~The Binding~

Chapter 22


"Are you okay to go home?"  Kevin watched for any signs that would indicate Suzie couldn't drive home.

"Yeah but why bother, it's so lonely there," Suzie blew out a breath and her bangs flew up in the air.  Now she was upset that she had let her anger slip over the gifts.  At first, she was delighted that Anne, Jackie, and MeeMaw had thought enough about her to buy her presents.  Then she was pissed off when all the items were decorated with the country cow motif. 

"How about I go with you and you won't be so lonely?"  Nick stood in the door.


The shriek she let out was enough to give Kevin a headache.

"Okay, we have a ton of shit to do, so kiss and makeup then go home."  Bron tossed her shoes off.

"So how was my Santa impression?"  Nick grinned sheepishly.

"That was you?"  Suzie looked at all the parties involved and studied their faces; it was the truth.  "You groped me."

"That wasn't a grope, it was a touch, besides you called me a pig!"  Nick tilted his head and turned on the Carter charm.  "I just wanted you to sit on my lap,"

"It's a good thing she didn't," Kevin smirked.  "We might have found out where all those elves come from."

"Lock up when you leave or go to bed," Bron was already towing Kevin downstairs to the storage room to carry things upstairs.  It was time to play Santa.

"I guess we're going to stay over, if you don't mind?"  Suzie stood at the bottom of the staircase as Nick had already ventured up the steps.

"Mind, why the hell would we mind?"  Kevin waved a wrench in the air as he stood over the coffee table in the pit.

Bron grabbed the wrench from him, "Give me that, I'll do it.  Go find something easier to do."

"It's supposed to be easy but everything is written in friggin' Chinese," Kevin tossed the instructions to Bron.  "We should have put all this shit together days ago."

Nick and Suzie left the parents to contend with the mess downstairs.  "Wow, those kids are really spoiled," Suzie saw the mound of gifts, which were wrapped to be placed under the trees.

"With all the bling I sent you, you don't have much room to talk," Nick mumbled as he climbed the stairs.  Nick was on autopilot as he headed for the room that was deemed his place when the house was built.  Andrew opened his door, hearing noises in the hallway. He stopped and smiled, "Thanks Santa."

"Any time," Nick waved good night as he shut his door after Suzie followed him.

"Do you know that they gave me half interest in the Bed and Breakfast?  I'm totally floored."  She watched Nick undress and then landed on him as he lay down on the mattress in his boxers.  "I'm a business woman!  I own a business, well half of a business.  I have so many plans for that place.  I'm going to re-package the place for different times of the year.  A spa get-away for women, a re-treat type thing…"

She would have kept talking but Nick's lips placed on hers halted the conversation.  "Shut up so I can give you your gift.  If I were you, I would be nervous.  You didn't earn a GG, and it came from Bron.  Something is up, guaranteed."

"Nick that is an awful thing to say about my best friend," Suzie sat up and wondered why he would say such a thing.

"She's got a motive.  Bron didn't give away half a profitable business for no reason at all."  Nick got up and reached into his coat pocket.

Suzie's brow creased, "She didn't, Mc did.  Don't look at me like that."

"Exactly," Nick withdrew the velvet box from his coat and walked to the bed.  "There is something behind that entire deal. Later, don't say I didn't try to tell you so."

"Whatever.  Come to bed, I want to show you how much I care about you."  Suzie smiled.

"Care?  Care?  You care about me?"  Nick stood up as fast as he had sat down.  He paced and ran his hand through his hair.  "You care about me!"

Suzie's lips twisted from side to side, she couldn't figure out what she had said wrong.  "Yes I care about you."

Letting out a huff, he sat down hard and shook the entire bed in doing so. His face in his hands, he took a calming breath. "Here," he thrust the box at her.

"Did I say something wrong?" as she pulled the simple ribbon on the box.

"No," Nick grumbled, "Merry Christmas."

Now she felt bad, she didn't have his gift.  "If I had known you were going to be here, I would have brought your gifts with me."

Suzie almost swallowed her tongue when she looked at the necklace.  This gift was worth more than anything anyone or he had given her combined.  It was a three-diamond pendant, which was silver and round.  Turning it over in her hand, she smiled as she read the words aloud that were inscribed on it, "Heart, Body, and Soul.  Love Nick."  The last two words meant more than anything did to her.  She hadn't expected them since they had insisted that there were just dating for so long.  "It's beautiful Nick.  Will you help me put it on?"  Suzie pulled the necklace from the box and handed it to him.  Turning around on the bed she put her back to him.

