A Wicked Christmas Carol by Katherine Garbera

Enjoy a quick escape and read a short story by one of your favorite Tule authors.

A Wicked Christmas Carol

by Katherine Garbera

Holiday Books

An International Bad Boy Christmas Short Story

Sebastian Warren drove the 1929 Bugatti Type 25 sports coupe that his fiancée Celeste Beacon had given him through the worsening nor’easter. Mariah Carey sang about what she wanted for Christmas and he remembered that Judd had loved that song. He was a rebel, a bad boy—Celeste’s words not his—but he’d changed since he’d fallen in love with the pretty blonde. Christmas had been different this year. Ice skating at 30 Rock instead of ice trekking in the artic.

Tonight the snow swirled around the car and the wind buffeted the light bodied vehicle so he kept both hands firmly on the wheel. A car accident had claimed the life of his best-friend Judd almost two years ago. This was the second Christmas he’d spend without him. But this year the survivor’s guilt that he’d worn like a shackle was gone.

A year ago, he was on his yacht with two women whose names he couldn’t remember, trying to drink his way through the guilt that Judd’s death had left in its wake. Tonight…well, tonight he was in a much different place.

Christmas Eve and he was late to the party at his parents’ home in the Hamptons. He knew Celeste and her best friend Kendra were already there. Celeste had sent him a photo of the mistletoe she’d hung over the doorway leading to the garage—the one where they’d shared their first kiss. The message had read, All that’s missing is you.

Ava, his younger sister, had also texted that she was making a new cocktail—the snowball and she had one for him. Sometimes Ava acted like she was afraid he’d disappear back out of the family again. Logan was the one that Sebastian feared for his. His younger brother hadn’t been himself lately and Sebastian saw signs that Logan was on the edge the way that he had been before Celeste.

The happiness he’d found with Celeste was something he’d never thought he’d find. He couldn’t wait to have her back in his arms again. He thought about it and realized that he had all he wanted for Christmas in Celeste.

“You’ve changed, man.”

He glanced to his left and blinked, as an ethereal Judd materialized next to him. Judd had that wicked grin on his face and a Santa hat on his head.

“Have I?” he asked. He wasn’t surprised to see the ghost of his best friend. Judd had been visiting him since Sebastian had waked from a coma in the hospital.

“Yeah. Settling down. Soon you’re going to trade in the sports car for a mini-van,” Judd said.

“No way. I’m still dangerous.”

Judd shook his head. “You’re not.”

Judd’s words felt like a dare and he floored the accelerator sending the car rocketing down the almost empty highway. The car hit an icy patch and spun around and around before sliding off the road as Sebastian took the car out of gear and let it slow to stop.

“Holy hell,” Judd said. “Change isn’t a bad thing, idiot.”

“I know that,” he said. “I don’t want to give up living for you, man. It’s been so long and this new life isn’t one you’re a part of.”

Losing Judd had changed him. Their friendship had been the one thing in his life that he’d always counted on and slowly Sebastian realized that Celeste had taken Judd’s place, in a way. The excitement she brought to him was different—obviously—but she made him feel alive.

“I’m always here with you, Seb. You know that. Watching your happiness, seeing you and Celeste together, is a good thing.”

He looked over at the ghostly image of his friend and then threw his head back laughing. “I’m going crazy, aren’t I?’

“Going? I thought you always were crazy.”

Sebastian leaned forward, putting his forehead on the steering wheel. He missed Judd but the truth was together they’d been at their wildest. Sebastian had never imagined a future like this one. Judd gone. Him engaged.

“Ha. I miss you, man,” Sebastian said, looking over at Judd. His friends just gave him a wicked grin. “But the Christmas season isn’t as bad this year.”

“I’m just glad something good came out of that accident,” Judd said.

Celeste.

“She’s perfect for you.”

“She argues with me all the time.”

“She’s your lucky charm.”

