Joyous, a Quantum Series Christmas Story

Flynn

Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. Probably because it’s also my birthday—a year of buildup for one big day that’s over in a blink. When I was a kid, I’d get so excited for my big day only to experience massive letdown on the twenty-sixth, knowing I had a full year to wait for my big day to come around again. I also hated that my sisters got presents on my birthday. Sure, I knew it was Christmas and everyone got presents, but I didn’t think it was fair that there wasn’t one day that belonged only to me like their birthdays belonged to them.

I know, I know. I sound like a spoiled brat, but that’s how I felt back then. And I love my sisters. Always have, even if they’re a royal pain in my ass most of the time. They’re the reason the fame and success I’ve had as an actor never made me into a world-class jerk. They wouldn’t have stood for it, and I’m thankful for their influence on me even when they’re driving me nuts.

As an adult, Christmas and my birthday have been just another day—especially since my nieces and nephews began arriving and the day became even less about me. This is the first year in forever that I genuinely care about Christmas, but it’s not because of me. Nope, it’s all about my beautiful, sweet, sexy wife. Now that I have Natalie in my life, every day is like Christmas, and I want to put in the effort to make sure she has the best holiday ever. She was separated from her family when she was only fifteen, so it’s been nine years since she had a family to spend the holidays with. I want her to have the most amazing, special Christmas of her life, but I’m stumped as to how to pull that off.

Because I suck at this crap, I’ve brought in the expert—Addison York Roth, my faithful assistant, the little sister I never had and my business partner Hayden Roth’s new wife. Addie is the most organized human being on earth, and she loves Nat almost as much as I do. She knows all about the nightmare Natalie endured at fifteen and the resulting estrangement from her parents and sisters, so Addie will fully appreciate my desire to give my beautiful wife a Christmas she’ll never forget.

“I don’t give a flying fuck about my birthday,” I tell Addie. We’re in my Los Angeles office at Quantum Productions, the company I founded ten years ago with Hayden, one of the top directors in Hollywood. We’ve since added superstar actress Marlowe Sloane, cinematographer Jasper Autry and producer Kristian Bowen as partners in the company—and in life. The people I work with are also my closest friends. “Don’t let anyone make it about me. I want this Christmas to be all about her.”

Addie, still tanned from her three-week honeymoon in the Adriatic, has her iPad ready to take notes. “What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know. That’s the problem. I want it to be amazing for her, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what that should entail. That’s where you come in.”

“I need consultants on this one.” She gets up to use the office phone. “Can you come into Flynn’s office? Bring Leah, too.” After a pause, she nods. “Thanks.”

“I assume that was Aileen?” She’s engaged to Kristian. My sister Ellie is having a baby with Jasper, and Leah is hot and heavy with Emmett, our general counsel. It’s been one hell of a year for the Quantum family, and we need a Christmas that does justice to the changes we’ve undergone. I want it to be perfect, which means it’d be a total clusterfuck if I tried to do it myself. With Addie overseeing the plans, however, there’s reason for hope.

Whatever. As long as I’m with Natalie, it’ll be perfect. The rest is just details. Or so I tell myself. I’m not sure why I’m so stressed about a holiday I normally don’t give two shits about.

“Are you listening to me?”

Addie’s question cuts through the nonsense in my always-busy mind.

“Of course I am.”

She gives me a skeptical look. “I was saying we should go to Aspen.”

I toss the idea around in my mind. Natalie isn’t due to deliver our first child until March and my sister Ellie is due in April, so both of them would be able to fly the two hours it takes to get to Colorado. The house is huge. It would easily accommodate the Quantum crew as well as Nat’s sisters, my sisters, their families and my parents—all the people we’d need to make this the perfect Christmas for Natalie. “That could work.” I just hope that everyone else will agree with the plan.

Aileen comes into my office. “What could work?”

Addie fills her in. “Christmas in Aspen. Flynn’s house there is enormous and close to skiing, shopping, five-star restaurants and anything else we could want or need.”

