While Devon and Jared wrapped the last of the gifts, Brad slipped out of the house. He walked down the road, lost in thought, thinking of how he’d spent most of the Christmases of the past ten years. Drunken revels in Sin City. He thrust his hands into the pockets of his worn jeans and shook his head. The first couple of times he’d gone, it had been fun. After that, it had just been something to do so he didn’t have to think about Anne-Marie. This year he wanted to think about her. Think about her and touch her and love her…
Tipping his head back he looked up at the sky. Stars gleamed like diamonds on black velvet and he swiveled his head until he found the brightest one. It was probably Venus or some other planet he figured but what the hell. It would serve as the Christmas star. After all, wishing on stars wasn’t about science, but belief.
Swallowing hard, he fixed his gaze on the star and said, “I wish I could make Anne-Marie mine. I wish my feelings for her were reciprocated.”
The moment the words left his mouth the star gleamed brighter, and Brad shook his head in surprise. No way. It was a trick of light or his stupid wishful thinking. Suddenly, he felt self-conscious for making the wish aloud and a little foolish for making it at all. He’d never really celebrated Christmas, yet here he was making a wish on a star as if Christmas held some special power. What he really needed to do was come up with a plan for maneuvering Anne-Marie into his bed. Or himself into hers.
He wandered along the road, glad that he knew it to be a smooth expanse of pavement because there was very little light by which to see. Used to the ambient light of the city, the darkness enfolded him and gave him the sense that he walked into the unknown rather like stepping into the absolute darkness of a carnival Fun House. The sounds of the night seemed amplified to his ears and the weird chirps and clicks made him wonder just what was out there. When he came to the road that led to Anne-Marie’s house, his feet turned in that direction although his mind had no clear cut plan.
A slight breeze kicked up, ruffling his hair, and he fancifully wished the air were female fingers. In the distance, he could see the dense black outline of Anne-Marie’s house and the faint glow of light from a window. His feet dragged to a stop. He couldn’t just walk up to her door, and if she found him hanging round outside her house, she’d think he was being stalkerish. But he couldn’t stop himself from wanting to be near her.
Frustrated, he stepped off the paved road, his hiking boots sinking into the thick grass. He stomped away from the road, one eye still on the distant glow of the house. Just as he was thinking about sitting down so he could contemplate the house and its owner, his booted foot caught the edge of something that gave. A muffled squeak rent the silence of the night and off balance, Brad pitched face first into the grass. Pain radiated out from his rib cage and he came to the stunned realization that a boot dug into his right side.
“Holy shit! You scared the crap out of me,” a soft voice grumbled.
Despite the ache in his ribs, pleasure rippled through him. He’d fallen on Anne-Marie.
He sucked in a breath and the toe of the boot dug in harder, reminding him that he sprawled across her foot and lower leg. With a grunt, she pulled her leg out from under him and his face rolled into a clump of grass. He bit back a sneeze, and turned his head, trying to see her in the dark.
“What are you doing out here?” he blurted, his mind scrambling for a logical thought.
She chuckled, the sound skittering over him like the brush of fingers on bare skin. “It’s my land, Brad. What are you doing out this way? Jared’s land is a half mile away.”
He heaved a sigh. “I had to get away. They’re just a little too happy, you know? Besides, I needed to see the stars and get in my wish…” He broke off, cursing himself silently for not only falling on his face at her feet, but for blurting out the truth behind his Christmas Eve stroll.
The grass rustled as she turned onto her side, facing him. He realized she’d been lying on her back in the grass, probably looking up at the sky.
“You too?” she said quietly, a note of surprise in her voice. “I thought I was the last person on the planet who believed in wishing on the Christmas star.”