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Christmas Secrets: Levi & Katie (Longing Book 1) by Chey M. Burn (1)

Chapter One

 

I’m an idiot and I’m going to be alone forever.

Kathryn “Katie” Faulk stood at the window of her apartment looking down at the grey slush of the melting snow trying hard to remember why she’d said no to her ex-boyfriend’s proposal to move with him to Texas and become his wife. She’d told him it was because she wanted to stay in New York. Because her life was just beginning. Her new job. Because she wasn’t sure that they were necessarily meant to be together. But it was a load of horseshit and Mason had called her on it. Because her job was one she could do from anywhere. And, while she loved New York, she hated living in New York City. She’d told him so a number of times.

She loved the hustle and bustle of the city. The excitement. The people. The resources. The opportunities. The nightlife. But the weather? Yeah, she hated that. With a passion. A fiery passion deep within her soul. She missed the slow-moving pace of Savannah, Georgia. The camaraderie. The people.

Oh god. The people. Or rather. One person in particular.

Levi Stroud.

Her brother’s best friend and the only man that Katie had ever truly loved.

The reason she’d said “no” to Mason’s proposal.

They’d never dated. Her and Levi. They’d never even kissed. As far as Levi was concerned, Katie was the annoying little sister of his best friend. The one who used to follow them around everywhere, asking questions, getting them into trouble, and basically being a pest. She was the one who’d told her parents when her brother, Kevin, and Levi had snuck out of the house to go to the party at an older girl’s home when they were only sixteen. Kevin had been grounded for two weeks and Levi had been prevented from coming over for just as long. Neither one of them had talked to her for a month.

Katie hadn’t understood why the two boys had been mad at her. She’d only been doing what her father, a former FBI agent, had always told her and Kevin to do. Look out for each other. Prevent each other from doing anything dangerous or harmful. Guard each other’s “six.” At the age of twelve, four years her brother’s junior, Katie hadn’t understood the appeal of a party filled with girls and guys aged eighteen and older, where there would be liquor and probably drugs, and definitely sex. All she’d known was that her brother was trying to leave the house after dark. Without telling their parents.

And he was taking Levi with him.

Truthfully, it was that last bit that had caused young Katie to leap from her bed and race to her parents’ room, shouting about Kevin and Levi’s plans to sneak out. She hadn’t wanted Levi to leave. Not to go to some party at some girl’s house. Some girl that Levi had described as, “smokin’ hot”. No, she wanted Levi to stay right where he was. In her house—okay, her parents’ house—and sleep with her—okay, in her brother’s room.

Same thing.

Katie sighed and turned away from the depressing sight that greeted her outside of her living room window. She walked to her kitchen, her mind moving over the list of things she had to do that day. There was a Christmas party at her job in three days and she still didn’t have anything to wear. Plus, she would be leaving to visit her parents in Savannah just a few days after that and she had yet to pack. She needed to contact a housekeeping service to come and water her plants while she was away for a week and there was her dog—Bruce, the white Maltese that her brother had given her when she’d moved to NYC three years ago. Bruce was her buddy. Her pal. Her best friend—next to her actual, human best friends: Anna, Heather, and Cassie.

Katie’s mother was allergic to dogs—or so she said—so every time Katie went home to visit, she had to leave Bruce behind. Usually she would leave him with one of her girlfriends but, they were all headed out of town themselves. Either to visit family members, or in Cassie’s case, to go and visit in-laws.

At the thought of Cassie Katie smiled, inhaling deeply as her Keurig™ began to brew a delicious cup of French Roast coffee. Cassie was the only one of their foursome from high school who was otherwise attached or married. A tall, curvy, voluptuous, dark-brown skinned, African-American woman, Cassie worked as the Chief of Neurological Surgery at New York Presbyterian which was ranked one of the best hospitals in the country in the past fourteen years. Though Cassie often told her friends that it wasn’t only attributed to her skills and efforts, her department was ranked number five in the country and had never scored any lower since she’d taken over it. In Katie’s book, that meant she was something special.

Cassie and Katie had met in Chemistry class their junior year of high school. That was also the year she met the man who would become her husband. Kevin Faulk, Katie’s older brother. Katie had been happy for her best friend and her brother when the two of them had gotten married. She’d been even happier when the two of them had begun having children. Giving Katie not one, not two, not three, but five nieces and nephews: three boys and two girls. Her brother Kevin was over the moon and had been since the first time he’d met Cassie at his old high school while coming to pick Katie up from drama rehearsal.