“Ohhhh.” Aileen’s expressive eyes glitter with excitement. “Sign me up. The kids would love to have snow at Christmas. It was so hit or miss when we lived in New York.”

The more I think about Aspen, the more I love the idea. Could it really be that simple? Leave it to Addie to cut to the chase.

Aileen offers a shy smile. “I don’t mean to imply that we’re invited.”

“Of course you are. It wouldn’t be Christmas without everyone there.” Aileen and her kids have made Kristian so happy. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her or the kids. They’re family to me now. That’s how it works with us.

Addie frowns. “Do we have to invite Rafe?”

Leah comes into the room, scowling at the mention of Rafe. “Don’t you mean he-who-shall-not-be-named? Maybe he’ll go home to France for Christmas and we won’t have to invite him to whatever we’re doing.”

“Christmas at Flynn’s place in Aspen,” Addie tells her.

Leah plops down in a chair. “Hell yes. That sounds awesome, but Marlowe will want to bring him.” As Marlowe’s assistant, Leah has the 411 on her boss.

“Ugh.” None of us can stand the guy that Marlowe is crazy about, which puts me at odds with one of my best friends for the first time in the nearly fifteen years we’ve been close. None of us get what she sees in the smooth-talking Frenchman. Natalie tells me I don’t need to get it. According to my wife, Marlowe is the only one who needs to get it. Which is fine—until I have to spend Christmas with him.

“Time with my love in Aspen, sign me up.” Leah blinks and seems to snap out of her fantasies of alone time with Emmett in Aspen. “But it’ll be fun to have everyone else there, too.”

Addie cracks up laughing. “Nice save.”

Leah smiles. “I can be diplomatic when I need to.”

That makes me laugh. Diplomatic is the last word I’d use to describe Leah, one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. She’d been Nat’s roommate in New York when I first met them, and it’d been Natalie’s idea for Marlowe to hire Leah as her assistant. And now Leah is madly in love with Emmett, who walks around with a dopey grin on his face these days, all thanks to Leah.

Love has been in the air in the Quantum Productions office this year. Each of my friends and partners has ended up with someone I would’ve hand-chosen for them, except for Marlowe, that is. I keep hoping she’ll see the light with Rafe and dump his pretentious ass. I swear he’s dating her more for what she can do for his career than because of the magnificence that is Marlowe. He works for the company that distributes Quantum films in France, which is how she met him.

There’s just something about him that seems off to me, and I know Hayden, Kristian, Jasper and Emmett feel the same way. If I can prove he’s using her to get ahead, I swear to God I’ll bury him. Maybe the time in Aspen will give me more info to build my case. Not that I want to be the one to clue her in, but I’d rather it come from a friend who loves her than the media or someone who’d be looking to exploit her celebrity for their benefit.

As the women discuss the details of Christmas in Aspen, I ponder the added benefit of a few days with Rafe and the chance to look for a crack in the armor. It’s there. I’m convinced of it.

“Flynn.”

Addie’s exasperated voice snaps me back to the meeting. “What?”

“You’re daydreaming today. I asked if we’re in agreement about Aspen? If so, we’ll take it from here and make the plans.”

“Absolutely yes to Aspen.” A week in the mountains with my love and our favorite people? Suddenly, I can’t wait for Christmas.

 

Natalie knows we’re going away for the holiday, but other than telling her to pack for cold weather, I haven’t given her any info and have asked the others to help keep the secret.

“It’s not fair that everyone else knows where we’re going, and I don’t.”

“I love that pout, love, but it’s not going to break me.”

She gives me a sly, sexy look. “I have other ways to break you.”

And I’m hard. That’s all it takes when it comes to her. “Is that right? I’d love to see you try.”

She rubs her hands together gleefully. “Ohhh, a challenge. I love a challenge.” Before I can gauge her next move, she’s up and out of bed—and with the growing baby belly, she’s been moving slower lately. But that doesn’t stop her now. Before I know it, she’s standing on my side of the bed, her dark hair shining after a shower and blow dry, her lips soft from the balm she applies at bedtime and her curves more luscious than ever as she incubates our baby. I can only stare at the magnificence that is my wife.

