Silence falls the instant I walk into the home office. Christopher’s dark, tired eyes hold mine while he takes a sleeping Xavier from me. For a quiet baby, he likes to give a whine of approval every time his daddy cuddles him to his chest. It’s about the only time he looks small, because for a six-month-old he’s got long, chubby limbs and big hands and feet.
Our boy is going to be tall and strong just like Daddy. My hand strokes over Xavier’s dark, wispy hair and a smile tugs at my lips at the sight of them together.
The sound of a throat clearing calls my attention to the screen where all eyes are zeroed in on me, impatiently waiting for me to silently back out again. So that whatever serious discussion being had can continue.
Not going to happen today.
“I’m sorry gentlemen,” Christopher rolls back his chair to wrap his arm around my hips and pull me closer, “this is my cue to wrap up here.”
“I’m sure you all have family to get to for Christmas,” I say, glancing to the top right corner of the screen where Julian has a smirk on his face.
My best friend is about the only person on there with anything resembling a happy expression thanks to my presence.
“It’s not Christmas just yet.”
I ignore the royal advisor to the King of England and turn my attention to Xavier when he stirs because of the arsehole’s loud voice.
“There are bigger things than the myth of a fat man in a red suit.”
When I open my mouth to argue, Christopher gives my hip a light squeeze that silently disarms me. Unsurprisingly, he’s more diplomatic than I am. Over the last six years we’ve switched roles. He’s a lot more cautious with his mouth while I’m constantly snapping. A lot of it has to do with protecting him as he settles into his public profile gearing up for his shift into the political arena. We’ve always known this is what would happen, but I’m finding myself getting a lot more protective of him.
“Warren, if my wife says it’s Christmas, then it’s Christmas,” Christopher asserts with a brusque tone that makes me grin inwardly. He never allows anyone to undermine me or treat me like I’m perfectly picked out wallpaper designed for the sole purpose of looking pretty.
“Yes, it is,” Julian chuckles, his smirk hitching higher. “Let’s pick this back up in the new year with fresh eyes.”
“Hopefully we’ll have the last of the depositions transcribed and ready to be examined, and all the aides will be back in the office.”
“In the meantime, I’ll send over the documents we need the palace to look over…” Julian takes over when Xavier lets out a long cry and Christopher mutes himself.
“Let me take him so you can finish up,” I say, focusing on my boys.
“No.” Christopher adjusts Xavier on his chest so our son’s whining morphs into a garble of coos while he touches gentle kisses to the top of his head. With a long inhale, Christopher adds, “I need this right now.”
Turning my back to the camera, I edge myself between him and the desk so that it looks like I’m fussing over Xavier while I cup my hand to Christopher’s jaw and tilt his face up to mine. “We don’t have to leave tonight.”
Christopher is visibly exhausted; we’ve spent more late nights in his office than in our bed the last thirteen months. The only time he gets to spend with the kids is on the weekends or when I take them to the office for us to have dinner as a family. Before Penny brings them home so I might lend a hand where I can while I spend time with my husband.
“We can order a takeaway and have an early night. Leo and Cassie are only driving up tomorrow morning…”
“Absolutely not,” he says sternly, his brows pulling tight. “Tomorrow morning I’m going to wake up next to you at Herald’s Hold. We can sleep late while Raffy drives Emily crazy with Grace and Bea. Maybe we’ll get some adult time.”
I can’t argue with him for how good ‘adult time’ sounds. However, there’s still a worry nagging at the back of mind about how tired he looks and how long the drive up to Windermere is.
“I want to enjoy you, Morena.”
That endearment makes my heart so full, that I can’t contain my giddiness when I smile at him. His hand slips down from my waist, where he’s still holding me, to below my arse. Gripping the back of my thigh with a gruffness that sends a frisson of heat racing through me, scattering my thoughts.
“Okay,” I tell him, stroking my thumb over his sharp cheekbone. “But I’m driving while you get some rest.”
“Deal. You drive the first three hours, and then I’ll take over. Half-and-half.”
“Nope.” I level him with a determined stare. “This isn’t negotiable. You said you want to enjoy me. Well, you’re going to need all your energy for that.”
Christopher chuckles, his fingers digging into my flesh. The sizzle of pain from his merciless grip causes me to shudder. My knees wobble in a way that makes it impossible to balance without bracing myself on his shoulder as I move to the side again so he can end the call.
