HeartlessBy: Diana Palmer
MUCH, MUCH LATER, when the guests had gone home and Mrs. Harcourt had lugged her gifts down to her room, Jason sat in his big armchair in front of the glowing gas logs with Gracie curled up in his arms next to the Christmas tree.
He handed her a small box. “I saved this one for last,” he said, smiling indulgently as she pulled off the wrapping, opened the box and stared at its contents until tears began rolling down her cheeks. It was the items she’d pawned, her mother’s jewelry. She looked up at him through a mist.
“Thank you,” she said huskily.
He kissed her tenderly. “Don’t be mad. You can still be independent. But these are heirlooms that we’ll hand down to our children, and they to their children. They belong in the family. I wanted to make sure they didn’t accidentally wind up in someone else’s hands.”
She sighed and nestled closer. “I was worried about that, too. I’m not mad. It was a sweet thing to do.”
He grinned. “I’m very sweet,” he informed her. “I have nice qualities. My mother said so.”
“Very nice qualities.”
“Can you die of happiness?” he murmured, kissing her hair.
“I guess we’ll find out together.”
His arms contracted. “When will we know for sure about the baby?”
She brushed her lips against his throat, drowsy from the long day and the delight she was feeling. “In a few weeks, I think. The home pregnancy test I used was encouraging. My monthly is days late and I’m very regular.”
He sighed. “We’ll make beautiful babies,” he murmured. “I hope some of them are blond.”
“I hope some of them have black eyes, like you and your mother.”
He chuckled. “We’ll see what we get. I just want whatever it is to be healthy.”
She nuzzled her face into his throat and closed her eyes. “Jason?”
“Merry Christmas. I hope you like your present.”
He lifted his head and looked down at her soft face. He smiled tenderly. “Merry Christmas, honey. I do like it. But the one I like best is the gift of love.”
She hugged him. “The gift we give each other,” she agreed. She peered up at him wickedly. “I’ve just thought of something.”
“You’re the most expensive Christmas present I ever got!”
He didn’t get it for a minute. Then he realized that she meant the ransom she’d paid for him, and he burst out laughing. “Was I worth it?” he teased.
She reached up and kissed him softly. “Worth every penny. Every tear. Every lonely minute.”
“Life is sweet, my precious,” he whispered, searching her loving eyes.
She nuzzled his face with hers. “Yes. Sweeter than honey.”
He cuddled her back into his arms and sighed, closing his eyes as the flames in the gas logs danced like sugar-plums. Gracie watched them across his broad chest, feeling the happiness like a flame inside her heart. Somewhere she heard Christmas carols being sung and a dog barking in the distance. Closer, she heard the strong, regular beat of Jason’s heart under her ear. Christmas wasn’t only in her heart. It was in her arms.