Her First Christmas Cowboy by Maisey Yates


SHEHADCUTout a big square of plastic for him, and he taped it right over the stitches. All the better to get that shower done, since apparently he smelled, or she wouldn’t have said anything earlier when she’d walked past him.

She didn’t smell. Not like anything other than sweet soap and skin.

And he wanted to inhale her.

And he knew that he couldn’t. Knew that he shouldn’t.

She’d gone off to fetch some clothes for him, and he hadn’t asked where. He hadn’t wanted to prolong the moment being half-naked around her, frankly.

He was doing his damnedest not to take any of the open invitations that he sensed coming from her. Because he knew that she was inexperienced. Because he knew that he was the one who had brought potential danger to her door. Because he had interrupted her life.

Because he had nothing to offer her no matter what.

But that didn’t stop him feeling things all the same. And he’d very nearly blown it when he felt her checking him out on his way up the stairs. He’d almost said something.

She was beautiful. So damned pretty, and the way that she openly appraised him made his blood run hot. But he couldn’t afford to let his blood run hot with her. No, he sure as hell couldn’t.

He got into the shower and stood beneath the hot spray, feeling a hell of a lot more fatigued than he would’ve liked to admit. Chopping that wood and making dinner had taken a lot more out of him than it would have under any other circumstances. He was used to hard work.

Used to it, enjoyed it. He hadn’t been working much, particularly the past year, because he’d been deciding where he was going to settle, where he was going to buy a ranch. But he got out and rode his horses every day.

He worried about his horses. He knew that his neighbor would make sure that any of his livestock was taken care of at the property that he rented, but he just hoped that his brother wasn’t vindictive enough to come back and do something to his animals.

There was a moment where he felt light-headed, and he stumbled slightly in the shower, slamming against the wall and knocking a passel of bottles onto the tile floor with a big crash.

He was fine. And he was still on his feet. But this injury was a damned humiliation. He felt like an infirm toddler.

And then the door swung open. “Are you okay?” And her eyes went wide. He hadn’t shut the door on the shower, so she could see inside. He knew that. The same as he could see her expression, all shocked and red as her eyes roamed over his body.

He gritted his teeth, willing his body not to visibly respond to the provocation of her gaze.

“I’m fine,” he said.

She shut the door quickly, and he let the water run over him for another couple of minutes before he got out.

He’d scared her. She’d come in to check on him, and he’d given her an eyeful.

She wanted one.

Maybe. And it killed him that he couldn’t make a move. That he couldn’t see if she wanted him as much as he thought she might.

He thought back to sitting with her at the table for dinner. It had been unexpectedly nice. All of it had. This was such a strange detour from the life he normally lived. Which was... Frankly, a little bit lonely. He went out to bars, and he hooked up with women. Off the circuit, he didn’t have friends around him, so even a night of drinking and light conversation didn’t happen all that often.

Obviously, he did not have a great relationship with his family.

That thought made him snort.

It had just been a long time since he’d really talked to someone else. And he wasn’t sure he’d ever talked to anybody the way that he had talked to Tala. It was just something different to anything else he’d experienced.

He tugged his jeans on, and put on nothing else, because his shirt was covered in dried blood and sweat, and honestly, he was going to sleep anyway. The clothing situation needed to be solved, or he was going to end up walking around naked, though now it wasn’t anything she hadn’t seen.

“I’m sorry,” she said, peering out of her room, her face bright red.

“You thought I fell?”

“Yes. I was worried. That you might’ve lost consciousness or something. Or that your stitches came open and... I don’t know.”

“It’s fine,” he said. He smiled. “I’m not shy.”

But the way the color in her face deepened, he knew that she was.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said.

“Well, but I do worry about it.”

“Why is that?”

“Just... You know, if you had barged in on me, I probably would’ve been really angry.”

In spite of himself, his gaze drifted down to her mouth and then over her body.

She was curvy. Soft looking. Beautiful.

“Somehow, I don’t think you would’ve been all that mad at me.”

He hadn’t meant to do that. He wasn’t supposed to be doing that. He knew better than to do that.

“Here.” She reached out and thrust a stack of fresh clothes his direction.


“You can...you can change in there.”

He nodded and ducked back into the bathroom. The jeans she’d gotten were a touch loose, but were otherwise fine, and the shirt wasn’t covered in blood, so it would do just fine.

He came out and looked down the hall.

She was out in the kitchen area, watching TV on her tablet at the table again. She hadn’t sat on the couch since he’d come, and he knew she liked to because he remembered how she’d had all her grading supplies set up there.

“You can sit on the couch,” he said. “And watch your actual TV. I don’t want you feeling like I’ve claimed your couch.”

She looked up. “Oh, I don’t mind.”

