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With Everything I Am (2)(2)

By´╝ÜKristen Ashley

Honest to God, if he didn’t know differently, watching her unabashed glee, he’d swear she was wolf.

After she’d exhausted herself, he’d taken her to the snack shop and they sat outside, Sonia in his lap. As they sat, the children giggled at them and men and women surreptitiously glanced their way (some with curiosity, most, he noted, both male and female, with envy) while they drank hot cocoa.

Then he took her home, challenged her to a board game that they played sitting on the floor in her living room by a fire he built. They played while they ate a late lunch and he beat her, soundly, to which she pouted, magnificently, so he gave her another chance and played her again and beat her again. But he purposefully didn’t do it so decisively the second time.

Then she eschewed dinner, preparing a feast of unhealthy snack foods which he approved of thoroughly. While Sonia did that, Callum checked the garage to ascertain if Regan had seen to his requests and, as ever, considering shopping was involved, his mother had accomplished her mission admirably. They carted the food upstairs and nibbled on it voraciously at first, trailing off as Sonia first put in Elf, another film he had not seen as he didn’t often waste time sitting around watching human movies then Scrooged which he had seen but only parts of it.

And finally, as the night grew late, Sonia slid in the movie she explained to him she watched last every year on Christmas Eve, White Christmas.

Elf, Callum found, was roaringly funny. Scrooged was also funny and clever but he liked White Christmas best. It was humorous, it was sweet, it had a depth of emotion, not to mention the man called Bing could fucking sing and the lodge they were in through most of the movie reminded him of home.

Close to the end of the film, he felt her body tense and saw her hand snake from around him to fist as she brought it to her mouth. He lifted his head to see she was silently crying, having trouble holding back her sobs at a scene she’d watched dozens of times before but, obviously, it never failed to move her.

He found that moment, Sonia tucked into him on Christmas Eve silently weeping against his chest, somehow touching and right then he determined it was another new tradition and he’d have it every year. Without a word, he lifted a hand to cradle her face, his thumb trailing through her tears as he watched the General’s soldiers declaring their unceasing loyalty and he thought the end of White Christmas was the fucking best.

He used the remote to switch off the television when it was finished and Sonia immediately moved to exit the couch.

His arm tightened, keeping her where she was.

“Honey, where are you going?”

Her head tipped back to look at him.

“Well…” she started then for some reason looked beyond his ear to the arm of the couch his head was resting on. “After White Christmas, I clean up the mess and go to bed.”

Callum turned his head, his eyes hit the clock on the DVD player and he saw it was quarter to midnight.

Nearly Christmas.

And he decided on another new tradition.

His other arm circled her and he pulled her up his chest so they were eye-to-eye.

“Why do you watch White Christmas last every year?”

She took a fluttering breath, something she did often, something he liked because always it denoted she was feeling something deep and he liked the fact that his queen felt deeply.

Then she answered, “Because I watched it with my parents every year. They loved it.” She swallowed, seeming both nervous and uncertain and she gazed into his eyes as if trying to read him which was odd. She was a female human who, according to Ryon, communicated in code. He was wolf and therefore, with his mate at least, an open book. She must have found what she was seeking for she went on, “If I watch it, it means, before I go to bed on Christmas Eve, I’m remembering them. They’re fresh in my mind which is the only way I can ever really have them.”

Having lost Mac and Calvin, understanding her sense of bereavement and hoping to soothe her grief as she had done his, his hand went to her neck, his fingers slid in her hair and he pulled her face down to touch her lips to his.

She relaxed in his arms and he decided, with no small sense of triumph that he’d succeeded in his endeavor.

He slid her back down his body with his arm about her and tucked her cheek to his chest with his other hand.

Then he asked, “Would you like to know how my people spend Christmas?”

She didn’t answer at first, just pulled in a soft, surprised breath and he cursed himself again for his insensitivity because Ryon was right. She needed information about the culture she’d be living amongst for the rest of her days and she didn’t need to get it by being suddenly confronted with it in all of its, to her, peculiarity.