Home>>read A Merry Little Christmas free online

A Merry Little Christmas(11)

By:Melanie Schuster

Paris was silent for all of ten seconds before bombarding Aidan with  questions. No matter how much she tried to deny it, Titus Argonne was  like an itch she couldn't scratch. She was so intent on Aidan's answers  that she didn't hear the doorbell ring.

Angelique threw open the front door to admit A.J. She smiled happily  when she saw his handsome golden face and immediately threw her arms  around him for one of his fantastic hugs. He obliged by giving her a  bone-crushing embrace that lifted her off the floor. "Happy New Year,  baby, you look beautiful," he said honestly as he set her down. She did  look adorable in carpenter's jeans; a thick, cream-colored turtleneck  sweater; heavy woolen socks; and no shoes.

Angelique waved aside the compliment the way she did all comments about  her appearance. "Come on in and make yourself at home. Did you go out  last night?" she asked.

"Naw, it's too crazy out there and I'm too lazy," he replied. "I went to  midnight mass with the family and then we sat around and played euchre  and pinochle all night."

A.J. had a close relationship with his family, closer still since his  run-in with cancer. He took off his coat and hung it in the in the foyer  closet like someone who felt completely at home, which he did whenever  he was with Angelique. Following her into the dining room, he looked at  the pictures she had spread out on the dining room table. "Angel, these  are magnificent. You truly have a gift for this," he said admiringly as  he looked over the black and white prints.

Angelique laughed self-consciously at his praise. "A.J., you seem to  forget that you're the one who taught me how to take pictures. Well, you  and Clay, that is. So, in a way, you're just taking credit for your own  talent," she pointed out.

AJ. groaned, then swatted her on the butt. "Haven't I told you about  that? Learn to accept a compliment, little girl, because you're going to  get more and more of them."

He ignored the exaggerated "ouch" Angelique gave and easily ducked the  punch she threw at him, then he did something her brothers had done to  her for years; he placed one large hand in the middle of her forehead  and held her at arm's length while she vainly tried to get at him. As he  avoided her windmilling arms, he continued to study the artwork  scattered on the table.

"Are you sorting these out for the museum showing?" he asked.                       


Angelique immediately stopped trying to hit him and stood still. "Yes, I  am. I still can't believe someone is that interested in my work," she  said quietly. "I don't think I'm ready for all this."

A.J. pulled her into his arms for another fierce hug. "Listen, Angel,  don't ever doubt your skill with the camera. Ever. I'm going to go over  every picture with you and help you catalog them into an exhibit. Clay  and I may have taught you the craft of photography, but the art is in  you. It's all you, Angel. When do you meet with the folks from the  museum?" Angelique didn't answer him for a moment because she was too  happy to be held in his strong arms. She really did love him; A.J. was  an indispensable part of her life. "I meet with them in a couple of  weeks. Actually, it's not a them, it's a her. She was just hired not too  long ago. I think she moved back here from California or someplace."

AJ.'s face lit up with interest. He knew some people at the museum and  was always interested in what went on there. "Oh, yeah? What's her  name?"

Angelique immediately consulted the neat leather notebook that was like a  second brain to her. She laboriously scanned her precise block print  and pointed at a name she had written phonetically to remind her of the  pronunciation. "Umm, she has an unusual name. It's Aneesah. Aneesah  Shabazz. That's pretty, isn't it?"

A. J. agreed that it was a stylish name indeed. He stuck his head into  the kitchen and asked where the food was. "Aren't you guys cooking  today?" he asked wistfully. Eating was one of his favorite things to do,  especially on holidays.

Angelique immediately looked so woeful that A.J. asked what was going on.

"We were supposed to go to an open house today but I can't go now. I'm  hiding from Adonis Cochran because I kissed him on New Year's Eve," she  confessed.

A.J. tried without success not to look amused. "So are you a bad kisser or something? Why do you have to hide from the man?"

"Because we hate each other, A.J., you know that. And because I kissed  him and I have no idea why. And for your information, I'm a very good  kisser. I think I am," she amended. She gave him a good imitation of a  sultry look and offered to show him her technique.

"No, thanks, I'll take your word for it! Tell you what, take me to the  open house and pretend like I'm your date. We'll stuff our faces and get  out of there fast and then go down to the beach and shoot some film  before sunset. Hurry up, get dressed," he demanded. "I'm hungry!"

Angelique dashed up the stairs to change clothes and get Paris off the phone. Suddenly she was looking forward to the afternoon.


Aneesah finished sipping her cup of tea while she watched Donnie across  the kitchen table. He returned her look of concern with a carefully  bland look of his own.

"Okay, what's on your mind Aneesah? I can hear those wheels turning from here," he said.

Aneesah shrugged as she got up to put her cup and saucer in the sink.  Washing her hands carefully, she patted them dry with a paper towel from  the dispenser on the counter and then turned to face Donnie. "I don't  want you to think that I took your proposal lightly," she said softly.  "I was honored Donnie, I really was. But I care about you too much to  venture into something that's going to end in disaster. I respect you  too much and I value your friendship too much."

Donnie nodded briefly and continued to look at Aneesah, admiring her  beauty. "I'm not going to say I don't understand what you're saying,  because I do. I've always viewed marriage as something sacred, something  to be taken very seriously. My family gets married and stays married;  you know that. But I have to be honest with you and tell you that I've  been giving more and more thought to the idea of being married. I want  that commitment, that partnership, that love and companionship that  makes marriage so wonderful. And you're the kind of woman I want to be  married to, Aneesah. I can't lie to you about that."

Aneesah stared at him for a few seconds and then crossed the room to  take her seat again. "The ‘kind' of woman you want you marry?" she  repeated in a dangerously quiet voice.

"Yes," Donnie said confidently. "You're tall, full-figured, smart,  educated, you have class, style and ambition. You'd make a perfect wife  for me and we'd have some big healthy babies, too." He sat back and  smiled with satisfaction until he got a better look at Aneesah's face,  which was wearing an expression of total incredulity. He could see that  he'd wandered into a minefield, but, like most men, had no idea how he'd  gotten there or how to get out. He then resorted to the universal and  ancient male plea for enlightenment.                       



Aneesah had the universal female response to the one-syllable word drawn  out to several times its normal length by the floundering man across  the table. She puffed up her cheeks and blew out a long and forbearing  breath, then crossed her arms over her ample and tempting bosom.

"Adonis Cochran, you need to quit! Here I am feeling bad for turning you  down and you had no more love for me than the man in the moon!" she  said indignantly. "You look around and decide it's time for you to have a  wife and you whip out your i-Pad to make a grocery list. And when you  decide that I have more of the items on my shelves than anybody else,  you decide to do your shopping at my store, is that it? Well, I have  news for you, Adonis, you don't go shopping for a wife off a list of  attributes, or what you think are attributes," she said hotly. "You're  an intellectual snob, you know that? I never would have thought it  possible, but you are! As long as somebody has a few degrees and some  ‘back,' you're right in there. You should be ashamed of yourself. That's  not how you go about deciding on a life mate, you idiot!"

By now Aneesah was so steamed, she'd risen from the table and was pacing  back and forth and gesturing with her long, graceful hands. Donnie had  dropped his head down to the table and was groaning aloud as he listened  to her recite his many shortcomings. How had his life become so very  unmanageable in such a short period of time?