Christmas at Long Beach

The Education of Caroline – Bonus chapter

Seb&Caro(B-UpPic)“For fuck’s sake, Caro! How many people have you invited?”

I’m staring at a fucking Himalaya of food covering our coffee table, our kitchen table, and across every surface in the kitchen.

She’s slumped on our couch, looking so fucking sexy, hair all mussed up.

She glares at me, but I can see the amusement in her eyes, too.

“Huh! We both know you’ll eat at least half of this, Hunter.” Which is true. “You know that I’ve only invited the girls, Atash and his family.” Which is also true. “I feel like I’ve been standing in the kitchen all day – my feet are killing me.”

I have married a fucking wonderful cook. Hell, she’s just a fucking wonderful woman, period.

“Want me to rub your feet, baby?”

“Oh, please, Sebastian.”

“Scoot over.”

I sit on the couch and pull off her sneakers and socks. She moans softly as I massage her feet – fuck, that sound turns me on. And she has beautiful feet: kinda reminds me of some of those fucking boring statues she dragged me to see when we were in Italy.

She closes her eyes, then says, sleepily:

“That’s not my foot, Sebastian.”

“I know, baby. What can I say, if a job’s worth doing…”

I lie on the couch and press myself into her. I can’t help it: I get hard just looking at her, but touching her. Yeah… definitely her fault.

“Ugh, you’re all sweaty, Sebastian!”

True. I’ve been out for a run. Well, more of a slow, fucking limping jog along the boardwalk. I hate being so fucking feeble, but it’s getting better. The doc says I’ll always have a limp – well, what the fuck does he know?

It’s already dark outside, but the boardwalk is buzzing, everyone drinking, having a good time, celebrating Christmas Eve.

I’m beginning to feel part of it, like this really is my home. But the truth is, home could be anywhere, as long as I’m with Caro. I am one lucky bastard. Even with a bullet hole through my damn shoulder and a chunk of muscle missing from my right thigh.

She pushes me off.

“Hold that thought, Hunter. I’m going for a shower.”

She slides out from underneath me and heads for the bathroom. I wait until I can hear the water running and then I follow. Although I may have just taken a slight strategic detour to taste some of that amazing fucking food along the way.

I peel off my sweatshirt and T-shirt in one go and somewhere between the living room and the bathroom, I kick off my sneakers and socks. I know she’ll be mad at me for that later, as I leave a trail of clothes through the house, but I fucking love it when she chews me out: the way her dark eyes flash, and her nostrils give that little twitch. My sweatpants and briefs make it as far as the bathroom door before I lose them. She keeps reminding me we have elderly neighbors and thin curtains. Whatever.

I slide into the shower behind her and she gives a little gasp.

Her hair is all lathered up so I run my hands through it, massaging her scalp, and she gives a little groan of pleasure. Yep, definitely feeling that in my dick.

Then I take the shower gel and wash her all over, sliding my hands over her gorgeous, soft skin; over her fantastic ass; and, my favorite, her beautiful breasts.

I bend down to kiss her and the water from the shower pours over us both, but I don’t need the warmth of the water – I’m fucking on fire just touching her.

I’d like to crouch down to taste her delicious, wet pussy, but the truth is, it’s fucking agony stretching out my thigh muscles like that. The thought pisses me off. Whatever. There’s other stuff I want to do. A lot of other stuff.

“Sebastian, I’m slipping!”

I pick her up around her waist and carry her out into the bathroom, sitting her on the edge of the tub.

Yeah, kneeling – that’ll work!

I fall to the floor in front of her and spread her knees out wide. She gasps as I go down on her and that sound alone is enough to make me come. Hold it in, Hunter, you fucking lightweight.

I work her some with my tongue and some with my finger, but then she comes suddenly and unexpectedly. Jeez, that was quick?!

“Fuck, Caro! You okay, baby?”

I look up at her and I love that hot, abandoned look. Her hair is hanging down her back, almost to her waist, and those beautiful breasts are rising and falling rapidly with her very fast breathing.

She nods but doesn’t seem capable of speaking, and that makes me smile. I pull her up and half-carry her to the bedroom.

She sprawls out on her back and then holds up her arms and wiggles her fingers at me. That means she wants me to lie down with her. I fucking love that we have this unspoken language between us. I’ve done a lot of shit with a lot of women, but I’ve never had this level of intimacy with any of them. Only Caro. It’s only ever been Caro.

I lie down and kiss her throat, feeling her hot, sweet skin next to mine, as she stretches out like a cat, arching her back and smiling.

“You want to go from behind, Sebastian?” she says, looking up at me, with that wicked gleam in her eye that really fucking turns me on.

“No, baby; I want to come from behind.”

She slaps my chest but rolls onto her front, and lifts her ass in the air.

“Come and get it, big boy!”

I can’t help laughing out loud.

“What films have you been watching, Caro? Come and get it, big boy?

She smiles over her shoulder at me.

“I made that one up. Original, huh?”

“Yeah, baby. It turns me on.”

She smirks.

“Sebastian: according to you, you get turned on when I ask you to do the dishes!”

“I know, baby; I think it’s the hot water and foam – gets me thinking stuff.”

“I’ve noticed,” she says, drily. “Now am I going to have to wave my ass in the air forever, or are you going to do something about it?”

I’m too much of a fucking gentleman to keep her waiting any longer.

“You want it hard or soft, baby?”

“Both.”

