PHOENIX RISING HOLIDAY BONUS SCENE
Waking up alone wasn’t what I was used to. More often than not, I woke in the morning with Rhys’ limbs wrapped around me, his long arms clutching my burgeoning belly as if he was protecting his entire family as he slept.
But this morning—of all mornings—I woke up alone.
One would think a Phoenix pregnancy would be easy. I don’t know if it is the twin business or the fact that pregnancy—no matter the species—is made of suckass, but my body practically creaks as I push myself up from the siren call of our mattress.
Perpetual healing, my rapidly expanding ass.
I listen for bathroom sounds, but I know he isn’t in there, which is good because like every other five minutes, I have to pee. I rush as fast as my baby-laden body can take me and handle my business, smoothing the blue and white flannel snowman nightgown over my not-quite-third trimester belly.
Rhys thinks it is hilarious how seriously I take winter holidays. We both have seen the way they have changed over the last two centuries and while he doesn’t get into the spirit, I do. I am a holiday freak. One wouldn’t think I would be with my general Grinch-like behavior, but you’d be wrong.
I love the snow, the wonderful lights decorating all the houses—even up here in the mountains. I love the way people are a bit nicer to each other, a bit less impatient. Sure, there are shitty people everywhere and with every season, but I find that, in general, the holidays just make things better. There is an air of anticipation—especially this morning.
It is our first Christmas together, Rhys and I, and it could be said that I went a little nuts. Okay, I went completely banana-pants bonkers because I know the UPS man by name now—it’s James—and if I make Rhys put up any more decorations, he’s going to lose his mind. Not that I should be decorating anything else considering it is Christmas morning, but I made no promises. There is still a week until the New Year and there isn’t a rule that says I have to stop until then.
Rhys might just make one, though.
I wrangle my feet into my sheepskin slippers, looking around my belly to make sure I have them on right. The twins and my general lack of height make my tummy the size of an overly inflated basketball. In a few more weeks, it will be solidly in the beach ball category. I love it. It doesn’t matter that I’m uncomfortable and have to pee at every single second of the day. I love these babies.
I shuffle from our bedroom, making my way down the stairs and holding onto the garland-wrapped bannister for dear life. I have already begun to waddle—much to my dismay—and Evan doesn’t hesitate to call me Mama Duck at every opportunity.
I refuse to tell her it’s a little funny. I also refuse to laugh, and I know my willpower is greater than hers.
I make it to the bottom of the steps without incident and find Rhys sitting on the couch closest to the Christmas tree. He’s plugged in the lights, and the rustic glam motif sparkles in the combination of early morning sunlight and the seven layers of string lights on the eleven-foot tree.
Okay, it is completely possible I may have gone overboard.
Rhys is relaxed, sipping on a cup of steaming coffee while he waits for me in his snowman flannel pajama bottoms and coordinating thermal. His feet are bare, and seeing them crossed, resting on the coffee table does something to me. I love that he has made a home here with me. That he feels comfortable here. That we will bring our children here in a few months. These are the things I thought I would never get.
I don’t wake up to death every morning. Yes, I have visions of death, but now that I’m not trying to suppress them, they don’t hurt so much—they don’t take over anymore. Now, I wake up to Rhys and the anticipation of our coming family. I wake up to the knowledge that my sister is happy and so is my best friend. Nothing is perfect—there are still problems—but I have so much more than I did a year ago.
“Mornin’, Gorgeous. How’d you sleep?” Rhys asks as I plop as gently as I can next to him. He offers his coffee cup to me, knowing I want a sip but also knowing I won’t drink a whole cup by myself. I steal the cup taking a healthy swig and giving it back.
“Good. I didn’t even feel you leave the bed. I was out,” I say as I lean-slash-fall into him, cuddling into his shoulder.
“I know you were. You missed Santa coming and everything,” he says with a smile and kisses me on the forehead, nose and then the lips.
“Oh, I did? What did he leave me? I have been a very good girl this year,” I murmur against his mouth.
“I’ll show you,” he says as he abandons his coffee on the table, kneels at my feet, and pulls a small, black box from his pajama pants pocket.
“I remember you saying something along the lines of ‘rivals-the-sun big.’ I hope I got it right,” he says as he lifts the lid of the box to reveal the biggest damn diamond I’ve ever seen in my life. At least four carats of emerald cut awesomeness sit atop a thin platinum band that I already know will fit perfectly on my finger.
I’m a Seer. We know these things.
“I want us to have our wedding, Gorgeous. I want us to finally celebrate what we’ve got. After the babies get here, I want us to hold onto our happy. What do you think?” he murmurs as he holds out his hand for mine.
“That sounds like the best plan ever, Handsome,” I whisper as silly, happy tears hit my eyes and escape the lids to fall down my face. Rhys slips the ring on my finger, and it is so big in comparison to my small hands that the stone nearly spans from base to knuckle. At this point, I’d love to tackle him and kiss him all over, but I’m semi-stuck in the deep cushions of the couch.
Rhys pulls my hand and brings it to his lips before helping me to my feet so he can kiss me properly.
“Santa left one more present for you, but it’s upstairs. Feel like making the trek, Gorgeous?” he asks.
“Sure thing, babe,” I reply as he half leads, half pulls me up the stairs and guides me to the last room at the end of the hall.
Usually, this room is used as a guest room, and we so rarely have them that it hasn’t been used since Evan and West stayed here while I went off-my-rocker, bat-shit crazy, so I haven’t been inside it in quite a while. Rhys opens the door to reveal the sweetest nursery I have ever seen.
Pale sage walls, tan plush carpeting and the sweetest pair of cribs decked out in matching sage and chocolate bedding. The theme is turtles – turtles on the shade of the floor lamp next to the chocolate reclining armchair, on the mobiles that hang over the cribs – and I love it so much that my eyes are leaking.
He thought of everything.
“It’s time for happy, Aurelia,” Rhys whispers in my ear as he wraps me up in his arms.
He’s right. It is time for happy.
We deserve it.