She was. He couldn’t imagine a future without her and luckily didn’t have to. He put the car back in gear and slowly maneuvered it back onto the highway. He glanced toward the passenger seat. Judd was gone.

He pulled into the drive at his parents’ house and the door opened before he had a chance to turn the car off. Celeste came running down the stairs as he stepped out of the car and caught her in his arms.

“I…I was worried. The storm and the roads,” she said, her words jumbling together.

He hugged her close to him; she buried her head in the curve of his neck and whispered. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t,” he promised. “You’re my lucky charm, remember?”

“I can’t always be with you.”

“But you are. I have you in my heart now, Celeste,” he admitted. “And on my cuffs.”

He lifted his arm to show her he wore the cufflinks she’d give him. He also felt he had an angel looking over him now. Judd. For the longest time he’d tried to live his life for the two of them. Taking twice as many adventures, doubling the risk whenever he attempted anything and dating enough women for himself and Judd. But now that he’d found Celeste he knew that Judd was watching over them both at Christmas and always.

He lifted her in his arms and carried her down the hall to the spot where he’d kissed her the first time. He put her on her feet and looked at her. Remembered how they’d met.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked.

“That’s my line,” she said with a wink. “And no I don’t mind at all.”

A few snowflakes clung to her hair and her coat. Her pretty little nose was red and her lips parted as he closed the gap between them. Kissing her, taking her to his bed, forgetting anyone else existed for the entire night, now that was what he wanted.

She blushed. He loved that he could still make her blush. She enchanted him. He crowded close to her, brushing her body with his. The cold from the storm outside disappeared as he slowly unbuttoned her coat, putting one hand on her waist and bracing the other one against the paneled wall behind her head. He leaned in so close that he could feel the warmth of her breath against his cheek. Then he brought his mouth down on hers, knowing that kissing was all he could indulge in right now.

She was drowning in Sebastian. Every time he kissed her it was the same. She thought she’d get used to him, his sexuality and that dangerous wildness that he wore like a second skin, but she hadn’t. He smelled of the dark night, windy and stormy, spicy and addictive. But it was his mouth that was pulling her under; dragging her into the very heart of the storm that she realized was produced by him.

His mouth moved over hers like he owned her, and let’s face it, he did. He did that thing where he curled his tongue around hers and she melted. She forgot about the fact that all his family and their friends waited down the hall. Forgot that it was Christmas and time to give thanks. The only thing she wanted was Sebastian.

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, he moaned a sound deep in his throat that was as primal as the storm. She wrapped her thigh around his hips and pulled him closer. She arched against him as his mouth continued to do that wicked thing to hers. That motion of his tongue and lips.

“Ho, Ho, Ho!”

She pulled back and Sebastian smiled down at her. “I forgot we weren’t alone.”

She nodded. She wasn’t ready to talk yet. Was still trying to calm her racing pulse. She’d worried about him when she’d realized he’d be driving in the fierce storm in that tiny car she’d bought him. She was always balancing on a knife-edge with him. She loved the aura of danger that surrounded him but she also feared it. Feared that one day it might take him from her.

His eyes were intense and filled with lust and desire and love. He hugged her close, the embrace not as intensely sexual as it had been a minute before. Sebastian had affected her, no other man had ever made her pulse race and her skin feel like it was on fire.

He rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip. There was something about him. “What happened when you were driving here?”

“You can always read me,” he said.

“I hope so. You have seen straight through me from the beginning.”

“I wish,” he said. “I…was thinking about Judd.”

Celeste cupped his hand. “I think I would have liked him.”

“Sebastian, are you going to join the rest of us?” his father called from the end of the hallway.

He turned to see his father, Theodore, at the end of the hall resplendent in his black tuxedo with his “holiday cummerbund and bow tie of red, green and gold plaid.

“Just testing out the mistletoe,” Sebastian said.

He sensed the worry in his father that hadn’t completely abated since his engagement to Celeste. Sebastian had been slowly returning to his life there was a part of him that would never be the man he’d been before the accident. He knew it and his father did as well.

