Oh, Fudge by Erin Nicholas

 

1

He had the best hands. Big, hot, slightly callused, causing a delicious drag over her skin. And confident. This guy knew what he was doing when he put his hands on a woman.

His big palm slid up the side of her thigh to her hip, then under the edge of her half sweatshirt onto her bare skin. The hot touch made her suck in a quick breath and then let it out in a soft moan as he ran his hand up and down her ribs.

As his hand was moving, so was his mouth. He dragged his jaw along her neck to her collarbone, the scruff on his face abrading her skin and sending goose bumps dancing joyously down her arms and tightening her nipples.

“Paige.”

She loved the way he said her name. Low and needy. The deep voice combined with the slow Louisiana drawl made heat pool in her belly and then slide lower, making her feel achy and tingly. In spite of the fact that she was wearing loose, soft, comfortable yoga clothing—a sports bra, a half sweatshirt that hung off her shoulder and had been washed so many times it felt like cashmere, satiny soft leggings, no panties so as not to pinch or restrict any motions, and nothing on her feet—she was aware of every bit of her clothing rubbing and pressing and she wanted to tear them all off. She needed to be naked. She needed to be free to wrap herself around him and feel every inch of him against every inch of her. She wanted his hot skin and his possessive hands and his wet mouth and—

“Paige!”

That wasn’t a deep moaning sound. That was a sharp whisper.

Paige’s eyes snapped open.

Piper Barry, a friend and one of the women in her afternoon yoga class, was staring at her with wide eyes.

Paige abruptly came back to the moment.

And the yoga class she was teaching. Or that she was supposed to be teaching.

Damn. She’d gotten caught up in dirty daydreams about Mitch Landry.

Again.

She never did that. Never. Guys were fun, no doubt about it. She loved guys. She loved the things she did with guys—and no, she didn’t mean sex. Okay, she didn’t just mean sex. She did love sex. But she also loved dancing and… okay, she loved men for sex and dancing. Still, that wasn’t just sex.

But she didn’t daydream about men when they weren’t around.

She cleared her throat and straightened her spine. No more prolonged periods of meditation. She needed to kick this class up a notch. Take her mind off Mitch. And the fact that he was going to be here in two days. After not seeing him for six months. And four days.

She also never kept track of how long it had been since she’d seen a guy.

Of course, all the guys she typically saw for sex and dancing she could see any time. For the most part. They didn’t live a thousand miles away in another state like Mitch did.

That was probably it. She just wanted what she couldn’t have.

The sexy, sweet texts didn’t help though. And the fact that the one night they’d had together had been the hottest she’d ever had. And the fact that—

Piper cleared her throat.

Right. Yoga. And the fourteen people facing Paige at that very moment waiting for her next instruction.

“Deep breath in. Feel your ribs rise,” she said in her soothing I’ve-got-your-peace-and-enlightenment-right-here voice. And as if she hadn’t been having them sit and quietly center themselves for the past several minutes. And as if her heart wasn’t racing and her nerve endings weren’t popping and her brain wasn’t full of rugged, big-handed, slow-smiling, how-about-you-bend-over-the-end-of-the-bed-so-I-can-hold-on-to-that-sweet-ass-while-I-fuck-you Louisiana-boy thoughts.

Paige shook her head and forced herself to move her class, and herself,through the next three poses without any thoughts of how great dirty talk was when done with a soft drawl.

Paige moved them from their beginning sitting pose to their stomachs and then into their first standing pose.

She caught Cam McCaffery eyeing Whitney Lancaster’s butt appreciatively.

She could understand how it might be distracting having your girlfriend in yoga class.

If Mitch were here, bending over, or behind her watching her bend over… Paige wobbled as her thoughts drifted again, and she pulled in her core and forced her mind onto her practice.

She loved yoga. She never had trouble concentrating like this. She looked forward to her practice so she could block out all of the thoughts racing around and the distractions that grappled for a hold on her attention. She was a master at blocking it out. It was why she’d gotten into yoga in the first place.

“Pull your navel toward your spine. Roll your shoulders forward, up, and back. Hug your elbows in, and squeeze your shoulder blades in, together, and down.”

