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Christmas Vows by Alexa Riley (1)

Chapter 1

Blakely

I sit next to my stepmother, Linda, trying to pay attention to what’s being said. It’s something about an upcoming event and what everyone is wearing. My mind drifts to my husband Daniel like it always does and I wonder what he’s doing right now.

I discreetly look down at my watch to see the time. Our morning makeout session was cut short when Linda showed up two hours early to make sure I was properly dressed, but at that point I wasn’t dressed at all.

If she hurries up, I can catch him before he’s finished with work. I love interrupting his work day more than I should. I can’t help myself. Even after being married a few years I love how I can still easily snag his attention from whatever he’s doing. It makes me feel sexy, but he made me feel that way from the moment he looked at me. I’d never felt truly wanted until that moment.

It makes my heart flutter when I hear people mention how different he is with me. I didn’t know the cold Daniel others talk about because he was never that way with me. All he’s ever been is warm and sweet, but I guess that’s not how he is with everyone else. Even after our getting married, my father and stepmom still don’t care for Daniel. They pretend, but I can feel their tension and hear their quiet comments and it’s growing harder to ignore. My husband doesn’t give a shit what they say or think about him, but it bothers me.

I hate that they don’t see him as I do. If anything they should be happy for me. The problem is that Daniel doesn't fit the mold they had in mind when thinking about who my future husband would be. Daniel has plenty of money, but he’s not educated like they would have liked. To be honest that’s part of the reason why I fell madly in love with him so quickly. He was different than everyone around me. I liked that he didn't care what anyone thought of him. He didn’t play by anyone else’s rules. He does what he wants and makes no apologies if you don’t like it. He is who he is, take it or leave it. Though I’m not sure he’d have that motto if I tried to leave it, and the thought makes me fight a smile.

If he didn't want to wear a suit, he wouldn’t, and if he didn't like you, he wouldn’t be fake and make nice. Everyone knows exactly where they stand with him, and when I first met him it was so refreshing. With him I feel like I belong, unlike right now as I sit in a room with women around me carrying on about what they’re wearing to the next social event. I’ve never felt like I belong here and maybe it’s because I don’t.

It wasn't until I lost my mom that I was introduced to a world I didn’t know was out there. I went from having no dad to having a father and stepmother. My mom was the only family I thought I had and she was gone from this world in the blink of an eye. I learned about losing someone I love early in life and how everything can be completely turned upside down.

I went from having a mom who was a little wild and free with her parenting to a world filled with rules and structure. I’d heard my stepmother say not long after I came to live with them that she was trying to fix me and break the bad habits I developed in my old life. I let her because I wanted to feel like I fit somewhere. I was molded into what they wanted and it wasn't until Daniel came barreling into my life that I realized what I lost. I didn't even know who I was anymore and he showed me that. With him he let me find myself. There were no wrong answers or rules I had to follow, and it didn't matter what other people thought of us.

I fight another smile thinking about the rules we do have and how they only come out when other men are getting too close to me. I love watching my husband get jealous. It’s adorable, but I wouldn't ever tell him. I also don’t think anyone else would call him adorable.

My stepmother nudges me in the side, making me sit up straight. The movement brings me back to reality and out of the daydream I’d fallen into. I look over at her and she gives me a look that makes me feel like a naughty child. She’s always good at that.

I give an apologetic smile to the woman who helped raise me. How she called my husband cold, I’ll never understand. She’s the one with the chill to her, even when I try to get close. She has her sweet moments every now and again, but for the most part it’s a chilled distance that separates us. It probably has something to do with the fact that she and my father have been married over thirty years, which is longer than I’ve been alive. I was clearly the product of an affair—a living, breathing mistake for everyone to see. I’m a blemish on their reputation and she’s tried her best to make me into one of them as a way to erase my father’s transgressions. I can't blame her if looking at me doesn't conjure the warmest affection, but how long am I meant to repay this emotional debt?

I’m pretty sure she never wanted children herself, but she did take me in. I have to give her credit for doing her best with the situation. I get it. It would destroy me if I found out Daniel cheated on me and had a child with another woman. The thought alone makes my stomach tighten with nervous disgust.

I peek over at Linda and then to my watch once more. There’s still time. When I hear my name I look up and try to pay attention.

“I’m sorry, what?” I ask Carmela.

She’s a few years older than me and is the queen bee of the group. I don't care who’s in charge because I’m only here for one reason and I’m failing at it. After all these years I’m still trying to have a relationship with Linda because I want everyone to be one big happy family.

“I asked if you and Daniel will be joining us. You still haven't sent an RSVP to the invitation,” she says, smiling sweetly at me.

I don’t know why she bothers, because we all know it’s fake. If Daniel were here it would make his jaw tighten and he might even answer for me with a “fuck no.” I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what he said when he opened the invitation and threw it in the trash. I just laughed and forgot about it until now.

“Or course they are,” Linda answers as she tilts her head towards me and gives me a look.

“Of course,” I add.

I’ll pay for that one when I tell Daniel we’re going to the Vine event. He’ll have me on my back in the most delicious way, but he’ll come with me. He wouldn’t let me go alone and he never tells me no if I’m truly asking.

“Good.” Carmela gives a small excited clap.

She’s not excited that we’re coming but that my husband is coming. I’m pretty sure it’s not because she has a thing for him. It’s more that she wants his checkbook. It if wasn't for that, I’m sure we wouldn't be invited. It helps that while some might call him rude and lacking manners, the people who work with him love him. He’s straightforward and honest and that’s a rare trait in these circles.

Having Carmela fawn all over him would annoy me if I didn't already know Daniel loathes her. Every time he meets her he introduces himself as if he doesn’t know who she is. Either he really forgets or he does it to piss her off. Neither would shock me, but I do love the irritated look she gets on her face when he does it.

Luckily, after the guest list conversation is over the meeting breaks up.

“I’m going to grab a cab, I need to go to Daniel’s office.” I straighten the blouse Linda picked out for me. I’m pretty sure the fabric irritates my skin.

“The man is working, Blakely. Leave him be.” She shakes her head and doesn’t understand how we are. He wouldn’t want me to leave him be, nor do I want to. She and my father are nothing like us.

It took me a moment to understand there’s nothing wrong with showing affection to your significant other once Daniel bulldozed through all of that. We still get head shakes from others when Daniel pulls me down into his lap. He openly kisses my neck and tells me he loves me. He doesn’t even care if he’s in the middle of a meeting or at a dinner table with other people. If he wants to kiss or touch me, he’s going to do it.

“No, I really should. Plus, I have to tell him we’re going to the Vine event.” I add in the last part hoping that will work. She rolls her eyes at me but finally agrees. We part with air kisses to each cheek and I watch her slip into the back of her town car. I give Luke her driver a small wave as he shuts the door behind her.

“Do you need a ride, Mrs. Black?” he asks.

“I’m catching a cab,” I tell him, which earns me an eyebrow lift. “His office is five minutes away by car. I’ll be fine.”

“Be careful, I don’t need your husband on my ass.”

“I promise,” I say with a laugh as I signal for a cab.

When one stops, I get in excitedly, more than ready to see my husband. The mood from the afternoon still bothers me and I’ve made no progress with my family. I know Daniel will be able to shake me out of my mood while I try to come up with another idea.