Owned for Christmas
Ebook ISBN: 9781784303372
[ Contemporary Romance ]
Kate thought she was nervous to meet her boyfriend family over the holidays, until she walked into found her former Dom standing at the kitchen counter.
“Are you sure your mom will like me?” Kate threaded and unthreaded her fingers together. The snow-covered Rocky Mountains filled her passenger side window. The ground crunched under their tires illustrated that they weren’t in Texas anymore—that and the sub-zero temperature.
When her boyfriend had asked her to spend Christmas with his family in Colorado, she’d been ecstatic. Now she was rethinking her decision.
She stared out the window, focusing on breathing deeply. The last thing she wanted was to have a panic attack the second she walked into her boyfriend’s childhood home. What a great first impression that would leave. For years to come, she’d be known as the crazy girl he brought home that one Christmas who stopped breathing right inside the front door.
Daniel pulled his hand from the steering wheel and reached across the car for hers. He gave her fingers a gentle squeeze. “I’m sure she’ll love you.”
She nodded and tried to believe him. It had been a long time since she’d met anyone’s mother. She’d stopped being the type of girl a man would take home to his family a while ago. She never thought she’d be back in this position again.
That was until Daniel appeared in her life. She looked over at the man sitting beside her. His warm honey brown eyes glanced over to her every once and while. He’d neatly combed his sandy hair back. He was her saviour. He’d found her, picked her up and helped her to glue her heart back together when she’d given up any hope it was possible. The least she could do for him was meet his mother.
“What is there about you that’s not to love?” He smiled over at her.
There was a lot not to love. There certainly had been before. Enough to force someone to leave her. Or at least one very notable person. The one who had broken her heart and left her behind to pick up the pieces.
But that was all before Daniel. She looked over at him and tried to smile back.
They took a left turn, pulling off the highway onto a winding dirt road. Snow, a few inches deep, piled up on either side of the road. White blanketed the trees and rocks. The car shook and dipped down the bumpy road. She braced herself against the car seat. This was a long way from her normal commute to school each morning. She’d never complain about Dallas traffic again. At least it didn’t have potholes the size of cannonballs, or ice.
“Trust me. It will be great. We got through the plane ride, didn’t we?”
Kate nodded. She had survived the plane ride. Thanks in part to Daniel and two mini bottles of vodka. But somehow, she’d lived through the flight. Her hands had even stopped shaking. “Of course I trust you.”
Daniel turned another corner, shifting off onto an unpaved drive. It was hard not to notice the house so covered in twinkle lights it could almost be seen from space. It was beautiful. The quaint, tiny farmhouse sat nestled back into a hill. With the snow covering its roof and the lights decorating the porch, it almost looked like the cover of a Christmas card. The kind she would have found and looked at longingly as a child from her Dallas bedroom.
If only she could stop her stomach from churning, she might be able to enjoy the sight.
Daniel slowed the vehicle, parking the rental car to the left of the small house.
“We’re home.” He grinned over her.
Kate took a deep breath. He looked so happy, so excited. Her stomach churned more violently. She wished she felt the same as he did.
He scrambled out of the car toward the back to get their bags. Kate opened the door, stepping out into the cool air. Her boots squished in the snow. Good thing she’d gone for the heavy winter coat. She’d never seen so much snow in her life, besides on television. The bitter wind brushed her face and her nose burn slightly. But it was pretty, everything decorated in white and ice.
Daniel slammed the trunk, before coming to meet her beside the car, a bag cradled under each arm. Always the gentleman. Just another reason she loved him so much.
“Don’t tell me it looks that bad,” He joked, a wide smirk on his face.
Kate tightened her coat around her chest, schooling her features into a more excited expression. She’d hate for his mother to see the dumbfounded look she must have been sporting. She didn’t want to give his mom the impression she was judging them, or that she was disappointed in what she found—she certainly wasn’t.
She didn’t think his childhood home looked bad at all. In fact the little house in the snow was very pretty, picturesque. So different from her parent’s house, so different than the Christmases she’d always known.
“You said you lived in the country, but this was more rustic than I was expecting.” She joked back, not wanting Daniel to have the last laugh.
His warm honey brown eyes flashed with life. She loved his eyes. She loved his smile. No one else had the ability to calm her anxieties the way Daniel’s bright laughing eyes could or that radiant little kid grin.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “you won’t have to use an outhouse.”
“Very funny.” She nudged him in the ribs.
He made a little “oomph” sound that quickly morphed into a deep, throaty chuckle.
