My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill
Th’ uncertain sickly appetite to please
Lara pushed the kitchen door, scanning that the kitchen area. And when she noticed no one was around, she returned the first-aid kid box to where it had been placed on the corner of the kitchen counter.
She pressed her fingertips against her eyelids, letting out a shaky breath. Her heart was trembling the thought of Tristan’s perplexing act. He had been acting very strange for some unexplainable reasons before. But there was nothing more strange compare to what had happened just now.
Lara then walked towards the kitchen windows and looked through outside. The view was white, serene and quiet, so contradicted with the howling echo of her hammering heartbeat inside. What was he trying to do to me? Did he try to kiss me? She immersed, knowing that she was not that blind to see the physical tense between them just now.
She lifted her hand and the thought of when he’d kissed her palm.
Oh God, his lips… I still feel the warmth of his lips on my palm…
The fleeting touch had short-circuited her mind yet at the same time she was discomfited with his unexpected behavior towards her. She already felt comfortable with his ignorance and this new him, she could not handle it.
“What are you doing here?” Abby’s voice woke her up from her trance.
Lara spun around and found her best friend was standing at the threshold. She already changed into something more casual wool gray long-sleeves knee-length dress. And she looked as fresh as morning dew.
“I’m just adoring the view.” She replied evenly. She took a deep breath to compose herself then approached Abby. “So what’s the plan for today?”
Abby shrugged, leaning against the doorframe. “Apparently Tristan has prepared everything but missing the mistletoe.”
“Is that necessary?”
“Of course it is.” Abby said outrageously. “It doesn’t complete without it.”
Lara dimpled at Abby. “Alright then, where do you think, you’re going to buy it?”
“Lucky I brought one.” Abby beamed at her. “Just need to hang it and I think that pretty sure we need men to hang it outside the door.”
“Ask Liam, then.” Lara airily suggested. “Where is he?”
“Since all the guys aren’t out yet, guess we only wait.” Lara prevaricated, that in fact she had seen Tristan before. But since Tristan specifically had told her that no one had supposed to know his wound, and Lara also had no intention that she had seen Tristan. It would complicate things that she did not prepare to know what happened between them.
“Yes, hmmm…” Abby tapped her lips with her fingers, the sign that she was thinking over something. “Why don’t we put our presents under the Christmas tree before we’re going to have lunch?”
“Sounds good idea.” Lara agreed.
“Can I see yours?” Abby looked so like a little girl when she was talking about the present.
Lara laughed and passed Abby to return to the living room. “Okay, you can check all of them out.” She said and at the same time, leered the sofa where Tristan had been sat and there was no trace or sign of him had been there before. She released a relief sigh when she did not found him there.
“So what are you going to give to me?” Abby urged, she was literally bouncing when they walked to Lara’s room. It seemed she was so excited for the presents.
Lara rolled her eyes. “Can you be patient until tonight?”
“Of course, I can!” Abby growled. “I just want to see how many present you brought.”
“I brought fifteen presents. I hope there are enough, in case there are other people coming.”
“I think should be enough.” Abby said calmly. “If not, I got also some extra, but the important gifts for all of you already put aside.”
“Good to know.” Lara nodded as she open her room door, immediately approaching her bed where were all the presents that were wrapped in shiny Christmas colors were put.
Abby scanned and found her name on one of the presents. She shook it excitedly. “Hm… it’s light, I’m wondering what’s inside.”
“Keep on wondering until tonight.” Lara wagged he finger. “Now can you help me to carry all of these?”
“Okay, sure let’s do it.” Abby gathered some of the gifts and cradled them with both of her arms while Lara carried the rest.
“Mom and dad didn’t mind you’re spending your time without them this year?” Lara asked as they were pacing to the living room.
“Yes, they’re okay with that. Besides this year they want to go to holidays with mom’s relatives and I decided me and Liam spend our Christmas this time. Besides, when discussed where to go, Tristan and Phoenix were there to eavesdrop and Tristan offered that all of us should spend this time together.”
