All I Want For Christmas Is You: Holiday Love #5-Home
The moment she heard the hum of the garage door, she sucked in a breath, closing her eyes in anticipation of her husband’s footsteps on the stairs. Just two years ago, you never could’ve told Alicia that she’d one day recognize the way a man’s step fell on hardwood stairs. But she knew the sound of Kyle’s walk, as surely as she knew the sound of her own breath leaving her lips. She knew the cadence of his weight on those steps, just like she knew the smell of his hair, and the brush of his fingertips against her skin.
The light from the TV flickered its soft glow over the otherwise darkened bedroom, playing the music channel because she loved listening to the Christmas station, especially when Kyle was traveling. The music made her feel warm, settled. The way she felt with Kyle.
She’d left the light on for him downstairs, just as he knew she would. In the early days of their dating life, he’d teased her about her need for structure, the way she habitually did things— like never leaving dishes in the sink at night, or making sure that her shoes were always lined neatly by the front the door before heading to bed, or the way her wash cloths always had to match her towels when she was bathing. The little things he used to tease her about, the things that used to amuse him seemed only to annoy him now. Lately, he didn’t look at her the same.
Over the past year, the love they’d shared, the excitement had shifted to mundane. Kyle’s mother, Joanna, said that was the “hum” of marriage. It was the quiet moments, the monotony of the days spent together that really defined spending a life with someone. Alicia had nothing to compare her advice to, so she tried to take it at face value. Her mother passed away when she was only 12 and she and her brother Alex spent much of their time between aunts they barely knew and didn’t care to know them. Alex joined the military right after high school, and these days they only spoke a few times per year. He was stationed overseas and preferred it that way. Alicia left California and gone to college in Virginia on a full scholarship, where she’d met Kyle her senior year.
She’d been eager to get married; to be settled into what she hoped would become her life. He was eager too, though now, two years later, she wondered if she wasn’t just the missing piece to a puzzle that he’d constructed long before he’d met her. She wondered if it was her that Kyle loved, or if it was what she represented.
There was no question that Kyle was it for her. She loved him in a way that surpassed love and entered into a state of being. She existed and therefore, her love for Kyle did too. He was in her skin, in her spirit, where he’d embedded himself after only their first date. His smell, he way his eyes shaded with intrigue whenever she spoke, the way he was able to coax her into talking, really talking, beyond surface-level and seemed genuinely intrigued by the things she said. The way, after that first night, he hadn’t tried to kiss her. Instead, he drew her close, running his fingers down her face and pressed his forehead to hers, shocking her, arousing her, capturing her.
She was used to men wanting sex from her. They’d wanted it since she was 13 and she’d given it without much pause, not just because it felt good physically but because it felt good emotionally. But with Kyle, she waited, because it was important to him, and it therefore, became important to her too. They didn’t make love until their wedding night, the night she understood what it meant to become one with another person--- mind, body and soul. Kyle owned her. And to think that they were now drifting apart made her ache inside.
Alicia lay in bed, watching the snow fall lightly just outside of her window, illuminated by the dimming street lights, listening for the fall of her husband’s footsteps in the house they’d purchased only three months ago. The home was nice and spacious, but modest, given Kyle’s recent signing package. But neither one of them required much in the way of material things—that was another thing she loved so much about him. Her husband was cool. Down-to-earth. He didn’t speak to hear himself talk. Instead, he listened, putting everyone around him at ease. It was no wonder the media loved him.
She sighed. She wondered if she’d put too much pressure on him, laid too many expectations on him, expected him to fulfill too much. Joanna had warned her early on about those women who became lost in their marriages and in some warped reversal of intent, ended up alienating their husbands. So, Alicia busied herself at work, taking on extra tasks. She spent more time at the gym and even joined a pottery class, which she thoroughly enjoyed, even though she was terrible at it. Kyle had smiled when she’d brought him home a new coffee mug. She messed it up though, and the handle was crooked. He’d pulled her onto his lap, nuzzling his nose into her neck.
“I tried, dude. But I failed pretty miserably,” she admitted, frowning as he examined the smooth blue surface of the mug. “Look at the handle.”
Kyle chuckled. “The handle is perfect. See, it fits my finger just right, baby.” He grinned, holding up his pointer finger, which he’d broken playing football back in middle school.
She rolled her eyes and he’d laughed, dipping his hand under his oversized college sweatshirt that she always wore around the house and pressed a kiss behind her ear. They’d made love that morning, right there, in the kitchen. But that was over a month ago and even that moment of playfulness had come as a surprise.
Kyle’s footsteps became louder and a second later, he entered their spacious bedroom room.
“How was the flight?” she asked, her voice carrying over the soft sounds of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
“Too long,” he answered, his deep voice tired. He came and leaned over the bed, dropping a kiss on her cheek, surrounding her with his scent and she inhaled, wishing he’d linger a little longer. But he pulled away. “I need to wash the airport off of me.”
