Christmas Magic, Part Four
Paul and Uncle Marcus strung the lights and tinsel on the tree while Aunt Tammy and Jessica went through the ornaments, taking a trip down memory lane.
“Aw, do you remember this, Aunt Tammy?” She held up the heart-shaped ceramic ornament that looked more like a butt than a heart.
Aunt Tammy laughed, “Your dad was so sweet.” She took the heart. “Your mom was into ceramics, and your dad went with her to see why she loved it, and he couldn’t get into it, but he really enjoyed watching your mom.” Her laughter became more uncontrollable as she went along, causing Jessica to laugh right along with her. “I attended that class with them when he made this for her, I kept telling him the hole for the ribbon should go along the curves of the heart, or right in one of the curves so the heart would hand sideways, he didn’t listen, and so…”
“The butt!” Jessica laughed. “You have to give the man credit, he tried!” Jessica said in her father’s defense.
“That, you do!” Aunt Tammy agreed, wiping the tears from her eyes.
Just then, the desk bell rang.
“Oh!” Aunt Tanny jumped up. “We’re still open!”
Jessica chuckled at her forgetfulness, at all of their forgetfulness.
“I’m so sorry, we were just decorating for….” she trailed off as she saw him standing before her, she could feel her jaw slowly dropping.
“Hi, Mrs. Bateman.”
“You know I always enjoy your company Kevin, but why are you here?” She asked.
“I hate the way Jess and I left things and I know she’s here,” Kevin admitted.
“It’s really hard for me not to try and play matchmaker.” She looked at Kevin, she had never seen him look so sad. “I just want what’s best for my niece.”
“That’s all I want for her too.”
Aunt Tammy raised an eyebrow of doubt at him.
“Trust me,” he stated, “The world isn’t worthy of Jessica, she’s soft and rarely genuine, and she’s far too good for it.”
“I have to agree with you there.” Aunt Tammy replied.
“But I can stand by her while we both chase our dreams, and I’ll be her biggest supporter and fan. I’ll spoil her with romance and make her laugh. I’ll take her on adventures and give her space when she needs it.”
Aunt Tammy looked at him, “You might have some competition.”
She leaned her head back and looked into the living room.”
Kevin took long strides towards her, he leaned to look just as she did, before turning to look at her. “Matchmaker?” He asked.
“Yes,” but in my defense, I didn’t know you’d come after her.
“No one can love her like I do, Mrs. Bateman.”
“Well, time will tell,” She walked into the living room and gestured her invitation for him to follow.
He accepted, following her until she stopped at the tree.
“We have a guest.” Aunt Tammy announced.
Jessica looked up and as soon as she looked into his eyes her entire body relaxed. She both loved and hated how he had that effect on her.
He smiled at her, unable to avert his gaze, she was dressed in leggings, a white tunic that showed just a hint of cleavage, and a soft-looking cardigan, he wanted to run his hands over the buffalo plaid fabric. Her hair was piled into a messy bun on her head, a few strands hanging loose. Damn, he thought. Sexy just comes naturally to her.
He looks incredible, Jessica thought as she continued to hold his gaze. Those rectangle glasses frame his masculine face so well. She noticed he was wearing dress pants, deducing that he must have come straight here from work. His dress shirt was still tucked into his pants, but the top two buttons were undone, and the sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, showing his muscular forearms. She could feel her cheeks starting to flush.
Kevin swallowed thickly as the tension between them continued to grow. Both of them knew everyone else probably felt it.
Jessica finally broke the stare as she looked over at Paul, clearing her throat. “I suppose I don’t need to tell you who he is.”
Kevin gave her a confused glance before turning his attention to Paul. Did she tell him about me? He wondered.
“Kevin Long.” He said, looking at Jessica before turning to Kevin. “I’m a big fan.”
“Oh, I appreciate that,” Kevin responded, offering his hand.
“My name is Paul.” he accepted Kevin’s hand in greeting.
Jessica stood up from the sofa and Kevin walked over to her, putting one arm around her waist and pulling her into him.
She tried to resist, but he smelled so good, and he felt so good, and she found herself wrapping her arms around his neck, hugging him as if she hadn’t seen him in months, which she hadn’t.
He melted into her before letting her go.
Kevin looked her up and down and smiled as she grew bashful, hiding behind her hair, he loved that even though they knew each other fairly well now, he still had that effect on her.
“You’re so beautiful.”
She brushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear and spun on her heel, looking at Paul.
“You said you were a fan, but I didn’t realize you know him,” Paul stated.
