All I Want For Christmas Is a Woobie Under My Tree by Heather Rainier

Chapter One

“You still haven’t told me what you want for Christmas,”

Jack murmured as he carefully squeezed Grace’s warm backside to his front-side. Few things felt better than making love to his wife. Giving her slow thrust, he reveled in her sweet and snug pussy, determined to take his time.

“Mmmm,” Grace purred as she rubbed her luxuriant, warm ass against him, tightening her grip on their entwined fingers. With a round and not very subtle undulation of her hips, she said, “Right now, I’d be thrilled if you would fuck me until I see stars. You have no idea how much I’d love to get this show on the road.”

Jack chuckled, but held his libido in check. There was nothing he’d like more than to give her exactly what she wanted. A good fucking. A hard orgasm. And maybe a kick-start to labor. Poor Grace wasn’t overdue but she was definitely ready to be done.

Grace reached back and caressed his ass. “You want to fuck me, don’t you? I know you do,” she purred. He could hear the smile in her voice as she urged him on.

He caressed the lower swell of her mounded abdomen

before reaching for the hot, slick haven between her thighs. “Darlin’, nothin’ would make me happier. Don’t worry, I’m gonna give you what you want, but you’re gonna let me be in charge.”

As he kissed the fragrant flesh beneath her ear he flexed his hips, thrusting slow and deep. Her moan and sigh were music to his ears and he smiled as he leaned forward enough to watch her face. Her eyelids slid closed and she caught her lip between her teeth as she arched back against him.

Breathing her in, he focused his stroking on the hot, slippery and swollen bundle of her clit, sliding his fingers back and forth, side to side, just the way she liked it, according to her answering moan. “Yes, like that.”

Keeping his thrusts even, he nibbled at her earlobe and said, “You make the sweetest sounds when I fuck you just right, Grace. I’ll never get enough of you. All of you.”

The tap of a small foot or elbow at his inner forearm

told him that their early morning play had awakened their unborn daughter, currently nestled beneath Grace’s heart.

Love, overwhelming in its strength and depth, brought an all over flush of heat to his body and he groaned with pleasure even as his vision misted momentarily. Making love to Grace was a spiritual event, even more so than in the past. He truly loved her more with each passing day. Every single thing about her turned him on, and made him even more determined to give her what she needed.

When he changed up the stroking pattern over her clit, she gasped and cried out, “Yes, oh yes! More, just like that. Fuck me, Jack. Please, oh please!” Her sensual moans were his undoing and he increased his thrusts as she arched back against him. Her hot, lush pussy was just too hard to resist and he gave in to her, fucking her until she dug her nails into his buttocks. “That’s it! Oh, I’m coming! I’m coming!”

“Yes,” he growled as he held her to him with a firm grip and pumped hard. Ecstasy created a haze of rapture he gave in to, falling over the brink of lust. Searing shards of pleasure blazed through his nerve endings and he gave a loud groan as he came, thrusting hard with each orgasmic surge.

When his senses returned, it was to find she was giggling.

Gently pulling out, he leaned over her so he could look into her beautiful flushed face. His extremities still tingled and she looked up at him with those bright blue eyes of hers. “Woman, you are spoiled. You know that?”

Giggling some more, she nodded. “Are you still going to get a tree for me?”

“I’m not sure I can feel my legs at the moment. Give me time to recover from servicing my demanding woman and I’ll consider it. In the meantime, you still haven’t told me what you want for Christmas.”

With slow, careful movements, she turned from one side to the other, a maneuver that took longer in her advanced state of pregnancy. When she was situated, he pulled the covers over her. Before she’d awoken, he’d gotten up to start a fire in the mistress suite fireplace to take away the early morning chill, but he didn’t want to risk her being cold anyway. So he was a little protective. Her smile as she snuggled closer to him told him she appreciated the effort.

Resting her golden head on his bicep,

she played his chest hair and then looked up at him. “All I want for Christmas is a woobie under my tree.”

With a chuckle, he replied, “Lucky for you, you’ve got three of them. If you count Grant-boy, you’ve got four.”

Grace chuckled. Their son Grant was proving to be just as protective of his mama and sister as Jack, Ethan, and Adam were, although he was thoroughly sick of being Rose Marie’s roping dummy. “I can hardly ask for more.”

“Yeah, you can, darlin’.” He admired her appreciation for what she already possessed but he wanted to do his Christmas shopping soon and he really needed to know what was on her secret wish list.

“Charity has a list, because she knew you would all be asking. There’s one item you’ll have to take her shopping for since she knows exactly what I want.”


Charity was a good sister-in-law and wouldn’t steer them wrong. “You’re really determined to put up a Christmas tree today?”

“Yes. I want to have it up early this year, so it’s already done for Thanksgiving, and so I can enjoy watching Rose Marie and Grant decorate it. Once I have my hands full with the baby, I’ll be more likely to miss things like that. I wanted to take pictures of the three of you helping them put the ornaments on.”

“Well, all right, then. Adam is supposed to come with me to the tree farm to pick out a good one.”

“A nice, tall one, please.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he murmured and then kissed her throat again. “Whatever you want.”


Chapter Two


“Rose Marie, hold the door for your daddy,”

Grace said as she caught Grant by the collar of his barn coat before he got trampled by Angel, Ash and Joaquin as they moved the sleeper loveseat to the other side of the living room. The thing weighed a ton, and just because the little squirt could move like a basset hound on steroids, quick and low to the ground, didn’t mean he wouldn’t get squished if he tripped them.

“Thanks, sugar,” Adam said as he, Ethan, and Jack wisely stamped their boots on the back porch mat before inching the huge and fragrant tree through the doors. No need to track dry leaves and dirt on her just cleaned floors.

“Watch the door frame. I don’t want to have to repaint,” she said, reaching out but then standing back as Jack caught her eye and nodded at her. They wouldn’t let the door frames get dinged. His patience with her neat freak tendencies, made worse by advanced pregnancy induced nesting instinct, warmed her heart.

“Okay, Gracie,” Ethan said, bringing up the rear, carrying the stump of the tree in gloved hands. The scent of fresh cut fir filled the crisp air drafting in through the door all around them. Her heightened sense of smell also picked up notes of clean, hard-working men,

and her inner sexpot purred contentedly.

Jack cleared his throat, gaining her attention, and she giggled when she caught him staring at her, recent carnal knowledge in his eyes. He probably knew exactly what she was thinking. “Darlin’, it’s getting heavy.”

“Oh! Sorry! Pregnancy brain! Over there.” She pointed across the room. “Try it over there first.”

Joaquin snorted softly at her word choice as he and the other two helpers stood by. They’d probably had to go through the same ritual with their women at home. Positioning the tree just right was important. It had to be visible through the back windows, not too close to the fireplace or the stairs, out of the flow of traffic, and far enough from the wall she could decorate the backside and be able to reach the switch for the tree lights, as well. Location, location, location!

“How’s that?” Adam said as he held it steady for her.

“Move it a foot to the left. It’ll snag everyone’s pant legs where it is right now.”

They moved it without a single grumble.

“How’s that?” Adam asked, switching hands on the tree and catching Grant as he ran forward and grabbed him about his long thigh.

She beckoned them to bring it forward. “I need to get the bumpers out for the bricks on the hearth. The last thing we want is Grant busting his head open if he trips.”

Grant frowned at her. “I not no baby, no more, mama.”

“You mean, ‘I’m not a baby anymore, mama.’ And it’s not up to you young man.”

“I ain’t a baby! I ain’t!”

Ethan growled softly and tapped his son

on the back of his head. “Don’t sass your mama, son.” To Grace, he said, “We gave the bumpers to Presley, Jared, and Kendry.”

“Oh. Oh, well, just be super careful, Grant. Bring it forward and away from the fireplace just to be on the safe side.”

“How’s that?” Adam asked with a soft sigh.

She backed up and took in the room as a whole. “You know what? I think I’d like it better over there next to the staircase.”

Jack nodded once, and they lifted the tree to heft it across the living room while Angel, Joaquin and Ash hurriedly moved the loveseat out of the way again.

“No, wait. I’m sorry. If it’s over there it won’t be as visible from the backyard.”

“Why does it—never mind,”

Ethan said and then grunted as he repositioned the stump in his gloved hands and nodded at Adam to proceed.

“Which way, baby?” Adam said, not budging even though Jack and Ethan had started to back to the original spot.

She pointed to the original spot with an apologetic smile. “Back where you had it. Okay, now turn it. Turn it. Just a little more—stop. She backed up and looked at the room as a whole. “Right where you have it is perfect. Don’t move it or turn it. Angel can you help him with the base?”

“Sure thing, Grace. You know the water is going to have to be filled every day, otherwise it’ll dry out before—

“Oh, I’ll keep up with filling it,” she said, smiling at the beautiful symmetry of the tree they’d chosen. It had to be nine feet tall.

