Flash Fiction Prompt…Author’s Choice
The Christmas Gift by Lily Graison
(1472 words) – characters from The Night Breeds Series
© 2012 Lily Graison. All Rights Reserved
The air on the mountain was brisk and held a hint of ice crystals. Rayna could taste the coolness of it on the back of her tongue. It would snow soon.
Fall had given away to winter. The moon was full tonight but it played hide and seek with the clouds. She’d shifted only three times since becoming one of the monsters and as terrifying as the act was, she was oddly calm.
The crunch of twigs and dry leaves drew her attention. Someone was coming through the trees. She closed her eyes, inhaled a breath and smiled. It was Garrett. His scent danced along her senses until it felt like a live thing caressing her flesh.
She turned her head, looking over her shoulder at him and smiled. He hadn’t bothered with a coat, his muscles hugged by his t-shirt. Her wolf stirred as she watched him, that restless pushing against her flesh she’d grown used to causing a quick breath to pull a gasp from her throat.
He was staring at her as he entered the clearing; his eyes already wolf amber in color. “Why did you leave the party?”
Rayna grinned at him. “Because I knew it was the only way to get you to myself before the shift.”
He stopped in front of her and lifted his hands to cup her cheeks. “You could have just said you wanted me alone.” He kissed her forehead, his arms lowering to wrap around her. “I’ll follow you anywhere, you know that.”
She sighed, the warmth of his embrace seeping into her bones. “I know, I just didn’t want the others to know I was taking you away from them. They went to a lot of trouble to set the Christmas party up. I didn’t want to ruin it for them.”
“Well, you have me here, Ms. Ford. What are you going to do with me?”
“I’d thought of seducing you but it’s a bit cold to get naked.”
“I’ll keep you warm.”
“I’m sure you can but I actually had another idea in mind.”
“Oh? And what’s that?”
Reaching into her coat pocket, Rayna pulled out the small wrapped box she’d hidden inside. “I wanted to give you this.”
His smile lit his face and even in the low light she could see the delight in his eyes. “You bought me a Christmas gift?”
She grinned up at him. “Sort of.”
“What is it?”
“Open it and you’ll find out.”
He opened gifts like a child, ripping paper and tossing it away in a rush. The small box was covered in black velvet and the moment he reached for the lid, the nervous butterflies she’d felt all day erupted.
The rings were gold, both engraved inside with the sign for infinity. He said nothing as he stared down at them and those butterflies were now making her nauseous. She reached for the box, cupping her hands around it and tried to take it from him. “It was stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
His grip on the box tightened before he looked up at her. His eyes had bleed back to the warm honey brown she was used to seeing and she wasn’t sure but they looked a bit glassy.
“Are these what I think they are?”
Rayna didn’t answer. Her vocal cords seemed to have frozen tight. The longer she stared at the rings, the sillier the entire idea seemed. They were werewolves. Nothing about their lives were normal. It never would be.
She’d had a crushing blow two months ago when she found out she’d never be able to carry a baby to term and the depression had eaten away at her. Her life was as abnormal as it could get. She should have known the idea of getting married would be seen as ridiculous too.
“Forget it,” she said, trying to hide the disappointment with a smile. “I don’t know what I was thinking. It was just a silly girls fantasy, is all. I should remember nothing about my life will ever be normal again.”
“Why can’t it be normal?”
She laughed but there was nothing humorous about the sound. “We’re werewolves. There’s nothing normal about that.”
“To other werewolves, we’re perfectly normal. This is our life. We can live it any way we want.” He was right but she didn’t tell him so.
Turning, she looked back across the darkened mountain. The pain in her chest warmed her, the cold now forgotten. Garrett moved closer to her, his footsteps disturbing the leaves.
“Just forget about it, Garrett. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ll take them back.”
“So you don’t want to marry me?”
She didn’t answer him. The truth was, she did. She wanted something normal. A family was out of the question but a husband, she could have. A home of her own, she could have, and damn it, she wanted them. Something. Anything that normal people had.
“I guess I’ll have to return your Christmas gift then.”
Looking up at him and seeing the smile on his face, she wondered what he’d gotten her. When he reached into his pocket and pulled a box almost identical to the one he was holding from his pocket, she could only stare. It wasn’t wrapped but the black velvet was unmistakable.
Opening the box, Rayna stared at the diamond ring glittering up at her. An engagement ring, if she had to guess. She laughed, lifted her hand to cover her mouth and shook her head. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Probably.” He lifted the ring out, tossed the box aside and reached for her hand. “I figured since you were going to be stuck with me for the next eighty or so years, we might as well make it official.” He slid the ring onto her finger, twisting it slightly to go over her knuckle. “Seeing how you bought the wedding bands, I’m assuming your answer will be yes.”
“Yes.” She laughed while staring at the ring.
A howl echoed across the mountain, signaling that the others were shifting. Rayna tried to distinguish who it was but she wasn’t able to, yet, like the others could. Ever since her first shift, Garrett had turned over the ritual at the meeting grounds to Bryce. Her mate still wanted to shift in private, which suited her fine. She wasn’t keen on the idea of the others seeing her naked.
When Garrett lifted her hand, kissing the spot his ring now sat, she smiled. The moon was hidden now, the clouds thick and low in the sky but she could see him perfectly. Her mate. Her lover. Her everything.
The air was crisp and cold but that wasn’t the reason she was now shivering. It was the very thought of him.
“You won’t be cold long,” Garrett said. “Once you start shifting, your body will heat.”
She didn’t tell him the cold wasn’t the reason. The look on her face should be enough. When he smiled at her, she knew he’d figured it out.
Garrett removed his shirt, tossing it to the ground by his feet. “I can warm you up in advance if you’d like.”
Staring at his chest, her gaze roaming the expanse of flesh down to his flat belly, she considered his offer. “And what if the others see us?”
He laughed. “Then I guess they’ll think twice before hunting us from now on.”
“Get busy shifting, Rayna. The wolf wants his mate.”
She undressed, watching Garrett as he did the same. When she was naked before him, her breaths misting in the air, the first soft flakes of snow gently swept across her cheek. She looked up, watching their decent and smiled. “It’s snowing.”
“Then I suggest you get your fur coat on before you freeze.”
Rayna watched him shift, jealous at how easy he made it look before concentrating on her own wolf. The process didn’t take as long as it had at first but it still hurt like a bitch. When her screams turned to a wolf’s howl and her whimpers drew Garrett to her side, he nuzzled the side of her face. The snow was falling harder now, the ground turning white around them. Rayna lifted her head and looked at her mate. His fur was coated with snow and the look in his eyes told her what he wanted. The wolf wanted his mate and he was tired of waiting.
Snapping at him playfully, she turned and ran, the heavy footfalls of the wolf following close behind. She’d outrun him for as long as she could but knew he’d eventually he’d catch her. Then, their true marriage would take place. The marriage of her wolf and his. Mated for life regardless of ceremony or rings.