Which was where she and Cassie had met Anna and Heather. The two girls had been auditioning for the lead role of Calamity Jane, and Katie had stood in the wings with Cassie as the two of them argued about who could “realistically” portray the badass sharp-shooter woman (whom they’d learned the truth about when they’d all gotten to college at NYU). Heather had pointed out that Calamity Jane was white, and that she—as a white person—should be Calamity Jane, while Anna, who was Asian, would not be able to do the part justice.

Katie had been embarrassed by Heather’s words but hadn’t known why, and when Cassie had muttered angrily beside her, she’d definitely known that something… wrong had just occurred but again, she couldn’t quite put her finger on what that was. It wasn’t until their drama teacher, Mr. Fritz, had given the part to Anna—who was the better actress and singer—then sat them all down to explain about creative license, historical accuracy, racism, and when it was okay to push the boundaries of who could play what role, that Katie had recognized why she’d been affected and bothered by Heather’s statement. That experience had so affected Katie that it set the course for her life, her college studies, and her future employment.

Katie worked as a civil rights lawyer for the ACLU. She couldn’t say that everything she did for the company was all sunshine and roses. There were times when she wanted to turn a client away because she didn’t agree with their lawsuit, but everyone in the country had certain unalienable rights and it was her job to make sure they were not infringed upon. Even if doing so sometimes made her want to vomit.

She lifted the mug of hot, freshly brewed coffee to her lips and took a sip, hissing as the hot liquid scorched her tongue. She probably should have waited for it to cool down before she started to drink it, but she couldn’t help it. Her love for the stuff was bordering on an obsession.

The ding of a notification alert on her phone caused her to sigh. She knew who it was without even checking.

Walking over, Katie picked up the phone and smiled in spite of herself at the text message displayed brightly on the screen.

 

Cass: So, you really did it?

 

Katie laughed and carrying her mug of coffee and the device went over to her plush maroon loveseat and sat down before responding back to her sister-in-law and best friend.

 

Kate: I told you I would.

Cass: But he was sooooooo hot!

Kate: Don’t let my brother hear you fawning all over another man.

Cass: Pssh, Kev knows he’s the only man who really gets my motor running.

Kate: Ew. I don’t want to know that.

Cass: What? It’s not like I told you about his dick size or anything.

Kate: AND I DON’T WANT TO KNOW! ☹

Cass: LOL.

Kate: So, what are you and my dear brother doing today, anyway?

Cass: Taking the kids to go and get a Christmas tree.

Kate: ALL of them?

Cass: Yes, K, all of my children. It’s not like I’m going to pick and choose.

Kate: But if you could…

Cass: Oh, that’s easy. I’d leave Junior behind with the baby. Both of them are annoying.

Kate: Hey! Those are my nephews you’re talking about!

Cass: You set me up, you bitch. LOL.

Kate: I sure did. Ha!

Cass: Hey, did Kev tell you who was in town?

 

Katie’s heart started to pound in her chest with Cassie’s question. She wasn’t sure why, but she had a feeling that whomever it was had the potential to upend her entire day.

 

Kate: No. Who?

Cass: Levi.

 

Katie gasped and with a shaking hand put her mug of coffee down on the coffee table in front of her.

 

Kate: Levi’s here? In NYC?

Cass: Yeah. I’m surprised Kev didn’t tell you. Especially since Levi’s in town for you.

Kate: For me? Why?

 

Before Cassie could respond, Katie’s doorbell sounded. She let out a tiny squeal and jumped, her phone flying up into the air. She looked over at the front door, her breath coming in fast, hard pants. That couldn’t be him could it? No. Why would he be there? At her condo? Levi?

The doorbell sounded again, and Katie slowly rose and made her way over to the front door, suddenly wishing she looked a little more presentable. She was wearing nothing but her pink cotton shorts, the waistband rolled up, the ends barely covering her ass, and a white tank top with the word: Naughty scrawled across the front in pink.

Oh god. Please don’t let it be Levi, she prayed silently, as she opened the door without looking through the peephole. If she’d done so she would have been disappointed either way.

Her breath caught in her throat at the sight that greeted her.

Leaning against the doorway, his dirty blond hair slicked back from his forehead, blue eyes twinkling, leather, motorcycle jacket hooked over his shoulder, thick biceps on display, showing beneath his white t-shirt, jeans riding low on his hips, and wrapped snugly around his thick, tree trunk-like thighs, motorcycle boots on his feet, was Levi. The one and only. The man of her dreams. The man she could never have.

God, he looked amazing.

“L-Levi,” she stammered out breathlessly.

“Good morning, Gorgeous. Can I come in for a cup of coffee?” Levi asked, his lips turning up into a sexy smirk.

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