“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” came on the radio. He leaned over and turned it up. Then he turned to Liz and pulled her into his arms.
She squealed as he twirled her. “Can you jive?” he asked, with a grin.
Liz met his eyes. “You can dance?”
“Jiving is pretty easy. If you have a touch of rhythm.” He pulled her close then pushed her away. Reeled her in, pushed her away before spinning her again.
She followed his lead, allowing herself to move with the rhythm of the song.
By the end of the song she was out of breath from giggling. But she was smiling. She’d done so much with her therapist in the past few weeks, he wasn’t surprised by her easy smile. But he had seen so many tears, he was thrilled her smiles came easy and reached her eyes now days.
He kissed her forehead. They move into a slow dance. “I have a present for you,” he whispered.
“Another one?” she lifted her head to look at him. He pushed until her head laid against his shoulder.
He smiled again. Progress. “Eliza, I already explained that I’m going to spoil you. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Liz shook her head against his shoulder. Darren squeezed her tighter.
“I love you,” he said softly.
Her tension faded and leaned on him. Reminding her he didn’t just like her, he didn’t just want her, that he cared about her, always circumvented her defenses.
A small solid object bumped into his leg. Darren pulled away from Liz took down. He kept them swaying. His daughter, Claire, tugged on Liz’s hand while she stared up at them.
He bent and picked her up. Liz wrapped her arm around Darren. Liz kissed Claire’s cheek. “And I love you.”
“I love her more,” Darren said.
“I have a present for both of you tonight.”
“Can we open them now?” Claire asked.
He felt Liz trying to pull away, so he pulled her closer. “I think after we eat. Go wash your hands.”
He set the girl on the floor and she ran to the bathroom, her kitten Wishes trailing behind.
“How am I going to live without her?” Liz said, curling into his shoulder. Claire’s mother completed her alcohol dependency program, returned to work and was ready to be a full-time parent again. They decided that Claire would move back with her mother but with regular visits to Darren.
Darren stroked his fiance’s hair. “One moment at a time. You’ll have school to keep you busy.”
“I’ll find for a part-time job as well.”
“I don’t care if you work, babe.”
“I have to fill the time, when you’re both gone. I’m not used to being idle.”
“Maybe you should take up a hobby. Or you could join my entourage.”
“You don’t have an entourage.”
“You can start one.” He grinned at her.
She stuck out her tongue.
“What about wedding planning? You said Tony wanted to help plan.”
“What if we go to Vegas?”
“You’d disappoint Tony and my mom.”
“Tony can’t really talk, she didn’t have much of a wedding. It’s not like we have many people to invite.” Liz had no family to invite and Tony was the first person she’d gotten close to in years. That left the bulk of the guests to be Darren’s family and friends. She imagined he had a few.
“We can do it small if you want. We can just do it, you, me, and Claire. I think we’d both like her to be there.”
“And Tony and Chris.”
“And my parents and brother.”
She nodded, as her mouth quivered. Parents were a sore spot. Liz’s parents were abusive as she grew up, finally kicking her out at sixteen, forcing Liz to drop out of school to support herself.
Darren cradled her face in his hands. “They aren’t your family.” He had told his mom about Liz’s past, with her permission. He was certain as Liz got to know his mom, they would grow into a relationship that was similar to parent-child. Especially as his mom had two sons, and his brother wasn’t married. She loved her boys, but Darren knew a daughter was different. He hoped she and Liz could fill the void for each other.
They decided not to talk about their own future and children until after they delivered Claire to her mother. It weighed on his mind, and he saw Liz staring into space and wondered if she thought about it as well.
Claire came back. “Let’s eat!” She announced.
Darren let his attention be drawn away by Claire’s chattering and Liz responding. He wanted to soak it all in, so he would have the memories ready in his mind.
After they cleaned up after supper, he shooed his girls to the living room. Christmas was three days past, but something he ordered had arrived late. He was just thankful it arrived before they took Claire to Ontario.
He retrieved the boxes from their room. He smiled, so thrilled that half his closet was filled with Liz’s clothes, most of which he bought, and her underwear was in the hamper with his. Her scent lingered in the bedroom.
“What are you smiling about?” Liz asked, looking up from where Claire had Wishes chasing a string across the floor.
The ball of fluff pounced on Claire’s hand. The girl giggled.
“Everything.” He took a seat next to Liz on the sofa.
He handed a box to Liz and another to Claire. He held one on his lap. “What is it?” Claire asked.
Inside was a necklace with a pendant. He had them custom engraved.
“What does your say Claire?” Liz asked.
“Mom, Dad, me, Liz, Wishes. And Love Forever.”
“Mine says Darren, Liz, Claire, and Wishes.” She smiled at him and he wanted to kiss away the tears in her eyes.
“Now, when we miss each other, we can hold our necklaces and think of each other. And we will all feel it.”
“What about Wishes? He doesn’t have one,” Claire said.
“I got a collar made for him,” Darren said, pulling out of his pocket.
Claire grabbed it. This pendant simply read “Claire” on it.
“I love it.” Liz wrapped her arms around him.
“Me too.” Claire joined in.
“I ordered them but they came late.”
“I’ll put yours on,” Liz said to Claire as they separated.
Darren watched with his heart while they adorned themselves. Then Liz gave him a kiss. Claire returned to playing with the kitten and he and Liz cuddled up to watch.
The phone rang and Claire snatched it before anyone else. “Mommy.” Usually, Claire was thrilled to talk to her mom, but this time it reminded them all their time was waning.
