Snowed in Surprise – Part 1

The sky was a light gray, the snow was just starting to fall.  Juliana had no idea where she was.  The GPS was leading her down a dark, heavily tree-lined road.  There were no street lights, she wasn’t sure they’d help anyway.  There also weren’t any street signs.  Anxiety and frustration were mounting, not good signs for a trip that was supposed to be a relaxing. Juliana worked as the Chief Financial Officer for Patterson Enterprises, a global company diversified across several industries and run by billionaire Damon Patterson.   Juliana had known Damon since they were kids and they’d kept in touch over the years.  When Patterson Enterprises was preparing to take the company public and launch into global markets, Damon wanted someone he could trust running the financial end of the business.  So, he went after Juliana, luring her to come and work for him.  She initially declined, telling him it wasn’t a smart move to be such good friends with her boss.  Plus, she had no real desire to relocate to Manhattan, she was comfortable in Dallas.  But, Damon was a shrewd businessman and could charm the rattle off a rattlesnake.  Somehow, he convinced her this was the perfect job for her.  The next thing she knew, she was packing her things and moving to New York.  That was six years ago and, to date, she’d not had regrets.

Okay, that might have been an exaggeration.  There might have been a couple of regrets.    Juliana, unlike everyone else in the office, had no family.  No one to go home to at the end of a long workday.    She’d allowed ambition and career goals to overtake her need for family.  She regretted that she’d push that to the back burner.    Instead, Juliana was a workaholic.  She had no time for dating, hell she barely had time to sleep each night.  She only made an exception once a month when the finance team got together for drinks after work.  She’d let herself leave at a reasonable time and go to the bar where everyone hung out.  This was the only time she’d socialize with her coworkers as well.  She wasn’t a snob, she was just afraid of making an ass of herself and losing their respect.  To her, that was more important.

Damon Patterson and his wife, Veronica, doted over Juliana, playing the role of protective older siblings.  They were worried about her physical and mental well-being.  Veronica Patterson was convinced Juliana would have a heart attack or stroke before year’s end.  Veronica kept begging Damon to step in and do something about Juliana’s work schedule.  She even suggested that he forced her to take some time off.  The only problem with that was the amount of work.  He had so many irons in the fire that he couldn’t afford for her to be gone.    Veronica politely reminded him that he couldn’t afford for Juliana to be dead, either! The couple had a home in the woods of Vermont that was vacant for most of the year.  In unison, it was decided it would be the ideal place to send Juliana for vacation; it’d be remote and quiet, providing the perfect break from civilization.

Juliana hated the holidays.  Her father had passed away, her mother had remarried, all her holiday traditions were gone.  Juliana’s mother and stepfather traveled around the country in a motorhome.  She barely saw them much less spoke to them.  Christmas by herself was nothing more than an opportunity for Juliana to reflect on being lonely.  So, Damon and Veronica thought this would be the perfect time to force her out of town and to relax.  She could escape the holiday shopping and the increased bustle around town.  Besides, Damon was taking his wife to Turk’s and Caicos so Juliana would be stifled at work and unable to get anything accomplished since he was out.  Juliana had no valid argument for staying behind in Manhattan.

Damon hired a service in Vermont to prepare the house for Juliana’s arrival.  He asked them to clean the house and change the linens.  Since the house had been vacant for several months, he could only imagine the amount of dust that had collected on the surfaces.  The forecast called for cold weather to blow in, so he asked for a stash of logs for the fireplace and for the pantry to be stocked.  Knowing Juliana the way he did, he asked for the wine cooler to be stocked as well.  It was best to cover all possible objections that she might have as to why she couldn’t stay in the house.

Juliana did not want to be on this desolate road looking for a house in the woods.  But, when she made her last stand against taking the trip, Damon threatened to fire her.  She didn’t think he would do it, but she wasn’t about to test him.  He was adamant that she needed a vacation and he was forcing her hand.  So, here she was, with the snow falling and her anxiety growing over being unable to find the house.

