“I wish I was.”
Tessa lowered her forehead to the counter and counted to five. “It’s less than two weeks before Christmas!”
“Twelve days to be exact. I warned you not to hire her.”
She snapped to attention, jabbing her finger into Leo Toliver’s chest. “I. Didn’t. Have. A. Choice.” She stabbed her assistant manager with her short, burgundy nail on each word.
He grabbed her hand. “No, you had to go with the sure thing. Even though my spidey senses were firing like crazy.”
She growled and he let go. “You and your stupid spidey senses.”
“They never steer me wrong. If you’d hired Randy we’d have been fine.”
Fisting her hands in her hair, she took a deep breath.
“Don’t even ask. Randy got scooped up by The Attic.”
Deflated, Tessa sat on the stool she had stashed behind the desk. She’d gone with Fox because of her background in literature and five years experience at Barnes & Noble. Leo’s friend hadn’t stepped foot in a bookstore in his life. “Eloped with our stockboy? Are you sure?”
Marissa, her only other full time employee, hooked an arm around Leo’s waist. “You could have plied her with booze first. That kind of news deserves whiskey or tequila. Hell, Bailey’s at least.”
Leo pressed a kiss to her temple. “It’s eight o’clock in the morning, Ris.”
“I don’t care what time it is. You shouldn’t have just blurted it out like that.”
Tessa stood up. Okay, so it was the final stretch before Christmas and the store was busy from the time they opened and when she finally wrangled the last person out. Regular business hours were a thing of the past. Not when there had special orders up to her armpits, a gallery window full of handcrafted ornaments that was a raging success, and the regular bookstore sales that came with winter releases. And the only people she had to work was herself, Marissa and Leo. Losing two employees at the time of the year was a freaking catastrophe.
The bell over the door to Ever After clanged.
“Here we go,” Marissa said under her breath. She kissed Leo, her fiance as of Thanksgiving, and headed to the front of the store with as smile.
“At least you guys didn’t elope on me.”
Leo snorted. “Hell no, I want the booty that comes with a wedding.”
“I didn’t even know Fox knew Joe’s name. Hell, I didn’t even know that Joe knew how to talk to a girl.”
“Evidently closing time was pretty exciting. I found them on the surveillance tapes once.”
Tessa’s brow arched.
“I didn’t watch it.”
She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Okay, so I only watched enough to know that I needed to delete it. Hell, Tessa, we’ve all done the nasty in the backroom. You’re no angel either.”
She flushed. No, she definitely wasn’t an innocent when it came to that backroom, or her office. Her favorite rockstar, and husband, had a thing for mussing her up when she was at work. Especially since he’d been home from touring. He was bored and restless. She’d had more nooners than she’d had when they were first together.
Not that she was complaining.
Every woman wanted their husband to want them like that. And when one’s husband was an international rockstar and they were heading into year four of their marriage, she counted herself lucky that they still were lusty as ever. But with their schedules, the only thing she was getting was the physical side of Jon. She missed crawling into bed and discussing how their day went in the dark. She was lucky she could crawl into her bed without the room blurring these days.
And he was out at so many dinners and galas she was well into her REM sleep by the time he got home.
Sighing, she took a pile of papers from the counter. “Okay, I’m going to go make these customer order calls before it gets busy. Call me when the lines go crazy. I’m going to make some calls and see if I can wrangle some help for the register at the very least. Maybe Nic can give up a name or one of her people.
“Good luck with that.”
Shoulders slumped, she ducked into her office. The chance that Nic would give up any of her people was slim to none.
Two hours and fifty-three calls later, she cradled her head in her arms. The customer orders were done, but she was no closer to finding a cashier. A short tap at the door, and it opened. “Busy, huh?”
A pair of firm, cool hands slid over her shoulders and kneaded. “Actually, not too bad out there.”
Instead of popping up, she just sighed out a hello and let Jon work his magic. When his thumbs moved in and swirled around the bones of her spine, she melted. “Oh, God.”
“That book you got me a few Christmases ago was a very good read.”
She laughed, but it soon drifted into a moan. She had no idea what to buy the man that had everything, so they’d been exchanging gifts of a more personal manner for the last few years. The book on sensual massage was well thumbed by both of them. His hands were magic. The tiny callouses at his fingertips abraded just enough to send a shiver up her neck and tingle along her hairline. He reached under her arms and quickly undid the buttons of her blouse and she wanted to whine. Part of her wanted to get naked and let Jon give her a nice sweaty orgasm that would pop the little bubble of stress sitting behind her eyes, but the other half just couldn’t get with the sexy part of that equation.
Instead, he surprised her by pressing her palms to her lap and pulling her shirt down her arms, but not off. The room was warm enough that she was shivering because of him, not the lack of clothing. He brushed her hair over her shoulder and molded his thumbs down each vertebrae until he came to the hooks of her bra. Loosening that, she sucked in a breath.
“Shh.” He moved her shirt down further and those amazing thumbs slowly swirled and pushed all the tension she had up and out. By the time he was done with her, she was a pliant sack of skin minus her bones. He pressed a kiss between her shoulder blades and tucked her back into her bra. She grinned into her folded arms when he copped a feel, those clever thumbs brushing across lace until her nipples perked. With a swipe under the demi-cup, he groaned and followed the band around to her back and clasped her bra. With a final sigh he lifted her blouse up where it belonged.
When she sat up, he turned her chair. Fingertips brushing the little charm she always wore, he ran the backs of his knuckles over her chest and belly. She swallowed against the intensity in his eyes. The winter blue seemed so much more distant these days. Even now, after he’d done nothing but give, he wasn’t all the way with her.
