The tree was lit in an array of different colors: purple, green, blue, red, yellow, et cetera. Underneath it were
nicely wrapped presents, arranged on top of a snow-white tree skirt.
"Get the little one. That one." Victoria pointed to a small wrapped package at the front with the name
"Sheridan" scrawled across a tiny greeting card.
Sheridan smiled and rolled her eyes, bending in front of the tree. It was a family tradition. They'd open one present
on Christmas Eve, and the rest on Christmas day.
Gathered in her livingroom were Julian, his wife, Ivy, Alistair, Victoria, her Uncle Jameson, her cousin, Exquisite,
and her Aunt Lilian.
"Hmmm. From 'Mommy'." Sheridan threw a grin at her mother before standing up and sauntering over to the
couch. Exquisite, who was only ten, went racing to the tree. Sheridan waited for her to choose a present, and then
the rest of the family, who all waited their turns before snatching a present -- mostly, they chose the largest
"All right. Who wants to go first?" Victoria was now sitting in a chair next to the Christmas tree, a
large wrapped present on her lap.
"Me! Me first!" That was Exquisite.
Uncle Jameson shook his head and patted his daughter's hair. "Better let her, or she'll be pouting the rest
of the night."
Victoria nodded at Exquisite, who immediately tore open a rectangular box to reveal a barbie doll inside. Her eyes
lit up with joy and she hugged it to her chest.
"Well? What do you say?" Aunt Lilian prodded.
Exquisite grinned at Sheridan. "Thanks!"
Sheridan smiled in return and said, "You're welcome."
Eventually, everyone had their presents unwrapped: Ties, clothing, computer games, et cetera. Sheridan's mother
had given her a necklace that she'd been looking at in the window of a store, sterling silver with a sapphire heart
hanging from it. Engraved on the back of the pendant was "To my little girl; love, Mommy."
Afterwards, they lazed on the sofa and chairs, listening to "Santa Baby" playing in the background, and
conversed. Uncle Jameson, who was a singer, had managed to sell his next album. After congratulations from the
entire family, they went on to discuss what had been in the newspaper five days before.
A pain sliced through Sheridan's heart at the mention of Luis's name. God, she didn't need this on Christmas Eve.
Excusing herself, she left the house to stand out on the porch. Snowflakes swirled around streetlamps in the dark
night. Stars twinkled like fireflies in the sky. The moon was round and full. She could hear O Holy Night blaring from
the radio set in the house.
Hugging herself, she released a sigh and gazed upwards. Why hadn't Luis contacted her since that day that they'd
She shook the thoughts away. Dammit, she would notthink about him. Not today. He'd constantly been on her mind; this was supposed
to be a night for joy, not melancholy.
A dark figure was traipsing up the street. She studied the person, her heart pounding. God, she was hopeless. Rolling
her eyes, she turned away to step into the house. It couldn't be Luis; she'd lost any hope of him contacting her.
She put her hand on the knob, but was interrupted by a familiar voice.
For one instance, she thought that the voice belonged to none other than Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald.
But, when she turned, she faced Darren Hanson. He was smiling as he approached her, a gift tucked under his arm.
"I thought I'd stop by and say Merry Christmas," he explained when he stopped in front of her. He held
out the gift. "I hope you have the best Christmas, Sheridan. You deserve it." He leaned forward and brushed
a kiss against her cheek.
Sheridan nodded, thinking that she'd been a fool to think it was Luis. Accepting the gift, she said, "Thank
you. I have something inside for you, if you'll come with me."
Darren looked surprised. "Oh. Thank you." He smiled at her.
They stepped into the house. Sheridan approached the tree and plucked a small wrapped gift from underneath it,
handing it to Darren.
"Thank you," he said again with a bright smile. "I'll just save this for Christmas. Okay?"
Sheridan nodded with a grin. She'd gotten him a copy of her first published book. He'd always said he wanted to
read it, but he'd never had the chance to get it. She hoped he liked it.
"I have to be going. My parents will have a fit if I don't arrive for the Christmas party they're throwing."
He gave her a friendly hug. "See you later, Sheridan."
Sheridan followed him to the door. "All right. Goodbye, Darren."
She pulled open the door -- and gasped in surprise. Standing on the porch, looking hopelessly miserable, was Luis.
He turned when he heard her open the door.
His eyes flickered towards Darren before falling on her face.
"Could we talk?" he whispered.
Victoria had gotten up to see what was going on. All eyes were trained on the figure in the doorway.
"Ummm, I'll be going," Darren said nervously, brushing past Sheridan. He turned and gave her a reassuring
smile before disappearing into the night.
Victoria grabbed Sheridan's arm.
"You stay away from my daughter," she hissed at Luis. Sheridan had told her mother everything. She almost
regretted it now.
"No, Mom," Sheridan interrupted, pulling her arm from her mother's grasp. "It'll be all right. This
had to happen someday...right?" She gave a half-hearted smile and stepped towards the door. "I'll be
Victoria gave Luis a threatening glare. "You touch her and I'll make sure you regret the day you were born."
Sheridan held up a hand in warning. "Enough, Mom."
"Fine. I'll be seeing you soon, Sheridan." She nodded at her daughter. Sheridan closed the door and stepped
into the night.