“I see.” Lara was glad with her own voice that sounded steady and expressionless when Tristan’s name was mentioned.
“So, I decided to tag you along and my Christmas this time is perfectly spent with my close friends. And I’ve never been to Switzerland also.” Abby still went on talking.
“It’s a very beautiful place.” Lara commented softly.
“Yes.” Abby agreed. “Tristan’s always surrounded by the best of everything. He’s a nice friend, a little bit rude sometimes and weird but he’s a nice guy.”
Lara tried to smile but it did not work. Instead her lips quivered. Fortunately, again Abby missed it.
What Abby said was true, Tristan had been surrounded by the best of everything. And Lara was not the one who could be with someone who had everything. She could not even give her love now, so what was left for her to have?
“Shall we randomly put under the tree or you want your presents in one side and later on, mine and the rest at the other side?” Abby asked her opinion. She was already hunkered down and started to arrange the presents.
“Just do randomly, I think.” Lara also crouched down next to Abby
Abby nodded. “You’re right, let’s do randomly and…”
“You guys already put the presents?” Blake’s voice came from the second floor interrupted their conversation and without waiting for the reply, he started to ascend the stairs.
Both women simultaneously stood up waiting until Blake was at the same level with them.
“No. Only Lara, I’ll do it soon.” Abby said. “Why don’t you bring your presents also?”
“Later on.” There were laziness and amusement in his tone.
“Alright then, you can actually help us hanging the mistletoe.” Abby said without waiting for Blake to reply, she left to one of the table where the mistletoe was laying unnoticed.
“Mistletoe?” Blake arched an eyebrow questioningly when his gaze met Lara’s.
Lara grinned. “According to Abby, Christmas isn’t Christmas without mistletoe.”
“Yes, she’s right.” He murmured and turned to Abby. “Do you want to put it now?”
“That’d be great.” Abby accepted excitedly as she handed the mistletoe.
Blake took the mistletoe and walked towards the main entrance while Lara and Abby followed him behind.
Lara was acutely conscious of the delicious hint of expensive aftershave on clean male skin. She was also aware of the height and breadth of him when he had brushed by, the dark trousers and black sweater he was wearing emphasizing the leanness of his hips and the width of his shoulders though he was not as muscular as Phoenix yet there was friendliness, fascinatingly gentle side to the hard masculinity that was compelling.
When did she start to see him that way? Perhaps it was his kindness that was like a balm to her wounded heart caused by Tristan made her to look at Blake slightly different now. Though no one could make her heart fluttering the way Tristan did.
Well, it doesn’t matter…Both men are too good being with me anyway. They deserve women from their league. She bitterly reminded herself again and again.
Lara was engrossed with her thoughts that she did not notice that Blake was speaking to her. She forced herself to listen. What was he saying? She stared at him trying to concentrate.
“… I don’t think it’s really way to the left. What if I put it here…And…” He broke off. “Lara, are you listening?”
Lara blinked couple of time. “Yes, yes I’m listening.”
“Oh really?” A small smile was twisting his lips.
“Yes, I am.” Lara was blushing and the crimson was getting deeper when she caught Abby was staring at her also with her hawk eyes.
There was unspoken question in her eyes but Abby did not pursue the matter instead she turned her attention back to Blake who was still trying to hang that sprig of mistletoe above a doorframe.
“Hm…” There was a doubt in Abby’s voice, she tilted her head towards Lara who was standing next to her. “What do you think? Should it go more to the right or left?”
“I don’t know, I’m not sure…”
“Lara, can you please see from the other side?” Abby asked empirically.
“You mean from outside?” Lara’s brows wrinkled.
“Yes, can you please?” Abby pleaded.
Lara sighed half willingly, as she did not understand what was the difference if it was a little bit to the left or to right, though she did not protest, only walked towards the door and stood next to Blake who was still trying to find the right position for mistletoe.
