***Note: this scene takes place between Rogue Rider and REAVER in the Demonica/LOD world***
Reaver had watched every modern holiday evolve from their very beginnings in primitive times to their current traditions and peculiarities, but he’d never celebrated the one known as Christmas.
Oh, he’d been to holiday parties and he’d been invited to gatherings held by his friends, but he’d always felt like an intruder. Even last year, after learning that the legendary beings known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were his offspring, he’d avoided spending much time with them at Christmas. He didn’t have a clue how he was supposed to act. What he was supposed to do.
How he could make up for five thousand years of being absent on every birthday, every holiday, every freaking important event in their lives?
But this year something inside him craved closeness. And forgiveness.
Because what if he never had the chance to celebrate with his children — and grandchildren — again?
He strode through the fourth insanely chaotic shopping mall of the day, his head spinning at the noise, the lights, the crowds of people who wouldn’t get out of his way. It was as if they were intentionally running into him and blocking his path.
This was just stupid. He had no idea what to buy people who had everything — or, at least, access to everything. Ares, Limos, Thanatos, and Reseph were all wealthy beyond wealthy, so what could Reaver possibly buy them that they didn’t already have?
He entered a clothing store, ducked behind a rack of coats, and flashed to Eidolon’s apartment. Which was almost as bad as the malls.
Holiday music played from inside the living room, and the scent of pine trees and gingerbread wafted through the air. Stockings, garland, and various cheery decor took up nearly every inch of wall and floor space.
Reaver figured that if Santa Clause exploded, the result would look like…this.
Not that Reaver could blame Tayla for her enthusiastic decorating style; she’d grown up in foster homes and had never truly had a Christmas until she mated Eidolon. Now she made sure their son would never have anything but a happy, fun-filled holiday.
The Seminus demon was in the kitchen, his hands encased by medical gloves as he carefully put together a ham and cheese sandwich with surgical precision. The doctor performed every task as if it were a vital operation.
“You going to cut that with a scalpel?” Reaver asked.
Startled, Eidolon fumbled the mayonnaise lid. “Damn you, Reaver,” he muttered. “Stop doing that. We have a door. With a knocker and everything.”
“Angels don’t use doors.” Sure, he could have knocked, but…nah. “And why are you wearing gloves?”
“Because I love horseradish, but it melts my fingernails.” He smashed a piece of wheat bread on top of his sandwich.
Huh. He learned something new about Eidolon’s species every day. “Where’s Tayla?”
“She took Sabre to do some last minute shopping. Apparently, toddlers need elf suits for pictures.”
Reaver wished her luck with that. The malls were like corrals, the shoppers like stampeding bulls. “That’s sort of why I’m here. The shopping.”
Eidolon plucked a beer from the fridge and offered one to Reaver, which he refused. “Let me guess. You’re clueless what to get people who have everything.”
Reaver didn’t bother asking E how he’d known that. The doctor had always been freakishly astute. “Yep.”
“Then give them something only you can give them.”
Okay, he supposed he could bring them something from the Heavenly realm, but that seemed too easy. After five thousand years of being an absentee parent, his kids deserved something better. Something more meaningful.
Something they could keep to remember him if someday he was no longer around. Not that he was planning to leave.
But he had a grim feeling that soon, leaving might be out of his control. He had unfinished business, and her name was Harvester.
The fact that Harvester was being held for eternity in Satan’s dungeons complicated that business and left Reaver unsure about his future.
So for now, in the immediate present, he had to dedicate every moment to his family. A family he wished he could have gotten to know a long time ago.
A long time ago…the answer to his gifting problem knocked him upside the head. Grinning, he thanked Eidolon, who just shrugged and bit into his sandwich as Reaver flashed to the one person who could help him.
The next morning, he filled a duffel with wrapped presents — most of them for Thanatos’s son, Logan, and Cara and Ares’ adopted Ramreel son, Rath — and popped over to Thanatos’s Greenland castle. Like Eidolon’s apartment, the massive keep was a winter wonderland, complete with a twenty-foot tall blue spruce loaded with ornaments and lights.
Limos, Cara, and Regan were on the floor with the kids, Jillian and Reseph were feeding a two-hundred-pound hellhound puppy a cookie, and Ares, Thanatos, and Arik were standing around a bowl of eggnog, their glasses overflowing.
“Aw, Reavie-weavie brought presents!” Limos scrambled to her feet — as well as she could, considering she was pregnant — and threw her arms around him. He’d always loved when she called him that, even if he rolled his eyes and muttered obscenities.
“Whatcha got in the bag?” Reseph asked.
“You’ll see in a second.” Reaver waited until Limos detached herself from him, and then he dumped the contents of his bag into a pile on the floor near the tree. He gave Logan and Rath each a package, and then dug through the rest of the gifts until he found the four boxes he’d been looking for.
While the two little ones ripped enthusiastically into the paper, Reaver passed out a present to each of the Horsemen.
Just like the children, Limos, Ares, Reseph, and Thanatos tore into their packages. And then they looked as confused as hell.
Limos looked down at her crudely-made gold pendant, while Ares stared, baffled, at the primitive copper-bladed dagger lying in the box he held. Thanatos ran a finger along the edge of his flintstone spearhead, and just as Reaver anticipated, it was Reseph who spoke first.
“Cool. I got a cereal bowl made out of mud.” He glanced over at Reaver. “Ah…thank you?”
Reaver inclined his head. “You’re welcome.”
“This is—” Limos broke off with a strangled wheeze. “Oh my God,” she breathed. “These are ancient, but they’re not…old. They’re new.”
Thanatos frowned. “Wait. What? They’re replicas?” He held his arrowhead up to the light. “This looks like something my clan would have used when I was a kid.”
“It is,” Reaver said softly. “They’re not replicas.” Every pair of eyes in the room locked onto him, and he suddenly wondered if he’d screwed up. His gifts were lame, weren’t they? Shit. Feeling like a fool, he sighed. “I didn’t know what to get you, so I went to a friend named Lilliana. She’s one of only a handful of angels who can — and is allowed to — time travel. I asked her to get you the kinds of things I would have given you if I’d known you back when you were young.” Regret sat in his belly like a lump of fruitcake. “It was dumb, I know.”
“No,” Limos whispered, her amethyst eyes glistening. “It’s amazing.”
Ares whistled. “No shit. I haven’t seen one of these in, well, eons.”
“Duuuuude.” Reseph looked down at his bowl with new appreciation, and Reaver swore he cradled it more carefully.
A moment later, Thanatos, who rarely expressed affection, strode over and embraced Reaver hard enough to knock the air from his lungs. As he pulled away, he was replaced by Ares, and then Reseph, and finally, Limos.
“Best present ever,” she murmured against his chest. “Thank you. I’m so glad it was you. Of everyone in the universe, we got you for a dad.”
Reaver’s eyes burned and his throat clogged solid with emotion. So this…this was Christmas.
He’d never celebrated before, but now he knew he didn’t want to miss another one.
And if he could help it, he never would.