Alicia held her breath, listening to the familiar sounds of him undressing and the sound of the water from the master bath turning on as he showered. He didn’t take long, and less than 10 minutes later, he pushed open the door, leaving the trail of his woodsy body wash in his wake as he climbed into the king sized bed next to her. Alicia thought about pretending to be sleep but Kyle knew her too well. Nat King Cole’s voice drifted quietly from the TV speakers and she bit her lip.
"You left your hair thing plugged up again," Kyle said, in between a yawn. Her back was to him and she sighed.
"I keep telling you it's not on though."
"It dangerous, Alicia, either way. You might forget to turn it off one day. It's easier to just unplug it altogether, don't you think?"
No, she didn't think. But she bit her tongue, sighing silently.
"I'm not lecturing you," he said, as if he'd read her mind. "I'm just saying, baby."
"You're always just saying, Kyle," she mumbled irritably.
She tucked her hand under her cheek and closed her eyes, though her mind was racing, her body aching for his touch. There was a time when the second Kyle returned home, even from a two day trip, they'd be all over each other. She couldn't pinpoint exactly when that had changed. She only knew that it had, and she hated it.
“The driver played this song on the way from the airport,” he said after a few seconds, his baritone breaking over the quiet music. “It made me think about you.”
“Really?” she asked, closing her eyes as Nat King Cole crooned “The Christmas Song” softly. “Why?”
“It reminds me of home.”
She felt his strong hands wrap around her waist, as he pulled her against his chest and pressed a kiss to her nape, his favorite place. She released a breath, her heart thudding, her body alive because her husband was touching her and it was only his touch that both excited and grounded her.
“You’re my home, Alicia,” he murmured in her ear. “You know that, right?”
She released a breath and turned in his arms, searching for honesty in his eyes.
“Lately it seems like you're... distant.”
“Alicia,” he breathed her name, almost in warning, shaking his head. “Please, let’s not start this tonight, baby. I’m tired.”
“I’m not trying to start anything, Kyle.”
He released a heavy breath and ran his hand over his head.
“It's just, you’re on the road all of the time and then when you are here it takes a few days for us to sort of get back in sync and then you’re gone again.”
He frowned, clearly agitated.
“Baby, you knew what this life was when we started it together. Remember? We both understood that travel is part of the game.”
“It’s been different lately though. We don’t… communicate the same.”
He turned his head and looked at her, his brow furrowed. “We text all of the time, I call you at the same time everyday when I’m able to. We video chatted last night.”
“That’s all surface stuff though, Kyle.”
He released a heavy breath and ran hand down his face, his eyes on the ceiling.
A few long seconds ticked by. “I saw Brandy was there,” she said.
He stilled, his eyes narrowing as he took her in. Alicia stared back at him defiantly.
“I can’t control who comes to games, Alicia,” he finally said, his tone weary. “You’re worried about the wrong things.”
“Am I?” she retorted, arching a brow. “What are the right things then, Kyle?”
She sat up, heat flooding her cheeks as she thought about Kyle’s ex, who was now a celebrity in her own right. Alicia tried not to let things like that bother her, especially since she knew she was being insecure and picking a fight. But it was precisely things like the fact that her husband’s ex was a regular on television that made her feel that maybe she wasn’t cut out for this world. For his world.
“Lay back down, baby,” Kyle said, reaching for her waist and effortlessly dragging her back onto the bed next to him. He rolled over her, bracing himself on his forearms, careful not to put all of his weight on her. For a long second he just stared into her eyes as she tried to get a handle on what she was feeling so that she could express it to him.
“I know this isn’t even about Brandy,” Kyle finally said. “Because you know there’s nothing happening there.”
She looked away for a second before meeting his eyes again.
“I get that this adjustment has been hard for you,” he said, lowering his voice. “But I’m not a mind reader.”
“I know you’re not,” Alicia breathed, closing her eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s just I need…more of you.”
He blinked, confusion evident in his eyes.
“You already have all of me, Alicia.” He held up his ring finger and raised his brows.
She sighed. “That’s not what I mean.”
“So what are you saying? You want to start traveling with me?”
She shook her head. She loved her job and the independence that came with it.
“Would you like for me to retire early?” He arched a brow a small smile playing on his lips, and she rolled her eyes.
“So you’re telling me this is a no win situation for me? For us?”
“No,” she breathed. “But I’m not completely wrong here either, Kyle. Things are different.”
He looked off, toward the window, where the snow was now falling in thick sheets and sighed.
“You’re not the only one adjusting to this life, ‘Licia,” he said quietly, meeting her eyes again. She bit her lip, her body softening at the use of the nickname. “This has been major for me too.”
