Merry Christmas, Tobi! I'm so thankful for you all year long, and I'm very excited to be sharing Sugar's Christmas story on your blog today. Several years ago I wrote Sugar's Peace, before there was Sugar's Song, Sugar's Night, or Sugar's Faith. I ended Sugar's Dance on Christmas Eve, but it seemed people wanted more Sugar. They wanted to know what happened 'the day after'. They wanted to know how she spent her first Christmas of the rest of her life. So, I wrote Sugar's Peace, just a short five page story about Christmas morning, the 'day after', and the first Christmas of the rest of her life. Looking at it now, several years and three books later, I can see I already had in my heart the places Sugar still needed to go, even if I didn't know it in my head yet. Obviously, many of you already know the rest of the story, but I think you will enjoy reading about Sugar's first Christmas with her new family. I want to thank all of my readers for the support over the last year and wish you all a very happy holiday season!
“Merry Christmas Ms. DuBois.” The soft words were murmured against my ear as his lips brushed my cheek. I was snuggled down deep inside the down comforter and could smell the sweet coffee wafting through the air.
“Aren’t you going to open those beautiful blue eyes?” Van asked as he pulled me in tight to him and twined his fingers in mine. A smiled played at my lips as I shook my head no. “And just why not?” he asked caressing my cheek.
“Because I’m afraid when I open them last night will have been a dream.” I said as his lips descended on mine and he kissed me slowly, pulling my hand to him and working the ring off my finger.
My eyes flew open, “What are you doing?!”
His eyes sparkled as he held the emerald ring, “I knew I could get you to open your eyes.” he said smiling at me as I grabbed at the ring. He jerked it back, “Let me prove last night wasn’t a dream.” he whispered. “Tula DuBois, will you marry me?” he asked very seriously and I burst out laughing as he feigned disappointment and hurt. “Is that a no?”
“That’s a yes, forever and always Mr. Bond.” I winked while he slipped the ring back on my finger and hugged me close. It was then that I noticed it was still dark outside, and the clock read six a.m., or o-dark thirty as my dad would say.
“Merry Christmas my love,” I whispered into his ear, “can we go back to sleep?” I asked and I felt his chest rumble against mine.
He sat back and handed me a cup of sweet creme liqueur, “No, no almost Mrs. Bond, we have things to do today, drink up.” he said as I brought the sweet nectar of the gods to my lips while raising a brow.
“Really? This early? You’re worse than a kid on Christmas morning.” I said around my mug and he laughed as he grabbed some clothes from the dresser and laid them on the bed and then leaned into me, kissing the coffee from my lips, “The presents can wait, I want to hold your hand and watch the éirí gréine, the first one of the rest of our lives.” he whispered and I smiled.
“Ah the sunrise. Excellent idea.” I grinned grabbing my jeans and pulling them on before snapping on my leg. He pulled me up off the bed into a tight embrace swaying as he sang, “Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now. With every step I take let this be my solemn vow; to take each moment and live each moment with peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
“Let There Be Peace on Earth, Vince Gill, waltz.” I whispered.
“Do you have peace?” he asked.
“Like I haven’t known in a very, very long time.” I said smiling up at him as he twisted the ring on my finger.
Van led me through the dark lodge and out the front door quietly, so we didn’t wake Lillie. I stood on the front porch as the swing rocked in the morning breeze and took a deep breath. The air was frigid, and the trees were covered in an icy white mist. The sky, still a murky black, fought against the rising sun. We walked hand in hand towards the lake, him stopping every so often to steal a kiss.
“I love you.” he said after breaking off one rather long lip lock.
“I love you too.” I sighed a little and he chuckled.
“Was that a sigh?” he asked chucking me under the chin and I swatted at him as he took off running toward the break in the trees that opened into my little piece of Lake Superior. By the time I caught up to him he had disappeared and I was standing in our spot doing a 360°, calling his name. On the 180° turn I saw it. There sat a cedar bench with a big red bow.
I ran my hand along the top of the bench that faced the lake in perfect alignment to watch the éirí gréine and luí na gréine. In the dawning light I could see a metal plaque on the bench and bent down reading it aloud, “I hope you dance.... V&T 4-ever.”
I felt him wrap his arms around my waist and lean his chin on my shoulder, “Merry Christmas, Mi Mot.”
I reached around and patted his face as the tears blurred my vision. I took a steadying breath, “I love it, thank you my love, its perfect.”
He turned me, kissing me softly and wiping away a tear. “In the spring we can have a concrete pad poured, so it will be ready for baby James to sit with his Aunt Sugar to watch the birds over the lake.” he whispered.
I laughed through my tears, loving him more than I ever thought possible. We sat on the bench snuggled together as the sky turned pink, and the sun begin to rise above the shore of the lake to break through the thin layer of clouds. I love the sunrise over Lake Superior because each day brings something different. Today I searched for one thing, one sign, to know they were here with us, but I saw nothing. The lake was quiet as the sun rose and my mind began to wander to the shore on the other side of the lake, the shore I couldn’t see. I felt his eyes on me and he slowly tipped my chin up, “Stop. The only shore you need to think about today is this one, the one we are sitting on together.” he said lovingly and I watched as his eyes swirled.
