"In the Holiday Man, the holidays sizzle in this cute, sexy read! I love it when the characters have that chemistry...when their fingers touch, and they feel that tingle. Shannon and Bram have that special magic between them, and they are naturally drawn together..." ~Candy M., So Little Time
From the Author
Bram watched Shannon scurry after that assistant of hers--that man with the shrewd eyes and the pesky manners--and he wanted to throttle the guy.
Jake-Somebody-or-Other lusted after Shannon, that much was clear. Shannon's feelings toward the assistant were more difficult to ascertain, but Bram would figure it out. He always did.
Why? Because she'd caught his interest. Even if anything beyond tonight was an exercise in futility.
He marched around the perimeter of the dance floor, trying to imagine his ex-girlfriend at a weekend affair like this. Angie would've wanted to hit every activity. Not miss a single second of excitement, whatever the latest thrill might be. She absolutely exhausted him when they were together, but not because he couldn't handle the events she threw his way.
No. He could handle anything.
But her insatiable need for diversion drained him. It felt like a reflection on him. Made him fear his inability to keep her entertained. And he'd hated that.
Pretty-faced women dotted the dance floor. Several looked at him with those eyes filled with feverish anticipation, an expectation that a love match might be imminent. Well, Bram knew better. Relationships were fine as long as they were kept in their proper place. Something hot. Something short-term. Something with boundaries. Try to make them your top priority and everything else in your life would get shot to hell.
He shuddered, flooded by a need to get away from the hopeful expressions etched on the faces of those single women.
So he strode out into the hallway and lingered by a display cabinet featuring, among other things, a curvy stained-glass vase. It was European. Mid-Twentieth Century. Delicate yet intricate. Colorful but in a tasteful, not discordant way.
Funny. In an odd way it reminded him of Shannon.
Now there was a woman whose company he'd admit to enjoying. But, let's face it, she wasn't exactly available to him. If he were being honest with himself--and he'd made a habit out of doing just that--perhaps this was part of his fascination.
She was lovely, but she wouldn't be capable of making demands on him during his hectic workweek. She represented everything that spelled relaxation in his book: Home and hearth, an out-of-the-way locale, feminine cozy comfort nestled in a charming, rustic environment. She was smart, responsible and in full charge of her own career path.
He could almost convince himself his attraction to her was "wholesome." Almost...because he still loved the allure of her most curvaceous assets. And, after a mere twenty seconds of remembering her in his arms as they danced, he knew their potential physical chemistry played no small part in her appeal.
He stared at the vase again, mesmerized by the swirl of colors when a stained-glass chip reflected the light. He squinted at it, and the magnificent rainbow was no longer distinct. The hues bled together like silken watercolors, as if, by a mere change in perspective, all the disparate elements of life could join together as one.
"Well, hello again, Bram."
Shannon. Her voice made him open his eyes fully and drink in the vision of her standing before him.
"Crisis averted?" he asked her.
She smiled. "For the time being." She pointed to the display cabinet. "See anything that intrigues you."
He looked right at her. "Yes." He stared into her blue eyes until she blushed. After another moment he added, "And the vase is nice, too."
"Um...well, that's one of my favorites also. My parents took a trip to New York about ten years ago, and they found it in an Old World antique shop there."
"It's pretty," he said, reaching for her hand and entwining her fingers with his. "But I think it belongs elsewhere. In a private home. Atop a fireplace, maybe. It seems too personal for a hallway, even in an inn this cozy."
She let him continue to hold her hand and even took a step closer to him, but her gaze was focused on the vase. Or maybe on something--a memory--further away. "I guess I'd never thought of that way, particularly since I grew up living here at Holiday Quinn. The entire inn was our house, but, I'll admit, it was never especially private."
Bram brought her soft hand toward his face, looked at her for a long moment and then pressed his lips against that smooth skin.
"So, what does a man have to do to get some privacy in this place?"
A flash of passion ignited within her at these words. He could sense it, feel it burning just beneath the surface. What did he want to have happen here?
A night with her? Yes.
A part of tomorrow? Maybe, maybe not. Goodbyes were difficult...and indefinite. But he'd take his chances on their flame blazing steadily until the morning.
"Bram." His name rolled off her lips in a whisper. He could feel her interest. Her questions. Her deliberation. But he sensed, despite whatever internal battles she waged, she was as curiously enchanted as he was.
"Shannon!" Jake called.
And the spell was broken.
Jake jogged up to them. "Excuse me, Shannon, I hate to interrupt," he said with frozen, insincere syllables, "but we have another problem."
Shannon sighed and pulled her hand away. Bram's fingers felt the chill of her departure.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Hartwick," she said with a formality that would've offended him if he hadn't noticed the flicker of disappointment in her eyes. "I'm afraid I have additional business to attend to tonight."
"Perhaps we'll be able to continue our conversation another time," he found himself saying, though he had no immediate plans to return to the inn.
"Perhaps," she replied. Then added, "I hope so."