Chapter One

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Well, shit.

Clark knew the clock wouldn't bring good news, even before his bloodshot eyes focused on the time. New York nights had a way of disappearing too quickly--just like that bottle of champagne they'd ordered around midnight. In minutes Erica would have to hit the shower and hustle to make it to the studio on time amid the snow and last minute holiday shoppers, himself being one.

"Your feet are cold," she whispered in a sleepy voice.

"Compared to whose?" he countered, curling his arms around her.

"You don't really want me to answer that, do you?" she asked.

"You don't have to. I bet I can guess. George Clooney has warm feet, doesn't he? And your buddy Colin Firth? Well, on second thought, maybe not. I think British men as a rule must surely have cold feet." He gave her butt a playful pinch. "Actually, I bet you had a real thing for Hugh Jackman's feet."

"Hugh is Australian," she corrected. "And I'll never tell."

"You won't tell? You mean you're one of those private celebrities?"

"Intensely private."

"Nothing on social media, then? No updates on your exciting, paparazzi-filled life?"

"Nothing of the sort." She shook her head.

"What about interviews? Surely you give a few of those."

"Aside from the one I'm giving today? Definitely not."

"So what you're saying is that you're the kind of celebrity that doesn't kiss and tell?" he asked.

She never had a chance to respond. A second later he flipped her over and captured her lips. He kissed her deeply, happy in the knowledge that very soon he'd be kissing those same lips as her fiancé instead of her boyfriend. Or partner. Or life companion. Or whatever the tabloids were calling him this week.

"Kiss me that way and I'll tell you whatever you want," she confessed.

"You're calling in sick, right?" He pulled her closer.

"You know I can't do that."

"Come on. You don't want to go out there. We've got twenty-four hour room service. Baileys in the minibar for Irish coffee. Christmas movies on every channel. We don't have to step foot outside until the new year. I'll even put on those ridiculous fuzzy socks of yours." He rubbed his cold feet against hers.

"Clark McCullough, stop it!" She tried to wriggle away.

"Stay here. Let's deck each other's halls..." he said in a whisper.

"You're not making this any easier."

She freed herself from his grasp and slipped from the cozy warmth of the bed. In two seconds she was wrapped in a hotel robe, cell phone to her ear. His smile widened as he listened to her side of the conversation, pleased that she'd needed very little convincing.

"Hi Judy, it's Erica. Not a very good one I'm afraid. It was a rough night to say the least. Must have been the Chinese takeout. I know, I know. Could you let him know I'm running late? Reassure him that I'll be there as soon as humanly possible? Thanks, Judy, you're a love."

"Bad Chinese takeout?" Clark raised an eyebrow after she ended the call. "Better not have been one of my joints."

"Of course not. I would never betray you that way." She held up one hand as a pledge.

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