She thinks I’m kidding, but she’ll see I’m not.

Time passes quickly while I do my workout; I can’t stop replaying the last twenty hours in my head. Paige is so different from the others, but in the most spectacular ways.

The shower is huge and there’s plenty of room for two people. Somewhere not too far in the back of my mind I hope Lachlan joins me, but I don’t expect him to. He’ll be working out for a while. No one has a body like that without spending a lot of time in the gym.

The hot water feels glorious—I’m a little sore today. Because of my usual workout regimen, it’s hard to put me in many positions that will stress my muscles, so props to Lachlan for achieving that.

When I finish in the shower, I linger a little longer. Just in case. When he doesn’t come into the shower with me, I’m a little disappointed, but I don’t dwell on it. We have until he leaves for his parents’ house tomorrow.

I get ready and dress casually since I think we’re staying at the vineyard today. I guess I should’ve asked, but I didn’t, so I choose faded denim shorts and a solid ivory tank. Maybe it’s a little over the top, but I finish the ensemble off with my brown cowgirl boots.

I’m braiding my hair when he comes into the bathroom and we both smile when our eyes meet in the mirror. He’s shirtless and glistening with sweat. Damn, if I hadn’t just showered. “Someone had a productive workout.”

He stands with his hands on his hips, a towel thrown over one shoulder. “I did, thanks to you. I couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday and last night, so time got away from me.”

“You don’t look very happy about it.”

“That’s because I wanted to catch you still in the shower.”

“I stayed in a long time because I was hoping you would, but you didn’t, so I gave up on you.”

He walks toward me and I hold up a hand to stop him. “Nope. Too late now, caveman.”

“Okay. Later then.” He smiles and drops his sweaty bottoms to the floor before he kicks them toward a hamper and gets into the shower. Steam immediately billows into the space. “I have some vines I need to check today. Do you want to go out with me to see how they’re doing?”

“I’d love to. There’s not a problem, is there?”

“I hope not, but that’s why I’m going out to check.”

It feels like a sauna in here and I have to get out. How can he stand the water so hot after a workout? “Okay. I’ll wait for you in the living room.”

I’m watching some kind of Australian Christmas special when he plops on the couch beside me. He’s wearing khaki cargo pants and a fitted navy V-neck T-shirt. I can see a few sparse hairs peeking over the V’s point, but I know there’s more underneath and think about how I ran my hands over them last night.

Oh, my. He’s a fine specimen of a man. Very fine indeed.

He puts his hand on my leg and massages it. “Ready?”

He stops by the refrigerator as we pass through and grabs a couple of bottled waters. “It’s going to be a hot one and we could be gone for a while. It’s probably not a bad idea to take a cold drink.”

He grabs his Indiana Jones hat from the hook as we’re on our way out the door. I shake my head because I can’t believe the good-looking suit can also be rugged sexiness on a stick. No man should be this desirable.

I follow him to the ATV garage and he gases up before we drive out to what must be the edge of the property. He parks and walks over to a vine, lifting it for inspection. He puts his hand up and motions for me. “Come here, Paige. I want to show you this.”

I walk over and he points to a section on the vine. “I came to this vineyard for a very specific reason. The acidity of the soil and this particular type of grape are no longer compatible. The quality of the grapes is deteriorating. That means the quality of the wine is as well, so I’m grafting a different variety onto the existing rootstock. If it doesn’t reject the change, there will be a more compatible grape growing on these vines within two years.”

The process sounds similar to skin grafting. “Is it working?”

“It’s still too early to tell, but it’s doing well so far.”

He releases the vine and we walk back to the ATV. “I’ve never really thought about all that goes into making wine. It seems like it’s a very complicated and demanding business.”

“I see why your boss pays you well. You’re very good at what you do. Did you learn all of this at the university where Ben attends?”

“No. I learned from growing up around it and then I went to another university to learn what I needed to know about the business part of the industry, but that’s been many moons ago.”

“You sound like you think you’re so much older than I am.”

He studies me like he’s searching my eyes for something. “I’m eight years older.”

I roll my eyes at him. “It’s seven, but whatever. I don’t mind. I have daddy issues, remember?”

He leans over and kisses my mouth. “Yes. How can I forget that, my sweet young thing?”

