Merry Christmas everyone! Last year I wrote this little Christmas short for The Dryad Quartet Special Edition and shared it with you all. Since it’s that time of year again, I’m posting it here on the blog for you to read 🙂 This story and all of The Dryad Quartet is so very special to me. I hope you all enjoy reading the happy endings of your favorite characters as much as I enjoyed writing them!
A Dryad Quartet Christmas
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
-Norman Vincent Peale
In her arms she carried a wicker basket filled with red holly, freshly picked from the courtyard. She brushed at the snow dusting her shoulders as she came inside out of the cold, smiling to herself as she entered the atrium of the castle. Just like before when first arriving on Euphora five years ago, her eyes drifted to the ceiling above where puffy clouds swirled and writhed as if they were alive. She smiled up at them, breathing in the scent of the beautiful castle and of her home.
For as long as she lived, Capri would never take Euphora for granted. It, and the people who lived there, had given her life purpose and her soul contentment. She had found immeasurable love and experienced tragic loss there, but never would she regret any of it.
She had been forged in that castle; made into the woman she now was. Into the Air Dryad that she was always meant to be.
One of her hands left the basket to trail over her belly and she bit back a smile as she thought of the incredible news she had learned that morning. By late next summer there would be a new Air Dryad. A son or daughter to continue on in her place and fulfill the duty Thea had bestowed upon them.
After tonight’s party, she would tell Rian. Until then she wanted to keep the secret all to herself, to cherish it for the gift it was.
Capri continued through the atrium, her spirit light as she caught the sound of Sebastian playing the piano and singing a timeless Christmas song, joined by the laughter of her family and friends. It seemed at last they had found a small period of peace in their lives. She intended to enjoy it for as long as it stayed with them.
The scent of spices, fresh pine and chestnuts filled the air as she approached the parlor, and she breathed them in gratefully, so thankful for this one, simple tradition.
Christmas on Euphora was always so magical, so enchanted…Thea brought snow to fall in gentle flurries throughout the island, the Muses hung garland around the castle and decorated the enormous Christmas tree that filled the parlor, and Rhiannon baked the most delicious pastries Capri had ever tasted. It was a time she looked forward to with each and every year that passed. And now, with her own little family growing, it was becoming all the more special.
She swept into the room, greeted by the sounds of her family and by the beautiful notes of the grand piano. For a moment she paused, taking it all in and letting the comfort she felt envelop her.
The flames in the giant fireplace roared and flickered to life beneath the stone mantel covered with decorative garland. Poinsettias in whites and reds were scattered throughout, joined by cups of hot cocoa and plates filled with cookies. The chandelier cast a soft, yellowish glow around the room, creating a warmth that was enhanced by the scented cinnamon candles on every table.
She spotted Rian to her left and noted the way he instinctively turned to face her as though aware, like always, when she entered a room. His ever-watchful cobalt eyes softened, his lips curving into a slow smile as she approached. In his arms was their year and a half old son, shyly burying his face into his father’s neck.
“Hi,” Capri smiled sweetly, tilting her head up for a kiss as she stopped beside her husband. She enjoyed the way he leaned in and pulled her closer, deepening the kiss as his free hand slid up her back protectively.
“Hi,” he murmured as he pulled away, meeting her eyes. “I was getting worried about you.”
“I’m fine.” She sheepishly lifted the basket of holly. “Though I think I picked enough holly to decorate the whole castle three times over.”
Rian chuckled, shifting their son on his hip. “Ramsey is getting tired.”
“I can see that,” Capri mused, eyeing her son playfully. She reached out to run her hand over his soft cap of dusty blonde hair, smiling when he tilted his face up to watch her out of quiet gray eyes. Eyes that so clearly matched her own. “The night is almost done, my love.”
Ramsey reached out to grasp her shoulder length strands of pale blond hair, a smile blooming over his face. She reached for his hand and placed it against her cheek instead, the warmth she exuded calming and filled with love.
“My little Fury…” She kissed his forehead, then pulled away to kiss her husband’s cheek devotedly. “And my first Fury.”
Rian’s lips twitched at her statement even as his heart warmed from the light radiating from her as she spoke. It was what she always said when they were together, yet it amazed him how much he could treasure something so simple.
But then, he had always treasured her.
Clynn came up beside them, taking the basket of holly from Capri eagerly. “Your mother used to love to pick holly around this time of year,” he told her fondly, admiring her selections. “It makes me happy to see you do the same.”