He believed her. But he was also sure that on some level she did mind. She just wanted him to have his own space. Why his comfort mattered to her at all felt like a mystery.

He went into the living room and sat on the couch. “Sit,” he said, patting the cushion beside him.

She eyed him warily, but she stood slowly, collecting her papers and pencils, shutting the screen off on the tablet.

“You’ll be lost,” she said. “This is a short-run miniseries with an overarching mystery, and I’m halfway through.”

“I’m not really here for the TV show.”

“Oh.” Her cheeks turned pink and she sat, with a healthy amount of space between them.

He wasn’t lying. He didn’t watch the show; he watched her work. Watched her dark hair escape the bun she’d put it in and fall into her face. Watched the way she’d pause and chew the end of her pen while a particularly intense thing was happening on TV.

And she moved closer to him. Just fractions, every so often. Till they were nearly touching.

Until it felt like a natural thing to put his arm around her.

Lord. Like he was sixteen and this was a date. But he’d never been sweet and sixteen and on a date. He’d been running drugs and weapons on behalf of his father. He’d been given a woman on his birthday who’d taught him everything, except how to connect.

He’d never learned about sweet touches. Touches just for the sake of them. Connection.

Her breath seemed frozen in her throat. But she didn’t move away. And eventually she relaxed into him.

This was something he’d never done. Something he didn’t know. He couldn’t figure out how in the hell he’d ended up here, in this cozy little cabin with all the cold of December outside.

He looked at her, and she looked up at him, her face so close he could count her freckles.

“Do you want me to move?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No.”


They sat like that till the episode ended. Till the credits quit rolling. Then she moved, pulled away from him. “I’m confused,” she whispered.

“About the show? Because like you said, I just started it in the middle, so I have no idea what the hell is going on.”


His gut went tight. “What exactly are you confused about?”

She sucked in a sharp breath. “Okay, I’m not confused,” she said. “I guess.”

“Yes, you sound like someone who’s not confused at all.”

She stared at him, those dark eyes pinned to his. And he could feel a tug toward her that wasn’t like simple attraction. Wasn’t like anything he’d felt before. He wanted her. But if it was just wanting, that would’ve been simple. A simple no, because he wasn’t in any kind of position to offer her anything, and she was the kind of woman that made him want to offer the world.

But this was something more. Something else. Something that made him want to chop wood and cook dinner and then sit at a small dinner table and just share silence. Sit on the couch and watch TV.

Like they were normal. Like they were real people and not these strange, lonely, hollowed-out creatures their families had demanded.

The need for those things was just as deep as the need to touch her, and that was what he couldn’t quite get his head around.

“What exactly aren’t you confused about?”

“I want to kiss you,” she said.

It was the most charming, simple answer he could have ever asked for, and at the same time it told him everything about why he couldn’t let her do it.

Why he couldn’t do what he wanted to do, which was shrink that space between them to nothing and haul her up against his chest and devour her. Because he didn’t want to stop with a kiss. And she had never undressed a man before that night when she pulled his shirt up off him so that she could evaluate his injuries.

But then, that didn’t mean she was a virgin. Not necessarily. Maybe it was just she had never done any of the undressing.

But given her background...

Could be either. And either way, it equated to being 100 percent not for him.

“I want to touch you,” she said, and his body went still. Tight. The blood in his veins running like fire through the woods. “I want to... I want you. I have. From pretty much that first moment, as soon as I realized you weren’t going to kill me. And I can’t explain it. And I know there’s nothing waiting on the other side of this for us. I know there’s nothing possible. I’m a teacher, here. And I love it. And you...”

“I’m a ghost, sweetheart. I have to hope that Jake thinks I died somewhere. And that the authorities think I did too. I have to go underground, and I have to start over. It’s going to be a long ass time before I can come back out in the open.”

“I know.”

And she didn’t say that she wanted to just stay here and hide away from the world, but he was sure that she was thinking it.

Or maybe he was just hoping that she was.

Of course she wanted something normal. Something real. And he was still tethered to a past that didn’t allow that. She’d escaped her past. He had to honor that.

But something about her had turned him into a sentimental wreck, and he couldn’t reconcile it for anything. Not a damn thing.

“We don’t have to think that far ahead,” he said, his voice going rough.

And then he did what he’d just told himself he wouldn’t.

He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close.

Right now, only the space between them seemed to exist. Only this moment, not the past, not the future. Because something about all the things they’d been—opposite though they were—had led them to this moment, and all that could matter was this moment.

It was the culmination of everything. He couldn’t explain that feeling. But it was real. As real as the sunrise, as real as the sunset. As real as all the freckles on her nose.

So he cupped the back of her head, sliding his thumb along her cheekbone. And slowly, very slowly, he leaned in and pressed her mouth to his.