Xmas Short Story

1.
Fairytale In New York:
An Ethan’s Fall short story.

Ada

“Bethany, do you want to tell me why our entrance hall looks like an explosion in a Toys R Us super store?” Daniel’s booming voice silences all of us gathered in Bethany’s large and welcoming kitchen, if only for a moment, but it’s impressive, the effect Daniel’s commanding tone has on everyone. Even Ethan seems to bristle beside me, although I’m not remotely persuaded that that has anything to do with him being intimidated. Ethan, I believe, straightens his posture in preparation for the sport of tormenting Daniel. It’s one of his preferred pastimes.
In the distance, the front door shuts, the large doors and cavernous entrance hall ensures that the sound echoes down the hall and seems to shake the walls of the kitchen. I grimace, because, unlike Ethan, I am intimidated. My brother-in-law may be utterly charming and the sweetest Uncle to Pip and now Essie, but he is still…Daniel. Bethany looks at me and rolls her eyes playfully. I happen to know she’s only doing that because judging from the sound of advancing footsteps she still has about three minutes before that particular facial gesture would be witnessed by her ‘still-scary-after-all-this-time’ husband.
“He does know about this, doesn’t he?” I ask, my voice hushed as if that will make any difference now. This weekend has been planned for months and after the length of time it took Ethan to persuade me that our babies would be safely looked after, there is no way we aren’t going on this pre-Christmas break.
“I thought it would be a surprise.” She quips, and I just catch the glimpse of a conspiritorial wink between her and Ethan.
“Because we all know how much Mr. Control Freak loooves surprises.” Ethan quips.
“Of course I told him.” Bethany assures me, and the huge sigh I realise is met with an understanding smile and gentle squeeze of my hand before she continues to further ease my concerns. I’ve been anxious about leaving the children, but there’s no one, outside of Ethan and Tom, their grandfather, that I trust more than Bethany. “He’s very excited. Told me this morning that this weekend he was going to teach Pip how to play poker.”
“Really?” Pip’s head snaps up from the building blocks on the floor she’s been engrossed with since we arrived. Her toothy grin is wide with obvious joy and barely contained excitement. She might be a teenager in a seven year old’s body, but she loves visiting Auntie Bethany, Uncle Daniel and her newish cousins. She adapts to play with the toddlers easily and is just as confident mixing amongst adults.
She’s an old soul.
I’m still racked with guilt that I missed so much of her very early years. I’m aware it’s a past I cannot change, and only I can let it affect our future. Still, I worried when I fell pregnant that jealousy and the six year age difference between her and Essie would be an issue. It wasn’t; quite the contrary, it’s heart-clenchingly good to see how careful and patient she is with all the babies, how much she adores her sister, and how much she looks nothing like her father. Thankfully she’s the spitting image of me.
Luca is just over two now and is a world of mischief. Leia is only a few months older than Pip’s half sister Essie, and at that age they do little more than eat and sleep and poop, so she’s not so bothered about playing with her. A toddler is much more fun, a real-life mini Daniel that follows her around like a puppy and is just as messy.
“Yes, really, he’s smitten with these two obviously,” Bethany wiggles her finger in the direction of Luca and Leia, who is still sleeping in her car seat next to Essie in hers. “But he’s really looking forward to them getting older, a time when they can maintain their attention for longer than a nanosecond, I think those were his exact words.”
“And Pip does that?” Ethan teases, ruffling Pip’s hair as she stretches on her tiptoes to lean against the kitchen counter with the adults.
“She does when the two of them are together.” Bethany smooths the mess Ethan created, and Pip sticks out a playful tongue.
“Great, another female besotted with Dan the D-”
“Did I hear my name?” Daniel stride into the room, surveys the chaos, and calmly zeros in on his wife as if there’s not another soul in the room. He cups her face tenderly and kisses her deeply and slowly; it’s hot as hell and verging on inappropriate. Fortunately you can always count on a child to break any sexual tension, and Pip is a pro.
“Daddy, you shouldn’t call Daniel Dan, he doesn’t like it. Isn’t that right, Daniel?” Pip stealthily manoeuvres her way in between her aunt and uncle.
“Quite right, Pipsqueak.” Daniel winks at Pip, and she beams with pride at the affectionate nickname he gave her last year.
“Or Sir, you can call him Sir like Auntie Bethany does.” She says with a dismissive shrug and not a care in the world for the deathly quiet that instantly descends.
Have you ever been in a room where the silence is so instant, it actually feels like some higher being has pressed the pause button. This was a classic and comical case of ‘Out of the mouths of Babes’. The only movement is the gentle breaths of the sleeping babies and Bethany’s eyes widening to inordinate proportions. Luca’s blocks fall in a crescendo of tumbling plastic onto hard marble breaking the tension, and I force myself to speak.
“Pip,” My admonishing words prevent the silence from rearing its awkward head again. No, not awkward as such, I believe this was more like a stunned taste of things to come, when their own children become an age where they are more engaging and more observant.
“What, mummy? He does, and you do call him that, don’t you, Auntie Bethany?” Pip’s head turns between her aunt and uncle, and I can hear the uncertainty in Pip’s question.
“Um, sometimes when we’re playing around, I might.” Bethany’s neck is bright red and the colour is working its way up nicely to her cheeks. Her eyes are pleading, but I’m not sure how I can help.
“Brilliant!” Ethan starts to chuckle, and I can’t help but snicker, even as my cheeks flame the same colour as Bethany’s.
“Were you eavesdropping, Pip, because listening in on other people’s conversation is wrong.” I try and keep my tone firm, which is an effort in itself as every adult in the room flashes furtive and knowing glances between their significant others. Bethany might be mortified with the knowing looks, however, Daniel’s I couldn’t read. It might be fury or smouldering memories causing the dark intensity in his glare. The only thing I’m glad of is that it isn’t me he’s leveling all that heat toward.
“Even if it is hilarious.” Ethan declares, subtle as a sledgehammer.
“Not helping, Ethan.” I nudge him with my elbow, which he neatly avoids by shifting sideways and grabbing my arm. In one swift and seamless move, he has me on his lap, strong arms around my waist and his nose buried in the crook of my neck, inhaling deeply before he speaks again. His lips pressed to the soft skin are smiling, and I know if I could see his eyes, they would be sparkling with wicked mischief.
“Not meaning to, baby, but this is priceless.”
“I wasn’t eavesdropping.” Pip’s voice is rushed and urgent. “I woke up one night and went to get a glass of water. I heard voices and thought it was the television, but then you screamed, ‘Sir!’ And then you said ‘Daniel.’ I recognise your voice, so I know it wasn’t the T.V.”
“Oh, right, well.” I give her a warm smile and keep my voice light and forgiving; after all, she hasn’t done anything wrong, and she still looks confused by the misunderstanding.
“Well, that explains that, then, not the T.V. just Auntie Bethany screaming at Dan.” Ethan arches his brow high, and I giggle.
“Oh, my God!” Bethany groans.
“I think you may have called him that, too.” Pip smiles at me, and I have to bite my lips from belly laughing.
“Oh, ground, swallow me.” Bethany mutters.
“What? What’s wrong?” Pip turns away from me and looks nervously among all the adults. Daniel steps in, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder and winking at her. His reassuring tone is all that is needed to obliterate any concern she was harbouring. Her face is instantly and very obviously overjoyed with Daniel’s input.
“Nothing is wrong Pip, I just might have to think of some way to stop your Auntie from screaming. If only I could think of something appropriate.” He taps his fingers on his lips in faux contemplation.
“Riiight!” Bethany claps her hands and changes the subject so fast, I get whiplash.
“So are you planning on having any more little ones?”
“Hundreds,” Ethan beams and squeezes the breath from my lungs with his warm, adoring embrace. I feel cherished to the depths of my soul, and I couldn’t love him anymore than I do right now, but Essie only just turned one, and I’ve just this week gotten back into my pre-baby jeans.
“Um, when he says hundreds he means, we’ll see. We’ve applied to adopt but haven’t heard whether we’ve been successful, so we’re not sure.”
“We’re sure, and that’s what this long weekend is about…we can at least get started on number three while we wait to hear.” He kisses along my shoulder until he actually reaches skin, where he nibbles and sends a slue of goosebumps dancing across my skin. I shiver in his arms and twist so I can give him a kiss.
“Tom did say you were looking into that. I didn’t realise you’d actually applied.” Bethany remarks.
“Well, we’re both keen on it, and it might take time, so we thought we should start the ball rolling, especially since it’s very unlikely I’ll have any more.” I hear the catch in my voice, and Ethan’s embrace constricts around me like a protective barrier. I’m grateful when Daniel speaks and is entirely focused on something very specific in Ethan’s last comment.
“Whole weekend?” Daniel coughs.
“Yes, Uncle Daniel, all weekend.” Pip elongates the pertinent word in a teasing fashion and scurries up to Daniel, without a care for the mocking scowl, grumble, and grouchy demeanour and repeats. “Yes, Uncle Daniel, all weekend.”
“Good!” He sweeps Pip high into his arms and settles her onto his shoulders. “You can help me with the cobwebs.” He bounces on his toes, and she squeals with delight and horror every time her head nears a shadow on the ceiling. She cries out with the pitch and volume of an air raid siren. “Ah, the ceilings are too high, maybe you can help me get these two monsters to bed, instead.” He drops her back to the floor and takes her hand, leading her over to where Lucas is still playing with the blocks and Leia is just waking up. Lucas instantly wobbles to his feet, clearly noticing his dad for the first time. He wraps his pudgy arms wrapped around Daniel’s legs. Daniel lets go of Pip’s hand and picks his son up from the floor and blows kisses in the crook of the little boy’s neck. The room is filled with fits of contagious giggles.
“I’m good at bed time stories, aren’t I, Daddy?” Pip turns away from Daniel for a moment to focus on Ethan. She beams her toothy grin at him, and I swear his chest swells every time she calls him that.
“Hungry caterpillar is a classic for a reason, although I prefer Sam’s Sandwich.” Ethan replies.
“I’m a little old for those now, Daddy.” She purses her lips, and he holds his hands up in surrender. He loves to tease her but is quick to backtrack if she throws him ‘the pout’. She has him wrapped around her little finger, and no doubt Essie will be the same. He’s such an amazing father, I can’t help feel a swirl of regret that the possibility of me having another child is slim to none existent. I have to remind him that Essie was a miracle.
“I’m sorry, pumpkin, you’re right, you’re a big girl now. I’m just glad you’re even interested in books. I barely looked at one when I was a kid.”
“That explains a great deal.” Daniel quips.
“Daniel.” Bethany’s reprimanding tone is enough for Daniel to check himself.
“Sorry, Ethan, I didn’t mean-”
“-De nada…It’s not like I read much once Tom adopted me, either. I love reading now, though. Ada has all these books on her kindle.” Ethan begins and since I know just where he’s going, I call a halt, and I see that Bethany too releases a deep breath at my intervention.
“Yeah, Ok. I think it’s time to get these little munchkins ready for bed, don’t you?” I jump down from Ethan’s lap and start to collect the plethora of bags and baby detritus needed for an overnight stay, or in this case, four nights.
“Yes, come on. I know the way.” Pip takes Daniel’s hand as Bethany and I gather Leia and Essie and follow in a convoy of car carriers, baby bags, muslin comforters and favourite cuddlies.

