Day 4 of our holiday extravaganza celebrating not only our 1 year anniversary but this special time of year with our families and friends is an EXCLUSIVE scene from the TAKE THIS REGRET Series by A.L Jackson!
Laughter filled the space. Christian’s was throat and deep, Lizzie’s as soft as a Christmas bell, and Myles’ nothing more than a muffled coo as he stuffed his little fist in his mouth.
Warmth spread through every cell in my body as I looked over them from the kitchen where I arranged cups of hot chocolate on a tray.
“Right here?” Christian teased as he held a glass ornament where it would be hidden on the backside of the tree.
Lizzie huffed through another giggle. “No, Daddy, I said, right there!” She jabbed her finger at the prominent branch hanging off to the side.
Christian tossed me an amused smile. “Oh, this one?”
“Yes, you silly,” she said, her irritation just as feigned as her father’s.
He worked the hook onto the branch, balancing Myles’ back against his chest where Christian held him with his free arm. Myles kicked his little feet and flailed his arms.
For so many years I believed I’d never have it, completed and whole, the idea of it always just out of reach.
Now, after everything Christian and I had been put through in our lives, we’d come to accept we’d been given so much, so much more than we ever could have asked for because in it was more than perfection.
I picked up the tray and carried it out into the huge family room where we spent so much time. The home Christian had found for us was something I could only ever dream of, backed up against our beach, everything about it expansive and luxurious, but in it, we’d created the most comfortable home.
Joy lived here. It radiated from the walls and echoed in our hearts.
Carefully, I set the tray down on the coffee table. “Who wants hot chocolate?”
Lizzie flung her head around, the black pigtails she wore low on her shoulders flying flipping around with the motion. She turned that precious face on me. “I want some!”
She ran my direction. Coming to a stop right in front of me, she beamed up at me with those bright blue eyes that always seemed to see more than they should. Like maybe she cherished this day as much as I did. “Thank you, Mommy.”
Even though she was growing so fast, maturing, she was still mine and Christian’s little girl, the sweetness of her heart never fading.
“You are so welcome, baby girl.”
Redness seeped to her cheeks.
“You’d better save one of those for your dad.” Christian walked toward me. Blue eyes played all over my face as he approached, soft with affection and bright with joy. Myles jumped and kicked the closer Christian came, my two men beating my heart a little faster than it had been seconds before.
I took Myles’ little hand, brushed my lips against his knuckles. “Hey there, precious boy.”
Coos lifted from his tiny chest and he fisted a handful of my hair.
Christian chuckled and unwound it. “Looks like someone’s glad to see you.”
I smiled up at him, lifted up on my toes and kissed him softly, our son between us. “I just walk out of the room and I think this little guy starts missing me.”
“That makes two of us,” Christian murmured at my mouth.
“Always,” I whispered back, because I never missed the chance to tell him that I wanted to spend every second of my life with him, that every minute of the day while he was at work his presence lingered with mine, a gentle reminder of my unending love for this gorgeous man.
I dropped back onto my feet, smiling back at Christian who was smiling at me.
“So now that the tree is all finished, we’d better get these stockings up before Santa comes.”
Lizzie jumped back to her feet. “Yay! And I have to get the cookies and milk out. Me and Mommy spent ALL day fixing them and Santa is going to be so excited when he sees ‘em.”
Tenderly, Christian brushed his fingers through Lizzie’s bangs. “He is, huh? Do you think I could taste one?”
“No way, Daddy, those are for Santa. I will make you some for your birthday.”
Christian roared with laughter, this sound that hit me unlike anything else that could. Because I’d realized something that I’d lost years before, a feeling that should never have been fleeting but had somehow escaped me through all the pain that this life had taken me through.
I wanted him to be happy.
I needed him to be happy because I didn’t think there was a person in this world that deserved happiness the way Christian did.
Because he was a good man.
We hung our stockings on the mantle, the large stockings with all of our names embroidered across the top. Lizzie ran into the kitchen, pulled out her cookies that she’d spent the entire afternoon decorating, poured a large glass of milk. Carefully she carried them back into the living room, set them next to the tree with pride. “There, now we’re all ready for Santa.”
“Not quite…we need to read our story first.”
Lizzie’s eyes went big as Christian pulled out the large storybook that boasted huge pictures and thick pages. He wanted us to create traditions in our family, something that our children would look forward to each year, the small things he felt as if he’d missed out on when he’d been growing up.
Traditions that Claire, Christian’s mother, now was a part of since she’d moved to San Diego a few months ago so she could be closer to us.
We all gathered on the couch, close together, me snuggled into Christian’s side with my head on his shoulder, our children on our laps.
The deepest contentment thrummed in my spirit.
Christian’s voice resonated through me as he read to his family, as he poured his love out over us in his time and his words and the soft touch of his hand.
Both of our children fell asleep in our arms. Quietly, we carried them to their beds, Myles to his crib that he’d just begun sleeping in the month before when he’d outgrown the basinet we kept in our room, Lizzie in the bed she’d picked out when we moved into this house. Her room was quiet as I turned back the covers and Christian laid her in her bed. We tucked her in, the way we did every night. Christian brushed his lips across her forehead. “Goodnight, precious girl.”
From the depths of her sleep, Lizzie groaned and rolled onto her side, nestling into her covers.
In our room, I changed into my nightie, the room so quiet I could hear the gentle crash of the waves from beyond our bedroom where our window looked out over our beach. Christian flipped on the baby monitor as we climbed into bed, and of course I climbed right into his arms.
There was no other place I wanted to be.
Christian wound me in the safety of his arms. “I love you so much, Elizabeth.” He murmured my name like it was praise, the way he always did.
In the dimness of the room, I looked up to his the lines on his face, his strong jaw and brow, the sharp eyes, and that soft mouth. “I love you more than anything.”
“Have something for you.” He leaned away far enough to dig through the top drawer on his nightstand, brought out a tiny gift that was wrapped in silver. I sat up and carefully wrapped it. Inside was a black velvet box.
I flipped open the lid.
Inside was a charm.
A charm that would slip onto the bracelet Christian and Lizzie had gotten me for my twenty-seventh birthday. When Christian was asking to be a part of my family even when he had been all along, the most important thing in the world because he was the one who held me together.
But he was no longer asking me to add.
The eternity charm said it all.
Because Christian had my forever.
“Thank you. It’s beautiful,” I whispered as I went to remove the bracelet from my arm so I could add the charm.
Christian stretched out his hand and stopped me. “May I?” he asked, so much like he’d done before. He worked off the clasp, took the bracelet, and added the charm. He slipped it back around my wrist, his face so close to mine as he tightened the clasp.
“There,” he said.
Slowly, I nodded. “There,” because that charm was exactly where it was supposed to be.
I looked into the blue eyes of the man who inhabited my past and spoke of my future.
“Kiss me,” I demanded.
Christian chuckled as his big hand came out to the hold the side of my face. “Happily.”
Series Reading Order
Book .5 – Lost To You
Book 1 – Take This Regret
Book 2 – If Forever Comes