Read Another Snowbound Christmas Online

Authors: Veronica Tower

Tags: #Erotica/Romance

Another Snowbound Christmas (6 page)

Kitten just stared at her unhappily until Anne looked away.

Ron didn't quite give up on seeing the note. “You realize I'm just going to have to entice the card out of you later,” he told her.

Kara tried to capitalize on the light-hearted tone in Ron's voice. “You can try...” she teased him.

Ron slipped his arm around her waist. “Is that a challenge?”

“Hey old people!” Kitten's daughter, Marcie, called out. “It's Christmas Eve. We don't have to see you kiss until the ball drops on New Year's Eve.”

“Quite right!” Hanna said. “Well, since that's the last present...” Her gaze lingered on Howard for a moment, daring him to come up with another surprise.

“That's not the last one, Grandma,” Emmy announced.

Everyone turned to look at Anne's five-year-old daughter.

“Did you make someone a present?” Anne asked the little girl.

“No,” Emmy said. “Uncle Ron's got one in his pocket.”

“What?” Ron and about half his family asked.

“I found it in your pocket,” Emmy repeated.

Ron suddenly looked
very
uncomfortable. “I don't have another one here, really,” he said patting his pockets to make the point.

“Not that pocket,” Emmy said, “the one in your coat.”

“Emmy, what were you doing in Uncle Ron's coat?” Anne asked.

“Jody told me Uncle Ron might have something for me in there,” Emmy explained, “and I think she's right.”

Anne turned to face her elder daughter. The twelve-year-old looked like she wished she could be anywhere else.

“That present isn't for you, Emmy,” Ron said. He looked distinctly uncomfortable.

Oh, no!
Kara thought.
It's a ring. Ron's bought me an engagement ring! I'm not ready for him to pop the question.

“Yes, it is,” Emmy said. “I'll show you.” The little girl ran from the room even as Ron tried to keep her from doing so.

“No! Wait Emmy!” He started to hurry after her, but Kitten pulled out of her funk enough to ask him, “What's the problem?”

Or maybe, Kara thought, she wasn't
pulling out of her funk
but looking for more reasons to wallow in it. There was an unpleasant glint to her eye and the frown on her face was not her usual teasing smile.

Ron hesitated, torn between chasing after Emmy and acting like nothing was wrong to Kitten. “Nothing's wrong,” he said. “It's just I didn't intend to give Kara this gift here.”

It
is
a ring!
Kara thought. Fear and consternation boiled up inside her surrounded by a definite sheen of excitement. It was too early for a ring! They'd only been dating a year. They'd only been living together for two months. And she definitely didn't want to receive it here in the middle of Ron's family.

Emmy ran back into the room carrying a little black jewelry box, confirming Kara's fears.

“Oh, how sweet!” Anne squealed. “Ron's going to propose to Kara! Gene where's our camera.”

Ron was beginning to lose his cool. “No!” he said. “That's not—I'm not—Emmy give me that!”

Emmy didn't want to give up the box. “No!” she said. “It's mine! Mine and Jodie's and Marcy's.”

“How can that be?” Hanna asked. “Is it a ring or not?”

Ron finally got the box away from Emmy who immediately began to scream at him. “Give that back! It's my earring!”

“Earring?” Kara asked. She felt totally confused and despite her burst of apprehension at the thought of an engagement ring, completely crestfallen.

“I'm sorry,” Ron said to her. Emmy was still angrily trying to get the little box back from him. “I didn't intend to give this to you—
damn!"

Ron looked down to find his niece biting him viciously on the leg.

“Jesus, Emmy! What the hell are you doing?”

“Emmy!” her mother snapped. “No biting!”

Emmy burst into tears. “But I want my earring!”

Ron was looking increasingly flustered. His fair skin flushed a dark red and his normally cool demeanor looked ready to burst into a tantrum of his own as he tried to keep his niece from biting him again. Emmy's parents didn't move from their seats. They weren't even forcefully telling Emmy to stop.

Kara decided to intervene before things got even worse. She sat down on the floor beside Emmy and pulled the little girl into her lap. Emmy resisted, of course, but Kara was a lot stronger. “Would you like a new pair of earrings?” Kara asked her. “Ron and I got you those pretty princess dolls, but your birthday is coming up in January. Would you like us to get you a nice pair of earrings then?”

