Book Releases

Close to Heaven: A Colorado High Country Christmas (Colorado High Country #5) —
Rain and Joe's story is out! Head back to Scarlet Springs for a very snowy Christmas story, complete with a look at the history of Scarlet Springs. There are sexy times, as well as a lot of humor. You can grab your copy here: Kindle Nook iBooks Kobo Smashwords Paperback

About Me

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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

DEADLY INTENT (I-Team #8) is OUT! Author Q&A




Deadly Intent (I-Team #8), the first I-Team full-length I-Team story since Seduction Game in 2015, is out! It tells the story of Pulitzer Prize-winning I-Team photographer Joaquin Ramirez and former US Army Captain Mia Starr, whose paths cross one night at a crime scene, changing their lives forever.

Here’s the blurb:


Secrets buried in the sand…

Former US Army Captain Mia Starr has built a new life for herself in Denver, far away from camel spiders and sand—and the terrible secrets of her first deployment to Iraq. She isn’t looking for a relationship, especially not with an intrusive photojournalist. Joaquin Ramirez might be sexy, but in her experience, photojournalists only want to make a buck off other people’s suffering. Still, the universe must have a sick sense of humor because it keeps throwing her together with Joaquin, making the desire she feels for him harder and harder to resist.

An undeniable attraction…

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning news photographer, Joaquin has everything a single straight guy could want—except the right woman. When he meets Mia while shooting a crime scene, he immediately sees beyond her cold exterior to the vulnerable woman beneath. Though the police consider her a suspect, he’s sure she’s innocent. Someone is killing soldiers—and trying to pin the blame on her. Unable to resist the pull between them, Joaquin stands by her only to find himself snared in the killer’s net as well. 


A twisted soul hungry for revenge…

Mia can’t help it when the heat between her and Joaquin melts away her preconceptions. As their passion explodes, danger draws ever closer. When it becomes clear that Mia is the killer’s true target, she must trust Joaquin with a secret that could ruin her … or risk losing the love of a lifetime.


The story is available at all major ebook retailers. It will be out in print next week. At this time, I have no plans in motion for an audiobook.



Q: I thought you said Dead By Midnight was the I-Team finale. 

A: At the time, I thought it was. I was unable to write romantic suspense because of contractual limitations. I terminated my contract last year, leaving me free to write romantic suspense again. Joaquin's story hadn't been told, and there were so many I-Team fans who wanted him to get his HEA that I knew I had to give him a story. 

Q: Does that mean the I-Team series is going to continue?

A: Yes, though I'm not sure how many more books there will be. I have several novellas in my head, and then there's Matt Harker. He needs a story. Alex Carmichael, too. And now there's a new I-Team member, introduced in this story, Anna Hughes, who will need an HEA as well.

I will be launching a spinoff series this year focused on Cobra International Solutions, Javier Corbray (Striking Distance, I-Team #6) and Derek Tower’s security and black ops business. Derek will get his story first. We'll see beloved I-Team characters in that series. Holly and Nick (Seduction Game) work there now. There is a major shake-up coming in the life of one I-Team hero, and he might end up there, too.

Q: Oh, a new romantic suspense series!

A: Yes! I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

Q: What can you tell us about Joaquin’s story?

A: Joaquin has changed tremendously from the first book. By the time we get to Breaking Point (I-Team #5), he's already starting to go through some big transitions. The Joaquin we meet in Deadly Intent is the Joaquin who survived the cartel attack and the hostage crisis in Dead By Midnight. In real life, you don't go through violent, traumatic events without changing. He is not the kid brother kind of character any longer. Also, we learn things about him we didn’t know before.

Qualities he has always had — the ability to see deeper into people, empathy, etc. — become clearer in this story. We know where they come from.

He is the perfect man for Mia, who doesn't like him at first. She has a hard-earned grudge against photojournalists from her time serving in Iraq.

Q: Are characters from the other I-Team stories in the book?

