The Things You Mean to Me
You met the sexy Knight clan in The Things You Do to Me, and now we go back in time to see where it all began. Mia and Jackson Knight were not always the stable, loving parents we learned to love in the Knight Skies series - they were once young lovers, struggling to find each other. Dive into their love story in this sweet Christmas romance.
It's 1983. U2 just released their new album, 'War', Rubik's Cubes were in every household, Valley Girls wore leg warmers and side pony tails with crimped hair, and all the guys were all looking for bodacious babes. Jackson Knight wants to get to know the new sassy Italian exchange student, but things get gnarly when his girlfriend gets wind that Jackson might be interested in someone else.
Mia scanned her house one more time; it was almost ready for the holidays. Inhaling excitedly, she nodded her head; she was satisfied with her work. She still couldn’t believe that all six of her children would be coming home for Christmas! She had wondered if Jackson had made some phone calls to make that happen. Actually, it was an easy sell this year, she thought, what with their 30th wedding anniversary a few days before Christmas.
It wouldn’t surprise her to learn that Jackson had manipulated the seemingly spontaneous family reunion. How many times had she told her husband that all she really wanted was to have her entire family together for the holidays? There had already been too many years of scattered family Christmases, and she knew that once her boys started settling down, she would have to share her family with in-laws.
With memories of carting the boys back and forth between her family and Jackson’s over the years, she shuddered – it was going to be her turn now. She would be the grandmother who only caught glimpses of her children’s lives. With a pang of guilt, she wondered how hard it must have been on her own parents so far away in Italy while she and Jackson raised their brood in California. Poor Mamma!
It was a miracle it hadn’t started already – Antonio was already 27 and Lucas seemed so serious with his girlfriends, even at 25. Marco and Nico never worried her in that regard; if anything, she fretted that they might never get serious with a woman. She was thankful, though, that her three eldest children had settled right here in Steamy Falls. Unlike her youngest boy, D’Angelo, so young and already living back in Italy with Pappi. And Elise, her one and only daughter, still had one more year of high school, and then she was off to college with aspirations of traveling the world.
These are the things a mother frets about. While at 48 she wasn’t a grandmother, she was worried about what the next few years would be like. So many transitions to come, she wasn’t sure who to fret about first!
“Mia, my love! You’re doing it again – standing there, wringing your hands and furrowing your brow. The house is beautiful, the kids will all be here soon; what is worrying you now?” Jackson stood in the doorway, looking handsome as ever.
“Ah, you know me too well. I was just getting lost in thought. Just wondering how many more Christmases we will get before we have to start sharing our children. ”
Jackson laughed, “I hate to tell you this, but none of our children are any- where near marriage!”
“I know, but it could happen. One of these women Lucas keeps bringing home could stick any day now.” She laughed at herself.
He walked in and encircled her with his strong arms. “I think the odds are more likely that Nico will knock up some random chick in town than Lucas getting married.”
“Jackson! Don’t say such a thing!” Mia shrieked and pulled out of his embrace. “You are a bad man! Nico will not knock up some random chick, as you say. That will not happen!”
“You’re right. I was just saying –”
“I don’t care what you were saying. You cannot speak those thoughts out loud! I told you that I did not like Monica, and look what happened to Antonio! The poor boy had his heart broken.”
“Poor boy? I’d say he got lucky escaping that one. If you want to worry about a poor boy, worry about me.”
Mia shook her head at her husband’s crass remarks. “And why are you a poor boy, Jackson Knight?”
She watched as his sexy eyes darkened with desire. “Because I’m married to the most beautiful creature on the planet and I can’t help but want her every time I see her.” Jackson stepped up to her once again, his desire evident against her body.
“Psshh!” she said as she became flustered under his influence.
“Sexy, fired up, hot! Oh, I can barely stand to be in the same room with you and not take you right here on the floor!” Jackson groaned as he got closer to her.
Mia felt it then, his groan pulling her under. She felt the heat explode in her belly and knew, even after all these years, just how amazing it would feel to let him have her. When his mouth found hers, something familiar inside of her snapped, and she was lost with him.
Fire ran across her jaw as his hot tongue slid down her neck, his warm, sweet breath in her ear. Mia’s head swam and her arms wrapped around him, her fingers tangling in his hair. Strong hands worked the buttons on her shirt, making their way down to her pants as her belly trembled in sweet anticipation of what was to come.
“Hellooo!” Elise called from the front of the house.
They looked at each other, knowing their private moment was over. They had been married almost 30 years to the day, with only the first three without children, so they knew how to steal a private moment here and there, but they also knew when their peace and quiet was over. Elise coming home always meant the peace and quiet was over!
“Hi, honey; we’re in the living room,” Jackson called to their daughter.
Elise stormed in, already breathless, “I was just in town and ran into Brooke, who said that grades are already in! Oh, my God! I can’t believe it! I’m going to go check online.”
Mia grinned. Never had any of her boys been so caught up in school and grades. “Go! Let us know!” she encouraged, waving her hands toward the stairs.
Jackson adjusted himself before sitting on the couch, listening to Elise run upstairs. “You worried about that one?”
“Only because, as soon as she is ready, she’ll flee this little town and never come back! She’s too big for Steamy Falls. Soon she’ll be at her fancy college and beyond – saving the world or changing the world – or whatever she decides to do.”
Mia sat down beside her husband and let herself fall into his arms again. She was just about to close her eyes when a shriek from upstairs reverberated around the house.
