Just A Kiss

Saturday, 17 December 2016

I am working on a series surrounding a  trio of friends and here is a sneak peek into book three. It's a little rough, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Just A Kiss
by Christy Kate McKenzie

Grace Evans looked over at him again and again her heartbeat sped up when their eyes met. It was silly. Grace had known Sawyer Smith her entire life and not once had she seen him as anything more than her best friend’s brother. That was not about to change.

It must have been the spirit of the season getting to her, or more likely the large volume of whiskey Mr Smith had added into his wife’s homemade eggnog. Every year, the Smiths invited damn near the entire town over on Christmas Eve for a few drinks and every year, the eggnog got stronger and stronger.

No matter what it was, Grace was acting like an idiot around a guy she had known her entire life. God help her if Zoe noticed. 

Zoe! What was she saying?

‘I don’t have time for that, you know?’ Zoe turned to Grace.

‘Of course.’ Grace was quick to respond even though she really wasn't sure what they were talking about. She was too distracted.

If Grace turned her chin just so, she could see Sawyer out of the corner of her eye, so she knew that he kept stealing glances at her from across the room. What she didn't know was why she was enjoying the attention. 

Maybe it was just the atmosphere. The living room was bathed in a warm golden glow as a fire crackled in the large brick fireplace and the heat in the room had started to dry out the needles of the fresh Christmas tree, heavily scenting the air with pine. Everything about the evening was straight out of an episode of Gilmore Girls— from the snow outside to the quirky cast of neighbors inside.

Grace swung her hair away from her face and took another sip of the incredibly alcoholic, but rather tasty, eggnog.

‘I love that sweater. Is that the one you got from Bradford's?’ Zoe asked.

Grace looked down at her red chenille sweater. ‘Yeah. I wasn’t sure about it when I bought it, but I really do like it now that I got it.’ It had been an impulse buy. The sweater cost way more than she would have normally spent at the department store, but she couldn't resist. 

She had made an effort to dress up tonight, since her social life was pretty much non-existent. Not that she had every had much of a social life, but after opening the bakery, she had to abandon what little bit she did have. Every bit of her extra time and money went into her business. 

Long gone were the days of dropping twenty bucks a weekend on wine in the one tavern in town. Not only could she not afford it, there was no way in hell she’d be rocking up to the bakery at five am on a Saturday morning after being out all night Friday night.

And her business really was— had to be— her number one priority.  That was also the reason she avoided any encounter that looked as though it could end in a relationship. She didn't have the time or the energy.

Not that she didn't believe in love. She did. In fact, she had gained a reputation over the past few years of playing town matchmaker. Grace spent her mornings in the bakery listening to the women she had gone to school with complaining about the lack of decent men in town. Whoever thought bartenders were the only part-time therapists around had never offered chocolate cupcakes iced with chocolate buttercream to twenty-something women. 

Her stats weren’t bad, either. More than one of her matches had stuck. A few had even made it down the aisle. Being a romantic at heart, Grace really did believe that there was someone out there for everyone. Except her. She had absolutely no desire to walk down any damn aisle any time soon.

Even so, watching Sawyer as he peeked at her every so often, Grace was glad her red glittery nails matched her lipstick. Even if it would have been ridiculous to consider anything between them. There was her business to consider, but even if that wasn't the case, Sawyer was still Zoe’s brother and Grace was fairly certain that made him off limits.

‘I mean, right?’ 

Grace looked at Zoe a second too late. Not only did she have no idea how to answer, Zoe had seen her looking at Sawyer.

‘Wait. Why are you checking out my brother?’ Zoe caught Grace’s eye.

Grace needed to think quick, but her brain was fogged up with whiskey and… well… Grace had no idea what else. Salvation came in the form of a rather tacky Santa sweater.

‘I was just checking out your matching sweaters. Aunt Birdie at it again, I see,’ She stuttered the last few words, but Zoe had had enough Christmas punch not to notice.

Zoe tugged on the hem of her sweater to show off her sweater in all its gaudy glory. 

‘Every year.’ She beamed. ‘I like this one. Well, better than last year’s.’

‘Santa looks like he's drunk.’ 

‘He may be. Who knows?’ Zoe chuckled.

‘I seriously expected her to give this up years ago. Like when we hit high school.’ 

‘No chance. Aunt Birdie has knit us matching sweaters every year for as long as I can remember and there is no end in sight.’ Every year she knit them and every year, out of family obligation, they wore them.

