Read Another Snowbound Christmas Online

Authors: Veronica Tower

Tags: #Erotica/Romance

Another Snowbound Christmas (13 page)

Marc's first over-excited effort hit the rim on the way up and bounced directly back down to him.

Kara jumped in front of him, skidded on the slick pavement and almost went down again.

Ron tried to drop Thea to move to defend the basket, but Kara's feisty cousin wouldn't let go of him and he tumbled over in the snow beside her.

“One basket apiece,” Al smugly announced as his son succeeded in sinking his follow up shot.

“So that's the way you want to play,” Ron observed. He stood up, brushed the snow off his coat, and then stepped over beside Kara and Jenny. “You ready, girls?” he asked.

“Ready!” Kara and Jenny promised.

“It's bad enough that the men want to act like fools,” Mama called out. “But why do you and Thea have to encourage them?”

Kara ignored her mother. Ron tossed her the ball and she tried to dribble in the snow, but all she succeeded in doing was getting the ball to bounce off at a crazy angle. Marc ran for it, but Ruth of all people snatched it up from the sidelines and tossed it effortlessly through the net.

Everyone froze.

“Ruth?” Kara asked the question all of them were wondering. “When did you learn to shoot a basketball?”

Ruth just smiled at her.

“Hey, we're up two to one!” Marc shouted.

“No, you're not!” Jenny shouted back. “Mom is on our team!”

“No, she's not!” Marc insisted.

While they were speaking, Becka snatched the ball out of Al's hand and made her own basket. “Two to two,” she announced.

Jenny started clapping.

* * * *

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Chapter Eighteen

Kara shot her basket, barely getting it past Thea's outstretched hand. She'd missed every shot she'd taken tonight and she really wanted this one to go in. They were down nine to six. Ron was good, but he never forgot that Marc and Jenny were in the game. He'd spank the ball out of the sky to reject Al, Ruth and Thea's shots, but other than that first time he'd blocked Marc, he pretty much let Kara's nephew shoot at will. And he'd even taken to picking up Jenny so she could have a better chance of putting the ball through the rim. The kids adored him for it, but Kara knew it would bother him if they let Al win.

Her ball bounced off the rim, ricocheted, to the other side, and slipped into the net.

“Way to go, Kara!” Ron told her. His arms slipped around her and his cold lips briefly pressed against her equally chilled face. Then he was hurrying back to defend the basket again.

His phone started ringing from somewhere inside his coat. He'd changed the jingle for the holidays to
Baby It's Cold Outside
and he reached for it now while calling timeout.

Al went ahead and took a shot anyway, while Ron in his good shoes walked off into the snowy yard. “Hello!”

Thea put her hand on Kara's arm to catch her attention. “I like him,” she said.


“Ron,” Thea explained. “I like him. I didn't think I was going to after the stories Aunt Margaret's been telling Mom. But I like him.”

“I like him, too,” Kara said. And then for reasons she didn't quite understand, she confessed. “It's harder than I thought it would be. But I really like him.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ron duck his head as if trying to hear his phone better. He said. “No, Eric, I haven't heard from her all day.”

“What do you mean harder?” Thea asked. “You mean living together?”

“Yeah, living together is tough,” Kara said. “It's nothing big, but we're very different and the little things get to me sometimes. But it was hard before that, too. His family is flat out weird and—”

Thea's broadening smile caused Kara to break off her complaint. “What?”

Thea didn't answer immediately.

Kara could hear Ron say: “You mean she said she was coming

Kara started to turn to Ron to find out what was going on but Thea was still standing beside her grinning, so she kept most of her attention on her cousin. “What?” Kara repeated.

“I was just thinking,” Thea told her, “how
our family is. I've got a secret for you Kara—nobody's family is that

Kara conceded the point. “Well, okay, but his father—”

Thea's continued grin made her break off and started over again. “Okay,” she repeated, “so both of our families are difficult. What do we do about it?”

Thea shrugged. “You do the best you can. Are you going to marry him?”

Kara shivered and despite the snow falling all around her, she didn't think it was the cold that caused it. “I don't know if he wants to,” she whispered. “I kind of thought...well, we've sort of been fighting this weekend, but it all seems kind of stupid now.”