“Can I watch Tangled before bedtime, Mummy?” Pip’s yawn is so wide, I doubt she’ll make it through the trailers.
“If that’s all right with Auntie Bethany?” I hand over parental control in readiness for actually leaving, which is imminent. Bath time and stories went off without a hitch, and Essie only looks seconds from falling asleep, as did Leia. Lucas took a little longer, but all is quiet for now.
“Sure it is, you must’ve mentioned it already because I think Daniel is searching Netflix in the snug as we speak.” Bethany nods and points down the stairs in the general direction of the snug.
“Great!” Pip skids along the polished oak floor in her socks.
“Wait! Don’t we get a kiss goodbye?” I call after her and she spins on the soft fabric and slide back to me. I think she did that on purpose, to get an extra slide in.
“Of course, silly.” I lift her into my arms, she’s really getting to big for this, not weight wise, but she’s tall. Her feet nearly touch the floor when her legs are perched on my hips. We brush noses, and I give her a kiss on the forehead, nose, and lips.
“Take care, baby girl, and if you need us at all, you can call anytime. Take care of Essie and do everything your Aunt and Uncle tell you.”
“Create havoc, pumpkin.” Ethan lifts her from me and hugs her until she groans, laughs, and gasps for breath. He drops her to her feet, and she’s instantly sliding back along the landing and racing down the stairs to find Daniel.
“Ethan, you know we’re going to be returning the favour.” I warn, Bethany laughs and follows after Pip.
“Yes but Lukas and Leia are babies; how much damage can they do? That one, however…” I don’t wait to hear him finish; I can’t help myself. I silently pad back along the landing and peek into the nursery. The music from the mobile that hangs over her cot has stopped, and I know she’s fast asleep and peaceful. I jump when Ethan’s hand slips into mine, and he pushes the door just a little wider and takes a quick look before pulling the door closed.
“They are going to be fine, and they are going to have a great time, Mrs. Cates,” he reassures me.
“I know.” I do, and I happily allow him to lead me away from our little miracle.
“And so are we. Come on, let’s get this second honeymoon started.”
“Second honeymoon? Where are we going?”
“New York! New York!”

