I hope that you've been enjoying the holiday love stories that I've been posting so far. I've received a few comments about them from people wanting to know if any of the stories will be continued into actual novels. A few of the couples did inspire me to think more about their full stories but as of right now, I don't have any definitive plans to write anything more. However, I never say never. So if you're interested in any particular couple, please let me know. I'm always curious to hear your thoughts.
At any rate, here is the third story... hope you dig it. Happy reading!
All I Want for Christmas Is You: Holiday Love #3- Forgiveness
Janay listened to the snow crunching beneath her booted feet as she trekked up the sidewalk to her childhood home. Crisp snowflakes were falling softly from the darkened sky, brightened by the dim streetlight. For a second, she was able to let her mind drift from reality, enjoying the flutter of the soft ice against her skin. She looked at her husband, wanting to share the moment with him, but his face was tight. It’d been like that for the past month and it was her fault.
“I’m sorry, Cory. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what you want me to…” She stopped, shaking her head. “I don’t know how many more ways I can apologize. Or what you want me to do.”
She blew out a breath, watching it form a cloud in the cold. Tears welled in her eyes, as she looked up at her husband’s taut features. Her words, once again, were having no affect on him. It’d never been like this before. In five years of marriage, they’d never confronted a wall like the one that stood before them now. A wall that was threatening the very existence of their marriage. She felt it in her bones. This was beyond an argument or a rift. They were teetering on the edge of finality.
The realization made her sick, twisting her stomach into hard knots, making her head throb. Her limbs felt heavy and her heart was like lead. It was her fault. But she loved Cory with everything, every breath in her. He was her love, her anchor, her balance, her comforter. And when he looked at her with what felt like…disgust, as he’d been doing for the past four weeks, it made her question her very sanity.
“Cory,” she pleaded again, as they made their way up the front steps.
She studied the fullness of his lips, the familiar stubble on his jaw, which was there because he’d worked all day before making the two-hour drive to her parent’s house. Her gaze swept from his dark brown eyes to his thick eyelashes. His eyes were both weary and wary. They were both things she’d put there. Regret settled in her bones like a sickness and her breathing increased, as the thought of losing him descended on her again. She couldn’t lose him.
“Baby,” she started again. “Please just tell me what to do.”
“Stop, Janay,” he snapped. He cast a sidelong glance at her, and unable to help it, a tear slid down her cheek.
He shook his head when he looked at her, his breath puffing in the cold when he sighed. As if he couldn’t help it, he reached and wiped it away with his gloved hands, his thumb skimming her cold cheek. Janay held her breath because his touches had been almost non-existence for the past month. She wanted him to look at her. Just look at me, baby, she silently prayed. And he did, pausing with his thumb on her cheek. For a long second he stared into her eyes if he was seeing who she really was again, not the woman who’d nearly broke him. But just as suddenly, remorse and anger filled his eyes, hardening his ruggedly handsome features once more, and he dropped his hand from her, drawing in a breath. She knew he was fighting for control, shutting down on her again. After that small glimpse of hope, it nearly broke her and a choked sound left her throat, barely audible.
“Get yourself together before we go in here,” he said, his voice low. This time he didn’t bother to glance at her as he rapped swiftly on the door.
The door swung open and her mom stood in the entrance way, ushering them in with a wave of her hand. Janay’s nostrils were immediately filled with the smells of Christmas---sweet spice lingered in the air, mingling with the warmth emitting from the large fireplace in the living room. It contrasted the coldness she felt inside but she smiled anyway.
“Hey, baby!” her mom, Gail, greeted Cory, smiling as he leaned down and kissed her cheek. “How was the drive? ”
“It was good, mom, barely any traffic,” Cory answered, his baritone showing no traces of the stress she was feeling.
That was actually one of the things that had hooked Janay when they’d first met—Cory’s voice was smooth and full-bodied, like a good whiskey. He had but to say her name sometimes, and her heart would race. Cory shrugged out of his coat and hung it on the coat rack near the door. He indicated for Janay to give him hers too, briefly meeting her eyes before turning way.
“Hi mom,” Janay said, accepting a kiss on the cheek from her, trying not to let her face show her inner-turmoil.