Grace laughed, pleased to be thinking about something other than the way Sawyer’s eyes twinkled in the soft glow of the room.

‘I kind of like them. Sawyer, not so much.’

And he was back.

‘Yeah. He doesn't look overly pleased.’

That wasn't entirely true. When Grace caught his eye from across the room, he didn't look upset. He looked a little more perplexed. As if he was struggling to make sense of something.

‘He isn't exactly a ray of sunshine these days. He broke up with that girl.’

For the first time since they entered the crowded living room, Zoe had Grace’s full attention.


‘Thank God. None of us liked her. Who the hell knows what he saw in her.’

‘So why did he break up with her?’ Grace really did try to hide her interest.

Wait. What interest?

‘He didn't. She broke up with him.’

‘You are kidding?’ Grace couldn't help but be amazed. Having known Sawyer since she was in diapers, Grace knew he was probably the kindest, most loving guy around. 

The women who came into her bakery to overindulge in sugar and complain about the lack of good men in town were wrong. There were plenty of good men, but there probably weren't any better than Sawyer Smith when it came down to it.

Sawyer had run the town veterinarian clinic since the day he graduated from vet school and he had a soft spot for any and all animals. He was also good with kids according to Harvest, Grace’s other best friend. Sawyer set up an adoption clinic at the high school summer fair every year and Grace had always suspected at least one dog or cat was re-homed thanks to his charm.

‘Yep. She wanted to advance her career and the only way she could see to do that was to move to the city. There was no way in hell Sawyer would give up his practice and leave. Hell, he is practically a pillar of the community!’

It was true. Sawyer had followed in his father’s footsteps by serving on the town council and lending a hand wherever he could. ‘That girl’ was stupid. Sawyer was obviously a catch. For come one else, of course.
Grace stole another glance at him while Zoe fussed with her drink, trying to get a hold of a cherry that had sunk to the bottom of her glass. Sawyer wasn't looking her way. He was laughing at something old man McKinley had said over a shot of pure whiskey. 

His dark hair had gotten a little shaggy over the holidays and five o’clock stubble had stretched to nine o’clock casting more than a shadow on the angles of his face.

Before she looked away, Sawyer turned and met her gaze. He pursed his lips and looked at her with a questioning look. Perhaps he had just been innocently glancing toward them all night. Perhaps any interest Grace had suspected had been completely unfounded. 

She was the first to look away and she knew by the way her neck burned that the color of embarrassment was creeping toward her face.

‘God it is getting warm in here. I’m going to go grab some ice water.’ Grace excused herself and Zoe never batted an eye. After all, Grace had pretty much grown up in the Smith’s house, so it was nothing new for her to help herself in the kitchen. 

Grace jumped up and started across the room toward the kitchen. And she almost made it. Scurrying away staring at her red suede Ugg boots wasn’t the best way to escape since not paying attention to where she was going allowed her to run smack dab into a brick wall.

A brick wall with dark eyes, shaggy hair, and sexy stubble covering the lower half of his face.


Sawyer had nearly finished his third beer before excusing himself from the conversation to go grab another. He didn't felt buzzed, just content. Being around his friends and family always had that effect on him. That was why he had refused Kath when she wanted him to pack up and head to the city with her. He had everything he needed right here.

He wasn't looking to get drunk tonight, or even tipsy. If he had been he wouldn't have been on beer. Perhaps he would have tried the eggnog. That was what Grace was drinking and from the twinkle in her eyes, his daddy had hit an all-time high with the whiskey content.

Sawyer couldn't help but look at her from across the room and notice every single detail. From the way her blonde hair hung in messy waves grazing her shoulders to the candy cane stripe bows on the back of her fuzzy, red boots. Grace was stunning in a red sweater that looked like it was made of spun velvet with tiny sequins sewn in here and there that sparkled when the light hit them just right and jeans that hugged her curves.

She even had matching nails and red lips that were impossibly full when she pressed them together in thought. Exactly when did Grace go from being that sweet little girl with the long blonde braids to… to this gorgeous woman who had caught his eye across the room?

Sawyer had gone into the bakery nearly once a week since it opened, but he hadn't taken much notice of its owner. Most of the time he was served by Edna Mae who worked at the counter in the mornings while Grace was in the back baking and icing cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. 

