Another knock rings on my bedroom door.
“Coming!” I yell but don’t move an inch from my spot.
“You said that the last three times your mom came and the last two I knocked. We’re going to be late, little one.”
The way his voice deepens when he speaks my name makes to Goosebumps rise on my flesh. It’s low and intimate, and to be honest, cute. Who would have ever thought that Derek King–this big, badass hockey player–can be cute?
We’ve been together for almost two months now, and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that we’re together. Derek King is my boyfriend.
I can see the blush rising on my cheeks in the reflection in the mirror. The reflection that brings me back to reality.
Swallowing hard, the nervousness I was feeling returns back in full force. We’ve been together for two months, and now Derek asked me to meet his parents.
Officially that is.
I already met his dad on one of his hockey games, and he seemed nice. But now they wanted to meet me for real.
No, scratch that. Derek wanted to introduce me to them for real.
On a family dinner no less.
Pre-Christmas family dinner.
I fidget with the hem of my skirt. It’s too short. Why did I even buy it? I should have bought the knee-length version, but both Jeanette and Brook insisted I’ll look like an old granny and that it’ll kill the effect of the delicate floral pattern that’s on my boots. So, in the end, I decided on the mid-tight length of the skater skirt, as Jeanette was kind to inform me. It’s dark gray and actually pretty simple and cute if it could only be just a bit longer. I pull the material down, but it does little to actually cover my, in tights-clad, legs.
The whole outfit is completed with a light blue sweatshirt. The color of Derek’s eyes. When I saw it in the store I knew I had to buy it even if I don’t decide to wear it for dinner. It’s the color of the clear sky on a spring day. The color of the ice as it shines and sparkles under the sun. The color that reminds me in so many ways of him, offering comfort, a sense of belonging.
“Lia …” he sighs in exasperation, there is a loud thud and I can imagine his back hitting the door.
Leaving my reflection behind I walk to the door, placing my hand on the cool, smooth surface.
“What if they hate me?” I whisper. I’m not sure if he can hear me or not. I’m not even sure if the question is referred to him or me.
“They won’t hate you. They’re already half in love with you.” He whispers softly. “Just like I’m already in love with you.”
I swallow hard, listening to his soft voice on the other side of the door.
“Every time we talk about you, dad likes to brag that he already had a chance to meet you which makes mom nuts. They bicker and then she demands I ask you to come over or she’ll have to come to the school and introduce herself.”
Laughing softly, I feel my tense body slowly relax.
“They’re already in love with you, Lia. There is nothing to be afraid of.”
I want to believe him. I want to believe him so badly, but it’s hard. I’ve never done something like this and to think one little mistake could maybe offend somebody and make the whole night take the wrong turn …
“They’ll love you, Lia. If for nothing else, then because you make me smile. And I’m in love with you. There is nothing more they can wish for.”
Inhaling deeply, I push away at the fear still running through my veins, and open the door.
Derek startles, losing balance for a second because he was leaning against the door, his head bent down.
His eyes slowly lift up, taking me in until those bright blue eyes meet mine. A small crooked smile spreading over his lips.
“You look beautiful.”
The blush that I thought I had under control resurfaces. Brushing a strand of hair behind my ear I shake my head. “Don’t make me even more nervous than I already am.”
Shaking his head at me, he takes a step forward. Warm fingers brush against my cheek. “You look beautiful, little one,” he repeats and before I get a chance to protest his lips brush against mine.
Slow and sensual. Just a chaste, tender touch of his lips against mine.
My hands come around him, nestling my body into his. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too.” His lips land on my forehead one last time. “Ready?”
But for him?
For him, I’d do anything.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I look at her tense form on the passenger seat of the car. She looks like she’s ready to throw up or run and hide. I’m not sure which one exactly. “If you’re really that nervous we don’t have to do it. I’ll turn around and …”
“NO!” Amelia yells, her fingers tightening around mine. Her grip is so strong I want to wince in pain, but I swallow it down. “I’m fine. Really. I just need a few seconds and …”
“Lia, if you don’t feel ready, you don’t have to participate in our pre-Christmas dinner. It’s stupid really if I knew the pressure …”
She kisses me.
Hard, fast and totally unexpected. Her soft lips brush against mine leaving me breathless, but the touch is gone before I get to wrap my head around it. She pulls back suddenly, and I stand there with my mouth hanging open.
