Radio talk show host, Eve Kingston, would have said her neighbor down the street was one of her best friends in the world. Then Sam kissed her under the mistletoe on a dare from her daughter and her body came out of widow hibernation.
Now Sam says he wants to sleep with her. Eve thinks maybe she wants to see Sam dancing naked in a Santa hat. Madness has obviously taken over both of them.
Will either of them get their crazy wish for Christmas?
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“Mom, this is important. Are you not dating because you’re still grieving for Daddy? Or are you just not interested in sex anymore? I want to know the truth so I can help you.”
Evelyn Jade Kingston lowered the tinsel she was trying to hang on a tree branch to stare at her daughter. Two seconds ago she’d been humming along to her favorite Christmas music and counting her blessings that both her children were home for the holidays. Now she was being grilled about her love life. It was something she routinely got during call-ins from her radio show listeners, but rarely from her children.
“What brought all this on, Megan? During our discussion at Thanksgiving, you swore you were on good birth control and made me promise that we would not talk about our love lives or lack of them anymore. Have you changed your mind so soon?”
Megan shrugged. “I guess I’m starting to worry about moving in with Nathan and leaving you here all alone. Nathan said his father is dating. His mother hasn’t even been dead for a whole year yet. Daddy’s been gone for over three.”
Eve laughed. “Men are different, honey. They don’t really like being alone. Plus Angeline was sick for a long time before she died. Tell Nathan to stop worrying about getting a stepmother. Sam still comes over for coffee every morning and so far he’s never brought a guest.”
Megan finished hanging the last ornament in her hand before looking at her mother. “Nathan says his dad will never find a woman he likes enough to sleep with because he’s too picky.”
Eve laughed again, mildly uncomfortable at hearing dating commentary about a man she’d known for over a decade. But she had to admit that hearing Sam was being picky might just be the best thing she’d heard about any man in ages. She was a firm believer in it herself.
“Sam’s a natural flirt and it’s not surprising that women would jump at the chance to date him. I’m sure he’ll find several he likes before he settles down with just one again.”
“You didn’t answer my question, Mom. We were talking about you—not Sam.”
“I didn’t answer it on purpose,” Eve said.
She stopped decorating again when Megan put a hand on her arm.
“Mom, this is me being serious. If there was a big ball of mistletoe in the doorway and some good-looking naked guy stood with you under it, would you let yourself genuinely kiss him back? Or would you run away from that level of personal engagement?”
“Level of personal engagement? Listen to you. Okay—I’ll stop teasing. I don’t know what I would do, honey. Does the man look like Vin Diesel? Or maybe Dwayne Johnson?”
“No, but he’s handsome and rumored to be a good kisser. He has a great sense of humor. Plus, I hear he likes being naked. This man seems exactly your type,” Megan insisted.
“Tempting then, especially the naked part, but no I probably wouldn’t kiss him back. But Megan, I’m being realistic here. Everyone is looking for love. I’m just looking more slowly. People rush into relationships way too fast these days.”
“Mom, I’m not looking for a textbook lecture on the subject. At Thanksgiving, I told you about my first time with Nathan so you would know what a great man I’m marrying. Even in Evelyn Jade’s book, that should qualify as an exchange of personal info. Now just answer my question—woman to woman. Can you imagine letting some guy other than Daddy kiss you under the mistletoe like it was the best thing that ever happened to either of you?”
“Who is this guy you keep harping about, Megan? You can’t expect me to get turned on by a fantasy about some random naked guy dancing around in a Santa hat waiting to be kissed. I will not be falling prey to some bad case of mistletoe madness over the holidays.”
Megan shook her head. “There’s no real guy, Mother. It’s a rhetorical question.”
“I see that English degree is finally starting to pay off. Good thing your student teaching starts in January. Maybe I should warn all those eighth graders about your expanded lexicon before you show up.”
Megan snickered as she let go of her mother’s arm. “Making a point with you is nearly impossible. Rick and I both think it’s time for you to start getting on with your life. You need to start dating.”
Eve sighed as she went back to hanging the last of the tinsel. “Yes. I tell myself that all the time. Then I think of how easy it all was with your father. I worry that kind of magic is never going to find me again.”
