Home > Lily (A Next Generation Carter Brother Novel Book 7)

Lily (A Next Generation Carter Brother Novel Book 7)
Author: Lisa Helen Gray

 


CHAPTER ONE


Lily

 


The crisp, cold scent of snow fills the air, combined with the delicious aroma of roasted chestnuts, pulled pork, and mulled wine. There’s a pine scent from the log burners set around the outdoor restaurant, adding to the festive mood.

Lights of all kinds are wrapped around lampposts, decorating stalls and strung up above us like an arch tunnel in the outdoor market. And in front of the large, decorated Christmas tree, carols are being sung by a local choir, which warms my heart. There are people rushing around to get last-minute gifts, yet others—like me—want to soak in the atmosphere.

It’s my favourite time of year. The festivity, the cosiness, and warmth, it brings back some of the best memories. My first Christmas is still one of my favourites, even though each year, except last year’s, has gotten better.

It’s my favourite because not only was it my first ever one, but it’s the first one I got to spend with family. It’s the Christmas that made me realise I wasn’t alone, that I was loved. It’s the first Christmas I got to truly understand what it meant to belong. It was magical in all the best ways.

My thoughts drift off to that morning, to how my life changed that day…

Faith gently shakes me awake, causing me to panic. I’m used to rough hands, hard slaps, or being pulled roughly from bed, and although she didn’t do any of those things, it still has my heart racing.

“What’s wrong? Did she come back for me?”

“You have to wake up,” Faith whisper-yells.

I rub the sleep from my eyes. It took me ages to fall asleep, so they feel swollen and sore. “What’s happening? Do I need to leave?”

Her brows pinch together. “No, silly. It’s Christmas. It means Santa’s been.”

Fear snakes down my spine. “Who is Santa? Will he hurt us?”

“It’s okay. He won’t hurt us. He brings good children presents.”

Presents? Now some of the fog has left me, I vaguely remember them talking about a Santa, but I didn’t know what they meant. I still don’t. “What if you are bad?”

She leans forward, cupping her mouth with one hand, and quietly tells me, “You get put on a naughty list and get a lump of coal.” She sits back, eyeing me. “I’ve never been on it. Have you?”

“I’ve never had Christmas.”

Her eyes go as round as saucers. “Never?”

“No. Is it because I was on the naughty list?”

She takes my hand, hers always warm and comforting. I love my new sister. She makes me feel welcome and safe. And she lets me play with all her toys. She has millions.

The door to our room opens and Maverick, my dad, steps inside. I call him Dad, but sometimes it’s confusing because he’s also my brother. He looks like he’s hurt himself as he watches me.

“Daddy, tell her about Santa again!”

I glance up at him. “Did I get put on the naughty list?”

He sits down beside me. “Princess, he just never got your address. But everything you’ve missed, he’s made sure you got today, and he wants you to know he’s very sorry. You’ve never been on any naughty list.”

I pucker my lips as something stirs in my stomach. I can’t make out what it is; I’ve never felt it before. “What did he bring me?”

“Why don’t you come out and see? We’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”

He lifts me into his arms, and I cling to him, loving his smell; it makes me feel safe, at home. When we step into the living room, everyone jumps up.

“Merry Christmas!”

My lower lip trembles and I sniff, wiping under my eyes. Dad runs his hand down my back. “It’s okay. Shush, it’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Look what we got,” Faith yells, running over to the presents.

Mum laughs, swinging her up into her arms. “Not yet, squirt.”

“What are they?” I ask, placing my hand on Dad’s cheek until his gaze meets mine.

He grins. “They’re presents. From Santa.”

“And me,” Uncle Max booms. He’s still wearing the silly pyjamas he had on yesterday. They have a picture of a man with a white beard, wearing a red hat, on the front.

Dad sighs. He does that a lot around my uncle.

“What’s in them?”

“Why don’t you both open the big ones first. Those are from all of us,” Myles calls, kicking my uncle Malik in the leg. I giggle when he shoots up, holding his baby daughter tighter.

“What did I miss?”

“Wake up!”

“I’ve got twins, Myles, and Max woke us up at five.”

Everyone turns to Max. He shrugs while chewing on a piece of toast. “I got excited; it’s Christmas.”

Dad places me down on the floor and takes my hand. Together, we walk over to the big present covered in red, glittery paper.

“Would you like to open it?” Dad asks.

“What do I do?” I whisper, leaning into him.

He tears a little of the paper. “Now you pull.”

“Ready?” Faith asks, her entire body vibrating with excitement as she stands in front of hers.

“Go,” Dad orders softly.

I watch Faith tear into hers and I follow, my movements much slower, and as I reveal more of what’s underneath, a weird feeling stirs in the pit of my stomach. A smile stretches across my face, even as the weird flutter grows. This is really fun.

Before I know it, giggles slip free.

All the paper isn’t removed, but I’ve opened it enough for me to see the pretty doll house. It’s all set up, and Barbies are inside, like the ones I’ve seen in Faith’s room.

I gaze at Mum and Dad, my lips parted. “Is this mine?”

“Yes, baby, this is yours.”

Max sits down next to me. “And there are more to come.”

I gape in wonder. “There is?” How can there be more?

“Yes, baby girl; there will always be more to come.”

“And I get to keep them?”

Mason sits down on the other side of me, baby Hope in his arms. “They are yours. All yours. And no one is ever going to take them.”

“Do you like it?” Mum asks.

I rush into her arms, clinging to her as tears soak my cheeks. “I love it.”

“You okay?” Dad asks, tucking my hair behind my ear.

“Yes.”

“Then why are you crying, squirt?”

I turn to my uncle Malik, who spoke, as I point to Mason. “Because he said no one will ever take them because they are mine.”

Max’s face scrunches up. “What do you mean?” he asks.

“You are all mine. That means I get to keep you. And no one will take you away. She won’t take you away.”

Dad’s eyes mist over as he pulls me from Mum and places me in his lap. “Never, sweet girl.”

“Because you are ours too, which means no one can take you away from us,” Mason assures me.

“Or they’ll get beat up,” Max states, wagging his finger, and I giggle.

Faith turns from her present—a cool-looking horse that has its very own stable—and slowly walks over to me. She places her hand over mine. “We’re sisters. We will always be together. I promise.”

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