Chapter 1 – Kingsley
Five years later
“Babe! Can you come here?” I called. I sat on the carpet in our bedroom double checking our luggage for our flight tonight.
“One second.” Following Ethan’s voice from the living room was our white cat, who sauntered into the bedroom like he owned it. Which, to be fair, wasn’t far off from the truth. With how much we spoiled him, he was basically the king in our home.
Dove paused a couple feet away to give me a stare before proceeding to slip past me and into my open suitcase. He turned in circles, messing up the folded clothes I’d just organized in neat stacks, until he found the perfect spot to become a loaf.
I chuckled and gave him a scratch behind the ear. “You can’t come with us, buddy. Auntie Valerie is gonna take great care of you while we’re gone,” I said as I let him rub his scent all over my hand.
Dove had almost doubled in size in the past year. He was just a kitten when we found him wandering alone in the parking lot of our local grocery store. He had come up to Ethan’s outstretched hand without any hesitation. And as Ethan hugged the shivering kitten to his chest and peered at me with his doe eyes, I knew we were adopting the little guy.
He was caked in so much dirt that we hadn’t known that his fur was white until after we struggled to get him bathed and cleaned. When all the caked up dirt and mud was washed off and all that was left was the fluffy white fur, Ethan thought Dove was the perfect name for him, and I completely agreed. Plus, I’d always thought it was funny when a pet was named after another animal.
“Did you finish checking the bags? Elliott’s on his way to pick us up,” Ethan said as he walked into the room, his phone still pressed against his ear.
“Tell him we’ll be ready,” I said as I stood and walked to his side. I waited for him to relay the message and hang up before cuffing my hands around his neck as his arms wrapped around my waist.
“Do you wanna explain that?” I asked, tilting my head to his suitcase, which was full of textbooks. There might have been an article of clothing or two scattered in there, but definitely not enough for our entire trip.
He glanced to where I gestured before looking back up at me with a shy smile that wasn’t as commonly seen anymore these days. “I want to get ahead for next semester,” he said with a shrug.
After graduating from college, we both wanted to move back home. We missed being close to our family and friends.
I got a job at the youth sport center that I used to volunteer at during high school, and Ethan applied to the veterinary program at the local university. While it wasn’t the best school in the country, it still had good credentials, and Ethan fretted over being rejected.
I knew there was no way that would happen. Ethan had graduated with top grades, and along with his extracurricular activities from pre-vet clubs he’d joined to the internships at the zoo and the animal hospital his last couple years of college, there was no way he wouldn’t be accepted to any school he applied to.
We celebrated his acceptance with a huge dinner that included both our families, who even till this day, still teased Ethan and I about our relationship. It was all in good-nature, and they expressed more than once how much they liked seeing us together.
Which worked to my benefit when I visited the Wang house this past weekend to get his parents’ approval to ask for Ethan’s hand in marriage. Every single day in the last five years had been filled with laughter and love, and while there were times we fought, we always made it back in each other’s arms by the end of the night.
This was what I imagined my forever to look like. We didn’t live the most glamorous life, but it was more perfect than any I could have dreamed of before Ethan and I had gotten together.
We talked about adopting children one day, and while it was still too early for that, it was something I could clearly see happening with him. Proposing with the ring I’d hidden at the bottom of my suitcase was the first step towards realizing that future.
Marriage wasn’t the be-all end-all, but I couldn’t imagine anything better than calling Ethan my fiancé, then one day husband, as our kids and hoard of pets—I had no doubt we’d adopting plenty more, especially when I’d never been able to say no to the doe eyes Ethan gave me—ran around us.
It was a beautiful dream, and one that wouldn’t burn me with its flames even if I tried to grasp it with my hands.
But if I wanted this dream to come true, I first needed to get this adorable man to the airport so that we didn’t miss our flight.
I squeezed his nape and pressed a gentle kiss on the tip of his nose. He closed his eyes and leaned up for a kiss, but his lips only made contact with my palm as I blocked him. His eyes popped open and his cute pout came into view.
Laughing, I gave him a quick peck on his cheek before pulling away. Ethan’s older brother would be here to pick us up soon so there was no time to fool around. “Babe, we’re only going for six days. Plus, when will you even have time to study?”
Any other time, I would have been more than happy to hang around him while he pored over his textbooks, but I had grand plans for this weekend that didn’t involve studying.
