa? Can the night get worse? “You know Christie’s always the good one,” Daniel added.
At his words, her blood seemed to ice. Right, the good one. That was her. Growing up, she’d been the one closeted away with books while Daniel had been out chasing girls and getting chased by the law.
More laughter floated in the air, and she realized they’d caught the attention of other staff members. Everyone seemed to be watching her. Watching and staring.
Good girl. Good boring girl.
Her stare flew back to Santa. His head cocked toward her. He seemed to be…waiting. For her?
“Everyone gets a present this year!” Daniel’s shout boomed behind her. “We’ll start our line, and hey, Christie can be Santa’s first victim!”
Victim? Since when did Santa have victims? But everyone was lining up, pushing forward, and they were obviously eager for their gifts. Way eager. Had Daniel put Christmas bonuses in that sack? Knowing him, probably.
Santa set down his bag. Then he rolled his shoulders. Those big, wonderful shoulders, but wait—that roll, that movement was familiar to her. Those green eyes had been familiar, too.
Her heart suddenly beat a little faster.
“Go on, Christie,” Daniel urged as he gave her a nudge. “Someone has to get the ball rolling,” he whispered the last part in her ear. “You do it, and they’ll all do it.”
She didn’t care what everyone else did.
“Why don’t you go and break Santa in, Christie?” Daniel said, raising his voice a bit. “Come on, just go tell the man what you want for Christmas.”
Santa had taken his seat on the giant chair/throne. He tilted his head back and stared at her. Then he patted his lap and crooked his finger. At her.
The champagne seemed to burn in her belly. From the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Charles heading toward the end of the growing line. He was minus his new girlfriend.
“Uh, Christie?” Daniel’s voice was whisper soft again. “Everyone’s waiting.”
Let ’em wait. The words were on the tip of her tongue. But a good girl wouldn’t say that. A good girl was supposed to do as she was told.
Santa patted his muscular leg again. “Come tell me what you want.” His deep voice carried so easily.
Christie shoved her empty flute at Daniel. “Get rid of this, will you?” She sucked in more pine-tasting air and got ready to tell Santa exactly what she wanted. Her steps were slow but certain as she approached the Santa Stud and his throne. His eyes were on her, so watchful.
Do it. The whisper came from deep inside. A challenge, a dare. It came from the wilder Christie, the side she always kept so carefully controlled.
What did she have to lose?
She stopped in front of him, and the long edge of her skirt teased his boots. “Um, hi.” Right. That sounded confident and sexy. Not.
Santa caught her fingers with his gloved hand and pulled. Christie found herself on Santa’s lap. A lap that was even harder and stronger up close. Her left hand flew out and pressed against his stomach as she struggled to balance herself.
Definitely not jelly in there. Though she hadn’t felt them often in her life, a woman knew rock-hard abs when they pressed against her, even if those abs were hidden by a slightly rough red coat.
“Hello, there.” His breath blew against her hair. “No need to be afraid of old Santa.”
Obviously, he didn’t know her that well. If he did, he would’ve known that she was afraid of everything.
Christie glanced back up at his eyes. Very faint laugh lines graced the edges of his green eyes. No old St. Nick. A Santa in his prime.
A Santa with a toe-curlingly sexy voice.
He released her hand and began to search through his bag of presents. She kept straddling his leg. Not so graceful.
“I’m sure I have something in here for a good girl like you.”
She saw red—and not just from his suit. Christie broke as her wild side surged free. She grabbed his hand.
Santa froze. His gaze caught hers once more.
Her heartbeat shook her whole body as she told him, “You don’t have what I want in there.” She pitched her voice low, not wanting anyone to overhear. “Trust me on this. What I need isn’t in that bag.”
Those gorgeous eyes narrowed a bit. “What is it that you want for Christmas, pretty lady?”
She leaned in even closer, trying hard to balance on his leg. Santa sucked in a sharp breath, and she was about fifty percent sure she hadn’t kneed him in the groin. “I want…”
His head inched toward hers.
