Welcome to DAY 8 of the 12 Days of KMR Christmas! Today I’m giving away an exclusive Christmas-inspired bonus scene from Jaded that takes place right before the end of Jaded, during that short time jump.
Ready to read it?
“Jade, over here,” Mr. Eroh says, waving me to follow. Roan trails behind me, holding my hand. He breathes a happy sigh as we move deeper into the half-built shop. “Do we know what we’re doing?” Roan whispers. Mr. Eroh pretends not to hear. “Here it is.” My boss smiles as he turns back to us. “Help me move this.” He taps a box with his foot before motioning to the others. Roan and I looked at each other skeptically, but I step forward, kneeling in front of the first box. Giving in to my curiosity, I pry open the top. When I look up, Mr. Eroh is unexpectedly grinning. “I thought you two might like this,” he says, sounding like he is singing. “Go ahead, my dear, take a look.” A breeze sweeps through, lifting my hair off my neck. Another week and the shop would be fully rebuilt, but for now, the wind wasn’t terrible. A paper skitters across the floor, scraping along as it bumps and jostles its way past by feet. I lift something long and sparkly out of the box. It doesn’t seem to end as I pull it from its resting place. The colors dance in the light, sparkling and flashing. “What is this?” I ask, pulling it out of the box. I cradle it in my arms as I look up, it’s edges poking into my skin. “That, Jade, is garland,” Mr. Eroh informs me. “I’ve seen garland before, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” I comment, as Roan kneels down beside me, picking a bit of it up between his fingers. “That would be his grandfather’s doing,” Mr. Eroh adds, nodding to Roan. “It goes on Christmas trees.” “This is from a Christmas tree?” I suddenly feel very drawn to the shiny thing scratching against my skin. “You’ve never seen one, have you Jade?” Roan looks at me through his lashes. “How would I? I’ve never been to a Command Christmas party.” “It’s amazing how the Command can consider something frivolous to the point that the rest of the country can’t do something, but they’ll break out all the stops for one of their parties.” “The Commander likes opulence.” I frown as Roan flinches. “Oh, I’m sorry.” “No, you’re right. Dad likes to put on a show.” He reaches around me to pull the box closer. “I’m sorry you’ve never seen a Christmas tree before.” “I’ve seen them in books,” I offer, shrugging. “They’re so much more magnificent in person.” He sounds sad. “I’ll leave you to tell her about them,” Mr. Eroh says, turning to walk out front. “You two can go through that, but I need it put in the back when you’re done to protect it from the elements. The men are working quickly on this one, but it will still be a few more days before this old shop is closed in. We watch him move back into the main area of the shop, the plastic rattling in the front windows. Roan reaches inside the box, pulling more decorations out. “Where do you think this came from?” he asks. “Mr. Eroh gets items from all over the Command. Maybe it was a message, maybe it was something someone traded, or maybe he found it," I guess. "I never know where he finds half the things in this shop." “Or what they really do,” Roan adds, giving me a small smile. “Tell me about the Command party tree, Roan,” I say, pulling out an ornament. "There are lights and garland. There are usually shiny ornaments and, back when it was popular to have a tree, people put their presents under them," Roan informed me. "The Command had a different color scheme every year. Mother always saw to that. Last year was a turquoise blue theme with hints of purple. Mom was so proud of that one." “Fascinating,” I breathe. “I always thought it would be so lovely to decorate a tree. I wouldn’t even know how to get the lights on or attach the garland.” I sigh, reaching back into the box. After a moment, Roan startles me. “Stand up,” he says, jumping to his feet. He offers his hand to me. “What?” My face scrunches up. “Why?” “I’m going to show you something,” he grins. “Now, stand up.” I take his hand, allowing him to pull me to my feet. I remember the garland sitting in my lap as I move and quickly scoop it into my arm so it doesn’t fall. Roan smirks at me as I wait for him to explain. “What are we doing?” I finally ask. He reaches out to take the garland from me. He transfers it to one arm, using his free hand to grab my wrist. He moves my arms to my side, making me feel silly. “Roan,” I repeat my question, “what’s going on?” “I’m showing you how to decorate a Christmas tree, of course.” I look at him skeptically. “You’ve decorated a tree before?” I couldn’t imagine the Commander allowing his son to do any of the work—especially if it was fun work. “Well, no. Mom always had a few of the Command employees do it under her direction, but I was in the room a lot when I was younger, so I saw them do it.” His face brightens. “Now stand still. I can’t have my tree moving and accidentally breaking the ornaments.” I roll my eyes good-naturedly but stand still. I take a deep breath and wait. Roan moves the garland in her arm until he finds an end. Handing it to me, he begins to wind his way around me, circling me as I stand. One arm holds the garland, but his free hand is used to guide the placement of the sparkly stuff as he winds around me. His hand brushes against my back as he moves, making me shiver. I bite back a smile as he moves in front of me. We lock eyes as he rotates, watching each other until he realizes he has to pay attention to the task at hand. When I’m completely covered in shiny garland, Roan stands in front of me, reaching around my body to wrap the last few feet around me. He grins as he moves his arms around me. Roan bites his lip as he tucks the end into the collar of my dress. It tickles and scratches my neck, but at least it’s in place. He leans back and inspects his work. Adjusting a few pieces, he walks slowly around me, looking me up and down. “It was a good thing you wore a