As much as Celeste tamed the wildness inside of him she also made him very aware of how much more he had to lose.

“We will be right there, Theo,” Celeste said coming up behind him.

“Good. Ava is anxious for you to try her new cocktail recipe,” Theo said before waving and walking away.

Celeste tucked her hand into the curve of his arm and he glanced down at her. She had her head tipped to the side; a strand of that honey-blonde hair of hers was curled along the side of her face. She had some kind of glossy lipstick that made it almost impossible for him to look away from her mouth.

“I don’t know if I say it enough but I’m glad you’re mine,” he said.

“I’m glad you’re mine too. Especially since you promised to fulfill all of my desires.”

He put his hands on her waist and drew her ever closer to him. She smelled of vanilla and home. He looked down into her eyes and felt the last vestiges of the past slowly ebb away.

“I want to hear more about these desires,” he said. “I will satisfied them as soon as we are alone.”

“I’m counting on it! Being around you always awakens new ones. Like the need for one more kiss under the mistletoe.”

“I don’t want to disappoint,” he said, lowering his head.

Her lips parted and she went up on tiptoe, her hands holding on to his shoulders. He felt the warmth of her breath over his lips the moment before theirs met. An electric tingle went through him and he closed his eyes as he deepened the kiss. She melted into him and he thought of the room just up the stairs and down the hall. His old bedroom which his mom had kept as it had been when he’d lived with them. He lifted her more fully into his body and took three steps toward the stairs.

“Merry Christmas!”

He lifted his head and met his brother’s gaze. Slowly he let Celeste slide down until her feet touched the floor. She turned to Logan and started to step aside but kissing Celeste had left him in a state of arousal so he drew his fiancée back into his arms and smiled at his brother over her shoulder.

“Merry Christmas, Logan. We weren’t sure you’d make it,” Celeste said.

Logan had been working long hours lately, skipping golf at the club and in general taking up the surliness that Sebastian had left behind. A few snowflakes were in Logan’s thick brown hair.

“I couldn’t disappoint my favorite soon-to-be sister-in-law,” Logan said, coming over. “Am I allowed a kiss hello or has Sebastian chained you to his side.”

Celeste gave Sebastian a long, smoldering look from under her eyelashes. “I wouldn’t mind being tied to him.”

Sebastian groaned as her words flamed the fire inside of him he was trying to contain.

Logan laughed as if sensing Sebastian’s predicament as Celeste stepped away and gave his younger brother a hug. Logan kissed Celeste on the cheek and then linked his arm with hers, leading her down the hall to the party that Sebastian had been avoiding.

Not about to let Logan steal his date, he put his hand on Celeste’s waist, bringing her back to his side as they entered the living room. His sister and a group of her friends from the UN were at the bar mixing up a cocktail called a snowball. His mom was surrounded by her good friends and his father was making small talk by the fire place. Logan moved off to talk to Kendra Martin, Celeste’s best friend who had become a part of their extended family.

He pulled Celeste off to a corner, his heart flooded with love. “Thank you.”

“For?”

“Bringing me back to this.”

She gave him that soft look of hers. “You’re welcome. I love you, Seb.”

“I love you too,” he said. He kissed her again but this time it wasn’t about passion. It was a kind of thank you for the life that he had now. The one he couldn’t have found without her by his side.

“A toast,” his father said after getting everyone’s attention.

He and Celeste joined his sister and her friends. They were all handed a drink and his father stood at the front of the room. It was easy to read the joy in his face and the satisfaction that his father felt at having all of his children under his roof.

“To our friends old and new,” Theodore said.

Sebastian thought he saw the ghost of Judd next to his dad lifting a glass and smiling at him.

They all toasted and took a sip and Celeste slipped her hand into his. “Merry Christmas to everyone and may this New Year be the best one yet.”

“I can guarantee that,” Sebastian said.

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