Gail eyed her but said nothing because there was nothing to say at this point.
Just then Cory’s parents rounded the corner, greeting them with wide smiles, before their three-year-old daughter, Layla, came bounding toward them. She was jumping up and down in her excitement, rambling about trains and carrots. She was probably hyped up on sugar. She’d been at her parent’s for the past two days and her dad seemed to think the way to his granddaughter’s heart was by giving her obscene amounts of candy.
Cory swung her up in his arms and she threw her tiny arms around his neck, planting wet kisses on his cheek as he chuckled.
“Mommy, it’s Christmas at Grammie and Grandaddy’s house!” she semi-yelled. Cory laughed and kissed her chubby cheek, which held traces of what looked like chocolate.
Janay smiled, leaning in for her own kiss, smoothing a hand over her daughter’s pigtails, which were untamed from her play and the late hour. Cory’s parents, Ginnie and Roderick, came into the room, and another round of greetings and hugs were exchanged. Their parents had been friends since they were teenagers, which is how she and Cory met. They used to laugh about how their parent’s names matched—Robert and Gail, Roderick and Ginnie. She was so naïve back then, thinking that little things like that somehow meant her and Cory were fated.
The evening went on as it always did on Christmas Eve. Their parents fawned over Layla, since Cory’s little brother Dre, still was in college and not even thinking about starting a family, and Janay was an only child. They ate well. This year it was Ginnie’s turn to cook Christmas Eve dinner and Gail would be handling the bigger Christmas festivities, when the entire family would come over. Her daddy stuffed his face with too much cobbler and Gail fondly chastised him, then all of the men gathered together to play a loud game of Poker.
Nobody seemed to notice that the whole night, Cory had barely interacted with her. He’d hardly even looked at her. Only once in the kitchen, when he’d entered to refill Robert’s whiskey glass, had he touched her, gently moving her aside with a hand on the small of her back as he reached for the bottle of Macallan 12 in the upper cabinet. She’d held her breath the entire time, her eyes drifting closed at his familiar touch. Then just as quickly, his hand was gone and he left the kitchen without so much as a backward glance.
Now she was in the guest bedroom, waiting for him to return from the shower. A few seconds later he entered, moisture still clinging to his broad shoulders though he was wearing a ribbed tank top because he rarely completely dried off. Cory was a boxer in college, even going as far as the Olympics, and although he’d lost some of his bulk, he was still cut by any standards. Janay bit the inside of her lip, her gaze raking over the expanse of his chest to his gray sweats, hanging low on his hips. Looking at him still made her both weak and giddy sometimes, even after all of these years.
She was siting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, wearing his old college t-shirt. She knew he liked her in it. At this point, she was deduced to juvenile tricks to soften him. His gaze roamed over her and she thought she saw a flicker of something there before it was doused. She sighed, watching him round the corner of the bed, then grab the remote off of the nightstand before flicking on the small television in the room. They didn’t even have a TV in their bedroom at home because Cory said bedrooms were for sleeping and electronics were a distraction.
“My attention is on my wife when I’m in my bed,” he’d said, huskily.
But that was before. For the past month, he’d been sleeping in the guest bedroom, rising early in the morning before Layla woke up so as not to confuse her.
“Is this too loud?” he asked, flicking a glance her way when she climbed under the covers. Even in his anger, he was considerate.
“No, it’s fine.”
For the next hour, she lay in bed, listening to the television. Cory was restless because he kept flipping the channels, unable to settle on anything. He was sitting right next to her, with his long legs stretched out in front of him, but he may as well have been miles away. Finally he turned the TV off and slid under the covers.
“Goodnight,” she said softly, biting her lip, trying to hold back tears.
She inhaled, filling her nostrils with the rich scent of Cory’s body wash and the smell underneath that was unique to him. His back was to her, and she wanted to touch him. She wanted him to touch her, to hold her and grant his forgiveness. Once upon a time, she’d thought forgiving was the hardest thing to do but now she knew that earning forgiveness was the bigger challenge.
