[Note From Frolic: We are so excited to announce our Festive Four Stories! Every week in December we will have a new short holiday story from 4 of your favorite authors. This week we have the incredibly talented Katee Robert!]
Cara shouldn’t have tilted her face up to meet Sam’s. She definitely shouldn’t have told him she’d die if he didn’t kiss her. She sure as hell shouldn’t have slipped her hand up to cup his jaw as he dipped his head to brush his lips against hers.
The sweetest kiss she’d ever had.
Not enough. She tried to stifle the wild thought that shot through her at that first contact. This was Sam.
Ten years should have made him a stranger to her, but it still felt like the most natural thing in the world to lean in closer, to lightly nip his bottom lip.
And then he took control.
Sam sifted his hands through her hair, tugging hard enough that her entire body went tight and hot in response. He guided her to an angle that would allow him to deepen the kiss. The first touch of his tongue sliding against hers…
Cara shivered. She shouldn’t be able to see stars just for a kiss. In the rare occasions she actually took someone back to her place, there often weren’t even stars with her orgasms. Sex was… Sex. She liked it. A lot. But if it came down to a choice between hooking up and meeting a deadline on a piece for her boss?
Work won out every time.
Sam tugged on her hair again, his control absolute. He picked up the pace, deepening the kiss and she whimpered. A small, helpless sound that had him cursing against her mouth. “Cara, you’re killing me.”
“Sorry?” Was that her voice? She sounded throaty and way too satisfied from something as simple as his mouth against hers.
Except there had been nothing simple about that kiss.
Sam rested his forehead against hers, his harsh breathing mingling with hers. “No, you’re not.”
“I’m really not,” she agreed. Her body ached with a need she was suddenly sure only he could fill. “Let’s get out of here.”
But Sam covered her hands with his, holding her in place. “Cara.”
Oh no. She knew that tone of voice. Absolutely nothing good came after Sam saying her name like that. “If you’re about to say anything other than ‘Yes, Cara, I would love to go out to your car, drive somewhere secluded, and bang your brains out’ then I don’t think I want to hear it.”
His jaw clenched and the way he looked at her mouth made her suspect he was picturing her on her knees and…
“Cara,” he said again.
She forced herself to scoot back, to put a little distance between them. Her body cried out in protest at the new space, but she ignored it. Something she’d gotten really good at over the years. Ignoring her idiotic impulses.
Too bad the practice hadn’t helped her tonight.
She smoothed back her hair, trying not to notice how her hands shook. “It’s fine. We don’t have to talk about it.”
“Yeah, no. We’re talking about it.” Sam captured her fluttering hand and pressed it between both his. “This isn’t a rejection.”
“That’s what people say right before they reject you.” She closed her mouth so fast, her teeth clicked together. Great, Cara. Way to sound totally pathetic and needy. “Look, can we just pretend this never happened? I’m obviously more rattled being back here than I thought or I wouldn’t have basically thrown myself at you.”
Yeah, Sam had gotten wicked hot since she’d seen him last, but the guy she knew and cared about was still there in his baby blues. The way he scanned her face as if trying to look past the easy attitude to the woman beneath… He’d been doing that since the first day they met. Back then, he always knew when to push and when to hold back, and if there were a few times when he most definitely could have made a made a move… He just never did. And she’d appreciated it even as part of her was frustrated by it.
Cara had spent the last ten years comforting herself that kissing Sam would be like kissing a brother. Squicky. All sorts of wrong. Uncomfortable.
She couldn’t pretend that any longer.
He’d kissed her without hesitation, touching her as if he’d been waiting for this just as long as she’d been wondering what it would be like. Cara had to fight not to lick her lips again, savoring the taste of him there. It would send the wrong message, especially since he was obviously trying to let her down easy.
Sam looked steadily down at her. “It happened, Cara. Even if you never want it to happen again… It happened.”
“What part of banging in my backseat makes you think I never want it to happen again?” There she went, running her mouth when she should be shutting the hell up. She glanced at the dark space beneath the table. Maybe if she turned to an embarrassed puddle, she could make a clean escape. They already hadn’t talked for nearly ten years. It’d take another ten before she could look him in the face without humiliation if this conversation kept going in the direction it was headed.
“Cara.” This time his voice held wicked amusement that did nothing to smother her desire. “If—when—we have sex for the first time, it won’t be in the back of your car. Or my car. Or anything on four wheels.”
“What about a horse and carriage? Because no matter what argument you’re about to make, that’s classy as hell.”
His lips quirked up and his gaze went heated. “If you managed to scrounge up a horse and carriage, I’ll take it into consideration.”
“That sounds—wait a damn minute. How did we go from you letting me down easy to negotiating carriage sex? That isn’t how things are supposed to work.”
He released her hand and draped one of his arms along the back of the booth. It didn’t exactly cage her in—all she had to do was slide a foot to the end of the bench and freedom—but she definitely felt trapped in a way that was altogether too pleasing. Sam twisted a strand of her hair around a single finger. “I wasn’t letting you down easy.”
