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Damn His Eyes

Chapter Text

DG bolts around the corner, slams smack into Glitch’s back, and ricochets backwards onto the floor.

“Ow!” They say together, DG rubbing her forehead and Glitch pressing a hand to the nape of his neck.

“You have a thick head, Deege.” He chuckles to himself and ambles down the hallway, ignorant of the hot glare she sends after him.

She stares after him, realizing he had forgotten to help her to her feet.

Her attention is suddenly drawn to an outstretched hand in front of her face. Cain is at the other end of that wide, warm hand, the slightest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. He pulls her to her feet in one fluid motion, and she is propelled towards him with the momentum. They are standing very close when she finally comes to a stop.

Instead of clearing their respective throats and taking a polite step backwards, neither one shows any sign of wanting to move.

“Don’t go, Cain.” She stares into his clear gaze, wishing she could hear the thoughts so obviously swirling behind those startling blue eyes. But he always did put up walls between them.

“What’s keeping me here, Deege?”

Damn his eyes—I can’t tell what he’s thinking.

She is the one to move first, taking that dreaded step back to put distance between them.

“Lots of things,” she falters. “We—we need protection.”

His brows lower above eyes that rarely meet her gaze these days, but she is familiar with this look of approval as he says, “This is the safest place for you. Besides, they need me out there where the action is.”

DG can’t stem the tide of denial that sweeps over her. “But you can’t go. You just can’t.”

He shakes his head, and she knows he can see right through her arguments.

“I’ll ask Mom to raise your salary,” she continues. “I’ll ask for your own room and complete privacy whenever you want it.”

“Deege, I already have—”

“And you can use the best horses whenever you want. Oh, and the cook will be required to make anything you want at any time of the day. I’ll give you free access to any part of the castle. I’ll—”

“Come on, Kid.” He places a hand on her upper arm.

She’s really clutching at straws here. “No, you can’t go. I’ll give you—I’ll give you five kisses if you stay.”

He is visibly taken aback. His eyes widen, his mouth at first a tight, thin line—but then the corners slowly lift into a rye smile. “Five kisses, eh?”

“Yeah.” She steps forward and pecks his cheek. “That’s one.” She leans over and kisses his other cheek. “That’s two.”

“Deege,” he takes a gentle but firm hold of both her wrists, closing his eyes for a moment as though praying for some return of sanity.

But she’s having none of it.

She steals this opportunity while his eyes are still closed and gently brushes her lips against his. She hears a sharp intake of breath before his arms wrap themselves around her—and she is being soundly kissed by Wyatt Cain. By a Tin Man—her Tin Man.

He draws her tightly against him, his lips meeting hers for several delightful moments before he pulls away. Her eyes open a bit sluggishly as she tries to recover from the unexpected reciprocation of his affection.

“This doesn’t mean I’m staying,” he says in a low growl, resting his forehead gently against hers.

She’s momentarily outraged. “Well, then I take all of them back!”

“Too late,” he says with a grin, and leans forward to steal another kiss.

But she’s too quick for him. She snatches his infamous hat from atop his head and takes off down the hall in a sprint.

“Not without your hat!”

DG navigated the hallways, with her Tin Man in hot pursuit. Glitch watched them disappear around a corner, and did not see either of them again for several hours. He had a suspicion that Wyatt Cain’s departure would be delayed for quite some time.

Chapter Text

Something is tickling DG’s arm. She groans, unwilling to open her eyes just yet, and hugs the pillow closer. But the sensation persists just below her wrist—and now, if she listens closely, she can hear the slow rhythm of someone else breathing beside her.

Her eyes fly open, and she’s confronted with the view of Wyatt Cain lying in bed beside her. He’s without his trademark hat, even though he’s fully clothed in yesterday’s shirt and pants, but his face is so close that she can explore every detail. He’s soundly asleep, and his nose just brushes her arm where she’s hugging the pillow. His breath tickles the hairs along her skin. She is both parts confused and oddly…thrilled to see him there.

A vague memory gnaws at the back of her mind, and she chases it through the fog of a sleep-addled brain.

She can almost remember…

Something had happened yesterday. Was it a party?

The image of a silvery, gauzy dress floats through her mind’s eye. It all floods back to her in that instant.