A: Yes. We see everyone, even if some of the appearances are more like cameos. It's hard with such a big cast of characters to have everyone play a meaningful role in every story. I try to make the connections realistic. We are not in touch with all of our good friends or family every day. We move in circles that overlap. Today, we're in this circle. Tomorrow, we shift to that circle. I try very hard to make any appearance by a character from a previous book meaningful, and not just “fan service.” 

The couple known as Marcangelo have prominent roles in the story, as does Holly, and the entire West clan at the Cimarron. (If you don’t know what the Cimarron is, you've missed the I-Team After Hours novellas — Skin Deep and Soul Deep — and need to catch up!)

Q: Can this book be read out of order?

A: Yes, this can be read as a stand-alone. But I highly recommend you read Seduction Game and Dead By Midnight first. There are events and characters in this story whose lives are deeply impacted by those two books. If you haven't read them, Deadly Intent will be full of spoilers.

Q: What about your straight contemporary series — the Colorado High Country series?

A: I’m going to keep writing that series. There are so many characters whose stories we haven’t heard. I can’t just drop them and leave them behind. Writing straight contemporary has been a challenge for me. My heart is more romantic suspense. But there are some suspense elements that leak into these stories. (I can't seem to help it.) So we'll be back in Scarlet Springs soon! 

In fact, I have a novella planned for this year that will bring some of our favorite I-Team heroes together with the Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue Team crew and Hawke’s crew of firefighters. That's going to be a very high-octane story.

Q: That sounds exciting! So, what's next?

A: I'll be starting the next Colorado High Country story next. I need to bring poor Conrad home from Nepal, where he lost his climbing partners in a summit bid for Mt. Everest. Megs is going after him. He will connect with search-dog trainer Kenzie Morgan, who will wisely give him a puppy to train. That puppy, and Kenzie's love, will ultimately save our hero from his crushing grief.

After that, probably the novella, and then Derek’s book in the new Cobra series.

Q: That's a busy year you have planned for yourself.

A: Yes, it is, but also exciting. I love these characters as much or more than my readers do. 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add about Deadly Intent?

A: I think Joaquin will surprise you. He is one of my most sensual heroes. Anyone who thinks he isn’t really hero material is in for a shock.
Thursday, February 15, 2018

COVER REVEAL & EXCERPT — DEADLY INTENT: An I-TEAM Novel



DEADLY INTENT, the first full-length I-Team novel since SEDUCTION GAME in 2015, will be out NEXT WEEK! It is also my first Romantic Suspense novel since 2015.

Watch this space for news about the release.

Deadly Intent tells Joaquin's story. Yes, finally, Joaquin Ramirez, the I-Team's Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, gets his own story. His heroine is Mia Starr, a veteran of the war in Iraq and former Army officer, who now works as a horticulturalist at the Botanic Gardens.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mia stood in the doorway while Joaquin led Elena onto a bit of open wood floor to cheers from their relatives.

“Quino taught Elena to dance when she was four and he was fourteen,” Aleta, Elena's mother, told her. "He's the artist of the family.”

So Joaquin was thirty-four — three years older than Mia.

Not that that mattered or meant anything at all.

Mia really ought to head home, but having seen him dance once tonight, she couldn't get herself to move toward the door. He and Elena stood there debating something in Spanish.

Aleta leaned close to Mia. “My nephew wants salsa dura —  the classic salsa - but Elena wants salsa romantica. They've agreed on Marc Anthony.”

None of that meant anything to Mia. She knew nothing about salsa, apart from the kind that went on tacos.

Finally, the music started and Joaquin and Elena began to move. People cheered, the noise bringing friends and relatives who'd been in other parts of the house and wanted to watch, too. They pushed past Mia, but she barely noticed them, her gaze fixed on Joaquin.