Ethan

The view from dad’s apartment on Park Avenue is quite spectacular, and I don’t believe any city in the world can hold a candle to New York at Christmas. The tree at Rockefeller Centre, the Harbour Lights Boat Ride up to the Statue of Liberty, and the Loab Boathouse in Central Park have been magical. I brought Ada here after our wedding, as it was on her bucket list, and she fell in love with the noise, life, and vibrancy of this unique, if somewhat overcrowded, city. However stunning the Manhattan skyline at night may be, it pales in comparison to the view before me. Ada, on the bed, arse up, hands stretched out with her palms facing up. Her legs are trussed and tied in a bent position. I placed a blindfold over her eyes and a ball gag in her mouth. Restricting her senses like this drives her crazy and makes me impossibly hard.
“Mmmm nnnnm.”
I chuckle because she can’t help herself.
“Really? You want the cane?” I tease because if she’s going to insist on talking when I can’t understand, I’m going to have some fun making up stuff she would never actually say. Ada is extremely adventurous, and I count myself one of the luckiest men on the planet, but she’s not a pain junkie, and the cane is a hard limit. Which is fine by me; I only want to make her cry out in uncontainable pleasure, not pain – well, not that much pain.
“Ooo o…O.” Her head flops to the side she thinks I am standing on, and I can only imagine the fiery glare those beautiful brown eyes are leveling at me.
“Well, stop trying to speak, and let me play with my toy.” I run my finger from the nape of her neck to the dimple above her arse cheeks, her body undulates as much as it can, given her pose. I let my hand strike a sharp heavy blow to her cheek and relish the instant palm print on her ivory white skin. She moans but curves her spine to lift her bottom just a little bit higher.
“You’re not supposed to like my reprimand, angel.” I strike again, and her skin glows with the heat racing through her veins. I strike again and again. Her chest rises and falls with deep, controlled breaths, and she whimpers every time my hand leaves her skin after soothing the strike with some soft gentle caresses.
Like this all she can do is feel…and absorb everything that I chose to do.
The music I selected drifts through the surround sound speakers, seeming to send her into a trance, and when my hands sweep across her body, her skin glistens with perspiration, and I can feel her heart rate start to climb under my fingertips. She starts to suck in large breaths, her chest arching with the effort. The muscles in her thighs twitch with the desire to close her legs, even if the friction of squeezing them together would be nowhere near enough, but it would be something.
“You’re going to need to calm your breathing, Ada, or you will hyperventilate.” My soft tone is still filled with concern. It’s such a turn on that she’s so damn responsive, but that all goes to hell in a hand basket if I can’t control her escalating emotions. I sweep away the hair that is now sticking to her forehead, my light touch calming her. I wait a few moments, until she lets out a relaxed breath, and she gives me the OK signal, a nod, and a thumbs up.
.“Good girl.” My hoarse voice rumbles from deep in my chest, and I place a soft kiss on the end of her nose.
I’m careful to keep some contact with her body, always touching, as I work my way from her neck down her body and finally settling at the end of the bed with my large hand pressing her thighs wider until they are flush against the bed. Ada groans at the stretch, but it’s nothing she can’t handle. She has always been flexible, but having recently taken up of yoga meant she could maintain all sorts of compromising positions for some considerable time. Lucky me.
I lift and move her body until she is on her back, still tied, vulnerable, open and perfect.
I lean over to the bedside table and scoop an ice cube from the bucket. I take the solid shape in my fingers and allow its melting ice to drip, drip into her belly button. Her skin prickles with goose flesh, and she cries around the gag. She rolls her hips and pushes her arse into the bed as I draw the ice cube down toward the smooth sensitive skin between her legs. Her moans are muffled but are still the most erotic sound outside of her screaming my actual name when she comes. Languidly or tortuously slowly, depending on who is at the receiving end, I skim the freezing cube along her soaking lips, careful to avoid her clit, which seems to throb, greedy for attention.
She shivers and then arches as best she can, given the restraints, squealing around the gag when I suddenly cover her clit with my scorching hot mouth, dragging my tongue along her core and diving inside her like a starving man. The perfect amount of pressure mixed with super soft kisses and just the right amount of rough stubble grind into her. Steady breaths through her nose get louder and more frantic, evidence that she is edging closer and closer to exploding. Her hands open and close with obvious frustration. She tries to buck against her legs restraints, helpless to escape the erotic onslaught. She screams as loud as she can with the gag, which is still pretty loud. I release all contact, pull back, and stop, just like that. One more stroke of my tongue, and I’m pretty confident she would’ve come, hard.
She pushes her head back into the pillow in frustration, but her choice of curse words I can only guess, given I can’t hear them over the gag. She also adds a throaty growl to her display of disapproval.
“Oh, baby, don’t be like that…I’ve only just started.” My voice is strained, and if she could see, she’d know this is just as much a struggle for me, but it’s ultimately worth it. So worth it. She shakes her head, not our agreed sign to cease play but still an indication she is struggling. I unclip the gag. Before she could voice her objection or anything, my mouth covers hers. My tongue twists and dives, controlling the kiss and drawing her breath from deep inside, until she is gasping and looking a little dizzy.
“Oh, God.” She sighs when I finally release her lips.
“It’s a start, but it’s not what I want you to call me now, is it?”
“No, Sir,” Ada is quick to respond; we play so well together. She was made for me, like I say, luckiest man…ever. She is also acutely aware of how very good I am at erotic torture.
“Hmm, good girl.” I kiss her lightly on the nose, which makes her smile, and I feel a burst of warmth deep in my chest. “Now let’s see how long until you’re begging to come.” I flash a wicked grin that she can’t see, but she certainly feels the upward curl of my lips when I press them on her tummy. Her body shudders as I pepper kisses in a path back down to her core. This time, though, I stop before I reach her soaking lips. I pull back, grab a toy from the ice bucket, and also reach beside the bed into our little bag of tricks.
“Open.” I demand placing the solid silver butt plug against Ada’s lips. She does as I instruct and sucks on the tool. At the same time, I press the dildo against her entrance. I’m sure she would’ve squealed, but her mouth is full. Her tummy muscles quiver and clench as she tilts her hips away from the cold intrusion. Her attempt to evade is futile, and I continue to push the toy inside her. “Relax, angel, or this next bit is going to hurt. It’s just a glass dildo that I’ve had on ice, it feels good, doesn’t it?” I take the butt plug from her mouth with a soft plop.
“If feels very cold.” She shivers.
“Yes, but what else?” I coax her to tell me everything she’s experiencing, communication isn’t key, it’s everything. I continue to ease the dildo in a twisting motion deeper inside her. I can see her eyes roll against the thin silk of the blindfold when I push against a particularly sensitive spot.
“Answer me, Ada.”
“Yes…yes, it feels really good, Sir.” She exhales, and I can already sense the build of the orgasm denied not so long ago.
“Good girl.” My voice drops to a low rumble, and I can’t help but moan with her, when at the same time as working the dildo, I push the butt plug past her tight ring of muscle and bury it deep in her arse.
“Oh, fuck!” Ada cries out, as the erotic spark catches her by surprise, and her whole body begins to tremble. I instantly stop pumping the dildo and, just to make sure, pinch her clit not quite to the point of pain, effectively holding her climax hostage at the tip of my fingers.
“Nooooo!” She screams out, panting with her fists clenched, and she would so be kicking out right now if her legs weren’t tied and spread. “What the hell, Ethan……since when are you a sadist?”
“Oh, baby, I’m not a sadist, and by the end of this session, Ada, you will know I’m not Sir, either…I am your Master.” I replace my thumb and finger with my soothing mouth and suck on her clit. Judging by her instant reaction, it sends a raw current of electricity surging through every nerve in her body. She jolts and squirms with the intense pull of absolute pleasure, and then it is gone. She’s on the raggedy edge, and I’m pretty sure she’s just about reached her limit of endurance. She’s not the only one that wants to come so bad.
I start to ease the dildo back inside her. It isn’t quite so cold now and, judging by the pleasurable sounds escaping her gaping mouth, it feels more than a little good, the way I work it round and round, deep and firm, and with the plug still in her arse, she must feel erotically full.
“Oh, oh, oh!” She pants out, feeling the stretch, as I ease my cock alongside the slim dildo. “Holy fucking shit!”
“Relax, Ada…feel me. Feel every thick inch. Take a deep breath, and just relax and let me stretch you, fill you like you’ve never been filled before, and then when you ask nicely, I will let you come like you’ve never come before.” My tone holds all the confidence, but it has a strained edge that make her smile. I have no problem with her knowing that I am clearly struggling on this precipice right along with her. The swell and stiffness of my cock alone is enough for her to know that I’m just as ready to explode as she is.
“Oh, God!” She cries out as I ease my rock hard and impossibly large cock inside her until I am buried deep and she is completely full. I can feel her internal muscles pulse and contract around me. Even that tiny sensation of movement feels too much. She’s teetering, and I can feel her orgasm looming like a fucking tidal wave; if I just rock against her, she’ll crash.
“Please, Master, let me come!” She squeezes her eyes shut at the sudden brightness, as I pull the blindfold free, and she has to squint to adjust to the light. It only takes a few seconds, and the sight before me nearly makes me come without any extra friction. Smouldering dark eyes, glistening skin, flushed pink with arousal and desire. Damn, that’s hot.
“Ask me again. I want to see your eyes when you call me Master,” I growl, and I can feel my jaw tick with tension, raw unbridled passion set to unleash hell. She knows she has me, just as much as I have her, balanced on the edge. She chooses her next words carefully…she wants Heaven with a little bit of Hell.
“Make me come, Master.” I grin and see the flash of something akin to terror in her eyes, where she must be challenging the wisdom of her sassy gamble. She didn’t actually ask. I know exactly what she’s playing at…she’s playing with fire, and she’s lucky it’s the season for giving, because with one delicious roll of my hips, I set us both ablaze.
She’s amazing, taking everything I give her. She’s so unbelievably full with me, the dildo, and the plug in her arse. When her muscles start to spasm and contract, she cries out like she was being ripped apart with pleasure…skirting over into the edges of pain, but overwhelmed with the crashing waves of euphoria as I keep up the perfect amount of pressure, making sure what could be the most amazing orgasm of her life lasts. It may have lasted minutes…it felt like hours. She’s shaken and dazed when I release all her ties. I collect her into my arms and pull her back to lie and her limp limbs wrap instinctively around me, her heavy head on my chest, and a sleepy satisfied smile creeps over her beautiful face.
“Master, eh?” She tips her head and looks up as I look down, stroking the hair from her face. Her lips pull into an amused grin.
“Hmm?” I ask.
“You want me to call you Master?” She clarifies.
“I think I earned it?” I boast, since she’s still breathless and her muscles have only just stopped spasming.
“You did today, that’s for sure.” She moans and sighs, a blissful sound that matches her self-satisfied expression. I did good. “But I’m not sure it’s a keeper.” She sniffs and slides her hand from my waist to flick my nipple.
“We’ll see.” I grab her hand and pull her fingers to my lips, kiss the tips, and close my eyes for a well-earned power nap. I think she’s asleep before I finish speaking. Yeah, I did good.

