Jaded by love, Suzanna Simms has resigned herself to focusing on her art business. But with Christmas quickly approaching, she receives word that her family is returning to Marietta. And Suzanna failed to mention that her latest relationship had ended abruptly. Now she’ll have to admit to her family that she failed at love—again.
Enter Sergeant Jake Hamilton, a new resident to Marietta and Suzanna’s next door neighbor. He's not looking for anything permanent, he's just passing through Marietta for the Christmas season, hoping to keep to himself. But when Suzanna's family mistakenly assumes that Jake's her boyfriend, he agrees to continue the charade.
Suzanna is certain she's immune to his rugged good looks and sexy smile until they find themselves standing under the mistletoe. When Jake finds her kiss sweeter than her sugar cookies, he knows he's in trouble. But it's too late by then... the Christmas charade is on.
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Being as gentle as possible, Suzanna used antibacterial soap and cleaned Jake’s wound. He didn’t say anything. She knew from past experience that it had to hurt, but he didn’t let on.
She patted it dry and gave the wound a closer look. “I don’t think it needs stitches.”
“No worries. I’ve been hurt a lot worse. Really, you didn’t have to go to all of the bother. But I appreciate it.”
She continued tending to him as though he hadn’t said a word. “What has brought you to Marietta?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because most of the guys in Marietta are cowboys.”
“So what sort of work do you do?”
He hesitated. “A bit of this and a bit of that.”
She paused from working what was left of the near-empty antibiotic cream to the tip. “That’s a bit mysterious.” Her mind jumped to all sorts of nefarious jobs that he wouldn’t want to speak of. “You can’t leave me not knowing. I might imagine that you’re a spy.”
“Here in Marietta?” His laugh was deep and warm. “What exactly might I be spying on?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe there’s an international criminal staying at the Graff Hotel.” She squeezed really hard, trying to get at least a little bit of the antibiotic cream out of the tube. “Maybe they’re on the lam.”
His eyes twinkled with delight. “And you think I’m here to track them down.”
“Maybe. You never know about strangers.” She couldn’t help but smile as she spread the cream into his wound. “Maybe this criminal has stolen the largest diamond in the world.”
“And he brought this diamond to Montana? Why?”
“Well”—she removed a bandage from a small box and peeled back the wrapper—“the diamond theft is so high profile that he can’t fence the diamond until all of the fuss quiets down.”
Jake laughed again—the same laugh that made her stomach flutter like it was full of butterflies. “You know, with your imagination, you should be a writer.”
“I’ve never been told that before. Probably because grammar was my worst subject in school.” She placed two more bandages on the long gash. “There, that should keep it clean.”
Jake glanced at her handy work. “Looks a lot better than what I’d have done.”
“Thank you again for saving Pixie. I’d never have been able to climb that tree.”
“I’m sure you could have done it.”
“No, really, I couldn’t have. I’m afraid of heights. If I got up there, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to get down. You would have had to rescue both of us.”
“I’m not sure I could have carried you down.” He gave it some thought. “Well, maybe if I’d have thrown you over my shoulder, you know, like the fireman carry.”
The thought of being tossed over his shoulder like an old sack of flour didn’t appeal to her. If she were to be in his arms it would be chest to chest, lip to lip. Whoa. Where did that come from?
Heat rushed to her cheeks. “Then it’s a really good thing I didn’t try and climb up there.”
Jake moved toward the door. “I better get moving before we’re both late for work.”
She’d really enjoyed talking to him and she didn’t want it to end. “But you never said what you do for a living.”
“I didn’t?” His eyes twinkled with mischief. When she shook her head, he added, “I like being 007.”
And with that he opened the front door and stepped outside. Fun was fun, but she was really curious now. The less he told her, the more she wanted to know about him.
She stuck her head outside the doorway. “That’s how you’re going to leave things?”
He flashed her a smile. “For now. Have a good day.”
“But…” The words died in her throat as he walked away.
Suzanna closed the door against the cold. She warned herself that nothing good could come of flirting with him. But he made it so easy. And how could she dislike a man that saved her cat?
She continued to ponder over the question as she finished getting ready for work. Jake was like a puzzle and the more time she spent with him, the more she wanted to find the missing pieces so she could piece him all together.