"I ass-plant on the ice and you think it's hilarious!" Sabrina cried, wiping at her butt, which was dusted with snow. Ezra laughed and picked her up bridal style, kissing her face several times, murmuring apologies through a series of chuckles. 

The entire thirty-six hours I'd been in Maine, a warm, comfortable feeling had been progressing in my stomach. Family, that's what the feeling was and it was fueled by the few memories I had of happy Christmases before my parents' divorce. 

"Okay, kiddos." Nick announced, walking back outside with papers in his hands, "I've got zee schedule."

Ezra, carrying Sabrina, Layla, Reece, and I perked up in attention. Nick sat on the steps beside me, scanning the list. 

"Looks like /Ezzie/ and I are taking the newbies down to show 'em how it's done." he smirked, folding the paper and grabbing my hand. I pulled his arm around my shoulder, standing up. I was completely frozen. 

"You look like you could use a cup of coffee." he smiled, bumping his hip against mine purposefully as we walked. 

I shrugged, "Or a blanket. I can compromise."


It ended up that I got both. 

The store was nice, equipt with a fireplace, coffeepot, and a handful of thick, homemade quilts for those of us working inside. 

They sold everything you might need for your Christmas tree and then some: there was a large pot of homemade hot chocolate staying warm on the tiny stove in the even tinier kitchen, along with a huge variety of individually wrapped Christmas cookies for customers.

"Cozy?" Nick asked, walking past me with a mug in hand. 

I nodded, tucking the blanket more tightly around my legs, "Very much so." 

He leaned across the counter, smiling warmly, "You know what today is?"

I thought. "The 12th..."

"Which is also the day the Carlisle family puts up their own Christmas tree." he explained, taking a sip of his coffee, smiling at me under his thick, girlish eyelashes. 

I took the mug from him, using it to defrost my fingers, "Sounds like fun."

"It will be." he brushed my bangs out of my eyes and kissed me. 


3 Years Prior

"Thanks." I said coolly, taking the body of my wine glass, taking a short sip of the cheap red wine inside. 

I was only 20, but I guess that was good enough for Trey, the muscular, Ukrainian bar tender that had just filled my glass. I'd been working at this branch of Harper Collins for more than a year and I was still just the coffee girl. And I could barely make rent. 

"Gin and tonic," a man requested, flashing his ID to Trey, taking the stool beside me. I peered at him from the corner of my eye. He wasn't older than 23, and would've been even more attractive if not for the dark, bruise-like circles under his eyes. 

"Long day?" I perused casually, eying my wine.

He chuckled lightly, "You could say that."

"I'm Ashton," I said, offering him my hand, 

That was where he took me by surprise; instead of shaking my hand like a normal person, he interlocked his fingers with mine, "Are you single, Ashton?" he asked. 

"Um... yes?" I was unsure in that moment more than I had been in my entire life.

He gently put his hand behind my head and leaned forward. He kissed me. I didn't even know his name! 

But it felt so natural and easy, I couldn't bring myself to pull away. His mouth tasted like coffee and butterscotch. A musky cologne (which I later discovered was Dior Fahrenheit) clung to his blue, Egyptian cotton dress shirt. He was sexy. And I don't use that word casually. 

"I'm Nick." he said in a breathy voice. 

"You're shocking." I corrected. 

He chuckled again and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He handed it to me, the "Add A New Contact" page up for me. "Can I call you sometime?"

"I don't know," I shrugged, carefully entering my cell number, "Can you?"
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