Nickolai's Noel

Nickolai's Noel by Alicia Hunter Pace Read Free Book Online

Book: Nickolai's Noel by Alicia Hunter Pace Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alicia Hunter Pace
didn’t like that. “What number?”
    “Thirty.”
    “You like the sweater number of goaltender Emile Giroux more than twelve?”
    “No. It was the only one in the Beauford Arts Council silent action. If
you
had donated one, I would have bid on it.”
    “I’ll give one next time. And I’ll give you one now—one I wore, with my name.”
    And she smiled—like she wanted that sweater, like maybe she would wear it to a game. He had a third kind of kiss to show her.
    When they parted, he walked over to the quilt he’d liked so much—
Lazy Morning.
He might buy it. He didn’t often make frivolous purchases, but was something that nourished his spirit and made him think of Noel so very frivolous? His teammate and friend, Mikhail Orlov, teased him for shopping at the Dollar General store for household items, but why should he pay twice the price for garbage bags at a gourmet grocery store? Mikhail had grown up in a home with family and plenty of money and didn’t understand the danger of being alone and poor. But Nickolai knew he was always one bad hit from an enforcer away from never again being able to do the only thing he knew how to do. And if that happened, he was determined not to end up like so many pro athletes—injured and broke because of unwise spending.
    Still … Nickolai ran his hand over the kitty paw on the quilt. Noel had sewn that little paw there. He’d probably saved enough money on paper towels and laundry detergent to buy it. And that was another thing. He did his own laundry instead of sending it out, as his single teammates did. He let his eyes drift to the price tag. She had doubled the price!
    Surprised, he swung his head around and met Noel’s eyes.
    She put her hands in front of her and closed her eyes. “I know. I know. I marked it up. I’ve never priced something for more than it’s worth before, but, the truth is, I don’t really want to sell it. I love it too much. I probably should take it down, but I like it there so I can look at it every day. And I know from experience that putting a ‘not for sale’ sign on something just makes people pester you to let them buy it.”
    Nickolai laughed. That settled it. He’d never try to take it from her. He stepped forward and put his hands on her shoulders. “People want what they can’t have, no?”
    She tilted her head and twisted her mouth like she did when she was about to say something teasing. When had he noticed that?
    “People want what they can’t have,
yes.”
    “What if someone offers you the price you have on the quilt?”
    “I’d have to sell it. I guess that’s a chance I have to take.”
    He drew her close and she put her arms around him. “Maybe you should raise the price again before someone offers.”
    “I think I will.” She tipped her face up. “Still not a sure thing, but safer. And I can make another.”
    He shook his head. “It wouldn’t be the same.”
    “No. You’re right.”
    He smoothed her hair back and cupped her cheek. “I can drive on that icy interstate. I can drive on any ice. But the man on the news said it is closed and against the law. I don’t like to break the law.”
    “Oh, my, no,” Noel said. “We can’t have that. But where
will
you go?” She dropped her eyelashes.
    He tipped her chin up to meet his gaze. “We’re going to make love. You know that, don’t you?” He lowered his face until their noses met.
    “I suspected.” And she took his hand and led him through the warren of rooms that made up her shop, each warmer and homier than the last.
    But if he’d thought the shop rooms felt homey, when they ascended the stairs and entered Noel’s apartment, he felt like he’d
come
home.
    And he’d never been home before.
    • • •
    Noel had never done such a thing, and it was unlikely that she ever would again, but there wasn’t an army ever mustered that could have stopped her from sleeping with this man. The way she saw it, they were in a magical Christmas snow

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