His brows furrowed as he considered my words, relaxing when he worked out whatever he was thinking about in his head. “True,” he said as he wiggled out of my arms to sort through the textbooks in his suitcase. He took out all but one, which honestly, was less than I figured he would insist on taking.
He dumped the remaining textbooks on the fabric armchair in the corner of the room that I usually kept my not-dirty-but-not-clean clothes on. Ethan would be caught dead wearing clothes that were in between washes. It didn’t matter if said clothes were only worn for a few hours to the store. He claimed they still had outside germs on them and insisted they needed washing. I obviously didn’t have the same sentiments.
He disappeared into our shared walk-in closet and came back out with a few more winter pieces. Dumping them on the bed, I helped him fold and pack them away.
“I think you packed too much clothes,” I teased as I glanced at the still half empty bag.
He gave me an eye roll before bending down to zip up his suitcase. “We should save some room to bring home souvenirs for everyone. Besides, I can just wear your clothes if I don’t have enough,” he said as he stood and wrapped his arms back around my waist.
My hand went to his nape again as my thumbs stroked his cheeks. “You won’t hear me complaining about that,” I said with a smirk. Even after living together for over five years, I still loved seeing him in my clothes. This was exactly why I had made sure to pack some of my tighter fitting clothes.
Ethan’s wide smile probably matched mine as he stared up at me. His eyes sparkling with the same joy that I had the pleasure of seeing on him every day. I made sure to keep the promise that I had made to Elliott all those years ago of making him happy.
What I didn’t know was that this happiness was infectious. Every smile that Ethan shot me was usually mirrored with my own, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I swallowed his smile with a kiss that contained all the love that we had nurtured together over the years. He tasted familiar, a sweetness that I would always hunger for.
Just as I slipped my tongue between his lips for a deeper taste, a shout coming from our front door had me freezing. “Everybody better be clothed and decent! I’m coming in!”
We both groaned as Elliott’s voice came closer, and a moment later, he peeked his head into our bedroom. “Ugh, you two are too sweet, but no time for that now. You gotta go or you’re gonna miss your flight,” he said before turning away, leaving as fast as he had come.
We chuckled at his quick departure. Elliott had always been anal about being on time, and he had only gotten worse as an adult. He had thankfully chosen to stay in our hometown after graduating college, but what surprised all of us was his decision to work in the corporate world instead of pursuing something related to sports like we all thought he would.
As his best friend, I’d thought it was more than weird and had even asked him if he was abducted and secretly replaced. He only laughed at that. All in all, he seemed genuinely happy with where life had taken him and that was the most important thing.
“Let’s get Dove off your clothes and head out.” Ethan ducked under my arms and went for my suitcase, but I grabbed his wrist before he could get any further. I didn’t want him accidentally seeing the ring box hidden beneath my piles of clothes.
He turned and raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing?” His eyes flicked to where I had grabbed his hand before shooting me a curious glance.
“Nothing! I’ll do it myself, babe. You know how Elliott gets when he’s kept waiting. Why don’t you get your suitcase in the car, and I’ll meet you out there in a sec?”
He studied my face for a couple seconds. I could feel the cold sweat sliding down my back as I tried to keep my expression neutral. I’d never been good at keeping secrets from him, and he’d only become a master at reading me after spending everyday together.
“Okayyy.” He dragged out the word, clearly not buying into any of my bullshit. Fortunately for me, he didn’t push. He grabbed my hand in his and brought it up to kiss the top. It was a move that I had often done early in our relationship, and it warmed my heart to see that he had picked it up.
“I’ll meet you out there,” he said. He picked up his suitcase, grabbed his phone from where it lay on the bed, and gave Dove a goodbye pat before leaving the room.
The naughty cat was still “loaf-ing” on top of my clothes, his eyes probably filled with judgment as he watched his silly humans loom over him. Never mind the fact that he almost risked blowing the secret proposal I had planned.
He let out a meow when I scooped him off my clothes and held him on his back like a baby. This was one of his favorite positions to be held, made even more evident as he immediately snuggled into the nook of my arm.
“Bad kitty,” I whispered, booping his nose with my pointer finger. His soft paws immediately went up to playfully swat at my hand. With a kiss on his head, I let him jump out of his arms. I bent to close my suitcase, not even bothering to rearrange the messed up clothes, and rolled it behind me out of the room.
