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a Very Merry Christmas, indeed

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“Attention passengers, please fasten your seatbelts and close all trays as we prepare our descent into Vancouver International Airport. Stay seated upon landing and wait for further instructions as we begin offboarding procedures. We hope you enjoyed your flight this morning, thank you for flying Air Canada, and welcome to Vancouver, British Columbia.”

Christen looks up as she switches off her iPad. A quick glance out of her first-class window greets her to the sprawling city below. She can see the city lights beneath the darkness, the morning light having not yet risen above the cloud cover. There would be no sun today as the city prepares for snow, and if she squints her eyes with enough effort, she can make out the flurry of snowflakes as they pass by, dimly illuminated from the airplane’s wing lights.

She shivers beneath her blanket, though she’s happy to know that Vancouver is still in the low 30’s, unlike New York City this morning as she left her condo for the airport. The East Coast city was frozen, temperatures plummeting overnight into the low teens, so cold that her nose burned when she closed the front door behind her. In fact- she was happy for many reasons, particularly for this vacation above all else.

Megan was her best friend, the co-owner and CFO of her company, and after years spent watching her thrive in the most secure relationship known to man, and even more years afterwards of Christen begging her and Sue to just tie the knot already, they were finally… finally… getting married.

Christen had squealed so loud over the phone when Megan made the announcement of the wedding date, complete with an expenses-paid fourteen-day vacation with their entire friend group. The two brides had booked three Four Seasons private residences in Whistler, complete with everyone’s flights to-and-from, house cars to pick them up from the airport, and access to the lodge’s spa and ski resorts. They were to solely vacation for eleven days, with the reception being held on the twelfth day and the wedding ceremony being held the day after. Their last day, Megan announced via group chat, would be for nursing their respective hangovers. Their friends had all chided the couple for the non-traditional approach, the honeymoon before the wedding, but it was all in good faith, knowing that the couple had practically been married for half of a decade. There was no need or desire from anyone to truly keep up with tradition.

Christen wrote a check for ten grand and gave it to the couple as a pre-wedding gift, doing her share of helping out with the funding, and told the couple to go crazy. And crazy they went.

So here she was, and it’s not that she was complaining. This year had been difficult as the business expanded. Financially they were absolutely thriving, but some days she feels like the falls asleep in board meetings and wakes up in them too, her caffeine addiction is borderline taking over her life, and any moment away from work has been spent with her family and not her friends.

She needs this vacation. She needs a couple of weeks away from technology and interns and layouts. She needs a moment to catch her breath. The concrete jungle in Tribeca has driven her into an overworked mental state, like an energizer bunny with no kill switch, and two weeks spent on the snowy Whistler Mountain sounds like the perfect cure.

 

***

 

Megan calls her as she waits in baggage claim for her luggage and Christen is laughing before she even picks up the phone. The squeals from the other line have her holding the phone a few inches away from her ear, smile so wide it hurts her face.

You’re here!” Megan screams.

“I’m here!” Christen laughs. “I’m cold!”

You’re cold!”

She plucks her two hard-shell suitcases from the carousel as they talk, head turning to find the exit where her house car is supposed to be waiting on her.

Are you out of the airport yet?” Megan asks.

“Walking out now. I’m trying to find the car, you said it would be a black Range Rover, right?” She steps out into the cold December air and looks around among the exiting crowd as snow and wind whips her hair out of place beneath her scarf.

Yeah look to your left.” Megan prompts. It takes Christen a moment of confusion before it clicks, neck straining as she locates the parked Range Rover and her best friend’s head peeking out of the lowered window, her own pale hand grasping the phone that she holds to her ear.

They both squeal, and it grows even louder as Crystal pokes her laughing head out next to Megan’s.

“You guys!” Christen chides as the driver grabs her luggage and opens the front door for her. “You told me I would be here before you!”

She reaches back to wrap her arms around them both, getting their greetings out of the way, frozen hands warming up in the heat of the vehicle.

“We got in yesterday,” Crystal explains, “Figured we would come pick your homely ass up so you didn’t have to make the trip yourself.”

“It’s a bit of a drive up to Whistler-“ Megan interrupts.

“-unless you want to take a commuter jet or helicopter up the mountain-“ Crystal interrupts her own interruption.

“-which would be awful.” Christen ends, overwhelmed at the sudden conversation after hours spent on a plane. The sky is growing lighter now, and the CEO realizes she needs coffee.

“We can get coffee before we get on the highway.” Megan rolls her eyes playfully, all too aware of where her best friends needs, smile not once faltering.

“Ugh,” Christen mocks her, hand reaching into the back seat to pat the brides’ knee as the driver gently shuts the trunk. “You know me so well.”

 

***

 

The drive is relaxed enough with the three women catching up on lost time and each other’s lives as the city disappears into the mountains. Crystal is happily married, only recently returning from a stint in France to visit her husband’s family across the pond, and she has them bent over in laughter at her impressions of the French, relaying stories of the beautiful country and how she’ll never be happy now with shitty American food.

Christen and Megan tell her about the business. Well, about how the business is positively booming. They talk about the wedding, how Sue’s relaxed persona doesn’t carry over when it comes to her own wedding, how the wedding planner has been a literal God-send for the couple, and how much of a pain in the ass it had been to fly both families of the brides up to Canada.

The wedding parties were to be split between the three houses, with Sue and Megan in one house with their handful of friends, Sue’s family in the second house, and Megan’s family in the third.

“Remind me again who all is in our house?” Christen cranes her neck to ask the two women.

Truthfully, Megan had already sent her the RSVP list, but she was in a meeting (and Megan knew that) when the email arrived and then she had forgotten to read it afterwards. She’d assumed the group to be their usual: herself, Crystal, Sue, Megan, Ashlyn, Ali, and Kyle.

“So it’s a four bedroom house we’re in.” Crystal starts. “It’s beautiful. Massive floor to ceiling windows. A heated pool outside, privately closed off. A fireplace. Private bar. Personal chef to make our lunches and dinners.”

Megan leans up, “Sue and I are in one bedroom. Crystal and Kyle in the other. Ashlyn and Ali will be together.”

“Wait,” Christen puts a thin hand up, cutting her off with a raised eyebrow. “Why are you guys giving me my own bedroom? I can stay with Crystal and Kyle can room alone. Really guys, he might meet a cute guy or something and want the privacy, I-“

“So- Well, you won’t be rooming alone.”

Megan snaps her fingers and playfully tsks. “I knew you didn’t read that damn roommate assignment.”

Three pairs of eyes are all trained to one another in the silence. Megan’s face is unreadable, if not a little nervous. Crystal’s face is washed in mischief. Christen grows even more perplexed, and the driver has nothing to do with their conversation, but she swears she can hear him cough awkwardly.

“So who am I rooming with, then?”

Silence remains, until Christen cocks an imploring eyebrow, forcing Megan to nervously raise her open palms in submission as she stammers.

“You’re rooming with Megan and Sue’s pot dealer.” Crystal blurts out with a bitten lip over a smile, quickly on the receiving end of Megan’s light slap to her arm.

Your pot dealer?” Christen starts with a gasp. If she were the one driving, they would have hit the brakes. “You’re rooming me with a man who sells you marijuana? Megan, what-”

“Not a man!” Megan’s index finger interrupts the beginning of Christen’s tirade.

“Is that supposed to make it better?!”

“She doesn’t just sell me pot, Christen.”

“What, then? Does she wrap it in a gift basket?”

“Oh my God.” Megan puts her head in her hands as Crystal’s laughter bellows out through the moving car. “She also gives me shoes.”

Christen can’t help but laugh in disbelief, eyes wide and incredulous as she looks between her best friends, head shaking ever-so-slightly.

“She’s an illustrator at Nike.” Megan belatedly explains, “She sends Sue and I new additions. I met her at one of Sue’s press events, and yes she happens to also smoke pot and occasionally sell me a gram when I’m in Portland and in need. She’s gender fluid and uses ‘she/they’ pronouns, super funny and creative, and one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met.”

Christen closes her eyes and purses her lips, already thrown headfirst into the antics of her friend group, and she’s missed it so much that she can’t even be mad at herself for not reading the stupid email.

“Oh and she’s fine as fuck.” Crystal smiles and sips from her Starbucks holiday mug. “Like… fine as fuck.”

“Oh yeah,” Megan smirks. “That too.”

 

***

 

The girls warning of how attractive this newcomer is, truthfully, did nothing to prepare Christen for the actual sight of her. After arriving at the Four Seasons lodges, eyes wide as she takes in the breathtaking scenery and snow-capped mountains surrounding them, she had followed the girls into their temporary home. The retreat was magnificent, tucked away from the main Four Seasons hotel by about half a kilometer, and surrounded by the other private retreats at the side of the mountain. There was a garden walkway, a Starbucks (the thanked the heavens for that), a gym, and a spa at the center of the little hideaway.

The retreat was modern, sleek, yet certainly cozy enough upon first glance. She wrapped Sue, Ali, Ashlyn, and Kyle up in the warmest of hugs when they opened the front door for her, and allowed Kyle and Megan to carry her luggage in while she was given the grand tour. Sue showed her the ground floor, with its spiraling staircase as you pass into the open living room, the cabin-loft-style floor to ceiling windows that bracketed the back of the home, giving the residents a panoramic view of the Whistler mountains. The fireplace was roaring at the center of the room, warming the sprawling couches and fifteen-foot Christmas tree. Marble floors carried you into the open concept kitchen, where she was introduced to the handsome Beni, their chef, as he was preparing lunch for everyone.

