Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
© 2011 Delia Latham
Part 1 if you missed it
Part 2 if you missed it
Raising her gaze to his, not even bothering to bemoan what she knew must be a swollen, splotchy, make-up stained face, Jo shook her head.
"You're here now. What has changed?"
"Monty Colafax was killed yesterday in a shoot-out with police and FBI. He won't be bothering me or anyone I love, ever again."
"Oh." Jo digested this information slowly. "What about his people?"
Dean shrugged. "FBI says with him out of the picture, the operation will almost certainly dissolve. Immediately. However…" He lifted her chin and met her gaze. "If you'll have me back, Jo—and you can't possibly know how much I hope you will—I'd feel much safer somewhere else. Some other town, even another state."
"Another state?" Jo's mind whirled. It was too much, too fast. "Just…leave?"
"Just leave. With me. And become Mrs. Paul Kent." Dean eased her away from his chest, far enough to place a hand on each of her shoulders and pin her under a pleading gaze. "Do you love me enough to do that, Jo?"
She caught her breath and held it, and a sudden weird silence fell between them.
No sound at all. Just the pounding of her heart and the spinning of her mind.
Until Mariah Carey burst in with the lilting melody and oh-so-appropriate lyrics of "All I Want for Christmas is You."
The somewhat cheesy words echoed deep within Jo's heart. He really was all she wanted for Christmas—for every Christmas, the rest of her life.
She tucked her lip between her teeth and scooted closer to Dean.
No, not Dean. Paul.
"I rather liked the sound of Mrs. Dean Barrister."
He chuckled. "So did I. But I can live with Mrs. Paul Kent, as long as she's you."
"Yeah?" She leaned in to place a soft kiss just at the corner of his lips. "Well, she is."
"She is?" He jumped up, tugged her up beside him, then hauled her into his arms. The kiss he gave her then removed any doubt about whether or not he loved her.
He did. Jo felt it in every inch of her body.
"Jo, darlin', I've wanted to hold you in my arms for so long."
"And I have wanted to be in your arms, for just as long."
"Are ya sure ya still love me?" Dean spoke as if in jest, but Jo read the deep seriousness of the query in his eyes.
"As sure as I've ever been about anything in my life," she whispered. "I love you Dean…or Paul, or whoever you are."
"Doesn't matter what you call me, darlin'—at least, not for the moment. All that matters is that you stay in my arms forever."
"I can handle that." She pulled his face close to hers just as Brenda Lee's all-too-familiar voice filled the room.
Grinning, Jo changed direction—took his hand and pulled him closer to the big tree in the corner.
Obviously puzzled, he nevertheless followed her across the room. "Where we goin', darlin'?"
"Right here." She took his hands in hers and swayed to the upbeat melody. "I feel like rockin' around the Christmas tree. Join me?"
Dean's deep rumble of laughter caught her by the heartstrings, and Jo knew without a single doubt that he'd hold them forever.
With a sudden, unexpected motion, he spun her around one way and then the other before pulling her back into his arms. "I'll rock with you any day, anytime, anywhere, Jo Leigh Callihan. That said…"
He danced her across the room in the silence between songs, stopping under the arch between the kitchen and living room.
"What are you doing?" Jo said, laughing at his antics.
He pointed upward, and she lifted her gaze, bursting into laughter when she spotted the sprig of mistletoe hanging above her head.
As if on cue, music once again filled the air. Jo gasped at the familiar lyrics, rendered in the familiar gravelly voice of Randy Travis.
"Meet me under the mistletoe on midnight, Christmas Eve…"
"Hmm." Dean lowered his head and nuzzled her neck as he pulled her closer. "Seems like maybe we're exactly where we're s'pose to be, right at this moment."
"Seems that way," Jo murmured.
And then there was only the sweet Christmas music, dancing and swirling around them as their lips met and they melted against each other.
But all Jo heard was the pounding of her heart and the singing of her soul.
He could be Dean or Clark or Santa Claus. She didn't give a fig what this man called himself, where they lived, or what signature she used to sign their checks. He was still the only man she would ever love.
Every day, every year, every Christmas.
And through every single, silly Christmas song.
(c) Delia Latham 2011