Kissing Eden, book #3
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23436581-a-very-grey-christmas
I was getting ready to spend the single most important holiday of the year alone. Completely and utterly alone.
That meant he wouldn’t be there Christmas Eve. No making Christmas cookies, or listening to my dad sing off-key while my mom bustled around wrapping last-minute gifts. No decorating the tree. No midnight Christmas kiss.
No waking up in Grey’s arms. We were actually going to spend our very first Christmas in different states.
That was until Grey gave me the most unexpected gift of my life.
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I zipped the side of my suitcase and slouched beside it on the bed. I knew it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t go. How could it? I had spent every holiday with my parents for twenty-one years. I couldn’t buck the trend for number twenty-two, even if it meant Grey stayed behind.
That meant he wouldn’t be there Christmas Eve. No making Christmas cookies, or listening to my dad sing off-key while my mom bustled around wrapping last-minute gifts. No decorating the tree. No midnight Christmas kiss. No waking up in Grey’s arms. We were actually going to spend our first Christmas in different states.
I latched the side of my carry-on. I wasn’t taking a chance on losing the presents I had purchased for everyone back home with an airport snafu. I learned my lesson over spring break. They were packed tightly in my bag, wrapped in layers of Bubble Wrap. My boots were also tucked inside. They were the most special gift Grey had given me, and I wasn’t about to check those with my regular luggage.
“You ready, darlin’? It’s time. If we don’t get on the road, you’re going to miss your flight.” Grey stood in the doorway.
My heart split in two. I couldn’t do this. What in the hell was I doing?
“What’s wrong?” He strolled to the bed and sat next to me.
“I-I don’t want to go. I can’t leave you here by yourself for Christmas. I don’t know what I was thinking.” I buried my face in my palms.
He brushed the hair off my shoulder. “Don’t worry about me. I’m going to have dinner with Mac and Renee. I’m sure Connor will light the bonfire. He usually does that on Christmas night. It’s a little island tradition.”
Heavy tears slid down my cheeks. “But that’s not the same.” Spending Christmas with Connor sounded depressing and bachelor-like.
“Eden, I’ve never had big Christmases. I’m going to work and I’ll be plenty busy. It’s not a huge deal to me. But it is a huge deal to your parents that you’re home with them. So, let’s get going, or your dad is going to have a reason to be pissed at me. I’ve never met the man. I don’t need a criminal record before I see him face to face.”
I turned toward him, not caring that my face was streaked with mascara. “Won’t you reconsider coming with me? Please, Grey.” We had talked about it twenty times, but I wasn’t ready to give up, even in the eleventh hour.
He shook his head. “No, this is important for your family. We had Thanksgiving together, and you’ll be back for New Year’s Eve. It’s just Christmas.”
“Just Christmas?” I didn’t like the way he said it.
Christmas was my favorite holiday of the year. I thought it was everyone else’s too. How could he make it seem as if it was as insignificant as Presidents’ Day? This was the single most romantic holiday of the year. Valentine’s Day was too cliché for me. Christmas was about sharing special moments and taking silly pictures. It was about cuddling on the couch and watching holiday movies. Christmas was about being together. It was everything we were not going to be.
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t. Don’t you love Christmas?”
“I didn’t grow up like you did with parents who decorated and did the whole tree thing. I had Pops. Christmas was small.”
“And he didn’t put up a tree?” I couldn’t imagine Grey growing up like that. I hadn’t thought about whether Christmas was a painful time of year for him either. Maybe he would rather skip the whole thing.
“We had a tree, but it was one of those tabletop ones and it’s not like I had a fireplace, so there wasn’t a chance Santa was going to visit.”
“What? Are you telling me Santa Claus did not visit you when you lived with Pops?” My jaw dropped. Grey had Christmas without Santa?
He stood and reached for my suitcase. “Come on, you’re going to be late. We can talk about Santa later.”
“Do you remember anything about Christmas with your parents? Did they believe in Santa?” I couldn’t drop this. It was a revelation about Grey’s past that was bigger than almost anything else he had told me. I stood rooted by the bed, praying his parents had enlisted Santa’s help every year. That Grey knew there was something magical about Christmas.
“I was eight. I don’t remember much about those early Christmases. But, yes, Santa visited. I had a stocking, and we had a tree. All that traditional stuff. I’ve got pictures around here somewhere.” His eyes looked misty, but I knew Grey wasn’t going to crack reminiscing about his childhood holidays. He always glossed over the topic.
“I want you to have that again.” I pulled on his arm, holding him back in our bedroom. “Please come home with me. My parents do all of that stuff. And it’s actually cold in North Carolina. It feels like Christmas there.” Don’t get me wrong, I loved palm trees, but they didn’t really scream Christmas spirit. We needed a good showing of Douglas firs.
“I appreciate it, but you and I will have Christmas when you get back. Marin’s parents have that big party for New Year’s Eve. We’ve got lots of other holiday stuff planned.”
I didn’t want to get in an argument with him during my last few hours in Texas. I knew when to give him some space.
“All right.” I cut the lights as we walked out of the room. The little beach cottage suddenly seemed sad and depressing. I had placed a poinsettia on the coffee table, and had strung up a few lights on the railing, but we opted not to add much since we wouldn’t be together on Christmas Day. Now, I regretted it. Grey needed to know how much fun Christmas could be. Why hadn’t I decorated the cottage like a Christmas wonderland?
I vowed right then we would never spend Christmas apart again. This would be the first and last time.
T.A. Foster once spent a monthlong spring break on South Padre Island, where she soaked in the Texas sun, beach, and learned what real Texas country music is. Sometimes fiction does spring from reality.
She grew up catching rays and chasing waves along the North Carolina Outer Banks and now resides in the state with her adventurous pilot husband, two children, and two canine kiddos.
T.A. has an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University. When she’s not chasing her two-legged and four-legged children or trying to escape for date night, you can find her reading, writing, or planning her next beach trip.
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