Capri smiled sadly, the memory of her mother floating over her, into her. She met her father’s eyes and held them, letting the dull tinge of grief fade into a feeling of contentment. Life, she knew, moved on despite tragedy.
Across the room, Blythe let out a hoot of laughter as her daughter attempted to do a cartwheel, her third try, only to end up flat on her butt instead. Blaire pouted up at her mother, only to grin devilishly as her determination instantly returned.
“I’m gonna do it,” she declared, getting up to try again.
Blythe intervened and scooped up her three year old daughter cheerfully, whirling her around in a quick circle before setting her back on her feet.
“I think you’ve had enough of that for today, goofball.” Blythe laughed, her amber eyes dancing as she cupped her daughter’s face in her hands, brushing back strands of vivid red curls. “Why don’t you go ask grandpa for a story?”
“Okay!” Blaire giggled before dancing off to the sofa nearby where Brock was laughing rowdily with Jax’s mother, Loretta.
Without hesitation, Blaire crawled into her grandfather’s lap and smiled up at him, pleased when he scooped her into his arms and held her close.
“Hey dollface,” Brock grinned, tweaking her tiny freckled nose affectionately. “You gettin’ into trouble?”
Blaire shook her head with a bright grin. “Nope. Story!”
“Only good girls get stories.” He ruffled her hair and winked at Loretta conspiratorially. “Then again, I was never a good boy.”
“Really? I had no idea, sugar.” Loretta eyed Brock teasingly before turning to her granddaughter. “No grandbaby of mine is gonna go without a story when she requests one.”
“You spoil her,” Jax said suddenly as he approached from behind the sofa, resting his hand on his mother’s shoulder. His grass green eyes were lit with easy humor as he stared down at her.
“I spoiled you, too,” Loretta said as she patted her son’s hand. “And you turned out just fine.”
“Except that he’s as stubborn as a damn ox,” Blythe cut in, sidling up beside Jax and grinning at him mischievously. “Aren’t you, cowboy? It’s either your way or the highway.”
“Don’t call the kettle black, darlin’.”
She shot him a devious look as she tossed her hair back regally. “What are you talking about? I’m brilliant.”
“Me too!” Blaire announced, jumping up and down excitedly in Brock’s lap.
Jax sent a disparaging look at his wife, shaking his head. “And to think I signed up for all this.”
Blythe only smiled sweetly, tilting her head up for a kiss. “You know you wouldn’t be anywhere else, honey.”
Her amber eyes met his and held, and he felt his mouth curve instinctively as he lowered them to hers. “No, I wouldn’t.”
She held her breath as he kissed her, her once wild heart beating full and true for the Texan who’d shown her adventure, danger, and so much more. And the life they had together, the daughter they had created…it was more than she had ever dreamed possible.
In a week’s time they’d be hitting the road once again, on the hunt for a demon that was terrorizing the human population in Detroit. She was chomping at the bit to go, eager and ready with everything she had. But part of her was going to desperately miss her daughter…though she tried to reassure herself that Blaire would be in good hands with Loretta in El Paso.
While she embraced the thrill of a new adventure, she couldn’t help but feel love for the quiet peacefulness of her home.
She rested her head against her husband’s shoulder, content as his arms came around her and held. Her gaze drifted across the room to where Lucian was sitting in a comfortable armchair, Rohan in its twin beside him. Across from them, Liam and Rhiannon sat together on the sofa.
As if he could feel her eyes upon him, Lucian turned his head and smiled at her with a playful wink. She felt her heart swell as she smiled in return, hoping with everything she had that the peace they had found would last for years to come.
Lucian’s eyes shifted from Blythe to where Brock was busy tickling Blaire, and he let his envy flow naturally. Blythe still insisted that he play a role in the young girl’s life, even though he knew she would never consider him her grandfather the way she did Brock.
Though, in just a week his son would be a new father. He turned his attention back to Liam and Rhiannon, watching sentimentally as his son rested his hand over his wife’s rounded belly in an attempt to feel a kick. When he did, his grin widened with awe and delight, his eyes immediately meeting hers.
“Incredible.” Liam beamed, earning an amused stare from Rhiannon.
“It’s very normal, Liam. Almost all babies kick,” she told him seriously, though the joy she got from seeing his excitement was obvious in her eyes.
“Yeah, but this is our baby,” he reminded her, leaning in to give her a big, playful kiss before turning to his father and father-in-law with a bright smile. “The little guy sure packs a punch.”