“Uh, no, I’ll be filling it,”

Jack said, watching the bulge of her abdomen as it lurched.

Grace sighed at the corresponding pressure to her bladder and said, “I’ll be right back.”

She bit her lip, and paused, hand on the couch to steady her, as Calliope Elizabeth squirmed and did ‘the thing.’ Unable to speak, she breathed carefully as Callie stretched, pushing a tiny foot against her much abused lower ribs.

“She’s doing ‘the thing’?” Jack asked, coming near.

Grace gave a thumbs up, back still turned. Give the man a prize!

Peeing could wait as Callie ground her hard little Warner head against Grace’s tender nether parts.

“Grace, you okay?”

Adam said, sounding concerned when she didn’t speak.

Just as quickly as Callie started her yoga routine, she relented, curling back into a tiny tight ball, giving her mama enough room to draw a breath.

She turned and smiled. This had only happened umpteen times in the last few days. “No biggie. Callie’s just squirming around a lot. Must be that orange juice I drank. I’ll be right back.”

The trip the bathroom was all good, if one counted having to balance carefully to sit down on the toilet because her abdomen made bending a bit dicey. Getting up was actually easier. Then she looked down. “Well, fuck a duck. Nope. Not right when I’m getting my tree decorated. I’ll call Emma later.”


Jack watched Grace

when she returned from using the bathroom. He studied her expression, looking for signs of discomfort or worry. She was as serene as she could be, and then she smiled at him. “Did we get the tree in the base?”

“Yeah, Ethan’s filling a bucket right now. Is this how you wanted it?”

No other woman had ever made a pregnant waddle look sexier, he thought as she moved to the center of the room, gazed at the tree, moved to the back windows, gazed at the tree some more, and then waddled back to the stairs, eyeballed that tree once more, and then gave them the thumbs up.

Relief filled him, and he turned to Rose Marie. “Sugar, can you close the back doors? We don’t want Mama getting chilled, do we?”

Horror dawned on Rose Marie’s face. “Oh, no. I wasn’t thinking.” She ran back to the doors but Grace stopped her.

“No, sweetie, leave them open for me. The crisp breeze is nice.” Grace tilted her head and looked at the tree and he dutifully turned it one millimeter to the right when she asked him to.

Ethan came in from the kitchen carrying a mop bucket and said, “Who left the door open? Gracie’s going to get chill—” He turned to look at her and paused mid-step. “Gracie? You okay?”

“I’m fine,”

she assured him, her hand smoothed over her burgeoning middle as their daughter squirmed again, and what he thought had to be her little butt shifted visibly from Grace’s left side to her right side.

Angel chuckled and said, “There is another reason why the women have the babies, because we weak-spirited men would be wetting our pants if we had to experience that. The women are the stronger sex, no doubt.”

Joaquin nodded silently and fist bumped his brother.

“Is it time, Mama?” Rose Marie said as she and Grant bounced up and down beside the stacked boxes containing ornaments.

“Yes, it’s time. Once box at a time, and let your daddies help you with the box marked ‘fragile’. I’m going to get my phone so I can take pictures.”

Ethan watched her as she waddled into her office, and then looked at Jack and Adam, suspicion in his eyes. Angel and the others said their goodbyes and ventured out the back doors.

They watched her like a hawk,

while helping the kids open the boxes of ornaments. He set the box of fragile ones aside because he knew they were extra special to Grace, and he didn’t want to be responsible for any of them getting broken on his watch, especially the spun glass ones. She’d loved those when they’d given them to her their first Christmas together.

With the back door open, the sounds of the working ranch filtered into the house, and Rose Marie giggled when they heard one of the dogs barking. Barney looked a bit like a bloodhound but Jack swore up and down there was a little bit of mastiff in him. And he had a bark that pierced the thickest walls, and eardrums.

“Barney must be chasing a rabbit again,” Rose Marie chirped as she showed him the shiny red ball ornament. “Let’s hang all red ornaments on the tree, Daddy.”

“Nooo,” Grant groused in his grump-old-man voice. “Red and green, cuz it’s Christmas.”

“You mean, “Red and Green, because it’s Christmas,’” Grace said, shooting video of the kids and the three of them. “I wonder what Barney is after,” she said, keeping the phone trained on them while looking out the back doors. “He’s chasing a cat. Is that Jake? I haven’t seen him in ages.” She turned checked her phone screen’s position and then looked back out the doors. Barney and Jake had a love-hate relationship.

“Rowr-rowr-rowr-rowr! Barowwwwrrr-rowr-rowr!”

The sound came closer and closer, Jack looked over to see what the ruckus was, and suddenly Grace shouted, “Oh, no you don’t! Not my clean floors!”

In her advanced state of pregnancy she couldn’t move fast enough to reach the doors to shut them, and Jack wouldn’t risk knocking her over to get to them. He wouldn’t have been in time anyway.

Jake the barn cat was a huge, orange, fuzzy streak as he zipped through the back door with Barney hot on his tail, jowls flapping, drool flying everywhere as he dogged the cat right to the Christmas tree. Like a feline missile, Jake got vertical, sloshing the water in the tree base everywhere, before rocketing straight to the top of the pristine, perfectly positioned fir tree.

Rose Marie and Grant stood stock still, jaws hanging open. Then Jake snarled at Barney, who was barking so loudly it shook the rafters and vibrated in the center of Jack’s sternum.

With every hair on end

until he looked twice his normal above-average size, Jake fixed Barney with a green-eyed glower and yowled and hissed like a cobra.

The tree tilted slightly out of kilter because Ethan hadn’t had a chance to fix it more steadily into the base yet. Jake’s weight at the top of the tree made it shake as he tried to maintain his balance.

“Barowwwwrrr-rowr-rowr! Baroooooooooo!” Barney howled, having successfully treed his quarry.

Not relinquishing victory that easily, Jake hissed, spat and growled, struggling to maintain his high perch, unsuccessfully as it turned out, since the tree finally toppled to the floor.

Jake leaped at the dog, the dog shrieked in fear, and the cat chased the squealing dog around the living room twice, unseating Grace’s bric-a-brac and books from their shelves before racing at top speed right out the back door.

All eyes turned to Grace.

She was still holding the camera, and had caught at least part of the event on record. As if for added affect, the base containing the water for the tree, which had managed to stay on its edge that whole time, finally toppled over, spilling water all over the floor.

Grace blinked a couple of times, and then looked around the room at all their shocked faces.

“Heh-heh,” she snickered as she pointed at him, Ethan, and Adam, and the kids. They were all watching her as if she was a ticking time bomb. “Heh-Heh-heh,” she continued. “You should see your faces.”

She looked back at the tree, and then burst into great, belly-rolling laughter. Pointing at the door, she said, “The cat ran in the…and the dog…then Jake went ‘reeeewr! So Barney howled…and kaboom!” She mimicked the tree falling with a sweep of her arm, starting to sound a little hysterical. Her laughter was infectious and soon they were all laughing.

By the time she finished laughing

and let out a big sigh, they had the tree back in an upright position, and were holding it firmly as Ethan bolted the base to the stump. That done, he picked up the bucket and headed back to the kitchen.

It was Jack that noticed something was up when he glanced over at Grace. She had a towel and was trying to soak up the water on the floor, and he said, “Darlin’, don’t worry about that. We can mop up the floor after we’ve got the tree secured. Don’t worry, we’ll have it all picked up in…” He noticed she was mopping up a puddle that was nowhere near the one that surrounded the tree.

He caught her eye and she shrugged and grinned at him. “Guess we got that show on the road after all, baby.” She stood upright and then gasped as she braced one hand on the couch and held her abdomen with the other. “Well, that was fast.”

The baby is coming?

It was time for his baby girl to be born? Just like that? So suddenly?

Ethan grabbed Jack and shook him out of his idiotic stupor. “We’ve got this. Her labors go fast. Take her to the hospital. I’ll call Emma—

“She’s already on alert. I called her from my office. I lost the mucous plug last time I peed. She said to get my ass to the hospital at the first contraction.”

Ethan sighed, which sounded remarkably like a growl.

“What? I wanted to finish the tree first.”

“Woman,” Adam murmured.

“The baby and I fine. I’ll go now, since…kasploosh!” she mimicked a puddle splashing out around her and then winced at another contraction.

“I’m calling the hospital to let them know you’re on the way,” Adam said.

Ethan gave him a gentle push toward the door. “Take her now. We’ll get this tidied up. I’ll call Charity to come stay with the kids and we’ll bring Grace’s bag to her just as soon as Charity gets here.”

Damn it, it isn’t like I’ve never done this before. Why did he feel like he was having an out of body experience?

What finally galvanized him into action was the gentle grip of Grace’s hand on his forearm. “I’m ready, Jack.”

He turned to her. “Can you make it to my truck?” Thank goodness it was parked right out front. “I can carry you.”

