Read Another Snowbound Christmas Online

Authors: Veronica Tower

Tags: #Erotica/Romance

Another Snowbound Christmas (9 page)

Ron could evidently read Kara's concerns on her face. “It's going to be okay,” Ron reminded her.

Kara shook her head. “No, it's not,” she said. “Mama's not going to approve. It will be yet another strike against you and proof you're a negative influence on me.”

Ron shrugged. They'd had this argument before and he clearly didn't want to repeat it. “But how much worse would it be,” he asked, “if she ever learned that we'd spent more money on my nieces and nephews than we did on yours?”

Kara knew that Ron was right about this. Of course the solution she preferred was that they bring the spending on Ron's family down to the level she spent on her own. Kids these days were all spoiled anyway.

Ron tried to smile. To be honest, it was a sad effort, but at least he had tried. “Let's get this over with,” he said, before getting out of the car to fetch the presents from the back.

Kara sighed and got out with him. The snow under foot didn't seem too bad, but she'd have to watch her footing. She'd worn fashionable boots beneath her dress this year—a step up from the high heels she'd worn in the snow last New Year's—but their slippery soles would not give her very good traction.

Ron opened the back of his Jeep to get at the packages. There were too many for Ron to carry them all himself so Kara took her mother's large box from him and watched him slip Ruth's small box into the same coat pocket Emmy had searched to find the troublesome anniversary gift last night—a present he still hadn't given Kara.

Her eyes went wide with sudden concern. “Ron,” she asked, a sharp edge of worry evident in her tone. “Is the other gift, the earrings Kitten and Marcie found so funny, still in that pocket?”

Ron's eyes widened with concern. “Oh, crap, it is!” His hand went into his pocket and came out with two boxes. He carefully opened the first, sheltering the contents from Kara's view, and sighed. “Thank you for thinking of this,” he said. “I would not want your sister opening this by mistake. Al would have to clobber me and I think it's fair to say that your mother would be reminding us about it for the next thirty years.”

He chuckled, thinking of the scene Kara had just averted. Then he moved around to the passenger door of his car and stuck the box in the glove compartment.

“You're not going to give it to me?” Kara asked. She was very curious about that box. She couldn't figure out why there were three earrings in it.

“Not now,” Ron said, before amending his statement when she frowned. “Not while we're fighting. I think it's a very special gift. I hope you'll agree with me. But this isn't the time to give it to you.”

When Kara continued frowning, he added. “Besides, we still haven't opened our own Christmas presents. Let's just try and get through today and then see if we can salvage the evening.”

Kara began to bristle again. “We don't have to just
get through
the day! We might actually enjoy the afternoon with my family!”

Ron frowned but didn't answer her. Instead he stepped past her and pulled the present for the kids out of the back of the car. It was large enough to merit two hands, but he managed to stick it under one arm without crushing the bow. Then he picked up Al's present and tucked it away under the other arm and somehow managed to get the Jeep closed up.

“Well, we
could
enjoy ourselves!” Kara repeated. She didn't want to let the subject go. Ron was always down on her family.

“If you say so,” Ron agreed.

“Well, we could!” Kara insisted.

Ron sighed again. “It's Christmas, Kara. I'm sorry I said anything. I don't want to fight with you...”

“But?” Kara prodded him.

“But we never enjoy ourselves when we're with your Mom or my parents. We have a chance at a decent day with our brothers and sisters, but our parents usually manage to screw things up.”

“That is not true!” Kara told him. She knew she was lying, but she hated for Mama to be put in the same category as Ron's crazy folks.

Ron pushed a grin up on to his face. “Would you like to make a wager about that?”

“A wager?” Kara repeated. Then she realized what his grin probably meant and it did not amuse her. “Are you thinking about sex again?”

“I always think about sex, remember?” Ron teased her. “And as I recall, you've thoroughly enjoyed our previous bets.”

Intellectually, Kara agreed that that was true, although she did not plan to permit Ron to do anything that would embarrass her here. “No wagers!” she said firmly.

“So you're admitting that we're not going to have a good time?” Ron asked.