He’d shaken her hand and flashed a smile of perfectly straight and blinding teeth, welcoming her with broken English in a Portuguese accent that had Crystal and Kyle fanning themselves behind his back. Christen had felt warm as she cut her eyes to Crystal, reminding her silently that she had a husband back home.

“A girl can dream.” Crystal mouthed and silently groaned, which had Christen laughing and shy as she dropped his hand.

“You must tell me what you like for dessert.” Beni winked at her, hardly disguising his appreciation of her. “I will make you anything you wish.”

I’m sure he will.” Ali slyly patted Christen’s ass and handed her a champagne flute. “Come on, let’s get you up to your room so you can get settled before lunch is ready, I think Tobin’s unpacking.”

Christen grew nervous at the mention of being introduced to the stranger. “Oh, she’s here?”

Ali took no notice of her nerves as they ascended the staircase. Or if she did take notice, she didn’t mention it. “Yeah she got in late last night, like 2 in the morning. I think the poor thing crashed as soon as she got here.”

“I can imagine.” Christen mumbled.

The door to their room was already open when they got there, and Christen bashfully stepped in with her hands clasped in front of her, peaking through the doorway at the open concept space. There was a comfortable looking couch and coffee table, an electric fireplace, and a massive sliding glass window and door that led out into a small balcony, overlooking the private pool and mountainscape. They even had their own small Christmas tree in the corner of the room, and a huge orange open-knit blanket was thrown over the couch. It was so warm that Christen could have taken a nap, could have fixed her some hot cocoa and sunken into the couch for an hour or two. She noticed her luggage had already been placed by the bedroom door.

The bathroom door opened, and Christen nearly dropped her champagne glass upon first glance at the stranger that walked out.

“Oh. Hi.” The stranger smiled, drying her hands on a white hand towel and looking at Christen and Ali. Christen’s face was hot, complementary to her lack of voice. Lack of air in her lungs.

‘Fine as fuck’ should have been followed by ‘seriously, like breathtaking, jawdropping, heartstopping levels of attractiveness’.

Tobin’s jaw could cut steel, that was the first thing Christen noticed. Her hair was still damp, hanging over a soft grey sweater. She wore slim light wash jeans around tiny hips and was still barefoot from her shower. Her eyes were so brown, light in places where the sunlight hit them from the window, complementing the tan of her skin that contrasted against perfect white teeth.

Ali looked on with amused eyes as the two stared at one another, shy smiles on both of their faces, not trusting their own voices to speak.

“Tobin this is Christen,” Ali gestured, watching as the pair bashfully shook hands. It was the electricity of intense and immediate attraction that shocked Christen as her cold hand was dwarfed by Tobin’s larger, stronger one. “Chris this is Tobin.”

“Hello.” Christen smiled, fighting the internal war of keeping eye contact when she could easily look towards the floor… the safe, cold, simple floor.

“O-Kay,” Ali smirked, backing herself up and leaving the pair to figure their interactions out themselves, like adults. “I’ll… leave you guys to it then.”

Tobin’s eyes followed Ali out of the door after saying goodbye, and then she stammered around a bitten lip as she gestured to the bedroom door. “So I thought that I could take the pull-out couch in here and give you the bedroom.”

“Oh you don’t have to do that,” Christen waves her off with her hand, not wanting to put the stranger out for any reason.

“It’s no biggie, honestly.” Tobin shrugs, still smiling, looking at the green-eyed woman as if trying to solve a puzzle. She folds the hand towel haphazardly and tosses it back on the bathroom counter, an act that would usually irk Christen, but under the strangers gaze she’s finding herself careless. “I tested it out last night, the sheets are like, ten thousand count. Best sleep I’ve ever had.”

Christen nods and looks over to the couch, finally noticing the folded sheet and pillow resting beside the armrest next to the orange blanket, having overlooked it before.

“But I can’t let you snag all of the dresser space.” Tobin winks playfully at her, and it lights Christen’s cheeks up with the blaze of a thousand suns as she nods and laughs in return. She steps by Tobin and grabs her luggage to bring into the bedroom.

“I’m just gonna…” Christen trails off, nodding her head backwards towards the bedroom door, cheeks still warm.

“Yeah, yeah. Go ahead. I’ll see you at dinner?” The stranger cocks an eyebrow at her, and it sounds more like ‘I hope you will be at dinner’ which does nothing to quell the blood in the young CEO’s face. On the ground floor, the hoots and hollers and loud laughter of her friends lights up the space and silence between them, and Tobin is still looking at her expectantly, one hand on the doorknob still.

“I’ll be down in a jiffy.”

 

***

 

Christen stands in the shower with her head against the marble tile, exasperated.

Down in a jiffy. She chastises herself. Who fucking says that? Why am I like this? She exhales her embarrassment; the way Tobin had continued to look at her like a riddle that needs solving. The shower isn’t helping much, everything in the bathroom still smells like foreign and there’s some heavenly body wash and some type of wooded spicy cologne to assault her senses. It’s an unfamiliar scent and it’s rightfully strengthening her attraction, just imagining what it would smell like on the stranger’s tan skin, or the soft collar of her sweater.

She loathes the smell of her own floral body wash that dilutes the perfume of the cologne beneath the steam, and it forces her to shower and shave quickly, though not too quickly. Efficiently. Enough to ensure every inch of her body is smooth and moisturized.

Just in case. Christen tells herself, convincing herself that she doesn’t know what just in case would mean. Just in case what? But she knows. Deep down she knows. She laughs at herself for the ridiculous thought.

She unpacks much quicker than she showers, lets her curls naturally dry after running some product through them, and finishes up with natural makeup and a spritz of her own perfume at her pulse points. For lunch, she wears a pair of high waisted jeans, a tank top tucked beneath and a patterned oversized and open-knit sweater on top. Everyone had been in socks when she arrived, their shoes all strewn out in the foyer, so she decides to do the same.

Lunch is quite the experience. Full of eight adults in their early thirties, all exhausted from travel and jet lag and tipsy already on wine. All catching up after months of not seeing one another, after years of all not being in the same place at the same time. Christen sits between Megan and Crystal, Kyle and Tobin across from her at the large dining room table. There’s a beautiful chandelier above them, casting a perfect warm light to illuminate those warm honey eyes across from her every time they connect. She finishes her wine by the time the meal is served, despite being sure that her tummy is warm for other reasons.

“More champagne?” Beni puts a hand on her shoulder, and Christen glances up to watch Tobin surveil the interaction with patient and questioning eyes. “And you thought about a dessert yet, yes?”

Christen declines his offer of champagne, knowing she needs to save her energy for the alcohol they’re about to consume tonight, and pretends to think critically about the dessert she was supposed to request.

“Ooh, let’s do chocolate truffles?” Crystal prompts.

“No no, tonight is her dessert.” Beni winks at Crystal. “I can do you tomorrow perhaps?”

The table erupts in hollering and cheers, with Crystal playfully holding her hand to her heart and glancing around, riling up the company even more so than normal. Tobin’s eyes are like fire on Christen, glancing up at her through long eyelashes as they both take a sip from their drinks, she notices Beni had filled her glass up anyways.

“Handsome Beni,” Crystal wraps an arm around his ridiculously flexed bicep, smiling up at him playfully, “If I were not so happily married to my husband, you could do me anytime.”

Laughter erupts like a volcano from all parties again, and the kind chef seems to have had his fill of harmless flirting. He bids them goodbye until dinner with a promise to make the chocolate truffles and a broken ‘bon appetite’.  

Everyone is so full and exhausted after lunch, after laughter so loud their stomachs ache, that they retire to their rooms and couches for a nap. Christen would like an hour or so of rest, but first she runs through the itinerary with Ali after watching Tobin plop herself gracefully down onto the living room couch with Ashlyn and Sue. Today they would rest up and party tonight. The upcoming week would be spent with group activities like skiing, drinking, wedding games, and the like. The first Saturday would be spent with the group separating for a modern version of Bachelorette parties for the brides. Sue, Ashlyn, and Tobin are driving back to Vancouver to catch some benefit hockey game that they hadn’t planned until this morning, then they’re going to some club in downtown Vancouver. Megan, Ali, Christen, Crystal, and Kyle are all having a spa day, dinner, and then pre-gaming before they meet up with the rest of the party at the club.

Next week would be all about the wedding and the families. The outfits were being driven up and the families were converging with the friend group. There would be a massive rehearsal and reception on Tuesday, the wedding on Wednesday, and their last day on Thursday before everyone returns home. Christen grows sad at the thought of having to leave this paradise, already wishing she could stay here forever and not return to Tribeca, but she pushes that to the back of her mind for now.

“Chris, Ali, come sit and hang out.” Sue calls them over from her spot on the couch. Tobin stretches her legs on the sectional, one hand behind her head and the other lazily resting on her stomach, mirroring Ashlyn and Sue’s position.

“Well don’t you three look cozy.” Ali collapses at the side of her wife, throwing a leg over her hip. Christen makes the confident decision to sit between Sue and Tobin, resting her feet on the coffee table and breathing out a sigh of contentment from a full stomach. She wanted to nap, and perhaps she still will, but it was nicer to be here with her friends. With the stranger.

“So what do you do?” Tobin pokes her leg and it lights up with electricity. Christen wonders if she feels it too. “Megan said you are her boss.”

“Um,” She sits up and readjusts herself, inclining her body more towards the stranger. “We run a company together. She’s CFO, I’m CEO. She likes to think I’m her boss, but I would be drowning without her… wisdom.” Christen finishes, stalling on the wisdom, thinking that a better word for it would be incessant insightful wit and ceaseless, aggravating stubbornness.