“Merry Christmas, Warren.” Christopher all but sings right before he leaves the video meeting and focuses back on me.
“I love you, Cariño,” I whisper into his chest as he stands and wraps his free arm around me.
“You’re only saying that because I doubled down on the prick.”
Rolling onto my tiptoes, I crane my neck to kiss his jaw. “I’m saying it because it’s true, and when my husband has my back, it makes me all kinds of hot and crazy for him.”
“Good, because when my beautiful wife gets bossy, it fucking gets me going too.”
I nuzzle deeper into his chest, dragging his warm, peppery scent into my lungs. When they’re burning and set to burst, I hold my breath just long enough for the world to haze, fading from my senses. All that’s left is him.
“I love you, Belles.” He kisses the words into my hair with overwhelming fervour. “And I promise I’ll make the last year up to you when this case is done.”
Pressing a kiss to his heart, I pull away to tip my face to his. “There’s nothing to make up for. We’re in this together, remember? You and me, Christopher, we’re one entire existence.”
“Entwined in light years, history, forevers, and eternities.”
For a short moment we rock on the spot. Dancing to the rhythm of our hearts while we silently hold each other’s gaze. After six years of marriage, he’s still the only man that makes my belly flip with nothing more than his handsome smile and honeyed stare. His touch is still my kryptonite.
“I’m all done, Mama,” Rafaela announces when she comes into the office and wiggles between Christopher and me.
As always, she climbs up his body so that he’s holding one of our babies in each arm and I’m hugging all three of my loves.
“I told my elf to make sure Santa knows we’re going to Granny’s house,” she tells Christopher, resting her head on his shoulder.
Although she gets her height and stature from me, she has her daddy’s eyes and his uncanny ability to wrap anyone around his little finger. Including me.
“Suppose that means we should get on the road before it gets any later,” he tells her with a gentle peck to her cheek while his gaze flits to mine.
The happiness beaming in his eyes fills my chest with a warmth that makes me feel like I’m floating on air when we head out into the hallway and gather the last of our things before we pack them into the car.
Before long we’re on our merry way, and I have a feeling this is going to be the best Christmas yet.
“Sweet dreams, Princess,” I whisper into Rafaela’s hair with a kiss as I put her to bed in the room she’s sharing with Casper and Fleur’s older daughters, Grace and Beatrix. Their room is sandwiched between Mum and Dad’s and Benedict and Mercia’s with Lucian in the one opposite.
Even knowing she can’t be safer than what she can be anywhere, there’s always that worry bubbling in the pit of my stomach. A fret that has me looking over my shoulder and checking all the windows and dark corners of the room. It’s not logical, I know that, but I do it once and then twice for good measure before I make sure that she’s tucked in along with the other two girls.
They’re safe, I keep telling myself as I walk backwards out of the bedroom.
“I made updates to the security cameras and the motion sensors,” Freddie tells me when I turn to find him standing in the open doorway in nothing but a pair of garish Christmas pyjama bottoms that makes it really hard not to burst out laughing. “Go on. Get it over and done with…out of your system.”
I close the door with a Mutley-like snigger as I really take in the sight of my moody, churlish cousin in Grinch pyjamas. When I’m standing closer to him, I read the text almost on top of his crotch: It’s a heavy load!
“Wow, George went for broke this year.”
“Georgina has a death wish,” he grumbles, crossing his arms over his chest. “She’s lucky I didn’t truss her up by her ankles with the fucking pyjamas.”
“What did you do that means you can’t refuse to wear them?” I hand him my phone from my pocket, knowing that he’s got some kind of app he’s built to send us notifications from his updated security system.
Taking the phone from me with a deadpan expression, he starts sauntering towards our bedrooms on the other side of the house. We’ve had this setup for the last four years—the kids sleep in the grandparents’ side of the house so we can have some privacy—and still, I can’t get used to it.
“Don’t ask,” he groans.
“What did you do, dickhead?”
“Yeah, all right. Of course, you didn’t.”
“I did nothing wrong, and I will not back down on it.”
“Looks like you already have.” I eye up his ridiculous pyjama pants. “Come on, spill the tea.”
We pause several feet away from his bedroom when he hands me my phone back with a live infrared feed of the kids’ room.
