FAE OF MANHATTAN BONUS:
CHRISTMAS IN JULY
Henry and May plan a surprise item on the checklist…but it’s what happens later that evening with Severn that’s the real treat
Finally, a day off.
As much as I loved working with Henry and May, I’d been craving my Saturday free time. A day to spend some of my hard-earned paycheck, go shopping on Fifth Avenue, splurge for lunch at the patio at Bistro Moderne, and wonder what the heck I was going to do about my massive crush on my boss—who wasn’t even human. Though that didn’t exactly work against him; the fae had serious skills in bed, if my time with Severn had taught me anything.
When I finally took the elevator back up to my floor, well-rested from my day off, Henry and May flung open the door at the same time. “Surprise! Merry Christmas!”
For a few seconds, I blinked in utter confusion.
Severn, Henry, and May were posed in my apartment’s foyer with a 10-ft tall, fully decorated Christmas tree while Puck barked happily and ran in circles. Dozens of wrapped presents formed a small mountain on the floor. The children were dressed in identical Christmas pajamas. Even Puck wore matching dog pajamas. Severn, however, wore his usual fae clothes but had a delicate crown of festive evergreen on his head in place of his usual crown—it must have taken Mae a lot of begging to convince him to wear.
“Um, it’s July,” I said, still confused.
May skipped over to me in the doorway, her eyes gleaming. “I know! But having a real Christmas celebration is on the checklist. We’ve only ever celebrated fae winter solstice, and that’s just a bunch of cinnamon bread and gross-tasting drinks. We wanted to surprise you by doing one of the checklist activities on our own!”
“Severn helped,” Henry said, then admitted, “Well, he helped by paying for it.”
Severn looked over the Christmas tree awkwardly. “The children told me what to purchase. There is something called “egg nog” in the refrigerator, but you might not want it once you know what’s in it.”
I could only stare in shock. For weeks, I’d been the one setting up all of the activities on the checklist for Henry and May to try to give them a normal childhood, and it meant so much to me that they would do this.
“Christmas in July?” I asked, grinning. “Okay. I’m in. My only question is, where are my matching pajamas?”
May giggled and thrust a gift bag at me. To my surprise, it was a pair of gingerbread-man pajamas identical to Henry and May’s. I held up the set and eyed Severn.
“They don’t make them in your size?”
“Oh, they do,” he said gravely. “I will not be wearing it.” His eyes gleamed as he stepped close, slipping a hand around my back, and whispered in my ear, “Though I won’t mind seeing you in them. And later, out of them.”
I smacked him softly in the chest. “Easy, Santa.”
I changed into the pajamas, and we put on Christmas music on the apartment speaker system. We tore open presents, marveled at the games and expensive toys, ripped open packages of gingerbread men and candy canes, and gorged ourselves. We ended the evening with a marathon of Christmas movies while sprawled on the luxurious sectional leather sofa.
Soon, Henry and May and Puck fell asleep buried in a sea of balled-up wrapping paper. Severn slid his arm around my back. On TV, the Grinch was planning dastardly schemes, and Severn watched, riveted. I cuddled into his side, yawning.
I was dizzy from the rum-laced egg nog, and I didn’t realize I’d fallen asleep until I felt myself moving. Squinting one groggy eye open, I realized I was looking at my own bedroom ceiling. Severn’s scent was everywhere on me: gingerbread and spicy herbs. He laid me down on my bed and stroked my cheek. The nightstand clock said it was one in the morning. The movie must have finished a long time ago.
“I fell asleep?” I asked, still half-asleep.
He trailed a line of kisses down the side of my face and onto my neck. “You did. I watched you sleeping next to me in those pajamas until I couldn’t stand it another minute.”
The edge of need was heavy in his voice. Oh. I arched my back, getting comfortable on top of the covers.
“Henry and May?” I asked.
“Still asleep in the living room. I locked your bedroom door. Just in case.” He began to unbutton my pajama top, replacing the exposed skin with his lips.
Still groggy, I wasn’t entirely sure I wasn’t dreaming. Everything that had happened the last few weeks must have been in my imagination…there was no way a fae prince was ravishing me in gingerbread pajamas. And yet his scent was so present, so real, so sexy that I felt immediately turned on.
He started to tug my pajama bottoms off my hips, and I sat up on my elbows. “Hey, whoa. Already?”
His eyes were hooded, amorous. He responded by guiding my hand to press against his groin. My eyes widened when I felt his rigid, demanding need.
