Beth’s nimble fingers expertly creates sharp angles of the Christmas paper as she wraps presents for her kids.
It’s late and her mind is elsewhere, glancing out through the window she can see that the snowing still hasn’t let up, it has been snowing all day and she’s worrying that she won’t make it home.
She’s waiting for Mick to do the usual pick up and drop off in the backroom of the Porcupine. Closing up shop an hour earlier, she has been tinkering around the shop and now she’s wrapping up the kids Christmas present.
After last year's disaster, Kenny having found the presents, thinking he was being stealth but throwing a tantrum when it turned out Danny had gotten the present he had his eye on, it would just be easier for everyone if she kept them at work.
Hearing someone tug at the door, she sighs internally. She doesn’t understand why Mick can’t make his presence known by knocking -he knows she keeps the door locked when she’s alone at the store.
“Just a sec!” She hollers.
Unlocking and opening the door, she has to turn away from the cold wind wiping in through the door.
Mick and Beth have come to a form of truce of the month, that’s why she doesn’t have any problem chastising him.
“Let’s make this quick, I’d like to get home before there’s too much snow.”
Beth makes quick work of gathering up and putting away the presents, opening up a different cabinet to grab the duffel bag when his voice breaks through.
“It’s a bit late for that, don’t think you’ll make it home in your mama van,” Rio’s looking at her amused as she abruptly turns around with the bag towards him. Hands in his pockets he lets her regard him.
“I was expecting Mick.”
She’s barely seen him since she showed him Boland Bubbles before they had filled it with Spas and Hot tubs. He’d come by with Mick if he had any comments on the batches she had made, but he rarely had. She took too much pride in her work to antagonize him.
He looks her over and she’s instantly aware what she’s wearing, and it makes her nervous. He makes her nervous, she wants to pat down her hair and smell her clothes.
No one has said anything in a few minutes and Beth forces herself to break the silence,
“It should all be there, the last batch for this year.”
He takes a hold on the handle and Beth steps forward to hand over the bag, and as his fingers graze over hers she feels a surge tightening in her stomach, she will herself to play it cool and not flush at his unexpected closeness.
“So?” He asks.
“So?” She wonders.
“I’ll give you a ride home.”
She tries to assure him she’ll be fine, but as he waits for her to lock up the backdoor, she can’t help but feel grateful for his (unusual) insistence of driving her home.
It’s fallen well over a foot of snow, there’s no way her car would make it without getting stuck somewhere, and he has a jeep-like car.
Without asking, once he’s put the bag in the backseat, he starts up the car and turns the heat on the highest, even putting on the seat heater for her. He doesn’t ask her if she’s alright as much as he is making sure she is alright, checking the fans so they aren’t directly blowing hot air in her face, adjusting the temperature once they both have thawed up a bit.
He is the first to break the silence this time.
“Got the Christmas tree up yet?”
Any other year they would have, but they still don’t have enough furniture and it had been a close call on getting these gifts for the kids.
“We’re doing Christmas at Judith, this year.”
“My mother in law.”
It takes him a moment to ask her, “You’re just going to let bygones be bygones?”
She thinks about it, the level of truth she should give him, “I can’t do it on my own, so…”
“It’s convenient, you mean.”
That rubs her the wrong, because yes, but she’ll never admit that, “ No. That’s not what I said. We’re a team.”
He lets out a half snort at her answer but doesn’t push further.
“Where’s Mick tonight? Wasn’t expecting you.” She asks.
“I wanted to let you know that you’re needed for a meet and greet before New Years, it’ll be quick, but it means that it might be time to expand the import of our company.”
Rolling her eyes at “our” she knows he’s just trying to get a rise out of her, she ignores it.
“ Oh. ”
“Nothing big, just, I need you to show your face, blink those blue eyes you use to get away with shit, make yourself seem trustworthy.” He ends sharply, changing the mood from pleasant to his no-bull attitude.
She doesn’t answer him at first, so he takes his eyes of the road long enough for her to grit out an,
“ Okay. ”
Rio lets out a frustrated sigh, like she’s the one being unreasonable. Deciding to offer her a peace branch as they get to her area,
“Marcus has been asking after Jane.”
“I don’t think Rhea’s up for playdates anymore.”