She started to respond but he cut her off, shaking his head.
“But my comfort, everyday is knowing that you’re my wife. Knowing that no matter what brand of crazy is going on that day or week, Alicia Nicole agreed to marry me. Knowing that I get to come home to you and just…breathe. That makes all the other stuff secondary. You’re my rock, baby. Our foundation—it’s here.”
He touched his heart. “And here.” He touched her heart and raised his brows. “Feel me?”
His brown eyes were familiar, sincere and full of everything she needed from him—his love. He ran his fingertips down face then drew her against his lips with a hand on her nape. He kissed her, then pressed his forehead to hers.
“I married the love of my life. Did you?”
She smiled against his lips and nodded.
“Yes. You know I did.”
Kyle kissed her again and she melted into it, releasing her fears, her doubts and insecurities, choosing instead to settle on what he was offering, what he always offered her… himself, his love.
“Cool, so now that we agree on that, can I make love to my wife now?” he asked, sliding his big hands down the length of her body. “Is that cool?”
She laughed as he chuckled quietly in her ear.
“Is that okay?” he asked, still grinning. She rolled her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him to her, feeling his smile against her lips when she kissed him.
And, as the softly playing Christmas music warmed the room and the snow fell silently against the windowpane, Alicia allowed herself to do what she’d done from the moment they’d had their fist date. She opened up her heart, and she welcomed Kyle home.
Here's another holiday story. Happy reading!
All I Want For Christmas Is You- Holiday Story #4- The Party
Ava scanned the crowded living room, releasing a soft sigh as she twirled her candy cane in her rum and coke. Her eyes flitted from the half-drunk guy in the corner of the room who was vying for the attention of a woman who looked as bored as she was, to a woman dressed in a seductive elf costume, as if it were Halloween, before landing on her friend. Ellie looked up and Ava raised her brows.
“10 more minutes,” Ellie mouthed, barely able to look away from the tall guy she was hugged up with.
Ava sighed and plastered a fake smile on her face. For the tenth time in the past hour and a half, she wondered why she’d let Ellie drag her to this party. On the rare occasions that she returned home, she preferred to spend them hanging out with her mom. Ava didn’t get to see her nearly as often as she would’ve liked. But instead of hanging with her mom, watching bad Christmas movies on Lifetime and drinking too much rum and coke, she was out at this soul-sucking party with her best friend from high school. She didn’t even remember half of these people, and didn’t want to. High school—the entire town— was a dead-end waste of space. As soon as Ava graduated, she’d left. She didn’t even wait out the summer before heading to college. In fact, this was only the second time she’d been back in the past seven years. Usually, her mom flew out to see her in the city…where there was life, and coffee, and sushi available at any time of the day, if you wanted it.
The longer she sat on the plush oversized couch that seemed to be made for sleeping, not entertaining, the more convinced she was that the life was literally being zapped out of her. She pulled at her phone and glanced at it. She’d give Ellie five more minutes and then she was kicking rocks. She clicked on her Kindle app and started reading.
“You know reading at a party is pretty rude.”
“Excuse me?” Ava lifted her eyes from her screen, her brow furrowed at the owner of the deep baritone who’d interrupted her, just as she was getting to the good part. Her gaze settled on a tall figure, hovering over her.
“Reading at a party. It’s rude. But then you were stuck up in high school, so I’m not surprised.”
Ava’s mouth parted slightly.
Who the hell did this guy think he was? She craned her neck looking up at him, trying to make out his admittedly handsome features. His skin was coffee brown, matching bedroom eyes. His beard was groomed but still managed to give him a rugged edge, and he was wearing a dark blue sweater that stretched snugly across his chest. She was drawing a blank, though she didn’t know how that was possible. If this dude had gone to school with her, there was no way she would’ve forgotten him. He was still smiling cockily at her and she frowned. Fine or not, he was an asshole.
“I was not stuck up,” she muttered, internally kicking herself for not thinking of a better comeback.
“Yes, you were. You used to walk the hallways with your nose so far up in the air, it’s a wonder it didn’t get stuck there.”
He seated himself next to her on the plush couch, stretching his long legs out comfortably and crossing his booted feet at the ankles, totally ignoring her frown.
“What are you reading? It must be damn enthralling.”
Ava stared at him, shocked by his audacity.
“You already said that, Ava. Twice.”
He flashed another overly-confident grin her way and she tilted her head, glaring at him. The way he said her name was familiar, as if he’d been saying it forever, and it was doing weird things to her stomach. He was still peering nosily at her phone. She snatched it from his gaze and his lips curled up, revealing a smile that probably typically worked to leave women dumb and panty-less. But she wasn’t typical. Or dumb.
“I’ll bet it’s some feminist shit, huh? Roxanne Gay? Chimamanda Ngozi? bell hooks?”
