Noelle climbed the stairs ahead of Granger on shaky legs. Her heart was hammering at the thought that they were going to sleep in the same room. Her attraction for him was so strong that she felt like she’d been acting weird throughout the meal, cracking stupid jokes and barely able to meet his eyes. And he’s invited me to his family’s place for Christmas! Her heart hopped and skipped and jumped every time the thought zipped through her brain. He was the kindest, most generous guy she’d ever met in her life. And he was so charming too. As they’d been talking, he’d made her feel like she was the most interesting girl in the world. Girls must fall at his feet. But he had to be single, right? He wouldn’t take me back if he already had a girlfriend waiting to see him. Unless his girlfriend was so cool and beautiful that she never felt insecure about anything. Yeah, that’s probably what she was like. Statuesque and blonde, with a sunny, generous nature.
At the top of the stairs, she couldn’t remember which direction their room was in.
“Is it left or right here?” she said turning to Granger. As she did, she caught his gaze flicking upward. Was he just looking at my ass? No. I just imagined it, she told herself. But still, the thought that he might have been checking her out made her tingle.
“It’s left,” he called with a laugh.
“Room 23 – that’s it,” she muttered.
As they entered the room, she saw that the sofa bed had been made up. She went over and dumped her bag on it.
“No way,” he said. “You’ll be sleeping right over here.” He pointed to the bed.
“No buts. I’m serious. You’re taking the bed and that’s it.” She looked at him, knowing that they could argue all night and the end result would be the same.
“I’m just not comfortable taking this huge bed while you sleep on a couch,” she said. “How about we share the bed. I think it’s even two singles combined.” He lifted the comforter.
“I think you might have a point,” he agreed. He was quiet for a moment, and Noelle tensed. Does he really hate the thought of sharing a bed with me that much? “Ok, I guess we can share. I’m having my own blankets though. I can tell that you’re the kind of girl who steals them,” he said. She shrugged.
“Whatever you need to feel comfortable,” she replied pertly. He pushed the comforter and blankets onto one side of the bed, then took the set from the sofa bed and dumped them on the other.
“My side,” he proclaimed.
“Well, then I get to use the bathroom first.”
When Noelle came back from the bathroom, the room felt a lot colder than before.
“It’s freezing!” she exclaimed.
“I was just thinking the same thing.” Granger went over to one of the radiators and touched it. “It’s almost cold.” Noelle touched another one and another.
“Same.” Granger picked up the phone and called down to reception.
“They’re saying the boiler’s broken. Something to do with the snowstorm.”
“God! That sucks. But at least we’ve got the electric fire,” she said.
“Right. And the blankets should be pretty warm. Hey, you’re shivering. I’ll go in the bathroom now and give you a moment to get ready.”
When Granger had shut the bathroom door, Noelle stood beside the bed rummaging in her duffel bag. She wasn’t one for wearing pajamas, preferring a long t-shirt instead. And it looked like she hadn’t even remembered to bring that with her. She could stay in her jeans, but that would be weird and uncomfortable. She’d just have to sleep in her underwear and t-shirt. She pulled her jeans off quickly, laid them right beside the bed in case she needed to go to the bathroom during the night, and climbed into bed. She peeled her sweater off, which left her in her t-shirt, and then hesitated, trying to decide whether to remove her bra. Her breasts were so big. It seemed kind of indecent to let them loose when she was in bed with him. On the other hand, her bra was unbelievably uncomfortable to sleep in, and always managed to twist around and stab her in the armpits. She lifted her hand to the clasp at the back and unfastened it, feeding the straps through her arms, and lifting the whole thing off. Not knowing what to do with it now, she put it under her pillow.
Just as she was tucking the covers up to her chin, and now shivering violently, Granger came out of the bathroom.
“Wooh, it’s icy in there,” he said. “I’m surprised the water in the taps isn’t freezing!” Noelle stared at him, her mouth falling open. He was wearing a pair of plaid pajama pants. And nothing else. His body was unreal. It was a honed, sculpted mass of muscular perfection. His chest was broad, with strongly defined pecs, and he had rippling, washboard stomach muscles and ridges of muscle that disappeared diagonally into the waistband of his pants. She’d only seen a physique like that in magazines, and she’d never really believed that they existed in real life. His chest was quite hairy, with a dark line of hair wandering past his navel and turning into a sexy treasure trail; and his skin was darkly tanned. She thought about the hours of military training that must have gone into building a body like that, and she was impressed all over again. And turned on. God, she was getting aroused just looking at him. He didn’t seem to be aware of her fixated gaze though, as he flipped the covers back and climbed in. He shivered for a little while until the comforter warmed him up.