Yesterday was a celebration for Azkadellia’s birthday—the first celebration since she was a small child. Everyone was in good spirits, even Az, who had been reclusive and quiet for the better part of six months. Glasses of champagne and wine flowed freely, and DG remembers feeling a bit of a buzz as she stared relentlessly at Cain across the room.

He was perched in his usual corner, eyes darting back and forth, with a heavy expression of focus and suspicion. Security was always tighter on special occasions, and that evening was no exception. Cain was performing his third glance around the room when he locked eyes with DG. The corner of his lips quirked upward in a smile.

Emboldened by her third glass of champagne (and by the small, unexpected smile he gave her), she made her way to him. She paused only once to partake of a paprika-topped deviled egg (her special request for the party, after much coercion with the stubborn head cook). She noticed that she was the first to try it, and hoped others would follow suit. She devoured it in two bites, swallowing around an oddly bitter taste. She made a mental note to speak to the chef about it. Perhaps he’d gotten the recipe wrong again. It was his fourth or fifth attempt at it, of course.

Cain was eyeballing the server with a wary expression, but he was instantly distracted by DG’s approach.

“Why aren’t you drinking?” She asked, shaking her half-empty glass in his direction.

He frowned. “I’m on duty, kid.”

She rolled her eyes, “But it’s a party. You should be allowed just one evening of fun. Come on,” she wheedled, nudging him with her elbow.

He gave her that same smirk again before snatching a glass from a passing servant. She took another swig of her drink, trying to quell the flip-flop motion her stomach made when he smiled at her.

“What should we toast to?” Cain sighed, his eyes studying her face.

She liked the feel of his gaze on her. “Long life and happiness.” She said as she raised her glass.

He hesitated just before touching the rim of his glass to hers. “To Azkadellia, you mean?”

“Yes and no,” she felt brave enough to inch slightly closer, testing the waters, so to speak. “To Az, to Glitch, to Mom and Dad, and…to Wyatt Cain.”

He was puzzled, but he clinked their glasses together nonetheless, and they both downed the contents in a few seconds.

DG opened her mouth to say something, but suddenly the room tilted. She fell against him unexpectedly, her balance disappearing as her surroundings began to spin.

“Cain…” she said, and he quickly wrapped an arm around her waist.

Cain shouted a few commands to his right-hand man, but she could no longer make sense of the world around her. He may have been pointing towards one of the servants, and she recalled sounds of commotion behind her. She vaguely recognized that he was saying her name over and over, giving her shoulders a slight shake.

“DG, can you hear me?” One of his hands cupped her face—and had she been in a different state of mind, this would have thrilled her to the core.

“I should have been more careful!” He growled this last statement to himself, but she could feel his voice vibrating against her ear.

Everything around her still spun dizzyingly, but then it suddenly blurred and faded to darkness.