*****************************

“Have you got enough layers on?” We step outside the apartment block and are hit with an icy blast. Ada is wrapped head-to-toe in the world’s thickest cable knit scarf. She has a full length cashmere coat, hat, and gloves, and lord knows how many garments underneath, but I do have a visual of Joey from Friends, because there is no way my wife’s toned figure is that round. She’s crazy to think she’s still carrying any Essie baby weight, those curves are all new.
“Um, I think so…Oh, you’re being funny? Its like minus ten out here and you insist on walking everywhere.” Her voice is muffled with the woolen snake wrapped several times around her neck, effectively providing a noise-cancelling column.
“Not tonight,” I lead her the few steps from our building to the corner of Central Park and Park Avenue.
“No?” She jogs to keep up with my long strides.
“No.” I turn her away from me by the shoulders and point her to the line of parked horse drawn carriages.
“Oh Ethan, you said you’d never in a million years…” Her voice trails into the white noise of the city, loud voices, car horns, and truck engines. She grabs my hand and excitedly pulls me across the street, which although it is busy, it’s also at a bumper-to-bumper standstill of traffic. Her face peeks momentarily above the scarf and her wide smile beams so bright I have to pull her into my arms; she’s adorable.
“I might think it’s a cheesy tourist trap which is hideously over-priced this time of year, but you think it’s magical, and your face just there is fucking priceless, so hop in.” She wrinkles her nose at my ba-humbugness and pulls herself into the first free carriage. The glossy white carriage is edged with tinsel and the grey horse has a large sparkly feather in its bridle. Tia snuggles back into the fur-lined seat and pats the empty space for me to join her before she drags the heavy blanket over both of us. The hood of the carriage is fully back to give us the best view of the tall buildings and array of Christmas lights as we start our journey around and through the park.
“I can’t believe I’m riding in a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park at Christmas. It’s kind of perfect.” She wriggles closer to me, and her wide smile falters for a fraction of a second. If I wasn’t looking directly into her eyes I might’ve missed it, but then maybe not. I know exactly what she’s thinking.
“We can Skype them now if you want?” This is perfect except for the fact that Pip and Essie are back in the UK.
“No, it’s fine. Pip said earlier that Bethany was taking them to the Pantomime, and Essie is a little young for a video chat.” She tilts her head and pulls me down for a quick kiss, as our breaths mix in icy clouds of warm air in the night sky.
“Daniel is going to a Pantomime?” I raise a brow, and she snickers at my justifiably incredulous tone.
“No, Bethany and Sofia are taking Pip to the Panto, and Daniel has called in a stay of execution on that score until Lucas and Leia are old enough to go, at least.”
“That makes much more sense.” I chuckle and relish the feeling as she moulds against me, her legs hooked over mine, our hands clasped together, just taking in the festive sights. We fall into a comfortable silence. It is kind of magical.
“Thank you for this,” Ada’s words drift softly in the cloud of her frozen breath.
“My pleasure, angel.”
“I love you, I may forget to tell you.”
“You tell me all the time.”
“Good, sometimes I think I neglect you. I confess you drop down my ‘to do list’, what with Pip’s social calendar and extracurricular activities. Even Essie gets more time with me than you do.”
“I’m not complaining, I’ll never complain. I have my whole life with you, Ada, and the kids will consume some of that time, sure, but not all of it. Besides, I can’t very well moan when I want hundreds of the little ones.”
“It’s so cold, I need to pee,” Ada deflects with the perfect excuse.
“Did you hear me?” I ask and wait until her eyes meet mine. They are glassy, and I’m not quite sure if it’s from the subzero temperature, but on second thought, it’s not that.
“I did, Ethan, you know that’s-” She bites her lip, silencing herself even as I interrupt her misplaced sadness.
“Shh, you really don’t know, do you?”
“Know what?”
“You’re pregnant?” I tip her chin, since she’s dropped her head, and my finger is perfectly placed to close her dropped jaw at my statement.
“I’m what, now? I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure I’d know if I was pregnant.” She pulls back, eyes wide and staring at me as if I’ve lost my mind.
“Would you? Because you didn’t know last time. If I recall correctly, I believe Sheila was the one that told you.”
“Yeah, she did but-”
“-But nothing, angel, I know this body, and it’s carrying my baby.” Under the blanket I move my hand to rest over her tummy.
“Ethan, please, I don’t want you to get excited, fuck! Look at your face. Even if you’re right-”
“-I’m right.” I jump in with my absolute certainty. She shakes her head. Her tone is tinged with hope and hesitation.
“Even if you’re right, and by some miracle I have fallen pregnant, it must be very early days for me to really not know.”
“So?”
“So, the early weeks are always the most vulnerable, so please, please, don’t get your hopes up.”
“Can you pull over a moment.” I call out to the driver and he steadies the carriage to a stop outside of the Ritz Carlton.
“Here, take this with you.” I pull the white stick from deep in my coat pocket.
“Hmm?” A deep crease forms on the bridge of her nose as she tries to work out the object I’m handing to her. Her eyes widen comically with recognition.
“You said you need to pee, so go pee, on that stick.” I hold the stick in front of her face and nod toward the lavish entrance of the hotel.
“You want me to take a pregnancy test in the ladies at the Ritz Carlton?”
“Well, you could go in the bushes, but you might get arrested.” I tease.
“Ethan, I can’t.” Her head twists between the luxurious hotel and me.
“I can drag you in there if you’d prefer?”
“Oh, for fuck sake.” She huffs, roughly pushing the blanket free of our legs.
“I may ask to borrow the driver’s whip if you continue with the potty mouth, angel.”
“There are no children about, and you’re being an arse.“
“Don’t you want to know?” I counter and despite her reservations, I know i’ve got her. She snatches the stick and jumps down from the carriage. My phone buzzes in my pocket, but I know it’s not her, since she’s flipping me the bird just before disappearing into the grand foyer of the hotel. I swipe the screen and answer the unknown number.
“Ethan Cates. Oh, hello, Mrs. Jennings. Yes, we’re in New York for a short break. Yes, it is quite beautiful this time of year. It’s Ada’s favourite city. Do you need any other information? If you need anything at all, please feel free, we are open books. As you know, both Ada and I are extremely keen to adopt and-” Mrs Jennings interrupts and fills me in with our application.
“Thank you, and, yes, I understand. I will call you just as soon as we land.” I slip my phone in my pocket and am surprised when Ada drops into the seat beside me and buries herself up to her neck in the fur blanket.
“That was quick..well?”
“I haven’t checked, I just splashed and dashed. I hate using facilities when I’m not a patron.”
“You’re so strange, it’s not like they have toilet police, it’s not McDonalds.”
“McDonalds has toilet police?”
“Some do. Come on, let me see.” She’s holding the stick hostage somewhere in her many layers.
“Ethan, you’re getting all excited, please don’t.”
“I’m all excited for a very good reason. Mrs. Jennings just phoned, and not only did we pass with flying colours, they have twin boys they would like us to consider.” I still have my palm flat waiting for her to give me the pregnancy test. She slaps it down into my lap and grabs it.
“Twins, Ethan?” Her face lights up with utter joy, and she easily eclipses every illumination in this city.
“Yes, they are four years old and have been in foster care since their mother died a year ago.” I tell her the limited amount of information Mrs. Jennings gave me.
“Oh, my god, Ethan can we do twins?” She asks, but I know it’s not really a question.
“Baby, we can do anything.” I pull her into my arms, kiss the top of her head, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so damn happy. She shifts a little and pulls the reason for stopping the carriage from her sleeve. I’d almost forgotten.
“I hope you’re right, Ethan, because I’m pregnant.”
“Best Christmas ever!”

