A Bad Boy for Christmas

By: Jessica Lemmon

But they had an unwritten rule—an invisible boundary line they’d silently agreed not to cross. She for her own reasons, probably having to do with her idiot ex, and he because, well…Sleeping with the girl who was his buddy’s girl’s best friend was the jewel in the crown of Stupid.

He and Faith worked together often, on projects both personal and professional. Getting intertwined—which made him think of her legs around his waist—with her was a high risk. If something went wrong, the fallout would be brutal.

So, Cupcake was a demilitarized zone. He wasn’t going to date her. Hell, he hadn’t seen her date, or talk about going on a date, since her breakup. Understandable. After the shit that went down with her ex, he guessed it’d be some time before she was interested in crawling into bed with anyone.

Damn if the thought of her crawling didn’t insert an image into his head of her tiny, pert ass in the air, those elegant, long legs…

He blinked out of the image, blaming her outfit today: dark blue dress that matched her navy eyes, and a pair of shoes that made those long legs even longer. Was she actively trying to kill him?

So, yeah, it hadn’t escaped him she was beautiful. And it hadn’t stopped him from teasing her to get those pink lips to part into a smile as often as possible. He was a sucker for a cheap laugh, and in spite of what she’d been through it’d been fairly easy to get her to laugh. Which swelled the head on his shoulders almost as much as the one in his pants.

She hadn’t been laughing a moment ago when he mentioned his “date” though, had she? He’d been shamelessly fishing. Despite his reasons to keep his distance from her, part of him was curious to see if she’d pursue him after all these years. His “date” tonight wasn’t a date, anyway. It was an appointment with his sister, Kendra. Ken was having trouble with her car, and he offered to come over and take a look. One of the many services he provided since he’d moved back to town. Not that he minded. He’d do anything for his older sisters.

Their family was tight. His father owned McClain’s Handyman Services, a business that had served the town of Evergreen Cove since before his oldest sister Dixie was born. A few years after, they had Kendra, and five years later, Connor was born the baby of the family. Roger McClain had been overjoyed. A boy to take over the business.

When Connor grew up and showed zero interest in fixing anything, save for himself in front of a science project, Roger began applying pressure. The pressure kept coming, driving Connor right out of the house at age eighteen, where he’d met Donny Pate and the two of them had shared an apartment and made some spectacularly bad decisions.

He guessed it was a belated rebellious streak that made him behave like the kid he was. He’d spent most of his childhood being way too grown up for his own good, and then after he enlisted, spent his years longing for the idea of “grown up” the way he used to know it. Serving his country was the highest honor, but war was hell on earth.

A few months ago, he hadn’t been sure his friend would keep his inherited house, but Donovan had stayed in the Cove after all. The mansion loomed in the light, her clean windows shiny, gleaming. His buddy belonged in this town, and he belonged with Sofie. Claiming his seat as “heir of Evergreen Cove” was the right fit for him.

Connor dug out a pair of garden shears from his tool belt before dropping it into the plush, green grass. He lowered to one knee and started on the scraggly lavender bush at the side of the house. No matter what he did to save it, the thing was determined to die. Part of him wanted to dig it up, toss it in the fire pit, but another, more stubborn part of him refused to give up on it.

As he clipped, he felt a slight streak of envy he couldn’t explain away. Maybe because Donovan, after living a nomadic and detached lifestyle in New York, had found his home in the Cove. Connor grew up here, still had family here, but ever since he had returned, Evergreen Cove felt more foreign than Afghanistan. She hadn’t quite welcomed him back with open arms…Proof was piled in his apartment. He’d been back for nearly two years and the cardboard boxes he’d hauled out of his parents’ house and into his own place had yet to be unpacked.

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