“Oy, I hope that’s good news and not the start of a fight.”
“You’re preaching to the choir! Last time she received a grade she didn’t think she earned, she spent weeks on a letter-writing campaign, appealing it. The girl could argue herself out of a murder conviction,” Jackson sighed, while squeezing his wife.
“Wait for it,” Mia said.
In less than twenty seconds, they could hear her bursting through the door and rushing downstairs again.
“I did it! I got a 4.4 average! Yes!!” Elise ran into the room, her cheeks aglow with happiness, a sparkle in her eyes.
“Well done, kiddo! I knew you could do it!”
“Thank you, Daddy! When is everyone coming? Are you two okay? Why are you sitting on the couch like that? Mamma, are you sick?”
“No! Not sick. I’m just enjoying the moment,” Mia reassured her.
She stood abruptly and switched back into getting-ready mode. “Nico and D’ Angelo should be here soon. Marco is working late, but Antonio should be here any minute, and I have no idea where Lucas is.”
“I’m right here, Mamma.” Lucas stood smiling in the living room.
“Oh! I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Hi, Lucas. I got my grades already. 4.4 this time!” Elise squealed.
“I’m not surprised. You were my best student last year.”
“Your AP English class was fun, but Mrs. Clark makes us work too hard and everything has to be explained three different ways.”
He laughed at his little sister. He taught English at Steamy Falls High and knew Mrs. Clark well. She did make her senior AP students work really hard, but they were all the better for it.
“We knew Elise would do fine this year. She can apply to college next year,” Mia said, looking around the room distractedly. She had that feeling again – light headedness, tingling hands and feet, and a strange headache. Whenever this had happened in the past, Mia would simply go lie down and take a nap, but this week had not allowed her to take that luxury. Soon, she thought, she would be able to sneak away and take a nap.
“Mamma!” Lucas shouted.
“What? Why are you yelling?” Her attention came back to her children, who were looking at her with concern on their faces.
“We just said that Elise already applied to college; she should be getting her letters this winter. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, just a little distracted with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Of course Elise already applied – that’s what I meant to say. Now, who wants to help in the kitchen?”
No one spoke; even Jackson was looking at her with a worried expression. “Come on now, the holiday cheer isn’t going to hop out of the box by itself!”
With that, everyone moved back to the kitchen. Mia blew out a sigh of relief – the last thing she wanted was to draw everyone’s attention to her. This holiday wasn’t about being sick, or whatever was causing those headaches; it was about celebrating 30 glorious years of marriage, five wonderful sons who had all grown into amazing men, and one spectacular daughter who was about to take on the world.
Jackson frowned as he walked outside. Her symptoms were getting worse. He wished he had said something earlier, but now he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to scare the kids, but surely they were going to notice their mother spacing out like that. And her naps were getting more and more regular. She was always so refreshed after she took a nap, but lately they seemed more of a necessity than a luxury. She hadn’t taken a nap today, though, and he couldn’t remember her napping yesterday, so maybe he was wrong and just worried about his wife too much.
She had raised six kids; of course she was tired! She worried constantly about Nico, and Elise was a handful. Although she was proud that D’Angelo was in Italy, he could tell that she missed him, at times painfully; he could see it in her eyes when they spoke about him. And raising a beautiful, high-energy, driven daughter was nearly taking him down each day. He couldn’t imagine how hard it was on his wife.
Bah – she was fine! They were getting older; he had nothing to worry about. He looked into the kitchen and watched her zip around, giving orders to Elise and Lucas, kneading bread, and checking something in the oven. He knew he was over- reacting, and breathed out a sigh of relief.
At the sound of a truck coming up the driveway, he turned to watch his eldest son pull in and slowly get out of the cab. Now there was the boy he was worried about. On the verge of getting on one knee to ask that woman to marry him, and she split his heart right in two. He hadn’t been the same since – his once-loud, rambunctious boy was no more. Jackson could only hope that his son was healing in his own way and would once again smile freely.
“Hi, Dad. How’s it going? You hiding out here already?” Antonio said as he climbed out of his truck.
“You know me too well, son.”
“You hear if D’Angelo is going to make it? Heard he had to miss his flight to play in some in-house tournament.”
“I think so, but your mom doesn’t know about that, so just keep that one under your hat.”
Antonio smiled, “You bet, Pops.”
The two men looked around the yard, enjoying the late afternoon light. Jackson could see the marine layer creeping over the small mountain protecting the valley from the coastal fog. Even in winter, that marine layer was relentless. One of the reasons he moved his family out here was to stay away from the cold and fog of town. They still got plenty of fog, but nothing like what happened in downtown Steamy Falls.
“How’s business?” he asked his son. Knight Development was Antonio’s passion, and one of the things that broke up his relationship. Jackson thought for sure he’d give it up to keep her – made him damn proud when he didn’t.
“It’s going. Working on a few things here and there. Nothing major, but it’s keeping me and my guys busy.”
“I think you have what it takes to really make a killing in this business; just got to wait for your time,” Jackson said, hoping his son would hear his admiration in his words.
“Thanks, Dad. I’m not giving up any time soon.” Antonio started walking toward the house, “I better go in and say hi to Mom.”
“Smart boy,” Jackson said, and watched his son make his way to the front door – the weight of the world on his back. Yeah, he worried about his eldest son much more than his wife.