Chris rode up to Sugarloaf in Emily's parents' car because they wanted to hook together their Game Boys and have a Tetris marathon. They were going skiing for Christmas, renting a condo with Em's family. Aerosmith blared from the tape deck, the speakers in the front turned down low. "Jeez," Chris laughed, his thumbs pounding the miniature computer. "You are so cheating."
Huddled against her side of the seat, Emily snorted. "You are so lying."
"Am not," Chris said.
Driving, Michael glanced at his wife. "This," he said, "is why we never had another kid."
Melanie smiled and looked out the windshield at the taillights of the Harte's car. "Do you think they're listening to Dvorak and eating Brie?"
"No," Chris said, glancing up. "If Kate's getting her way, they're probably singing 'One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.' " He turned back to the small screen. "Hey," he said. "That's not fair."
"You shouldn't have answered my parents," Emily said sweetly. "I win."
Chris flushed. "What's the point of playing if you're going to do that?"
"It was a fair game!"
"Fair my butt," Chris shouted.
"Hey," Melanie and Michael said simultaneously.
"Sorry," Chris sulked. Emily folded her arms across her chest, smiling faintly. Chris turned toward the window and scowled. So what if Emily could beat him at Tetris? It was a stupid game, anyway, for total geeks. He'd show her this weekend. He could ski circles around her.
That made him feel better. Charitably, he held out the Game Boy. "Want to play another round?"
Emily stuck her nose up in the air and shifted so that she wouldn't have to see him.
"God," Chris said. "Now what."
"You owe me an apology," Emily said.
She turned hot, dark eyes on him. "You said I cheat. I don't cheat."
"Fine, you don't cheat. Let's play."
"I don't think so," Emily huffed. "You have to say it like you mean it."
Chris narrowed his eyes, and threw down the Game Boy like a gauntlet. Fuck the Tetris game, fuck the apology, fuck Emily. He didn't know why he'd let her talk him into riding in her car, anyway. She could be a lot of fun, sure. Then again, sometimes he wanted to kill her.
Chris's mom was so annoyed that his father had decided to go hunting with a man he'd met on the chair lift, of all places, that she did not speak to him all Christmas Eve morning, while he was getting ready to leave.
"But he brought his beagle," his father tried to explain. What was the chance of meeting a guy on the chair lift who had carried along spare shotguns and his hunting dog, just for a foray through the Maine woods? And was it his father's fault that when Chris heard about it, he asked if he could go?
"What are we looking for?" Chris asked, all but bouncing in the passenger seat. "Moose?"
"Not the right season," his father said. "Probably pheasant."
But when they met Hank Myers at the end of an unmarked road in the middle of nowhere, the man said it was a good day for rabbit.
Hank was happy to meet Chris, and handed him a 12-gauge shotgun. The three men tramped into the heavy cover of the woods, with Hank's dog, Lucy, sniffing out the brush piles. They moved in the way of hunters, soft and alert, silence chaining their movements as if they were marionettes.
Chris kept his eyes trained on the snow, trying to see the strange five-footed pattern of a hare print, the final indentation made by a dragging tail. It was blinding, white on white. After an hour his feet were freezing; his nose was running; and he couldn't feel his earlobes where they stuck out from beneath his hat. Even skiing with Em wasn't as boring at this.
Who ever heard of eating hare stew on Christmas Eve, anyway?
Suddenly Lucy pounced. Beneath a tangle of branches Chris saw a flat-footed white hare with a black patch eye take off at a dead run.
Chris immediately raised his gun and sighted out the hare, which was moving so goddamned fast he didn't see how anyone ever shot one of the things. Lucy was still on its scent, but quite a ways behind. Chris suddenly felt a hand pushing down the barrel of the shotgun. Hank Myers smiled at him. "Don't need to do that," he said. "Thing about hares is, they run in a circle. Lucy won't catch up, but that's okay. She'll run the hare back to where it started."
Sure enough, as Chris waited, the dog's barks grew softer and more distant ... then started coming toward them again. Out of nowhere the snowshoe hare burst back into the perimeter of his vision, scrambling for the pile of brush where it had been flushed out.
Chris raised his shotgun, sighted the flying hare, and pulled the trigger.
The recoil jerked him backward; he felt his father's hand steady his shoulder. "You got him!" Hank Myers crowed, and Lucy leaped over a stump to sniff at the catch, her tail wagging wide as a flag.