“Dammit, why’d I have to leave so late?  And who puts a cabin in BFE Vermont?  I’m gonna beat your ass, Damon, mark my words!”

As Juliana was preparing to give up all hopes of finding the house, she saw a faint glimmer of light between the trees ahead of her.  She prayed this was it because there was not another sign of life anywhere.  If it were the wrong house, she’d throw herself on the mercy of whoever answered the door and ask if she could at least stay until morning.  Then she’d head out and go back to Manhattan.  As luck would have it, as she pulled into the driveway, her headlights hit the reflective tape on the mailbox that spelled out ‘D Patterson’ and the house number.  Hallelujah!  She’d found the right house!

Juliana pulled into the driveway and drove toward the house.  The home was beautiful, and it took her breath away.  It was a modern twist on a log cabin; a large two-story cathedral window to the right of the front door and a covered porch with an outdoor fireplace to the left.  There was a two-car garage connected to the house by a covered walkway.  She didn’t want to know how much this house cost.  She was curious about the view from the back of the house.  With tonight’s cold and blowing snow, she couldn’t wait to get into the house and look.

As she pulled at the front entrance of the house, Juliana wished she had thought to ask for a remote to the garage door.  It would have been convenient to pull her car in from the elements.  Maybe she could get in and get it open and pull her car in before the snow got worse.  One thing that did strike Juliana as odd was the fact that the entire house was lit up.  She quickly shrugged it off thinking that maybe Damon had someone turn the lights on since she would be arriving late.  If that was the case, Juliana owed them a thank you.  She dug around in her purse for the house key and then got out of the car, grabbing her bags from the trunk, before rushing to the front porch.

Juliana fumbled with the lock, finally pushing the door open.  As she entered the house, she noticed the soft glow of several lamps as well as a raging fire in the fireplace.  She caught the whiff of freshly brewed coffee, glancing over to the kitchen and noticing an almost full carafe.  The thought crossed her mind that Damon really went all out to make her feel comfortable.  She dropped her bags and closed the front door before making her way to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee.  She was chilled from the cold and figured it would a good way to warm up until she could unpack and come back to the fire.  With her coffee mug in hand, she picked up her bags and made her way up the stairs toward the bedrooms.

To the right of the top of the stairway sat the master suite.  The room was beautiful and boasted its own large fireplace, complete with sitting area situated in front.  That was the sort of thing Juliana had only ever seen in decorating magazine.  The bed, well, it was massive and looked as if it was so soft she would be swallowed whole.  She didn’t think she’d have any trouble getting a good night’s sleep on that mattress.  Juliana placed her mug of coffee on the nightstand and made her way to the bench at the end of the bed, where she put her bags and then immediately toed off her shoes.  She unzipped her bag and began rifling through for some comfortable lounging clothes.  She wasn’t in the mood to fully unpack, no, she just wanted to change and grab her coffee and park herself in front of the fire to relax.  If Damon went through the effort to make sure there was a fire waiting for her, she wasn’t about to waste it.

Juliana had removed her jeans, folded them and placed them on the bench.  She had just taken off her shirt when she heard something that made her blood run cold, the deep velvety voice of a man.  “Who in the fuck are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?”

Juliana clutched her shirt to her chest and whirled around to see an incredibly gorgeous man standing in the doorway of what she suspected was the bathroom.  He was wearing loose gray flannel lounging pants, no shirt, and his hair was damp.  Juliana couldn’t help but notice the beads of water trailing down his amazingly toned chest and abs.  She had kept herself from licking her lips and remind herself that she was angry.  “Me?  Who in the fuck are you and what are doing in my house?”  She hoped she sounded firm and not the least bit screechy.

The man let his eyes roam over Juliana, paying careful attention to the fact that she was wearing only panties and a bra.  She was clutching her shirt to her chest, but it did nothing in the way of keeping her covered.  He knew he shouldn’t be staring, but he could not help himself.  She had a full-figure with perfect curves and ample breasts.  Just the kind of woman he liked.  He hated the rail thin women who were always throwing themselves at him.  Shit, he had to stop thinking this way, he did not need to get aroused, and she would definitely be able to see it in these pants.  But it didn’t help at all when he looked up and saw those perfectly pouty lips, the flush in her cheeks from embarrassment, and her emerald green eyes.

