One Snowy Night

Christmas Eve had the nerve to show up just like it did every year: way too quickly and with ridiculous fanfare.

The nerve.

Rory Andrews stood in the courtyard of the Pacific Pier Building in San Francisco, surrounded by sparkly holiday lights and enough garlands to give the place its own ozone, and told herself things could be worse.

She just wasn’t sure how.

It was the unknown, she decided. Because this year, unlike the past six, she’d be spending Christmas with her family, a thought that caused a swarm of butterflies to take flight in her belly.

Not an uncommon feeling since she’d turned twenty-three a few months back and decided it was time to become a person she could be proud of if it killed her. And given the guy leaning against one of the lamp poles clearly waiting for her, arms crossed, frown in place, it just might.

Max Stranton. At his side sat Carl, his huge, eternally hungry, adorable Doberman.

“No,” she said, not to Carl but to Carl’s owner. Who was not lovable. “No way.”

As always when their gazes locked, Max’s was a disconcerting mix of heat and . . . something else that she couldn’t quite figure out, as he was good at hiding when he wanted to be. She never quite knew how to take the heat because it seemed reluctant. He was attracted to her but didn’t want to be.

Ditto. He made her knees wobble. And also a couple of other inner reactions that shouldn’t be happening in public.