“What company?”

Christen smiles. It’s her life work, how could she not? “We’re an ethically conscious lifestyle brand.”

Tobin smiles like she knows, and it takes Christen a moment to realize that the stranger is picking on her, takes her a moment to realize that the stranger fully knows what company she runs. She rolls her eyes playfully and shoves at the stranger’s knee. “You already know my company, don’t you?”

“I’m wearing one of your undershirts now.” Tobin smirks, and she can’t even be mockingly upset at the stranger, she’s too enthralled. “And Megan never shuts up about it.”

“Is that what Megan trades you for the Nike’s?”

Tobin perks up at that. “So she’s told you about me too, then?”

“She told me this morning that I would be rooming with you.”

“This morning?” Tobin’s brows furrow, as if really concerned. “I’m sorry, I bet that was a shock.”

Don’t be sorry, Christen wants to say. She thinks, Be anything but sorry. “No, I-“ The young CEO smiles and looks down at her thumbnail, where she’s running the pad of her finger over the pearlescent gloss. She wants to explain the mishap, how she was sent the rooming plans and the rsvp list, how it was really her mistake to begin with, but she settles on a simple, “I don’t mind.”

Tobin bashfully coughs, as if worried now that Christen had wanted a different roommate arrangement.

“Well, Megan told me about you too.” She smiles so wide that Christen is momentarily blinded, transfixed, and she can see the muscles of Tobin’s jaw flex as she purses her lips before speaking. “She told me you were very sweet.”

“Me?” Christen jokingly points to herself. “Sweet? Hmm.”

Tobin quirks a look at her once more, head slightly tilted, and there it is again- that look, that puzzled look that makes Christen feel like she’s being studied.

“Are you not?” The stranger asks so softly, privatizing the moment between them. Christen feels her face flush for the tenth time today.

The question puts the ball in the CEO’s court, an opportunity for her to flirt. She looks around the room then, glancing over at Ashlyn and Sue as they talk quietly, looking at Sue’s phone and deep into discussion about something, until her sights land back on Tobin. She can almost feel by the hanging question that the stranger had moved closer to her, though in reality she hadn’t, and Christen smiles without teeth as she looks over at the lanky figure next to her.

“Ask me that again in a week,” Christen bites down her smile, her flirtatious and elegant smile. “You’ll probably have an answer for yourself, though.”

Tobin hums, still solving the puzzle of the woman before her, and Christen allows the comfortable silence to stand her up off the couch, finally ready to move upstairs for a nap.

“Oh, you’re going?” Tobin asks, and it almost sounds like disappointment. Almost. Almost sounds like ‘Can’t you stay a little longer?’. Just barely.

The CEO nods with a patient smile, feeling it too, wishing she could stay a little longer too, but not wanting to force it. She plays her game well. She knows how to give into the chase and the thrill of it, if the lanky illustrator were to take the bait. And if she didn’t, so be it. Christen would lose no sleep, only she might sleep a little colder.

 

***

 

Two shots and three Moscow Mule’s deep and Christen finds herself raising her hand when their friend group takes a role call for those in favor of drunkenly getting in the heated pool. The first group party is always the wildest, a culmination of catching up and pretending they’re all in their early twenties again. Ashlyn’s already turned on the outside gas heaters and began building the fire pit, claiming twenty minutes ago to already know where the girls (and Kyle) would want to take the night.

She’s pleasantly full from dinner and chocolate truffles, bordering on drunk from the alcohol that’s taking a sledge hammer to her typical reserved inhibitions. Christen is a happy, carefree drunk, true to being a happy and carefree person. And sure, tomorrow might greet her with a hangover, but everyone was far more wasted by now than she was and besides- who cares?

Well, Tobin isn’t wasted, she might not even be drinking, but she is certainly not sober.

The stranger thought she was being sly earlier as she snuck upstairs after dinner, but Christen had needed to freshen up before the drinking began. She’d followed her upstairs after ten or so minutes, catching Tobin as she stood outside of their balcony with a joint between her lips, the faint smell of pot wafting in through the door as she came back in.

Christen hadn’t complained, wouldn’t complain. She’d acted like she hadn’t noticed as she stepped back out of the bedroom after changing clothes. If anything, it was good, because she got to smell that damn cologne the stranger wore to try and cover up the scent.

Now, the pot was clearly taking its effect, lowering the stranger’s eyelids and permanently securing a smile across her face. It had relaxed her as they started drinking, opening her up to those inside of the house who had yet to know her as well as Megan and Sue.

Christen learned that she graduated from college with a BFA, that she was always the designated driver but certainly not the mom-friend, and a few other tidbits that she’d offered in their conversation. It wasn’t much, but she could definitely see the charisma that Megan had mentioned, how those around them seem to gravitate towards Tobin’s warm and easygoing energy.

They all head outside into the cold December air, Megan and Kyle immediately jumping in even with their clothes on, the rest responsibly stripping down to their underwear and bra’s before joining them. The pool lights illuminate the steam coming off the heated pool and Christen laughs as cheers of “holy fuck it’s so warm” are yelled out into the cold air.

From the corner of her eye, she can see Tobin slip her jeans off as the group prods the stranger to do so, giving herself strict orders not to look over and watch as each article of clothing is removed down to her underwear. As Tobin jumps in, they turn on Christen, who can only throw her head back in laughter and set her drink down on the outside table before moving to tug her own sweater off.

 

***

 

“So how do you like the rest of us so far?” Christen throws a blanket over Tobin’s shivering shoulders and sits before the roaring fire. A few of Megan’s sisters had walked over to join the party, and by now it was in full swing.

Tobin laughs and smiles as she stares at the near naked crowd in the water, splashing and yelling from a drunken half-assed game of chicken. Her eyes are still half-lidded and red around the edges, and Christen finds it so very attractive. “I love it, you guys are good people. Crystal and Kyle are a riot together.”

“And they’re not even as drunk as they’re gonna be later.” Christen giggles, shaking her head. “What about you, are you not drinking?” She asks.

“Nah. I mean, I’ll drink later on but- usually I just prefer to smoke. Keeps me hangover-free the next morning. Plus… I’ll get to make fun of you guys without having a migraine.”

Christen tsks playfully, “Don’t remind me.” There’s a moment of silence, and she wishes Tobin would scoot closer to her, would press the sides of their arms against the other. “I’ve actually never smoked, not a day in my life.”

The stranger sits up a little straighter, turns a little more towards the young CEO, looking absolutely perplexed. “Wait, never?”

Christen laughs and shrugs her shoulders, “It’s not that I wouldn’t. Just never had the chance.” She tells her, and they hold eye contact for a brief moment before the stranger looks around them.

“Would you… I mean like, do you want to try it now?”

“You’ve got enough to share?”

Tobin scoffs confidently. “Oh totally, meeting new people makes me anxious. I couldn’t have survived these two weeks without it so I brought a good bit up with me.”  

Christen thinks about it for a moment, bottom lip between her teeth, until she finally gives in and shrugs. “Okay but you’ll have to teach me how.” She smiles, raking her nails across her own thighs. Tobin nods her head in reassurance before standing.

“I got you.” The stranger whispers, shooing the butterflies in Christen’s tummy to come alive again, “I’ll be right back.”

The stranger sits closer when she returns, a fresh hoodie over her torso and the throw blanket still around her shoulders. She undoes the blanket carefully before draping it across them both, and they’re closer now, arms touching, and the butterflies rage on.

“Okay so I’ll light it and take the first hit, then I’ll pass it to you. Just pull the smoke into your mouth and then inhale it into your lungs, okay?”

Christen watches as strong fingers light the end of the white joint, watches as all of the flames in front of them illuminate the lightest browns of Tobin’s eyes. She inhales the smoke with expert precision, blowing it out through her mouth towards the side of them, before handing the joint over.

“Here we go.” Christen murmurs nervously yet excited, forcing laughter from the stranger and grasping the thin joint between her first finger and thumb in the way that Tobin had. She watches the tail end light up as she pulls the smoke into her mouth, and the first try at inhalation sends her into a coughing fit, jerking the joint away from her face. Tobin’s hand immediately finds purchase on her shoulders, rubbing firm and soothingly as she tries not to laugh while consoling her.

“It happens to everyone the first time they try it.” She reassures, still rubbing as Christen wipes the tears from her eyelids.

The CEO pouts. “I’m a horrible pot smoker.”

“No way. Just need a little experience is all.” Tobin retracts her hand at Christen’s dismay, and she can see the strangers jaw flexing as she seems to zone out for a couple of seconds before coming-to again with a shrug. “There’s an easier way to smoke it your first time, if you wanted to try that.”

Shotgun. Christen’s head reminds her that she’s seen it before, on movies and at parties. Her heart skips multiple beats, and it’s the telltale sign to herself that this has developed into a sure-thing crush. She’s thirty years old, for Christ sake, and her hands are clammy.

“We can shotgun it, if you want. If that’s what you’re talking about, I mean.” She offers, and Tobin almost seems relieved that she didn’t have to explain it to her.

“Ah, so you do know the lingo.”

The green-eyed woman holds her index and thumb together slightly, just a little bit. “The movies teach you everything.”

“So they do.” Tobin smirks, and she’s already inhaling another draw from the half smoked joint, and Christen’s butterflies are in her chest now, bouncing her heart around like a pin ball.

