The Sweetest Gift by Scarlett Cole




1





Elliott Dawson checked the scar at the base of his neck in the mirror hanging in the recording studio bathroom in the basement of his home. It was two weeks to the day since the doctor Georgia, Lennon’s fiancée, had helped him find had put it there.

Everything about his prognosis was good, or so everybody assured him. A T1b Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma was as good a thyroid cancer diagnosis as you could get. It was small, didn’t require the removal of his whole thyroid, and he’d been in and out of the hospital the same day.

No radiation.

No chemo.

No losing his hair that Kendalee loved so much.

It was a simple surgery, one that protected the movement and sensations in his voice box.

And the survival rate of his prognosis was so fucking close to one hundred percent it made it one of the most beatable cancers.

But the diagnosis had rattled him. He was no longer the twenty-year-old with the naivety to believe he would last forever. Instead, he had gotten a punch to the side of his face that the new life he’d built for himself was built on sand.

He wandered to the recording studio, the corridor decorated with misshaped Christmas trees made from the babies’ handprints. The memory of eight-month-old Noah and nearly two-year-old Holly covered from head-to-toe in green paint brought a smile to his face. Sixteen-year-old Daniel had stoically helped but had refused to look at Elliott as he’d taken photographs to capture the event.

Elliott picked up his acoustic guitar. Perching himself on the stool, and the guitar on his knee, he strummed it mindlessly, finally joining in with the vocals.

“Would you know my name,” he sang, easing into Eric Clapton’s, Tears in Heaven.

The song had more meaning now than it ever had.

His annual physical wasn’t meant to be a big deal. He ate well and took the time to stay in great shape. So, when the doctor had spent several minutes poking and prodding in his neck, he hadn’t been overly concerned. It was when the doctor began to talk about referrals and further tests he’d begun to sweat. On the way home from the appointment, he’d done the one thing he knew he shouldn’t. He’d looked up ‘lumps in necks’ online. By the time he’d gotten home, he’d lost the doctor’s words of reassurance that there was no need to worry.

He’d shared his fears with Kendalee, holding her while he talked. But that night, after he’d made love to Kendalee with a need that bordered on frenzied, he’d dreamt that he’d died, and Holly and Noah didn’t remember him. He’d woken up with a shout, rousing Kendalee whose eyes had been filled with concern. In a way he could never thank her enough for, she’d soothed his rattles and sat by his side, reassuring him that God couldn’t be so cruel as to make him lose his family all over again. Or be lost to them.

While he’d always respected the strength of her faith, it had never quite brushed off on him. He’d built his church on the back of friendship, brotherhood, and the love of a good woman.

He always held her while they slept, but that night, she’d held him.

Still, the lyrics of the song continued to hit him in a way they never had before.

The door down to the basement clicked open and shut, and from the creak of the stairs, he knew it was Kendalee.

Fuck, he loved that woman.

More than he could express in words or music.

He stopped playing as she came into view carrying a laundry basket filled with kids’ clothes. Her long strawberry blond hair was pulled up in an elastic. She wore a black sweater with three silver Christmas trees on the front, black jeans, and was barefoot. Fresh-faced without make-up, she looked so fucking beautiful that his heart missed a beat.

When she saw him looking her way through the glass walls of the studio, she popped her head around the door.

“You need a reason to believe in miracles?” she said.

He rested his hands over his guitar. “Sure, hit me up.”

“Noah and Holly are both asleep. At the same time.” She turned and showed him the two baby monitors, one hanging off each pocket of her jeans. “Listen…”

Silence filled the room. Elliott placed his guitar in its stand and walked toward her. “Is Daniel home?” he asked.

Kendalee shook her head. “Nope. He went over to Kyle’s house to catch up before we leave for Miami tomorrow. Which is why I’m using this precious time to get the laundry done so I can pack. I’m so looking forward to Reid and Lia’s wedding. It’s so romantic. Christmas Day.”