I nodded quickly. “The only shore that matters.” I whispered and laid my head on his chest.
The sun became a giant ball of pink in the sky and the woods came alive when the birds began to greet the day with their feathers plumped up against the wind. Van pointed out towards the lake, and I looked up to see a golden eagle taking flight from a tree branch of a red pine to swoop out over the lake. It wasn’t long and a second one joined in the flight. They flew away from us until they were black specks in the sky, but they were enough to remind me they were still here.
He bent down and kissed me slowly, his lips barely touching mine as my eyes fell closed and my heart overflowed. “Best morning ever.” he said against my lips and I smiled knowing that to be one hundred percent bang on. I sat up and took a deep breath ready to go shake Lillie awake for Christmas morning presents.
“Van, why do I smell a campfire?” I asked him and he had a grin on his face that told me he knew the answer.
“Come on!” he grabbed my hand and we jogged to the fire pit where Sharon, Lenny, Jessie, Julie and Lillie sat on their cranns with a fire blazing as they drank coffee from a thermos. Even Lillie who proclaimed she “hated coffee” when she first arrived yesterday had a cup in her hand.
“Merry Christmas, Sugar!” They all said in unison and I couldn’t stop the bubble of laughter that escaped.
“Merry Christmas to all of you, this is becoming a habit.” I laughed, hugging them all, remembering the campfire we had shared just a few hours ago. The campfire that changed my life.
Van and I sat on our cranns, his was a new tree stump we found one day in the woods and rolled to the fire pit. I hadn’t had much time to carve it, so it was pretty bare, but I noticed this morning there was a V&T 4-ever carved in the side. He gave me a little lip tilt as he handed me a cup of coffee and my heart smiled.
“So, what brings you out so early this Christmas morning?” I asked them and Jess snorted.
“We were encouraged to come for early morning caroling time by your new fiancé. I think he just wants you for himself for the rest of the day.” Jess said laughing and Van gave him a fist bump.
“Fair play!” he grinned at my brother.
Julie caught my eye and blew me a kiss and I blew one back, she looked so happy now that everything was out in the open.
“So caroling you say?” I asked, “That’s going to be a problem, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and Nathan isn’t here to play the guitar.”
Van held up a finger and went to the small shed grabbing a guitar and slinging it around his neck, giving it a couple of strums for tuning. I noticed Lillie laughing at the shocked look on my face.
“I didn’t know he played.” I snickered and she nodded.
“Many things you have to learn to be a Jedi master.” She said in a deliriously funny southern Yoda voice.
Van took his place again on the crann next to me and we sang our hearts out as the fire blazed. They were singing, but I was counting the seven most important blessings in my life.
Whoever said Christmas is for children obviously never met my fiancé. After an impromptu Christmas breakfast of butter horn rolls and eggs, my family took their leave, I’m pretty sure to go back to bed. That left Van, Lillie and I alone in the lodge. The fire was burning in the fireplace and Lillie was stretched out in the chair snoozing as Van tucked me up under his arm on the couch.
“Whatcha get me for Christmas?” he asked for the thirtieth time.
“Nothing.” I said smiling and he faked a tear.
“That’s not true, I see my name on a couple of those packages under the tree. I'll get you to talk." He grinned, his hands tickling my ribs.
“Stop! Stop!” I laughed as his tickling became more intense, and my breath caught in my throat.
“Not 'til you tell me.” He urged, heading for the spot behind my knee.
“Okay, okay!” I yelled breathlessly and he stopped, waiting for my answer. I grabbed a couple of breaths in, “Underwear and socks.” I said straight faced and he attacked then, tickling me until I couldn’t breathe and Lillie finally broke it up.
“Y’all think you could keep it down over there? Or better yet, get a room.” She drawled in her soft southern way. Van’s hands stilled and we both died laughing at the stern look on her face.
He held up his hands, “Of course, I’m sorry mommy, I promise to be good.”
I clapped my hand over my mouth and waited. I hadn’t known Lillie long, but I knew she wasn’t going to let him get away with a comment like that. She swung her feet over the arm of the chair and covered the distance between us in two steps. At barely five feet the word intimidating wouldn’t come to mind at first glance, until you found out all five feet of her was spitfire.
“Mommy?” she asked. “Y’all gonna be begging for your mommy when I’m finished jerking a knot in your tail, mister.”
Van flashed her a thousand watt smile and threw his hands up, “Oh, I’m shaking in my boots. Did you hear that Tula? She’s gonna jerk a knot in my tail.” He drawled in his horrible southern accent.
Before I could respond Lillie pounced on him attacking his midsection hollering for me to grab his arms. With a smile I did just that, knowing full well the two of us were no match for him, but I held his hands over his head while she tickled.
