Her halloween treat, p.15
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       Her Halloween Treat, p.15

         Part #1 of Men at Work series by Tiffany Reisz
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  headed back to her Lost Lake cabin with one-quarter of a gluten-free brownie tucked in her purse. She’d save that for later. Later was most likely “as soon as she got back in the cabin.” Her self-control was dubious at best and nonexistent where gorgeous men and chocolate desserts were concerned. She’d even tried to combine them once and quickly discovered she wasn’t the sort of person who liked to mix her pleasures. Licking chocolate fudge off an erect penis made the fudge taste weird and the penis unfuckable until after a long shower. Lesson learned. She wouldn’t try that with Chris. She loved the way he tasted. Not even chocolate could make that man any more delicious than he already was.

  Joey found herself grinning as she unlocked the cabin and went inside. Four days past a breakup and already grinning like a fool in lust. Maybe she could talk Chris into coming down to her cabin for a nightcap. Of course the drive was pretty long—about an hour between the lake and Timber Ridge. And it was late. Late-ish, anyway. Ten-ten. By the time he came down to the cabin it would be eleven-thirty probably. Then they’d talk awhile, and fuck awhile, and talk some more. That would take at least an hour and a half. By the time they were done it would be, oh, one in the morning? That was definitely too late for him to drive all the way back to the lodge. He might as well stay the night.

  Now that Joey had planned Chris’s entire night for him, she decided she should probably tell him the plan. Once she finished her brownie. While snacking at the kitchen bar, she dug in her purse for her phone. One missed call from Kira. One missed text from Kira. Is the plan working? Are you over Ben yet? If not, stay under Chris. These things take time. One missed text from Chris. Feel free to make me miss lunch tomorrow, too.

  Joey sent Chris a quick text in reply. If you haven’t had dinner yet, you can come down to the cabin and skip that meal with me, too.

  Who needs food? he quickly wrote back. Be there soon.

  She grinned at the text. At least he wasn’t angry at her for telling him no to the job offer. First time in her life she’d been offered a job while standing naked in a shower. If Chris’s naked body couldn’t convince her to take the job, nothing on earth would. Although she had been tempted. Of course she had. Coming back here for the wedding had been like coming home. She’d forgotten how much she missed this part of the world—the mountain, the rain that kept everything so lush and green even in fall and winter, the cottonwood trees turning as yellow as the sun this time of year, the scent of pine and fir, and her family, of course. Dillon in Portland. Mom and Dad only two and a half hours away in Tacoma. And the work would be fun, too. Marketing for a brand-new company just getting off the ground was a dream challenge. Not that it would be hard to convince people to come to Mount Hood and stay at Lost Lake. As soon as they saw the pictures of the area, they’d fall in love, madly in love. They would come here and never want to leave.

  She knew how they felt.

  And yet...she couldn’t stay. Well, she could. But she wouldn’t stay. She loved her job at Oahu Air, and she loved Honolulu, and she loved the work she did, and she did not want Ben to think for one single, solitary second that he was home free. If she quit her job, he won. After what he did to her and his wife, he didn’t deserve to win. Kira was right, too. No way should she make a major life change so soon after a big breakup. If she took the job now, she’d be taking it for all the wrong reasons.

  So that was that. She’d made up her mind. Might as well enjoy her time here while it lasted. She needed to store up as many good memories as she could to help her cope through the next few months of working with Ben. What would that mess be like? Would he ignore her? Would he try to win her back? Would he lie to her about what she saw? Would he beg her not to tell anyone? Would he find another woman at work to sleep with during his two weeks a month he spent in Hawaii? She could torture him a little, threaten to tell HR about them. Yes, she’d get fired but so would he. Almost worth it. Almost...