The white of his beard tickled her cheek. Christie inched up, heading for his ear. This was a request she needed to whisper.
What am I doing? What?!
Her gaze darted around the room. Daniel was talking to one of the managers, and he seemed totally oblivious to her. From the end of the line, Charles stared at her with a furrow between his pale brows. Marsha and Lydia were in the corner, whispering. Probably talking more smack about her.
Boring…I think he was seeing Vicki while they were together.
Christie’s back teeth clenched. So tired of playing this game. For once, I just want to take what I need.
“I can keep a secret,” Santa told her, his voice quiet. She turned back to him, forgetting the others as he said, “Tell me what you want.”
Right then, there was one thing she wanted, and those gleaming eyes seemed to promise it to her. Christie wet her lips, leaned in even closer to St. Nick, and she confessed, “Santa, I want a really good time.” Sex with me is never boring. If only.
He stiffened beneath her, his whole body hardening.
“Know where I can find that?” she asked, her voice husky as she pulled back.
His eyes seemed to burn her. “Oh, I think I—”
“Come on, Christie!” Daniel called out. “Stop hogging Santa! We’ve got a line here.”
She eased off Santa’s lap. He grabbed her wrist and held tight.
“I know,” Santa finished, that deep voice sending a tremble right through her. “I know exactly where you can find that.”
Oh, she just bet he did. Christie tugged her hand free and hurried back as the champagne-induced courage began to desert her.
“Wait, Christie!” Daniel hurried toward her. “You didn’t get your present! You can’t—”
“Maybe I’ll get it later.” She brushed by him as her heart raced too fast. What did I just do?
“Don’t worry. She’ll definitely get her present later.”
Oh, hell. His voice. She’d propositioned the sexy Santa…and the guy had accepted her offer. Offer. Invitation. Wish. Whatever it had been…he sure seemed to be saying…
I’ll give you that good time.
Jonas Kirk watched Christie Tate’s sweet ass as she all but ran away from him. Her words echoed in his ears.
Santa, I want a really good time. Holy shit. Had the woman wanted to give him a heart attack? Or just a serious hard-on?
“Dude…the presents,” Daniel growled the words.
Jonas realized he was straining to see Christie’s ass. Couldn’t really help that. The woman had a first-class ass. Put that with her come-and-get-me, blue bedroom eyes and the mouth made for sin, and you had a woman who’d been tempting him for years.
And she’d just asked me for sex.
Screw the presents. Jonas waved his hands toward the bag. “Christmas bonuses are inside…come and get ’em!”
Daniel’s eyes—several shades lighter than Christie’s—bulged. “What are you doing?”
The crowd swarmed.
Jonas yanked off his beard. “Spreading Christmas cheer.” He shoved through the group. Sure, he’d promised his buddy that he’d pop in and play Santa, and Jonas didn’t really mind the gig. It was a nice break from his usual routine of catching criminals but—
He knew Christie, and he knew when the woman was about to run. After all, she’d spent most of her life running from him.
Because she knows how much I want her?
He’d always tried so hard to hold the hunger in check when he was around her. Sweet Christie Tate. The girl genius who’d been dropped in his college class even though she was only sixteen. The girl with the slow, innocent smile. The girl who always smelled like strawberries. The girl who’d become a woman he craved. A woman who’d been wearing a giant hands-off sign for so long.
A woman he wasn’t about to let vanish.
He rounded the corner and caught a glimpse of her hair, long and black, right before the elevator door closed.
Jonas shoved open the stairwell door and rushed down the stairs. If he was lucky, he’d catch her in the lobby. A few moments later, his palm shoved into the stairwell’s exit door. He ran into the lobby, aware of the guard jumping to his feet with wide eyes.
“It’s okay, Jamie.” Jonas recognized the guard—a cop who worked after hours at the toy company to get a little extra cash for the holidays. Several of the cops in the area pulled guard duty at the toy shop. “I’m just trying to catch—”
The elevator dinged, a soft peal of sound, and then the doors slid open.