“Are you warm enough?” he asked, turning onto his side so he was facing her. She turned to face him too. It was an automatic movement, but it felt natural somehow. She picked up the scent of mint mouthwash, and her eyes were drawn like a magnet to his pale-pink, incredibly kissable lips. If they each moved a dozen inches, they’d be kissing. The thought made her breath catch in her throat. She yearned for him to take her in his arms and kiss her, to suffuse her body with his warmth.
“Yes, although I’m sure I can see my breath in the air right now,” she said.
“I’d offer to give you a bear hug to warm you up, but I guess that wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said. Appropriate. No, not at all, she thought, imagining being pressed up against the skin of his chest, smelling his smell. She gazed at him wordlessly, too full of emotion to trust herself to reply.
“Sorry, I think I’m a little tipsy,” he said, shaking his head. “There I was trying to be the perfect gentleman, and I go and make a comment like that. I’m such a doofus sometimes.” She grinned.
“No, you’re not. And I thought it was sweet,” she said, only half truthfully. The ache between her thighs was telling her that it was far more than sweet. Granger’s eyes remained on her face, moving from her eyes to her lips to her hair, as if he was caressing her with his gaze. Touch me with your hand instead, she willed him. And slowly, he lifted his hand from his comforter and stroked her cheek with a single finger, before drawing it away again. Time seemed to stand still. She held her breath, feeling her body trembling with desire.
“Granger –” she began, having no idea what she wanted to say. Hold me, kiss me, take me. Make love to me.
“We should sleep,” he whispered.
“Ok,” she said, suddenly feeling like a deflated balloon. He turned the light out. The room was very dark. Noelle pulled the covers right up to her nose and stared at the blackness. How the hell was she going to sleep now? Had Granger just acted like he wanted her? Her skin still burned from his touch. And she could smell him – a delicious, spicy, masculine scent, like wood smoke and good whisky. Her body thrummed with desire for this incredibly sexy man who was lying within touching distance, half naked. Was it an innocent gesture or a sexual one? She reimagined it over and over. It was innocent, most likely. If he’d wanted her, he wouldn’t have left it like that. She listened for signs that he was asleep. His breathing was just audible, with a curious rumbling undertone. Come to think of it, she’d heard that sound earlier, but had dismissed it as ambient noise. But there it was, regular, and oddly comforting. Her eyes began to feel heavy, and, before she knew it, she drifted off to sleep.
Noelle woke in darkness, with the feeling that she hadn’t slept long. And she was freezing. Her nose was icy cold, and even her feet underneath the covers felt numb. She turned from one side to the other, but she couldn’t get warm. She was chilled to the bone.
“What’s wrong?” came Granger’s voice in the darkness.
“I’m a little cold.”
“Me too.” He paused, and she lay still waiting for him to say something else. “We’re going to have to pile all the blankets together. Here –” He rummaged around with his sheets and dumped them on top of her, and then he lifted the edge of hers and slid underneath them. Immediately, she felt the heat of his body radiating across the bed and warming her. He was like a furnace. How could such a warm body ever feel the cold?
“That’s a little better,” he said. “I can feel you shivering though. Do you want to snuggle?” He was right. Despite the additional warmth, she was still freezing cold.
“Yes,” she whispered, and she held herself still, barely daring to breathe as she felt him move across the bed and manoeuver himself against her body. He spooned her, his chest pressing against her back, and his right arm resting across her waist. She stifled a sound. He felt incredible, his skin radiating heat. And his muscles. She sensed them, all around her, keeping her safe in a protective cocoon. She felt his breath on her hair, warm and reassuring. His left arm lay beneath her neck, and his right hand rested on the mattress in front of her. She wished he’d wrap it around her body, but he seemed determined to make his embrace as platonic as possible. His crotch stayed well away from her ass, much to her disappointment.
“How’s that?” he whispered.
“Me too. You’re like a furnace,” he said. She giggled.
“I was thinking the same thing about you.”
Antsy and taut with arousal as she was, she somehow drifted off to sleep again, and didn’t wake until the alarm on Granger’s phone was going off.
