Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Story Tour: Dakota's Gift

*dusts off the old blog*

Hi everyone! Thanks for joining me for this fabulous Christmas Stories Tour created by the fabulous RJ Scott. Here's a short story from my Southern Charm series with Totally Bound!

Dakota's Gift: A Southern Charm Christmas

Dakota Mitchell & Samuel Ashford

Leaning against the counter in the quiet, darkened kitchen, Dakota Mitchell studied the small binder he created for the Christmas feast. It would be the first time in a while when the Southern Charm, a restored antebellum B&B, would be comfortably full of families and guests wanting something different for the holidays. Since the Charm reopened in early November under his partner's careful watch, most of the rooms remained booked solid for weeks. His restaurant, Southern Delights, saw a surge of customers since the extravagant grand reopening.

With the holidays upon them, his lover, Samuel Ashford, went all out with the decorations, highlighting the beauty of the building with festive lights, garland, and a grand procession of luminary bags along the main paths. Dakota teased him about getting a fake snow machine to blow around the grounds. Samuel gave him a perfect 'stink eye' and trounced off with another box of decorations.

After months of work restoring and renovating the Charm and the grounds, Dakota couldn't believe the results of his friends' work. The contractor and landscaper were long-time friends and put everything into bringing the Charm back to its glory days. All they needed to finish was the old owner's cabin. The original structure deemed beyond repair, they made the difficult decision to tear it down and start anew.

As the Charm and the restaurant filled with guests, Dakota left the rest of the planning and design to his partner, Samuel. More than six months ago, he didn't think he would be here, ready to enjoy the first Christmas in a committed, loving relationship. Let alone with the determined northerner who swept into a small town and changed everything.

Tapping his pen against the pages as his mind drifted away, Dakota lifted his head when he heard footsteps behind him. The woodsy cologne of his lover had hit his senses before Samuel wrapped his arms around his waist. Dakota pressed a hand against the slender hands clasped above his belly button. He felt Samuel lean against his back, nuzzling him with his cheek.

"Is everything ready for tomorrow?" Samuel asked.

"We did about as much as we could. You missed Malcolm and Dorian. I sent them home to enjoy Christmas Eve."

"Then it's time for your surprise."

"My surprise?"

Samuel moved around to the side and held up a red silk scarf. "I need to cover your eyes with this."

"Ooh. When did we get into the kinky stuff?"

Samuel slugged his shoulder with a playful punch. He lifted on his toes and wrapped the warmed silk around Dakota's face. He tied it with a secure knot.

Blinded by the cloth, Dakota felt Samuel check the mask.

"Can you see?"

"Nope. Nothing but red."

"Good. Do I need to bring a binder with us?"

"It can stay."

"Perfect. I'll guide you."

After a gentle push from Samuel, Dakota walked with his lover, guided somewhere through the old building. "Are all of the guests settled in and comfortable?"

"Yes. Elise and Marilyn are keeping an eye on everyone. Some enjoy the fire in the living room with books, games, hot chocolate, and an ample supply of your cookies. Others are watching holiday movies."

"Anyone watching out for Santa?"

"A couple of kids are watching the NORAD tracker for his progress."

"You know Marilyn was a good find of yours to help Elise in the day-to-day managing of the guests."

"I'm pleased she took a chance with us. Watch your step down," Samuel said and counted the steps as he guided Dakota.

"Why are we going outside?"

"You'll find out."

Dakota pulled to a stop and breathed in the cool air, catching the hint of the ocean and sand along with Samuel's cologne. "What is the sky like on this Christmas Eve?"

"A beautiful deep blue velvet with thousands of sparkling stars. A few wispy clouds. It's perfect for Santa's trek."

"Santa already gave me his gift," Dakota said.

"How did you get an early present?"

Dakota chuckled when Samuel poke him in his ribs, knowing he was ticklish. He wiggled away from Samuel's attack, chuckles turned into laughter. "You!" He paused for breath. "He brought me your love."

"Aww… Sniff…"

"Jerk. Get this blindfold off me."

"Not yet," Samuel said as he placed his hands on Dakota's hips and marched him toward some unknown destination.

Dakota pled, begged, and cajoled Samuel to remove the covering. Samuel resisted all of his efforts. Even when he offered extra decadent dark chocolate mousse, the blindfold remained in place.

They stopped and Samuel wrapped one arm around his waist.

"Surprise, my love, and Merry Christmas," Samuel whispered in his ear as he yanked off the blindfold.