  If only she could stop thinking about Ben. She didn’t even miss him. She might have had it been a normal breakup where they decided their schedules were too incompatible or their goals in life too different. If the problem was that he wanted kids and she didn’t it would be one thing, but this wasn’t a normal breakup. The lying, the cheating... It ate at her. Staying busy kept her from dwelling on it too much, but as soon as she was alone again and had a split second to think, the anger came back to her again, hitting her like a slap in the face or a glass of ice water down the back of her shirt. A horrible feeling, sobering, simmering. She didn’t want to feel this way. Not during this brief period she was back home with her family for such a happy occasion. Maybe if she called Ben and yelled at him she could get it out of her system. But she didn’t want him to know he’d gotten to her this badly. Kira said to ignore him, let him go, pretend he meant nothing to her, and that would be the best of all revenges.

  Kira was probably right about that, too. As much as Joey didn’t want to let Ben off without at least verbally excoriating him, she knew that ultimately it didn’t matter. The satisfaction of telling him off would be short-lived, and when it was all over and done with, she’d still have to get on with her life. Maybe if she skipped the dealing-with-Ben thing and headed straight into focusing on her own happiness, she’d find it a little faster.

  Joey smiled as she heard the sound of a diesel engine pickup truck rambling down the gravel road toward the cabin. She never associated diesel engines with great sex before, but now that she’d started sleeping with Chris, they would be forever linked in her mind.

  As she headed to the front door to unlock it, she heard her phone vibrate on the walnut coffee table. It was a very loud wood. She picked up her phone and nearly answered on sheer instinct.

  The call was from Ben.

  She dropped the phone onto the sofa like it had burned her. The buzzing continued. At the front door she heard Chris’s footsteps and then a soft knocking. Joey looked at the ringing phone. She turned and looked at the door. Her heart raced. Ben was calling her. For what? To scream at her? To apologize? To explain himself? To beg her not to tell HR on them? If he was calling her, he had something to say.

  Joey picked up the phone off the couch and hit Decline.

  Then she dropped it back on the coffee table and answered the door.

  Ben could go fuck himself. He certainly wasn’t going to get to fuck her anymore.

  And speaking of fucking...

  Joey answered the door and let Chris inside.

  10

  FOR THE EIGHTH morning in a row, Chris woke up in Joey’s bed, although in his mind it was his bed since he’d made it with his own hands. A nice thought, Joey sleeping in his bed every single night. He did have his own bed at his place in Portland, but he much preferred staying with Joey in the cabin. It was closer to work, closer to the mountain and closer to every teenage dream he’d ever had about her. Back in high school he’d spent most of winter break here with them and most of summer break, too. This room had contained two sets of bunk beds and he and Dillon shared one and Joey took the other. Since she slept on the top bunk, Chris had, too, for no other reason that when the moon was bright or if he woke up early enough to catch the morning sun, he could see her sleeping not six feet away from him. He’d had a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt she’d latched on to for some reason and slept in it whenever she could steal it from the clean laundry basket. Maybe she’d just liked the color, although he pretended what she liked was the owner. When he saw her those summer mornings wearing his T-shirt, red-faced and rumpled and with a pillow over her eyes, he could pretend for a few seconds she was his girlfriend and this was their bedroom in their house and she loved him as much as he loved her, wanted him as much as he wanted her. Sadly, that particular erotic and romantic fantasy evaporated when Dillon let one rip in the middle of the night, which was when Chris regretted asking for the top bunk as both heat and horrible smells rose.

  Upon reflection, watching Joey sleep as a teenager was a little creepy. He could admit that to himsel
f. He made a lot of bad decisions at age seventeen and creeping on his best friend’s sister was one of them. Of course now he was twenty-eight, and he was still watching her sleep. He couldn’t blame that on being a horny lovesick teenager anymore. He had to blame it on being a horny lovesick grown man.

  It was the eighth morning he’d spent the night in her bed, therefore it was the eighth morning in a row he’d had to stop himself from telling her the truth. He was falling in love with her already. Already and again. High school was ancient history so he tried to pretend his feelings were, too. But Mount Hood had sprung up five hundred thousand years ago, which made it ancient history, right? Yet there it was, its snowcap peeking above the treetops. Ancient history or not, it was there and undeniable. He could no more pretend he hadn’t fallen back in love with Joey than he could pretend they weren’t sleeping in a house on an active volcano. And something had to blow and soon because Joey was leaving in three days. Today was Thursday. The wedding was Saturday on Halloween. And Joey flew back to Hawaii on Sunday.

