The gold lights glistening against the white wood siding with the lace curtains in Iris’s windows as a backdrop turned Iris’s house into a magical winter wonderland. It was nothing like his mother’s home, where things were placed uniformly. Yet Jordan’s mother had never expressed appreciation as intense as when Iris covered her mouth with her hand, and gasped out, “It is absolutely beautiful.”
Jordan shuffled his feet and tightened his cheeks to hold in the fullness of his grin. Decorating Iris’s porch took a total of fifteen minutes of them working together. Yet, the joy he gained from being with her would last him throughout the next day. There was something about being around Iris that settled him. She didn’t care about what Jordan could do for her. Iris simply enjoyed Jordan’s company. He enjoyed being with her too.
Jordan could imagine what it would be like being married to her. She’d have little projects going all the time. He’d complain that she was working him too hard and they’d negotiate. He’d get his favorite cookies or first dibs on deciding what program they’d watch. The vision came so quickly to Jordan; it took his breath away.
“You okay?” Iris touched his shoulder. Her eyes were full of concern. The sincerity of her expression touched him.
Iris had no idea of how special she was. Any guy that was smart enough to hold on to her would be lucky. What if it could be me? Jordan shuddered and stared at Iris. Had she heard his thoughts?
Jordan swallowed before speaking to conceal the wanting in his voice. “Yeah, I caught a chill. That cocoa will hit the spot.” The reminder of their negotiation help pushed aside her concern and the thoughts that warmed yet disturbed Jordan. He and Iris had been friends for years. What could have changed?
Hue busied himself and folded the ladder and stored it in the shed behind Iris’s house, while she went inside and made the cocoa. The scent of chocolate and cinnamon and something toasty greeted Jordan when he walked in the door. Iris grinned “I had the batter made, so I threw some caramel coconut macaroons in the oven.”
The entire scene was cozy, perfect. It was what guys hoped for when they imagined marriage. With the possibility of Jordan’s wish coming true, a wave of overwhelm had Jordan floating in an ocean of uncertainty. What was he supposed to say? What if she rejected him, or worse, used the wrongs of the past to declare him unworthy? Jordan cleared his throat. “I know I promised to play with you, but I just remembered that I told Rod, I’d stop by his house to follow-up on some changes to his phone lines.”
Iris’s face fell into a subtle frown. Had she picked up on his discomfort? Jordan didn’t want to disappoint Iris, but he had to clear his head. Something was going on, and he needed to get a grip on it.
“I understand,” Iris said, but her eyes flickered confusion.
“How about this.” Jordon could offer a safer consolation. “I can do cocoa and cookies today. We’ll do game night another time. At my place. We can invite a couple of other people to join us.”
“Okay, I suppose it would be fun with more people.” Iris’s lips formed a hopeful curve. “You promise?” The last part was a demand that Jordan had no problem with fulfilling. “I promise.”
Iris turned to open the oven. “I pack these so you can take some with you to work.”
“That would be nice,” Jordan pulled out a chair to pass the time at Iris’s wooden kitchen table. On one of the other chairs, she had a see-through bin. Jordan had to look twice because he could have sworn the paper looked exactly like the note delivered to Amber when she got a free lunch.
The oven door screeched shut, and Iris chattered as she poured the cocoa in the cups. Although Jordan couldn’t process what she was saying. His mind raced to a time Rod mentioned the possibility of Iris as the Holiday Kisses Angel.
Jordan spoke with confidence when he replied, “Iris couldn’t pull off keeping that big of a secret from me,” and dismissed the rumor.
He switched from the memory and rejoined the conversation with Iris. She was telling him about a class she was having with community kids. Jordan tightened against the dizzying feeling that came with a stark awareness. Things were about to change between Iris and him.