Yeah, I can do that.

I slide myself into her gently, feeling that fucking amazing slight resistance that turns into hot, sweet flesh closing all around me.

“Fuck, Caro!”

She pushes back into me.

Fuck, if she does that again, there ain’t gonna be much chance of ‘soft’.

I slide all the way out, then push into her again, rolling my hips so I can feel her all around me, massaging her inside.

I manage one more slow action before I feel her quiver again and that tips me over the fucking edge. I grip her hips and start pounding into her; the headboard is banging so hard, I think it’s going to go through the fucking wall. Again, I’m surprised when she comes really quickly: normally we have better timing than that. Not that I care, because feeling her clenching around me just brings me on faster. Fuck, that woman can milk me!

I wonder, briefly, if it’s possible to run out of cum. Yeah, well, not so far.

She clenches around me again and I spill into her, pressing her body into the mattress. I pull out carefully and roll onto my back, breathing hard.

Fuck, that felt good!

I didn’t know Christmas Eve could be so much fun – it never has been before; although some of the Christmases I spent with Ches, or Shirley and Mitch were pretty good. Nothing like this, though, obviously.

And I fucking love the fact that we’ve given up condoms. No matter what anyone says, the sensation just isn’t the same. And as for being spontaneous, forget that. I mean, have you ever tried to have shower sex when you’re using condoms? Yeah, well, see what I mean?

But more than that, I love that Caro has given up taking the Pill. It’s like there are no barriers between us. I know she’s worried about being an older mom, but she’ll be so fucking amazing at it. Hell, she’s so fucking patient with me, and I know I’ve given her a really shitty time since I got back from Afghan. But things feel like they’re really on track now.

And she’s promised she’ll give up the war reporting stuff. I know I should feel guilty about that, but I just can’t. I’m relieved that she’s not going to put herself in danger like that anymore. And after what happened to Liz Ashton, I’d fucking burn Caro’s passport and chain her to the bed before I let her get anywhere near an airplane.

But she’s had another offer, one I’m much happier about. She wrote a piece about us biking through Italy. I didn’t even know she’d done it, but one day she came in with this travel magazine and a photograph of me next to my Kawasaki ZZ-R1400 somewhere above Amalfi. That was a great bike. Might have to get another of those.

Turns out the travel mag people have offered her a couple of features, including some motorcycle rides in the US. I’m definitely up for that. But they’re talking about Spain, too. Yeah, I’ll carry her bags on that job; yes, ma’am!

I’m still not sure what I want to do, but sorting out Atash’s immigration shit has been really interesting. Caro thinks I could make a good attorney but I’m not sure I’d have the patience for that. I’d have to do a degree then a Master’s degree. And even if I could take all that studying, which would be enough dry words to choke a camel, I’d probably end up mouthing off to the judge and getting thrown in jail for contempt of court or some shit. I’ve had some work doing translating but until I get my reading of Arabic and Persian up to speed, it’ll remain limited. Guess I’m just kinda looking around.

But one thing that does interest me is doing fitness training with people who have disabilities. I’ve worked with some great therapists who helped me get my shit together – and some fucking useless ones who shouldn’t be let near a real live human being. I’d always thought I might do something along the lines of a personal trainer – I can’t imagine being stuck in some rabbit hutch of an office all day – but this kind of appeals. At least I’d know what the fuck I’m talking about.

Alice got me a pass to use the NYU cardio room and weight room. One day, there was this British woman doing one of those motivational talks. I was going to skip it but I heard her say that she’d broken her back paragliding and the doctors told her she probably wouldn’t walk again. So she told them all to shove it, ignored all medical advice and, three months later, took her first steps. Now she runs those ultra long-distance marathons*.

I’m not interested in that, but I really like the idea that the doctors didn’t know everything. They’ve told me I’ll always have a limp and I’ll never get my full fitness back. Well, fuck that. They don’t know me. Caro told me she doesn’t care if I’ve got a limp, so long as I haven’t got a limp dick. No way, baby! No chance of that with her. Fuck! She’s so sexy and she really doesn’t know it.

Shit! I can’t keep my mind off sex for two fucking minutes.

Focus, Hunter!

I also heard that the Wounded Warriors Project takes vets on surfing vacations. Although I’m not sure about getting involved with anything military again… being on the outside now. But I’ll find out about that – maybe I could teach or something. Not that I’ve been back on a board since… but next year, definitely. We’ll both go. That would be cool.

It’s been weird getting used to doing stuff together. I don’t mean all the relationship stuff, because I fucking love that. But all the day-to-day stuff that I never thought about: joint bank accounts, for one. I really love that we have a checking account that says ‘Mr. and Mrs. Hunter’ but I hate using it because most of the money is hers. Well, given to her by Liz Ashton. I’ve got quite a lot of savings from the Marines because I only ever spent my money on drinking and fucking around, oh, and a couple of motorcycles, but it’s not like I ever had a home to pay for before, so it’s a chunk of cash.

I talked to Ches about it and he kinda put things in perspective for me. He said I should stop thinking about my money and her money and try and think about it as our money. I get what he’s saying, but it’s not easy. Caro says we’ll get used to it, and she’s not really wrong about this shit. I guess I’m the one who’s fucked in the head about it.

