I Choose You
When Jax was growing up, Christmas was never an exciting time in the Anderson household. There were no trees, no presents, no lights, no Santa, nothing. Jax’s grandmother died when he was four, and though he was sure she’d made the effort the few Christmases she’d been around, Jax didn’t remember them.
So he wasn’t used to holiday cheer and decorations pouring out of every room. But this year was entirely different. Enter his fiancée, Grace King.
Grace decorated the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It wasn’t even December yet and their house was decked out in more red, green, and silver than Jax had ever seen in his life.
They’d gone and picked out a tree together, and it was a good thing their house had vaulted ceilings, because otherwise the almost-twelve-foot tree wouldn’t have fit. There were enough Christmas lights strung around the massive pine to act like a lighthouse for the river that ran behind their home. Well, maybe Jax was exaggerating a little, but the tree sure did light up the living room.
Two handmade stockings hung from the fireplace in the corner. The Splittin’ Stitchin’ was a local store in Mirabelle that went all out with handmade crafts for every holiday. The stockings weren’t cheap, but that was because they were all individually made. Not to mention they were good quality and would last a long time.
Grace had picked out Jax’s, which had Rudolph embroidered on the front. Grace thought she was a comedian, saying the big red nose went with Jax’s red hair. Jax then picked out Grace’s. He found one with the ballerina from the Nutcracker. The girl had blond hair and looked like a princess, just like his Grace.
The back of the mantel was covered with garlands and a little snowman village was laid out in front of it. More lights were strung around the fireplace. Fresh poinsettias and a Santa cookie jar sat on the counter in the kitchen, green and red ribbons were tied onto the backs of the barstools, and much to Jax’s delight, mistletoe hung from a few strategic locations. He’d pulled Grace underneath them many a time in the last couple of weeks to steal more than a few kisses.
Life was definitely different now that Grace was sharing Jax’s space in every capacity. He remembered quite clearly how lonely it was to wake up alone, and he had no desire to ever go back to how things were before her.
It had been exactly 251 days since the first morning Jax had woken up next to Grace. Yup, he’d counted. And though he might not have spent every single one of those mornings with her, he got the majority, and he appreciated every damn one.
But he hadn’t woken up next to her for five days running now. The first three were due to the fact that he’d covered for another deputy and worked the night shift. The last two were because Melanie O’Bryan, one of Grace’s best friends, had been going through a crisis of the male variety. She’d been staying at their house for the last couple of days.
As Mel was one of Jax’s close friends, too, he’d never begrudge her. No, his grudge was toward Bennett Hart. And even though Bennett was also one of Jax’s good friends, he still thought the guy was being a moron.
Though as it had taken Jax years to come to grips with his feelings for Grace, he was a fine one to talk. That being said, it still didn’t change the fact that Jax was going to blame Bennett for waking up alone on Christmas Eve. Another thing Jax wasn’t too happy about was the fact that he’d only gotten five minutes with Grace all day. This was due to a handful of pain-in-the-ass residents of Mirabelle and the flu that had taken down a few of the deputies.
Jax was supposed to have been home by seven that night, but he was pulling into his driveway at just after one in the morning. At least he was going to get Christmas Day with Grace. The thing was, he was so damn anxious to give her one of her presents that he wasn’t sure he could wait.
Besides, they needed to talk about what happened in the precious five minutes he had with her that morning.
After Jax had gotten up and showered, he’d gone into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee to go, only to find Grace already there, pouring him a cup.
“Morning,” he whispered, coming up next to her and pulling her into him. She was warm, and sleepy. Her blond hair was a mass of messy waves that hung all over her head, past her eyes and around her shoulders.
“Morning.” She pressed her face into his chest and relaxed against him. “Mmm, you smell good.”
“So do you.” He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled deeply. “How’s Mel?”
“Miserable. And hungover, I expect. She and Harper are still passed out.”
