Phoebe Jordan’s neighbor is far too handsome for a girl who values her freedom and a silent house. With Christmas approaching, however, will the spirit of the season overcome Phoebe’s need to be alone?
Phoebe’s fingers reached for a tin of pet tuna and her fingers brushed the back of somebody else’s hand.
“Oh, hello!” The voice was male, deep and full, like a cup of strong hot chocolate. “You must be my new neighbor. I’ve seen you around.”
Phoebe looked up. His face was angular, softened only by a pair of dark and broad eyebrows that looked as silky as the wings of a swallow. She had the crazy desire to reach upwards and run her forefinger along their arcs.
Suddenly, she became aware of the silence. The shop’s audio speakers were blaring out ’Tis the season to be jolly, a toddler wanted his Mama at the very top of his eardrum-puncturing voice, the meat department was having a sale for the next three minutes only, but between the two of them all was silent. Special. Anticipating.
“Um, yes. Hi.” Three words. After two weeks of fantasizing about her neighbor, all Phoebe managed was three words. Not very original words, nothing like: String theory rocks. Nothing that indicated her interest, like: Let’s do coffee, or, at the very least, My name’s Phoebe. It was as though the years of pushing people away had made her forget how to do small talk.
Her neighbor must have read her mind. “My name’s Josh. Josh McKenzie.” He extended his hand, large and tanned despite the winter season.
His hand was warm and the skin pleasantly rough. Definitely not a man who used moisturiser.
“You have a cat, too, Phoebe?”
“Um, I guess. Or, more accurately, a cat has me.”
His laughter was as chocolate-rich as his voice. “Don’t they all. I’ll see you around, Phoebe Jordan.”
Phoebe added a roll of gift paper and ribbon to her trolley. This year, she’d make more gingerbread decorations than usual, and she’d give them to Josh. Why not? It was Christmas. A season to be, if not exactly jolly, than at least reckless.
Giving her neighbor some gingerbread cookies. The height of recklessness in Phoebe Jordan’s book. Still, it was her book. Her rules. After six years of living at the Shelter, Phoebe valued her freedom.
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