Though dinner passed in a flurry of excitement, at least on Bethany’s and Flo’s part with George grinning happily, Sam watched Abby as she pasted a smile on her thinned lips. A smile that didn’t reach her eyes. Though she made a production out of moving the food around on her plate, he knew she’d eaten little.
When she started to get up, Bethany announced, “Mom, sit. You cooked. Grandma and I will clean up.”
“Me, too,” George added. “I’ll help, if you ladies don’t mind.”
As the others grabbed bowls and platters, Sam held up the bottle of wine to Abby. “There’s a little left. Would you like to finish it?”
She glanced around at the empty table. “Sure. I could use something stronger, though.”
“You aren’t pleased.” He poured the last of the wine into her glass.
“Surprised.” When her cell chirped, she pulled her phone out of her slacks’ pocket.
“I’ll get you a stronger drink.” As Sam scooted behind her, he glanced down at her phone.
George Watson checks out A-Okay. No worries for your mom. Report to follow via email. Merry Christmas! – Alex, O’Hara & Palzetti Investigators.
“What is that?” He pointed. “You had my dad investigated?”
“Don’t you shush me.” Sam felt his blood pressure escalate. She’d sicced an investigator on his dad?
“Let’s go outside.” She rose and grabbed his hand. “Sam and I are going for a walk,” she called to those in the kitchen before hauling him to the front closet. “Please don’t make a scene.”
“Me? Make a scene? Why would you think that?”
When she rolled her eyes at him, he knew his sarcasm had gotten through. Bundled up in hats, gloves, coats, and boots, they headed outside. The snow had stopped and the sun, though low in the sky, made the trees sparkle. The fairy tale scene was lost on him.
“You had my dad investigated?” he repeated when they reached the sidewalk. He brushed aside a twinge of guilt.
“When I got home from the jail yesterday morning, all I knew about your dad was that he and my mother had been arrested and were spending Christmas in jail. At the time, I thought it was your father leading my mother astray.” As he sputtered at the unfair accusation, she added, “Note, I said thought he’d led her astray. I know better now. Anyway, I called my girlfriend Alex who is a PI. Can you blame me? I had to protect my mother. Father left her comfortably well off. For all I knew, your father could be a gold digger.”
Sam threw his head back and laughed. If she only knew. “Dad doesn’t look like much, but he’s pretty well off himself.”
More than well off. With several patents to his name and a smart attorney, Dad was a millionaire several times over. “I suppose I should tell you, I did the same.” Despite the cold, his ears burned.
They’d circled the block. At Sam’s announcement, she stopped in front of her mother’s house. “What do you mean you did the same? The same what?”
“When Dad started dating Flo, I had her investigated. Alex is quite thorough.”
“You what?” She stooped to retie the boot laces—although he couldn’t figure out why since they were going inside.
“You heard me. I hired Alex O’Hara. She does a good job.”
As Abby rose, she let loose a round, white ball. Smack into his chest.
“You know this means war.” With an evil laugh, Sam grabbed a handful of snow and packed it well. As he threw it, she dodged. The snowball clipped her shoulder.
“Bring it on.” She fired another ball and got his ear.
They flung a barrage of snowballs at each other. Finally, he lunged for her and brought her down. Her fall was well cushioned by the snow that had fallen two nights ago and that which had fallen since last night. “You will pay for that last one,” he said in a falsetto. “I plan to have children someday.”
She dumped a handful of cold stuff down the back of his collar. “Someday? You’d better hurry. Someday is about to pass you up. Ooh,” she shrieked as his handful of snow went down the V-neck of her holiday sweater.
With strength that surprised him, she managed to roll him over then sat astride him. “Did you say war? You ain’t seen nothing yet, mister.” With a girlish giggle, she rubbed a handful of snow in his face.
“What are you two doing?” Flo stood on the front porch, hands on her hips. “Get up before someone sees you acting like children. What will the neighbors say?”
Eyes twinkling, Abby scrambled to her feet then reached down to help him up. “Oh my, yes. What will the neighbors say?”
When he clasped her hand, he laughed softly. “Can’t have that.” He scooped her up in a fireman carry and headed for the backyard.
“You two behave yourselves,” Flo called out.
“You’d better let me down, Sam Watson, or you’ll be sorry.” She pounded on his back.
With all her struggling, her jacket had pulled up as well as her sweater, exposing a delicious strip of skin. He couldn’t resist. Using his teeth to remove a glove, he scooped some snow off her jacket and, oh so carefully, trailed it along that strip.
She shrieked and wiggled so much, he had to drop her . . . in a big snowbank. This time, he straddled her. “Uncle?”
“Never. Soldiers never give up. Or in. We never cry uncle. We make war.” While she protested, she gathered two hands full of snow.
Before she could throw it, he stretched out on top of her. “I’d rather kiss than make war.”
He lowered his head, making sure his lips hovered over hers. “What do you say? Kiss or war?”
Her eyes darkened, not in anger. In anticipation. She wanted that kiss. Thank God. He brushed his lips against hers. A deep sigh ran through her as she raised her arms to loop them around his neck. Oh, yeah. Her lips softened, drawing him in.
Something wet and cold was shoved down the back of his neck. With a yelp, he scrambled off her. She lay in the snow mound, laughing, as he shook off the snow.
“You are a menace,” He groused. “A sneaky menace.”
“Poor baby.” She got up. “Want some help?”
He checked her hands. “I’d rather have another kiss.” When she hesitated, he added, “Only a kiss, Abby.”
After hesitating for another moment, she said, “I’m not sure if I’m ready for more than that.”
“I can wait until you are.”
Looking out the kitchen window, George turned to Flo. “They’re kissing again.”
“Wonderful.” Flo leaned against him.
“Gross,” Bethany said. “They’re too old for that stuff.”
George and Flo just laughed. “Never too old.”
Please return tomorrow for Barbara Edwards’ story, The Magic of Mistletoe.