He arched a brow, patiently waiting for her to answer.
“First of all, you may think you know me but I don’t have any idea who you are and don’t really care to. And I don’t appreciate you inviting yourself into my personal space and then interrupting my reading just to insult me,” Ava said, raising her voice as she sat forward, pointing a finger at his muscled chest.
His smiled widened and Ava felt her entire body heat. “You’re still just as cute as you were in high school.”
She blinked caught off guard.
“Nah, never mind,” he said, his deep voice dropping an octave. His gaze roamed over her features, taking in her straight bob, long eyelashes, and lips she’d painted coral pink. “You’re even more beautiful now.”
He was switching gears fast and she frowned. Why wasn’t her brain keeping up with him? She did this for a living. She was known for her quick wit and ability to persuade, qualities that helped her immensely as a network publicist. She wasn’t easily charmed by anyone.
“I’m Elias Young, by the way.”
“I would say it’s nice to you meet you, but it hasn’t been thus far.”
He chuckled, his eyes dancing with amusement. “Now that was just mean, Ava.”
“Are your feelings hurt?”
“A little bit, yes.”
She arched a brow, holding back a smile at his deliberately crestfallen expression. Damn, he was sexy.
“You should learn how to talk to people if you’re gonna act all sensitive when they call you on your bullshit, Elias.”
He laughed, his eyes telling her he was thoroughly enjoying their exchange. “Kendrick is my cousin,” he offered unexpectedly, bobbing his head toward the host of this dead party, who was now whispering in Ellie’s ear. “I went to East too but I was a year older than you. Obviously, we ran in different circles.”
He chuckled again at the disdain in her tone, a deep sound that made her pulse start beating too hard. She frowned again, thrown by her reaction to him.
“What were you reading?” He shifted his position on the couch, getting even more comfortable. Clearly, he wasn’t leaving. And there was no way she was letting some fine, strange man run her off from the only acceptable seating in the house.
“The Road,” she finally answered, just as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” came on.
“The Road?” he echoed incredulously. “At a Christmas Eve party, Ava? That’s gotta be one of the bleakest books ever written.”
She chuckled reluctantly, looking off toward the middle of the living room, where a few couples had started dancing.
“It is pretty depressing,” she conceded. “But it’s poetic.”
“Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it,” he said, quoting a line from the book.
Her gaze met his, and her mouth fell open, but only a little. Who was this dude? He smiled, watching as she hastily took another sip of her drink, hoping to cover her reaction.
“I guarantee someone is writing that on a suicide note right now.”
She laughed before she could stop herself, shaking her head at him.
“So, do you still live here, Elias?”
He bit the corner of his lip, an almost satisfied glint entering his dark brown eyes.
“Nope. I’m back visiting my folks for the holiday.” Subconsciously, her eyes took in his ring finger. He wasn’t wearing one. He noticed her checking him out and his smile became more relaxed. Damn his fine ass. “I work in the city.”
“What do you do?”
“Ah, come on,” he groaned, throwing his head back. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those.” He lowered his voice tilting his head as he studied her.
“One of what?” she asked, arching a brow.
“One of those women who judge dudes based on their occupation.”
“You got all of that from me asking what you do for a living? That’s kinda presumptuous. And also sexist.”
He grinned, eyeing her. “I’m not sexist. I love women, everything about them. I love their pretty brown eyes, their red sweaters, and pink lips.” His voice had dipped an octave, his gaze roaming slowly over her. He grinned lazily and she shifted on her seat. Her heart was beating way too fast. “I also abhor America’s patriarchal power structure and the objectification of women in the realm of American pop culture and society at large.”
He said that last bit like a robot and she rolled her eyes, holding in another smile. He chuckled.
“All I’m sayin’ is my gig is what I do, not who I am.”
“You must be miserable in your professional life.”
He laughed at that, shaking his head. “I enjoy what I do.”
“Uh-huh,” Ava said eyeing him, as he let out another chuckle. “Did you ever consider maybe I’m just interested in finding out how you spend your days, or what interests you, and not making a snap judgment about your character traits or desirability? ”
She met his gaze, challenging him.
“I’m a chemical engineer,” he answered in surrender. “There weren’t many opportunities here for that kind of work, so I had to leave.”
“You’re saying you would’ve stayed if you could’ve found a gig?” Ava asked, wrinkling her nose.
He shrugged, fixing her with another one of his grins that affected her breathing. “I like the quiet.”
“It’s boring,” she said, arching a brow.
“It’s real. People in small towns are who they are. I find that to be refreshing.”
“I find that to be lame.”
He laughed, his eyes raking over her frame again. He bit his lip. “I had a crush on you in high school.”
He laughed boisterously as she finished off her drink, hiding her smile.