2.
Ho Ho Ho
A Choices Short Story

This is set after The Only Choice – The First Christmas as Mr & Mrs Stone

“I want Patrick to drive you.” Daniel states in his usual non-negotiable tone, but lucky for me, he is half-way across the country.
“I did hear you the first time you said that.” I smile but try not to sound to smug.
“And yet, for some reason, we are still having this conversation,” he clips.
“Not ‘for some reason’ Daniel, it’s Christmas Eve, and it hasn’t stopped snowing since last night. If he drops me at Tom’s after my lunch with Sofia and Marco, he’s likely to get stranded there until New Year.” I repeat, but I’m not really sure why.
“And?” His flat tone requires me to take a deep slow breath and another. Remember this is just one of reasons you love him, Bethany, one of the many.
“And,” I exhale slowly and keep my voice level and yet assertive. I could do without being dismissed as hormonal, if my tone starts to sound hysterical, which it does tend to do when he is being infuriating. “I’m sure he would rather spend Christmas with his newborn baby, rather than me, my Dad and you, if you make it.”
“Oh, baby I will make it.” He rumbles low and certain.
“Good, now let me go. I have a quick family lunch at the restaurant and then a train to catch.”
“Damnit, Bethany, I mean it, fuck! Tell me why the hell I am agreeing to this?”
“Because, you would do anything for your pregnant wife, and, despite your current Mr. Scrooge demeanour, you know I’m right, and you wouldn’t want Patrick to miss Christmas with his family anymore than I do.
“Hmm.” He mutters a tacit agreeing sound, but I know he is far from happy.
“I can’t have Dad on his own all over Christmas and our apartment isn’t exactly Great Dane friendly.” I argue.
“He has a son, too, you know?” he points out flatly, and I am thankful we’re not on a video call, because I roll my eyes to the heavens at this circular conversation.
“Ethan’s still traveling. I think he’s in New Zealand at the moment.”
“Fucking Ethan.”
“Daniel,” I exhale, exasperation seeping from every pore.
“Baby, I am so far from fucking happy about this-”
“Oh, oh, oh,” I pant out a pained interruption.
“What? What is it, baby, what’s wrong?” He barks his panicked questions, and I puff out the answer as I try and shift position and dislodge the tiny foot trying to wedge itself between my ribs.
“Nothing, just a kick, right under the ribs. Man, I think this little one’s got your big feet.” I moan, but let out a light laugh so he knows I’m not in any real pain.
“Put me on video. I need to see you.” He demands and I know better than to argue with that tone. It’s born out of nothing but concern and a desperate desire to protect what is his, at any cost.
I switch the call to video, and my cheeks instantly ache with the stretch of my smile when his handsome face fills the small screen. Piercing deep blue eyes are filled with misplaced worry. His thick brows furrows, framing his intense gaze.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“Daniel, I’m fine.” I respond with a tender smile, and I touch the screen and trace a line over his lips.
“Show me?”
“Show you what exactly?” I shake my head but notice he isn’t smiling.
“Give me a full body scan.” He demands, his face stony and serious. I chuckle, but my mouth quickly drops open with disbelief.
“You’re not joking?”
“Did I sound like I might be?”
“Um, no. I do forget how crazy protective you can be sometimes.” I quip.
“Then I will need to remind you,” he states, and I shiver at his sensual tone but also my heart clenches at his expression. His gorgeous face is clearly pained, with a snapshot of unbearable memories that I know still haunt him. It’s been nearly four months since he rescued me and saved our baby from Angel. A very dark time for us both, and something that no matter how many times I tell him, that he is the reason I am alive, he continues to carry the burden of blame. I flash a much brighter smile pushing the darkness away. It will take time.
“Okay, but I think I’m going to need a wide screen to capture it all.” I joke.
“Bethany.” His tone is a grumble of disapproval at my comment, but I can no longer see his face as I slowly hover the phone up the length of my body.
“Slow down on my bump.” He calls out, and I stop, holding the screen just at the crest of my tummy and hold the position just above my outtie belly button. “So damn beautiful.” He mutters and I can hear the smile in his voice as it drops low and sweet.
“Happy?” I give him a few seconds before pulling the screen up to my own face. His smile is still very apparent even if I can see the tell-tale twitch of muscle tension in his jaw.
“Not in the least, bit I am satisfied you are and our baby are at least healthy.”
“Healthy and kicking up a storm.” I add.
“I think someone’s excited for Christmas.” His eyes dip to my bump, and I shake my head.
“Not too excited, I still have two months and I am not giving birth unless you are by my side.”
“Damn right you’re not.”
“And I’d really like not to spend our second Christmas apart, either, so go finish your meeting and hurry home to Tom’s.”
“Nothing is keeping me from you, baby, I promise.” He states with such certainty I feel all warm inside, as if his words are like a huge protective blanket that wraps not only my body, but my world, keeping it safe.
“And you are a man of your word.” I grin.
“Yes, I am.”
“Okay, look I’m going to grab a cab and go over to drop Sofia and Marco’s presents at the restaurant and then I will head off. I’ll call you when I safe at Tom’s.”
“You’ll be at the restaurant for how long?”
“An hour, two hours tops. The whole family will be there, and it will be impossible to cut the visit any shorter. I’ll be on the train by four, I promise.”
“Call me before you leave the restaurant and again when you arrive at Tom’s,” he snaps, and I can feel all that tension like a wave crashing through the phone.
“Yes.” I confirm.
“I mean it, Bethany. I am not happy about this, so you will call me, or you will have to explain to your father, why you can’t sit down for Christmas lunch.”
“With the size of this bump, the over the knee threat isn’t holding much water, Mr. Stone.” I sass.
“Who said anything about over the knee?”
“Fine, fine, I’ll call.” I huff but don’t hide the creep of my own wicked grin at his sensual threat. “I love you, Mr. Stone.”
“Not as much as I love you, Mrs. Stone.” He ends the call before I can argue, not that there would be much point.

