Chapter seven – O Christmas Tree.
Chuck was seducing her with Christmas, Blair realized when she awakened the next day. He knew it was her favorite season, and he was taking advantage of that fact, While she’d slept, he’d apparently zipped down to the nearest twenty-four hour store, with Eloise in tow…and obliterated the Holiday Décor section.
Looking around, Blair elbowed herself upward against the bed. She blinked groggily and made her way out of the room. Sure the overall look Chuck had achieved wasn’t Martha Stewart. It wasn’t even Martha Stewart Dose Kmart. But the multicolored lights, buckets of candy canes, plastic plug-in-light-up Santa, pots of poinsettias, and everything else he’d purchased and arranged did possess a certain hokey charm. Sort of like Chuck himself.
And she loved it.
She smiled sleepily and flopped down onto the sofa. As she did, a chocolate croissant drifted into her vision, held by Chuck and bringing with it the intoxicating scents of sugar and at least four thousand calories. Blair wasn’t entirely sure calories containted aromas, but in her imagination they did. The more enticing and forbidden – and more numerous they were – the better they tended to smell.
So far, aromadieting hadn’t steered her wrong.
‘I absolutely shouldn’t eat that,’ she said.
But of course, she was going to anyway. What good was aromadieting, if not to guide her to the most delectable ways to treat herself? Party-hopping burned plenty of calories, Blair reasoned. And probably, so did resisting Chuck, who’d brought the temptation and even now was seated on the coffee table to her left, looking irresistible himself.
Since she couldn’t allow herself to have him, she accepted the pastry in it’s paper bakery wrapping instead. It was a poor substitute, but it would have to do. Thanking him, Blair lifted the sweet treat higher. She inhaled.
Indulgences, after all, were meant to be savored. Otherwise, they were just routine diet infractions.
‘I brought you one of these, too.’ Chuck lifted a Christmas themed Starbucks cup.
‘Peppermint hot chocolate!’ Blair squealed with delight. She seized the cup he offered, overcome with a sense of homecoming. The chocolaty drink was her secret treat, her non-sophisticated rejoinder to the world that sometimes let her down. Her favorite childhood treat. She clutched the warmness between her hands and gazed at Chuck. ‘Aww. You remembered.’
‘Don’t go getting all misty on me. It’s just a drink.’
‘And an instant Christmas to go with it.’ Refusing to let him downplay the importance of all he had accomplished while she’d been logging beauty sleep, Blair gestured toward the haphazardly hung decorations. ‘You’ve really gotten into the spirit of things. I’m impressed.’
He shrugged. ‘Just sticking with the plan. For Eloise’s sake.’
Chuck nodded toward the baby, who was happily playing a few feet away in her cotton candy colored bouncer. Then he looked back at Blair, a certain earnestness in his face, in the press of his palms between his knees.
‘And for yours,’ he added quickly.
Chuck gazed to the poinsettias, resplendently red in their pots, and nonchalantly said, ‘I thought we’d go shopping today.’
‘Oh, Chuck!’ how was she supposed to resist this? A man who brought her breakfast, remembered her secret childhood favorites, and voluntarily shopped?
‘Bloomingdales opens at ten, he went on, ‘so whenever you’re ready…’
He understood shopping standard time. She’d never know that about him. With thoughts of caution fading, Blair flung back the blanket’s.
‘I’ll be ready before you know it,’ she promised. Still clutching her hot chocolate, she stuck the croissant in her mouth and then headed for the bedroom. A quick shower, a date with the blow-dryer, a little lip gloss and then…
She turned, to find Chuck watching her.
Hunger had darkened his eyes, straightened the sensual line of his mouth. He looked both languid and ready, open and unreadable. He looked…
….like everything she’d ever wanted.
His gaze met hers. A corner of his mouth lifted, as though Chuck meant to pretend he hadn’t just been ogling her like a starving man staring at sugared Christmas cookies.
‘Nice legs,’ he said.
Her nightshirt, She’d forgotten she was wearing it. Its hem only came to the tops of her thighs. It’s flimsy pink silk didn’t leave much to the imagination, either. Blair resisted the urge to tug it lower as she stepped toward him.
She bit off some croissant, chewed and swallowed while she looked him over. A familiar heat curled between them, encouraged by memories of everything they’d shared. It had been so long. Too long. Both of them knew it.
‘Nice…everything.’ Her reply echoed his and so sis the lingering look she allowed herself. Blair advanced nearer. Her cup thunked on the coffee table near his hip, then was joined by her forgotten pastry. ‘But I’d like to experience it for myself.’
She leaned forward and took his mouth with hers. He tasted of coffee and donut, of desire and long-suppressed need. Groaning with pleasure, Blair deepened her kiss. This had definitely been the right move to make. Instantly, Chuck’s arms were around her, pulling her down.
They landed amid the blankets that had been discarded, Chuck beneath her and Blair thrillingly sprawled atop him. Their mouths met, explored, withdrew for nothing less then urgently needed breath. Their coming together was old times melded with new discovery, longing joined with abandonment. Rolling, seeking, caressing, they remembered….everything.
