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What was a girl to do when she was too afraid to take a shot of liquid courage? Sarah Larsen had never let any alcohol touch her lips, unless you counted cough syrup. And even her grandmother hadn’t counted cough syrup, which meant it officially didn’t count at all.
Sarah pushed the shot glass away from her, then turned it. She should have ordered something with an umbrella. Or at least something with more sugar than booze. But, filled with false bravado and a feeling of utter claustrophobia brought on by the way she lived her life, she’d walked into the bar in the tightest—skimming her figure, not hugging it, but still—shortest—an inch above the knee, but whatever—black dress she owned, strode right up to the counter and ordered a shot of whiskey.
That she was too afraid to drink.
And if she couldn’t get even a little drunk then there was no way she was going to be able to find the courage to realize the night’s ultimate goal: Find a man. A hot, sexy man. And cut loose for the first time in her life.
And by “cutting loose” she meant “having sex.”
She winced internally. Yes. Sex. She wasn’t backing down now. She wasn’t going to spell it mentally anymore either. She could think it. She could even say it. She wasn’t going to be repressed tonight. No, she was not.
Of course, she’d been in the bar an hour and she knew every guy who had come in. Not that that was a bad thing, except it meant that she just sort of blended into the wood paneling when they scanned the room.
Typical. Sarah Larsen, kindergarten teacher, was not the woman the men of Silver Creek called for a good time.
That line of thinking had her feeling decidedly morose. Which was just another reason she shouldn’t drink the alcohol. It would probably make that feeling worse.
The door to the bar opened and a rush of cold air spilled in. Sarah looked, and nearly choked. The man standing in the door was a stranger. Tall, broad shouldered, wearing tight jeans and some very expensive-looking boots. He was backlit by the porch light, snow falling behind him across the black sky.
If she’d been drunk she could have blamed the whiskey for the sheer drama of the moment. But she still hadn’t touched her whiskey.
She blinked as the man walked in and let the door swing shut behind him. And . . . and he was coming toward her. She almost stopped breathing. Then she almost took the whiskey shot because she really did want to find the courage to at least talk to him.
Except if she tried alcohol for the first time right now, it would probably put her on the floor, and that wasn’t the idea either.
He rested his forearms on the bar beside her, not noticing her at all. Typical. There was a group of women standing by the jukebox, wearing skirts so short that they were in danger of showing London, France and their underpants. Assuming they were wearing any.
They presented a much more enticing picture to the male of the species. She was sure. Not from experience, but because it was why her grandmother had always made her wear skirts that went mid-calf or longer. Because anything else would tempt men, and her along with them, to sin.
Well, she was looking for sin tonight, and she wasn’t having a lot of luck finding it.
She should ask those women where they’d bought their skirts.
She looked out of the corner of her eye, just enough to get another peek at the stranger. He drew his hand over his beard. Not a full beard, but a couple days’ worth of growth maybe.
As if she had any idea of how quickly men’s facial hair grew. She’d never lived with a man, not even a male relative.
Still, that was her guess. She also guessed it would feel rough on her skin. And she was surprised to learn that she didn’t find the thought off-putting in the least. Oh, no, the idea of a little rough stubble against her skin seemed altogether too enticing, really.
“I don’t actually . . . want this,” she said, her voice way too mousy and shaky and not at all vampy. She pushed the shot in his direction. “So if you were going to order one . . . you could always have mine.”
He arched one dark eyebrow. “I was after a beer. I have to drive.”
“Oh.” She looked back down at her glass. “I could . . . I could drive you . . . if . . . if you wanted to . . . never mind.”
He raised his other brow and pulled the glass toward himself, lifting it to his lips and knocking it back. “Thank you. For the offer and the drink.”
“It seemed like a nice thing to do. I don’t . . . where are you from?”
“Texas,” he said. “Austin.”
“Oh. I hope you weren’t planning on driving back to Austin. My offer wasn’t . . . really meant to extend that far.”
He laughed, and a flush of heat spread over her skin. She’d made him laugh. She took a breath and tried to banish her nerves. She wasn’t totally failing at this.
“I’m staying here tonight. I have a room at the lodge over by the lake.”
“Those are . . . nice. I hear. I’ve never had occasion to stay in one, since I live here and all.”
“Local girl, huh?”
“And what brings you out tonight?”