Each treat that was on display was a masterpiece. Grace could do things with icing that turned her cakes into pure works of art. Looking at her earlier while she chatted with Zoe, Sawyer couldn't help but think of a thing or two do to with icing himself…

What the hell was wrong with him?

Sure, Kath had left him two months ago— and rumor had it she was already shacked up with some investment banker— but it wasn't as if he morphed into some horny teenage boy every time he saw a beautiful woman. He hadn't been celibate that long.

Nonetheless, Sawyer wasn't sorry when Grace backed into him and had no choice but turn around to apologize. The room had grown full of well-wishers who had stopped by, as per tradition, to have a drink, some nibbles, and a laugh on Christmas Eve. His Momma’s open houses were famous and more than half the town would drop in before the night was over. 

Neighborhood kids hid under the long dining table which held an array of cookies and cakes— many baked by Grace to help his Momma out— to have easy access to sweet treats while their parents sipped eggnog, mulled wine, and Christmas punch under the watchful eye of Momma Smith who wouldn't allow anyone to leave if they had driven.

No one really did drive, though, and for that reason the snow in the front yard had been trampled as neighbors walked to and from the festivities and the mat just inside the door was perpetually damp. Papa Smith always opened the garage door where at least one or two Red Ryder wagons were parked waiting for parents to pull their tired children home.

It may have been because just after seven was the busiest time of the night so most people had already found a space to sit or stand, or that they were partially blocking the doorway to the kitchen, but no matter the reason, Grace and Sawyer couldn't put more than a few inches between them.  And for some other, unknown reason, Sawyer found himself enjoying their predicament.

‘Nice sweater,’ Grace nearly whispered.

Was it just his imagination, or did Grace seem a bit nervous standing this close to him?

 ‘Oh, yeah. Aunt Birdie strikes again.’ If she was uncomfortable being that close to him, he certainly didn't know why and he wasn't about to make it worse.

‘Don’t you just love it, though?’ Grace stifled a chuckle. She was more comfortable now.

‘It’s not really my style.’ Sawyer didn't know why, but he was flirting, and with his little sister’s best friend no less.

‘No?’ Grace tilted her head ever so slightly and Sawyer watched as a lock of platinum waves fell over her right eye. God how he wanted to reach up and push her hair out of her eyes. He needed to get a grip. There was absolutely no excuse for the things that were going through his mind. Thank God none of them were escaping his lips.

‘No. I’m more a reindeer man, myself.’ He smiled slyly, enjoying the way her ruby red lips formed a tiny ‘o’ as she considered what to say next.

She didn't have to come up with a witty reply, because the attention of the entire room turned to them. It was Aunt Birdie who pointed out the fact that they were stood under a sprig of mistletoe which hung from a deep green ribbon in the doorway— God bless Aunt Birdie— an insisted that they follow another Christmas tradition and share a kiss.

Sawyer looked at Grace apologetically before he leaned over and placed a light kiss on her cheek. His lips had barely come into contact with her skin, yet they tingled. Sawyer made a mental note to stay away from the eggnog. If three beers had him feeling things he definitely shouldn’t around Grace there was no way in hell he was going to risk liquor. 

Of course, in a room full of both festive spirit and alcoholic spirits, no one was content with the peck on the cheek he delivered. The crowd rumbled for a real kiss. Even his father got in on the chanting and shouts that ensued. 

Well, who was he to deny them?

Sawyer reached his left hand to her hip and pulled her a bit closer, careful not to tip the nearly empty beer bottle in his right hand. He bent his head again and kissed Grace gently, but with enough gusto to appease their audience and elicit a round of applause and whistles. 

But it wasn't the crowd that surprised him, it was his own reaction. What he had expected would be awkward and uncomfortable was anything but. In fact, judging by the warmth that had spread down to his toes, he had enjoyed the kiss. That had nothing to do with beer and everything to do with the beautiful woman in his arms who was a lifetime away from the girl he used to know.

What he enjoyed even more was the way Grace seemed to melt into him in a way he certainly hadn't expected. She felt right somehow drawn into his chest. He wasn't one for all of that ‘made for each other’ mumbo jumbo, but she really did seem to fit where he cradled her during the kiss. 

Sawyer blinked twice to break the spell he was under. This wouldn't do. They were still under the mistletoe, still holding onto each other, and still being watched. By everyone. Maybe not everyone in town, but enough people to make sure the rumor mill was churning in the morning.