“Georgina thinks I’m being over the top with Maxwell,” he mumbles, his face pulls into a confused glare that he bores into the parquet floor. “I don’t care what she says, I’m not being unreasonable by making sure he’s happy.”
“That’s definitely not unreasonable,” I tell him, sensing that there’s more to it than what he’s letting on. “Unless you’re being overbearing and trampling on how she wants to raise him.”
“Maxwell doesn’t need a nanny, I can look after him and…”
“What about work?”
“I have it all figured out.” His pale blue eyes meet my brown stare. “I can work while he naps during the day, and then carry on in the evening. Georgina is only back from teaching at the academy close to nine at night, Maxwell goes down at seven every night. That gives me two hours to work before she gets home, we have dinner, and settle in for the night.”
Unsurprisingly, he’s thought about all the details. “What happens when Max gets sick and you can’t get your work done?”
“You and Arabella don’t have a nanny, and you cope.”
“Freddie, Arabella chose to give up work to be with the kids,” I say, keeping my tone mild so he doesn’t get any stupid ideas about what Georgina should and shouldn’t do. Reason isn’t his strongest suit. “Even so, Mum and Mercia help out all the time when she does her philanthropic endeavours. Same with Cass, she works because Mum and Rosalind help them out too.”
“What’s your point?” he snaps between gritted teeth.
“Last week when you stopped by the office, you said you were run off your feet with meetings and that you’re so busy, you’re turning clients away.”
“That’s got nothing to do with Maxwell.”
“Time, you moron. Where are you going to get the time to work, parent, and husband?” He looks at me blankly. “Freddie, you can’t do it all, and before you tell me you can work when they’re asleep, you need to rest too. You’re in a good place now, don’t sabotage that for the sake of your stubbornness.”
“Nannies don’t understand everything, and—”
“You’re talking out of the assumption that Max has Aspergers, too.”
A flash of worry flits over his face as he lets out a heavy sigh. “I’m not going to let people treat him like he’s inferior because of some fucking genetic glitch. My fucking glitch.”
“Regardless, Max is perfect. He’s bright like you and fiery like George—”
“Don’t be a father hen, and you won’t end up wearing ridiculous pyjamas like a fucking cock. Georgina is good mum—”
“She’s not good, she’s incredible. Georgina is not at fault here,” he growls, standing taller like he might take my head off my shoulders if I so much as make a negative hint at his wife, my sister-in-law.
“Then let her make the right decision for your family.”
“Hmmm,” he scoffs, rolling his shoulders back like I’ve just opened up his horizons and lifted a weight off his shoulders. “Might start calling you Francis junior.”
“I’m hardly my dad.”
“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that,” he chuckles, heading for his and Georgie’s bedroom while I follow past him to mine and Arabella’s.
The mirrored room is quiet as I close the door with a soft click and lock it. Arabella is already in bed. She didn’t wake me up to take over from her on the drive up. As with everything, she soldiered through while I got some much needed rest.
With the muted moonlight peering in through the semi-open shutters, I glance over Xavier in the bassinet by Arabella’s side of the bed. After she drove our family for six long hours up here, there’s no way she’s on baby duty tonight. Carefully, I lift the bassinet and take it to my side of the bed. Xavier’s so fast asleep that he barely stirs when I place his basket back on the rocking stand.
I think after Christmas we’ll have to transfer him to a proper crib because he’s almost too long to be in the bassinet.
Stripping down, I head into the ensuite and have a quick shower before I slip into bed behind her. Her naked body shifts deeper into mine so that we’re perfectly slotted together. Her head resting on my bicep.
“Is Raffy okay? You took a while.”
“Yeah, she didn’t even stir. It was a genius idea having her travel up in her pyjamas.”
Arabella laughs quietly, her body squirming along mine when I wrap my arm around her waist and trace my thumb along the underside of her full breasts. “So what took you so long?”
“Bumped into Freddie.”
My amusement must be evident in my voice because she asks, “Was he wearing the pyjamas?”
“Ah man, George is too soft. I would’ve made him wear the whole outfit.”
“You were in on it?”
“Christopher, my sister is too nice to make Freddie uncomfortable. She lives to straighten out the rumpled edges of his world, so yeah, I had to step in and show her a way of driving her discomfort home for him.”
