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Christmas With Julia Kent!


Christmasly Obedient

by Julia Kent


Jeremy dragged the sleigh across the dense snow, his vision obscured by the snowflakes floating before him, fat and lazy but thick as cotton. Living on the coast in Maine, just far enough north to catch snowstorms that immobilized them for days, was beautiful.

But a pain in the ass when it came to simple tasks.

Lydia had asked him to cut a small Christmas tree for their cabin, and a larger one to take to Boston tonight to deliver to Jeddy’s Diner, the restaurant her grandmother and brother co-owned. They’d surprise Madge and Caleb at the diner’s annual Christmas Eve celebration. Lydia’s mother, Sandy, had decided she needed to have the whole family visit her mother. Madge’s heart attack and octogenarian status made time seem to close off, tunneling to a pinpoint.

They needed to enjoy Madge while there was still light. Madge was a tough old bat with an iron will and a no-bullshit approach to life, but even she wasn’t immortal.

Their partner, Mike, was sick with a cold, though Jeremy suspected that being mansick was an excuse to get out of this miserable tree chore. Mike was probably back at home, feet before the fire, laughing his ass off at Jeremy’s gullibility.

“Fuck you,” he muttered to himself. Cursing Mike didn’t make him feel any better, though.

Oddly enough, the sun was shining in the sky, the snowstorm combined with the sunshine. The paradox threw him for a loop. How could the two co-exist?

Then he laughed, a self-deprecating sound as he trudged ahead toward the thick bank of fir trees.

Might as well ask the same question about him and Mike. How could two totally different people be perfectly suited for Lydia?

“Hey!” someone shouted, a man familiar to Jeremy, though he couldn’t see the person. “Jeremy? You out here?”

Adam. Lydia’s brother was home from being on the road, where he represented the marketing and social media interests of the family-run campground. A dark figure, gray and big, became more clear as he got closer. Adam dressed like Jeremy in a thick down coat, with black ski gloves, a balaclava covering his bearded face. A big guy, he wasn’t quite as tall as Jeremy – who was more than six and a half feet tall – but he made up for the difference in muscle.

Hulking and burly, with the grace of a guy who charmed people for a living, Adam was a perfect bland of rural Maine and sophisticated Boston.

Eyes like Lydia’s, a pale amber, poked out under the hood of his coat. “Find the right one?”

“Not yet. I’m half afraid to start chopping down a tree trunk and find myself face-to-face with a moose.”

“I don’t blame you. I’ve seen two of them out here before. I’d be more worried about bears, though.”

Jeremy jumped. “Bears?” He nearly pissed himself.

Adam shrugged. At least, Jeremy assumed he did. Hard to tell under all those layers of clothing and coat. “Just don’t show your fear.” His eyes narrowed. “Like you are right now, Jeremy.” His voice dropped low, a man’s timbre that made Jeremy feel stupid. “They’ll smell it on you.”

“That’s because bears fucking terrify me,” he said slowly, not afraid to admit it. “Why do I live here when we could just move to San Diego and live on the beach?”

Adam chuckled and started up a small hill, where a perfect cluster of firs beckoned. “Because my mother would kill you if you made Lydia leave.”

“Get killed by a bear, get killed by Sandy. Looks like my options are limited.”

“I’d take being killed by a bear over Mom any day. Better odds of escaping,” Adam declared. Yanking the sleigh parallel to the tree Adam was eyeing, Jeremy took in some deep breaths, staring up at the tall pines that disappeared like power lines going straight up to the moon. The snow was slowing down. He felt each flake hit his cheeks, the cool landing making him realize he hadn’t shaved in days. Each white snowkiss turned into a wet smack as the powder melted on his stubble, dripping down his chin and making his neck wet.

A sudden flash of Lydia naked, riding him, came with the visceral feeling. He hardened, pulse racing, suddenly needing her so madly his legs started to turn toward home.

“How about this one? Thick around the middle, nice curve to her, and I’ll bet she’ll last as long as we need her,” Adam said, clearly evaluating the tree but fuckall if his words didn’t make Jeremy hornier for Lydia.