It was fucking amazing seeing Ches and the kids when Caro and I got married. I really love those little bugs: they’re so fucking honest and open – you know, not afraid to love. I don’t ever remember being like that when I was a kid, but when you’ve had assholes for parents, you learn that if you’re going to cry, you do it alone in your room. I think I stopped crying when I was about six. The only person who can make me cry now is Caro. I think she knows that, but it’s not something we talk about.

She hasn’t mentioned the kids thing since she stopped taking the Pill and I’m not going to push it. I meant what I said: if it happens that would be fucking awesome; but if it doesn’t, our lives are really rich already. I just don’t want her to miss out on anything because of me.

“Hey, where did you go just now, Sebastian?” she says, her eyes all soft and full of love.

The way she looks at me just cracks my heart wide open. It’s like I’ve answered all her questions, just by being alive – I can’t get enough of that look.

“Been right here, baby. Just thinking how cute you’re going to look in your Christmas stockings.”

She twines her hand through mine.

“Sebastian, you do realize that it’s a stocking as in noun: singular – and that you’re supposed to hang it up by the chimney for Santa to fill if you’ve been a good boy – which, of course, you haven’t.”

“Yeah, well, I think we should start a new tradition. Caro in stockings for Christmas. Hey, that alliterates, too.”

“Gosh, you do know some big words, Sebastian,” she says, laughing.

“You taught me everything I know, baby,” and I fasten my teeth around her nipple and tug gently.

She gasps. “Although I never had to teach you that move, did I?”

“Mmm,” I say, in agreement, “guess I’m a natural.”

I tug slightly harder and my right hand moves down to her thighs.

“Again?” she says, in amazement.

“Yeah, it’s Christmas, baby, and I want my presents early.”

–0–

Waking up next to Caro is my favorite fucking thing in the world. I mean, yeah, I fucking love being buried inside her and I love seeing her face when she comes, but the absolute best thing is that moment when I watch her wake up. She’s soft and sweet when she’s asleep and then her eyelids blink open and there’s that wicked gleam in the depths of her dark brown eyes. She stretches out and I feel her arms and legs and body brushing my skin. And I know she’s all mine – forever.

And I really fucking love wake-up sex. Since she told me that trick about her orgasm being more intense if she hasn’t been to the bathroom, I always try and get a quickie in before breakfast. It’s a great way to start the day. She comes like a fucking train – yeah.

“Merry Christmas, Sebastian,” she says softly.

God, I love hearing those words. This is the best fucking Christmas ever – and it’s still only 8am.

“Merry Christmas, Caro. I love you so much, baby.”

She leans over to kiss me, sighing into my mouth. And Christmas Day starts really, really well.

Two hours later, she starts to get up.

“Uh-uh, baby. I’m going to make you breakfast in bed.”

She smiles, that lovely sexy, sleepy smile.

“You can’t cook, Sebastian, despite my best efforts to teach you.”

Wow, that hurts. I’m a really good cook: I can make coffee and… espresso.

“You want coffee in bed, baby?”

She laughs and nods.

My real reason for getting up is to go fetch her present. I found a really cool hiding place at the back of the closet in the spare bedroom. It’s high up and, being such a shrimp, she’d need to stand on a chair to find it. I’m pretty fucking pleased with myself.

And I remember to make the coffee. Yeah, she’s got me tamed – and I fucking love it.

I carry the coffee in two mugs, with the parcel under my left arm. The coffee is in danger of slopping over the sides because I’ve overfilled again, but also because my fucking leg is so damn useless first thing in the morning and my limp is a lot worse. Caro never says anything, but she knows it bothers me.

I put the coffee down and toss her the gift.

“For me?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

She raises her eyebrows and then pulls on the ribbon holding it together. A riot of colorful silk spills out onto the bed. She gazes up, a slow smile spreading across her face.

“Colors, Hunter?”

She’s teasing me: my entire wardrobe consists of white, gray, black, and blue jeans. Oh, and a pair of crazily-bright boardshorts that I bought in Italy.

She holds up one of the pieces of flimsy silk and lace.

“Yes, ma’am. A different color for every day of the week.”

“What color would you like me to wear today?”

“Red: it’s Christmas.”

She laughs. “Ok, I’ll wear the red. Are we saving black for Saturday nights?”

Fuck! That sounds hot.

“Whatever you like, baby.”

She knows I’m lying and she smirks at me.

“Your present is under the bed, Sebastian.”

What? I go to all that trouble to hide her gift properly, and mine is under the fucking bed?!

She laughs at my expression.

“I learned being sneaky from this hot Marine I used to know…”

She stops mid-sentence.

“It’s okay, baby,” I say, quietly.

Her hands are on her mouth. “I didn’t mean it like that, Sebastian.”

And her eyes fill with tears.

“I know, baby. Don’t cry, Caro. It’s okay. I’m not… it’s okay.”

Fuck. Will I ever get used to this? Being a ‘former’ Marine? Sometimes it just hits me like a fucking sledgehammer.

“Where’s that damn present that you’ve so stealthily hidden?”

She smiles, wiping a tear away, and I feel so fucking bad that I made her cry – on Christmas.

I hang off the bed and look underneath.

That is a fucking big present!

I pull it out and even though I know exactly what it is – because she couldn’t exactly hide it – she’s gift-wrapped it in Christmas paper.

“I hope you like it,” she says, nervously.

“Baby, I love it already.”

She’s bought me a surfboard. It’s a thruster in style, pointed at the nose, but I can see that it’s slightly longer and wider than someone of my height and weight would usually have. The extra width and length will give it more buoyancy – it’s going to make it easier for me to surf on, because my balance is still fucked.