Blinking, Dakota stared at the elegant sight ahead of him. It was a cabin. The owner's cabin was finished.

"How? When…"

"Sully handed over the keys two weeks ago and we've kept it a secret. Everyone helped put it together," Samuel said as he took Dakota by the hand and led him up the stairs to the wraparound porch.

Dakota stopped to trace his fingers along the etched glass panels in the doors. "Our initials are entwined. Did Wyatt create this?"

"I asked him for something like the Charm, but personalized for us."

"It's beautiful. The decorations are fabulous, just like the Charm."

"I love the twinkle of white lights with a bit of the blue. Nothing outrageous," Samuel said as he touched a thick evergreen garland entwined with lights and a simple red ribbon he hung around the door and front windows. He placed his hand on the handle and opened the door. "Welcome to our home, Dakota."

"Our home for our first Christmas together."

"First of many," Samuel said as they entered together.

The open concept had been a brilliant idea between Samuel and the architect when they realized they needed to build from scratch. A massive natural stone fireplace rose along one side, crackling with a warm fire, and bookshelves surrounded it to fill the rest of the wall. Samuel placed a long sofa with loungers nearby and mounted a flat panel TV with all the electronics nearby for hours to cuddle together. The fresh Balsam pine tree filled the room with the scents of the holiday.

Beyond the main room, Dakota found the eating area next to an expansive kitchen. He glanced back at Samuel.

"Even with a kitchen in the Charm, I thought you would rather spend time and experiment here. Especially as the Charm fills with guests and Mal takes over more duties concerning the B&B side of dining. A chef should always have a personalized kitchen," Samuel said as he followed him.

"You filled it with everything I would need, didn't you?"

Samuel shrugged. "I went shopping with Mal and an inventory."

Dakota strolled back, cupped Samuel's face between his hands, and lifted the shorter man into a deep loving kiss. He felt Samuel clutch his shoulders as the kiss continued.

"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," Dakota whispered against Samuel's lips. "No matter whatever else is wrapped and hiding under the tree. I'll cherish this gift forever."

"I know you wanted a home, a kitchen, and an end to your wanderings. You started to find it when you stopped at the Charm and built Delights. I only helped to complete your dream."

"How did you know…"

"I have my ways," Samuel said and stepped back. He took Dakota by his hands and led him to the rest of the first floor to the guest room and bath, another bathroom, and a furnished office for two. He took him up the winding staircase to the expansive master suite taking up the entire second floor.

"Oh wow," Dakota said as he stared.

The bed was placed on a low platform and massive. Only a headboard completed the structure, but it wasn't a regular headboard. Dakota noticed the 3-D design of the painted shapes. He checked it from a different angle.

"It's the shoreline around the Charm and Shore Breeze on our wall. I saw it done on one of the DIY shows and asked Sully if he could recreate it. He did. Isn't it cool?" Samuel traced the edge of one of the boards.

"It's so damn cool. Are the nightstands made from driftwood?"

"Sully made the bases, but the tops came from Driftwood Gifts. I found the dressers at Secondhand."
Walking across the room, Samuel slid the sliding louvered doors to reveal dual walk-in closets, organized and filled with their clothes. He opened another hidden door to show the large master bathroom with a walk-in shower with all the gadgets, a Jacuzzi tub, and a dual sink.

"I don't think I'm going to want to leave our safe haven up here."

"Safe Haven. A good name for our cabin."

"A name?"

"We need one. I'll ask Wyatt to create a sign for the front."

Agreeing with Samuel, Dakota returned to the main bedroom and studied another fresh Christmas tree. Leaning closer, he found an ornament. "Where did you get these?"

"Elise and I went hunting for the old ornaments. I found a couple of boxes with your name on them. Is it okay if I used them up here? I figure we could create a new tradition of a personal tree. We'll add special ornaments."

Reaching around Dakota, Samuel removed one from a branch and placed it on Dakota's palm. "I chose this one."
Created out of driftwood, shells, and coral, a little plaque read: 1st Christmas – Dakota and Samuel.

Dakota looked at his lover, his partner, and smiled. "It's perfect."

"Merry Christmas, my love."

"Merry Christmas," Dakota said, hanging the ornament back and enclosed Samuel in an embrace.

As promised, neither one left the safe haven for the rest of their first Christmas Eve together.

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I hope everyone has a wonderful 
Happy Holiday season!