IT’S TWO IN THE AFTERNOON BY the time Liam and I shower and grab a bite to eat and nearly three when we snuggle onto the couch in his office, me to work on my book and him his design for Chase Electronics. I’m cozy in light blue sweats and a tank, my hair a bit of a mess, my feet bare. Liam is pure perfection to me in faded jeans and a plain white T-shirt. I’ve torn down the walls he’s lived behind¸ and the man beneath the starched shirts and custom suits is gentle, thoughtful perfection. He’s the best gift any woman could want on Christmas Eve, and the next few hours are absolute heaven.
By early evening, we’ve moved to the couch in the living room, gazing at the lights that seem to dance across the Hudson River. I’ve tuned in Christmas music on the radio and Liam has filled our glasses with eggnog topped with sherry. We’re contemplating roasting the chestnuts when Liam’s phone rings.
I hold my breath, willing it to be the one thing that would make this day absolutely perfect: hearing from my brother. Liam listens a moment to whoever has called, says, “Come on in,” and places his cell on the table. “Tellar has something to give us.”
“He must have gotten the Super Bowl tickets you sent him,” I say. “That was an amazing gift.”
“Like you said, he gave up a lot to be with us these past few months.”
The garage door buzzes and Liam and I stand to greet Tellar, only to find Derek, Dr. Murphy, and Coco with him.
Derek announces, “You wanted to leave us out of the wedding, and we’ll accept that, but we’re celebrating it tonight.”
Liam’s arm wraps my waist and he leans in and whispers, “Are you okay with this?”
“Yes,” I say, warmed by the sentiment, glancing up at him. “Are you?”
“As long as it makes you happy.”
Dr. Murphy hugs me, her long red hair tickling my cheek. “How are you, Amy?”
“I’m good,” I promise. “I’m glad to have you back.” I give her slim-fitted white dress a once-over and note the glow in her cheeks. “You look stunning.”
She gives me a wicked smile. “I have Michael to thank for that.”
“An island fling, honey. It did me good. We’ll go to lunch and chat after the holiday.”
I am stunned and amused by this new side to Dr. Murphy, which I think I quite like, laughing as Coco appears beside me, giving me a hug, too.
“Tellar and I have your back,” she declares, her voice a hard contrast to her soft light brown hair and feminine beauty. “Jared will never know what hit him if he comes near you again.”
“We have cake!” Derek calls out, and I look up to see him and Tellar carrying in a huge three-tier pink wedding cake toward the kitchen.
“And presents!” Coco says. She takes off to get them and I turn toward Liam, only to discover he’s disappeared.
Assuming he must be in the kitchen, I follow Derek and Tellar, watching as they set the cake in the center of the table, surprised when Liam isn’t here. “It’s amazing,” I say, noting the delicate flowers around the edges. “And I swear the color matches my dress. How could you know that?”
“It’s to match your ring,” Coco says, as she and Dr. Murphy join us, each setting several wrapped packages on the table. “Tellar told me it was pink, and I want to see it.”
I extend my hand, and she and Dr. Murphy are gushing over it when I hear, “Amy.”
I turn to find Liam standing behind me, looking serious, though something different lurks in his eyes. “What is it?”
“I have something to show you.”
“Yes. Now, baby.”
“Okay,” I say. “What is it?”
He pushes open the kitchen door. “You’ll see.”
I walk into the living room, stopping at the sight of two people looking out the windows overlooking the river. I blink and blink again, homing in on the blond hair of the man in jeans and a T-shirt and the long, flowing dark brown hair of the woman in a red silk blouse. My heart begins to race.
“Chad!” His name rasps from my throat. I launch myself in his direction as he and Gia turn to face me, and he does the same. In an instant we’re embracing, holding on like we never want to let go. “How are you here?” I ask, tears burning my eyes. “How is this possible?”
“I wasn’t letting another Christmas go by without seeing you, little sis. And I’m sorry about surprising you both with the party, but I needed a distraction to show up unnoticed, and this worked. Tellar helped set it all up.”
“I can’t believe it,” I say, swiping at the dampness on my cheeks, then grabbing his arms. “You’re really here!”
“I’m really here,” he says with a grin, as Gia steps to his side and Liam to mine.
“Hi,” I say to her, giving her a hug. “Are you okay?”
“I’m wonderful,” she promises. “So glad that we’re here.”
“Me too. How long can you stay?”
“For a few hours, sis,” Chad says, covering my hand with his. “It’s too dangerous to stay longer. Jared will be watching for us.”
“He came to see me, Chad. He swears he’s helping us. I really believed him.”
“We can’t take a chance, Amy,” he insists. “You know that.”