Jemma White was dead tired, and all she wanted was to go home, take off her shoes, flop on the couch and bliss out as she watched the eternal holiday classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
She was shutting down her shop, humming along to Jingle Bells as the tune played over the speaker, and maybe she was nibbling a bit on some left-over chocolate when the front door opened. The bell over the door jingled lightly, and she sighed. “I’m sorry, but we’re—” Jemma’s words stumbled to a halt when she made eye contact with her last minute customer. And she just…stared.
Stared at the seriously drop-dead gorgeous man who’d just come into her shop. Tall, dark, and…Oh, wow. His golden eyes glinted at her, and his hair—nearly jet black—was swept back from his high forehead. He wore a heavy coat, but there was no missing his wide shoulders and the guy had to be at least six foot two, maybe three.
He had high cheekbones. A long, hawkish blade of a nose, and…was that a scar, sliding across his lower lip? It was. An oddly sexy scar.
“Are you closed?” His voice was a deep rumble, and it made her shiver.
Jemma, get a grip, woman! She got a grip, fast, but realized she’d just been staring at the guy, rather foolishly, for way too long. “No,” Jemma said quickly. “Um, I’m not closed at all.” Such a lie.
But the stranger didn’t advance into her chocolate shop. He just stood right there, wearing all black, looking dangerous and sexy.
He inhaled on a deep breath. “You know, this place smells like heaven.”
Her smile came, quick and fast. “Thank you.”
He still wasn’t advancing. And he wasn’t looking at the chocolates on display. He was looking at her.
Her, in her reindeer apron. Her, with her hair pulled back in a crazy twist—loose tendrils were tickling her cheeks. Her…probably looking pretty wrecked because she’d been running the chocolate shop since four a.m. that morning.
Jemma squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. “May I help you?” She motioned toward the chocolates in front of her. “The chocolate truffles are big sellers, and um,” Jemma cleared her throat as tried to be professional and not all weirdly giddy. He may just be the sexiest man I’ve ever seen. “The Amaretto Chocolate Swirl fudge is another favorite, too.”
He stepped toward her.
Jemma tensed. She hadn’t meant to tense but…
He’s sexy as sin, but I’m alone in the shop. And I don’t know him.
She usually didn’t know her customers—Holly, North Carolina, was a big tourist town, especially at this time of the year. There were just a few days left until Christmas and for anyone wanting to get some serious holiday cheer going on—Holly was the place to be.
Holly was a full Christmas town—twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. The cobblestone streets were filled with whimsical decorations, and the cast iron street lamps that lined Main Street all boasted beautiful garlands and fresh pine wreaths.
“I’ll take both,” he said, voice even deeper than before.
“B-both?” Oh, crap, she was stuttering. Figured.
“The fudge and the truffles.” And he took another step toward her. His head cocked as he studied her, and for a second, she pretty much got lost in his stare. Golden eyes. Insanely deep and beautiful eyes.
Her fingers fumbled a bit as she got his order ready. Jingle Bells stopped playing, and Elvis came on the speaker, singing about his Blue Christmas. She rang up Tall, Dark, and Sexy’s order, took his cash, and when she gave him the bag of chocolates, their fingers brushed.
That simple, little touch electrified her entire body. She stilled at the touch, certain that her eyes had gone wide, and she stared up at him.
Don’t even think it, Jemma.
But she was thinking it. Thinking all kinds of things, about this sexy stranger. Slowly, she pulled her fingers back. They were still tingling. “Are you…in town with your family?” Not a wife, not a wife, not a wife. That little mantra blasted through her head even as she did a quick glance toward his left hand.
“I’m here by myself.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
“I mean…” She gave him her biggest, brightest smile. “It’s great that you’re in Holly for the holidays. This is the perfect place to be for Christmas.”
He glanced over his shoulder, seeming to peer out the big, glass windows that lined the front of her shop. “So I hear.” But he didn’t exactly sound thrilled by that.
Her brow furrowed. Don’t be married and don’t be a Grinch. She needed him to meet those two important requirements.
He looked back at her. “I’m guessing you love this whole deal?”