“Pretty sure I know a rejection when I hear one.”
“Equally sure that if you think that’s a rejection, there are a whole parade of disappointed men somewhere in New York pining away after their missed chance with you.”
She opened her mouth but reconsidered her retort before the words slipped past her lips. “Okay, fine. I’ll play. What were you trying to say?” His knuckles brushed her shoulder. A touch that would be innocent if she wasn’t sitting here with a fantasy of getting naked with Sam dancing in her head. Sugar plum fairies were for the birds. This was so much better.
“This kiss wasn’t a mistake, and I want to do a damn sight more than kiss you.” He brushed her shoulder again, sending tingles cascading through her body. “But not tonight.”
“I think tonight is a great time to do more than kiss me.” She shot a nasty look at her Crown and Coke, but Cara wasn’t the least bit drunk off her few sips. She was drunk on sheer lust for Sam.
He laughed, the low sound making her clench her thighs together. Sam shook his head. “Cara, you’re looking for a distraction because you don’t want to deal with what’s waiting for you at home. Nothing wrong with that, but you’ll regret it in the morning if we get in over our heads tonight.”
It was like he’d doused her with icy water. She’s almost—almost—forgotten the reason she was back in town to begin with. Cara slid back and, this time, he let her move away from him. “You say that like you know me. You don’t. Not anymore.” The words came out sharp and brittle.
“A decade or a century. It doesn’t matter. I know you.”
“Bullshit.” She reached the end of the bench and rushed to her feet. “You don’t know anything.”
Sam watched her, looking so freaking unruffled she wanted to… She didn’t know. Do something she shouldn’t just so he could feel as frazzled and out of control as the emotions spinning wildly through her chest. He tapped a single finger on the table. “Tell me I’m wrong, then—if you can say it without lying.”
She glared. “Go to hell.”
“If it’s easier for you to be pissed at me than to deal with what’s bothering you, then go ahead.” He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “I’m not going to have sex with you as a distraction, but if you need to talk, I’m here, Cara. I’m always here.”
Not always. Not anymore.
She didn’t say it. They both had dropped the communication ball, but the constant reminders of that served no purpose. Cara pulled on her coat. She made it a grand total of three steps before guilt rose up and hooked her through the stomach, spinning her around and sending her back to the table. She planted her hands on the faded wood. “I am not handling my dad remarrying well, and it’s not fair to take it out on you.”
He didn’t blink. “Apology accepted.”
“I’m not done.” She glanced around, frowning at the people obviously trying to eavesdrop, and lowered her voice. “You’re still a jerk to kiss me like that and then act like you’re going to make some noble sacrifice and protect me from myself. Newsflash, Samwise—I’m a grown ass woman, and I’m more than capable of making my own decisions without having some weird stupid Puritan guilt about a night of hot sex with the guy who used to be my best friend.”
“Used to be.” No inflection there. He could have been commenting on the weather.
“It’s been a while. Lucky for you, the position has recently opened up again.” Not that recently. It had been a couple years since Meg ran off to Europe with two of the hottest guys Cara had ever laid eyes on, but since then she’d been so busy, she’d let her other friends kind of drift away. The fact that they drifted at all just confirmed that Meg was the only really good friend she’d had since she moved to the city.
Talk about depressing.
“Sounds like that’s more reason not to let this go any further than kissing.”
She dipped her head down, forcing him to lean closer. “Sounds like you’re scared.” Cara straightened before he could form a retort and gave him a saucy grin. “It’s okay, Samwise. You might be right. This might be a journey better off taken alone—well alone with me and my buzzy friend B.O.B. Who do you think is going to have more regrets in the morning? Me? Or you?” She turned on her heels and marched through the scattering of tables, every eye in the place on her.
Don’t trip. Don’t trip. Don’t trip.
Nothing worse than ruining a dramatic exit with an ill-advised tumble.
She made it to her car before footsteps crunched in the snow behind her. Cara sighed and turned. “Look, Sam—”
He closed the distance between them in a single step, capturing her in his arms and barely catching them against the side of her car. “Do you have a date to the wedding?”
She blinked. “What? No. Obviously not. Unless you think I stuffed my wedding date into the trunk of my car?”
“You never know.” He grinned. “I’ll pick you up beforehand and we can drive over together.”
“I didn’t say yes.”
She wasn’t sure. The thought of facing the wedding alone had worn on her ever since she got the invitation. Having someone at her side—having Sam at her side—had her relaxing in a way she hadn’t been able to for months. “Okay, yeah, I’m saying yes. Would you like to be my date?”
“I would.” Sam’s lips barely brushed hers, the contact so fleeting, she was half sure she imagined in. “I’m going to kiss you again, Cara Taylor. And then I’m going to put you in your car and send you home.”
“After the wedding, we’ll renegotiate.” He claimed her mouth between one breath and the next, and Cara melted for him. Right here, right now, she wasn’t worried about tomorrow. Or the wedding. Or anything except the taste of Sam on her tongue.
He thought he could hold out until after the wedding?
She’d like to see him try.
[Come back tomorrow for Chapter 4]