Hank stomped toward the kill, grinning. "Hell of a shot," he said. "Blew it clean apart." He lifted the animal by its ears and held it out to Chris. "Not much left of him, but that's neither here nor there."
Chris had killed deer; he would have enjoyed hunting moose or elk or bear. But he took one look at the hare and felt sick. He did not know if it was the contrast of the white snow with the bright blood, or the small stuffed-toy body of the hare itself, or the fact that this was the first time he'd preyed on something smaller and more defenseless than himself-but he turned to his side and threw up.
He heard his father swear under his breath. Chris wiped his mouth on his jacket and lifted his head. "Sorry," he said, tasting his own disgust.
Hank Myers spat in the snow and glanced at James. "Thought you said he hunted with you regularly."
James nodded, his mouth a tight line. "He does."
Chris did not look at his father. He knew he would see the veiled mix of anger and embarrassment that came when a situation turned out in any way differently from what James had expected it to be. "I'll clean it," he said, holding out his hands for the hare, trying to save face.
Hank started to give him the animal, and then realized Chris was wearing his ski parka. "How about you and me trade coats?" he said, huffing in the cold as he shrugged out of his hunting jacket. Chris quickly slipped into the other man's coat, then lifted the hare and slid it into the rubber pouch in the back of the jacket. He could still feel the hare's body heat.
He walked beside his father in silence, afraid of saying anything and afraid of not saying anything at all, thinking of the hare that had circled home, expecting safety.
Gus SLID HER HAND beneath the waist of her husband's boxers. "Not a creature was stirring," she whispered. "Not even a mouse." She rolled on top of him, her hand working between his legs. "Seems I found a creature after all." James grinned, breaking apart her kiss. He did not understand his good fortune, but Gus had given up her anger by the time he and Chris had returned home from hunting. Which was a good thing, given how abysmal an experience it had been. He felt Gus's fingers squeeze his testicles. "Now," she murmured, "is not a good time to laugh at me."
"I wasn't laughing. I was just thinking."
Gus raised a brow. "About what?"
James laughed. "Santa Claus coming," he said.
Gus snickered and sat up, unbuttoning her nightgown in a slow, sweet striptease. "What do you think," she said, "about unwrapping one of your presents tonight?"
"That depends," James said. "Is it a big one?"
"Say yes, buster, and it's the only present you're getting," Gus warned, tossing her nightgown off the bed.
James pulled her on top of him, running his hands over her back and buttocks. "How about that," he murmured. "It's just my size."
"Good," Gus gasped, as his fingers moved between her legs. "Because I wouldn't know where to return it."
James felt her legs clench around his hips and her body open for him. They rolled on the bed so that James was above her, locked their hands palm to palm. He eased inside her and pressed his mouth hard against her collarbone, afraid of what he might say or shout when he lost himself.
When it was over, Gus dissolved beneath him, her breath labored and her skin damp. James gathered her close, tucked her head beneath his. "I think," he said, "I must have been very good this year."
He felt Gus whisper a kiss on his chest. "You were," she murmured.
"You WON'T BELIEVE THIS," Michael said, "but I heard hoofbeats on the roof." Melanie paused in the act of setting her glasses on the nightstand. "You've got to be kidding."
"I'm not," Michael insisted. "While you were in the shower."
"As in reindeer."
She laughed out loud. "I suppose Santa's hiding in the closet."
Michael scowled. "I'm serious. Wait-listen to that. What does it sound like to you?"
Melanie tipped her head, hearing what indeed sounded like the scrape and pound of something on a solid surface. Her eye shot toward the ceiling, and then she frowned and turned toward the wall that the headboard rested against. She pressed her ear against the Sheetrock. "You hear Gus and James," she announced.
Melanie nodded, and smacked the headboard against the wall, so that Michael would understand. "Reindeer, my foot."
Michael grinned. "Gus and James?" he said.
Melanie flipped back the covers and got into bed. "Who else would be in there?"
"I know. But James?"
Melanie shut off the lamp beside the bed. She crossed her arms over her chest, her ears now straining for the next thump and cry on the other side of the wall. "What's the matter with James?"
"Oh, I don't know. Isn't it easier for you to imagine Gus doing that, rather than James?"
Melanie frowned. "I don't usually think about either of them doing it." She raised her eyebrows. "Do you?"
Michael blushed. "Well, sure. It's crossed my mind once or twice."
