Read an Excerpt from A Family By Christmas
Originally published under the title We Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday to me… Jaclyn shifted on the office couch, trying to curl into a tight enough ball to fit beneath her coat. It was cold, and she was still wet. Why hadn’t she thought to bring a blanket? Mentally she went through the contents of Cole’s closets, trying to remember if he had any spare bedding but drew a blank. He didn’t buy a lot of extras because he only used his bedroom, the kitchen, and his private office. The other rooms were completely empty.
What a miserable, dismal birthday. She hadn’t thought she’d be able to top last year’s, but this one was worse. An uncomfortable dinner with her ex, followed by an enraging argument, then a midnight tromp through the rain to lay on a cold leather couch until morning.
She thought of Cole sleeping peacefully in his bedroom just a few feet away, his body warm beneath his goose-down comforter, and wondered what he’d do if she simply slipped into bed with him. She deserved to have some fun, didn’t she? She wasn’t getting any younger. And it was her birthday.
Abandoning her coat on the couch, she got up and padded quietly down the hall to Cole’s part of the house. She just wanted to see him sleeping, she told herself. She wouldn’t disturb him.
His door stood slightly ajar, but Jaclyn couldn’t hear anything coming from inside. Was he home? His car was outside.
She slipped into the room, moving as stealthily as possible as she approached the bed, where she had to squint to make out his form in the rumbled blankets. Bending as close as she dared, she watched him for several seconds, admiring his thick dark hair and the handsome contours of his face before realizing that he was looking back at her.
“Jaclyn, is it you?”
She jumped and nearly screamed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s okay.” He paused. “What are you doing here?”
She shrugged. “It’s my birthday,” she said simply.
“Oh.” He scrubbed his face with one hand, then rolled from his stomach to his side. “Do I want to know why you’re standing in my room wearing your pajamas, or does that fall under the heading of looking a gift horse in the mouth?”
“I-I’m sorry. I had to leave home without my clothes.”
“Is everything okay there?”
“Now it is.”
“Great.” He came up on one elbow, and Jaclyn couldn’t help but admire the muscles that bulged in his arm and rippled across his bare chest. “I guess I’m afraid to ask what you want in case it isn’t what I’m hoping.”
He was hoping for something? The thrill of anticipation fluttered in Jaclyn’s stomach, and the song she’d been singing to herself earlier seemed to turn into a full-blown chorus, Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday to me… Happy birthday, dear Jackie….
“What are you hoping?” she asked, silently willing her heart to stop pounding so hard.
“Are you tired?”
“Are you cold?”
“Do you want to get in here with me?”
Jaclyn took a deep, shaky breath. Did she want to get into bed with him? That was a two-sided question, of course. There was want. And then there was reason.
When she hesitated, he pulled back the covers, and she could see that he was sleeping in nothing but a pair of boxer-briefs. She imagined what his warm body would feel like wrapped around her and felt her knees go weak.
“Come on, Jackie. I’ll keep you warm,” he said.
“But my nightgown’s wet from the rain.”
He didn’t even pause. “Take it off.”