green dress today, Jade. You fit the part perfectly.” He pauses in front of me with a final glance up and down. Roan reaches down to the box pulling out ornaments. “We don’t have any lights, so you’ll just have to imagine those, but that usually gets added before the garland anyway. Something about them being easy to tangle…I’m not really sure what Mom used to say,” he shrugs, standing up. “Arms out again, please.” I comply, lifting my hands from my side again, but not before playfully putting my hands on my hips and striking a flirty pose. He laughs and waits for me to turn my hands over. The hooks are cold metal, sending a sharp prick of ice through my fingers as I clamp down on them. Roan hangs a few red and gold baubles on the garland, testing each to make sure it won’t pull down the glitter he has already wrapped around me. “This is interesting,” I say, glancing down. “A little hard to see from my angle though.” “Oh, don’t you worry about that,” he grins mischievously. “I’ll draw it for you later.” His smirk was infectious. I couldn’t help myself, but it only served to encourage him. He grinned wider, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “Just a few more,” he says, walking behind me. I feel my hair tug as he hooks a few ornaments on the braids I have connected in the back. "Really, Roan?" I question him. “The tree has to be evenly covered in decorations, Jade. An uneven dispersal of décor is the most heinous of crimes. Have you not spent any time with my mother?” he teases. I keep my thoughts to myself. “Are we done?” I ask instead. “Almost.” Roan considers me for a moment. “How is your balance?” “Perfect,” I challenge him. “How is yours?” “Hopefully inferior to yours,” he laughs as he reaches into the box again. “You’re going to need those skills.” “What’s that?” I ask, eyeing the golden thing in his hand. “This, Jade, is a star. It goes on top of the tree.” “And just how do you propose to get that thing to stay on my head?” I back up a step as he moves toward me. “Oh, come on, Jade. You said you had good balance,” he insists, taking another slow step toward me, eyes growing more dangerous as he leers at me. “Roan Diamond, don’t you dare. That thing won’t stay on my head. Just look at that—what is that? A spring?” “The coil is how it stays on,” he informs me. “Roan,” I warn taking another step back. "Fine," he relents. "Than just this…" he drops the star back into the box, pulling something else out. I watch as he saunters over to me, hiding the flash of green I saw. “Roan?” He waits until he’s right in front of me before answering. I hold still, waiting. He slowly lifts his arm, dangling the leaves. He cuts me off before I can ask. “This is a different Christmas tradition. I’m guessing you haven’t heard of this one either.” I eye the object he holds above his head. “This, Jade,” he says, wrapping an arm around my waist, pulling me close, careful not to crush the ornaments, “is mistletoe. If you’re caught under the mistletoe with a pretty girl, you have to kiss her.” A surprised laugh bubbles up from my lips. “Sounds like a good way to get slapped,” I venture. “I’m sure it was, back in the day. No one does it anymore—at least, not at the Command parties,” he locks eyes with me. “But you won’t slap me when I kiss you, will you, Jade?” I pause, pretending to think about it. “I guess not,” I shrug sending the garland off my shoulder. Roan’s eyes follow its path down my shoulder quietly. “Good.” He looks back up at me. His lips are on mine, carefully crushing against me while trying not to break the glass ornaments I’m wearing. I giggle as he fights between holding up the mistletoe and tangling his fingers in my hair. “Well,” I giggle when he pulls back, “this must be the most interesting tree-related thing that has ever happened in the Command.” “I’m sure,” he replies breathlessly. He leans forward to kiss me again but suddenly pulls back as we are interrupted. “What’s all this?” Mr. Eroh asks, walking into the room. He tries to keep his face straight. Roan bolts backward, letting go of me. He nearly drops the mistletoe as he tries to hide it behind his back. I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He gestures to me. “Jade’s a tree!” he yelps. He probably didn’t intend to sound that high-pitched. “Is she now?” Mr. Eroh appraises me. “She’s missing the topper.” “I told her that,” Roan pretends to glare at me. “She refused to wear the star.” “You know, a star isn’t the only thing they used to put on top of trees,” Mr. Eroh walked closer, still inspecting Roan’s handiwork. “They used to add angels too.” “So we should find her some wings?” Roan winks at me. “I’m sure we could find something around here,” Mr. Eroh glances around the back room. “Okay, gentlemen, I think we’re good here,” I laugh. “Maybe you could untangle me now?” “Nah,” Roan says. Mr. Eroh backs up. "Now, Jade, you know I'm not good at untangling things. That's why you’re here.” “One of you has to set me free,” I protest, shuffling forward. “Don’t break the ornaments, Jade,” Mr. Eroh says, “I only have so many of those.” “Yeah, Jade, don’t break them.” Roan backs away quickly, holding his hands up, grinning mercilessly. “Roan,” I caution. “Roan, don’t you dare walk away from me. Roan!” He laughs and hurries toward the door with Mr. Eroh. “Sorry, Jade.” “Go help your wife, son,” Mr. Eroh laughs, pointing at me. Roan waits for my boss to leave before sauntering over to me. “I’ll help,” he drawls wickedly, “if you ask nicely.” “Careful, Roan, or you won’t get any Christmas present this year.” “I’ll risk it.” He smiles, leaning in to kiss me again as he tucks the mistletoe into my hand for later.
Each day for the first twelve days of December, I’m giving away one exclusive gift to my fans! Several presents will be free books, others will be some awesome swag! You can only get each gift on the day it’s offered, though, so make sure you join me here every day until we’re done! Enjoy your poster! See you tomorrow for another awesome swag gift!