He moved with innate grace, every step, every motion of his hips, even the way he held Elena radiating masculine sensuality. The two of them seemed to be connected, mirroring each other with their steps as if they practiced this together all the time. Elena — down-to-business Corporal Ramirez — had transformed into a dance goddess, her short dress barely enough to cover her butt. She twirled and tossed her hair, never missing a step, a bright smile on her face. How could anyone dance like that in three-inch heels? Mia could barely walk.

Then Elena turned in Joaquin's arms, pressing her butt backward toward him, her hips thrusting in a way that was blatantly sexual. He laughed, answering with thrusts of his own, their hips grinding in sync.

Whistles. Cheers.

Mia's pulse skipped.

If she had danced like this with a cousin... Well, let's just say her conservative Presbyterian parents would've asked questions. But there was Elena’s mother and her little old grandma, laughing, their feet moving to the rhythm, clearly untroubled.

Then another thought struck Mia.

If Joaquin moved like that on the dance floor, what would he be like in bed?

God in heaven.

No. No, no. She couldn't think about that.

She couldn't help but think about that.

Elena had begun to sing along to the music, even her ribcage undulating as she turned in his arms once again, their feet keeping a perfect rhythm as they circled around the room. But, although Elena was the showier of the two of them, Mia could tell it was Joaquin who was in control, his dominance clear—a touch here, his hand catching Elena's there, his arms supporting her while she arched backward.

More cheers.

When the song ended, the room exploded into applause.

Joaquin hugged Elena close. “Welcome home, prima.”

“Joaquin is a good man,” Aleta said.

Mia looked over to find the older woman watching her. “I ... um...”

Then Joaquin was there, hand out. “Dance with me.”

Mia shook her head. “I ... I can't dance. I've never—”

She’d never tried.

“Quino is the best teacher.’ Elena looked at Mia, expectation on her face.

“Come on, Captain Starr,” Aleta said. “Give it a try.”

Her words were picked up by the others in the room.

“At least try it.”

“Quino can teach you.”

“You can do it, captain.”

She glanced around at them. “Only if you all promise not to laugh.”

For some reason, they all found this funny.

But Joaquin didn't laugh. He looked into her eyes, the intensity of his gaze pinning her to the spot. “I won't laugh. I promise.”

Against her better judgment, Mia took his hand. “I'm warning you. I can't dance to save my life.”

“The basic step is easy. Elena, come show her.”

Elena walked over to stand at Mia's right side. “Just listen to Quino.”

“Step back with your right, step in place with the left, then step slightly forward with your right. Then back with your left, step in place with the right foot, slightly forward with the left. Rock back, replace, step forward. Rock back, replace, step forward. That's it. You've got it.”

They repeated that several times, Mia watching Elena's feet.

"Now, try doing it without looking at your feet. Look at me, and follow my lead."

Mia looked into Joaquin's brown eyes, felt her pulse spike - and her step faltered.

"Relax," he said in a silky voice that made relaxing impossible.

"I'd rather be taking enemy fire." She blurted the words, but it was the truth.

The room exploded into laughter — and somehow that helped. No one here wanted to humiliate her. No one wanted to embarrass her. They were just having fun, and they wanted her to have fun, too.

"It's easier for you to follow if we're a little closer together." Joaquin drew her deeper into his arms —not so deep that their bodies touched, but close enough that she could feel the warmth emanating off his body and smell his skin.

She inhaled deeper, savoring the scent of him.

"Let's try again. One, two, three, rest. Five, six, seven, rest. You've got it. You're doing it. Now let's try turning."

The next time she stepped back with her right foot, Joaquin turned her to the right — and she lost the step.

That's okay. This is new. You'll get the hang of it." Joaquin coached her until she'd managed to get through a few turns, not once losing patience with her. "Let's try it with music."

Someone put on the same Marc Anthony song, Joaquin counting out the rhythm for her. "One two three, rest. Five, six, seven, rest. Look at me, not your feet."