"Such lofty pursuits."
"Oh, come on," Michael laughed. "I bet they've thought about us." In one swift move, he rolled toward her. "We could give them something to listen to," he suggested.
Melanie was horrified. "Absolutely not!"
They both settled back on their respective pillows. Through the thin wall came a low, sweet keen. Michael laughed and turned onto his side. Long after he'd fallen asleep, Melanie found herself still listening to her neighbors' lovemaking, trying to imagine those moans rolling from her own throat.
Chris COULD REMEMBER Christmas Eves when it was impossible to sleep, thinking of the race car under the tree, the train set, the new bike. It was a good feeling, insomnia fueled by excitement. Not at all what he was feeling now.
Every time he closed his eyes, he saw the dead hare.
Chris thought of what his father sometimes said when he was haunted by a really bad day at the hospital: What he needed was a good, stiff drink.
He waited until his parents finished playing Santa-pretty stupid, considering that Kate didn't even believe anymore-and then crept downstairs to the condo's kitchen. He knew there was a bottle of Sambuca in the freezer. His father and Emily's had done shots over a couple of good cigars the other night. It was still three quarters full.
Chris found a juice glass in the cabinet and filled it to the brim. He sniffed the alcohol-it reminded him of licorice-and took a sip. Fire ran down his throat, to his belly. Hare, he thought, grinning. What hare?
By the time he'd finished half the glass, he couldn't feel his toes or the tips of his fingers. The kitchen was pleasantly fuzzy. By now the bottle was less than half full, and Chris tipped it on its side to watch the alcohol shimmy and run. Maybe they'll think Santa drank it, he thought. To hell with the cookies and milk. He found this hilarious, suddenly, and started to laugh, and that was when he noticed Emily standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
She was wearing a flannel nightgown that had tiny penguins printed on it; at least he thought they were penguins. "What are you doing?" she asked.
Chris smiled. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
Emily didn't answer, just came closer and sniffed at the bottle of Sambuca. "Eww." She wrinkled her nose, holding it away. "This is disgusting."
"This," Chris corrected, "is heaven." He wondered if Emily had ever had hard liquor. As far as he knew, she hadn't. He entertained the thought of himself as purveyor of evil, and leaned forward, offering her the glass. "Taste it. It's like the candy you get at the movie theatre."
"Good and Plentys?"
Chris nodded. "Just like."
Emily hesitated, but her hand closed over the glass. "I don't know," she said.
Chris knew that was all it would take. Emily's eyes gleamed in the moonlight and her fingers flexed on the juice glass. She tipped it to her lips, upending it before Chris could warn her to taste just a little at a time.
She started coughing violently, her chest hitching and her mouthful of Sambuca sputtering across the kitchen table. Her eyes went wide, and her hands clutched at her throat. "Jesus," Chris said, whacking her on the back.
Finally Emily managed to draw a breath. "Oh, my God," she wheezed. "That stuff..."
". . . is not for your consumption." Chris and Emily both jerked their heads up to find both sets of their parents crowded into the doorway of the kitchen, in various states of undress. James narrowed his eyes and stepped forward. "Would you mind telling me what you're doing?"
Chris never did find out why Emily said what she did that night. In the past, when they'd been caught in various scrapes, they'd always stuck by each other-solidarity was the root of their friendship. But this time, beneath his father's furious glare, Emily buckled. "It was Chris," she said, pointing a shaking finger. "He made me try it."
Dumbfounded, Chris sat back in his chair. "I made you?" he exclaimed. "I made you? 1 held the glass up to your lips and poured it down?"
Emily's mouth silently opened and closed, like a fish's.
"More to the point," his father said, "why are you sitting here drinking alcohol, period?"
Chris started to explain. But when he looked into his father's eyes, he saw that hare again with its stomach blown apart, and the words he wanted to use could not push past the regret lodged in his throat. He shook his head, and that one movement brought him back to the woods with a smoking shotgun in his hand, staring down at the blood in the snow.
He covered his mouth and bolted toward the bathroom, but not before he saw Emily lower her eyes and turn away.
It WAS NOT a Merry Christmas.
Chris spent the morning alone in his room at the condo, sitting on the bed while he heard the strained voices of everyone else downstairs opening presents. The only person who actually seemed to be having a good time was Kate, who'd slept through the whole debacle the night before.