“Would you please stop?” Kara snapped. “It's bad enough we have to spend the day over here without fighting with you about it!”

Her eyes flashed open wider as she realized what she'd just said. “My family is not worse than yours!” she rushed to tell him.

“I've never said they were,” Ron told her. “You're the one who's caught up in the
whose are better
argument. I just think they're both difficult.”

The door opened and Ruth looked out at them. “Mama wants to know how long you're going to stand out there arguing?”

Anger flashed across Ron's face for a moment, but he covered it before he turned to face Kara's sister. “We only argue in your mother's dreams,” he joked. “We just wanted to make certain we have all the presents.”

He looked back at Kara. “Are you ready?”

She really wasn't ready to go inside. She had a few more choice words she wanted to share with Ron, but now obviously wasn't the right time.

She plastered a smile on her face and started up the sidewalk, her foot immediately slipped on the snowy pavement, and kicked out in front of her. In less time then it took to describe, she was falling on her back.

Ron dropped one of the presents and caught her with the suddenly freed hand. It almost wasn't enough. Kara grabbed his arm with both her hands letting Mama's present go flying and almost succeeded in pulling her boyfriend down on top of her.

Instead she ended up tight against his body, Ron's strong arm wrapped around her as their chests heaved from the sudden surge of adrenalin.

Ruth came hurrying down the sidewalk toward them. “Are you all right?” she asked. She sounded frightened at first, but that surge of fear quickly turned to anger. “Really, Kara, you're not a child anymore. Women our age break when we fall. You have to be more careful!”

“She's just fine,” Ron told Ruth.

He seemed in no hurry to release Kara and frankly, it felt good to have him holding her close like this. She'd always admired his strength, but moments like these helped her appreciate it even more.

“Thanks,” she said.

“No problem,” Ron told her. He still wasn't letting her go. She looked up into his face and saw him smiling tenderly down at her. He really was handsome. And he obviously enjoyed holding her.

His lips came down to kiss her.

“What was all this commotion about?” Mama called from the doorway. “Kara, do you have to make a spectacle of yourself on your sister's front walk? Ruth has to live in this neighborhood, you know!”

Kara closed her eyes and turned her face away from Ron's. “Maybe you're right,” she said. “Maybe my family is more difficult!”

Ron laughed and pulled her even tighter against him.

* * * *

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Eleven

“Is everyone all right?” Al asked as he squeezed past Mama onto the front walk. Al was a large African-American man with skin as dark as Kara and Ruth's and a touch of gray in his hair. “What happened? Kara did you fall down?”

Without waiting for an answer he turned back toward the house and called past Mama. “Marc, get out here! There are presents all over the front lawn and I need you to help pick them up.”

Marc was not the kind of son who normally enjoyed doing chores around the house but this time he came running. “Presents?” he asked.

“Right here,” Ron called to him. He wiggled the one he still held beneath his arm. “This one is for you and your sister. Careful, it's fragile.”

Marc jumped down the front steps, slid precariously on his heels for a moment, and then hurried over to take the gift from Ron. “Thanks!” he said before immediately turning to his mother. “Can I open it now, Mom?”

“I believe that Ron said it is for you and your sister,” Ruth reminded him.

“But it's a game system, Mom!” Marc told her.

Kara frowned. “How do you know that?” she asked. She looked at Ron, wondering if he had let the secret out while they were at church.

Ron shrugged. “He's a kid,” he said. “They have ways of knowing.”

“You taped two smaller gifts to the top of the package, Aunt Kara,” Marc explained. “Based on their size, they're either DVDs or video games. I'm guessing games because this box isn't the right shape for a DVD player.” He lifted the package between them. “And that would make this a new game system.”

“My son, the genius,” Al said. “If only he could put this sort of effort into his school work.”

“It's not a game system,” Ruth told her son. “We have spending limits in this family and they are nowhere near large enough to cover a new gaming system.”

Kara cringed. She couldn't help it.

Unfortunately, Ruth saw her do it. “Kara?”

“We might have used Ron's family's spending limits this year,” she confessed.