Her life in tiny little Appleby probably didn’t seem stressful to anyone looking at it from the outside. Appleby was a sweet Midwestern town where everyone looked out for each other. Local businesses were supported. Neighbors brought casseroles over when someone was sick or a family member died. There were town festivals—including the Apple Festival starting tomorrow—and holidays were not just family events but entire community celebrations.

Paige’s family had lived in Appleby for generations. Her sister Josie lived in the house that their great-great-grandparents had built when they’d first come to Appleby.

All of that was why Paige did yoga. And collected cats. And drank vodka cranberries.

A lot of cats. And vodka cranberries.

“Now inhale, lift, and lengthen up through your spine,” she coached softly and steadily.

Fred, a big, long-haired, orange cat, came strolling past her mat and stopped to have his head scratched. Which she did while still holding her pose, engaging her core, and breathing. The cats were part of the practice, and everyone who came to Cores and Catnip knew they’d be joined by feline classmates.

The cats lounged and watched. Or wound their way between participants, getting petted and cooed over. Sometimes they’d choose a mat and join one class participant for the duration. Sometimes they made their rounds. Sometimes they slept and sometimes they played.

The yoga studio was a cat café and adoption center as well. Actually, Paige’s business had started as a cat café and adoption center. People could come in, get coffee, smoothies, and healthy treats—oatmeal, multigrain bars, cereal mixes, and low-fat muffins—and work or read with a cat curled up by their feet or in their lap. She ran a used-book swap and offered free Wi-Fi. It had been a great idea. People especially found it interesting since her sister worked at the local bakery, Buttered Up, a business that had been a part of the town for more than fifty years. Buttered Up offered all the typical treats—cupcakes, full-fat muffins, cookies, scones, and pies. Josie was a master baker and decorator. Buttered Up’s offerings were absolutely delicious. And a sharp contrast to the food that Paige offered. But she and Josie had fun with it, and recently Josie had started her own side business and now made healthy muffins and bars for Paige as well.

That was just one example of how her family was interwoven into everything Paige did. She loved and hated it.

Her family was here. Everywhere. All of them. All the time. She couldn’t run an errand without running into someone she was related to. She couldn’t go to the doctor’s office without her family knowing—her aunt was the head nurse. She couldn’t even dance with a guy without her mother wondering if it was serious and telling her how nice his grandmother/sister/mother/aunt/cousin was. Or how bitchy his grandmother/sister/mother/aunt/cousin was. Sometimes a girl just wanted to dance and for it to have nothing to do with his female family members’ dispositions.

Actually, a lot of the time a girl just wanted to dance with a guy without involving their families and the fact that his mother once hit her mother in the face with a dodgeball in PE class. On purpose. Or the fact that his aunt was the best Sunday school teacher her sister had ever had.

As if those were reasons for her to get involved, or not get involved, with a guy.

But this was what she lived with. She couldn’t have the doctor check her for a rash without her mom and grandmother calling. She couldn’t grab a low-fat yogurt without her dad telling her she needed to worry less about her weight and that she should just have a steak or burger once in a while. And since her apartment was upstairs from her yoga studio, heaven forbid someone park their truck along the curb overnight. She’d absolutely have family members asking about who had spent the night and picking up bridal magazines from the bookstore.

This was all absolutely why she did yoga. And collected cats. And drank.

“Keep the bright and energetic lift. Focus on your foundation. Awareness in that front foot,” she encouraged, checking on the class. “Hips level. Then lift that back leg slightly.”

Why was she thinking of all of this now though? She could always push all of that out of her mind.

But it was like Mitch had wedged open the door she normally shut and locked while she practiced, and that little crack was letting all kinds of thoughts sneak in.

She couldn’t wait to see him. She almost wished that he hadn’t texted to let her know he was going to be in town again. He could have just shown up and surprised her. That probably would have been better.

She wouldn’t have spent the last couple of days cleaning her apartment and shopping for food that he could eat while they were holed up together—he did not seem like the tofu and edamame type—and juggling her schedule and coming up with lies to tell her mother and various other relatives when they wanted to know why she wouldn’t be at the Apple Festival on day three.

She wasn’t going to tell them that she intended to spend day three in bed. All day. Naked. Wrapped around a hot Louisiana boy who turned her insides to pudding and made her smile stupidly over his texts as if she were in high school again.