He wondered what they were going to do with his presents. Return them; give them to Goodwill? He doubted he'd ever see them, which truly sucked because he had a pretty good idea that he was getting a pair of new skis he could have used that very day. Chris flopped face down on his bed and tried to convince himself his old skis were fine just the same.
Just after three, his mother came into the room. She was wearing her ski bib and her goggles were looped around her neck. Seeing her, Chris felt a pang of envy. For all he'd been sick of skiing yesterday, he would have given anything to have stayed on the slopes, instead of hunting for that stupid hare.
Gus laid a hand on his arm. "Hi," she said. "Merry Christmas."
"Whatever," Chris said, rolling away from her.
"Your father and I decided that if you want, you can go out skiing for the rest of the day."
"The rest of the day" translated to, like, all of an hour. Chris noticed his mother hadn't mentioned any presents. "Emily's here," she said softly. "She didn't want to ski without you."
As if 1 give a flying fuck, Chris thought, but instead he only snorted. He watched his mother leave the room, and then he noticed Emily cowering in the doorway. "Hi," she said. "How are you doing?"
"Peachy," Chris grumbled.
"You, uh, want to come with me?"
He didn't; he wouldn't have crawled in a lifeboat with her if their ship was sinking. It didn't matter that she had been frightened last night, and sick probably from the one sip she'd taken; it didn't matter that Chris had -never had a chance to tell her why he was drinking in the first place. Emily had become a traitor, and he couldn't forgive that so quickly.
"I went down Black Adder by myself," she said.
At that, Chris looked up. Black Adder was one of the toughest runs Sugarloaf had, full of twists and dropoffs and curves that came out of nowhere. He'd gone down a few times but always slowly, since he had to wait for Emily to get over her fear and ski a little ways before she got terrified again. If Emily had gone down alone, it had probably taken her two hours.
Suddenly something unfurled in the center of Chris's chest. He could get back at Emily for last night, and so easily. She was feeling guilty-that was clear enough-she'd be willing to jump through whatever hoop he asked. He'd take her down a run tougher than Black Adder, one that would have her shaking in her boots by the time she reached the bottom.
Chris let a smile stripe his dark mood. "Well," he said, standing up. "What are we waiting for?"
EMILY SHIVERED LIKE an aspen leaf at the dropoff point of Sugarloafs highest lift, holding her poles in front of her like a barrier between the steep ski run and herself. "Em," Chris yelled impatiently over the wind, "come on."
She bit her lip and pushed off, snowplowing to keep down her speed. But the curve was too sharp and she wound up in a tangle of arms and legs and skis just behind Chris. "That sucked," she breathed.
Chris smiled nastily. "That's the easiest part," he said.
She was seriously considering taking off her skis and walking down the mountain at this point, but she wanted to get back in Chris's good graces. After all, it was her fault that Chris had spent the morning in his room. If Chris was being charitable enough to let her ski with him, then she'd ski upside down, if that's what he wanted.
She watched Chris wind down the hill, his hips rolling from side to side with catlike grace, the tip of his tasseled hat catching in the wind. A natural athlete, he made it look easy. Taking a deep breath, Emily pushed off with her poles. At the very least, she thought, he'll break my fall.
She rounded the first turn with too much speed, so that she overshot Chris, parallel but a few feet below him on the hill, flying at an alarming speed to the edge of the groomed trail. "Cut the corner!" she heard Chris yell, and she almost laughed: Did he really think she had that much control?
One ski, then the other, bumped over the ridge of the trail's edge. She felt thin branches score her cheeks, snow drop from the overhead boughs of pines. She tried to keep her knees together, her feet straight, praying as a cold sweat broke out beneath her arms and down her back. She sensed the air quiver as Chris called her name, and then her ski caught in a furrow of brush, and by the time Emily fell the only thing she felt was relief.
SHE'S LUCKY SHE didn't break her neck.
Could have been a lot worse.
That's got to hurt like hell.
They didn't think Chris could hear them, but he'd managed to catch every word. The paramedics who'd come to the base lodge to transport Emily in an ambulance had no choice but to take Chris with them to the hospital, since he was attached to the stretcher like a leech and her parents had not yet responded to the page. He had remained beside Emily in the ambulance, and even in the ER, and after a while people stopped trying to remove him.