I said one last bye to Dove, exited the house, and locked the front door behind me. My sister, Valerie, would come by later to stay with him while we were gone so that I could focus entirely on this vacation.
Our families were waiting for the good news, and I was more than excited to deliver. Today was the start of something magical with my boyfriend, who would hopefully soon become my fiancé.
Chapter 2 – Ethan
The flight to Wintertown went smoothly, unlike the first time we had arrived there for an emergency landing all those years ago. Instead of fear and uncertainty of being stranded in the middle of nowhere, this time, it came with a familiarity that came with visiting the small town every winter.
Some years, we would visit for a long weekend with our families, and others, it would just be Kingsley and me coming back to reminisce and catch up with the friends we’d made during our stays.
Austin was waiting for us in his taxi outside of the small airport. He gave us both hugs before helping us put our suitcases in the trunk and resuming to his spot in the driver’s seat.
He hadn’t changed much in the last five years. He was still slim, despite his huge appetite and distaste for exercise—something we had learned from years of keeping in contact.
“It’s good to see you again. Thanks for picking us up,” Kingsley said beside me. He grabbed my hand in his as soon as we got into the back seats. “Where’s Jim?”
“He had to take care of something at the farm, but said he’d meet us for dinner later.” Austin’s voice was filled with warmth as he spoke of his roommate and best friend. I glanced at Kingsley, our eyes locking as we gave each other knowing smiles.
The rest of the drive was spent catching up on the latest news in Wintertown, and before we knew it, we were pulling up to the brightly lit B&B where it had all started.
Entering the doors of Fated Encounters B&B felt like coming back to a second home. We made arrangements with the owners to stay in room nine again, and they were very accommodating in making that happen.
The room hadn’t changed either from its color palette of warm browns to the small sofa that couldn’t serve to be anything more than decoration. As I was examining the familiar room, Kingsley wrapped his arms around my waist and placed a soft kiss at the base of my neck.
“We still have a couple hours before dinner. What do you want to do till then?” Kingsley’s voice had deepened in the last few years, but it currently carried a huskiness that wasn’t the norm.
I grinned and turned in his embrace to wrap my arms around his neck. “I know exactly how I want to spend that time. Take me to bed, my prince.”
He shot a grin back at me before smashing our lips together. His hand landed under my butt as I wrapped my legs around his waist and let him carry me to bed and claim me.
Time flew by like it always did when we visited Wintertown, and in the blink of an eye, it was already Sunday. We spent the day visiting the farm Jim worked at. They held their yearly ice sculpture contest, and we slowly browsed through each of the masterpieces. It still awed me at how talented the contestants were.
As we sat huddled together on a bench and drinking the farm’s famous hot chocolate, I wondered if anything could get better than this. The stars twinkled down at us, the skies clear as if blessing the holiday party Wintertown had every Sunday in December. And the man I loved by my side.
“What are you thinking about?” Kingsley took my hand in his as he asked. We had our own pairs of gloves this time, but that didn’t stop us from constantly reaching out to the other. We needed the excuse to hold hands before we officially started dating, but we didn’t now.
“I never imagined that life would bring us here. I thought my silly little childhood crush would eventually fade and that’ll be the end of it.”
Kingsley grinned, then brought my hand up to kiss the back of it. “Well, I can’t have that, now can I? I bank on you having a crush on me for the rest of our lives.”
“You’re so silly.” I laughed as I bumped him with my shoulder. “We should head back to the main square. The party will probably start soon.”
Kingsley stood and took both our empty cups to throw away before offering me his hand. I took it and stuffed our combined hands into his coat pocket for extra warmth. He shot me another smile and squeezed my hand as we made our way to where there were taxis waiting at the front of the barn.
The main square was lively when we arrived. Booths that usually lined the edge of the square were replaced with only one row of food and drink vendors, leaving the rest of the space empty for dancing. They had a makeshift stage set up on one side of the square, with the band still setting up for the night.
What made the entire scene magical was the gigantic Christmas tree that sat in the middle of the square, illuminating the entire place with the dozens of sparkly lights and twinkling decorations. And of course, the Doves of Destiny sitting on top of the tree, watching over all of us.
Jim had to handle closing up the farm for the night and would meet us here later, but Austin was already waiting for us under the tree.
