“You’re no monster, babe.” I kiss his lips and then wrap myself around his torso, holding him close. “You’re a daddy. She hurt your boy.”
He hugs me tight, then backs away, helps me off the sink, and accepts the towel I pass to him. He rubs it over his head and tosses it into the hamper.
“You’re sure everything is okay?”
“Yep, perfectly fine.”
He nods and kisses my forehead, then leads me back to the kitchen, where Seth is talking to Thor and frosting the last of the cookies.
“And then Josiah said, ‘There’s no way you can climb to the top of that snowbank and jump onto the roof!’ So I did.”
My heart stops as I halt beside the table and gape down at Seth. “You did what?”
“Oh, hi. I didn’t know you were back. I figured you were doing mushy stuff.”
“No, we were talking, and what did you just say?”
Zack grins and crosses his arms over his chest, watching me with his son. “Did you hear him?” I ask.
“What are you going to do about it?” I demand.
“It sounds like you’re about to do something about it,” he replies calmly.
“It wasn’t that far of a jump,” Seth assures me. “It was like, super short. And not that far off the ground.”
“It was a roof, Seth.”
He bites his lip, aware that he’s been caught. “Well, the snow was super high.”
“I’m super mad at you,” I reply.
“Why?” Seth asks, confusion written across his face.
“You could have been hurt! Didn’t you think of that?”
“I didn’t get hurt.” He sounds so calm, like I’m the one being unreasonable.
“You could have.”
“But I didn’t.”
“No more jumping on roofs, and that’s all there is to it,” I insist.
Seth looks over at his dad, who shrugs and nods.
“Fine.” His shoulders droop in defeat.
“I don’t want you to get hurt, buddy. You just took ten years off my life.”
His lips twitch as he tries to fight a satisfied smile. “You’re already old.”
“No more cookies for you,” I inform him sternly, fighting a grin.
“But you’re pretty,” he quickly adds.
Zack bursts out laughing and ruffles his son’s hair as he saunters past him to the kitchen to pour more coffee. “You’re just like your uncle. Always the charmer.”
“I don’t know.” I pick up a green-frosted sugar cookie and take a bite. “I think he sounds a lot like his dad.”
My phone pings with an incoming text.
Grace: Jacob has reserved rooms for you all here at the lodge tonight after the parade. So bring an overnight bag! His treat. Xo
“That’s Grace,” I inform Zack. “She says we’re all to bring overnight bags tonight to stay at the lodge, on Jacob.”
“Does this mean I get to stay with Grandma and Grandpa again?” Seth asks hopefully.
“Looks like,” Zack replies with a grin.
“Yessss!” Seth pumps his fist and does a happy dance in his chair. “Grandma said the next time I stay over, she’ll help me order some Christmas presents online.”
“I told you I’d take you shopping,” Zack says with a frown. His dark hair is messy from the towel, and he just looks delicious leaning against my kitchen counter with a coffee mug in his hand. It occurs to me that I’ve done hardly any shopping yet this year, and make a note to take care of that this afternoon after Zack and Seth leave.
“I know, but what I want to buy I can’t find around here, so she’s gonna help me order it.”
“What is it?” Zack asks.
“Can’t tell,” Seth replies with a grin. “But it really sucks. Whoever gets it is gonna hate it.”
I laugh and shake my head at the silly boy. “I doubt that.”
“We’ll see.” He grins widely and bites a cookie. “This Christmas is gonna be the funnest ever.”
“What did you ask for?” I ask Seth.
“Nothing.” He frowns like it didn’t occur to him to ask for anything.
“You didn’t ask Santa for anything?”
He rolls his eyes and gives a long-suffering sigh. “Santa isn’t real.”
“Oh yes, my friend, he is.” I give him a stern look and nibble my cookie. “So, what would you ask him for?”
“My own snowmobile,” he says and blushes. Zack’s lips twitch, but he keeps his face sober as he sits back and listens.
“Is that all?” I ask.
“That’s a lot!”
“But what if you’re daydreaming? What else would you ask for?”
He blinks and thinks hard. “Maybe some high-powered binoculars to look at the birds and stuff when we’re in the woods.”
“That’s cool,” I say with a grin.
“And Josiah has a Kindle Fire that’s cool. I like to read.”
“Yeah, Cara got me started on some fantasy books that are cool.”
I nod, making rapid mental notes.
“What about you, Dad?” Seth turns the question to his father, whose face goes blank.
“I don’t need anything. Everything I need is right here.”
His eyes shine as he gazes over at me, then to his son and, well, if I wasn’t already in love with him, I would have fallen hard right then.
“It’s a daydream, Dad.”
“I’m daydreaming about getting you home so I can do my chores and take my woman out on a date.”
“I can help with chores.” Seth jumps up and runs around the table to me and hugs me hard. “Thanks for the cookies and letting Thor and me sleep on your floor.”
“You’re welcome.” I hug him back and whisper in his ear, “Thanks for our talk.”
He smiles at me and takes his coat from his dad.
“I’ll see you tonight,” Zack murmurs and pulls me into his arms for a full-blown kiss, right there in front of Seth and the dog.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“Ugh,” Seth groans. “Come on, Thor, let’s go out to the truck.”
Zack and I laugh as we hear the front door close behind the boy and his dog.
“Thanks for staying over. I had a lot of fun.”
“We did too.” He nuzzles my nose with his and nibbles the side of my mouth. “I’m going to do a lot of naughty things to you in that hotel room tonight, sugar.”