As his jeep idled at a red light, Vin Tanner glanced over at his dozing girlfriend, Cassidy Carrigan in the passenger seat. This last case she had worked on for the past couple of weeks had been particularly hard on her emotionally and physically. Cassidy co-owned the private detective agency her father Callum, had founded with her younger brother, Chance. Cassidy had done some hand-to-hand combat with an assailant hired by the man she and her brother were investigating, and while she had not spent any time in a hospital, she had been beaten up pretty bad.
The bruises had all pretty much faded away, but she still had dark circles under her beautiful blue eyes. Seeing her so battered had nearly sent him over the edge into the Neanderthal boyfriend Cassidy so detested, but he had caught himself in time. They had both agreed when they had first started going out that they would not try to change who the other was or pressure them into changing their chosen occupations out of fear.
Vins position as sharpshooter for the ATF team in Denver placed him in far more dangerous situations than Cassidy faced as a private detective. In his time with Team 7, he had been beaten, stabbed, and even shot, but had never considered doing anything else. Being an ATF agent was his life, just as being a private investigator was Cassidys.
Cassidy needed this weekend getaway even more than he did, and that is why he had worked so hard to carry it off without a hitch. He had made sure all of his reports were in on time, and had promised his boss and best friend, Chris Larabee that he would make it back early enough on Christmas Day to attend the teams family gathering at Larabees ranch. He was hoping to convince Cassidy to go with him. She did not handle family gatherings well having lost everyone she ever loved, except for Chance, at a very young age.
It was only one of the many things that they had in common. Before joining Team 7, he had pretty much been a loner. Meeting Chris and the others had changed that. Now he could not imagine his life without them in it and he really wanted to share them with Cassidy, and vice versa. He knew that his teammates would just love her.
The sound of a car honking behind him brought Vin out of his reverie and his attention back on the road. He started the jeep up the steep incline that led up to his cabin. A short time later, he parked the jeep on the side of the cabin and turned off the ignition. He debated whether to awaken Cassidy before he unloaded their supplies or after. She looked so peaceful that he decided to wait until after he had unloaded the jeep and set up the cabin.
As he walked up to the door, he began to note that there was a set of footprints leading up to it. He reached for the gun he wore at his hip, juggling the bags he carried into his left arm so that he would be able to draw the weapon if necessary. He crouched down to study the footprints more closely, and he recognized them as being the tread of a pair of very expensive shoes. The only person he knew who wore this brand of shoes, and who knew about his cabin, was Ezra P. Standish.
Ezra, what did you do? he muttered aloud as he straightened up and continued on to the door.
He unlocked the door and went inside. The interior of the cabin was decorated in honor of the holiday with fresh greenery, festive ribbons, and a miniature tree. Candles in green and red holders were placed sporadically about the room on tabletops and the fireplace mantel. Lush pillows in matching colors had been placed onto the buckskin rug to provide a comfortable sitting or lying area before the fireplace.
Vin moved into the kitchen with the bags he held and turned on the light. Upon the kitchen counter, he spotted a single sheet of paper with Ezras handwriting upon it.
Vin, please accept this humble gift as a token of my affection and gratitude for our continued friendship. Enjoy! Ezra.
Humble, hell. Vin remarked, a lump in his throat for the thoughtfulness of Ezras gift.
He moved over to the refrigerator and opened it. It was stocked with a bottle of fine champagne, fresh strawberries, expensive chocolate, and a few other items that would make his and Cassidys weekend even more special. He unloaded the food he had brought and headed back outside. He grabbed his and Cassidys out of the back of the jeep, checking to see that Cassidy was still asleep, before heading back inside.
A short time later he went back outside, opened his door, and then closed it, loudly, smiling when he saw Cassidy jerk awake.
About time you woke up sleepyhead. Weve been here for ages already. He teased her.
Cassidy scowled sleepily at him. Give a battered girl a break, Tanner. Its been a long couple of weeks.
Aw, poor baby.
Cassidys scowl deepened as Vin laughed and he moved around the jeep to the passenger seat and opened her door. Before she could comment or climb out, he scooped her into his arms and used his butt to close the door.
Hey, put me down! Im perfectly capable of walking. Cassidy protested as he carried her toward the front door of the cabin.
Just for once can you just enjoy being carried, and cover your eyes. Vin told her.
Cassidy could not keep the suspicion out of her voice and Vin laughed again. He stopped just outside the door and looked down at her. Cassidy sighed and squeezed her eyes shut.
Dont peak. Vin ordered her as he reached for the doorknob.
Dont push your luck, Tanner.
Vin opened the door and moved inside with her. He used his foot to close the door behind him and set Cassidy on her feet.
Okay, now you can look.
Cassidy opened her eyes and gasped. The interior of the cabin was decorated for Christmas complete with a miniature tree. Lit candles in festive holders supplied a cozy glow that illuminated the living room. A small table placed upon a buckskin rug was loaded down with champagne chilling in an ice bucket, fine crystal goblets were set beside it and there was a delicious arrangement of dishes containing fruits, cheeses, cold cuts, and breads.
Vin this is amazing. Cassidy said turning around to face him. She was touched by how hard he had worked to make the weekend special for her. How did you get it all done?
With some help. Vin replied, silently thanking Ezra again. I set your bag in the bedroom if you want to change into something more comfortable.
Ill be back in a few moments. Cassidy replied and disappeared into the bedroom and closed the door.
Vin used the time to change into the blue satin pajama bottoms he had bought to match the negligee he had bought Cassidy as one of her Christmas presents. He hoped that she liked it enough to wear it for him. In planning this weekend, he had not wanted to make her feel pressured into sleeping with him. He truly wanted her to be ready to take the next step in their relationship with him.