When she was done, Eve stepped back to admire her handiwork. The tree glistened with ropes of sparkling silver and blue.
“But that’s not what you want to hear from me, is it? Okay. When you talk to your brother about this, tell him if Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson turns out to be the naked guy wearing the Santa hat, then I’d definitely ask you both to turn your head. That’s what kind of wicked woman I really am.”
Megan sighed. “Forget the naked guy. I’m sorry I brought him up. The point is that Rick and I love you, Mom. We don’t want you to be alone on Christmas. I wish we hadn’t made plans to go skiing.”
Eve waved her hand. “I hate skiing. You and your brother love it. That’s why I bought you the tickets. I want you both to go and have a great time. Cuddle up with Nathan in front of a cozy fire and take a legitimate break before your real work starts next month.”
“I know you mean that, which is precisely why I’m feeling guilty,” Megan complained.
Eve opened her arms when her daughter walked over for a hug. “I love you both. We’re having our Christmas together early and I’m fine with that—truly. What difference can a couple of days make?”
“You could always come with us,” Megan insisted. “I’m sure we could get another room.”
“God, you have such a soft heart. If Nathan ever breaks it, I may have to hurt him, even if he is Sam’s only child.”
Megan giggled against her mother’s shoulder. “Don’t hurt him. Please. Nathan is the perfect man.”
Eve groaned in her daughter’s ear as she laughed. “You poor, deluded woman. No man is perfect.”
“Nathan looks really good when he’s dancing naked in his Santa hat. I like him, Mom. He kisses well and makes me laugh,” Megan said.
“Okay,” Eve said, pushing her daughter away to peer into her eyes. “Maybe he is perfect.”
“Well, he’s at least perfect for me,” Megan said.
“Good. A relationship is harder when you don’t think so. I see that for myself all the time. Your father was perfect—well except for the whole dying from a heart attack thing. I really wish he’d stuck around to see how great you and Rick turned out. He would have been more sappy about it than I am.”
Megan sighed. “You went a whole five minutes without talking about Daddy just now.”
“See? I’m getting better already. When my naked Santa shows up, I’ll be ready for that searing hot kiss,” Eve promised. “Is Sam coming to dinner?”
Megan shrugged. “That’s the plan. I told Nathan not to let him weasel out of it.”
“Great. I’m going to find a ladder so we can hang the mistletoe in every doorway. You can kiss Nathan and I’ll pretend not to be embarrassed about how much tongue he slips my daughter in front of me. Then I’ll smack Sam around for not teaching his son better manners. It should be a very fun evening.”
“MOTHER,” Megan warned.
Eve laughed. “What?”
Megan narrowed her eyes. “Sam doesn’t have plans for Christmas either since I’m taking his only child away to debauch me in front of a fire like my mother ordered.”
Eve grinned. “How delightful. Maybe I’ll invite Sam over to spend the day—if he doesn’t have a date.”
Megan sighed. “Good. I’ll never get properly debauched if Nathan is worried about his father. Children worry about their parents, you know. That’s how it works.”
“And here I thought it was the other way around,” Eve said, laughing as she headed off to the garage.
“What’s Eve doing for Christmas if Megan and Rick are going skiing?” Sam asked.
Nathan shrugged. “Staying home alone. Megan said she was going to try to talk Eve into going with us, but at Thanksgiving she was pretty adamant about not going. She’s doing a special show on Christmas Eve. I don’t see it happening.”
Sam rubbed a gloved hand over his chin. “Maybe I’ll invite her over for dinner. No one should be alone at Christmas.”
“Why don’t you just ask her out for a date, Dad? Skip that friend stuff. I’ve caught you staring. I know what you really want to do with her,” Nathan said, sipping his coffee to stay warm as they walked from the store to the car.
“Eve would never date me. She doesn’t see me that way,” Sam said.
After he had spoken the words aloud, Sam realized he’d pretty much admitted to his son that he wanted to date the woman he’d known for years. What if Nathan told Megan and Megan told Eve? His resigned sigh sent moist breath wafting around him like a cloud of smoke.
“You spend an awful lot of your free time with Eve to just be a friend. I’m old enough to be okay with it if you two are bed buddies. I won’t even tell Megan. What’s the real deal?”
