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Authors: Joanie MacNeil

December Heat (16 page)

BOOK: December Heat
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Only
then did Nic become curious about Luke.

“Have
you been to Canberra before?” Natalie asked.

“No,
I haven’t, but I’ve always wanted to visit.”

“Then
we’ll have to give you the grand tour while you’re here. Let me know if there’s anything special you want to see. For starters, there’s Parliament House and the War Memorial, and of course, the museum. Oh, and the Lakes and recreation areas. And the Carillon. And the zoo and aquarium. That’s worth a visit.”

“Thanks,
I will,” Nic responded. “I hear the Botanical Gardens are very nice.”

“Oh
yes, you’ll love the rainforest. A good place to get out of the heat this time of year.”

Natalie
ushered them inside. “Sleeping arrangements will be...” she paused and looked from Jake to Nic and back to Jake. “There’s something you should know,” she said softly, her gaze remaining focused on her brother.

“Luke
and I are sharing a bedroom. That might come as a surprise to you, but that’s the way it is between us,” she said matter-of-factly.

The
emotions that played across Jake’s face fascinated Nic. From stunned disbelief, to a mixture of acceptance and happiness, to sheer delight.

“I
knew there was something going on with you two,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. Then he turned serious. “I hope he’s treating you right, Nattie?”

She
smiled radiantly at him. “You know Luke.”

“Yeah,”
he chuckled. “I guess Crash hasn’t changed, huh?”

So
Luke and Crash were one and the same.

“Oh,
just a little bit,” she said, with a touch of mischief in her tone and an impish sparkle in her blue eyes. “But he’s still the same Luke at heart.”

“Then
there’s nothing to worry about,” Jake said and Nic noticed his body relax. “Now, about sleeping arrangements...you were saying?”

Again
Natalie glanced to Nic.

“I’ve
made up the double bed in your old room, Jake. I hope that’s all right. Say so if it’s not and I can make up the bed in the spare room. I...I just wasn’t sure....”

Nic’s
gaze met with Jake’s and her lips curved in a gentle smile as she gave him a slight nod.

“That’s
fine, Nat,” he said. “Thanks.”

“Hey,
where is everybody?” A deep masculine voice echoed through the house.

Natalie’s
eyes sparkled. A warm smile lit her face and Nicolette could see the love Jake’s sister felt for this man. Her own heart sank as she thought of her feelings for Jake and the fact that they had no future together.

Nicolette
smiled when Luke was introduced, and hoped she hid her surprise that Luke was much younger than Jake’s sister. She hadn’t anticipated that he’d be around the same age as Jake.

But
Jake seemed fine with it.

“Welcome,
Nicolette,” he said. “I didn’t think the woman had been created yet who could tame this wild man.”

Nicolette
laughed at the playful expression on his face. “Neither did I,” she said. “But to tell you the truth, there are times I think he’s beyond taming.”

Luke
laughed and drew Natalie closer to him. “You’ll probably find Nattie says the same thing about me.”

“You’ve
got that right, honey.” Natalie gave him a squeeze. “But I wouldn’t want you any other way.”

Luke
looked down at her. “Have you told Jake yet?”

Natalie
shook her head. “No, I wanted to wait until you came back.”

“Tell
me what?”

Nic
wondered what was coming next. Jake was frowning in contemplation.

Natalie
fluttered her left hand at her younger brother.

Nicolette’s
eyes rounded. Natalie’s third finger, left hand, sported the loveliest engagement ring she’d ever laid eyes on. The design suited Natalie to a T.

“Well,
well, well. What can I say? You sly devil! Congratulations to both of you.” Jake grasped Luke’s hand and shook it vigorously. “This is more of a surprise than I bargained for.”

Luke
laughed. “We thought you’d be a bit stunned.”

“Stunned?
Yes, but I’m so pleased for you both.” Jake opened his arms to his sister who appeared to be thrilled at her brother’s acceptance.