“You did not!” Ruth told her, even though it should be obvious to everyone listening to them that they had.

“Yes!” Marc said, pumping his fist in triumph. The gesture almost caused him to drop the present, but he rescued it at the last moment.

“That's enough from you, young man!” Ruth told her son.

Ron reached down and picked up the package Kara had dropped and handed it to her. “Certainly is cold out here,” he observed.

Ruth, of course, ignored his attempt to change the topic. “Because if that present costs too much, it is going right back to the store. You do not need another expensive game system.”

Ron picked up the package he had dropped. “Ruth, lighten up. It's Christmas!” he told her.

Ruth whirled on him. “You will not interfere—”

Ron pulled Ruth's gift out of his pocket and thrust it at her. “Merry Christmas, Ruth!” he said. “Kara and I thought you and Al deserved something extra special this year to thank you for all of the times you've hosted these family celebrations. We know they're a lot of work. And we know that no one shows you enough appreciation. So thanks! And Merry Christmas!”

He leaned close and kissed Kara's sister on the cheek. Then he walked right by her and handed a snowy package to Al. “And that goes for you, too, Al, although if you want a kiss, you'll have to look to Kara.”

Ruth actually looked touched by what Ron had said.

Kara was only impressed. Ron hadn't said any of that as justification when he insisted on buying the more expensive gifts. She wondered if it was a glib lie or if he'd really been thinking this all the time.

A snowflake appeared in the sky before her drifting to the ground. It reminded her of how cold it was out here.

“Let's go inside,” she said. “It looks like it's going to start snowing again.”

She walked up to Ron and saw her mother eyeing the package in her hands. “This one's for you, Mama,” she said, “because we love you.”

Her mother sniffed as if she found Kara's assertion unlikely, but she took the present and walked into the house.

Ron grinned at her, then did a double take looking at Ruth and Al's driveway. “Hey, Al,” he said. “You still haven't gotten Marc's basketball hoop set up. It's been what, three months now?”

Al shrugged. “I'll get to it,” he said.

“Because I could help you with it, if you need me to,” Ron told him.

Al stood a little straighter. “I don't need any help,” he said. “I'm a professional mechanic. I'm just busy.”

Ron's smile came back as he teased the older man. “It's really a two person job,” he said. “It's a pain in the...ur,
posterior
to try to put these big things together on your own. We could take a look at it later, if you want to.”

Together the two men walked to the front door. “Marc can help me,” Al assured him.

The last thing Kara heard from them was Ron saying, “Marc will be too busy playing video games.”

She caught her sister's eye. “Is it a good thing or a bad thing if they spend the day in the garage putting that new basketball hoop together?”

“It's a bad thing, of course,” Mama interrupted from the doorway. “It would be just like both of your men to put their own pleasure before the family on Christmas Day.”

Ruth simply shook her head and preceded Kara out of the snow.

* * * *

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Twelve

Marc and Jenny were fighting over their new Kinect system just like they usually fought over the Wii and the X-Box. Mama had seemed pleased with her angora wool coat until she realized that her pleasure might reflect well on Ron. Ruth was sporting a beautiful pair of earrings. She must have really liked them because she'd switched them for the pair she was already wearing. For his part, Al was flying high with his new Lion's jersey and tickets to a pre-season game this August for him and Marc. Overall, Kara had to admit that Ron's insistence on spending more on their presents seemed to have done a lot to promote the holiday spirit of peace and good will, and she was feeling a lot better about him than she had been this morning. Yes there were still frictions to be smoothed out between them, but overall he was still a very good guy.

She decided to duck out of the kitchen into the garage and tell him so.

She waited for Ruth to start fussing with her turkey and then darted toward the garage door.

“Kara,” her mother called out.

“One moment, Mama,” she replied. She slipped through the door before her mother could object.

Closing the door behind her, she stepped into the unheated garage. Faith Hill was singing
Oh Holy Night
on the radio while Ron and Al sat under a long black pole surrounded by bits and pieces of the basketball hoop she and Ron had given Marc for his birthday. “Honestly,” Al was saying. “I have rebuilt engines that were less confusing than this hoop.”

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