Without warning, she would have just rolled with it the way she usually did when a certain feeling or mood struck her. He could have put up with her dust bunnies and could have gotten food to go from downtown, and she could have just left him in bed to go teach a class or two.

Except leaving him would have been very difficult.

“Elongate from the top of your head to your tailbone,” she reminded the class. “Then reach.”

Bernie, the gray-and-white, short-haired cat, jumped up on the windowsill next to Paige and meowed before yawning widely.

She smiled at him and reached to scratch under his chin. She had to really stretch, pulling in her lower stomach, breathing, and challenging her balance to give him the love but that was one way the cats were such a fun part of the yoga classes. Just having them around also made people smile more, and it was scientifically proven that spending time with animals brought blood pressure and stress levels down.

Paige heard someone clear their throat and with her fingers still grazing Bernie’s chin, she glanced toward the door.

Her eyes went round, both arms dropped, and her back leg dropped while her supporting leg gave out. Her brain just stopped keeping her upright. All of her mental energy was immediately focused on the man in the doorway.

She fell to the mat, and the entire room gasped and dropped their poses as well.

Piper was beside her a moment later. “Paige! Oh my God, are you all right?”

Mitch is here! He’s here! Early! Already! But he’s right over there! Yay! Gimme!

But she simply pushed her hair back and gave Piper a smile. “Yes, of course. Bernie threw me off-balance.”

Piper eyed the cat who was still on the windowsill, now licking a paw and looking entirely unconcerned about, well, anything. Typical.

“Did you… hurt yourself?” Piper asked.

“Nope.”

The rest of the class was leaning in as if to hear, and Cam and Whitney moved closer.

“I just got a little distracted,” Paige said softer. She caught Whitney’s eyes, then Piper’s, then looked toward the doorway.

Mitch was leaning against the doorjamb. He was wearing faded blue jeans and an olive-green t-shirt that she knew matched his eyes. They wouldn’t be able to tell from here but it was exactly the right shade. His hair was a little shorter than the last time she’d seen him, but he still had the short beard and, even more dangerous to her libido, that smirky half smile that said he knew she’d just fallen down because of him.

He wasn’t wearing a jacket even though it was January. She assumed he had one. Though it never got all that cold in Louisiana. Not heavy-winter-coat cold anyway. And yes, she’d looked that up. She’d freaking done research about where this guy lived. That was… crazy.

He did, however, have boots on. They weren’t exactly winter snow boots. More like scuffed-up work boots. But they’d keep his feet warm while tramping through the six inches of snow that blanketed Appleby currently. One booted ankle was crossed cockily over the other as he leaned against the doorframe watching her unfold herself from her yoga mat.

His arms were also crossed as if he were settled in to watch the rest of the class.

As if their thoughts were connected, his eyes traveled over her as she stretched to her feet again. A flash of heat went through her as he took in what she was wearing.

The same outfit, essentially, that he’d stripped her out of the last time he’d been here.

I love this fucking sweatshirt. The way it hangs off your shoulder, tempting me with these sweet tits right underneath. He’d hooked his finger in the neckline of the sweatshirt and pulled it down underneath her left breast. He’d pulled her bra up and then fastened his dirty-talking, hot mouth right on her nipple.

Now that nipple tingled with the memory and the sight of that mouth just a few feet away.

Piper and Whitney both looked in the direction that Paige was clearly looking.

She grabbed them both, forcing them to look back at her before the entire class swung to look at Mitch.

“Don’t—”

But it was too late. The other twelve people in the room turned as if they’d choreographed it. Mitch didn’t even blink. All he did was lift one hand in a little wave.

Even that made her hot.

He was laid back. God, she loved that.

She needed that.

Not that she needed him. Or wanted him. Not like that. She didn’t want a man. Not long term for leaning on or anything like that. She shuddered. She was twenty-two, for God’s sake. In spite of the fact that her mother and grandmother were convinced she was going to never love anyone the way she loved cats—a fact she hadn’t disputed—she had time.

But she appreciated spending time with laid-back people. And if those people also said deliciously dirty things, and did deliciously dirty things, to her while also making her laugh, then… yeah, that was good. Really good.

