“Are you ready to go, wench?” Brienne looked up from her work to see Jaime Lannister standing in her office doorway, a duffle bag slung over his shoulder.
“Your Secret Santa gift…remember?”
Brienne narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you my Secret Santa?”
Jaime gave her his patented mischievous grin (which Brienne tried to deny made her heart beat a little faster). “No, I’m not, but I know your Secret Santa, and I of course insisted that you shouldn’t go for an overnight at the cabin in the middle of the woods during winter all alone.”
“I can take care of myself,” Brienne said, annoyed with him. Jaime knew better than to pass her off as a damsel in need of a manly escort.
He held his hands up in surrender. “I know, I know, wench. But I thought it would be better for you if you had your best friend go along.”
“Well, I don’t know how much of a best friend you are if you can’t seem to remember my name and refer to me as wench instead. And besides, I thought the point of the gift of an overnight in the cabin was solitude?”
Jaime rolled is eyes at her. “Come on Brienne, you would be bored within five minutes without me to fight with. It will be fun. Besides, we haven’t had much time to hangout since you started on this merger project. I thought your company and mine merging together meant we would see each other more.”
Brienne sighed, he was right. She had been working nonstop since the merger between Stark Tech and The Lannister Corporation was announced. They had just combined office space into one large building last week and as head of security, Brienne was knee deep in logistics. Jaime was vice-president of the company, so they only saw each other during executive briefings.
“You’re right, I have been swamped lately.”
“And neglecting your poor old friend Jaime,” he teased.
“Poor old friend? Or poor little baby?” Brienne laughed at his disgruntled expression.
“And you missed me,” he stated. His tone was teasing, but his eyes were strangely serious.
“I suppose. No one has japed about how tall I am in ages.” To prove her height (and she secretly enjoyed that she towered over him in heels), she stood and looked down on him.
“Well, clearly you are the one who is feeling neglected then,” Jaime replied, taking his time bringing his gaze up her form to her eyes. Brienne blushed. She and Jaime had been best friends since they formed a rivalry at the gym several years ago, but there were moments where she thought Jaime looked at her as something more. But she brushed those moments aside because he was gorgeous Jaime and she was the “unsightly giant of a wench,” as he had referred to her as when they first became friends. He was meant for someone beautiful, like the girls in sales with their perfect figures and professionally styled hair.
So Brienne would do what she always did when she had feelings for someone. She would love him in secret, because she didn’t want to lose his friendship. And she did, love him that is. She had been head over heels for Jaime Lannister ever since he had come back to her place to save her from a home invasion. He dropped her off after the gym one day, but had circled back because he had a feeling something was wrong, he said.
He lost his hand in the knife fight, which only ended after Brienne had slammed the villain in the head with a frying pan. Brienne sat by Jaime’s side the entire time he was in the hospital. His family had lots of questions about their friendship, which both of them ignored.
“Fine, you can come with me. But we have to stop by my place to pick up my bag.”
Jaime grinned. “Whatever my wench commands.”
She rolled her eyes at him before shutting her computer down and grabbing her purse .
Jaime denied being her Secret Santa, but Brienne knew that it had to be someone in the executive suite. The gifts she had been receiving all week were expensive, which broke the rules of the game. So she figured that only an executive could afford it, and know they could rebel against HR director Margaery’s strict instructions without consequences.
Her first gift had been an amazing bottle of wine. One she had been setting aside funds to purchase for her collection for a long time. So, it must be someone she knew and had talked about her wine cellar with.
The message with it had been cryptic. “Save this to drink at your wedding, love, your Secret Santa.”
Her wedding? That made absolutely no sense. Brienne wasn’t even dating anyone and the likelihood of her doing so in the future was slim to none. If it weren’t for the brand of wine, she would say her Secret Santa did not know her after all.
Her second gift was a year’s membership to the gym where she and Jaime had first met. She had let her membership lapse because she was working so hard on the merger. That’s why she thought her best friend was her Secret Santa at first, considering all his complaints about her not having time for him.