Grace smiled and took his hand. “I think I can make it. Let’s go do this.”

“Mama?” Rose Marie said as she went to her mother and gentle patted her swollen abdomen. “I can’t wait to see my sissy.”

“Me, too, Mama!” Grant chirped, reaching out to be picked up, but Adam caught him up in his arms so Grace didn’t have to form a refusal. “I wanna see Sissy! Can I come, too?”

“You can come when she gets here, okay?” She took a breath and squeezed his hand hard. “We need to go.”

Jack guided her out to the truck and helped her into the cab. She buckled herself in while he ran around to the driver’s side.

On the wild tear down the driveway,

Grace giggled and pointed at one of the pastures, where Barney had Jake treed in an old oak, baying and jumping to get at him.

She took out her phone and began tapping on the screen.

“What are you doing?” he asked, keeping both eyes on the road as they turned onto the state highway.

“Texting Charity. I want her to take pictures of the kids putting the decorations on the tree. They’ll have a little sister the next time I see them. I wanted them to have that memory of when it was just the two of them in pictures.” She sniffled.

His sentimental sweetheart.

“Darlin, this time next year they’ll still be Mutt and Jeff, arguing over whether he should still be the roping dummy or not. It’s gonna be great. You doing okay?” he asked as she started blowing out in slow breaths.

She nodded, and when she could speak, she said, “Step on it, handsome, your little girl is in a hurry to meet you.”

Only the fact that he was behind the wheel, and the man in charge of getting her to the hospital in time, that kept him from totally losing it at her words.

This was his baby girl and the woman he loved more than breath.

Super-focused on getting them to the hospital safely, he said, “Well, I can’t wait to meet her, too. With you for her mama, she’s one lucky little girl.”

Grace tapped her phone and put it to her ear and said, “Hey, it’s me. Yes, they’re not even—” she paused what she was saying to blow out a long breath, over and over. “Yeah, that’s what I was trying to tell you. I’m blowing through them. I feel it. Be ready when we get there. Awesome. Bye.”

At the emergency entrance to the hospital, Jack spotted Eli Wolf waiting with Emma. Jack screeched to a halt and Eli opened the door and spoke calmly to Grace as he unbuckled her seatbelt and lifted her carefully from her seat. He glanced at Jack and grinned. “Hey, Jack. We got her safe. Park and come inside. Tracey will suit you up and show you where to go.”

Grace looked back at him and beamed as Eli placed her with utmost care on the gurney and they began rolling toward the automatic doors. Grace blew Jack a kiss and in between blowing breaths, she called out, “Hurry.”

Chapter Three


Jack couldn’t see Nurse Tracey’s mouth because she wore a mask, but her eyes were smiling as she held out a pair of surgical scissors to him. He fumbled them in his gloved hands and chuckled. “My hands are shaking so much I can hardly get my big ol’ fingers in the grips.”

Adam stood behind him at his left shoulder, sniffling. A little sob snuck out the big guy as Emma cleared the mucous and fluids from Calliope Elizabeth Warner’s mouth and nose and then lifted her so they could see her in her pink, chubby-cheeked glory, howling to beat the band.

“Meet your daughter, guys.

Jack? Care to do the honors?”

“Huh?” he asked dumbly as he gazed at Calliope’s cherubic face.

Grace chuckled softly and reached out. “Can I have her?”

Ethan gripped Jack’s shoulder and said, “Time to cut the cord.”

He looked down at the scissors in his hand and then understanding dawned. “Oh. Me. Okay. You know, I remember catching Rose Marie when she was born, but for some reason my legs hardly work.”

“It’s okay. Take your time, Jack. Mama and baby are just fine,” Emma murmured as she rose from the stool at the end of the birthing bed and gently placed Calliope on her mother’s bare chest. The infant squinted and squawked as she was rubbed gently with a cloth.

“What a pretty girl,”

Ethan said as he came around on Grace’s other side and stroked the babies tiny ear. “Look at all that dark hair, will you?”

Adam squatted down and Tracey shook her head at him and pushed another stool in his direction. He’d never live down nearly fainting at Grant’s birth. He chuckled and took it as he rolled to the head of the bed opposite from Ethan and caressed

Grace’s cheek. “Thank you, baby. You’re amazing. She’s beautiful.”

Grace kissed him and beamed. “She is pretty isn’t she?”

“Calliope is a mouthful for a tiny little baby,” Tracey said. “Is she going to have a nickname?”

“What do you think we ought to call her, Jack?” Grace asked as she stroked the baby’s little pink cheek.

Emma touched the top of his hand to galvanize him into action, as she held the clamped cord and showed him where to cut.

His hands still trembled

and Emma said, “Sometimes if I’m shaky it helps to take a slow breath and cut as you let it out. You’re golden, Jack. This is a huge moment, no matter how many times you have a baby.”

He nodded, unable to speak as he severed the cord and Emma gave him a thumbs up and took the scissors. Wow. She’s really here.

Grace gazed at him as he came close and laid his hand on Calliope’s back. “What should we call your daughter?”

“Callie Beth,” he whispered, the syllables crackling as his throat constricted. Her tiny little body was so warm, so vital. And then she squawked again as she started rooting in earnest.

“That’s a determined little girl, guys,” Emma said with a chuckle as she went about her work.

Tracey slid a little stocking cap on Callie’s head and said, “She looks like a little Callie Beth, doesn’t she? I love romantic names. She’s going to be a heart-breaker, I bet. I can snap some pictures for you real quick while Emma finishes up, before I take Callie to be weighed. You can come with me for that, Jack, if you want?”

He wasn’t sure if he could make his legs move

but he nodded and handed her his cellphone with the camera turned on. The guys got their phones out as well.

Exhausted from birth, Callie Beth fell asleep before finding success with the whole nursing thing, and that was okay. It was a big day. Tracey took the opportunity to wrap her in a receiving blanket and then popped her right into Jack’s arms, like he knew what he was doing.

Wait. I do know what I’m doin’. This isn’t my first rodeo. Get with the program, Jack!

Callie Beth mesmerized him. Her tiny hands were a carbon copy of Grace’s in miniature. She opened her eyes briefly and gazed up at him, so serious and still, inspecting her daddy for the first time.

Grace chuckled as he moved close to the head of the bed, the baby held securely in his arms. He leaned down to kiss Grace, and tears he didn’t know he was shedding dripped onto her hospital gown.

She was sniffling, too, as she reached up and stroked the moisture from his cheeks. Her lips were so warm under his and he lingered there before resting his forehead against hers.

“You done good, mama.”

“We all did. Congratulations, daddy. Daddies. I love you.”

They each responded in kind and even Tracey was sniffling as she moved around quietly snapping pictures. At times, Ethan and Adam caught his gaze and their happiness practically radiated from them.

All three of their kids belonged to all of them, by choice, but because of family resemblances, and timing, Grace was comfortably certain that Rose Marie was Adam’s daughter. She had the Davis green eyes and the family nose.

Ethan was most certainly Grant’s father, because of busy schedules and the fact that Grace had been charting her fertility. Grant also showed an amazing sense of intuition, like his father, when he wasn’t being a toot.

And this one…this little dark headed-angel.

Grace and the guys had done everything they could to make certain it was Jack who had fathered this baby, even giving their blessing for a Hawaiian getaway for just the two of them at a time when Grace was likely to be fertile. Callie Beth’s hair was the same color as his.

He lifted Grace’s hand into his and stroked her palm with his thumb. “Grace, you’re our every dream come to life. Thank you so much for this blessing.”


Chapter Four


The Christmas party at the Divine Creek Ranch

was a little more subdued that year, but not by much. Because of scheduling they were having it on Christmas day instead of Christmas Eve.

Jessica Bright’s wedding and binding ceremony with Tank Drummond and Troy Burns had happened the day before and everyone had stayed for the reception. Some faces were missing, because they had to travel to see their families, but Jack thought it was still a great turnout.

It was his protective side that hoped it didn’t go too late. Rose Marie and Grant were their usual energetic selves, and he’d been watching Grace for signs of fatigue. She’d given in to their badgering to rest because she hadn’t bounced back quite as quickly from the birth. She pushed herself so hard sometimes, thinking she needed to handle things for everybody else.

After the overwhelming success, and accompanying behind-the-scenes stressful drama, of the charity fundraiser, she’d finally given in and taken it easy, allowing them to do for her for a change.

With any other woman that might’ve meant being available at her beck and call. With Grace, it meant movie nights, long talks in bed, back rubs and brainstorming sessions for future stories she’d write in the coming years. Who knew he, Ethan, and Adam had such romantic creative sides? Jack honestly enjoyed being of help to her in a way he never had before.

