The chorus of giggles coming from the mini makeover team is my first clue that I’m not going to be in love with my new look.
I take that back.
The first inkling came the moment my three little girls cornered me in my workshop. The two older ones had designated three-year-old Holly as their spokesperson. There’d been no way I could say no to this idea of theirs. Not when I was up against Holly, with her curly blonde hair up in pigtails and her bottom lip sticking out in a pout.
It’s the same look their mama gives me when she wants something. I’m as helpless to their wiles as I am to Juniper’s.
“Don’t worry Daddy,” Felicity, the oldest says. “You look very pretty.”
“Very pretty.” Noelle, our middle daughter, nods in agreement. “And sparkly.”
Sparkly. Fuck me.
For her part, Holly is seated on the stool next to mine, swinging her legs back and forth and beaming up at me like she’s in on the world’s biggest secret.
“Hey, babe.” Juniper waltzes into my workshop. “Have you seen my new Christmas palette samples that just arrived from . . .”
Felicity and Noelle hide their hands—and the make-up palette and brushes—behind their backs. Holly covers her mouth and her eyes dart back and forth taking in the scene.
And I sit where I am. Alone. On display for the love of my life and mother of my children to look and judge.
It’s a good thing I locked it down and married her years ago. Because sitting here covered in glitter and a shade of green eyeshadow that is not my color, I doubt I’d win her affection now.
Juniper clamps her lips shut. I narrow my eyes. Traitor. She’s trying not to laugh.
It has nothing to do with her not wanting to hurt my feelings and everything to do with her not wanting to encourage the girls in their naughty shenanigans.
Finally pulling herself together Juniper sighs and plants her fists on her hips. “Well, I suppose I know where my new Christmas palette went.”
“We’re sorry, Mommy.” Felicity bats her long eyelashes.
“We just wanted to make Daddy pretty.” Noelle’s bottom lip quivers.
I roll my eyes. “I’m sure I look gorgeous.”
“You do look pretty cute.” Juniper’s lips twitch. “But what am I going to tell the nice people who sent me that palette when they ask why I can’t take any photos with it?”
“You could send Daddy’s picture,” Felicity suggests helpfully.
“We made him pretty,” Noelle adds.
“You know . . .” Juniper arches an eyebrow and taps her chin.
“Nope.” I stand up, my hands up in surrender. “Don’t even think about it.”
“I’m sure they’d all get a kick out of it.”
“No.” I move behind the stool, like it’ll somehow protect me. “No. No no no no no.”
“The company. My followers. They’d all think it was just precious.”
Holly hops up and down, clapping her hands chanting, “Daddy picture. Daddy picture.”
Before long, Felicity and Noelle have joined the chorus.
I am an island.
I’m outnumbered. I’m on my own. My lips are starting to tingle from whatever they put on them.
And—fuck it all—my face is about to end up being used in some damn Christmas makeup campaign.
My shoulders droop, and I allow the three pint-sized beauties to guide me back to the stool.
“Okay, perfect.” Juniper pulls out her phone. “Give me your best mean grumpy mountain man expression.”
I narrow my eyes even more and cock my head to the side.
“Just like that.” She gives me a thumbs up. “Now say, ‘Mistletoe.’”
“Mistletoe!” All three girls shout as they lean in toward me.
Juniper snaps one picture. Then she comes to stand behind me, resting a hand on my shoulder and holding out the other to snap a selfie of the five of us.
Minutes later, one copy of that photo is on its way to the printers for our Christmas card. The other—with the girls faces covered with little hearts for privacy—is off for approval to Juniper’s collaborator.
“Girls,” Juniper calls out as she hands me a washcloth so I can clean up. “Could you please go wash your hands for dinner?”
Without having to be asked twice, they run off, still giggling over their “Daddy masterpiece.” Once we’re alone, she leans down to brush her lips over mine.
“They were right about one thing.”
“What?” I hand her back the washcloth. “Don’t tell me it was their choice of blush. I thought I looked a little orange?”
“I was going to say they were right. Daddy is very pretty.”
“Daddy is a sucker is what he is.”
She shakes her head and kisses me again, this time for a little longer. I wrap my arms around her waist and hold her close. She ends up in my lap, and we sit here together holding each other for several minutes.
It’s still sometimes hard to believe what we’ve built together in just a few shorts years. A home. A family. A life. All because Mother Nature canceled our best-laid plans one Christmas Eve Eve.
“I have something that might cheer you up,” Juniper whispers.
I snuggle in closer. “What’s that?”
“You could call it an early Christmas present.”
I raise my eyebrows as she leans back to reach into her pocket. “I was going to wait to show you this later, but . . .”
She hands me a familiar white stick. On the display there is the unmistakable word: “Pregnant”
My gaze flashes up to hers. “You’re kidding.”
She nods. “Baby number four is on his or her way.”
“Oh, honey.” I pull her back in for another kiss, my heart bursting with pride and joy.
I’m already the world’s luckiest man. But if I can borrow just a little more luck God—or, who knows, maybe even Santa—will deliver us with another girl. Preferably one who is just as sweet and sassy as her sisters and mama.
Perfection has already struck four times. Why not once more?
* * *
Thanks for reading Mistletoe in Miami! Click here for a bonus epilogue to catch up with Kane and Juniper on a future Christmas.
Check out the rest of the Destination Christmas stories, a multi-author standalone series.
In the mood for more holiday cheer? Read the Holidays with a Mountain Man series.