“You called yourself a fan?” Kevin asked, arching an eyebrow.
“I’m your biggest fan and you know it.” She said, matter-of-factly.
“Well, I was hoping.”
She smiled and turned to Paul, “Kevin and I have quite the history, it’s much too long of a story for right now, maybe I’ll tell you over coffee in the morning.”
Coffee? Kevin couldn’t help but wonder if she was interested in Paul, she hadn’t mentioned anything of them dating. History could mean anything. He looked back and forth between them, the way they gazed at each other. Do they have history?
Paul picked up a crystal snowman and held it out to her, “you were about to tell me about this one.”
Jessica took it from him, her eyes welled with tears, Kevin’s heart broke at the sight, and when he turned his gaze to Paul, jealousy coursed through him. Paul was gazing at her adoringly, as he kept a hand on her arm.
Jessica was gazing at the ornament, holding back tears. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, exhaling deeply.
Kevin went to move closer to her, but Paul beat him to it, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, she rested her head against his shoulder, and Kevin clenched his jaw and fists.
“This was the last ornament I gave my mom before she died.” She cried.
“I understand,” Paul consoled her, and Jessica melted into him.
It hurt Kevin to watch, so he turned and walked back into the kitchen.
Aunt Tammy was stirring the hot chocolate. She turned and looked at Kevin when she heard him enter.
“I don’t like it.” He told her.
“I didn’t figure you would, so what are you going to do about it?”
“Does she have feelings for him?”
“I think she’s attracted to him, but she’s still in love with you.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. So, I’ll ask you again, what are you going to do about it?”
“I am going to show her that no one can love her as much as I can, no one could need her the way I do.”
“Why do you think that?”
He looked up at the ceiling, and Aunt Tammy could see why Jessica was so giddy around him, he was incredibly handsome.
“Because she saved me.”
Aunt Tammy could see the light bulb go off in his head.
“She saved me in every way that matters and I can’t live without that truth.”
Aunt Tammy couldn’t help the smile that crossed her face. “That girl is crazy about you.”
She walked past him, but stopped and spun on her heel, facing him, “ I know she’s stubborn as hell when she thinks she’s right, but she knows she can be a challenge, she needs a man who’s up for it.”
Kevin nodded as he followed her back into the living room, “Oh trust me, I know all about how challenging she can be.”
Kevin and Aunt Tammy both chuckled.
Jessica was walking around the tree, looking for the perfect spot for the ornament in her hands.
Kevin ran to his luggage, which was still placed in the lobby. He pulled out the ornament, unwrapping it carefully. Inspecting it for any flaws.
Pleased with his purchase, he carefully wrapped it back up and placed it in the box.
He watched as Jessica would carefully place an ornament on the tree, stand back, either smile at her choice of placement or frown, and move onto a new spot.
He couldn’t help but smile at how much effort she always put into anything she was doing.
He walked up next to her. “Since I figured you’d be spending Christmas at the B&B this year, I thought I’d bring this here,” He held the box out to her.
She looked into his eyes as she took it from him.
Kevin couldn’t resist the urge to look at Paul and he felt a tad guilty for enjoying the look of worry on his face. You should be worried, he thought.
Turning his attention back to Jessica, she had just picked up the vintage-looking, glass, rabbit ornament.
Judging by the gasp and the immediate tears flooding her eyes, he knew he had made the right choice in finding it.
She looked at him in disbelief.
“After you dropped it last year, I just remember trying to console you, you started sobbing so hard, I couldn’t stand to see you so unhappy.”
“I searched everywhere for that. I constantly checked online, I went to random Christmas and antique stores, and finally, I found it in an old antique shop in New York. I had them hold it for me, I drove to New York just to get that for you.”
“We weren’t even dating last Christmas.”
“I know, but you’ve always been my best friend, and all I’ve ever wanted was to see you happy.”
She rushed over to him, throwing her arms around his neck and crying into his shoulder.
“Shhh,” he stroked her hair. “I’m always going to be here for you.”
“I don’t know what I would have done without you, last Christmas, you helped pull me from my depression.”
“You had literally lost everyone, except your brother.” He looked down at the floor, trying to keep the tears that were stinging his eyes from falling. “My heart broke for you, it still does.” He kissed her temple.