She turns inwards as she grows warm, leaning forward as two fingers beckon her closer. It’s a bated breath as her eyes close and she feels the heat of Tobin’s face draw nearer, inhaling the smooth smoke from parted lips and into her own lungs as if it’s another method of getting oxygen. They don’t kiss, they hardly know one another, but she feels like the proximity has changed something, and she wonders now if she should make her attraction known. Again, those heavy brown eyes pull back and try to read her face.

“Is that pot I smell?” They hear Kyle yell from the poolside, and maybe she’s such a lightweight that it’s already affecting her, because it makes her laugh from her core, which makes Tobin laugh just as loudly, and they’re bent over in tears before they even have time to care about the interrupted moment.

 

***

 

“Alright drunkie,” Tobin lets a laugh slip beneath her breath, “Last step up, there you go.”

Christen laughs and grabs onto the railing, putting one step in front of the other and laughing like she’s watching a comedy. Being cross faded was not in her plans, but there’s no going back now, she’s done for. The alcohol and pot in her system has delivered on their promises of pure intoxication, so the assistance is needed just to get her up the spiral staircase.

Tobin is a good helper. With one strong hand at the back of her elbow and the other wrapped around her shoulder, she guides Christen up the stairs and into their room. The young CEO frowns when she notices Tobin’s bed already made up on the couch, but she keeps her thoughts quiet.

“Wait!” She halts their slow movement to the bedroom door, smiling as Tobin’s eyes track across her face in amusement. “I would like a glass of water.”

The stranger rolls her eyes playfully, steadying Christen by moving her to their small round table before making her way to the mini fridge in their living room. She pulls out a complementary Four Seasons bottle and uncaps it, handing it to Christen and making sure she has a secure grasp around the plastic. “I suppose I can hydrate you, since I’m the reason you’re in this state.”

“I’m in a state?” Christen adorably frowns, “No we’re in a province.”

“A province of crossfadedness.”

Christen throws her head back in laughter.

“Alright, let’s get you to bed.” Tobin caps the water and sets it down, helping Christen into the bedroom. She walks her over to what appears to be Christen’s chosen side, pulling the white comforter and sheets back so the drunk woman can get in. Christen throws herself down and slides into the covers, watching Tobin’s face as she pulls the blanket and sheet over her. Tobin softly pads out of the bedroom then, making a stoned Christen frown that she’d not even said goodnight, but that’s quickly remedied as the stranger walks back into the room with her hands full. She sets the water bottle down on Christen’s bedside table before moving to uncap a Tylenol bottle, setting two pills down next to the water.

“You’ll probably need that when you wake up.” She whispers.

It’s such a moment, so strange for the CEO to have someone worrying about her and worrying over her, that all she can do is look up and softly nod. She doesn’t even think about it as she offers, “You don’t have to sleep in there. I don’t kick. Or steal the covers.”

Tobin looks at her deeply for a moment, jaw clenching twice until she nods and smiles. “If you feel the same way tomorrow when you’re sober, I’ll accept your offer. How does that sound?”

Christen nods, understanding the hesitancy, understanding that beyond all of the connection they might feel with one another, they were still strangers. They’d only just met. She knows that Tobin wouldn’t want to accidentally make her uncomfortable, and despite the fact that she was coherent enough to fully know what she was offering- Tobin couldn’t make sure of that, and it only served to grow Christen’s respect for the stranger threefold.

“Okay.” She whispers, eyes already closing in on themselves, sleep beginning to wear her down. “Goodnight.”

Tobin smiles down at her one last time. “Goodnight, Chris.”

 

***

 

The CEO stumbles into the bathroom, head pounding so hard that it’s throbbing beneath her eyelids. She’d woken up with a groan and had downed the two red pain relievers and the water bottle by her bed, throat as dry as the Sahara. She winces at the bathroom light and shoves some toothpaste onto her toothbrush, trying not to open her eyes as she gets through her pre-shower routine.

In the shower, she washes and shaves quickly so that she can stand beneath the hot stream for a few moments. And after getting dressed, she sits at the foot of her bed to do her first ten minutes of hungover meditation.

“Pressy?” She pops open one irritated eyelid at the sound of Megan’s voice from the bedroom door, listening to it shut behind the intruder. “Where ya at, babe?”

“In here.” She groans, hoping that if she closes her eyelids tight enough that Megan will see her meditating and go away.

When she opens them again, Megan is sitting cross-legged in front of her, wide mischievous smirk on her face, which makes Christen sigh and abandon her hopes at grounding her hangover away.

“A little birdie by the name of Ashlyn told me that you and Heath shotgunned a joint last night?”

Christen drops her head into her hands and groans, somewhere deep in her mind she realizes that it was the first time she had heard Tobin’s last name. Oh God. Christen internally gripes. I offered her the bed and I didn’t even know her last name.

“She was helping me get stoned.” Christen mumbles. “I couldn’t do it without coughing.”

“I see.” Megan nods, still smirking, still looking at Christen like she can see straight through her because she can. “And did it help?”

“Yep. Why?” The CEO bites out.

“Just wondering.”

Christen huffs, “It’s not what you’re thinking it was.”

Which makes the blonde scoff, playfully mocking her. “Oh I’m sure it’s exactly what I’m thinking it was.”

Megan.” Christen warns, but it’s not an actual warning, because her mouth is turned up at the side, fighting to keep her smile hidden.

“It is not my business, but I just wanted to say as your friend and closest subordinate-“

“You aren’t my subordinate. You’re just a bottom.”

“As your friend and closest subordinate. There’s a lot of fish in the sea. Tobin is probably the second best fish a person could possibly catch. So if you’re going fishing-“

Christen rolls her eyes. “Wait, what’s the first best fish?”

The blonde thumps her forehead. “You, dumbass.”

Christen spends the second day being lazy on the couch with Ali, Crystal, and Kyle, given that they all have the worst hangovers of the group and the worst case of jet lag. Megan had informed Christen that Sue and Tobin, the least hungover of the group, had took off this morning to visit downtown Whistler. Christen wishes she would have woken up in time to tag along, knowing that she would have suffered through the hangover and jet lag just to hang out a little longer with the stranger. Beni flirts with her when he arrives to make lunch, though quickly changing route when he takes in how wrecked they all look. He fixes them a hangover smoothie that he swears by, recipe straight from his grandmother in Portugal, and she’s surprisingly feeling a little better by the time she finishes it.

Tobin and Sue come back just before lunch, announcing to the group that they’d successfully booked the ski reservations for tomorrow. Christen flushes when Tobin chooses the spot by her to sit down, already having to hide her elation that the stranger was home again.

“How are you feeling?” She nudges Christen’s shoulder. “I got you something, figured you might want to be cheered up today.”

Christen melts into the chair as Tobin pulls a small glass snow globe out of her jean jacket pocket, a souvenir from a gift shop, inscribed with Whistler, BC at the bottom. Inside the snow globe is a tiny Santa Claus figurine, and the little snowflakes stir around him when she shakes it.

“Thank you Tobin, it’s perfect.” The CEO smiles up at the stranger, and behind her shoulder she can see Ali watching them carefully, giving her a sly wink and a thumbs up that turns Christen red. “Not going to make fun of us weak hungover people?”

“Pshh. I’m only getting started.” The illustrator jokes. “I’ve got all day, just wait.”

 

***

 

They don’t mention Christen’s offer of sharing the bed the second night. Tobin assumes Christen didn’t mean it and Christen is too cowardly to offer again without the aid of liquid courage. It’s like their growing closeness appears to regress, bordering on that line of knowing that you want to be friends with someone and also knowing that you want to explore being more than friends with them, too. She’s never been overly shy about making her intentions known, and if they would have met in a bar, Christen would have had no problem telling Tobin exactly how attracted to her she was. They weren’t in a bar, though. They were sharing a room and a house for two weeks and Christen didn’t want to make their relationship awkward, didn’t want to be rejected and then have to deal with tension between them for the rest of her stay. She didn’t want to ruin anyone’s vacation, especially not her own and especially not her new roommate’s.

If she was going to be clear, she had to be sure that Tobin felt the same, and that was harder.

Tobin was charming, unfairly charming. Could charm the pants off of anyone at any time. She was loving and open to everyone in the house, slinging an arm around Pinoe on the couch or patting Crystal’s head with affection at dinner. Christen didn’t want to confuse Tobin’s natural personality and natural affection with her wanting more than a friendship. It wasn’t that she sent mixed signals, or maybe it was, but Christen was absolutely overthinking it.

 

***

 

Skiing proves to be fruitful.

The group, with a few of the brides’ family members who wanted to come along, pile up into the house cars and are driven to the main ski lodge. Tobin is positively beaming with excitement, bouncing on her toes and looking all too cozy in her huge Canada Goose jacket and a beanie, Christen’s beanie, from Christen’s company, that makes Christen only want to ever see Tobin in her companies clothes because of how good she looks in them. Part of her wants to ask Tobin to model for them, but she loathes the idea of having to read comments of people fawning over how attractive the stranger is, so she drops it from her mind.

They’re side by side in the line to pay for their rental gear. The illustrator talks Christen into snowboarding instead of skiing, claiming that it was more fun and more cool, to which Christen relents despite never having done it before. Being a Nike illustrator gives her some type of special card that she pulls out of her wallet and shows the rental guy, apparently something that gives her twenty discounts per year at stores that sell or rent gear and equipment, and she lets Christen take one of her twenty.