“Uncle, uncle!” he yelled and I threw my head back and laughed as she didn’t break stride.
“Okay, okay, mommy.” he shouted and her hands stilled. She stood, brushing the wrinkles out of her shirt, and fixing her hair.
“My job here is done.” she returned to her place in the chair, crossing one dainty leg across the other.
“Well, mine’s not.” I laughed and Van threw his hands over his head, waiting for the attack that never came. I chuckled as he slowly lowered his arms, and saw me standing by the Christmas tree.
He let out a breath, “Alright, present time.”
Lillie joined me by the tree and I handed her a package. She winked at me, “Guess we should probably let him open the first one?” She snickered, handing it to him.
He tore open the paper and stopped dead, looking up at Lillie. She sat down next to him as he flipped through the pages in the photo album.
“Lil...” he started to say and then stopped, closing the book and running his hand over the picture on the front of it. “Where did you get this?” he finally asked.
“When I was helping you pack up and move I found this old box of photos of you and Grandma Deidre. They were all mixed up and I thought it would be nice if we had them all in a book, so you could show your children some day. I had a friend help me with some of the older ones. He had them digitally enhanced and restored.” she explained, shrugging her shoulder a bit and folding her hands.
I walked over and gave him a kiss on his cheek, taking a look at the cover of the book. Having seen pictures of his mother before, I knew it was her smiling back at me with her arm around Van. “That’s a great picture of you and your Mom, Van. I’d love to frame it to go with the ones on the mantle.”
He looked up at me and nodded, then hugged Lillie tightly, “Best present ever.” he whispered in her ear. She smiled, her eyes swirling green just like his, and I gave her the thumbs up.
“Okay,” Lillie said, “whose next?”
Van stood and grabbed a long envelope from under the tree and handed it to me. “Sorry about the wrap job, it was last minute.”
“I thought the bench...” I started to say and he held up his hand. “Just open it.” He insisted, rocking back on his heels.
I carefully opened the envelope, pulling out two plane tickets to Dublin Ireland. I looked up quickly and he was grinning.
“Merry Christmas, Mi Mot, run away with me, or better yet, marry me, and then run away with me.”
I was stunned silent staring at the tickets in my hand, “In a heartbeat.” I whispered and he kissed me softly, his hands making their way under my shirt where they lay against the warm skin on my back. For a moment I forgot all about where I was as his fingers massaged my ribs and his mouth worked its way to my ear.
“Ahem.” Lillie cleared her throat and I looked up to see her rolling her eyes at us. Van quickly dropped his hands and smoothed my shirt, having the good grace to act embarrassed.
“Later.” he whispered as he walked past me, and I had to hide the smile as I bent down to grab a gift from under the tree.
“This one is from me, Lil.” I handed her the gift and she took it with brow raised.
“You didn’t know I was going to be here. How did you find time to get a gift?” she asked turning it over in her hands.
“Well, funny story,” I said sitting down next to her. “I ordered it figuring I had plenty of time to get it and mail it to you in Chicago, but then it took my guy too long to finish it, so it was going to be late. Now I see it was the Lord looking out for me since He knew you were going to be here. Go ahead, open it.” I clapped, motioning towards it.
“Your guy?” she asked with trepidation and I laughed.
“Yeah, my guy, open it.” I said again and she tore into the paper, revealing a jeweler’s box. I saw Van smile when he saw the insignia and she lifted the lid to reveal the seven pieces of jewelry displayed inside.
“Sugar?” she said my name breathlessly, and questioningly, as Van moved behind us to get a better look.
I put my arm around her shoulders, “Each year we have a piece of jewelry made for MAMBOS that we sell as a fundraiser. My jeweler only makes four original pieces, one for me, Julie, Sharon and the volunteer of the year, the rest are reproductions.” I took out the bracelet from this year’s dinner and clasped it around her wrist. “I asked him to make a fifth set, so all the girls in the family have one.” I said winking, and saw the tears in her eyes.
“It’s beautiful, Sugar.” she cried softly, looking closely at the bracelet. Van reached out and pointed to the wing of the largest butterfly.
“Look close Lil.” he whispered and it was then that she realized her name was engraved on the wing.
She threw her arms around me and hugged me tight, “I barely know you, but I already love you so much.” she whispered.
I rubbed her back and smiled, “I love you too, welcome to the family, sweetheart.”
God bless peace.
Want to know more about the Sugar Series? Sugar's Dance, the first book in this epic saga, is on sale for just $0.99 until 12/30/2014!
Katie Mettner grew up in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and moved to the Northwoods where she now resides with her husband and three children. Katie writes inspirational romance and is the author of The Sugar Series, The Northern Lights Series and the Snowberry Holiday Series. Her stories are a reflection of her love for family, intricately woven with life experience. When the gales of November blow early you can find her at the computer with a cup of joe working on her next adventure.