Mine. Forever. Best words ever.

“Sit up.”

Those words are pretty good, too. “Is my little sub trying to dominate her Dom?”

“Nope. In this case, she’s after information.”

Amused and aroused, I sit up, swing my legs around so my feet are on the floor. “Give it your best shot.”

She grabs a pillow off the bed, puts it on the floor and drops rather inelegantly to her knees.

“Nat…” I worry constantly now that she’s pregnant, and some of the biggest fights we’ve had have been about my overly gentle treatment of her. She’s gotten used to the dominant sex I introduced her to and is constantly annoyed with me for insisting we take it easy while she’s pregnant.

“No talking unless you’re going to tell me what I want to know.”

“I’m not going to tell you.”

“Then be quiet.”

God, I love her. I love that she couldn’t care less about who I am to the rest of the world. She’s the first woman who truly loves me for me, not for what my parents or I can do to boost her career, not for the money or the adulation that’s such a big part of the celebrity culture. For Natalie, it’s never been about any of those things, which make her different from everyone else from the beginning. It’s so fucking real with her and has been from the first second I saw her when she crashed into me during a shoot in a New York City park—and then her old wildebeest dog, Fluff, bit me. Best day of my life, hands down.

Fame, fortune and Oscars have nothing on winning the love of the most extraordinary woman I’ve ever met.

At the moment, my extraordinary wife is out to wreck me as she runs her hands up the insides of my legs, setting every nerve ending in my body on fire as I wait to see what she has planned for me. I’m so hard, I’m leaking copiously, but she ignores that part of me to focus all her attention on other parts of me, making me burn for more.

Natalie.” My teeth are gritted, my hands are curled into fists and my heart is beating so hard, I can hear the thundering echo of it ringing in my ears.

“Shhhh. You’re not talking, remember?”

I want to tell her revenge is a bitch, but she knows that. She loves my form of revenge, which is another reason I love her. She accepts every part of me, even the part that needs dominant sex. But I’m not the Dom right now. My sub is making me her bitch as I fight the urge to explode all over her pretty face. I wouldn’t do that to her, no matter how much she tortures me. And dear sweet baby Jesus, her tongue on my balls is pure torture.  

After nearly a year together, she knows all my hot spots, and she exploits every one of them as she tries to drive me crazy.

With a hand on my chest, she pushes me back so I’m lying on the bed. Then she arranges my legs so they’re splayed open, my feet propped on the edge. Christ have mercy… If she so much as breathes on my cock, I’m going to lose it.

“Are you ready to tell me where we’re going for Christmas?”

Right about now, I’d sign over my entire fortune to her if it meant she’d put me out of my misery and suck my dick. But I can’t be that easy. “No.”

“It’s not fair that all my friends know, and I don’t.” Her lips are so close to my shaft that I can feel her hot breath wash over my sensitive skin.

I break out in goose bumps.

She sees that and smiles triumphantly.

I love her madly, desperately. I’ve gotten to the point that I can barely remember life without her. I’ve started turning down parts that would take me away from her for even one night. The only way I’ll work anymore is if she can come with me. With a baby due to arrive early next year, work is on hold while I give her my full attention. The only thing I’m bothering with professionally is the passion project I’m spearheading to bring Natalie’s story to the big screen. Otherwise, I’m all about her.

And none of these thoughts are able to distract me enough to control the explosive orgasm that’s about to boil over. “Natalie…” She knows me well enough by now to understand the warning I’m offering. If she doesn’t do something—soon—I can’t be responsible for what happens next, which is an entirely new phenomena that’s all her fault. Before her, control was never a challenge for me. With her, it’s a constant, delightful struggle. With her, everything is different, better, more.

She runs her tongue over my cock, and I jolt. “You’re sure you can’t tell me anything about what you’ve got planned?”

“Yeah.” The single word emerges on a gasp when she wraps her hand around the base and teases the tip with her tongue. “Babe.”

“Yes, Flynn?”