When they broke apart, Grace laughed nervously and looked at her bright red boots again. Sawyer felt the need to draw the attention away from her, so he raised his empty bottle in salute to the cheering crowd before walking away. He needed to get away from Grace as quickly as he could before he was tempted to grab her again.

Walking into the kitchen, Sawyer glanced back at Grace only to find her still rooted to the spot where he left her with a pink glow to her cheeks that looked as though she was overheating. He was still puzzled. Not only was she no longer the girl he had grown up with, that kiss was… well, different than he expected. What an understatement. It was incredible. Was it a just a by-product of the festivities around them?

Sawyer also stole a glance at Zoe. His sister was chatting to Harvest, who had only just gotten in the door. If Sawyer was lucky, Zoe had already forgotten that her big brother had kissed her best friend with perhaps a little more enthusiasm than the event required.

It was only meant to be a quick kiss under the mistletoe. Just a kiss. It hadn’t meant anything. Hell, whatever reaction he thought he felt was probably just a side effect of the moment. They were both wrapped up in the party atmosphere and that had to be why he thought there was more to it. It was just a kiss.

So why was Sawyer still obsessing about it? Why was he thinking about what it would be like to kiss her again?


Grace stood in front of the kitchen sink refilling her water glass over and over trying to quell the strange fire that burned in side of her. Since when had any man— Sawyer Smith in particular-- created such a stir in her?

Grace could hear Zoe and Harvest before they entered the kitchen. She wasn't ready to face what had happened, especially with Zoe, but she would simply have to. Grace took a deep breath before turning to face them.

‘Look who finally showed up.’ Zoe spoke first, which was a good thing because Grace had yet to find the words to interact with her friends. ‘Dad’s got another batch of eggnog in the fridge if you are out.’

‘No thanks. I’ve had plenty.’ Grace smiled.

‘I’ll say.’ Zoe laughed. ‘This is a party to remember, huh?’

Grace nodded, but had lost her words again. What exactly could she say. Zoe would expect her to moan about how dreadful it had been to get stuck kissing Sawyer, but that was farther from the truth than Grace was willing to admit right now.

‘What did I miss?’ Harvest inquired. ‘I hate being late.’

‘You will not believe what just happened?’

Grace could feel her cheeks flush again as Zoe spoke, emphasizing every word. How much had Zoe seen. Obviously, she had seen the kiss— the whole damn town had— but had she seen how Grace lit up like a Christmas tree afterward? Had she seen how reluctant Grace was to pull away from him? 

‘Do tell.’ Harvest egged her on, obviously in the mood for a little gossip.

‘Aunt Birdie caught Grace and Sawyer under the mistletoe.’

‘No!’ Harvest was shocked.

‘Oh yes.’ Zoe scrunched up her face in horror. 

‘He kissed you? Like a peck on the cheek or a real kiss?’ Harvest directed the question to Grace, but she didn't get the chance to answer. 

‘You really think that crowd would settle for a peck on the cheek?’ Zoe cut in.

‘True,’ Harvest turned back to Grace. ‘How was it?’

Grace wasn't sure how to respond. She was scared that the flush in her cheeks and her lipstick— which must have surely smudged— would say enough. Once again, Zoe took the lead and saved her the need to answer.

‘Eww! That’s my brother you’re talking about. How awful!’

Grace laughed, like she had when her and Sawyer were stood in front of an audience just after what was possibly the most perfect kiss she had ever experienced. Awful, it certainly wasn’t. 

‘Yeah, but it’s not like he’s not… well… Zoe, I don’t know how to break it to you, but your brother is kind of hot.’ Harvest giggled.

‘Enough! I do not want to hear anymore!’ Zoe laughed. ‘Let’s head back to the party.’ 

Grace knew that much of the horror Zoe displayed was put on for dramatic effect, but she figured underneath it all was a true dislike of the situation. Surely Zoe wouldn't have been thrilled to know that her best friend wasn't exactly disgusted by kissing her older brother. She would have probably dropped dead if she had known that Grace’s first reaction was to think of how she could catch him under the mistletoe again.

‘I’ll be right there. I just want to get another glass of water.’ Grace lied. She needed a few more minutes alone to process the whirlwind of thoughts that were flying around her brain making her dizzy. 

‘The eggnog’s a bit strong this year?’ Harvest asked.

