My 99 year old grandmother died last week. She wasn’t your stereotypical kind of grandma. She painted, but she didn’t paint still life or scenery, she painted vivid abstract compositions based on nebulae and quantum physics. She was fierce in her hunt for knowledge and her passion for science and art. She engaged with socialist ideas well before they became hipster.

At her funeral, we all shared our memories of Grandma and some consistent themes came up. Her huge sense of fairness and the importance of equality, the love of knowledge, the loyalty to and importance of family. We talked about how all of these had been passed down through the generations and her 23 descendants.

Today I’m sharing some of the many lessons my Grandma taught me.

Childhood Trauma can Shape you Forever

Grandma lived through the Great Depression. Born in 1920, she was just a child when the Depression hit, her father died, and her family had to leave the big house she loved and move cities to live with extended family. She didn’t live with her mother, but with a cousin whose wife treated her very badly. She had to leave school at 14 and help her family. These early experiences shaped my grandmother deeply, some in sad ways (her fear of being thought ignorant which drove her fierce acquisition of learning in later years) and some in more quirky ones. Grandma could not abide waste. She was known to slip bacon from the motel breakfast into her purse ‘for later’ and couldn’t throw away anything that might end up being useful later.

I didn’t understand a lot of that until I was older. When I heard more of the stories of her life I had a much greater understanding of how she came to be the way she was. It’s so important to remember that people are so often the products of their upbringing and their earliest experiences, and to be kind.

Resist Authority

Not long before she died, Grandma told me about when she was 10, and the woman she stayed with took the roses Grandma had gathered to give to her mother and put them in her own living room. Grandma was as furious as a sad little 10yo deeply missing their mother could be. She told me she went to every corner of that room and stuck her finger in the wallpaper and ripped it down. I nearly cheered.

A story I remember hearing when I was younger and I really hope isn’t apocryphal because I tell it to all my students 😬, is that during the mass protests against the 1981 Springbok Tour, Grandma hit a policeman on the head with her handbag when he was rough with protestors. My grandmother was never one to bow to authority unless she deemed it moral and worth listening to. Even then I doubt she would bow.

Be Yourself even when Others Have Opinions

Grandma was never one to worry too much about the opinions of those she didn’t care for. Certainly not by the time I knew her.

She and her sister opened a fashion store in 1950s Hamilton and shocked many with their glamorous selves. And she was glamorous.

(photo is from her engagement earlier, but STILL so glamorous)

She was a working mother when that was frowned upon. She read about communism (although she did burn her little red book in the backyard in the 60s when anti-communism was at a high). She learned acupuncture and ran a successful clinic in the 1980s in central Auckland. She was always a rationalist and had little patience for sentimentality. She painted her house herself. She had staunch political opinions and was not afraid to discuss them.

Grandma was so very much herself. So much of her childhood always sounded to me as if she was being required to repress her feelings and experiences and I’m so very glad that for most of her life she allowed herself to just simply BE.

Young Women Have Urges

So…. When I was in my early 20s and single, I was visiting grandma when she asked:

“Have you found a nice boyfriend yet?”

“Ah no, some dates but they never last long.”

“Don’t worry you’ll find someone.”

“I’m sure I will.”

her: *looks intently at me* “But, young women have… urges….and it’s quite alright to date someone you aren’t in love with to satisfy those urges.”

me:

I couldn’t believe my grandma was telling me to have one-night stands 😂

You are never too old to create

Grandma taught herself to paint and came up with her own style. She painted and learned and had her first exhibition at the age of 96. It was such a success they brought her back for another the year after. She was still talking of having another exhibition not many months ago.

Three weeks before she died, grandma was still working on her paintings. She still had so many ideas she wanted to try, visions to pursue.

I began writing again in my late thirties, dropped it, and picked it up again a couple of years ago. Knowing that age is no barrier to creativity is endlessly inspiring.

The world will change, and we change with it

Over Grandma’s 99 1/2 years, she witnessed so many things: The Great Depression, the creation of the first welfare state in New Zealand, World War II, the first Atomic Bombs, the rise of second wave feminism, gay rights, first woman Prime Minister in New Zealand, fights for civil rights, the Vietnam War, protests, climate change, the hippy counter culture of the 70s, the rise of computers, televisions, movies, mobile phones, passenger flight, the Moon Landing, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring, 9/11, the #MeToo movement and third wave feminism….

