“Where do you want these?” one of the men in housekeeping asked Jasmine while pulling a large trolley filled with boxes into the living room of the family suite she shared with her mate, Silas. Lips pursed, she scanned the large room for a clear spot free from Christmas decorations or gifts. In one corner stood an eight foot blue spruce tree prepped for decorating later that day. Twin cream and blue sofas were situated into a loose L shape in the middle of the room to free up more walking space. Boxes, cartons and a few crates of holiday goodies filled the nooks and crannies of the room. Since they rarely used this formal space, preferring the coziness of their bedroom suite, she’d delved deep into her creative juices to turn this room into family Christmas central. Spying a semi-clear area in the corner, she pointed.
“Over there, please.” She moved out the way as he moved in that direction and unloaded more things she had ordered. If she had her way, they’d all be on their way to Silas’ private island in the Caribbean for a week of sandy beaches instead remaining in the wet, cold West Virginia weather. But with their enemy, Lancaster on the loose and the rest of the Liege on the run, Silas refused her request for anything that would take them away from the security of the compound.
Consequently, she intended to turn the place into a holiday wonderland and begin a boat-load of new traditions with her mate.
She didn’t think she’d ever get over saying that or looking at the exquisite ring on her finger. After they returned from the mating ceremony Silas registered their marriage with city hall, making it official in the human courts so everyone would know Jasmine Knight, wife and mate of Silas, La Patron.
Victoria, Rose, Lilly and Danielle walked into the room, stopped and stared at all the boxes. “You’ve made your point,” her mom, Victoria said peeking into one of the opened cartons filled with new Christmas decorations. “The place will look like Christmas this year. Silas will definitely get the message not to mess around with this holiday ever again.”
Jasmine’s gaze narrowed at the women who chuckled. “That’s not the point.”
Her mom’s brow rose but she didn’t argue.
“It’s not. The children are old enough to have fun at Christmas. At some point we need to let them be kids and enjoy some of the things we enjoyed growing up. Thanks to Silas’ super genes and the rate they’re growing, we should’ve started with the normal traditions last year. They’re ready.”
Rose, whose large stomach preceded her, sat on the edge of the sofa, pulled a box close and looked inside. “Mom was Jewish. At least she had been born Jewish, but we didn’t practice much. Remember when we were small, we gave gifts for seven days and then arranged a feast during that time, lighting the candles and then talked about things we were thankful for and spent time reflecting on things we’d like to do.”
Lilly shrugged and took the seat next to her. “I remember, how old were we when she stopped? Six? Eight?”
“When she met that tall red-haired guy who liked to laugh. He said everyone should celebrate Christmas. He put up a tree and filled it with gifts. Mom liked him and went along with everything for a few years,” Rose said.
“Then she met Thorne’s daddy. That man was so cheap. He tried to act like he didn’t believe in Christmas and giving gifts. I think that was the last time we had a tree, right?” Lilly looked at her twin and then pulled out the box of brightly colored ornaments.
“Don’t remember, but that is beautiful,” Rose said looking at the string she held and then turned them around and continued to look closely. “What do you need us to do, I can’t do a whole lot with Batman doing flips in my belly but I can point and organize.”
Jasmine smiled at her daughter-in-law. Rose and Tyrone, her son would be having their first child in two months, but she hoped for a Christmas baby. “Just sit, put your feet up and give us the benefit of your opinion. I have an idea how I want each section of the family area decorated and will have staff do the heavy stuff.”
“Heavy stuff?” Victoria asked looking over her shoulder at Jasmine. “Just what do you have planned? A mini-circus or carnival to replace the one the kids missed last month?” Her mom chuckled.
Jasmine crossed her arms and met her mom’s stare. “I’m planning something special for the courtyard that involves kiddy rides and a Ferris wheel. That area is large enough for some fun games and off to the side we’ll have a large tree and a place for sledding. Time the kids learn to play in winter. Plus, I think they’re outgrowing the nursery.”
“Why not move them into their own bedrooms then?” Victoria asked looking at the others. “You have a lot of empty bedrooms in this wing.”
