Sometime later, ensconced on the couch in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace and the tea she’d made steeping in the pot, she sighed happily as he leaned back into her fingers where she massaged his shoulders. “You’re so good to me,” he murmured.
“Pffft. No more than you deserve. Now, about my present?”
He laughed, settling back into her so she could wrap her arms around him and hold on tight.
“I know we both normally spend Christmas at Kelly and Max’s house.” Kelly was Rori’s sister and she was married to Max, Jude’s brother. They’d all grown up together and spent the holidays as a family since Rori had returned to Oakley some years before.
“This will be our first Christmas as a couple.” He paused and she kissed the top of his head. “So I thought we could, you know, get away for a few days. Make our own holiday celebration.”
She smiled but he couldn’t see it so she kissed him again. “Really?”
“There’s a place in Highlands. In North Carolina. A few hours drive from here. It overlooks the valley. High enough to get snow sometimes the owner said. Our own cabin at the resort. Private and secluded. Restaurant looks good, but they have room service too if we want it.”
She scrambled around him to wrap herself around his waist, wanting him to see how much she loved this present. “Just you and me for Christmas? Really?”
He nodded. “Is that all right? Four nights. We’d be back for the New Year’s Eve party your sister is planning. I know we spend it with family and all. But I thought it would be nice to get away.”
Just the two of them.
They needed it, she knew. She sure as heck wanted it. Wanted to make their own traditions without the shadow of Zach between them.
“Silly, we will be with family. You and I are a family, aren’t we? I love the idea. It’s fabulous and I can’t wait to have you all to myself.”
He smiled. “I’ve arranged coverage at work. No calls in the middle of the night. The cabin we’re in is secluded, so you can make all the noise you want and we won’t have our nephews at the front door first thing in the morning begging for breakfast or to go hiking or what have you. I can have my wicked way with you over and over.”
“Lots of wicked ways. I heartily endorse this plan, Jude. Thank you.” It would be good to leave Oakley behind for a few days. And she loved the idea of not having to share him with anyone else.
“Just Rori and Jude.” He said it as he stretched up to kiss her on the lips.
They’d known each other pretty much their entire lives. He’d been her best friend and her roommate in the nearly two years after Zach’s murder, they’d only shared that first kiss the New Year’s Eve before and hadn’t become a real couple until later than that. It’d be good to go on a vacation together.
Things between them were good. It had felt totally natural to be with him. She’d loved him before Zach and then he’d been there after Zach and she’d loved him again.
She was past the point where she questioned her glorious second chance at forever with a man she knew would love her just as long. Her man.
A good, strong man who loved his people. A man who’d die to protect not just her, but the people in town. As a cop, Jude took that commitment even further. She knew when he made a commitment, he’d keep it. It was part of her attraction to him. That steadfast loyalty and strength of character. Even when she worried, though they lived in a small, relatively safe town, that one day she’d have to face his death too. Sometimes, in the dead of night, it paralyzed her, swamped her and blurred the memories of how it had been to hear Zach was dead.
But it meant something to him. He did it because he cared. Serve and protect weren’t just words on his vehicle, he felt them deeply. She admired that, even as it scared her.
On top of that, he looked like walking sin. A face that made her tingly all over just looking at it. A slow, sexy southern drawl. Hands that knew their business. A mouth he used to her great delight. They had chemistry in a big way. Sex that left her weak-kneed and gasping for breath.
A man who’d never use his strength to harm her, but who used that strength to take her to the darkest, sweetest of places, all while holding her so she wouldn’t drift away. He didn’t hurt her, but he knew how to take her on a ride of pleasure just on the very edges of pain.
She loved it. More than that, she craved it. Found solace and satiation in it. They fit in ways she couldn’t possibly begin to describe with enough wonder and gratitude.
Jude made her whole.