“So
when’s the big day?”

“That’s
what I...we wanted to talk to you about Jake. The wedding is right after Christmas, so that you can attend. You’ll give me away, won’t you?”

Jake
glanced at Luke and then to his older sister. She looked a little uncertain. Surely Jake would agree to her request.

“To
Luke...gladly. I’m so happy for you, Nattie. For both of you. Who would have thought that one day you two would get together?”

“I’m
still a bit stunned myself,” Natalie admitted. She glanced lovingly at Luke. “But I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Luke
cuddled her against him. “Now that all the excitement is over, perhaps we should get these good people some refreshments.”

Just
then two dark silver-gray kittens stalked into the room, yellow-green eyes taking in the surroundings.

“Rosie
and Katrina, our children,” Luke said.


For the moment.” Natalie smiled up into his eyes.

“They’re
gorgeous,” Nic said. “And such unusual names...for pets.”

“It’s
a long story,” Luke chuckled. “Nattie will probably tell you about it sometime”.

Nic
crouched to pat the two kittens, struggling with those emotions that came with the knowledge that she and Jake would never share such happiness.

 

* * *

 

“So Jake, what are your plans for the New Year?” Luke asked. “Are you going back to God only knows where?”

The
four of them sat out on the patio at the back of the house, enjoying the peace of the late afternoon and taking advantage of the shade of the claret ash and liquidambar trees.

Jake
glanced at Nic. His intense gaze lingered on her for a moment before he replied. “I’ll be going back to Europe in a couple of weeks, then maybe I’ll try something different.” He paused and again glanced in Nic’s direction before returning his attention to Luke. “Maybe, once the house is sold, I’ll use my share toward buying a yacht and sail around the world.”

Luke
smiled. “You haven’t let go that dream, since you spent those weeks at sea on the Young Endeavour, have you?”

Jake
shook his head. “That was such a tremendous experience, taught me so much about myself and the rigors of life at sea.” He paused in reflection. “I’ve always wanted to have another go, and now might be a good time to make a change. I’m ready for it, but with something a little smaller in mind than the Young Endeavour. However, there are so many uncertainties. I still have a contract to fulfill.”

Luke
looked from Jake to Nicolette, as if trying to assess the situation between them.

“Nic
has career plans of her own,” Jake advised. “Tell him, Nic.”

Nic
placed her drink on the table. “My old dance company is putting together a new show and I’ve been offered the role of lead female dancer.” She stroked one of the kittens that had made itself comfortable on her lap, its fur silky-smooth and soft.

“That
sounds exciting,” Natalie said.

“It
is. And I like the life,” Nic admitted. “It can be hard but it’s challenging and I like being creative as well. I usually work on some of the choreography. Danny runs the show, but he gives me a fair bit of leeway. Choreography is something I’d like to do more of later. But for now, dancing is my main focus.”

“That’s
a talented lady you have there, Jake. Sure you want to let her go?”

Jake
glanced at her and caught her blushing. She smiled. “Neither of us wants to give up our careers. It’s as simple as that.”

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

Nicolette
opened her eyes. It was very early, barely light, from what she could tell, but the birds were in full voice. She glanced over to Jake who appeared to be sound asleep. The house was still. She liked this time of the morning. A time to reflect.

Jake’s
arm wrapped around her waist and tugged her closer. “Don’t even think about getting out of bed yet,” his voice sleepy and seductive, cocooned her.

“Merry
Christmas, Jake.” She rolled over and faced him.

He
kissed her brow. “Merry Christmas to you too, Sweetheart.” His lips touched her eyes, skimmed her cheek before settling on her mouth.

At
first his kiss was tender, sleepy, but as Nicolette eased herself closer, Jake did the same, and his kiss mirrored the passion rising within her.

Nicolette
couldn’t remember how many times they’d made love during the night. She remembered Jake reaching for her in the dark more than once, his hardness filling her. The rest became a pleasurable blur of heat and passion.