It’s been a huge century, and she saw and experienced so much of it. And I know I said we change with it, and we do, but the essential core of who my grandma was – the loving, curious, determined, creative little girl she was – remained throughout her life.

I was so incredibly blessed to have known her.

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Persistence. Ugh. Sometimes it’s TOO HARD. In fact, it’s often always hard because if it was easy we wouldn’t call it persistence, we’d call it something else, like, idk, ENJOYMENT.

 

But it’s necessary.

 

And so very rewarding.

 

If you don’t trust me, trust Cap.

Cap do this all day

 

You may know if you saw my post from earlier this year that 2018 was a difficult year, to put it mildly. Poor health was followed by a bad episode of depression and struggles with anxiety. Although depression affected pretty much every area of my life there was one bit it targeted with particular cruelty – my writing.

 

2018 was going to be the year I really took action to make my writing dreams a reality. I paid more attention to craft, I not only finished a book but REVISED it (a fate I’d previously circumvented because ugh), and I engaged in the writing community on Twitter.

 

So it seemed particularly unfair that it also became the year that I would weep for hours in front of my computer because I believed deep, deep down that everything I wrote was trash. Not the jokey ‘here, have my garbage fire of a draft! lol!’ but a genuine deep belief that this thing I wanted more than I’ve wanted anything for a really, really long time, was out of reach because I simply wasn’t good enough. That I was, and would remain, a failure because of my own incompetence.

 

I was also weeping in the shower because I’d forgotten to bring a dry towel into the bathroom, to be fair, but the usual self-doubt and cycle of rejection that comes with writing and putting your work out there was amplified a MILLION-fold by the depression. I couldn’t see any of the positive comments from beta readers, only the critical ones. And I mean that almost literally – they became nearly invisible. I know this because once I was well I went back and reread some comments and SAW all these amazing positive things I hadn’t seen before.

 

HOWEVER! 2018 was also the year that I finished revisions, queried, got full requests, dealt with rejections, queried again, and again, sent to competitions, wrote another book, started writing three other books, came 12th in a writing competition and was awarded a Judge’s Favorite.

 

For so much of 2018, I was on the verge of quitting.

 

I was going to give my book away as a PDF to people who were silly enough to want to read it.

 

I was going to stop querying.

 

I was going to stop calling myself a writer.

 

But I didn’t.

 

Even in the worst moments there was a little corner of my soul that wouldn’t give up

I kept pushing ‘send’ on the queries, even though my heart raced with anxiety every time.

 

I queried that manuscript 84 times. I moved on to another one. And another one.

 

I would love to tell you how I did it. But I don’t really know. I know I didn’t do it alone. My writing friends had my back the whole way through – they let me freak out and panic in the DMs, encouraged me, lifted me up, cheered me on.

 

Treatment helped a TON.

 

But sadly there’s still no handy medicine for self-doubt and that rears its ugly little head ALL the TIME.

 

Ultimately, I did it because I kept going. I persisted (see, I told you it was necessary). Even when I loathed every word I put on the paper, I kept writing. I kept revising.

 

And it does pay off.

 

This year I entered the same manuscript I spent so much time hating last year into the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fabulous Five Contest.

 

It won its category.

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Talk about validation!

 

It’s had more full requests.

 

My son said after looking at my query spreadsheet and I’d explained all the red was rejections and the scattered green was the requests: “Wow. If you’d let all the red stop you, you’d never have got to the green!”

 

So simple, so true, and yes, so hard.

 

But so worth it.

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For some reason the heavy wooden rectangle that came in the mail today gave more weight to my achievement.

 

It made it more real.

 

I’ve propped it up next to my computer, near my index cards shouting positive and encouraging things, reminders like RUN YOUR RACE.

 

Because persistence is draining, we need the reminders of the good things on the journey.

 

It’s very much a journey – I’m still waking up to rejections from agents, still don’t have that publishing deal – but it’s a journey worth taking.

 

And I know I can do it.

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I am not a very good gardener. Often, in the past (okay including the last few months), plants have died from neglect or they’ve struggled for survival in a cocoon of weeds. I don’t mean to kill them, I just forget.

