He longed to come home and linger over a warm, hearty supper, watch the Giants game, and crawl into bed with his wife. With full intentions of not sleeping. As he threw the door open, stomped off the lingering snow from his shoes, and walked in, he was wondering how fast he could eat, get the score, and then move on to the important part when he stepped in a pile of dog shit.

He roared in outrage and lifted his shoe. Italian hand-stitched leather now stained a darker brown than intended. His beautiful wooden floors smeared. The stench of waste instead of cooking. He was going to kill her.

“Alexa!”

She rushed in from the kitchen, flushed from either guilt or shame, then stopped short. A long skinny shadow lurked behind her. Nick’s eyes narrowed as he took in the mangy hound dog that had haunted his dreams. And decided, sex or no sex, this woman was no longer in control.

“He goes. Now.”

“But—”

“I mean it, Alexa. For God’s sakes, I want that dog out of my house. Look what he just did.”

She disappeared, then proceeded to clean up the mess with a garbage bag and a wad of paper towels. He carefully slipped his shoe off and stepped around the pile while he watched her dive into the task and her explanation with equal fervor.

“Just listen for a second. I realize we can’t keep him, I won’t even try to convince you, but the shelter called and told me his time was up and he’d be put to sleep today. I don’t know why nobody wants him—he’s a lovely dog—and if we keep him for a day or two I promise I can find a home.”

The shadow hovered by the kitchen, yellow eyes reflecting no emotion as the canine awaited the verdict. Nick made a growl of disgust. “Nobody wants him because he’s the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen. He could be dangerous.”

She gasped. “He’s very sweet, doesn’t even know how to growl. The shelter told me they found him on a deserted road with a broken leg. He was probably thrown from a moving car.”

Shit.

“I know he’s messy but I think he’s smart and no one ever trained him. I’ll keep him in the back room and clean up and I promise he’ll be out in a few days. Please, Nick? Just give me a couple of days.”

Irritated with her plea and his reaction, he took off his other shoe and walked over to the mutt. As if in challenge, he stood before him and waited for any sign of violence or street breeding for an excuse to throw him out.

Instead, he got nothing. No wag of the tail, no dropping of the head, no growl. Just…nothing…from a pair of vacant yellow eyes.

A chill raced down his spine and he turned from the dog, determined not to be affected. “Just a few days. I mean it.”

She looked so relieved and grateful he began to wonder if he actually did have some power. Then decided to press his advantage. “Have you cooked dinner?”

“Almost ready. Salmon steaks with fresh vegetables and rice pilaf. The wine is chilling. Salad is done. You’ll have plenty of time to see the Giants game.”

He cocked his head, impressed with her full knowledge of what a man likes to get back when he gives in. He took the test a step further. “Think I’ll take a shower first before dinner.”

“I’ll bring a glass of wine up for you then. You can eat in front of the television.”

“Maybe I will.”

She rushed to take his jacket and usher him upstairs. Nick decided a few days with a dog would be worth her gratitude. With that pleasurable thought, he stepped into his bedroom and shed his clothes.



Alexa escorted her new temporary dog into the back room, which had been covered in old, ripped sheets she had found in her apartment. She set him up with food and water and placed a kiss on his head. Her heart dropped a little when she noticed he never wagged his tail. Not once. Something about this hound dog pulled at her, but she was content just to have bought some extra time to find him a loving home.

Now it was time to service her husband.

She poured a glass of wine and made her way upstairs. The sound of the shower echoed from the hallway, and her belly tugged with delicious anticipation. Already, a warm dampness seeped between her thighs when she thought of making love to Nick. Her nipples hardened as she opened the bathroom door to a cloud of steam and placed the glass on the sink. Then began to take off her clothes.

“Your wine is on the sink, honey.”

His voice came out muffled. “Thanks.”

She slid the shower curtain to the side, stepped into the large marble stall, and smiled. “You’re welcome.”

The man looked like he’d been hit on the head with a sledgehammer.

She took the opportunity to slide her arms around his neck. Slick, wet muscles pressed against her curves, and a map of hard ridges and hair-roughened skin made her crazed. She couldn’t get enough of his body. She realized they’d never showered together before, had never gotten to that level of intimacy, but he seemed to rise to the occasion perfectly.

And literally.

Within two seconds, his erection grew and pulsed in demand, and he groaned deep in his throat and reached for her, his mouth coming down on hers to taste and claim and pleasure.

His tongue plunged in and out with little finesse, just raw hunger, and she dug her nails into his wet skin and slid as close to his soapy body as she could manage. The showerhead poured spray over them like a waterfall, and her hair dripped around her face as she frantically moved her hands over his body. She kissed him back hard, her tongue swirling around his, and then she pulled back and knelt in front of him.