But
now it was light and she was fully awake. She planned to savor every moment of loving Jake. She eased him on his back then straddled him.

“Let
me give you an early Christmas present.” She leaned over him and whispered in his ear. “A very private present.”

“Be
gentle with me,” he teased.

S
he laughed softly, running her hands through the wave of dark hair that insisted on falling forward onto his brow. “We’ll see about that.”

She
took him in her hands and applied gentle pressure. His soft moans encouraged her until he felt just the way she wanted. She adjusted her position then lowered herself down over him, taking his smooth hardness inside her. She liked the feel of him fitting intimately within her, feeling her body give to accommodate his size.

“Comfortable?”
she asked.

“Very,”
he breathed. “And you?”

“Just
fine,” she said and began to move in a way she hoped would drive him wild. She began slowly, lifting herself momentarily and then sliding down on him again.

She
laughed when she heard him suck in a breath. “How’s that?”

“Keep
doing that, you wicked woman, and you may never see the outside of this room, at least not today.”

She
grinned, doing the same thing again and again. His hands continued to roam over her, the satiny short nightie smooth and soft against her skin. Sensuous. She grasped the hem and lifted it a little, exposing their joining, lifting it a fraction more to show off her tummy, before the light satin fluttered down again to cover them.

Jake
moved inside her as if urging her to show him more.

She
raised the fabric again, this time lifting it higher, exposing more of her bare skin all the way to her rib cage.

Again,
Jake moved inside her. “I want to see more,” he said.

She
smiled, thrilling in the knowledge that Jake was completely at her mercy.

“That’s
a she-devil grin if ever I saw one.”

Holding
his gaze, Nic raised her nightie once again and tugged it over her head, tossing the garment to the side.

“That’s
better,” he rasped and reached for her breasts.

Nicolette
arched her back, pushing them forward to meet his grasp, and moving over him in a rhythm that was almost to its peak.

“Enjoying
yourself?” he asked, and she noticed a wicked grin on his own face.

“Mmm,”
she said and squeezed him in a way that had both of them breathing hard as he spilled into her. She relaxed against him, her breasts nestled in the smattering of soft curls on his chest.

“You
wear me out, woman,” he said and pulled the sheet over them, holding her tight.

She
stretched out above him then and he slipped from her, though continued to cuddle her firmly against him. She ached to have his hot hard length inside her again.

“Now
let me give you your Christmas present,” Jake said, flipping her over on her back and sliding into her once again.

“You
certainly got your second wind pretty quickly,” she breathed and he stirred as if to withdraw from her, before sliding deep within her again.

“That’s
what you do to me,” he said. “Merry Christmas, Nic.” He lowered his head and kissed her and she lost herself in  the feel of him, in passionate Christmas kisses and silent, forever wishes

 

* * *

 

“It was a wonderful wedding, wasn’t it?” Jake said as he snuggled Nic closer to him.

“This
holiday is the best time I’ve ever had,” Nic agreed. “The wedding was wonderful. Natalie looked beautiful and Luke looked pretty dashing himself.”

A
sadness clouded her eyes, but she blinked it away. Jake thought he knew some of how she was feeling. With the knowledge that they’d soon be going their separate ways, a tinge of sadness clouded his own thoughts.

“I
hadn’t been looking forward to spending Christmas on my own. Things looked considerably brighter when you agreed to stay. And now this—being here with your family; with you, in your house, your bed. It’s more than I’d hoped to share.”

He
rolled on his side and brought her closer to him, breathing in her scent, the sweet apple fragrance of her hair. “I’m glad you’ve had a happy Christmas. I have too.” He took a deep breath. “You smell so good.”

“Mmm.”
Her toes stroked his leg.

“Just
so you know, I’ve never shared this bed with another woman.” He felt strange telling her that, but he wanted her to know.