But when I unwrap it…

“Do you like it?” she says, chewing on her lip.

The design is clean and simple: a single blue-green stripe trimming the edge, and across the middle are the words, ‘Semper Fidelis’.

“Baby, I love it.”

And I do. I really do.

She looks relieved.

I kiss her, showing her without words how much she means to me.

She kisses me back, weaving her magic around me, and the world disappears.

When she pulls away from me, I’m hard again, and I try to tug her back, but she laughs and shakes her head.

“Our guests will be here in 45 minutes and neither of us are showered, let alone dressed. And unless you want Nic, Alice and Jenna to see you in your shorts – which I suspect they’d be thrilled at, by the way – I think you should put some pants on.

Ah, crap. The three witches.

Okay, they’re not that bad, but they can be really fucking patronizing. Sometimes I just feel like a piece of meat, the way they look at me when they think I’m not watching. I mean, fuck! They’re my wife’s friends. That’s so fucking uncool.

Caro just laughs and reminds me I’m the one who married an older woman with older friends, so I should just suck it up.

The other day we were in a store buying groceries and were lining up to pay. Caro realized she’d forgotten some weird cheese she wanted, so she went off to find it. Then this woman in a pant-suit who was standing behind us in the line starts chatting to me; I’d like to believe she was just being friendly, but then she reached over and laid her hand on my chest in this flirty little move. I mean, she’d just seen me with my wife, for fuck’s sake! What is with these women? Caro thought it was pretty damn funny.

I haven’t told Caro the real reason it pisses me off, because it would upset her; but they’re exactly the kind of women I used to hit on when I was single – tough, career women who told themselves they’d never fall for me – older women who reminded me of Caro.

I push the thought away because this is our first Christmas together and I don’t want to spoil it.

Caro won’t let me shower with her: she knows me too well. So I make the bed while she’s in the bathroom and tidy up the kitchen where I spilt the coffee when I was making it. She never says anything when I clear up, but I know she loves it, because she gets this look on her face like she can’t believe I do stuff around the house. She just doesn’t get that I want to take care of her in whatever way I can. Because I fucking love her.

When I go back into the bedroom, she’s just slipping her cute, black cocktail dress over the red, silk underwear I bought her.

Fuck! I was too late.

“Rain check, Hunter,” she says, in a firm voice.

Ah hell. I’ll just have to walk around with a boner all day, knowing she’s wearing that fucking sexy bra and panties under her dress.

I take a shower – a cold one.

I’m just pulling a T-shirt when a car pulls up outside. I open the front door for Caro’s friends, and she runs out and takes the lion share of the hugging and kissing, thank fuck. I’m relieved when I see Atash’s family walking up the street.

“As-salaamu’ alaykum!”

They come in, looking a little nervous, but soon everyone is sitting on cushions on the floor – because we don’t have enough chairs – and chatting away. Atash and his brother Kambiz are the only ones who speak any English but it all works out pretty well.

And, I’m not going to tell Caro, but Kambiz knows where to get the best hash. I don’t do it very often, but sometimes I just need to chill a bit.

Caro’s food is fucking amazing, which is a real ice-breaker. She’s made Italian dishes: some weird salted cod stuff, baked pasta, capon, fish salad and a whole bunch of stuff I can’t even pronounce, let alone recognize.

Kambiz’s eyes are popping out of his head when he sees the Afghan food that she’s made: Qabli Pulao of rice, raisins and carrot with lamb; Mantu dumplings with minced beef and onions; spicy vegetables; and two chalow rice dishes.

Atash just smiles because he’s had Caro’s cooking before.

I feel so fucking proud of her. She did most of it herself: okay, well, all of it. I tried to help but she nearly fucking lynched me when I managed to let the rice burn dry – um – the first lot of rice. I’ll do my bit later – all the fucking washing up. Thank fuck she insisted on getting paper plates to eat off of.

And during the day, I have a revelation. I fucking love Christmas!

It was a nightmare when I was a kid: lots of drunken arguments, and most of the time I’d try and hide in my room. It got a bit better when Ches and his folks moved to San Diego because they’d invite me over and I’d spend as much time as I could with them. Yeah, those were pretty good. Got to surf on Christmas Day a few times, although Shirley tore a strip off Mitch if he got us back late for the food.

I’ve had four Christmas’s overseas: one in Iraq with my unit, which was kind of okay, although a lot of the guys were going on about missing their families, and I never had anyone to miss; one in Afghanistan, where we got the fuck shelled out of us on Christmas Day, which kind of put a damper on things; and one where it was just the chaplain going on about some shit or other. Last Christmas I was in Switzerland and I spent it screwing some rich German woman in a fucking amazing hotel in Klosters. Something else I haven’t mentioned to Caro. Did some snowboarding, too.

Caro knows I’ve done this shit, but she never asks and she never uses it as a weapon when we’re fighting, which is pretty fucking cool of her.

I could have flown back to spend Christmas with Ches last year, but since I’d fucked Amy’s friend and her friend’s friend, she’s been kinda pissed at me. Not that I cared about that, but I didn’t want to screw things up for Ches, so I stayed away.

Amy was kind of okay with me when Caro and I got married; it really helped that they got on so well. I think Amy was in a state of shock that I was ‘settling down’ as she put it (several times, for fuck’s sake).