My little minx is enjoying this, but then again, so am I. If she’s in the room, I’m happy. At times like this, I’m downright delirious because she’s all mine and I’m the only man in the world who will ever know this sexy, seductive, mischievous side of her. I’m about to spill the beans on the plan for Aspen when she sucks me into her mouth and finishes me off. I come so hard, I see stars, and she never misses a beat as she swallows every drop. She does it so well that I’m still hard when it’s over.

“I thought I could break you.”

I hate that she sounds disappointed in herself, and that’s what finally breaks me the way nothing else ever could. Extending my arms, I encourage her to join me on the bed.

She curls up to me, and I hold her close. “We’re going to Aspen with the whole gang. Your sisters, too.”

“Oh, Flynn! Really?”

Nodding, I run my fingers through her silky dark hair, loving the way her green eyes dance with joy. “I wanted you to have a big family Christmas to make up for all the years you were alone for the holidays.”

I’m horrified when her gorgeous eyes fill with tears. She knows I can’t handle it when she cries. It makes me insane. After the pain she endured as a teenager, I never want her to be sad or upset again, even if I know that’s an unrealistic goal.

“Don’t do that.” I wipe away the tears that spill down her cheeks. She’s been a regular waterworks since she got pregnant, which I’m told is perfectly normal even if every one of her tears is like a razor to my heart.

“Can’t help it.” She leans in to kiss me. “You’re so sweet.”

“I am not sweet.” My inner Dom cringes at that word she tosses around a little too often for my liking.

“Yes, you really are.”

“I’ll show you sweet.” I move so I’m on top of her, but I’m careful not to put any weight on the baby bump. I arrange her legs so they’re propped on my hips and slide into her slowly and carefully so I won’t hurt her or the baby. I’m always so afraid of hurting her that our sex life has become downright vanilla since she got pregnant. I’ll indulge in the occasional spank or surprise her with a toy every now and then, but the kinky business is on hold until after she gives birth.

It’s funny that I don’t even miss it. Before Nat, I would’ve been bored without it. With her, it doesn’t matter what we do as long as we do it together. I watch her closely, looking for any sign of discomfort. I’m big, she’s tight, and the baby is taking up a lot of room in there.

“Okay?”

She nods, looking up at me with those bottomless eyes that see straight through to the heart of me, the heart that belongs to her and only her. I knew the first day I met her that there’d never again be anyone else for me, and a year later, I only want her more than I did then, if that’s even possible.

She reaches up to run her fingers through my hair, her touch sending a shiver down my spine. “Why do you look so serious?”

“Making love to my wife is very serious business.”

“Stop worrying about hurting me. It feels amazing as always.”

In her second trimester, we’ve discovered that being pregnant makes her super horny and orgasmic, two things I’m happy to indulge whenever she snaps her fingers. I’m her slave, and she knows it, but I’m always careful with her.

We’ve argued about that. She doesn’t want me treating her differently because she’s pregnant. I can’t help my need to protect her and the baby from anything that would harm them, even me. So I give her easy when my inclination is usually fast and hard. We’ll get back to regular programming after our bundle of joy arrives. For now, slow and easy is the routine. She doesn’t seem to mind as I can feel the almost constant grip of her internal muscles massaging my cock as one orgasm rolls into another.

 Since she took the edge off for me, I can wait her out, keeping up the pace until I sense her beginning to tire. That’s another thing that happens far more easily since she’s been pregnant. When I feel her starting to come again, I let go and allow myself to join her because she needs her rest—not because I’ve had enough. I’ll never get enough of her.

I stay deep inside her as I gaze down at the face that changed my life. “I can’t wait to spend Christmas with you.”

“I can’t wait either. And it’s your birthday.”

“It’s not about me. It’s all about you.”

“It’s about us and the people we love best.” 

Her eyes are heavy, and her lips are slightly swollen from the blow job. She’s stunning. “The only thing I want for Christmas or my birthday is you.”

“I can do better than that.”

“No, you can’t.”