Kneeling on the bed behind her, he opened the clasp, dropped it around her neck, and then re-hooked the closure.

Going up on her knees, she turned on him suddenly, her eyes were watery, "Do you mean all those words…  I mean all of them?"  She didn't want to get her hopes up only to have them dashed.  Nick was young and not ready to settle down but she would take the stronger commitment that he was offering her.

With his hands on her upper arms, he pulled her into an embrace, "Yes, I meant them.  I do love you.  I'm not ready to get married or nothin' but I want you to know that I do love you."

"I'll take that.  I'm not ready to get married either," she whispered as she kissed him into infinity.  The kiss was a prelude to a wonderful night for both of them as they drifted to sleep in each other’s arms late into the night.

At one in the morning, Bron and Kevin fell into bed, exhausted.  Even though his thumb hurt from getting it caught on the hinge of the Barbie dollhouse, he was still caught up in the Family Christmas.  "That was damn fun!"

"Whoo-hoo, we get to do it all over again in three hundred and sixty four days."

"Birthdays," Kevin commented as he dropped his dress pants over the chair.

Bron shook her head no, "The scale isn't as large," she dropped her dress to the floor.

"Sleep," Kevin mumbled as they cuddled together in the big bed. Her back to him as he wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer.  Both of them lay in silence watching the light snow fall outside.

"It's a beautiful night," Kevin sighed.  "I wish we could have taken a sleigh ride, just the two of us."

"Maybe next year, we can do that," Bron stretched and yawned as she backed into him.

Kevin didn't say anything as she drifted off to sleep.  He was still wound and having difficulty going to sleep.  Eventually he did drift off only to be woken up far too early.

"Dad?" he heard the small squeaky voice.  He could have sworn he had just fallen asleep.  "Dad?" came louder this time and he moaned.  Opening an eye, Bron was still asleep and the numbers glowed four zero seven on the clock next to the bed.  "Go back to bed Bounce, it's too early."

"He said he was coming at three," Kaylin's voice pleading with him.

"Nick dies," Kevin whispered to Bron.  "We don't need the cute blonde anymore, we're men, married men, men with families."  Bron who had cracked an eye open but wasn't letting on that she was awake.

"Daddy, pretty please!"

The whine was a little too shrill for four in the morning.  "Go to bed!" Bron yelled.

"But Mom, Santa said…"  She stopped when Kevin sat up in bed and wiped his eyes with his fingers.

"If you don't go back to bed, you won't open any presents until lunch."  Kevin was pissed, three hours of sleep wasn't cutting it. He had finally broken Kaylin of the habit of getting up when her mother did and now she was doing it again.

"Okay," she pouted and added a sniff.

"Now," Kevin pointed to the door and watched her leave.  Lying back down, he waited for Bron to say something.  "Are you mad at me?"

"I'm too tired to be mad, go back to sleep," Bron yawned and closed her eyes.

Doing exactly what she had told him to do, he slept soundly for two more hours before Bron was standing over the bed and yanking on his foot, "Okay now you have to get up."

"Why?" he nearly cried.  "I'm not Superman; I can't keep your hours."

"Go to bed at a normal time and you could.  Get up, breakfast is after presents.  I've started dinner and both of them have waited very patiently for the last hour.  Hell, I've waited patiently for the last two."

Kevin opened his eyes to see her standing next to the bed wearing a cute little nightgown and that very short pink satin bathrobe.  He smiled, "C'mere."

"Oh no, no, not happening.  Get up," Bron left her unsatisfied and half-asleep husband lying in bed.

Slipping on a pair of gym shorts, he headed down the stairs to Kaylin patiently waiting with a pile three times the size of her in front of her. He was going to ask but a coffee cup was stuffed in his hand. Automatically he sipped, "Damn, you do make good coffee."  His eyes went back to Kaylin who sat cheerfully on the floor with a big grin on her face.

Bron could tell he was studying what had taken place.  "She sorted everything for everyone, wasn't that nice of her?"

"Yeah, very nice.  It's more like who got the bigger pile."  Kevin looked at Andrew, who was old enough to know better but seemed just as excited.  His eyes fell on the two small piles on the couch, "I think we got ripped off."

Bron laughed, "Oh you big baby."  Bron set the coffee carafe on the table along with pastries that were piled on a plate.  "Fire up the camcorder Kevin," Bron sat Cooper on her lap to help him open his presents.