When she'd gone off the trail like that-Jesus, he couldn't even think about it without shaking. He hadn't wanted to leave her, but he'd needed to get help. He flagged someone over, told them to get the ski patrol, and ditched his skis so that he could run to where Emily was lying. Her hat had fallen off, and her hair was spread over the snow. He knew better than to move her, but he picked up her hand, and felt his stomach turn over.
It was his fault. If he hadn't brought Emily on this run, looking to make her miserable, she never would have skiied off the trail.
Emily regained consciousness while the ambulance was swaying toward the hospital. "It hurts," she said, swallowing hard. "How come?" He would not tell her that her leg was broken, her ankle twisted in an impossible direction, like a silly cartoon character's. He would not tell her how far she'd rolled before she came to a stop; how scrapes and bruises changed her face. "You fell," he said simply. "You're going to be okay."
Emily's eyes filled with tears. "I'm scared," she whispered, and his throat tightened. "Where's my mom?"
"Coming," he said, "but I'm here now." He leaned closer, awkwardly slipping his arms around her. He let his eyes drift shut and decided in that instant that for the rest of Emily's life, he would be her guardian angel.
Emily's BROKEN leg took priority over Chris's transgression with Sambuca. Melanie and Gus insisted that they ought to go back to Bainbridge, and Michael was leaning toward that too, but in the end Emily convinced them to finish out their vacation. Out of solidarity, everyone stayed in, forgoing skiing for marathon games of Scrabble and Monopoly. By the second day, Emily was tired of being treated like an invalid and she shooed everyone back to the slopes. After some deliberation, even Melanie agreed to go for an hour or so. But Chris refused to leave Emily's side.
"I don't feel like it," he said, and nobody pushed him.
He sat with Em on the couch in front of the fireplace, her leg propped up on the coffee table. They watched the flames and talked, Chris telling her about the hare, Emily confessing her guilt about ratting on him. They joked about getting the Sambuca from the freezer, while their parents were out of the condo. He was reminded of what it had been like when they were little, how he could think his thoughts and they'd wind up in Emily's head.
It was not until the fire crackled loudly, water bursting within wood, that Chris realized he'd fallen asleep. He glanced down and saw that Emily had drifted off, too. She was still sleeping. And somehow she'd wound up tucked under his arm.
She was kind of heavy, and uncomfortable. He felt the damp heat of her cheek through the cotton of his shirt; measured the amazing length of her eyelashes. Her breath smelled like berries.
Just like that, he was hard as a rock. Flushing bright red, he tried to adjust the fly of his jeans without waking Em. But that only made his arm brush against her chest. Her breast.
For God's sake. This was Emily. The same Emily who'd used his high chair when he'd outgrown it; who had helped him dry up slugs with salt; who camped out with him for the first time in his own backyard.
How could a girl he'd known his whole life suddenly be someone he didn't recognize at all?
She stirred, blinking a little and pushing off him when she realized she was draped across his chest.
"Sorry," she said, still close enough for her word to fall onto his lips; so that even as Chris shrugged, he could taste her.
Chris didn't think he'd ever get her alone.
For three days he'd tried to finagle ways for Emily to lean on him, brush against him, touch him.
He wanted to kiss her. And his golden opportunity was vanishing before his eyes.
Their parents were supposed to be going to a New Year's party thrown by Sugarloaf. But Melanie and Michael were reluctant to go, afraid that if Emily needed them they'd be unreachable. The four of them stood in their snazzy black evening clothes, trying to come to a decision.
"I'm thirteen," Emily said. "I don't need a baby-sitter."
"If anything happened," Chris added, "I know how to drive. I could always just take the other car to the base lodge."
Gus and James whirled around. "That," James said dryly, "is something we didn't need to know." He turned to Michael. "Take your keys," he said.
Melanie, sitting beside Emily on the couch, felt her forehead. "I broke my leg," Emily groaned. "I don't have the flu."
Gus touched Melanie's shoulder. "What do you think?"
Melanie shrugged. "What would you do?"
"Go, I guess. There's nothing else you can do to make her comfortable."
Melanie stood up, smoothing Emily's hair back from her forehead. Emily scowled and fussed it back into position. "All right. But I may come back before midnight." Melanie smirked at Gus. "And you're a liar, you know. If that was Kate you wouldn't go farther than three feet away."
"You're right," Gus said amiably. "But didn't I sound convincing?" She turned to Chris. "You'll get Kate to bed on time?"
Kate, upstairs, wailed. "Mo-o-om," she cried. "Can't I stay up till midnight?"
