*26 Days Later*

Presents were unwrapped, there was paper everywhere. Dad loved his video games and Mom loved her socks and Cam was so excited about the iPod that he almost dropped it onto Patches who was not amused.

Now everyone had gone their separate ways; Cam was in the other room playing with a remote control car on the hardwood floor and Mom and Dad were in the kitchen making preparations for the Christmas dinner for when the whole family arrived. As for me, I was lying on the couch, a pink throw blanket tucked snugly around me and I was trying to read one of the new books I had gotten.

I was just getting into it when there was a knock on the door. I figured it was one of my aunts who liked to arrive early but it seemed that I was the only one who heard it so I was obligated to answer it.

I flung the door open, not expecting who I was going to find on the other side. The frigid air assaulted me and I gasped, from both surprise and cold. "Derek, what are you doing here?"

"Nice to see you too," he grinned at me because he knew I don't like surprises. "Nice pajama's by the way. They're pretty cute."

I glanced down and realized that I was wearing my Santa Claus and elf fleece pj's that I've worn since I was like fourteen. I blushed. "Come on, it's freezing out here." I grabbed his hand and jerked him inside and slammed the door shut in effort to keep the heat where it should be.

Derek followed me into the living room and we plopped onto the couch. "So what are you doing here?" I asked again. "I thought that we didn't have any plans until tomorrow."

"We don't, but I wanted to surprise you," he chuckled at my expression. "And I know that you don't like surprises but I figured you might like this one."

I raised an eyebrow, confused. "But the roads must be awful. You drove all the way from Seattle?"

He shrugged. "I wanted to give you something and didn't want to wait."

Before I could question what he meant, he sat up and pulled something out of his back pocket. He handed me a little velvet red box wrapped in a gold ribbon. I glanced at him skeptically.

"What? Nothing's going to jump out at you."

"Knowing you, something might."

"Just open it."

So I did.

Nestled inside was a ring with a large sapphire in the middle with smaller white sapphires around it and sterling silver swirled around the center. It twinkled in the glow of the Christmas tree lights and was absolutely the prettiest ring I had ever seen in my life.

"It's beautiful." I looked up him and returned his smile. Then a thought dawned on me. "Did you get this when we were Black Friday shopping?"

He nodded. "It caught my eye when we walked past it and I snuck off while you were in line and bought it."

"I love it. Thank you." I set it on the table behind me so that I could pull him close. "I love you." He smiled then leaned down and kissed me. When we pulled away, I buried my face in his sweater and we swayed to the quiet Christmas music coming from the kitchen.

"Merry Christmas, Cora."