“You’ll have to show me how to do it.” She smiles at the stranger as they wait to board the lift, Tobin already strapping herself into her boots. Christen keeps her board by her side, waiting until they get up the mountain before she gets ready. “But you can’t laugh at me if I fall.”

Tobin’s already laughing, “I’m gonna laugh at you either way.”

“Rude.”

“No way,” The stranger argues, pulling a cherry red Twizzler out of her pocket from the pack that she’d purchased at the rental shop. She tears a piece off and smirks at the young CEO. “You’re so cute. It’s hard not to laugh.”

Christen blushes, and then they’re shuffling over to the lift. Tobin gets her buckled in before she can do it herself, and the way she tightens the seatbelt around Christen’s waist has her thankful that it’s so cold outside, where she can blame her flushed expression on the freezing air.

“I don’t laugh at you, and you’re cute, so you need a better argument to mock me.” The CEO comments as their lift begins its’ ascent.

“You think I’m cute?” Tobin prods, stained red lip bitten between her teeth.

Christen tries to keep her expression controlled, but the urge to smile wins over, pulling at her mouth as if her nerves have a mind of their own. “That’s… not the point.” She softly argues, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, though she knows that Tobin knows she was honest.

Tobin says nothing else, uncontrollably smiling as they ride up the mountain and take in the scenery. She looks down as they near the top to watch Sue and Megan begin their first descent on their snowboards and skis. When they dismount, Tobin secures Christen’s straps, and it enamors the CEO that the stranger has taken it upon herself to look out for her.

“Alright, how does that feel?” She asks, gesturing with worry as Christen wobbles a little.

“Um, like I’m going to fall on my ass or on my face.”

She ends up falling a few times as they practice on some of the smaller slopes, laughing at herself and throwing snow at Tobin for laughing too. At the end of the day, it’s Tobin who takes the biggest wipeout. She’d been racing Megan’s nephew down a larger slope when she caught the lip of her board on a tiny stump that hadn’t been cleared from the far left edge, sending her hard onto her side and knocking the air from her lungs.

The group had worriedly taken off to her after she didn’t get up immediately, accompanied by one of the sled medics who was sitting next to them as they watched her take the tumble. He’d released the brake on the sled and driven down the slop as the rest of them slowly made their way down.

“I’m okay.” She groaned and laughed at herself, rolling onto her side as the snow settled around her. “The jacket broke my fall. Ow- shit my elbow hurts.”

The medic had checked her for signs of concussion and examined her elbow, explaining that it seemed like a small strain from the impact of landing, that she would be okay, but that she should probably take it easy for the rest of the day. Christen agrees with a nod, and stands back as the medic pulls her back upright on the board. She doesn’t think about how worried she felt the moment she watched Tobin flip forward over her board, how she’d taken in a sharp breath and turned her own board to take her down the slope when Tobin didn’t get up.

Christen decides that three hours on the mountain are enough for her also, and Tobin makes a soft fuss about Christen staying on the mountain instead of coming back with her.

“Really it’s totally fine, my ankles are aching and I think my toes have turned into permafrost.”

Kyle joins them in saying he wants to head back too, which seems to appease Tobin enough to let them slowly ride back down the slope together. They dismount at the bottom, all three groaning with relief when they unclasp their boots from their boards.

“I’m actually kinda glad you didn’t hang back.” Tobin nudges her as they walk side by side to the lockers in the ski store.

“Couldn’t let you navigate the trek back to the house alone while you’re concussed.” Christen teases. Then, “It’s no problem though. That’s totally not my usual scene, being up on a mountain and all that, even though I had so much more fun than I thought I would have.”

Tobin smiles to herself as they shrug off the heavy snow gear and call their driver to come pick them up, “So what is your usual scene?”

The CEO ponders it for a moment, handing her rental gear to the employee with Tobin’s. “Hmm, Tribeca I guess. Martini’s in the Upper East Side.”

“Classic city girl, yeah?” Tobin winks at her, and they stand shoulder to shoulder in the rental lodge as they wait for the car to pull up, shielding themselves indoors from the cold.

“Definitely a city girl, but one that’s almost always down for adventure.”

The stranger shuffles on her feet, moving her weight so she can lean up on the side of the building. “I bet you don’t get a lot of that in New York. At least not like this.”

Their eyes lock for a long moment, and Christen knows that Tobin picks up on the undertones of her voice when she softly says, “Yeah. Not like this.”

The moment is interrupted as Kyle throws his gear onto the counter next to theirs with a grunt, “Oh God my ass cheeks need to thaw.”

 

***

 

Back at the house, Christen fusses over Tobin’s elbow as the illustrator tries to make them hot cocoa in the kitchen.

“Tobin!” She protests when Tobin playfully jerks away from her. “Are you sure we don’t need to see a doctor? You keep wincing when you move.”

The stranger rolls her brown eyes with a closed smile, stirring the cocoa powder into the hot milk. Beni was off duty until dinner tonight, and Christen was more than happy to have the kitchen to themselves as they fix the cocoa and pull out the boxed leftovers for a mid-day snack. She notices that the stranger has also made Kyle a mug without him having to ask, and she warms inside at her thoughtfulness.

“You’re very stubborn aren’t you?” Christen sips from her drink, crinkling her nose as it slightly scalds her tongue.

“The most stubbornest. Come on, lets go make a fire and chill.”

Christen doesn’t even protest that she’d just begun to get warm, and something tells her that as long as it’s Tobin she’s following, she wouldn’t be protesting much at all.

They sit by the fire for a while and Kyle joins them, thanking Tobin for the cocoa and helping her to get the fire going. They laugh at how stoned they all had been two nights ago and how sore they’re all going to be tomorrow. Kyle mocks Christen for Beni’s incessant need to hit on her.

“Does that make you uncomfortable?” Tobin asks her, looking all too cozy wrapped up in her orange blanket.

“Not really, I mean I’m single, but he’s not my cup of tea, so…”

“What is your cup of tea?” Tobin asks softly, sounding like she’s asking more for herself rather than out of innocent curiosity, because she is.

You. She wants to answer. “Not a straight male, that’s for sure. Besides, he hits on everyone. He’s not even gay and he hits on Kyle.”

“And he can do so as much as he likes.” Kyle jokes, sending them into laughter again.

 They speak about their jobs, and they speak about Tobin’s gender fluidity. Tobin’s job allows her to travel most months out of the year, rarely ever forcing her to be confined to any office at Nike headquarters. Her condo was purchased in Portland to be close to the main office, but she also stays frequently in Los Angeles, and the place she finds most inspiration is when she vacations to Brazil or Portugal. The illustrator gets to work with many high fashion brands on collabs, which she applauds herself for but secretly despises, preferring the rare moments when she gets to work with smaller artists. She accepts Christen’s offer to meet her designers and possibly collaborate with her company, calling it something she’s always wanted to do but never had the guts to prompt Megan about, which Christen gladly waves off.

She speaks on how she used to struggle a lot with her gender fluidity, and how she still debates back and forth with herself on whether or not she wants top surgery, the one place she experiences the most dysphoria. Kyle asks her if binding helps, which Tobin agrees that it does, and they encourage her to not be afraid of getting surgery if the fear is what is stopping her. The CEO can see that Tobin doesn’t talk to many people about it, noticing the way Tobin visibly relaxes as she shares more and more about herself, the way she begins to open up even more when she notices nothing but support and encouragement from the green-eyed CEO.

Christen realizes that Tobin had expected her to be put off by it, and the thought of that is comical, as if something like that could ever put Christen off of anyone. She leads the industry in genderfluid clothing (for Christs sake) but she realizes and empathizes with Tobin’s fear, knowing that the only way to prove her support is to be consistently supportive.

She tells the brown eyed stranger about Manhattan, and growing up in Los Angeles, things Kyle already knows and comments on. They speak about college, how Christen went to one of the best universities in the country, how Tobin went to a shitty and expensive and now-defunct art institute but is proud of her time there and the achievements she’s made because of what she learned.

After a good hour of relaxation and easy conversation by the fire, they all head inside to nap and get ready for dinner, expecting the rest of the group to be coming back home within the next hour or so. They’re halfway up the stairs when they hear Beni come in to start prep for dinner, and they giggle the whole way up as they book it to their room, not wanting to be rude but also not wanting to engage in flirty conversation.

“My head hurts.” Tobin grimaces and throws back a pain reliever, “I think you’ll have to drag me out of this nap.”

Christen winces for her in sympathy. Then, after fighting back a little hesitancy, she interrupts the strangers shifting feet as she walks towards the couch. “Why don’t you lay down in the bed? It’ll be more comfortable than the couch.”

The sober proposition, the one she was told to make when she wasn’t so intoxicated, finally spoken out loud. And Tobin doesn’t fight her on it, smiling with a thank you. “I’m cool with that if you are.”

“I insist, actually.” Christen smiles up at her, and once more they’re locking eyes without words. It’s a short moment, comprised of soft eyes and softer smiles, a moment of shyness that breaks when Christen tilts her face to the floor to keep Tobin from seeing her blush. They’re schoolgirls, with schoolgirl crushes, and they know it.

Tobin changes into shorts and a hoodie as Christen changes in the bathroom, throwing on a tiny pair of shorts and a spaghetti-strap tank top, knowing that she runs hot in her sleep, especially when another person’s body is beneath the covers next to her. She washes her face and throws on more deodorant. Part of her wants to brush her teeth and spray her neck with perfume but she doesn’t want to be obvious, doesn’t want to come off too strong, doesn’t want to feel desperate because she isn’t. She’s not desperate, she’s intrigued and attracted like a magnet to metal. Not desperate though, never desperate.

