I love my grandma. I really do. Honest. But sometimes that woman just drives me nuts! She’s obsessed with finding me a husband since she seems to think I’m getting too old to find one on my own. Having her come for Christmas was something I’d grown used to. I wasn’t prepared to have her there and Josiah and a gaggle of little boys. Sometimes Mom’s sense of neighborly love gets a little out of control. This Christmas, that was definitely the case. The house got louder and more crowded with each passing hour. Around suppertime Mom somehow got the Lesters in the dining room and when we’d all finished our meal, we went to the living room for caroling. “Scarlett, would you mind getting my guitar for me?” Blizzard asked.
“Sure.” I walked upstairs to her room. It struck me as odd that her door was partially ajar since I knew she had closed it prior to the Lesters’ arrival. I pushed the door open and suddenly a bucketful of icy water poured over me as something hit me in the head. I couldn’t stop the scream that escaped my mouth. Freezing and furious, I went into the room and grabbed Blizzard’s guitar, tempted to beat her over the head with it. Everyone was working their way up the stairs when I came out of her room. “Think you’re funny, huh?”
Blizzard was falling all over herself trying to apologize. “I’m so sorry, I set that up for the boys. Not you.”
“Do I look like a boy?”
“Nope. Definitely not a boy,” Josiah replied.
I caught him staring at me and realized with my shirt wet, I was revealing more than usual. I slapped him across the face. A gentleman would know better than to just stare like that. “Excuse me while I go change.” I turned on my heel and went to my own room, peeling the soaked shirt from my body and tossing it angrily in the laundry basket. I kept thinking about Blizzard’s surprised expression. A smile tugged at my lips and then I had to laugh. The boys had gotten into her room earlier, as evidenced by the boy who’d run into the kitchen with her neon pink sports bra on his head. She probably had set up that little trap as a way of teaching them a lesson. Unfortunately for me, I was the one taught.
Once I’d gotten into fresh clothes and warmed up a little, I hastily removed all trace of humor from my face. I didn’t want Blizzard thinking I’d forgiven her that easily. I glanced around my own room. The boys hadn’t gotten around to exploring in here. I stopped by the herd of model horses traipsing across Mom’s model of Tara. The most recent model from Josiah stood to the side of the group. He’d named her Misty Oasis and asked for forgiveness. I should forgive him. I knew that. But it was hard to want to. Allowing him the chance to try again hadn’t been an easy decision. I needed to know that when things went awry, he wouldn’t shut me out. Of course, I guess if I was honest, I needed to be willing to stop closing off my heart to him every time he got prickly. I picked up the dainty Arabian and placed her amongst the herd. Like it or not, Josiah was bound to be a part of my life unless I could find somewhere to go.
Closing the door on my thoughts, I went downstairs where everyone was enjoying a rousing rendition of Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas. I joined with a smile and suddenly a strong pair of arms surrounded me. I turned with a glare to see Josiah behind me. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting you warmed up, Lettie. Wouldn’t want you to get hypothermia. Just keep singing and enjoy the moment.”
His breath tickled my ear and a shiver ran through me.
I wasn’t about to admit to him that my shiver had nothing to do with being cold. If anything I felt overly warm. We finished the song and continued to another. When we started Here Comes Santa Claus, Josiah disappeared. I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Then a loud, “Ho, ho, ho!” interrupted the song.
Leslie’s eyes filled with tears as her boys shouted with glee, “Santa!”
Tears of my own pricked my eyes as I watched Josiah play the role of Santa to perfection. He took each boy lovingly onto his knee, giving them the presents Mom and I had carefully selected and wrapped over the previous week. He laughed merrily and posed for my grandmother as she circled around him like a vulture with a camera. Then as Mom passed out mugs of cocoa, he began reading from the Bible. The deep tones of his voice enriched the familiar story and I watched as the boys dozed. Even Blizzard succumbed to the soothing quality of Josiah’s voice. When he finished, the boys hugged him eagerly before following Mom to the kitchen to retrieve their treat bags. I stayed behind, glad for an opportunity to talk to him alone.
“Ready for your turn to sit on Santa’s lap?” Josiah teased as I stood in front of him.
“Ha! You wish.”
Grabbing me before I could move away, he pulled me into his lap. “Not a wish, anymore,” he grinned.
“Really, Josiah? You’ve got to learn to ask before just grabbing people or you’re going to get yourself hit.”
“Whoa, cowgirl, I’ve already reached my slap quota for the day.”
“Well, you earned it.”
“No man could have resisted that view, darlin’,” he retorted.
Not willing to argue about it, I shrugged. “So, how did Mom rope you into the costume? I haven’t seen that since Blizzard was a child.”
“The usual bribe, cookies and milk.”
I laughed. Then I leaned against him. “For the record, I think what you did here was better than anything else we’ve done for these kids. You gave them a real taste of Christmas magic. Thank you.”
“It was worth it to see you smile at me again,” he said, his voice low and husky. “Is it safe to say I’ve been forgiven, finally?”
“Hmm, maybe. Or maybe not!” I jumped up from his lap and he followed after, hugging me close as I giggled. As he turned me around to face him, I happened to look up. Somehow he’d managed to find the one piece of mistletoe Grandma had insisted on putting up. Can’t let Grandma’s efforts go to waste, I thought as I placed a quick kiss on Josiah’s mouth.
“What was that for?” he asked.
“Mistletoe. Wouldn’t want to ignore tradition. Might be bad luck.”
“Wouldn’t want that,” Josiah drawled, leaning closer.
“No,” I agreed breathlessly. The scratchy Santa beard tickled my chin as Josiah closed the distance between us.
I giggled and he pulled the beard down. “Lettie,” he whispered before claiming my mouth again. I don’t know how long we stood there under the mistletoe. The world seemed to disappear until all that existed was Josiah and how much I loved him. Maybe I didn’t have to go away after all.
Everything changed when Grandma’s shriek killed the moment. “Merciful heavens! I hope you have a shotgun handy, because that’s the kind of wedding you’ll be planning if this keeps up.”
Startled, I couldn’t get away from Josiah fast enough. Heat burned my face as he replied with perfect serenity, “You’re the one who advocated mistletoe, Mrs. Samuels. I’m just making sure it goes to good use.”
I glared at him. Arguing with my grandmother was like talking to a brick wall. It doesn’t do you a bit of good. I saw Blizzard standing by the boys, a look of amusement on her face. I glowered at her. Couldn’t she have warned me that Grandma was coming? And how long had she and the boys just been standing there? The Lesters left and Mom pulled Grandma away from Josiah. “I should check the horses,” I said, taking the opportunity to escape the confines of the house. I thought of the email I had received earlier in the week. I was told to reply within thirty days. The only problem was, I didn’t know what my reply would be.