We make several stops throughout the vineyard so Lachlan can inspect more grafts. He seems pleased with everything he sees, so I know he’ll be able to leave the vineyard for the holidays without worry.

“What time will you be leaving tomorrow?”

“My mum wants me at the house by five, so I guess I’ll drive you back before lunch. What are your plans?”

“Addison has invited me to Zac’s house with her and Ben, but I’m not going.”

“Your friends are going to leave you by yourself on Christmas? That’s shitty.”

He has no idea how much I agree. “I’ll be okay. I rather be alone than with a house full of strangers.”

I don’t like the pity in his eyes. It’s something I spent my whole childhood seeing and it makes me more uncomfortable as an adult, so I change the subject and hope he doesn’t bring it up again.

We return to the house for lunch and then go back out onto the vineyard. I don’t think Lachlan had the intention of working all day, but he sees how content I am to be outdoors, so we ramble on the ATV until late evening.

When the sun begins to drop from the sky, we go in for an early dinner. We’re both pretty quiet while we eat, but we share a lot of smiles and knowing grins because we’re anxious for what tonight will bring.

We’re cleaning the kitchen together when Lachlan makes his signature move and comes up behind me. Why does he love doing that so much?

He grabs my hips and drags my bottom against him. He grinds against me and I can feel how hard he is. “Go get ready. I’ll finish up the kitchen and meet you in the bedroom in five minutes.”

He kisses my neck and lets me go. I have to hurry because he isn’t giving me long, so I scramble to the bathroom with my bag.

I’m excited for this—for him—as I quickly freshen up before slipping into my naughty little Santa-themed lingerie. I think it’s been a little longer than five minutes when I hear him call out from the bedroom. “Time’s up, Miss Beckett. I’m waiting.”

I call out from inside the bathroom. “Sit on the bed and close your eyes. No peeking. I’ll know if you do.”

I open the door and see him sitting on the bed, eyes closed. “And just how will you know if I peek?”

“Because I always know when you’ve been naughty.”

I walk out into the room in the red lingerie with white fur trim and candy cane-striped thigh-highs. With hands on my hips, I say, “You can open your eyes now.”

He does as I tell him and when he sees me, he breaks into a smile. It’s all for me and no one else. “I have a gift for you if you’ve been a good little boy.”

“And what if I’ve been naughty?”

I stroll toward him. “You’ll still get a present.”

We reach for each other at the same time and he brings his mouth down hard on mine. It’s almost painful, but I rejoice inside because it’s the way I want it tonight. Rough and raw.

He quickly spins us around and shoves me backwards onto the bed. He strips his shirt over his head and I enjoy the show from where I’m lying on the bed. “Get on your stomach.”

I flip over and hear the sound of his zipper, then that of the opening drawer. Boo. I’m missing that part again.

I feel the bed dip and he crawls over me from behind. Hot skin is all I feel against my back. He’s naked. And wanting, obvious from the hardness pressed against my thigh.

I’ve come to expect him to push my hair from my shoulders, and he does. He puts his lips on the skin of my neck and then slowly moves to my shoulder. He grazes his teeth over it while his hands are all over me at once. I’m squirming beneath him, chills erupting over my entire body. He continues to travel downward until his mouth reaches the band of my panties. He hooks his fingers inside and tugs. I lift my hips up from the bed a little so he can get them down.

When my panties are off and tossed aside, he unfastens my bra. He puts his palm flat against the small of my back and strokes it before his hand drops to my cheeks. I’m afraid because I don’t know what he’s going to do. I’ve never done that before, and I don’t think I want to.

I’m face down, but I feel his hand creep around to my stomach and then down between my legs until he’s stroking me in that delightful place. I temporarily forget my fear because all I feel is longing for more of what he’s doing. I must have it. I’ll explode with it or without it, but for two completely different reasons.

I feel him prodding me from behind, searching blindly for his way inside me, and I’m back to thinking of his intent. I decide it doesn’t matter. He can do anything to me as long as his fingers don’t stop what they’re doing right now.

He pushes my knees apart with his and then glides into the familiar place. I admit I’m relieved, but I don’t have time to think about it for long before he’s directing me. “Sit up and lean back against me.”