“You don’t know that it’s a boy,” Lucian said as he settled back into his chair, turning comfortably to Rohan. “These kids, they want to rush everything. I for one enjoy the surprise.”
Rohan’s lips slowly upturned into a proud smile as he watched his daughter. “Thea can tell you what the child will be, Rhiannon.”
“I know.” She ran her hands over her belly protectively, the truth of it already in her heart. Of course she knew that she could go to Mother Earth and she could confirm the baby’s sex and whether it was an Earth or Water Dryad…but the fact was, she already knew.
Deep in her soul, in her heart, she knew it was a girl. A Water Dryad.
Every time Liam referred to the baby as a “guy” she would just smile, letting him enjoy the fantasy of a son. Perhaps in a year or two, they would have a second baby…and then he could have the son she knew he greatly wanted.
Her heart ached as she remembered how long they had tried to get pregnant, and how after nearly three years of having no luck it had finally happened. Liam had called it a miracle, but Rhiannon figured that it had more to do with stress and timing than anything else. She silently hoped that when they tried again, it wouldn’t be so difficult. She couldn’t bear to let him and Thea down.
Serendipity and Clarity swept over to them, both carrying drinks in their hands. Clarity handed both Rohan and her husband a glass of eggnog before settling into her husband’s lap, kissing his forehead sweetly.
Rhiannon blinked as her mother shoved a glass of orange juice in front of her.
“Drink this, Rhiannon. You must keep your vitamin levels up,” Serendipity instructed, waiting for her daughter to accept the glass.
Rhiannon did so, eyeing her mother. To her surprise, there was a warm smile upon her face.
“Are you comfortable? Shall I get you another pillow? Some water? A snack?”
“I’m fine, mother.” Rhiannon returned the smile, reaching up to hold her hand. “Thank you.”
Serendipity bristled, her cerulean eyes filling with a sense of duty. “You’re my daughter, Rhiannon. There’s no need for thanks. It is my job to take care of you.”
Rhiannon watched her mother leave and sit primly on the armrest of Rohan’s chair. He let his hand wander up to caress her back, the movement both loving and protective.
It warmed her heart to see that her parents, despite everything they went through, had managed to find common ground and learn to love each other again. It had been a long five years, but finally things were as they should be.
Across the room, Rhiannon spotted Brogan talking with Rian and Capri, his new human girlfriend at his side. She was a soft spoken, petite brunette with doe-eyes and a heartbreakingly warm spirit. The first time Rhiannon had met her, she’d known instantly that Brogan had found his perfect match. And when she saw him smile down at her, as he was doing now, she felt her own heart fill with pleasure. She’d never thought herself to be a romantic, but clearly it took falling in love herself for her to see the beauty of it all.
Liam watched her, his arm snaking over her shoulders as he pulled her closer. Rhiannon turned her attention away from Brogan and smiled as her husband leaned in to brush his lips over her forehead.
“How are you feeling?”
She let out a light laugh, reaching up to cup his face lovingly, meeting his eyes. “At this moment? My back hurts, my feet are swollen, I have heartburn and I have to pee, and I think this child of ours is going to break one of my ribs if she kicks any harder.” At his dubious look, she laughed and kissed him sweetly. “But other than that, I have never been better.”
“She?” he asked, his eyes darkening as he continued to watch her, his smile fading. “Are we having a girl, Rhia? Did you find out?”
Her heart dropped as she looked away from him, realizing she’d said too much. Silently cursing herself, she folded her hands in her lap and determinedly stared at them. “I didn’t find out, it’s just a hunch I have.”
When he didn’t say anything, she worried that the news had disappointed him. She looked at him cautiously, only to see a bright smile blooming over his face.
“Damnit, Rhia. A girl.” Liam laughed, running his free hand through his dark hair, continuing to process the news. A daughter…a studious little girl with quiet, green eyes, just like his Rhia. She was already, in that instant, the second greatest love of his life.
“You’re not upset?” she asked, brow furrowing as she continued to watch him.
“Of course not, why would I be?”
She paused, knowing she should just let it go. Then again, she couldn’t help but feel like she was letting him down. “You kept going on about it being a boy. I’m sorry that it won’t be.”
“That’s just what guys do, Rhia. Jax did the same thing. He rambled on for months about teaching the kid to ride horses, how to shoot, how to catch demons…now look at him. Does he look disappointed?”
