(Bonus Story from King of Diamonds)
My wife hung up Christmas stockings in our suite and she’s practically sparkling with anticipation, waiting for everyone to check them.
Everyone meaning me, Corey and Stefano. The family that matters to us.
I’m a little grouchy about not having her all to myself this morning, but I managed to fuck her in the shower before my brother and Corey showed up, so at least I’m not blue-balled.
And really, if I have to share her, I don’t mind it being with Stefano and Corey. They are definitely the two people, apart from Sondra, who I trust most. Corey would do anything for Sondra and Stefano would take a bullet for me.
A knock sounds at the door and Sondra runs for it, throwing it open. “Merry Christmas!” She kisses Corey and Stefano, whose arms are too full of presents to hug her. “Ooh, come in. Put those under the tree. Who wants a latte?”
I can’t take my eyes off my beautiful wife–the glow around her. The way she lights up the room. It’s not just her pretty blond hair and girl-next-door sweetness. It’s who she is.
Sondra’s transformed this luxurious but impersonal penthouse suite in the Bellissimo into a home. There’s a Christmas tree in the corner against the wall-to-wall windows with presents stacked underneath it.
Original artwork hangs on the walls now–stuff she picked from local artists and from the vault where I had a bunch of random pieces stored. Her excellent taste is reflected in everything from the table settings on the breakfast bar to the artsy knick-knacks on the mantle.
Stefano and Corey drop their gifts under the tree and head back to the breakfast bar, where they help themselves to the homemade caramel pecan sticky buns Sondra just took out of the oven.
“Mmm, even better than your mom’s,” Corey raves, popping one a bite of the gooey confection in her mouth.
“Delicious,” Stefano agrees.
“Check your stockings!” Sondra sings out as she froths the milk for their lattes.
I saunter over to the mantel and unhook the four stockings where they hang. “Did you check yours?”
I filled it up last night after I panicked and realized that job fell on my shoulders. I had to go downstairs and raid the gift shop and spa for jewelry, chocolates and skin products to stuff in it. Even so, I feel like I should’ve done better.
I want to spoil Sondra with diamonds and rubies, or a shiny new Mercedes–things my mom loved to get from my dad. But she doesn’t care about those things. I had to put a little more thought into my gift this year, and I’m really fucking nervous about what I ended up getting her.
We all gather in seats around the tree and dump our stockings, picking through the goodies. Mine has an expensive new pen, a gold money clip, men’s shaving lotion. I meet Sondra’s eye. “Thank you, bambi.”
She blushes and shrugs. “You’re hard to shop for.”
I reach for her and pull her up on my lap. “Don’t ever worry about me, piccolina. All I need is you.”
She softens into me, tucking her face into my neck.
Stefano and Corey are having some private exchange of their own.
“Is it time for presents?” Sondra asks.
“Definitely. You first.” I nudge her up off my lap and slide a big box over to her.
She rips the wrapping paper off eagerly, then pulls the tape off the box. It’s a much larger box than needed–I tried to throw her off so she wouldn’t guess my gift by the shape.
She opens it, pulls out the wrapping and just stares.
I clear my throat. “If you don’t like this one, we can put it in the gallery.”
She turns to me, eyes bright with tears. “Are you kidding me? I freaking love it. It’s perfect.” She pulls the Picasso drawing out of the box and holds it up to show Corey and Stefano.
“I’ve been assured it’s real by two separate art experts.” The thing cost me $200 grand, which I was happy to spend. I’m just worried it won’t be from her favorite period, or the right colors or something.
“Oh, it’s real,” Sondra breathes. “It’s real and I love it. Thank you.” She won’t stop looking at it. That’s a good sign.
I lean over and kiss her neck. “If you don’t–”
“I love it,” she says firmly. When she turns to me, the tears are in her eyes again. “It’s the best gift anyone’s ever given me. I can’t even believe it.”
Warmth fills my chest. Satisfied, I sit back and pull her against me. “Good.”
We watch Corey and Stefano open a couple presents, then Sondra hands a box to me. It’s small and rectangular. I pull the end of the ribbon and untie the bow. “What is it?” I pry open the taped lid and look in.
My entire body flushes with ice and heat at what I see.
“What… not really… is this–?”
I meet my wife’s eyes. She nods, her smile blinding.
I pick up the silver rattle, my eyes smarting. “You’re pregnant?”
“Just a few weeks. I decided to wait until Christmas to tell you.” She fidgets with her hands like she’s uncertain of my reaction.
I reach for her, holding her head as I lay kisses all over her face–her lips, her eyelids, her cheeks. “Madonna, this is wonderful. I’m so fucking happy.”
“Of course I am.”
“Whoo hoo,” Corey cheers.
“Congratulations,” Stefano pipes in, but I can’t spare them any attention. I have to love on my wife. “Ma is going to be so thrilled.”
For some reason, my eyes smart again thinking of my mom’s joy at this news.
“Yeah, she is,” I say. “But not as thrilled as I am. This is the best gift ever, angel.”
“Don’t think you have to give him this gift every year, though,” Corey says drily.
We all laugh.
I pull her back to my lap, needing to have her closer, needing to caress her everywhere. “I’m going to spoil you rotten, baby,” I promise, my lips on her shoulder. “You’ll be fucking principessa around here.”
She laughs, tears finally escaping her eyes and glittering on her lashes. “I already am.”
I palm her abdomen protectively, saying hello to my baby. “I love you, piccolina,” I whisper in her ear. “Both of you.”
She turns and wraps her arms around my neck. “Merry Christmas, Nico. We love you, too.”