Home > Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(7)

Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(7)
Author: J. Kenner

“I’ll make you a new one,” I announce. “It’s the least I can do.”

He lifts a single brow. “You? Cook?”

I scowl, feigning offense. “I happen to be excellent at putting frozen waffles in a toaster. I have it down to an art form. But just for doubting me, you’re going to have to wait until after I take a shower.”

“You go on ahead,” he says, then presses a kiss to my forehead. “I’ll make you a new breakfast.”

“Join me?”

I see the temptation, but he only shakes his head. “Not if we want to get this cleaned up before Jamie and Ryan get here.”

Since he has a point, I go, then enjoy the warm water and the memories of Damien’s hands on me as I get clean and champagne-free. When I return, breakfast has reappeared on the table.

“Wow. You’re fast.”

He kisses my neck as he pulls the chair out for me. “Would you think less of me if I confess that I cheated? I microwaved the bacon.”

I smile up at him. “Doesn’t matter. You always take care of me.”

He pours us both mimosas and then slides into the seat next to me. As he does, he sets a red-wrapped cylinder tied with a big gold bow next to me.

“What?” I ask. “Damien! It’s not time yet.” We’d promised to open presents on Christmas morning, and we’d agreed to only one each.

“It’s an early one. Go ahead. Open it.”

I consider debating, but he looks so eager that I give in without arguing. I reach for the tube, surprised to find how light it is. As soon as I’ve ripped the paper off and opened the plastic end, I understand why—there are just a few sheets of paper inside.

Curious, I pull them out, then frown as I try to process what I’m seeing. “My office?” I look up at him, my chest feeling hollow and my voice sounding raw. “You bought my office condo?”

He smiles, clearly proud of himself, and I stay seated. I’m a little queasy. A little unsteady. And I’m really not sure what to say.

Honestly, I feel numb. I’ve been poring over numbers for weeks, trying to make it work. Damien knows that; hell, it’s pretty much all I’ve been talking about over dinner and last week during our phone calls. And in just the last few days I’ve been coasting on a wave of pride when I realized that with the next contract payment on the Sykes project, I could do this on my own.

How can he not understand how important it is—was—for me to do that? To have reached for this goal and then grasped it on my own dime, without my husband’s billions hoisting me up?

“Hey.” He presses his hand over mine, and I realize that I’ve put the deed on the table and my hand is covering it. “Are you okay?”

I look up at him and see a hint of worry as the pride and pleasure starts to fade—and how the hell am I supposed to tell him that this isn’t what I want, this gift that he obviously believes will thrill me? That he expects will broaden my smile, not make tears prick my eyes.

I draw a breath, and then I do smile. “Just overwhelmed,” I say. “And feeling guilty.” I glance back toward the Christmas tree. “You don’t get to open yours until tomorrow.”

“I can wait.” He pulls me up and into his arms, and for the first time ever, I am hesitant, afraid that he will feel my melancholy. Afraid that he will know. And I don’t want to tell him that this gift troubles me. Not now. Not on Christmas Eve.

More than that, I am sad that he didn’t know from the beginning. That this man who knows me so damn well didn’t understand that I wanted to buy the condo on my own.

But I know that I have to tell him—aren’t I the one who has always pushed that there not be secrets between us? And I’m about to do it, really I am, when I hear a clatter at the front door, followed by the beep of someone entering the lock code on the numeric keypad.

And then Jamie’s voice fills the kitchen, vaulted ceiling and all. “We’re here! If you’re naked, it’s time to put your clothes on.”

I glance at Damien, who grins back at me, though his smile doesn’t hide the flicker of worry in his eyes.

I take his hand. “Merry Christmas,” I whisper, then lean in to brush a kiss over his lips.

And then we head to the entry hall to greet our friends.

Chapter 3

“Uncle Damien! Uncle Damien! Please, please, please can we watch Snoopy again?”

Four-year-old Ronnie climbs into Damien’s lap and bounces, her hands holding his T-shirt in tight little fists. We’re in the great room so that we can enjoy the tree that we spent the late afternoon decorating, with Ronnie placing the star on top from her perch on her father’s shoulders.

The room’s east wall has a hidden panel that reveals a large-screen television, and we’ve all been sprawled on the sofas, chairs, and the floor watching Home Alone, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We’re full of pie and hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps, which really is as festive as Jamie promised. Not that Ronnie or Sylvia know that—the child and the mom-to-be got to enjoy the cocoa, but not the extra cheer.

And, in retrospect, even just cocoa was probably a mistake as far as Ronnie is concerned. Because now the little girl is completely hyped up on sugar and excitement.

“Please, please, please, please, please.”

“Sorry, kiddo,” Damien says, his expression at least as serious as if he were laying off a long-time employee. “Not happening.”

“Frosty the Snowman?”

“You like Frosty?” Damien asks, as Jackson and Sylvia look on from the other sofa, their expressions amused.

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