The man cleared his throat and tried to find his voice, “A friend of mine owns this house and offered to let me stay here a few days.  So, again, who in the hell are you?”

Juliana gave up the pretense of hiding her body, anger had overtaken her so she dropped her shirt and put her hands on her hips.  She was going to let this guy, whoever he was, know that she was a force to be reckoned with.  “This house belongs to a close, personal friend of mine and he offered for me to stay here for my vacation.”  Juliana could feel the man’s eyes roan across her body and she was not letting the opportunity pass to call him out on it.  “Hey, buddy, my eyes are up here!  When did this friend of yours offer for you to stay here?”

He’d not expected her to call him out.  Now he would have to find a way to shield himself, because there was no way to hide that her saucy attitude, in addition to her looks, was turning him on.  He’d have to pray she didn’t look down and gaze at him the way he’d been staring at her.  “I’d talked to him two days ago, told him I needed to get off the grid for a few days.  He offered this place to me, said there’d be food and firewood.”

Juliana had been more subtle when she elected to check the physique out of the man in front of her.  Hot damn, he was gorgeous.  She’d been so captivated by his naked chest and dripping water that she’d not even noticed he had a beard.  Men with beards were a weakness for her.  And she’d totally missed the two tattoos on his chest.  Yeah, her panties were wet.  Oh, wait, Holy mother of God he had tattoos on his arms, too.  She was about to faint.

Juliana couldn’t take it any longer, she was half-naked, and he was standing in her room.  She was going to pounce if she didn’t act right now.  “Get out of my room!  This is where I’m sleeping and you need to move along.  And quit checking me out, it’s rude!”

The man let out a hearty belly laugh, “Sweetheart, I’m not checking you out.”  Although that was not the truth and once again she’d called him out.  Damn, she was delicious, he was ready to take a bit out of that apple.  The intensity of the anger in her eyes was even more of a turn on.  “And, in case you haven’t noticed, which I’m fairly certain you have, I’m half-naked because I was in the shower.  Meaning, I was here first.  So, you’re in my room and you need to move along.  Want my help carrying your suitcase?”  His tone was condescending with a hint of playfulness.  They were both worked up but in two entirely different ways.

“Ahhh,” Juliana yelled out in exasperation and quickly gathered her things, storming out of the room and marching down the hall.  The second bedroom was considerably smaller than the master.  There was no ensuite bathroom and to add insult to injury, the bed was a double bed, unlike the four-poster king that was in the master.  There was no bench at the end of the bed for her suitcase, no fireplace, and no sitting area.  Juliana felt as if she’d just gone from the penthouse to the outhouse.   There was no way this was going to be an enjoyable or relaxing vacation if she was sharing the house with that man and he was sleeping in the room that was meant for her.

Juliana pulled her phone out of her bag to call Damon.  She wanted to get this mess straightened out, immediately.  Of course, no bars!  Figures he would send her out to a cabin where there’d be no cell phone coverage.  Juliana took a wild guess that it meant she’d have no internet access either.  Fine, she’d sleep in this room for the night because she was too angry to go looking around and run into that guy again.  She’d just put on something comfortable and drink her coffee.  Damn!  She’d left it in the master bedroom on the nightstand.  Well, she wasn’t going back in there to get it.  She quickly pulled on a warm pair of pajamas and crawled into the bed.  The room was cold but she hoped being snuggled into the blankets would warm her and allow her to drift off to sleep.

No such luck.  Instead, Juliana tossed and turned thinking of that gorgeous man doing what she’d wanted to do that night.  Sitting in front of the fire with a cup of coffee, enjoying this beautiful log cabin in the woods.  This was her vacation and he was living it while she was in a tiny bedroom!  And let’s not forget Damon and Veronica, they’d planned this, there was no way they didn’t.  Instead of counting sheep to put her to sleep, she’d count ways to plot revenge.

