18 All I Want For Christmas

Grossberg Law Offices – December 24, 2012


“It’s that time of year again, Santa Baby. Hurry over so I can sit on your lap and tell you what a bad girl I’ve been this year.”

In all the time he’d known that feminine purr, with its come-hither sultriness that would’ve put Kathleen Turner’s (circa Jessica Rabbit era) to shame, it’d never failed to make his temperature, among other things, rise.

“Right on schedule, eh, Mami?” Diego Armando let out a rueful chuckle into the receiver.

He’d both been expecting – and dreading – this call.

For the last two years, he and Mona Lott had made it a point to remain unattached during the holiday season so they could spend the night of Christmas Eve… And most of Christmas morning, together, with him sliding down her chimney.

The ardent Hispanic man was no stranger to the pleasures of the flesh. He’d never claimed to be a saint with las damas, nor immune to feminine wiles. Every female he’d ever known was seized by the same insatiable craving for the Don Juan DeMarco of law that rivaled his own for java. Likewise, he hedonistically enjoyed the legions of lovers his smooth Latin accent and swarthy good looks had garnered him ever since early adolescence.

Forsooth, the ladies of LA loved him, and roguish Romeo loved them right back … albeit temporarily. However, he’d always clarified, upfront, that he had no desire for anything serious or long-term. Diego hadn’t ever claimed to be husband material; his unapologetically raffish motto had always been: so many women, so little time.

Mona had lasted slightly longer than the others, boasting a lusty, voracious carnal appetite that matched his own. In this case, it hadn’t hurt that his ex not only sounded but physically resembled the living incarnated version of Roger Rabbit’s bombshell wife, either! Even though they’d amicably split up years ago, they’d enjoyed myriad casual encounters ever since. The titian-haired siren was well aware that the mere promise of another night of no-strings, unbridled passion was something that’d never failed to make his pulse race.

Until now.

“Shall we continue our annual tradition tonight, papi?” Mona’s throaty voice turned even more provocative. “My place, say around 10 tonight …no mistletoe, or clothes, required?”

Diego expelled a weary sigh into the receiver. This mamacita wasn’t going to make this easy. Not by a long shot.

“I’m going to have to take a rain check, Mona.” He affected a contrite tone. “Unfortunately, I’m still at the office, and up to my eyeballs in paperwork. God knows what time I’ll be able to get out of here.”

“Working late. Again. On Christmas Eve.” Mona’s seductive pitch turned sullen. “Just like you claimed was the case for my birthday last month. And on the night of October 31, a.k.a. our annual Halloween Howl!”

“It’s nothing personal – it’s just that work has been loco lately.” He tried to speak kindly but was already girding his loins. “My protégé and I have been putting in a lot of overtime researching this death row inmate case, and it’s taking up every free moment we’ve got. There are so many suspicious circumstances surrounding his conviction, and it’s been brought to our attention that he actually could qualify for a justified appeal…”

Mona erupted in a manner not entirely unlike Mount Vesuvius.

“Do you take me for a fool, Diego?” She exploded wrathfully. “I’m abundantly aware of the glaring lacuna in this soap opera – which you’ve been too cowardly to admit! It hardly takes a genius to deduce that your precious protégé is the very reason you’ve rebuked all my advances these last few months!”


“Don’t you dare lie to me! Word on the street is ever since a certain busty bimbo joined your law firm, you’ve been living like a monk and pining after her like an abject, lovesick puppy!”

“Leave Mia out of this, Mona.” Diego vainly attempted to keep his trademark cool intact, but he was rapidly reaching the boiling point. “And I’ll have you know that my assistant is no bimbo. She’s a brilliant young attorney who’s well on her way to being a legal legend someday! Furthermore, I will not stand for you showing such unwarranted disrespect towards any colleague of mine!”

Colleague?” His jilted lover gave a contemptuous, unladylike snort. “Give me a break, you besotted cabrón! It’s glaringly obvious you’re hung up on her, which means I should have hung up on you ages ago! I only persisted because it never occurred to me any man could be so utterly whipped by a walking pair of knockers – that he hasn’t even bedded! Or is that why I’m no longer on your radar? You finally made the vital conquest and dipped that pen of yours into the company ink, have you?”

Diego clenched his jaw and fought to keep control of his rising temper, not because of the scathing insults directed at him, but due to the continued acrid disparagement of his dear coworker.

“Show some class and watch that forked tongue, woman! You’re treading on very thin ice here.”

But his jealous ex was beyond paying heed to the danger lurking in his normally smooth baritone.

Aha! Based on the defensiveness of your tone, it’s obvious you haven’t even come close to Introducing Charley to her, which makes you even more pathetic than I thought! This one must really be special. Don’t try to cozen me! I’ve seen the way you look at that pneumatic trollop when I’ve dropped by the office! Amazingly that she can even stand upright and not tip over, what with those Brobdingnagian maracas she loves to flaunt!”

He ground his teeth. Mona’s animus slurs sliced like razor blades, yet she still wasn’t done with her virulent onslaught.

“Is Grossberg not paying her enough to buy professional attire that fits properly? That hussy can barely keep the overworked, straining zipper of her blazer from bursting, the poor, deformed creature!”

“That’s enough, Mona! I’ve had enough of your malicious bile!” His free hand, which had been holding his ever-present coffee mug, had tightened around the ceramic in an almost painful vice grip. “Incidentally, this invidious side of you is hardly desirable. Did nobody ever tell you that the color green on you is most unflattering?”

“Humph! Since you’ve taken that little sex kitten under your wing so protectively, you also should’ve let the puta know: ‘honey, if you’re going to be that available, you may as well get a doorbell on your blouse’!”

Cállate la boca!” His mug thudded so hard onto his desk that the hot liquid sloshed over the sides and onto his hand, but he was impervious to everything, as his rage was so rampant. “Terminamos, Mona Lott! Olvídate de mi número! Comprende?”

“¡Vete al diablobastardo!”

“Lead the way, bruja rencorosa!” He couldn’t resist making one final dig. “Now, before I hang up on you, allow me to wish you a sad and lonely Silent Night!”

Before she could reply, he slammed the desk phone back into the cradle and raked an agitated hand through his unruly dark mane

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned would the understatement of the century! Are all redheads this loca, or just the ones I tend to attract?

He shook off the splattered dark liquid from his mercifully unscalded hand.

There are 253 distinct types of bitterness in coffee. But to pick out each one requires total concentration and the use of all the senses.

Merely being in the same room as Mia Fey made Diego take complete leave of all his.

Mona was right. He was a mawkish, besotted fool; one who’d just turned down a night of unbridled ecstasy not only with a skilled temptress but every other mujer who’d crossed his path since he’d laid eyes on the pulchritudinous brunette.

She’d been working closely under him for the past few months, but nothing beyond professional comradery had transpired between them, maugre their many late nights alone together at Grossberg Law Offices.

Well, naught more than the occasional brush of hands when reaching for the same files, flushed cheeks, and occasional lingering glances.

Nevertheless, he’d instantly known from the second the buxom beauty had walked through Grossberg’s door, he was a goner. There could be no other for him – not now, not ever.

You don’t get much more lovesick than that!

It was a feeling unlike any he’d ever known – one that went way beyond his usual concupiscence. He couldn’t even begin to explain it. All he knew was that Mia was different from all the others. The way she spoke, the way she moved, the way she just was… it had a way of making you look at things differently.

A way of making you close your eyes and see with your heart.

And then there was that smile of hers.

