about from Corinne. One look and Rina had fallen in love with the house and made friends with Frankie, whose favorite pastime was discussing dating in Boston. They shared information, and Rina's ideas flourished. She'd already outlined her series and written most of the first week's draft.

With work put aside, she could focus on her private life. And Emma had been right on when she'd called Rina horny. She hadn't been with a man in years and she was finally open to the concept of monogamous sex. She wasn't ready for a relationship, but a satisfying fling appealed to her new independent streak and resolve to live life on her own terms.

'Any ideas who should be your first guinea pig?' Emma asked, obviously referring to Rina's column.

Rina, on the other hand, contemplated what kind of man she'd like in her bed. 'A dark-haired, blue-eyed Mr. Perfect,' she said dreamily. An attentive man who catered to her every need and desire.

'Afternoon, ladies.' As if she'd conjured him, dark-haired, blue-eyed Colin Lyons appeared near where Rina stood. She hadn't noticed him come in, but she was very aware of him now.

She inhaled and smelled the musky scent of his cologne and her stomach curled with delicious warmth. She told herself it had to be the thought of sex that had her hot and bothered, but she knew she lied. Just looking at Colin elicited a definite chemical reaction inside her body, obviously short-circuiting her brain.

'Hello, Colin. I take it you were at the hospital again?' Emma asked, knowing Colin had visited Joe every afternoon since his arrival the day of the publisher's stroke.

Colin nodded.

'How is our dear Joseph?' Emma asked.

'Resting more comfortably today.'

'That's wonderful. I know Corinne's worried about him,' Rina added, joining the conversation and trying to act polite, not like the oversexed female he inspired her to be.

'Corinne's got a lot to be worried about,' he muttered, then turned to Rina. 'But I appreciate you asking. I'll be sure to tell Joe you care,' he said, his voice warm.

As usual, his attention set off a tingling reaction. 'Emma asked about Joe first,' she reminded him, trying to deflect attention from herself. Surely Joe would rather hear about Emma's concern than an employee he hadn't even met.

'She did. But so did you, and as Joe's family, I appreciate it.' A smile tilted Colin's lips into a lopsided grin, and Rina forgot to breathe.

A former local newscaster, he had the chiseled features television adored, dimples and a gleaming white smile made more charming by the slight overlap of his two front teeth. Razor stubble darkened his cheeks, and that hint of musky aftershave enhanced his potent allure. Her gaze traveled downward. Even his fisherman sweater and worn jeans added to his rugged appeal.

'See something you like?' he asked, arms folded across his broad chest.

'Everything,' she said, immediately biting her tongue, but it was too late. The word had escaped.

Caught, she flushed and quickly transferred her gaze to Emma. Rina tried to look innocent. She really did. But when Emma nodded Colin's way and murmured, 'I agree he's hot, but put your tongue back in your mouth,' the slight flush in Rina's cheeks started to burn.

'You'll have to forgive Rina. She's off balance,' Emma said to Colin. 'And I can't really blame her, considering.' She propped an elbow on her desk.

'Considering what?' Colin spoke to Emma, but his blue-eyed gaze never left Rina's. He hadn't stopped staring since her blunt admission.

Emma sighed. 'Young people. You never take time to look around you and appreciate the scenery.'

Oh, if Emma only knew how wrong she was, Rina thought wryly, realizing Colin's eyes had small laugh lines surrounding them, a sexy attribute that added character to an already amazing face.

'Look up, children. You're both standing under mistletoe,' Emma said with glee. With a huge smile on her face, Emma pointed up.

Rina groaned, and Colin, one eyebrow raised, followed Emma's lead to look at the ceiling. Sure enough, the green sprig hadn't moved, changed or fallen to the floor. And neither had Rina since the time Emma had called her over to Colin's desk.

She'd been had. A notion the older woman verified when she not so subtly picked up her purse.

'Well, Colin?' Emma asked. 'Aren't you going to follow tradition?'

Rina knew from experience life rarely doled out second chances. Standing under the mistletoe with Colin was a one-time opportunity. She'd been doing a lot of talk about living a new life and starting over.

She glanced up at the mistletoe that teased her and tempted her to follow her most erotic impulses. Emma obviously caught the sexual undercurrents that had been running between Rina and Colin since day one.

No sense trying to hide them now.

'I wonder,' she whispered softly, for Colin's ears only. Taking advantage of the new, liberated Rina, she leaned forward, closer to Colin and those super-sexy lips. 'Do you have the nerve?'


FROM THE CORNER of her eye, Rina saw Emma slip out the door.

'Emma's gone,' Colin said. He sounded as stunned as she felt at this sudden turn of events, and his voice held a husky, low timbre that resembled rough whiskey.

'And she definitely left some excitement in her wake.'

'Is that what you'd call it?' He studied her shamelessly, as if taking her measure. Looking for what, Rina couldn't be sure, but with each passing second, those blue eyes seemed to see inside her.

To read her mind. If he could, he'd know she took this tradition seriously. Now that Emma had put the idea in her mind, she wanted to know what it would feel like to be kissed under the mistletoe. Right now. By Colin.

His hands came to rest on her shoulders, his palms hot and strong. Heat burned within her and her stomach curled with silken anticipation as the need to taste him grew.



He removed her glasses, placing them on the desk, and stared. 'Did you know you have golden flecks in those brown eyes?'

Unable to speak, she licked her dry lips and was rewarded when his hungry gaze followed the movement.

'Reminds me of sunshine.'

Warmth tingled through her veins. Born and raised in the Bronx and a New York girl at heart, Rina wasn't shy about asking for what she wanted. And she wanted her new life to begin now. Despite barely knowing Colin, she was going to test the waters. Take whatever he was willing to give. 'You should know, I'm not one to let a mistletoe moment pass.'

'And you should know, I'm not a man who takes a challenge lightly,' he said, obviously referring to her earlier question. Did he have the nerve to kiss her? 'Nor am I the type to defy tradition. No matter how unexpected,' he whispered an instant before he lowered his head and his lips touched hers.

He'd called her bluff, taken the initiative, and now he toyed with her, playfully testing, learning the feel of her mouth and letting her learn him. Then his tongue slid briefly, seductively, over the seam of her lips, electrifying her with his moist touch until their tongues lightly met.

The experiment yielded high-impact results. Colin tasted of pure male desire, a flavor that stirred a hunger long denied, and awakened passions she'd never experienced before. Passions she'd never thought existed before now. She trembled, and in response he squeezed her shoulders, his fingers biting into her skin, providing a carnal awareness of the fact that she affected him, too.

But from deep inside, caution clawed its way to the surface, breaking through the surprising desire that still burned hot inside her. She'd been floored by a simple kiss.

As if anything about this kiss-or Colin-was simple.

She lifted her head, breaking the kiss but not the awareness. He met her gaze. Heat flared bright in his eyes

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