“Alexa.”

“Shut up.” She opened her mouth and took him deep. The water beat down on her head and back, and she swirled her tongue around the ridged lines of his penis, loving his taste and his texture and the low curses ripped from his lips that revealed his pleasure.

He dragged her back up with frantic motions, moved into a wide-legged stance and pulled her up toward his chest. He paused as he stared deep into her eyes. Then brought her down hard on his throbbing length.

She gasped. He pulsed inside and her muscles clenched in welcome. Fierce desire stabbed through her as he clasped her hips and moved her up and down. She cried out and bit down on his shoulder as the motions grew fiercer, and she threw her head back and shook out her wet hair and screamed as she orgasmed around him.

He followed her until she slumped against him, her knees and legs trembling, and propped herself up against his chest, pressing kisses over him as she practically purred with satisfaction. He held her for a long time, under the steamy sting of the water, and when she finally lifted her head, he smoothed back her hair.

“The dog can stay for a week.”

She laughed and ran her fingers over the lines of his face, loving the way he looked when he relaxed and teased her, loving every stubborn part of this man who was her business partner and husband and so much more.

“I didn’t do this for the dog. This was purely for selfish reasons.”

“My kind of woman.”

“I brought your wine. Dinner is ready.”

He didn’t say anything, just kept looking at her. Unbelievably, her heartbeat quickened and her nipples peaked. Almost embarrassed, she turned to go but he stopped her, and his grin grew lascivious as he slid one hand down her front and gently pressed one finger into her.

Her breath caught as she quickened, as he coaxed the tiny throbbing bud to flower and she gripped his shoulders and shook her head in denial at the power he had over her.

“I can’t be—”

“Yes, you can. Again, Alexa.”

He plunged his finger deep, moved back and forth against her swollen lips, and her hips arched upward to take him. He grew hard and parted her legs and surged forward again. She rode him with a wild abandon she had never shown another lover and later when her body shivered with aftershocks, he held her, then turned off the water and gently dried her. His ministrations were tender, his eyes hooded as he seemed to withhold certain emotions from her. She allowed him his secrets, and took what he gave with a greed that shocked her with its intensity. But he never had to know. He never had to glimpse how deeply she felt for him, or discover the secret she had always suspected and finally admitted to herself.

She loved him.

Completely. Every part of him, good and bad, her friend and lover and partner and rival. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, giving him everything, even though she knew he didn’t want her. She crammed the knowledge to a secret place inside. Then realized she’d take whatever he gave, even though it would never be enough.

She kissed him once, smiled, and kept the sadness from her face. “Ready for dinner?”

Puzzlement flickered over his face, almost as if he knew she kept something important from him, but then he smiled back. “Yes.”

He took her hand and led her out.



“Go away.”

The dog just looked at him without expression. Nick peered out the window at the falling snow and glanced at his watch. BookCrazy had closed a few hours ago and Alexa still wasn’t home. The roads were icing up, and the forecast stated they were in the middle of a pre-holiday blizzard. Everyone seemed overjoyed that it might be a white Christmas. Personally, Nick didn’t care as long as they cleared the roads and the power stayed on.

He made a face when he thought of Alexa calling him a Scrooge. She drove him crazy with her love of festivities, decorating the house, insisting on a real tree, even baking holiday cookies. Which seemed to look better than they actually tasted. When he told her the truth, she’d thrown the cookie at him. At least the hound dog had cleaned up the crumbs.

Nick glanced over at the doorway again. The skinny canine skulked behind the corner and peered at him with those yellow eyes. The week was almost up, and the mutt would finally be gone. He didn’t like the way the dog followed him around and watched every movement. He didn’t act like a normal dog who barked and wagged his tail and slurped water. This one reminded him of a ghost. Alexa forced him to eat, drink, and taught him how to be walked. The mutt went through all the motions but his eyes remained distant, as if waiting for the real truth to be revealed. As if waiting to be dumped back on that highway. Alone.

Nick shook his head, annoyed at the shiver that raced down his spine. He’d been having dreams lately of the dog Jed had made him get rid of, dreams that haunted him until he reached for his wife in the middle of the night to exorcise the lingering images. He found himself doing that a lot lately. Losing himself in her body, in her warmth and heat, until the deep chill he carried within himself softened and the sharp edges blurred.

The yellow Volkswagon pulled into the driveway and relief skated through him. She flung open the front door and stomped the snow from her boots, laughing in sheer delight as she shook the white flakes from her hair.

“Isn’t this great? We’re going to get another blizzard next week so we may have a white Christmas.”

“Why are you late?”

“Were you worried?” She shot him a teasing look and took off her coat.

“No. But I told you last week you needed new tires on your car. Have you done that yet?”

“Not yet.”

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