 

A little while ago my parents bought me a lot of beautiful flowers for my garden. Okay, I did manage to kill two of the plants before they went into the garden BUT, my point is – I was very touched by their gift not only of the plants but of their time and encouragement. Together, along with my kids, we got the garden looking pretty for the first time in a long time.

 

Since then, I haven’t killed anything.

 

I get so much pure pleasure from these flowers. Roses, daisies, begonias, geraniums, and some others I’m not yet great on remembering the names of. They greet me when I come home every day and give me so much happiness.

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I’ve been really making an effort during these hot summer days to remember to water the garden and make sure the boys weed it.

 

Tonight, as I stood watering the garden and letting my mind drift (because there’s not a lot else to do) I realised that taking care of my garden is a handy metaphor for taking care of my mental wellbeing full stop.

 

And you know I love a good metaphor!

 

Neglecting our happiness, our mental well-being, is pretty easy to do. We forget to weed out the negative and unhelpful thoughts. We think everything is fine and we can just look after it next weekend, when we have more time.

 

When it gets a bit untidy and overgrown, or things start wilting, we get embarrassed when people come round, or look at it. We feel bad about asking for help because we feel like it’s got that way through our own neglect so we should have to deal with cleaning it up ourselves.

 

But sometimes it’s really hard to do by yourself.

 

Sometimes, when the weeds are everywhere, and the flowers are brittle sticks, you don’t even know where to start. It all feels so very overwhelming. And you’re a rubbish gardener anyway. Why bother?

 

But then maybe you see a little flower blooming through the weeds, pushing its way valiantly to the light. You stop and marvel at it, admire its resilience.

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Maybe you ask for help, and people want to help, and you finally manage to clear it all out and replenish it and it brings you happiness again.

 

As I stood there watering I realised that the only way for me to ensure that not only do my poor little plants survive but that the joy I get from them is ongoing, is by investing time and effort into maintaining it.

 

It doesn’t take that long either – a bit over half an hour maybe to water my flowers. A little bit of time weeding. A bit of effort to remember to spray the roses and check for aphids.

 

And it’s the same with my happiness. Now that I have come through an incredibly difficult year of depression and stress and ill-health, I need to make sure I am putting effort into myself – my health, my wellbeing. I need to make sure I am keeping the weeds away regularly. Part of self-care is practicing positive self talk. I need to water the things that bring me joy – spending time with friends and family, writing, reading, exploring – even when perhaps I feel it’s too hard.

 

The focus on effort is not an accident. Being positive takes a lot of energy and sometimes hard work. Keeping demons at bay requires consistency.

 

It’s worth it for my garden, and it’s worth it for my well-being and my happiness.

 

How will you water your happiness in 2019?

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IMG_2966As a parent, you spend a lot of time teaching your kids stuff – how to do basic tasks, why manners are important, how to share when you don’t want to, and why it’s a really bad idea to stab that slug that crept into the dishwasher.

 

But we learn from our children too, most often without being aware of it. With the arrival of 2019 I found myself reflecting on some lessons I have learned from my sons.

 

Taking action on a fear lessens it

This is one of those lessons you learn because you’re teaching it – a case of practice what you preach. I will often get paralysed by fear of bills or the fear of inadequacy. When I was terrified about sending out queries my sons reminded me that I always tell them to face their fears.

 

They were right.

 

I’ve seen them face down fear of public speaking, of telling the teacher they haven’t done their homework, of zooming down a big hill, of embarrassment, and of catching public transport by themselves. I’ve seen them learn that the fear is soon over and that once the action is taken and a decision is made the fear subsides. The movie ‘We Bought A Zoo’ has one of my favourite quotes about courage:

 

You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.

 

This last year I wanted to run away from my writing a great deal but I remembered the look in my sons’ faces when they conquered a fear and I did it anyway.

 

Being useful provides a good sense of self efficacy

 

Recently my parents came around to help us make my garden into something beautiful. The boys dug holes, planted the roses they’d chosen, carried clippings, mowed lawns, weeded. The next weekend they cleaned off the deck and helped clear the garage. They didn’t necessarily start out keen about these things but at the end both of them felt proud of themselves, they felt energised and capable. They had been useful, helpful, and active. All these things help build a view of ourselves as effective and help build our self esteem.

