Bonus Scene: Mistletoe and Mischief, a bonus scene for Rules and Roses
First Christmases are fun. The first Christmas Frankie and all four boys were together, they were in ninth grade and they thought they were smooth. Really, they were just adorable.
“Rules are rules, Curtis,” Jake informed me as he stood on the other side of the pool house door.
I rolled my eyes. Coop’s mom had dropped us off on her way to work. This Christmas was a weird one for Coop and he stood right behind me, waiting for me to go inside. The fact Jake had thrown open the door as soon as Jeremy showed us outside and pointed to the pool house hadn’t been lost on me.
Nor the fact he wore a smirk.
In the last three months, he and Coop had both shot up taller than me and then some. For a while there, we’d been neck and neck. But even Bubba had already begun to leave me behind. Fine, I could handle being the short one, but…
“What are you up to?” I peered at Jake and his grin widened.
Right. I didn’t believe that for a second. His birthday had been the day before. Today, the five of us were celebrating Christmas before everyone else had to go hang out with their families. I would probably end up at Coop’s for Christmas dinner. That or Mom and I would be eating fried chicken and watching terrible Christmas movies together. That could be fun.
Coop gave me a gentle nudge, but I locked my legs. It was warm this year. In fact, outside of like three days where the temps hit the forties for five minutes, we’d been warm all December. I was in shorts and so were the guys. They were up to something.
“Come on, Frankie,” Bubba called from deeper in the pool house. “We’ve been waiting for you two to get here.”
“We’re not getting any younger,” Archie threw in when I still hesitated. Behind me, Coop bounced from one foot to the other. Right. They were all up to something. I didn’t know Archie as well as these guys but we’d spent a lot of time together the last few months.
This was all suspicious.
Arms folded, I shook my head. “You know what, I’m gonna stay out here.” Cause if it was a water gun war or a water balloon waiting to hit me, they were gonna have to catch me first.
“Come on,” Jake said, arms dropping. “It’s us.”
“Hard way it is,” Coop announced. Not like his agitation wouldn’t give him away and I squealed as he tried to pick me up. That just had “throw me in the pool” written all over it. Jake tried to help and I eeled out from between them and the two collided in the door frame.
And then I saw it.
The mistletoe hung right inside the door.
Laughter exploded out of me.
“Oh hell no,” Jake said as he gave Coop a shove. But bless Coop, he made kissy noises and smacked his lips against Jake’s cheek in a noisy raspberry that set off my giggles. “Get off.”
Despite his complaints, Jake was grinning and Coop snickering as they broke apart.
“Sneaky,” I informed them. “And rude.”
“Rude?” That got me twin looks of wtf. “Why rude?” Coop asked.
Archie popped his head around the door as if he hadn’t been hiding back there the whole time. “Well, if we asked you nicely, will you stand under the mistletoe?”
I considered it and him.
“Tell you what… You guys stand under the mistletoe.”
They all looked at each other, I could almost hear the mental debate. I was also dying to know who bet who what.
“You know what,” Archie announced. “You only live once.” He stepped right into the doorway and then got shoved out by Coop who took his place. Only Jake wasn’t going for it, so he moved Coop. I saw it coming and lost it laughing when Bubba gave Jake a solid shove out of the way himself and then he was in the door.
The next ten minutes involved a lot of scuffling and wrestling. It was worse than the last time we played Twister, but it was funny as hell. When Jake had Bubba in a headlock and Coop parked himself in the door and Archie almost managed to make it in there, I walked over. They were too busy shoving each other to grab me.
One by one, I gave them each a kiss on the cheek.
That stopped all arguments.
“I win,” I said, then scooted right between their legs to crawl inside. One perk of everyone getting suddenly taller than me.
Their laughter chased after me, but none of the guys complained as we all piled into the living room of the pool house. The big television was already on and a game paused. The guys might have been waiting for us, but they were already entertaining themselves. There was a tree in the corner and it had a few presents under it.
Jeremy came out with sweet treats, hot cocoa, and more. We cranked the air conditioning down until we needed the fireplace on and we played games. More than a few, cause they’d stashed mistletoe just about everywhere.
Archie snuck a kiss when I came out of the bathroom. Jake got me when I switched chairs. Coop pounced when I grabbed something from the tree. Bubba bided his time, but he snagged me when we decided to go jump in the pool.
They were bad.
But I had to admit, my sides ached from laughing and if I had to kiss anyone under the mistletoe, at least it was them.
Though I did spot the sprig right before it was time to go home and I gave Jeremy a kiss on his cheek. Course, I learned my lesson. From that year forward, watch out for the mistletoe traps.