"Yes dear," Kevin blinked, hell he wasn't even functioning yet.  Lifting the camera from the couch, he popped the cap off.  Hearing noises coming from the stairway, he moved the camcorder with him while he was looking through it.  The first official Christmas taping had begun.  "Well good morning Mr. Carter and Miss Susan.  Care to join us?  Sleep well?  Did you know Santa swung by the house at three? Do you know how I know that?  My daughter woke us up at four to check!"

"Oh food," Nick was in the Pit to munch faster than a four year old. "Santa is cool," he laughed as he stuffed an entire doughnut in his mouth.  "You old people can take a nap later on."

"And some things will never change," Kevin grunted as Kaylin begged to open her first gift.

"Don't tape everything.  If anyone ever sees this tape, they'll think Santa overindulged our children."  Bron helped Cooper open his first gift, which was a Fisher Price foot piano for the crib.

Bron pushed the buttons and the light flashed and flickered.  "He likes it," Bron laughed as Cooper stared at it and then tried to kick at it with his feet.

"I don't know if he likes it or if he is blinded by it," Suzie chuckled.

"Come on Bounce, open a present," The camera moved to Kaylin.

She ripped the paper like a pro, "ARIEL!"

"Yeah Disney," Kevin mumbled.  "I'm going to buy stock in the joint."

The scene continued for a while until Kevin insisted that Nick run the camcorder for a while since he was freeloading while Bron and Kevin opened a few things. Bron handed him the small square box.  Kevin smiled when it was finally unwrapped.  He blew her a kiss, "Thanks."  Kevin hung the "Our First Christmas" ornament on the tree.

Cooper received a Baby's First Christmas ornament from Suzie and Nick. Andrew received the usual CD's and misc. stuff such as socks and underwear.  He frowned after he opened the underwear and he looked at his Mother.

"Don't worry, everyone got some," Bron laughed at her son's obvious disgust.

Bron opened a box that showed a toaster on the outside.  She tossed Kevin a suspicious look and wondered if he really was that stupid. Opening the box, she smiled and pulled the object out.  "I love it!"

"How romantic, a new tool belt," Suzie laughed.

"Shut up," Kevin laughed, "It's what she wanted."

Then Bron opened the gift certificates that Kevin was stupid enough to buy.  One was for an eye doctor even.  "What the hell is that for?"

Kevin waited, truth or fib time, truth won.  "To get your eyes checked. You've been squinting a lot when you read."

"I have not," Bron was hoping nobody had noticed.

"Yes you have Mommy; you had me read the Brownie box the other day.  You told me they shrunk the print."

"They did dammit!"  Bron frowned at them.  They were laughing at her, all of them.

"Yep, all those manufacturers are in league to shrink the print so you can't read it."  Kevin chuckled.  "Don't be so vain."

"Not to mention the magazines, the newspapers," Suzie added.

"And the monitor on your computer," Andrew snickered.

"Okay, I get the point," Bron let it go.

"I have one for Daddy," Kaylin went to the gifts that sat in front of Kevin.  "This is from Andrew, Coop, and me."

"And I," Kevin corrected.

"No, not from you, from me," Kaylin crinkled her nose up.

Kevin laughed, "You're just like your Momma."

He heard Bron cough, letting him know, she wasn't amused. He stared at the gift for a long time and then tears rolled.

"Aww man, Kaylin, you are always making your Dad cry." Nick shook his head at Kevin

"You don't like it?"  Kaylin's chin trembled.

"I love it.  It's the best gift anyone ever gave me," Kevin used the tissue that his wife handed him.  It was a simple framed 11 x 14 piece of artwork.

Bron's grumbled stopped Nick from opening his mouth before he mentioned Bron herself as a present.

Kaylin began to explain, "That's my picture and my hand.  Mommy painted my hand and I pressed it on the paper.  Then Mommy did Cooper's and Andrew did his own.  We all drew the pictures on it.  Mommy got the frame and had 'My Family' wrote on it."

He was too busy crying to correct wrote to written, "Thank you Bounce.  It's the best."  Kevin gave her hug, a huge one.  Kevin casually hugged Andrew who stood up when Kevin walked towards him.

Bron handed Kevin an envelope and gave him a quirky smile when he sat back down.  He opened the enveloped, removed the booklet that was tucked inside, and flipped through the book.

"What's that Kev?"  Suzie craned her neck to look.

