A Bad Boy for Christmas

By: Jessica Lemmon

They were moving forward—both of them. And in a weird way, Connor felt like he was hampering their progress. The last thing he wanted to do was freeze his friends in place with him.

As he ate, he wondered what the hell time it actually was, whether he should lift weights before going back to sleep. Or hell, maybe he’d try sleeping in bed. That would be one step toward making this place feel more like home. The very first step.

But as he scraped the last bite into his mouth, he knew he was lying to himself.

He wasn’t going to sleep at all.


Well, that was embarrassing.

“Thank you, Officer.”

Incredibly attractive, blond, full-lipped Officer Brady Hutchins gave Faith a smile. “Ain’t no thang, Ms. Garrett.”

He capped his comment with a wink and turned for the door. Brady and Faith had known each other since grade school, and though they hadn’t kept in close contact, Evergreen Cove was a small enough town, and Brady a good enough looking cop, that he was hard to miss. A few years back, before Donny had come back to town, Brady had gone on a date with Sofie, but Sofie said there wasn’t a spark. Faith got that. She was beginning to wonder if she had any spark left in her. Especially since, faced with this man right now, she felt nothing.

An appreciation for long, dark blond eyelashes, gorgeous green eyes, and a nice, firm build, sure. But on a personal, oh-baby level?


Good Lord. Maybe she was broken.

No, you’re not. Because: Connor.

True. Connor made her eyes bulge out of her head and her tongue stick to her palate like she’d glued it there. Made her voice go quiet, her skin tighten. There weren’t so much sparks between them as there was an explosion—like a rogue firework igniting a tanker truck.

She purposefully shook her head to dislodge the thought. Didn’t matter if she wasn’t feelin’ it for Brady. He hadn’t come to her house at four a.m. to flirt with her anyway. He’d come because she’d called 911. And she’d called 911 because she heard noises.

She opened the door to see him out, but he faced her in the threshold, his smile gone, concern evident. “You sure you don’t want me to stick around until sunlight?”

“That’s really sweet, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one night.” She gave him a tight smile.

He ducked his head and met her eyes with those gorgeous eyes of his. Faith was tall, but Brady was taller. Especially since she was standing here in a robe and slipper socks.

“Long as you’re sure,” he said. “I don’t want to scare you, but I feel like you should know that the window locks aren’t as solid as I’d like. And a deadbolt on a door can be busted.”

She tore her eyes away from his uniform—dark blue with a badge, insuring safety for every resident of the Cove—and studied her windows. Windows that suddenly didn’t look as safe as before. Her breath went shallow. The idea of someone busting in here was…terrifying.

“But…” he started, and she met his gaze. “If I had found evidence of anyone tampering anywhere, there’s no way I’d leave you here by yourself. Fact is, you’re on a second floor, surrounded by neighbors. A burglar probably wouldn’t bother. Unless you have enemies. Piss anyone off recently?”

Faith laughed and Brady grinned. He knew her. She was too nice to have enemies.

He palmed her shoulder in a friendly way. “Unless you have a stash of valuables in here, or a ton of cash, it’d be a lot of trouble for a random burglar. The patio doesn’t make for an easy getaway. Maybe whoever tried gave up and went on to an easier take.”

“Maybe.” Arms wrapped around her torso, she hugged herself, remembering the stone-cold fear that had radiated through each and every one of her limbs when she woke to the sound of scratching outside her balcony door. In that moment, she felt very small and fragile, her only weapons a knife from the kitchen and the cell phone in her shaking hand.

Afraid she was overreacting, she sat for a good five minutes and listened. The rain made one sound, the thunder made another, but the scratching on the balcony door? That sound could only be one thing.

An intruder.

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