“I’m ready.” She smiles and this time the smile reaches her chocolate eyes. “I want to be here, Derek.”
I let my fingers intertwine with hers. Giving her a reassuring squeeze, I lift her hand and press my lips one final time against her skin. “It’s okay if you’re not ready, but there is nothing to be afraid of.”
Lia nods, smiling. “Let’s do this.”
I want to tell her to wait for me to open her door, but she has them already open and one leg outside before I even get to move.
Once she’s set on doing something there is no stopping her. Or maybe she just wants to get the introduction part over with so she can finally relax. Either way, I follow her suit.
The car door doesn’t shut properly when the front door bursts open, Ace running wildly in our direction. Dude got bigger in the last couple of months. When we went to his last check-up the vet said he didn’t reach his full growth just yet, but he’s doing better than when I found him in the park. He’s still skittish with people and mostly sticks to my side, but if there is one person that big baby adores more than me, that’s Amelia. Not that I can blame him.
Completely ignoring me, Ace runs toward Lia, breaking suddenly so he doesn’t throw her off her feet. Literally. He barks happily, circling around her, sniffing her and just asking for her attention in general. Amelia crunches down, giggling happily as she rubs Ace all over.
A smile spreads over my face as I see tension leave her body. Ace licks her cheek and I’m sure if it was any other girl, she’d be grossed out, but not Lia. Her giggles turn on into full-on laughter as she murmurs something only for dog’s ears to hear.
Movement from the door catches my attention. Standing there on the doorway is Mom in her red dress with an apron over it. When she sees me looking, mom waves a little, but her eyes go straight back to my girl.
Once upon a time, those words would freak me out, but now they ring true.
Amelia Campbell is my girl.
My little one.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Are you bringing the poor girl inside or is she eating outside with Ace?” mom calls from the door.
Amelia jumps in surprise, making me laugh. I walk to her side, patting the dog’s head in passing. Traitor.
“Oh my god, this was so rude. I …” Lia starts whispering in panic, but I stop her. Wrapping my hand around the waist I guide her toward the house.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I tease my mom. “The damn dog almost sits at the table.”
As if he can understand me, Ace barks once in agreement.
“See? Even he knows it.”
Amelia giggles nervously as we take the last few steps to the porch.
Even though her eyes aren’t fixed on me, I can feel mom’s gaze take in Amelia from head to toe. A smile spreads over her lips.
“Mom, this is Amelia Campbell. My girlfriend. Little one, this is my mom, Hope King.”
“It’s so nice to meet you, Mrs. K–”
Lia extends her hand in greeting, but she has another thing coming. Expertly, mom gets her out of my arms and into her embrace, kissing her cheek.
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Amelia. Aren’t you precious, tiny thing?” She puts her at arms-length so she can look at her better. “That son of mine, keeping you for himself all this time.”
“It’s not actually …”
Looping one hand through Amelia’s, she waves her off. “It’s not like I can blame him. Any sane boy would keep you all to himself.”
She winks at her, pulling her inside the house. Amelia turns around, looking for me. Her brown eyes are wide open and overwhelmed. When they meet mine, I barely have time to give her a reassuring smile before mom pulls her along.
“You like cranberry sauce? I made it along with …”
I look down at Ace. The poor pup has confusion written all over his face. Rubbing between his ears, I whisper: “I know buddy, I know.”
Ace sighs loudly, and I can’t help but laugh. “She likes her too, just like I knew she would. You’ll have to get used to sharing.”
“Your parents seem nice,” Lia whispers softly, her fingers drawing shapes on my chest.
Tightening my grip around her waist, I pull her closer. My lips brush against her neck absentmindedly.
“Mhmm …” I murmur in agreement, both of our eyes still locked on the big screen in the den.
Soon after we came, the dinner was ready. Mom prepared her specialty: ham, mashed potatoes, veggies, and cranberry sauce. Then for dessert, there was chocolate cake, my favorite. I can still taste it on my tongue and if I had any space left in my stomach I’d probably get up and grab another slice, but as I’m now, I’ll probably end up with my head over the toilet. Can’t blame me for choosing to spend a casual afternoon lying on the couch with my girlfriend draped over me as we watch cheesy Christmas movies instead.
“Mom was probably a bit too eager, but …”
“Oh, hush,” she elbows me in the gut. “I think she kind of likes me.”
