Merry and Bright

Merry and Bright by Jill Shalvis


For two months, Maggie Bell walked past him every day on her way out of the office, and every day she took in that tall, leanly muscled body, those incredibly well-fitted Levi’s hanging low on his hips thanks to his tool belt, and forgot everything else just to take it all in.

Take him in.

As the guy in charge of earthquake retrofitting her office building, he usually carried a roll of architectural plans in one hand and a radio in his other as he dealt with his men, looking confident—not to mention smoking-hot—and every day she thought the same thing.


She actually knew him, at least vaguely. Not that he’d remember, but twelve years ago they’d gone to high school together for one semester. Back then, she’d been a bookworm and a true science geek, and little had changed. Jacob Wahler had been the basketball star, a tough kid, though kind enough to be the only guy on his team to ever bother to smile at her. Twice she’d helped him with his chemistry homework, and then there’d been that one time he’d asked her to shut the door—when she’d walked in on him in a dark classroom with his hands down the jeans of a cheerleader.

God, she’d hated high school.

Twelve years, and she’d not ever looked back, but she was looking now. Jacob had gotten a little taller, and had filled out that long rangy body, which now appeared to be rock hard and clearly honed from the physicality of his job. And then there was everything from the neck up, which packed just as much sexual heat as the rest of him. Dark hair curling just past his collar, even darker eyes, olive skin, and a quick smile capable of melting Greenland faster than global warming.

But no matter how gorgeous, she reminded herself that guys like him weren’t her fantasy, and never had been. She was a cerebral woman, and she went for cerebral men.

It was her thing.

Unfortunately her thing wasn’t working so well. Somehow her Mr. Right always turned into Mr. Wrong, but she had other issues to worry about, such as her job.

She was lead chemist at Data Tech, a company run by two brothers, scientists who together employed other scientists on the cutting edge of technology. Tim and Scott West funded individual projects and innovative inventions that they deemed impressive and viable.

She planned on being both impressive and viable. In light of that goal, she’d been working on a skin care technology that acted as a drug delivery for cancer prevention treatments and gene repair agents. The idea wasn’t new, it was actually in the preliminary experimental stages at many labs across the world, but no one had been consistently successful, not yet. She was close to it though, possibly within the next year or so—if Data Tech continued to fund her.

Tim and Scott had a lot to gain in her success, as they would claim the fame and fortune from it. Maggie didn’t care about that, what she cared about was revolutionizing the delivery of drugs to the bloodstream. Every time she thought about it and the possibilities—treating skin cancer, for example, a method which could have saved her own mother—she felt so hopeful about the future, about saving lives, that she could hardly stand it.

What this meant, what it had meant for two long years, was work, work, and more work, and little-tono social life—hence drooling after Jacob Wahler, aka Sexy Contractor Guy. Today alone she’d been in her lab since eight A.M., and as it was six P.M. now, her eyes were a little blurry. She knew she needed to call it a day and go home to the empty condo she’d bought last year.

Unbelievably, here it was again, a week before Christmas and she’d scarcely noticed the festive decorations all around her, much less even pulled out her own boxed tree and Christmas stocking for Santa. And really, what could Santa possibly bring her anyway?

A man . . .

That thought came out of nowhere but it was true. She wanted a man for Christmas. She realized it was sexist and anti-feminist, and set women back decades but she didn’t care. She was a chemist, a woman with a brain who knew how to use it, and she was using it now to wish for a man.

Tonight she’d settle for a man-made orgasm . . .

Wow, she was more tired than she’d thought, and she slipped out of her lab coat, flipped off the lights in the lab, and headed into her connecting office. There she shut her laptop and slid it into her briefcase. She was going to go home, find her Christmas decorations, and get festive. Maybe sip some eggnog and try to figure out how to get un-alone. She walked out of her office and into the construction zone as she headed toward the elevators and told herself in the grand scheme of things, she was fine. Fine.


Okay, that was a few too many fines, but she really was.

“Hey, Mags.” Scott West, boss number one, poked his head out of his office, having to peer around a ladder. He was very cute, which usually made her dizzy if she looked at him too long. He wore a white lab coat over his expensive Hugo Boss shirt and pants, looking like a very expensive Doogie Howser. He was a nice catch, and they’d gone out once several weeks back, and that had been really nice, too. But then he’d gone traveling, and she’d been buried in her lab testing and reporting on the results, and . . . and they’d not gotten together again.

“Did you get a look at the showroom today?” he asked.

The showroom was on the lobby floor, filled with all the inventions Data Tech had funded, like the rainmaker that harvested water from the air, a motorized pool lounger, a human exoskeleton that could carry heavy loads over long distances, snorkel radio gear, lightbulb sheets, and any of a hundred other wild and crazy things.

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