Dressed warmly, with hot chocolate in hand, they jostled their way to the car, laughing, teasing and eventually hopped inside.  Jim was pleased.  He hadn’t seen this light-hearted side of Nathan in too long.  Emma was indeed a blessing in disguise.  If she weren’t already taken, he might have tried for her attention himself.  However, he could see they were well on their way to falling for each other.

Jim pulled into the Woodland Park Zoo and dropped them at the entrance before heading to park the Benz before hustling to catch up.

Nathan had given him a ticket beforehand, so he produced the ticket to hotfoot it inside the grounds to follow discreetly behind them as they stopped and gazed at the beautiful display.  They were in no rush and sauntered leisurely among other families enjoying, laughing, joking, equally enthralled with the evening display.

Nathan was instantly alert and taking Emma in his arms, discreetly signally Jim who raced on in behind Emma.  A man watching, no staring at Emma from the sidelines had been following as if sizing the situation up obviously intent on making a move on Emma.  Immediately Jim was on him, and following a brief but worthwhile scuffle as Jim saw it, the man was felled and Jim hauled him off to the sidelines where he discreetly examined the man’s pockets and removed a knife.  He’d have a sizeable headache when he woke, but he was out of commission for the time being.  Jim opened the wallet and took note of his name and address.

Jim continued following ever watchful in case there was another accomplice they hadn’t spotted.  So far no one else seemed interested on the pair who had continued with the crowd.

Afterward, Nathan suggested they drive around for a bit, looking at the lights in a few neighborhoods closest to his home.  “Nathan, how did you know, it’s something my family does every year.  We all pile in the car, well cars now, and head out.” Emma laughed delightedly, “I’ve never grown out of it.  It’s something we’ve done since we were little and I still enjoy seeing the creativity each family manages to devise.”

Nathan pulled her close and wrapped an arm around her shoulders as Emma snuggled in.  In truth, they were driving to ensure they didn’t have any unwanted company following.  After forty-five minutes, they returned to Nathan’s and upon entering, Nathan handed their outer gear off and as they entered the living room, Emma stopped to enjoy the tree they’d decorated together.  Nathan spun her around and began dancing around the room holding her close.

“You are always full of surprises.  I had no idea you were such a romantic.”

“Still waters. . .”  Nathan smiled.

“I’m enjoying learning about those still waters.  Your obviously a complicated man, but you have some simple truths as well.  You’re romantic, you are fabulous company, very entertaining, you love to laugh nearly as much as I do, you are a gracious shopper . . .”

Nathan grinned, “Please go on, I’m enjoying the exhalation. . .”

That of course, led to a light-hearted wrestling match which ended in a delightful frolic around the living room.  When Nathan finally captured Emma, he asked, “Interested in a late night snack?”

“Surely.  In front of the fire?”

“Absolutely.”

Page 64                                                                                         Page 62

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