Despite her loin-stirring, voluptuous figure, which boasted more curves than a racetrack and was indisputably made for deviant sin (it positively beckoned the touch of a man’s hands), in sharp contrast, Mia possessed the most ethereal beam he’d ever seen. One that never failed to light up a room, or the dark as espresso, cynical recesses of his heart.

The smile of an angel.

Her smile shines like the stars in the sky, with no bright city lights to dim them. It’s like the sun opened its eager light to shine on her, only brightening her perfectly aligned teeth. She smiles like she’s never been burned by love but the fire in her eyes warns you not to play with hers…

And Mia was certainly fiery! She’d proven that she harbored enough spark to make Diego mentally dub her an honorary Latina!

It was the lesson that Robert Hammond had discovered firsthand – the hard way…

Grossberg Law Offices – September 2012


“Armando sure is putting your nose to the grindstone, isn’t he, Doll Face?” Hammond droned in his typical insolent, patronizing fashion as he watched Mia place an enormous stack of files on her desk beside an already towering stack of papers. “Has your slave driver superior even allowed you to have a break yet?”

Diego raised an irked eyebrow at the condescending, unsolicited nickname, one which he could tell the señorita did not appreciate any more than “Sweetie” or “Toots.” He was skilled enough at reading women to note the indignant flare in her eyes every time these boorish, misogynistic instances occurred, easily seeing past her unwavering serene expression to the underlying indignation in those amber orbs.

To date, though, she’d somehow managed to grin and bear it all without raising an objection. Hammond may have been the new frontier in total assholology, but even he was still slick enough not to act upon these Neanderthal instincts whenever Grossberg was in the office. He knew the judicious older man wouldn’t stand for such uncouth behavior in his office.

“I need to earn my stripes somehow, Mr. Hammond. Doing the grunt work is par for the course of being a rookie in this profession.” Mia didn’t even cast the middle-aged lecher a side glance as she shuffled through the manila folders on her desk. “Moreover, Mr. Armando has been nothing less than an exceptional supervisor.”

Locating the file she’d been rifling for, at last, she waved it triumphantly at Diego, whose workstation was beside hers. Any traces of annoyance she might’ve felt towards the older defense lawyer were vanquished completely as she addressed the Latino.

“Here’s the case file you wanted, Senpai.” A teasing smile played on her comely visage. “Mr. Hammond’s right – I do think I’ve earned a trip to the percolator now. Refill?”

The uncharacteristically tongue-tied Diego could only nod in response as she leaned over and reached for his cup, mesmerized by that beatific beam.

A deep curve on her lips makes the world stop around her. A smile that brings back a plethora of memories in a split second. The precious dimple that crinkles makes the heart skip a beat. She has a smile that makes you feel happy about being alive, and just a bit more human…

He shook his pounding head in disgust. He’d known he was losing his edge, but this was ridiculous! The vixen rendered him speechless. He was nursing a major case of sleep deprivation and the remnants of a hangover. For two cents he would’ve bid this assignment adieu and gone south for some sun but it was too late for that. All he wanted right now was a hot meal and a soft pillow. The thought of a hot, soft wanton was prudently edited from the list as he dragged his gaze from Mia for the hundredth time.

“I’ll have one too, while you’re up, Toots.” Hammond waved his mug in the air.

As Mia obediently came over to take it from him, the placid smile remained plastered on her mien, despite the degrading way she’d been addressed.

An oily leer spread across his craggy, smarmy phizog.

“Looks like the coffee isn’t the only thing that’s perky, huh? Jiggle, jiggle.”

Diego felt his blood beginning to boil, but Mia simply lifted her chin and walked across the room to the coffee pot, although he could see her manicured hands shaking with suppressed anger. She suddenly became acutely aware of her rear end. Hammond must have been staring at it, the infuriating man. She tugged her skirt down and tried not to wiggle as she turned around, carrying two full cups of hot beverage.

“Here’s a heads up for future reference: Jughead Chambers is a sucker for cute, helpless dames with  pretty faces and pleasing… assets!”

Hammond didn’t even try to mask his lascivious appreciation of Mia’s full bust as she approached him with his coffee.

“When the day finally comes that you move past desk jockey duties and into the courtroom, I suggest you keep the Fey Twins on such apt display if you want to sway the judge, Sweetie.”

Madre de Dios! I’ve had it with this turd golem!

Silencio! That’s enough of your trash-talking, Hammond!” Diego pounded his fist onto his desk and glared ferociously at the middle-aged pervert disguised as an attorney. “You shut your goddamn filthy mouth right now before I gladly shut it for you!”

Before the Duke of Douchebaggery could make some sort of rebuttal, Mia held up a hand, flashing him a dazzling smile.

“As much as I appreciate your indignation on my behalf, Mr. Armando, there’s no need for violence. There’s nothing here that I haven’t heard before. Moreover, I must thank Mr. Hammond accordingly for his sage advice to a fledgling, wet behind ears rookie lawyer like myself.”

She coquettishly batted her eyelashes in the astonished Diego’s direction, but not before he missed the quick wink that followed it before turning back to Hammond, holding out his cup to him.

“Here’s your java, Mr. Hammond – Oopsie!”

She suddenly stumbled forward, as though having tripped on the thick carpeting, catching herself by placing her palms down on Hammond’s desk… But not before tipping the entire blistering contents of his coffee mug right onto his crotch.

“EEE-YOWWW!” Hammond’s howl of excruciation was made almost comical by the way he skyrocketed out of his chair, not unlike a hovercraft, his features contorted in agony as he clutched at his soaked, scalded groin area. “These are Italian wool pants!”

“Oh no! How clumsy of silly, helpless little ol’ me!” Mia clapped a hand to her mouth, a picture portrait of dismay. “Shall I fetch you a tissue?”

“ARRRRRGH! My junk is on fire!” Hammond was now writhing in a curled-up ball on the floor. “I might need skin grafts!”

As a fellow man, Diego supposed he should’ve felt some level of empathy that Hammond’s pride and joy probably wouldn’t be functional for quite a while afterward. Nevertheless, all commiseration was banished from his mind as Mia nonchalantly pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and dropped it on the still squirming, supine man beneath her.

“As much as I’m hoping that His Honour would be more impressed by my brains rather than my body when I finally can go to trial, you’ve most assuredly put things into perspective for me, Mr. Hammond,” she cooed sweetly. “I’d like to sincerely thank you for having prepared me to handle just about any situation that might occur so that I don’t come up…all wet.”

She may have seemed every bit the soft and sweet, kitten he’d silently dubbed her (whether the pre-facing sex element to the feline title was intentional or not caused countless hours of speculation on his behalf!), but at the end of the day, it was quite obvious that, unlike a helpless newborn cat, Mia Fey could take care of herself just fine.

Dios Mio, can she ever!

Diego raised his half-empty mug to hide his grin that was a mix of both lament and admiration.

Apparently, his gentlemanly instincts hadn’t been required after all.

This kitten certainly has claws! MEOW!

Police Department’s Records Room – October 2012


After the fire-crotch incident, Hammond wisely gained a newfound solemn, albeit grudging respect for the youngest member of the law office, and never harassed her again. As much as Diego would’ve loved to have believed that his offer to rearrange the man’s ugly mug had something to do with his acquiescence, he knew better. Mia had proven she was a firecracker wrapped up in a very misleading lenity package and all it’d take was the slightest match for her to unleash a spark that’d leave you permanently singed!