He flexes the muscles in his jaw, “I could bring him to the park one day.”
“Isn’t it a little too cold for that right now?”
“I’m trying to… I’m trying.” He ends with, pulling up outside her house he turns to look at her.
She’s just about to tell him, but she sees the front door open and Dean’s presence makes her catch herself, “Send me a date and time, I’ll be ready.”
Rio turns to watch her walk up her steps, observing her as she slips through the front door.
It’s the day before New Year’s Eve that Rio comes by to pick her up, she told Dean to spend the day with the kids and his mother, not wanting him to know that Rio was picking her up.
It’s just past lunchtime when she locks the door to her house, hurrying up to get out of the cold and heat up in his car.
It has fallen a foot of snow since Christmas, the roads are ploughed, but it has just started snowing again and she isn’t sure where they’re going, she just knows they are going out of state and that they’ll be back late.
She isn’t worried about getting back, thinking his car can work it’s way through most terrains.
It had taken them three hours just to meet up with the potential clients at a little diner just at the side of the road. They had all gotten dinner there and the food hadn’t been anything to write home about. Even the coffee had an acid aftertaste.
The ride home is slow though. They had stopped not too far from the dinner, getting some water to rinse their mouths from the bad coffee, even Rio had cursed at it making her laugh. Filling up on some snacks and gas they had started the journey back home.
Beth had even dozed off for a bit, when she wakes up it’s dark outside, and a heavy snowfall has Rio driving like an old lady. Slowly and leaning forward, the sight was almost non-existing.
The snowflakes are all lit up, almost appear to be shining on their own in contrast to the darkness outside.
Beth sits up a little further, making Rio aware that she isn’t asleep anymore.
“I’d say we have an hour left, but in this condition I’m not sure when we’ll be back. If we can even make it.”
“Is it that bad?” Still a little groggy from waking up, she tries to make sense of what it means.
“It’s been bad for awhile, you’ve gotten a few texts.”
Beth checks her phone, a few texts from Dean telling her that he’ll be staying with his mother due to the weather, and that his mother wants a recipe for a pie she made for Christmas.
One from Ruby wondering what Beth is bringing for dessert on New Years Eve, and one from Annie wondering if she can catch a ride to the Hills for the party.
After answering all of the texts, she shifts her focus back to Rio and her surroundings.
The car is crawling forward, at this speed she’s sure it’ll be quicker for her to walk home. Slowly Rio signals for the car to take an exit, slowing it down to a stop when he reaches a country road.
Beth waits for Rio to shift the gear into park, before she asks him, “what’s happening?”
“We’re not going to make it.”
His car is still humming as they stare into the black void, taking in the reality.
They talked it over, they had gotten friendlier on the way up, but the harsh truth of spending the night together in a car brought out a terseness in them both. They decided to settle in their seats, angling them back thinking they’ll be able to get some shut eye in.
It’s just. When the car is turned off it doesn’t take long for the outside coldness to seep in, and it isn’t long before Beth’s teeth are shattering even though she tries not to. She shivers under her heavy coat.
Without saying a word, Rio disappears as he steps outside the car, and she hears the trunk being opened and closed before he reappears in the backseat. Beth curses him silently for letting the last of the warmer air out, replacing it with freezing.
“Come on,” he tells her, “come back here.”
“You’re cold, I got you a blanket to share.”
It’s an awkward climb over the center console, Rio had to steady her as she almost face planted into the seat. Even through her layers of clothes it felt as if his hand was touching her bare skin.
The backseat wasn’t as comfortable as the front seat, but he had produced the fluffiest blanket giving hers a run for the money, warming her legs as they shared it.
Even though the blanket gave her some warmth and comfort, it didn’t take long for the air to form white clouds as they exhale, a display on how cold it was outside.
Beth tried to tell herself they would be fine, she had a niggling little voice in the back of her brain telling her this wasn’t good.
Her back was getting tired from sitting stiffly next to Rio, when he started to unzip his coat, shrugging out of it and pulling his hoodie over his head.
“What are you…?”
Has the coldness gone to his head? Is this a sure sign that this has gotten too far?
Instead he tells her, “come on. We need to be smart. Give me your coat.”
“We need to get the heat up if we’re not going to freeze to death in the next few hours. It’ll be better if we share body heat and use the coats to drape over us.”