~ * ~

Juliana wasn’t sure what time she’d fallen asleep, she just knew that once she was out, she was out.  The bed was warm and cozy and the thought of getting out the little cocoon she was wrapped in was not overly exciting.  Especially since it meant she might have to face that man who was invading her vacation.  However, it was a new day and it brought with it the prospect of putting this nightmare behind her.  She’d head back to the city and reach out to Damon and Veronica to give them a piece of her mind.  It didn’t matter how well she’d slept, her anger over the events of last evening had not dissipated.

Juliana unwrapped herself from the blankets and the cold air of the bedroom hit her.  She ran around the room frantically to grab her things so she could take a shower.  When she opened the bedroom door, she was overtaken by the smell of breakfast wafting up from the kitchen.  Evidently, the man had been up for a while.  Heck, she didn’t even know what time it was but at this point, she didn’t care.  She shut the bathroom door behind her and locked it, she didn’t want any surprise interruptions.  She started the shower, letting the water warm before she disrobed and stepped under the hot stream.  She tried to let the water wash away all of the worries and issues surrounding her arrival at the house, but it wasn’t working.

After a rather long shower, Juliana stepped out and quickly dried off and dressed in a pair of leggings and a long tunic sweater.  She’d not usually wear leggings in public due to her size and her fear of people staring at her.  However, they were so comfortable, and if she wore a long sweater, her ass was covered.  Juliana had full hips, but her thighs and calves were not as large; leggings complimented the lower parts of her legs.  Today wasn’t about dressing for fashion, she didn’t care what the man in the house thought, either.  She wanted to wear something that would be comfortable for her to drive back to Manhattan.

She finished drying her honey blonde hair and applied a light amount of makeup.  Just enough to look presentable and maybe, dare she say, attractive.  She quickly gathered her things, opened the bathroom door and promptly screamed.

Standing on the other side of the door, coffee mug in hand, was the enemy – the man from last night.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” He said with a light chuckle.

“Really?  Then just what pray tell did you think would happen when you’re standing on the other side of a closed door, jackass?”

“Well, I guess you have a point.  Here, I have a peace offering,” he said, holding out the mug of steaming coffee, “I thought you might like this.  Especially since you left a cup of it in my room last night.”  He made a point to emphasize the words ‘his room.’  Juliana eyed the mug suspiciously and didn’t move to immediately take it from his hand.  “Don’t worry, it’s fresh and I didn’t poison it or spit in it.”

Juliana reached for the mug, sniffing the liquid before taking a tentative sip.  “Thank you.”

He turned and walked away, not even acknowledging that Juliana had thanked him.  She shrugged it off and made her way across the hall.  She made the bed and quickly packed her bag.  Juliana carried her bags and her mug and descended the stairway.  She noticed the man had returned to the kitchen and was leaning against the counter.  He eyed her carefully but said nothing.  She dropped her bags at the base of the stairs and walked toward the kitchen sink.  Taking one final sip of her coffee, she then poured the remaining liquid down the drain and placed the mug in the sink.

Juliana walked back toward the stairs, grabbing her coat off the hook and put on her gloves and scarf.  She had just picked up her bag when the man decided to speak to her.

“So, just curious, but where do you think you’re going?”  His tone was flat and she couldn’t get a read on why he was bothering to ask.

Juliana let out an exasperated huff, “Well, doesn’t take a genius to tell that I have my coat on so I’m going outside.  I didn’t sign up to take my vacation with anyone, so I’m going back to the city.”

The guy smiled and took a sip from his own coffee mug.  He watched her for another minute without saying anything, just to make her more agitated and nervous.  “So, I take it you’ve not looked out the windows this morning?”

“No, I haven’t, why?”

He took a sip from his mug and turned to set it in the sink.  When he turned back to face Juliana, he began to speak, “Well, we received more than a foot of snow last night, your car is buried.  I highly doubt you’re going anywhere today.  Because even if you went out there and fought to get into your cute little car and got it started, do you think the road out here are plowed yet?  I’m willing to bet your Lexus isn’t a four-wheel drive.”