“I can’t see—I can’t see—” Her voice was panicked as her heart hammered a sporadic rhythm in her chest. She felt several pairs of hands on her from all angles, and it wasn’t long before she lost consciousness.

~~~

DG found herself in her bed. She tried to open her eyes, but they refused to comply. She felt as though ten tons of iron were resting on top of her. She was immobile.

“Do we know yet who this man is?” Cain was talking. At least her ears still worked. His voice sounded ragged and pinched.

“We don’t know.” It was her father, Ahamo. “It’s hard to say how he worked his way into the staff today.”

“I should have known…I had a feeling, but I didn’t—I was distracted.” Cain said. There was a hint of regret in his voice.

“You had no way of preparing for this.” It was Glitch who spoke now—Ambrose, with his fully restored brain. “I’m only glad we caught it soon enough before any damage was done. She should be able to rest now, but I’m afraid the concoction he gave her, mixed with my sedative, may stir up some disturbing dreams. Best to stay close in case she awakens.”

DG slipped into unconsciousness once more, and the voice that followed Ambrose’s was lost to her.

She remembers waking…or she thought she was awake, at least. Azkadellia was standing over her bed with a concerned expression on her perfectly symmetrical features. DG tried to speak, but Az stopped her with a restraining hand on her wrist.

“Don’t say anything, Deege. I am so sorry that this happened…I can’t even imagine what you must be feeling.” Her expression darkened suddenly. “The guilt. The knowledge that you...brought this on yourself.” Her hold tightened on DG’s wrist painfully.

DG’s heart hammered in her chest as she watched Az’s face crumble and morph into that of the witch’s.

“This is all your doing. And I just wanted to thank you,” she leaned down, pressing the twisted and distorted features closer to DG’s face. Her breath was foul, and when Az smiled, her teeth were blackened and rotting.

“You set me free again.” The sickeningly familiar laugh filled DG’s head, and she struggled under Az’s vice-like grip on her wrist.

She tried to scream, but her voice was choked by fear. She writhed and kicked and bucked against a second pair of hands—and suddenly, her eyes were open, and two strong arms were holding her down.

“Cain?” She said, automatically, clutching at the person who held her.

“I’m here, Deege. It’s alright—you’re awake now.”

She breathed deeply, trying to soothe her racing heart, and she inhaled the familiar scent of him—of leather and aftershave, and of that unique scent that was truly his own.

He must have felt that the embrace was lasting longer than propriety called for, and he pulled back. He gently wiped at a tear that had escaped down DG’s cheek. She wanted to fling herself into his arms again at that gentle touch. He must have read her intentions on his face, because he stood and seated himself in a chair beside the bed.

“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked, eyes downcast.

“No,” she said. She knew exactly what she wanted. “I want you to stay here with me.” She almost clapped a hand over her lips. She hadn’t meant to speak that aloud.

He gazed at her with slight confusion. “I’m not going anywhere—”

“No,” she insisted, putting a hand against the pillow beside hers. “Here.”

If she hadn’t still been so shaken by the nightmare, she would have marveled at her impertinence. But, then again, she never did follow protocol very well. She knew that she was frightened beyond her wits, still weakened by the poison, and that she wanted her Tin Man by her side.

He hesitated—appearing to war with himself for a few moments—before he removed his vest, gun belt, and boots. She watched him, unashamed at the sudden pleasure that filled her chest, and waited for him to join her. He kept a reserved distance between them and rested above the covers, his face firmly planted towards the ceiling.

 

And now, in the light of another morning—perhaps more than one—DG finds herself staring at her Tin Man again. He is sleeping soundly beside her. She realizes, with a start, that his arm had snaked itself around her waist. She can’t remember if she had had any other nightmares, but she quickly shoves aside the rising memory of Az’s distorted face and nuzzles closer to him. Cain breathes a heavy sigh and pulls her closer.

It’s this small motion that sends shivers down DG’s spine.

It’s true that DG and Cain had been dancing around each other (sometimes quite literally with all the balls and parties her mother decided to put on) for the past year. It was impossible to tell if he had noticed her feelings toward him, and sometimes she imagined that she caught an unguarded expression, or that a hug between friends lasted a millisecond longer than it should have. He always put up walls between them.

But this one motion, where he draws her body closer to him in his sleep, tells her that perhaps her Tin Man’s heart was beginning to soften.

DG takes advantage of these quiet moments to study him, knowing that as soon as he awoke, he would put a stop to this in the effort of retaining a sense of decorum between them (damn his devotion to the job). She examines every scar on his face, and the way his blond lashes flutter against his cheek. Is he dreaming?