It was because of this recently discovered fiery nature that the newly reformed Lothario had no idea how to go about testing the waters to see if the spark between the two of them was reciprocated or entirely in his head! Normally he was never the hesitant sort with women, preferring to be very direct with his seduction approach and making his intentions clear right out of the gate, but none of those methods would apply to the hotheaded beauty.

Moreover, he was becoming more and more certain of the discomfiting notion that what he wanted from Mia was more than just her delectable body.

He wanted all of her – mind, heart, and soul. Not just for now, but forever.

That notwithstanding, he’d never felt such a magnetic attraction towards another woman before in his entire life. The hypnotic allure she instilled in him was nearly irresistible.

Right now, his mind kept straying from his current task at hand, although the defense lawyer could hardly be faulted for being distracted on the job.

Who could focus on legal briefs when in such propinquity to the delicate, feminine scent of the captivating beauty beside him?

She was sitting beside him and helping him rifle through the old case files in the police department records room, a frown of concentration tugged at it, marring her lovely features. The immeasurable heavy drawers may or may not have contained information that would help give them further introspection into the Terry Fawles case.

While he crouched down at her feet doing his shuffling, Mia appeared quite stymied as she sat in the old swivel chair. She was going through the copious files with one hand, while the fingers of her right hand toyed distractedly with the small, nine-shaped, purple pendant that hung on a chain around her graceful, swan-like neck.

Every other inch of creamy flesh that his hungry gaze could feast on, from her throat to her décolletage, and down to those Fey twins that no straining zippered jacket on earth could hide, positively beckoned his hands to reach out and caress every inch of it.

And then follow the trail of his fingers with his lips and tongue…

Diego raked a hand through his thick, unruly mane and tried to resume the suave, cool professional disposition he’d prided himself on all these years and cursed himself for practically drooling like a virginal, hormonal adolescent.

Unaware of her colleague’s losing inner battle with his self-restraint, Mia bit back an angry mutter as she went back through the countless files that she was sure she’d already futilely perused for the umpteenth time. The truth was that being in such proximity to Diego, even closer than at the office, within the cramped confines of this tiny musty room corner, was distracting her more than she cared to admit. The spicy scent of his aftershave was beyond tantalizing and seductive; almost as much as the man who wore it.

This was a fact that was getting harder and harder to ignore as the days went by.

Don’t let him see he makes you nervous! She wished she could slap herself for acting like a sophomoric schoolgirl. Crikey Moses, Mia, he’s a man, not a charging rhinoceros!

Besides, she was fairly certain with Mr. Love Em & Leave Em, she’d done a decent job thus far at hiding the fact that she was having hopelessly romantic notions about him. Luckily, his mind seemed presently preoccupied with things besides the mysteries of biological attraction.

But Lordy, Lordy above, the man was a hunk! Mia knew it was sexist to say hunk, but Diego was a hunk and a half!

She lambasted herself for the mere thought. What did it matter to her that Diego Armando’s looks could have put any Hollywood star to shame? It didn’t. What did it matter to her that this gorgeous tower of masculinity often stared at her as though he found her to be raptly fascinating? He was no different from the other libidinous males of the world who ogled her with only one thing in mind, so his offhand admiring glances shouldn’t have mattered a bit! She reminded herself he was thoroughly arrogant, a lady-killer, and way more macho Latino than she ever wished to contend with. Frankly, he wasn’t even her type!

As though sensing her discomfiture – no doubt the salacious scoundrel was well aware of his appeal to the female masses! – Diego caught her side glance and met it with a knowing smirk, causing her cheeks to burn with embarrassment, and she diverted her gaze back to her task at hand.

Dammit, why couldn’t her first job out of law school have resulted in her having a fat balding toad of a superior to work under? Heck, even Grossberg himself would’ve been preferable – she’d long since learned to tune out his rambling about the lemon-scented fresh days of his youth and his grumbling about his hemorrhoids. But no, God had shown her that He was not only as unyielding as the Rock of Gibraltar, but just as immovable as well. Ergo, in no uncertain terms, Mia was stuck being the underling of Señor Sexy McSexington – whether she wanted to or not!

“Any luck, Miss Fey?” Drawled Mr. Hotter Than A Jalapeno, a smug smile tilting the corners of his lips. “Find anything useful?”

Mia sat back in her chair and gave him the most disgruntled look she could muster considering she found his smile smoulderingly sexy. She didn’t need sexy. She didn’t need this Adonis creating havoc on her senses five days a week and making her bones go limp every time she looked at him. How would she ever get any work done going around with limp bones?

“I need to get out of here,” she announced brusquely, practically jumping out of her chair and stepping away from him; desperately needing to put some distance between them. “It’s Friday night, and it’s later than I realized. Maya’s taking the train down from the village for the weekend, and I told her to meet us at the law office at 7:00. It’s 6:30 already. I promised to take her out for dinner, and I can’t be late. Do you mind if we just take a look at these evidence files with a fresh set of eyes on Monday morning?”

She’d leaped out of her seat so abruptly that she didn’t see the ankle-high stack of files on the floor next to her, and nearly toppled over. However, Diego quickly shot up, and his arms went around her in an automatic reaction to save her from falling. The body-against-body contact was brief, yet Mia felt as if she’d run directly into the sun, the heat was so intense. Carnal awareness exploded through her, shattering her sense of calm into a bazillion shards

His hands were gripping her upper arms, and his fingertips inadvertently brushed the soft outer swell of her breasts. The shock of the contact instantly derailed his train of thought. How it’d feel to cup his hands beneath those firm, feminine globes of flesh? Heat surged through him in a wildfire of desire.

“I guess it doesn’t matter if I agree or not since we came here in your car.” Locking his gaze on hers, he held his breath tightly in his lungs and willed his concentration back. The strain came through his sandpaper voice. “Looks like I have no choice but to hitch a ride back with you.”

Mystic Ami help me! The notion of being crammed into her tiny car with Rico Sauvé after this latest episode of sexual tension was the last thing Mia needed in the world, but it looked like she didn’t have much of a choice!

In the meantime, why didn’t he back off and give her some room? Being wedged between the wall and his body was having a devastating effect on her mind. Her eyes kept drifting to the width of his shoulders and chest. A sculptor couldn’t have carved a more artistic representation of the male animal. Even under his dress shirt, his demarcated muscles visibly flexed and rippled under the overhead fluorescent lighting, which did nothing to detract from his masculine beauty; it only emphasized the fact that he was walking, talking mass of smoldering sensuality. The lines of his tanned visage struck her as being semi-exotic, defined, yet still blatantly male; the high cheekbones, the straight nose, the finely chiseled mouth. It was a strikingly featured, sinfully handsome face. A strong face. And the strength continued down the corded muscles of his neck to his broad shoulders.

“I’m okay, you caught me in time.” Mia’s breath was running out of her in fluttering ribbons. “You – you can let go of me now.”

“As you wish. But there’s no need to be skittish, Miss Fey,” he murmured, his gaze locked on hers, all the while making no move to release her whatsoever. “I’ll let you go – if that’s what you truly want me to do…”

Mia felt she had plenty to be edgy about! The coil of desire tightened inside her. The feel of Diego’s rock-hard thighs brushing against her. The fact that she couldn’t drag her eyes away from the sharply firm lines of his mouth. At the moment, she was more afraid of this unfamiliar, unignorable sensual thrall between them than she’d ever been frightened of anything in her entire life.

Electricity ran down her back in warm rivulets. Her bosom seemed to heat and swell at his accidental touch. A burning sensation ran from her chest and continued southbound to pool and swirl in the most feminine part of her.

Ultimately, self-preservation made Mia jerk herself free from his grasp.