Thea shrugged again. “Most couples fight over the stupid things. I don't really know why that it is but I have a theory. The big things—like not being able to stand the idea of spending a whole day with each other's family for the holiday—are things you know are going to make you look like an ass if you pick a fight over them. But all of those bad feelings are still there. So you pick a fight over something stupid but what you're really saying is
I don't want to spend another day with your parents.

Kara shuddered this time, not a little shiver, but a full-fledged body wrenching shudder.

“Hit a nerve, didn't I?” Thea observed.

Off to the side, Ron said, “Sure, I'll try phoning her, but if she's not taking your calls, why do you think she'll take mine?”

Kara said, “Do you really think that's why I've been picking fights with him? Because I didn't want to spend Christmas Eve with his family?”

Thea hugged herself against the cold. “I don't know,” she said. “What were you fighting about?”

Kara remembered the first fight—the real fight—when she'd gotten mad that Ron wanted to
her too much. There was no way she could tell Thea

“What?” Thea asked her. “You just made the strangest facial expression.”

Thea's eyes gleamed with sudden understanding. She leaned in closer to Kara and whispered a question. “Did he want to try something really kinky?”

Kara tried to school her expression but Thea saw something in it anyway.

“He did, he did!” she squealed. “I think I like this guy even more now.”

Ron glanced over at them for a moment, but instead of crossing the driveway to see what they were talking about, he pushed a button on his phone and lifted it back to his ear to listen. Mama stood in her coat talking to Aunt Edie as the snow fell around them. Al and Marc were taking shots at the hoop. And Ruth had picked up Jenny while she talked quietly to Becka.

No one was actually paying much attention to Kara and Thea so Kara partly gave into her confessional impulse. “I don't know how to put this exactly,” she said, “but things are normally really good between Ron and me. It's just that sometimes he wants them to be
at really awkward times.”

Kara wasn't certain Thea would follow her allusion, but her cousin had obviously stayed right with her. “There are worse problems to have,” she said. “I mean, as long as he keeps it zipped during church, what's the problem.”

Kara could actually think of a lot of places besides church that she didn't want Ron unzipping his pants, but what she said was, “I hadn't realized how adventurous you are, Thea.”

Across the driveway, Ron started leaving a voicemail for his sister. “Hey, Kitten, it's Ron. Eric and your kids are pretty worried about you. Please give me a call when you get this message. Whatever's wrong, we'll figure out a way to work it out. Love you, Sis!”

“All of that adventure is in my head,” Thea confessed. “I haven't had a boyfriend in years. All the good men are gone. Except for nights like this, I spend all of my evenings at home with Mom and my cats.”

Her voice trailed off.

“Hey, Ron,” Al called out. “It's cold out here! Are we going to play another round?”

Ron held up a hand to Al as if he were holding him off. “Give me another minute, Al. My sister is missing and her husband's freaking out.”

Ron's comment jarred Kara out of her conversation with Thea. “Did you say Kitten is missing?”

Ron lifted his phone back to his ear. “Yeah, she apparently—” he broke off in mid-sentence and spoke into the phone. “Eric, she didn't take my call. How bad do you think this is? Should we start calling hospitals?”

“Would you excuse me for a moment?” Kara asked Thea before hurrying over to Ron's side.

Thea walked with her, and the rest of Kara's family gravitated toward him as well—even Mama and Aunt Edie offering the support of their concern, even if Mama probably didn't realize that was what she was doing.

“Well, what do you want me to do then?” Ron asked.

He listened for a moment and shook his head.

“No, I'm not going to forget about it. I don't care if it's Christmas. Kitten's my sister. I want to help.”

Kara was close enough now to hear Eric's voice coming out of the little speaker, but not to make out his words.

“Eric,” Ron responded. “I've got a Grand Cherokee. Ford makes it. I could drive up Mount Everest in it if I had to.”

“What's going on?” Thea whispered to her.