Juliana didn’t want to believe him.  She stomped over to the front door and flung it open for herself.  Sure enough, he was right.  Her car was completely buried in the snow.  “Damn it!”  She shouted as she slammed the front door.  The man in the kitchen had to stifle his laughter.  Juliana marched over to him, “By any chance is your vehicle, which is evidently in the garage, a truck or an SUV?”

He smiled, “It certainly is, but, the drift in front of the garage door is too high for me to back out.  And, even if I could get out, I’m not planning on driving you all the way back to New York.  You’re just going to have to suck it up and hang out with me.”

“I didn’t anticipate asking you to drive me to New York, I’d like you to just drive me to the nearest hotel so I can get a room.”

“No,” He was rather enjoying this.  “Would you like to try again?  Maybe we can introduce ourselves and try to get along for a few days?”

“To quote you, NO!  You’re in my bedroom, in the house that was supposed to be mine, and now I’m stuck.”  Juliana took off her gloves, scarf, and coat, throwing them into a pile on the floor.  Her frustration level was high.

He walked over to her, not heeding her angry rant.  “Hi, my name is Chris, and you are?”  He smiled at her, she wasn’t cracking at all.  She was absolutely hardcore.  “So, your personal friend who is letting you stay here, I guess that’s Damon?  How long have you known him?”  He asked as he turned and walked back toward the kitchen.

“Since we were kids,” she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper.  “We grew up together and now we work together.”

He turned back around and shock registered on his face, “You must be Juliana!  Damon talks about you all the time.  I thought he was having an affair with you when he first started talking about you.”

“Who says we’re not?” Suddenly Juliana was offended by his comment.  What was wrong with her that she wouldn’t be the type of woman Damon would have an affair with?  She wasn’t having an affair with him, that wasn’t the point.  But good grief, did he not think she was worthy?

“Um,” Chris was suddenly flustered, he’d not expected her to come back at him with that question.  “Well, um, Damon said you’re not.  Was he not telling me the truth?  Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t have said that.”

“How exactly did you say you know Damon?”  Juliana was judgmental suddenly and she didn’t care.  This Chris guy was rubbing her the wrong way, and it was pissing her off.  Mainly because she wouldn’t mind if he rubbed her the right way.

“I actually didn’t say,” Chris snapped back, leaning against the counter and crossing his arms.  “But we met through mutual friends and hit it off.  He does a lot of business in Boston, that’s where I’m from, so we met up there.  Does that help your curiosity?”  Juliana said nothing but moved to sit on the stairs and put her head in her hands.

Chris picked up her mug from the sink and rinsed it out.  He made a fresh cup of coffee and carried it to Juliana, extending his hand to her.  He cleared his throat so she’d know he was there.  Juliana gently raised her head to look at him and took the offered mug.

“Look, I know I took you by surprise last night and I’ll admit we didn’t get off on the right foot.  I’ll try to make it up to you.  There’s a second master suite down on the lower level.  I think you’d be more comfortable down there then you were in the small bedroom.” Chris’s voice was sincere and apologetic.  There was no hint of sarcasm, which was a relief as far as Juliana was concerned.

As she was preparing to thank him, a loud pop sounded through the house and everything went dark.  Chris flipped the light switches and confirmed there was no electricity.  “Maybe we blew a fuse,” He quickly offered.  Pulling out his phone, he fumbled for the flashlight app, turning it on and then turning back to Juliana.  “Don’t move, I’ll go see if I can find the breaker box and check the fuses.”

“It’s probably near the furnace, most likely in the basement,” Juliana surmised.

“Good thinking, I’ll head down there and be right back.”

Juliana stayed in place, letting Chris be the tough guy and look for the problem.  Although, based on the pop, and the amount of snow on the ground, she was reasonably confident that it wasn’t a fuse.  She guessed that a transformer had blown and power was completely out.  Which would not be a good thing.