Before she can really stop herself, her hand reaches up and soothes the ever-present crease between his brows. His face softens beneath her touch, and he nestles his face against her other arm. Emboldened by this response, she draws her fingers down to gingerly touch the stubble on his chin. When this draws up a soft grunt from his throat, she moves her fingers down his neck and into his light chest hair.

“Deege,” he says softly, his eyes opening at last.

A sudden flush fills her face from her neck to the roots of her hair. She’s been caught.

But instead of berating her for this unprofessional behavior, Cain continues to stare at her with his sleepy blue eyes. His hand moves to the arm that’s hugging her pillow, and he gently rests it there. His thumb moves in soft circles against her skin. She’s afraid to say anything, afraid that any words between them would tear this moment apart and bring them firmly back to reality.

She doesn’t know who moves first—perhaps it’s simultaneous—but suddenly, she’s kissing him. At first it is tender and hesitant, just a brush of lips together, but their arms wrap around each other as if being too close together isn’t a possibility. She expects him to pull back any second with profuse apologies, to chalk it up to the trauma of the most recent events, but he doesn’t. Instead, the kiss grows more impassioned, reaching a fever pitch.

He is studying her curves with his hands. She scrapes her fingernails along the nape of his neck, and he groans against her lips. She’s lost in this world for what feels like ages—and then they’re pulled apart.

It’s another question of “who moves first,” but they’re suddenly sitting on opposite sides of the bed, back to back. His breathing is as ragged as hers.

DG stares at her feet. One hand reaches up and touches her lips, still tingling and bruised from the force of their kisses. She inhales sharply and decides now is as good a time as ever. There’s no point in being delicate about what just happened.

“I’m not sorry, Cain.”

She feels the bed shift, and he rounds the bed to stand in front of her. She stares at the toes of his boots when they come into view. DG refuses to look at him just yet.

“I’m not sorry.” She continues. “And it’s not just a result of the trauma and stress. It was real for me. If it wasn’t real for you—”

He puts a finger under her chin and lifts her face toward him. “I don’t do things by halves, kid.”

She could only nod at him, her throat tight with emotion. She didn’t know what this would mean tomorrow, or even in an hour when life caught up with them. But for now, she would revel in the warmth of his gaze and in the kiss he gave her—soft, sweet, and full of promise.

Chapter Text

"So your world does all this for a little baby that lived thousands of years ago?" Glitch held up an armful of tinsel garland and tripped over the end of it as he circled the tree.

"That's...kind of correct," DG said, straining to reach higher up the Christmas tree while Glitch moved in an erratic fashion around her.

"There's also this fat guy in a red suit," Cain added with a sardonic tone. 

DG turned and fixed him with an admonitory glare. He held up his hands in surrender, one of which held a stocking emblazoned with Santa's jolly face.

Glitch paused and tilted his head sideways like a confused dog. "Is this Santa fellow the baby's father?"

DG laughed and shook her head. "If it's easier for you to understand that way, then sure."

She turned her attention back to the tree and realized too late that Glitch had wrapped DG in the sparkling garland instead of the tree. She was effectively trapped in the sparkly material, and nothing she said could slow down Glitch’s pace as he circled the tree. 

DG heard a chuckle behind her, and she turned to fix Cain with a frown. "Are you going to help me or just stare uselessly?"

"I'm enjoying the view from here," Cain said.

DG rolled her eyes and turned back to her task to hide the blush that creeped up her neck. Of course, the Tin Man could have been insinuating he appreciated the overly decorated tree surrounded by hung stockings on the wall and magically sustained twinkle lights. 

But he also could have been suggesting he was staring at her ass. 

She somehow managed to extricate herself from the garland and hopped down from the small step ladder. She physically pushed Glitch toward a nearby chair (he seemed to be stuck in a loop as he sprinted around the tree), and she began to replace the garland. It ended up being a tad crooked, but it was hardly visible with the many gaudy ornaments that adorned the bending branches of the tree. DG stood back and admired her handiwork.

She was pleased her older sister had consented to her (admittedly) fool-hardy mission to retrieve these decorations. Azkadelia had only given her consent and assistance on the understanding that it would be a one-time deal. She had used her magic to take DG back to the old farm house on Earth, which lay mostly abandoned now, except for the foreclosure and eviction notices on the front door. DG assured Az that it was a perfectly normal custom rather than an indication that the government was taking notice of their lack of mortgage and utility payments. 