Any awkwardness is suppressed by knowing laughter as they crawl into the large king bed. Christen grabs the remote to lower the shades and block out some of the blinding sunlight streaming in, and they quietly listen to the whir of the machine as the room slowly grows darker.

Christen closes her eyes, body vibrating from her side of the bed. The stranger breathes steadily, and it calms the nerves in the room. She wonders if she’ll even be able to sleep, wired up on adrenaline and dopamine, but as her body continues to settle on the mattress she finds herself finally growing tired, finds herself wondering if Tobin is asleep yet.

Just as sleep begins to take her, the stranger breaks the comfortable silence with a mumbled and soft laugh under her breath, then, “So you think I’m cute, huh?”

 

***

 

The days drive on, and they find themselves only growing closer and closer, the attraction getting warmer and warmer, and more obvious. The group takes to mocking them for it, which colors Tobin’s cheekbones red every time, and Christen adores that look on her. Two days pass and they continue sleeping in the same bed, never touching, but thinking about it as they fall asleep each night.

Christen finally breaks one day, the fourth day, and pulls her laptop out of its bag to get a few hours of work done and only answer the direst emails. She tiptoes to the kitchen table while everyone else is in the hot tub, thinking that she’s being successful at being conspicuous, only to find it a massive failure when the back door opens and in pours all of her friends and Tobin.

Her eyes trace over the mass amounts of tan skin that are exposed to her suddenly. Contrasting against the strangers white Nike sports bra and white swimming trunks. Christen finds it impossible to look away from the rippling abs as Tobin bends to dry her muscular legs off, the way her shoulders flex with every movement. She’s distracted from her moment of work, and they don’t notice her at first, storming the kitchen for snacks, until-

“Is that a… laptop?” Megan gasps, and Tobin follows suit seconds later as Christen freezes.

“Chris!” Megan continues, “You promised no tech and no work.”

She purses her lips and winces, “I know, I know. I’m sorry. But I-“

“Nope, no buts.” Tobin interjects. “This is a work free zone, babe.”

Babe? Christen’s heart thumps. Her friends call her babe constantly, it’s a term of platonic endearment to them, and she hears it at least three times daily from Megan.

This is different. This is different. That was different.

Before she knows what’s happening, Tobin’s pushing her up from her chair and throwing her over her shoulder, making Christen scream and laugh at the same time as she’s carried back through the house. Megan smack’s her ass as they yell for Tobin to drop her in the heated pool.

“Is your phone in your pocket?” Tobin asks over Christen’s laughing screams.

“No it’s not but Tobin don’t you dare throw me-“

She feels Tobin jump up from the ground with a war cry and within seconds they’re submerged under warm water, her clothes sticking to her instantly. She’s positively beaming when she comes back up from the deep end, unable to even pretend to be angry when Tobin’s laughing like that.

She doesn’t attempt to answer work emails again.

 

***

 

The night before the bachelorette party, the party of eight pile into the living room and watch a Christmas classic, The Grinch. Tobin is elated over a chance to see her favorite Christmas movie, looking far too comfortable next to Crystal at the far end of the couch, in a pair of Nike sweatpants and an off white Re-hoodie that Christen personally oversaw the design of during their Fall/Winter collection last year. She looks like she walked out of Christen’s wet dreams, wearing the clothes from Christen’s collection, and it’s enough to make her drool.

“I got you a spot, Chris.” She removes the pillow that was saving Christen’s spot to her right. That’s the other thing, the nickname Tobin has taken to calling her. It’s not that she isn’t called that specific name by others, she is, but somehow it sounds better falling out of that mouth.

Tobin and Christen sittin’ in a tree-“ Crystal mumbles and then coughs, trying to cover it up as the group bursts out laughing.

She and Tobin both roll their eyes at the same time, just as they hear Sue continue with, “k-i-s-s-i-n-g”.

The pair say nothing, do nothing about it. They’re far too nervous around the subject to be defensive, secretly hoping that the other would just look over, in the midst of all the chaos of their friends, touch the other’s chin and say ‘maybe we should give them something real to talk about’ or ‘do they mean like this?’

The group laughs harder now at their obvious silence. Sue gets up and comes back in the room with a few popcorn bags, and she takes pity on them for the jibing, telling their friends that the movie is starting, that they should pay attention. Someone grabs the remote off the coffee table and turns the lights very low, so low that the roaring fire is putting more energy and light out, and the movie begins on the large flat screen above.

The CEO gets cozy now, unwrapping Tobin’s folded orange blanket and throwing it around their legs. They share a blanket in bed, it couldn’t be weird to share one on the couch in front of their friends, right? Right?  Tobin watches the movie with a smile on her face, pretending not to be bothered when she stretches and throws her arm around the back of Christen’s couch seat, closer than she was before, so close that Christen can feel the warmth from her arm on the exposed part of the back of her neck.

She falls asleep halfway through the movie to thoughts of how it would feel to curl up on Tobin’s chest.

She wakes up to the credits rolling with her head tucked under Tobin’s chin, arm wrapped around her midsection, bent knees knocking against Tobin’s thigh.

 

***

 

The CEO snaps after her meditation is rudely interrupted for the second time. Tobin is currently in the gym, giving Christen the room and the tiny slice of (frankly, unwelcome) freedom to reach her zen. The door to the bedroom slams open and knocks against the doorstopper, giving Christen a heart attack as she screams and jumps backwards.

“Chris, we gotta talk.” Crystal says, stern-toned and serious.

The green-eyed woman throws her head in her hands and whispers, “Why does this keep happening.”

Ali walks in behind Crystal then, spoon digging into Christen’s last pint of mint chocolate chip Ben and Jerry’s that Tobin had picked up for her at the store yesterday. Tonight is the bachelorette party, and she only had about two hours to get ready before she’d be thrust into the absolute shenanigans they were bound to get up to tonight.

“Yeah,” Ali spoons some more into her mouth, “Gotta talk.”

“About?”

Crystal and Ali look at one another for a short moment, raising Christen’s eyebrows perpetually at her friends, before Ali shrugs and goes for it. “When are you and Tobin gonna fuck?”

Christen gapes at them both, “What? Who said anything about fucking?”

“We did.”

“Yeah,” Crystal starts, “Yeah we did. It’s past due. I can’t believe you guys have lasted this long without banging.”

Christen looks at her suspiciously, “How do you know we haven’t yet?”

The eye roll both women produce is almost cartoonish. “Bitch, please.” Ali mocks her, “Thirteen years of friendship and bad decisions and you think we don’t know what you look like after good sex?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Christen shrugs comically, “Haven’t had it in months, maybe even years-”

“Which is why you need to jump on that. Hello.”

Crystal sighs then, “We all agree. The whole house agrees. Yesterday Megan and Sue were making fun of you guys and saying that they were going to end up having a double wedding.”

“You guys are really invested in this aren’t you?” The CEO crosses her arms, thoroughly entertained.

“Look.” Crystal grows serious, hands covering both of Christen’s knees as the three women all stare at one another. “All I’m saying is this… You have like, one week left, and a lot of that will be spent doing Maid of Honor duty. Don’t ruin a good thing by letting it slip through your fingers.”

Christen sighs and gets up then, stretching up towards the sky with resolution. “Y’all I don’t even know if she likes me.”

Ali gapes at her then, “Christen. Are you insane?” Her head shakes, before she looks over at Crystal in disbelief. “Is she insane?”

“She’s absolutely insane.”

“Christen,” Ali grabs her hands. “Tobin doesn’t shut up about you. All she wants to talk about or mention is you.”

This forces Christen’s eyes to the floor, cheek muscles fighting against her brains’ will to smile.

“Plus she asked Ashlyn and Sue if you were single.” Ali blurts, watching Christen’s brows lift high on her forehead in shock at the new information being exposed to her. Before Christen can ask, Ali answers the question spinning in her head. “Literally the day you guys met. She came downstairs after I introduced you, tried to beat around the bush for like five minutes before Ashlyn finally understood what she was getting at.”

Crystal steps up then, placing her hands on top of Ali’s, which are on top of hers. “So.. let’s get you dolled up tonight, go to the club, and give you a Very Merry Christmas.”

 

***

 

They wine and dine Megan all afternoon, from the spa where they feel their whole chakras and universes align as hot stones are placed down their backs, to back home where they get dolled up for dinner and the club in downtown Vancouver. Sue’s group left around the same time they did for their hockey game, and part of her wishes that she would have asked for Tobin’s phone number, just because she has a feeling that the stranger would be texting her game updates and silly selfies, just because she would like to say ‘I miss you’ or ‘I can’t wait to see you tonight’.

Tobin looked absolutely ravishing in tonight’s ensemble, which probably is much of the reason why Christen keeps checking the clock as they get ready for dinner. She’d been in a nice black pair of pants, a white shirt tucked underneath and a black Nike sports coat on top. She wore a pair of white Jordan’s with it, and topped it all off with a gold watch and a long gold Cuban link chain. Her hair was still drying when they’d said goodbye, and Christen would be lying if she said she didn’t watch Tobin leave until the door shut behind her.

Crystal comes to Christen’s rescue with a wardrobe choice, choosing among the five nice outfits Christen brought with her, until they settled on a perfect look. A little black dress with lace sleeves, her favorite pair of black Louboutin short pumps, and gold earrings and rings that complement her skin perfectly. She styles her hair in loose curls, her favorite, and completes her own ensemble with a dark smokey eye.