"Sure," Gus yelled back. She glanced at Chris, speaking more softly. "When she conks out on the couch in a half hour, carry her upstairs." Then she kissed her son and waved to Emily. "Be good," she said, and with the others, left Chris and Emily to their own devices.
Chris's hands TWITCHED in his lap. They ached, waiting to touch Emily, who was all of ten inches away. He curled his fingers into fists, hoping they wouldn't betray him by crawling over toward Emily's thigh, skimming her hip.
"Chris," Emily whispered. "I think Kate's out." She nodded to her left, where Kate was curled asleep. "Maybe you should carry her up."
Was she trying to say she wanted to be alone with him, too? Chris tried to catch Em's eye, to see what she really meant, but she was scratching the itchy skin around the top of her cast. He scooped his sister into his arms and hauled her to her bedroom. He tucked her in, then closed the bedroom door.
He made sure to sit closer to Emily this time, stretching his arm along the back of the couch. "Can I get you something? A drink? Popcorn?"
Emily shook her head. "I'm okay," she said. She took the remote control and flipped through the channels.
Chris let his thumb graze the edge of Emily's sleeve. When she didn't jump, he added another finger. And another. Until his whole hand was brushing her shoulder.
He couldn't look, just couldn't. But he felt Emily go absolutely still, felt the temperature of her skin increase by faint degrees; and for the first time that night he began to relax.
In THE FLURRY of the quandary whether or not to leave Emily alone, everyone had neglected to notice that the party invitation said "Bring Your Own Booze." James volunteered to run out and get a bottle of champagne, Gus reminding him to return before midnight.
He did not bother to check his watch until after pulling into the parking lot of the third closed supermarket. It's 11:26, he thought, unaware that the Timex's batteries had died just moments before. I'll run back to die condo and get a bottle of wine.
But it was actually two minutes before midnight.
CHRIS REMEMBERED ONCE WHEN he'd gotten a butterfly to land in his palm. He'd kept absolutely still, certain that if he even thought a weird thought the beautiful creature would flutter away. It was like that, now, with Emily. She hadn't said a thing and neither had he, but for the past forty-two minutes he'd had his arm around her as if it was a perfectly normal thing for him to do.
On the television, people in Times Square were going nuts. There were men with purple hair and women dressed like Marie Antoinette, guys his age bouncing tiny babies who should have been asleep. The ball began to slip down, tugged by the crowd's chants, and Chris felt Emily shift the tiniest bit toward him.
And then it was 1994. Emily rubbed her thumb over the mute button on the remote. There was no shouting in the living room of the condo, no fanfare. Chris was certain he could hear his own pulse. "Happy New Year," he whispered, and he bent his head toward hers.
She turned in the same direction, and they bumped noses hard, but then she laughed and it was all right because this was Em. Her mouth was the softest thing he'd ever felt, and he pulled on her jaw to make it open a little, and his tongue ran over the neat line of her teeth.
Immediately she pulled back, and so did Chris. From the corner of his eye, he could see a million people in Times Square, jumping up and down and laughing. "What are you thinking?" he whispered.
Emily turned bright red. "I'm thinking . . . wow," she said.
Chris smiled against her neck. "Me too," he said, searching for her again.
WHEN JAMES ENTERED THE CONDO, the television was blaring with celebration. Then suddenly, it fell quiet. He stopped in the kitchen, wrapping his hand about the throat of a champagne bottle. Setting it on the kitchen table, he continued toward the living room.
The first thing he saw was the television, which mutely and definitively announced that it was already 1994. The second thing he saw was Chris and Emily on the couch, kissing.
Stunned at first, James couldn't move, couldn't speak. They were kids, for God's sake. The incident with the Sambuca was still raw in his mind, and he could not believe that his son would be stupid enough to do, in quick succession, two things he shouldn't.
Then he realized Chris and Emily were doing exactly what everyone had always hoped they would.
He backed away without disturbing them, leaving the condo and getting into the car. By the time he reached the base lodge he was still smiling. Gus spotted him, her anger riding bright on her cheeks, confetti graying her hair. "You're late," she said.
Grinning, James told her and the Golds what he'd stumbled across. Me-lanie and Gus laughed, delighted; Michael shook his head. "You're sure," he said, "they were just kissing?" The four lifted their water glasses, toasting 1994. And none of them noticed that James had forgotten the champagne.