And the message: “Where the magic happens, love, your Secret Santa.”
Her third gift was an overnight in the company’s retreat cabin in the woods. Brienne guessed whoever it was also thought she was working too hard. The note read: “Taking matters into my own hands. Consider this a push, love, your Secret Santa.”
And now Jaime was going along with her. Brienne wasn’t sure she believed him when he said he wasn’t the one secretly bestowing her with gifts. But oh well, it was nice to get out of the office.
When they got to the cabin, the only one on the property was the one-room cabin. One room meant one bed. Brienne stood in the doorway and stared at it while Jaime gathered his bag from the car. He walked in and smirked at her when he saw the direction of her gaze.
“Relax, wench, it’s not like we’ve never slept together.”
“Jaime, we haven’t slept together.”
“We’ve fallen asleep on the couch together.”
Brienne thought of the times when she had woken up to a movie’s credits with her head on Jaime’s shoulder or his in her lap. She always pretended to be asleep so she could enjoy it until he woke up.
“But, never in a bed before,” Brienne objected.
“What are you afraid of? That I’m going to seduce away your maidenly innocence while you sleep?” Jaime teased.
Brienne scoffed. “Yeah, like that would ever happen.”
Jaime opened his mouth to speak, but quickly shut it. Brienne wondered at the strange swirl of emotions in his eyes.
“Come on, I brought some board games. I plan on soundly defeating you in RISK tonight. They don’t call me Kingslayer for nothing.”
“Oh, you think you actually have a chance? Do I need to remind you that you haven’t beaten me once?”
“I was drunk those times, and I plan on staying completely sober tonight. You’re going down, wench.”
The evening turned out to be just what Brienne needed after her stressful life lately. She and Jaime played several games together (Jaime insisting until he could actually beat her at one), and they watched a movie.
When it was time for bed, Brienne scooched as close to the edge and as far away from Jaime as she possibly could.
“Brienne, I’m freezing.”
“Put on some socks.”
“Socks make my feet itch.”
Brienne screeched as Jaime put her icicle feet between her own. “What are you doing?”
“Warming up!” Jaime scooched the rest of his body over and spooned her. “We need to sleep like this or I’m likely to freeze to death.”
“Jaime,” Brienne ground out.
“I won’t get any sleep unless we huddle together,” he pleaded.
And I’m unlikely to get any sleep while I’m enjoying the feeling of being in his arms, Brienne thought. “Fine,” she said. “But get your foot off me, it really is cold.”
He complied, and Brienne was surprised at how quickly she started to drift off. Never had she felt so relaxed as now in the warmth of his arms.
Brienne woke in the morning, surprised at the time on the bedside stand. It said it should be 8 a.m., but it was still dark in the cabin. She peered up at the window, careful not to move her head and wake Jaime, and saw that snow covered the windows.
She laid in bed for as long as possible, savoring the feeling of Jaime wrapped around her. She would have to pee soon, so she couldn’t pretend to be asleep for much longer. Jaime’s steady breathing sounded in her ear, and she felt her own breath match his rhythm.
“I know you’re awake, Brienne,” Jaime whispered in her ear. Embarrassed at being caught in her ruse, Brienne scrambled to try to get away, but Jaime just held her steady against him.
“What are you doing, Jaime?”
“The same thing you were doing, I’d wager. The same thing I’ve done before. Pretending to be asleep so I could enjoy being close to you,” Jaime said, his voice husky.
Brienne was suddenly acutely aware of Jaime’s body pressed against hers. She felt something…hard pressed against her backside. It couldn’t be…could it? No, most men had morning wood, right? It probably had nothing to do with her, of course.
But yet when she once again squirmed to get away, he moaned when she brushed up against him.
“Brienne, by all of the gods, I plead with you, hold still.”
“What’s going on, Jaime?”
