It Started One Christmas(10)

By: Susan Mallery


“I don’t think you can become a lesbian.”

Tears filled her eyes again. “I know, and it’s unfair to point that out. I feel so stupid about the whole thing.”

Dalton hung on her to her as she had another good cry. They collected his luggage, but before they headed to the parking garage, he excused himself to use the restroom.

She stood by his bags, trying to get herself together. Christmas was in four days. She wanted to enjoy every second with her family, and with Dalton. Since his new fellowship, she rarely saw him. The daily texts and phone calls weren’t nearly the same. Before New York, he’d spent six months in China. It had turned out he really was as smart as he said, and while he hadn’t cured cancer yet, he was making huge progress.

He returned to her side, kissed her cheek, then grabbed the two large bags and wheeled them out. “So what’s the plan? For Christmas, I mean.”

“The trees are up, except for the Disney tree in your room. I thought we’d do that together later. Then it’s just the usual. Last-minute shopping and baking. I told Logan and Adalyn we’d take them ice skating.”

Callie’s kids were so big. Adalyn was already seven, and Logan was five and still in love with trains. Malcolm and Delaney’s boys were six. The family was thriving. There’d been that health scare with Grandfather Alberto, but he’d recovered and Carmen had finally agreed to marry him.

They made their way to her car. Dalton loaded the luggage, then pulled her close again. “Hugh was a jerk and a fool. He’d been given something precious, and for the rest of his life, he’s going to regret letting you go.”

Her mouth twisted. “That all sounds really nice, but I’d rather he woke up with a rash.”

Dalton chuckled. “Okay, that, too.”

She got behind the wheel and drove out of the parking structure. Honestly, she was going to have to pull herself together. It was Christmas, and she didn’t want to be a big old wet blanket while everyone else was celebrating.

“I didn’t tell anyone,” she said suddenly as she remembered how she’d lied to Callie and said everything was fine. “Hugh and I were never going to spend Christmas together. He was going home to his family in Montana anyway.”

“Good to know.”

“How’s New York? Have you walked down Fifth Avenue? Malcolm and Delaney took me a couple of years ago, and the whole city is amazing. We saw the tourists sites, did some window shopping. It was so fun.”

“I’ve been busy with work, but I have seen a few things.”

“Any new supermodels in your life?”

He glanced at her. “One or two, but I’m not sure this is the time to talk about them.”

“We can. I totally want you to be happy. Not everyone has to be sad just because Hugh is a total idiot, cheating, weasel butt.”

His mouth twitched. “One day you’re going to have to learn to swear like a grown-up.”

“Or not.”

“Or not,” he repeated and reached across the console to touch her arm. “You are my friend, and I’m sorry you’re in pain.”

“Thank you.”

They talked about their plans for the holidays. Keira and Dalton usually went out for dinner—just the two of them—and they had their traditional culling of the toys with the kids. Then everyone would pile in the car and they would take the donated toys to a charity.

She had a lot to look forward to, she told herself. People who loved her and would never betray her. Eventually her heart would heal, and she would find somebody else. For all her talk of being alone, she had to admit there had been parts of having a boyfriend that she’d really liked. The hanging out together, the snuggling. The sex had been disappointing, but maybe that was about her. In high school, she’d refused to do more than kiss, so it wasn’t as if she’d been prepared for all the grunting and thrusting. Plus, why did he have to pant like a dog? Did all guys pant? And the “Oh, baby, baby” between pants had been off-putting as well. And then it had been over. Forty-five seconds of panting and “oh, baby” followed by him dropping on her like a rock. Which part was she supposed to like?

Dalton would know, she thought. Maybe she should ask him. Although the thought of her friend acting like that was beyond disheartening.

Before she could decide, they arrived at her place. They got out of the car and walked around to the trunk. But instead of taking his suitcases inside, Dalton set them on the ground and opened them.

“What are you doing?” she asked, confused by his behavior. “You have a dresser you can use inside.”