Did she just say it? Did she just say, “The desire for hot sweaty sex brought me here; would you oblige me?” How was the game played? How did one pick up a stranger? Did they talk for a while? Did they just get down to it? She had no idea.
“Dancing?” he asked, a smile quirking his lips. Wicked lips, she noticed. And she thought “wicked” because they made her think of him doing wicked things with them. Kissing her mouth. Her neck. Her . . . oh, boy.
Thirty years of fantasies. Thirty years of virginity. It had to go, and it had to go now. Tonight. She hoped she didn’t mess it up. Because if she lost hold of her stranger, she was left with the local boys . . . and that meant there would be no action for her.
“Sure. Dancing sounds much better than what I was going to say.”
He stood straightened and held out his hand. She took it, heat surging through her when his rough fingers closed over her skin. “What were you going to say? Now I’m intrigued.”
He led her out to the dance floor, such as it was, a little space carved out by the jukebox. The women in the tight skirts were still there, and they were looking on—with envy. She was being envied. And she could see why.
This man, this stranger, was tall and lean, handsome to an almost ridiculous degree, and—she discovered the last part when he tugged her up against his body—all hard muscle.
He laced his fingers through hers and wrapped his other arm around her waist, holding her close. “Come on, now, Red, I’m curious.”
“Red? Really? That’s the best you have?”
“I would have better if you gave me a name. And if you hadn’t given me a shot of whiskey.”
“Sarah,” she said, first name only.
“Walker.” First or last name, she didn’t know. It didn’t matter. She’d already made her decision. This was the night. This was the man.
If he wanted her, this was most definitely the man.
“Now you have better, so you may ask me again,” she said, knowing she had her teacher voice on a little bit. But it helped. It helped her feel confident.
“Sarah,” he said, his voice husky, a whiskey-coated dream, “what were you going to say?”
“I—” He started moving in time with the music and her brain just sort of stopped sending signals to her mouth. She’d never been held this close by a man before. Had never danced with one. Had never danced at all. “Would it be too convenient for me to say I don’t remember?”
“Yes. Much too convenient. And you’re only making me more interested.”
“Oh.” She sucked in a deep breath and closed her eyes. She couldn’t look at him, not while she said this. “I was sort of here to . . . to see if a nice man might take me back to his . . . lodge. For the night. And it’s especially nice that I met you since you’re staying in a literal lodge and I’ve never been to that particular lodge. Also, point in your favor, you’re a man.”
The silence on his end was thick. And awkward. And Sarah thought she might die of humiliation then and there.
“Tough night, baby?” His thumb brushed the corner of her lip and her eyes flew open, meeting his startling blue ones, glittering in the dim light.
“What makes you say that?”
“You don’t seem the like the kind of girl who comes here for this kind of thing on a regular basis.”
“What gave me away?”
“The panty hose, for a start. The blush, for another.”
“It’s cold. And anyway, I’m not in the habit of going out with bare legs.”
“That’s another indicator.”
“All right, so I don’t usually, but . . . but”—she looked at him, at his impossibly handsome face—“but it’s what I’m here for now.”
He nodded once. “There was a time in my life when I was the kind of man who came to places like this and did this kind of thing. Not for years though. But I’m thinking I might make an exception tonight. For you.”
Her heart climbed into her throat and sat there, making it hard to breathe. Hard to speak. But she had to know one thing.
“You don’t have a wife, do you?”
He shook his head. “Nope.”
“Then . . . okay. Yes. I want . . . to go back to your lodge. For . . . that.”
“Want to finish the dance?”
“No.” She might lose her nerve if they waited too long. She didn’t want to lose her nerve. She wanted Walker. He was so much better than the fantasy she’d conjured up. And it had taken weeks of heated fantasies to bring her to this point, so that was saying something.
“Then let’s go. You drive.”
“You aren’t drunk, are you?” she asked.
“Good. I don’t want to . . . take advantage of you.”
He laughed and she realized how silly she sounded. Like she, mousy Sarah Larsen, who came up to the middle of his chest, could take advantage of him in any way.
“Got a coat?”
“Oh, yeah.” She would have forgotten it, because she felt so hot. She took her coat from the back of the bar stool and followed him out of the bar and into the cold night.
She could feel the eyes in the bar following her, following them. She wondered, for a brief moment, if everyone in there knew what they planned to go do.
