I’m so excited to finally share this scene. I’ve missed these two so much! I hope you love seeing the gang as much as I loved bringing them to you.
If you haven’t read Consolation & Conviction be sure to check out The Consolation Duet Page for information on the series.
Copyright © 2016 Corinne Michaels
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or publisher.
“Sweetheart? Could you come in here?” Liam calls from the living room where he’s supposed to be putting up the tree. This can’t be good.
“What the hell?” I gasp as I walk into the room. Only him. Only my husband would have the tree roped to the ceiling and tied to the leg of the couch and the piano. “Liam! It’s not a tent! It’s a tree.”
“It kept falling, so I fixed it,” he beams with pride.
I don’t even have words to explain the idiocy that resides in this otherwise gorgeous, talented, and actual genius of a man. I mean, really? He tied the tree up?
“Fix it again! How can you think this works? Aarabelle is going to trip over the ropes, not to mention your son who puts everything in his mouth!” I shake my head in disbelief.
He crosses his arms and looks over his handiwork. “It’ll be fine. It’s upright, which it wasn’t fifteen minutes ago. Plus, I didn’t even have to use tape.”
My life with Liam is always full of surprises. He keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure. It’s Shane’s first Christmas and we’ve gone all out. We were in Arkansas visiting my parents, then we flew up to Ohio to see his dad. Luckily, we were able to get home to have Christmas under our own roof. But that meant that we got the last tree on the lot. It was two feet too tall for our ceiling, and they cut it down, but it’s still too big.
This is just ludicrous. “You can’t be serious, Liam! No. There’s rope practically nailed to the ceiling!”
I start to walk out of the room before I say something stupid—holiday cheer and all that—but his strong arms wrap around my torso. As much as I want to fight it, I can’t. His touch causes my heart to swell, and my anger to ebb. Everything about our time together is special.
“Lee,” he murmurs in my ear. “There’s a chance I won’t be here next Christmas. Do you really want to spend this one pissed about a tree?”
My head lolls to the side as his scruff rubs against my neck. “Why do you make it so easy to forgive you?”
“Because you love me.”
“And yet you piss me off constantly.”
“Athair!” Aarabelle runs in the room, greeting Liam with the Gaelic for “father” and stops, looking up at the tree. “Uh oh,” she says as she turns to Liam.
We both laugh and he kisses my neck. “Go make us a plate for Santa, woman.” He slaps my ass, gently pushing me towards the door.
I turn and glare at him. “You’re lucky you’re so hot.”
I head into the kitchen and arrange the plate of protein bars—apparently Santa needs to refuel at our house, and no one was letting me bake…they’ve been to that shitshow—then grab a beer. These were Liam’s demands—Santa needs a “man snack” because “That cookies and milk bullshit ain’t gonna keep him going. He’s got shit to do.” So, we’ll apparently teach our children that Santa likes health bars and booze at our stop.
“Lee!” Liam yells. “Get your butt out here!”
Our house looks like a bomb went off. Things are strewn around every room, bags clog the hallway, it’s a death trap. I grab the plate and Sam Adams and head into the living room.
I almost drop the plate.
I’m actually shocked that I don’t drop the plate.
The tree is still hog tied. However, he now has Aarabelle tangled up in the lights, and Shane is banging together two ornaments that have miraculously not yet shattered. Liam is on a ladder with the net lights. “Did your parents ever put up a tree?” I ask as I head over to the kids. “How in the five minutes I was gone did you manage to make this worse?”
“Mommy!” Aarabelle turns around tying herself up further. “Pwetty lights!”
“Yes, baby.” I start to untangle her, and take the glass ornaments away from Shane. Once I have them both safely away from their father and his mess that is our tree, I head over to try to help.
Liam throws the lights to the ground. “They won’t go around the rope.”
“You mean the rope nailed to the ceiling?” I roll my eyes. “How did you make it through BUDs? Don’t you guys have to build things and survive with a pack of matches and a stick?”
Liam throws a twig at me. “I’m not MacGyver. Or Chuck Norris?”
“No,” I smirk. “He would have had the tree up, level, and had a fire started in the fireplace at Shane’s age. He could’ve made the tree put itself up while he grilled a side of cow and downed a bottle of whiskey. Chuck Norris is a bad ass.”
“So you have a thing for Chuck Norris?”
“I have a thing for men who can fix things. Unlike my jackass husband who requires rope or duct tape.”