He handed her to tall glass of ice water she’d asked him for and she thanked him with a kiss. Little Callie Beth was watching the goings on of the gathering from the security of the sling Grace was wearing, a gift from Presley Ann McCulloch, who had also given birth to a baby girl a month or so before Callie Beth had come into the world.

Callie Beth gazed out at the group

from the comfy security of her mother’s warmth, before burrowing close to her mama again. Warmth filled his chest and when he looked up it was to find Ethan and Adam watching her as well, twin sappy grins on their faces, probably matching the one on his.

Ethan brought him a beer and the three of them clinked bottles and Ethan said, “To Grace.”

“To Grace.”

“To Grace.”

Ash Peterson and his wife Juliana came in through the back door, looking a little flushed, and judging by the twinkle in Ash’s eyes, and the blush in Juliana’s cheeks, they were feeling a little more than just the crisp chill from the outdoors. Good thing for them, they lived nearby.

“What is all that racket?”

Juliana asked as she turned and peeked out the opened doors.

A commotion in the backyard got everyone’s attention. Ace and Kemp were on it immediately, coming from the kitchen where they’d been conversing with Duke and Gage, Dr. Emma’s husbands, reaching in to their sports coats by reflex, but showing no other sign they were armed.

After the security breach on the ranch the night of the charity dinner and double bachelor auction, they were all much more vigilant about disturbances, especially with little ones running around everywhere.

“Just the dog barkin’ somewhere nearby,” Ash said, nodding and smiling at Ethan when he lifted a beer bottle in inquiry. “I’d love one, thanks. Need to wet my whistle.”

Juliana snorted and nudged him with her elbow. “It’s important to stay hydrated, right?”

“You hush, woman,” he said, but his affectionate, gentle squeeze led Jack to believe he enjoyed it when she got feisty. Their relationship had been fireworks from the get go, as Jack recalled and maintaining that spark was good for a marriage.

They were just closing the French doors when Erin, Ethan’s baby sister snuck in, looking a little disheveled.

“Hey, Erin. I was wondering if you were going to make it or not,” Ethan said as he handed Ash his beer, and then squinted at her. “What’ve you been up to?”

“Nothin’. Mind your own beeswax, dude. I need a drink.”

“A good stiff one? Here,”

Charity quipped as she sauntered over and held out a shot of what looked like tequila. “Careful, there’s a song that talks about tequila making a girls clothes fall off.”

Erin growled at Charity but took the shot with a nod of thanks anyway. Ethan’s sister was a spirited woman, and it wasn’t his place to say so, but Ethan’s protectiveness was just making her even more determined to do as she pleased. She’d recently decided to move out of the ranch house, even though they had plenty of room. Jack could understand her wanting her independence.

Charity looked over at Teresa, who was standing nearby with Angel and Joaquin bracketing her like bookends. “Hey Teresa, where’s Luka and Matthias? I heard they were going to be here tonight?”

“They should be here already,” Teresa said, casting her husbands a questioning glance. Their brothers were always game for a party but didn’t always show up when they said they would. “I’m not sure where they are.”

Erin groused under her breath and headed for the kitchen as the sound of boot steps stamping on the porch signaled another arrival.

The brothers in question grinned and waved in greeting as they came in through the back door and slipped their coats off and put them on the tree with their hats. “Hey,” Luka called, shaking hands with Duke Rivers who had come into the living room. “How is everyone?”

“Barrrrrooowrrrr! Rowr-rowr-rowr-rowr!

Grace gasped and blinked as everyone turned at the commotion on the back porch. She opened her mouth to speak and turned imploring eyes to him. “Close the doors before they—”

A furry snarling orange rocket ran between Luka’s booted feet and shot into the house.

“Jake, out!” Grace called as he shot past her. “Someone catch him. Oh, not again!”

“What the—” Luka shouted as all one hundred and twenty pounds of Barney barreled into him from behind, knocking his legs out from under him, missing landing on the tile floor only because Matthias caught him from behind.

“Barrrrrooowrrrr! Rowr-rowr-rowr-rowr!

Reeeeewr! Hisss!

The cat dog combo looped the living room twice as the party-goers tried to catch them, the kids laughing and adults shooing them toward the door before any real damage could be done.

The cat went airborne over the couch,

while Grace watched in consternation. Like a safety-seeking missile, the feline made a beeline for the only vertical perch in reach. Straight up the fully decked out Christmas tree. The ornaments trembled and shook on the tree as he scaled the heights to the angel perched on the top, knocking it askew.

Ethan made a made a mad grab for Barney and got dragged across the living room for the effort, before the coffee table stopped his progress and he let go or risked hitting Grace with the furniture.

Jack felt like he was moving in slow motion. The spun glass ornaments swung wildly as the tree teetered with Jake’s attempts to gain some balance. Each step around the room took forever. Barney was headed straight for the tree. It was one thing to knock over the tree when it was bare. It was another mess of shit to do it when it was full of Grace’s precious glass ornaments.
Barney attacked the base of the tree, knocking it off kilter, and Jake leaped from the top, rebounded off Jack’s shoulder and flitted out the still open door. The tree was a lost cause as Barney attacked the red furry tree skirt, evidently thinking he’d caught his prey. But Jack could still save the decorations.

Nope. The tree fell on him.

And for his efforts, he got a face full of Barney’s dirty paws and slobber as he climbed over him and shot out the French doors. When he regained his breath, he looked up at the crowd of faces ringing him.

Grace rose from the couch and told someone that she needed a towel and for the men to lift the tree off of him carefully. A sparkle caught his eye and he lifted the spun glass ballerina from his chest and showed it to Grace.

“Well, darlin’, at least I saved one of your ornaments.”

Holding one hand to Callie Beth’s head to keep her settled in her sling, she got down on her knees and took the ornament from him, as well as another he spotted in the branches squished against his chest.

“Are you hurt?”

“Nope. I wanted to save your glass ornaments from being broken.”

Grace grimaced. “You could’ve been impaled on broken glass,” she said as they lifted the tree off him and the round ball ornaments made tinkling sounds as they bounced and rolled across the floor. The kids giggled as they chased after them.
Jack grinned, and then picked a dry tree bristle from his shirt front when it poked him. He nodded his thanks when the guys helped him up. In turn, he helped her to rise, and showed her that he was fine, except that the water from the tree base had soaked the back of his jeans.

“It’s all good. Lookie there, the other two of your special ornaments are still hanging on the branches, undamaged.”

“Jack, I was teasing when I said I wanted a woobie under my Christmas tree.”

When he stopped laughing, he caught Ethan’s attention and said, “Let’s make sure those doors are shut good this time.”

The tree was restored to something resembling its former dignity, with only a few ornaments damaged beyond repair. Barney and Jake streaked past the back door, playing their endless game of cat and dog.

The lights from the tree sparkled and reflected on the windows and Jack thought of Grace’s care in making sure the tree was positioned so the lights shined out.

Standing talking with her friends and their family and acquaintances, she caught his glance and smiled at him as she caressed his daughter’s dark head.

The house shone with a light that had nothing to do with artificial tree bulbs. The warmth he felt was the light that was reflected by of the woman he loved with all his heart.


The End

©Heather Rainier 2017 All rights reserved

This short story describes events that took place during the course of Operation Ginger Avenger. For the full story, visit the book page and you’ll find info and links to various retailers. Click here to purchase at Siren BookStrand Right now

If you enjoyed this Christmas-themed short story, check out The Woobie Spirit of Christmas Past 

and It’s a Very Woobie Christmas in Divine, Texas

The Woobie Spirit of Christmas Past

Awakened by a subtle movement

from the lush form curved to his side, Ivan Cutter blinked and listened to the stillness of the house. The heater kicked on and he shifted carefully from his back to his side facing the center of the bed.

Christmas Time.Christmas candle and decoration. Christmas border design on the wooden background. Christmas fir tree with christmas candle and decoration.

Cassie responded to his movement, snuggling closer to his warmth as she shivered. Wondering briefly if he was dreaming, he drew the blanket back up over her shoulder. She’d pushed it down in her sleep and her skin had cooled. He slid his hand under the blanket and rested it on her upper arm, sharing his warmth with her.

A flicker of something metallic caught his eye. He gazed sleepily at the Christmas snow globe she’d placed on the dresser in the corner. It’d played “O Holy Night” when she’d wound it up and placed it there the night before while decorating her house for Christmas. Even though they didn’t often sleep there, she’d still wanted the house to be festive for when her kids came home from college.

She sighed and murmured in her sleep and he leaned down to kiss her head as she stilled once more. Drifting back to sleep, he remembered a time when it would’ve been impossible to touch her like that, to share this precious space next to her…to share her love with the man who knew him better than he knew himself. His brother, and identical twin, Samson, who snored softly on her other side.

