Home > Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)(11)

Deacon (Unfinished Hero #4)(11)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Okay, honey. We’ll call tomorrow.”

“I’ll look forward to it.”

“Have a good night.”

“Don’t let Dad heckle the choir this year.”

She burst out laughing and shared, “I haven’t allowed him into the eggnog yet.”

“Good call,” I muttered.

There was still humor in her voice when she said softly, “Love you, angelface.”

“Love you too, Momma.”

She rang off and I stared at my phone.

Then I jumped when it rang.

The screen said Blocked but since it was not only my cell but also the cabins’ business number, I took the call.

“Merry Christmas!” I greeted, force-cheerfully.

“Woman.”

At that word and who I knew was saying it, I blinked at my lap.

“You there?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“You open?”

“Yes.”

“See you in thirty.”

Then I heard the disconnect.

It was a whole minute later when I finally pulled the phone from my ear that I realized I’d just had my first phone conversation with John Priest, he was coming to Glacier Lily, and for the first time since he started coming, cabin eleven was not open.

No cabin was open.

“Oh man,” I whispered to my phone.

And it was then I realized I was already in my pajamas.

So I flew off the couch and dashed to my room to put some clothes on.

* * * * *

An hour later, I opened the door, looked at John Priest standing there, noted the flakes of snow on his broad shoulders and in his dark hair, then I caught sight of what was happening behind him.

It was snowing.

Hugely.

“Holy cow!” I cried. “It’s snowing!”

“Bad. Roads are shit,” Priest replied, moving in, and I moved back.

“How shit?” I asked as I closed the door behind him.

“Barely got here and I got a snow kinda truck shit.”

Oh man.

“I, uh…well, Jo…I mean, Mr. Priest, eleven isn’t open,” I told him.

“Take what you got,” he told me, already at the registration book.

“I don’t have anything,” I said quietly. “I’m full up.”

He straightened and turned to me. “No shit?”

I shook my head. “Nope. I would have told you before but you disconnected the call before I could share that information.”

He looked beyond me, his expression vague, his thoughts elsewhere, likely where he could find a place to crash on Christmas Eve in the middle of a blinding snowstorm, but still he managed to mutter, “Fuck.”

At the look on his face, the lights twinkling on the tree in my living room that could be seen from the foyer, the snow falling heavy and soft outside the window, and having the knowledge that Priest, just like me, was alone on an important holiday, I blurted, “You can stay here. I have a guestroom. Actually, I have two.”

He focused on me, and when he did, I sucked my lips between my teeth.

“You crazy?” he asked.

I shook my head, let my lips go, and stated, “It’s snowing.”

“It is, woman, but you don’t know me.”

“Are you going to hurt me?” I asked.

“Fuck no,” he answered inflexibly.

Well, that was good.

“It’s also Christmas Eve,” I noted.

He made no reply to that.

“And, I, well…have enough food for two. Though, I have mostly romantic movies to watch but all the other DVDs haven’t been checked out and there might be something you’ll wanna watch.”

He said nothing.

“Or you can be by yourself,” I offered. “Stay in your room and brood or sleep off the road. You just can’t build bombs in it or plan government takeovers.”

His brows moved up slightly. “Government takeovers?”

“I’m being funny,” I explained.

He didn’t confirm or deny he agreed that I was funny. He just kept staring at me.

I straightened my shoulders, held his gaze, and stated, “You’re welcome. It’s Christmas and I’m alone. It’ll be nice to have someone around, even someone I don’t know. And it’ll be nice to do something nice for someone on Christmas, like give a weary traveler somewhere to lay his head and food to fill his belly.”

This particular weary traveler’s head tilted a bit to the side and his gaze on me was sharp, even if it was void, when he asked, “You think you’re livin’ one of those romantic movies?”

“I absolutely, one hundred percent know for a fact that I am not living one of those romantic movies,” I answered immediately and resolutely. I then went on to point out, “I’m alone on Christmas, Priest. How romantic is that?”

His face changed, I swear, it changed, as in, it went soft for a heartbeat before he said quietly, “Pie.”

Not a fun memory.

But…whatever.

I drew up a hand and waved it in front of my face in a “pshaw” gesture.

“I was being nice. You’re immune to nice. I won’t try that again but, just saying, the caveat is that it’s Christmas and you can’t not be nice on Christmas so you’re gonna have to suck it up and accept nice. Even if it’s me setting a sandwich by the door of your room while you stay in it, badass brooding.”

“I don’t brood,” he stated and I looked to his shoulder before muttering an openly disbelieving, “Right.”

That was when he asked, “What’s for dinner?” and my eyes shot to his, something bubbling inside me at his words, words that meant he was staying. It was something dangerous. Something I knew I should not feel. Something I immediately denied I was feeling.

“I already had dinner,” I told him. “But I was about to break out the chocolate-covered almonds. And the tin of macadamia nuts. And it was time to arrange the Christmas cookies for easy reach. I have five varieties. And I could throw together some of my cream cheese corn dip and rip open a bag of tortilla chips.”

“Jesus,” he murmured but I wasn’t done so I spoke over him.

“Or I could make the cheesy, green chile, black bean dip I had planned for luncheon-esque time tomorrow. It’s heated. Or I could whip up some parmesan sausage balls. Or those garlic, sausage and cheese things in the wonton wrappers, though that takes some prep and baking. I could also unfreeze some of the beef stew I made last week.” My eyes drifted away. “But that’ll take time seeing as I’ll have to make fresh dumplings so it’ll have to simmer awhile.”

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