He covered my body with his own, possessing it. He made quick work of pulling off my pajama shirt and pants, leaving me in my panties. I found myself covering my exposed chest with my arms, suddenly shy.
We’d made love before, but I’d always been partially clothed. Now, my bedside lamp was on, and I was very aware that I wasn’t a fae woman; I didn’t have lithe muscles and perfect curves.
“Don’t hide yourself from me,” he commanded. He pulled my arms off my chest and pinned my wrists to the bed. Then, without warning, he took a nipple in his mouth. Sharp pleasure overtook me. I writhed.
He grunted, growing more aroused. “I want to be inside you again, Willow.”
I nodded feverishly. He thrust my knees apart and unzipped his pants. He locked eyes with me, and then, like an animal, he took me. No slow teasing this time, no drawn-out touches and whispers. I cried out in sharp pleasure as he filled me, only to pull out and thrust in again. His hands dug into my hips, holding me down to the bed. He started pumping faster.
I got a hand free and gripped his shoulder, twisting my hand in his shirt fabric. He rode me frantically. The tinge deep inside me started to build until I could almost taste it. I wanted nothing more than for him to make me feel like this forever.
He closed his eyes, jaw clenched, and then drove into me deeper.
We came at the same time, with him buried as deep as he could go. Both our bodies quivering. He took a few ragged breaths before pulling out. He went to the bathroom to clean himself up, then returned and sat on the edge of the bed.
I pulled the sheet over my naked body. It wasn’t that I still felt shy, but I liked the cool slip of it on my skin after such hot lovemaking, and I liked the hint of curiosity I knew it would elicit in him.
I smiled lazily. “So how was your first Christmas?”
He leaned over me, looking rakish with his hair a little wild. “I can’t decide if I prefer you nice or naughty.” Then he started undoing the rest of his shirt buttons and nudged me toward the other side of the bed. “Move over.”
I frowned, sitting up. “What are you doing?”
“Sleeping with you.”
“But we already…oh.” He pulled his shirt off, and I had to stop to appreciate that chiseled chest. Then he kicked off his pants, leaving him in only a pair of sleek grey boxers, and laid next to me.
Why was I questioning a fae prince in my bed?
He wrapped an arm around my waist, tangling our legs together. Was he…snuggling? Yes, Severn Wilde was snuggling. We listened to one another breathe for a while in the dark as I thought of all the pleasure we’d had.
I thought he might have fallen asleep, but after a while, he muttered, “I didn’t know it could be like this.”
“Christmas? Wait until it’s actually Christmas.”
“That isn’t what I mean.” He paused. “When the children told me what they wanted to do, I was happy to indulge them. I would do anything they asked of me. But I didn’t realize how the holiday would make me feel. Seeing you and the children dressed alike—even that cur of yours—and listening to their laughter, and the food…I always looked down on the human world for being simple. I didn’t realize how wondrous simplicity could be.”
I tilted my head to look up at him in the faint light coming from my bedroom window. “Fae don’t normally appreciate domestic bliss, huh?”
“I didn’t even know what it was. To have a family. To share a holiday together. Don’t get me wrong, fae holidays are epic—epic occasions to drink and fight and fuck. I didn’t know there could be more than that. What I was missing.”
It was touching to hear him talk like this, and I gently touched his face.
“Now I understand why humans and the other Gifted Ones mate and have families.” His hand tightened around me like he was determined never to let go. “At the same time, it terrifies me.”
“What did you call it? ‘Domestic bliss.’ Do you know what I call it? ‘Liability.’ You and the children only give me something to lose. There’s a reason I kept myself apart from the world for decades. I’ve learned that if you get close to people, it makes you vulnerable. And them, too.”
He was thinking of Marco. I pressed my hand against his cheek. “You have to let go of that fear. That’s what it means to care about someone. There’s always a risk. But the reward makes it worth it.”
His turquoise eyes searched mine. “You’ve done something to me, Willow.”
I stroked his cheek gently.
The truth was, I felt like a hypocrite telling him these things. I was terrified myself. I’d sworn never to let a powerful man take over my life again, and here I was. Completely crushing on my boss. One of the most powerful men in the city, one of the most powerful fae in the world. A man with a host of enemies and plenty of demons of his own making.
I leaned over to press a kiss to his cheek. It was scary to open one’s heart.
But I knew that I needed to take my own advice.
Love was worth the risk.