Grace, Mel, and Harper were all best friends. As soon as Harper had found out about Bennett and Mel, she’d been knocking on Grace and Jax’s door, bringing several bottles of wine with her. The girls had kept up the pouring at a pretty consistent rate, so Jax wasn’t even remotely shocked by the hangovers.
“Not that I’m complaining, but why are you up?”
Café Lula was closed on Christmas Eve, so Grace wasn’t going in to bake for the masses. The people of Mirabelle would have to fend for themselves on this holiday.
“Teddy had to go outside,” Grace said as she pulled back and nodded to the corner of the kitchen where a chocolate lab was chewing on a bone.
Teddy was Mel’s puppy, a puppy that Bennett had bought for her. Grace and Jax had been babysitting said puppy for the last few days, and he’d gotten used to the little guy roaming around the house.
“Well, I’m glad I get a minute with you.”
Grace turned her face up to Jax, and he leaned down, pressing his mouth against hers. Grace had brushed her teeth and he welcomed her minty tongue in his mouth. His hands dropped down to her bottom, which was currently covered in candy cane pajama pants. He groaned deep in his chest as he pulled her flush up against him. When it came to Grace, it didn’t take much for Jax to get hard, but the fact that they hadn’t had sex in several days meant that he was ready to go in two seconds flat.
Grace put her hands on his chest and pulled back, slightly breathless and more than a little flushed.
“If you can’t deliver, you better stop right there, mister.”
“Oh, I can more than deliver,” he said backing her up against the counter and kissing her neck.
Grace laughed, and the sound of it settled in Jax’s chest like liquid gold, making every part of him warm.
She grabbed his chin and pulled his face up so that he was looking at her. “That wasn’t what I meant. On that front you’ve never not delivered. I was referring to the fact that you have to be out the door in about two minutes.”
“I can work with two minutes,” he grinned.
“My friends are in the other room.”
“Baby, I’m going to need much more than two minutes,” she said, giving him a look so hot that it made him groan again.
He brought his mouth back down to hers and kissed her like his life depended on it. Grace wrapped herself around him, and they spent the next couple of minutes thoroughly exploring each other’s mouths. It took everything in him to finally pull away.
“Mel said she’s going home today,” Grace said as she straightened the front of Jax’s uniform.
“She knows she can stay as long as she needs to, right?”
“She knows,” Grace smiled up at him. “But she wants to go home.”
“It’s going to be quiet around here. Sans your friends and the puppy.”
“Hmm, well enjoy the quiet while you can, ’cause as soon as we start having kids it will be long gone.”
Jax stilled and Grace’s hands froze the second the words were out of her mouth. The sleepy, sexy Grace of a moment ago was gone, and in her place stood a now wide-awake and panicked Grace.
“Crap, I didn’t mean that. I mean, yes, one day I want to have kids with you, but we aren’t even married yet, so it’s not exactly the right time to be planning for babies. I mean, I do think about having children with you one day, just not today, or tomorrow for that matter, just you know a few years down the road.”
Grace didn’t pause for a breath once. The words tumbled out of her mouth, picking up speed as she went along. It was taking everything in Jax to not show how he really felt about what she’d said. It just wasn’t the time for them to have this conversation. But they would, and soon.
“Grace, calm down.” He reached for her shoulders and looked down into her face. “It’s okay.”
But Grace didn’t get to finish her sentence as Jax’s cell started to ring. He looked down at the display and saw that it was his boss, the sheriff of Atticus County.
“Sorry, babe, I have to go. We’ll talk tonight.” He leaned in and pressed a kiss to Grace’s mouth before he grabbed his coffee and two of the muffins Grace always kept stocked on the counter and headed for the door.
Jax had been thinking about the terrified look in Grace’s eyes all damn day. Was there some part of her that thought he was a skittish animal that might bolt? They were getting married in three days. He sure as hell hoped she didn’t doubt how much he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
Yeah, it might be six hours later than he’d planned, but he couldn’t wait any longer to have that conversation with her.