“As always, you have succeeded. Congratulations, you are not just a beautiful face.” I lean over her to cover her grin with my lips. “You are a force of nature, Morena.”
“A tired force of nature,” Arabella yawns while her arse bucks into my groin and my hand kneads a heavy tit.
The erratic rhythm of my heart stutters when she hooks her foot behind my knee and adjusts herself so that my erection presses into the seam of her arse. Grinding into her pert flesh, I rake my thumbnail over a sensitive nipple. Softly enough that it doesn’t cause her the bad kind of discomfort with how raw they can get from breastfeeding Xavier.
“Shit…” Arabella opens her mouth to my kiss.
God, I miss this. I miss laying with her like this. Without the worry that Raffy will burst into our room and get an eyeful. I adore our children, but they are classic cockblockers even if they don’t intend on it.
“Open for me,” I murmur into her mouth, trailing my hand south, down to her belly until I reach her wet slit. “You’re so perfect, Belles.”
“Christopher,” Arabella hisses when I part her folds with my thumb, teasing her clenching entrance before I run back up to her clit.
Rubbing light circles around it while her hand traces from my hip to my glute. Her nails claw into my skin with every buck of my hips when she drapes her leg over my thigh, opening herself up like I asked.
Slowly, I stroke through her swollen flesh, pressing inside her hot cunt with two fingers. Pumping in and out of her in a lazy rhythm that steadily draws her pleasure to the surface.
“I need… I need you inside me.”
“I am—” I shift my arm beneath her and curl it around her to flatten my hand to her pounding chest. “—right here, baby. I’m always right here.”
My thumb presses to her clit, circling the engorged bundle of nerves as I add another finger inside her pussy. Fucking her slow and deep while I lick my tongue over hers.
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been together or how many times I’ve had her, it’s never enough. No amount of time or endless touches will ever be enough to satiate my need for her. It’s an infinite hunger and an unquenchable thirst. A longing in the marrow of my bones that relentlessly aches for more. Every second of every day it grows and grows.
“Oh, God… Christopher,” she hums into my mouth, her hand clawing deeper into my thigh with every writhe of her body along mine.
My cock swells with a merciless throb to get inside her. My need leaks between us as sweat slicks the friction of our bodies. Coiling my arm around her tauter, I hold Arabella to me tighter.
The tension in her limbs grows. As Arabella’s about to come, I pull my fingers out of her pussy and slowly fill her with my aching cock. Inch by inch her pussy squeezes around me, sucking me deeper into her.
“So big,” Arabella cries softly into her pillow, muffling her moans.
“Good girl… Good fucking girl… take all of me.”
Holding still, I pinch her clit between my thumb and forefinger, working her pleasure back to breaking point.
“That’s it, Morena, give me your pleasure,” I grunt into her ear.
The sensation of her hot cunt contracting around my shaft stirs up the sweetest agony in every part of me. An inferno scorching through every echelon of my existence.
“Christopher,” she mewls writhing into me, fucking herself on my cock while I massage her clit.
It’s taking everything in me not to let loose. Even more to stop myself from filling her with my cum.
“I’m going to… fuck… fuck… fu—”
Arabella shatters around me. Her pussy sucking my cock impossibly deeper so that it fucking hurts to be inside her. Being a part of her is the sweetest pain I’ve ever felt and I don’t want it to end.
“Good girl,” I whisper into her ear, between languid kisses to the side of her face while her orgasm wracks through her body.
“That’s me, baby.”
“You didn’t finish,” she murmurs through ragged breaths.
“If I come, I can’t stay inside you like this.”
“Christopher…” Arabella tries to turn to face me.
“Don’t fucking move.” I lock both arms around her, stopping her from moving. “Right now, I want to be inside you more than I want to come.”
“You are inside me, remember?” Taking one of my hands, she presses it to her heart. With her fingers threaded through mine, Arabella adds, “Right here. Forever and eternities.”
“Yes, but I want to be inside you like this too.” Flexing my hips a fraction, I savour the groan that vibrates through her into me.
This is all I want. To stay buried in her heat all night. Completely wrapped up in her and lost in our bubble.
Nestled inside her, I tuck her head beneath my chin, never easing my embrace as she falls asleep with a faint whisper…
“I love you, Cariño.”
There’s nothing better than this. There’s nowhere I belong more than here with Arabella. My heart. My soul. My existence.