The Sweetest Gift by Scarlett Cole




Elliott Dawson checked the scar at the base of his neck in the mirror hanging in the recording studio bathroom in the basement of his home. It was two weeks to the day since the doctor Georgia, Lennon’s fiancée, had helped him find had put it there.

Everything about his prognosis was good, or so everybody assured him. A T1b Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma was as good a thyroid cancer diagnosis as you could get. It was small, didn’t require the removal of his whole thyroid, and he’d been in and out of the hospital the same day.

No radiation.

No chemo.

No losing his hair that Kendalee loved so much.

It was a simple surgery, one that protected the movement and sensations in his voice box.

And the survival rate of his prognosis was so fucking close to one hundred percent it made it one of the most beatable cancers.

But the diagnosis had rattled him. He was no longer the twenty-year-old with the naivety to believe he would last forever. Instead, he had gotten a punch to the side of his face that the new life he’d built for himself was built on sand.

He wandered to the recording studio, the corridor decorated with misshaped Christmas trees made from the babies’ handprints. The memory of eight-month-old Noah and nearly two-year-old Holly covered from head-to-toe in green paint brought a smile to his face. Sixteen-year-old Daniel had stoically helped but had refused to look at Elliott as he’d taken photographs to capture the event.

Elliott picked up his acoustic guitar. Perching himself on the stool, and the guitar on his knee, he strummed it mindlessly, finally joining in with the vocals.

“Would you know my name,” he sang, easing into Eric Clapton’s, Tears in Heaven.

The song had more meaning now than it ever had.

His annual physical wasn’t meant to be a big deal. He ate well and took the time to stay in great shape. So, when the doctor had spent several minutes poking and prodding in his neck, he hadn’t been overly concerned. It was when the doctor began to talk about referrals and further tests he’d begun to sweat. On the way home from the appointment, he’d done the one thing he knew he shouldn’t. He’d looked up ‘lumps in necks’ online. By the time he’d gotten home, he’d lost the doctor’s words of reassurance that there was no need to worry.

He’d shared his fears with Kendalee, holding her while he talked. But that night, after he’d made love to Kendalee with a need that bordered on frenzied, he’d dreamt that he’d died, and Holly and Noah didn’t remember him. He’d woken up with a shout, rousing Kendalee whose eyes had been filled with concern. In a way he could never thank her enough for, she’d soothed his rattles and sat by his side, reassuring him that God couldn’t be so cruel as to make him lose his family all over again. Or be lost to them.

While he’d always respected the strength of her faith, it had never quite brushed off on him. He’d built his church on the back of friendship, brotherhood, and the love of a good woman.

He always held her while they slept, but that night, she’d held him.

Still, the lyrics of the song continued to hit him in a way they never had before.

The door down to the basement clicked open and shut, and from the creak of the stairs, he knew it was Kendalee.

Fuck, he loved that woman.

More than he could express in words or music.

He stopped playing as she came into view carrying a laundry basket filled with kids’ clothes. Her long strawberry blond hair was pulled up in an elastic. She wore a black sweater with three silver Christmas trees on the front, black jeans, and was barefoot. Fresh-faced without make-up, she looked so fucking beautiful that his heart missed a beat.

When she saw him looking her way through the glass walls of the studio, she popped her head around the door.

“You need a reason to believe in miracles?” she said.

He rested his hands over his guitar. “Sure, hit me up.”

“Noah and Holly are both asleep. At the same time.” She turned and showed him the two baby monitors, one hanging off each pocket of her jeans. “Listen…”

Silence filled the room. Elliott placed his guitar in its stand and walked toward her. “Is Daniel home?” he asked.

Kendalee shook her head. “Nope. He went over to Kyle’s house to catch up before we leave for Miami tomorrow. Which is why I’m using this precious time to get the laundry done so I can pack. I’m so looking forward to Reid and Lia’s wedding. It’s so romantic. Christmas Day.”

She stood up on her toes and gave his cheek a peck and headed to the laundry room. He tracked her ass as she walked, still fucking sexy with a baby monitor hanging off each pocket. She loved their kids as strongly as any mother could. Something he’d never experienced. Watching her love their family only made him love her more.

There had been a distance between them since his surgery, and it had been all his fault. He’d struggled with his diagnosis in a way that was disproportionate to his actual prognosis. He’d remained deeply entrenched in his head, which was never the best place for him to be.

