“This is so much colder than a cab,” Rachel said through chattering teeth. The bar was probably fifteen blocks from the apartment. What was she thinking agreeing to walk? She couldn’t feel her nose.
“But cleaner,” Tag said. She was currently taking two steps for every one of his, given his gait was longer than hers, even at a leisurely pace.
“I do better when it’s a nice, even seventy degrees.” She buried her chin in her scarf as she watched her boots cut through the gathering snow. “I guess it’ll be a few more months until we see milder temps.”
God. She was hopeless. Walking down the sidewalk next to a gorgeous guy and talking about the weather. But Tag didn’t balk.
“I like extremes,” he said, as if this was perfectly acceptable conversation. “If it’s hot, I like it really hot. If it’s cold, there’d better be snow or it’s a waste. I like the ocean because you can’t see the end of it. If I’m in a forest, I prefer one filled with massive sequoias.”
“Because you can relate to them,” she teased. “Giant.”
He turned his head and smiled and she admired straight, white teeth surrounded by a golden brown beard. He’d pulled his hair down and the light brown waves fell haphazardly over his black coat. Which was so sexy she couldn’t think. Especially since there were snowflakes in the strands. Not that she could blame them. Nestled warmly in those locks wasn’t a bad place to imagine being.
Again, she wondered at her attraction to him. Though he did kind of look like Thor, and while she wasn’t a die-hard comic book fan, she could appreciate the actor in the movie.
“How tall are you?” she asked, mostly to stop her inane train of thought. The more she was around him, the less she understood her basal reaction to him.
“Just under six-six. You’re what? Five-five?”
“Yeah. How’d you do that?”
He shrugged and looked ahead, but she didn’t doubt how he’d done it. He’d likely honed his carnival skills and was stellar at guessing weight and height. It wasn’t hard to imagine him using his intuition to figure out a woman’s weak points so he could attack where she was most sensitive. He’d probably had a ton of practice.
Was that where her concern was coming from? That he’d find her weak spots and use them against her? That’s what Shaun had done, she thought with a token amount of bitterness.
“How’d I do what?” A puff of air came from his lips, buried in his beard. She’d never liked facial hair. Until now, apparently.
“How’d you guess my height?” she shot back, feeling peeved more with herself than him. Lack of sleep, or maybe too much, she wasn’t really sure what to blame her reaction on now. “How’d you know I was a businesswoman before? I’m a great bartender, by the way. I was a bartender for longer than I worked in marketing.” She pushed her hands deeper into her pockets, lamenting not bringing her gloves with her. Her hands were freezing.
“Just observant. I’m good with people,” he said.
She absorbed that for a few seconds.
“What exactly do you do in Guest and Restaurant Services?” She air-quoted those words, which brought her bare hands from her pockets. He noticed.
“Where are your gloves? Do you realize it’s February in Chicago?”
“I forgot them.”
Tag stopped walking, a deep sigh working its way from his wide chest as he tugged off his gloves.
“I’m fine.” But he wasn’t listening. Once he’d had his baseball-mitt sized gloves off, he lifted her smaller, freezing hands to his mouth, cupping them in his palms, and blew on them to warm her fingers. He did this the way he did everything else.
And looking right at her.
He brushed his lips over her knuckles as a drove of chills shot down her spine and legs. She became fascinated by how soft his beard felt against her freezing skin, and then those chills were replaced with heat. Pooling in her belly, between her thighs, and infusing her face with color.
“Thanks,” she muttered when he let her go. She stuffed her hands into his gloves—they were warm, and after his personal attention, so was she. They finished their walk to Crane Tower, and once they were in the lobby, she put that together with Crane Hotels. “You’re pretty brand loyal aren’t you?”
“Honey, you have no idea.”
Tag Crane was directly inspired by Brock O’Hurn. When I stumbled upon his Instagram feed, I was hopelessly intrigued. I knew I had to come up with a story about a long-haired, hulk-like, bearded, kind, and fun man. The Brock of my imagination was my muse. He even earned an acknowledgement mention! If you’d like to browse my Pinterest board for this book, you can find it here. [https://www.pinterest.com/lemmony/the-billionaire-next-door/]
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I love my billionaires, but I’d absolutely love to go back to Evergreen Cove and write some more bad boy books. I receive questions about Evan and Charlie, Sofie’s sisters, Officer Brady Hutchins, and Asher’s ragtag misfit band all the time. I miss the whole gang!
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write and keep writing. It’s generic, but nonetheless true. I dedicate a portion of my website to a section I call “So You Wanna Write” and keep it stocked with tips, links to the blog I wrote while working toward becoming published, videos, and craft book recommendations. If you’d like to stop by and see it, you can click here to visit. [http://www.jessicalemmon.com/soyouwanna/]
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Because of you, I get to do what I love, which is let my imagination run wild. You allow me to entertain you and be funny, but also pull your heartstrings and make you cry. You gift me your time, and on this earth—in this life, there is nothing more precious than that commodity.