Mia found herself dancing, the rhythm of the music showing her feet what to do. At first they moved forward and backward. Then Joaquin led her through a few turns, putting a hand on her hip to guide her. The contact startled her, his touch seeming to burn through the fabric of her dress. Again, her step faltered.

"Hey, no one gets it right the first time," he said. "Just keep dancing."

Mia tried to concentrate. One two three, rest. Five, six, seven, rest.

"You're overthinking it. Let go."

She gave in, looked into his eyes once more, the rhythm taking over.

"You've got it." Joaquin grinned, his face stunningly handsome.

Mia found herself smiling, too. She knew she must look stiff and awkward, especially compared to Elena, but she didn't care. "This is fun!"

"More fun than dodging incoming fire?"

She couldn't help but laugh. "Yes."

Too soon the song ended.

Cheers and applause.

Joaquin stepped back, raised one of her hands to his lips, kissed it. "Thanks."

Heat rushed into her cheeks. "Thank you."

All at once, Mia needed to be somewhere else, anywhere else. "I should go."

"So soon?" Elena looked disappointed. "It's not even ten."

"I'm an early riser, so this is late for me." Mia gave Elena another hug. "It's great to see you again."

"It's good to see you, too. Thanks for coming. I'll get your coat."

Mia thanked her hosts, accepting hugs from Elena's mother and a kiss on her cheek from Elena's father.

"Thank you so much for what you did for Elena."

When Elena returned with Mia's coat, Joaquin took it and helped Mia into it. "I'll walk you to your car."

She was about to tell him there was no need for that, but the look in his eyes told her that would be pointless. "Goodnight."

He grabbed his jacket and followed her out the door, and for a time they walked without speaking. He broke the silence. "Thanks again for coming tonight. It meant a lot to Elena."

"I try to stay in touch with all of my soldiers. Well, they're not really my soldiers, not any more."

"Like Andrew Meyer."

"Yes." Mia's mood plummeted.

“I'm really sorry about your friend—and the news article.”

"You just have a job to do. Nothing personal, right?" Mia clicked the fob on her key chain, unlocking her car door, her headlights flashing.

Was she being unfair to Joaquin? It was his job. And she was a person of interest — at least at the moment. The police would clear her soon.

He opened the door for her. "I hope you get good news soon."

"Thanks." She stood there for a moment, caught between anger and attraction. "And thanks for the dance lesson."

“My pleasure.”He waited for her to climb in and shut her door.

As she drove down the street, she saw in the rear view mirror that he was still standing in the street, watching her drive away.

~ ~ ~ ~

I can't wait to get Joaquin's book into your hands!

Copyright (c) Pamela Clare 2018
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lots of I-Team news!




There's lots going on here at Casa Clare, so here’s a quick catchup.

I finished working with Kaleo Griffith on the audiobook edition of Dead By Midnight: An I-Team Christmas. The audiobook should be out late this week or perhaps next week. Kaleo did an amazing job narrating the story — as he always does — with the sex scenes pretty much melting my earbuds as I “proofed” the recordings. All of you OKD sufferers — that’s Obsessive Kaleo Disorder, for those of you who aren’t yet addicts — are going to get a huge fix soon.

I am so excited to share this with you. I had forgotten that the story starts with Kat and Gabe getting it on, so I went from nothing to meltdown in about 2.2 seconds. You’ll have to be wearing asbestos panties not to get hot and bothered by the sound of Kaleo’s voice reading that scene (or the one of Marc and Sophie in the bathroom or the one of Zach and Natalie or Julian and Tessa at the end).

If you haven’t yet read Dead By Midnight, the most exciting of all the I-Team stories in my opinion, it is available in both ebook and paperback.

Close to Heaven is out in paperback


Close To Heaven: A Colorado High Country Christmas is out in paperback now. Thanks to those of you who took the time to read the story and share your reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

If you haven’t snagged your copy of Joe and Rain’s sweet and sexy Christmas story, it’s available on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, and Kobo, as well as Smashwords.