And then she dismissed it. Because she was Sarah Larsen, the patron saint of celibacy, and no one would ever believe she was off to have sex in a stranger’s hotel room. They probably thought she was the designated driver for the evening. That she was taking care to see this poor, debauched soul made it back to his lodgings without encountering any hedonistic temptations. That was much more like her.
Well, showed what they knew. She was the evening’s hedonistic temptation. So there.
She started walking toward her car, the snow crunching under her feet.
She turned back to face him, her heart stopping. He wasn’t going to back out, was he? “Why?”
He approached her, his eyes burning into hers. Then he cupped the back of her head with his hand and pressed his lips to hers. His tongue slid along the seam of her mouth and she opened for him, her hands sliding up, palms pressed flat to his chest.
She’d never, ever, ever experienced anything like this. Her heart was beating so hard she thought it was going to explode. She curled her fingers, his shirt balled up tight in her fists.
Then he raised his head, breaking the kiss. Too soon. Way too soon.
“Just wanted to show you what you were getting into,” he said, his voice rough. “Give you time to back out.”
She blew out a long breath that lingered in a cloud between them. “Thank you. I feel informed.”
“Change your mind?”
“No. But I might be inspired to drive a little faster.”
Walker didn’t know what the hell he was doing. He was in Silver Creek to finish up looking at the ranch he was about to buy. He was not here to hook up. It had been so long since he’d hooked up he’d basically forgotten how it went.
And, since he’d decided hooking up was a good idea, he had no idea why he hadn’t picked the buckle bunnies hanging by the juke box. Why on earth was he being driven back to his lodge by this little redhead in the dowdiest black dress he’d seen outside of a wake?
He didn’t know.
But there was something about her. Something that called to him, and made him hungry. Divorce and other circumstances had compromised his appetites, and he’d been without and fine with it for quite a while.
Suddenly, being without for the next ten minutes seemed impossible.
That was the thing. The reason he hadn’t gone for the buckle bunnies. He had been after a drink. He hadn’t been after sex. Not until the little redhead had pushed the whiskey in front of him. Not until she’d confessed her reason for being in the bar.
She was the reason he wanted it. The reason his body was suddenly out of hibernation.
She pulled her car into the lodge parking lot. The roads were plowed, leaving it all pretty easy to navigate, thankfully. The lot was mostly empty. The few people that came to Silver Creek in the winter were, he’d heard, hard-core sports enthusiasts and mainly opted to stay at the ski resort, not the lake.
She put the car in park and left the engine on. She looked at him, her pale green eyes huge.
“Second thoughts, baby?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. Nope. No.”
“That’s a lot of nos.”
“Because it’s true. I’m not.”
“Then maybe you could kill the engine and we could go inside.”
“Okay. That . . . uh . . . that works.”
He leaned in and kissed her again. Her lips were so soft; a taste of everything he’d been missing.
“Yes,” she said. “That really works. Let’s go.”
She opened the car door and scrambled out and he followed, amused and flattered by the enthusiasm. The last time he’d had sex his bed partner had just given him an eye roll and a “whatever.” Like a punch straight to the ego. But then, she’d always been good at that. He felt bad thinking about his ex-wife in an unflattering light, especially since she’d passed away, but their marriage had not been a happy place.
And the fact that she wasn’t around at all anymore didn’t change that.
It was nice to be wanted. Nice to be treated like a man. He couldn’t deny that.
“I’m this way,” he said, getting out of the car and heading toward his cabin. It was about two hundred yards from the lodge, down near the lake. She followed, biting her lip and in general looking nervous, and not like a woman who had experience with this sort of thing. Which she’d said, but he hadn’t necessarily believed her.
Women didn’t often admit to being the type who frequently picked up men in bars, but in Sarah’s case, it was pretty believable. The fact she was wearing pantyhose and her concern over the hemline on that dress being exhibits A and B.
He took the key out of his pocket—an actual key, not a card. It had been a while since he’d stayed in a place that had keys. He shoved it into the lock, turning it and pushing the door open.
“It’s pretty nice,” he said, holding the door while Sarah made her way into the living area.
The bed was upstairs, on a loft floor that offered great views of the lake. Maybe he could use the views as a selling point to get her up the stairs quickly. Of course, it was dark. And if Sarah was really after what she claimed to be after, he shouldn’t need a line.
