I didn’t expect my life to change.
I didn’t expect the unbelievably hot guy behind the counter—all green eyes and golden surfer curls—to tilt my world.
And I REALLY didn’t expect his particular brand of laid-back alpha male style.
I’d been so secure in my own little world. One with Rules about what I do—and what I definitely do NOT do.
Especially in bed.
Rule Number 9? No dirty talking? There’s no earthly reason why I’d want anyone to do that.
I may be stuck-up, but my Rules kept me safe and happy.
Okay, I wasn’t happy. Depressed and repressed is more like it.
But am I ready for Mister Barista to obliterate every Rule in my book?
“I still have to give you your present,” I murmur to my husband, Ryan, as he nibbles on my sensitive nape, making me shiver.
We sit on the hardwood floor in front of our seashell-decorated tree, my back against his broad chest while he leans on the couch. His knees cradle mine. As he plants kisses on my skin, his hands sneak around my waist, one aimed upward inside my sequined top and the other headed down.
We’re alone. His sister, my parents, and our friends have all gone home after an afternoon of good food and cheery company. We’re surrounded by the quiet detritus of wrapping paper and empty champagne glasses, enjoying the view of the Pacific through our floor-to-ceiling windows.
Glittery twinkle lights line the railings outside, making everything festive. Seagulls soar skyward on an updraft, and low-flying pelicans glide along the dark, blue-green ocean. A California beach winter means clear days, cold, gritty sand between our toes, and nights watching purple flames lick a gas log that burns more for looks than heat.
Ryan smiles into my shoulder, using his raspy voice that makes me shudder. “Pretty happy with this right here. Us. Together. I don’t need a present.”
Even after a few years together, I still bask in the strength of his welcoming arms. “Too bad, babe. I got you two more things.”
“Yeah?” Again with his husky voice.
I lose focus.
His mouth sucking on my ear doesn’t help me concentrate, either.
I nod and twist around in his lap to face him. He trimmed his hair, but his golden curls still have an unruly attitude that makes my heart thud every time. “First surprise is due to be delivered in less than five minutes. So don’t get too many ideas just yet.”
“I’ve got plenty of ideas,” he mutters, pulling me into him for a kiss. Our lips touch and his tongue delves into my mouth. He tastes like hot chocolate and the candy cane he’s been sucking on.
He always tastes like yum.
When we break apart, I catch his green eyes and steady myself.
I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say for weeks, after we’ve talked about it for years.
But more important, I’m ready now.
“No more birth control,” I whisper. “I’m off it.”
His eyes widen, and his hands jerk against my waist. “You’re serious?”
I nod. “I’m willing to try. Just because, you know, it didn’t work before—“
“Amelia.” He growls and grips my waist so firmly my breath hitches.
“I know how much you want a child. How much we want one. You’ve been so patient, and I need to let you know I appreciate you not pushing me or making me feel less than for wanting to wait.”
He nods, his eyes serious.
My fingers play with a strand of my dark brown hair. “I want to create our family. I’ve always wanted to. Just, when it didn’t work before, it was devastating, you know? But I’m secure enough now—strong enough—that I know whatever happens, as long as you’re with me, we’re going to be okay. Better than okay. And if it happens that I can give us someone else to love, then …”
I trail off, and he catches the rest of my words with his tongue, swallowing me with a breath-defying kiss. His stubble scrapes against my jaw, and my hands clutch at his cropped hair. The muscles of his bicep tremble against my side.
Since he lost most of his family, he’s wanted nothing more than to create his own. But because of my miscarriage with my ex, I was always afraid to even think about possibly someday maybe having another baby. There are only so many times your heart can break in one lifetime before it can’t be put back together.
At least that’s the way I used to think. Since I walked into Ryan’s coffee shop, and more specifically into his strong arms, he’s helped me feel. As a depressive—former depressive?—I used to be afraid of my feelings and pushed them down, not wanting to get hurt again. But with his gentle patience and unique brand of alpha male Zen-ness inspiring me to take risks, he’s helped me heal. Mostly by listening to me and helping me feel safe with whatever scary feeling I’m going through. I’ve learned that taking the brave step to just do it, to just feel whatever it is I’m feeling, even if it freaks me out, with him holding my hand, I’ll be safe. Some kind of forced exposure therapy, maybe. But it worked, and I now know that opening my heart to possible pain is the only way to grow. If I linger, hiding behind my scar tissue, my life is tiny and unfulfilled. Only when I allow myself to seek what my soul yearns for do I feel free.
“You’re right, Movie Star. This is a gift. The biggest gift you’ve ever given me besides you. I don’t have words. I … I love you.” And his mouth now leaves butterfly kisses on my eyelids. My cheekbones. The tip of my nose. “Just let me know when you want to get started.” He grins, but his delicious eyes are full, both of emotion and dark promises.
I run my finger along his jaw. “I’m ready, even though I’m scared, and I’m excited, even though this,” I can’t bring myself to say the word baby, “might not turn out. But no matter what, I’m willing to try. Because I want to give you—us—everything.”
“God, Amelia.” He stares at me, and his tender expression tells me so much when he doesn’t say anything more. That he adores me. We belong together. He’ll support me no matter what.
But as he breathes, that look morphs into something dirtier. I know my husband. He’s thinking of the possibilities. All the ways he can knock me up—and have fun trying.
I hold up my finger. “Before you drag me off like the Neanderthal you are, I have something else for you.”
He settles back against the couch, his hands safely stowed on my hips. “All ears.”
“Be right back,” I whisper, and give him a light kiss. Reluctantly, I get up from his lap and head toward the door.
As I suspected, the doorbell rings. Right on time.
I sense, rather than see that Ryan’s followed me to the door, and glance over my shoulder to catch the curious look on his face. He straightens his pants, and I smirk, secretly loving that after all this time, we still turn each other on.
When I open our front door, a messenger stands on our doormat, cradling a tiny, wriggling, cocker spaniel puppy, with a red ribbon around his neck.
My heart flops at the dog’s soft ears, big brown eyes, and wet nose. He’s so stinkin cute, with golden hair to match the sunsets and sand.
As I take the puppy gently from the messenger, I thank her. “Merry Christmas.”
She nods and says, “Happy Holidays to you too. Enjoy him.” Then she turns and heads to her car.
Closing the door with my heel, I hand him to Ryan. “I thought I could give you a new family member to love in the meanwhile.”
The expression on Ryan’s face is priceless. He’s become a boy again, his tan skin crinkling around his eyes as he cuddles the pup. “Hey, little guy. Welcome.”
Then he lifts his chin to me.
The broad, uninhibited smile he bathes me with is worth everything.
“Thank you,” he whispers. “What’s his name?”
“I was thinking Maverick. After the surf spot. Because, you know, mavericks take risks. Like you’ve helped me to do.”
I scratch under the puppy’s chin. “I’ve got all his things in my car. Let’s get to know him, and once he goes to sleep, we can practice giving you your other present.”
Ryan grins. “Sounds like a plan.”
Late that night, after the three of us take a walk along the darkened beach, we settle the new little one to bed in his cozy nest.
Then Ryan turns to me with affection and arousal in his eyes.
“Merry Christmas, babe. Time to get started on my other present. Tonight.”
Taking his hand, I follow him into the bedroom with a broad smile stretched across my face and my soul full of love and hope and joy and peace.
About the author
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/
Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/
Book and Main Bites: https://bookandmainbites.com/
Newsletter sign up: www.lesliemcadamauthor.com