“Come dance with me, Ava.” His voice had dropped an octave and he was staring at her again with eyes that held secrets and depth beneath the playfulness. Boyz II Men’s “Let it Snow” had just started playing in the background and a few more couples were now slow dancing in the living room. Kendrick had dimmed the lights and the twinkle of the white Christmas lights that hung over the wide fireplace was casting a soft glow on the room now.
“Dance with you?”
“You know how to do that, right? Weren’t you a cheerleader?”
“You had a crush on me in high school, remember? You know I was a cheerleader.”
He chuckled again, his eyes growing heavy as he openly assessed her.
“I still do… have a crush on you,” he clarified when she stared at him.
Unexpectedly, she felt her face flush at his compliment.
“You know nothing about me.”
“I know enough. And I like what I do know. A lot.”
Heat crept into her cheeks again. She rolled her eyes, annoyed with herself. She wasn’t a blushing kind of chick. But this dude was not at all shy, and his confidence was arousing. Plus, he was smart and funny and seemed refreshingly genuine. He stood and held out his hand. He stood, extending his hand toward her. She put on a show of setting her empty glass on the coffee table in front of her and releasing an audible breath. She touched his hand, charged energy sweeping through her bloodstream at the contact, and let him pull her up. He moved them to the center of the room, where he pulled her close. Her skin hummed beneath his easy touch, as he glided his hand to the small of her back. His touch wasn’t overtly sexual but the implication, the possessiveness, was there. Once again, she questioned her mental state because she was legit turned on. He smelled of man-- virile, and her body was reacting.
“Ava,” he murmured in her ear as he swayed them around the steadily filling makeshift dance floor in the living room. “Come to the movies with me tomorrow.”
“We met 2.5 seconds ago. You’re moving pretty fast, don’t you think?” Her voice huskier than she intended for it to be but his arms were around her, his strong chest pressed against her softer frame, and she really just wanted to lean into him.
“I don’t think I’m moving fast at all. You like me.”
She attempted to pull back so she could tell him exactly what she thought of his cocky statement but he pulled her back against him. She felt, rather than saw, his smile.
“And I really, really like you,” he continued easily, his voice deep and seductive, sending chill bumps crawling up her arms. “I’m not interested in wasting time bullshittin’ like I don’t want to immediately spend more time with you.”
“Tomorrow is Christmas,” she pointed out, her eyes fluttering closed when his nose brushed against the shell of her ear.
“Exactly. Spending time with you would be the best Christmas gift I’ve had in a minute.”
She grinned, inhaling as he pulled their bodies a little closer.
“Laying it on pretty thick there, Elias.”
He chuckled and his fingers brushing against the small of her back, against her red sweater dress. “Is it working?”
“You’re not a very good liar, Ava. Look, how about this-- you hang with your family, I’ll hang with mine and we can go to the late show.”
She blew out a breath and was about to respond but he cut her off.
“Actually, scratch that,” he said abruptly, his voice low in her ear. “I have a better idea. How about you hang with your family and then come by my folks’ house around 3 for dinner?”
She pulled back, her brows lifted in surprise. Going to the movies was one thing. But was he seriously asking her to spend Christmas Day with his family after a five minute conversation?
“Ellie is coming with Kendrick,” Elias said, meeting her eyes. “And I’m cooking.”
“You’re cooking?” Her tone was disbelieving.
“It’s the men’s turn this year. Me and my pops and my brothers are on kitchen duty.”
He was tracing his thumb lightly on the small of her back, as he moved them to the music. “Come be my Christmas gift, Ava.”
This time she couldn’t contain her smile. His ass was charming as hell. That was for sure. “My mom… it’s just me and her,” she said. “I don’t want to leave her alone.”
Elias shrugged easily, still swaying them to the music. “So bring her too. My mom loves a full house on holidays.”
Ava blinked, pushing out a breath.
He smiled down at her, his eyes heavy with desire and intrigue.
“Spend the holiday with me,” he asked again, his breath warm against the shell of her ear. He pulled her completely against him this time and she couldn’t deny that she was turned on even if she wanted to. She inexplicably wanted to spend Christmas with him. He seemed to sense her acceptance before she even uttered the words because he smiled.
“I’ll pick you up at 2:30,” he said. “Sound good?”
She shook her head, thoroughly confounded by the turn of events. “Alright.”
Elias let out a long breath then, as if he’d been holding it, and Ava smile and relaxed further into his arms. Maybe this party wasn’t so boring after all.
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
Here is my second short holiday love story. I will be posting a few more over the next two weeks leading up to Christmas. Happy quickie reading!
All I Want for Christmas Is You: Holiday Love 2- The Christmas Movie
“Why not? This movie looks really g—”
“Come on, dude! You got to choose the last one. Now it’s my turn.”
“Nah. We’re not watching this shit, Leah.”
“It’s my turn though! Don’t be a jerk.”