Besides, after the day he’d had, Jax desperately needed some Christmas cheer. He’d dealt with a drunken Santa that smelled like stale beer and spoiled milk, a set of reindeer that had been vandalized and put into positions that were pretty inappropriate for the public eye, a couple of teenagers that tried to steal enough peppermint schnapps to light a small building on fire, and a bitter father who wanted to get back at his ex-wife by stealing their kids’ Christmas presents.
Jax got out of his truck and quickly walked through the cold night and up to the house. The warmth that wrapped around him the second he stepped inside was a welcome relief, and the scent of freshly baked snickerdoodles filled his lungs as he took a deep breath. They were Jax’s favorite cookies.
Damn, he loved that woman.
He made a quick stop by the still-lit Christmas tree, grabbing a wrapped box at the back, before heading toward their bedroom. The door was open and the light from the tree spilled in, illuminating Grace who was sound asleep in their bed. She was curled around a pillow, his pillow to be exact, and she was on his side of the bed.
Grace had a habit of sleeping on Jax’s side of the bed even when he wasn’t in it. Because when he was in it, she was sleeping on him.
Jax put the present on the end of the bed before he pulled off his jacket and headed for the closet. He hung it up and then put his gun in the safe before taking off his utility belt. He then quietly pushed off his boots and padded lightly back into the bedroom, sitting down on the bed next to Grace.
Some of her hair had spilled over onto her face, and he brushed it back. He would never get over how beautiful she was. Never get over how it felt to touch her warm skin. Never get over what it meant to love her, or to be loved by her in return.
She was without a doubt the best thing that had ever happened to him, and they were getting married so everyone would know she was his. A year ago the very notion of marriage would’ve had Jax sprinting for the hills. But now? Now he couldn’t freaking wait.
From the very beginning his heart had belonged to this woman. Yeah, she owned his ass without a doubt. And he was one lucky schmuck because she’d given him her heart in return.
“Princess,” he whispered as he ran his thumb down her cheek.
Grace stirred, rolling onto her back but not opening her eyes. Jax could just make out the top of her shirt. It was one of his very old, and very worn, New York Yankees shirts. Grace was a die-hard Red Sox fan, so the fact that she was wearing something with his team’s logo on it meant she was missing him something awful too.
Jax leaned down and pressed his face into her neck. “Gracie,” he said as he opened his mouth on her skin.
“Mmm, Jax,” she hummed, bringing her hands up to the back of his head and running her fingers through his hair. “What time is it?”
“After one.” He pulled back and looked down into her now open eyes. “Merry Christmas, baby.”
“Merry Christmas,” she smiled sleepily. Her hands traveled to his neck, and then continued down to his back.
“I need you to wake up. I need to talk to you about this morning.”
The smile on Grace’s face disappeared, and the pang that hit his heart at the sight of her worried expression was just a little bit painful.
“Okay,” she said sitting up in bed. She pulled her bottom lip up between her teeth.
“Stop it.” Jax reached up and pulled her lip out. “Stop worrying.”
“Look, Jax, it’s fine if you aren’t ready for kids yet. Please don’t get all freaked out about it. It was just a slip of the tongue. I was half asleep and more than a little hungover when I said it. I swear I’m never drinking wine again.” She was incredibly cute as she rambled on.
Jax merely raised his eyebrows at her. Grace? Give up wine permanently? Now that was a joke.
“Okay, fine.” She rolled her eyes as a smile turned up the corners of her mouth. “Maybe not ever again. Maybe just for a little while.”
“How about for the next nine months?”
Grace froze and looked at him stunned. “What?” the word was barely a whisper.
“You talking about us having kids? That isn’t even close to scary. It’s exciting.” He reached up and ran his fingers across her cheek and to the back of her head to wind in her hair.
“What?” Grace repeated in the same shocked voice.