“ No. ” There’s no way she’s cuddling up to him.
“This is happening,” he tells her, “the faster you take your coat off, the faster you’ll be warm again. I won’t bite, I promise.”
Reluctantly she takes off her coat and hands it to him, following his lead and taking off her sweater too.
He layers them up on top of the blanket, laying down in the backseat and holding up one end. Signaling for her to lay in front of him, and she can’t help but grumble as she makes her mind up. Front or back to him?
In the end she settles for her back to him, and she tries to give him some space, but in this narrow backseat and with her curves, that’s not just happening. She’s almost falling off the seat, laying at the very end when Rio slungs a leg over her hip, drawing her back to him.
She can’t help the small, “yip” she lets out in surprise of his action. He doesn’t comment on it, but with his nose in her hair, she can feel his smile against her.
They are like two flintstones meeting, igniting sparks. It isn’t long until she feels the warmth returning to her body, making her sleepy. Despite having Rio plastered to her back, being aware of his every breath, it doesn’t take long until his slow exhales has lulled her to sleep.
Beth wakes in the middle of the night, not fully, just enough to change her position into one of more comfort, turning around having the warm blanket envelope her as she snuggles in.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t surprised when she wakes to the harsh daylight shining in, attacking her eyes to wake her up, her face half smushed in Rio chest. His leg still slung over her hip, anchoring her in place.
She’s resting on his arm, one a makeshift pillow and the other resting over her, with her nose pressed to his chest, she can feel him, all of him. Carefully she tries to extract herself, but it seems to have the opposite effect on him, with him pulling her closer.
She can tell by his breathing when he starts waking up, and the urge to tell him she tried to get out but he wouldn’t let her go, is strong. Expecting him to freeze when he feels her in his arms, he doesn’t.
Instead he rubs his chin on top of her head, before relaxing and letting her out of his grasps. It just, he doesn’t let her get very far, just enough for her to start crawling out of his space, but being stopped when they’re face to face.
“Good morning,” he hums low.
“You sleep well?”
“Ye-,” her voice breaks a little so she tries again, “yeah. You?”
She still feels him hard pressed against her, and as his brown eyes meet hers, she feels frozen in place. Waiting for his lead.
“We should get back,” he tells her.
He’s not letting her go, and she’s not trying to break free. She’s sure their lips meet in the middle, as they both lean forward, trying lips finding rhythm.
Letting her hands wander, it isn’t long until he changes their position, her on top with a leg on either side of him, his hands on her ass, squeezing and releasing in a rhythm.
Grinding herself against him, slowly first once, then a second time, he releases a groan into her mouth, breaking her out of her lust filled spell.
She breaks the kiss to rest her head on his chest, to wonder what the hell they’re doing.
His fingers are softly caressing her back when he tells her, “today’s New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow’s a new year, we could just…”
“Go out with a bang?” She fills in as he trails off.
Letting out a dry laugh, “I was thinking more, a one last thing,” he swallows, his fingers never letting up.
And that hangs heavy, she never thought they would ever have another anything .
In answering him, she places her hands on his cheeks, looking in his brown eyes, matching her soft gaze, before she kisses him again.
It’s just as good as she remembers, a little awkward maneuvering under the blanket, not wanting naked skin to meet cold air. They could probably just have taken off the bare minimum of clothing, but somehow it didn’t even cross her mind, and he followed her lead.
The drive back is driven in comfortable silence, they listened to the radio, making comments on a song here and there.
It isn’t until they’re outside her house she feels like they should’ve talked about what had happened again, or at least acknowledge that this doesn’t change anything.
Instead she finds herself unwilling to exit his car, and he, when neither of them fills the silence, her hand hovering over the handle, asks her,
“Marcus would love to see Jane over the Christmas break.”
“I’ve been meaning to take the kids to the park, bring some hot cocoa and marshmallows.”
“Neat. I’ll get in touch?”
“Yeah, just text me, we haven’t that much planned these coming days.”
She gives him a small smile as she opens the car door.
When she’s slipping in through the front door, she sees him still waiting by the curb, and she lifts a hand and gives him a small wave which he returns before he pulls away.
Leaving her with a warm feeling, lingering throughout the day.