She reached for the remote but he was faster and stronger and snatched it out of her reach, holding it behind his back.
“You can pout all you want to. I’m not watching a Christmas movie on the fucking Hallmark Channel.”
Leah stopped reaching for the remote long enough to glare at him. “You just said ‘fuck’ on Christmas Eve. That’s illegal. So I therefore win.”
He laughed heartily and she swatted him with her purple couch pillow, her pretty features pulled into a scowl.
“Please, Trevor?” she whined, batting her eyelashes exaggeratedly.
“Fine then. Leave.”
She arched a brow, taunting him.
Trevor grinned, because damned if she wasn’t cute.
“You want me to leave?”
“Yes,” she said, holding her glare steady.
“You want me to leave?” he asked again, pulling her toward him by the ankles and tickling her ribs.
She laughed, squirming in his arms.
“Yes!” she managed between laughing fits as he attacked the spot just below her ribs, where he knew she was the most ticklish.
Over the past two years, Trevor had learned almost everything there was to know about Leah. What made her laugh. What made her frown, showing the beginnings of the dimple in her right cheek. The things that interested her and made her voice get squeaky with excitement when she talked about them. The things that irritated her and made her little doll mouth turn down into a pout. She probably punch him if he ever told her how cute she was when she was upset. She was adorable but violent as hell.
“You want me to leave, Leah?” he asked again, tickling under her arms, as she squealed and flailed about, trying and failing to catch her breath. “Huh?”
“Okay, okay, Trevor!” she said, finally relenting, as she continued squirming. “I’m gonna pee on you!”
“I didn’t hear you answer me,” he said poking her ribs. Now she was practically on his lap.
“No, no, Trevor! Okay? I don’t want you to leave!”
Her caramel-colored skin was flushed a light shade of pink as she laughed, her head thrown back, exposing the soft lines of her neck. He stopped his playful assault, staring down at her, his smile fading, as his breath came quicker. She finally caught her breath, a smile still on her face as she stared up at him. Slowly, recognition colored her brown eyes and she drew in an audible breath just as leaned down to kiss her. He pressed his lips to hers tentatively at first, growing more confident every second that she didn’t move away.
Suddenly, there was no reluctance to the kiss any more. Leah sat up and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him with hungry fervor, which he returned. Finally. Finally. Finally. That’s all he could think. He was finally kissing Leah. His Leah. His feisty next door neighbor who hadn’t just moved into his building but into his heart. He’d never been in love before, didn’t really even know what being “in love” with someone meant, to be real. But all that changed with Leah. He loved her so much he was irrational with it.
He was drawn to her from the moment he’d run into her in the hallway outside of their apartments. She was carrying some boxes and nearly tripped over nothing in particular, because she was kind of clumsy. He’d helped steady her and she’d smiled her cute little half-grin that did things to him he wasn’t prepared for. Especially since he had a girl at the time. By the time he finally ended things with crazy-ass Kayla, he and Leah had slipped into the friend zone. Then she started hanging around some lame dude, Jon, and barely a month later, started calling dude her boyfriend. They’d stayed together for eight tortuous months. He busied himself with other women but in the back of his mind, it was always Leah. He was waiting for her. Finally, she broke up with dude and for the past four weeks, Trevor had been biding his time, trying to figure out when to make a move, when to tell her how he felt about her.
The other day, she’d told him she was going to grab a bite to eat with Jon, who she now referred to as her “friend,” and he’d almost punched a hole through his living room wall. That’s when he knew this silly shit had to stop. He couldn’t keep being her homeboy anymore. He didn’t just want Leah in his bed. He wanted her in his life, in his space, all of the time.
And now, she was on his lap, kissing him back. Her eagerness, the immediacy of her response made him think maybe he hadn’t been the only one holding back his feelings for the past two years, and that thought made him smile against her full lips, even as he heard the corny movie she’d wanted to watch start in the background.
“What are we doing?” she asked against his mouth. Her light voice was breathless, sending chill bumps racing along his skin.
“We’re kissing,” he murmured, dropping hot kisses down her neck. “I’m enjoying it. You?”
She laughed, drawing in a sharp breath when he kissed a particularly sensitive spot. “Immensely.”
So damn cute. He smiled as he kissed his way back up her exposed throat, taking the time to savor the sweet smell of her skin, it’s smoothness. A quiet, sensual noise left her lips, and he inhaled, resisting the urge to quickly move them to the next level. This was Leah. He needed to go slow. He didn’t want to spook her.
“Trevor?” she asked, reading his mind. She ran her fingers along the back of his neck and he nipped her skin in response, evoking another soft sound to leave her lips. “I don’t want to ruin us.”
He paused against her skin then pulled back, meeting her eyes. “I don’t want that either.”
