A Rare Gift
Book Two in the Kent Brothers Series
With a disastrous marriage behind him, Wyatt Kent has no interest in getting involved with any woman, let alone his ex-wife’s younger sister. But when Calliope Andrews hires him to build an addition onto her daycare center, Wyatt can’t help but notice she’s a desirable woman, as warm and funny as his ex was cold and aloof.
Calliope fell hard for Wyatt the first time he walked through the door of her family’s home, and can’t believe her sister let him get away. He’s still the star of all her fantasies, and she’s determined to prove to him she’s nothing like his manipulative ex. Wyatt may be all business, but Calliope sees the way he looks at her when he’s supposed to be working…
It’s not long before Wyatt and Calliope are keeping each other warm on cold December nights. But it’s going to take a Christmas miracle for Wyatt to put his trust in love a second time.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Jaci Burton
Cover Art Copyright © 2011 by Harlequin Enterprises
Limited Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and TM are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.
A Rare Gift is available as a single novella, or in a combination collection—Holiday Kisses—containing A Rare Gift and three other contemporary romances from Shannon Stacey, HelenKay Dimon and Alison Kent. Holiday Kisses can be purchased at a discounted price from the four individual novellas.
This Time Next Year by Alison Kent
A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton
It's Not Christmas Without You by HelenKay Dimon
Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey
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Wyatt Kent stood outside Small Hands Day Care Center, debating whether or not he could actually go inside.
He was no coward, but it wasn’t often he was faced with something like this.
He was about to give a bid on a construction job for his ex-wife’s younger sister.
How he’d gotten stuck with this he didn’t know. That was what he got for not paying attention in meetings. He’d been bulldozed by his two brothers along with Tori, Kent Construction’s oh-so-efficient but manipulative office manager.
“No big deal, Wyatt.”
“Calliope Andrews is nothing like your ex-wife, Cassandra.”
“No one else can do the project, Wyatt. It’s either you or the job doesn’t get done.”
Might as well suck it up and get this over with. The wood-frame house was painted shocking blue and blinding white. The sign out in the front yard was plastered with a bunch of multicolored handprints.
So it was cute. The house needed a new coat of paint. Probably would need a new roof within the next year or two, too. But that wasn’t his problem. He stood at the end of the walkway and watched the endless parade of parents driving up to the side of the house. The side door opened, parents dashed in to retrieve kids, then the car drove through to the back alley and the next car pulled up.
Wyatt went up to the front door and rang the bell, then waited for someone to answer. And waited. And waited. He tried the door, figuring he’d let himself in, but it was locked.
He went around to the side and was halted by a tall, thick woman with short cropped black hair and likely more muscles than he had. She wore jeans and a T-shirt and looked more like a wrestler than a day care worker.
She frowned, gave him the head-to-toe once-over.
“Who are you?”
“Wyatt Kent. I have an appointment with Calliope Andrews.”
She laid her hand on his chest to keep him in place. “Stay here. Miss Calliope, there’s a Wyatt Kent here. Says he’s supposed to meet with you.”
“Oh, that’s right. It’s okay, Beth. I’m expecting him.”
Beth tossed a thumb over her shoulder. “Go on back. You’re in my way.”
“Go on back where?”
“Straight down the hall, then turn right. All the way to the end.”
Wyatt nodded and dodged a bunch of giggling little girls on his way. They were a few years younger than his eight-year-old niece, Zoey, but they were all dressed in pink—Zoey’s favorite color.
Most of the kids must have gone home by now. With the exception of a few stragglers dashing by him on his way down the hall, the place had gone quiet. He found the room Beth had directed him to. It was fairly small and completely empty.
A playroom, it was stuffed with overflowing bookshelves and toys and tables and a giant castle.
He stood in the middle of the room, figuring Calliope had stepped out.
Until he heard a rustling in the castle, then a groan. He turned around and saw one very attractive, jeans-clad butt attempting to back out of the castle opening.
“I swear if my butt gets any bigger I’m not going to be able to clean the toys out of this thing and we’ll need to get a bigger castle.”
He disagreed. She had a great ass.
She flung toys over her shoulder while Wyatt stood there, feeling sort of inept.
“You need some help there?”
She stilled, her head jerked up and she bumped it against the opening. “Ow. Dammit.” She rubbed the wild curls on top of her head, then backed all the way out and sat on the floor, adjusted the tortoise-shell glasses that had ridden down the bridge of her very cute nose.
“Wyatt. I thought you were Beth. You’re not Beth.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Sorry. I was cleaning up in here.” She pushed off her knees and stood, adjusting her shirt over some very full breasts and grinned at him. “I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s go to my office where it’s a little less insane.”
The last time Wyatt had seen Calliope Andrews, he’d still been married to her older sister Cassandra, and Calliope had been—hell, in college? Maybe nineteen or twenty, at most, was his guess. She’d been chubby, her hair a corkscrew of untamed brown curls, and she’d worn really ugly glasses. In short, she’d been a hot mess.
He followed her down the hall, watching the way her hips moved when she walked.
“Here we are.” She opened the door and led him into a small office. Her desk sat next to the window and there were a couple chairs on either side. He took one and she sat across from him instead of at her desk.
She still wore glasses and her hair was still curly and she was still hot, all right. But she wasn’t a mess at all. Calliope had grown up. It had to have been six years or so at least since he’d seen her last. She’d lost the baby fat, was curvy in all the right places, and her glasses made her eyes look like sparkling emeralds.
God, she was gorgeous.
But she wasn’t at all like Cassandra, who’d been tall, slender and blonde.
And the devil in disguise.
“Thank you for taking on this project, Wyatt.”
“No one else had the time.”
She quirked a brow, then grinned again. “So you’re stuck with me, then?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You didn’t have to.” She laughed and didn’t seem at all offended. “I know this is probably hard for you, seeing as how you’ve managed to avoid me since I came to town.”
“I haven’t avoided you.”
“Yes, you have. But it’s okay. I understand why. You’re not very fond of my sister, and you think we’re exactly alike.” She patted his hand. “But trust me, I’m nothing like Cassie.”
He blinked, not sure he understood anything that had happened so far. He figured the two of them would dance around the topic of Cassandra, and here Calliope had said her name, torn open the wounds, making them bleed fresh, like it had happened yester…
“Wyatt. Wyatt.” She snapped her fingers. “You okay?”
“I’m fine.” He stood. “Let’s go see where you want this addition.”
“Sure.” She stood, too. “Surely you’re over her by now, aren’t you? I mean it’s been three years. She’s not worth mourning over for that long.”
Calliope opened the door to her office and walked down the same hallway they’d come from.
Her saying it that way made him feel foolish for feeling closed up and angry for three damn years over a woman who’d only cared about herself.
“You are over her, aren’t you?”
God, she was persistent. “Yeah. Over her.”
“Good. Because I want us to be friends.”
He stopped in the middle of the hall. “What?”
She stopped, too, turning and dipping her head back to look into his eyes.
Damn she had pretty eyes. Pretty hair. And she smelled good, too. He couldn’t figure out what she smelled like. Something that made him want to swipe his tongue across her neck.
His jeans tightened. It had been a long damn time since that had happened. He didn’t trust women, tried to stay away from them.
And he sure as hell planned to stay away from Calliope.
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