Read Lovers by christmas: Online

Authors: Angelita Gill

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LOVERS BY CHRISTMAS

The Priceless Collection

*holiday edition*

by

Angelita Gill

www.angelitagill.com

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Coming Soon

About the Author

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

One month before Christmas…

The Dame & Dapper was one of those places where one didn’t feel weird walking in alone. An establishment where patrons came to hear the live music, drink the specialty Prohibition-era cocktails, and converse in low voices. Not the place to carouse and party. Exactly what Thea was looking for. It was also a venue Ben never took her, and therefore a safe place where her heart didn’t pang with memories.

A nice alternative to the chain bars, The Dame & Dapper was darker than dark with its red paisley wallpaper, piquant, circular tables dotting around the space, one long bar, and a small stage for live performances of piano players, lounge singers, and the occasional burlesque show. It was currently sprinkled with a decent number of patrons for a Friday night, but not packed.

Thea found an open stool at the bar, and selected one of her favorite drinks from the menu. The mixologist in the suspenders and flat cap smiled and created her request.

She drew in a deep breath, then sighed. The nights were the hardest without Ben. Especially this time of year. She’d spent Thanksgiving with her friend Simon and a few others, grateful for the company, but still felt so very alone.

Even though it’d been over two years since Ben passed away, the holidays didn’t get any less agonizing. He’d been her comfort and joy, and she felt his loss the most during Christmas. They’d shared a warm, loving relationship for three years, but she always knew she’d never have him forever. He’d had a weak heart since childhood, and one day, he became gravely ill, never completely recovered, and passed away in the hospital. It’d been peaceful and expected, but nonetheless devastating.

He’d probably frown at her going to bars by herself, but she was tired of staying home, staring at a decorated tree, depressed and bored. During the day, she had plenty to keep herself occupied, but at night, she longed for someone to be close to again.

In the past two years, she’d let two men try and fail.

Simply put, there’d been no connection with those men. Companionship was easy to come by, but something deeper than that wasn’t, and at the age of thirty-one, she wasn’t really interested in artificial relationships that started out on a phone app. She’d done that with only disappointing results.

Having a man next to her in bed was nice, but she didn’tneedone there.

She slept better alone.

Sipping her cocktail, she listened to the singer on stage croon about love lost while her pianist floated his fingers on the piano with an e-cig hanging from his mouth. Her voice reached every corner of the room with its vibrant richness and soulful depth. Enough to make anyone yearn for love.

Thea sensed someone watching her. To her left, in the corner booth. She straightened her shoulders and tried to ignore him. There was nothing annoying about it, but it was still discomfiting. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed that way.

The only things the low lighting revealed were two long, masculine legs in dark dress pants, one ankle set on a knee. The rest of him hidden. She imagined the man was lounging, arms draped across the back in an elegant, casual—watchful—pose. It was as if an energy called to her to keep her attention to her left, even though she wanted to look straight ahead.

Concentrating on the singer was now ruined.

She sipped her cocktail and crossed her legs, a tingling awareness creeping up her spine with slow progression.

Movement from her peripheral had her fighting not to flicker a glance at the man who’d risen from the booth. He moved like a panther around the small tables as he stalked to the end of the bar. The hairs on Thea’s nape stood, and finally unable to stand it, she moved her gaze in his direction.

From what she could discern, he had a sharp nose, jaw, and cheekbones, dark brows, and dark hair. She couldn’t look away, and he didn’t attempt to hide his interest. To her shock, she didn’t find his open perusal creepy or unwelcoming. He seemed to be waiting for some kind of signal or invitation from her.

He wouldn’t get one.

Though a part of her wanted to smile, she resisted the impulse. Instead, she swiveled on her chair to face the stage again. Seconds later, when he strolled her way, her heart began to thunder as she pretended not to care, and prepared herself to shoot down the pick-up line he would no doubt drop on her.

“Hello,” he said in a deep, sexy voice, like warm brandy to the brain.

She looked at him, surprised at this simple greeting. No one just said “hello” anymore. He had that unshaven look of a day or two. However, he pulled it off very nicely with his brown eyes and thick dark hair on top. He wore a burgundy shirt, open at the throat with the sleeves rolled up. Very handsome and thoroughly affecting, but she steeled herself against his magnetic presence. He’d likely bore her in less than two minutes.

“I’m not for sale,” she said, in a passively teasing manner.

“I never thought for a second you were.”

She tried again to deflect him. “Well, I want to be alone.”

“No. You don’t.”

Confident of himself, was he? She turned her body toward his, folding her hands on her knees, raising a brow. Maybe she wouldn’t be bored after all.

