A Home for Christmas
Publication: November 28, 2013
Single mom, Jenna Blackwell wasn’t having a very good start to the Christmas season; her purse got stolen on Black Friday. She’s cursing her luck and herself for even being out in the Black Friday madness when the store manager brings in Riley Stanton, a former Navy SEAL who chased down the thieves and recovered her purse. Jenna is blown away by Riley: his looks, his smile, the fact that he ran down the purse snatchers, everything.
Riley Stanton had no idea when he chased down the kids who stole a few purses that he would walk into a room and have his life changed forever. He looked into the eyes of Jenna and saw a strength in her that he found intriguing.
Riley soon learns that Jenna is everything he ever wanted in a woman. He falls for her and for her son harder than he expected to. Jenna is cautious but welcoming and hopes that she and her son can give Riley the one thing he hasn’t had in years, A Home for Christmas.
Riley came over every evening after work. He helped Cam with his homework. he got there before she did on Wednesday and he and Cam had dinner ready by the time she got home. Jenna had to fight tears as she sat at the table. It had been so long since someone had cooked for her. To be honest, other than her mother, she didn't think anyone ever had. Wade, her ex, certainly never did. Watching Cam work so closely with Riley, having Riley there filling the role that Wade had abandoned, even sitting at a table with candlelight and roses and food she hadn't had to prepare...it was a lot for her to handle. She was barely hanging on by a thread and when Riley had initiated the blessing, she lost it. "Mom?" Cam asked, uncertain of what was happening. Jenna covered her face with her hands, silently crying. She heard the scrape of a chair and then suddenly Riley was there, his arms around her, lifting her from the chair. She heard him say something to Cam and then he carried her from the room.
He sat on the sofa and cradled her in his lap and just held her while she cried. After several minutes, when her tears had subsided somewhat, Riley reached down to cup her chin in his hand and lift her head so he could look into her eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "Nothing to be sorry about," he said, smoothing his hands over her cheeks to wipe her tears away.
"Mom?" Cam asked again, drawing her attention. "You OK?" "I'm good, bud, I'm sorry." Riley looked up at Cam and made eye contact with him. Jenna wasn't sure what passed between them, but Cam got up and left, leaving her there with Riley. "Look at me," he said, softly. When she raised her eyes to meet his gaze, he lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles. "What's going on?" She took a deep breath. "It's just...no one's ever done something like this for me before." "Like what? Take care of you?" She nodded. "Better get used to it, babe. I'm not going anywhere." She squeezed his hand, tears falling down her cheeks again. This time, Riley leaned forward and kissed them away before touching his lips to hers. For the first time, Jenna didn't hold herself back.
Maybe it was because Cam was just down the hall and she knew it couldn't get out-of-control. Whatever the case, she turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck, deepening the kiss. "Thank you, Riley," she whispered when they pulled apart, pressing her forehead to his, and placing her fingertips against his lower lip. He nipped her fingertip lightly, then ran his tongue around her finger. "Anytime," he replied, "and I mean that. You don't have to do it all alone any more." "Riley," she whispered, kissing him, "please don't make promises you can't keep. My heart is fragile enough, but Cam..." He kissed her back. "Quit while you're ahead. Don't piss me off." She smiled and combed her fingers through the hair at his nape. "I'll try." "Good. Let me take care of you, Jenna.
You and Cam." She took a deep breath. "Tell you what. You're still here by Christmas? We'll talk," she said, giving him a final kiss then sliding off his lap. He watched her walk down the hall to Cam's room. Closing his eyes and letting his head fall back on the couch, he reached down to adjust himself in his jeans. For the first time since leaving the Navy, Riley felt like he wasn't just spinning his wheels.
Riley followed Cam into the living room and through the crowd so that they were standing at the front of the ring of people who had gathered around Jacke's piano, his mother on his right and Jenna's mother on his left. "Ladies and gentlemen," Jenna's father began, "I want to thank you for coming tonight. It is an honor and a joy to see so many of you in our home to celebrate this wonderful, joyous season with us. The wait staff is coming around with trays of champagne. Please, take a glass, and as they have done every year since they were five years old, allow my beautiful daughters to wish you and yours a wonderful, Merry Christmas." Jackie began to play as polite applause lauded their father's speech. Riley's eyes were locked on Jenna as the lights were dimmed and she was illuminated only by the twinkling of Christmas lights and the flames from the candles in the room. When she began to sing "O Holy Night", a chill ran through him at the purity and clarity of her voice.
She sounded, in his opinion, like an angel. Her voice was soft and sweet and reminded him of the times he'd heard the Celtic Woman group perform. When she hit the high note at the end, his breath caught. She was incredible. He placed his hand over his heart and flashed a bright smile to her when she finished, making her give a slight giggle. "This next song," she announced, "has been on my heart since I met this handsome sailor," she said, gesturing to him. "The other night, we were talking about the Christmases he spent in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, and even once in Bethlehem while in the Service, and how he missed being home for Christmas so many years. So, Riley, this one is for you." Jackie began playing, and then, singing in a completely different voice than she had the previous song, she locked eyes with him. Her voice was sultry as she sang, "I'm dreaming tonight, of a place I love, even more than I usually do. And although, I know, it's a long road back, I promise you...I'll be Home for Christmas..."
Beside him, his mother placed her hand on his bicep. he reached over to touch her hand, but could not tear his gaze away from Jenna. When she finished, proper or not, he stepped forward and drew her into his arms, giving her a brief, tender kiss in front of the assembled crowd. "Thank you," he whispered softly into her ear. "I love you, Riley," she whispered back. He kissed her brow and started to step away but she held him to her with an arm around his waist. "We have one final song. Thank you for spending your evening with our family." Once again, Jackie began playing, and this time, with Riley at her side, Jenna sang "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Riley had his hand on her back and could feel the notes reverberating through her as she sang. He was so impressed with her singing; her voice was beautiful, different with all three songs that she sang. Sweet, sultry, soft and gentle all mixed together. He was so unbelievably turned on he was afraid the whole room would know. When she finished singing, she turned into him once more, kissing his cheek when he leaned down to whisper, "You're amazing," into her ear.
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