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I rolled over, reaching for Maverick, confused when I didn’t feel the warmth of his body. My eyes fluttered open to find his side of the bed empty. Even the sheets felt cold, a sign he’d been gone for a while. The digital clock read six-thirty which made no sense. Me and Maverick made the most of our mornings together, kissing, touching, talking about the future long after the sun came up.

The fact he was out of bed before seven, even if it was Christmas Day, was unusual.


“Maverick,” I called, glancing around his room in the pool house. 

He still lived out here whenever he was home from college, and since it was Christmas break and school was out, I’d stayed over last night.

And the night before. And the one before that. In fact, I stayed over pretty much every night he was home. 

When he didn’t answer, I pushed back the sheets and climbed out of bed. One of Maverick’s old basketball jerseys covered my body, grazing my thighs. If Maverick had his way, I’d be naked in his bed but since everyone—mainly my pain-in-the-ass cousin Kyle—thought they could just barge into the pool house whenever they wanted, I usually pulled on a jersey before we fell asleep.

“Maverick?” I called out again into the darkness, the only sliver of light the glow of the moon creeping in through the blinds. 

The pool house was silent as I tiptoed into the hall. I smiled as my eyes fell on the small festive touches my best friend Laurie and I had made to the place. A holy wreath here, a scented candle there. I’d even snuck in small tree for the corner of the main room. Maverick and Kyle had grumbled the whole time, insisting there was enough decorations over at the main house, to last them for the next ten Christmases. Before moving to Wicked Bay I’d always loved Christmas. The smell of spiced apple and the familiar jingle of Christmas songs playing out in shops. Christmas in California was different to Christmas back home in England, but I’d come to appreciate it in a different way.

When there was still no answer, I began to panic. It wasn’t like Maverick to just up and leave me. Even if he went for a run or to work out, he said goodbye with a lingering kiss.

“Mav—“ His name died on my lips as I found him standing in the middle of the room. He’d pulled on some shorts, but his chest was bare, inches upon inches of tanned muscle on display, his hair still mussed up from having my fingers buried in it the night before. But it wasn’t the sight of him standing there that had my heart beating wildly in my chest. It was the hundred little fairy lights he’d strung up around the room. The pile of presents scattered around my tiny tree. 

“W-what...” the words lodged in my throat as I tried to process what was happening. Maverick hated Christmas. Okay, hate was a strong word, but he wasn’t one for celebrations. Ever.

Before I could choke out the rest of my question, he stalked toward me, his eyes fixed right on me. He gazed down at me with so much love and longing, I felt speechless all over again. 




Fuck. I loved her.

I loved Lo so much I’d set my alarm early to get up and do this all for her. Kyle had given me shit about it ever since I told him my plan, but I didn’t care. Even if it meant I was turning into a pussy, even if he made it his life’s mission to remind me of this moment forever, I’d take it. Because the way Lo was looking at me right now was everything.


“Merry Christmas Lo.” I dipped my head, brushing my lips over hers. Lo sank into the kiss, opening up for me as if I was air and she was drowning. Even after a year together, it was always this way with us. Intense. Consuming. And so fucking hot.

A soft moan slipped from her lips as our tongues tangled together, slow and unhurried, taking their time to explore each other. It would have been easy to take more. To kiss her until I no longer knew where I ended and she began, but that’s not what this was about.

Not yet, at least.

“For as much as I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I breathed touching my head to hers. “We need to stop.”

“Stop?” She pulled back, her brows knitted, lust and love glittering in her big brown eyes.

I smirked. “Get your head out the gutter London. It’s Christmas morning. Don’t you want to see what Santa left for you?”

Her eyes flickered to the pile of presents and then back to me. “Maverick, I thought we agreed one gift each.”

I hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her body flush with mine. “I lied.” I couldn’t resist stealing another kiss. When she was thoroughly breathless, I released her, grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the crappy little tree she and Laurie had spent a whole hour decorating. 

“Seriously Maverick, I only got you one gift. Now I feel—“

I shot her a hard look, a growl working its way up my throat. “You give me enough. Just being with me is enough. I only need you Lo. Always.”

“I feel the same,” she whispered her eyes darting back the gifts.

I pushed her down onto the couch and stood over her. “Look, I know this time of year is hard for you. I know you miss them. I just wanted...” Fuck. A wave of emotion crashed over me like a tsunami.  Lo would never get to see her mom or brother again on Christmas Day. Nothing would ever fill the hole left by them. But maybe, just maybe, I could begin to fill the cracks. 

“Maverick.” She stood back up taking my hand in hers. “I love you. You. No gift can ever replace that.” Her hand trailed up my chest, resting over my heart. 

“I’m not trying to replace anything, I’m just trying to show you what you mean to me. Here.” I motioned for her to sit back down and grabbed the first gift. My hands trembled as I handed it to her, my heart jackhammering in my chest. She stared down at it and smiled. “Fine. I’ll make you a deal. One gift. I’ll open one gift and then you have to unwrap your second gift.“

“I thought you only got me one gift?” The corner of my mouth lifted.

“I did,” Lo replied her eyes sliding to mine, glinting with mischief. “You can have that later.”

“Later?” Now I was confused. “But you said...”

“Me, Maverick. Your second gift is me.”

Hell yes.

My dick stirred beneath my shorts and I cleared my throat. “You have yourself a deal.“

I would enjoy nothing more than slowly unwrapping her, exploring every inch of her skin, skin I knew almost as well as mine, and then sinking inside her. 


Where I belonged. 

Lo gave me a heated look and then settled her attention back on the gift. Her fingers slid under the gift wrap and began to tear it open. When enough of the framed photograph was visible, tears began streaming down her face. “Maverick, this is...” she swallowed hard, swiping at the moisture with the back of her hand.

“Do you like it, I wasn’t sure—“

“Like it? It’s perfect.” Her eyes swept over the photograph of her and her family. “Thank you.”

I dropped to my knees in front of her and ran my knuckles over her damp cheek. “I love you Lo. Always. Merry Christmas.” 

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