“I want them now!” Emmy shouted.

Fortunately, Kara had a grip on the little girl's forearms from when she pulled the child into her lap or Emmy might have hit her.

Ron seemed to pull himself together, because he sat down beside Kara and tried to help. “I'm sorry, Emmy, but I didn't get you earrings for Christmas. I got these for Kara.”

“But there are
three
rings!” Emmy protested. “Kara only has two ears!”

“Three?” Kara asked, surprised by the number.

“Uh-huh,” Emmy agreed. She emphasized her point by vigorously nodding her head. “One for Jodie, one for Marcy, and one for
me!"

“Three?” Hanna asked.

Kitten suddenly laughed. It was a nasty sound—proving that on some level she was enjoying this situation. “Oh, Ron,” she said. “You are a
bad
boy, aren't you? And Kara, I'm impressed. I didn't think you had this in you.”

Kara had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, but Ron clearly did. The flush in his face grew significantly darker.

Suddenly Kitten's daughter, Marcie, laughed as well. “Oh, I get it,” she said. “Emmy these definitely aren't for us. Sorry Uncle Ron!”

“Did you know about this, too?” Anne asked, latching on the chance to pass some of the blame for this fiasco onto Kitten's child. “Honestly, you older girls should be keeping Emmy out of trouble, not pushing her into it.”

“Can't blame this one on me, Aunt Anne,” Marcie insisted. She was still chuckling. Not a bad girl—not bitter like her mother—but definitely a teaser who enjoyed a good joke.

Unfortunately, Kara still didn't understand the punch line.

“I want—” Emmy began.

“Oh, Emmy be quiet!” Hanna snapped.

The girl stopped talking for a moment.

“Ron,” his mother continued. “If there is another present to be given, you should do so now. This unfortunate disruption has gone on quite long enough.”

Whatever the gift was, Kara was quite certain she didn't want to receive it now in front of everyone. “I thought we agreed we weren't going to give each other our presents until tomorrow morning,” she reminded Ron.

Ron squirmed with increasing discomfort. “This isn't so much a Christmas present as an anniversary gift,” he explained. “I've been waiting for the right time to give it to you, and frankly, this isn't the mood or the atmosphere I had in mind.” He stuck the box in his pocket.

“I want my present!” Emmy screamed.

Anne finally got up and went to her daughter while she glared at Ron. “Ron, stop teasing her!” she said. “She's only a child.”

“Me?” Ron responded. “What did I do? I sure as hell didn't send her to go through my coat pockets searching for more presents.”

Kitten smirked, clearly enjoying the fact that Ron was now on the spot with their sister. “I guess this is what happens when you buy something sexy for your girlfriend,” she said. “Come on, let's see them.”

From the way Ron's eyes were darting around, Kara could clearly see that he didn't want to do that. What could he have gotten her?

“Look, Kara and I are planning to exchange in private, and I'm not going to give it to her here.”

He got down on one knee in front of Emmy. “And as for you, if you want to, we can go to the store this weekend and pick out any set of earrings you want to buy.”

Unfortunately, Emmy was in full tantrum mode—a situation exasperated by the excitement of the day and her being up past her bedtime. “I want them now!” she shouted before aiming a vicious little kick at Ron. If this had been Kara's niece or nephew carrying on this way, her sister would have given them a swat on the rear end by now, but Ron's family milled around looking uncertain about how to handle the situation—more damage attributable to Dr. Spock.

Ron fended his niece off for a few moments until her mother finally pulled the little girl away.

“Ron, can't you just give her the damn earrings and buy Kara another gift?” Hanna asked. Her exasperation was plainly evident. Christmas had obviously been ruined for her.

Ron got angrily back to his feet. “No, I can't!” he said firmly.

“But she's having a meltdown!” Hanna snapped at him. “Give them to her to calm her down! Kara doesn't need more jewelry anyway!”

Kara pulled back in on herself, surprised that somehow Hanna had found a way to twist this around and make it her fault.

Ron was already defending her. “Now don't try and make this about Kara!” His voice rose to match his mother's volume. “She didn't ask Emmy to go searching though my pockets either. She didn't even know she was getting a present tonight!”

“Don't you raise your voice to me!” Hanna shouted back.

