Bottom Line

The Callaghan Brothers, Book 8​


“How about coming home with me, then?” she finally asked.

Aidan’s eyes widened for a moment in surprise, then he grinned. “Are you propositioning me, Mary? Did you change your mind about that kiss?”

She flushed a darker shade of rose, but her eyes glittered. Or maybe that was just the prismatic effect of the flakes in the glow of the lamps lighting the far end of the lot. It didn’t matter; it was very pretty.

“No. I’m offering you a safe ride and a warm place to stay until you sober up enough to go on your merry way.”

He sighed dramatically. “No hook-up?”

The corners of her lips quirked, as he’d hoped. “No.”

“Ah, well,” he lamented ruefully. “It’s still the best offer I’ve had all night. I’m in your responsible hands, Mary. Be gentle with me.”

In that single, unguarded moment, Mary actually felt his loneliness. It seeped into her bones more than the cold, damp flurries falling softly all around her. She shouldn’t even be thinking what she was thinking. He was a stranger who had just tried to pick her up in a bar.

Yet something in him called out to something in her, and she knew that he was the reason she’d been unable to leave the parking lot. As she sat in her Jeep Grand Cherokee, the snow had begun falling in earnest, but she was warm and cozy with the defroster on full blast. She wasn’t sure what she was waiting for until she saw the gorgeous blonde man slip into the lot from around the back.

Mary wasn’t overly religious, nor did she claim to have any psychic talents, but she did believe that things happened for a reason.

She couldn’t let him drive in his condition. He’d end up killing himself or someone else. She could go back inside and call the Sheriff, but that would just get him tossed in a holding cell overnight, and no one should start the New Year off in jail. Besides, her instincts told her that he was basically a good guy going through a rough patch. It was certainly something she could relate to, and for whatever reason, she was in the right place at the right time to help.

The parking lot was quickly becoming slick, which meant the roads wouldn’t be much better. Mary led the way to her car and opened the door, only to turn around and find Aidan on his rear end looking somewhat confused. She went back and helped him to his feet, then held his arm until he was safely inside the vehicle. After fastening his seat belt, she slipped the Jeep into four-wheel drive and carefully pulled out of the lot.

Neither of them spoke much on the way back to her place. When Mary chanced a sideways glance his way, he appeared to be dozing.

Getting him out of the car was a bit difficult in the limited space of her garage, but they were able to manage without too much trouble. He towered over her, enough that her shoulders were the perfect height for him to lean on. Wrapping one of her arms around his waist, she was able to keep him upright and moving forward. He remained quiet as she gently guided him toward the guest bedroom and eased him into a soft chair. Her big yellow Lab, Max, padded along beside them, looking both interested and curious.

“Big dog,” Aidan commented, eyeing Max warily out of the corner of his eye.

“Yeah, he’s my shadow.”

“Should I be worried?” he asked, when the dog sat down within lunging distance and focused his gaze on Aidan as if trying to decide just what part of him would be the juiciest.

“Only if you try to hurt me.”

Mary wasn’t quite certain that was true. Max was the most easy-going dog she’d ever had, but he was very attached to her. She always suspected he’d come to her rescue if need be, but that theory had never, thankfully, been tested.

She pulled down the corner of the navy blue comforter, revealing ice-blue linens beneath, then disappeared in the adjoining bathroom to return with a big fluffy towel. She dried Aiden’s hair the best she could, then patted softly around his face and neck. He had the loveliest glow to his skin, smooth and golden, almost like he’d spent a few weeks in the Mediterranean, but she sensed it was just his natural coloring.

“I won’t hurt you, Mary,” he said softly.

She felt his eyes on her as she knelt before him and removed his shoes, one at a time, when he seemed incapable of doing so himself. Beautiful eyes of golden brown, not unlike a tiger’s – studied her face as she unbuttoned his soaked shirt.

When she reached the buckle of his pants, he caught her wrists with his hands. She felt the strength in them, suppressing a gasp. Bringing a strange man back to her house suddenly seemed like a very foolish thing to do. Her good intentions ran and cowered into the corners of her mind, despite the words he’d just uttered so sincerely a few moments prior.

“I’m drunk,” he said solemnly.

“Yes,” she agreed. Mary held her breath, even though it was confusion she saw in his eyes, not malice. His grip, while strong, was not painful. Despite the fact that his hands were chilled from the cold weather, heat pooled beneath her skin where he touched her.

“I don’t think I’m capable of getting it up right now.”

Her heart beat furiously in her chest, but outwardly she remained calm. “No, probably not. But that’s really not an issue.”

His confusion grew; his eyes searched her face. “You don’t want to have sex with me?”

She couldn’t say no, because some secret part of her did very much want to have sex with him at that moment. He was an extraordinarily good-looking man, more suited to a Hollywood leading man than an ordinary guy who just had a little too much to drink at a Birch Falls tavern. If the taut, hard muscles she felt beneath those clothes were any indication, he was built like a Calvin Klein model, too. Her thoughts strayed for a moment, wondering what it would be like to make love with a man who had tiger’s eyes and a body like that.

Shocked at that realization, she hushed that dark, wicked urge and promised herself she was going to cut back on the erotic romance novels. Maybe she’d download a few good mysteries to her eReader instead.

“How about we just get you out of these wet things?”

“But… you brought me back to your place. And you’re trying to take my clothes off.”

His voice, deep and smooth, caressed against her feminine parts, sending unfamiliar tingles into generally dormant zones. She ignored it.

“I brought you back to my place because you are in no shape to drive, or to be left alone, for that matter. And I’m trying to help you undress because your clothes are wet with melting snow and you’re shivering.”

She spoke soothingly, feeling a small ache in her chest for this beautiful man who was having trouble believing she didn’t want to do anything but help him. Didn’t he have a family or friends who cared for him?

He thought about that for several long moments, his eyes burning into her with such intensity she felt like he could see that little sexy part hiding in the shadows. Then he exhaled. “Oh. Okay.”

He still didn’t look convinced, but he allowed her to tug his pants and socks off, leaving only his black silk boxers untouched, then guide him over to the bed.

“Um, while you’re under the covers, how about pulling off the rest yourself?”

It took a moment for her words to register, but when they did, he grinned wickedly. “Help me.”

She fought the urge to grin back at him. There was something heartrendingly adorable about a gorgeous, almost-naked man being playfully naughty. “No,” she said, trying to infuse a bit of firmness into her tone. “You can do it.”

“Please?” he asked hopefully.

She crossed her arms over her chest. “No.”

He sighed, his grin turning into a look of intense concentration as he tried to remove his boxers beneath the sheets without becoming completely entangled. After several minutes of watching him struggle, she exhaled heavily and reached under the covers to help him.

“Stay still,” she commanded, wishing her voice sounded firmer and a bit less breathy.

“Your hands are so warm and soft,” he murmured, surrendering to her.

He grew still as she maneuvered the briefs down his legs and over his feet. Resisting the urge to take a peek (if only to convince her mind that what her hands were telling her was real), she resettled the covers over him. She felt the blush creep up her cheeks, but she needn’t have worried about his reaction. When her eyes made it back up to his face, she saw that he had passed out cold.

For no logical reason whatsoever, she brushed the damp golden locks from his forehead and pressed her lips to his as the grandfather clock down the hall tolled the arrival of the New Year. “Happy New Year, Aidan.”


Copyright © 2015 – 2018 Abbie Zanders.

Written by Abbie Zanders.

All rights reserved.