Help Around The House by Karenna Colcroft
erotic contemporary romance novella (approx 26000 words)
Cover Art by Winterheart Design
Two years after the death of her husband, Jodie thinks it’s time to move on. And who better to move on with than Todd, the next-door neighbor who has stood by her and helped her with everything from snow removal to her two children?
But Jodie isn’t completely sure she’s ready to become involved with Todd. He’s been divorced for several years and barely remembers how to be in a relationship. If the two of them want everything to work out, they must agree on what they want and work through their pasts to build a future together.
Back in the living room, Todd found the remote and changed the TV channel. “I don’t think we need to watch that movie anymore,” he said. He slid closer to Jodie and put his arm around her. “We don’t really need to watch anything, do we?”
“I guess not.” She wanted the TV as a distraction but couldn’t think of a good reason to ask Todd to leave it on.
He shut it off and set down the remote. In the silence, Jodie held her breath, waiting to see what would happen next. She hoped he would kiss her. She also worried about what a kiss might mean. What it might lead to.
He turned toward her and she looked up at him. The love she saw in his eyes nearly brought her to tears. No one had looked at her that way in such a long time, and she barely knew how to handle it now.
“May I kiss you, Jodie?” he asked softly.
If they kissed, everything would change between them. Kissing would make it completely real that they weren’t only friends anymore. They were a couple, and she wasn’t sure she was ready for that.
Despite herself, she nodded.
Gently, Todd touched his mouth to hers. His lips were soft and slightly chapped, and he tasted like the soda he’d had with dinner. He put his other arm around her, and in his embrace Jodie felt the warmth and comfort she hadn’t been able to find enough of in the past year. Only Todd had tried to console and care for her, and as the kiss deepened to something far too passionate to be called friendship, Jodie felt everything he had tried to give her.
Todd’s tongue touched her lips, and with almost no conscious thought Jodie opened her mouth slightly and touched his tongue with her own. Desires she’d denied for so many months surged within her. Her lower body tightened with arousal and anticipation, and her nipples hardened. She ran her hands along Todd’s back, and he responded by stroking her cheek with a fingertip.
She loved him. Not as a friend, but as the man he’d proven himself to be all those times he’d helped her. All the times he’d been there for her. Without realizing it, she’d fallen in love with the friend who had done so much for her and her children, and now she could no longer pretend to him or herself that she didn’t want that love.
She wanted it. She wanted him.
She was grateful for her children in the other room. They were the only thing that kept her from bringing Todd into her bedroom. Far too much time had passed since the last time she’d had a man’s touch, and her body ached for it. She wouldn’t allow herself to give in, though. Not tonight.
He broke the kiss, gasping for breath. “Oh, Jodie. I’ve daydreamed about kissing you. I didn’t know it would feel like this.”
“You’re a good kisser,” she replied.
He smiled. “So are you. Are you okay?”
“Yes,” she replied without hesitation. She wouldn’t take time to examine her emotions. The surface ones, her love and desire for Todd, were the important ones at that moment. She wasn’t being disloyal to Royce, and she wouldn’t allow herself to think she might be.
“You’re crying.” Todd touched her cheek and held up his hand to show her the water on his finger. She hadn’t noticed that a tear had fallen. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I haven’t kissed anyone since Royce.” She took his hand in both of hers. “I wanted you to kiss me. It’s going to take time for me to get used to this, that’s all. I’m okay.”
“Good. So am I.” He drew her closer to him. “I won’t kiss you again. If I do, I think I would want more, and I know neither of us is ready for that tonight.”
“The kids are here,” she reminded him.
“They are,” he agreed. “And I don’t want them to be uncomfortable any more than you do. When they’re around, I’ll try not to even kiss you, until you think you’re ready to tell them what’s going on between us. For anything else, we’ll either go to my place or wait till the kids are spending the night somewhere.”
“That’s probably best.”
“We’ll take it slowly,” he promised, toying with a strand of her hair.
She rested her hand on his knee. “Slow is good. This isn’t going to be easy for me, and it may not be for you. I’ll try not to be too much of a pain in the neck.”
“No matter what you say or do, I’ll never think of you as a pain in the neck,” he promised. “Should I turn the TV back on, or would you rather I went home?”
“I don’t want you to leave yet.”
“Then let’s watch a little more TV.” He let go of her and picked up the remote. “You choose.”