Christmas with You (Torn #5.5)

by Pamela Ann

“Sing like no one is listening,

love like you’ve never been hurt,

dance like nobody is watching,

and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

- Mark Twain

To My Wife, With Love…

“Bass! Can you please come out of there so we can start with the tree? It’s only a week ‘til Christmas and we still have so much to do,” Emma called out.

“Coming!” My wife was still bossy yet sweet. I might add that she was also truly amazing, but still dominantly bossy. After the months of tribulations we’d had, I was her willing slave—at times, I thought with a grin.

Emma was patiently waiting for me at the foot of the granite staircase, adorned in one of my baby blue dress shirts with nude Uggs on… nothing more; my wife was most definitely sexier than sin.

She was wearing a small smile by the time I had almost reached her. “I don’t know why we had to invite people over; we could’ve just gone to my parents’ house and saved us all the hassle.”

I shook my head, grinning, before I kissed her forehead. “Forgive me for wanting to spend my first Christmas celebration with my wife and the people I care about.” Truth be told, I didn’t really celebrate this holiday. That was the reason for always going to my cabin in Switzerland to pass the entire yuletide season. Not this year, though, because I was a married man who was joyously and heedlessly in love with Emma.

After our reconciliation in Phoenix, it took a few months until we finally resurfaced from our pain. We wore our scars proudly and, even to this day—months later—even if we got overwhelmed by our lives, we made sure to spend some time with each other, talking and updating each other with whatever was going on.

She continued to be adamant about not resuming her acting career. In the very beginning, all I’d ever wanted was for her to reach her dreams, but for some reason, after what happened, Emma’s goals had shifted and she was more family-oriented; she didn’t put much effort in her former goals. It worried me that she might be throwing something precious away and, at the same time, I wanted her to really find what she was truly looking for.

“I guess I can put up with that.” She grinned before pulling me towards the living room area where a space was now cleared out for the tree to be put up. It would make a breathtaking contrast with the ocean in the background; I could easily picture it already.

Scanning the littered holiday décor, I smirked when I picked up an ornament that had:

Mr. & Mrs. Cole 2013

Our First Christmas

Emma and her keenness on making it known that she was my wife tickled my fancy. “This is cute.”

“I know, right? I had it made.” She was now pointing at the stem of the tree. “Now, let’s start with this. Are you familiar with putting a tree together? It’s relatively easy.”

No, I wasn’t familiar with putting them together, though for years I had admired a few. “Simply tell me what to do and then I’ll figure it out.”

When I saw Gus situate his chunky butt on top of the train set, I lifted him off and placed him on the nearby sofa. “We’ll play later, I promise.” The dog had been eyeing me all afternoon. I had supposed it was since I wasn’t paying much attention to him; he was feeling a little neglected.

“Babe? Let me take a call really quick. You can start on the branches and what not. I’ll help decorate when I get back.” Emma almost rushed out of the room.

I frowned. “Can’t that wait?”

She grinned, blowing me a kiss. “Nope. I’ll be back. Love you, BC.” In a flash, she was gone.

Sighing loudly, I started to gather all the base branches when I heard Gus grumble incoherently. “This is married life, my dear friend.” I took a glance at him before I saw Taylor come into view, glancing at me with amusement on his face.

“This definitely looks domesticated,” he remarked, striding straight to Gus, while the mutt looked like he was on cloud nine when Taylor started him in on a belly rub.

“You’ll understand once we’re on the same boat, but before that, shut the comments down.”

First base was done. Now, onto the second level, I thought, eyeing the crazy amount of branches to get through. Damn. “My wife just had to get the biggest one, didn’t she?” I muttered, shaking my head.

“We still on for tomorrow night?” Taylor asked behind me, still putting my dog in a heavenly coma with his belly scratches.

Tomorrow night, right? My birthday. “Yeah, sure. I think Emma’s taking me out for lunch, and dinner is free. So I’m all yours.” Shit. “We’re not going to Vegas, are we? ‘Cause I doubt the press getting a whiff of strip joints would send out the whole ‘happily married’ vibes.”

“There will be talk, count on it, but I’m sure it’ll be sending the good married vibes.” Taylor gave me a mischievous smile. “Lou’s swinging by to get you at eight. We’ll go get started with some dinner with the guys. Dimitris will be flying in at seven tomorrow night then afterwards we’ll go to a club to celebrate your old ass.”