But I wasn’t surprised that she got on with Caro: everyone loves Caro. She’s just so positive, energetic, kind, generous, and no one is capable of hating her for it; she’s so beautiful but she’s even lovelier on the inside. She doesn’t see it – but everyone else does. And she’s so fucking sexy.

This Christmas was – perfect. So full of fun and love and laughter. I am a lucky bastard. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such… such happiness.

I’ve got one more gift for her, but I’ll wait until everyone has gone home.

Finally, finally, we get the place to ourselves. Caro made everyone take food home with them so at least we don’t have to wrap up a load of leftovers. Atash’s family were really pleased with that. Probably got enough to last them a few days.

“I’m just glad to see it gone,” says Caro, groaning. “I can’t eat another thing. Never, never show me another mince pie.”

“You did amazing, Caro. Now sit down and let me do the dishes.”

Of course, she doesn’t.

“Don’t be silly, Sebastian. I can tell your leg is hurting you. Just let me take care of it.”

“Damn it, woman!” I half-yell at her. “Aren’t you ever going to take a fucking order?”

“Sure,” she says, laughing at me, “when you tell me to get my ass in your bed.”

I groan. How the hell am I going to be able to concentrate on anything else now?

We clear up together and when we’re done, we collapse onto the couch and she snuggles up on my chest.

“Today was fun,” she sighs. “It felt… right.”

“I know what you mean, baby.”

“Let’s go to bed, Sebastian. I’m beat.”

“Yeah, okay, baby… I’ve got another gift for you first.”

“Does it involve getting naked in a variety of new and interesting positions?”

Fuck! She’s a mind-reader!

“Well, yeah, that, too, but… um… there’s something else. I don’t know… you might think it’s lame.”

She sits up and looks at me.

“Sebastian, I’d never think anything you gave me was lame. Not ever.”

“Yeah, well… you might when you’ve heard it.”

“Heard it?”

“I… um… I… I wrote a song for you, Caro.”

She looks stunned.

“For me?”

I’ve been trying to learn guitar. It’s really fucking hard – my left hand won’t do shit, but it turns out that most songs only have about four chords anyway. I don’t think I’ll ever play a diminished seventh… Fuck it…

And I stand up to go get the guitar before I lose my nerve.

I’ve been practicing while Caro has been out. Sometimes it sounds okay; sometimes it sounds like crap.

I walk back into the living room, but I can’t meet her eyes.

I position my fingers over the strings and take a deep breath. Fuck. My mouth has gone dry.

Here goes.

–0–

Just when I’d seen it all

Just when I’d heard it all

And the road got weary

I heard you call.

I thought I knew it all

I thought I called the shots

No colors in my life

So far to fall.

Filled with sunshine

That’s in your smile

Always loving

I’ll walk that extra mile.

No place to call my home

No woman of my own

But then you rescued me

And your love is the key.

Filled with sunshine

That’s in your smile

Always loving

We’ll go that extra mile.

–0–

The last note dies away and I still can’t look up.

The silence hangs in the air.

She stands up and takes the guitar from me, and lays it carefully on the table. Then she sits on my knee and my arms automatically curl around her waist.

“You made me cry,” she says, softly.

“Oh no, baby. Was it that bad?”

“Idiot!” she sniffs, between her tears. “It was beautiful. Oh, Sebastian, it was just wonderful. I love it. And I love you. So much, tesoro.”

Relief floods through me and all the tension drains away. She loved it.

I stand up with her still in my arms.

“Good, let’s go to bed.”

She snuggles into my chest, and lets me carry her into the bedroom.

I’m really looking forward to unwrapping my next present and seeing her in all that fucking sexy red underwear.

I put her down on the bed and yank my T-shirt over my head.

Oh, crap! I think I heard the seam rip again.

“Wait!” she says, loudly.

I stare at her, puzzled.

“I’ve got another present for you yet, Sebastian.”

“I know, baby, and I’m looking forward to unwrapping it.”

She rolls her eyes.

“A different present.”

“You got me something else?”

I can’t help smiling.

Fuck. I love getting presents – I’ve never had that many before. I kinda get why people like Christmas now.

She opens the drawer of her bedside cabinet and pulls out a small envelope, and hands it to me.

“What is it?”

“Sebastian, the whole point is that you open it,” she says, with a smile twitching at her lips.

I toss the pillows behind me and sit propped up against the headboard.

I tear open the envelope and pull out a small photograph. I have no fucking idea what I’m looking at. It’s a weird black and white, swirly picture. For all I know it could be a Klingon vessel attacking the Starship Enterprise.

One.

Two.

Three.

“Oh fuck!”

Four.

Five.

Six.

“Caro?”

Seven.

Eight.

“Is this?”

Nine.

Ten.

“Yes,” she says. “We’re going to have a baby – you’ll be a father. Merry Christmas, Sebastian.”

My wife is the only person in the whole fucking world who can make me cry. And tonight, for the first time in my miserable fucking existence, I cry tears of joy.

THE END

Wounded Warriors Projects

 www.woundedwarriorproject.org

www.woundedwarriors.ca

www.helpforheroes.org.uk

http://soldieron.org.au

 

 * Wanda Summers

71 Comments

  1. Reading this again and I remember the painful parts of Seb and Caro’s lives and now the good. This brought tears to my eyes, but happy tears for the joy of a baby to come. Just love Seb’s thoughts and he can’t help but say ‘f…’ all the time — so funny. So much love!