"Gift certificates," Kevin looked at his wife suspiciously.  Clearing his throat, "Redeemable anytime?"

"Any time, that's what it says," Bron snickered an evil little laugh.

Suzie perked up, "Sounds interesting, can I see?"

"Nope," Kevin slid the envelope under his butt and sat on them.

"Hey I worked hard on that," Bron looked at him in horror.

"You're going to work a hell of a lot harder when I cash them in," Kevin licked his lips and smirked.

"Okay, it's one of those gifts," Suzie covered the lens of the camcorder.  "Edit that out!"

Kevin went to the tree and reached way under it to find the one gift for Bron that he knew Kaylin wouldn't find.  "Since you gave me something so special with those gift certificates, I have something special for you." Kevin handed her the box and then braced himself.  He knew she wanted it and had been watching the price fall but he also knew that as accomplished as she was, it intimated her so she couldn't justify buying it in her head. He planted his feet firmly.

"OH MY GOD!"  Bron screamed and launched herself at him.

"Holy shit," Nick jumped, not used to Bron reacting that way.  He focused the camcorder on them as Bron very neatly and basically ran up the front of Kevin and hung on.

"How did you know?"  Bron hugged and hung on.

"I have my ways," he winked as he returned her to the ground.

"What the hell is that?"  Nick looked closer.

"It's my naked people program," Bron ripped the book out of the box.

"Should we talk about this in front of the kids?" Suzie questioned, knowing what the program was and what Bron's intentions were.  She cast a side-glance to Kevin and mouthed, "You'll be sorry."  Clearly, he didn't know her intentions or never would have brought it in the house.

"Naked people?"  Nick leaned closer as Kevin pulled the camcorder from him.

"Naked Backstreet," Bron laughed.

"Oh no," Kevin closed his eyes.

"I told you so," Suzie laughed.

"It will not be used in that manner, will it darlin'?"  Kevin pointed the camera at her.

"Not until I'm good enough."

Kevin's moan was hilarious.

"The guys are going to hate you buddy," Nick laughed then looked at Bron.  "Don't you dare do me."

"I wouldn't," Bron smiled a toothy grin.

"She's lying," Suzie shook her head.

"Damn straight," Kevin laughed.

"One for you daddy," Kaylin bopped him on the leg.  "It's from me."

The camcorder was passed along to Suzie.  Bron didn't know what the gift was.  The gift was chosen by her and her Uncle Mc. Suzie held back any signs of what was involved in this gift, but she had a feeling it would be a serious smack down after what Kaylin had repeated to her and Mc at the department store about the nightgowns.

Kevin opened the box eagerly, lifted the lid, folded the tissue paper aside and stared.  He had no idea what the hell it was but it was blinking at him.  Shaking his head, he pulled the gift out of the box and held it up.

Nick and Andrew lost it as Kevin turned the object around. Suzie was snorting and Bron was laughing harder than any of them.

"Put them on Dad, they're Rudolph boxers. Look his nose blinks. Uncle Mc said that you can wear them to sleep in and Mommy can find you in the dark."

"Turn it off Suz!"  Kevin was trying not to laugh too hard as she taped away.  Suzie wasn't going to turn the camera off, he could see that.  "Baby they are umm… umm… great thanks.  I've never had my boxer's blink before."

That was it, Bron lost it, Nick fell of the couch laughing.  Andrew just sat shaking his head.  Suzie was egging it on.  "I think you should try them on so you know they fit.  You wouldn't want to have to return them."

"Return them?  I don't think so," he laughed at the offending apparel.

"Try them on Dad," Kaylin was proud of her Dad's gift, but unaware to what amused the adults so much.

"I don't think I need to do that honey.  I'm sure they'll fit just fine." Kevin was watching Bron; she was having a hell of a good time a t his expense.

"Please Daddy?"  Kaylin smiled.

"Tell me I'm not going to do this," Kevin sat down and slid them over his feet.  Standing up he pulled them on.  A new round of laughter started from all of them except Kaylin as Kevin stood in his living room with Rudolph plastered on the crotch of a new pair of boxers and it blinked at them.

"Turn him on, turn him off," Suzie snickered.

"Need new batteries?"  Nick joined in.

"It's like a beacon for Mom," Andrew smiled.

Bron opened her mouth as Kevin crossed his arms and stood there smiling at her.  "II'll plead the fifth, it’s safer."