Even though much of DG's childhood ended up being a fabrication, she still had many fond memories of Christmas with her parents--or robot caretakers, as she later learned. 

Az put an abrupt end to their escapade when she sensed someone was approaching the house. In all, they ended up with one fake Christmas tree, five plastic totes of decorations, and a few random items that DG managed to pile into her arms before they returned to the OZ.

DG walked over and stood beside Cain.

“So, what do you think?” she asked, meeting his gaze. 

He shrugged a shoulder and grunted, giving his characteristic reply.

“Tell me the truth,” she said, punching his arm playfully.

“It’s very...cheerful,” he admitted, with extreme reluctance. 

“Ha,” she said triumphantly, “I knew you liked it!”

Cain rolled his eyes (a habit he inadvertently adopted from DG) and crossed his arms over his chest.

“What’s this strange plant looking thing hanging here?” Glitch said, pointing at one of the wooden arches in the vaulted ceiling.

“That’s mistletoe,” DG said, getting an odd feeling in her stomach that it might have been a bad idea to include it.

Glitch inhaled deeply. “I’m not getting any fragrance. Is it merely decorative, or does it serve some purpose?”

She hesitated before saying, “It’s actually kind of an odd tradition. If you get caught under a sprig of it, you’re supposed to--uh--kiss each other.”

Glitch let his head fall back in a hearty laugh. “Delightful.” He sobered and motioned to DG. “Come over here for a moment, Deege. I have need of you.”

DG put her arms in front of her. “Absolutely not.”

“No, really, just a small favor--”

“I said no!” DG cried out. “It only works if you’re both consenting adults.”

Glitch shrugged his shoulders. “Worth a try.” He seemed to take a notion into his head and then darted out the door without a backwards glance.

“I don’t understand your Earth traditions,” Cain said under his breath as he moved to leave the room.

“Hey, where are you going?” DG demanded. “We have so many more decorations to put up!”

Cain turned to face her, still making a backwards retreat from the room. “There’s no more room in here! I’ll leave it in your capable hands,” and he bowed just before disappearing out the door.

DG gave him an exaggerated pout, which had no effect on the Tin Man. She pondered the unopened plastic bins and came to an executive decision. She had less than an hour to enact her plan.

--

Cain sighed and paused outside the door to his temporary quarters. It was becoming a more permanent living space these days. The winter had been much harsher this year, and his usual outdoor habits had to be put on brief hiatus till the snow stopped. It had no signs of doing so anytime soon. Despite the size of the castle, he was feeling a bit suffocated. 

DG was a delightful (if somewhat exasperating) distraction, and it was her company alone that kept him sane cooped up indoors. He did his best to avoid the bedroom the king and queen had so graciously offered to him, and he feared it had something to do with the fact that DG would never be found on the other side of the door.

He had hesitated long enough. He was cold after his afternoon walk, which he insisted on taking despite the weather, and he knew a well-stoked fire was waiting for him inside. Cain sighed once more and then stepped across the threshold.

“What the…?” He let his question fade away at the sight of his rooms.

It was as if DG’s Christmas boxes had exploded. Every inch of the space was touched by something red or green, or gold--and there was glitter, which he detested.

A soft thump reached his ears, and he grabbed for his holster out of habit just before reminding himself that only one person could be responsible for this.

“Deege,” he said, his tone bordering on murderous.

Her head poked up above the covered settee in the corner (how she managed to smuggle a knitted throw blanket with reindeer and a sleigh from Earth, he had no idea), and she met his gaze with just a hint of hesitation.

“You told me you liked it,” she said, shrugging one shoulder (a habit she’d picked up from him). 

He closed his eyes briefly, pinching the bridge of his nose. Perhaps it was the fact that he had just been thinking about her, but the mere sight of her put him instantly on edge. Not to mention the glitter.

“This stuff cannot stay here,” he said, gesturing around him.

“Why not?” she said, flicking her bangs with one quirk of her head.

He was not impressed by the innocent expression on her face. There was clearly a mischievous twinkle in her impossibly large blue eyes.

“See, there’s the miniature tree that I used to keep in my room,” she said, moving to different parts of the room as she spoke. “And this one here is an original creation by yours truly,” she held up a fist-sized mound of ceramic that had been hastily painted with glaze.

“And that’s a...lump of coal?”

She huffed. “It’s clearly a snowman. Are you blind?” 

Cain shook his head and chuckled softly in reply.