They’d made love, but for him, it had come from a place of fear, of losing what they had. It was time to put that in the past and get back onto a regular schedule of making love, of fucking, of laughing and getting dirty and trying things that didn’t always work out. There was nothing better than the look on Kendalee’s face when he pushed her places she didn’t think she could go, only to find she loved every fucking minute just as much as he did.

He followed her to the laundry room. Kendalee was bent over, putting the clothes in the industrial-sized washing machine they’d bought after Holly was born. That kid wore fifty percent of every meal. The two baby monitors were on the countertop.

“Babe,” he said, sliding his hands over her ass.

Kendalee jumped up, almost head butting him. “God, I didn’t realize you’d followed me in here.” She placed her hand over her heart.

Elliott laughed. “Sorry. Well, not sorry, because I love groping your ass.”

She bent over again and put the last of the laundry into the machine before slamming the door shut.

He watched as she danced around the laundry room. She grabbed a new bottle of laundry detergent from the cupboard beneath the counter and poured the liquid into the machine. She squinted at the dial, and he smiled knowing she’d probably left her glasses upstairs in one of the kids’ rooms while she was reading to them before their nap.

“All done?” he asked. She put her hands on his hips and he wrapped his arms around her, tugging her closer.

“Not yet. I thought I might finish wrapping the rest of the Christmas gifts so I don’t have to do it tonight. What about you?”

Gently, he kissed the side of her neck. “I have a list. Top five things I want to do to my wife in the laundry room.”

Kendalee tilted her neck to the left to give him access. “If number one is to actually do the laundry, I might orgasm right here.”

Elliott laughed. He couldn’t help it. His thoughts had been dark only moments before, but as always, Kendalee was there letting the light in. “I’ll finish the laundry off for you. But don’t you want to hear my list?”

Her cheeks blushed. “I’ve always loved your lists. I remember the first one you sent me. Top five things to do on a rainy day.”

“You missed sex on that list.”

“I remember,” she said, a grin on her face. “I barely knew you. You were so much younger than me. I thought it was some kind of joke.”

He took her hand in his and spun her engagement ring around her finger. “You were never a joke to me.” He brushed his lips over hers, gently at first and then more firmly.

“You were always so certain, despite…” She waved her hand in the air. “Everything. This. Me. Daniel. My divorce.”

Gently, he tugged the elastic out of her hair, letting it all fall around her shoulders in soft waves. “Us, Kendalee. I was always certain about us. And being certain about us meant we could deal with everything else.”

Kendalee smiled. “You continue to sweep me off my feet.”

A murmur broke through the silence. Soft mutterings came through the baby monitor, and they both switched their gaze to the little white box that could disrupt Elliott’s plans. Thankfully, Holly settled, and he looked back at Kendalee, threading his fingers through her hair.

“First thing on my list. Lure my wife into thinking we’re just kissing.” He fucking loved the feel of her lips on his. Soft, pouty, and always deliciously warm. Her eyes were firmly on his, something he loved during moments of intimacy like this. Sure, there were times for closing your eyes in the final throes of sex, but at the start, there was something so vital about seeing an expression of love and lust on the face of someone who meant the world to you.

“What’s number two?” Kendalee gasped.

“Second thing on my list. To see what my wife is wearing underneath this sweater.”

She lifted her hands in the air and he pulled off the sweater and the vest she wore beneath it.

Blue lace.

His favorite color, his favorite fabric, on his most favorite woman.

Smooth skin met his fingertips as he brushed his fingers over the rise of her breast. Nipples he knew were a dusky pink were already erect beneath the fabric and he scraped his thumb gently across them.

“Elliott,” Kendalee murmured.

“What, Babe?”

Her eyes locked with his. “I’ve missed you.”

The words ricocheted around his heart. “I’ve missed me, too. I’m sorry.”

Kendalee reached up onto her toes and placed her hands around his neck, kissing him softly. “No. I didn’t say it to make you feel bad. I know it’s been a lot for you.”

“Number three on my list. I’m going to get us both naked. Literally and figuratively. Because I need both. We need both.”

Stepping away from her, he pulled his T-shirt over his head and shucked his jeans and underwear, leaving them on the ground. By the time he was done, Kendalee had kicked off her jeans and removed her lingerie.