I'm about to start working on Joaquin’s story. Yes, you read that right. An I-Team story.

After writing straight contemporary romance for the past year and a half, it will be fun to return to romantic suspense. (Yes, the Colorado High Country series was straight contemporary, something I tried very hard to communicate with readers, who nonethless complained that there wasn't enough suspense. Er... There's no suspense in straight contemporaries.)

No, I’m not abandoning the Colorado High Country series. I love the characters far too much to just skip town. But Joaquin’s story finally gelled in my imagination, so it’s time to give the poor guy his own HEA. He’s been waiting for years!

It’s been a while since I've hung out with the I-Team gang, but working on the audiobook for Dead By Midnight was a good warm-up for taking the series foward. I hope you’re as excited as I am.


Follow me on Book+Main Bites



Also, I have joined Books+Main Bites, so register if you want to come hang and read excerpts from your favorite authors all day. You can find me under @PamelaClare. There are no sales pushes on Books+Main Bites, just sexy photos and lots of exerpts and deleted chapters, etc. This gives authors and readers a snark-free place to hang out that is blissfully far from the chaos and negativity of Facebook.

On the home front...


On the personal side, my sister is flying in for the Christmas holiday on Thursday. She lives in Stockholm, so this is the only time of the year I really get to spend with her. She is my best friend, so I’m very excited to see her again.

As a final bit of good news, I decided to get my blood work for my January oncology checkup done early so that I didn’t have it hanging over my head during the Christmas season. I got the results back today, and everything was normal! Hallelujah. Dec. 9 will mark the three-year anniversary of my last day of radiation. That’s the day I’ll be able to call myself a three-year breast cancer survivor.

That makes my Christmas bright all by itself.

Watch for news about the release of the audiobook edition of Dead By Midnight coming soon!






Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving


Wishing all my friends and readers in the US a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 27, 2017

CLOSE TO HEAVEN is out! EXCERPT



CLOSE TO HEAVEN: A Colorado High Country Christmas (Colorado High Country #5) is OUT! That had to be a speed record.

Kindle US, Kindle UK, Kindle CA, Kindle AU, iBooks, NookSmashwords (international, all ebook formats).

It should be out at any time on Kobo as well.

This full-length novel tells the story of two of people’s favorite characters — Rain Minear and Joe Moffat. We’ve seen them in every Colorado High Country book so far as the general manager and owner, respectively, of Knockers, the brewpub. Now their story comes front and center.

Rain was a mother at 16, abandoned by her much older babydaddy to give birth in a minivan alone. She grew up poor, managed to raise her daughter by working hard and sacrificing, and now at 37 feels alone.

Joe grew up with everything, but his heritage is a burden to him. He is haunted by ghosts of Scarlet Springs' past. He plans to stay single, have no children, and leave all his money to a foundation for the people of Scarlet. I’m telling you right now that things don’t work out the way he'd planned them. In the end, no one will be more grateful for that than Joe.

I hope you enjoy the story!

Here's the blurb from the back of the book:

A woman at a crossroads…

Rain Minear has fantasized about finding herself in Joe Moffat’s arms for years. It’s just her luck that the night it finally happens, he’s carrying her into the emergency room. It’s Joe who steps up to help her when a tragedy brings her life crashing down. He gives her a place to stay, helps her get back on her feet, and even tries to save her Christmas, though he’s never cared for the holiday. But he’s far too ethical to sleep with a member of his staff, holding her at arms length despite the long-simmering attraction between them.

A man haunted by the past…

Joe Moffat moved to Scarlet Springs to repay a debt. He’s struggled for years to keep his hands off Rain. She’s the general manager of his brewpub, and he is not that kind of boss. But, oh, she turns him on. More than that, she has the biggest heart of any woman he’s ever known. He’d do anything to see her smile again, even put up a Christmas tree and listen to carols. 