The door to the house opened, and a short, plump woman walked outside, dressed in loose jeans and a sweatshirt with a pair of cowboy boots and a Christmas wreath on it. Loose strands of her blond hair fell around her face from the bun on top of her head. Besides the gray dotting her temples, the color exactly matched the same sprouting from Daniel’s crown. Little lines crinkled around her light brown eyes. Daniel’s same warm honey brown color that Kate had fallen in love with.
He reached between them, grabbing Kate’s hand. His strong grip comforted her, even through her mittens.
“Just remember, I love you. She’ll see that and love you too. I promise.” His big bright gaze almost made her believe it was that simple. But she knew life was much more complicated than that.
“Oh, Danny, you’re home.” His mother ran across the yard, throwing her arms out and pulling Daniel in a big hug. Almost a full foot taller than his mom, he stooped to hug her back but he did so with such enthusiasm it brought a smile to Kate’s face.
Kate could see a lot of Daniel’s personality in the affectionate little woman. Daniel must get his charm from his mother.
“And you must be Kate.” She turned towards Kate, tugging her into her embrace as well. Her hug was affectionate and warm even in the snow covered field. “We’re so excited to have you with us this Christmas.”
Daniel only shrugged. He certainly hadn’t warned her about this. Her family wasn’t big into hugs, or affection at all, really. She enfolded her arm around the other woman, giving back a gentle squeeze. When in Rome.
After a long moment, Daniel’s mother pulled back from her, blinking up at her in surprise. “I’m so sorry. Where are my manners? I’m Gale Farrell, Danny’s mom.”
“It’s great to meet you.”
Gale pushed the flyways back from her face, trying to straighten them into her bun. “I’m sorry. I’m all flustered.” She tugged her sweatshirt down. “My Danny’s never brought a girl home before, especially not the daughter of the President of the Texas National Bank.”
Kate tried to smile at the mention of her father and his prestigious title. Everyone was impressed by his promotion—everyone except her mother.
“You must be very special.”
Kate glanced over at Daniel, a pained expression on his face. “Moooommm.”
“Sorry, sorry. I know, too much sharing.” She shook the idea off, as if erasing everything she’d just said, which only made Kate grin harder. “I’m just so excited to have my baby boy home. I have a roast in the oven and fresh apple pie for dessert.”
“Awesome.” Daniel beamed like a seven-year-old boy who had just found out the monster trucks were going to be driving by the house. He wrapped his arm around his mother, pulling her into a big bear hug. “You know how to spoil me.”
She laughed, squeezing him back. “You only come home a couple times a year. I have to make it special.”
Kate stared at the scene longingly. She didn’t think her mother had ever made an effort to make a day special for her—or even made an apple pie. Between the ladies’ lunches, benefit dinners and berating her father for not making enough money so they could have everything those other ladies did, her mom had never had the time for baking.
“Those are his favorites,” Gale added, glancing over at Kate.
Kate, appreciated her concern. “I know. I made him an apple pie for his birthday. It was all he wanted.” And she’d rather enjoyed baking it too. It was fun peeling all the apples, rolling out the dough, measuring out the spices. There was a beauty to the simplicity of it.
“That’s my boy. He’s never had too many wants.”
Kate knew he was a simple man. That was one of the qualities she loved most about him. It was she that had too many wants. She had cravings she shouldn’t have. That he’d never be able to give her. Needs that had only gotten her into trouble.
But the need never stopped.
Kate smiled, loving the camaraderie between Daniel and his mother. She couldn’t ever remember smiling so much with her own family. Her mother was too focused on being polite and proper to banter with her.
Gale glanced between the two of them, shaking her head. “Look at me going on and on about pie and parties while you two are freezing. Let’s head into the house. It’s cold as a witch’s tit out here.” She turned, motioning them toward the brightly lit house as Kate tried to stifle her laugher. She certainly wasn’t like any other mom Kate knew. She couldn’t imagine her own mother saying the word ‘tit’.
“We’ll get you in the house and warm you two right up.”
Kate trudged behind Daniel and his mother, liking the crunch of snow beneath her boots. It squished under her foot, and made squeaking noises when she pulled her foot back. It was a lot more fun then she’d heard people talk about.
“I’m sorry, Kate.” Gale turned back to her.
Kate stilled, not sure what she’d say next. Did she not have room for her? Did she not want her to stay in her house? Her stomach tensed at the thought.