As she suspected, a few minutes later Chris came back upstairs after reaching the same conclusion.  “I think the power’s out because the breaker box seems fine.”  He turned off the flashlight app and powered down his phone, “Might as well turn this off.  No cell coverage out here and now I’ve got no way to recharge it.  I’ll go throw some more wood on the fire to keep us warm.”

“Please tell me there’s a fireplace in the bedroom downstairs,” Juliana pleaded.

“Nope, sorry, the only bedroom with a fireplace in it is the upstairs master.  Where I’m sleeping.”

Well, wasn’t that just her luck?  Her vacation ends up being shared, she’s stranded due to snow, the power goes out, and the hot guy is sleeping in the room that was supposed to be her’s, and it has a fireplace!  At least the couch was comfortable.  Juliana decided that she’d sleep in the living room because she could have the fireplace there to keep her warm.  She grabbed her bags and walked over to the living room, setting them next to the oversized chair.  Juliana reached for the blanket on the back of the couch, wrapping it around her and then sat in the chair to make herself comfortable.  Chris just watched.

Chris was standing across the room, closer to the kitchen.  Juliana yelled over to him, “Hey, is the stove electric or gas?”

“Gas, why?”

“We should be able at least cook.  That way we won’t starve.”

Chris said nothing else.  He put more wood on the fire, stoking it so they wouldn’t have to do anything with it for a while.  Chris took a seat on the couch, Juliana was in the chair – neither of them speaking.  Juliana tried feigning sleep, although she’d open her eyes from time to time to take a peek at Chris.  There was something familiar about him, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.  Juliana had known Damon for years, knew all about his trips to Boston and his dealings there.  In all of the stories he would tell, Damon never mentioned anyone named Chris.  She’d be the first to admit that from time to time she’d tune out some of the things that Damon said.  But there’d be no way that through years of stories she’d miss him talking about a guy he was good enough friends with that he’d let him borrow his house.

It was driving her crazy and she had to say something.  She didn’t care if it made Chris mad, it wasn’t like they were getting along anyway.  “I don’t believe your story about how you know Damon,” Juliana blurted out.

He turned his head to look and her and wasn’t sure he’d heard her correctly.  “What?  Why the hell not?”

Juliana wiggled so she was sitting up a little more straight.  “Because Damon tells me about his trips to Boston and what he does and who he hangs out with.  I’ve never heard him tell stories about knowing a guy named Chris.”

“Jesus Christ, are you kidding me?  Have you been sitting over there stewing about this?”

Juliana looked a little sheepish, “Maybe, it’s not like I have anything better to do.”

“He never calls me Chris, he’s always referring to me by my last name.  So, tell me, does he tell stories about Josh or Peck?”

Juliana waited a minute, Chris could tell she was thinking.  “Yeah, I recognize Josh’s name.  Actually, Damon’s always telling stories about hanging out and drinking with Josh and Evans.”

“Now you have your answer.  Josh is my best friend and I’m Evans.”

“Oh,” Juliana offered, disappointed that he’d been telling the truth all along.  She noticed Chris was standing from the couch and reaching into his back pocket.

As he approached her, he handed her something he’d pulled out of his wallet.“Just to prove I’m not lying,” Juliana realized she was looking at his driver’s license.  A California driver’s license declaring his name was in fact, Chris Evans.

“Wait, that’s a California license that says you live in Los Angeles.  I thought you lived in Boston?”

“No, I’m from Boston, but I live in LA because of work.  I fly home to Boston as much as possible; I’m not a big fan of the LA lifestyle.”  He shoved his wallet back into his pocket and stared down at her.  “Are you hungry?  I can fix you something to eat while I’m up.”

Juliana was taken by surprise, “Um, no, but thank you,” she stuttered.  “I think all of the stress killed my appetite.  I think I just want to get warm and sleep.  I think I’ll go upstairs and get the blankets off the bed and bring them down here.”

“Why would you do that?  Why not just sleep upstairs, or even downstairs?”  Chris was confused all of a sudden.