  2. Ahhh I love all the bonus stories you have posted and especially that last part about Christmas! I was hoping for that!! I have really really loved the both books, you had me hooked from the beginning. I felt every emotion for them both and the 2nd book had me in tears. Thank you for writing such a wonderful story.

  3. Awesome, love this!!

  4. I really wanted to write this extended epilogue. Glad you enjoyed it, too : ) jx

  5. Thank you! They deserved to have their happy ever after. Thank you for enjoying their journey : ) jx

  6. Glad you enjoyed their HEA – they deserved it. Thanks so much for all your support over the last 18 months : ) jx

  7. I just finished reading these 2 books. I love them so much!!! Thank you for writing these beautiful books. And please, please, please write more extended epilogues, like the life after having baby.

  8. I’m thinking about a longer epilogue, Christine, but they’ve got their HEA. But never say never. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment! jx

  9. We love Seb and Caro so much that we can’t help but want more and more of their lives. Anything to make up for the pain of the past and build on a future of love and babies!!

  10. I’ve just typed a good couple of paragraphs of praise for the books and bonus stories but lost them (I think) so I’ll make this brief… I loved the books, really well written and researched I’m feeling bereft now I’ve finished reading everything! I didn’t know about the Writer Meet and Greet until I saw the link on your website today but the tickets are sold out. Hell, I would have promised to go to the next Top Gear gathering in Birmingham with my husband if he would have hung around the Hilton reception area for a couple of hours but it’s not to be unfortunately. I’ll keep an eye on your website for any other snippets you post.

  11. Hi Elaine, agreeing to go to Top Gear would have been more than a fair trade! They have got a waiting list so you never know. But if this one goes well, they may well organize another next year.

    Thanks loads for your kind comments. I really appreciate that. I do try to get the research write. Inevitably there are mistakes, but I try not to. Glad you thought so. Thanks! jx

  12. I actually had an idea in the middle of the night last night. So ya never know : ) jx

  13. I believe you know how much I LOVED the books and the one shots are totally amazing. I am a HUGE fan. I read this ages ago, but I guess I didn’t comment here. You have amazing talent. would love to get insight into the pregnancy and the little fellow or gal they have. Maybe that’s asking too much. You are so Bloody talented. Thank you for bringing me so much joy!

  14. Thank you so much! I did have another idea so it’s just a case of time. But never say never. I love that you think about it like this : ) jx

  15. I love this comment, hon (I don’t know why it says ‘anon’, cos I know who you are : ) Never say never : ) jx

  16. I’ve just recently read both books, and your extended chapters couldn’t get enough. I absolutely love the story and fell in love with Sebastian and Caroline so pleased they got their happy every after, after all the heartache they both went through. I never want it to end so would be great to read more.
    You’re an amazing writer I love how both characters have so much depth to them, you can feel every emotion they went through in the first book and the second just had me in tears.
    So thank you for a fabulous read x

  17. Thanks, Natalie. I had HAD to give them their HEA so I’m really glad you enjoyed their struggle and their journey. Thank you so, so much : ) jx

  18. You know I love these characters . I just finished reading your extended chapters again. I so hope you continue to give us chapters of their lives. You have done so much with the Fifty Shades chapters. I have enjoyed those as well. However, I would love to see you work your same magic with Sebastian and Caroline. I see them having twins.

  19. That’s so sweet! Thanks, Pamela. What do you see? Two girls, two boys, one of each? I think Sebastian would be an amazing father and they’d both have the family they always wanted : ) jx

  20. One of each so they get the full experience of both sexes. Also, if they have twins, with Caro’s age, they may not have to consider another pregnancy. But they may want, and have, 3, 4 or so, if they get busy! That makes me so happy to know a baby is on the way for my fictional family!

  21. I see one of each. I think both would be great parents

  22. I’ll take it under advisement : ) Yes, they’ve earned their HEA. I think Seb will make an awesome personal trainer for people with disabilities. Can’t you see him being selected as a trainer for the Rio paralympics? jx

  23. A brown haired girl, and a blue-eyed boy? 🙂 jx

  24. I can see Seb doing so many things and doing well. He has seen and lived through his parent’s terrible relationhip and his childhood abuse. He has loved, lost and found his love again and knows how fortunate he is. He has lived through the horrors of war, injury and disability. He has an ability with languages and one of the first things he does when he gets to Long Beach (at least when he will leave the house) is find someone that he can help. I can’t see him sitting still for law school but can see him doing a variety of things and will have Caro’s love and support no matter what he does. Now to be a father and able to shower this child with the love and attention he never received — just brings tears to my eyes. So happy for both of them to be together and have the life they deserve.

  25. That’s so true, everything you say. No, he wouldn’t want to do a law degree, but I can see him and Caro helping others through their tenacity and kindness and intelligence. He will adore being a father, showing all the love that he never received, but learned from Caro (and her father). Bet he’ll be taking that little kid on his surfboard before s/he can walk! Yes, the life they deserve – the life they’ve earned : ) jx

  26. I have been meaning to catch up on earlier books for a while now. I finally got a chance to get through both of the books. What a wonderful and emotional journey it has been. This chapter brings to a beautiful closure and HEA. It have been a very rewarding read.

