Читать онлайн «A Mistletoe Christmas: Santa's Mistletoe Mistake / A Merry Little Wedding / Mistletoe Magic»
“It’s all so beautiful,” Melody said softly as they were led to a table by a large window. Jake pulled out her chair for her and then did the same for Libby. When he was seated, the hostess handed him the wine list with the promise of a waitress arriving quickly.
He’d thought Melody couldn’t get lovelier, but as he gazed at her with the candlelight dancing in her eyes and on her features, he’d never seen anyone prettier.
“Any particular kind of wine you like?” he asked. He tore his gaze from her and instead looked blankly at the wine list.
“I wouldn’t mind a glass of white wine, but I’m certainly no connoisseur. When I buy wine I always buy whatever is on sale.”
Jake turned his attention to Libby. “And what would you like to drink?”
Libby frowned thoughtfully. “Do you think they have root beer?”
At that moment the waitress arrived, and Jake ordered white wine for Melody, red for himself and a tall root beer for Libby. The waitress left behind menus, and for the next several minutes they talked about what they all wanted to order.
Once the orders were placed, Jake directed their attention out the window, where bare trees were lit with white lights, and nestled in the boughs were the green balls of mistletoe plants.
“Cool,” Libby said. “I always thought mistletoe grew on mistletoe trees.”
“It grows on all kinds of trees,” Jake replied. “Oaks and elms, even apple trees can host mistletoe plants.”
“I like my apples with cinnamon, not mistletoe,” Libby replied.
By the time their meals were delivered, the conversation was light and easy. Even Libby was animated as she explained to Jake the difference between a leotard and a tutu.
Jake was both electrified and surprised that having dinner with Melody and Libby felt so natural, so right. About halfway through the meal, he began to have trouble focusing on the tenderness of his steak and instead began to wonder if Melody’s kisses would be just as tender. He wondered if her skin was as soft and silky as it appeared in the candlelight. Somehow, some way, she’d lit a fire of desire in him, one that had caught him by surprise.
Libby’s impatient voice pulled him from his thoughts. “Yes, Libby?”
“I asked you twice if we could get dessert,” she exclaimed, and then smiled at him brightly. “Dessert might make me like you better.”
Jake laughed. Whether Libby liked him or not, he was growing quite fond of the little minx. “There’s no way we can end our meal without dessert.”
Libby gave him a little smile. “Then I’d like ice cream with chocolate syrup.”
They were a merry group when they finally left Mistletoe Mountain behind. Libby chattered like a magpie about the mistletoe farm and the facts that her spaghetti had been the best she’d ever tasted and her ice cream had been topped with just the right amount of chocolate syrup.
Melody was quieter, but cast him warm gazes that heated every inch of his body. If they were a real family they would now go home, tuck their daughter into bed and climb into their own bed and make love.
He tightened his grip around the steering wheel, forcing his thoughts away from the crazy fantasy. They weren’t his family, and he had no desire to make them so. He never again wanted anyone close enough to him that he would feel the way he had when he’d lost Stacy.
He could enjoy Libby, he could lust after Melody, but ultimately the very core of his heart was covered with a shield that he’d never allow anyone to pierce again.
* * *
“WOULD YOU LIKE to come in for some coffee?” Melody asked when they’d arrived back at her house. She was reluctant for the evening with him to end.
“Coffee sounds good,” he agreed, and entered the living room where a tall bare fake tree stood in the corner awaiting ornaments and tinsel. “You’ve decorated everything for Christmas except your tree.”
“It’s been tradition that we decorate it Christmas Eve especially for Santa’s arrival.” She turned to her daughter. “Libby, why don’t you go get ready for a bath?”
“Okay, and thank you, Cowboy Jake, for the dinner and stuff.” She skipped down the hallway.
“I think I’m making a little headway with her,” he said as Melody gestured for him to follow her into the kitchen.
Melody moved to the counter with the coffeepot as he sat in one of the chairs at the round oak table. “I’ve never seen her act the way she does with you with anyone else.” She poured water into the coffeemaker and shook her head. “And she won’t give me a clue why she doesn’t like you, although she’s certainly pleasant enough when she’s getting her way with you.”
She finished with the coffeemaker, and within seconds the scent of fresh brew filled the air. She had just poured their coffee and joined him at the table when Libby came back in the room. She was clad in a pink tutu and had on tap shoes.
“You were supposed to be getting ready for a bath,” Melody said.
“I wanted to show Cowboy Jake my pink tutu and show him my two most important dance steps,” Libby replied.
Jake raised a dark eyebrow, making him look like a dashing rake from a romance novel. “I definitely think showing me important dance steps is way more important than getting ready for a bath.”
Libby beamed him a smile that pleased Melody. She wanted Libby to like Jake as much as she did. And she so liked Jake. Every minute she spent with him only made her more excited for the possibilities of their relationship.
Somehow in the past two days she’d put aside her reluctance to get involved with another cowboy. She’d managed to rationalize to herself that Jake was a wonderful man who just happened to wear a cowboy hat.
“Okay,” Libby said, pulling Melody from her thoughts. “This is the step I do when I’m happy. It’s just a flap.” She executed the two-tone step around the table.
“That sounds like a happy tap,” Jake observed, amusement twinkling in his eyes.
“And this is my mad step. It’s a flap ball change.” Once again she made her way around the table. The tap of her feet definitely sounded angry as she flapped hard and ball changed even harder.
She came to a halt at Jake’s side and leaned into him just a bit. “Now you know without me telling you if I’m happy or mad.”
“I think that’s a good thing to know,” Jake replied.
She leaned closer to him, pulled his head down and then cupped her hand around her mouth and whispered in his ear. When she was finished, she stepped back from him.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said to her.
Libby looked back at Melody. “I know, I know. Bath time.” She flapped her way out of the kitchen and back down the hallway.
“What was that all about?” Melody asked Jake the moment Libby was gone.
“Ah, a gentlemen never tells secrets,” he replied. “All I can say is that it was nothing for you to worry about.”
Melody looked at him dubiously. “With that kid I never know what to expect.”
“She’s an absolute delight.”
Melody laughed. “Most of the time that’s true, but she can be as hardheaded as a mule at times.”
“A trait she picked up from her mother?”
“Perhaps,” Melody agreed with another laugh.
“I’m ready,” Libby’s voice drifted to the kitchen.
Melody stood. “If you’ll excuse me for just a minute, I need to set the water temperature for her bath.”
“Take as much time as you need,” he replied, looking utterly relaxed and as if he belonged at her table.
She hurried down the hallway to the bathroom, where Libby sat naked on the edge of the tub. “Bath and then bed,” Melody said as she turned on the faucets. “And what did you whisper to Jake before you left the kitchen?”
Libby yawned and then shrugged. “I just told him he’d better enjoy spending his time with you now ’cause after Santa comes you won’t have time for Cowboy Jake anymore.”
“And why is that?” Melody put in the drain stopper and felt the flow of water one last time.
“I can’t tell you. It’s a secret between me and Santa.” Libby crossed her arms over her chest, an indication that no matter how hard Melody pressed, Libby wasn’t going to give up her Santa secret.
Libby slid down into the filling tub. “Don’t overfill, and call me when you’re ready for a tuck in,” Melody said.
When she returned to the kitchen, Jake was still in place, his long legs sprawled beneath the table and his cup of coffee nearly gone.
“Sorry about that,” she said, and went directly to the coffee carafe and refilled his cup. “She told me what she whispered to you.” She rejoined him at the table. “I have no idea what she thinks Santa is bringing to me that will take up all my time.”
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