She woke up abruptly and Granger pulled away from her, but not before she felt something pressing against her ass. His cock’s hard, she realized in a daze. Because he likes me? No, men get those all the time, stupid.
“Morning,” Granger said, his voice soft and husky. She wished that they didn’t have to go anywhere. That he’d come back and snuggle her, then turn her on her back and make love to her for hours. But they had to get up. In the pitch darkness. She pulled her bra out from under the pillow and sneaked it on. Then she climbed into her jeans and went into the bathroom. She turned the shower on immediately, and by the time she got in, the room was bearably warm.
Ten minutes later, she was dressed in clean clothes and brushing out her slightly damp hair.
“Has your brother paid for anything else on his card?” she asked as she came back into the bedroom.
“Nope. And I really don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t find him when we get to Coleman. I don’t want our mom and dad not having either of us home for Christmas. I guess I’ll give it a few hours, and if we can’t find him by 1pm, say, we’ll have to abandon this wild-goose chase and drive straight home.
“Makes sense,” she said, looking at him with concern, aware how hard it would be for him to give up like that. “How’s the forecast?”
“Right now, it’s pretty good. No more snow predicted until late tonight across the whole region, but it does mean that we can’t afford to wait around in case it comes in a little sooner than expected.”
“Right,” she agreed.
Noelle took a long look around the room as they left. She felt obscurely sad to leave it. The bed looked so inviting, with the covers still thrown back on Granger’s side, where he’d clambered out. They’d shared real intimacy there, and she wondered if it would be the last time that happened.
Downstairs, the reception was deserted. They dropped their key on the desk and left, since the owners already had Granger’s card details.
Noelle sat very still as Granger drove carefully down the mountain slope. The snow was very deep, and he moved at a crawl. She kept her eyes on the misty moon, still high in the sky, and let out a long breath as they were safely on the flat again.
Half an hour later, it began to get light, the sky turning from black to navy blue, and half an hour after that, the dawn started to break. The sky turned dark gray, then pink, and a sliver of bright yellow light began to appear at the horizon, the sun pushing and pushing at the snow-laden clouds, until the pink became orange, and then hazy blue, and all at once, the clouds disappeared, and the sky was clear blue.
“Wow,” they breathed from time to time.
“That’s one of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever seen,” Granger said.
“It’s one of the only sunrises I’ve ever seen,” Noelle said with a laugh. “So I’m glad it was such a good one.”
“Not a morning person?”
“Nope,” she said cheerfully.
“I’m not by choice. I’m such a sleepyhead in winter. But that was worth getting up so brutally early for.”
“It really was.” She glanced at him. He looked adorably sleepy, his eyelids a little heavy. “You know, your snoring wasn’t so bad last night.”
“It was like a little bear growling.” He laughed loudly.
“Really? Yours was kind of cute. More like a cat I guess.” She gasped.
“I did not snore!” He didn’t say anything else, just raised a mocking eyebrow. “Seriously though, thank you for being such a gentleman and keeping me warm last night. I was sooo cold!”
“It was my pleasure,” he said. “And I wasn’t being gentlemanly – oh, there’s a diner!” he pulled off the road and into the parking lot of a rustic-looking place. “Shall we grab takeout?”
“That would be amazing,” Noelle said. Her stomach had been growling for the past half hour at least. It always surprised her that even when she got up early, her body told her it was hungry, even though it was usually still sleeping at that time.
A delicious smell wafted through the door of the diner. They sat at the counter and ordered coffees and egg and bacon muffins. The muffins were large and generously filled.
“Maybe we should eat them here,” Granger said. “Eating and driving don’t go together too well for me.”
“I hear you,” Noelle replied, happy to be sitting there for a few minutes longer. She felt like they’d stepped through a time warp into a faraway era. The waitresses were bustling around, calling to each other chirpily, and there were a few other customers, bleary-eyed, looking like they were breaking long journeys, or preparing to go to work. Some old Christmas songs were playing in the background.
“I love places like this,” she said.
“I was just thinking the same thing. And if I wasn’t here looking for my nitwit brother, we’d have never got to enjoy this moment.”
“Isn’t that a great thought?” she said, and they looked at each other, caught in mutual fascination.
“Ok, let’s go,” Granger said ten minutes later. He held his arm out for Noelle to lean on as she jumped down from the high stool, and she had the strongest urge to keep clinging to it as they walked to the exit.