“Grace, I hope to God I’ve already experienced the most terrifying moment of my life. Next to Chad pointing a gun to your head, nothing else comes even remotely close.” Jax let go of her head and turned slightly. He grabbed the box at the end of the bed and placed it in her lap. “I bought this a few weeks ago.”
Grace didn’t move as she sat there and stared at him, her mouth hanging slightly open and her hands hovering above the box.
“Open it,” Jax smiled, tapping the side of the box with his finger.
Grace looked down and found the seam of the paper. She ran her finger underneath it and popped the tape, still not saying a word. She pulled it off and threw it on the floor before she lifted the lid and dug through the tissue paper. Her hands froze when she saw what was in the box. He’d bought another handmade stocking. This one had a baby penguin on the front.
Grace had a thing for penguins and when they’d gone to get the stockings all those weeks ago, he’d watched as she’d stood in front of this one and traced the pattern with her fingers. She did the same thing now, reaching into the box and running her forefinger down the black stitching of the penguin.
“Jax?” she looked up at him, her eyes filling with tears.
“If we start trying now, we could have a baby by next Christmas. I’m so ready Grace. I’m so ready to start a family with you.”
Grace didn’t say anything as she grabbed the box and set it on the nightstand. She got up onto her knees and threw her leg over his lap, straddling him. There was no more worry in her eyes.
Grace brought her hands to the side of his head and ran them up and into his hair. He closed his eyes as the pure pleasure of her touch went through him. When he opened them a second later he found her just looking at him. There was such overwhelming joy in her smile that Jax forgot how to breathe. She leaned forward slowly and pressed her lips to his in a soft kiss.
“You want to start a family with me?” she whispered against his mouth, her fingernails gently racking against his scalp.
“God, yes,” he groaned.
There was no more slow and soft when Grace kissed him this time. Jax’s arms wound around her, holding her close. They licked and nipped and bit at each other’s mouths for a perfect eternity before she finally pulled back. Grace let go of his face and started working his shirt with an eagerness he was sure would lose him a button or two.
Okay, so she wanted to start right this very moment.
He was 100 percent down for that.
His shirt was on the floor a moment later, and Grace was tugging at his undershirt, pulling it over his head and throwing it over her shoulder. She ran her hands down his bare chest and scooted back so she could reach for the front of his pants.
Jax moved fast, turning and pushing her down on the bed. He pinned her hands above her head as his mouth landed on hers. He pushed his free hand under her shirt and found her bare breast. A long and low moan vibrated out of her chest and into his as he ran his thumb across her nipple.
He reluctantly abandoned her breast a second later, but he needed to get her shirt off. Needed her skin against his. He pulled back, releasing her arms, and used both of his hands to work the soft material up. When the shirt was off and over her head, and he was firmly settled on top of her and between her thighs, he paused for just a moment to look at her.
He couldn’t see the color in her face, but he knew she was flushed. Her breath was coming out in ragged gasps from her swollen lips. And her hair was scattered all over their pillows.
“Do you know that I would do anything for you?” he asked, tracing her hairline.
“Yes.” She nodded, a sweet smile pulling up her lips.
“Do you know that you’re the most important person in my life?”
“Yes.” She nodded again.
“Do you know how much I love you?”
Grace just nodded this time as she put her hand over his heart.
“Nothing is ever going to change that, Grace. Ever. I’m not running anymore, not from you. Not from us. I promise.”
Grace’s hand moved up his chest and around to the back of his neck. She pulled him down to her and kissed him, her tongue finding its way into his mouth and moving with his. She pulled back a moment later, but she was still so close that her breath washed out across his lips. Jax rested his forehead against hers as her fingers played in the hair at the base of his neck.
“You’re it for me, Jaxson Anderson,” she whispered. “Always have been. Always will be. I love you.” She pressed a gentle kiss to his mouth. “Now, let’s make a baby.”