“Let’s get going then.”

She desperately tried to turn her mind away from the tension that was still lingering between them, so thick you could’ve cut it with a katana blade.

To her dismay, she found her mental power steering had gone out, and her thoughts kept veering back to Diego’s large, masculine hands brushing against her breasts. It was the first time since university that a man had touched her – that she’d even allowed to touch her – even accidentally.

Stifling a groan, she cleared her throat and forced her thoughts back to the conversation.

“I don’t want to keep my baby sister waiting.”

Diego stared after her as she raced off like the hounds of hell were on her tail. Since there was no cold shower available to cool off from their heated, almost encounter, he opted to stay back for a few moments to pull himself together, as well as tidy up the mess of files, including the pile that’d nearly knocked Mia off her feet, and consequently end up in his arms.

When he came outside to the parking lot a short time later, he found her leaning over the open hood of her ancient Ford Pinto while emitting a daisy chain of expletives that would’ve made a sailor blush.

“Car trouble?” He inquired mildly.

“The blasted thing start won’t start!” She grumbled. “I’m sure it’s the alternator that’s finally gone kaput. But I can’t tell because the engine makes a pathetic wheezing sound every time I put the key in the ignition, and then sputters and dies!”

“Shall I take a gander?”

He was pleased to have the opportunity to play knight in shining armor. Diego loved tinkering with cars. He’d paid his way through law school helping at his uncle’s garage, learning enough about the fundamentals of mechanics to start up his own auto shop if he ever tired of being a lawyer.

“I’m quite handy with these things… Hold it! What are you doing?

He’d already been in the process of rolling up the sleeves of his shirt and unbuttoning his vest so it wouldn’t get grease on it when he saw, to his utter incredulity, that Mia was slightly hiking up her skirt and reaching her fingers underneath the waistband to tug at something.

“Taking off my stockings,” she replied blithely, as though it were obvious. She carelessly propped one foot up against the fender and bent her knee, giving him a prolonged view of her long, perfectly shaped leg, now bared from its sheer nylon casing, and then repeated the action with the other, like this was an everyday event. “I’ve read somewhere that for old cars like mine, the pantyhose trick works as a temporary fix for vehicles with v-belts.”

The gobsmacked defense attorney watched as she nonchalantly removed her blazer, revealing toned slender arms that were uncovered by the silky sleeveless blouse she wore beneath the jacket, and went to work.

“Let me help,” he insisted gallantly, admiring her independent streak while at the same time wishing she’d let him be helpful for a change! “We don’t want you breaking a nail or sullying those delicate hands with nasty grease.”

“Sure,” she answered distractedly, already in full operation mode “Two bolts are holding the alternator in place… Could you go into my glove compartment and get me that rag so I can loosen them?”

“They’re probably on there really tight.” He couldn’t resist one last-ditch effort to prove his industriousness. “Do you want some additional elbow grease?”

Mia raised her head at last. Her gaze lingered on his upper torso, now free from its vest, and the sinewy muscles on his forearms, fully exposed now that he’d rolled back the sleeves, for only a split second, before shaking her head and dropping her eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’m stronger than I look! It’s a Fey trait.” She resumed the task at hand. “I know this is only a temporary fix. It’ll create just enough friction on the pulleys to get them moving for the short trip back to the office, but at least I can get to my sister. I can worry about getting it towed to a garage later. Now then, if you indeed want to be helpful, there is something you can do for me.”

“Name it,” he replied automatically, try not to sound relieved at the idea of being able to show off some of his mechanical skills. “What can I do?”

“As soon as I get the pantyhose in place, would you mind turning the key in the ignition and seeing if the car starts?”

The seemingly menial nature of the assigned task made Diego feel like a cumberworld in every sense as the man was forced to essentially stand there and look ornamental – whilst the fairer sex did the dirty grunt grunt work! As much as he could appreciate just how far women’s liberation had come over the years… He was now also starting to despise it with the burning passion of a thousand suns!

Meeting Maya was an unexpected pleasure. She was a plucky, sanguine adolescent, petite in stature and cute as a button. While there was essentially no physical resemblance to her glamorous older sister, he’d noted that the teenager’s lambert dark eyes, which her black Shetland pony bangs kept falling into, bore the same playful sparkle as the elder Fey’s whenever she was in a daffing mood.

When they’d gotten back to the office, Mia had needed to call a tow truck for her car, as it’d died the moment they’d gotten to the office parking lot. The effervescent Maya had implored Diego to join them for the night since he’d valiantly offered to drive them to the girls’ favorite fast-food restaurant, The Burger Queen.

Happy to play the needed role of chauffeur for the stranded damsels, he’d at least hoped he could treat them to a fun night out, too, but Mia had immediately vetoed it. The intransigent mule of a woman had staunchly insisted on paying for his food as well as theirs, insisting that it was her way of repaying him for driving them around.

Her firm no-nonsense tone left zero room for any sort of rebuttal.

It was unfathomable that the woman he was crazy about could make him feel so happy… yet emasculated at the same time! How was he ever going to sweep her off her feet and woo her when she wouldn’t let him?

The evening had been wonderful though. Maya was every bit the embarrassing little sister, unabashedly teasing Mia about her and Diego being special someone’s and slyly confiding in a stage whisper that she’d heard so much about him from her older sibling that she felt as if she knew him already! She’d then made a big show of putting Mia in the middle when they’d gone to a movie afterward, giving him no choice but to sit beside the calescent defense attorney during the film (and feeling tingles shoot up his arm, and straight to his chest whenever their fingers would brush in the shared popcorn bucket in his lap). The pint-sized Maya, a.k.a. the human garburator, despite having demolished two sumo-sized burger combos at the restaurant had still managed to put away an entire large-size bucket of popcorn and bathtub-sized soft drink all by herself!

That girl is going to have to marry rich! The amused lawyer thought to himself. I pity the poor, unsuspecting man who gets saddled with this future burger queen down the line – if he doesn’t already have deep pockets, he’s going to have to get a second mortgage to be able to afford to feed her!

Maya had insisted they see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Diego surmised if suffering through two insufferable hours of pansy-ass, sparkling teenage vampires (he’d rather have spent the afternoon listening to Grossberg’s ‘roid and anal fissure issues!) wasn’t enough proof that he was head over heels, he wasn’t sure what was!

Shopping Mall – December 2012


Diego was at a complete loss about how to win the heart of this maddening, wonderful, obstinate woman! At the very least, he’d hoped to surprise her with a wonderful Christmas present. The investigation opportunity presented itself while they’d been Christmas shopping for a present for Grossberg – (however applicable, they’d agreed that Preparation H would’ve been entirely inappropriate for a boss gift!) – and had opted instead for a dapper and cufflinks set. Naturally, she’d insisted they split the price 50/50, despite the steep cost, and the fact that he made far more than she did on her rookie lawyer salary. However, when he’d tried to steer the topic towards her own wish list, to his chagrin, he’d hit yet another dead end.

“So what are your holiday plans?”

“Maya’s coming down Christmas Eve. Normally I’d go up to the village, but Pearl and my Aunt Morgan have colds and aren’t feeling overly festive – so it’ll be her first Noël in LA. I can’t wait to see her face when she opens all her presents – although I think I may have gone a bit overboard!”

She gestured sheepishly to the half-dozen shopping bags in her hands; he’d gallantly offered to carry the other dozen!

“I know I’ve spoiled her rotten this year, but it’s my only way of trying to make up for us being apart so much since I moved down here.” A gusty sigh. “I miss that kid so much. She’s my whole world.”

