I knew the moment she entered the room.
My baby sister had never been quiet. In fact, she was even louder now that she was very pregnant. Maybe it had to do with the extra weight she’d put on with this pregnancy.
Not that I would ever mention to her that she’d gained so much weight that she now looked like a penguin when she walked. A cute penguin, but a penguin nonetheless.
Why my wife had invited her, her husband, and child to stay the night was beyond me. The annoying thing that was my sister never could sleep until normal hours on Christmas.
“Wake up!” My sister yelled loudly, being sure to do it right in my ear so that I had no choice but to be awake.
I opened my eyes slowly, and glared at her.
“I just went to bed an hour ago.” I informed her. “Literally, an hour. I want to sleep.”
“Nathan wants to open his presents, and I do, too.” She shot back, crawling onto the bed and smothering my face with kisses.
I groaned and rolled over. Or tried to. Something immovable stopped me from getting even a quarter of the way onto my back.
On the other side was my wife, and she was so close to my back that she made it hard to do much of anything but stay exactly where I was. On my quarter of the king-sized bed.
“Move over,” I moaned. “She’s touching me.”
My wife’s eyes opened, and those beautiful eyes of hers opened.
“I don’t want to move. I’m warm.” She informed me. “It’s cold over there.”
I looked at the entire half of the bed that she wasn’t using, and wondered why we had a king-sized bed if we weren’t going to use it.
I rolled over her, allowing my sister to crawl into the bed in the warm spot, and settled in deep to the cold spot of the bed. And it was indeed cold.
My body sank into the bed, and it only took moments for the sheets to warm and accept me as one of them.
I didn’t open my eyes.
Instead I ignored them.
“Wolfgang,” my sister’s voice repeated.
Raven’s laughter started from behind me, and I pinched my eyes even tighter.
“Shut up,” I moaned. “Please, I only need an hour.”
That was when my sister decided to crawl over Raven, straight onto me, and sit on my chest.
“Am I heavy?” She asked, bouncing slightly.
“No,” I wheezed.
July started to giggle.
“I like your answer.” She informed me. “The doctor said I was gaining too much weight with this pregnancy, but since I didn’t get to eat like I wanted for the last one,” her words made me freeze. “I’ve been indulging.”
I opened my eyes and stared up at my sister.
She looked lost in thought, and I couldn’t stand that look on her face as she remembered the terrible times that’d taken her away from us for so long.
“I decorated my stump.” She informed me, waving her arm in my face.
I looked at the limb that no longer had a forearm or a hand, and couldn’t help myself. I laughed.
“Did your husband see that?” Raven asked from beside me.
July’s eyes turned to Raven as she lifted her arm up and showed her the full effect.
“No,” she said. “I got Nathan to decorate it for me. Does it look like Rudolph?”
Raven grinned. “If you squint.”
It looked more like a moose with a red nose if you asked me, but who was I to say anything.
“Come on,” she said, bouncing lightly. “We have about two hours to open presents before we’re due at the Saints clubhouse. Time to get up. I’ll go make bacon.”
With that parting comment, she rolled off my chest, barely missing my balls with the elbow she planted into the bed as she clambered off the bed, and practically skipped out of the room.
“Are you getting up?” Raven asked.
I rolled until she was pinned underneath of me.
“Oh!” July came back, depositing her child in the middle of my bed. “Watch her while I wake my husband up nicely.”
I looked at my niece and wondered how something so cute came from a demon spawn like my sister.
“Your mother’s a loon.” I informed her, picking her up and bringing her to my chest at the same time as I rolled to my back.
Adrienne looked at me, smiled, and drooled on my chest.
Hours later, when the kiss of sun started to disappear in the West, I looked at my brother in law.
“There’s no reason you can’t be a part of the club,” I crossed my arms over my chest. “You’re already one of us.”
Dean grinned, not trying in the least to hide his glee.
“I’m glad that you gave me that opportunity,” he told me honestly. “I’m glad that Peek and the rest of the boys feel that I’m worthy enough of the honor.” He swallowed, looking down at the beer in his hand. One I’d handed him the moment he walked in the door. “But right now, I just want to focus on July and our children.” He swallowed. “I still have bad dreams. Can see her there with that sword through her middle. Her belly full of my baby.”
The same horror played out in my own nightmares as well.
“You ever need us; you know we’re here.” I said, offering the man my hand.
Dean took it, shook it, and then let it go.
“Did you get her present for me?”
I grinned. “I did. It was stuck in customs, but I had a friend pull a few strings, and they released it. It’s in the safe. You want me to go get it?”
Dean nodded and clapped me on the back. The move put his forearm in my line of sight, and my gut clenched for the second time that day as I saw the hash marks on his skin. A line for each day that July was missing.
As I walked to the safe and retrieved PD’s gift, I thought about everything that had happened to me in the last two years, and I realized that I was given the biggest gift of all.
I rolled my eyes at July’s bellow.
Her husband must’ve told her about the present.
My sister was a shit when it came to presents.
Bringing the large box that Raven had wrapped sometime last night, I handed it over to Dean and took a seat on the arm of the chair that Raven and Nathan were cuddled up in under a large lap throw.
I watched as July tore into the present once it was given to her, freezing the moment the flaps opened and revealed what lay beneath.
Then tears started to spill over her eyelids.
“What is it?” Nathan cried excitedly. “Show me!”
“The lettering is a promise that Dean made me a few days before I was kidnapped.” July’s eyes filled with tears. “There’s not a single thing about you that I don’t have buried in my memories.”
She ran her fingers over the painting.
It was a picture of Dean’s arm, the tattoo in particular.
The perfectness of the painting made it look more like a photograph than something someone had painted with their hands.
July passed the framed work of art to me, and then threw herself at her husband.
He didn’t even stagger.
“I want to see!” Nathan cried out.
I picked up the painting and studied it as I moved toward where Nathan was cuddled up next to my wife. It was good. I couldn’t even make out any mistakes in the work whatsoever.
“This is amazing,” I murmured, passing the frame to Raven who held it carefully as she showed my son.
“It is.” She agreed.
I watched her and my son for a long minute before I turned my attention to the Christmas tree.
A hard hand slapped down on my back, and I grinned at my brother in law.
“I think you did better than me,” I told Dean.
Dean grinned. “I’ve been married longer. Next year I’m sure you’ll top me.”
But for now, with the people I loved more than life in the room with me, I knew it wouldn’t matter.
As long as I had this to give, Raven would be happy with anything I had to give.