“A Gifted Christmas”
Bedlam had descended, and it was armed with tinsel, turkey and stuffing.
In the kitchen of the normally calm house that Isabelle Flannery usually called home, Jessica Thomas stood frowning at the gravy she stirred with a wooden spoon. So deep she existed in her contemplation that she hardly noticed her younger brother peering over her shoulder.
Muttering under her breath about viscosity, Jessica grabbed a measuring cup full of water–just a yelp sounded from the dining room. Whirling toward the clamor, she nearly back-handed her brother and the water sloshed in the cup. Luckily, Eric’s reflexes almost matched her own–or he would have been on his way to the emergency room.
“Dammit–” Jessica began.
“Please don’t kill me,” Eric pleaded. “I was just checking on dinner. Do you need any help?”
Jessica pursed her lips together. “Let me guess. Miyori sent you in here.”
Eric shrugged. “I came on my own. You wouldn’t maim family would you?” A growl was Jessica’s response. At this point, who could be sure of anything, especially fratricide?
A crash preceded the hasty emergence of the man in question with three angry females hot on his heels. Narrowing her eyes, Jessica pulled out her cache of super-quick reflexes and did her allies a favor. Within a blink, Miyori lay on the tile, staring dumbfounded at the ceiling.
Samantha Dunne cheered. The windows rattled at the outburst of energy. “Hell fucking yeah, Jess! I knew you were always my favorite cousin.”
Beside her, Gretchen, Jessica’s little sister, pouted. “Hey, I thought I was your favorite cousin.”
“Not since you’ve got that dubstep shit stuck in my head,” Samantha retorted. This time Gretchen only fumed.
Miyori sucked in a breath before rising; his collision with the floor had been rather abrupt and highly uncomfortable. “I’ll have you know that I hardly deserve such treatment. The reports of my so-called shenanigans are highly exaggerated.”
Melanie Smith crossed her arms over her chest and cocked a hip to the side. “So says the asshole who decides to turn the tinsel into a snake while we’re putting it on the tree. I really oughta kick you right now and let you bleed!”
“I thought Mo was going to have to do CPR on poor Aurora,” Gretchen added.
Faced with the discomfort of his beloved princess, Eric punched Miyori in the shoulder. “What the hell, man?”
Miyori put his hands up in a gesture of defense. “It wasn’t poisonous. I don’t know what they’re so mad about. It wouldn’t have bitten anyone.”
“That’s hardly the point,” Gretchen said. “I don’t think it would sit well with anyone if their Christmas decorations metamorphosed into a slithery, hissing thing.”
“Real talk,” Samantha agreed.
A timer dinged; Jessica disentangled herself from the scene momentarily to extract the ham from the oven. Miyori stepped forward–only to meet with Jessica’s fist. Unlike Eric’s blow, this one had him staggering a few steps.
“What?” Jessica blinked innocently, all the while balancing the pan in one hand. “It was just a little punch.”
Glowering, Miyori’s mouth twitched; a split second later, the meat blinked up at the bemused cook and let out a distinctive oink.
Jessica’s eyes widened. She thrust the squealing dinner into her little sister’s arms and dived for the already moving Illusionist.
“What is going on in here?” Isabelle asked, looking every bit the part of the Mother with her long black curls unbound framing an expression of exasperation.
Melanie shook her head. “Miyori turned the tinsel into a snake, we chased him in here, and he turned the ham from cooked to spooked. Now Jessica’s pissed at him.”
As Samantha cheered on the beatdown and Gretchen chewed on her lip with the pan in her arms (the animated ham squirming all the while), Isabelle sighed. Why had she volunteered to host Christmas dinner at her house this year? Dios Mio!
Isabelle rubbed her temples, a tension headache beginning to form. “I think we may need to start dinner before someone dies.”
“No worries,” Melanie retorted. “If she kills him we can hide him in her wine cellar. No one will even notice he’s gone until after New Year’s. He won’t even be sober until then.”
“No one is committing murder under my roof–especially not while I have one of Gracia’s finest sitting with a Guinness in my living room.” Stride full of purpose, Isabelle picked up the measuring up full of water and dashed it on the dueling duo.
When they peered at her incredulously, fighting instincts to attack, she turned on her best hostess grin. “Time for dinner!”
Awed, Gretchen muttered, “Now why didn’t we think of that?”