A season that changes two lives forever…

When a Rocky Mountain blizzard leaves them snowbound, they can no longer ignore their feelings for one another. As their passion turns to something deeper, it becomes clear to them both that this will be the most important Christmas of their lives.

It’s a fun and emotional story that gives us a glimpse into the historical past of Scarlet Springs and its people. It was a blast for me to research mining history and Colorado history for those parts of the story. 

Want an excerpt? I know you do. Without further ado...

From Close to Heaven...

While Joe set up the tree and retrieved box after box of Christmas decorations from storage, Rain rolled out the cookie dough, cut circles in the dough with a glass—Joe had no cookie cutters—then sprinkled the dough with sugar and put the cookies in the oven. She watched Joe as he came and went. Some part of her wanted to pretend that they were a happy couple preparing for Christmas together, but she was too much of a realist to play that game. Besides, Joe was anything but happy. He seemed tense, even grouchy. He was probably still upset about his SUV being stuck in a ditch.

He was always the first person in town to help others in times of trouble, but he had a hard time asking for it. Worse, he hated being out of the action. Now, he was stuck here with her for a couple of days, sidelined by a storm.

Rain cleaned up the mess she’d made, wiping flour off the countertop and getting the dishes into the dishwasher.

Joe walked in, another big box in his arms. He set it down on the floor near the living room fireplace. “I think this is the last one. I had planned to donate all of this. I just never got around to it.”

Rain dried her hands. “Maybe because it means something to you?”

He shrugged. “Nah. I’ve just been busy.”

Rain rested her hands on her hips. “We don’t have to do this, Joe. If this isn’t fun for you, it won’t be fun for me either. We can just chill and watch TV or do our own thing if that sounds better to you.”

He drew in a breath, closed his eyes, the tension inside him palpable. “You’re right. Sorry. I’m being an ass.”

“I didn’t say that.”

He opened his eyes, his lips curving in a lopsided grin. “Maybe you should have.”

“I’m sorry about your SUV.”

“It’s nothing. Compared to what you’re going through…”

She wanted him to know she understood. “It’s hard for you to ask for help, I know, especially when you want to be out there helping other people.”

“Yeah. Pretty much.”

“Okay, now, get over it. Everyone needs help once in a while—even the mighty Joe Moffat.”

He raised a dark eyebrow. “Is that how I come across?”

“Only when you’re beating yourself up for being human.”

Some of the frustration left his face. “Good to know.”

He walked over to his sound system, pulled out his iPod. “Christmas music. Let’s see what I have on here. Andy Williams. My grandmother loved him.”

Rain didn’t want to be negative. “He’s fine.”

Joe frowned. “Okay, so not Andy Williams. How about the Chipmunks?”

“The Chipmunks?” Rain laughed. “You listened to the Chipmunks?”

“No to the Chipmunks?”

She had a better idea. “Do you trust me?”

“Sure.”

Rain drew out her cell phone, found her Christmas playlist, then plugged her phone into the sound system and hit play. José Feliciano’s Feliz Navidad spilled into the room. “I love this song.”

She couldn’t help herself. She sang along and then started to dance, the happy melody and the Puerto Rican rhythm calling to her.

Joe crossed his arms over his chest and watched her, a grin on his face, his gaze warm. “You have a beautiful voice,” he said when the song ended.

The compliment hit a sore spot inside her.

“Not beautiful enough to make a career out of it.” She walked into the kitchen, checked the oven timer.

One minute.

“Come on now. You don’t know that.” He was still watching her, and she knew he was trying to decide whether to let it go. He changed the subject, pointing to the speakers. “What’s playing now?”

“Celtic harp. Kim Robertson.” Rain searched for an oven mitt, grateful that he hadn’t pushed her. “She’s incredible. I saw her play in Denver a few years ago.”

The timer beeped, and Rain took the cookie sheets out of the oven, the sweet scent of fresh sugar cookies mingling with the bright pine scent of the tree. She left the cookies to cool, joining Joe in the living room, where he was going from box to box as if trying to decide where to start.

