"Just in case I get the urge to kiss you, I don't have to fight off any boyfriends." Dave took the last piece of cake before getting up to leave the room. "Great dinner, thanks, Sophia."
"You make a statement like that and head out the door?" she said with a laugh.
"There isn't much left to say. I gave you notice a head of time," he replied.
"So you plan on kissing me, huh?"
He nodded. "Oh yeah, I've decided there will be kissing."
"Well if there's kissing then you can go with me to the Winter Festival tomorrow," Sophia announced and stood to begin clearing the plates. "There will be lights and music, ice-skating, and Santa Claus. Not to mention tons of food at the hall."
"So no kisses if I don't go?" Dave appeared to weigh the thought of being around all the holiday cheer versus kissing her. "Can't I just work it off here like building a chimney or something?"
She walked up to him slowly and put her hand on his chest. His heart jumped beneath her touch. "I know you've been through some stuff. Anyone can look into your eyes and see you're troubled. Come with me and forget just for a little bit, and if you don't like it I'll give you a free sleigh ride."
He swallowed and patted her hand. With a quick nod he turned and walked away, and she opened the swinging door to watch him head up the stairs. Sophia let the door close and went to clean up the dishes. She pondered why Dave affected her to the point that she wanted to save him. He wasn't a kitten or some homeless man she would take a meal everyday until he got into a halfway house. He was a soldier that had been in a place she couldn't even imagine doing things very few might have heard about. But she was certain that he was the type to take on guilt and try to carry the burden alone. Dave Scott's biggest enemy was of his own making, and she didn't know if she could save him from himself.
Later that night she learned how much she was right when she was in her office. It was after one in the morning, and when she heard someone downstairs, her heart jumped in her chest. None of the guests were up that late, and she could catch up on paperwork while the house was quiet. She was just about to close down her computer and head up for the night when the sound came loud and distinct to her ears. A chair scraping across her hardwood floors made her grit her teeth. If there were scrapes, she might have to restrain herself from going postal. Re-surfacing her floors was not cheap. Who the heck is up so late anyway? she thought crossly and locked her office door. She headed down the hall looking for the loud offender and found Dave sitting in front of the fire he'd reignited. He didn't see her standing there, and to Sophia he seemed restless. He got up and paced before passing his hand over his hair in frustration. He leaned his hand against the fireplace and bent his head before sitting once more and staring into the fire. The turmoil came off of him in waves, and she found herself walking toward him hoping to offer some small measure of comfort. He stiffened under her hands when she touched his shoulders.
"Shouldn't you be wrapped up all toasty warm in bed upstairs," she asked softly.
"Lately sleeping seems to be one of the things I can't achieve," he said ruefully. "Did I wake you?"
"I was working in my office when I heard you," Sophia explained. "Want to talk about it and share a little bit of that load?"
He shook his head and leaned back against the chair. "It's not your load to carry."
"But I'm a friend, so that's what we do." Sophia sat on the hearth in front of the fireplace and leaned against his knees while the warmth of the fire warmed her back. "Talk to me."
"I don't know how," he admitted. "It's not the kind of thing I do."
"You carry it all on your own," she said softly. "You start at the beginning."
He cupped her face. "Thank you but I can't right now."
"I understand. I'm here if you want to talk," she offered. "Want some hot chocolate? It might help you sleep."
"You should go up and get some sleep. I'm a big boy, Sophia. I'll be up for a bit," he replied.
She slapped his knee and said firmly, "Then I guess we're going to be up. What's your game, monopoly or checkers?"
"You'd actually stay up with me knowing you have a hotel full of guests and a holiday festival tomorrow?" he asked.
"Popcorn and hot apple cider with a touch of brandy to go along with it," she said looking up at him. The man was gorgeous by firelight.
"I'll take my kiss." His voice was a low sensual whisper that made goose bumps rise on her skin.
Sophia felt the nervous flutter in her stomach. "Ummm, now?"
"Do you have a problem with that?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"None in the least."
He gripped her by the shoulders and pulled her against his chest. She was on her knees between his legs, and the contact with his body was doing delicious things to hers. His mouth descended to hers and gave her lips a soft bite. She held her breath waiting for more, and another sexy nibble made her purr. He traced her lips with his tongue before crushing his mouth to hers, and the sensation rocked her. She was sure the house shook with the passion that burst free from them both. She opened her mouth inviting him in to taste her deeper. With a low groan he sank his tongue into the deep recesses of her mouth. She reached up and gripped his shoulders trying to anchor herself and pull him closer at the same time. Without breaking their kiss, he pulled he onto his lap and buried his hand in her hair while he feasted on her lips. By the time he raised his head and she stared into those deep green eyes, she didn't know what to say. She stared at him with parted lips and her breath coming in shallow pants as he caressed her damp lips with his thumb.