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Part Twenty-One

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Mason spent the rest of the evening filling the small sherry glasses of his mother and his aunt. The intention was them retiring earlier than later. Peter was looking tired; he’d been told he rarely stayed up after nine. Glancing across the room he smiled at the sight of Kate sat beside Peter reading him a book. She was so patient, so caring, and for a moment he had a snap shot of that same caring gentleness with children, babies. Shaking his head he dispelled that vision. Dangerous territory.

                “I’ll organise supper!” Kate announced standing up. Margaret was smiling at her, tapping her foot along to the Christmas tunes that still pumped out of the stereo. “Mason! I think your mother wants to dance!”

Mason glared at her in surprise, the minx; she was starting her revenge plan. Dancing? To White Christmas? With his mother? He groaned then looked to his mother, “do you want to dance?”

Margaret nodded, “that would be great, normally Peter’s the only man we dance with at Christmas. And he hates it!”

Kate laughed as she left the room leaving Mason as a lamb to the slaughter. The two older women had been drinking sherry since well before lunch and were more than tipsy. Neither was accustomed to drinking so Kate knew they’d both be glad of their beds soon.

In the kitchen she cut some large of turkey from the half devoured bird, and there was a caramelised ham to go with it, adding it to bread, cheese and homemade pate as well as an array of pickles on a large tray. Carrying it into the lounge she stopped in the doorway and grinned. There were the two couples, Mason and Peter with their respective mothers, waltzing in front of the fire, to ‘All I want for Christmas is you’, Mariah Carey belting the lyrics rather over enthusiastically.

Smiling she moved into the room, ignoring the glares from Mason over his mother’s shoulder, then setting the tray on a large side table. Buttering a piece of bread she loaded it with ham and a divine looking chutney, then perched against the arm of the sofa watching them with amusement.

                “Your turn!” Clarissa called out to Kate with a giggle, but Kate shook her head.

                “No way when I’m enjoying this!” She gestured to her food.

Margaret looked up, “did you get my egg salad? I made a huge bowl!”

When she disappeared in the direction of the kitchen Mason groaned a sigh of relief and moved towards her, spearing a rather fat pickle on a fork and tipping it into his mouth. Peter was laughing with his mother as the music changed to ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’.

                “My fave!” Kate murmured to no one in particular. She was rewarded with a chuckle from Mason who’d settled next to her, well within in her personal space. Awareness, as usual when he was in the vicinity, rippled through her body.

He hummed along to the song and she smiled at his apparent lack of musicality, but it was a completely different sensation when he leaned in, his lips almost brushing her ears to sing, “he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

The huskiness, as well as the suggestion that she was anything but good had mixed effects on her, part of her was weak at the knees, warmth swirling around her pelvis at the tone, the promise, the other half of her was fighting the guilt that the words had created. It was so wrong to become embroiled with him under this roof. What would Clarissa and Margaret say?

Mason had sensed her flinch and groaned, it was like walking on eggshells, there were more wrong things to say than right. Reaching out he ensnared her hand and squeezed it, trying to offer her some camaraderie, but knew that could have an equally damning effect. Glancing up he saw his mother at the door paused and observing him with a bizarre look on her face. It seemed she had an opinion on his closeness to Kate; that was looking like a conversation he didn’t want to have. More groaning. Why were women so bloody complicated?  

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