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Miller slid his plate onto the table and cleared his throat.

“I love you, Darius,” he said softly.

My jaw dropped. “You—”

“Yeah, no, I know.” He blushed all the way to his ears, just like he had the first day I’d met him, and waved a hand in the air. “We haven’t known each other long enough for me to say that. I… I get it. I still don’t know what kind of ice cream you like, or whether you talk during movies, or if you’ll get impatient when I make you ride the same roller coaster six times in a row. I still don’t know your thoughts on free-market capitalism, and you have no idea how much I utterly loathe certain classics of modern literature, and I have no idea if we brush with compatible toothpastes, but… but those things aren’t love anyway.” He broke off and took a nervous gulp of his wine before setting the glass back on the coffee table with a clack.

“Miller, I—”

He pressed a finger to my lips and shook his head. “Tilly’s right. Emotions are a pain in the ass, so let me say this, okay?”

I nodded, even though staying quiet was really difficult. Happiness and relief were bubbling up inside my stomach, and I felt nearly buoyant.

“Love is… love is knowing someone will be the calm quiet in the middle of your storm. Love is someone who tucks a blanket around you and lets you sleep on his sofa. It’s someone who never hesitates to make you feel wanted and supported… even when you flounce out of dinner because you need a minute to process something alone. And you’re all of that for me.”

“You didn’t flounce,” I couldn’t help correcting gruffly.

One corner of Miller’s lips tipped up in a momentary grin. “If my mom’s death taught me anything, Darius, it’s that life is short. And messy. And fragile. And that you can’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from enjoying the moments you’re given. So, like, I don’t expect you to say it back right away. Or maybe ever. Though, god, that would suck. But I just wanted you to know because… because it’s Christmas. And you’re the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. And holy shit, I couldn’t be cheesier if I tried.” He buried his face in his hands. “It’s fine. I’m fine. How about some more pizza? I’ll make it.” He jumped up from the sofa like he was heading toward the kitchen.

Christ, I loved him. I wasn’t sure what miracle had made this man stumble into my life, but I was never going to let him go.

“Are you done yet?” I demanded, grabbing him by the waistband of his pants and pulling him down to sit beside me. I put my plate on the table next to his.

He nodded. “Oh yeah. Definitely. Yes. Don’t worry. I just thought you should know, and now you do, and we can move on and—”

“I love you, too, Miller.”

He turned his head and gaped at me. “You do?”

“More than I’d thought possible. You amaze me with your bravery and your resilience. And that’s something I think you should know.”

“Oh.” Miller blinked. “Wow. That’s… wow.”

I laughed as I reached for him, pulling him onto my lap and wrapping my arms around him.

Miller leaned in and pressed a kiss to the underside of my jaw.

As the fire crackled and the snow began to fall outside, I wondered what our Christmas would look like next year. And the next.

When I’d sold my company and moved to a small town in Colorado, I’d never imagined I’d truly find the happiness I was looking for.

My yaya had a special word for all-consuming, uncontainable joy. Kefi.

Until this moment, I’d never truly understood the depth of the term.

And now I held it in my arms.



Christmas morning with the Wildes and Marians defied description.

“What’s happening in here?” Darius whispered against my ear as he followed me closely into the sunroom where chaos reigned.

“Santa came,” I said, looking around at the mountains of torn wrapping paper, frayed ribbon, and empty toy packaging.

“He was obvs carrying quite a load,” he murmured.

“I heard that,” Granny said from her spot on an overstuffed chair nearby. “And it sounded dirty.”

Irene sat primly on the edge of the same chair, taking pictures of the scene with her iPad. “Hush,” she said without taking her eyes off the large tablet. “I’m taking videotape.”

Darius sounded confused. “I only see a handful of kids, but there are enough toys here for—”

“Zzzzt!” Nico said, wagging a finger. “We do not judge the overpurchasing tendencies of others. Especially when it results in a killer wooden train set with bridges, rotating crossroads, and the cutest freaking conductor hat ever.”

“Or anchor dildos,” Cal added, waving a familiar toy in the air.

Darius’s voice in my ear made me both shiver and laugh. “These children are growing up… differently.”