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Winter's Surprise by AJ Renee (1)


Snow fell over Michelle’s hometown, and it was a magical sight, romantic even.

Romance… she wasn’t sure what that was anymore. She had an empty home to go to, no husband or kids, not even a pet that waited for her. She didn’t expect this of her life at thirty-three. Like many young girls, she used to dream of the perfect man, kids, and dog playing in the backyard.

“Chelle? When are you going home?” her coworker and best friend called from the door, breaking into her thoughts.

Michelle turned from the wonderland outside in time to catch Janey rubbing her round belly. She was days from popping and refused to rest.

“When are you going to put your maternity leave in?” Michelle asked, leaning farther back into her chair.

“Shut up,” Janey warned with a glare. “You know I’m not risking Bobby. He’ll be here soon enough.”

“Well you know I don’t have any kind of social life to risk by getting some work done in the quiet. Go on home before Eric calls me looking for you.”

Janey opened her mouth to argue but suddenly grabbed her side and gasped.

“You okay, honey?” Michelle asked, her hands going damp with fear. She forced herself to remain seated. Any time Janey experienced a Braxton Hicks contraction, and any of us in the office jumped to help her, she would rip off our heads.

“Yu—up,” said Janey. After a moment, her features smoothed. “Okay, I’m going to head home before Eric blows up your phone. Please don’t stay here too late?”

Michelle smiled. “Yes, Mom!”

After flicking her off, Janey turned and stopped before looking over her shoulder. “You should come to dinner tomorrow. My brother will be in town and—”

“Nope. You, Janet McCleod, need to stop right there.”

“Chelle—”

“Janey—”

“Mmm…” Janey whimpered. “This isn’t…over. Stupid Brax—ton…Hicks. Bye.”

Michelle watched Janey breathe through her complaint before Janie shot her a dirty look and wobbled away. She shook her head at her friend’s retreating form and turned back to her computer. She hoped to get some of the administrative duties done that had only piled up during the day.

Two hours later, she shut off her computer and grabbed her wool coat and purse. It was now dark outside, and from what she had seen, the snow had taken a break from coating the streets.

After a quick wave at security, she walked out the doors. Wanting to send Janey a text, Michelle reached into her pocket for her phone, but it wasn’t there. She stopped on the salted sidewalk and rummaged through the inside of her purse. Before she could find it, she was knocked off balance.

She threw her arms forward to catch her fall, but it only made things worse. “Ow!” Michelle yelped and rolled to her side. She cupped her wrist to her chest and took a deep breath. Her knees ached from the impact with the cold concrete, and tears stung the backs of her eyes from the pain in her wrist.

“I am so sorry! Are you okay?” a velvety voice asked from above her.

Michelle opened her eyes and glared at the man. “In a hurry much?” It didn’t matter that she couldn’t see him with the streetlight glowing around his head. He was anything but an angel for trying to walk through her.

“I wasn’t looking where I was going! I’m so sorry. Here, let me see?”

She pulled her wrist away from the stranger, the movement making her feel like a train ran her over. “Are you a doctor?”

“No—”

“Then n—”

“Don’t be stubborn. I said I was sorry. I’ve had enough hockey injuries to recognize a break.”

He knelt by her side and grabbed her elbow with a gentleness she hadn’t expected. Michelle took that moment to study his face. His voice was sexy, but his face was sculpted by the Greek gods.

Pushing the thought aside, she watched him slip her glove off and begin to test her wrist. The pain was subsiding, but an ache that didn’t belong to any normal joint made itself clearly known.

His eyes met hers. “What’s your name?”

“Michelle.” She wasn’t quite sure what was happening, but her words weren’t her own. They were breathy and needy, unlike her usual sure-and-steady voice. This stranger was affecting her like no other ever had in the past.

“Michelle, I’m Jake, the dipshit that knocked you over because I wasn’t watching where I was going.” He moved her wrist around and smiled. “Good. My nonexpert opinion is that you sprained it. Does it hurt a lot?”

“Not as bad as when I first landed on it.”

“That’s really good. No numbness or nausea?” He ran his thumb along her skin and goose bumps spread up her arms.

Michelle swallowed hard. “Um… no? It just feels tender and aches.”

“Okay, good. If it gets worse, I would have it X-rayed. Of course, that is only my advice, seeing as I’m not a doctor.” Jake winked, and his eyes sparkled with amusement.

She couldn’t figure out the color of his eyes. On this darkened sidewalk, they appeared to be a mix between blue and green. His hand cupped her uninjured arm’s elbow, and her heart sped up.

“Here, let me help you up. I don’t want you to freeze from sitting on this cold, hard ground.”

Jake pulled her up and toward him with no effort. The only places their bodies touched were his hands on her elbow and waist. Their warm breaths puffed out into the cold air and neither spoke.

He scanned her face, and his eyes landed on her lips. “Can I buy you a coffee to say I’m sorry?”

“You’ve already said you’re sorry,” Michelle whispered.

His eyes met hers again. “I did… how about coffee just because?”

“I’d like that,” Michelle told him without a thought.

Jake’s smile lit up his face, and his pearly white, straight teeth shown down on her. She wondered for a moment what he wore under his own wool jacket.

“Would you like to go to Sara’s Mugs and Stuff or do you prefer another place?” Michelle’s stomach took the next moment to rumble loudly. Her uninjured hand went to her stomach as she felt her face warm. “Sorry.”

“You’re hungry. Even better.” Jake winked and urged her down the sidewalk. “I happen to be starving too. I was in such a rush to fill the void, I ran a beautiful woman over in the process. I was on my way to grab a sub at Lukas’s, and I know he serves good coffee—” Jake looked around him suspiciously and whispered, “Don’t tell Sara I said so.”

“And risk that she will stop making her brownies? No thanks!” Michelle said with wide eyes. Sara was a woman in her seventies, and she made the best pastries in town. People came from all around to eat her award-winning brownies.

“Oh man… those brownies! What do you think she puts in them?” Jake asked.

Michelle’s mouth watered at the simple thought of the brownies. “Fairy dust and magic.”

Jake chuckled and helped her over a mound of snow. He slipped her arm into his. “Careful now, we wouldn’t want you to fall.”

Michelle stopped and gave him a pointed stare. “Oh, really?”

“Really. You could sprain your wrist if you land wrong.” Jake patted her hand.

“Aren’t you the charmer,” she said, feeling completely affected by this stranger.

These things didn’t happen to Michelle. Her life was simple and routine. Jake slamming into her was quite the opposite. Then again, he was different than all the men who had come in and out of her life.

“Is it working?” he asked and cast her a shy side glance. It seemed Michelle wasn’t the only one not affected by whatever spell was weaving this turn of events.

Michelle looked to the sky as she pretended to mull it over. “I don’t know. I do promise knocking me down a second time will not work again.”

“Damn, that was plan b.”

She stopped in her tracks and found herself laughing at the boyish grin that accompanied his words. “You’re something else.”

He rubbed the scruff of hair on his face. “You know, my mom says that a lot. I’m starting to think that isn’t a good thing.”

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