‘Papa Smith has outdone himself. Again.’ Grace explained her reluctance away with alcohol. The truth was, she was a bit tipsy. But it wasn't from the two glasses of eggnog she had drank. She was drunk on Sawyer.

It seemed odd to her. Surreal even. Sawyer had always been nothing more than Zoe’s brother. In the twenty-eight years that she had known him, not once had she looked at him as a guy, or a boy, or as anything that might have made her find him attractive. He was just Sawyer. 

Or at least, he had been just Sawyer, until tonight.

Once he had kissed her, there was no longer a such thing as just Sawyer. He had taken on an entirely new persona for Grace. This new Sawyer had strong arms that pulled her close to his chest and lips that felt like silk as they brushed hers before delving deeper to steal a kiss that would placate the eager crowd.

‘Grace.’ Zoe drew her attention from the doorway. ‘Can you grab a jar of coffee out of the pantry when you come back in?’

‘Sure.’ Grace was thankful for a more secluded place to hide out while she got herself back together. At least in the pantry, no one could see her when she fanned her face to try to cool down.

Grace entered the pantry and halfheartedly scanned the shelves for a jar of instant coffee. It was impossible to concentrate on the boxes, jars, and cans in front of her when she still hadn't recovered from that kiss. Grace hadn’t realized they were under the mistletoe. If she had, she would’ve been quick to sidestep it. Oh well, it was just a kiss.


She would have never stepped under the mistletoe with Sawyer considering how awkward it had been to share something so intimate with a room full of tipsy townsfolk. Of course, it wasn't meant to be intimate. It was meant to be just a simple kiss, but there was nothing simple about the way Sawyer’s lips took hers.

Never in her wildest dreams would she have expected to react the way she did. Sure, she had been enjoying his glances toward her all evening, but that didn't mean she wanted him to kiss her. He was Sawyer. He might as well have been family.

Except he wasn't. And she had enjoyed that kiss way more than she could have ever imagined.

Still caught up in her own head, Grace didn't notice Sawyer duck into the pantry with her until he was so close behind her she could feel his breath in her hair. She turned to face him and once again they were only inches apart.

‘I was looking for coffee.’ Grace didn't know why she had said it, only that she needed to say something. 

Sawyer reached over her right shoulder and pulled a glass jar of instant coffee from the shelf to hand to her. She had been staring at it since she entered the pantry, but hadn't even noticed.

‘So, that was…’ He didn't finish.

‘It was.’ She whispered. 

‘I wonder…’ Sawyer licked his lips and Grace felt her knees began to tremble. 

Jesus. Harvest was right. He was hot.

‘What?’ Grace felt the flush come over her again and she just knew her cheeks were as red as Rudolph’s nose. 

How the hell was she supposed to function in front of a house full of people when she couldn't get her damn hormones under control? And why in the hell was she acting like some boy-crazy fourteen-year-old around him? What had gotten into her? It was down-right embarrassing. 

Sawyer looked around to see if they had an audience this time before he claimed her lips again. This kiss tore through her, awakening things she hadn't felt since well before she had opened the bakery. Hell, some of it she wasn’t sure she had ever felt.

Sawyer pulled her to him as he deepened the kiss, testing her boundaries, until just when she thought she would collapse in the middle of the Smith’s walk-in pantry, Sawyer pulled away.

Grace moaned in disappointment before she could think better of it. She wanted to grab him and pull him back to her for a third go. It was unlike anything she had ever felt before. The need she felt for him at that moment was so unexpected. She hadn’t been completely innocent since she opened the bakery. There had been a few guys in her life— short term, of course— so she should have been able to practice a little more self-control than she seemed capable of tonight.

‘Hmmm…’ Sawyer pondered. His eyes were a mix of confusion and interest, the latter making them sparkle playfully. Sawyer didn't look like he really understood their situation any better than she did. 

Grace raised her eyebrows at him, hoping for an explanation. What the hell were they doing? Hiding out in the pantry to sneak a second kiss, as if one just was not enough.  

‘I just needed to check something.’ He explained, then he left the pantry.

Grace exhaled the breath she hadn't realized she was holding and slumped against the shelves behind her. Since she seemed completely unable to control herself around him, Grace would have no choice but avoid him for the rest of the night. And stay out from under the mistletoe.

Post a Comment

Latest Instagrams

© Christy Kate McKenzie. Design by Fearne.