By their junior year of high school

he’d honed the ability to hide his adoration for his brother’s sweet-spirited girlfriend. He could smile, joke, and converse with her in a crowded classroom, restaurant, or family living room without giving his secret away. He had no choice, because the idea of avoiding or ignoring her was just too painful. If he couldn’t have her at his side to gaze at with open affection like Samson could, at least she was still near him, sharing her soothing presence with him.

If he was competitive like Samson, he might’ve let her know how he felt early on and forced her to choose between them, given her “options,” but he wasn’t wired that way. He didn’t begrudge Samson that he had his heart’s desire at his side. But it didn’t change the way he felt about her, either.

During the December of that year, their mother had invited Cassie over for a fun night of Christmas decorating, something they’d discovered that she loved doing. Once they’d been old enough to hang the ornaments on the tree, Mom had always left the decorating to him and Samson. Their often lopsided efforts over the years had been fairly pathetic and likely would’ve driven anyone with OCD tendencies to a conniption—and then Samson had begun dating Cassie in their freshman year.

front room decorated for christmas with christmas tree stockings and fireplace

So Ivan had made a huge pot of chili

and Cassie was on her way over, bringing tamales that she and her mother had made themselves at Rudy’s, the family restaurant her father and her uncles all owned together. Mom had gotten down a couple of jars of peaches she’d preserved earlier in the summer and had just put a peach cobbler in the oven when the phone rang.

Ivan tasted the chili as his mother conversed on the phone and had then hung up. “Your dad has to respond to a fire emergency. It’ll be a few hours, he suspects, before he’s done.” Their father was the chief of their local volunteer fire department and had been up at the headquarters all afternoon.

“There’s plenty of chili, and it’ll only get better as it simmers” he said, setting the spoon aside. He was slicing the green onions for a garnish when the phone rang again a few minutes later. Because his hands were damp, he let his mom grab the corded handset hanging from the wall.

“Hello?” she said with her usual cheerfulness. “Oh. Oh no. I’ll be there in a few minutes. It’s okay, the guys can hold the fort down for a little while.”

Five minutes later,

Mom was wrapped in her heavy coat and out the door, on the way to their grandmother’s house to investigate a heavily leaking kitchen faucet. Their mom had been raised on a ranch and taught how to handle a wide range of mishaps on her own and was pretty handy with a wrench.

Samson was thumping around in the finished attic room upstairs, locating all the Christmas decorations when Ivan heard the dogs barking outside and the sound of a car door closing.

He went out the back door and found her reaching into the back seat of the old Mercury she drove with the dogs all gathered around her. “Shoo, mutts, shoo! Here, let me help,” he said as he reached for the foil covered roaster she was lifting out of the backseat.

She was wrapped up in her puffy blue jacket

and was wearing a festive red and green knit hat with a matching scarf wrapped around her neck. Her warm, sherry-colored eyes twinkled as she smiled at him and held the roaster out.

He took the heavy pan from her and said, “Holy mackerel, how many tamales did you bring?”

She rubbed her mitten covered hands together and said, “Enough for your folks to enjoy for the rest of the month, besides what we can eat tonight. It’s my gift to your family.”

“Oh man, are you kidding?” She and her mom made the best tamales. “It feels like there’s enough here to keep us in tamales for a few months at least.”

“I’m trying to be creative with gifts, since I’m saving all my tips for college now.”

“Good idea. Come on in,” he said with a gesture of his head, and they went around to the back door, where the dogs were now begging to be let inside.

“Good boy! Good boy!”

Cassie said as she squatted down to greet their conglomeration of mixed breed dogs. Her laughter as the dogs crowded in for her attention was contagious and he was glad his hands were already full. She didn’t realize how her position put her assets on display. His rebellious cock did, however. Sometimes being around her was a series of mental exercises trying to keep his dick in line. She wasn’t his but according to his libido that was neither here nor there.

The dogs jumped up on him when they caught a whiff of the tamales and he said, “Open the back door, would you?” as she laughed at his predicament. Their feet got tangled up with the dogs on the porch steps as she tried to pass him.

“Whoa!” she crowed as she grabbed him around his middle, trying to keep her balance. “Well, at least you’re nice and warm,” she added as her arms slid up inside his coat.

With the pan hoisted precariously over his head,

he couldn’t help her, and chuckled to hide his groan as he leaned against the door frame and tried to shield her from the dogs.  “Hold on to me, Cassie. Bad dogs! Bad dogs!”

His dick started tingling and he knew it was a matter of seconds before she realized what she was rubbing her hip against as she tried fruitlessly to turn the door knob. Her mittened hands kept slipping off the knob.

She looked up at him and laughed. “You okay with those? I’m gonna take off my mittens so I can get a better grip with my hands.”

You have no idea how much I wish you could!

The door suddenly fell open with a good, firm turn on that lucky knob, and they were inside along with half of the dogs.

“Out! Out, boys!” she said as she blocked them with her booted feet while he carried the pan into the kitchen and set it on the island.

After hanging up her coat and stuff, and washing her hands, she opened the foil on the roaster and began dividing up the tamales. “I thought that two dozen would be enough for the five of us tonight.”

“Better make it three, to be safe,” he said as he stirred the chili. The scent made his mouth water, and so did the sensual sound she made as she crowded in close to his side and looked in the pot.

“I can’t wait to taste it, Ivan.

It looks and smells so yummy!” she murmured in a velvety voice that gave him a sweet shiver up his backbone. His mom had taught him how to cook a few things and he’d found that he enjoyed the process. He shared a love of cooking with Cassie, which was also very cool.

“Here. Taste it for me,” he replied as he handed her the spoon he’d been stirring with. “You’ll never believe what we got our hands on to watch tonight.”

“What?” she said as she lifted a spoonful. She parted her lips—and he licked his—as she tested the temperature with the tip of her tongue before opening her mouth wider to take a spoonful. Her face was made even more lovely as she smiled and then moaned over the mouthful. Dipping the spoon in the pot for another bite, she looked over at him and grinned. “What?”

“What?” he asked, blinking as the totally erotic sound she’d made over his cooking replayed over and over in his mind. Was that what she’d sound like if—

“What did you get for us to watch?” she asked, her cheeks filling with color as he continued staring at her.

“Oh,” he said, his breath catching in his throat a little.

“Our cousin has pay-per-view on their big satellite dish and he recorded Star Wars for us. Samson and I thought you’d like to watch that tonight. If that would be okay?”

“Of course,” she said as she gazed into the pot and stirred, then took a blissful whiff from the fragrant steam.

christmas tree ornaments on tree

He licked his lips as he watched her beautiful face, unobserved. God, I love you. “I mean, I guess we could always go see a movie, if…if it’s kind of lame to watch something on the VCR.”

“No,” she said with a shake of her head before tasting another tiny bit. “I want to stay here with you and your family. And who will decorate the tree? That’s why your mom invited me over.”

“She invited you over because she likes you, but yeah, if you don’t do it, I won’t be able to vouch for the results.”

She giggled, set the spoon down, and returned to unpacking the roaster. “I brought regular pork tamales, and see these here that are tied differently with a knot? Those are for your dad. They have jalapeños in them since I know he likes them. And these are the bean and cheese tamales for your mom. The rest are plain pork.”

“These smell fantastic, Cassie. Thank you,” he said as he turned to her, intending to give her a safe, brotherly hug. She smiled at him and put her arms around him, leaning in so her head nestled against his shoulder. He concentrated on the sweet scent of her shampoo to give himself something else to think about besides the way her plush breasts felt against his chest.

She gave him a squeeze

as she rested her cheek briefly against his chest. “You’re nice and warm. You and your brother give such wonderful hugs. Did you know that? I always feel so safe with y’all, no matter what,” she added, her tone trailing off. Besides her mom, Ivan didn’t think she got very many hugs at home.

All thoughts of how damned good she felt were forgotten as he leaned back to look down at her. “Everything okay at home?”

She gave him a smile that didn’t reach her eyes and kept her lips pressed together. “Dad wasn’t all that happy that I was coming over here tonight. He wanted me to work a shift at the restaurant but Mom told him no, that I’d asked permission for this night off, and out, over a week ago.”

“So he decided to let you go?”

Her smile grew a little wider. “Mom helped me pack the roaster and told me to go on and have fun while he was in the restroom. She said she would deal with him.”

“Oh, man,” he said with a groan. “Does that mean he’s going to be mad at you when you get home? I hate the thought of him yelling at you…like he did that time in the restaurant.” Her dad had let her have it because she’d forgotten and seated them in a section of the restaurant he wanted to close off to clean. The whole restaurant had heard him ranting. Ivan was just glad that soon enough she’d be off to college and out from under her father’s thumb. Unfortunately, that also meant he wouldn’t see her every day.

“Nah, Mom said she’d take care of it, and that he can’t expect us to work all the time—like he does. Thank you for being so protective, Ivan” She gave him one more gentle squeeze and then let go. “Your house always smells so good. Where’s Samson?” A thump came from above their heads and she said, “I’ll go help him get the decorations down the stairs. Where’s your folks?”