Emmy picked up on the rising tempers and began to scream louder herself. “I want my present!”

Ron threw his hands up in disgust. “Oh, this is impossible!” He stormed across the room, trying to walk away from the fight. “Come on, Kara!” he ordered. “Let's find our coats and get out of here!”

Hanna strode angrily after him. “Don't you walk away from me when I'm talking to you! And don't you even think of leaving! We're all going to midnight Mass together this evening!”

Kara looked about her, stunned at the explosion. Emmy was still having her tantrum, but compared to what Hanna and Ron were doing, it now looked mild by comparison. Anne tried to quiet her daughter. Most of the rest of Ron's family were looking around with looks of confusion on their faces—the sort of dazed expressions that survivors often have right after an accident.

“Merry effing Christmas,” Kitten said.

* * * *

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Eight

Ron stayed silent in the car, still fuming after the fight with his mother. His hands were clenched on the steering wheel, knuckles white from the force of his grip. “That woman!” he muttered. His face had flushed red with anger and his expression was disturbingly similar to that of the woman he'd just been arguing with.

Kara decided to attempt to distract him from his troubles. “Have you noticed it's begun snowing?”

“Yes, I've—” Ron began to snap but he got control of himself and bit off his remark before he could finish it.

When he spoke again, it was in a much milder but still agitated tone. “Sorry about that. I'm not angry with you. And yes, I've noticed it's snowing.”

Delicate white flakes flitted through the beams of the headlights and plastered themselves on the windshield of the car. There weren't really enough of them to qualify as a full-fledged snow. It was more like a heavy flurry.

“Brings back memories, doesn't it?” Kara said, still trying to distract Ron from his mother and restore his good mood.

Ron tried to smile for her. “Yes, it does,” he said. “The day that changed our lives.” He reached out and patted her on her knee. “For the better, I hope you'll agree.”

Kara covered Ron's pale hand with her own darker one. “I certainly think so,” she agreed. She squeezed his hand beneath hers, hoping he'd find the gesture reassuring.

Ron's mind, however, was still on his argument with his mother. “I can't believe she actually expected me to give your present to Emmy. I mean, I know Anne's daughter is spoiled, but
really!"

The present was something Kara still wanted to explore—not because she was anxious to receive it but because there wasn't supposed to be one tonight and she still didn't understand Kitten and Marcie's comments about it. “What is this gift anyway?” Kara asked. “We agreed not to exchange today, remember? It's not fair for you to give me something when I didn't get something for you.”

Ron shrugged. He kept his eyes on the road, which made sense since he was driving, but the fact that he didn't even glance at her made his answer sound defensive to Kara. “It's not really a Christmas present,” Ron said. “It's just a little something to celebrate meeting you a year ago today.”

Kara felt like Ron was playing
lawyer
with her. Yes they had technically agreed to wait to exchange only their
Christmas
presents until tomorrow morning, but that was because Kara hadn't realized there would be other presents to exchange. She felt guilty that she hadn't thought of getting Ron an anniversary gift as well. She wasn't cheap, but Ron was more comfortable spending money than she was. She wasn't certain, but she thought he made considerably more than she did and of course it didn't hurt that his parents were clearly in the habit of giving him large financial gifts as well.

“And it's not a ring?” she clarified. The question surprised her even as it drew a sly appraising glance from Ron. She already knew it wasn't a ring. She'd been relieved it hadn't been a ring, hadn't she? So why was she asking him about it now?

“It's not the sort of ring you put on your finger,” Ron told her. “Were you looking for the other sort of ring?”

His voice had a decidedly odd edge to it. Was he teasing her?

“No, of course not,” Kara said. “We haven't been dating long enough to get engaged.” Except that they'd been dating for a year as of today and lots of people got engaged within a year. If twelve months weren't enough, then what was the magic number Kara was looking for?

“Because if you want one,” Ron continued as he turned a corner that took them past that sledding hill again, “we should talk about it. You're the one who got all nervous when I moved in with you. You're the one who's freaking out because we're spending so much time together.”

Now that made Kara mad. “I am
not
freaking out because we're spending so much time together!” she told him. Really, the idea was completely ridiculous. “I'm
freaking out
because you're changing! All you want is sex these days! A relationship is a lot more than sex!”

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