He glanced over at her. “Let’s open these up, and see what we have.”

“You don’t know what’s in them?” She found this funny.

“They belonged to my mother. They were handed down to me after she passed, but I haven’t opened them.”

Was that it? Was that why he’d seemed so tense?

“If this is going to dredge up unhappy memories for you or make you sad, we can decorate with popcorn or ribbons or old socks for all I care.”

“Old socks?” He chuckled. “It’s fine, really. I wasn’t close to my parents. At Christmas, staff decorated the trees—several of them—for my mother’s Christmas parties. They also did all of my mom’s Christmas shopping. I was away at boarding school until right before the holiday. By the time I got home, everything was decorated, and the gifts were under the tree. It’s not something we did as a family.”

An ache in her chest, she watched as he chose a box and lifted it onto the coffee table. It made her sad to think that he had no real attachment to any of these decorations, no happy memories of putting up the tree with his parents and hanging his favorite ornaments year after year. The stuff in these boxes was just stuff to him. No wonder he’d planned to donate it.

“Let’s see what we’ve got.” He lifted the top off the box he’d chosen.

“Oh!” Delight washing through Rain. “They’re precious.”

On top sat a box of old European-style blown glass ornaments in pastel colors with glittering white, gold, and silver details—angels, Kris Kringles, shimmering birds with feathers for tails, elves, a little church, a trumpet, a cello, a violin. Each ornament was tucked carefully into tissue paper.

Joe took out one of the angels, turned it over in his hand as if it were a Rubik’s Cube. “How do you hang them on the tree? There are no hooks.”

“What do you mean?” Rain gaped at him. “Have you never decorated a Christmas tree before?”

“I told you. We had staff for that.”

“Well, it’s about time.” She found a small box of ornament hooks and opened it. “You take one of these and pass it through that little loop there. See?”

“Okay. Yeah. I get it.” He took it from her, started toward the tree.

“Oh, no, you can’t put it up yet. First, you have to put up the lights.”

He stopped mid-stride. “Lights? Right. I wonder where those are.”


~ ~ ~

Putting Christmas lights on a tree could test the patience of a saint. They found two big boxes of the damned things—dozens of strands of white lights—and went to work replacing old bulbs and putting the strands on the tree one by one. Rain took charge, imparting her vastly superior experience in Christmas tree decorating to him.

“You don’t want to drape the lights over the ends of the branches. You need to weave them through the tree, get them deep inside.”

She showed him how this was done, starting at the bottom of the tree and passing the lighted strand around its girth to him, their fingers brushing as they handed the strand back and forth. Awareness sang through him at her touch. Their gazes met through the tree’s green branches, the warmth in her eyes a provocation.

Twinkling lights. Soft music. The scent of pine.

Damn.

Joe was in trouble. He knew he ought to distance himself from her somehow, maybe go back outside and try digging out his Land Rover again, but he couldn’t get himself to step away. Their fingers lingered now, the touch deliberate.

They put strand after strand on the tree until it glittered and Joe was about to lose his mind. Then they moved to the ornaments—a new kind of torture. Every time they opened a box, a look of wonder came over Rain’s face, her smile and happiness putting a hitch in his chest. His pulse was tripping, and he wasn’t even touching her.

Jesus.

He got to his feet, walked to the window, needing some distance.

“These must be antique.” She held up a trio of angels. “Look. The faces are made of painted wax, not plastic.”

 “Yeah.” He turned to look out onto a windswept world of white, working to get his emotions under control, while she continued to rummage through the box.

“Oh!”

He heard her exclamation, recognized the excitement in her voice, but didn’t turn to see what she’d discovered, too caught up in his own feelings.
“Do you have any tape or thumbtacks?”

He answered without facing her. “They’re in the drawer next to the fridge.”

When are you going to tell Rain how you feel about her?