She falls asleep with a small, contented smile on her face. Sometimes I still can’t believe that this is my life now, that she is my life now. If you’d told me this time last year that I’d be so completely in love with someone that I’d actually marry her and start a family, I would’ve laughed in your face. After the disaster that was my first marriage, I’d publicly sworn off matrimony and anything that smacked of commitment. And then there was Natalie and her bitchy little dog and that face… Dear God, that face. I run my fingertip lightly over her cheek.

The best part of the plan for Christmas is a full week with her. I can’t wait.

 

Ten days later, a boisterous group arrives at LAX for the flight to Aspen. The only thing detracting from my euphoric mood is the weather forecast coming from Aspen, where a blizzard has been threatening all week. We’re leaving a day earlier than planned, hoping to get there before the storm materializes, but the predictions keep changing and the various models are giving differing information. My parents and sisters Annie and Aimee as well as their families will be flying up on Christmas Eve, the same day Natalie’s sisters are due to arrive.

My stomach is in knots. I’m not a huge fan of flying in the best of conditions but knowing we could be flying into a storm doesn’t sit well with me, even if I trust the pilots who’ve worked for us for years. They moved up our time of departure hoping to outrun the storm.

Natalie, who holds Fluff on her lap, senses my anxiety and keeps a tight hold on my hand, even after we are buckled into our seats. “Relax. You’re on vacation, and everything is going to be fine.”

All around us, happy-sounding voices discuss plans for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowman-making and other winter activities. Aileen’s kids, Logan and Maddie, are so excited for Christmas and the trip that Kristian warns us they might spontaneously combust. Maddie was concerned about Santa finding them in Aspen, but Kristian assured her that Santa always knows where she is. Aileen and Kristian shipped gifts to the house in Aspen on Santa’s behalf. Like me, he’s looking forward to his first Christmas as a family man, and we’re all excited about having the kids with us for Christmas morning. Next year, we’ll add two more little ones to the family—ours as well as Jasper and Ellie’s. Those are the two we know about so far, but with everyone in our group pairing off and falling in love, the baby boom is apt to continue for quite some time to come.

Fine by me. More people to love.

Across the aisle from us, Addie is cozied up to Hayden, who has an arm around her. I keep waiting to hear that she’s expecting, too, but so far, there’s no news on that front, and Nat tells me I’m not allowed to ask her. Behind us, Leah and Emmett are giggling and whispering the way they do these days, and in the last row, Sebastian, who is Hayden’s childhood friend and the manager of our BDSM club, sits alone, gazing out the window. He jokes about being the eleventh wheel with us, but claims he has no desire to be attached to anyone. I don’t see him settling down any time soon, even if the rest of us are. His philosophy has always been why would he want just one woman when he can have all the women? That used to be my philosophy, too, until I found the woman in the most unlikely of places. I run a finger over the small scar on my arm where Fluff bit me that first day. I wear that scar like a badge of honor, a reminder of how life can change in a matter of seconds.

“Where the hell is Marlowe?” Hayden asks.

“She said she’d be here,” Leah replies.

“We’re on a time crunch with the storm looming.” I glance at Leah over the top of my seat. “Will you call her?”

“Yep.”

If she doesn’t arrive soon, we’re going without her. She can catch up when lover boy arrives from France. I can hear Leah’s side of the conversation and catch enough to know they’re coming.

“Five minutes,” Leah confirms. “Rafe’s flight from Paris was late getting in.”

I hate that he’s coming with us, but I’d never say so to Marlowe. I just keep hoping she’ll realize she can do much better than a phony charmer with a French accent and a questionable past. And yes, I had Gordon, our director of security, look into the guy and didn’t like some of what he uncovered, especially the part about his ex-wife claiming he was violent with her during divorce proceedings. He was never actually charged, but somehow Gordon found out about it, telling me it’s not something that would be revealed in a routine search, which I’ve also done.

In order to bring this info to Marlowe, I’d need to confess to having had her boyfriend investigated. No one else knows I did that, not even Natalie, who’d be pissed with me for butting into Marlowe’s life. But with every instinct I have telling me the guy is no good, I have no regrets about having Gordon take a look at him. Rather than start an international incident with one of my best friends at Christmas, I’ve decided to take a wait-and-see approach. I’m living proof that people can grow and mature over time, and I want to give Rafe the benefit of the doubt for Marlowe’s sake. I hope I’m wrong about him.

