Authors: Tina Leonard,Rebecca Winters
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Her breath left her. “Thank you for the flowers.”
He nodded. “Merry Christmas, Capri.” He handed her the key to
Then he left.
* * *
there was something he had to do.
He had wanted nothing more than to protect her, but he’d come
to realize he couldn’t. The moment he saw her go inside her shop, Seagal knew
been overbearing, overprotective. There
was no way to keep anybody in a box, keep them safe, the way he wanted to keep
Capri safe. She’d had every right to be annoyed with him.
The thing was, he was always going to want to protect her. He
just couldn’t. She didn’t want him to.
But he could take care of his children. He’d always have that
part of their marriage. Even after tomorrow, when morning dawned on the day
after Christmas, he would know that Carter and Sara would always be a part of
both of them.
He found Taylor Kinsler in the Wedding Diner, eating with his
gang of “Bad.” Seagal pulled up a chair, spoiling for trouble. It was Christmas
Eve, and there was no better time to start ringing in the holiday.
“Hello, fellows,” Seagal said.
The five men stared him down. He’d gone to school with them,
played football with them, even occasionally rodeoed against them. Then their
paths had diverged. He’d gone on to become a cop, something that was as much a
part of him as breathing. Moving up to the Rangers brought him pride he could
“Don’t you have someplace to be on Christmas Eve?” Taylor
asked. “Or did the little lady kick you out?”
“I did have plans for Christmas Eve.” He leaned back in the
chair. “Unfortunately, I had to participate in a small incident at the
Bridesmaids Bouquet flower shop. My wife owns that store,” Seagal said, “in case
you didn’t know. It means a whole lot to her.”
The five Bads watched him carefully.
“We found marijuana seeds in some planters from her shop,”
Seagal said in a conversational tone, “which I was surprised to find in a small
town. Funny that anyone would think a flower shop is the perfect place to
“Why are you telling us?” Taylor asked. “Do we look like we
care about drugs? We’re sitting here eating burgers and trying to get some
holiday spirit, which is kind of hard to do with a cop in our midst.”
“Just letting you know I’m going to be in town for a long
time.” Seagal smiled. “In case you hear anything.”
“We don’t know anybody who uses drugs,” one of the Bad said.
“Can’t help you.”
“I don’t need help,” Seagal said. “I’m trying to help you.” He
got up, stared down at the five men. “It was small-time stuff, really. A
small-time criminal was sent to make the pickup, too. He squealed like a pig
when we pressed him on who’d hired him.” Seagal put some money on the table.
“I’ll buy your meal, fellows. Because I have a funny feeling it’s the last one
you’re going to be eating on the outside for quite some time.”
He left, feeling pretty good about everything. It had all
Everything except his marriage.
That was the one thing he still needed to fix.
Capri thought long and hard before she sent the text to
The babies have put cookies out for Santa. The key is under the
She sent it, feeling nervous. But Seagal had seemed so strange
when he left. She knew something had been on his mind. Cop stuff was always on
But she knew she was on his mind, too. Capri knelt beside the
tree, rearranged some of the gifts people had brought for the babies and for her
and Seagal. The stockings were full of tiny baby socks and rattles, and well
wishes from friends. Her mother had come by with a carload of gifts—and a letter
from her grandmother written to Capri when she was a child, and saved by her
mother for the right time.
What a wonderful granddaughter you are! So headstrong and
stubborn—these are gifts—and beautiful and wise. You remind me so much of myself
at your age. I love that you come on Saturdays and work in the shop. I hope
you’ll always want to spend time with me, because you mean so much to me. I
never dreamed I’d have such a considerate granddaughter, and it makes me so
happy to see how much you and your mother love each other. We are strong women,
we Snows, and I know you will grow up to be a fine woman and mother in your own
right one day. I always dreamed I’d have a little granddaughter to make
Christmas dresses for. I’m the happiest grandmother in the world. I love you so
much, dear sweet granddaughter.
Capri put the letter away, glanced at the photo of her
grandmother on the mantel. “You would have loved your great-grandchildren,” she
told the photo. “Seagal and I have the most amazing angels.”
