Unexpectedly Yours (Page 20)
I blink, looking around. We’re in the hotel kitchens, full of light and activity. Chefs and busboys are busy working, assembling breakfast trays and prep work for the day ahead, but Austin has set up a corner away from the bustle. There’s a table set with ingredients and cookie cutters, and already, the smell of festive spices fills the air: ginger, cloves, nutmeg.
He brings out his phone, hits a button, and then music begins to play. Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas.”
I blink, suddenly overwhelmed.
“It’s your perfect Christmas morning,” Austin prompts me, looking pleased. “You wanted to wake up to the smell of cookies and…”
“Classic Christmas songs,” I finish. I can’t believe it. I look around, swallowing back a sudden rush of emotion. “Austin, I can’t believe you did this for me!”
“Hey, it’s like you said.” Austin looks bashful. “It’s time we made some holiday traditions of our own.”
I try not to focus on the casual way he said it—or how my heart swells at the mention. Right now, this is enough: the music playing softly, butter and eggs waiting beside the industrial-sized mixer, and the dusting of powdered sugar already misting the air.
He arranged all this for me, for my perfect Christmas morning.
“What are you waiting for?” I swallow back the lump in my throat, and push up the sleeves on his oversized shirt. “Let’s get baking!”
The cookies are only the beginning. After we bake a batch and decorate them with frosting and tiny silver balls, we leave a plate by the front desk for the other guests to enjoy. Austin tells me to dress warmly, and when the cab drops us off outside the skating rink at Rockefeller Plaza, I let out a shriek of delight.
“Ice skating?” I feel like a little kid again, birthdays and Christmas all rolled into one.
Austin smiles. “It was next on the list, wasn’t it?”
I look at him anew as we head to the kiosk to get our passes. When I told him about my Serendipity holiday daydreams, I never imagined that he would bring them to life for me. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to pay attention like that, let alone go to all this effort.
There’s so much more to him than meets the eye.
“What do you think, festive enough for you?” Austin teases as we lace up our skates.
I laugh. “Just about.” The rink is beautiful, the glossy ice lit up, with colored lights strung around the edges, and the biggest tree I’ve ever seen towering over us all. Families skate together, couples glide hand in hand, bundled up in coats and scarves against the cold.
“I’ve never skated before,” I warn him as we strap on our skates. “I had Barbie roller-skates in third grade, but I’m guessing this is kind of different.”
“Don’t worry,” he tells me, helping me to my feet. “You can hold onto me.”
It’s not an invitation I’m going to turn down, not with Austin looking so good in his coat and scarf, smiling at me with wicked invitation in his eyes.
We whirl around the rink together, hand-in-hand. It takes me a little while to adjust to the skates, but even once I find my feet, I don’t let go. “How are you so good?” I ask, as Austin switches effortlessly to skating backwards, holding my hands in his.
He shrugs. “My mom worked weekends when I was a kid, so she’d leave me and my sister at the local rink to keep out of trouble.”
“I’m guessing you still found plenty.” I smile.
He laughs. “Guilty as charged. That was before I picked up a guitar,” he adds. “After that, you couldn’t have dragged me out of my bedroom for a million bucks. Music became my obsession.”
“And here you are,” I say happily. “It looks like it worked out for you.”
“I guess it did.” Austin’s eyes meet mine. For a moment, it looks like he’s about to say something. Then I catch sight of some girls over by the railings. They’re looking at him and whispering to each other. I smile.
“You’ve got some admirers,” I tease him. I don’t blame the girls for staring: he’s the most gorgeous man on the ice.
But instead of laughing it off, Austin looks uncomfortable. “Come on,” he says, tugging my hands. He skates faster, pulling me along so quickly the rink becomes a blur of color and motion. I gasp for air, exhilarated. He doesn’t look behind him to check, just speeds backwards, trusting everyone will just get out of our way.
“Austin!” I protest, hanging on tight.
“Just hold on,” he laughs. My heart is racing, and I can’t tell how much is from the speed, and how much is just the rush of him. It feels like I’m flying, the chilled air sharp against my skin, the lights glittering all around us. And in the center of it all, Austin is holding me tightly, his gaze fixed on mine. Faster, faster we go—
My skate snags the ice. I yelp as I lose my balance and knock straight into Austin. There’s no time to steady ourselves, or even think straight. We tumble to the ground, hitting the hard ice with a THUMP.
“Owww,” I groan, catching my breath. Luckily, Austin cushioned most of my fall. “Are you OK?” I start to scramble off him.
Suddenly, Austin grabs my waist and rolls me under him, so I’m pinned against the ice. The length of his body is a delicious weight, and his eyes are smiling with a private joke as he slowly leans down to kiss me.