“I’ve seen how much Maya adores you,” he’d assured her. “I’m sure spending Christmas with her big sister is the greatest gift of all.”

In the end, since jewelry, perfume and lingerie were all too personal, he could only hope she’d be happy with the Cordyline stricta he’d surprise her with at the office after the Christmas break (he feared it’d wilt being unattended while they were closed for the holidays). The Slender Palm Lily plant was pretty and graceful, like the giftee herself, and seemed about as neutral as he could get without revealing his true underlying feelings.

She’d seriously left him with no other choice since his gift-probing efforts had been an utter bust! Her non-answer had made him want to bang his head against a wall!

“What about you, though?” He’d fervently hoped he sounded casual with the inquiry. “During this shopping spree you did for Maya, was there anything, in particular, you’re hoping Santa will surprise you with underneath your tree?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Another sigh. “Christmas is so much harder when you get older, you know? It’s like, how to answer the proverbial question of what do you want this year? I don’t know… maybe a sense of purpose? Financial security? Could use more sleep, a bottle of wine, and maybe some new bras?”

With that last comment, Diego had been forced to bite his tongue so hard, he was sure he would have permanent teeth marks on it!

Grossberg Law Offices – December 24, 2012


Sitting in the office now, Diego mentally went over every detail of his friendship with Mia over the last few months and realized that save for those stolen moments at the police department, he had zero indication that he wasn’t living out a Bob Marley song. That he wasn’t “Waiting In Vain” for a love that would never be his.

His gut instincts told him that Mia was at least attracted to him… But that wasn’t enough.

Ironically, it’d be the first time in his life that feeding the kitty simply wouldn’t suffice. There was no way he’d even fathom risking the potential messiness of getting involved with somebody from the office; not unless he thought it could be something real and long-lasting.

And he wasn’t sure she was interested in that with him at all.

Even though he’d known her less than a year, Diego could no longer remember what his life had been like before Mia had come along and brightened up his world.

Just the mere sight of her helps to get me through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to my face. In her presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but I find I’m quite content in just having her nearby. Things that never interested me before – late work nights, shopping, teenybopper movies become fascinating because I know they are important to her, this kitten who’s become so special to me.

The sadistic shop owner of the convenience store beneath the office had left his Christmas music on overnight, so the repetitive festive Muzak soundtrack in the background set the scene. Never being the overly sentimental type, Diego generally found Christmas music to be trite and positively mind-numbing. However, at that moment, the songs carrying up from below went unnoticed as he continued to mull over his seemingly unrequited ardor.

It wasn’t mere lust that he felt for Mia. Of this he was positive. So just what was this feeling?!

“Sometimes I wish I knew how to quit you!” He idly tapped his pen against his notepad. “It’s tiring to think about you all the time. It’s unnerving to keep getting jealous of everyone else, wondering if the delivery guy who brought us pizza the other night who was flirting with you has a better chance with you than I do. Glaring balefully at every man who dares give you a second – and third! – glance whenever I’m with you and wish I could pop them right in the nose! You make me selfish, and insecure. There are days I wish I could get rid of this certain addiction for you that I can’t quite understand.”

You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind, or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you vainly hope to experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you…

He was shaken from his thoughts when he heard the song from the Polar Express movie playing. It’d been a favorite holiday film as a child, but right now, he wasn’t hearing the actual lyrics. While he wasn’t maudlin enough to be singing along to Christmas songs, against his own volition, his mind seemed intent on making personalized verses to the hauntingly beautiful melody.


I’ve loved her from afar
Too long to be believed
I wish upon a star
Her heart’s mine to receive
She makes my mind feel dizzy
Turned my world upside down
I hope someday that kitten comes around

Mouth dries up when she’s near
Strange feelings so unknown
Rejection’s what I fear…
I pine for her alone
Keep faith that we’re meant to be
Can’t let spirits get down
I hope someday that kitten comes around

Fire, brains and beauty like I’ve never seen
Everything I’ve wanted, woman of my dreams
There’s a spark between us, my soul cannot deceive
Wishing that she feels…the same

Fire, brains and beauty like I’ve never seen
Everything I’ve wanted, woman of my dreams
There’s a spark between us, my soul cannot deceive
Wishing that she feels…the same

When she laughs, angels sing
And smiles replace my frowns
All the joy that she brings
Never fails to astound
And on this night of Christmas Eve
Star wishes run abound
I hope someday that kitten comes around

Glancing down at his notepad with a start, Diego was stupefied to realize that not only his brain but consequently, his hand, as though he no longer bore full control of it, had been scribbling down the personalized lyrics on the paper.

It was hardly Shakespearean-worthy prose; he’d readily accepted that as a poet, he was an utter balladmonger. Nonetheless, Mia was poetry…yet he couldn’t read.

I saw in her eyes, all the poetry I didn’t dare to write.

He let out a wistful sigh and murmured the last scrawled verse under his breath.


I pray someday that kitten comes around…

“What are you still doing at the office, Senpai?”

He blinked in confusion. The holiday season must be getting to him. No doubt hearing a song about children’s Noël miracles was the indisputable reason his deceitful eyes were making him believe that the object of his affection had unexpectedly materialized in the doorway, like some sort of miraculous Christmas Angel.

He clenched his bleary eyes shut, but when he opened them again, Mia was still standing there, her head tilted to the side as she regarded him with a puzzled smile.

Springing into action, he quickly shoved the incriminating evidence of his lovesick status into his jacket pocket and cleared his throat.

“Just catching up on some paperwork. But I could ask you the same question – what are you doing here, Miss Fey?”

“Maya missed the 5:00 train from Kurian village, so she caught a later one. It’s a two-hour trip, so she won’t be down for a couple of hours. I’d just gotten home when I realized that some of the files I promised to work on over the holiday were still sitting on my desk,” Mia explained. “And since I now had some extra time to kill while I wait for her to come down, I thought I’d come back and grab them. But I didn’t think that you’d still be here this late – it’s dark out already!”

Squizzing down at his watch, Diego realized she was right. It was 8:30 already; definitely, time for him to get out of there. He could continue La Douleur Exquise over the sorry state of his love life from the privacy of his own home!

“Where did you park?” He asked. “When ducked out to grab a bite to eat a few hours ago, the parking lot was full when I got back.”

“It still is. I guess the other businesses around us are having their office party tonight. I had to park a couple of blocks away, but there’s a shortcut through the alley.”

He frowned.

“I don’t like the idea of you going through alleys by yourself at this hour. I’m going to walk you to your car.”

“You don’t have to do that!” She protested. “I’m a big girl – I can take care of myself.”

“And I’m a gentleman and as long as we’re in this office… Your immediate supervisor,” he shot back with a grin, although his tone was unyielding. It was his turn to be stubborn now. “And I am making it my holiday decree to have you escorted safely to your vehicle on this festive evening where looters and winos run rampant through the city, Miss Fey. No objections!”

“Whatever you say,” she joked, taking the arm he offered her once they were outside.

They walked along and companionable silence, and then, against his better judgement, they ended up taking the shortcut she insisted upon through the dark alley, and they were halfway through the lane when disaster struck.

The gunman in the ski mask appeared to jump out of nowhere, shoving the barrel of his pistol right into Diego’s face before he had a chance to react.

“Watch. Wallet. Now,” growled the thief, cocking the hammer. “And don’t try any funny business, see?”

