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Inn Love For Christmas Sneak Peak: Kissing Santa
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Torin and Lucy

   “I thought you were gone.” Torin pulled his Santa beard and hat off and took a step closer. But only one. He hesitated and Lucy couldn’t help letting the indecision speak volumes in her mind.

   She backed up, the evergreen swag and candy cane ropes blocked the aisle. She already told him she was leaving. She’d said goodbye to his little girl. And she was going home with Eric. “I’m sorry. I should have been—”

   “No—” he shook his head and Lucy looked away.

   “Really. Torin. I should have left as soon as I said goodbye. I thought there were things I needed to take care of but they’re not worth it.”  Her temperature pulsed with the beat of her heart and the anticipation she’d tried to bury. The drafty train station had gotten warm and Lucy’s breathing picked up with little gasps as Torin wound his way toward her through the displays of vintage trains.

   “Lucy, I didn’t want you to go.”

   “Don’t say that. Don’t say things you don’t mean.” She should go. She should walk away now before he reached her when she still had a shred of will power.

   Torin’s nose was rosy from the costume makeup and his stubble and square jaw looked far less Santa Claus than the white beard would have you believe. “I don’t know what I mean. But I know I don’t want you to go.”

   “That’s just it,” she breathed the words. Barely a whisper, she wanted to yell at him, scream that he needed to make up his mind. She wanted Torin with every ounce of her body but it was a lie. It had to be or he would love her back. Oh shoot, she’d said it. Love. She loved him. She hadn’t allowed that word for anyone but Eric . . . ever.  “You don’t get to decide. I’m choosing. I’m going home where people don’t confuse you with snowflakes and gingerbread and making you feel like you matter.”

   He was getting closer.  She backed up finding a gap in the candy cane ropes.

   “Lucy,” he said finally standing in front of her. He crossed the aisle in two long strides, slipping his fingers along her cheekbone before she turned and began weaving her way in the dim glow of the Christmas lights toward the door. “Lucy!” Torin called after her.

   He was too close. His red suit hid so much of him. Lucy stumbled in the dark fighting her mind not to rove his shoulders and remember the closeness they’d had only days before. She grabbed the door handle rattling it as she pulled and twisted trying to escape.

   “It’s locked.” She gasped. She turned around scanning the room.

   Torin was slow to respond. His eyes didn’t leave her until she shook her head. “What do we do? They locked us in.” His lips pulled down at the corners while his eyes pulled her in with their golden caramel sweetness. Watching him want her was painful. She couldn’t let herself need him. “Never mind. I’ll call someone. Chief.”

   “No, Lucy. Let me look.” She stepped aside so Torin could check the door. But his arm touched her back as he came up beside her and in an instant instead of setting them free he trapped her in his arms.

   She was wrapped in Santa’s red velvet arms and looking in the face of a sexy Jack Frost. The stubble and square jaw that hid behind his white beard did not leave her thinking about sugar plums . . . Unless he was feeding them too her underneath the mistletoe.

   “Stop it!” Lucy sucked in a shuddering breath on the verge of tears.

   Torin’s brow pulled low and he searched her face. “Lucy, I’m sorry. Don’t cry.”

   Her whole body lit up with the sparks of a crackling fire when he stroked his fingers down the side of her face. His thumb caught the curve of her jaw and she beat her fist against his chest. “You cannot do this to me. It’s not fair.” She would not cry. She didn’t want Torin. She didn’t want his blue eyes or his joking compliments. She didn’t want to feel safe in his space. Torin didn’t want her and so she couldn’t want him. “You can’t keep me hanging around like your bundles of mistletoe. I don’t want to be kissed and left behind. I don’t want you to tell me how beautiful and unique I am only to realize I’m filled with poison. You never loved me. You’ll just leave me again. I won’t let you hurt me, Eric!”

   She was gasping as Torin’s grip loosened just for a second. She wasn’t yelling at him and she could see in his eyes that he hadn’t missed her slip.

   Then his fingers tightened around her waist and he shook his head. “I’m not Eric.”

   The shock took her breath away. She knew it and yet she couldn’t release the anger of her words except to start crying. He lifted her up pulling her lips to his in a gentle kiss.

   He bent to her body and still his height kept her feet off the ground. She floated in his kisses as they strayed from her lips to her neck. She let him, as much to feel his lips on her skin as to live in this final goodbye. She wrapped her arms and legs around him and his kisses grew, their intensity consuming her need with his want.

   She kissed him in turn, not caring if her lips found his chin or face or hands. She pressed herself closer, finding safety in the thick Santa suit between them and still craving the scratch of his jaw against her skin. She dug her fingers into his hair as tears spilled down her cheeks. He wasn’t hers, he couldn’t be hers, but he was all that she wanted.