Impulse had her dragging him down, fitting her mouth to his. The sudden need to bring him front and center, directly into her sphere, was overwhelming. His quick gasp through his nose was just what she was looking for. His clever hands were cupping her again, flicking the blouse off her shoulders.
“Shit,” he hissed and lifted her off the chair and onto the desk. She heard his growl of impatience, followed by a nip of his teeth. She dragged up his shirt, the ultra-soft cotton hiding a defined chest and dense muscles along his belly. Up and over his head, she smoothed her palms over the thatch of hair that swirled over the broadest part of him. She broke from his mouth, finding the diamond hard nipples with a nip and scrape of teeth.
“Thank God for skirts,” he muttered and pushed hers up as far as it would go.
More than willing to be helpful, she boosted herself up until his denim covered cock was tight to the vee of her thighs. She fumbled for his belt, the clank of metal and the button fly of his jeans was only slightly louder than their pants. She dug inside finding his already stiff cock with a firm grip.
“Yes,” he hissed through gritted teeth as she palmed him just as he liked.
She smiled around his mouth. “Thanks for the massage, husband.”
“I wasn’t expecting reciprocation.” He groaned, his head falling back as she stroked him. “Christ, you do that too well.”
“My bad boy likes a firm hand.”
He laughed, and the sparkle returned to his eyes. He searched her gaze and her stroke gentled, her thumb brushing under the head again and again until his pupils widened. Watching him go blind with pleasure was a drug. His jaw loosened and his tongue dragged across his bottom teeth and she knew he was close.
Instead of pulling down her panties, he ripped them to the side and covered his hand over hers. They both tightened their grip on him for a moment before she let go and he slid just the tip of his cock inside her. She’d been so focused on him she didn’t realize just how close she was. His eyes went dark, the winter blue fractured. His mouth latched onto hers, and he swallowed the harsh groan that both of them made as he sunk into her.
Her nails dug into his shoulders as she squeezed her walls around him. Every ridge and line of him stretched her until they were completely connected. She opened her eyes, tearing her mouth away as their gazes locked. Each thrust was an invasion, a key into a lock, and a promise. Her palm slid up and into his hair, the wheat blond hair sifting through her fingers. All the different facets of him coalesced into a texture uniquely Jon, and all hers.
Gripping her hips, he pulled her to the edge of the desk and the thrust went deeper. The roll of his hips and her displaced emotions wound her tighter and pushed her faster to the edge. She didn’t want it, tried to hold back, longing to keep this part of him. This knife edge of pleasure and perfection that only happened for a moment.
But the pleasure wouldn’t be denied. He drew her tighter to him, his hips pistoning against her as the desk thundered in response to the frantic pace they both drove each other to. She buried her face into his shoulder as her body splintered and all the love between them singed her. She held on, feeling the pulse of him inside her as he came.
Slumping against him, she turned her face out so her cheek rested on his freckled shoulder. “Holy fuck.”
“Holy fuck is right,” he gasped. “Where the hell did that come from? And if it was the massage, I’m coming in to give you one every single fucking day.”
She laughed. Dragging her mouth up his neck, to the stubbly chin that hadn’t seen a razor in a few days, she finally found his mouth. “I missed you.” The mixture of grumbly sigh and grunt made her pull back. “What?”
“Nothing.” He pressed a soft kiss on her mouth and that distance was back.
She cupped his face. “What’s going on, Jon?”
“Nothing. Everything’s fine.”
She traced her thumb along the frown line right between his brows. “Yeah, well this says otherwise, pal.”
He caught her hand, nipping at the inside of her wrist. “Just a full schedule that is now behind.”
She leaned back and instantly felt empty when he pulled out of her, tucking himself into his jeans. “Not like I don’t have a full day too.”
“Oh, I know. You always have a full day.”
His brusque tone dissolved what was left of her afterglow. “What the hell, Jon?” She hopped down and righted her skirt. The musk of him blending with her arousal was going to follow her around all day.
“I’m sorry.” His tone was instantly contrite, but his eyes wouldn’t meet hers. Stupid acting lessons.
“So, what? You come in here even though you couldn’t afford the time?”
Blazing fury lit up his face, flushing his winter pale cheeks. “I came in here so that I could actually see my wife.”
“Well you saw her and gained a bonus now didn’t you?”
“I was perfectly happy just to give you a little comfort, but you climbed all over me.”
Her jaw dropped open. “Oh and you were an unwilling participant, huh?”
“No, don’t be stupid.”
“Now I’m stupid?”
“Christ, Tess. I just hadn’t planned on making love to my wife this morning. I wanted to duck in and say hi.” He pointed to the Starbucks cup on her filing cabinet. “Bring my wife a little chocolate and caffeine and get downtown for a meeting. But you looked so…” His shoulders slumped and he dragged his hand through his hair. “I didn’t come here to fight.”
She clenched her fists, then moved forward and hooked her arms around his waist. “I’m sorry. I’m just having a shitty day, that’s all. I’m glad you came in.” She rose on her toes and tucked her chin into the hollow of his neck. “I’m not sorry I jumped you though.”
He folded his arms across her shoulders, holding her in tight. “I’m not sorry either. In fact, I might have lost a few brain cells from coming so hard.”
She giggled. “The charming brain cells.”
He kissed her temple. “I just miss us. You’re busy, I’m busy and our schedules are not synching up, babe.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have good news on that front. Two of my five employees just up and left.”
“Eloped! It’s Christmas, I don’t have time for romance.” She dropped her forehead into the center of his chest. “I’ll be lucky to see you at all in the next twelve days.”
He sighed, tightening his hold. “We’ll figure something out, we always do.”