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Lots Of Naughty & A Little Nice
Author: Leigh Lennon


Prologue

 

 

Avery

 

I’m a stickler when it comes to Christmas music. I never allow it before the Thanksgiving holiday, but this year, I’ve overlooked my rule. There are still three days before Thanksgiving, and I’m enjoying a little bit of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” sludging through the snow-laced streets of Lovelace, Montana.

I have one goal in mind tonight—finding the perfect piece of art for the new home I’ll officially own on Friday. I’ve researched what I wanted, and when my eyes fell on the modern designs of a local artist, I decided to make my way downtown.

The Christmas decorations have been hung in town in the past couple of days, and I’m jovial because nothing can stop my pre-Christmas spirit. Thoughts of my sister and me making memories in our new house together have kept my sometimes Grinch-like spirits at bay.

The gallery is between the bakery I often frequent and the antique store I’ve been known to find cute items in. I’m not sure why I’ve never checked out this chic little place. My love for the old and new marry well, especially given the gem of a house I’ve found. It’s the beauty of the neighborhood and all mine—well, Whitney’s and mine.

I turn off another holiday classic, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” as I park. The piece I’ve gone out of my way for is in the front window, calling my name. No, seriously, I hear it calling out to me—Avery, Avery. I’m worth all the money in the world because I’ll be so pretty in your new home.

Even the art knows how much it’s wanted. I’m humming to myself, overjoyed by all I have to look forward to this Christmas season. It’s the first one since losing my mom that I’m actually excited about.

I step onto the curb when a voice calls behind me. “Excuse me, miss.” When I spin around to the masculine voice, I lose my footing on a patch of ice underneath me. My ass is about to meet the concrete when the strong arms belonging to the masculine voice grabs my elbow.

“Oh, thanks so much.” I push up in my Jimmy Choos, again happy that my favorite shoes aren’t ruined. “You just saved me along with my shoes,” I tease, losing my focus when this man’s blue azure eyes meet my own emerald orbs.

“Um, you’re welcome, but I’m sorry. You can’t park here.”

He points at the sign that I can’t read because it’s facing out to the street.

“Oh, I didn’t see it. Is it handicapped?”

He looks away from me and won’t meet my gaze. And I want to meet it again because through his black-rimmed glasses, and with his baby face, I see a little scattering of gray in his beard, and I’m mesmerized by the nerd-like sexiness.

“Um, no, it says this is for the owner of the gallery. You can’t park here.”

I rub my hands together because at six in the evening in Montana so close to December, it’s downright chilly.

“Oh, are you the owner?” I ask, and I’ll apologize. Certainly he’ll allow it with the thousand dollars I’m spending on his piece of art.

“No, I’m not, but I know the owner.”

“Uh.” It’s all I can get out because I’m not sure who made him the meter maid. “Yeah, I’ll be in and out. I know what I want.”

He sidesteps me, and his hands hit his waist. This man is very serious about his parking parameters.

“Well, you’ll need to move first, and then you can run in there and buy it.”

There’s no swaying him. “Okay, let me ask you this then. Is he going to be parking here in the next five minutes?” I pull my scarf over my neck because it’s getting colder by the second. At this point, I could have bought the fucking painting.

“No, he’s in there. He was just telling me he’s tired of people taking his spot.”

I look at the picture, then back at the man blocking my way. “Oh, great, so can you please let your friend know that you’re the reason I’m not buying that picture in the window? I’m assuming he’ll love to know that you’re responsible for him losing out on a thousand dollar sale.”

I turn around this time, not at all interested in the blue azure eyes of the jackass in front of me. And I don’t have to turn on the heat because the anger flowing through me has me making up for the fact I’d been cold a couple of minutes ago. I don’t need that piece of art, and in a matter of seconds, I’m no longer in the holiday spirit. I turn the music to my normal country station and put the car in reverse. Once I’m out of my spot, I gun the car to make my anger known. The fucker with the amazing azure eyes can go home and fuck himself, and this comes from someone who doesn’t even really swear.

 

 

Knox


Through the gallery windows, I see my man in deep conversation with a woman, but all I can make out is her deep brown, almost black hair as she tightens a scarf around her neck. It’s odd for my man to talk to strangers, but the idea of him working through his social anxiety makes me smile.

And my heart squeezes for the man who holds all my love in his hands. He’s everything I never thought I needed in my life. I turn my attention to closing my gallery. I’d been waiting longer because I’d gotten a call today about my newest creation I have hanging in my window. Maybe she was just being courteous when she found out the high price for the item.

By the time I’m at the door and turn around to lock it, my guy is by himself on the snow-scattered sidewalks of downtown Lovelace.

“Hey, hon,” I call out. It’s his night to choose what we’ll have for dinner. It’ll most likely be my least favorite takeout option of Chinese, but then again, as long as I’m with him, my future, I’ll eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day of the week.

“Hey, Ro, hon.” I lean over his shoulder and place a peck on his cheek. He doesn’t respond, and I’m looking at the empty spot that is supposed to belong to me, but it’s always taken. “What’s wrong, hon, and what are you staring at?”

He spins around, a look I’ve seen way too many times on Rowan’s face. He’s not a social person and misses cues most everyone else understands. To Ro, it’s right or wrong, and there’s no middle ground.

“Ro, baby, are you okay? Who were you talking to?”

He drops his head to rest on my forehead. “Whatever it is, Ro, I got you. Hon, I got you.”

He’s quiet for a second, and I wait for him to find his words. It always takes him a little bit longer than normal.

“Knox, sweetheart, I fucked up and fucked up really bad.”

 

 

Three days later

 

 

Avery

 

The colonial house with a pitched roof, decorative matching windows on each side of the front porch, and two chimneys flanking my new home are all features seen from the road, creating a grand slice of heaven for me as I pull into the driveway. I can finally call it mine.

When you know, you know. I didn’t know what type of home I wanted when I decided to buy just a month ago. I needed stability, and I needed it in a matter of days. The second I walked into its grand foyer and saw the cascading staircase, elegant chandelier, and ornate glass windows, I felt deep in my bones that it was already mine. This would be my first home, a place I could call mine for my little sister and me.

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