Sera and Cage, Christmas morning 2016
Sunlight filters in through the crack in the room-darkening curtains. I mustn’t have overlapped them like I normally do.
I take a deep breath and smell my husband–Cage and pine. Nothing smells better in the world than that. His hard muscular body is beneath me. He’s as naked as I am–bare-ass naked. We had a few rounds of intense loving last night when we got home from CFD and the family time there.
Cage bought me a ruby bracelet. He has more for me this morning when we exchange gifts. I’m excited to see what else he bought me… but mostly I’m looking forward to seeing the joy on his face when I open his gifts. It’s like my happiness is his happiness… I admit I feel the same way. When he opens the gifts I get him and he shows me that smile, the one he reserves only for me, it makes me happier than anything else.
“You’re awake.” Cage’s voice rumbles in his chest beneath my ear.
“Mmm.” I lift my head and nuzzle into his neck, giving it a kiss. “I didn’t overlap the curtains.”
“We really do need different ones, Fee. These annoy you on a daily basis,” Cage reminds me.
I lift my head and meet his gaze. “They do, but they’re so pretty.”
One side of his mouth quirks up. “We can find something better in the same pattern, I’m sure.”
“You think so?” I ask. “I really like the colors, and it took Joan and I forever to find them.”
“I’m positive, love. We’ll look and find what we need and what makes you happy,” he tells me smiling softly.
“You’re what I need. All the rest is filler.”
He lifts his head and kisses my lips. “Filler…” he trails off, positioning my hips just right for him to slip inside me.
My breath catches as it always does each time he’s inside me. It’s not just sex. It’s not just making love. It’s like our souls join and it steals my breath.
“I like your idea of filler,” I tell him as I sit up and begin to ride him.
* * * I sing Last Christmas by Wham! as I finish putting my clothes on. Hair and makeup can wait.
I smell coffee. Coffee that Cage made.
I run down the stairs to the kitchen and my heart warms when I see my coffee steaming on the counter.
“Batman, have I told you how much I love you?” I ask.
He lowers the newspaper and there he is in his black-rimmed glasses. Holy smokes.
He lifts a brow. “You have, but feel free to tell me again. I never tire of hearing it.”
I take a sip of my perfect coffee, twirl without spilling a drop, then make my way over to the window seat where my husband waits. I set my cup next to his on the window ledge, move his newspaper and crawl onto his lap.
I kiss his chin. “I love you.”
I kiss along his jaw. “I love you so much.”
I kiss his cheek. “I love you so, so much.”
I kiss his forehead. “I love you so, so, so much.”
I kiss his eyelid. “I love you so, so, so, so much.”
I kiss the other eyelid. “I love you so, so, so, so, so much.”
I kiss the tip of his nose. “I love you so, so, so, so, so, so much, it fills me from head to toe. I love you so much it consumes me. I love you so much I never want to spend another day without you.”
There it is. The smile. The one that’s secret and just for me, showing his straight white teeth and dimples.
I sigh. “You’re so hot.”
He laughs at that. “I’m glad you think so. And I’m glad you love me so much. I’d hate to be the only crazy one in this marriage.”
“Oh, babe, you know by now I’ve got my own special brand of crazy,” I tease with a wink, then kissing his lips softly.
“You’re not crazy, Fee. You’re ‘spirited’.”
I pick up my coffee and snicker. “Whatever you want to call it.”
He picks up his newspaper, then wraps an arm around me before holding that side of the paper.
Every morning. This is our routine. We have coffee while he reads whatever it is he reads and I relax and drink my java while in the arms of the man. My life is blessed.
* * *
“Can I open it yet?” I ask Cage as I sit cross-legged on the floor.
“Again, not yet. We need to wait.”
“For what?” I ask.
“The right time,” Cage tells me.
“It’s not the right time?”
He shakes his head. “Not for that present.”
I huff and he smirks. “You could have just said that.”
He shrugs a shoulder then sits on the floor across from me, cross-legged like me. I love seeing him in jeans and a t-shirt. I love seeing his tattoos that are almost always hidden by his dress shirts and suit jackets. I love that he’s all mine.
He hands me a present. “This one you can open now.”
I waste no time. I tear the paper off in a flurry of movements. I don’t even care that I look like a kid right now. And when I lift the lid on the jewelry box, tears fill my eyes.
It’s a silver chain with a silver angel holding a red heart. Engraved on the angel is Lilyana.
“Oh, Cage. It’s so beautiful. Her birthstone.”
“I love it so much.”
He helps me put it on and I smile through the tears, letting them fall.
“I think we were on the same wave length this year,” I tell him handing him the first of two boxes.
He opens the first box to find a Silver Bvgari watch with a ruby set in the middle where the hands attach.
