It Started One Christmas(8)

By: Susan Mallery

Dalton grinned. “I think Mickey and Minnie, for sure.”

“I agree.”

* * *

A LITTLE BEFORE midnight on Christmas Eve, Santiago, Callie’s husband and Keira’s brother-in-law, handed the small switch to Dalton.

“You get the honors.”

“I couldn’t,” Dalton told him. “It’s your house and your train set.”

Santiago shrugged. “You figured out the circuit wasn’t connected. Without that, we couldn’t have gotten it working.”

Callie rolled her eyes. “At this rate, they’ll still be arguing by morning.” She nodded at the controller. “Keira.”

“You got it.”

Keira grabbed it from Dalton and pushed the button. The model train started along the track that circled the base of the tree. Santiago sighed.


Callie and Keira exchanged a high five.

“Logan’s going to love that,” Keira said. “Santa is a good guy for bringing it.”

Santa, aka the parents, had left Adalyn a beautiful dollhouse that gave Keira a twinge of envy. Presents were piled under the tree, including a couple for Dalton. He was getting socks from the Trejo family and a sweater from Keira. Santa had also left him a $200 gift certificate to Alberto’s Alfresco.

They all cleaned up after the train assembly, then Callie and Santiago headed off to bed. Keira and Dalton lingered by the tree, sprawled out on the carpet.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better,” Keira told him. Dalton had gone onto solid food on Saturday and joined the family at their meals today.

“Me, too.” He smiled at her. “Thank you again for taking me in. This has been a great holiday.”

“Tomorrow is when it gets insane. The whole family will be here.” Malcolm and Delaney, along with their twins, Jason and Jackson, had been over for dinner the night before.

“This kind of insanity is perfect. When I was growing up, it was just my parents and me. Sometimes that was a little quiet.”

She rolled onto her back and looked up at the huge tree. There were at least a half dozen throughout the house, but this was the only real one. The scent of pine mingled with the lingering fragrance of cinnamon and chocolate from their after-dinner drinks.

She half closed her eyes so the lights blurred and reveled in contentment. Her life hadn’t been fun at the start, but once she’d been found by Malcolm and her grandfather, things had picked up.

She looked at Dalton. “So what’s up with the beautiful women?”

He winced. “Do we have to talk about that?”

“Of course not.” She paused. “So what’s up with the beautiful women?”

He laughed. “Fine. I don’t know. I’m attracted to them. It’s ridiculous. I wish I weren’t, but I can’t seem to help myself. The relationships never work out, but I keep trying.”

“Have you heard from Mandy?”

“No, and I won’t.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.” He paused. “Don’t take this wrong, Keira, but you’re really easy to be around. I like spending time with you. I was hoping we could…be friends.”

She sat up. “What’s with the hesitation? Are you afraid I’ve totally fallen for you and that I’ll be crushed you want to only be friends?”

He flushed. “No,” he said, not sounding the least bit convincing.

“You’re not all that. I’m not interested in you that way at all.”

She was telling the truth. There had been that one quiver, but since then, nothing. Besides, she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. “What is it about the whole boy-girl thing? I’m not ready. I don’t want some guy screwing up my life. Love messes with your head, and don’t get me started on sex.”

“You’re against sex?”

“No. Not exactly. It’s just sex always complicates the situation, and it requires a level of trust I just don’t have.”

“You’ve thought this through.”

“I have. I have issues, I get that. I’m dealing. But right now, no on the guy thing. So being friends is perfectly fine. I’m in favor of it.”

“Me, too.”

“If you don’t have anywhere to go next Christmas, you can come back here.”

He smiled at her. “I’d like that. A lot.”


The first day of Christmas break—senior year.

KEIRA TOLD HERSELF she wasn’t going to cry. No way. Hugh wasn’t worth it. I mean, come on. She’d dated a guy name Hugh! She should have known better.

She sucked in a breath and squared her shoulders. The hustle and bustle at Sea-Tac airport was a testament to the frantic pace of the holiday season. She would absorb the positive energy around her and let the rest of it go. She was going to be perfectly fine.