Title: A Hot Winter
Author: C.J. Lake
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release date: December 2, 2014
*Story contains explicit/steamy scenes that are intended for mature readers.
Emma Slate married her high school sweetheart at twenty and lost him at twenty-two. Now she has built a cozy, safe life for herself that includes everything but romance. When Matt, a handsome young contractor, begins work at her house, she tries to ignore the spark between them and keep her feelings in check.
Matt Winter should know better than to get involved with a girl who is moving out of state in a few short weeks. Especially one who is so guarded. There are so many reasons why he shouldn't go there...so why can't they stay away from each other?
A sizzling love story from the author of Constructing Us.
Matt kept his tone casual as he asked, “So where did Parker take you last night?” Emma shot him a surprised look, and he explained, “I happened to see the personalized plate on my way out.”
“Oh. We just went to a little French bistro in Newton,” she said offhandedly, reaching out to touch the needles of the tree directly in front of her. “I’ve been there with Andy before.”
Nodding, Matt kept his eyes fixed on Emma’s profile. “And you had fun?” he asked.
“I guess,” she said with a noncommittal shrug.
“How were his table manners?” At that, she angled her head to eye him askance. “You know,” Matt explained, “was he getting sauce everywhere or…chewing with his mouth open?”
She gave a little laugh then turned back to the trees. “Uh, nothing comes to mind, so I’d say his manners were fine.”
“Well…did he pick up the tab?”
Matt stepped closer to her, leaving almost no space between them, nearly touching her back with his chest. “Did he pull out your chair?” he asked, his voice dropping lower. Being this close to Emma cast an erotic spell over him.
“I, uh, don’t remember,” Emma said, her voice cracking a little, making him think she felt it too. He was painfully tempted to run his hands around her waist right now, to pull her flush against him, to stop pretending.
Suddenly, Emma turned. “You seem very worried about Phil Parker’s love life.”
“Right,” Matt said, returning her sarcasm.
Giving him a mocking smile, she placed her palm on her chest. “Really--your concern for your fellow man is…heartwarming.”
“No, it’s not,” Matt stated flatly. “I couldn’t care less about the guy.”
“Hmm, seems like it,” she remarked, before rounding the corner into the next aisle.
“Look--it’s on the male DNA to size up the competition,” Matt explained to her back.
At that, Emma squinted at him. “How is Phil Parker competition? There’s no contest. You’re my friend. Phil Parker is a virtual stranger.”
“A stranger?” Matt echoed, acting nonchalant about the implication--even as a possessive sense of relief spread through his chest. So she hadn’t slept with Parker last night. Thank God. The thought of Emma touching another guy, or letting a guy touch her, had become painful to him.
“Pretty much,” she went on matter-of-factly. “He picked me up, took me to the restaurant, we made small talk about the kids. He told me all about his divorce--with very little prompting from me--and then drove me home. See? A stranger, more or less.”
“I see,” Matt said after a long moment, quietly assessing her...
Wordlessly, she handed him the check. Folding it, he shook his head. “Man, I’m so glad nothing happened between us last night,” he muttered as he stuck the check in his pocket.
Emma’s face crumpled. “What?” she said, feeling insulted and hurt (even though she’d basically given him the longer version of the same sentiment).
With a short, humorless laugh, Matt said, “I don’t need this drama.”
“No one has ever accused me of being overdramatic.”
“If you give me this big of a hassle over a bill, God knows what you’d do to me in bed,” he said.
“I wouldn’t do anything to you! Wait--I didn’t mean it the way it sounded…” she fumbled.
“You’d probably tell me I’m doing it wrong.”
Rage boiled inside her, as she struggled for a comeback. “I’d only tell you that if you were.”
With a cocky laugh, Matt leaned his face toward hers and said, “I do it just fine.”
She pasted on a patronizing smile. “Well good for you.”
“It could have been good for you, too,” he remarked plainly. “But that ship has sailed.”
At first, Emma’s mouth dropped open. Then she let out a shocked sort of laugh. “Oh my God! I hope you’re not seriously trying to use reverse psychology to get me to sleep with you?”
Impatiently, Matt said, “Emma, aren’t you listening? I don’t even want to sleep with you anymore.”
With her fists balling at her sides, she said, “Good. Actually, that works out well, because I really don’t want to sleep with you.”
“Uh-huh, sure, okay,” Matt said briskly. “Well, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up now.” He turned toward the door, adding, “Now it won’t have to be unclear when I cross paths with you again someday.”
“Don’t worry, you probably won’t cross paths with me anyway,” she called after him. “I’m leaving remember?”
At that, Matt paused, looked back at her. His expression seemed more solemn. “Right, I forgot, well…good bye, Emma.”
With his hand on the doorknob, Matt turned.
Impulsively, Emma reached for the stack of envelopes that was sitting on hutch by the stairs. She flipped through it and pulled out the one with Matt’s name on it. “Here,” she said, walking toward him. At first he just eyed the envelope, confused. “It’s a Christmas card,” Emma explained offhandedly. “You might as well take it now.”
Wordlessly, Matt shifted his gaze from the envelope to Emma’s face. His dark eyes burned into her. She swallowed feebly, still holding the card out for him. “To hell with this,” he uttered gruffly, and slid a hand around her neck, pulled her to him and kissed her.
C.J. Lake is a storyteller who is passionate about art, surfing, and skiing/snowboarding. Residing near the coast of Massachusetts, C.J. is currently working on a new book. Meanwhile, readers can check out her first novel, Constructing Us, which is the story of Andy and Tragan.
Readers can get in touch via email (email@example.com) or follow C.J. on Twitter @brightbluesurf.