“You can have my watch,” Diego assured him tersely, giving a silent note of thanks that he’d only worn his cheap Rolex knock-off that day and that he didn’t carry much cash in his billfold. “I’m just reaching into my pants pocket to get my wallet…”

“Nice and slow,” the robber hissed, now pointing the gun at Mia, who was frozen in fear. “And I think I’ll take that pretty little glowing pendant around your neck, too, lady.”

“My – my magatama?” She stammered, her hands flying protectively over the mystical gemstone. “B – but this isn’t even made from any sort of precious, or even semiprecious stone! It’s purely sentimental family value … You won’t garner even a penny trying to sell it…”

Diego had no idea what the significance of the strangely shaped object dangling from Mia’s chain was, or why she’d be risking her life with an armed robber over it. However, he recalled that Maya wore a very similar one around her neck, and surmised it must be some sort of Fey heirloom, which meant it was very important to her.

Which meant he couldn’t let it be taken away.

He placed a protective arm around her shoulder while still reaching for his wallet with his free hand.

“This ring on my finger is pure silver,” he offered bravely. “I’m not sure how much you can pawn it for, but it’s yours if you’ll just leave the lady alone.”

“Why not both?” The masked bandit snarled, jabbing his gun into Diego’s shoulder and producing a switchblade with his free hand, which he was now waving at Mia. “Give me that necklace.”

“No!” Diego shouted, more alarmed by the sharp metal blade that was now inches from his friend’s terrified face than at the gun pressed against his own body. “Leave her alone!”

He quickly spun his body around so Mia was fully shielded by him and attempted to knock the gun out of the mugger’s hand. He was only partially successful, because as the pistol fell to the cement, his swift action resulted in the disquieted criminal jerking forward with the knife, slashing deeply into the defense attorney’s arm. The stinging sensation from the bloody wound shocked him into releasing his protective grip on his protégé, who dropped to the ground but tucked into a roll so she wasn’t hurt by the fall. He was still standing between her and the robber, listening intently for the sound of her retreating footsteps, hoping she’d run to safety and call for help.

Instead, a loud cry pierced the night.


“Holy bat, Shitman!” The robber croaked, just as he was propelled backward by a Straight Blast shot, the famous signature fist move of the legendary movie star martial artist, Bruce Lee.

Glancing down at his exposed chest, where a couple of shirt buttons had become undone in the scuffle, Diego was dimly cognizant of the clear imprint bearing Mia’s nine-shaped pendant on the skin of his chest, where he’d all but crushed her against him, a sensation that was dulled as he clutched his free hand to his injured shoulder and saw his fingers were a glistening ruby red.

¡Ay, caramba! He thought dazedly as he sank to his knees onto the cold pavement. I must be bleeding to death…or at least be hallucinating. How else to explain the inexplicable, humanly impossible sight I just witnessed?!

Diego tried to keep his eyes open. He could hear sirens in the distance and loud voices shouting, “Freeze, pal! LAPD!” But his lids kept drifting shut.

If only he weren’t so damned woozy. If only he could clear the fuzz out of his brain, he was sure he could have figured out what was going out there. But at that moment, he didn’t believe he could figure out two plus two.

He squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them again, Mia was bent over him, concern etched in every feature of her heart-shaped face. She sure is gorgeous, he noted, needing something to fasten his mind on. Her teeth dug into her full lower lip. He yearned to know if they tasted as sweet as they looked – he imagined them to be like the cherry Coke she’d had at the movie theater a few months ago. What was the film called again? Breaking Wind? His mind was too foggy to remember.

She reached down and stroked his cheek with fingertips that felt like icicles on his burning skin. She was worried about him. It was there in her lovely brown eyes but he could feel the cerebrating more than see it. He grasped it with a sense that had no name and wasn’t counted among the five most normally used. He could feel Mia’s concern. And he wondered just before he lost consciousness what it’d be like to let down his guard and have this woman’s concern touch his innermost self; the lonely man he kept locked inside him behind walls of wariness and cynicism and hidden behind a never-ending parade of inconsequential lovers… until she’d come along.

Heaven. It would be like heaven. But heaven was a long way out of his reach.

Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he was already dead.

How else could one possibly explain that his heavenly savior; the one who’d restrained his assailant that night by performing the iconic Jeet Kune Do fighting moves, popularized by Bruce Lee… had been none other than the late Dragon himself?!

While wearing Mia’s work clothes?!

Hickfield Clinic – December 24, 2012


ER Dr. Suhkdeep Mann had diagnosed Diego’s heroically attained shoulder injury as a deep enough laceration to require stitches, then cautioned that tetanus shots tended to have a very sedative effect. Ergo, the Latino would be zonked out for a while. However, he’d assured the unnerved Mia that the defense attorney would be just fine in a day or so, and probably be home for Christmas.

Hearing the news of this holiday miracle was the greatest gift of all.

As Diego moaned in his sleep, she responded to him on an instinctive level and bent over him to stroke a soothing hand along the rough, beard-shadowed plane of his cheek. The action was as automatic as breathing.

Unable to stop herself, Mia reached out with one finger and traced the length of his arm. It was a trail that followed the hills and valleys of muscles of a man who used his body as well as his mind. The hair on the back of his forearm rasped gently against her fingertips and tingles of awareness shot through her. She pulled her hand away as if his fevered skin had singed her. Her gaze jerked back up to his shoulder where a fresh bandage covered the knife wound.

Why had he gone through such extremes for her? Diego, with the devilish charm who could have any woman he chose? He was a riddle inside a puzzle inside a dangerously handsome facade.

Despite her relief, Mia had every intention of giving that man a piece of her mind as soon as he woke up! She wasn’t the sort of person who craved a lot of excitement. She didn’t need to get involved with people who took potentially getting shot in stride as a normal hazard of their everyday lives! She couldn’t believe he’d nearly gotten himself killed over her!

The brave, wonderful, noble, hot as sin…idiot!

Romanticizing again, Mia scolded herself and nibbled on her lip. Who’s the idiot now?!

In all fairness, it was difficult not to fantasize about the circumstances. She felt like the heroine of a historical novel; a damsel nursing a fallen knight – who happened to be more handsome than the devil himself.

With a sigh, she sat back and studied him as he settled into a deeper sleep, absently rubbing her magatama between her thumb and forefinger. He was full of surprises, just like Pandora’s Box. And like the girl in the story, she had an irresistible urge to open the box, even though she knew how unwise it could be.

Who was he? She wondered, trying frantically to get her mind off his anatomy. Where was he from? What was his family background? How could she be so attracted to him without knowing these vital bits of information? She wasn’t the sort to fall for a man based on looks alone.

It wasn’t just that. She’d spent more than enough time with Diego to know by now that there was a lot more to him than what pleasingly met the eye.

Which meant now she was in real peril.

“The stress of what happened tonight is making you irrational,” Mia muttered to herself. “That’s the only logical explanation. You’re not seriously falling for Diego Armando!”

Her entire body seemed to reject the statement she’d just made.

Admittedly, the physical attraction had been there from the minute she’d walked into that law office and first heard his sexy bedroom voice.

Lust. There wasn’t anything rational or logical about it.

An ominous sense of certainty descended over her.

Who was she kidding? This was more than mere lust and she damn well knew it!

From the very first time she’d gazed into those intense dark eyes, Mia knew that she was hopelessly lost.

In those earthy hues was his soul, not in the way of those cheesy romance novels, so obsessed with carnality, but with the kind of beauty that expanded a moment into a personal eternity; heaven you wished to be a part of.

Her slim shoulders rose and fell with her sigh of defeat. She couldn’t have picked a more difficult man if she’d held auditions for the part. Under his Don Juan exterior, she sensed Diego was jaded, sardonic, and, despite being a ladies’ man, a loner.

