Chapter 13

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The snow had subsided by morning and the roads were clear after a long night on behalf of all the local snowplows. The sky was a light silvery gray as the clouds hadn't decided yet whether or not they were done snowing. A few flakes fell from their grip throughout the morning but nothing that threatened the events planned for Christmas day.

Even after a restless night, Anya woke up feeling refreshed and determined to enjoy the day. With her interaction with Manny from the night before tucked away in the back of her brain, Anya climbed out of bed ready to face the day.

The thought that he was spending Christmas morning at Gloria's with her family helped send Anya on her way. She wasn't going to a miss a quiet morning at the Inn.

She was smiling when she walked into Eve's room next door, dressed and ready to celebrate. Michaela was already there and looking barely awake. It was early as they still had an inn to run but that wasn't going to keep them from celebrating Christmas as a family.

Michaela nodded from where she sat curled up in one of the plush armchairs in Eve's parlor, a mug of steaming hot coffee clutched tight in her hand as it was the only thing keeping her awake at that moment. Anya made for the long table set up along one wall, filled to the brim with steaming piles of food, grabbing a mug of coffee.

Eve entered from her room and crossed to give Anya a hug and a kiss on the cheek, followed by a pat on Michaela's head, to which she responded with an affectionate mumble.

"Good morning, ladies."

"Morning, Grandma."

"Hmm."

"Michaela, I am so excited you're here to join us this year for our little Christmas celebration. It's just been Anya and myself for so many years. And even before that, it was still just Christopher, Anya and myself. It's nice to bring new life into our little family tradition."

Anya had taken her seat next to Eve on the maroon velvet love seat in front of the line of windows looking out onto the forest that backed up to the inn. She grabbed Eve's hand and gave it three quick squeezes, her grandmother's eyes meeting hers with a look of affection and memory passing between them.

A knock came at the door to which Eve responded, "Come in!"

Frank opened the door, his head entering first, the rest of his body following when Eve greeted him with a warm and very particular smile Anya never seen her use to before.

"Welcome! Please, come in. There's coffee and enough food to feed an army. Help yourself."

Frank gave a small bow as he approached. He was dressed in a soft red sweater with a flannel shirt underneath, a tie even making an appearance tied around his neck.

"Where do I-"

He lifted the small package wrapped in dark green wrapping paper and Eve gestured to the small Christmas tree set up across from the seating area.

"Under the tree will be just fine. I'm so glad you were able to join us."

"Thank you very much for inviting me. This is certainly a difference from spending Christmas morning singing carols with the animals. The pigs could never follow a tune."

His attempt at a joke got a light twinkling laugh and if Anya didn't know better, she would have said Eve was blushing. But Eve was too refined for such a childish reaction. She seemed to simply be enjoying herself in Frank's company.

Anya watched their interaction with wide eyes and looked across at Michaela to see if she was seeing what Anya wasn't even sure she was seeing. But Michaela had dozed off again and had missed their entire reaction.

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