She turned back to the tree, resettled the gifts, rearranged
some bows. She’d hidden a small gift for Seagal under the tree, wrapped in
silver and gold with a red bow.
She didn’t know if he’d come home to get it.
Her heart would break if he didn’t.
At the stroke of midnight, she heard the key turn in the lock.
Hope rose inside her.
Seagal stepped inside the house, Santa hat perched jauntily
atop his dark hair. “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas,” he said.
Capri smiled. “Hi, Santa.”
Seagal closed the door behind him as cold air from outside blew
in along the floor. “It’s freezing outside. I got a text about cookies for
Capri got up. “Gingerbread men brought by, fresh from Mrs.
Penny’s oven. She said she knew of a Ranger who loved cookies and hot tea.”
He looked at her, tossed his Santa hat on the flowered sofa. “I
don’t know if I can eat the cookies the babies put out for Santa Claus.”
Capri looked at her husband. “How about cookies your wife puts
out for you?”
He remained by the door, not stepping a foot closer to her.
“After tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll have a wife.”
“Something tells me I’m going to have a husband. I think the
Christmas spirit has made me believe the thing I want most will be here for
A smile bloomed on Seagal’s face. “You want a husband more than
“No,” Capri said, moving within arm’s length of Seagal, “not
just a husband. I want you, Seagal.”
He studied her for a moment, glanced around the room, took in
the Christmas tree. His gaze settled back on her again. “I’m overbearing and
She nodded. “Yes, you are. And not much for sharing your
“And that’s okay?”
Capri smiled. “Yes to the first two—we’ll work on the last
one.” She put her hand in his. “You’re also a fine man. A loving father. And the
man I’m in love with.”
He drew her into his arms. “Whatever made you change your mind,
I’m thankful for. I want you to be happy, even if it means walking into the
She leaned up to kiss him. He stayed very still, accepting her
caress. “How about we just stay in bed? And play with the babies when they wake
His eyes lit with everything she’d ever wanted to know about
his feelings: love, desire, happiness. “I love you,” Seagal said. “I love my
children, because you gave them to me.” He kissed her thoroughly, making sure
she had no doubt of the way he felt about her. He pulled back, looked into her
eyes. “Come on, Mrs. Claus. Let’s go look at our little sugarplums.”
They walked down the hall hand in hand, stopping outside the
nursery. Seagal pushed open the door, and they went to stand by the babies’
cribs. Carter and Sara lay under their soft blankets, their tiny eyelids closed
tightly with not a care in the world.
“Nestled all snug in their beds,” Seagal said. “They don’t even
know it’s Christmas.”
“I do,” Capri said. “And I have something to give you.
Something that requires you to do a little unwrapping.”
Capri smiled as Seagal picked her up in his arms. She put her
head on his chest, loving being back in his strong arms again. He carried her
from the nursery, and as they went through the kitchen, Capri snagged the plate
of cookies she’d laid out for Santa.
After all, Santa needed to keep his strength up. She fully
intended that her husband would have a very merry Christmas—every year for the
rest of their lives.
The babies slept in for the first time ever on
Christmas morning, but as soon as their little cries came over the baby monitor,
Seagal and Capri unwrapped themselves from each other’s arms and dressed.
They hurried down the hall into the nursery. Seagal picked up
Sara, and Capri took Carter from his crib.
“Good morning, beautiful,” Seagal said. “Merry Christmas,
babies,” he said, snuggling his daughter’s cheek. Sara stopped crying, taking in
her father’s deep voice and touch. Seagal grinned at Capri. “Santa said thank
you very much for the delicious cookies you put out for him, babies.”
“Yes,” Capri said, changing Carter’s diaper. “We’re all very
grateful about that.”
Seagal looked at his wife. “Grateful?”
She laughed. “Aren’t you?”
“I was thinking that I was more blown away, knocked to my knees
She smiled, swapping him Carter for Sara. “All that over
He handed Carter back to his mother. “I can change my
daughter’s diaper,” he said, “and yes, that’s exactly how I feel about my
He finished the diaper and picked his daughter up, making room
for Carter in his arms, too. “I think they’re ready for their Christmas
Capri fed the babies by the Christmas tree, enjoying the warm
glow of the tree and the fire Seagal made in the fireplace. Then they put the
babies on a blanket in front of the tree, and sat next to them.