He traced his gaze over her face. “Drink with me?”

His voice alone made the apex at her thighs wet and aching, and she re-crossed her legs. “All right.” It’d been a long time since someone made her wet on sight.

He gestured to the bartender. “Whatever she’s having.”

She placed a hand on his forearm to stop him. A thrill shot to her stomach at the feel of his warm, corded muscle under her palm. “It’s a Hemingway Daiquiri. You might not like it.”

He met her gaze, then looked down at her hand before she quickly drew it away. Setting his attention back to the bartender, he gave a single nod to make the drink anyway, then fixed his gaze on her again. “I want what you want.”

What she wanted right now was for her heart to stop pounding. “Why?”

“That way, I can taste what you taste. Every time you take a sip, I’ll know exactly what you’re experiencing.”

Her brows slightly knitted together. He was odd. Who said things like that? Even odder, she liked it. Once the bartender slid the cocktail to the stranger, the handsome stranger picked it up, and she picked up hers.

“My name is Kenner.” Taking a sip, he held her gaze.

“Thea,” she told him, mirroring his action.

“What are you doing here on a Friday night?”

She set down her glass, wondering what he was after. Some trivial conversation to pass the time? To simply buy a woman a drink? Or would he try to seduce her? “I felt like going out without the crowds.”

“So did I.”

“Do you come here often?”

“Rarely,” he answered.

He offered no further conversation, and with those eyes and his electric presence, she aimed to diffuse the absurd sexual tension building between them. “What do you do for a living, Kenner?”

“I’m an ad exec. You?”

Liar. She just knew it. However, if he chose to fib about his occupation, then she would too. “I work in insurance. Need some?”

He shook his head. “No, thank you.”

Though she’d said it facetiously, he didn’t seem to take it as a joke. Kenner was an intense man. Too intense for an ad exec, confirming her suspicion he’d lied. She wondered what he really did for a living, but didn’t care enough to call him out on it.

They listened to the music without speaking another word to each other, but when the young lady finished and told the audience she was taking a break, Kenner turned to Thea again.

“Why are you here alone?” he asked.

“Why are you?” she redirected.

“I had no plans. I came down here to listen to a couple sets, have a drink, and go home,” he told her. “Then you walked in, and I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you since.”

She lifted one brow. “Is that what you tell all the girls?”

“I don’t talk to girls.” He drank more of the Hemingway. “I talk to women. You’re the first woman to walk in this place in a long time.”

Her stomach flipped. The man had game. “That’s quite the compliment.”

He didn’t seem take any triumph in knowing that. “I was just being honest. Tell me. Do you like the holidays or are you hoping they pass as fast as they can?”

She considered her answer. “A bit of both.”

“Me too. Can I ask why?”

“It…emphasizes what I’m missing.” She shifted her gaze. “What I lost. I won’t ever have something like that again.”

“Or what you could have, in my case,” he said. “Christmas is for families, isn’t it? I don’t have one of those. I spent a lot of time working on my career that starting one sort of passed me by.”

“You’re a man. You could have a family anytime, virtually at any age. Why do you talk like it’s too late?”

“Why did you?”

A rush of heat swept over her, but she chose not to answer, and neither it seemed, would he. Was he purposely peeling back her layers or was this just a game? Either way, she didn’t know if she wanted this to go any further. Attempting to scare him off, she said, “Whatever you’re looking for, you won’t find it in me.”

“Why do I have to be looking for something?” he drawled.

“Why else would you come all the way over here to buy me a drink?”

His brow lowered for a moment. “You’re too cynical for your age, you know.”

“Life isn’t about age, it’s about experiences.”

“You’re only saying that because you lost someone.”

Kenner’s sharp perception picked up on her loss of a loved one. Suddenly, she felt she could open up to this stranger a little bit. Or maybe it was the alcohol telling her that. “He died two years ago. Weak heart. He was a photographer, a huge soccer fan, made the perfect grilled cheese sandwich…and I loved him.”

Kenner said nothing, and she dropped her gaze, swallowing the emotion that’d built in her throat. He crooked a knuckle and brushed her chin, encouraging her to look up. She did.

“What was his name?” he asked.

She exhaled on a relieved breath. “Ben.” It’d been so long since she said his name out loud. Long enough for her to feel good when she said it, instead of bursting into tears. Even Simon didn’t bring Ben up anymore, and he used to talk about him often. But speaking of the dead often made people uncomfortable, especially if they’d processed the death faster than she did.

“Ben is a lucky man,” he said after a minute.

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