Liam climbs down from the ladder with a gleam in his eyes. His envelopes me as he pulls me close. “I fixed you.”
“I didn’t know I was broken,” I smile.
But he did fix me. He fixed all of us. His love, patience, and persistence are what kept me whole. Liam filled the gaps I didn’t know were there. Now, he’s the glue that holds us all together.
“Not broken, just cracked. Maybe dented a little too.” He leans down and presses his lips to mine before I can retort.
“I’ll give you dented.”
“You could just give me a kiss,” he suggests.
I lean back and let out a heavy breath to toy with him. Liam squeezes me tight and rubs his scruffy chin on my throat. “Liam!” I protest.
“Kiss me,” he demands.
My hands grip his face as I crush my lips to his. He holds me close as his hands glide up my back keeping me against him. The tree tied to the ceiling, the kids wrapped in lights, the mess, and the crazy all fade away. While the kiss is brief, it’s passion mixed with adoration. I lose myself in Liam until someone pulls on my leg.
We break apart with a laugh.
“Mommy! Santa coming?”
I crouch down, tap the tip of her nose, and smile. “Yes, princess. Let’s get ready for bed so Santa can come.”
“I miss the days when she didn’t have some kind of radar for whenever I touch you.”
I laugh. “She just hates when you’re not paying attention to her.”
“Is that so, Aara?” He swoops her into his arms. “Is that it? You want my attention?” he says playfully. She giggles as he tosses her in the air and catches her. I grab Shane as the sounds of her giggles fill the air.
Once we get the kids to bed, Liam starts to bring down all the gifts from the attic. Oh, the joys that are coming when he has to put together Aarabelle’s dollhouse. I’m half excited, half terrified.
“Did you buy the entire toy store?”
“When they’re little it just seems like a lot. Stop bitching. Think of this as a workout. Which by the way, your abs are looking a little less … firm?”
“Funny.” His eyes narrow at my jab. Of course, this is the furthest thing from the truth. Liam works out every day, even if he can’t get to the gym. It was a sight to see him doing push-ups with Aarabelle on his back. A damn sexy sight.
“I thought so.” I shrug, giving him my best innocent smirk.
He stalks forward. “Let’s not forget what happened the last time you insinuated I was fat.”
My mind flashes back to that night. The night when things shifted in our friendship. The night I really saw him differently. I shake my head, “Not this time, Dreamboat. You’ve got work to do.”
His face falls. “Work?”
“Who do you think is going to put together that dollhouse?”
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
“Nope. Get busy.”
He grabs the beer off the table, shoves the excess rope and lights to the side while I attempt to decorate the tree. The next few hours pass as I curse Liam and he curses the toy companies.
Liam throws the screwdriver and the directions over his head. “I swear to God! The people who make these things are evil. They know fathers around the world are up all night trying to figure out where piece J34 is because it’s a screw that looks like all the other damn screws!”
“You use any kind of ‘fixing’ apparatus on that dollhouse and you’ll never get laid again,” I warn.
“You can’t resist me.”
He grabs the paper and gets back to work. After another two hours and countless beers, the dollhouse and Shane’s play gym are put together—correctly, with only a small pile of leftover mystery parts that he conveniently drops in the trash as I put on the bows. We head upstairs, hoping for just a few hours of sleep. I head to the bathroom to get ready, and stop to stare in the mirror. I swear I didn’t have these crow’s feet yesterday.
In the mirror I see Liam leaning against the door. “You look beautiful.”
“You’re perfect, Lee.” He stands behind me and pulls me against his chest. “You have no idea how much I love you, sweetheart.”
I lean back, resting my head against his shoulder. “I have a pretty good idea, but it doesn’t come close to how much I love you.”
We stay like this, letting the moment linger as long as possible. Between our jobs, his absences, two kids, a house, and just life … they’re few and far between.
“Now,” Liam’s husky voice echoes in the room. “I want to open my present.”
His lips find purchase right below my ear. “Do you now? Have you been nice?”
“Very,” he kisses me again.
“Maybe you’re on the naughty list.”
Liam’s tongue glides down my neck as he slips off the strap to my camisole. “Only with you.”
His hands move up my stomach as he cups my breasts. I let out a moan, tilting my head back as he massages and pulls. He grips my hips and spins me. Without a heartbeat passing, his lips find mine. Our tongues slide against each other’s as he holds the back of my head and my ass. We kiss as if we haven’t had each other in months. Our breathing is heavy as he breaks away from me. His eyes lock on mine and he doesn’t have to say anything. I know what he needs—me.