She touched her tongue to her lip, which were swollen from his kisses. Her hair was mussed in its ponytail, her face flushed with excitement he’d put there, and he felt his chest constrict as he looked into her eyes.
“But you know what I don’t want even more?” he asked quietly. She shifted on his lap, looking at him expectantly.
“I don’t want to go through life not knowing. Not knowing what we could’ve been. Not knowing what it was like to kiss you here…” He leaned forward and pressed his lips to the underside of her jaw. “Or here…” He trailed his lips up, pressing a kiss just below her ear. Her eyes flitted closed and he smiled against her skin, inhaling her cocoa scent. “Or going another day without telling you the truth.”
“What’s the truth?” she asked softly.
“I love you.”
Her eyes blinked open and she stared at him, her breath hitching in her throat. He bit the corner of his lip, taking in her reaction to his words. He didn’t expect her to say them back. He knew enough about her screwed up childhood to know she wouldn’t… not yet. He just needed to her to know. Finally.
“I’m not having sex with you tonight, Trevor,” she blurted.
He chuckled, furrowing his brow. “Say what?”
“Because you feel so good, us kissing and everything.” She blushed and he grinned. “It feels so good and so right and then you go and say… that… and it makes me want to just…”
“Smash?” he supplied.
She gasped, her mouth falling open, and swatted his arm. He laughed deeply, pulling her close, burying his nose in her neck.
“I’m playing, girl. I know your ass is a slow-poke,” he murmured against her skin. She scoffed and he chuckled. “Whatever we do, or don’t do, I’m down to go at your pace, okay?”
He felt her draw in a breath and he pushed his fingers under her baggy green sweatshirt, gently tracing the soft skin on her lower back.
“I don’t want anything from you that you’re not ready to give me. I just want you.”
“You just want me?” she repeated, her eyes hooded with desire, with hope and with the love that she wasn’t ready to acknowledge yet. He grinned.
“Just you,” he told her, his voice deep. “And this remote because we’re not watching this wack shit.”
He reached around her suddenly, grabbing the remote off the cushion next to her and flipped the channel as she dissolved into laughter.
I love Christmas time. So, this year, I decided to write a few short-short holiday stories that I'll be posing throughout December. Hope you enjoy!
All I Want for Christmas Is You: Holiday Love #1- THE GAME.
“Jayden, outlet! Outlet pass! Your man is open!”
Brandon groaned and shook his head, staring in disappointment at his hardheaded son, as he shot and missed a three-pointer that he had no business taking in the first place. The boy was a ball hog.
Sheepishly, Jayden looked up into the stands and Brandon raised a brow at him. His son bit the corner of his lip and jogged to the other side of the court to play defense. He was a ball hog but he was also really talented and still sensitive to Brandon’s opinion, so he did have some hope. Jayden’s team was getting slaughtered anyway—45 to 27 with less than a minute left in the fourth. He was only 10, so Brandon wasn’t worried about him winning as much as learning the fundamentals—and one of the fundamentals in ball and life was knowing when to pass, understanding when it was time to let go.
Unexpectedly, thoughts of his ex-wife, Cara, filled his already tired brain. They were one year divorced as of next week. It wasn’t that the divorce was messy or that he had hard feelings toward her, because he didn’t, not now at least. He just felt… drained. As if there wasn’t any space in his heart and mind for anything other than the necessities—namely his kid. Which is part of the reason why he’d been ignoring Danielle.
He looked over his right shoulder, his eyes falling on her pretty face because despite Brandon’s inner-warnings to forget about her, he knew exactly where she was sitting in the stands. She met his eyes, as if she may have been looking at him too, and smiled, before returning her attention to her son, Damon, who Jayden should’ve passed the ball to earlier. Brandon stared at her a little longer than he should have. But some shit just couldn’t be helped. She was beautiful—a soft kind of gorgeous, with full lips, a dark chocolate complexion that was so smooth her skin looked edible and brown eyes that were both expressive and wise. Her hair was fixed into a curly bun that sat high on the top of her head, as if she didn’t fuss with it much, which Brandon liked.
Reluctantly, he dragged his attention away from her. He wasn’t fooling anyone, least of all himself. He just liked her, period. He liked her in a way that was dangerous for them both because he knew he wasn’t in the position to give her much of anything. So, he told himself to stay away from her when he picked his son up from practice. He told himself not to ask her to coffee, or to the Frida Kahlo exhibit downtown that he’d over heard her excitedly talking to another parent about a couple of weeks ago. And he regulated his staring while they were at games. Or, rather, he tried to, especially after his slip-up.