Adam’s sister.

“Uh, yeah,” Jeremy stammered, hoping to God Adam couldn’t read minds. “Looks good.”

“Grandma will love it. She’ll hang some Christmas truck nuts all over the damn thing and cackle with glee.”

“Christmas...truck nuts? Do I dare ask?”

“You really want to know?” Adam asked with a laugh every single member of the Charles family used when they talked about Madge.

“No.”

With an expert’s hand that Jeremy appreciated, Adam got down to business, clearing smaller branches from the bottom of the fir, then taking it down with ten minutes of ax work. Five minutes later Jeremy helped him haul the tree onto the sleigh.

“You do the smaller one,” Adam offered, pressing the ax handle into Jeremy’s right hand. Lydia’s father, Pete, did this – showed you how to do something, expected you to pay attention, then made you do it yourself.

Jeremy smiled to himself as he imitated Adam, moving slower. Pete had taught him to take great care around sharp, big blades. He handled the ax with a reverence befitting a tool that could take down a small tree.

And soon enough, the whole thing fell to the side, a muffled flumpf! on the snow indicating his success.

“Well done,” Adam praised him. Thunder rumbled suddenly in the sky. Surely Jeremy was mistaken, his ears confusing something else for the sound.


“Thundersnow,” Adam declared, looking up. “Haven’t heard that in ages.”

“It’s a thing?” Jeremy asked, wiping water off is neck. A burst of cool air chilled his wet skin, making him take inventory of his body. Piping hot torso. Freezing calves and lower thighs. Wet chin and neck.

And a fading hard-on that needed some relief.

He grabbed the sleigh’s rope and began the slow trudge home. Adam was at his heels.

“Hold on! Need to get the smaller tree loaded!”

Jeremy stopped and took a deep breath. The woods felt claustrophobic. Rumbling in the sky made the air sinister. Adam felt it, eyebrows turning down.

“You okay?”

Or maybe Adam didn’t feel it, and Jeremy was going nuts.

“Yeah. Sorry. Distracted.”

“It’s okay. I get it. I can see why this place makes you nervous.”

“Huh?”

Adam finished settling the second tree on the sleigh, trunk to treetop, both stacked neatly. He grabbed the rope from Jeremy and started pulling. With his free arm he pointed to the left. East.

“That’s the cliff where Mike, you know...”

Where Lydia and Jeremy’s partner Mike almost died.

A shiver rippled through every pore of Jeremy’s skin, starting with his neck and shoulder, spreading through his body until the tremors couldn’t be contained. He forced himself out of his frozen stance, unable to look toward the ocean. A strange magnetic sense pulled him toward the cliff where Mike had nearly died last summer.

He moved fast, lifting his feet and stomping through the thick snow, quickly winding himself. He didn’t care.

“Jeremy!” Adam called out, hoofing it to catch up. “Jesus. Sorry, man. I didn’t think it would upset you this much.”

“It shouldn’t,” Jeremy shot back.

But it did.

As the faint outline of cabins at the campground came into focus through the trees and the falling snow, Jeremy’s heart slowed down, the creepy sense that he’d fall over the cliff back there fading. A looping image of him, Lyida and Mike falling into white space wouldn’t leave his mind. Smoke poured out of all of the small homes on the grounds. Each of Lydia’s siblings had a permanent home here, as did her parents.

Only her dead brother, Luke, didn’t occupy a house, though there was one he’d built back before he’d died. It remained vacant.

Colored holiday lights covered the trim of each of the cabins, even the ones they rented in the summer to eager campers. Lydia’s mom, Sandy, loved giving the campground a small-town look, each cottage festive and homey. Jeremy had to admit it did the trick.

He couldn’t wait to get home.

“I’m going back to my place for a minute, Adam,” he said as they passed the first cabin. “Can you take it from here?”

Adam’s eyes held questions, but the topaz irises stayed calm. “Sure, man. See you at the lodge.”