“Not at all.” She sucked in a deep breath, her petite shoulders rising and falling with the motion. Then she turned to face him. “Is there any point in making conversation or will it just compound the awkward?”
“What’s your theory?”
“I find it all less awkward when you kiss me. Which means maybe we should head that direction rather than conversing.”
He wasn’t going to turn down a request like that. Because she had the pinkest, ripest lips he’d ever seen, and they tasted like a little bit of heaven. Funny, since the thoughts they gave him most certainly put him on a downward slide to hell.
He leaned in and tasted her, tracing the outline of her perfect mouth with his tongue. He felt her shiver beneath him, a little sound escaping. Shock. Arousal.
When he pulled away, she was looking at him, eyes glittering and round. Yes, shock was definitely a part of the sound she’d made. And right now, her eyes were telegraphing a hell of a lot of emotion. Emotion he wasn’t ready or able to deal with.
He didn’t want to talk. The only way he wanted to connect was physically.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Unwrapped is a sweet little holiday romance from Maisey Yates. It is a part of the Silver Creek series but can be read as a standalone. Readers looking for a quick holiday read that will leave them smiling and feeling full of the Christmas spirit will love this one. When a mild mannered kindergarten teacher decides to have her first one night stand, she doesn't expect to see her 'lover' later showing up in her classroom. A journey of self discovery and the healing of a broken heart will leave readers breathless with this holiday novella! What I liked: The Silver Creek series is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Maisy Yates knows how to write a great small town romance. Silver Creek is the kind of place readers would enjoy settling down to raise a family and that's exactly what hero, Walker Callahan had in mind when he decided to buy a ranch in Silver Creek. What he didn't expect was an indecent proposal from a young woman who is exploring her desires. I liked the fact that Yates portrays Sarah are a young woman, who everyone in town knows. They also know she has been sheltered and is very innocent and a bit eccentric. The locals who frequent the local bar had nothing to offer Sarah, but when Walker shows up everything changes. The first encounter of hero and heroine in this book is a one night stand. Yes, that gets right to the point. For readers who can't wait to get to the good stuff, this one will certainly satisfy, but it doesn't seem contrived or too rushed despite the fact that it happens in the first chapter or so. It seemed like a natural thing for Sarah considering she has waited long enough as a virgin at age thirty. The story then builds on Sarah and Walker's attraction to each other and basically makes this first act a prelude to a great love story. Sarah reminded me of myself when I was younger. She had gotten it into her head that men were somewhat evil and that having sex was sinful. That's a hard thing to overcome, let me tell you. I applauded her for trying her wings and finding out what she truly loved and enjoyed in a man, in and out of the bedroom. I liked the fact that she was quirky and a little unorthodox. I think that's exactly what Walker needed, but it took him awhile to figure it out. Walker seemed like the strong silent type, he was rugged and masculine and certainly made my heart flutter a little bit. He had been through the ringer with his ex-wife and her recent death was hard on him and his daughter. I loved the fact that he was trying to be a good father to Kayla, and the fact that he was human and still messed up even though he had the best of intentions. He was the kind of man that is a true hero in my eyes. Flawed yet faithful to try his best for those he loved. I wanted him to find happiness and I loved that Sarah made both him and Kayla happy. Bottom Line: This was such a lovely little story. I loved the Christmas backdrop from decorating the tree to throwing snowballs and especially the kindergartners singing at the tree lighting. I loved the romance that bloomed between the hero and heroine and I even liked the way they met. How many of us would really have the courage to go after what we wanted the way Sarah did? Not many!
I really enjoyed this one! It's a fun novella that is well written a has some great characters. Sarah has always been the good girl and decides just once she wants to be a little bad. That's where Walker Callahan, new to Silver Creek, can help her out, for just one night. But when they discover Sarah is the kindergarten teacher for Walker's daughter, things get awkward! Again, this is a fun light read that will entertain you for an afternoon. I enjoyed it and I bet you will too. I recommend it.
Sweet short story of first love and a broken heart. Maisy Yates has strong sassy women and tough men that need to meet each other to have a good life. I love happy endings.
This was a short, fun stand alone story! You feel the tension between the main characters and the shock/embarrassment of the heroine. Loved the characters and the storyline. I only gave it four stars because some of it seemed a little rushed. Will be reading more in the series though!