“Handling various emergencies,” he said over the clatter he made as he got bowls, plates, and utensils out for that evening’s meal. “Dad is on a fire call and Mom ran over to Grandma’s to help her with something. They should be home soon.”

He listened to the sound of thumping footsteps overhead,

followed by a long pause, during which he could imagine his brother kissing his girlfriend. That was what he’d be doing in the semi-privacy of the attic. Leaning against the counter, he tried to get his ever-present half-boner under control. When she was in the room, he had to fight not to watch her every move, even as he hung on her every word, every reaction. It was a wonder no one had realized yet that he was in love with his twin brother’s girl.

While he stayed busy unwrapping the foil packages of tamales and arranging them on a small platter, making iced tea, and setting the table, Samson and Cassie brought down several boxes filled with decorations and ornaments to hang on the bare tree that was already set up in front of the picture window.

The phone rang while they were opening the boxes, and Ivan answered it. “Hello?”

“Ivan, honey, it’s Mom.”

“Mom, how do you always know whether it’s me or Samson?” She hardly ever got it wrong when she called home.

“I’ve always been able to tell you apart since you were babies. I could take one look or pause to listen and know instantly. Of course you’re easier to tell apart in person since your hair is longer now. Listen, I just talked to your dad over the two-way radio and the grass fire he’s working on is near that new subdivision. They were going to let it burn itself out but then the wind shifted, so he has to stay out there.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m still at your Grandma’s. When she called, she neglected to tell me that she hurt her hand trying to use the pipe wrench. I want her to get it looked at in the emergency room. I’m afraid she needs stitches, and you know what that means, right?”

“You’ll be up there all night, waiting. Want me to bring you a plate of food?”

“No, honey, but thank you. That’s another way I can tell I’m talking to Ivan. Always wanting to feed and take care of everyone.”

With a chuckle, he said, “I got that from you, you know.”

“Save us some tamales, and tell Cassie I said hello. Who knows, with any luck I could be home before midnight.” She paused before continuing. “You know I trust you both, but do you think it might be better if Cassie went home? I wouldn’t want her to get in trouble if it ever got back to her father that your father and I weren’t home while the three of you were there alone.”

“I’ll mention it to her.”

A few minutes later, after they’d sat down to eat at the dining room table, he did bring it up, but Cassie shook her head. “I’m not telling my dad, and I know that neither of you will, either. My mom knows I’m a good girl, and the two of you know—I mean—you know that, Samson. I feel perfectly safe with both of you. Far as I’m concerned, this is our secret.”

Her words registered over the buzzing in Ivan’s head.

And that’s not the only secret. Or at least it wasn’t going to be, if Mr. Insta-Boner didn’t stop rearing his inflating head. Once he was able to think again, he noticed the flush in her cheeks, as well as the curious way Samson kept glancing at him.

The quiet during the rest of meal was interrupted only by compliments on the tamales and chili but the tension seemed to ease up a bit when Ivan got out the video cassette tape and turned on the VCR.

Still seeming a little flushed,

Cassie sat on the floor in front of Samson and began unpacking the tree ornaments from one of the boxes and grouping them together on the coffee table as the opening music began. Ivan watched as Samson gathered her long, sleek waves of hair into one thick bundle and began twisting it. Her hands came to a rest on the coffee table as the chapter heading for “Chapter IV: A New Hope” began to roll up the screen.

Even though he’d saved the tape to watch with her, and hadn’t seen the movie since watching it in the theater, he surreptitiously kept his eyes on her. Cassie’s gaze was focused on the screen but there came a point when her attention turned elsewhere, evidenced by the gooseflesh that came in waves up and down her arms.

Samson continued playing with her hair,

seemingly oblivious to her reaction, while he watched the movie. Or at least that was how he appeared. He toyed with the long rope over and over, tugging lightly as he twisted and released it, to start the process all over again. The ornaments forgotten, she slowly relaxed back against the couch between his feet and wrapped one arm around his calf and rested her hand on his knee.

Samson began gently pulling on the ends with the tips of his fingers, just a strand or two at a time, and though he was watching the movie, a slight smile appeared on his face when Cassie gasped and shuddered.

Action happened on the screen, drawing Ivan’s attention, and he was grateful for it when he saw Cassie turn her head to look at him. He kept his attention on the screen, thankful he had a throw pillow in his lap so she couldn’t see his rather crowded groin-al area.

Samson leaned down to her and she whispered to him, and then softly, but not so softly that Ivan couldn’t hear, Samson said, “No, baby, he doesn’t mind.”

Fuck, no. Why would I mind?

After that, they settled in to watch the movie and she arranged the multicolored lights on the branches and began putting the ornaments on the tree. He’d been excited to watch the movie again but it was no competition when she was nearby, moving around, reaching, bending, squatting, and then stretching as Samson lifted her by her waist to place the angel on the very top branch.

She tugged the hem of her sweater down after Samson had placed her back on her feet, and then hesitated only for a second when he beckoned for her to come and sit between the two of them.

He knew a few girls who might’ve taken that invitation to mean getting cozier and seeing where things went, but it wasn’t like that with Cassie. Samson might’ve enjoyed playing with her hair, but he didn’t push things by trying to feel her up, nor did Ivan expect him to. The guy had too much respect for Cassie, and for himself. He took the fact that she was in their care seriously,

they both did.

At the mid-point in the movie, he got up and went to the kitchen to dish up the peach cobbler which had been cooling on the counter. He smiled when he saw their heads come together over the top of the couch. If she was his, he’d be sneaking smooches, too.

Samson paused the movie and they joined him at the kitchen island. After her first bite, Cassie said, “Think your mother would give me the recipe for this cobbler, Ivan? It’s so good!” She licked the juice from her lips and he almost forgot she’d addressed him until Samson waved a hand in front of his face.


“Oh, the recipe! Yeah, she probably would. I’ve tried to make it before, according to what she has written down on the recipe card but it never turns out the same for me. She has a secret she’s not telling.”

Samson groaned happily as he took another big bite. “Moms have magic hands. They touch stuff and it just makes it taste better.”

Cassie giggled. “Awww, that is so sweet. I’m going to tell her you said that. Maybe I can finagle the missing ingredient out of her, too.”

Samson smiled warmly at her and said, “Maybe you can.”

Christmas gift box and baubles. Christmas and New Year celebration. Decorated Christmas tree with various gifts Holiday Christmas scene. Christmas gifts under the Christmas tree

When they restarted the movie,

she snuggled in between them and leaned against Samson’s shoulder. During the scene near the end with Darth Vader at his scary best, Cassie reached out to both of them at the same time and grabbed hold. Samson covered her hand with his and caressed the top of it as she cuddled closer to him and hid half of her face as Darth Vader fought Obi Wan for the last time.

Reminded of the difference in their sizes, Ivan looked down at the little hand covering his and wondered what to do, until he finally, slowly, cautiously turned his hand under hers and clasped their fingers together. He looked up into her warm sherry-colored eyes and blushed like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. She squeezed his hand, and then turned back to the screen, wincing as Obi Wan fell under Vader’s fatal blow. “Oh no.”

The movie ended a little after nine o’clock

and Ivan knew her curfew on Friday and Saturday nights was ten o’clock, unless special permission was given for sporting events or other occasions.

She got up and stretched when they turned off the VCR and said, “Well, I might’ve been able to get away from my Dad without him reneging on his permission for my evening plans but I definitely don’t want to push the curfew. Could I take some of the cobbler home for my mom to try?”

“Of course.”

Ivan put two hefty servings in a Tupperware container, figuring that her father could try some, too, and maybe it would sweeten his disposition some.

“I’ll walk you out,” Samson said as he slipped into his coat and then held hers open for her.

She went to Ivan and gave him a hug

and the soft sound she made was so sweet that it made his heart hurt. “Thank you for supper, Ivan, and for letting me watch Star Wars with you. I enjoyed it.” She patted his bicep and then went back to Samson who had her little knit hat perched ridiculously on top of his head. His expression was full of tenderness as he wrapped the scarf around her neck while she tugged on her mittens. She giggled as he slid her hat on and then she waved to Ivan once more and was gone.

Ivan leaned against the kitchen island, rubbing the center of his chest. Given the trajectory they were on, it was entirely possible that Samson and Cassie might be married after high school, either before or after he and Samson went into the Army.

What a sweet, yet painful addition she would be to their family.

His mom and dad thought the world of her. He worshiped the ground she walked on, from afar. And Samson was completely devoted to her. Was it more painful to have her in the family…or to never see her again? He never wanted to find out.

“You okay?” Samson asked as he closed the back door on the cold draft blowing through as he came back inside. He went to the sink and ran hot water on the dishes in the sink and put the stopper in the drain, preparing to wash them, since Ivan had done the cooking.