Marlowe comes up the stairs and onto the plane, red-faced and out of breath from the dash through the airport. Unfortunately, Rafe is right behind her, equally winded and red-faced.

“So sorry to hold you all up.” His English heavily accented with French inflections. “All my fault.”

It’s telling that none of us have anything to say to him. I wonder if she notices that or if she’s so besotted, she can’t see the forest through the proverbial trees. He’s been in France the last three weeks, and she’s been looking forward to his return while the rest of us dreaded it. Our only hope is that she grows tired of him before she does something stupid like marry him. God forbid. Hayden and I would have to be held back from throwing ourselves between the two of them before they could say “I do.”

“Let’s go.” I signal that we’re ready to the steward who will keep us in cocktails and snacks for the flight. He notifies the pilots, and a few minutes later, we’re taxiing out to the runway.

My anxiety is through the roof. I want everything to be perfect for Nat, including the flight. With everyone else in high spirits, I try to relax and enjoy the time with my favorite people. But as it turns out, I was right to be anxious.

The flight is super bumpy from the minute we take off, and the atmosphere onboard the plane becomes much more subdued when the pilots ask us—and the steward who was supposed to keep us in booze—to remain seated. Fuck. I hate this. I can handle takeoff and landing like a pro, but turbulence freaks me out. There’s no breakdown lane up here, and as we bounce around, I fear I might get sick.

“Babe.”

I look over to find Natalie paler than usual. She doesn’t like this any more than I do, but she’s calmer than I am.

She looks me in the eye. “Breathe.”

I take a couple of deep breaths that help to calm me ever so slightly.

The plane hits a big bump.

“Fuck,” Hayden mutters.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

“Flynn.”

I look over at him and lift my chin. Addie has her eyes closed and her lips are moving, as if she’s praying.

“Should we be doing this?” Hayden asks.

“I assume the pilots will tell us if we need to divert or turn back.”

Imagine the headlines if the five Quantum principals go down in a plane together. Jesus. That’s a cheery thought. I hold on tight to Natalie’s hand and offer a few prayers of my own as we bump and roll through the clouds for more than an hour before we hear from the pilot again.

“Sorry for the rough ride, folks. We’re not finding any smooth air up here, and we’re hearing it’s going to get worse the closer we get to Aspen.”

I can’t imagine it getting any worse than it is right now.

“We’re going to land and figure out a plan. Sorry about the inconvenience.”

At this point, inconvenience is the least of my concerns. We begin to descend, and the turbulence gets even worse. It’s so bad, I wonder how the plane doesn’t disintegrate. Behind me, Aileen and the kids are crying. Kristian tries to comfort them, but I can hear panic in his voice that fuels my own.

This fucking sucks. 

Every minute feels like an hour as we move through dark, stormy clouds. Just when I think I can’t take it for another second, we break through the clouds and the ground appears, shrouded in fog and mist. I have no idea where we are, but I’ve never been so happy to see the ground. Five minutes later, the pilots execute a flawless landing.

As relief floods my system, the others cheer.

“Thank God,” Natalie whispers.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. I may never fly again after that.

The PA system crackles to life. “Welcome to Saint George, Utah, where the local time is four oh two p.m.”

I look across the aisle. “Addison.”

Addie leans forward so she can see around Hayden.

“What do we know about Saint George, Utah?”

“Nothing yet, but I’ll get right on it.”

She whips out her iPhone and starts clicking away.

I turn my attention to Natalie. “Sorry about this, sweetheart. It’s not exactly what I had planned.”

“It’s an adventure, and what does it matter where we are? We’re all together, and we’re alive. There’s a lot to be said for that.”

“Indeed, there is.” I decide right then and there to let go of my plans and preconceived notions about the perfect Christmas and let it unfold in whatever way it’s meant to. I’m with Natalie, my sister and my closest friends, and we were safe after a harrowing flight. I couldn’t care less what happens next.

