Snow fell from the heavens like balls of cotton candy, joiningthe rapidly accumulating mounds of marshmallow fluff blanketing the ground. The pine trees and cedars marking the property line glistened with ice and snow as if frosted in icing.
Cotton candy. Marshmallow fluff. Icing.
Hmm. The sudden grumbling in my belly announced it was time for a snack.
As I turned away from the floor-to-ceiling picture window, a flash of black caught my eye. Forty feet away, by the edge of the woods, stood the largest black wolf I’d ever seen. His long fur coat, the color of black ink, rippled as the harsh cold wind and snow whipped around him. Golden eyes, glinting with mischief, studied me. A long pink tongue lolled from his open mouth. If I’d thought it was at all possible, he seemed to wear an amused expression on his furry face.
The wolf dipped his head at the same moment a husky male tone whispered through my mind, causing the most pleasant sensation to ripple through my body. The voice was familiar—almost intimately so—though I couldn’t place it.
Ever since I was a little girl, I was convinced this place was magical. Deciding the voice in my head was nothing more than my subconscious easing into contentment at being home after ten years, I shrugged it off.
“I’ll be back.”
As the voice soothed through me again in a warming cascade of pleasure, I shuddered. The wolf bowed his head a second time before backing into the woods and disappearing.
Across the vast landscape, I scanned the mounting snow, knowing damn well at the rate the white stuff was falling, I’d be snowed in come morning. Four days earlier I’d received a call that my grandfather—my last living relative—had died. Immediately, I’d flown back to my family homestead from where I lived and worked in France, to settle his affairs.
The complaining of my tummy grew in intensity, advising me I’d kept it waiting long enough. As my mind drifted back to reality, I wandered away from the window to prepare for a quiet night. The wind howled and pelted snow and ice pellets against the windows. As I entered the kitchen, the power flickered before blinking out completely. Not only was I in for a quiet night, it was going to be a dark one as well. From the fridge, I retrieved a plastic dish containing three slices of leftover pizza I’d made the night before, along with a couple of chicken drumsticks from the night before that, and stood leaning over the sink to eat.
Despite the reason for my homecoming, I was happy to be back. This house was my sanctuary, my safe place. Being here made me feel close to Gramps. Although he was gone physically, his spirit still lived within the walls. I felt his presence around me, heard his voice whisper in the shadows, and smelled his cologne in the air.
Once I consumed my snack, I went in search of entertainment. With a cozy blanket, a snifter of cognac, and the latest book by my favorite author in hand, I curled up in Gramps’s easy chair to read by candlelight. In the corner, the gas fireplace was lit, but without power the fan wouldn’t click on. The glowing flame provided a warm, comforting illusion in the darkened living room.
I was so caught up in my erotic romance that the low hum of snowmobiles approaching the property startled me. I got up to look out the window just as six sleds sped over the fluffy moguls of my front yard with one stopping and its rider dismounting as the others disappeared into the woods.
A little awestruck at the man’s size—I’d assumed it was a man, considering the breadth of his shoulders—I watched as the tall rider strode up the stairs of the porch while removing his helmet. A loud knock made me jump, and I ran over to the front door. A sudden gust of wind rocked my balance as it caught the screen door, causing me to trip onto the porch as it swung open. Strong hands wrapped around the tops of my arms, offering stability, and when I looked up to thank the stranger, my breath lodged in my throat. My jaw dropped as I stood gawking at the most stunning masculine face I’d ever seen.
From the light of the full moon reflecting off the snow, I could see that his dark hair was tousled and damp from being under his helmet. Wide eyes flickered with glowing flecks that sparkled as they met my gaze.
It took effort on my part, fighting the sudden intense urge I had to grab the stranger at my door and taste him. The smile on his luscious, full lips teased, making the muscles in my lower belly spasm with excitement. In an instant, my nipples hardened, and I prayed it was from the cold.
He reached out and with a single finger, lifted my chin until my bottom lip met my top. The heat of his touch sent warmth shooting like a firecracker from the point of contact straight down to my toes.
“Hello,” he said in a deep husky voice that made the muscles between my legs clench. His smile was playful. His voice was familiar, but since I’d have definitely remembered meeting this guy, I dismissed trying to figure out where I would have heard it before.
Desire raced through my body, making me shiver.
“I’m Keven.” There was heat in his gaze, and he seemed to stare right into my soul. Still smiling and with a quizzical lilt in his voice, he continued, “Keven Cheevers.”
Confusion creased his brow. As I stood gaping at him like a love-struck teen, I realized he figured I should recognize him, and why hadn’t I?
“I was your grandfather’s right-hand man?”
Where in the hell had I heard his voice before? The seductive timbre caused my body to respond in ways that made me nervous…and very aroused.
Giving my head a slight shake when something finally clicked, I replied, “Right, of course. I’m sorry. Calleigh Kennedy.” A yearning ran through me when Keven took my proffered hand in his.
“I know.” The sound of his deep voice in combination with that incredible smile made my knees weak. “Listen, I just wanted to stop by and say hello, and welcome home,” he said.
I knew it was impossible, but when he spoke those words, it sounded an awful lot like the same tone whispered in my mind when I was watching the wolf along the tree line.
Then running his fingers through his damp hair, he continued, “And I’ll be by first thing in the morning to plow out your driveway.”
“Thanks,” I replied and with reluctance pulled my hand from his grasp. “But that’s really not necessary. I’m sure I’ll remember how to use the tractor out back once I get on it.”
“Nonsense. It’ll be my pleasure.” He grinned. “Besides, as your right-hand man now, it’s my responsibility to take care of you.”
I had no idea what that meant, but what I heard was he’d be around tomorrow. That was good enough for me.