Rhiannon glanced over her shoulder to where Jax was happily carting Blaire around on his shoulders, her hands clenched in his waves of blonde hair, using it for reins as if she were riding a pony. He leaned forward and she squealed delightfully, her boisterous laughter that was just like Blythe’s filling the room.
Jax sincerely looked as though there was no place he’d rather be than right there with that little girl. Seeing it, knowing it in her heart, eased her worries.
“He can still teach her how to do all of those things,” Rhiannon pointed out, pleased when Liam smiled at her.
“Of course he can. Just like I can teach our daughter how to surf.”
When Rhiannon paled, he snorted out a laugh. “I’m only kidding.”
She breathed a sigh of relief and attempted a small smile. “Good.”
“Though if she comes to me wanting to learn, I can’t promise I will have the willpower to refuse her. Especially if she has your eyes. I won’t be able to deny her anything if she has your eyes.”
Rhiannon shook her head and patted him on the cheek fondly. “If she’s anything like me, the most she’ll be asking you for is a new calculator.”
“If she’s anything like you, then I will be the luckiest man alive.”
“I thought you already were?” Rhiannon grinned, enjoying the way the blue of his eyes seemed to deepen, to intensify, as he leaned in and kissed her again.
“You’re right, I am.”
Beside the grand piano, Thea smiled to herself as she watched the two Dryads together. She leaned over the ivory white surface, a glass of red wine in her hands and a sense of peace deep within her soul. Before her, Sebastian played, his fingers adeptly sliding over the keys as he sang a soulful, rich ballad about the season, about the beauty of a world glittering with white snow.
She caught him staring at her, the silver of his eyes intense and filled with a longing that never ceased to amaze her, even after their eternity together. Some things just never got old, and their love and dedication to each other was one of them. Her mouth curved as her dark eyes matched his intensity, her hand reaching out to lovingly caress his face.
He was Father Sky, she was Mother Earth. Together their power, their union, knew no bounds.
He winked at her and launched into a new song as her eyes drifted over his shoulder and out the wide windows of the parlor. She watched the snow falling in the darkness outside, white flurries visible through the glass. Sipping some wine, she let herself relax, content in the moment.
It pleased her to look out at her family and to see them unified, strong and happy. It had been many years since they had all found such peace, but now that it was here, she knew it must be embraced while it lasted. Such things were never permanent…as an immortal, she knew this better than most. She had seen her fair share of war to combat the peace they now enjoyed, and it would only be a matter of time before misfortune found its way back into their lives.
She watched her youngest Dryads, now parents themselves, and couldn’t help but remember the man, the demon, who had targeted them. Thankfully, Dante was long gone, but Thea knew that one day there would be a threat that would take his place. There was no way to know just what the future held, but on this day, on Christmas, she found little point in worrying over what could happen. Instead, she let herself enjoy the present, which led her to impulsively slide onto the piano bench beside Sebastian and gladly join him in song.
* * *
As the night progressed, they found their way to each other. Blythe went to Rhiannon, teasing her about her pregnancy and excitedly celebrating the news that it was to be a girl. Liam visited Rian, patting the Fury on the shoulder companionably as they joked with each other about fatherhood. Capri saw Jax, hugging him close before grilling him about when he was going to teach her how to ride a horse and show her son the ranch in El Paso.
Blaire wandered over and tugged on Blythe’s shirt, pleased when she was lifted up and balanced on her mother’s hip. Clynn brought Ramsey over to Capri, who she accepted into her arms and held close. As she did so, she caught Blythe’s eye and nodded in the direction of the Christmas tree with a smile. The two came together and walked to the tree, holding their children up so they could see the ornaments.
“You know, I used to never like this holiday,” Blythe admitted, watching as Blaire reached out to grab a sparkling star ornament. Blythe grinned deviously as she turned her attention to her best friend. “Then again, I didn’t like kids either. Until this brat decided to bring herself into being.” She shifted her daughter on her hip, kissing the top of her head lushly.
Capri’s eyes softened, her arms instinctually pulling her own child closer against her. He buried his face into the crook of her neck, closing his eyes sleepily. “I distinctly remember you telling me you intended on being a crazy cat lady for the rest of your life.”
Blythe laughed, rolling her eyes. “Yes, yes, and then cowboy came along and ruined my plans.”
“Not ruined, Blythe. He just gave you better ones,” Capri pointed out, her gaze automatically shifting to Blaire. Blythe followed her friend’s eyes, knowing her words were truer than any that had ever been spoken.
