“Who said I was lonely? I’m not lonely. I’m just tired of being with myself. That’s not the same thing,” I argued.
“Close enough. One thing that helps me fight the blues is an immediate change of scenery,” Chet pronounced with a wide grin.
“Thanks, Doc, but Linc is coming home this week. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You don’t have to physically go anywhere. You can just switch up your routine and add—”
“Let me guess…holiday cheer?”
Chet beamed. “Yes.”
I had to give the guy credit…he was tenacious.
I couldn’t let him think he’d won too easily, though. I furrowed my brow, giving him my best cranky scowl, and huffed. “You really want to decorate my house?”
He frowned. “No. I want to reset your karma. And mine. You’ve done a good deed here tonight, and I owe you one in turn. I also owe my roommates for their kindness.”
“Putting up a tree is going to help your karma?” I snorted.
Somehow, I doubted that, but I liked the idea of having an excuse to see him again. “Fine. You can decorate my house.”
Chet whooped as he jumped to his feet. “A nice noble fir would look perfect in that corner of your great room near the fireplace. But of course, closer to the window. We don’t want to worry about fire hazards. What’s your ornament situation? I’m happy to purchase some if needed. Simple red and silver balls are always nice and—”
“I’ve got plenty of balls.” I stood, testing my shoulder to be sure I didn’t do any real damage, as I met him at the door. “It’s getting late. We can talk about this later. You seem like the kind of Christmas elf who needs parameters.”
He snickered, pushing his glasses to the bridge of his nose. “There might be some truth to that statement.”
“Just so we’re clear, I’m not gonna want to wake up in a winter fuckin’ wonderland.”
“Right. Got it.”
I braced my hand on the doorknob, scanning the dimly lit foyer briefly. “Come over Saturday. We can talk about it then. And…you can meet Linc.”
Chet narrowed his eyes. Not gonna lie, his immediate transformation from skinny geek to bad-ass science guy was kinda hot.
“Is this trickery?”
“No, but it might be a good trade. We’ll see.” I shot a lopsided grin his way as I opened the door, pointing at the chair that knocked me on my ass. “This is not an adequate security system. I’ll give you my number. If anything seems suspicious or if you need anything, call me.”
Chet typed my contact info into his cell obediently, then pressed Call so I had his number too. Courtesy complete, he fixed me with a no-nonsense look. “Thank you. For the record, while I appreciate your help tonight, I didn’t agree to—”
“I know, I know.” I stared at him for a long moment.
This had to be one of the oddest yet most interesting nights I’d had in a while. This was probably a good time to remind myself that Chet was my neighbor. My much younger neighbor.
But damn it, he was tempting.
I leaned in and pressed my lips to his. It was featherlight touch, hardly a real kiss at all. It was just enough to make him blush. Chet’s cheeks pinkened, and a flush rose low on his neck.
“Sam,” I gently reminded him. “Good night.”
Don’t ask me how I did it, but I somehow managed not to turn around as I headed down the pathway and up the street to my house. My lips twitched in amusement, giving way to a smile that grew with every step. When I finally got home, I let it fly, grinning like a madman as I chomped on a rosemary shortbread cookie made by my own personal elf.
Was I vaguely alarmed at the concept of letting him put a bunch of holiday crap up in my house? Fuck, yes, I was. Hot kiss or not, nothing was going to happen between us. And I was okay with that. Mostly.
Maybe he was just the diversion I’d needed, ’cause hanging out at home for the next couple of weeks suddenly didn’t seem so bad.