She’s a killer, she knows that, and she can’t help but think that their whole squad has been blessed in the gene pool as they pile into the black Escalade to head towards Vancouver.

 

***

 

The fine dining they receive at one of Vancouver’s top French restaurants is one for the books, though they all laugh in agreement as Megan comments that Beni could have easily made the dinner at home without the four-figure price tag. It’s good though, and the two martini’s she orders lets her loosen up in a way that she knows will benefit her later, once they’re arriving at the club with no intention of stopping.

When later arrives, a light snow has started to fall on the city, and Christen chooses to take what the girls told her this morning to heart.

Don’t ruin a good thing. Don’t let it slip through your fingers.

As soon as they enter the private booth at the bar, Christen wraps the good thing around her fingers and plans to not let go, plans to get what she wants out of the night. The illustrator lights up when she sits down next to her, and it’s only a mere second of pure elation before Tobin’s eyes grow more serious, more studious, heavily focused on a woman she has yet to meet- The Christen that Christen becomes when she’s in her New York City element. She’s put together, entirely poised and vocal, less relaxed than how she’s been at the resort but in a good way. She more in control like this, entirely confident.

When Tobin has yet to say anything, Christen flicks a brow up, “Are you okay?” She asks, even though she knows what that look is, even though she knows that Tobin’s brain is short circuiting.

“I- Yeah, um. I’m totally fine.” The illustrator coughs. “Sorry, you just- You look beautiful, Christen.”

Well, maybe not entirely in-control, at least not entirely in control over her blush. She mumbles, “Thank you.” And then, after a breath, “You’re very handsome yourself.”

“Do you wear stuff like this at work? In New York?” Tobin asks, and at first Christen is a bit taken back by the question.

“Sometimes, especially to functions outside of the office.” She responds. “Why?”

The honey-eyed stranger can only scoff with a smile and shake her head, throwing the rest of her Crown and coke back without a wince. She shakes her head again. Then, a little louder so that Christen can hear her over the music, “Do people not pass out?”

The comment sends her head back in laughter, wondering if this kind of charm is common for Tobin. She could get used to it. She hopes she’s given the chance to get used to it. If she can only work her cards right…. “I mean, you aren’t unconscious yet, are you?”

Tobin huffs out a huge breath with a small and nearly shocked look on her face, in the lines around her mouth. “No, but it’s not without difficulty.”

Christen stares at the side of Tobin’s face, at the strong muscles of her jaw clenching when she grits her teeth, the age lines at the outside corners of her eyes that Christen finds so god damn attractive, and the full lips that are wetted by her tongue when she turns towards the CEO to speak. She’s at another loss for words, closing her mouth, when they realize how close they suddenly are. As if the booth somehow got smaller. As if the noise and vibration of the voices and bass were suddenly obsolete, in an echo chamber of its own, away from the silence that comes around them as their eyes meet. Christen wonders if Tobin’s about to lean in and kiss her, and her eyes are getting heavy just expecting it, but it never arrives.

At least, not to her lips, that is.

Tobin leans in and places a delicate peck on her cheek, Christen’s hand rising up to lightly cup her jaw as she does so, and it’s incredible how something so simple can feel like a high magnitude earthquake.

“Do you want to dance?” Christen leans back in to ask her then. It’s less private on the dance floor, but more-so private in that they aren’t surrounded by friends, rather surrounded by complete strangers who couldn’t give a damn about what they do. She needs to feel close to the stranger, she’s aching for it, has been aching for it, ready to throw all caution to the wind that would have impeded her before. They could have sat and drank and talked, sure, but they’ve been talking for days now. She doesn’t want to talk anymore. If she had it her way, they wouldn’t talk for the rest of the night, leaving the deep conversations and revelations that are needed to be said for in the morning. She doesn’t think about it at all.

She doesn’t think about the future as she grabs Tobin’s hand and pulls her into the mass of sweaty bodies, doesn’t think about the rest of the week or the week after that or next month. She’s not concerned with the trip when, under the flashing strobe lights and smiling faces of the adults around them, strong hands take hold of her waist until she’s backed up against a taut and unfamiliar body. She breathes slowly and rotates her hips with the rhythm, grinding and allowing herself the freedom of letting Tobin set the pace.

She only thinks about the hand that squeezes her hip bone, and the hand that rises to rest on her abdomen, and the chill-inducing feeling of warm breath against her neck.

Fuck.” Tobin whispers into her neck as she grinds particularly hard, and it puts a sly smirk on her face, one that she shares with the illustrator as she turns in her grasp to look at her face, feeling those hands move north to her ribs.

She dances more, half turned in Tobin’s grasp, feeling hips press strongly into her as they smile at one another, breathing each other in. Both reveling in the electricity. The song changes and they hardly notice, movement slowing down between their bodies because they’re caught up in one another’s gaze, just as they’d been the first day they met.

Fingers push her hair out of her face, a thumb stroking the sweaty skin of her jawline, and Christen has a slight enough warning before Tobin is leaning in and letting their lips meet for the first time. It’s a little sweaty, insanely sexy, and the taste of alcohol on their breaths keep the kiss from being just sweet, as it forces their tongues out to chase down the root of the taste from one another. Christen latches her hands onto Tobin’s broad shoulders, pulling their bodies flush, and she moans when her head is angled just so they can deepen the kiss.

Somewhere in the back of the VIP section, without either realizing what exactly they’re hearing, their friends holler out in celebration.

 

***

 

They catch a Lyft Lux back to Whistler, abandoning their friends at the bar (though they’re all too drunk to care) and not up for waiting on another separate house car to come pick them up. If the Lyft driver is bothered by their occasional making out, they know better than to mention it, though Christen is sure to tip them well as they’re dropped off back at the resort.

Tobin kisses her against the front door, hard, and she buckles when her lip is softly bitten and pulled back.

“How much have you had to drink?” Christen asks in a desperate voice once she lets go of that full bottom lip. It’s hard for her to get the question out as those lips attach themselves to her neck, but she has to make sure that Tobin is sober enough to fully consent, has to make sure that they’re ready.

“I’m entirely sober, Chris. What about you?” Is the response she’s given.

“I’m good, too.” She whispers, watching the steam rise up from her breath as she talks. The snow is falling harder now. “I want you.” She admits it. Then, “I’ve wanted you.” Then, with a tug on Tobin’s beltloops, “Can I have you?”

Tobin laughs, a deep and throaty laugh, sultry enough next to Christen’s left ear that she knows it makes her wetter. “I want you too.”

They resume kissing for a moment, heated and hurried, as Tobin fumbles with her key card to open the door. Once it’s open, she gets them both inside and pushes it closed with her foot, hands still holding Christen tightly by her waist and only letting go to pull them quickly up the spiral staircase.

The young CEO supposes that she knew what she was getting herself into with the stranger, judging by Tobin’s natural physical athleticism, her sharp wit and attention to detail, the way she’s been staring at Christen for the past week like she’s something worthy of worship. She had an inkling. An inkling. A slight idea of the illustrators capabilities in bed simply based off of educated guessing, but she would admit with full heart that an inkling compares very little to the full scope of those capabilities, and it makes her feel more confident about her own experience in her sexual life thus far.

They’re both good at what they do, that much is obvious to her.

Tobin unzips her dress with open mouth kisses against her neck, leaning back and detaching herself fully as Christen peels the remainder of the dress down her arms and down her waist until it pools at her feet. Her shoes come next, though that process is entirely credited to the stranger, who undoes her clasps and pushes the expensive shoes to the side in order to kiss from her ankles all the way to her inner thigh, honey eyes turning sharp as Christen threads her fingers through her hair and tugs.

She’s softly laid down against the mattress to watch Tobin undress, to watch Tobin split her legs apart and settle herself between them, to feel those strong hands palm at her breasts and full lips swallow up her moans when fingers begin to slide through her wetness. Her first orgasm is drawn out, slower and softer and all at once, with two fingers inside that curl her sanity away and lips whispering praise against her ear. Her second orgasm is faster, harder, like it should be. Stealing her breath to leave her gasping for air and biting down against a strong and tan shoulder. She twists and contorts in whatever way she’s handled, loving the feeling up giving it up like this so freely, loving the feeling of a tongue on her clit as fingers stretch her with intent and purpose.

The illustrator draws it out for her, something she couldn’t easily forget, something she’ll feel in the morning, and soon she’s switching positions. Soon she’s climbing on top and asking permission to touch, being granted by a hand that guides her inside where Tobin needs her. She trades pleasure with the illustrator like a professional, until Tobin is arching and hissing and having to back away from further touches to her clit out of overstimulation. God only knows how much time has passed until they’re finally falling back to earth with the snowflakes outside.

Tobin laughs a breathy laugh against her sweaty chest, both set of lungs overworked and righting themselves as they breathe the other in. Christen kisses those swollen lips firmly, her only complaint that she’d not been able to kiss Tobin’s other set of lips yet, knowing that’ll have to be reconciled later.

“How are you even real?” Tobin whispers the rhetorical question against her mouth between slow and wet kisses. “Where did you even come from?”

Christen laughs and closes her eyes, sighing at the relief of a lot of things that have been pent up and let go, mostly just elated that she gets to reach out and touch now, gets to run her fingers slowly along the muscled back that rests on top of her, following the bumps and ridges of the illustrators spine. Eventually they adjust, so that Christen can lay her head on Tobin’s chest.

“So I like you.” Tobin says after the moment of silence, so soft that the CEO nearly didn’t catch it.

“I like you too.” She whispers back. “A lot.”

