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As Keisha considered the cards in her hand, she tugged the sleeves of the thick wool sweater, pulling it taut across her full tits. If she’d been one of his regular dates, he’d assume it was a calculated move, but not with Keisha. There was just something different about her from the glamazons who catwalked through his little black book, like she wasn’t looking for someone with an oversized bank account to take care of her in a style to which she would grow accustomed.

Keisha’s face lit up. “Rummy!” She slapped down her cards on the table.

He looked down at the mess of non-matching and nonlinear cards in his hand and then at the piles of runs and three-of-a-kinds laid out in neat stacks in front of her. “I think I’ve been hustled.”

“Damn straight.” She laughed, a sound that did more to warm him than the hot toddy ever had.

“You distracted me.” He swept the cards into a pile and started to shuffle. What was it his mom always said about idle hands?

She laughed and relaxed back against the silver painted wood chair. “Oh yeah? With what, my charming story about granny and the dogs who stole the tennis balls off her walker when she left it on the front porch?”

He snorted. “No, but that was pretty damn funny. With those.” He pointed to the foot-high, half-dressed, ceramic elves making out on her mantle.

“Those are the most G-rated ones, too. You should see the other ones my friend, Ellen, gave me for Christmas.” Keisha hid her eyes behind her hand as she shook her head.

“Okay. Let’s see them.”

She peeked at him through her fingers. “I don’t know. They aren’t exactly fit for public.”

Embarrassed or not, there was something about those elves that made her laugh. And Gabe wanted to know everything that made her laugh. Hell, he wanted to be the one to make her laugh next. “You just kicked my ass in rummy. I’m not used to losing, you gotta give me something.”

Keisha dropped her hands to the table and tapped out a beat on the oak with her cherry red nails, eyeing him with that same assessing look she’d given him through the glass door when he’d been outside freezing his balls off. Uncertainty burbled to the surface. Too pushy? Too whiney? Possibly, but he’d risk it. He was a man who saw the advantage and went for it. Second guessing was not his style.

“And what you really want to look at is at my elves?” She arched an eyebrow. “That’s a first.”

He didn’t doubt it. “What are you trying to imply?” The hard-on pressing against his zipper had a damn good idea.

“Not a thing.” She pushed her chair away from the table and stood up. “Come on, I’ll give you the penny tour and show you just how bad my friend’s taste in elves is.”

Keisha tried to maintain a blasé attitude about the set of five Good Time Smexy Elves that Ellen had found online, but she couldn’t keep the embarrassed giggle out of her voice. Of course, Gabe didn’t have that problem. He picked up each cavorting pair and eyed it as if it were a precious Degas instead of an offering to the altar of all that is tacky.

God knew what kind of website Ellen had been trolling when she discovered the lusty ceramics. For the entirety of their twenty-year friendship, Ellen had loved shoving Keisha out of her sheltered comfort zone. She’d scored big with this Christmas gift.

Keisha wasn’t just out of her zone, she was out of her regular orbit.

“Are you a big elf collector?” Gabe sat the last set of elves down on the coffee table, right next to the latest copy of Interior Living Today.

“God, no.” She couldn’t miss the teasing glint in his blue eyes or the way sitting next to him on the chaise lounge sent tingles of excitement ricocheting through her body like she’d just inhaled a whole package of Pop Rocks. “Ellen just likes to give me a hard time.”

“I can see why. You’re pretty cute when you blush.” He brushed his finger across her cheek and dipped his head close to hers. “I’ve spent the whole night wanting to kiss you. Tell me you’ve been thinking about it, too.”

Keisha’s breath caught, but not before she inhaled his scent, a teasing mix of sandalwood, fresh snow, and dangerous destiny. She should say no. She wasn’t that girl who made out with a stranger. She was the girl in the church choir as her granny expected. She was the one who baked a week’s worth of dinners for her parents and loaded up their freezer with them every Sunday night. She was prim and proper and everything that made her family proud.

But she didn’t want to be that girl tonight.

She wanted more.

She wanted to be Keisha.

“Yes.” She didn’t wait for him to make a move. Heart thundering in her ears, she—the most cautious person in her family—threw it all to the wind.

Her lips covered his, her tongue sliding across the seam of his mouth and tasting the hot toddy’s ginger ale-tinged kick. Their tongues tangled as she leaned forward into the kiss, devouring him like a long-denied dessert. She opened her mouth, and his tongue swept inside, teasing and tempting her.

But she was done with denial.

Pivoting, she laid her palms against his broad shoulders and pressed him back against the overstuffed chaise lounge. She slid her fingers up the cool, brass-colored zipper holding his coveralls closed, the metal teeth rough against her fingertips. As soon as she pinched the metal tab between her fingers, uncertainty yanked her out of the moment.

This was crazy.

The short hair of his beard tickled her jaw as his lips traveled across her sensitive skin to connect with the spot where her jaw met her earlobe. A spot that, until this moment, she hadn’t realized had a direct line to her clit.

This was amazing.

She straddled his lap, her yoga pants proving to be more of an enticement than a barrier. God, she hadn’t made out fully clothed on the couch like a teenager since—well, since she was one. But it wasn’t enough. She needed more.

Keisha rocked her hips, gliding herself against his hardness. Wanton. Demanding. Necessary to keep the itch from driving her crazy. “I want to touch you.”

“The feeling’s mutual.” His words tickled the side of her neck as he worked his way south, pushing her comfiest cardigan off her shoulder.

Goose bumps popped up on her newly exposed skin, but it wasn’t because of the cool air. Gabe’s lips grazing her shoulder as he slid aside the straps of her tank top and bra took full credit for her body’s reaction. Her nipples peaked, pushing against her red satin bra and demanding attention. Her body revved like a finely tuned race car during the Brickyard 400.

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