But he was also smart and warm and protective and kind…

There were no two ways about it – the darn man needed love. He deserved love.

She wasn’t exactly sure when it’d happened. Or even when it’d started. All she knew for sure was that right here and now, she was falling like a ton of bricks, and she could only pray that he was feeling the same way.

I want to be everything you could ever need. Let me be the sun peeking through the clouds after a storm. Let me be the eyes you look into, the eyes you lose track of time in, the eyes that can heal wounds neither of us can see. Let me be the piece that makes you whole again, to complete your soul. Let me be the song you can never get out of your head, the song playing on repeat all day every day. Let me be the smile you can never forget, that grin you always want to see. Let me be these things and I promise I’ll never let you down.

Now she was in even deeper peril.

“Jiminy Christmas,” she muttered with a sigh of resignation. Why did she have to be such a blasted romantic? In college, her best friend had always counseled her to hang onto that trait. Lana Skye had claimed that the world needed more romantics. Maybe that was true, but why the heck did she have to be one of them?!

Hickfield Clinic – December 24, 2012


The next morning, Maya insisted on accompanying Mia to the hospital to check on Diego. Her little sister seemed to have acquired the hugest crush on the defense attorney since their night at the movies. She also wouldn’t stop teasingly referring to him as her ‘future brother-in-law,’ despite Mia’s blushing protests.

The moment they’d gotten to his floor, the spirit medium had asserted that, despite having eaten a special Yuletide breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes (shaped like Santa hats and Christmas bells) only half an hour ago, she was hungry – yet again! Naturally, she’d then begged for some grub from the cafeteria.

Mia never could say no to those pleading, puppy-dog brown eyes. She doubted the poor future sucker her sister would end up (and consequently eat out of his house and home!) would be able to, either!

With a resigned laugh, Mia decided that rather than bring her bottomless pit of a sibling along and risk having her order everything on the menu, she’d have the teen wait for her outside Diego’s room while she made the quick food run. Her meager pockets could only afford some chips and just a few other munchies – she simply didn’t make enough money to keep that child fully satiated on her rookie attorney salary!

When she returned, arms laden with snacks, she was surprised to see Maya wasn’t sitting in the hallway anymore. Puzzled, she peeked her head into the room – and then froze in the doorway.

Nothing could’ve prepared Mia for the sight before her, or for the effect that it’d have on her heart.

Diego was sitting up in bed, bronze chest bared and dark hair tousled, looking impossibly masculine and gorgeous despite needing a shave. Maya was sitting on the bed laughing gleefully beside him, jabbering away a mile a minute.

“I can’t believe Sis never explained we’re from a long line of spirit mediums!” She was crowing. “Boy, do you two ever have a load of catching up to do! Turns out you weren’t hallucinating last night; you did see Bruce Lee kick that mugger’s ass last night! Although by the time the detective got there – I forgot what she said his name was… Gumtree? Suede Shoe? – the thug was knocked out cold! So, in the end, Sis saved the day with her awesome channeling powers!”

“I had no idea I was working alongside such a spiritual powerhouse, although I’m most fortunate that she’s on my side.” Diego’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled fondly at Maya. “I’m also a lucky man to have woken up to such a special visitor in my room!” He tapped her on the nose. “You must be my Christmas present!”

Maya giggled again and smiled at him adoringly.

“Lord, don’t do this to me,” Mia whispered weakly. She was too exhausted and too emotionally drained right now to fight off the wave of emotions that’d assaulted her upon seeing that big, macho lawyer warming the heart of her baby sister. Wearily she closed her eyes.

In a flash, every memory she had of her time with the java lover passed through her mind – his initial arrogance… the way he’d risen to protect her from Hammond’s lechery… the way he’d endured watching that train-wreck vampire movie (although comparing it to a train wreck wasn’t fair to train wrecks, because people wanted to watch those!) … going Christmas shopping with her … the way he always made her laugh during their late-night work sessions…

She thought of the incredible physical magnetism that drew her to him. Then she opened her eyes and regarded him again as he bent his dark head and murmured something that made Maya let out another peal of laughter.

And in that instant, Mia fell completely, hopelessly totally in love with Diego Armando.

It wasn’t a pleasant thing. It wasn’t flowers and church bells and bird songs. It was a long, hard fall down a bumpy hill to the rocks of reality. She was in love with a man who distanced himself from people. He kept to himself behind a wall speaking with a silver tongue and offering lovers physical ecstasy, but nothing deeper of himself. She didn’t want to be in love with him. Any woman with an ounce of common sense would’ve taken one look and known this Casanova was nothing but a heartbreaker.

That had to mean she didn’t have a shred of intelligence then, because she was looking at him now and all she wanted was to go join him on that bed, have him take her in those muscular arms, and hold her.

The fingers of her left hand curled around the smooth wood of the door frame as if to keep her from giving in to that desire.

Diego looked up and saw her looming in the doorway, beaming from ear to ear at the sight of her.

“Good morning, Miss Fey. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas.” She met his smile with a bashful one of her own. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” His brain felt like steel wool his shoulder throbbed and his skin hurt all over but these complaints seemed minor enough to fit under the heading of “fine.”

All that mattered was he was alive

“How long have I been out?” Diego asked, scratching at the stubble that covered his lean cheeks.

“About 12 hours,” she answered as she flitted about his room like a hyperactive butterfly, straightening things that had already been straightened a dozen times and had never needed it in the first place.

Maya’s eyes lit up as she saw the armful of goodies Mia was carrying.

“Swiss Rolls!” She chirped merrily, pouncing upon them like a ravenous lion. “Ooooh…and burger-flavored potato chips! Huzzah!”

“I hope they tide you over for at least the morning,” Mia said dryly. “They were all I could afford! I don’t know what’s more gouging – the parking rates at this hospital, or how much they charge for so-called food!”

“They should tide me over for an hour at least!” Maya replied cheerfully through a mouthful of chocolate goodness. “Although I’m sure I could’ve picked something more filling if you’d just let me go with you!”

“If I’d done that, I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent!” Mia laughed as the girl ripped open the peppermint candies and fed Diego one. “Slow down, Maya; you’re acting like you haven’t eaten in a month! It’s like Aunt Morgan doesn’t feed you at all!”

“All we eat in the village are vegetables!” Maya exclaimed plaintively. “And Aunty doesn’t let me have any snacks in between meals, because she says feeling semi-starved is better for harnessing spiritual powers!”

“Tell you what, Maya,” Diego ventured smoothly. “If you reach into my jacket hanging on that chair and grab my wallet, I’ll give you some money to go get yourself some real food from the cafeteria. How’s that sound?”

“Super-duper!” Maya eagerly hopped up and went rifling through his coat pockets, retrieving the leather billfold. A crumpled sheet of paper fell to the floor as she did so, and the defense attorney grew visibly flustered as she held it up. “Hey, what’s this?”

“Nothing!” Diego replied quickly, already extending his palm. “Could you hand that here, please?”

Shrugging, Maya passed him the notebook page, which he quickly shoved under the blanket. Then she pecked him on the cheek as she grabbed a $20 bill from the wallet.

“Thanks a bunch, Diego! You’re the best! Merry Christmas, and get well soon!”

Feliz Navidad, Preciosa,” he replied indulgently, waiting until Maya had left the room before turning to Mia with a raised brow.

“Spirit channeling, huh? And Bruce Lee, of all people! It’ll always be: go big or go home with you, won’t it?”