“I should have picked a better spot to do this than the laundry room,” he said gruffly as he pulled her naked body to his. Bright fluorescent lights, a wooden floor that, thankfully, had underfloor heating, and the smell of fresh laundry. Not the sexiest place to seduce his wife.

“Are we in the laundry room? I hadn’t noticed,” Kendalee whispered against his ear.

Elliott ran his hands down the soft curve of her back until he reached the cheeks of her butt. Nudging her gently, he picked her up, his arms around her, her legs around his waist, and placed her onto the washing machine. “Spontaneous sex in any part of the house is officially back on the menu.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Kendalee’s eyes glowed with the love she felt for him. Even when she’d not believed herself capable of falling in love with him, the signs had been there that she already had, written in her gaze.

“Have I told you how much I love your eyes?” he muttered.

She shuffled closer to the edge of the machine, using his hips for leverage. He could feel the slow and steady rumble of the washing machine as the drum turned. “Not recently.”

“Number four. I want to check out just how ready for me my wife is.”

Knowing, as she always did, exactly what he wanted from her, she spread her legs wider. He ran his finger over her C-section scar. A constant reminder of the most incredible gifts she could ever have given him. She’d been embarrassed about it at first, and he’d not been able to understand why.

That single silvery-white line had been the physical doorway to becoming a father, to building a family of his own.

His fingers drifted lower, his thumb circling her clit, eliciting a gasp from Kendalee. Her back arched as she gasped, and he took the opportunity to suck one of her nipples into his mouth, to lave his tongue across the tip before letting go.

She was wet for him already. Fucking perfect. He placed his hands on either side of her thighs on the machine and lowered his head. His tongue lapped her once, then twice, in long brushstrokes from front to back.

Her taste was one he could never get enough off. He licked between her lips, thrusting his tongue into her, mimicking the action his cock would take soon. He curled his tongue upward, finishing every stroke with a flick of her clit before he started.

“Elliott,” she gasped. “If number five isn’t to fuck me on this machine, I might consider a divorce.”

He grinned against her clit, giving it one last kiss for good measure.

“I think number five of things I want to do to my wife in the laundry room is to leave her sitting on the washing machine in dire need of my cock, so she thinks about me every minute for the rest of the day.”

Kendalee grasped for his hair and pulled his lips to hers. “Try it and you might lose said cock.”

Elliott kissed her, sending his tongue to meet hers.

“I still taste good,” she said, as he pulled away.

“Really fucking good,” he agreed. He reached for her ass and pulled her toward him until she was balancing precariously close to the edge of the machine. He ran a hand down her chest, between the valley of her breasts, pushing her to lean back.

Desperate to be inside, he palmed his cock, stroking it a couple of times. He looked up to see Kendalee’s eyes fixated on what he was doing. To tease her, he rubbed the tip against her wetness, groaning as he did so. “Warm, wet, and deep inside you is his favorite place.”

She changed her gaze to his. “So, what’s he waiting for?”

Elliott grinned and then eased himself forward, a slow back and forth, as Kendalee stretched around him. “Fuck, Babe,” he gasped.

The image of her, opening to receive him, her lips dragging against his cock as he withdrew, her clit all erect and red for him was almost more visual stimulation he could stand. He thrust into her, seating himself as deep as he could get.

“Oh, god,” Kendalee gasped, reaching for his shoulders, so their chests mashed together and blocked his view. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you like this.”

Words gathered at the back of his throat, but he couldn’t say them.

Life was too short to worry about life being too fucking short. His diagnosis and treatment had been a wake-up call to embrace life by the mother-fucking-balls. He had Kendalee, they had each other. They had the kids. And fuck, if he wasn’t there for any reason, there were over a dozen people who would make sure they were looked after. He was the luckiest fucking man on the planet, not the unluckiest.

His diagnosis had happened for a reason.

So, he’d never take moments like this for granted ever again. From now on, he’d never settle for anything less than a full life led exactly the way he wanted it to be. How they wanted it to be.

He slid out of Kendalee, taking most of the weight in his arms now, as she was perched right on the edge of the machine that began to spin faster. The vibration was almost too good. Fucking without a condom was the closest thing to heaven, feeling how wet she was for him, how warm, how snug she still felt. Knowing that, if they were lucky, it might lead to another blessing in their crazy life.

