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Who needs mistletoe?
Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .
Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas . . .
It took Lucas Knight longer than it should have to realize he had a woman in his bed, but to be fair, he had a bitch of a hangover. Even worse than that, last night was a blur, prompting him to take quick stock. One, there was a bundle of sweet, soft curves against him. Two, his head was currently threatening to secede from the United States Of Lucas. And three, his side hurt like … well, like he’d been shot.
It’d been two weeks since he’d gotten caught in some crossfire on the job and he hadn’t yet been cleared for more than light duty – something he’d obviously managed to ignore last night given that he was palming a nice, warm, feminine ass.
Straining his brain, he remembered taking a pain med before going to O’Riley’s Pub to meet up with some friends. A client had been there, someone he’d recently helped save from a multi-million dollar corporate espionage. The guy had ordered shots to toast to Lucas and … shit. Knowing better than to mix pain meds and alcohol, he’d hesitated, but everyone had been waiting on him, glasses hoisted in the air. Thinking just one shot couldn’t hurt anything, he’d knocked back the drink.
Clearly, he’d been wrong and it’d been enough to mess him up big time, something he hadn’t been in years, not since his brother Josh had been killed. Shoving that away for another time – or never — Lucas cracked open one eye, but when his retina was stabbed by a streak of sunlight glaring in through the window, he immediately slammed it shut it again. Taking a deep breath, he told himself to suck it up and opened both eyes this time, learning two additional facts.
He was naked and completely uncovered.
And the woman snugged up at his side was rolled up in his comforter like a burrito.
What. The. Hell.
A few more images slowly began to filter into his brain. Kicking ass at the pool table and winning two hundred bucks from his boss Archer, who ran Hunt Investigations where Lucas worked as a security specialist.
Dancing with a sexy brunette…
And then making his way upstairs, but not alone.
His head was pounding too hard to remember anything more, but clearly the brunette had not only come up, but stayed. She was cuddled up too close to see her face, especially with the way she had the entire blanket wrapped around herself. The only thing visible was a mass of shiny brown waves peeking out the top.
Holding his breath, Lucas slowly pulled away until he could slide off his bed.
The brunette’s hair never so much as quivered.
Letting out a relieved breath, he shoved on the clothes he’d so thoughtfully left for himself on the floor – seriously, he was never taking another pain pill or drinking alcohol again – and headed for the door.
But unable to do it, unable to be the guy who just walked out, he stopped and detoured to his kitchen to make her a coffee. Leaving her caffeine was a nice gesture, right? Right, but … shit. He was out of coffee. Not surprisingly since he usually grabbed his from work because Molly, who ran the office at Hunt Investigations, made world-class coffee. And since one of the benefits of living on the fourth floor of the Pacific Pier Building and working on the second floor meant convenience, he texted the coffee master himself:
Any chance you’d send up a cup of coffee via the dumbwaiter?
A few seconds later, from his bedroom came a cellphone buzzing with an unfamiliar tone and he froze. If his plan was to leave before the awkward morning after – and that was always the plan — he was on borrowed time.
Since nothing came back to him from Molly, he moved onto Plan B and scrawled out a quick note: Sorry, had to get to work, take your time.
Then he hesitated. Did she even know his name? Having no idea, he added: I’m leaving cash for an Uber or Lyft – Lucas.
He dropped some money next to the note and grimaced at himself for still being a complete asshole. He stared down at his phone.
Still nothing from Molly, which meant she wasn’t going to save the day. She was smart, sharp, and amazing at her job, but for reasons unknown, she wasn’t exactly interested in pleasing anyone, especially him. Locking up, he left his apartment.
The Pacific Pier building was over a century old and sat in the center of the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco. It was five stories of corbeled brick, exposed iron trusses, and big windows built around a legendary fountain. Retail and businesses took up the ground and second floors, with residential on the third and fourth. The fifth floor penthouse belonged to his friend Spence Baldwin, who owned the building.
All of it was currently decorated for the holidays like it was about to star in a Hallmark movie.
Lucas jogged down two flights of stairs to Hunt Investigations, fully prepared to be blasted by Molly at her front desk. Not just for his text, but for his appearance at all. Off duty since the shooting, he wasn’t supposed to be back at work until next week, and that was if his doctor cleared him. But Lucas couldn’t stay home another day, a fact that didn’t have anything to do with the stranger in his bed.
Or at least not all due to the stranger in his bed.
He scrubbed a hand over his unshaved jaw, feeling incredibly tense, which for a guy who’d apparently gotten laid last night, didn’t make much sense.
Nor did the fact that sitting on a bench outside of Hunt Investigations front door were two old ladies dressed up as elves. Knitting elves.
The one on the left looked to be making a Christmas stocking. The one on the right was working on something too small to see. They smiled at him in greeting, lips coated in bright red lipstick. Left elf had a smudge of it on her teeth and her little elf cap seemed to quiver on top of her white hair.
Right Elf pulled out her phone. “I just got a text from Louise,” she told Left Elf. “It says, ‘Don’t be late for work tonight, Santa’s turned into Grinch. SMH.’” She blinked. “What does S-M-H mean?”
“Shaking my head,” Left Elf said.
“Oh thank goodness,” Right Elf said, putting a hand to her heart. “I thought it meant Sex Might Help.”
They both cackled over that before they saw Lucas.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis writes warm, funny, sexy contemporary romances and women’s fiction. An Amazon, BN & iBooks bestseller, she’s also a two-time RITA winner and has more than 10 million copies of her books sold worldwide.