It didn’t take long for the band to start playing and people to gather around the square to dance. The three of us joined in, chatting and laughing as we swayed with the music. Not a single one of us had gotten any better at dancing in these past five years.
Austin disappeared a while later to find Jim, leaving Kingsley and me by the large tree, rocking against each other as the music slowed. The emcee had announced the start of the last dance, and everyone around us quieted down as couples took over the square.
“You know, I never thought life would bring us here either. But I’m so thankful it did,” Kingsley whispered against my ear. I lifted my head from against his chest to smile up at him. His blue eyes sparkled as they gazed down at me. The warmth and affection I’d gotten accustomed to seeing from him still caused my body to burst out in happy tingles.
He moved his right hand to cuff my nape. The move had become a comforting reassurance, a safety net that he was here with me. He leaned down and rested our foreheads together, my eyes closing as his warmth flowed to me.
“And now I can’t imagine my life without you. I love you so much, Ethan Wang. You captured my heart the first time you laid your brown eyes on me.” The band singer proclaiming their love was the perfect soundtrack to Kingsley’s grumbly voice full of emotion, which only served in melting my heart even more.
“I love you too, Kingsley Sharp.” My smile was wide even as my eyes stung from the emotion of the moment. It still felt like a dream that I was lucky enough to call this amazing person my boyfriend, my partner in life.
He pulled away, the brisk air quickly cooling the spot his hand had occupied. My head leaned forward, hoping to chase the warmth of his lips. But when I was only met with air, I slowly peeled my eyelids open, expecting to find Kingsley standing in front of me.
He was on one knee, holding a box up in front of him. My hands went to cover my mouth at the sight of the gleaming white ring with a row of diamonds in the middle. My gaze flickered to his, and he nodded.
My hand lowered to pinch my thigh, needing confirmation that this wasn’t an illusion my brain had conjured. The pain that stung my leg was all the proof I needed that this was as real as I hoped it was.
Kingsley laughed and took my hand in his free one while still holding the ring box up. “I thought it was only fitting to ask for your future in the place where it all started. So what do you say? Will you make me the happiest man alive and marry me?”
I laughed, the words sounding vaguely familiar. “I thought I already made you the happiest man alive when I agreed to be your boyfriend,” I said. It wasn’t often that the tables would turn and I’d get to tease him.
He smirked, unfazed by my words. “Fine. The happiest person to have ever existed. Come on, babe. The suspense is killing me.”
“Of course it’s a yes! I don’t want to spend my life with anyone else but you.” My cheeks hurt with how wide my smile was.
Kingsley slipped the ring onto my finger, the smooth band slotting perfectly in place. I tugged him to stand and hugged him close as I claimed the kiss I craved for earlier. He tasted like rich spice and home.
A roar of applause had me pulling apart only to find the other partygoers surrounding us in congratulations. Jim and Austin were standing by a photographer, who was snapping pictures of the whole event.
I clung tighter to Kingsley and laughed. The joy that flowed through my body left me no space to feel embarrassed about all the attention. “I guess we’ll be on Wintertown’s local news again,” I said.
“At this rate, we’ve become local celebrities,” Kingsley replied with his own chuckle. “I’ll need to ask for a copy of the picture before we leave.”
That sent me down another fit of giggles as I buried myself in Kingsley’s arms. I glanced up to the starry sky, the bright lights shining down and capturing this moment that I would never forget.
My eye caught the Doves placed on the top of the tree. I didn’t know if it was the trick of the light or delusions from all the happiness I was experiencing, but I swore the beady black eyes of the tree toppers shone with a light that I’d never seen in it before. It gleamed for an instant before returning to a dull black.
If it were all in my head or not, it didn’t matter. Some might think it was silly to believe in a legend that was probably made up to increase tourist traffic, but I had experienced the magic that destiny had brought us first-handedly.
My focus turned to Kingsley again. Our eyes connected, and his smile warmed me from inside out.
I had met my fate, and I was going to hold onto it with all my heart.
Thank you so much for reading The Holiday Disaster. I really hoped you enjoy this novel and was able to experience the holiday magic I felt while writing this.
While Ethan and Kingsley’s story is finished, the Doves of Destiny series isn’t over yet. The next book in the series is The Holiday Boyfriend, and it features Jim and Austin.