“Yeah. I think I’m going to go take a shower and hit the sack.”

“’Kay.” Right as he was about to enter the hallway, Samson said, “She’s pretty special, huh?’

Ivan could guess at the depths of how Samson felt. They were twins and had always shared a sort of twin’s connection. How he felt was in his eyes, his expression, and even in the inflection of his voice when she was the subject of conversation.

Ivan paused in the hallway opening. “Really special. You’re a lucky guy.”

“Yeah, I am. I think she thinks you’re special, too.”

Ivan grinned. “Yeah, I am. But I’m not dating you.”

Samson’s laughter rumbled over the sound of the water running into the sink. “G’night, asshole.”

His body was every bit as confused and twisted up as his mind was over Cassie. Why couldn’t he be attracted to some other girl? Why was she the only one he could see? The only one who made him feel so alive it was nearly painful. The hot water pummeled his head as he lathered his body and he tried to ignore his painfully hard dick. Thoughts of her had brought it to throbbing life as he’d removed his clothing and the thing just wouldn’t take the hint.

What he deserved was an ice cold shower

for wanting his brother’s girlfriend, for wishing it was him holding her, kissing her in the dark, smiling at her like that, and for imagining what it would be like to make love to such an angel.

His resolve cracked as he imagined the feel of her soft, warm skin pressed against him. He slid his hand down his torso to his aching cock, drawing forth a hiss as he tightened his grip around it. He fantasized about not stopping at a smile and a hug, peeling her sweater and jeans off and her straddling him. Getting lost in all that silky dark hair of hers. His dick grew long and hard in his grasp, and he hurt with need for her—


He blinked his eyes and his breath caught as he realized where he was…and when.

She loomed over him in the shadows, her long hair falling cool across his chest and then his face as she smiled down at him. He realized his cock was fully erect, ready for action, and her soft, delicate hand was wrapped around it.

“That was some sexy dream you were having, baby,” she whispered before licking his bottom lip.

“This one is even better,” he whispered as he flipped her onto her back, jostling Samson awake with a snort.

Cassie giggled and squirmed under him, rubbing her pussy against his shaft. “Have I told you lately how much I love the way you wrap me up…both of you. I love how big, and tall…and solid you are. When you sleep, your skin gets hot and then you want to wrap me in your arms when you wake. There’s nothing sweeter than woobie lovin’.”

“Unless it’s double woobie lovin’,”

Samson said with a gravelly chuckle as he leaned toward her and brushed a lock of hair from her beautiful face.

Giggling, she angled her head to kiss Samson as he turned onto his side and watched as Ivan clasped her leg around his waist and slid deep in one solid stroke, drawing a pleased moan from her.

From the top of his head to the tips of his toes, waves of heat shimmered over him, intensifying with each thrust within her honeyed, tight depths. Her slick heat encompassed him, growing tighter as she rocked with him, drawing him deeper and loving him harder, banishing the dream. Thank God that dream was over, because this one was so much better. She’d had a heart big enough to love them both all along.

The End…for now 😉

©Heather Rainier 2015 All rights reserved


Gentle Giants, also known in Divine as woobies,

are a special character facet in heroes I’ve featured in the Divine Creek Ranch Collection. Beyond just the sheer size of them, woobies are all about their heroine’s safety and comfort. They’re at ease with themselves, and they unapologetically adore of their heroines. As laidback as they may seem, they are just as  protective as any alpha and possess the uncanny ability to make the world go away within the circle of their big, strong arms. These are just some of the reasons woobie-ness is one of my favorite character traits to build into a hero.

**UPDATE: If you’d like to read the contemporary novel featuring Cassie, Samson, and Ivan’s love story, visit the book page for How Cassie Got Her Grind Back**

It’s a Very Woobie Christmas in Divine, Texas (2014), my first short story of this kind, featured a (back then) recently introduced character, in the person of Dr. Jessica Bright, and her two woobies, Tank and Troy, whose love story finally comes about in Operation Ginger Avenger.

Also be watching for the 2017 edition of the Woobie Christmas story, “All I Want for Christmas is a Woobie Under My Tree.”

If you’re not already, subscribe and stay “up” with what’s going on in Divine, and with me.

Seize the day, baby!

Love, ~H

Red sparkly Christmas Bulb Decorations and a gold tree topper star are in the corner framing a white background with the words Merry Christmas written.

It’s A Very Woobie Christmas in Divine, Texas

Christmas Tree Next To Fireplace

Doing her best to not be obvious,

Grace Warner caught her sister Charity’s eye and then looked across the room at Jessica Bright, who was sitting backed into a corner by herself. The lonely optometrist gazed down into her glass of punch and she smiled wanly at Ethan when he spoke with her before going up the stairs to change baby Grant’s diaper. Normally the kids would be in bed by that hour but there was no point with the house full of people and Santa coming the following morning. Maybe the kids would let them sleep in a little if they went to bed late.

Yeah. Right. It’d be nice if it worked that way.

“What’s up with Jessica?”

Charity asked as she came over and leaned against the kitchen island and slid close enough so they couldn’t be overheard. “She looks ready to bolt.”

“I’m wondering the same thing. She’s closer to the front door every time I look her way.”

Charity snorted and replied, “Are Tank and Troy coming? They’ll coax her into staying, I bet.”

Jessica looked up just then and seemed to rightly guess she was the topic of discussion. She glanced across the room and then set her punch glass on a nearby table.

“Oh no you don’t, girlie,” Grace said as she and Charity both skirted the crowd and caught up with the shy brunette as she approached Val Teller and Ransome Cross, who were taking turns holding her daughter, little baby Bella.

Val blew kisses against Bella’s chubby little neck before easing her into Jessica’s arms as he said,

“You’re not leaving already, are you Jessica? The party just started.”

Jessica gave all of them a halfhearted smile and said, “It’s been a long day and I need to get her into a bath and then into bed.”

Grace smiled at the guys, made their excuses, and then she and Charity pulled Jessica down the hall that led back to Adam and Ethan’s old bedrooms where they could speak privately.

“Okay, ‘fess up,” Charity said as she took Bella into her arms and began swaying with her.

Jessica drew a deep breath and gave a heavy exhale. “I just don’t have the Christmas spirit.”

Grace patted her shoulder and commiserated. “When was the last time you had a good sleep?” The dark circles under Jessica’s eyes told Grace what she already knew.

“I can’t remember. Building up a clientele, caring for Bella on my own, insomnia…and the holiday blues just seem to make it worse.” Grace knew that Jessica didn’t have any family still alive. She was on her own. Lydia had already told her that she and Chance and Clayton were having Jessica and the baby over for Christmas morning. The last thing she needed was to be alone if she was feeling this way. “I wish you’d stay a little longer, Jess,” Grace said. “The guests haven’t even finished arriving yet.”

“That’s right,” Charity agreed. “Tank and Troy should be here soon.”

“Yeah, I gotta go.” Jessica said as she suddenly slipped past them with the baby in her arms.

“But—” Grace held up a hand to stop her but she was down the hall in a flash. They caught up with her just as the front door swung open and let in a frigid gust of air.

“Ho-Ho-Ho!” Tank called as he and Troy piled in and shut the door behind them.

Greetings were called back from the big crowd as Tank and Troy shucked their heavy coats. They turned to hang them on the coat rack, and their faces lit up when they saw Jessica and the baby.

“Hey, there!” Tank said as he reached up to tickly Bella’s chin and Grace noticed the fresh bandage wrapped around his hand.

“Tank, what happened?” she asked, and Jessica groaned softly.

Grace could practically feel the stress radiating off of Jessica.

“Just a little accident,” Tank replied with a shrug before flicking a concerned gaze at Jessica, who looked ready to pass out. “You okay, honey?”

Charity slipped an arm through Jessica’s and gave Grace a big-eyed look. “Oh, she’s fine. We were just headed down the hall to change Bella’s diaper.”

“In her coat?”

Grace giggled and said, “We’ll be right back.”

They ushered Jessica into Ethan’s bedroom and urged her to sit down. Charity sat beside her as Grace took the baby from her and snuggled the precious little girl against her chest. Charity said, “Tell us what happened.”

“I stabbed him!”

Jessica said and then her face crumpled and she hid it in her hands.

“What?” Charity said, giving a half-laugh. That was the last thing either of them had expected her to say.

“I stabbed him with my stylus.”

Charity snorted and said, “This I gotta hear. Start from the beginning.”

“They stopped by the office, both of them, to see if I was coming tonight.”

Amusement lacing her voice, Charity said, “That hardly seems cause for stabbing Tank.”

“The receptionist knew we are—were friends, knew we knew each other, and she let them into my office. I got up—oh my gosh, it was awful.”

“Keep talking then. Get it off your chest.”

“I was working on my tablet, and I had a stylus, the kind with a pointy end in my hand. I was startled when I heard their voices. They’re so big and they make me so nervous. Anyway, I jumped up, and I was wearing high heels—new ones.