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Patience is more than a virtue, it is a kindness

 

Many, many times, I have wanted to rush my kids through some less than scintillating recount of their latest computer game escapades before my brain explodes. I’ve wanted to rush the bedtime story to get to bed myself or to get on with my own writing or reading. But every time that I have stopped and relaxed into it, been patient with their enthusiasm, their chatter, their slow stories, I’ve seen the pleasure in their faces. Being patient with them and their follies, their passions, their mistakes, their stress about their homework, is a kindness. It shows them that they are valued. They know I don’t love computer games – what they take from this is that I love them. I have a tendency to be impatient in some circumstances but when I remind myself to practice patience I am always reminded that what I am practicing is kindness.

 

And what you reap is joy.

 

One of my best memories is going with my kids to North Head – there are a bunch of old military tunnels and slopes to ride down on cardboard, and seaside caverns to explore. Often on a day trip we go we do the thing and I’m “Okay we gotta go, we’ve done the thing, let’s go.” This day I didn’t. I was patient with them. I listened to the long stories and thoughts and I followed them wherever they wanted to go. We explored that whole darn place. I had so much fun seeing their excitement and pleasure in discovering new things.

 

You also, when you’re patient with the world, see magic.

‘Quick we’re going to be late! Quick! Why have you Stopped!’

‘Look Mum!’

‘What? What are we doing?’

‘Just look!’

There, on his finger, picked up from the fence, was a perfect dew drop, shimmering in the sunlight.

Magic. 

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I took this photo towards the end of last year. I was so entranced by the beauty of these dew drops. I’m glad I stopped to look.

Sometimes you can’t fix things

 

Sometimes things suck. Sometimes you lose everything you’ve worked hard to collect on Roblox and you feel devastated. Sometimes you have to go between two different houses and two different parents and you have to deal with all your conflicted feelings about it. Sometimes you have to go to family things and not the cool thing with your friends. Sometimes you feel scared and sad and lonely and you can’t just wish the feelings away.

 

Being a parent all you want to do is make sure your kids are happy. When you’re able to rebuild the destroyed Ninjago dragon lego the dog knocked over (without instructions!!) you feel like a superhero.

 

But lots of times you can’t do that.

 

My oldest son was bullied a lot in primary school. I could help some, but I couldn’t make it go away. I’ve learned so much about acceptance and about positivity and about holding my kids while they cry for half an hour – not telling them it’s all okay because they know it isn’t, but just letting them know that I am there and they aren’t alone. I’ve learned about respecting people’s distress even if you don’t think Minecraft is anything to cry about.

 

Encouragement and Support goes both ways.

 

This last year was incredibly difficult for me (hence the lack of blogging). My sons have been the most extraordinary cheerleaders and supporters. The care and love they give me has lifted me from spiralling sadness so very many times. I didn’t exactly wander around weeping in front of them, but I was open with them about my battle through depression, I was open with them about my initial hurt over my writing being rejected, I was open with them about my insecurities about my writing, and my struggle to feel ‘enough’. I don’t want to burden them but I think sometimes knowing someone is sad but not why can be very upsetting for kids. My sons were able to cheer me, to remind me to be strong, to let me know they loved me regardless of what I saw as failings, and to show me through small but precious ways that they respect and value me for who I am and what I do.

 

I have always strived to support and encourage and cheerlead my kids. To show them that I’m on the side lines and on their side. Knowing that they were wanting to do the same for me was one of the biggest blessings of a difficult year.

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BCR Christmas Story

This Christmas story uses the characters and world from my latest WIP – Blood Cursed Rose (a Vampire Beauty and the Beast Retelling). I hope you enjoy!

The front door banged, rattling the study windows behind heavy drapes. Lola caught herself smoothing down her jacket, brushing over the pencil skirt that would never dare to get wrinkles. Her pulse thumped.  She twisted her hands away and placed them flat on the table. Listening, but refusing to admit who she was listening for.

Cullen’s voice rumbled through the hall, his sister’s bubbly happiness rising around it. The damned dog barked and yipped. She closed her eyes at the sounds of claws scrabbling on the parquet floor. Horace’s voice rose, her loyal factotum attempting to remonstrate with the humans. A small smile tugged at the corners of her lips as silence fell, and she sank back in the deep leather chair.

The silence rolled up the stairs, heavy and expectant, broken by the snick of a latch. She tapped her nails on the desk. If it was important, Horace would come. A dark red ledger thumped as she dragged it open, the numbers fading under unseeing eyes. There was no need for her to go find out what was happening.