***********************

I step carefully from the black cab as the snow has started to settle, and the last thing I need is a broken leg. I have a small bag of presents to hand over and my light courier bag with the essentials, phone, purse and kindle. Patrick delivered our luggage and each other’s gifts earlier in the week, because I knew I didn’t want him driving me down today, and I really didn’t want to struggle with them myself. My decision to cancel Patrick may have been a surprise for Daniel, but I had it all planned. I hand my money over to the cab driver, pull my hat low and sink down into the multiple layers of wool and cashmere protecting me from the elements.
The restaurant is closed to the public, and I have to knock to get the attention of one of the many family members inside. Sofia swings the door wide and snatches my arm to haul me into the rich aroma and welcome heat of my former home. The place is crammed with Sofia and Marco’s family, Anthony senior and junior, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents and grandkids. It’s Christmas chaos, and I can’t wait for my own family Christmases to be filled with just as much love and happiness as is bursting at the seams in this room.
“I’m putting this bag behind the bar, Sofs, but it’s got all the presents in it, so don’t forget it, please.” I hang over the counter top as best I can in my shape and drop the bag onto a ledge with a space between the glasses.
“As if.” She scoffs, and whereas she has been known to be forgetful, not when gifts are concerned, so I’m not worried. I start to unravel from my many layers and she helps by taking each garment to hang up, until I am no longer sweltering. “Bets, you look so beautiful with your big belly.” She pats my bump and beams, her eyes start to glisten.
“Feeling broody by any chance?” I raise a skeptical brow.
“I wasn’t, but every time I see you, I’m sorely tempted, you wear it so well.” She winks at me and casts a wicked glance at Paul, her husband, who is standing just beside her and by the stunned look on his face, deliberately within earshot. She pulls me into her arms and hugs the breath from my lungs. “Does he look scared?” She whispers conspiratorially.
“Terrified.” I reply with a light laugh and step around her when she releases her hug, so I can offer some comfort to poor Paul.
“Hey, Bets,” Paul leans in to kiss my cheek, his wide worried eyes dart between me, my bump, and his now giggling wife.
“She’s teasing you, Paul, you know she has a well structured life plan, and babies are scheduled in about four years time, I believe?” I reassure him.
“Well, that’s what I thought, but-”
“No buts, babe, I want to travel the world before we reproduce.” Sofia playfully pinches his cheek as she interrupts.
“You can still travel the world with children, you know?” I object.
“You can?” Sofia looks unsure.
“You just have to take more luggage.”
“Like she doesn’t take enough as it is,” Paul teases.
“I take what I need, although I guess it wouldn’t be such a chore if we had a private jet like you, Mrs. Stone.” She quips.
“Aaand that’s where we will leave this conversation.” I shake my head and feel my cheeks pink. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with my new lifestyle and the mind-boggling level of luxury, even if Daniel tells me frequently to just ‘suck it up’. I am grateful, but also more than a little overwhelmed.
“Fine,” Sofia rolls her eyes and lets out a light laugh. “Come on, Marco is out in the back, and Mama wants to hug the bump, too. I can’t believe you’re not spending Christmas with us again this year.” She pouts as she threads her arm through mine and leads me toward the kitchen.
“Well, last year wasn’t exactly planned, and this year I didn’t want Tom all on his own. I know your parents invited him, too, but he has the dogs. Honestly, I’m looking forward to Christmas in the country, snowed in with a large log fire, great food and no drama.” I confess with a wide grin.
“You think you’ll get snowed in?” Her big brown eyes widen with worry, but I give a light shrug, because honestly I have no idea.
“If it keeps falling like this, it’s possible. Actually that’s my only worry with Daniel’s meeting today. He is over in Hampshire meeting someone from the Ministry of Defence, and I think the snow is really bad over there.”
“You know nothing will stop him being with you at Christmas, right?” She scoffs at the absurd notion.
“That’s what I’m worried about. I don’t want him travelling if it’s not safe. I’d rather spend the day without him than beside his bed in the hospital, or worse.”
“Jeeze, Bets,” She rolls eyes dramatically.
“Sorry, it’s the hormones. I go from rational to scary unstable in nought point zero seconds. Something to look forward to when you do decide to start a family.” I offer a rather flat laugh and try to brush off my dark thoughts.
“Good to know.” She shakes her head, her eyes wide and her lips pulled into a distorted grimace that looks so comical, my laugh is much more genuine this time.

Joe and Marco are in the kitchen and I spend way too long and eat way too much perched on the bench seat like old times, but it feels good to catch up and just chit-chat. Marco is looking to spread his wings and work outside of the family business, but he is unsure what to try and Joe will be glad to see the back of him, or so he says. After I have wished everyone Happy Christmas and kissed every cheek and absorbed all the hugs, I am feeling exhausted and decide I really need to be heading off to get my train. I slip my coat back on, pull my hat over my ears and start to wind the long scarf around my neck.
“I can’t believe Daniel is letting his pregnant wife get the train.” Marco’s tone is derisive, and he still has this look of distaste whenever he mentions my husband’s name.
“He isn’t, and he is not happy about it. I didn’t tell him.” I correct his accusation.
“Man, you’re going to pay for that.” Sofia squeals out a high pitched giggle that thankfully just seems to confuse her brother. Ground, swallow me now for oversharing with my best friend.
“Okay, guys, I will call you tomorrow.”
“And when you get to Tom’s safe and sound.” Marco adds with a warning scowl and a tone filled with concern.
“Yes, I promise.” I swing my bag over my shoulder and pull them both in for a final hug. Marco then unlocks and opens the front door for me.
“Isn’t that Daniel’s GL pulling up?” Marco tips his head as the big black beast of a car squeezes into a space just outside the entrance to the restaurant. My heart skips, and I flash the widest smile. How the hell did he manage that? My head whips round in a double-take, but looking again I can see the driver isn’t Daniel. I am only momentarily disappointed, because now I am just hugely confused. Tom is sitting in Daniel’s car that is now parked in a no parking zone, and he is getting out of the car.
“Looks like I got here just in time.” Tom’s deep voice booms over the noise of the rush hour traffic. He slams the door and strides toward me. I am completely dumbstruck. He shakes Marco’s hand and kisses Sofia on the cheek, wishes them Merry Christmas, but I am still dazed, and I now look like an idiot with my jaw dropped open. He winks and tips my mouth closed.
“You didn’t really think your husband would let his heavily pregnant wife travel on her own, did you? This is Daniel we’re talking about here.” He shakes his head and lets out a low incredulous laugh.
“He called you?” I stutter.
“Yes, and I’m a little cross you didn’t. I happen to completely agree with him on this. Anyway, I hopped on the train because if I was going to drive here from home, I might’ve missed you. I picked up your car though, because I didn’t fancy risking the trains. So shall we?” He offers his arm, and I slide mine through his. I should’ve known.
Sofia and Marco disappear back into the restaurant now that I am safely in the car, and Tom’s pulls out into the thick traffic, and we begin our slow crawl out of the city. He’s right though, this is better than braving the crush of the trains.