"So I guess you told her everything," Luis said quietly. They sat down on the stone steps together.
"Why wouldn't I?" Sheridan replied bitterly. She turned her gaze on Luis. "Look, I don't know--I...
Who do you think you are?" Suddenly, all the anger and hurt she'd been feeling came back full force. She jumped
to her feet. "You screw me and then leave! That was all I ever was to you, wasn't it? A good screw."
Luis shook his head rapidly, rising to his feet. "No, Sheridan. You're sorely mistaken if you think that.
Just let me explain--"
"Let you explain? Explain what, Luis?" Sheridan's eyes filled with tears. "Why you...you made love
to me and then ran out immediately afterwards? Why you haven't contacted me in five days? And now you suddenly
show up on what's supposed to be a day for celebration -- the night before Christmas -- and you...you expect me
to just be happy? God -- how could I have ever trusted you?" She shook her head, tears sliding down her cheeks.
"How could I have?"
Luis stepped forward, reaching out to touch her cheek. Sheridan slapped his hand away.
"Don't cry, Sheridan," he whispered, a painful expression on his face. "I was afraid. That's all
"Afraid?" Sheridan's tone had softened, but she wasn't any less angry. "Of what?"
"You." Luis lowered his head.
"What?" she asked in confusion.
Luis cleared his throat and looked up at her. "What--what you could make me feel; it scared me."
Suddenly, Sheridan found that her heart was pounding. "What did I make you feel?" She couldn't help asking
the question. She needed to know.
Luis shifted nervously and looked away. "Something that Emily never did. I don't know...I really don't know.
But it's good. You make me feel something good."
Sheridan stepped closer to him. "Then why did you leave me?" she asked in a choked whisper.
"I... Because I'm a damn idiot." He caught her gaze. "You--do you hate me? Sheridan?"
"God, no..." Her voice was just above a whisper. "I could never hate you, Luis."
He nodded slowly and swallowed hard. "I didn't mean to take advantage of you that day. I hope you'll forgive
Sheridan shook her head. "But you didn't, Luis. I wanted you." She touched his shoulder. "You didn't
take advantage of me. Okay?"
Luis gazed at her. "All right. But, Sheridan...if I--" He stopped and released a sigh. Turning away,
he ran his hands through his hair and gazed up at the sky.
Sheridan approached him from behind. "Luis?"
He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. "I can't--just be your friend. Sheridan, I have to have something
more than that."
She blinked in surprise. "What do you mean?"
He turned to face her. For just a moment, he gazed intensely at her, lifting his hand to her cheek. He caressed
her face. Sheridan's eyes fluttered closed.
"I mean that...I don't know how or when or why it happened, but..." He hesitated. Sheridan opened her
"But?" she whispered.
"But I fell in love with you." He backed away and ran his hands through his hair. "It's absurd,
isn't it? But it happened. And--and I understand if you want to cut off all ties right now."
Sheridan shook her head, her expression incredulous. "What--? You what? You love me?"
Luis shrugged and laughed half-heartedly. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
She blinked. "You love me..."
And then she was in his arms, hugging him tight. She almost wondered if this was all a dream. She had, after all,
had many dreams of Luis -- all of them ending the same way: A whispered "I love you" passed between them.
"Oh, God, Luis -- of course I don't want to cut off all ties between us." She pulled back and kissed
him with everything she had in her. When they pulled apart, she whispered, "I love you, too. I have for so
long. I didn't think you'd ever love me." Her eyes were shining with tears.
Luis leaned his forehead against hers. "I do. I love you, Sheridan."
Sheridan smiled, thinking about what she'd wanted for Christmas. Something she'd thought she'd never get.
But she had him now.
"No, no, look..." Sheridan lay down in the snow and started moving her arms outwards, above her head,
and spread her legs apart before closing them again. Then she hopped to her feet.
"See? A snow angel!" She giggled when Luis jumped to his own feet and shook his head.
"That's ridiculous. This is so childish." He chuckled and took her into his arms. "But I'm enjoying
every minute of it."
Sheridan grinned at him. "You're so pathetic, you know that? Can't even make a snow angel..."
She laughed when Luis put on a feigned hurt expression.
"I'm just kidding...you know that." She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. "I think you're
"Oh, yeah, yeah, cover up your insult..."
She started giggling when Luis tickled her, and slapped his hands away. "Stop that. Come on. I have to give
you your present."
She took his hand and led him inside the house. After admitting their love for each other the night before, they'd
spent the night in her room making love for countless hours. The brand new day had arisen, and Sheridan had woken
up in Luis's arms. It had been the most incredible feeling. Like taking a breath of fresh air. She felt like her
life had just started -- her life with Luis.
"What present?" Luis inquired with a grin as they approached the Christmas tree. "I thought I already
got my present," he added, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tighter.
Sheridan smiled up at him. "You're so sweet. But, no, I haven't given you your Christmas present yet."
She giggled and pulled from his arms, plucking a present from under the tree. She handed it to him.
He scrutinized the small box. "Hmmm. What is it?"
"Well open it and find out, silly," Sheridan replied.
Luis lifted an eyebrow, and then unwrapped the box. A bright grin lit up his face.
It was a knight in shining armor.