In her own house.

A giggle rose through the air, floating in the open window, and she pushed back her chair and strode to the door.

Her heels clattered on the wide wooden staircase. She slowed her stride until they sounded a strong measured tap instead.

Music came through the door of the library, and she stumbled to a stop. The library. How dare they!

She flung open the door and the horrific strains of jazzy Christmas tunes curled around her. Cullen stood in front of a massive tree, glittery snakes in his arms, and Annette rose on tip toes to hang a sparkling orb on a branch.

“What the devil is this?”

Wullie barked and ran at her jumping and licking. She hissed, baring her fangs, and he danced in a circle, wuffing again.

Horace appeared behind Wullie, his smile twisting and an unusual flush ridging his pallid cheeks. The reindeer horns on the normally dapper vampire’s head were ridiculous. Bells. The horns had bells. She refused to pay attention to Wullie sitting quivering in front of her, one paw raised, his eyes fixed on her jacket pocket.

A slow grin spread on Cullen’s face. “I think he’s expecting something.”

“That’s because he has more hair than brain.”

He raised one of those perfect eyebrows and his lip quirked. Heat flushed her cheekbones and Wullie whined.

“Fine.” Avoiding Cullen’s eyes, she dug into the pocket of her suit and pulled out a small piece of dried liver. “Traitor dog.” She tossed the treat down to the ecstatic terrier and strode towards the tree, ignoring Horace’s smothered smile even as her heart warmed to see it. He’d been sinking into the darkness, losing his clawed grip on eternity, and if the dog and silly sweet Annette could bring him out of it she’d do more than toss liver at Wullie each time she saw him.

“What do you think you’re doing with this forest in my library?”

Cullen stretched up an arm, draping a tinselled stream over bristly needles. She kept her eyes on his face, resisting the urge to watch his muscles shift under the thin sweater.

“Hardly a forest, Lola.”

“It’s my house, I’ll hyperbole if I want to. Explain this.” Her arm swept out to encompass the music, the tree, Horace helping Annette pick out baubles. Wait a minute. “Where’s Aden?”

A shadow flitted over Cullen’s face before he rearranged it into a blank calm. “Worried about the whereabouts of your hostage?”

She pushed away the spike of hurt in her chest. “No, just wondering how he managed to escape this madness.”

The door opened behind her and Aden’s heartbeat filled her ears. The sense of him sat at the base of her skull. She looked over her shoulder at the young man with the tray of some revolting looking drink.

“He didn’t escape. He was getting eggnog.”

Heat flushed her chest, a burning shame that made her press her lips together. It hadn’t been her fault. Aden cut a rose.

Horace appeared at her shoulder, his eyes pools of dark understanding in his pale face. He handed her a delicate glass orb, suspended by a crimson ribbon. “My advice? Join in, it’s a big tree and it’s not as awful as you think.”

She lifted the bauble. Cullen’s gaze burned a hole in her back as she stepped forward, her scalp prickled and the ornament slipped through her fingers. It tumbled to the floor, smashing against the wood. Annette gasped and Lola’s hand curled against her skirt. They thought she’d done it on purpose.

The music twisted around her in a taunting dance, winding through the scent of Annette’s nervousness behind her laughter, the rigid hostility rising off Cullen, and Aden’s sullen resentment. Bile rose at the back of her throat. Ridiculous. None of this was for her and they’d ruined her library.

She spun on her heel, ignoring Horace’s outstretched hand, and stalked through the door, down the hall, and straight to the small white door that led to the garden. Her heart pounded a rhythm in her chest matching each step. Fool. Idiot girl. Fool.

The door flung wide as she thrust her way out into the chilled air, inhaling the scent of the roses. The blooms shuddered and whispered and she tried to draw it in, tried to drive out the memory of delicate glass smashing at her feet. Cool earth met her knees as she sank down near the closest bed. Her hands pushed into the soil and she focused on breathing, on the life passing through the roses and the dirt and up her arms. Her fangs lengthened and she squeezed her eyes shut. Control. She could control it.

Aden’s heartbeat pounded at the base of her skull and she swallowed more bile. But it was Cullen’s face she’d run from.

The roses hushed and nodded and batted at her head.

