Bought for Christmas(2)

By: Doris O Connor

The man stood on the other side of the door was huge, and when she opened it her greeting stuck in her throat.

She would recognize those broad shoulders and wide back anywhere. Even covered by the expensive tailor-made woolen coat he wore against the chill of this December afternoon, his muscled physique made her feel small and oh so feminine.

Hunter Monahan inhaled sharply and then turned around slowly. Emilia took an involuntary step back when the harsh porch lighting illuminated the scars on his face briefly. His features tightened when he witnessed her reaction, and he turned slightly until only his good side was presented. His mouth kicked up in a grim smile, and his deep voice washed over her.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon, Emilia. When did you come home?” he asked.

“Erm, yesterday, Sir.” She whispered the answer, feeling ridiculously tongue-tied like she always did around him, but frightening scars notwithstanding, there was something so earthy and virile about Hunter. Dangerous even, and as if to prove it, his amber eyes flared to yellow as he bent down and inhaled next to her ear.

“I do like it when you call me that, kitten.” His hot breath skimmed across the sensitive skin under her ear, and Emilia bit her lip to stop herself from reacting to his presence. This close to him his intoxicating scent wrapped itself around her like a warm cocoon, and she had to fight the urge to lean in closer.

The Beast, as he was known, would not appreciate the contact she was sure, so instead, she stepped back to allow him to pass, and took his coat when he shrugged out of it.

He frowned at her, and she offered him a tentative smile, and after a moment’s hesitation he handed it to her. Their hands touched briefly, and Emilia almost dropped the garment. Her fingertips tingled from the contact, and she hastily yanked the coat up higher to hide her nipples. Like wanton beacons of her sex-starved self, they firmed and pushed against her silk blouse. Emilia wanted the ground to swallow her up when Hunter’s gaze rested on her boobs for several heart-stopping moments.

He couldn’t have noticed, could he? It was bad enough that Emilia turned into a simpering wreck whenever her father’s former friend was around. It was altogether far too mortifying that he would actually notice her lusting after him.

Quite apart from the fact that Hunter was only seven years younger than her father, the man was way out of her league. Reserved to the point of rudeness, Hunter carried himself with an air of leashed power and aggression that separated him from his peers.

As a child, Emilia had spun fairy stories about him as the scarred warrior, or the gentle beast, who needed the love of a good woman to break the witch’s curse. As a teenager those dreams had taken on a rather erotic turn. Moving away to go to university had done nothing to lessen her attraction to the man, quite the opposite.

Not for lack of trying on her part, but none of her so-called boyfriends had ever made her skin tingle with just one look, and besides they only wanted her for her father’s money. When they found out that Leo was Papa’s only heir, they always scarpered, which was fine by Emilia.

She didn’t need any boys in her life, and she might never get rich working as a midwife, but she loved her job, and how many people could say that?

“You should smile more, kitten.”

Hunter’s cool words shook her out of her internal musings, and her heart missed a few beats under his intense scrutiny. Standing sideways, so that his scars weren’t visible, Hunter watched her from under hooded lids with a curious tilt to his full lips. They were surrounded by several days’ worth of scruff that extended along his square jaw and disappeared into the neckline of his shirt—a pink one, much to Emilia’s amusement. His very presence pulled her under his spell. So much so that she must have missed something, if the way both her father and brother scowled at her was anything to go by.

“Have you lost your brain completely?” Leo said, and grabbed the wall for support. “Go get some coffee, thunder thighs. I need some, and no doubt our beast here will want some, too.”

Emilia winced at the look of utter disgust and hatred both her father and brother threw toward Hunter, and he seemed to grow taller in front of her eyes. Hands balled into fists by his side, jaws clenched, a rumble emanated from Hunter’s broad chest, and Leo blanched and put his hand up in an act of surrender. Emilia was half expecting her lily-faced brother to lose control of his bodily functions, and Papa, too, looked pale under his tan. Pale and very old, as he glanced at her and jerked his head to the kitchen in a clear demand.