“Damn right.” Blythe sighed, fighting back the emotion that had just tightened her throat. She didn’t even want to imagine a life different than the one she had now…
Rhiannon approached, her sage green dress fluttering softly against her legs. “They did a fantastic job with the tree this year,” she commented, admiring the Christmas tree as she stood between her two friends.
“It’s too fancy for my taste, but I can see why you like it,” Blythe mused, eyeing Rhiannon good-humoredly.
Rhiannon shot her an amused look, one eyebrow raised. “If it were up to you, we would have strings of popcorn covering the tree.”
“What’s wrong with strings of popcorn?” Blythe demanded.
“If you can’t see what’s wrong with it, then you’re a lost cause,” Rhiannon decided, looking to Capri for confirmation. Capri only looked amused.
“I was always a lost cause to you,” Blythe pointed out, grinning at the thought. “I think I’ll go find some popcorn to string together just to piss you off.”
“Popcorn!” Blaire cheered, beaming up at her mother. “Please?”
Blythe winked down at her daughter before turning back to Rhiannon. “See, now how can I refuse that face? She looks just like me.”
“And you never refuse yourself anything, do you?” Rhiannon commented sarcastically, though she smiled kindly at Blaire. “There’s popcorn in the kitchen if you want some. We can go make it together.”
“Yeah!” Blaire bounced up and down happily, practically leaping from Blythe’s arms and into Rhiannon’s, who caught her gracefully, albeit with care.
“Yeesh, child of mine, be careful with the pregnant lady,” Blythe scolded, though she smiled at seeing the two of them together. Rhiannon just looked so natural as a mother.
“I’m going to take Ramsey upstairs to bed,” Capri said as she smiled at her friends. “I may even go to sleep myself; it’s been a long day.”
“At least have a glass of wine with me before you go.” Blythe started to grab her hand to lead her away, only to have Capri dig her heels into the ground resolutely.
“I can’t.” She bit back a bright smile as her two friends turned to her questioningly. “Don’t tell anyone, okay? I haven’t even told Rian yet.”
Blythe blinked, but when it dawned on her she let out a hoot of laughter and clapped her hands together excitedly. “Gosh, honey, I guess it’ll just be OJ for you from now on.”
“That’s wonderful news, Capri,” Rhiannon beamed, tears filling her eyes. She wiped them away, embarrassed by how emotional she was getting. Blaire reached up suddenly to help wipe away one of her tears, which made her let out a watery laugh and hold the girl closer.
Just then, Liam came up beside her and draped an arm over her shoulders, pulling her in so he could kiss her forehead.
“You girls over here conspiring against us poor, unsuspecting guys?” he asked, grinning at the three of them. He noted the happy tears in his wife’s eyes, but before he could ask her about them, Blaire interrupted.
“Popcorn!” She smiled, clapping her tiny hands together happily.
“Popcorn?” Liam’s eyebrows rose as he stared seriously at his niece. “Is that how you’re going to take over the world?”
Blaire nodded, her answering grin filled with mischief.
“Well, now that I know your secret I have no choice but to stop you.” He lifted Blaire from Rhiannon’s arms, tossing her over his shoulder playfully as she giggled. “After all, I’m a hero. And the hero always wins.”
He winked at Blythe and Capri, then leaned in to lushly kiss his wife. Rhiannon couldn’t help but smile as he carted off the little girl toward Jax and Brock, her laughter following him.
Blythe wrapped her arm around Rhiannon, beaming after her brother. “That boy wants to be a father so damn bad.”
“I know.” Rhiannon sighed, resting her head against Blythe’s. The two held each other, admiring the man they both loved.
Capri watched them lovingly, her heart filling at the sight of their easy affection. It had taken many years to get to this point, but they had at last become the kind of friends they were always meant to be.
All it had taken was a wicked demon with a vendetta to bring them all together again…although she knew it would be their strength that would keep them together for good.
It was a strength she was determined to hold onto, a strength she knew they could never afford to lose.
They were the four Dryads, creatures of the elements, bound by fate and duty to Euphora and to Mother Earth. Air, Fire, Earth and Water…without them, the entire world would collapse into nothing but dust.
But with them…the wind continued to blow, hearths still warmed with fire, forests of trees gave shelter and shade, and rivers still carried water out into the sea.
Life moved on and the world continued to turn.