And with that, Jeremy raced home, driven by a force he couldn’t name. By the time he reached his own front door, his skin felt like it was stretching off his bones, all impulse control gone. Needing Lydia and Mike, he burst through the door, assaulted by heat.

“Lydia?” he called out, disappointed by silence. “Mike?”

Nothing.

The collision of heat and chilled skin turned his pores into pinpricks, his cheeks stinging with temperature change. Where were they?

Half frantic, he marched into the bedroom and found his phone, plugged into the charger next to their California-king bed. He checked his texts.

Nothing.

“Must be at the lodge,” he muttered, cursing himself for not just going with Adam. As he left the cabin, he walked down the front steps, a new inch of snow covering the previously-shoveled steps. Powdery, light snow continued to fall in lazy spirals.

He barely noticed.

Five minutes later he found the lodge door, the snow at the entrance crushed by what was clearly a fat tree, the marks streaking the mounds of snow from the walkway being shoveled earlier. Inside, he found a roaring fire in the enormous stone fireplace, Lydia and her parents, her brothers Adam, Dan and Miles --

And Madge and Caleb from Boston.

“Look what the cat dragged in,” old Madge croaked, giving Jeremy that strange combination of a glare and a grin that only Madge could manage. She got up slowly, her bones popping audibly, and folded her body into his, the hug almost a joke as his enormous frame swallowed her. Since her heart attack a few years ago, Madge had gotten more frail, her bones poking under wrinkled flesh.

Time burrowed its way out of her, joint by joint.

Over her head, he spotted her boyfriend, Ed, sitting in a wheelchair, grinning madly as Lydia’s dad handed him a beer. The old couple were well into their eighties, happy as two ancient people finding love in their last years could be.

“I thought we were coming to you!” Jeremy said, unable tocontain his surprise as Madge pulled away. “We just cut down the tree for Jeddy’s.”

Lydia’s scent filled the air next to him. Suddenly, her fingers worked the buttons of his coat and he was staring at the part in her hair. Her hot breath melted the snow on his wool jacket.

“We made a change. Caleb’s staying back in Boston and you can bring it down tomorrow. Ed and I wanted to come and be here now,” Madge rasped, sitting in a comfortable, over-stuffed chair next to Ed. He patted her knee with familiarity and grinned like smiling was about to be outlawed and he needed to do as much as possible before the law changed.

Jeremy pulled off his coat and slid his arms around Lydia, burying his nose in her neck. The strange sense of being perched on the edge of the world, obscured in white and disconnected from everything, abated with each breath, the tick-tock of the mantel clock tracking a different kind of time.

“You’re wet!” Lydia squealed. “And stubbly!”

He didn’t stop. Her squirming turned to a tense freeze, then a slow melt in his arms. She stayed in place, he knew, because she sensed his need.

That was love. Real love.

Mike walked into Jeremy’s line of vision, carrying two open beers, one ready to hand to Jeremy. Ice-blue eyes met his, powerful and knowing. Something deeper than relief took over Jeremy’s cells as he stood there, Lydia touching him, Mike in the same frame, too.

His people. He had his people. That’s all he really needed.

“Hey,” Lydia said softly in his ear. “What’s wrong?”

Jeremy shook his head and just inhaled deeply. The change of plans was welcome. Christmas had come early to the small campground in Maine. He cradled Lydia’s face in his hands and kissed her, the taste of her tongue a tether, holding him in place, keeping him from tipping over the edge and into the pale, snowy abyss.

As the kiss deepened, he felt Mike’s hand on his shoulder, heard the cackle of Madge’s ribald comment, smelled the heady scent of burning wood.

And he was home.

Really home.



New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge, and new adult books that push contemporary boundaries. From billionaires to BBWs to rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every book she writes, but unlike Trevor from Random Acts of Crazy, she has never kissed a chicken.

She loves to hear from her readers by email at jkentauthor at gmail dot com, on Twitter @jkentauthor, and on Facebook.

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