Before he headed out the door and got back on the road with his truck pointed south. Very far south. Out of reach and out of you-should-bring-him-to-family-dinner-on-Sunday range.

She couldn’t help but smile as everyone turned back to face her, their eyebrows up, a mix of questioning and curiosity and oh, good for you. That mostly came from Piper and Max—the big, burly gay man who looked the exact opposite of anyone you would see in a yoga class but who had amazing core control and balance.

Yeah, Mitch Landry was something to look at.

Hot. That was just the best word. Hot. Rugged. He clearly worked outside and was completely comfortable in worn denim and t-shirts that molded to his lean, hard, muscled body that could do things that she hadn’t ever had done to her before.

He was older than her. Twenty-seven to her twenty-two. And his, ahem, experience showed. She also appreciated that. Along with his laid-back-ness.

She knew more about his sexual skills, of course, since 90 percent of the time they’d been together they’d been naked and doing a lot more than talking.

But when he’d asked for her number and she’d told him that she wasn’t looking for anything serious he’d said, “That mouth, those eggs, and you don’t want any strings attached? I take back everything I’ve said about the perfect woman not existing.”

Yes, he’d complimented both her mouth—and the blow jobs it had given him—and the eggs she’d made him the next morning. Well, at 4 a.m. when they’d finally taken a break and realized they were hungry. He’d added a shit ton of hot sauce to his, but he’d said that had nothing to do with the eggs and everything to do with the fact that his Cajun roots had ruined his taste buds for anything less than a six on a zero-to-ten heat scale.

Then he’d looked her up and down and said that was why when he’d seen the blond who was a ten out of ten on the hot scale he’d had to have her.

It was corny and predictable. But even as she’d rolled her eyes, she’d laughed and maybe even blushed a little. Mostly because yeah, he’d had her.

“So looks like the guy is here to check… your heating system,” Piper said, stepping forward onto Paige’s mat and putting her hands on her shoulders, making Paige focus on Piper’s face. “I’ll finish the class for you so you can go talk to him.”

“Oh, um…” The guy and her heating system...

“He’s not from here,” someone in the class said.

“I want to get his card though,” someone else—someone female—said.

That snapped Paige out of her stupor.

Shit. She couldn’t have Appleby-ites standing around gawking at Mitch and wondering what he was doing here.

What was he doing here? He wasn’t supposed to be here for two more days. And it was still early. Or, at least, it wasn’t past closing time which was when he was supposed to come by. So she needed to hide him.

She headed for him. “Right. Yes. Mr. Landry. Thanks for coming on short notice. The heating…”

She got close to him, and those green eyes actually twinkled at her. Twinkled. Just like the twinkling lights in the big front window in the lobby behind him. His grin grew too. And then she was close enough to feel him. Not with her hands. She didn’t reach out and grab him, though she was itching to. But she could just feel the electricity in the air as she got close. The heat. The chemistry. The magnetism that seemed to pull her body toward his.

He straightened away from the doorframe, his six feet and four inches towering over her. She wasn’t as short as her sister or mom, but she needed heels to get to five seven. And she hated heels.

God, he was big. She remembered the way he could lift her and shift her, the way he could position her body just right. The way he could…

“The heating?” he asked.

She licked her lips. Right. She’d been talking. About something. “The heating… thing”—Fuck, what did you call the thing that heated a building—“is in here.”

She grabbed his sleeve, wanting, needing to touch him, and pulled him with her into her office. It was a tiny space behind the front desk. She didn’t really need an office except as a place to put stuff. Extra mats and foam rolls and… okay, it was more of a storage room. She did most of her bookwork on her computer while on her couch upstairs in her apartment.

She tugged him inside and shut the door behind them. The furnace… fuck, furnace, she hadn’t been able to come up with the word furnace?... was not in here, but she was hopeful that the people in her class didn’t know that or hadn’t seen where they’d gone for sure.

“Mitch, I…”

He was right there, all of a sudden, his big body caging her in against the door, his forearms braced on either side of her head, his heat, his scent, his just-being-him right there. Finally. After all these months. And, well… to hell with it.

She lifted on tiptoe, put her hand at the back of his neck, and kissed him.

He gave a deep growl and returned the kiss.

And. Then. Some.