“I didn’t think I’d even still be capable of it… It’s been years,” Mia admitted shyly. “Though I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. I wanted to let you know that while I’m very grateful to you and so glad that you’re going to be alright, I’m also incredibly sorry that you got hurt defending me.”

“I tried to defend you,” he corrected wryly. “In the end, you just proved for the umpteenth time that you’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself and don’t need my help for anything.”

He flashed a crooked grin.

“All I did was cause myself minor contretemps by getting injured in the process!”

“What on earth is this pettifog about?” She gasped in dismay. “I admit that I’d learned to rely on my own means since I moved out of the village and into the city, but let’s get real! Diego, that man had a knife and a gun… If you hadn’t distracted and disarmed him with your temerity, we could both be dead right now!”

“Nonetheless, I’m not the one who beat the snot out of the perpetrator, as your sister so colorfully explained, and then gave him the big KO!” He let out a humorless laugh. “That was all you.”

“Will you stop being such a chauvinistic brute already?!” She retorted indignantly, bewildered and hurt by his somewhat rancorous tone. “I did what I had to do to ensure we both survived the attack! Would you rather I’d allowed us to be at the mercy of that lunatic? What the heck is your problem?”

“My problem is that you’re a difficult woman to stack up against, Mia Fey!” He snapped back. “From the moment I met you, all I’ve wanted to do was be there for you, help you, protect you! Alas, all my efforts have bombed so hard, they made the H-bomb look like a two-inch salute!”

Mia felt as though she’d been slapped. She felt terrible if she’d somehow made him feel that way – but at the same time, she didn’t want to have to apologize for who she was.

“Well, forgive me for having grown accustomed to being independent and not some simpering damsel in distress who needs to rely on a man for every little thing!” She bit back. “I guess playing the role of the cute, helpless female in accordance with how that slimebag vulgarian initially treated me is the only thing that’d ever make a behindhand, sexist jerk-face like you happy!”

“Objection! I never wanted you to be something you’re not!” He cried in frustration. “You’re perfect just the way you are – which only makes it that much harder for a man like me to try to wow you!”

Mia reeled back in shock, and Diego sighed deeply. He softened his tone, the picture of utter dejection now as he regarded her with hapless espresso orbs.

“From day one, the only thing I’ve ever truly been peccable of was wanting to impress you… Mia.”

Why?” She blurted out before she could stop herself. “I’m already completely in love with you!”

Diego’s eyes widened at her outburst, and she clapped a hand over her mouth, feeling her face burning behind her palm as she awaited his reaction with bated breath.

Her proclamation hung in the air for what seemed like a million agonizing minutes, until he spoke, at last, his cadence laced with awe.

“These are some heavy meds they gave me here.” His tone was filled with wonder. “They must give the power to grant your greatest wish…assuming I didn’t hallucinate what I thought I just heard you say?”

For a minute, Mia’s courage almost failed her, but then she steeled her nerves and met his eyes steadily. This time, she didn’t look away as she spoke the words left unsaid for far too long.

“You say you’ve been trying to impress me … yet I’m the one who still gets butterflies even though I’ve seen you hundreds of times.” Her voice trembled. “Remember how you asked me what I wanted for Christmas?”

He nodded silently.

“Well, all I want for Christmas … is you, Diego. That’s it.” Mia’s lips quivered. “I want you, with all your mistakes. All your flaws, smiles, jokes, sarcasm. Everything. I just want you.”

Her eyes sparkled with heartfelt, the light making them look alive. Their light topaz color was soft, the exact shade of the gemstone. A ring of gold hung inside her iris, adding another layer of depth to her already beautiful orbs.

“I have died every day waiting for you. Diego, don’t be afraid. I have loved you for a thousand years, and I’ll love you for a thousand more. I’ve waited long enough, but I’ll wait even longer if it means someday you’ll love me, too…”

Nothing could’ve prepared Diego for the rush of wonder flooding through him from his declaration. The irrevocable power of those three magic words was unequivocally rhapsodic, mind-blowing, exhilarating … and everything he ever could have wanted in this whole world.

Without uttering a word, he slid the crumpled note from under the blanket and pressed it into her palm, his eyes never leaving her face as she read the song lyrics that he’d penned the night before. Tears of joy began to roll down her cheeks, and he tenderly wiped them away with his thumb.

Mi gatita,” he uttered hoarsely, already reaching for her face to draw her to him, his heart in his eyes. “Te quiero con todo mi alma.”

Yo también te quiero, Diego Armando.” She stroked his cheek. “Siempre.”

Eres el amor de mi vida, Mia Fey,” he vowed, resting his forehead against hers. “I would not only give up all the women in the world for you, but I’d even give up coffee for you.”

She began to giggle helplessly as he added, “but I know you love me too much to ever ask.”

“Don’t tempt me, Señor Java!”

“You’ve been tempting me with those divine lips from the moment I saw you,” he growled. “Let me finally give in to my sinful temptations, my enchantress.”

He put a hand under her chin. As soon as she tilted her head up toward him, he placed his palm on her cheek. He leaned over, inching toward her lips, as she struggled to decide whether or not to close her eyes. When his lips brushed hers, her eyes closed on their own. It was a gentler kiss than she’d expected from him, full of invitation, but no pressure.

Mia’s lips accepted the overture. There was no way she could even try to resist. So, she leaned into him, kissing him back with all the pent-up love and longing in her heart. Her mouth parted ever so slightly, her breath mingling with his. He tasted faintly of candy cane. He pulled her closer to him, and the kiss grew more intense; a lot less invitation and a lot more pressure.

It was dizzying. It was the sweetest of kisses. Mia couldn’t help but drink it in. She had so little control where this man was concerned – and none at the moment. In the deepest, most secret part of her soul, all she wanted was to have him hold her as he was holding her now. As if he cherished her; as if he wanted her in his life for the rest of his. She let herself melt against him and squeezed her eyes so tightly closed, the emotional tears that gathered at the corners could barely escape.

At last, when she turned away from his lips to catch her breath, she rested her forehead on his chest, breathing hard.

“Kissing you is everything I ever hoped it would be,” she whispered. “Besarte es como ver las estrellas.”

Muy romántica, mi gatita.” Diego was impressed by her flawless speech in his native tongue. “But since when do you speak Spanish?”

“Since always! I did grow up in the state of California, which is right beside Mexico!” She smirked. “Or rather… siempre.”

“You never told me that!”

“You never asked!”

“Sustained. The defense rests.” He chuckled and ran his hand over her satiny caramel hair. “I look forward to uncovering many more mysteries about you, Madame Attorney.”

“And I look forward to having you uncover me, in more ways than one!” Her eyes twinkled mischievously. “But first, you need to get the hell out of this hospital bed!”

“Later today, kitten. You have my word. There’s nothing I look forward to more than being your scratching post tonight!”

He treated her to a wicked grin that was guaranteed to get him on Santa’s naughty list, but then his expression suddenly changed as he continued to gaze lingeringly into her eyes.

“What is it, Diego?” She asked softly, unable to read the intensity in that mocha stare, yet unable to pry her eyes away. “What are you thinking?”

In a voice aching with tenderness, he whispered, “Mi gatitatu amor vale mas que millones de estrellas.”

Now look at who’s the romantic one, you not-so-secret softy!” She teased, her eyes glowing with love as she kissed him again. “Feliz Navidad, mi amor.”

“Merry Christmas, kitten.”




Heart-Warming Java Shots Copyright © by JordanPhoenix. All Rights Reserved.

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