13 / walk out to winter

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A fresh layer of snow had fallen overnight but now the sun was out and it glittered off the glistening flakes that smoothed out the garden, soft light casting the slightest warmth when the temperatures rose above zero and the rays broke through the pale clouds that littered the sky. Tala had been reluctant to move that morning when Raphael had been so warm, his duvet so deliciously heavy and his body so firm.

Her heart had sunk when he had slipped out of her grasp far too early, and it had risen again when he had turned the lock in his door and sashayed back to bed with a wiggle in his hips and a sleepy grin on his face, and he had slipped beneath the covers with warm hands on her skin and soft lips on her cheek, and she had suppressed her cries of pleasure when her fists had balled in his hair, her spine arching away from the bed.

It was only a few minutes later that they had heard the shuffles of a waking child, and they had laughed at their timing. While Tala had showered, Raphael had made breakfast for his son and put the kettle on, and when she had made it downstairs, he had kissed her with coffee-stained lips as though for the first time.

Every day that she spent in his company was the best day, each better than the last. That thought lingered as she watched the way Raphael sat with his son, talking to him and playing with him the way a father should: he made a smiley face out of jam on March's toast and laughed at his jokes, listening to his stories as if they were the most interesting thing in the world. And he really listened, interjecting and asking questions, and Tala's stomach filled with fluttering butterflies.

She felt no need for anything more than that, the simplicity of family life as she played with March and his new toys, and he showed her where he had put all his Christmas presents in his room. That was one trait he didn't share with his father: for March, everything had a place, whereas for Raphael, every place had a thing.

Raphael dropped down onto the sofa next to Tala with a groan. It was almost midday and neither of them had eaten, despite making food for March. After such a feast yesterday, followed by picking at the leftovers for far too long, Tala was still full and there had been no appeal when it came to breakfast.

"Hey, good lookin'," he said, kissing her cheek and slinging his arm around her shoulders. She nestled against him, an empty mug in her hand: she had finished her drink a while ago but it had also been a while since she had moved, perfectly content to sit wrapped up in her fleecy jumper while March bounced around, occasionally sitting next to her to explain a toy.

"Hey," she said, his stubble bristling her cheek when she turned her face and kissed him back. His hand was on her shoulder, his touch not so much electrifying as it was a stable comfort. No longer was this the thrill of a one-night stand, or two, or ... she wasn't sure how many nights they were up to now, but whatever it was, it felt like more. She wished it was more.

"So, I have a thought."

"A whole thought?" she teased, and he grinned.

"I gone and got me a whole thought," he said, his eyes bright beneath dark brows, and his fingers moved over her shoulder, tracing a pattern that sent a shiver down her spine. "I feel like blowing out the cobwebs. March and I usually go for a walk on Boxing Day ... any chance that's something you'd be up for?" Then he leant back. "We don't have to. It's pretty cold, after all."

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