  So he had all of today, Friday and Saturday to talk her into staying.

  But first, he had to wake her up. He’d learned quickly the best way to wake Joey from a deep sleep was for him to leave the bed and start cooking breakfast. Poking and prodding and whispering would only elicit a groan from her before she flopped over onto her stomach and went immediately back to sleep.

  If he cooked bacon, however...

  No better alarm clock in the world.

  Chris carefully slid Joey’s arm off his stomach. She had an adorable habit of resting an arm or a leg across him while they slept. Well, it was adorable until he had to get out of bed to piss or go to work. Then it made the process slightly harrowing. He wanted to believe that the only sort of woman who would hold him in her sleep was a woman who was maybe possibly a little bit in love with him, too. Or maybe she was just one of those women who was always cold and therefore only used his naked body as a heat source. He’d assume the latter and hope for the former.

  With good luck and good technique, Chris managed to slide out of bed without pulling Joey or the covers to the floor. She muttered something about it being too early before rolling over and going back to sleep again. He stood there a moment by the bed and took in the view. The view from the window was a sight to behold—lush, deep green fir trees, cottonwoods bright yellow in the morning sunlight, the white of the peak of Mount Hood and the moss growing on every tree trunk in sight. But none of that compared to the view inside the window, the view of Joey on her side, her beautiful naked back exposed and her hair lying wild on the pillow.

  “I’m going to marry you by next Halloween,” he said softly enough he knew she wouldn’t hear even if she was awake.

  Why did he promise he wouldn’t try to make her stay?

  Oh, yeah, because she wouldn’t sleep with him if he didn’t. She was right, though. She shouldn’t be making huge decisions like quitting her job and moving so shortly after a breakup. He wasn’t about to try to talk her into that. What he could do, however, was seduce her. Seduce her not for sex—that was already happening, a lot—but seduce her into staying. He wouldn’t say a word about it. He’d let his seduction skills do the convincing and then Joey would decide to stay all on her own.

  He’d start the seduction with bacon.

  Chris pulled on his jeans and a T-shirt, and turned the heat up in the house. They both liked to sleep in a cool room under blankets. They didn’t need the heat on to stay warm at night, anyway. They had each other for that.

  Chris grinned to himself as he started cooking breakfast. He’d been grinning a lot lately, probably more in the past six days than in the last six months combined. All thanks to Joey and her sweet sexy self. Instead of spending her vacation hiking or biking or doing whatever people on vacations did—he wouldn’t know as he hadn’t taken one in four years—she came to work with him for part of the day and spent the rest of the day helping Dillon and Oscar with wedding stuff. She’d always been kind and selfless. She might tease Dillon and Oscar about getting married on her birthday but he knew she didn’t care. She said she’d shared her birthday with Halloween and millions of trick-or-treaters every single year so it wasn’t like she ever thought she owned the day. When she said she couldn’t think of a better way to spend her birthday than watching her big brother get married to the love of his life, Chris knew she meant it.

  “Is that bacon I smell?” Joey asked from the doorway. She had on his black-and-yellow checkered flannel shirt and slouchy mismatched wool socks and nothing else from what he could tell. One cheek bore a nice long pillow crease, and she’d pulled her hair back into a messy loose ponytail. Under her eyes were smudges left from eye makeup. He’d never seen a more beautiful sexy woman in all his born days.

  “Bacon and eggs.”

  “You spoil me.”

  “It’s what I was put on earth to do.” He kissed her cheek as she leaned in to smell breakfast in the iron skillet.

  “I’m starting to believe that.”

