Home > Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)(12)

Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)(12)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Go grab your stuff,” I ordered and kept bossing. “Then take off your coat. Make yourself at home.” I started to dash to the kitchen and stopped, turning back. “Your room is the first on the left at the top of the stairs. You could pick the other one but that one’s your best bet. It’s less girlie. Though, warning, the ex-owners of this house had a psychotic affinity to chintz and flowers so it’s only slightly less girlie.” I resumed my dash, stopped, and again turned back. “Bathroom is across the hall from that. I have my own bathroom, FYI.”

Then I resumed my dash, finishing it by skidding to a halt on the kitchen floor on my thick, woolen socks, wondering where my dip warmer thingie was.

And since I was in the kitchen, and before that had been babbling and not paying attention, I didn’t see John Priest watch me through the whole thing, unmoving. I also didn’t see him stay that way after I disappeared from the foyer.

And last, I didn’t see his big hands ball into tight fists and his strong jaw go hard before he turned to the door.

* * * * *

Early the next morning, I sat on my side porch, jeans on, pink thermal with its tiny blue and green flowers on under a western style jean shirt with pearl snap buttons, fluffy wool scarf wrapped around my neck, my feet encased in very thick wool socks up on the top railing. I had a dusky blue knit cap pulled down over my hair and my fingerless, fuzzy woolen gloves were wrapped around a huge cup of steaming coffee.

I stared at the landscape, the trees surrounding my cabin, evergreens tufted in snow, leafless aspens gilded with it. To the left, the river was running over its red rock, beginning to twinkle in the rising sun. To the right through the trees, my winding lane leading to the cabins one way, the street the other.

We’d had a dump of snow. I needed to get the little tractor with the blade out and clear the lane and parking lot in case any of my patrons wanted to take a Christmas day jaunt.

But I sat there, deciding to do it later. No one in their right mind left their house early on Christmas morning.

On that thought, I heard the door open behind me and I twisted in my chair, keeping my feet where they were, and watched John Priest walk out.

He, too, was wearing thick woolen socks but his were a marled gray and black, whereas mine were a light mint green.

He was also wearing faded jeans, a white thermal under a padded, navy blue flannel shirt, the navy blue somehow making his tawny eyes turn an appealing amber.

He had thick stubble.

It was hot.

And last, his hair was a mess like he hadn’t even run his hand through it to tame it after rolling out of bed.

That was hotter.

He was holding a heavy, toffee-colored earthenware mug of my coffee in his meaty fist.

I felt the pull of his magnificence, instantly denied that pull, and smiled at him.

He just looked at me then he looked to the chair beside me, a chair no one had sat in except Dick Grant, and Grant hadn’t sat in it often. Then he made his way there.

I looked away as he sat down but I couldn’t miss his feet going up on the top railing, two feet from mine.

My legs were bent. His long legs were straight and he crossed them at the ankles.

Sitting beside him in silence, something settled in me. Something just as good and right as I knew it was bad and wrong.

I tried to ignore it.

It was hard to ignore.

I managed it, brought the cup of coffee to my lips, and said softly into it, “Merry Christmas, Priest.”

He surprised me by replying in a gentle rumble, “Merry Christmas, Cassidy.”

He said my name.

He knew it and he said it.

I smiled into my coffee before I took a sip.

* * * * *

I hit the off button on the remote and turned to Priest.

“Well?” I asked.

“It sucked,” he answered.

I felt my eyes grow round. “Sucked? Sucked? Love Actually doesn’t suck!” I got up to a forearm in the couch and my gaze on him turned to a glare. “It’s perfect Christmas viewing. It has Christmas and it has romance and it has Alan Rickman. Anything with Alan Rickman does…not…suck.”

Priest’s expression remained the same. “That does.”

I rolled my eyes on my, “You’re impossible.”

He gave a slight shrug indicating he didn’t give a flying anything what I thought he was.

I wasn’t offended. That was Priest.

“Right. This time, you pick,” I stated, tossing the remote on my coffee table. Then I looked back to him. “Or do you want me to start making dinner?”

His brows drew together a centimeter before he reminded me, “We had that green chile bean dip during the last movie.”

“So?” I asked.

“So, you stopped stuffing that shit in your face an hour ago.”

This was very true. In fact, I had to stop myself from licking the bowl clean and only did that because the bowl was heated and I might burn my tongue.

“It’s Christmas, Priest. It’s a moral imperative to eat constantly and copiously, maintaining a food stupor in order to lapse into the ultimate stupor, that being a food coma after dinner. This lasts exactly one point five hours whereupon you wake up and eat Christmas dessert.”

“How about you eat another fifteen cookies while I take some time to make a hole in my gut to fit dinner while we watch another movie?” he suggested.

My eyes dropped to the opened tins of cookies littering the coffee table, cookies I noted he had not touched (not one), while I muttered, “Works for me.”

“Jesus,” he muttered back.

I looked again to him. “Go. Movie. Pick.”

He heaved himself out of my armchair and walked to my shelves that held my library of DVDs.

“It doesn’t have to be romantic,” I offered.

“Thank fuck,” he murmured and I grinned.

He stood, hands planted on narrow hips, and studied the shelves. This took a while. Long enough for me to get impatient.

“How about Thor?”

He looked over his shoulder at me and communicated nonverbally that Thor was most definitely out.

Apparently, badasses didn’t watch superhero movies.

So noted.

He looked back to the shelves.

“How about Red?” I suggested. “It has Bruce Willis in it. You have to like Bruce Willis. Everyone likes Bruce Willis, especially badasses. And it’s awesome. And funny. And it has Morgan Freeman and Morgan Freeman makes everything better. And Karl Urban, who isn’t hard to watch. Not that you’d think that. But it’d work for me.”

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