After a long moment she pulled her hands from the dirt and shifted to sit, the pencil skirt smudged and marked with dirt. She regarded the toes of her stilettos and pretended she wasn’t listening for the strains of that awful music coming from the library.

The chill of the ground didn’t bother her as it seeped through her suit. A hot ball lodged in her chest.  

After what seemed to be forever the music and laughter stopped. The light turned off in the library. Not until all the lights went out did she stand, catching her heel in the cobbles. She walked the opposite way to the library, toward the small red door on the other side of the mansion and the stairs to her room.

She sat curled on her bed, her head resting on her knees, watching the moon outside the window. Having humans in the house really disrupted her sleep patterns. She thought of reading but each word on the page reminded her of the travesty sitting in her library.

Christmas tree. Who brought a Christmas tree into a vampire’s house?

Cullen. With his smirk and his daring and his complete knowledge that she wouldn’t harm him. He’d brought his family first, then his annoyingly cute dog, and now a tree. She drew her knees tighter to her chest, sparking blue eyes playing in her mind. Having a hostage was supposed to be easier than this. They weren’t all supposed to move in and change things. Confusion twisted her thoughts, as it had done for the last two weeks.

With a huff, she stretched out her legs and hopped off the bed, reaching for the light switch. Colours twinkled outside and she paused, her heart catching. She padded to the window.

Floating out from the library window below were multihued flashes and flickers.

Christmas trees had lights.

A deep urge uncoiled deep inside her. Centuries of dark winters, of decrying the pagan rituals that turned into Christian holiday, sat heavy in her mind.

A Christmas tree with lights was in her house.

Right below her.

She should check it out.

Make sure it wasn’t going to set fire to the books.

She padded from her room in bare feet, grabbing a woollen cardigan to drape over her shoulders. The stairs creaked once and she froze, before reminding herself it was her house and she could walk where she wanted. She crept down the rest of the stairs.

Light danced through the library door in stealthy twinkles of bright colours. She bit her lip and tugged at the soft fleece of her sweatpants. With a tight flick of her fingers she summoned the darkness, arming herself in shadows instead of a suit. Each step into the library sent prickles running under her skin.

Looming and stinking of pine, the tree dominated the room. Ridiculously garish, it beckoned as much as it repelled. Her hand stole up her sleeve to her elbow and she cocked her head, but no sound other than the excited hush of the roses through the window casement disturbed the silence. The lights mesmerised her. Draped in chains around the tree, they both adorned and confined it.  Her eyes dropped to the base and she caught her breath. Boxes with bows and ribbons and shiny paper perched under the lower branches.

Time flowed like sap. Wispy shadows drifted away as her hold on them loosened, her mind enraptured by the colour and the promise sitting at the end of the room.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Cullen’s voice by her ear made her jump, her foot caught in the long hem of her sweatpants. His hand grabbed her elbow, his touch burning like flame through the chunky wool.

A snappy retort pressed at the back of her teeth, driving to get out, to put distance between her and this glowing tree. She looked up at his face, the strong line of his jaw softened by the coloured lights, and swallowed the words.

“Yes.” she whispered.  

A smile spread on his face, crinkling around his eyes, and her pulse hammered through her veins. His fingers slid down her arm, lingering over her hand.

“I realised we forgot something when we were decorating. The most important thing.”

His heartbeat fluttered in his throat and she drew taller, his nervousness giving her strength.

“So important it couldn’t wait til morning?”

He kept his eyes on hers, so blue, so fierce. His hand pulled a squashed piece of plant out of his pocket, the spiky leaves catching on the denim. “I didn’t think so, until I heard you come down the stairs. Then it was all I could think about.”

“A plant?”

He stepped closer. “Mistletoe.” Her breath came faster, and the heat from his body set a flame in her own.

“Cullen, this isn’t a good idea.”

He held the mistletoe over her head, his other hand rising to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “I know. And tomorrow no doubt I’ll remember you’re a beast and I’m a hunter, but tonight is Christmas Eve.”

Her thoughts whirled, freezing her in place. So many reasons humans were off limits. Good reasons. This man in particular. But the smell of him reminded her of a garden in summer, his soft eyes twinkled in the light from the tree, and she rose on her toes to kiss him anyway. As their lips met and his arms tightened around her, she pretended tomorrow didn’t matter. The whispered hush of the roses filled her head. Tonight she would steal a little moment of magic.