An allover body blush warmed me in the subzero temperature, and I didn’t think my nipples could get any harder, but they did. Somewhere along the line, the most delightful tingle had begun between my thighs.
As if on cue, the lights on either side of the door flickered to life and provided an unimpeded view of the man standing on my porch. Oh for the love of God, he was scrumptious. I’d guessed Keven was around my age, thirtyish, and his wavy ebony hair hung just past those broad shoulders. A pair of bedroom brown eyes simmering with heat and the tiniest gold flecks held my gaze. And that mouth. I was overcome by an uncontrollable want to feel those full luscious lips on mine. Licking my lower lip, I swore I could taste him on my tongue. A soft tremor vibrated through me as my breath caught and my jaw gaped open a second time.
I’d never considered myself one to take a man’s breath away—with a mass of unruly mousy brown curls, large blue eyes, too-wide hips, too-big boobs, short stature of five feet four…and a quarter—but Keven appeared somewhat taken aback by my appearance as well. However, had I mistaken the look of interest on his handsome face for what was sheer horror?
“You’re even more beautiful than I remember,” he murmured so softly, I wasn’t sure I’d actually heard the words.
We’d met before? I didn’t think so. No one would forget meeting this guy. I was about to ask how he remembered me, but halted when his nostrils flared. It was as if he’d caught a scent in the air. An arousing scent he couldn’t draw into his body fast enough. He composed himself faster than I did, and he reached over to again lift my chin.
Fire burned my cheeks. It suddenly felt like a hot summer’s day on my cold, snow-covered porch.
“Well,” Keven began, and slowly lowered his hand, “you better get back inside.” His gazed dropped to my chest, where my nipples were straining against my shirt, just begging him to reach out and touch them. “It’s cold out here.”
I should have been appalled that he’d so blatantly checked out my boobs, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t explain why not. When his gaze shifted upward again, meeting mine, I nodded dumbly. “’Kay.” What the hell was wrong with me? In a matter of moments, this man turned me into a brainless, ogling twit. I groaned inwardly, giving myself a mental forehead slap.
When the sound of snowmobiles hummed in the night, we turned to see his buddies emerging from the woods.
“I’ll see you in the morning.” His smoldering promise pulsed within me in a way that should have been deemed criminal. A wolfish grin curled his lips, and Keven added, “Sleep well, my Calleigh.” With a wink, he left the porch and strolled back to his snowmobile.
His Calleigh? That had a delicious ring to it.
Throwing the lock on the door after closing it, I ran to the front window for another look at Keven Cheevers. His buddies waited while he fastened his helmet and mounted his machine. As if sensing me watching—or perhaps since my mouth was watering, some might consider it leering—he turned to catch me, and I moaned. No, I couldn’t see his face once hidden behind the shield of his helmet, but those perfect masculine features were burned into my mind. And I was mildly embarrassed at being caught staring at him. The group waved at me as they drove off, disappearing back into the woods.
Now that the power was back on, I wandered into the kitchen to nuke up a bag of microwave popcorn and refilled my snifter of cognac. Before the microwave beeped off, I raced down the hall to my room and slipped into a pair of warm flannel pajamas. With my bedtime snack and refill, I settled back into my chair and my book. Sadly, the story I’d been so engrossed in earlier no longer held my attention.
No, my thoughts now focused on my recent visitor.
After speaking with Keven Cheevers briefly, I knew I’d heard his voice before. But from where was the puzzler. It wasn’t like our paths would have ever crossed with me living in Paris. But this stranger seemed so familiar to me. I shivered remembering the strength in his hands as he gently gripped my arms. Picturing those smoldering dark eyes with that teasing smile triggered a sexual need in me I wasn’t familiar with. The muscles between my thighs began to throb, and my nipples distended into hard, achy peaks.
There was little doubt people considered me an oddity. I was thirty and still a virgin. It wasn’t something I broadcasted, but I didn’t hide it either. Sure I’d had a couple of boyfriends over the years, but no one ever serious. I’d always hoped one day to marry, maybe even have a family, but I’d never found anyone I wanted to spend my time with or on. Yes, sex had come up, but none of the men I’d ever dated was worthy of receiving that part of me.
Keven Cheevers might be worth it. The thought slapped me upside the head like a two-by-four. Taking a couple of minutes, I chastised myself for those thoughts. Somebody that gorgeous was married or had a superhot girlfriend at the very least. Hell, he might even be gay. All right, that wasn’t likely. The intense masculine scent he exuded had me entranced. As he’d stood before me, the spicy fragrance of the woods, man, and something rather like wild animal had teased under my nostrils. My body had instantly caught fire.
Keven told me he’d been around helping Gramps out, was his right-hand man. I wondered why Gramps had never mentioned Keven to me.
A couple of hours later, with half a dozen chapters of my book under my belt, I glanced at my watch. It was nearing midnightand time to call it a night. I wandered through the house, ensuring all the candles I’d lit earlier were extinguished, that everything had been turned off, and locked up, and found myself at the picture window gazing over the spectacular white wonderland. It had snowed so much in the last few hours the tracks Keven and his buddies’ snowmobiles had created earlier were no long visible.
My eyes were immediately drawn to a black, furry mass in the middle of the yard, a direct contrast to the fluffy white backdrop of freshly fallen snow. The large black wolf I’d seen earlier sat on his haunches looking back at me. After several minutes of the two of us staring at each other, I gave him a wave and a smile.
“Good night, my Calleigh.”
A shiver coursed through me as that sultry voice whispered in my mind.
Another moment passed before he turned and ran off, disappearing into the darkness of the forest. I turned from the window and made tracks to my bedroom. Exhausted, I crawled under the down comforter and soft cotton sheets of my king-size bed, thinking of the handsome Keven Cheevers.