“Fee,” he breathes. He doesn’t look up, he merely stares at the watch as the hands go slowly around. Finally he turns it over to find the engraving I had done.
“Lilyana, July 17, 2015,” he reads quietly.
He lifts his gaze to mine. The tears in my eyes are reflected in his. “It’s perfect.”
I put it on for him and hand him the second tiny box.
He opens it to find a set of ruby Cartier cufflinks.
“The rubies in the cufflinks matches the one in the watch. Bart helped me find just the right ones,” I tell him.
He presses his lips together and nods. After a few minutes of silence, he meets my gaze again. “Thank you, Fee. Sincerely. These are the best gifts you could have given me.”
“You’re welcome,” I reply, uncertain what to say. Cage is filled with such emotion in this moment, I want to let him work it out in his own time.
“Come,” he murmurs, holding his arms out and I crawl onto his lap, hugging him tightly. “I will never forget our girl.”
“Nor will I,” I tell him as the tears fall from my eyes.
I don’t know how long we sit there, just holding one another, sharing out grief. Finally Cage breaks the silence.
“We should finish getting ready and head over.”
I nod. I hug him tightly then kiss his lips.
“I love you,” I murmur.
“Always and forever, my Fee.”
“Only ever you.”
* * *
Damian helps me out of the SUV. I’ve fallen out of these things on more than one occasion.
Cage grabs our packages. He walks around the vehicle to me, then holds my hand with his free one.
“We’ll be back,” he tells Damian. Damian nods.
We walk over the grass, making our way to the markers.
Rose Lynn Stewart.
Lilyana Rose Stewart.
Lily Russo Manzini.
“It never gets easier,” I whisper. Cage squeezes my hand gently then gives me the first bouquet of flowers.
I kneel before Rose, the woman who gave my husband life, and I silently thank her for doing so. I thank her for the sacrifices she made for this amazing man. I never got to meet her, but I do love her from what I know of her.
“You’re an amazing woman, Rose Lynn Stewart.” That’s all I say. We never say much while we’re here, though we have a lot of internal thoughts going on.
I move to where my mama and dad are and kneel before them. I don’t have much to say to them since I talk to them every day so I simply tell them, “I love you both so very much.”
I stand and take a deep, calming breath. It’s never easy to see my baby’s grave. I put the colorful bouquet in her vase, removing the ones that were beginning to wilt.
“Lilyana Rose. My baby girl,” I murmur. Cage kneels beside me, his arm around my back as I arrange the flowers. I read the beautiful engraving on the stone Cage had done.
“Your light shone for only a brief moment but you are forever loved.” On the bottom, etched in the black granite, “From Mommy & Daddy” and beneath that, “2015”.
“You, baby girl, are forever loved, by your mommy and daddy,” I whisper through my tears.
“As with your mother–Forever and always, Little One,” Cage whispers.
We kneel in silence for a few minutes, holding one another tightly.
I pull back and Cage stands, holding a hand to help me up. We make our way to the SUV and Damian presses a kiss to my cheek.
Once inside, Cage turns to me. “Now you may open it.”
I take a deep, shuddering breath. My heart hurts so much right now I want to cry and cry and cry. But I don’t. I won’t. Not until later when Cage and I are in the privacy of our bedroom where we both let down our walls and will share in our grief.
I lift the lid on the box and inside are three different brands of pregnancy tests. I turn to him and lift a brow.
“Whenever you’re ready, Fee.”
I bite my bottom lip and nod, tears welling.
My husband is God’s gift to me. He’s my rock. He understands me like no one else. He loves me as much as I love him.
“I love you so much,” I whisper against his lips.
“I love you too, Fee. Always.”
We get to CFD after stopping home to freshen up and change clothes and chaos is in full swing. A strange man is walking down the stairs with Ethan and Kennedy when we arrive and I’m ready to pull out my gun.
Before I get a chance to ask who he is, Lucy comes running to me, her eyes wide in shock, and I can see some underlying hurt.
“Who did what?” I ask.
“Tera’s here,” Lucy tells me.
It takes me a minute to remember. Tera. The girl he sang about with such heartbreak.
“No shit,” Damian mutters.
“AND Xander and Tera are married,” she says.
“Shut the front door!” I yell. “You’re kidding me.”
“I’m not. I wouldn’t mess with you like that,” Lucy assures me.
“Well, I’m going to first say I’m surprised–shocked! And second, I’m going to admit I’m more than a little hurt,” I tell my sister.
She nods. “Me too.” She looks to Jesse, then walks over and pulls him away. “Watch the kids?”
I nod then turn to Cage. “You knew.”
He nods once.
“You all knew,” I say and he nods again.
I blow out a breath. “Merry fucking Christmas.”