“It’s a lot of gifts for two tiny people,” Seagal said, looking
at all the gaily wrapped boxes.
“And something for you,” Capri said, handing him a present.
He looked at his wife as she sat in her red satin bathrobe. Her
eyes were shining with happiness—she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever
seen. “You already gave me these tiny bundles of joy,” he said. “And you.” He
kissed her, giving her a taste of later, when he intended to kiss her thoroughly
again. “Quite frankly, your text about the cookies and house key pretty much
made my night.”
“This is just a little something extra,” Capri said.
He opened the box, pulling out a framed black-and-white photo
of Capri and the babies sitting in front of the Christmas tree. He grinned.
“How’d you know this is exactly what I wanted?”
Capri smiled. “The babies told me.”
“They’re pretty discerning children.” He took her hands in his,
kissing her fingertips. “Capri, I never dreamed you would give me another
chance. I know I haven’t been much for telling you how I feel, but I won’t
forget in the future. I always thought you knew how I felt about you, but—” He
kissed her fingertips again, then put them over his heart. “I know a marriage is
stronger when the feelings are shared.”
She smiled. “I think so, too.”
He took a deep breath. “But I’m hoping for one more Christmas
She looked at him, her gaze questioning.
“Our marriage is the most important thing in the world to me,”
Seagal said. “Is there any chance you’d want to renew our vows? As you said
before, we got married pretty fast. I’m not sure if you feel it was too rushed.
As much as I was never one for talking much, I think saying our vows again would
be a wonderful way for us to start off our new lives together.”
Seagal thought his wife practically glowed with happiness.
Capri moved close to him, and he pulled her onto his lap. “I’d love that,” she
said. “Thank you for thinking of it.”
“I’m trying out this new more romantic persona,” Seagal
“And I’m impressed,” Capri said, kissing him.
“You’re going to sidetrack me,” Seagal said, enjoying his
wife’s lips. “And you don’t want to sidetrack me before I give you your
She looked at him. “I feel like you’ve given me so much,
Seagal, not the least of which what you did for my flower shop. I can’t think
what would have happened to my grandmother’s store if you hadn’t been so
vigilant. I’m pretty sure I would have lost the business,” Capri said. “I can’t
imagine it getting shut down by the DEA or whatever. All my grandmother’s hard
“Best to stamp it out while it was a small op,” Seagal said.
“Although I have no doubt that the Bads will figure out a new game. I’ll be
keeping a close eye on them in the future.”
“Still, between my store and these beautiful babies, I feel
like you’ve given me everything.” She leaned against his chest.
“Now that we’ve established me as a bona fide Santa Stud,”
Seagal said, “let’s see how this fits.”
He handed her a tiny box wrapped in silver with a gold bow on
top, so small she hadn’t even seen it resting on one of the branches. “When did
you do this?”
“After the bust.” He looked at his sleeping babies, then kissed
his wife. “I guess I got so nervous when I realized you’d been in danger that I
panicked. Apparently when I panic, I go shopping for my wife.”
“Oh, Seagal,” she said, opening the box. “It’s so
He smiled as she gingerly picked up the gold-and-diamond
wedding band. “Merry Christmas, babe.”
She gazed at him. “It’s a pretty spectacular present,
Taking the band from her, Seagal slid it onto her finger behind
the diamond engagement ring he’d noticed she’d never taken off. “Well, Mrs.
West, it occurred to me that a man gives his wife a wedding ring when he’s
planning to marry her. If I ever forget to say the words, I hope you’ll know how
much I love you when you look at this ring. Because I do love you. I always did.
I will forever.”
“That’s the Christmas present I wanted,” she whispered, and he
kissed her, savoring the magic of holding his wife in his arms again. He smiled
at his babies sleeping peacefully on the blanket, and the fire in the fireplace
and the twinkling Christmas tree—and even the flowered sofa that somehow he’d
grown to appreciate.
It was a magical Christmas, the best he’d ever had. Because
Christmas was in the heart, and his heart was with his family—where it had
longed to be.
* * * * *