“I have to tell you something. I thought it may be best to have this conversation like this, in the dark, so I can muster up the courage to say it without worrying you will completely reject me if I look at you in the face. But if you keep moving around like that, I won’t be able to focus on what I need to say.”
“Jaime, you are making absolutely no sense.”
“I love you, Brienne.”
Brienne stiffened in his arms. She had dreamed of hearing those words from him, but she guessed he didn’t mean them in the way she wanted to. It made it all the more cruel because she was being held by him. It made it seem too real.
“I love you too, Jaime. You’re my best friend.”
“That’s not what I meant, Brienne. I mean you are my best friend too, but I love you as more. I’m hopelessly in love with you wench, and I’ve been terrified to tell you because I don’t want to lose you in my life. You are essential to my survival.”
It took Brienne’s mind to catch up with his words. She laid still in shock, trying to get a handle on what was going on.
“Brienne,” Jaime pleaded. “Say something.”
She turned in his arms, so their faces were inches from each other.
“Are you serious? Or are you japing?”
“You know I would never jape with you about something like this, Brienne. You know I’m not like those jerks you’ve known in the past.”
Brienne agreed. There was no one like him, there was only him.
“Brienne?” Jaime was starting to pull away from her now, because she wasn’t responding to his love confession. She reached up and cupped his face in her hands. And then Brienne Tarth done something she never thought she would dare to do – she leaned forward and kissed him.
It was a soft and tentative kiss, but Jaime soon responded with passion. When they finally pulled apart for air, Brienne ran her fingers through his hair, something she had longed to do for years. “I love you too, Jaime.”
Brienne laughed. “Pretty much since always.”
Jaime kissed her again before shaking his head. “Nope, you totally hated me at first.”
“Yeah, well, you were pretty obnoxious, but apparently I have a thing for annoying lions who think too much of themselves.”
Brienne could barely make out his grin in the darkness. “Good thing I always have you to keep me in my place.”
She kissed the grin off his face before moving to get out of the bed.
“Going so soon, wench? I thought we would take advantage of this bed sharing some more.”
“I was holding in my pee for a long time while pretending to sleep, but I will be back, I promise.”
She joined in Jaime’s laughter as she scurried to the bathroom. This was already starting out to be the perfect day.
Hours later, they had shared the bed…several times. And the shower. Jaime was cooking them some breakfast in the kitchen while Brienne was getting dressed.
“The snow is up to the middle of the door, I’m not sure we can get the car out and get home today. Not that I’m complaining,” Jaime called from the kitchen.
“Yeah, I’m sure we will just have to suffer here together for a few more days,” she laughed.
Brienne noticed a wrapped present tucked in one of the pockets of her bag. She opened it and gasped at the contents, then scowled at the note.
She carried it into the kitchen and put it on the counter.
“I’m going to kill your brother,” Brienne said.
“So you figured out he was your Secret Santa?” Jaime asked. “Really, you should be thanking him, wench. He orchestrated this whole thing so we could finally admit our feelings for each other.”
“But he took it a step too far,” Brienne said, pointing at the box.
Jaime peeked into the box and laughed. It contained a package of 100 condoms and a container of moon tea.
“Dearest Brienne, the forecast says that the snowstorm should last several days, so I plan on seeing you and Jaime back in the office sometime next week. In the meantime, please take full advantage of this last gift, because I’m not ready to be an uncle quite yet. You’re welcome. Love, your Secret Santa and future Good Brother, Tyrion.” As she read the note out loud, Jaime’s grin got wider and wider.
She picked up the box of condoms. “100, really?”
Jaime stalked around the counter toward her. “We better get started on them.”
“Jaime, the breakfast will burn.”
“I will make it again in a bit.”
No matter how many times he pestered them, Tyrion never could get Jaime and Brienne to tell him how much of the package they used that week. Although when Brienne’s stomach was slightly rounded at their wedding six months later, he wondered if they had even used his thoughtful gift at all.