“I'm not sure,” Kara whispered back, “but Ron's sisters found out they were adopted a few months ago and Kitten hasn't been dealing with it very well. To make matters worse, his other sister, Anne, spent today with her birthmother and it's apparently been going fabulously. Kitten was really upset last night.”

“I'll try and think of where she could go,” Ron said. “I've got a full tank of gas. The least I can do is drive around. You keep in touch in case you hear from her or you think of something.”

Ron disconnected the call and stuck the phone in his pocket. When he looked up, he seemed to notice for the first time that everyone had crossed the driveway to form a half circle around him.

“I'm sorry everyone,” he said, “but my sister went off in this snow a couple of hours ago saying she was coming to talk to me and no one knows what happened to her. I'm sorry, but I've got to go look for her.”

“Completely understandable,” Al said. “Is there anything we can do to help?”

“Just let Kara stay here while I search,” Ron said.

“I'm going with you!” Kara told him.

“Kara,” Mama began, but Kara cut her off.

“I don't want to hear any opposing opinions,” she said. “If Kitten's in trouble, I'm going to help you look!”

Ron stepped in front of her and gently took hold of her by her upper arms, looking into her eyes. “It's a terrible way to spend Christmas night,” he told her. “You'll be warmer and more comfortable if you stay with your family.”

“The only place I want to spend Christmas is with you,” she told him. Despite all the fights yesterday and the unpleasantness this morning, and the trouble with Mama and Bobby this afternoon, Kara knew she'd said the simple unvarnished truth.

Ron kissed her. Not a deep searching exploration of her mouth but a simple meaningful pressing of his lips against hers. “Thanks,” he said. “I needed to hear that right now.”

The warmth that stirred in her heart right then could have sustained her through a thousand blizzards. “I love you, Ron,” she whispered.

“I love you, too,” he said, “more than I think you could ever possibly know.”

He kissed her one more time, a warm but fleetingly meeting of their mouths. Then he turned around. “I'm sorry everyone, but we have to go,” he said. “Ruth, it was a wonderful dinner as always. Thank you.” He hurried over to her and gave her a quick hug. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas, Ron,” Ruth said. Then added, “You be sure to call us when you find your sister.”

“I will!” Ron promised.

He shook Al and Marc's hands and hugged Jenny before telling Kara's aunt and cousins it had been nice to finally meet them. Kara, of course, was doing the same thing, giving plenty of hugs and kisses, and heartfelt wishes of Merry Christmas, while keeping a caring eye on Ron.

He had stopped in front of Mama. “Thank you,” he said, “for permitting me to accompany your family to church this morning. I don't really know how Baptists think about such things, but I spent the whole service praying that you can find it in your heart to accept me. I know you don't approve of me, but I love your daughter very much and I'm hoping this is the first of a great many Christmases I'll be spending with Kara and your family.”

Mama stared at him for a long and uncomfortable moment, then said, “We'll see, Ronald. I hope you find your sister.”

For Mama, that was almost an enthusiastic endorsement, but it wasn't clear that Ron understood that.

He turned and scooped up Kara and escorted her to his Jeep.

On impulse, Kara turned back to her cousin. “Hey Thea,” she called out. “Tell your cats they're on their own this New Year's Eve. You're going out with Ron and me!”

Without waiting for an answer, she got into the car. Ron was already brushing the snow off the windows with one of those big van-sized brushes. The flakes were still fluffy snow and came off easily. Then he jumped into the car, turned on the engine, and cranked up the defroster.

Kara rolled down her window and shouted back to her family. “Merry Christmas everyone!”

“Merry Christmas!” they shouted back to her.

Ron pulled into the snow-covered streets and started down the road.

* * * *

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Nineteen

“So what happened?” Kara asked Ron.

The snow was coming down harder than ever, large fluffy flakes that kept the window wipers working furiously. Even the main roads were disappearing under a blanket of white and visibility was very poor. Ron's headlights did little more than illuminate the torrent of snowflakes plummeting toward the road. The only thing keeping the storm from being categorized a blizzard was the lack of any real wind to stir up the flakes as they fell. It was the sort of storm that children dream of at Christmastime, but from their current vantage point on the road, the flakes looked ominous rather than heartwarming.

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