DG frowned at him, but he could tell she was still in a good humor. She continued to bounce around the room and point out various artifacts of her time on Earth. He found himself studying her instead of the gaudy decor. 

He was trying to adjust his mind to the sight of DG wandering around his large and unused sitting room. He certainly hadn’t filled it with any personal artifacts to make it feel more homey, and Cain had to admit that she had brought some much-needed life into an otherwise cold, unfeeling room. 

“Are you even listening to me?” DG planted herself in front of him as he followed her dutifully around the room.

He nodded his head, unable to break eye contact for the moment. Her expression softened to one of confusion.

“Are you angry with me?” she asked, her voice suddenly small.

“You crazy, kid? I’m never angry with you.”

Her brow furrowed. “But I do annoy you.”

“Only sometimes,” he smirked.

She returned his smile, and her eyes traveled to his hat, which was still on his head.

“You know, I have some extra garland. I could spiff up your hat for you if--”

“Nothing else is getting spiffed, especially not my hat,” he said, removing it from his head and clasping it behind him with one hand.

“Not even a little red bow?”

“You’re going to be the death of me, you know that, kid?” He said, attempting to lean on the mantle but pulling back with tinsel static-clinging to his jacket sleeve.

“I know,” she said with a half-smile. 

He opened his mouth to say something, but she bounced forward and kissed him on the cheek. When he stared at her with a dumbfounded expression, she simply pointed at the ceiling above him. Cain glanced up to see the mistletoe hanging over his head, and by the time he looked away, DG was making a hasty retreat from the room. He might have been mistaken, but the tips of her ears looked especially pink.

Cain lifted a calloused hand to the place on his cheek where her lips had been. 

Sentimental old fool, he chided himself. But he couldn’t help the desire to have her back in his room under the mistletoe once more. 

Chapter Text

DG took several deep breaths as she made her way back to the sitting room on the main floor of the castle. Her heart was still hammering in her chest. She’d scare Cain off for sure with more stunts like that. She still didn’t know what came over her.

Blame it on the Christmas spirit, DG told herself as she re-entered the highly decorated room.

The crackling fire and the pleasing sights of holiday decorations filled her with a warm glow, which she hoped would chase away the jittery nervousness from before. But no. All the glitter simply reminded her of her Tin Man and his disdain for the shiny particles.

“Hey, kid,” a voice said to her left.

DG jumped about a foot in the air, grabbed the nearest object, and threw it towards the sound.

Cain caught it before it hit his chest, and he stared at it for a moment before giving her an appraising look.

“Nice reflexes,” he said. “But what is this?”

“A nutcracker,” she replied, walking over and taking it from his hands. “For cracking nuts.”

He was giving her the strangest look, and she didn’t know what to do except continue to stare at him.

“Why did you kiss me earlier?” he asked, his voice so low she had to lean in closer to catch the words.

She clutched the nutcracker in her hand and took a deep breath. She wanted to say something sensible, but instead she blurted out, “Because I like you.”

She was so stunned by this that she countered it with a defensive question: “Why do you call me kid all the time?”

Cain’s face was unreadable, as usual, and a muscle in his jaw tightened. “Because it puts…distance,” he said, moving his hand in the air between them and taking a miniscule step closer.

“Why?” DG insisted.

“Because—I might also—like you, too.” His words left his lips as if they hurt him on the way out. But he took yet another step towards her.

Clearly his words were at war with his actions, because he leaned down and kissed her on the lips.

When she could only stare at him, he pointed towards the ceiling.

“Mistletoe,” he said, his breath tickling her cheek.

Her mouth fell open slightly. This was not what she had expected.

Nor did she expect him to put his hands on either side of her face and draw her towards him for another kiss, this time with a lingering, tender sweetness wholly in contrast to the rough callouses on his hands.

“Deege,” he said softly.

“Yeah?” she said, her eyes struggling to open completely.

He released his hold on her and stepped back. “Merry Christmas.”

She had to collect her thoughts before she realized he had exited the room, leaving her wrapped in solitude under the mistletoe.

“Hey, wait!” she called after him, but he was nowhere to be found.

Typical Tin Man, she thought to herself. He was probably slinking in the shadows nearby.

Well, two could play at this game. She darted back into the sitting room, sifted through a box, and pocketed a small cylindrical object before running out the door.

--

Cain was surprised at her speed. She was not particularly athletic—from what he remembered of their travels together—but she was persistent. And now she ran through the hallways as if she were training for one of those Earth marathons she had mentioned. He wondered if she had given up entirely, but suddenly he realized she was following a familiar route.

