“Good luck with that.”
She slides out of bed and stretches her arms high above her head, and I can’t help myself. I walk to her and bend my head to take one perfectly puckered nipple between my lips and suck it softly. Jill gasps, as if in pain.
“Does that hurt?”
“I’m a little tender.”
“I’m sorry, sugar.” I kiss up her chest to her neck.
“This isn’t getting stuff done, Zack.” She giggles and brushes her fingers through my hair.
“Your fault,” I murmur and back away. “You’re naked.”
“Go feed your horses,” she says with a laugh. “Then you’re mine.”
I kiss her quickly then leave the master suite and jog down the steps to the bedroom Josh and Cara are using. I knock softly, but Josh pulls it open, already dressed.
“Headed to the barn?” he asks.
“Yeah. Let’s get it done so we can enjoy the rest of the day.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
Mom and Dad are sitting in the kitchen, reading a newspaper and munching on bacon.
“Merry Christmas, boys.” Mom wraps an arm around each of our necks as we bend down to kiss her cheeks.
“Merry Christmas,” we murmur back to her.
“Heading out to the barn?” Dad asks.
“Yes, sir.” Josh nods.
“I’ll join you.”
“The girls and Ty are still in bed,” I say to Mom and grin when I hear Jill’s footsteps on the stairs. “Jill’s coming down to help make breakfast.”
“Oh good.” Mom grins and hugs Jill as she comes into the room. “Shoo, guys, we have work to do.”
“We’ll be back soon.”
“Thank God you’re back!” Seth exclaims as Josh, Dad, and I walk through the back door. “We’ve been waiting forever.”
“You’ve been up for ten minutes,” Jill reminds him dryly.
“That’s forever on Christmas morning,” Dad says with a laugh. “It smells great in here.”
“We saved breakfast for you guys, and already put the turkey in the oven.” Cara looks proud as she wraps her arms around my brother’s waist and hugs him tight.
“You guys could have woken me up. I would have been happy to help,” Ty says with a frown.
“We weren’t out that long,” I reply.
“Can we do presents now? Pleeeeeease?” Seth asks me with hopeful hazel eyes.
“I suppose so,” I say and hang my coat up. “But don’t go tearing into everything!”
“I won’t! I’m just gonna get ready. Come on, Thor!”
“He’s been very patient,” Mom says with a smile. “When are you going to take him outside?”
“That’ll be last,” I say and rub my hands together. I’m almost as excited as my boy.
“Let’s go!” Jill bounces into the family room behind Seth, and we all join her. Seth is already separating presents.
“Here’s one for you, Jill!”
“Just divvy them up, and then we’ll all open them,” I murmur to him, sitting in my big recliner and tugging Jill onto my lap.
“Um, how am I supposed to help from here?” she asks.
“There’s nothing for you to help with, sugar. Sit back and watch.”
She settles against me and a small pile of presents for each of us grows in her lap as Seth hands out the gifts under the tree. When they’re all passed out, Mom says, “Seth, go get one of those chew bones that Thor loves, so he has something to enjoy too.”
“Okay!” He runs into the kitchen and retrieves the bone for Thor, who curls up happily before the fire.
“Go ahead and dig in, Seth.”
The adults all set their gifts aside, excited to watch Seth tear into his loot. For the next twenty minutes he opens everything from new clothes from Josh to a Kindle Fire from Jilly and video games from Mom and Dad.
“Holy crap!” Seth exclaims. “A rifle?”
“That,” Dad says with a stern voice, “is only to be used when you’re with your dad. But yes, you’re old enough to start learning.”
He continues through his pile, coming away with the binoculars he told Jill he wanted and a whole slew of crap that he didn’t need, but that every twelve-year-old loves.
“This is so cool,” he whispers as he sits back on his feet and takes in all the loot before him. He looks up at me with wide eyes, and his lip quivers. I stand with Jill in my arms, then lower her into the chair and turn to my boy.
“Come here, bud.” Seth throws his arms around me and hugs me close. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” He nods against my chest. “Just . . . I didn’t expect all this.”
“You deserve it,” Cara says with a grin. “You’ve worked your butt off this year.”
“Definitely,” Josh says.
“No one deserves it more,” Ty agrees as Lo nods.
“We love you, sweet boy,” Mom tells him with tears in her eyes.
Seth sniffs and pulls away from me with a watery smile. “Thanks, everyone.”
“I think maybe we forgot to do something outside,” I say with a sudden frown.
“What’s that?” Dad asks.
“I think Seth should go check.”
“I have to go outside? I thought you said I didn’t have to do any chores on Christmas.”
“It’s not a chore.”
“I’ll go with you,” Jill offers.
Seth looks at us all with a frown. “You’re all weird. You haven’t opened your presents.”
“We will in a minute,” Josh assures him.
“Okay.” Seth shrugs and stuffs his feet in his boots, throws his jacket on, and stomps outside. We all hurriedly shove our feet in shoes and clamber outside after him, and just as we round the house, we hear, “No freaking way!”
I have Jill’s hand in mine as we join Seth, who is standing next to a black-and-yellow snowmobile with a bright red bow stuck to the hood.
“Are you serious right now?” he asks me. He has the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on his face, and his whole body is vibrating in excitement.
“I’m completely serious.”
“Holy crap!” He jumps up and down and throws himself in my arms to hug me tight. “I love it! It’s so supercool!”
“I got you a new helmet too, and you will be careful.”