Lips press into Christen’s hairline, and she holds her breath anxiously, awaiting the conversation that was bound to play out now that they’ve admitted the way they felt, now that they’ve spend a couple hours giving the other the best sex of their lives.

Tobin clears her throat, craning her neck to meet Christen’s eyes, and the severe look in those brown eyes has the CEO hoping that everything would go her way, that Tobin wouldn’t backtrack or regret anything.

“Would you… Would you want to see where this goes? Between us, I mean?” The illustrator whispers. “I know you live in New York, but you know I’m not tied down very much with my job.”

“I’m not either.” Christen provides, kissing along Tobin’s chest and sternum. “And yes, I would very much like to see where this goes. It’s sort of all I can think about.”

The illustrator smiles then, hand moving to push Christen’s curls out of her face, stroking softly at the back of her head. Nothing more needs to be said, both too tired to continue holding their eyes open, both comforted by the warmth of naked cuddling and synced heartbeats.

“Oh and Christen?” Tobin whispers, forcing Christen to open her eyes again and sleepily look up at her. “I know the answer to my question.”

“Your question?” The green-eyed girl asks, not understanding what the stranger is talking about. “What question?”

Tobin smiles again, “Megan was right. You’re the sweetest person I know.”

 

***

 

The wedding day arrives faster than they know it, the last week being an absolute marvel. Christen knows that this vacation will always be one of her most favorites, topping any that she’s been on thus far and already giving all future vacations a run for their money. It helps that she’s found romance inside of this winter wonderland, it helps a lot, especially now that she gets to kiss Tobin as many times as she wants, gets to (frequently) end her days with a mind shattering orgasm (or five).

Once the event activities pick up, time seems to fly, weighed down in her memory by the awareness that things were coming to a close when she doesn’t want them too. As Maid of Honor, much of her last few days are filled with getting everything in order to provide Megan with the best possible wedding she can think of. She writes her speech the night before the rehearsal, always one to do it last minute because she feels that’s when she truly can speak from the heart, despite much of that time actually being spent on shooing Tobin away or giggling when the illustrator attacks the side of her face and neck with kisses.

On Tuesday, they have the rehearsal. It flows quite smoothly despite a minor hiccup involving the caterers making a billing mistake. They all dress in semi-formal clothing and ride to the venue, ensuring that it’s entirely organized to the couple’s requirements and all of the boxes are appropriately checked off. That night, she cries when she sees Megan’s fashionable gown for the first time, lovingly waving Tobin off when she worriedly looks over as Christen tries to save her mascara from her tears. Megan cries too, but she cries at everything, so it’s nothing new on that front.

Her best friend getting married is the perfect way to seal off the year, to seal off and secure a long-term relationship that Christen knows is strong enough to withstand the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. She’s put into an introspective and peaceful mood for the rest of the night, until it dawns on her as she brushes her teeth before bed that she only had two more days with Tobin.

She misses Tobin already and they haven’t even parted yet, the wedding hasn’t even happened yet, and it’s ridiculous (she knows) but it’s how things work when everything is so new. That night she reconciles it within herself by trying to make sure that she holds on a little tighter when they cuddle, and taking mental snapshots of them together in the present moment so she can save it for the time she lands back in New York City.

Tobin fucks her so good and so thoroughly on the morning of the wedding that she nearly all but forgets about those bedtime woes, rather she finds herself amusedly looking forward to them breaking in every sturdy surface inside of her Tribeca condo when the time comes.

And on Wednesday at 2 o’clock sharp, Megan and Sue walk down the aisle officially, and there’s not a dry eye in the building. The service is absolutely stunning, all off-white and strung Edison lights and cream-colored flowers and lavender lace, all beautiful and poised instrumental music and the celebration of wife and wife. Tobin winks at her from her place in the audience as they listen to the brides exchange vows, looking positively dashing in her tailored suit and thin cream colored tie, and it makes Christen smile and flush so wide that she has to blush towards the ground so that Tobin won’t pick on her later, so that Megan won’t also pick on her when they re-watch the ceremony recording.

Megan and Sue leave the building as an officially married couple, and Tobin waits for her at the edge of the aisle with her hand outstretched.

“Ready to dance?” She escorts her outside towards the larger rustic building of the Four Seasons Lodge where they’ll have the reception, leading them out of the foyer and into the falling snow.

“Gotta get this speech over with first.” Christen smiles, letting the hand that isn’t holding Tobin’s wrap around the illustrator’s forearm, “And then we can dance our asses off.”

Christen gives her speech at the Bride’s main table, tapping her knife to her champagne flute a few times and grinning as she grabs everyone’s attention. Tobin sits to her left with Megan to her right, giving her encouragement as she opens up the little slip of paper to begin. She and Megan tear up a few times throughout, but it’s a success in anyone’s book that they were both able to get through it without a drop spilled over, and Christen applauds the couple with the rest of the crowd once she’s finished, once they’re all set to begin their first dance.

 

***

 

“You’re so beautiful, Chris.” Tobin softly whispers as they dance among the other couples, and Christen watches over Tobin’s shoulder as Crystal gives her a thumbs up, smiling as she shares a friendly dance with Beni (they invited him a week ago, practically begging him to join).

“What makes you say that?” The CEO questions, resting her forearms around Tobin’s shoulders and softly swaying from side to side.

“You just are.” Is the response she’s given, and Tobin shrugs as if it’s the simplest thing in the world. “I’m sad that I’ve gotta go home tomorrow. I’m not ready to be on the other side of the country from you.”

Christen winces and pulls the illustrator in closer, breathing in her cologne. “Me too.” She mumbles, eyes closing as they sway. “We don’t have to think about it right now. Just be here with me.”

“Okay.” She can feel Tobin smile.

“Okay.”

Once the alcohol begins to pour and the music switches from soft to mostly rap, Christen shrugs off her shoes with the rest of the high-heeled women and joins the crowd back on the dance floor. Tobin shrugs off her coat and unbuttons a few buttons on her shirt, and they dance until they’re sweaty, and they drink until they’re quickly approaching the turn from tipsy to drunk.

As the night nears its end, the older family retires back to their respective houses and the friends and younger family continue to dance, and Christen grows anxious with every passing hour on the clock as her time here with the illustrator begins its permanent countdown. Tobin tells her that she’s going to step outside and hit a joint, and Christen doesn’t think anything of it until it’s been over twenty minutes without her returning.

“I’m gonna go hunt for Tobin!” She explains to Ali, having to raise her voice over the music to be heard.

She slips her heels back on and grabs Tobin’s black suit jacket that was left on the back of her chair, shrugging it over her shoulders to protect her from the still-falling snow. Outside, the temperature drop makes her immediately shiver, moving from a packed building with bodies providing heat into the cold Canadian air. She looks around the resort front, finding no sight of Tobin yet, and decides to follow the lights strung up through the garden incase the illustrator decided to walk.

The pathway is lit with more Edison lights and walk way lights, guiding her past a fountain and a few other statues, until she spots the illustrator inside of the garden’s wooden octagonal gazebo, leaned up against the open railing and staring out into the mountains. The hanging lights splay out from the top of the gazebo, a classic wedding look, one that Christen is thankful for as she makes her way across gravel in 5 inch pumps up the small entrance steps. Tobin turns when her heels click against the wooden floor, smiling as she realizes that it was Christen who snuck up on her. She puts the joint out on the sole of her shoe before tucking it back in her wallet.

“You look good in my jacket.” She tells her, kissing her forehead and wrapping her up as Christen steps into her space.

“You should see me in a power suit.”

Tobin groans at the image, making both of them laugh. The fountain in the background fills their silence with white noise, as they lock eyes and get lost, as lovers do. They can hear the music from the reception building from outside, and Tobin starts to sway them when the song turns slow again, allowing Christen to rest her head on her shoulder.

“I have a feeling this trip has changed my life.” Christen whispers, and Tobin hums in response, strong hand steadily moving along the green-eyed girls spine.

Tobin jokes a moment later, “I can only hope that it’s something to do with me.”

“Maybe a little bit.” The CEO giggles, holding tighter.

They dance for most of the song, too warm in one another’s grasp to be bothered by the cold. Tobin spins her slowly before drawing her back in, chest to back, with her arms bracketing Christen’s waist as they sway.

“Any plans for Christmas?” She asks the illustrator, expecting the normal response of spending time with family, or something along those lines. It was only two weeks away, after all.

“Not a single one.” Tobin whispers, trying to spin Christen out again, yet failing when Christen abruptly turns without the grace of a slow dance. “What is it?” Tobin asks.

“You don’t visit your family?” The wheels in Christen’s head are spinning, wondering and worried about the illustrator being alone.

“Um, well mom is in Italy on a pasta retreat until January, and dad said that he would probably be working through Christmas, so… I think my siblings didn’t want to make a fuss about it this year.”

“A pasta retreat?” Christen starts to ask, then- “Wait so you’ll be alone? For Christmas?”

Tobin nods, and their eyes widen at the same time the realization hits them both. “Um, yeah,” Tobin mumbles, “I’ll be alone. I was just gonna head to LA after this and maybe surf for a couple of weeks.”

“I’ll be in LA with my family.” Christen smiles as it hits them again. Two more weeks. Her brain fires off, already overloading with happiness that she wouldn’t have to wait for long, that they could make plans now.

Tobin smiles wide and resumes their swaying, rocking them side to side with the gentle and muffled music. “So… LA, huh? Think you might find time to take in a lonesome straggler? Maybe visit the lonesome stragglers beach house?”

It was a Very Merry Christmas, indeed.