Rico’s words came back to him. Damn Rico anyway. What the hell did he expect Joe to do? Was he supposed to pull Rain aside and admit to her that he’d had sexual fantasies about her for far too long? Should he tell her that her smile, her laughter, the very sight of her put a warm feeling in his chest or confess that he spent more time at Knockers than he needed to so he could be close to her?

Listen to yourself. You’re pathetic, man.

When this storm passed, he would make an effort to meet someone again. He’d sign up on one of those online dating sites and—

“Oh, Joe.” There was a sing-song tone to her voice that cut through his thoughts.

He turned to find her standing in front of the sofa, a teasing smile on her lips, a look of expectation on her face.

She looked up at the ceiling, drawing his gaze with hers.

Hell.

Mistletoe.

It was plastic, but she didn’t seem to care.

“Rain.” He shook his head, but his feet began to move. “I’m your boss.”

Her gaze held his, an almost pleading look in her eyes. “Oh, who cares? It’s Christmas. I’m not going to sue you, if that’s what you think.”

“It’s not that.” Joe had come from a long line of assholes, and he was trying desperately not to become one himself.

Just give her a quick peck on the cheek.

Okay. Yeah. Sure. He could do that.

He closed the distance between them, hesitated for a moment, then ducked down to press his lips to her cheek. But his body betrayed him, and his mouth found its way to hers. It was just a brushing of lips, but the shock of it brought him back for another pass and another. Her lips were warm, soft, pliant, the sweet scent of her skin intoxicating. But he was going to stop. Any moment now, he would draw away from her and end this incredibleexhilaratingfoolishness.

It was her little sigh of pleasure that undid him.

He drew her against him, claiming her mouth in a hungry kiss. She came alive in his arms, arching against him, matching his fervor, her tongue meeting his stroke for stroke, her fingers curling in his hair. God, she tasted like heaven and felt perfect in his arms, her breasts pressing against his chest, her body soft in all the right places.

Joe’s heart thrummed, blood surging to his groin. Some part of him realized that he hadn’t stopped, that he was still kissing her, but he didn’t care, not when kissing her felt so… damned … right. He nipped her lower lip, drew it into his mouth, felt her tongue graze his upper lip, her fingers fisting in his hair.

Whether she stumbled backward onto the sofa or whether he urged her, he couldn’t say, but one moment they were standing, and the next he was lying on top of her, pressing kisses along her throat, her pulse frantic beneath his lips.

She whimpered, her hips moving beneath his, grinding herself against his erection. She reached for the top button on his jeans. “Joe. I want you.”

“Yes.” What the hell had he just said? “No. No, Rain, we can’t.”

“Why not?” Rain stared up at him, disappointment and desire naked in her eyes. “We’re adults. I want you. You want me.”

As if the hard-on in his jeans left any doubt about that.

“I’m your employer, Rain.” Joe pulled away from her and got to his feet, everything inside him protesting the abrupt loss of contact. Not sure what to do or say, he started packing together the empty boxes.

“Seriously? That is your excuse? I told you. I’m not going to sue.”

“Do you really think I’ve got some kind of risk assessment going on in my head right now?” He glanced over at her. “I’m trying to be fair to you.”

Her expression fell, and she broke eye contact.

Shit. 

He’d hurt her. He didn’t want that. “Rain, I—”

“It’s okay, Joe.” She stood, smoothing her hands over her blouse. “Let’s get these boxes put away and have some cookies.”

Joe said what he’d been trying to say. “I care about you.”

“I know. You care about all of the staff.” She packed tissue paper into two empty boxes then closed them, shutting herself off from him, too.

This is what happened when he ignored his own better sense. He shouldn’t have kissed her in the first place. What the hell had he been thinking?

Copyright (c) 2017 Pamela Clare — All rights reserved

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"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud."
—Emile Zola

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"No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."
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"I'm a writer. I give the truth scope."
—the character of Chaucer in
A Knight's Tale