Bree looked at the package Conner was holding. She crossed her arms, thinking she should have gotten him something bigger, better, but all she'd managed was a plaid scarf and some candy from Dollar General.
"What?" His stared at her as if he didn't know where this was going. "Are you mad?"
"No." She pressed her lips tight as she took it and put it under the Christmas tree. She didn't want to imagine what it could be. "Its just..you didn't have too."
"I did." He brought out more presents from behind his back. In fact, a sack of them. Something for Shan's Mom and her Uncle Rowdy. "You, guys have been great to me. I dunno if..if could have stayed sane, if it weren't for your family."
Bree only nodded as if she understood.
"You know, it hasn't always been like this." She knew she should have told him about her Mom and her Dad long before now, but now it felt too late.
He held her hand after he put the other packages under the tree.
"But they are really cool." Conner's smile was open. "It isn't even Christmas this year, at my house. My parents are always fuming over lawyers and the cost and my brother, who is home now, but he's pretty much under house arrest. I guess I'm the bad one now, but I just couldn't take it."
"Do you, two talk?" Bree wanted to know.
"Not really." Conner shook his head, no.
Bree didn't want to dwell on it. Besides, she was happy Conner was here even if she felt a little guilty that her mom wasn't on her mind more. Although, Bree and Shan's mom had had a lot of long talks about her Christmas' past with her Mom while they were making cookies and candy. It helped. And she was even happier that Conner was here.
It was all fine and dandy to go out with her new friends, but it wouldn't be Christmas until Halie got home and Alec was in her arms.
"I feel just awful about this." She supposed she'd bailed, last minute, but it just wasn't right to let Alec spend Christmas all alone with his grandmother.
Yes, she knew she'd promised to spend Christmas with Dustin. She wanted that, too. But to be off with Archie and all his mates was just too much. They were on a mission to hit all 24 pubs in the area, like some sort of new tradition. But the fifth one, she knew she could never keep up. They would be passed out if they ever made it to the 24th one. This drinking game was not that fun.
"Its fine." Dustin assured her. As it was, he hadn't drank at any of the location other than a hard cider early on. So they'd drove home and got to her mother's cottage a little before midnight.
Naturally, the tree was well lit and Alec was even up.
"Mum!" Halie snapped. She took her little one from her before she realized there was even company.
But he didn't look like a stranger. There was something so familiar about him.
"Actually, he was looking for you, Dusty." Halie's mother introduced the fit bloke. His name was Felix.
He shook Dustin's hand, who of course looked more like a bump on a log, while the fellow winked a smile.
"I believe we're related." Felix's smile was open. Dustin looked as if he might fall over. Felix said he'd been by Dustin's house for a visit with his mum. "She thought I might find you here. She couldn't remember your mobile."
That didn't sound right to Halie, but evidently, Dustin did have a brother from London.