This story is my Holiday Gift to Readers. You can download the entire novella for free from Smashwords, Kindle, Nook, and iBook
The snow continued to fall all afternoon. Van noticed fewer people milling about the street as he walked back to the shop with dinner. The shop was set up. His tools ready and the inventory set out. He’d ordered lumber to be delivered to the back of the store in the morning. When the man raised an eyebrow at the amount, Van told him it was for storage shelves in the back room. He would build shelves, but first he had to make a partition. Every time he was close to Tessa he had to touch her. If it didn’t stop he’d be slipping down the stairs at night and watching her sleep. A partition would enable her to lock him out.
Warm air gushed around him when he opened the door. Tessa stood on an upturned crate, hanging curtains. He slammed the door shut with his foot, dropped the basket of food on the floor, and rushed to her side.
“You should have waited for me to help with this.” He held onto her waist, steadying her
“It seemed like an easy task when I contemplated it.” She stretched, standing on tiptoe, placing the curtain pole in the wooden bracket. “Done.”
He lifted her down and kept an arm around her waist as they studied the curtains.
“Very nice. Beth did a fine job sewing them, and you did an excellent job hanging them.” He didn’t want to let her go, her body felt right tucked beside his. She moved out of his arm and fidgeted with a matching cloth on the display table in the window.
“I think we’re done here for the night. Take this upstairs, and I’ll lock up and turn down the lanterns.” He picked up the basket and handed it to her. Their hands touched. He glanced at her face. She felt the same jolt he did when they touched. He read it in her surprise and the spark in her eyes.
The weight of the basket left his hand, and she headed for the backroom. Actually, she flew across the room as though something chased her.
What was it about this woman that attracted him? He’d only thought of her occasionally while in prison, and then only as the child he’d known. The minute he set his gaze on her in the saloon he’d felt the air suck out of him, leaving him light-headed and happy.
He snapped the lock on the front door, turned off the kerosene lamp, walked through the back room breathing in her scent of lilac, and locked the back door before turning the lamp in the storage room down low. He listened to her scurrying feet above him.
This could be his life. A good living, a warm, loving wife. Even children eventually. He started up the stairs. He’d found the woman who could give him all that, but would she? Her life was planned out, could she see the benefits of changing her course? Of marrying an ex-outlaw?
Tessa set out the plates and food and waited. Her gaze wandered to the bed sitting in the corner where the blankets and been. It would be heaven to sleep in a bed again. Her feet took her across the room and she sat. Then bounced. It was soft and gave under her weight, so unlike the unyielding floor. She flopped back and enjoyed the way the feather tick embraced her. Before her father’s death she’d slept in just such a bed. But as times became harder and harder they sold off the good furniture or used it for the boarders.
Footsteps sounded. She shot to a sitting position as Van walked through the door. He smiled.
“You like the bed?” He crossed the room and sat beside her.
Heat scorched her body and her belly quivered. His scent wafted around her. “Y-yes. It’s quite soft.”
He grasped her hand. “I’m going to get you one as soon as I figure out how without causing gossip.”
His sincere eyes gazed into hers. Heat curled through Tessa. She sighed and enjoyed the sensation.
Van leaned closer. Of a will of its own, her body canted his direction.
His dark brown eyes held her hostage, scorching her insides with their intimacy.
Tessa’s heart pounded in her chest and her breathing stopped. Before she could suck in air, his lips touched hers. A soft whisper of a touch.