Perhaps she was living in a fool’s garden, not thinking about the future. Frankly, she didn’t care what chances anyone gave their relationship. Finn felt as much a part of her now as her arms and legs.
She changed clothes but kept her cell phone handy, hoping to hear the ding that would tell her she had a text message. The earlier one she’d sent him remained unanswered. Perhaps he’d returned to the lake cabin, but it seemed he would have mentioned it, if that was the case.
Once she refreshed her makeup, she glanced out the window and saw that the snow, which had been threatening most of the afternoon, had started to fall in thick flakes. With the holidays so close, everyone seemed preoccupied. Carrie had gotten three invitations to parties and other social events from friends. Sophie had invited Carrie to join her family for Thanksgiving. Knowing she would be alone, even Harry had extended an invite. Carrie had declined both invitations, feeling she would be an add-on. She would have her own Thanksgiving, she decided, and make the best of it by herself.
The last time she’d seen snow she’d been with Finn and Hennessey. The reminder made her miss them both dreadfully.
Unable to bear this silence any longer, she reached for her cell and typed out with practiced ease. Miss you.
Almost right away she got a response. Good.
Where have you been all day? Finn had to know she’d been anxiously waiting to hear from him.
In the air. Still have your hot date tonight?
In the air? That didn’t make sense—a flight to Fairbanks from his cabin was less than thirty minutes. Are you jealous?
Carrie grinned, and a warm sensation came over her. It’s snowing here; makes me miss you all the more.
I know it’s snowing in Chicago.
You know it’s snowing?????
Big, fat flakes.
Carrie gasped, and her fingers moved with urgency across the tiny alphabet on her cell phone. Finn, where are you?
She hardly had time to take in the fact that Finn was in town before her phone rang. She hit the answer button so hard the cell nearly dropped out of her hands.
“Surprise,” he whispered.
Carrie wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Laugh because she was so happy and excited and then weep because she had this stupid date and wouldn’t be able to see him until the end of the evening.
“Where are you?”
He named a local hotel about two blocks from her condo. “I know it’s crazy, my being here. I didn’t want you to be alone over Thanksgiving.”
“I don’t care if it’s crazy or not; I’m too happy to care.” Carrie just hoped she didn’t embarrass herself when she first saw him by launching into his arms and bursting into tears. She’d dreamed about seeing him again. He hadn’t said a word that he was planning this. Not a single solitary word.
“Do you still have to go to the theater?” he asked, and then instantly withdrew the question. “Forget I asked. Of course you do. I’ll be here at the hotel waiting, and when you get back to your apartment, let me know.”
Her doorbell chimed, announcing Dave’s arrival. “I hope you realize this is torture,” she told Finn on her way to answer the front door.
“For you or for me?”
“For us both.” Carrie had no idea how she was going to get through this evening, knowing Finn was in town.
“Go. It’ll be fine,” Finn encouraged her.
“Okay, but you’re going to suffer for doing this to me.”
He chuckled and ended the call.
Carrie took a moment to compose herself before she opened the door. Dave was impeccably dressed for the evening. He really was an attractive man, but she didn’t feel even the slightest stirrings for him. Just thinking about Finn waiting for her in his hotel room had her pulse spinning at the rate of a jet engine.
The Christmas musical they went to see, which had gotten rave reviews, didn’t hold Carrie’s attention, but to be fair, she doubted she would have appreciated anything outside of a five-alarm fire. Somehow she got through the evening, although she felt it was only fair to tell Dave that she’d met someone else. Their relationship had never really gone beyond friendship, and he took her news well.
Straight from the theater, Dave drove her to her home and briefly parked outside the condo complex. The snow had stopped, but traffic was a mess. It went without saying that he didn’t need to see her up. She thanked him for the evening, and then before she climbed out of the car she impulsively hugged him. He’d been decent and thoughtful, and she was grateful for his friendship.
“I hope it works with you and the other guy,” he said, and didn’t seem to have any hard feelings.
“I do, too.” Carrie wished that more than anything.
“He’s a lucky guy.”
“I’ll let him know you said so.” She smiled as she said it.
Climbing out of the car, she gathered her coat more securely around her and made a dash for the building’s entrance. Dave waited until she was inside the foyer, and Carrie waved before he drove off. The instant he was out of sight, she opened her clutch to retrieve her cell phone. Right away, she sent Finn a text.
