Jeremy pulled off his coat and slid his arms around Lydia, burying his nose in her neck. The strange sense of being perched on the edge of the world, obscured in white and disconnected from everything abated with each breath, the tick-tock of the mantel clock tracking a different kind of time.
“You’re wet!” Lydia squealed. “And stubbly!”
He didn’t stop. Her squirming turned to a tense freeze, then a slow melt in his arms. She stayed in place, he knew, because she sensed his need.
That was love. Real love.
Mike walked into Jeremy’s line of vision, carrying two open beers, one ready to hand to Jeremy. Ice-blue eyes met his, powerful and knowing. Something deeper than relief took over Jeremy’s cells as he stood there, Lydia touching him, Mike in the same frame, too.
His people. He had his people. That’s all he really needed.
“Hey,” Lydia said softly in his ear. “What’s wrong?”
Jeremy shook his head and just inhaled deeply. The change of plans was welcome. Christmas had come early to the small campground in Maine. He cradled Lydia’s face in his hands and kissed her, the taste of her tongue a tether, holding him in place, keep-ing him from tipping over the edge and into the pale, snowy abyss.
As the kiss deepened, he felt Mike’s hand on his shoulder, heard the cackle of Madge’s ribald comment, smelled the heady scent of burning wood.
And he was home.