 

After the pilots inform us that we’re done flying for the day—and possibly tomorrow, too—Addie works her magic and finds the one motel in town that can accommodate all of us. When the owners hear who their guests are, they send people from town to pick us up and deliver us to the Castaway Inn—a fitting name in light of our predicament.

Addie had arranged to bring days’ worth of food and booze with us on the plane so we wouldn’t need to worry about grocery shopping when we got to Aspen. We bring everything with us to the motel.

The place is clean but basic, one of those roadside places in which the doors open into the parking lot and the rooms are adjoining. Not exactly the accommodations we’ve become accustomed to, but the certainty we were going to die on that plane has put us all in a festive mood. Fluff sniffs every square inch of the place and apparently finds it to her liking. She curls up in a ball on our bed and is snoring within minutes.

We throw open the connecting doors inside the rooms, and before long, we’ve got a full-on party going. It’s a good thing we’re the only guests, because we’d probably get kicked out if there were others.

By six o’clock, it’s snowing hard and accumulating rapidly.

Over the next two days, the weather only gets worse, and we begin to accept that Christmas in Aspen isn’t going to happen. Nat’s sisters and the rest of my family are grounded, too, and we’ve been in touch with them to commiserate about best-laid plans.

We’re passing the time eating, sleeping and playing the board games we found in a closet in the main part of the motel, which also has a kitchen the starstruck owners made available to us. Even Rafe has been more enjoyable than usual, which is a relief as we’re stuck in close quarters. Despite the close quarters, I’m still getting plenty of time alone with Natalie, which is the best part of being stranded.

If I’m being honest, this is the most relaxed I’ve been in longer than I can remember. There’s absolutely nothing to do but be together, which is perfect in its own way. Aileen, who had a mini freak-out when she realized we’d be stuck here for Christmas, told the kids that Santa will find them, but it may not be right on Christmas Day since we aren’t where we’re supposed to be.

Thankfully, they seem to have accepted that explanation as they decorated the “Charlie Brown” tree the guys managed to find in a deserted tree lot down the street from the motel. The kids spent the day making paper snowflakes and other improvised decorations. The gifts the rest of us brought on the plane for the kids are underneath the tree for Christmas morning. As Aileen said, Logan and Maddie are far more accustomed to “sparse” Christmases than they are with a windfall, so they’re perfectly content with what they have.

Late on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I find Natalie in our room, standing at the window, watching the snow that shows no sign of slowing down. I slip an arm around her from behind, resting my chin on top of her head. “How do you feel about Christmas in Saint George, Utah?”  

“As long as you’re in Saint George, it’s fine by me.”

“This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said I wanted to give you a magical Christmas.”

“Maybe not, but it’s still magical. I don’t need a big fancy house in Aspen to be happy when I have you and Fluff and my best friends. I wish my sisters were here, but we’ll see them in a day or two when the weather clears.”

I think about the women I knew before her, including the one I was married to. None of them would’ve found magic at the Castaway Inn in Saint George, Utah, especially when they’d been promised a movie star’s home in Aspen. That Natalie can find the magic no matter where we are or what we’re doing is one of many things that make her the love of my life.

“In case I’ve failed to mention it today, I love you, Mrs. Godfrey.”

“Love you, too, Mr. Godfrey.” She looks back at me over her shoulder. “Can we come back here for Christmas every year?”

Smiling, I flatten my hand over the baby bump. “If that’s what you want, then that’s what we’ll do.”

“How fun would it be to come back here year after year and recreate this first Christmas together?”

“It would be fun.”

“How long do you think it’ll take before we need all the rooms?”

We’ve rented ten of the Castaway’s seventeen rooms. “A year? Maybe two?”

She laughs. “If it takes that long.”

Last Christmas, I thought the biggest thing that might happen in the new year was my first acting Oscar. Funny how that turned out to be the least of what happened. With my arms around my wife and my hands curled around our unborn child, I’m content in a way I’ve never been before—and it’s all because of Natalie. She’s the key to everything.

Best. Christmas. Ever.

 

 

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