“Uh-huh.” Pfft, this machine wasn’t old. Emma sure as hell didn’t think so, especially not after last night’s activities. Thinking about it roared my body to life. Emma catered to everything I wanted. To this day, I couldn’t believe she was mine. She was perfect for me and I wouldn’t want anyone else as my wife other than her. Emma Anderson Cole.

So after Taylor left, I scoured the house looking for her, and when I finally found her on the garden patio, adjusting her freshly cut blooms from the garden nearby with Gus, I decided to join the cozy couple.

“Taylor’s taking me out tomorrow night. Dimitris is flying in. Do you know anything about what he has on the agenda?” I asked, petting Gus behind the ear.

“Nope. Not a clue, but that’s nice of him to fly out for your birthday. Since it’s an all boys’ shindig, you promise you won’t be naughty?” She was concentrating on cutting the stems before inserting them in the crystal vases on the table next to her without glancing my way.

She was crazy to ask this of me; I was married to her for Pete’s sake! “Yeah, ‘cause you know, I’m naughty all the damn time.” My sarcasm had been intended. Count on that.

She shrugged. “Just saying is all.” She managed to give me a small smile. “There’s a lot of beautiful women out there that are out to get you. I worry that I might not be enough later on…”

For months I had fought hard and even gave her up a few times because her happiness was the main focal point in my decisions. Even though each and every time it had gutted me alive, I had gone through with it all for her. It was always about her. Forever.

Moving behind her, I wrapped my arms around her neck, bending down to whisper into her ear. “One day, you’ll see how loyal I am. One day, you’ll witness how much I praise the ground you walk on, and I do hope and pray that you will see that no one owns me except you. I love you, wife.”

We still had issues to work on, and we were taking things one day at a time. Right now, I could see that her mind was clouded with all the problems we had tackled before. We were in a dark place, Emma and I, however we had come this far as a couple, as a family. We had our future to look forward to, and at the end of the day, as long as we had each other, I could get through whatever else life threw my way.

She sighed, kissing her nose with mine. “I read this book the other day and it left a mark somehow. It was about a guy who got his wife pregnant and ended up not touching her for months on end.” She shifted, slowly facing me as her blue eyes sparked with fire. “You won’t be like that again, right?” Her eyes sought mine, needing assurance. “The last time—when you didn’t touch me—that really broke me inside.”

There were a lot of things I regretted when we got married in the beginning. We got married hastily and did things out of order. I had been a broken, shattered excuse of a man. Then there was that whole Carter debacle. Trust issues… and the list kept on growing. I didn’t blame her for doubting me; I honestly applauded her for bringing this to my attention.

“I wanted you then, more than anything. Seeing you swollen with my baby was everything I had dreamt of, but I was angry then. I apologize for giving you the impression that I won’t be able to make love to you when you have my child. You must know, pregnant or not, I have this need for you. Constantly,” I tried to explain, reaching for her hand and entwining it with mine. “Whether it’s a physical, mental or emotional connection, I’ve always craved you, Emma.” Kissing her forehead, I breathed her in. Her scent washed over my senses, immediately calming me, always. “I have a lifetime to show you just how much. Never lose faith in me, that’s all I ask, moro mou.” My baby.

“I love you,” she whispered, seeking my lips.

“And I, you,” I promised.

The Birthday Cake

“Thanks for coming all the way here to celebrate with me. How was your flight?” I greeted the newcomer who had come straight from the airport to join us for dinner.

Dimitris gave me a quick embrace before patting my back hardily. “Don’t flatter yourself. I came here to be with Lindsey for Christmas and celebrate it with her family. It was the only way I could steal her away to spend New Years in Greece with my Papou and the rest.”

I smirked at his sarcastic, playful response.

“Carter joining?” I lightly inquired as he seated himself across from me while Taylor and his brother, Gaston, eyed us watchfully.

Dimitris gave me a straight look as he placed his napkin on his lap. “Still hate the man?”

At one point, I had wanted to kill him with my bare hands, but now that I was married to Emma, things had definitely shifted. “I don’t have the urge to kill him now, that’s for sure,” I joked. “I suppose I’m wondering how he’s been.”

“He’s… gutted. I doubt he’ll ever be the same. Lindsey’s words, not mine.” He shrugged, taking a careful sip of his wine that Gaston had handed over. “You did steal his fiancée.” The end of his lips lifted, amused. “But then again, I would’ve done the very same thing. Can’t blame you there, my friend.”