“Alright, now what do you want me to do?” Lara asked shortly.
Abby just about to reply in kind when the door of Tristan’s chamber cracked open. All on eyes were on two persons who were emerging from the room.
Lara’s eyes widening at the sight of Tristan and Amelina that were holding hands and the moment she saw that, she felt her whole body was heavy with despair. Half an hour ago, he had kissed her palm and now he was holding someone else’s hand.
I should’ve known, she told herself in anguish and forced herself to turn away from that agonizing sight.
“What are you guys doing?” Tristan’s voice was curt, his eyebrow rose quizzically. His eyes were straight on Lara and Blake who were standing side by side at the doorframe.
“We’re trying to hang the mistletoe.” Abby replied briefly and returned her attention to Blake and Lara. “Okay I think that’d be okay.” She added.
“Yes mam.” Blake smiled his slightly lopsided smile then less than a minute the mistletoe was hung above.
“Thank you so much Blake.” Abby cheerfully.
“Yes, Abby anytime.” Blake stated and began to walk inside with Lara when Abby prevented them.
“Stop where you are.” Abby announced.
“Why?” Lara frowned while Blake only stood passively.
“You’re under mistletoe. You’d better not break the tradition.”
“What?” Lara startled. She really didn’t believe that Abby would have done something like. “Abby, you must be joking? I don’t think that’s a good idea.” She averted her gaze towards Blake, mentally sending him a message to back her up. However Blake did not say anything, as a matter of fact there was a gleam of amusement in his eyes as if he was pleased with Abby’s suggestion. Lara nudged Blake gently just above his rib. “Say something, will you?”
“Say what?” Blake asked teasingly. He was displaying his rare wickedly charming grin. “I don’t mind kissing you for whatever reason.”
“Right. Thanks for your help.” She awkwardly replied but still smiled on his answer.
“See, Blake doesn’t mind.” Abby chirped in.
“Abby come on stop it…”
Lara’s objection was again being halted with Abby shaking her head, her wavy hair swinging disapprovingly. “Both of you under the mistletoe, so it’s a tradition to kiss.”
Lara voice was wobbly. “Abby, please…”
Suddenly Abby turned her attention to Tristan and Amelina who were still standing, witnessing their conversations. “Hey Tris…What do you think? Isn’t it a tradition to kiss under the mistletoe, right? You saw that they’re under it.”
Lara shifted her eyes to Tristan and her smile gradually disappeared from her lips when she looked at Tristan.
“I think it’s a little bit ancient.” He said without any enthusiasm. His hard glance flicked on Lara’s direction.
“Duh, still it’s tradition.” Abby said rolling her eyes and then again gave her attention to Blake. “Come on Blake kiss her.”
Blake shrugged indolently, his eyes sparkled as he met Lara’s. “Shall we?”
Lara was still alarmed by the jangling state of her nerves from Tristan’s cold look, stated nervously. “Blake, come on it’s just mistletoe.”
Blake surveyed her through slits of brilliant dark light for a moment or two. “You’re right, it’s just mistletoe.” He finally replied.
“Come on guys it’s just a kiss.” Abby still persistent.
Blake sighed softly but something in his face had mellowed and he looked like the Blake Lara was used to know again. “Next time, maybe.” Blake said and passed Lara by. “I’m getting the presents, okay guys.” Then without waiting for reply from anyone, he already walked inside taking his steps to the staircase and disappeared inside his room.
“You guys are no fun.” Abby drily stated disappointed how Lara was borne by Blake.
“Hey, there will be next time.” Lara said pretending to sound so casually and added diverting the conversation. “So is there anything that you want me to do?”
“No, not now.” Abby said and turned her attention to Tristan again, who still was standing rooted on the floor. “Are you going to bring all the presents outside?”