“Um, no heat, remember?  I’ll sleep down here in the chair or on the couch so I can have the fire to keep me warm.  You can build a fire in your bedroom to stay warm, but I don’t have that option.”

“You could sleep in my room with me if you’d like,” Chris offered graciously.  She glared at him; words didn’t need to be spoken for him to understand her response.  “Oh, come on Juliana, the bed is plenty big enough for the two of us.  Besides, you know they say the best way to stay warm is to snuggle naked, right?”

“Yeah, I’ll pass but thanks.”  She walked up the stairs and came back down with pillows, sheets, and blankets.  Since Chris was still sitting on the couch, she put the ottoman up against the chair and made her makeshift bed.

Chris watched as she tucked in the sheets and got her bed set up.  He tried to hide his smile as he watched her bounce around the chair.  He knew he should have offered to help her; hell, the gentlemanly thing to do would have been to offer her the couch.  But he liked the independent streak in her, the fire that was burning in her eyes.

Juliana was preparing to sit down.  She’d already wrapped the blankets around her when he spoke up, “You should probably go to the bathroom first.”

“Huh?  Why would you say something like that to me?”

“Well cupcake, you know Murphy’s Law will be that you’ll get all comfy and then realize you’ve got to pee.    So, you might as well go now so you can settle in for the night and not worry about it later.”

“First, I’m not your cupcake.  And second, I don’t have to pee!”  Juliana was emphatic in her response.  So, she did what any normal, hotheaded woman would do, she sat down on the chair and got comfortable.  Chris just laughed at her, he knew what was coming, even if she didn’t want to admit it.

He stood from the couch, heading for the fire to add a log and make sure it would keep Juliana warm for a while.  He then turned and headed for the kitchen.  “You hungry?  I can bring you something on my way back if you want.”

“Thanks, but I’m fine,” Juliana shot back at him.  Even if she were hungry, on principle alone she would not have him fix her anything.

“Juliana, you’ve not eaten since you got here.  You’ve had, what, two cups of coffee?  You need to eat,” Chris was showing concern in his voice.  He was right, she’d not eaten and was completely stressed out, it wasn’t healthy.  “Are you allergic to peanuts?” Juliana shook her head; she was stubborn, to say the least, but if she were honest with herself, she was hungry.

Chris made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they were easy, and he couldn’t screw them up.  He put them on paper plates and then grabbed them each a bottle of water out of the refrigerator.  He made his way back to the living room and offered a plate and bottle to Juliana.  “I realize it isn’t much, but it’s all I could come up with on short notice.”  Chris winked and sat down on the couch.

Juliana was polite and thanked him before proceeding to devour her sandwich.  Chris watched her and realized she was clearly hungry.  He almost offered to make her another sandwich but was afraid he’d embarrass her.  As he watched her, she was oblivious to it, she took the cap off the bottle and raised it to her lips.  Damn, he thought, when did drinking water become so seductive?  He needed to go upstairs before he ended up saying or doing something he might later regret.  But, for some reason, he couldn’t quite make himself move.

“Juliana, I’m sorry for getting off on the wrong foot with you.  I should not have made a comment about your personal relationship with Damon, either.  It’s none of my business.” He let his words hang, waiting to see if she said anything in response.

“I just want to put this out there, for the record, I’m not sleeping with Damon.  I’m not now and I never have.  We’re just friends, I’m not really his type.” Juliana murmured, her words getting caught in her throat.  “I’m sorry for being bitchy, I just didn’t know Damn was having me share the cabin.  Consider the footing to be equal now, k?”

Chris stood and smiled before walking over to the stairs and heading up to his room.  The fire had provided a romantic glow to the conversation, and as she watched him walk up the stairs, Juliana had a pang of regret.  She wished she’d been friendlier earlier in the evening and had agreed to sleep upstairs with him.  She was sure his bed was more comfortable than the chair. Perhaps she’d give the couch a shot to see if it was more comfortable.  After all, she had to get up to use the bathroom.

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