Addergoole
Christmas Bonus Story
Christmas Sunshine

‘Lisha woke smiling. That in itself was a miracle, but Vlad was hoping for more today. He’d been very secretive about his plans, telling her nothing more than “dress up nicely, something that will go well with your Mask.”

That had been enough to trigger a flood of questions, but he’d managed to just smile and tell her “you’ll see.” Over and over again, until it was actually funny, her bouncing like a kid, “you’ll see.” His only other insistence, that Min spend the night in their room with them, that she’d found weird. But Min was a good kid, and still young enough that ‘Lisha could dress her up like a doll, so she didn’t object too loudly or too long.

And this morning, she was smiling, bouncier still, and friendly, as she presented her back to him, her dress hanging tantalizingly off her shoulders. “Button me up?” The lovely dress was a Christmassy shade of green that looked nice against his skin; a peace offering, of sorts. It covered her decently, too – likely another peace offering.

He buttoned the dress around her wings, pausing to caress them gently. “I’ll dress Min,” he offered, but she shook her head.

“Let me. You go get yourself dressed.” Thus shooed out of his own room – not all that uncommon an occurrence – Vlad got dressed in the bathroom.

It was worth it. ‘Lisha came out of the bedroom carrying Min, cooing softly to her, the two of them a picture-perfect pair. Blonde and adorable, Min looked like her mother – though only time would tell if she went green, like Vlad and his mother’s line, or winged, like ‘Lisha. “So are you going to tell us where we’re going?”

“Not yet,” he smiled. “Are you ready to go, my lovely ladies?”

She was in a very good mood; she dimpled prettily and dropped a graceful, if one-sided, curtsey. “As you wish, m’lord.”

He should, he mused, do things like this more often. They brought out the best in her. He offered her his arm, and she set her hand in it with a bright smile.

Her look of cheerful anticipation began to slide to surprise and uncertainty when he led her to the shipping bay, but she bore up admirably well, cooing softly to Min rather than challenging him. When he opened the passenger’s side door of the sleek black sedan for her, she eyed him curiously but handed him Min and got in without complaint. He began to wonder if Mabina-and-Cassidy had geased her into politeness as a Christmas gift to him.

He buckled Min into her car seat in the back, closed both doors, and slipped into the driver’s seat. As the lift took them up into the barn, ‘Lisha asked, sounding a little awe-struck, “where are we going, Vlad?”

“You’ll see,” he smiled at her.

‘Lisha made a small noise of frustration, which Min echoed. “Arrrgh!” from Min, it sounded like the tiniest pirate, and even her mother couldn’t help but chuckle. She punched Vlad lightly in the arm.

“You’re doing this just to aggravate me, aren’t you?”

“Of course, m’lady,” he smirked. “I have no cause in life but to bring you strife and misery.” He found that today, he could say that without any bitterness – and, even more surprising, today, she could smile back at him and recognize the sarcasm.

“Which is why you treat me so well,” she said, a soft, wistful note in her voice, “because you wish to make me miserable.”

“Exactly.” They were nearly to their destination. “And now, m’lady, if you would close your eyes…”

“Vlad!” Her complaint was out of habit, rather than real, and, giggling, she squeezed her eyes shut.

“Almost there, my lady love,” he murmured, as he found the side road, and then the parking lot, that he wanted. “Just a minute more.” He turned off the car, got Min out of her car seat, and, carrying her in one arm, offered ‘Lisha his other arm.

She glanced up at him as she took his arm, blushing, and closed her eyes again quickly. “Vlad…?” she asked.

“Trust me.”

“Always,” she whispered. She let him lead her across the parking lot, her feet unsteady on the ice, both of her hands clinging pleasantly to his arm. “Can I open my eyes now?”

“Now,” he agreed, bracing himself.

For a moment, she was silent, and he began to panic. Had this really been a horrible idea? Was she going to bitch at him for weeks about this?

“Vlad.” Her voice sounded level and solemn, and he tensed for the worst. “Vladimir…” She hugged him fiercely, hugged him and Min together in a tight, tight hug. “Oh, Vlad!”

She pulled away more quickly than he would have liked, and he glanced down at her nervously. “You like?”

“I love it,” she told him. Even as she straightened her dress and fussed with her hair, she glanced up at him shyly. “How did you know?”

He smirked down at her, finally relaxing. “Merry Christmas, ‘Lisha. May I escort my lady to our table?”

“Oh! Of course, m’lord.” She took his arm again. “How do I look?”

“More radiant than the sun itself, my love, which explains why it has hidden behind a cloud, out of shame.” She blushed prettily at his compliment, and he knew it was all going to be all right.

The maître d' led them to the table he’d requested – in the middle of the restaurant, where everyone could see them – and held ‘Lisha’s chair for her. She glowed – she shined like the sun he’d compared her to, as the nearby families stared.

Over their menus, she glanced shyly at him. “Merry Christmas, Vlad…” Softer than the faintest whisper, audible only because he’d been hoping to hear it, she added, “thank you, love.”

He smiled at her, content, and sat back, to better allow her to enjoy the stage.

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