Ty took Tina’s hand as she exited the car. “Well, what do you think?”
Caught by a light, wintery breeze, the sweatshirt hood hiding her features fell away.
One look at the absolute wonder in those huge blue eyes assured Ty he’d made the right decision to rent the expansive, three story log chalet.
“It’s not exactly home, but it’s as close as I could make it.” His words puffed out in a frosty trail. “For this year anyway.”
She took her wide-eyed gaze off the elegant yet rustic structure with its spacious porch across the front. As she glanced up at him, a smile lit her face to warm his heart.
“Anywhere I’m with you is as good as home to me.”
“It’s nice to hear you say that.” Ty pushed up the bill on the baseball cap she still wore to give him access an inviting pair of turned up lips he covered briefly with his. “Come on, there’s more.” Still holding her hand, he led her up the smooth wooden steps, passed the Adirondack style porch swing, and unlocked the heavy double doors.
Inside was spacious, comfortable and warm. Just like the rental agreement promised. To the left, a commercial size kitchen and dining table to seat at least twelve. About six ladder backed bar stools were lined up along a grey and black granite counter. On the right, an open and polished rough sawn staircase. Straight ahead, the massive two story living room with floor to ceiling windows. Three overstuffed leather couches set at right angles were accented with thick wooden tables and iron floor lamps.
“A Christmas tree. Oh, Ty.”
He put his arm around her and grinned. “You like it?”
The twelve-foot fir he’d ordered, complete with shiny ornaments and sparkling tinsel, occupied a far corner in the living room. Its top reaching well into the second story of the high arched cathedral ceiling.
“And food. We have food.” He left her side just long enough to open one of two double door refrigerators. “Fully stocked. The other one too.”
Stepping back, he swung both doors wide to reveal all he’d ordered. Meats and fruits and milk. Eggs, bread and more assorted groceries.
Tina came over to peek inside then turned to him and raised her brow. She no doubt noticed the excess. “That’s enough to feed a small army. How long, exactly, do we plan to stay here?”
“For Christmas, of course.” He shut the doors, then turned to draw her into his arms. “Maybe a little longer if we can swing it.”
“That does sound wonderful.” Even as she smiled up at him, a sadness creased the edges of her eyes to tug at his heart.
“I hope so, sweetheart.”
“Now that you’ve rescued me and brought me to this home away from home, I’m going to indulge myself in a long, hot bath and get into my pajamas.”
The mental image heated his blood. Time enough for that later. “I’ll be waiting when you’re done.”
“I assume you had our clothes delivered here from the bus as well.”
“Sure did. Take your pick of bedrooms.” He gestured toward the second floor with one finger. “There are two master suites upstairs, and three more down here.” With an elaborate sweep of his arm, he indicated a hallway beneath the stairs. “Plus, there’s a media room below.”
“Nice to know there are so many places to sleep, but we only need one.” She glanced over one shoulder before she walked upstairs.
“I’ll get a fire going.” He headed toward the massive fieldstone fireplace that centered the right-hand wall with an ample supply of long-burning oak logs piled beside it. “Have it nice and warm in here in no time.”
Ty made sure all the shades were drawn before he turned on too many lights. Even if they were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, there was no reason to take the chance a passerby would want to catch a glimpse inside.
True to his word, he knelt to construct a base of paper and kindling, lit it, then hefted the largest log from the pile to put on top.
The whole time they made their escape he knew Tina was scared. Terrified, really. Until they drove up into the relative solitude of the mountains. He sank onto a couch directly across from the fireplace as tiny fingers of flame sparked up then grew into fiery pillars of orange and yellow.
Too bad there wasn’t much he could do for her. Other than accept the blame that their life together had become a series of extremes with no real middle ground. They spent a good share of their time hiding out in the shadows. The rest of it on stage in one huge venue or another, under the glare of pulsating spotlights to perform set after set of chart topping songs that had endeared them to music lovers around the world.
The fire crackled and snapped. The granddaddy log he’d chosen rolled and shifted to settle further into red hot coals. Flying sparks of crimson and gold danced, and the burning wood flamed into a radiant wall of fire.
Tina Monroe was the love of his life. He adored her. Along with millions of country music fans, if her latest single going platinum in a matter of days after its release was any indication of her colossal fame. No one was prouder of her success than him. Even if he sometimes grew weary of having to share her with the world.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
Ty glanced up and couldn’t help but smile as Tina came into the living room. Hard to believe the woman before him decked out in long sleeved flannel pajamas and bright pink bunny slippers was America’s top female vocalist three years running. Her long, silky trademark hair no longer scrunched up under the baseball cap, hung in soft waves around a fresh and gorgeous face. Freshly washed clean of all traces of the dramatic stage make up.
“I’m flattered.” Despite her teasing, love glowed in those mesmerizing blue eyes, and a sweet smile tipped up her lips as she walked toward him. “What about me?”
“Nothing much. Just you.” Even as he said it, he decided she deserved more of an answer. “The monumental success you’ve had these past few years.”
As soon as she sat beside him, he slipped an arm around her shoulders. For a moment he stilled, struck by how perfectly they fit together.
“Which is both a blessing and a curse. Adored by millions I’m forced to run away from. When I ventured out into the crowd to greet a few fans after the matinee, I had no idea I’d set off a virtual riot.”
“I’m sure no one meant to intentionally harm you. Even so, a few hundred enthusiastic fans rushing the stage was a little intimidating. I thought we should make a run for it.”
“An unfortunate aspect of what we do.” She spoke softly as she snuggled close. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
“I know how much you wanted to be home for Christmas this year.” With his arm still around her, he rubbed his thumb along the flawless silk of her cheek, half expecting to encounter a tear or two. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“You don’t have to be sorry.” Nestled into him, she laid her head against his shoulder. “I told you, for me, Christmas or not, home is wherever you are.”
Although she kept her tone light, he sensed a sadness in her voice she couldn’t hide completely.
“It will be a wonderful Christmas this year, sweetheart.” He notched her chin up with his thumb and forefinger, so he could gaze into the depths of her eyes. “I promise.”
“I’m sure it will be. I learned long ago, you also keep your promises.” Her soft whisper drifted to nothing as, closing her eyes, she touched her lips to his.
Please come back again tomorrow for the final installment of Home For Christmas – Part Three. For more short stories, some to download for free, please go to my WEBSITE