“If the four of them are like Rone and Rese, that’s going to be a challenge,” Jasmine said remembering how difficult it had been to separate her older sons when they were young. They shared a room until their late teens and even then spent most of their time together in one room or the other.
“Adam and Renee are more alike than Adam and David. Jackie and David seem closer. Silas suggested we let them choose. If David wants a room by himself, that’s okay, we just want to make sure they’re comfortable.”
“Why can’t Jackie and David share a space, at least for now? They’re still young enough that it won’t matter,” Danielle, Tyrese’ mate, said taking a seat across from Rose and Lilly.
“They can, we’ll just wait and see,” Jasmine said shying away from that subject. Asia and Maheegan were researching the birthmarks outlined on her babies. Asia seemed close to finding answers along with silencing her personal demons. Jasmine offered a prayer that whatever Asia discovered in her mother’s birthplace filled the missing blanks of her memory. If anyone deserved a measure of peace, Asia did.
Jasmine faced the other four. “Now the reason I wanted you all here. Look in those boxes I have on the chairs. There are four of them. Each box has a winter outfits for the kids. In the carton next to those are the gift boxes, please wrap these gifts for me. I want them to wear these matching outfits Christmas morning. Then wrap the other things in the boxes.”
Jasmine watched as Danielle, Victoria, Lilly and Rose moved to the gifts and started wrapping. While they were busy with that, she opened boxes that recently arrived and placed them in the correct stack for housekeeping later that day.
“I may be pregnant,” Victoria, Jasmine’s mother, said into the silence stopping everyone.
“Congratulations,” Lilly said a little too brightly.
Victoria smiled wide and looked at Jasmine. “Thanks, Lilly. I appreciate it.”
Jasmine watched Lilly a few moments longer. Lilly had been quiet recently and no longer made jokes at Rose’s expense on the pregnancy. At times, Jasmine caught Lilly watching her twin with longing and suspected the young bitch had changed her mind on parenting.
“We’re not sure yet. Lord knows we’ve been trying.” Victoria looked at Rose and laughed. “If you get any redder Rose you’ll be the color of your namesake. Jacques is a great lover and we stay busy as you younger folks say.”
Jasmine shook her head at her mom’s words. “Renee and Mandy are going to be so happy. Have you told her?”
“No. Jacques wants to wait, take another test and then see what happens. I think he’s scared to believe it’s happening or something. Lately, he’s gotten real cautious,” Victoria said placing a box on the floor next to her feet. “Starting over again, who would’ve thought?” She picked up Adam’s sweaters and placed them in the gift box.
“The timing is right for you now, that’s why you’re at peace about it,” Danielle said. “I read that you can draw things to you by what you say. And since I’ve known you, you’ve been talking about starting a den with your mate.” Danielle shrugged. “Now it’s happened. The Goddess has smiled on you.”
Jasmine watched Lilly and Rose look at each other before continuing their wrapping. Danielle was the newest member of their family and it seemed whenever Lilly was nearby, Rose wasn’t as friendly or maybe it seemed that way when it wasn’t. At any rate, Jasmine sensed an undercurrent of something and had mentioned it to Silas, who advised her to stay out of it unless she smelled drama or bullshit. Either would be grounds for her to step in.
“Where’s Thorne?” Victoria asked the prickly question. Last Jasmine heard Thorne, younger brother to twins Rose and Lilly, had left to join the rebels against Silas, which was a death sentence.
“Haven’t heard from him,” Rose said in a soft voice.
Jasmine and Victoria looked at Lilly who kept her gaze locked on the ground. “Me neither.”
“You been looking for him?” Victoria asked, pushing.
“No, not really. If he’s gone, I’d rather he didn’t come back,” Lilly said in a calm tone.
Jasmine wasn’t too surprised, but Rose’s gasp and the way her hand flew to her mouth clearly said she had no idea her sister felt that way. “Don’t say that, Lil… he could be lying dead out there, or someone’s prisoner. We just don’t know.”
Lilly shrugged but remained silent. Victoria looked at the twins and then met Jasmine’s gaze. In it, Jasmine was in agreement. Something was going on with these two that required close watching over the next few months.