    Vip

  27. Ah, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. I love that you describe it as a ‘rewarding read’. That really says it for me. Thanks, Vip. jxx

  28. Thanks so much for a fabulous read. Was so into the second book that I changed my day off from work so that I could finish it! Seb and Caro currently my top two characters. Loved her humor and his goddam forthright honesty and the extra excerpts you provided have left me with a nice buzz. Many thanks and keep them coming.

  29. Thank you so much, Faithe. I love, LOVE that you changed your day off work to finish TEoC! That really says such a lot to me. So glad their story has given you a buzz. I’m really glad you enjoyed their happy ever after. They deserved it, I think. Thank you for taking the time to write. jx

  30. I’m sobbing here. …*sighs*
    I had to comment to say I just finished re-reading both ‘Education’ stories. I love my paperbacks, they are beautifully presented.
    This is my favourite chapter of all. I’m so happy for them. Being of an (ahem) similar age to Caro, I worried that she might have left it too late, but this is the perfect HEA for them both and the start of their next adventure.
    Looking forward to your next books now. xx

  31. Thanks so much, honey girl! Really happy you enjoyed their story. Really happy. I couldn’t leave them without their HEA : ) jx

  32. I’m a Brazilian reader and Jane, please write about Sebastian’s vision on everything and also about the baby

  33. No matter how many times I read this story I still love it every time
    Such a great story Jane, love Seb & Caro

  34. Thanks, honey : ) jx

  35. Hi Patricia! I’ve got a new Sebastian bonus chapter coming soon. This time from Ches’s POV 🙂 jx

  36. I saw the post about a scene to come from Ches’s POV. I clicked the comment and just had to read this again. I’m amazed that each time I read it, I get emotional again and again. I just love Seb and Caro and so glad that they found each other again. They stay with me and I think of them often. The same thing with your Taylor chapters — I loved them so much and will definitely miss them. I don’t know your writing process but your writing just draws me in and I feel the same emotions that you describe. The words just flow so smoothly and I wish I had your talent. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories, with the happy, sad, love, regret, and happy again. And of course Taylor’s funny thoughts — he just cracks me up! Best to you in 2014.

  37. I loved these books!!! I loved Sebastian and Carolune from the very beginning… I would love to read more of their HEA!!

  38. Wow…I just finished both stories in two days! I was thrilled to see bonus chapters and this Christmas story, I needed that! 🙂 I must say these books truly are wonderful and I enjoyed every word! Great work!

  39. Thank you, Brittany. Really glad you enjoyed the bonus chapters, too. These characters are so real to me. Thank YOU! : ) jx

  40. I have another bonus chapter planned, but it’s from much earlier in the story. But never say never!! jx

  41. Silly as it sounds, I have typed through vision blurred from tears. That happened when I wrote Seb’s letter to Caro, just as he was about to go on his mission. It happened again with the ms I’m writing now. My characters become real to me and I feel what they feel. I’m VERY happy that draws you in. Thanks, honey : ) jx

  42. Thank you alot I loved seb and caro they where so real . Even though caro suffered from emotional abuse from her mother then her ex-husband what I loved about her character is that as author you never made her seem too emotionally weak yes she needed seb encouragement and support but that was natural in her situation. What I am trying to say is sometimes other authors if in their books the heroine has suffered from pain, trauma or any sort of abuse then the author make the heroine character a bit too week and weepy then make the hero stronger and perfect. That’s what I loved Jane you where not biased instead you where realistic you make a jigsaw pair where caro was weak there seb became her strength vide-versa for seb. No one was more stronger than the other, another thing I loved was seb brutal honesty in other books I have always had this complain that the hero is not honest but not seb. Thank you very much for this warm, romantic loving heartfelt story and this Christmas epilogue I read the series again loving the story again I thought there has to be more I think all reads would have does thoughts in the end lol. Then I found this so thanks and I do hope we see more. Thanks alot.

  43. Best story ever!..I have read both books a half dozen of times so far..It’s like watching a very good romantic movie!And these chapters are truly a bonus.

  44. Thank you so much! I put a lot of effort into the bonus chapters. I love these characters and they’re very important to me. So happy you’re happy : ) Thank you! jx

  45. I adore this short! It’s the perfect compliment to the books I’ve re read a couple of times each. As always, thank you for your time and talent. All my love, Beth.

  46. I have come full circle on their story. Working in a High School with students that are Sebastian’s age, I had a really hard time with the first book. But I am not a quiter and I don’t start a story and not finish it. When I read the bonus chapters of TEoS I then was convinced that it was truly “REAL” for Sebastian. I was fearful that it was always a misplaced love for two poor souls who really needed each other and the love that they have given and continue to give each other. THoC sealed the cake! We have family that serve in all the places you talked about. I truly understand Sebastian’s desire to get his true love that he FINALLY had just gotten back the heck out of the war. Our fear is that one of our servicemen won’t come back or come back as messed up as Sebastian’s injuries, both mentally and physically. We have witnessed the horror of the nightmares and they are real.
    I am so pleased that you did have the HEA. They will both be amazing parents. I would have loved to have read Sebastian’s POV when Caro explained about having to take the Day After pill. I could see it effected him but he never expressed it.
    I also would love a “Novella” at least of the pregnancy (which can be quite angsty for a woman her age) and parenthood. I believe that they deserve this with all they have gone through and we, as faithful readers who are committed to they relationship, do too. I love when writers realize that they have this following and commitment to their stories. You do a great job with these bonus chapters. I am willing to pay to get the next part of their lives and see that it truly is a HEA for them because I need to read it for it to be a closure.
    Just my two cents worth. Thank you again for your word earful ability to storytell.