Christie glanced up, and her eyes widened when she saw him. “J-Jonas?”
He lunged through the doors and caught her elbows. He pulled her close. She immediately stiffened. Why was she so tense? Was she regretting her confession now that she saw the man who’d been beneath the beard?
Can’t back out. Won’t let her.
His lips crushed down on hers. Jonas caught her gasp with his mouth, took in that soft rush of breath, and then his tongue dipped past her lips.
Champagne and strawberries. Figured she’d taste that damn good. A growl built in his throat. Addictive. Yeah, he’d always known one taste would probably push him over the edge. Good to know he’d been right.
Her hands rose to his shoulders. Small, delicate hands. She was small and delicate. A dancer’s body on a woman who always swore she didn’t have an ounce of grace.
He expected those hands to push against him. To shove him back. Instead, her fingers curled over him, and Christie pulled him closer. She rose onto her toes, stretching her body against his, and she opened her mouth wider.
Her tongue touched his. His entire body went on high freaking alert. They stumbled back a few steps. His hands—then her shoulders—hit the rear wall of the elevator.
The things she could do with her tongue…
Jonas wrenched his head up. What was that sound—
Christie’s mouth pressed against his throat. Her tongue licked over his skin, and the edge of her teeth lightly bit him.
The damn Santa pants were too tight over a certain eager portion of his anatomy. A portion that couldn’t wait to be a whole lot closer to her.
His hands slid under the back of her sweater and touched warm, soft skin. So smooth. Better than silk. His fingers eased around her. They rose up and trailed over her rib cage, and, oh, yeah, that was the edge of her bra. Close now, so—
Oh, hell. Now he recognized the sound. The damn elevator doors. Jonas threw a fast glance over his shoulder. The doors had opened. Jamie frowned at him, two guys in suits stared with wide eyes, and a woman in red smiled.
He forced his hands to slide from under Christie’s sweater. Jonas slowly let her go and stepped back. He took a deep breath. He still tasted champagne and strawberries. “Christie—”
She blinked at him and shook her head. Her lips were red and glistening. From my mouth. Right, like he hadn’t pictured this scene before. His first kiss with Christie. Except, in his fantasies, they hadn’t been in an elevator and they hadn’t—
“Jonas! The kids are upstairs! Santa needs to give them their gifts!”
—been surrounded by strangers and her brother. Because Daniel was closing in on them now, his turtleneck looking a little too tight around his bobbing Adam’s apple.
Daniel skidded to a stop and threw his hand up, barely stopping the elevator doors from closing once more. “What are you doing, man? I need you! The employees always get to bring their kids in for the presents. You know this!” Daniel tossed him the Santa beard. Then his stare swept to his sister. “Christie, this is your favorite part!”
Because Christie designed most of the toys made by the company, she was usually front and center on the toy distribution.
“Uh, Daniel,” she mumbled. “I think I’m going to—”
Daniel jumped in the elevator. “Catch the next one!” Daniel advised the folks in the lobby. He punched the button for the third floor. “I had to chase you both down three flights of stairs.” The doors slid closed. “Three flights.” He seemed to be breathing a little hard. “Let’s just get back up there and make this a merry damn night, okay?”
Jonas glanced at Christie. Her cheeks were flushed. Her lips red and plump. Her breathing was coming fast like her brother’s, but it wasn’t because she’d raced down three flights of stairs.
A smile curved Jonas’s lips. Her gaze darted to meet his.
At that moment, the elevator music kicked in and Elvis began to sing. Jonas didn’t take his eyes off Christie. Not for a moment.
When she’d first come toward him upstairs, he’d been drinking her in. Her steps had been uncertain. Her posture hesitant. He’d wanted to put her at ease.
I’m sure I have something in here for a good girl like you.
Those words hadn’t put her at ease. They’d seemed to unleash something inside of her. It definitely looked like Christie Tate had a naughty side.
He couldn’t wait to see what other surprises she’d been keeping from him.