“I don’t know what you’re favorite pie is. I didn’t think to ask Danny. But if you let me know, I’ll make sure to get all the fixens tomorrow.”
Kate smiled, relieved. “Apple’s great. I love apple.”
“Oh. That works out well. You too are just perfect for each other.”
“Mom.” Daniel trudged up the stairs behind them, his boots thumping on the steps.
“Sorry, sorry.” She grinned wider, a slight devilish gleam in her eyes. Her small slips seemingly intentional with every smile.
“You’ll have to forgive us, Kate. The house isn’t much,” Gale declared, pushing open the door and ushering them through the entryway. “But it’s our home.”
Kate didn’t care what the house looked like. She just had to get inside. As much as the snow was pretty and fun to tromp through, her thin Texas blood didn’t love the cold. She stepped inside, following Gale and Daniel through the entryway into the living room.
A tan plaid couch that had seen better days took up one wall of the room, in the other corner a golden rod lazy boy with a rip in one arm held court. The feeling was homey and welcoming. Everything looked well-worn and used, unlike the sleek modern cream couches in her parent’s sitting room that stained easily. She knew from firsthand experience, having made many messes as a child, and a few as an adult.
“Oh, no, it’s lovely.”
Photos lined the rich wood panel walls. She picked out a few from the collection featuring a small sandy-haired boy with light brown eyes—the man she loved. Some showed him holding a rod, a gun or standing next to a cow with a man with light brown hair and dark gray eyes. That must be his father, who passed away a year before we met. He looked kind and sweet, just like Daniel.
“Thank you, dear.”
Daniel dropped the luggage right inside the door. He took a deep breath, his eyes sliding shut, almost as if he were trying to absorb the place into his lungs. “It’s good to be home.”
“You two can have the far bedroom.” Gail motioned toward one end of the house. “The sheets are clean and there are towels in the closet.
“Dinner should be ready at six. Why don’t you go and get settled. I know it’s been a long trip.” She took their coats, laying them both over the sofa arm. Everything in Kate’s parent’s house had a place, and coats definitely didn’t belong on the couch. But in Gale’s home it didn’t look out of place. The untidy pile looked right. It made the home appear warm, lived in.
“Your brother will be back in a bit. He’s gone out to the far fields to tend to the cows.”
“Can I help you with anything?” Kate didn’t know exactly how she could do. She’d attended more catered meals than family dinners. Kate couldn’t recall ever assisting anyone in the kitchen. But it seemed right to offer, especially after all Gale was doing for her. She’d be fine, as long as she got a simple task.
Gale smiled up at her, blinking her honey brown eyes. “Of course. Dinner’s almost ready but I can always use help.” She twined her arm with Kate and nudged her toward the back of the room, where an archway led out of the room.
“Now you, go be a gentleman like I taught you, and bring the bags to your room. Kate and I are going to finish making dinner.” Gale tossed the sentiment over her shoulder.
Daniel heist their bags, throwing Kate a concerned look as his mother tugged her towards the kitchen. Kate nodded back at him, her cheeks a bit warm. She loved his concern. But she could handle his mother, at least for half an hour.
“We are very excited to have you with us this holiday.” Gale leaned close to Kate, her bright happy manner rubbing off on Kate. “I’m sure we don’t throw the kind of holidays you’re used to, but if there’s anything I can do to make this Christmas special for you, I’ll be happy to do it.”
“Thank you.” Kate was touched by this little woman’s concern. It didn’t seem the proper time to say her normal Christmaes were sterile and cold, thrown more for appearance than joy. She didn’t want anything similar to those. It was probably best to ease into that conversation.
“I’d really like to find out more about Daniel. Maybe see some baby pictures.”
Gale laughed. “I’m sure I can find a few photos for you. Although I must warn you that Danny never did take a good picture. His hair was always sticking up and he had a lazy eye for most of elementary school that made him look cross-eyed.”
Kate giggled at the idea. “Now I want to see them even more.” She couldn’t imagine it. Daniel usually looked so put together. She’d always assumed it was a side effect of his profession as an accountant.
They turned the corner into the kitchen together. Kate liked Gale. But the second her feet landed on the kitchen tile, Kate glanced up and her entire world tilted.
She sucked in a deep breath. He stood right in the kitchen, his cowboy boots crossed at the ankles as he leaned against the counter without a care in the world.
Her former Master.
The man who had hurt her, wounded her trust.