Tristan still kept his eyes looking straight at Lara. His expression now was closed, devoid of emotion, like a poker player determined to give nothing away. “Yes.” He said then finally averted his gaze to Amelina and talked to her. “Babe, could you please bring all the presents from the suitcase first before we go out to have lunch?”
“Sure darling.” Amelina lifted a flawlessly manicured hand to cup Tristan’s face and gave him a seductively though briefly kiss on his lips before returning to their room.
This time it was Lara’s turn to stand motionlessly. Her porcelain-clear skin paled. She thought her fragment heart stopped beating for a moment seeing Amelia kissed him. However she managed to keep her face straight and to act she did not notice anything.
“Well, she’s nice.” Abby commented and threw her glance to Tristan. “You always get what you want from any girl without any protest.”
“Not always.” Tristan replied faintly, refocusing his eyes back to Lara.
Abby only shrugged, waving a stolidity hand. “Okay, I’m also getting the presents down.”
“I’ll help you to carry the presents.” Lara offered and deliberately she turned away from him, moving closer immediately to Abby’s side.
Abby shook her head. “There’s no need. I’ll ask Liam to do that. I think it’s a high time that man does do something.” She giggled and immediately left just two of them behind.
And the moment Abby left, Lara also ought to leave and return to her room but it meant she needed to pass through him and she knew she needed more than just a courage just to do so.
Lara dragged air into her ragged lungs, straightened her shoulders “Well, I’d also go to my room.” She then began to walk, passing him by.
Her paces were only taken for few steps when she heard Tristan’s voice in low tone but there was something of emotion in it scorched like fire. “Running away again?”
She halted and felt the fine hairs at the back of her neck beginning to prickle in alarmed response.
“Isn’t it that you always do whenever I’m around?” He kept on asking and his footsteps telling her that he was walking towards her.
Lara turned and found that he was approaching. There was something very controlled in the way he was strolling slowly. She took few steps back, until she was against the opened doorframe of the entrance and he did not stop until he was less than a foot away.
“I…I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She stammered in strangled sound. She wanted to get away, but doorframe and his tall body who was standing now far, far too close blocking her way.
“Ah, I think you know.” He challenged her. “And I don’t like what you’re doing.” He leaned on the flats of his hands so that he was staring down at her.
“Please what, hm?” His eyes were slumberous, veiled behind his thick eyelashes.
“Tristan this isn’t right… I mean…” She faltered trying to find the answer but the way he screened his gaze that made her unable to form the reply.
“What isn’t right, Lara? That we’re standing this close isn’t the right thing according to you?” He asked in the measured cold tones.
She quivered. “This isn’t appropriate. You have Amelina, and…”
“What about her?” He hedged and gave a crooked half smile. “I don’t think anyone will mind if I kiss you under the mistletoe.”
Lara gave a sharp intake of breaths. She now realized where both of them were standing right now. She was disconcerted, trapped by those stunning orbs of his and a tiny flame of awareness lit low in her tummy. She fought for composure as she tore her gaze in dismay from his. “It’s just a mistletoe. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“You’re right. But like Abby said, don’t screw up the tradition.”
“Tristan, don’t do this, I’ll…” As she hesitated on the brink of asserting her control, Tristan’s hand lifted and cupped her face.
“You’ll what, Lara?” He asked. Lara’s palms pressed onto the doorframe as if she would collapse without it.
“You’ll object? Just like you did with Blake?” He demanded in a husky tone. “Well, I’ve to tell you that I’m not Blake.” He added before he lowered his face to hers. He took her mouth in gentlest kiss. His kiss was heaven just like she’d always dreamt all this time. Soft, lingering, intoxicating and exquisite.
And Lara, she gave herself to it, gave herself with all the yearning she was filled with to the magic of his lips, of his touch that would take her this precious moments to a paradise she had not known existed.
And then in the next moment he was lifting his head and drawing away from her. He left her so bereft and speechless.
“That’s a mistletoe kiss should’ve been done.” He said softly, straightened up and walked away from her.