About a month ago, the boys had a four-game stretch over the Thanksgiving break, and unable to help himself, he’d sat next to her at every game. They spent more time talking than watching the boys—he’d learned that she was an archivist at a local college, and he’d admitted with a rueful grin that he had no idea what that meant. She’d smiled when he said that, and he’d felt his chest tighten in a familiar way that let him know he was really feeling her. She’d told him about her study abroad program in Cape Town, South Africa when she was in college, an experience that they shared, though they were there at different times. They’d argued about the NBA, and her staunch belief that Hakeem Olajuwon was the best player ever, which he’d laughed aloud at. She’d scoffed, fixing an adorable glare on him that made him want to lean in and kiss away her playful frown. Maybe five years ago, he would’ve. But he was different now and far more cautious because he had more to protect.
It was then and there that he decided he’d have to cut off their… whatever it was they were doing. He was feeling her way too much and a woman had no place in his immediate plans. He dated and occasionally slept with a couple of his faithful standbys. But not lately. If he was honest, he hadn’t slept with anyone since he’d met Danielle. Even more reason to stop flirting with her at his son’s games. They hadn’t even gone on a date and she was already messing with his head.
“Dad!” Jayden was stomping up the bleachers now, sweaty and out of breath.
Brandon forced himself out of his thoughts, focusing on his son, a smile touching his lips.
“Good game, man. You were moving your feet on defense this time,” he said, standing, watching Jayden’s eyes light up at his praise.
“I should’ve passed more,” Jayden admitted, already knowing what he was about to say.
He nodded, palming the back of his son’s head, which he’d cut into a low fade earlier in the day.
“Your instinct was to pass but you stopped it,” Brandon said, as they headed down the steps. “Always trust your instincts. God gave them to us to use.”
“That’s what you do?” Jayden asked his eyes wide. Brandon smiled. It still tripped him out, how big his son was getting but how pliable he still was.
“I try to,” Brandon answered, glancing back at Danielle, who was engaged in conversation with her son.
It felt like a lie though, because everything in him was screaming that he needed to explore things with her. But the head and the heart were now separate entities, so he ignored the latter.
“Damon wants to know if I can spend the night,” Jayden said, seeming to read his mind, once they’d reached the bottom of the bleachers.
Brandon lifted his eyes and watched as Damon and Danielle approached them. Her smile was almost apologetic.
“Hi Brandon,” she greeted him. He even liked the way she said his name. He smiled.
“What’s up, Danielle.”
She smelled like Christmas—honey sweet with sprinkles of cinnamon. It made him want to bury his nose in the space between her collarbone and her neck and breathe her in.
“Damon has been begging for Jayden to come over and hang with him.”
Her voice was smooth and richer than most women’s and Brandon found his gaze drawn to her full lips. As if sensing what he was thinking, she distractedly drew the bottom one between her teeth, breaking his gaze. Brandon couldn’t stop his smile at the sight of her slight blush. Trouble, he reminded himself stuffing his hands in his pockets. He wasn’t in the right head space to get involved, because that’s exactly what would happen with Danielle. There would be nothing casual about anything they did together. He was sure of that.
“Dad?” Jayden pressed.
Brandon released a breath and glanced down at his son’s hopeful eyes, rubbing a hand over the back his neck.
“We’re having Christmas tomorrow, J, remember?”
This was the first year that he wouldn’t wake up to his son’s excited voice on Christmas day and it was bothering him. He’d be dropping Jayden off at Cara’s on Christmas Eve, tomorrow at 3. Even last year, with their divorce pending, they’d spent the holiday together, pretending to be happy.
“Oh yeah,” Jayden said, his expression falling.
Brandon frowned. Maybe the whole Christmas morning on Christmas Eve idea was more for him than his son. It was a thought he quickly pushed out of his mind. He glanced at Danielle, whose eyes had turned sympathetic. They held no pity but rather understanding. He was staring again, watching her chew on her bottom lip, feeling the tug in the pit of stomach that he felt whenever he looked at her for too long. When she reached, her delicate fingers pushing a stray strand of hair behind her ear, he felt something inside of him break. Enough was enough.
“How about this— we can go get hot chocolate at the shop around the corner now and maybe you can stay with Damon another time over the holiday break,” Brandon offered. But he wasn’t looking at his son. He was staring at Danielle.
“Is that cool?” he asked, lowering his tone as he looked her. “You want to go get some hot chocolate?”
She looked up at him, a soft, almost shy smile playing on her lips that he matched with one of his own.
“Yeah,” she said, grinning. “That’s cool.”
Neither one of them were paying attention to the boys, who’d bounded off toward the gym doors as soon as the words left her lips.
“I heard they do Christmas karaoke there too,” she said, wigging her eyebrows.
He chuckled. “I don’t know about all that. But we can see what’s up.”
She laughed, a soft, light sound that he felt in his bones.
“Yeah,” she said, staring up at him. “Let’s do that. Let’s see what’s up.”
•Read All I Want for Christmas Is You: Holiday Love #2- The Christmas Movie