Inside the bedroom, Cassidy was cursing herself. In her tired state of mind, she had completely forgotten to pack the gifts she had bought for Vin. They were still sitting on her bedside table back home. How could she possibly go out there and face Vin after he had planned such a wonderful weekend and given her the beautiful satin negligee she wore?
When she had first opened the box, her suspicious mind had brought a few unfair thoughts her mind about the real reason Vin had invited her there. She had quickly chastised herself for them knowing that the man waiting for her in the living room didnt have a dishonorable bone in his body, He had shown her nothing but the utmost respect since they had begun dating a few months earlier and she knew that even if she went out in the negligee and things turned hot and heavy, and she still didnt want to carry through with it, Vin would stop. He was just that honorable.
After those few moments had passed and she had changed into the negligee, she had begun rummaging through her duffle bag for her own gifts. Now she sat on the edge of the bed and nibbled indecisively on her bottom lip. What was she going to do?
Cassidy are you all right? Vin called through the door.
After fifteen minutes had passed and she had not come out, Vin had begun to worry that she had become upset by the gift he had left for her to unwrap.
Im all right, Vin. Ill be out in a minute. Cassidy called back.
Vin frowned at the tone of her voice. There was uncertainty in the usually confident voice. He decided not to press her on it and moved to settle himself among the pillows on the buckskin rug to wait.
Cassidy took a deep breath and opened the door. She stepped out into the living room and Vin felt his breath leave him for a moment. Cassidy had removed the customary ponytail holder from her blonde hair and its golden tresses hung loosely about her shoulders. The glow from the candles cast glittering specks throughout her hair. The negligee accentuated her athletic body and heightened the blue of her eyes.
Youre beautiful, Cass. Vin said, rising from the rug and moving toward her.
Cassidy found herself frozen in place. The sight of Vin wearing only a pair of satin pajama bottoms made her mouth suddenly dry. The muscles of his bare chest rippled as he walked toward her in that predatory glide of his.
Vin stopped before her and took in the deer in the headlights expression she wore on her face. It made him feel very protective of her in a way she surely would have resented if she had known what he was feeling. He slipped his arms around her waist, relief filling him when she did the same to him, and lowered his lips to hers.
Cassidy relaxed into Vins kiss feeling absurdly ridiculous for feeling frightened the moment she had caught sight of Vin in his pajama bottoms. This was her Vin; the only man she trusted with her life besides Chance.
Are you hungry? Vin said as he broke the kiss feeling breathless with desire for her but not wanting to push Cassidy now that she had relaxed in his arms.
Famished. Cassidy replied, referring not only to food.
Vin grinned at her, noting the heated look in her eyes. He took her hand, led her over to the rug, and settled them both down onto it. The next few moments were spent enjoying the food and champagne that Vin and Ezra had both bought for the occasion.
While Cassidy was in the restroom, Vin brought out the other gift that he had bought for her. After Cassidy had re-settled herself down onto the pillows, Vin asked her to close her eyes again.
Vin gave an exasperated groan and Cassidy grinned sheepishly at him.
Sorry, suspicion is second nature to me.
Dont I know it?
Cassidy stuck her tongue out at him in a very un-grown up way, and Vin laughed.
Close your eyes Cass, and hold out your hand.
Cassidy obediently closed her eyes and held out her hand and Vin placed the small jewelers box in her hand.
As soon as she felt the box in her hand, Cassidy opened her eyes and glanced down upon the beribboned blue velvet box.
Open it Cassidy. Vin implored gently, eager to see her reaction to what was inside.
Cassidy untied the ribbon and opened the box. She was both relieved and disappointed that the box did not contain a ring. It was too early in their relationship to consider marriage, but it was not so farfetched an idea as it once was to her. What it did contain was an intricately carved Celtic cross inlaid with amethysts on a shining silver chain. Amethysts were her birthstone. It was simply the most beautiful cross she had ever been given, and it meant more to her because Vin knew how proud she was to be Irish.
Tears filled her eyes as she used one finger to trace over the intricate design. Its beautiful Vin.
Vin let out the breath he had been holding. I saw that in a store one day and just knew that I had to buy it for you.
Will you put it on me? Cassidy asked removing the necklace from the box.
Cassidy handed Vin the necklace and turned around so that he could put the cross around her neck. Vins fingers fumbled with the clasp to open it for a moment, and then Vin dangled the cross down over the front part of Cassidy so that it lay nestled in vee of her breasts, and fastened it closed. His hands lingered on her neck, and settled upon her shoulders as he began to massage them.
Hmm. Cassidy moaned enjoying the feel of her still sore muscles being loosened up.
Vin grinned as he continued to massage her shoulders, mixing feather light caresses on her neck with harder pressure applied to her sore muscles. His lips were next to be applied. He trailed kisses over her shoulders and up the side of her neck. Cassidy allowed him more access by tilting her head to the side. Vin continued to apply kissed on her neck, but ceased massaging her shoulders and moved around her until they were facing each other.
Cassidy opened her eyes and gazed lovingly at Vin. I dont know what Ive done to deserve you Vin.
Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you Cassidy. Vin said tenderly.
Cassidy smiled at him. I was so tired when I packed my bag Vin that I forgot the presents I had bought for you. However, I have brought along the very best present I have to give you. Me.
Cassidy, you dont have to Vin started, but Cassidy placed her fingertip to his lips.
I want you to make love to me Vin. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I want you to. Im ready to be your lover, not just your girlfriend.
Vin leaned forward and kissed Cassidy. He wrapped his arms around her, pressed her back onto the pillows, and stretched out his lithe body beside her. Cassidy wrapped her arms around Vins neck and gave herself over to the new sensations his hands and lips were awakening within her.