  47. Sorry about the autocorrect (grr). You are a WONDERFUL story teller. 😉

  48. I just finished TEoC and I am speechless. What a beautiful love story! I have been captivated by Caro and Sebastian. Thank you for these great characters and I look forward to anymore bonus chapters! Hint hint! As said above, I’d love to see their life with a baby!

  49. I just finished TEoC and I’m speechless. I love Caro and Sebastian. Thank you for such a beautiful love story! I love the bonus chapters and look forward to any others you give us – hint hint! Seeing them with their baby would be so fun. I’m going to have quite the book hangover!

  50. I’m not sure if it’s posting right – I tried once, but I’m trying a second time! Haha! I LOVED these books!! Caro and Sebastian are great. I was very happy to come across the bonus chapters, hope we get more – ;). Would love to see them with their baby. I have quite the book hangover!

  51. I also want to add, thank you for such a beautiful story that will stay with me.

  52. Thank you, SWM. Really happy that their tale spoke to you : ) jx

  53. Very happy you have a book hangover. More of Seb & Caro? Never say never!! jx

  54. Thank you! ; ) jx

  55. This a perfect ending for Sebastian and Caro’s love story. The last book left me with many questions, and I felt that there should have been a little bit more to their story. You have a fantastic writing style Jane. You seem to know what you are writing about…it really makes the reader feel and see every detail in the story. I found the books informative as well…I look forward to reading all your other books.

  56. Loved it all. I can read a chapter of Sebastian and Caro every month. I would love to see how they lives are doing. With the baby, with their careers, with their travels. I just love them.

  57. I just emerged from reading everything in the combo edition in less than 36 hours. Sebastian and Caro’s story broke my heart more than anything I’ve read for the last 20 years. Completely amazing and I’ll never forget them.

  58. I finished Education of Carolina last night, and the only thing I missed in book at the end is that they have baby to complete their love story. I now that I read this… I cry of joy and happiness 🙂
    Thank you for this excellent love story. Hoping to read some more stories about them.

    Wishing you all the best

  59. I just reread The Education of Caroline …..I loved the series…I hope you write another short extra about them ….it was a beautiful story!!

  60. Loved these books so much. I laughed & cried – this story had it all. I have read 2nd book several times. You are an amazing writer.

  61. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:24 am

    Thank you, Stacey! Sorry I’ve only just seen this comment, but I really appreciate it!!!! jx

  62. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:25 am

    Happy you’re happy, Jelena. Thank you so much for writing. sorry I’ve only just seen this!! jx

  63. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:26 am

    That is an amazing comment. Thank you so much. My complete ineptitude that it’s taken me 18 months to find your comment. THANK YOU! I hope you enjoy SEMPER FI as well. jx

  64. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:29 am

    Hi Pam, It’s taken me 9 months to find your amazing comment!! I’m not the most clever person at IT, but that’s going some, and I apologize.

    What an amazing comment to find – it was wonderful reading it. The men and women who serve deserve so much more than we give them, but of course in Sebastian’s case, he refused to ask for help, and that is the case with so many. I’ve very involved with the work of http://www.felixfund.org.uk and http://www.eodwarriorfoundation.org

    So I rewrote TEoC from Seb’s pov – it’s SEMPER FI and has a little more of the bonus chapters that you like. Thank you so much for writing to me, jx

  65. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:30 am

    You’re welcome. Thank you so much. And it only took me 2 years to find your comment. Sigh. THANK YOU! jx

  66. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:31 am

    Thank you! Sorry I’ve only just found this. I hope you have your answer in SEMPER FI 🙂 jx

  67. Jane Harvey-Berrick 2nd December 2015 at 8:32 am

    Sonia, I’m so sorry that it’s taken me nearly 2 years to find your comment, but I LOVE it! It expresses everything I was trying to do. THANK YOU! jx

  68. They definitely earned this happy ending ❤️❤️

  69. Jane Harvey-Berrick 13th September 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you! Yes, it was a long road for them, a long dark night at times, but they got there in the end 🙂

  70. JH-B – at the risk of simply repeating what others have said, I felt compelled to reach out and let you know what a gift TeoS&C and SF have been – a friend introduced me and my literary life has never been the same LOL you took a taboo subject and told a beautiful tale about the resilience of love and the human spirit. You also made me long to visit the Amalfi Coast again (maybe stay at Il Saraceno! Lol) the depth of these wonderfully flawed and deeply loving people with a ton of baggage. And just when I didn’t think it could get better with TeoS&C, you gifted us with additional bonus chapters AND then Semper Fi!! I was in HEAVEN!!! Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your amazing gift with us – this story touched me in ways I could’ve never imagined and has stayed with me. I’ve re-read TeoS&C three times and it never gets old. I experience the angst, hope, sadness and joy each and every time. Truly a masterpiece. Well done!!!

  71. Jane Harvey-Berrick 10th January 2017 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you so much! What an amazing message to receive. I’m so happy that you enjoyed Seb and Caro’s story. Silly as it sounds, I didn’t realize that I’d written a taboo story until much later. To me, it has always been a story of love. These two mean a lot to me and I slip into their voices so easily. I’m just about to post a shorty story about Sebastian’s Christmas Eve. A bit late (or early) in the year, but I hope you enjoy it. Thank you again for writing – and I’m sorry it took me so long to reply.

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