Under the Mistletoe

By: Jill Shalvis

Chapter 1





Holding on to her hat, Mia ran along the streets on her killer four-inch red heels, her matching red skirt ruffling in the breeze. Late. She was late.

It was the story of her life.

“Hey, Mrs. Claus!” a construction worker yelled. “I need some holiday spirit! Come on, mama, bring it over here!”

This was accompanied by the hoots and hollers of the guy’s coworkers.

Mia flipped them off and kept running in tune to their raucous laughter. She might not be New York born or bred, but she’d learned to fit in just fine.

“Wow, are you real?” a little kid asked in marvel a block later, taking in her costume. “Is Santa real?”

“Yes!” she told him, and kept running.

Except if there’d really been a Santa Claus, she’d have happily crawled onto his lap and whispered her greatest wish—to be picked. For her softball team, for her internship, for a relationship, it didn’t matter. Getting picked meant everything to her, but somehow, she always ended up doing the picking.

Finally, she skidded into the restaurant and stopped to catch her breath, smoothing down her Mrs. Claus outfit. She had a change of clothes in her bag; she just needed to get to the ladies’ room. Whirling to do just that, she plowed right into a warm, hard body.

Nick.

Her first reaction was embarrassment at her costume. Granted, she’d just made two hundred bucks serving drinks at a corporate Christmas party, but she’d hoped to get into her cute little black dress before Nick caught sight of her.

And then there was her second reaction, which was wow, because he looked heart-stoppingly great tonight.

“You’re thinking so hard your hair’s smoking,” he said, his voice low and sexy. Teasing.

Mia reached out to touch her hair, but Nick caught her hand in his and smiled. “Like the look,” he said. “Is it for me?”

“No!” But she smiled back at him because it was impossible not to react to Nick. “I have my date night LBD in my bag. That’s for you.”

He took her hands and spread them out at her sides, studying the skimpy Mrs. Claus costume. “Mmm, I’m happy to settle for this.” His sun-kissed hair was the same color as the aged whiskey in the bottle on the bar behind him, and matched his eyes as well. He’d come right from work. His tie was loosened, his shirt sleeves shoved up past his deliciously corded forearms. His yummy build came from daily runs and long summers working as a manual laborer for tuition money.

But it wasn’t his looks that stopped Mia’s heart.

“Love that smile,” he murmured.

That. It was that way he had of making her feel like the prettiest woman in the world. She had it bad for him, and knew it.

The hostess seated them before she could change. Each table held a flickering candle and a sprig of mistletoe. Nick picked the mistletoe up, held it over Mia’s head, and then leaned in for a kiss. He squeezed her hand, his callused thumb slowly gliding over her palm. She’d never considered her palm a particularly sensual spot before, but his touch altered her breathing and made her shiver.

Or maybe that was just him.

His eyes darkened as he pulled back. “Hmm,” he said, his voice like sex on a stick. “I definitely want to know what you’re thinking now.”

“It’s you,” she blurted out. “You have the most amazing eyes.”

He brought her hand up to his mouth and nipped the pad of her thumb. “And just think, my eyes aren’t even my best part.”

She laughed. “And as I’ve seen all your parts, I’m in a position of authority to verify this as fact.”

“Maybe you should re-verify later. Just to make sure,” he said, flashing her a panty-melting grin.

Mia knew she could get lost in him. Had gotten lost in him. But she didn’t want to get distracted by his sexiness, not tonight. She’d come here with a plan. She was giving him his Christmas present early, which was a flight to her aunt Chloe’s Christmas Eve wedding. It would mean flying across the country on a whim and meeting the people who meant the most to her.

Nick was good with whims, and she was excited at the prospect of spending the holiday with him. But she held back, waiting, because this was a beautiful, expensive restaurant that they’d talked about but had never been to. It was intimate, and exquisitely decorated for the holidays, and she hoped that maybe Nick had a surprise of his own up his sleeve.

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