The traffic is gridlocked, and the snow is falling thick and fast. The white sparkly blanket that covers anything stationary is so pretty, but I take no pleasure in the unusually festive flurry. All I can think about is Daniel travelling in this, and my stomach just knots, and I feel like I’m going to throw up. I open the window a fraction to let some icy fresh air in.
“You okay, sweetheart?” Tom’s hand reaches across, and he places it over mine. I give a brief nod, but my smile is forced. “Have you heard from him?”
“No.” I give a short shake of my head.
“He’ll be fine. I’m sure of it.” His confidence I would share at any other time. Daniel is a force of nature, determined and unstoppable, but even he can’t fight the elements and likely road closures.
“When did is last snow like this Tom?”
“I don’t think it’s ever snowed like this.” He chuckles.
“Exactly, and everything usually grinds to a halt at a couple of centimetres. We’re just not geared up for this kind of weather.” My pessimism is entirely justified as we pass abandoned car after abandoned car on the verges.
“He’ll get home for Christmas, Bethany.”
“That’s actually what I’m worried about now. I think I would rather he was safe than trying to travel.” My soft confession seems to surprise him.
“We’re travelling, how is that different?”
“We’re not that far off main roads, that have been cleared and gritted for the last twenty-four hours. Daniel is in the middle of nowhere, and he’s not driving a four-by-four.” I point out and his face softens with understanding.
“Want to talk about something else?”
“It won’t stop me worrying, but it might be a good idea.” I smile and really try and mean it this time.
“OK, have you heard from Ethan at all?” Tom’s tone brightens, his attempt to lift my mood is admirable and appreciated. I wish it was that easy.
“We had a Skype conversation the other day. God, it was lovely to actually see him. I hated when he just went silent like that. It was like he vanished. It must’ve driven you crazy!”
“He’s done it before, but, no, it’s not my favourite time. He bottles it all up and seems to have to sort it himself. It’s just his way, but he knows I’m here if he needs me.”
“And me.” I offer and Tom squeezes my hand once more, taking comfort from me this time.
“I’m glad he contacted you. He’s obviously starting to feel a little better, and he’s planning on coming back in the Summer. He mentioned spending some time at his place in Cornwall. I don’t care where he settles, but I prefer him back in this country. When he’s travelling like that I know he’s still not quite right, but when he’s home, whichever home he chooses, it means he’s feeling like himself again.”
“I’ll be happier when he’s back, too. I hate that he blamed himself so much.”
“It helped that you made him believe your sister did actually love him, Bets, but I think it’s going to take time, and I doubt he’ll risk his heart again anytime soon.” Tom’s words are heartbreaking, and I just hope they aren’t true.
“Yes, I did get that impression. I hope he does, though. He has a big heart to give, and it would be a crime keeping that to himself.”
“Well, staying in Cornwall is definitely a step in the right direction. He loves that place.”
“Me, too. We actually considered moving down that way when the baby is born, but I didn’t really want to be so far from Sofia and you.”
“I’m glad, for purely selfish reasons. It is a lovely part of the country and all, but I very much enjoy the time we spend together now, and since I never got the chance to be there for you growing up, I want to be there for my first grandchild. I want to be close for whenever you might need me.” He beams the widest smile.
“I will definitely be cashing in that favour.” I shift in my seat as the little monster decides to do a full-on somersault in my tummy. “If the activity levels of this little one inside me are any indication, I think I will be giving birth to the Energizer bunny, so I’m going to need all the help I can get.” I only half-joke.
“Giving you trouble?”
“Nah, and I doubt bump will be half as demanding as Daddy.” I scoff.
“No, that’s for sure. I mean, I would’ve offered to come and get you if he’d given me the chance when he called. Does he bark orders like that all the time?”
“Not unless he wants to wear a permanent sport cup for protection. No, Daniel doesn’t bark orders to me, just to others, and mostly when he’s frustrated with a situation he can’t control. Like me, for instance.” Tom chuckles at my disclosure, and I bite back a sensual smile and feel the prickles of goosebumps dance across my skin just thinking that Daniel is much more menacing when he’s quietly giving orders.
The traffic has started to thin, but we are still crawling at a tortuous fifteen miles an hour. There are cars abandoned on the hard shoulder, with tell-tale skid-marks where they lost the battle to remain on the road. Some are in ditches. It’s carnage, and it’s getting worse. The windscreen wipers are going ten to the dozen and we can barely see five feet in front of us for the thick flakes and glare from the near white-out conditions. My phone vibrates in my pocket before Daniel’s name flashes on the car hands-free display.
“Daniel, are you OK?” I can’t hide the anxious tone in my voice, and it doesn’t help that he sounds just as concerned.
“Bethany, are you with Tom?”
“I am, thank you for calling him. We’re nearly home, but the weather is really bad.”
“I know, we’re just leaving the base.”
“Daniel, I don’t want you driving in this, please.” I plead, and I can already feel the tingle of tears and knots of fear twist in my gut.
“Bethany, I will be fine. I’m not missing Christmas with you, baby.” He softens his tone, but his words just make me more fearful.
“I mean it, Daniel, please.” My voice catches, and Tom takes his eyes off the road for a second to glance my way. I quickly shake my head and point for him to just focus on the road. “There must be a hotel you can stay in, just until it stops snowing, at least.” I argue.
“Bethany, don’t be ridiculous.” He dismisses my suggestion, but I knew he would.
“Heavily pregnant woman here.” The pitch in my voice rises with my anxiety levels, equal and earnest. “I’m not being ridiculous. I am asking you to not travel in this storm, for me…please. I would rather have you a day or two late than not at all.”
“Baby.” He tries to soothe me, but I just can’t.
“Please, Daniel. You have to promise. The roads are horrendous. You have to promise me.” I have tears falling now. I know I’m a little unstable at the moment but I am also genuinely terrified of him having to drive nearly two hundred miles across country in the worst snowstorm to hit this island in a hundred years. It said very clearly on the radio, don’t travel unless it’s an emergency. “It’s not an emergency.”
“It is to me.” He counters.
“Please, Daniel, for me and the baby.” I have no shame, and I don’t care. He is my world, end of.
“Damnit, Bethany.” He clips.
“I know, desperate times call for low blows.” I let out a slow breath because I know he’s going to agree. I just have to make sure. “You have to say it, Daniel.”
“I promise I won’t drive until the snow stops.” He growls, and I can almost see that muscle twitching in his jaw. I hate this as much as he does, but I won’t forgive myself if anything happens. I can’t not have him in my life…not now…not ever again.
“Thank you.” I feel weight lift as I exhale.
“I’ll call you when I’ve found somewhere to stay and you call me when you get safely to Tom’s”
“We’re just pulling up the drive, so you can consider us home safe and sound.”
“Good, at least one fucking thing has gone right today.” He grumbles, and my heart pinches at the sad fact that now I will be spending Christmas without him.
“I’m sorry, baby, but I’d probably go into labour with the worry if I thought you were out in this.” I have made my case, but I just want him to understand exactly what is going through his hormonally challenged wife’s mind at this precise moment.
“I know, and it’s the only reason I have agreed.” he clips, but his tone is soft. This is awful, but it’s still better than the alternative. “I love you.”
“Not as much as I love you.”

It’s getting late, and I spoke to Daniel just before dinner. He promised to call at midnight, but I’m flagging. I’ve had as lovely a Christmas Eve as I can muster, but I think Tom knows my heart isn’t really in it, and to be fair, his probably isn’t, either, with Ethan being half way around the world. I said goodnight and decided to have a soak in the tub and try and stay awake for Daniel’s call. My bones ache but not as much as my heart. The warm water feels nice, and when I wrap the soft silk bathrobe around my swollen tummy I feel a wave of loneliness wash over me. Walking to the double height window that overlooks the front lawn, I gaze out into the darkness. My eyes take some time to adjust to the change of light. The clear sky is beginning to break through the heavy snow clouds and the fall of flakes isn’t nearly as heavy as it was, but it’s still too hazardous to be on the roads. I’m hoping tomorrow or maybe Boxing Day. The moon peeks through for a brief moment, and the countryside is washed with an ethereal glow. The blanket of snow has transformed the view with countless millions of sparkles, like diamonds reflecting the light, and it couldn’t be a more magical moment to share with someone you love. I let out a heavy sigh. I am starting to feel sorry for myself, even though I insisted he didn’t travel.
I am about to step away from the window when an almighty roar thunders from just outside, and the view from only a second ago is gone. I am looking now at a complete white-out, snow is lifted and swirled into a hurricane around the house and grounds. I can’t see a thing, The noise is deafening, and the windows rattle with the vibrations of whatever is happening. It sounds like the apocalypse. My bedroom door bursts open, and I jump. Tom strides into the room and joins me at the window. The snowstorm cyclone is still swirling enough to block the view, but I do at least recognise that almighty noise. Those are helicopter blades, but they are much louder than I’ve heard before, so until the snow settles, I can’t be sure.
“What the hell?” Tom voices my own thoughts, and I shrug, but then my head snaps back to the settling storm.
“Daniel.” I exhale, and every nerve in my body tingles with a sudden mix of excitement, fear and and…I don’t know, but I do know it’s him. I spin in my socks and rush out of the bedroom.
“Don’t run and break your damn leg, Bethany!” Tom calls out, but I don’t slow down. I do, however, grip the bannister rail a little tighter, because he is right, I don’t want to fall now. I reach the front door, breathless, and my heart is beating like a rabbit in the headlights. The door is bolted, but I quickly unlock everything and tug just one side of the double doors open. There is a freezing blast of icy air that rushes me and knocks the breath from my lungs. Holy shit, that’s cold. I wrap my arms around my waist, pulling the silk from my robe closed at the front. Not that it offers any protection from the temperature, but at least I’m not exposing myself. It might not be Daniel…of course, it’s him.
I can see the huge machine now that it has landed. It’s a Chinook, that’s why it sounded like the End of Days as it flew over the house. There is a Royal Air Force emblem on the side and a tall, dark figure has just jumped from the open door. He gives a nod to the pilot, and then starts to walk my way.
The snow is easily two feet deep now, but he just glides through, as causal as you like. As if he is chauffeured everyday by Her Majesty’s finest. The spotlight from the helicopter is obscuring the details on his face, but even so, I can feel his gaze on me. The little hairs on my neck all prick to life, and it has very little to do with the sub-zero temperatures. He kicks his shoes free of snow on the steps as he strides up toward me. Without breaking gait, he steps flush against my body and walks us both back into the warmth of the house. His arm sweeps around my back, and his other hand threads around my neck. His lips crash into mine, and once more he captures my heart. Best. Christmas. Ever.