Liz closed her eyes, trying not to listen. “Really? Are you for real? Mommy.”
Was Monica getting a kitten as well? Liz looked at Darren.
“Daddy she wants to talk to you.” Claire held out the phone. Change of plans? With Monica anything was possible.
Darren’s face got more and more serious as he listened. He didn’t say much. “I guess that’s good. Uh, okay, I’ll talk to you soon.”
He handed Claire the phone. His jaw hung slack as he stared at Liz. “What? Is she in jail now?”
He shook his head. “No.”
“She’s moving out here,” Claire shouted.
“Monica is moving here?” Liz’s face now mirrored Darren’s. She understood his reaction.
“Isn’t that great? Now I don’t have to leave Wishes.” Claire grabbed the kitten and hugged her tight.
“It’s something, honey. Why don’t you get a snack?” Liz said.
Claire skipped off. Liz and Darren stared at each other. “Okay. I guess we don’t have to worry about Claire being across the country,” Darren said.
“No I suppose we don’t,” Liz replied.
Wow, of all the things she thought would happen with Monica, this was at the bottom of the list.
Liz set her new necklace on Darren’s dresser. It helped her not feel overwhelmed if she set limits. It was their bedroom, but his furniture. She couldn’t think of herself as fully integrated into his life.
He wrapped his arms around her from behind and kissed the back of her head. “Do you like it?”
“I love it.” She ran her fingers over the pendant.
“I guess we don’t need it anymore.”
“Well, she won’t live with us full time.”
“I guess I’ll still have a few days with an empty house.” She used to seek solitude. Now the thought of it frightened her. How quickly he had changed everything for her.
She closed her eyes. “She’s moving here Darren. Why is she moving here?”
“You haven’t been alone here for more than a school day since we met.”
He massaged her lower back. “I’m just a phone call away. So is Tony. Have you talked with Rebecca?” Rebecca was her therapist.
“A little. I have so many issues to deal with.”
“Eliza Jane.” His voice traveled down her spine and sent sparks through her body in every direction. She met his gaze.
“I’ve been avoiding it. It doesn’t matter now. I have something new for my next appointment.”
“Talk about it. And remember you are starting school for teaching.”
“I’m worried that I’ll still have free time. In a perfect world, I’ll find something that fills my time but leaves me available when you are home.”
“If you’re busy, I can find ways to entertain myself.”
“I don’t want to, right now. I want to be with you when you are here. I told Karen this, but I feel like I need to make up for lost time. So tell if me you need some space and alone time.”
He grabbed her chin with his hand. His thumb ran over her lower lip. “I want to be with you as well, I don’t want to hold you back from living.”
She felt her insides turn to proverbial goo. She pressed her midsection to his, feeling a warmth grow. “I want to be with you all the time, I want to talk about everything in our lives, I want to connect.” She paused. “Also after New Year’s we should have Chris and Tony over again.”
“They aren’t too shocked from last time?”
When Liz refused to tell him she’d had cancer and couldn’t have children because of it, Chris and Tony had been there. When he got it out of her, she was so sure he’d leave, she packed her things. But he asked her to move into his bedroom, be Claire’s step-mom; asked her to be his everything.
“Tony understood once I explained everything after.”
He pulled her hair aside and kissed her neck. He scraped his teeth along the tender curve where her neck and shoulder met. His erection grew against her belly.
He dragged his hands up her abdomen under her shirt until he found her breasts. He cupped them and brushed his thumbs over her nipples. “I love you react to me,” he growled against her lips. “I also enjoy your no bra rule.”
“I love how you touch me.” She pulled her shirt off. “I’m not wearing any panties either.” She reached behind and unzipped her skirt and let it fall to the floor.
“I try not to think about that too much when we aren’t alone.” Darren rubbed his hips to hers with a grin.
“I try not to think about what it does to you.” Liz rubbed her hand over the bulge in his pants. “I think you are wearing too many clothes.” She pulled the fastener on his jeans loose. Her hand slipped inside and and stroked his erection.
“I won’t last long with you touch me like that Eliza.”
She slowed her strokes. He pinched her nipples, twisting them between her fingers. She skimmed her fingers over the crown of his cock.
Darren grunted. “Eliza Jane get on our bed. Let me love you.”
“I’m enjoying teasing you.”
“You’ll enjoy what I’m going to do a lot more.” He kissed her, his tongue tangling around hers, silencing any protest she might have made. It wouldn’t have been a long denial, long enough to tease. He’d just returned from another road trip. His professional life was relentless.
He broke the kiss and Liz stumbled back to the bed. She stretched out, her arms over her head. He lowered himself over her, kissing her breasts, down her belly and stopping between her thighs. He pressed his mouth against her, and the meeting of sweltering flesh made her arousal flare.
His tongue left a trail of scalded skin. She writhed under him, as he continued to torment her with pleasure, stretching the limits of what she could handle. How long she could withstand his tongue inside her before she burst.
She reached her limit when he sucked her clit into his mouth. She grabbed the sheets with her fists and her hips jerked. He grabbed her ass and held her still, assailing her until she stopped shaking. She pushed him away. “Too sensitive,” she gasped. “Need a minute.”
He kissed her. “You can have all the time you need my love. This is another part of your Christmas present.”
She stretched up and sucked on his bottom lip, enjoying her taste from his mouth. “Come here you sweet man.”
Monica’s story is told in Asrai’s latest release Unsuited.