When I got up from my desk, one of my heels slid right out from under me.

They jumped at me to catch me as I flung my arms wide, trying to get my balance, and well…”

“You stabbed him?” Grace said, and Jessica’s face fell and she moaned into her hands again.


Grace jiggled Jessica’s wrist until she looked up at them and said, “Jess, those two hunks looked happy to see you—and a little concerned about you. Don’t you think you could stay just for a little while?”


“You can hang out with us. We were about to come and get you when you started scooting for the door. You can visit with us. Who knows, you might have a good time. And I think it’s a safe bet those guys don’t want you to feel bad about what happened.”

“Grace, I didn’t just jab him, I impaled his poor hand.

I thought I was gonna pass out. He told me it was okay and that he would go to the clinic. I just can’t believe I did that.”

“It was an accident, sweetie. Now, tell me again,” Grace began, determined to get Jessica back on the right track, “Why were they at the optometrist’s office?”

Jessica looked down at her hands and paused. “To make sure I was coming over here tonight.”

Charity made a pushy affirmative sound. “Mmmhmm. They wanted you to be here and I know you were looking forward to this earlier today. How are you doing with the crowd and noise?”

Given Jessica’s dark past, Grace knew that certain situations caused anxiety and she couldn’t blame her. She’d been held captive and kept as a slave for several months before being saved by Charity’s husbands, Val and Ransome.

Jessica swallowed and said, “When everyone is talking all at once, it gets a little hard to keep my nerves under control, but Bella is a good distraction.”

“Okay, then that’s it. You’re hanging out with us,” Grace said.

Jessica rose from the edge of the bed and slipped her coat back off. “Okay, if you don’t mind. I feel pathetic, like I need a babysitter or something.”

“Not at all. We introverts have to unite. Remember? “We came. We’re uncomfortable. And we want to go home!” Her mission was accomplished when Jessica chuckled and nodded

Charity scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Introvert my ass.”

“Hey, it’s true. Not all introverts are shy,”

Grace said as she pulled open the bedroom door.

When they went out into the expansive living room, the group was embroiled in a game of Pictionary. Lucy Owen was drawing out her clue on a whiteboard while everyone on her team called out answers.

Teresa Martinez joined them and asked to hold the baby and the four of them sat in the barstools at the kitchen island. Teresa cooed at Bella as she held her and Grace nudged Jessica and pointed across the room. “They’re so cute.”

Looking in the direction she gestured, Jessica smiled and nodded. Gwen Alvarez sat with her husbands, Julian Alvarez and Chris Potter. More precisely, she sat in Chris’s lap while flirting with him and Julian, who sat next to him. Gwen’s baby bulge was just beginning to show and might’ve been overlooked altogether is Chris hadn’t been gently rubbing it while they all talked with each other.

“What a sweet woobie,” Teresa said as she looked in the same direction.

Grace nodded as Charity gave her a surreptitious nudge and then said, “Total woobie. He’s so sweet to her, and then there Julian is, all hot, sexy cowboy man candy goodness. She’s got the best of both worlds and two men who adore her. But Chris? That man is pure sugar.”

“What’s a woobie?” Jessica asked as she looked back at them.

Grace clandestinely pointed at Chris. “That’s a woobie. And that, and that, and that, and that,” she said as she pointed around the room at all the Divine woobies. Adam Grant. Eli Wolf. Richard Warner. Kemp Whittier. Seth Carter. Spencer Ketchum. Lastly, she indicated Tank and Troy, who were busy watching Beck O’Malley give the next Pictionary clue.

“What? Big guys?” Jessica asked, and Grace noticed that her eyes were on the two big, sexy, ginger hunks. Tank happened to glance back at them, caught them looking at him, and Grace giggled when high color rose in his tanned cheeks and his ears turned a little red.

Charity gigglesnorted and said, “Ah, yes, there it is, that sweet ginger blush.”

Jessica looked down at her hands and her own cheeks grew a little rosy as she said, “He hates that his skin does that. He told me it doesn’t matter how tan he gets, his face still turns red at the drop of a hat.”

“A ginger woobie,” Teresa said as she bounced Bella on her knee. “He helped me last week when I was stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. I explained that Angel and Joaquin were on the way and he and Troy insisted they could take care of changing the flat for them.”

Grace grinned and said, “Lydia told me that she encountered a rattlesnake on her back porch, and within seconds of calling out, they were there with a garden hoe.”

Jessica looked from one to the other of them as they laid it on super thick for a minute or two and then finally held up her hand.

“Okay. Okay. So they’re big, and good in a tight spot.”

Charity snorted and started laughing so hard Grace thought she might fall off of her stool. Guests even looked over from the other room.

Jessica gasped and put her hand to her cheek as if what she’d said had just dawned on her. “Oh! You know what I mean!” But then she started giggling, too. Grace noticed that the laughter seemed to ease her stress a little.

They chortled for another minute and then Grace tipped her chin in Chris’s direction. “Chris, and all the other woobies are gentle giants, you’re right about that, Jess. But they’re also really lavish with affection on their women, and they don’t mind if everyone knows the sun and moon sets over their woman’s head.” She let loose a long, soft sigh, as she thought of the gentle lovemaking Adam had lavished on her that morning. “They give great hugs, lots of kisses…”

Teresa echoed her soft sigh.

“And they’re really protective, especially when their woman is hurting. And as gentle as they are with their women, they can be very harsh with those who hurt them.”

Grace glanced over at Teresa as she gazed at her husbands, Angel and Joaquin, but thought she was elsewhere, and Grace said, “Hey, have y’all heard from Luka and Matthias?”

“No. I told you that you could invite them to this party if you wanted to.” Unspoken but obvious in Teresa’s eyes was the fact that she was still hurt by the part her younger brothers-in-law had played in the extensive damage done to her home while Teresa and their family had been away on a trip to see the men’s parents in the valley.

“I tried. Luka didn’t answer when I called him. And Matthias gave me some vague story about having plans already.”

“I told Angel and Joaquin that I’d forgiven them.

It’s not like I could stay mad at them forever.”

Charity hmphed. “I still want to kick both of their asses on your behalf.”

Grace chuckled. “Down girl.” She turned to Teresa and murmured, “They’ll find their way back eventually. And they’re really lucky to have such a forgiving sister-in-law.” Grace secretly still wanted to kick their asses, too.

Teresa smiled at her friends and said, “So now you know what woobies, are, huh, Jessica?”

“I guess.”

Grace nudged her and said, “I think the best thing about our woobies is that they have great big soft hearts and taking care of us brings them a lot of joy.”

Jessica nibbled on her lip and her gaze settled on the two handsome redheads across the room. Both men were talking quietly and then they both happened to glance her way.

“You know what I like about them?” Jessica asked.

Grace didn’t have to ask to know she was referring to Tank and Troy. “What?”

“They’re big but they’re not loud.

You’d think looking at them that they’re loud and boisterous, but they aren’t…at least not around me.”

Grace smiled and nodded. “I noticed that.”

Jessica nodded. “They understand.”

The three of them nodded, knowing what she meant without needing to have it explained. After what she’d suffered at the hands of her captor, Jessica needed peace and stability. Grace looked across the room at the two men who were gazing at Jessica as if they wanted to cuddle her close and Tank blushed again when Grace winked at him.

Jessica suddenly stood from her bar stool. “Right.” She turned to Teresa. “Would you mind holding her for a few more minutes? I thought I’d…go visit.”

Teresa made a shooing motion and her eyes sparkled with mischief. “You go on. We’ll take turns with the baby. You go…visit.”

Jessica made her way over to Tank and Troy. When he realized she was headed right for them, Troy’s cheeks grew a little ruddy, too. Tank spoke softly to her and shrugged when she lifted his large hand to look at the bandage. She looked up at him and said something and he chuckled and put his arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.

Grace, Charity, And Teresa fist bumped

as they watch the evening unfold. Grace knew Jessica had a long row to hoe in her recovery and any man, or men, she fell in love with would need to be patient with her. Observing the way the men drew her into the conversation yet allowed her a little breathing room gave Grace hope. And that’s what Christmas was all about. Hope.

©Heather Rainier 2014 All Rights Reserved


I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into Grace’s Christmas Eve Party at the Divine Creek Ranch. It was my pleasure to give you a little taste of the stories you’ll be seeing next year in Divine. My family and I wish you all a blessed, safe, and peaceful Christmas, and a very happy and prosperous 2015.

~Heather Rainier

MC 2014     

If you enjoy erotic romance with a Texas twist, check out the book lineup at the right. If you enjoy Christmas-themed erotic romance, click on this link for a look at my latest book, Absentminded Angel which released recently, just in time for Christmas.


All I Want For Christmas Is a Woobie Under My Tree by Heather Rainier