He’d destroyed what confidence she’d had in the BDSM scene, forcing her to leave it behind. He had the same sandy blond, shoulder-length hair pulled back in a ponytail, the same confident stance. He even smelled similar, like leather, sweat and male musk. Although a new hay and earth aroma accompanied it.
What is he doing here? When she’d known him in Texas, he’d worked at Terlingua Ranch, just outside Dallas, training race horses. It was a long way from Brewster County to Colorado. What were the chances the only man to ever break her heart ended up working for her boyfriend’s family’s ranch. Could anyone have worse luck than she did?
“Grant, what are you doing here?” Gale marched up to the man, slapping his hand back from the salad bowl, where he picked olives off the top.
Kate remained frozen, standing just inside the kitchen threshold, unable to move any further forward.
“I thought you were out with the cows?” Gale grabbed a knife from the counter and started slicing a loaf of fresh bread. She continued with her dinner preparations as if Kate’s whole world wasn’t slipping away beneath her.
“I was. I finished up early. I wanted to rush home and meet my little brother’s new girl.”
Little brother. Kate’s stomach lurched at the words. It couldn’t be. This couldn’t be Daniel’s brother. Grant was nothing like the man she loved.
He looked over at her. For a second, she almost thought he recognized her. The flicker of surprised filled his eyes. Then it vanished as though it had never been there at all. He grabbed a slice of bread from the pile Gale had cut then bit into the soft white dough.
“If you’re going to eat a piece, take a plate.” Gale handed him one from the stack to the side of the cutting board. “You don’t want Kate to think she’s come to have Christmas with a pack of animals.”
His pewter gaze met Kate’s. A shiver ran through her. He didn’t smile but the smugness in his words prickled her nerves.
“No we wouldn’t want that.”
“Oh, where are my manners? Kate, this is my older boy, Grant. Grant, this is Danny’s new girl, Kate.” She leaned closer to him as though whispering a secret but Kate heard every word. “Be nice to her. Your brother seems very smitten with her.”
Grant smiled over at her. Kate’s insides twisted into even tighter knots.
“I’m always nice.”
Bullshit. Grant isn’t nice. It was what she had liked the most about him.
He extended his hand to shake hers. She stared down at it. His palm and fingers were calloused, more calloused then before. But she could still remember how those fingers felt wrapped around her wrists, holding her tightly while he spanked her ass with a paddle.
She lifted her eyes to find his gaze focused on her, watching her like a bug in a jar. A surge of awareness ran through her body. How long had they been staring at each other? It seemed like forever. If I don’t take his hand soon, Gale might notice.
This was far worse than any of the scenarios Kate had nervously ran in her head on the airplane or the drive to the ranch. Even in her worst nightmares she never would have imagined running into Grant again, let alone here. She couldn’t describe her relationship with Grant to anyone—least of all his mother.
She extended her hand. Her fingers shook as she slipped her hand into his palm. “Nice to meet you.”
“Now you’ve officially met her.” Gale motioned with her knife, pointing out of the kitchen. “Go wash up. Dinner will be ready in a half hour.”
“Yes, Mom.” He placed the plate and half-eaten bread slice on the counter. He offered Kate a wink as he walked out the door.
Her stomach sank. An aching, hollow feeling took up root in her chest. How could he be so nonchalant about seeing her again? He acted as though he didn’t know her. Like he hadn’t seen her naked, hadn’t flogged her to orgasm, hadn’t seen the most dark and twisted parts of her. The sections she didn’t show to anyone else—and certainly not to Daniel.
His brother. How can this be? They are so different, almost polar opposites. Daniel was all light fun and easygoing sweetness. And Grant was dominate, wicked and dark in all the ways that made her toes curl. Grant was everything she wasn’t supposed to want anymore.
Her mind raced. The walls seemed to close in on her, the air too thin. She couldn’t seem to fill her lungs. She had to get out of there. She had to escape Gale’s friendly presence and happy small talk. It was all too much.
“I’m sorry, I’m suddenly feeling a little tired.” Kate rubbed her temples, an abrupt sting of pain taking up root there. “I think I’m going to lie down for a little bit, if that’s okay.”
“Sure, dear.” Gale gazed over at her with concern.
Kate couldn’t worry about Gale’s reaction. Not right now. Not with the vision of Grant standing next to the sink still fresh in her mind.
“Go rest for a bit. I’ll come get you and Danny once dinner is ready.”
“Okay. Thank you.” Kate nodded, turning from the kitchen.
Half an hour didn’t seem long enough to gather her muddled senses together. But it would have to do.