His lips are cold, but meld with mine, and heat soon burns a path from me to him. His tongue dives and takes, dancing with mine, urgent and almost as frantic as my heart, which is pounding fiercely in my chest. He breaks the kiss and drops his forehead to mine. His smile is so stunning, I have to take a moment before I can form a coherent thought. I take a few seconds more before the words form.
“You’re here.” I gasp.
“I promised I would never miss Christmas.”
“You did, but-”
“I also promised I wouldn’t drive.” He interrupts.
“But how?”
“Hitched a ride, that’s all, baby.” He grins, a perfect mix of wicked and nonchalant.
“You’re really here.” I’m delightfully dazed.
“Yes, I am, and I am ready to unwrap my present.” He growls and drops his finger to the bow at my waist. There is a deep cough from behind, and I snicker.
“Glad you could make it after all, Daniel.” Tom gives a two finger salute and a wry smile.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Daniel replies but keeps his incendiary glare on me.
“So I see.” Tom chuckles and turns to walk back up the stairs. Daniel’s eyes never leave mine, but once Tom’s footsteps completely fade, and we hear the click of the bedroom door closing, he speaks.
“Ready to give me my present now, Mrs. Stone?” His voice is so deep, I shiver from tip to toe.
“Yes, sir.”

“Place your hands on the marble and keep your eyes on me. Don’t close them.” He demands and my mouth goes dry. I try to swallow to create some moisture, but it’s an effort, as I’m kind of on fire.
“Daniel.” I moan out my plea. I am standing in the bathroom facing that god-awful mirror, with my huge ugly belly barely covered, and he’s going to make me watch. I like watching, but not when I look like this. I have gotten used to each stage as my body has changed, and I love that I am carrying our baby, but I don’t particularly like the way I look. He does, though, and I struggle to get my head around that.
“No, Bethany. If you close your eyes, I won’t let you come.” His gravelly tone and sensual threat make me whimper.
“Damnit.”
“You are so fucking beautiful and only seeing me…worshiping every inch of this perfect body, can you start to grasp that?” he clarifies with absolute seriousness.
“Daniel, I look like a whale.” I protest.
“You look utterly beautiful. Now, do I have to gag you as well, because I only have one tie with me so I’ll have to borrow one from Tom for tomorrow.”
“Why would you need a tie for tomorrow. It’s Christmas Day? ” I twist my head so I am looking directly into his crystal blues.
“To dress for dinner, I assume.” His brow arched with query.
“Um, I don’t think it’s that formal.” I bite back a smile. For a moment I thought he was teasing but I can see he meant it, and I realise that would be his mother’s idea of Christmas talking.
“Fine, not what I want to be discussing right now, Mrs. Stone.” He dismisses the conversation just as quickly.
“Sorry, but no gag and I’ll try to keep them open, okay?” I face the mirror and draw in a deep breath, enjoying the shiver of anticipation fire across my skin.
“Oh, baby, you’ll do more than try. I know how much you like to come.” He pushes one hand lightly between my shoulder blades, and I tilt forward. My hands reach for the cool marble of the vanity unit, and I hold his gaze in the reflection of the enormous mirror. He steps behind me and uses his foot to nudge my ankles wider apart. I can instantly feel the heat pool between my legs and wish I had managed a furtive squeeze of my thighs before I was spread wide. His hands glide over the silk of my robe and stop to pick at the bow at the front. The material slides open and I fight the innate urge to close my eyes. I’m not hideous, but I’m far from attractive, my tummy is stretched, and large veins colour the skin. Even my belly button no longer wants any part of my body and is trying its damnedest to escape.
“Perfect.” His words skim my skin with his sweet breath at my neck. He holds my gaze, and I feel the truth in his words like a vice grip on my heart. He thinks I’m perfect…like this. He pulls the robe from my shoulders and follows the material with long sensual strokes of his firm hands. His lips lightly trace a path of kisses along the side of my neck, down my spine and back up again. He keeps checking intermittently that I am obeying his command and keeping my eyes open. I am, and with every hum and moan of desire that breaks from deep in his chest, every whispered word of pleasure he utters, I begin to see what he sees.
“Daniel,” I plead. My neediness knows no bounds with my hormones these days, and he barely has to lay a hand on me, and I want to come. So with him gloriously naked, pressed against my body, touching, stroking, and reverently caressing every inch, I am all but ready to explode.
“What to do to you, baby?” He mutters against my skin.
“You,” I sigh.
“I guessed as much, but you are going to need to be more specific.” He pauses, and I find I hold my breath until his lips curl in a devious smile, and he speaks again. His eyes dance with a dark fire that I feel burning deep inside of me. “Do you want my fingers stroking your clit until your scream?”
“Oh, god!” I pant out my held breath in an exasperated puff of air.
“Eyes open!” He reprimands, just as I am about to screw my eyelids tight at his carnal tone and erotic words. I let out a whimper and bite my lips tight in lieu of shutting my eyes. “Or would you like my mouth, my tongue sliding along your folds, drinking in your wetness.” He croons, and I start to tremble.
“Please…” I cry out and try to inch my legs together, but his own legs have mine pinned wide, with his thick cock jutting against my bottom. I tilt my hips and wantonly push back against his impressive erection.
“Oh, something very specific you want, baby?” He chuckles into my neck, and I sag back into his strong frame.
“Yes, please, Sir.” His eyes darken, and I feel him move, so the tip of his cock is just nudging my soaking wet entrance. His large hands cup my aching breasts, and he squeezes at the same time sinking his full length deep inside me in one delicious thrust. His deep blue eyes shine and sear right through me. He holds my gaze, but honestly I couldn’t look anywhere else if my life depended on it. He owns me.
“Oh, God, Daniel, I’m not going to last…you feel so good.” I moan as I feel the first twinge of muscles tighten inside my core.
“I know, baby…Just give me everything…let go, but don’t you dare close your eyes.” He pulls back and pumps slowly back inside. He is so deep and gentle, grinding his hips at that perfect angle that I feel in my toes. A tiny spark of raw energy crackle at the base of my spine, ready to ignite and explode.
“Harder.” I beg.
“No, baby, I’ll make you come, but like this. You don’t need hard tonight…you need adored.” He secures me against his body; we’re perfectly aligned, and I can feel every inch of him, inside and outside of my body. It’s heaven, and as he continues his sublime languid strokes, I let go. My body takes over, tiny rippling contractions morph into seismic waves that seize and assault my body. My hands grip tighter as my whole body starts to quake and shudder. Daniel’s eyes darken, and he bites down on my neck, his tempered control finally cracking, but only in a way he will allow. Nothing feral, hard or risky, just a calculated outlet for his own coursing desire.
I scream out and am thankful his strong embrace is holding me upright as my legs give way. His grip tightens as I feel him thicken inside me. He pushes himself to the hilt, chasing his own release, groaning into my skin but never breaking eye contact. I couldn’t feel more worshiped if I sat on a throne. He certainly looks at me like I am a Queen, and I only feel that way because he is my King.

He dips and easily lifts me into his arms as if I am no weight at all, and kissing the tip of my nose, he carries me into the bedroom. He lays me down like I am the most precious cargo and slides in next to me. His arms thread my body, his large palms flat against our bump as his body assumes the big spoon position. The baby rolls in my tummy under his touch, some sort of dance that always happens every time Daniel lays his hands like this.
“Shh, baby, let your mum get her rest.” He whispers over my shoulder.
“I don’t think that’s going to work tonight.” I sniff out a light laugh.
“No? Why?”
“It’s been a bit of a day and night for that matter. I think little one here is a little excited Daddy’s home.” I place my hand over his, and our fingers entwine.
“Mummy was a little excited, too.” I can feel his lips curl in a smile, resting as they are against my hair.
“More than a little.” I bark out a dirty laugh, all tension and anxiety has left my body, and I am a happy, pliant, blissfully pleased, pregnant wife.
“Happy Christmas, Bethany.” He presses the sweetest kiss into my hair, and I twist my neck to look into his eyes.
“It is now.” I whisper and finally let my eyes close. I don’t need to keep them open to see what he sees…I feel what he feels…I feel it in my soul.

The End