"Smooth move on your part…" the doorbell rang and Kevin sighed.  "That would be Mc, he's getting even.  I'll show him, I'm a better man than that and I will proudly where any gift my daughter gives me."  Kevin marched to the door and threw it open, "Very funny…" Kevin stopped.  It wasn't Mc, closing his eyes he waited and mumbled what a dumb fuck he was to himself.

"Well, very attractive.  It's sort of like a set of landing strip lights for the wife."

Kevin groaned and jogged up the stairs leaving the door open.

Bron yelled from the couch, "Come on in Keith."

"Oh shit," Nick started laughing as Kevin came back down the stairs sans the new drawers.

Keith smiled, looked at Bron, "Did you get that on tape?"

"Sure did," Bron cackled.

"I'll pay for that tape.  I'll indenture my first born to your business."

"Nobody ain't payin' for shit," Kevin pulled a laser green bead on Keith.  "Ya know what I mean."

"Yeah, Ebay," Suzie laughed and closed her mouth when Kevin stood up, but he poured more coffee instead of coming after her.

"Here Honey," Bron handed Andrew his last gift.  Kevin had one more too, but it was a companion for the one she handed Andrew so he had to wait.

Andrew was grinning like a damn fool.  Nick, Keith, and Kevin were checking it out as they all came off the couch.

Bron started her lecture and thanked herself for buying a couple extras.  "You don't load it the house.  You don't aim at people, animals, or things that aren't appropriate."

"I know Ma…" Andrew rolled his eyes.

"That's the same face you gave me when I gave you the sling shot, may I remind you."  Bron was thankful for the extra three gifts she had.  She had a feeling that the men might be a tad jealous.

"That is really cool.  You should've gotten all of us one, then we could get a game going," Kevin peered down the barrel.

"What is that?"  Suzie burped a just fed Cooper.

"It's a paint gun to play war games.  Ya know G.I. Joe stuff," Nick uttered while touching it.

"Well here you go boys, one for each of you.  Don't aim them at my house or my kids," Bron handed each man a box including Keith and Nick.

"Oh cool," Kevin grabbed his and ripped it out of the box.

"Hey Suz?"  Nick looked at her as he licked his lips.

"The plane leaves at four," Suzie could see the excitement in his eyes.

"Dinner is at two," Bron added knowing damn well the adult men would charge out of the house to go off and play in the woods like little boys.

"It's ten now," Kevin looked at his watch.

"Clothes?"  Keith pulled at his brand new sweater.

"We got extra," Kevin grinned.  They started to charge upstairs.

"Kevin you forgot something," Bron grabbed his hand to make him stop.

"What?" he was so excited.  He wanted to go play with the fellas.

"Andrew?  Big Gift?"  Bron looked at him like he was crazy.  How the hell could he forget?  They fought for over the damn thing.

"Oh Yeah.  Andrew you have one more gift.  It's down at the barn.  Your Mom and I have fought over it for a month or more, needless to say she lost and I won.  We bought you a new truck.  For all the money your Mother has, she drives shitty cars."  Kevin charged up the stairs to change with three grown men behind him.

"Thanks for the truck Mom," Andrew turned over his head and shouted.

Bron stood in her spot with her mouth hanging open.  "Ungrateful little shit," she muttered.

Suzie could see the disappointment on Bron's face.  "He's grateful.  He just wants to play with his new toys and the bigger boys right now.  Let's make more coffee and I'll help you in the kitchen."

"Oh gee thanks," Bron rolled her eyes as Kaylin played with her new dollhouse. “Hey you know, just for the record I would have given Nick at least eight ounces on the sausage thing.”

Suzie groaned as she thought about what she had said the previous night.

Kevin came bouncing down the stairs and kissed her as the guys breezed by him.  "Thanks for the fifty-two inch widescreen in the bedroom.  I'm liken' it."

"She got you one of those big ones for your bedroom?"  Keith looked at him.

"Yeah," Kevin nodded as he pulled on an old camo coat.  "Got the College football and basketball ticket channels on it, Pro games too."

"You're a spoiled son of bitch," Keith laughed.

"I know, it's great," Kevin kissed Bron. "She did it because I bug her when she's trying to write," he announced just before the four men went to tramp through the woods like soldiers and shoot each other with paint balls.

"Damn he's got your number," Suzie washed some potatoes.

"You're telling me.  I can't get Jack by that man."  Bron headed for the phone hearing it ring.  "Hello…  Hello…  Hello…  Who the hell is this?"






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