Sam swirled his cooling drink and then drank the rest before speaking. “There’s no deal between us. Eve goes to work and comes home. Every morning I check on her, drink her coffee, and then go home myself. She still talks about David like he’s out on an errand and might be home any minute. A man can’t get through that kind of wall.”
Nathan smiled at the longing in his father’s voice. He knew his father had been crushing on Megan’s mother ever since he’d decided to start dating again. And he totally got it. Eve was funny, beautiful, and smart as hell.
Nathan looked sideways and grinned. “My Dad can get through that wall. He can do anything.”
Sam snorted. “Right. You haven’t thought that about me since you were twelve.”
“Actually, I’ve always thought that about you. I’ve just been too proud to admit it. Now that I’m getting married though, I figure I need to man up with my father and support him in his love life like he’s always supported me with mine.”
“Is that right?” Sam asked, giving his son a doubtful look.
“Yes—definitely. That’s why I’m going to give you a little advice. Megan says if you date any hooker types her mother will never touch you even if she wants to.”
Nathan grinned at his father’s frustrated grunt in response to his comment.
“Since when does my future daughter-in-law get an opinion about the women I date?” Sam asked.
“Since she would rather you date her mother, even if we all agree that it will be weird when it happens,” Nathan said.
“All? Who is all?” Sam asked.
Nathan shrugged as he laughed. “All as in Megan says Rick and Jill also think you two would be a good match.”
Sam laughed hard then, his deep, husky voice drawing attention from several women who immediately smiled at him. Getting noticed was not his problem. The problem was that he listened to the Delight After Dark radio show every evening before he went to bed and had been fantasizing about the woman two houses away from him for months.
And apparently his lust was a secret only to the woman herself.
“Well, that’s just great, Nathan. For Christmas, tell Santa to bring me a time machine. I’ll erase the last decade of our lives as only friends, then erase memories of seeing each other through David’s and your mother’s death. If I can get all that to happen, maybe I might actually stand a chance with Eve. But if the man in red can’t deliver, I’ll just have to settle for keeping her friendship. I haven’t bought coffee in months and I like it that way.”
Nathan shoved his freezing hands into his pockets, glad they were almost back to the car. “Dad, you’re not seeing Eve for free coffee. And you’re making this way harder than it has to be. You and Eve are just stuck in a pattern. You have to break the pattern. Change things up. Christmas is the perfect time.”
Sam snorted. “They teach you that wisdom in your art classes?”
Nathan chuckled. “Hell no. Megan taught me that over the last two years. She’s pretty and smart like her mother. I love that combination.”
Sam nodded. “Yes. So do I. Megan’s a great woman. I’m glad it’s worked out with you two.”
Nathan opened the car door and slid inside. “Eve’s a nice woman too. And you’re a nice man. Do something different, Dad. Be unpredictable. Break the pattern and see what happens.”
“What are you talking about, Nathan?” Sam started the car and let it warm up.
Nathan shrugged. “Remember last Christmas when I had that fight with Megan over some stupid guy that had been pressing on her? She froze me out for a couple of weeks because I turned into a jealous ass. When I finally talked her into coming to a makeup dinner at the apartment, I wore a Santa hat and sang to her. Somewhere in all the laughing, she forgave me. I got that idea from you. I’m never going to forget that last Christmas with Mom. You were amazing at getting her to laugh even as sick as she was.”
Sam thought about that final holiday with Angeline. Truly he had done all he could to make his wife’s last days as wonderful as possible. And he had no regrets about anything he’d done during that time. He just didn’t want to have any regrets about the rest of his own life either. It hadn’t taken much dating to discover that the only woman he truly wanted to spend time with was Eve Kingston.
“Nathan, have I ever told you that you are the best fruit my loins could ever have produced? Thank you for picking up my best qualities instead of the shitty ones. Every father would be proud to say the same to his son.”
“You’re very welcome and I’m happy you’re proud of your loins, Dad. Now don’t forget we have to grab a couple bottles of red wine on the way. We’re having spaghetti and salad tonight, the very merry Christmas dinner of every red-blooded Kentucky family.”
“Eve does love her pasta,” Sam said, laughing as he pulled out of the parking space and headed to the liquor store.