She glanced up to find Finn standing on the other side of the building’s glass door. For a moment, all she could do was stare at him. She shivered with the cold, but he wore no jacket. All he had on was a yellow-and-black plaid shirt, jeans, and boots. In her entire life she’d never seen a more strongly appealing man. Hurrying to the locked security door, she opened it for him. Even before he was inside, she was wrapped in his embrace.
Carrie looped her arms around his neck, hugging him and laughing with joy. Right away, Finn swept her off her feet. With his arms around her waist, he lifted her so that her shoes dangled several inches off the ground. With her hands framing his bearded face, they kissed as if they couldn’t get enough, as if they meant to consume each other right in the center of the lobby.
A man’s voice broke through the fog of longing and joy. “Ms. Slayton? Ms. Slayton?”
Reluctantly, Carrie ended the kiss and looked over her shoulder to find Lester, the security guard, closely studying her.
“You know this man?” Lester asked.
She smiled and nodded. “Lester, this is—”
Finn released her and stretched out his hand to the guard. “Paul. Paul Dalton.”
“Glad to meet you, Paul. I apologize if I was rude earlier.”
“Not a problem.”
Carrie was curious to know what that was all about. “Let’s go upstairs,” she said, and steered Finn toward the elevator. She waited until they were inside and the doors had closed. “I’m glad you were clearheaded enough to tell him your name is Paul.”
Finn smiled down at her “Clearheaded? You’re joking, right?”
Carrie laughed and cuddled close to his side. They had their arms around each other. “What’s this about Lester being rude?”
“It’s nothing. He didn’t like the idea of unsavory types hanging around the building and asked what my business was.”
“Shhh, just let me kiss you again.”
Carrie wasn’t about to argue with him. They were completely consumed with each other when the elevator stopped on the twenty-fifth floor and the door glided open. Finn reluctantly broke off the kiss and thrust out his arm to stop the doors from closing on them.
Using her code, Carrie let them into her apartment, wondering what Finn would think when he stepped inside the ultra-exclusive high-rise. It was a one-bedroom unit that she’d rented because of its close proximity to the newspaper office and the incredible views of the city it offered.
Staring out the picture window, Finn stood with his back to her. “I’m a bit out of my element.”
Wrapping her arms around him, she pressed the side of her face against his back. “I think we’re both way out of our comfort zones.”
He chuckled and folded his rough, muscled hands over hers. “True enough.”
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
“It was either fly to see you or go slowly mad wondering about you and that pretty boy.”
“You saw Dave?”
“I saw you hug him. He’s darn lucky he didn’t try to kiss you; otherwise, I would have been forced to drag him out of that car and send him flying into the closest snowbank.”
Carrie laughed at the mental picture. Dave was a pretty boy, but he wouldn’t have stood still for Finn’s he-man tactics.
“You think I’m joking?”
“Oh, Finn, if only you knew how close you are to my heart.”
He turned and nearly crushed her in his arms before he slowly released her. “I’ve never been the jealous sort, but Carrie, you … you make me feel things.” Frowning, he rubbed his chest. “One kiss just before Sawyer took you away and you unbalanced my entire life. I hardly know myself any longer.”
“Do you like having your life unbalanced?” she asked, noting how dark his face grew with the confession.
“I don’t know. It’s never happened quite like this.”
She kissed him, letting her lips linger over his. When she pulled away, he groaned softly. “Perhaps I could grow used to it,” he whispered.
“I’m thinking I could as well,” she confessed.
After a while she brewed them each a cup of coffee, and then they sat and talked away half the night. They bounced from one subject to the next as if it’d been months since they’d last spoken. It felt as if they’d known each other their entire lives. Finn talked about the second book he’d written. It was finished, but he wasn’t sure it was as good as the first one.
“That’s a problem when a first book is such a success,” she said thoughtfully.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, there’s all this pressure for you to repeat the performance of the first book. That alone is intimidating enough.”
Finn agreed. “New York keeps asking me when they can see this second manuscript, and I’ve been putting them off, although it’s been finished for quite some time.”
“Would you like me to read it?” she asked.
“Of course.” It was an honor that he trusted her enough to give her this opportunity.
“You’ll be honest with me?”
“If that’s what you want.”
With anyone else she would have doubted their sincerity, but not with Finn.
It must have been close to three in the morning before Finn announced it was time for him to go back to his hotel. Carrie resisted the urge to ask him to stay. They both knew that it wouldn’t take much encouragement on either of their parts to convince him to spend the night. She had to go to work in the morning but would be off early. Most of the staff would be away from their desks for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Reluctantly, Carrie walked him to the door.
“Can I see you tomorrow?” he asked, his arms around her.
“Any more social obligations I need to know about?”