Liam leaves soon, and it’s been weighing heavy on both of us. Another deployment. Another sacrifice of our time from each other, but this is our life, and I knew it was coming.
“I love you. So much.” I let him know the only thing in my heart right now.
“I know. And I love you. Now, shut up so I can show you just how much.”
I press my lips together and Liam lifts my top off. Lucky for me, he’s just wearing his boxers so I have easy access. I roam my hands over every inch of his chest. I marvel in the ridges and planes of his body.
God, I’m a lucky woman.
He hoists me up and places me on the sink. The cold granite causes me to gasp. Liam drops to his knees, pulls my panties off, and throws my legs over his shoulders. My head falls back, hitting the mirror as he swipes his tongue against my clit.
I moan as he continues to drive me to the edge. My hands grip the counter while Liam devours me. He moves in a rhythm that’s both maddening and intoxicating. “Liam,” I beg. “Please, I need you.”
He bites down and I fall apart. I cry out his name as he relentlessly circles and sucks. He stops, removes his boxers, then pulls me to the edge. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart,” he says before entering me slowly.
“Best. Present. Ever.”
After we finish making love, Liam helps me to bed. His arms open wide and I tuck myself into the crook of his shoulder. While cuddling isn’t his favorite thing, he knows how much it means to me. So many nights I’ll spend cold and alone in this bed, so when he’s home, I need his warmth.
We drift off, wrapped up in each other.
“Mommy! Athair! Mommy! Santa tame!” I swear I literally just closed my eyes.
Liam lifts Aara into our bed and pulls her to his chest. “He did?”
“Come see! Come see, Athair! Santa tame!” She squeals as he tickles her.
“Well, let’s go see!” Liam is more excited than anyone. Then again, after putting together a dollhouse for four hours, I can imagine he wants to see the look on her face.
Aarabelle hops down from the bed and runs into Shane’s room. “Wate up, Shane! Santa tame!” She pokes his side through the rails.
I lift him up, and we follow Aarabelle downstairs, her lovely curls fluttering out behind her as she flies.
A knock on the door halts us both. Even still my heart stops a little. That sound takes me back, no matter how hard I try to stop it. I know it’s crazy. I know that Liam is safe right now, but being notified your husband is dead, is something I’ll never forget.
“Expecting someone?” he asks.
“No, are you?”
We haven’t seen anyone while we we did the tour-the-country thing. So I have no idea who could be here at six o’clock in the morning.
Aarabelle rushes to the door, abandoning the presents. Liam scoops her up as I go to get Shane’s bottle. He doesn’t care about anything but his food. My eyes practically bug out of my head when I enter the living room. They’re all here.
Every last one of them.
Jackson, Catherine, Mark, Aaron, and Quinn. At six o’clock in the morning, they’re all here.
“Mommy!” Aarabelle screams as her “uncles” pass her around. “Santa tame to everybody’s house!”
“Merry Christmas! I’ve come to bestow my divine wisdom on this Holy holiday. Give ol’ Father Mark a hug, huh?” Mark heads toward me with his arms wide.
“You’re an idiot. Now when does that ordination expire again?”
“You love me,” he retorts.
He takes a second to take in the scene and starts laughing hysterically. “Dude, you’re a little special you know that? But nice work with the rope.”
I groan. “Do. Not. Encourage. Him. What are you doing here?”
“We missed you, Sparkles.”
“No, seriously, why are you all here?”
Catherine puts her arms out for the baby. “Because we’re family and we wanted to spend Christmas morning with our family.”
Jackson encircles his arm around her waist as she holds Shane. “Liam arranged it. He knew you’d want this Christmas to be special.”
I look over at my husband who is on the floor with Aarabelle. She runs between Mark and Liam, basking in the attention overload. Aaron and Quinn sit on the couch laughing and shoving each other. Catherine and Jackson are in their own little bubble as they gaze at Shane and the dreams for their future. Liam continues to give me things I never knew I needed. He planned this morning for me. Surrounded by the people I love. Sure, they’re a little crazy, but that’s what makes it so perfect. He knew this would be the only gift that mattered, and once again—he gave it to me.
Liam catches my eyes and winks. I head over to him and he pulls me close. “Happy?”
I gaze into his blue eyes, “I’m happy with you.”
“Good,” he kisses my nose. “Merry Christmas, sweetheart. This is only the beginning.”