  She patted him on the ass as she went to the coffee pot for “fuel,” as she called it. Fueling up, refueling, out of fuel. He was quickly learning all her quirks and habits. She couldn’t go to sleep without flossing first no matter how tired she was. If she didn’t she said she’d dream of her teeth falling out. She called all dogs, no matter how young or old, big or small, “puppies.” When cleaning or doing laundry she sang Adele songs, just Adele. No one else. And she sang them badly. Very badly. She hated cilantro in her food, loved hot sauce on her eggs and would drive an hour just to get Stumptown Coffee Roasters coffee when they ran out of it. Rocket fuel, she called it. Her favorite.

  “What are we doing today?” she asked between sips of rocket fuel.

  “I’m done at Timber Ridge. Thought I’d take the day off.”

  “For me?” She batted her eyelashes at hm.

  He carried the skillet with their bacon and eggs over to the table. She’d already set out the plates and forks. They made a good team in the kitchen.

  “For you. If you want me. If you don’t want me...” He took a step back, taking the bacon and eggs with him.

  “I want you,” she said. “I want you so much. And your bacon. All your bacon.”

  “You can have half my bacon. I get the other half.”

  “This is fair. I can accept this.” She held up her plate and he scooped breakfast onto it. “You know, I’m only sleeping with you because you cook me breakfast every morning. I don’t want you to think I actually like you or something.”

  “You’re just using me for my bacon?”

  “I am,” she said, picking up a thick, crisp slice.

  “That hurts.” He sat down at the table across from her. “I’m hurt by that.”

  “Okay, maybe I’m not using you exclusively for your bacon.”

  “You can’t just take something like that back,” he said. “I’m wounded. To the core. I feel so...so used.”

  Joey leaned forward and rested her chin on her hand and stared at him across the table.

  Then she held out her bacon to him.

  “A gift?” he asked.

  “Peace offering. And proof I’m not just using you for your bacon. Not exclusively.”

  He opened his mouth and she fed it to him.

  “Good?” she asked.

  “Tastes like love.”

  “Lust for sure,” she said, wagging her eyebrows at him before taking another slice of bacon off her plate and stirring hot sauce into her eggs.

  Chris picked up his fork and focused on his eating and tried to ignore that Joey had brushed aside his use of the L-word with a quick joke. Not that he blamed her. She’d gotten out of a two-year-long relationship last week. In her shoes he wouldn’t even be dating someone else, much less considering a future with them. But he wasn’t in her shoes. He was in his shoes. And the man in his shoes was quickly falling in love with the woman in Joey’s shoes. Well, socks. Wait, were those his socks, too?


  “So...there’s this thing in the sky today,” Chris said. “Have you seen it?”

  “What is it?”

  “It’s big and it’s yellow and it’s very bright.”

  “Big Bird?”

  “Not quite.”

  “A very large honeydew melon?”

  “Hotter. I think it might be the sun.”

  “No way.”

  “Way.”

  “Are you sure?” Joey asked. “Doesn’t sound like anything you’d see in Lost Lake in October.”

  “I double-checked. It’s there. Still. And it doesn’t seem to be going away for the next couple of hours. I think we should do something with it. In it, I mean.”

  “Like worship it? Sacrifice someone or something to it?”

  “Or we could walk to the lake and around the lake. I hear this is a thing people do when the sun is out.”

  “Sounds good,” she said. “Good excuse to wear my cute new hiking boots. Not a lot of excuses to wear boots on a beach.”

  “Visit more often and you can boot around all you want.”

  “Maybe I will. For the boots,” she said, and winked at him. “I’ll go get ready.”

  Joey left to get dressed while Chris hunted down his shoes and jacket. Last night Joey had been all over him the second he’d walked through the front door. They’d had sex on the sofa first with the fireplace roaring a few feet away. They’d had sex in the bed an hour later. Well, on the bed if not in the bed. He’d put Joey’s hands on the headboard and fucked her from behind. One of his favorite positions as he could have total access to every inch of the front of her body while inside her. The question was...at what point during last night’s fuck fest had he taken his work boots off?

  Chris found his boots under the sofa. So apparently he’d taken them off after the first fucking and before the second fucking. When he and Joey both had their clothes on—such a pity—they walked out the back door and headed down the muddy path through the trees.

  “You remember how to get to the lake?” she asked as he took her
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