Slowly, quietly, she scooted toward him, closing the space between them. She touched his back first, tentatively dragging her fingertips down the back of his neck, over his shoulder blades to his tattooed forearm. She had those tats memorized—especially the one he’d gotten for her, the hieroglyphic symbol for “freedom” because he said that’s how being with her made him feel…free.
He shifted beneath her touch, chill bumps forming on his flesh. Their physical chemistry hadn’t died. Slowly, she let her hand travel down his side, over the tight muscles of his abdomen and lower. His body jerked and she let out a breath, aroused, excited that he was responding in some small way to her, grateful that he hadn’t turned her away yet. Emboldened that he hadn’t moved away, she pressed a kiss to his shoulder, stroking him.
He hissed out a breath then moved abruptly, turning and flipping her onto her back. She automatically opened for him and he hovered over her, pressing himself against her body.
“Is this what you want?” he asked, his voice low and harsh. His eyes were laser focused on hers and angry. But he felt good. Being this close to him, even when he was infuriated, felt good because she’d been without his attention for so long.
“Huh, Janay?” he pressed. “It is, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” She choked the word out, feeling torn. “I want you, Cory.” She always did. But she didn’t want him to come to her like this.
Her breath hitched when he hastily pulled at her underwear, pushing them over her hips as he’d done countless times before. She lifted up, letting him, helping him. He relieved himself of his sweats and immediately sank into her. But her body was ready for him, as always.
He began moving right away, thrusting hard, furiously. His grunts were deep but barely audible. Janay whispered his name, looking up at him, tears welling in her eyes when she tried to hold him, to bring his body fully against hers and he brushed her hands away. It was as if he couldn’t help himself from taking what she was offering but he didn’t want her touching him.
Another small sound left her lips. Cory looked down at her and bit hard on his lip, shaking his head, the agony in his eyes nearly unbearable, painfully snaking its way to the pit of her stomach. He winced and turned his face from her, his movements inside of her slowing. His chest was heaving and he dropped his head to her neck, breathing harshly against her, his body stilling.
“You break me, Janay,” he murmured deeply, his voice strained. He lifted his head and stared at her. His eyes were wet. “You break me.”
A tear trickled down her cheek and she shook her head vigorously. “I love you, Cory. Always.”
She wrapped her legs around him tighter, drawing him into her as he began moving again.
“I love you,” she whispered again.
Their increased breaths mingled together, picking up pace at the same time because they knew each other’s bodies, each other’s pleasure. Cory groaned deeply in her ear, the movements of his hips still slow and rhythmic, savoring her, as he slid his fingers into her hair, pulling lightly at the roots.
“God, you always feels so good,” he murmured against her ear. His voice was tight, almost as if he didn’t want to acknowledge it but couldn’t stop the words. She tilted her head up pressing kisses wherever she found skin when he finally allowed her to wrap her arms around his neck.
“I know this,” he whispered, his voice heavy. He slid his hand to the underside of her thigh, hitching her leg high around his waist as he slightly picked up his rhythm inside of her. “But I don’t know you anymore.”
“You’ve always known me. I’m still me,” she breathed, letting her eyes fall closed briefly because he felt so good. She opened them again, staring up at him.
“I’m still me. I’m still yours, Cory. I’ve always been yours. Only yours. And I always will be.”
It’s as if her words spurred his movements and he rocked into her with more intent. And when he found her mouth and kissed her, his fingers still threaded through her hair, holding her close, she exploded. He went with her, groaning harshly, biting her shoulder with his release.
For long minutes they lay still together, their labored breaths the only audible sound in the otherwise silent room. Cory rolled off of her, onto his back, his chest still rising and falling quickly as he contemplated the ceiling.
Janay touched her tongue to her lip, drawing in a breath, bracing herself.
“Are you—" But she couldn’t bring herself to finish the question.
“No,” he answered after a few tortuous seconds ticked by. “We’ll work through this.”
She exhaled, a tear slipping down her cheek as she studied her husband, her love’s profile.
“Okay,” she said.
•Read All I Want for Christmas: Holiday Love Story #2- The Christmas Movie
•Read All I Want for Christmas: Holiday Love Story #1- The Game