She walked over to Paul. “I lost both of my parents, my husband, and I had a stillbirth last year, all within just a few months of each other. Kevin and I have been friends for a long time, he, and my friends, Amanda, and Christen have been my rocks through this whole ordeal, I don’t think I would have made it without them. Anyway, I dropped an ornament my grandma gave me because of my love for the ‘Velveteen Rabbit.’ It was the last gift she ever gave me, and I dropped it and it broke and Kevin was there when it happened.”
Jessica moved to face Kevin, “You remembered.”
“I spent most of the year looking for that.”
“You have no idea how much I appreciate it.” She hugged him again.
“I know you do, that’s why I did it, I knew you’d appreciate the lengths I went through to get it, and you’re worth it.” He wrapped his arms around her.
She placed the rabbit on the tree, “Thank you, Kevin. I adore it, and I appreciate you.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Paul knew Kevin had the upper hand, so he moved to stand next to Jessica. “I promised my mom I would help her get her decorations down from the attic, but are we still on for coffee in the morning?”
“Umm,” she hesitated for a second, casually looking to Kevin out of her peripheral view, “Sure, it would be good to catch up with an old friend.” She chose her words carefully.
“Great!” Paul responded. “I’m looking forward to it.
Jessica smiled. “Let me walk you to the door.”
Kevin watched as they chatted, Jessica would giggle, and Paul kept checking her out, not that he could blame him, but he found himself clenching his jaw whenever she would place her hand on his arm, or lean her head back in laughter.
After closing the door, Jessica headed to the kitchen, turning the crockpot on warm before heading back to finish decorating the tree.
Kevin took a deep breath, approaching her, he had a stern look on his face and Jessica was afraid she had angered him.
“Are you actually going to go out with that guy?” Kevin pointed to the door with his thumb as if Paul were still standing there.
“Yeah, I told him I’d have coffee with him.”
He stared at her awkwardly for a few seconds before huffing, “Unbelievable.”
“What? That I’m having coffee with a friend? You and I are friends and we have coffee together all of the time!” She dropped her hand to her side, “Well, we used to.” She scratched her elbow looking down at the floor.
“Friends, so that’s all we are, right?”
“Did you bump your head? Do you not remember our last encounter?’
“Why do you think I’m here?”
“I don’t know, Kevin.”
“I came here because I hated the way we left things nine months ago, and I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner, I should have, but please, I drove three hours just to talk to you.”
Excuse me, “Aunt Tammy interrupted. “I hate to interrupt you two, but a woman is standing in the lobby, she’s asking for you, Kevin.”
“What?” He asked, scratching his head in confusion, “ I only told my boss I was coming here, well him and Sara,” he stopped abruptly as he realized his error.
He turned around quickly to face Jessica.
“Came here just to talk to me, huh?” She shook her head, “Ya know, having coffee with an old friend to catch up is one thing, and yeah, maybe I was petty by flirting with him n front of you, but I would never bring a date to your aunt’s bed and breakfast, ya know, if she had one.”
“Jess, I didn’t bring her here, please let me explain!”
She started to push past him when Sara walked into the room. Jessica noticed her long, blonde hair immediately, she looked like she just walked off the cover of “Vogue.”
“I heard voices so I just followed the sound, I hope that’s okay.” Sara said sweetly.
Jessica fought back her tears, she wouldn’t allow them to fall in front of Sara.
“I’m Jessica, it’s nice to meet you.” She held out her hand.
“Oh, do you work here too?”
Jessica’s face fell as she realized Kevin hadn’t even mentioned her. She looked at him in disbelief before replying, “Something like that, yeah.”
“Excuse me,” She made her way around Sara and Kevin, grabbing her coat and heading out the door.
“Jessica,” Kevin went to rush after her, but Aunt Tammy stepped in front of him. “Let her go, deal with Sara.”
Sara reached for Kevin’s hand “Come on, show me to your room.”
“Sara, we need to talk,” he removed his hand from hers.
“That’s why I’m here,” she stepped towards him. “I didn’t like how we left things at the cafe, Kevin. There’s no reason we can’t make our relationship work.”
“I can’t believe you followed me here.”
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it, Kevin. You said you couldn’t see me anymore because you need to chase your dreams, but I understand your dreams, and I want to support you, and you didn’t even give me a chance to explain how I feel. I had to see you.”
Kevin hung his head, “Let’s go somewhere private.”
He looked at Aunt Tammy, “If she comes back, please tell her to wait for me.”
“Kevin, what’s going on?” Sara asked, “Who is that woman?”
“Come on, there’s something you need to hear, and I should have told you a long time ago, I’m sorry. The dream I’m chasing is not a career, it’s a person, my future.”
Stay tuned for part five!