“Fuck me, Elliott,” Kendalee begged.

And goddamn if her wish wasn’t his fucking command. He powered into her, thrusting back and forth, as they both chased the edge.

He could hear Kendalee moan, could feel her tilting her hips so he could hit her exactly where she liked it best. A feeling so desperate he wished he had the hands free to reach for her clit.

“Fuck it. Hold on,” he instructed. Elliott dropped to his knees, placing Kendalee carefully on top of his jeans down onto the floor. Her hair fanned out around her head and she looked breathtaking. So fucking beautiful that, for a moment, he forgot about the orgasm he’d been chasing and stared.

“Elliott,” Kendalee gasped, her cheeks flushed and a sheen of sweat between her breasts. “Are you okay?”

He leaned over her, lying his body flat against hers as she cradled him between her hips, his cock buried deep inside her. In contrast to his frantic movements only moments earlier, he slid out slowly, thrusting back in so deeply he felt as though he might lose sense of who he was.

When his lips met hers, the kiss was filled with everything he couldn’t find the words to express. How much she meant to him. How he’d never take everything they had together for granted ever again. How he hoped they’d expand their family in the next few moments.

“I’ve got you,” Kendalee muttered against his lips as she brushed his hair back from his face and exposed him to her. “I always have.”

And this time, when he began to move, he knew she meant every word. Because he’d got her, too. He sped up, grinding against her because, if there was one thing he knew and understood, it was exactly what the woman beneath him needed to come.

He took her hand in his, their fingers interlaced like their lives, and raised it above her head.

“I’m close,” Kendalee mouthed, her eyes locked on his. The way she looked at him, the way he soaked her in, was a deeper communion than the way their bodies were joined together.

He nodded in understanding. His body was on fire, a different kind of fire than the type that used to help him escape the world around him. It was on fire for her.

His balls ached with a deep need. His orgasm tightened every muscle in his gut.

“Fuck, Kendalee,” he gasped, watching as her mouth opened, as her head threw back, as her eyes closed. Silent gasps of ecstasy as she fluttered around his cock.

Watching her fall apart, he let himself go. He pressed his lips to the crook of her neck, taking in the reassuring musky scent of her, groaning as he came over and over.

When it was done, as silence fell in the laundry room, he slid from within her and settled her against his chest. His heart beat faster than if he’d just played a complete set plus encore to a capacity crowd.

But his soul.

The fractured pieces of him that his family had made whole were glued back together again. Gently, he ran his fingertips up and down her spine as he listened to Kendalee’s breathing return to normal.

“Can I ask for one more thing on your list, Elliott?” She tilted her head to look up at him and he kissed her nose.

“Anything you want, Babe.”

“Number six on the top six things I want to do to my wife in the laundry room,” she said. “Promise her that I’ll never shut her out like that again.”

Elliott wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her tightly. “I promise, Lee,” he said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to…” He left the words hanging as he struggled to explain his feelings.

“I can only imagine how tough it’s been, processing it. You don’t need to carry it all on your own. I know it’s what you’ve always done. It’s what I had always done. But that’s the whole point of us. We’re in this life together. All of it. The good and the bad.”

“Don’t make me cry while I’m lying naked on the floor of the laundry room,” he said, attempting to lighten the mood.

Kendalee raised herself onto her elbow and kissed the side of his face. “It would be fine if you did,” she said sincerely.

He nodded. “I love you.”

A warm smile lit up her face. “And I love you, too.”

He threaded his fingers through her hair and pulled her lips to his, kissing her gently.

A murmur then a cry sounded out through the baby monitor.

“Fuck me,” Elliott said. “I was so hoping we could take this to the store cupboard, or the downstairs toilet.”

Kendalee pressed her head against his shoulder and laughed. “Clean up down here, or clean up up there,” she said, looking toward the baby monitor.

“I’ll take up there,” he said. “My hair looks messy like always. But yours looks like you just got fucked.”

Kendalee slapped his chest but burst out laughing. “Fine, close the door on your way out. I might just grab the sheets from the dryer and nap while I recover.”

He pulled on his clothes while she watched. “Every day, I love you more. Even if I’m not clear about it, Lee. Just waking up next to you on Christmas morning is the only gift I need this year.”

And with that, he left his wife and went to check on his children.