When she reached the door to his rooms, she let herself in without any preamble. He quickly relented his surreptitious hiding place and followed after her, immediately suspicious of her intentions. She couldn’t possibly have more decorations up her sleeve.

When she was nowhere to be found in his sitting room, he turned to his bedroom with mounting suspicion.

He found her standing over his bed holding a cylindrical object in midair. He would have taken more time to appreciate the sight of her standing in his bedroom, but the light from a dying fire glinted off of something in her hand.

“Drop the glitter,” he said with an imperious tone, “and no one gets hurt.”

“You want me to drop it right here?” she said, her tone full of faux innocent sweetness.

“Deege,” he warned, stepping forward.

She made a motion like she was going to drop it, but he deftly pulled her arm away from the bed, extricating the container from her grasp in one fluid motion.

She turned to him and put her hands on her hips. “Do I have your attention now?”

“You’ve always had my attention,” he said.

DG stomped one foot and put a hand in his face. “You can’t just tell me you like me, kiss me like that, and then walk away!”

“I recall you started this,” he argued.

“That was a peck on the cheek,” she maintained. “That’s different!”

Cain stared into her direct gaze recognizing what she wanted to hear from him and knowing he couldn’t say it. Not yet.

“I was just—practicing your custom. With the mistletoe.” Even to his ears, this excuse sounded hollow.

DG stepped closer and met his gaze with a clear challenge.

It had been playful and flirtatious before, but now she was asking him to make a genuine decision. The truth was—if he would even allow himself to think it—that DG had worked her way into his heart a long time ago. A heart that he thought was too damaged by the loss of his family to accept anyone else.

He stepped forward and captured her mouth in a kiss, this one filled with renewed passion. His hands seemed to move of their own volition, drawing her closer and wrapping around her waist.

He would have been content to continue in this fashion, but she put a hand against his chest and pulled back.

“There’s no mistletoe in here, you know,” she said.

The corner of his mouth lifted as he let his hand cup the side of her face. “And no glitter, either.”

“Oh, I can fix that—” she turned as if to retrieve the container of glitter, but he gently drew her back to him.

“Deege, stay.”

He didn’t have to tell her twice. She twisted her hands into his shirtfront and pulled him towards her. Suddenly, they were a tangle of arms and legs on top of his bed.

He hovered over her with an overwhelming sense of restraint. This was a big step from kissing under some stupid holiday plant. They were making out on Wyatt Cain’s bed. He’d be an idiot if he didn’t admit he had fantasized about this before, but he never really thought it would happen.

She was beautiful in the soft light of the fire. Hell, she was a looker under any light. But now she was staring at him with an expression of deep concern.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“It’s just—been a while,” he said, reaching down to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “A shockingly long time.”

DG nodded slowly. “I can go, if that’s…”

“Don’t,” he said, the word escaping his lips on impulse. He’d given into too many of those this evening already. It couldn’t hurt to allow himself just this one, small privilege, could it?

His head dipped down towards hers, and the kiss that followed was heart-wrenchingly sweet and full of promise.

“I told you you’d like my Earth Christmas,” DG said against his lips.

He laughed and rolled over so she was on top of him. He didn’t need to verbalize his agreement, as it seemed he couldn’t get enough of her kisses, and his hands freely explored every touchable inch of her. She was reciprocating with surprising heat. A low growl escaped his lips when she leaned over and bit the side of his earlobe. He feared he wouldn’t be able to restrain himself much longer, so he gently turned their bodies so they were facing each other.

The clear desire in DG’s eyes drew him in for one final kiss before he pulled back to catch his breath. They lay there beside one another for a quiet moment. He let his fingers explore the side of her face, allowing himself the small, intimate touches he otherwise would have avoided to maintain distance between them.

Well, that distance was all but gone with her leg resting on top of his and their arms still intertwined.

They didn’t need to say anything in this moment. Something had started in motion between them that would not be stopped. For once, Cain let himself breathe freely as he rested in her gaze. There would be no turning back from this. He was doomed to this fate the moment he met her.

“Hi,” she said, clasping her hands behind his neck and drawing herself closer.

“Hey there,” he replied, grabbing for her waist and meeting her in the middle.

It was the start of something new—and they only had the mistletoe to blame.