The scent of fresh pine fills my nose as I stand back to take in the full glory of a fifteen foot Balsam fir. With an abundance of deep green needles, it’s magnificent and quite a sight to behold.
Especially since it’s in the middle of my house.
“Move it just a bit to the left,” I instruct the workers, who are currently struggling to maneuver the tree. Two are on ladders and there are two others on the ground stabilizing it.
“This way?” One of the workers grunts as he reaches up to brace the tree as it sways with their movements.
“My left or your left?” Another voice chimes in.
“Closer to the wall.” I grit my teeth as the tree sways drunkenly again. Just as I’m trying to think of how to explain a massive hole in the wall to Emma when she gets home, the tree settles into place.
“Perfect! Thank you, gentleman. My wife is going to love it.”
There is a collective sigh of relief as the workers step back to look at the tree. The owner of the company approaches and I reach out for a handshake. Everest has been handling all the greenery for my holiday decorations for a few years now and he never fails to deliver.
“Anything else, Mr. Marshall?”
“That should do it. Emma always wants to hang the ornaments herself.”
He looks over at the tree in surprise. “Well, she certainly has her work cut out for her this time.”
“That she does. Happy holidays guys!” As they each pass by, I hand them a few hundred dollars each.
After they’re gone, I turn back to the tree warily. Emma took our daughter, Maxine, to the store. It’s not a total coincidence that I asked the guys to deliver the tree when I knew she would be gone.
She will love it. Eventually. Besides, I could hardly get a small tree to fit in the great room of this massive cabin. The ceilings are roughly twenty feet high in this room.
I smirk at the idea of calling a ten thousand square foot mountain getaway a “cabin” but it is made with wood logs. That counts, right?
Just then the door opens and I hear the sound of my wife’s voice and the excited chatter of my daughter. When they enter the room, Emma grins at me before pointing. “Let’s show Daddy what you found, Maxi!”
When she sees me, Maxi practically trips over her own feet running to me. At five years old, she’s in the stage where she always reacts as if she hasn’t seen me in ages, even if we’ve only been separated for an hour. I laugh as I scoop her up, blowing kisses all over her cheeks.
“Daddy, we found reindeer food!”
She thrusts a bag of something that looks like glitter and oatmeal in my face. At this point I’m an expert at making the “interested Dad” face so I smile and nod appropriately as she tells me all about it.
When I turn around, Emma stands in the middle of the great room staring up at the tree. She turns to me with a carefully blank expression.
“They got the tree set up, I see. It’s a little…bigger than last year, isn’t it?”
“The ceilings are higher in here than in the country house.”
She nods. “Right.”
“Go big or go home.” When she gives me a skeptical look, I clarify. “Or in this case, go big in your home.”
“Tank. This tree is ridiculously huge. This is the tree that beats up the other trees on the playground.”
“I’m just happy they got it up without leaving any holes in the wall. Let’s count that as a win.”
That finally gets a smile out of her. “I’m not sure we have enough ornaments to cover this thing. And it’s so huge, we’ll need to move the furniture just to fit the presents!”
“We could always use more lights, and I know we have enough ornaments in the attic. I think Maxi will love it.”
She smiles softly as she looks over at our daughter, happily munching on goldfish crackers.
“It is beautiful.” She reaches out and runs her hand along one of the branches. But she still looks troubled.
“We can get something else if you really don’t like it.”
She shakes her head. “It’s just that I don’t want Maxi to grow up thinking you have to spend a lot of money to celebrate the holidays.”
I pull her into my arms. “Emma, our little angel could celebrate Christmas with nothing more than that bag of reindeer crap and she’d be just as happy. She’s got her mother’s heart.”
She peeks up at me. “And her father’s stubbornness. You know she’s determined to put that reindeer food outside tonight.”
“I’ll help her. It’s high time I started teaching her about reconnaissance anyway.”
She chuckles. “Of course. Because she’ll need tactical training in kindergarten.”
I kiss her cheek but when I pull back, I notice the lines of tension on her forehead. “What is it?”
“There’s just so much to do. The tree and getting the guest rooms ready and the cooking.” She puts a hand to her chest. “Why did we think buying a new house right before Christmas was a good idea?”
“You know what? Why don’t you go to the spa? You could use a break. Maybe Sasha or Rissa could go with you.”
“Really?” She looks around the room. “But aren’t those decorators you hired coming—”
“Emma, I’ve got this. Go. Get pampered. You deserve it.”
Her eyes light up as she pulls her phone out of her pocket. “I’ll text all the girls and see who is free.”
Leaning against the wall, I watch her. She’s been burning the candle at both ends lately, refusing to hire a nanny despite working part-time as a veterinary tech. Luckily one of the benefits of being a billionaire is having lots of time so we make it work. But eventually something will have to give, especially if we want to give Maxi a brother or sister soon.
Emma doesn’t talk much about the death of her parents but it’s obvious she’s trying to soak up every moment with our daughter that she can. She’s got a heart too big for her own good.
I love that about her, the way she gives without expecting anything in return. It’s what makes her who she is.
“Well, Ivy is working and Josie and Seven didn’t respond, but Sasha and Rissa said they’re in.” Her voice pulls me from my thoughts. “Rissa is going to pick us all up.”
“That’s great.” I smile, instantly feeling better.
Emma likes to drive herself places but my brother has a dedicated bodyguard assigned to drive his wife around. He’s even more obsessed with security than I am.
“What are you going to do? Are you sure you can handle Maxi while dealing with the decorators?”
“Are you kidding? She’ll love seeing the lights go up. And I’m sure she’ll have ideas about how to decorate.”
She wraps her arms around my waist, and I savor the feel of her against me. “Thank you, Tank. This means a lot.”
Pulling her close, I bury my face in her hair and just inhale the scent of Emma. The scent of home. “Anything for you. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“You say that every year.” Her voice is muffled against my shirt.
“And every year it’s true.”
Inheriting billions from the father they never knew sounds pretty sweet. Until they find out what he really wants in exchange.
Tank : Fake Dating the billionaire’s son should have been easy. He’s a bad boy and not my type. But he’s also loyal and kind with an unexpected soft spot for rescue cats. Suddenly all I want is for this “fake” love to be real.
Finn : When she left me, I had nothing. Now I have it all: money, cars and most importantly, power. She’s struggling to save her business, and I’m in the perfect position to save it. For a price.
Gabe : She thinks I’m arrogant and cocky as hell. She’s right. A reformed con artist and a perfect little princess don’t belong together. But I still can’t leave her alone.
Zack : She’s my brother’s ex. Off limits. But she needs a nude model for her show so I’m taking one for the team. Turns out she needs more than just my picture…
Luke : My online BFF is the only hacker better than I am. Then I’m asked to consult on a hacking case for the FBI and the hauntingly beautiful suspect seems to know a lot about me. Things I’ve only told one other person…
Blue-Collar Christmas : Emma has a plan to bring the high-rolling billionaire Marshall brothers back to their roots with the perfect blue-collar Christmas. But as presents go off course and secrets are revealed, it turns out the “perfect” Christmas has a price tag no one expected…
Emma has had a front row seat as the formerly down-to-earth Marshall Brothers have become over-the-top, billionaire high-rollers. And she is sick of it. Along with her sisters-in-law, Emma makes a plan to bring the brothers back to their roots with the perfect blue-collar Christmas. 🎄
Snuggling before the fire! Drinking hot cocoa! Caroling! Okay, maybe just Tank when he’s had too much eggnog.
But as presents go off course and secrets are revealed, it turns out the “perfect” Christmas has a price tag no one expected…
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