She was falling, falling for him all over again. The dizziness of his muscles against her…all combined to leave Blair with the sweetest sence of déjà vu. This was how they were meant to be. This, together. Eagerly, her paltry resistance gone, she grabbed his shirt in both hands and prepared to remodel Chuck exactly as she wanted him: naked, with her.
He beat her to it. His hands, big and familiar and welcome, slid beneath her nightshirt. His palms cupped her; his breath slid past her ear as he whispered how good she felt to him. As though nothing had passed between them. As though Blair and Chuck had never parted, they found every favorite rhythm, every sensitive place, every pleasure.
Because just as Blair prepared to throw caution – and her panties - to the wind, they both stopped. Froze. Sniffed. They shared a puzzled look.
‘ohmigod!’ Blair clapped her hands over her nose and mouth.
Chuck did the same. ‘Uggh! What is that?’
At the edge of the room, Eloise babbled. With dawning comprehension, they looked her way. She squealed. She shook her baby bouncer with exuberant thrusts of her tiny legs. She grinned.
And the odor of a baby who really needed a diaper change grew stronger.
‘It’s a miracle everyone isn’t an only child,’ Chuck muttered, wincing.
‘I guess it’s shower time for me!’ Blair said at the same moment.
Of course, t sounded like, ‘I duss dit’s tower time for me,’ because she’d pinched her nose between her fingers to block the stench. But that didn’t matter.
Their amorous intentions vanished. They parted with mural speed, each headed in a different direction. And really, Blair reflected as she rescued her breakfast before it could be reverse-aromatherapied, there wasn’t a damned thing new about that, now was there?
Over the course of the next few days, Chuck realized several things. First among them was that Blair’s kiss had triggered a craving for her unlike anything he’d ever experienced. Second, unfortunately, was that they might never get the chance to repeat it. Although Blair seemed suddenly open to the reunion he’d hoped for, baby Eloise kept them on the run every minute.
They stopped at Bloomingdales on that first morning visiting Santa, of course, and made the rounds of everything remotely Christmassy during the days that followed. They spent the daylight hours soaking up the New York December air, taking Eloise to various holiday events. A parade. The Constance Billard Christmas bizarre and 6 different venders to find the perfect Christmas tree.
They brought Tiffany ornaments and strung popcorn and cranberries, hung foil icicles and established a baby-proofed protective gate around the resulting masterpiece when Chuck set it up on a table by the window.
In the evenings, they walked through Midtown with Eloise snuggled in her bug-a-boo, oohing and aahing at the elaborate storefront Christmas light displays along 5th avenue.
They feasted on gingerbread people and hung stockings on Chuck’s entertainment-center-turned-mantel; one big one, one smaller one, and one teeny one.
They joined together in ways they never had before.
For Eloise’s sake Chuck and Blair somehow managed to put their ordinary priorities on hold… and their relationship flourished because of it. Blair abandoned her parties for a week. Chuck donated his office for use as command central in his suites ongoing Christmas makeover. His usual holiday unease faded, pushed aside by Blair’s caroling, mulled-cider drinking and jingle bell ring.
He was happy.
So was she.
He could tell. She smiled. She laughed. She greeted each day with boundless energy, and a new idea for how they could bring the holidays alive for Eloise. Her generosity surprised him…and so did the realization, when it come, of exactly why Blair loved socializing.
They’d been visiting the tree in Rockefeller center. While craning their necks to see the top, Blair had struck up a conversation with a group of Australian tourists nearby. After the group had gone on its way, Chuck glanced at Blair.
‘You look happy.’ He nodded toward the departing tourists. ‘Friends of yours?’
‘Not for long.’ Cheerfully, she gave them a wave. She helped Eloise do the same. ‘Bye, Merry Christmas!’
He didn’t get it. ‘Then why….?’
‘Because, Chuck, Blair said as she turned to him, ‘it makes everyone feel good to chat for a little while. I like making contact with people. I like knowing our days are brighter for having talked for a few minutes, even if we’ll never meet again.’ She shrugged. ‘That’s all.’
She nodded and adjusted Eloise on her hip.
Blair honestly didn’t know, Chuck realized. She didn’t understand what was so special about reaching out to complete strangers and befriending them, if only for a few minutes. Watching her wrinkle her nose in confusion at him, he felt himself fall in love with her, all over again.
‘You,’ he said. ‘You’re amazing.’
She ducked her head and grinned, making a fuss over Eloise’s latest holiday hair bow. ‘Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.’
They shared a smile. Eloise oo-gooed. And suddenly, Chuck saw Blair’s constant social whirl in a whole new light. Not something taken, but as something given.
As something givin freely, with only good thoughts behind it. He realized, in that moment, that he could never ask her to give it up.
Things had changed. And now, so had he,
Unaware of that fact, Blair strapped Eloise into her stroller, discussing the merits of wardrobe color therapy as she did. The baby spoke animatedly back, babbling as though she understood. And maybe, given that they were both females and thus perpetually mysterious, she did.
They waved good-bye to the tree and all its glittery branched glory, and then walked past the glittering lights of 5th avenue to where Chuck’s driver waited with the car. That was where Chuck had spotted it the perfect Christmas gift for Blair. With a hurried excuse, he handed the baby bag to Blair and promised to meet her and Eloise back in the car. This was simply too good to pass up.
AN; Hope you enjoyed the chapter, pretty please with candy cane on top review.