She
considered him. “Thank you for telling me.” Her voice, soft and soothing, felt like butterfly kisses fluttering over his body.

“Are
you really going to buy a yacht with your share of the house sale?”

“I’m
tempted,” he said. “My contract still has a while to run, so I’m not sure if it will accommodate any changes in the immediate future. And I’ve yet to put together some ideas for a series of documentaries. Maybe then I can think about it seriously.”

Nic
nodded. “We have so much ahead of us Jake. It’s exciting, a little frightening. Since my marriage to Mark, I’ve become more aware of how quickly things can change, when you have no control over what happens to you in life.”

He
brushed a few strands of hair away from her eyes. “I can relate to that first hand too. The good things life tosses our way are precious gifts, something to treasure and be thankful for.” He pulled her close to him. “You’ll always be special to me,” he whispered, his breath ruffling her hair. “I’ll forever treasure the memories of the time we’ve spent together.”

“Me
too,” she whispered.

 

* * *

 

“Are you ready to go?” Jake took one long last look around Nic’s parents’ house.

His
gaze rested on the empty wine bottles stacked against the wall. He remembered them catching his attention on his arrival, his expectations of seeing Mark, and later, his enormous relief that Nic hadn’t turned to the bottle after Mark’s death. He almost laughed at the thought that had caused him so much unnecessary concern. Apparently Mark had collected the bottles with the idea of using them in his portfolio. She had never bothered to get rid of them.

“Mmm.”
Nic felt the bottom drop out of her world. She took a deep breath. Now wasn’t the time to fall to pieces. Plenty of time for that later. Besides, she didn’t want Jake to remember her as a blubbering idiot.

“Will
I see you again?” She thought she knew the answer before she asked the question. Her suspicions were confirmed when Jake shook his head.

“I
don’t know when I’ll be back this way. I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep, Nic.” Tenderly he brushed the back of his hand along her cheek. “I know you won’t fly across the world to see me.”

“I’m
sorry I don’t like flying, Jake.”

“That
can’t be helped. If it scares you, then we have to accept it.” He opened his arms to her. “This is it.”

She
stepped into his embrace, breathed deeply of the familiar scents of aftershave and Jake, a fragrance so typically him. She savored the hardness of his chest beneath her cheek and the warmth, comfort and security of his embrace. Her own arms, wrapped around his upper body, felt the strength of his muscles as they rippled against her skin. These were only some of the wonderful memories she’d take with her. If only she could package them for posterity.

She
felt Jake’s lips skim across her brow.

“Ready?”

She nodded, hoping he didn’t realize how difficult it was for her to keep the tears at bay. She sniffed and her voice wavered. “There are so many memories here. I...I guess now this is…is…closure....” She sniffed again. “It’s...it’s like I’m leaving behind a part of my life that I’ll never recoup.” She paused, her lashes still damp. “And you.”

“We
knew this would happen, Nic,” he murmured, his lips on her hair. “Mmm, you smell nice. Makes it so hard to say goodbye.”

“I
know, and always knowing we would go our separate ways doesn’t make it any easier.”

She
looked up at him and caught the raw emotion in his eyes, aware her own emotions were about to crack wide open. “I...I guess we’d better be going.” She made a move toward her car.

“Wait,”
he said. “Not without this.” He pulled her to him and took her mouth in a long searing kiss and Nic knew that this goodbye was tearing him apart as much as it did her. The passion stirred by his kiss would last a long, long time.

Before
climbing into his car, Jake watched for a moment as she climbed into hers and began to move slowly toward the gate, as if waiting for him to catch up with her.

He’d
never felt this way at the end of a relationship. He couldn’t recall one ending even remotely like this. He’d always walked away, relatively unscathed.

With
a heavy heart and thoughts of a future without Nic, Jake started the engine and followed, waves of emotion washing over him.

Who
said men didn’t cry?

BOOK: December Heat
2.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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