Lia looks over her shoulder at me, wonder written all over her face. “Aren’t boy’s moms supposed to hate the girls their sons are dating?”
I laugh, kissing the frown between her brows away. “Not this mom. I told you she’ll like you. That they both will like you, didn’t I?”
Which is completely true. Once Ace and I joined my parents and Lia in the kitchen we found them chatting and laughing. Mom went back to finish the dinner, but even that didn’t stop her for interjecting with her own questions. Dad’s hand was around Lia’s shoulder as he told her all about his bragging rights since he got to meet her early.
Seeing her in my home, with my parents … it made me realize that I choose right. This moment was perfect. Lia, she’s perfect.
In front of my eyes, Lia’s tension melted away, and she became her sweet self, talking with my parents like she knows them forever. She was joking and laughing, blush on her cheeks no longer the product of her nerves, but happiness.
“I guess you did.”
“And you broke poor Ace’s heart.” I tease her. “So heartless.”
“What?” This time she turns around completely, sitting on her knees and watching me. “I did no such thing!”
I turn on my back, pulling her over so she straddles my lap.
“Yes, you did! He almost started crying when you left him out there on the front porch.”
As if he knows we’re talking about him, Ace lifts his head from his place in front of the fireplace where he was snoozing off.
“You woke him up! Who’s the heartless one now?”
My eye land on the dog, who put his head back on his paws, sighing loudly.
“He just wants attention,” I chuckle.
Lia rolls her eyes at me, but a small smile spreads over her lips.
“Hey, Lia?” I ask as the laughter dies. The only sounds in the room slow murmurs coming from the TV and cracking of the wood in the fireplace.
My fingers dig into the soft flesh of her hips.
Those chocolate, doe-like eyes land on mine and suddenly I feel nervous.
Almost as nervous as that time I asked her on the date.
The time our hands met for the very first time. Finger intertwining underneath the table, hidden away from everybody else.
In the silly moment that belongs just to the two of us.
Exhaling slowly, I will my fingers to loosen and slide into the pocket of my dress pants. I grip the little box hiding inside and slowly pull it out.
“Merry Christmas, Amelia,” I offer her the box, nervous, sheepish smile curling my lips.
She looks between the box and my face, her lips forming a perfect ‘o’ in surprise.
“It won’t bite, you know,” I tease her.
Her little hands take the box form my palm and inspect it.
“I didn’t bring you anything. I mean I did get you something, but since it’s not Christmas just yet …”
“That’s okay,” I reassure her, pulling a strand of her hair behind her ear. “You can give it to me later.”
Lia nods her head in agreement, but her mind is on the present. She brings the small box to her ear, shaking it lightly. “What’s inside?”
“Open and see,” I chuckle, nibbling at my lip.
What if she doesn’t like it? I could probably replace it but …
Lia unwraps the bow slowly, opening the lid.
My gaze is fixed on the movement of her hands as I wait. And wait. But there is no reaction.
Snapping my gaze to meet hers I start: “You don’t like it. It’s okay I think we can …”
I don’t get to finish because she throws herself at me, her hands wrapping around me tightly as her lips leave small kisses all over my face.
“I love it!”
Dumbfounded, I return one of the kisses that land in the corner of my mouth.
“It’s beautiful, Derek. Thank you!”
“You sure? We can …”
Lia shoves the box in my hands and jumps to her feet. Turning her back to me, she moves her hair over her shoulder and asks: “Put it on?”
I get up and stand behind her. Carefully, I slide the thin chain out of the box and watch the pendant glisters in the light of the fire. Silver snowflake adorned with light blue stones. From the moment I saw it, I knew I had to get it for her.
My hands shake, and it takes a few tries, but I somehow manage to fasten delicate necklace. Leaning forward, I kiss the nape of her neck before turning her around.
Lia’s looking down, her fingers playing with the jewel.
Brushing my fingers against the softness of her cheek, I wait as her eyes meet mine.
Those chocolate brown depths holding my whole heart.
“Not as much as you.”
Lia giggles softly, her hands wrapping around my neck as she steps on the tips of her toes.
“Merry Christmas, Derek.”
Her lips brush against mine in a slow, tender kiss.
“Merry Christmas, Lia.”
I hope you enjoyed this short, holiday-themed bonus scene! Happy holidays!