Still, there’s no ignoring the fact that I have yet to find a job, not to mention that next week I’ll be spending Christmas up north with his family at his grandfather’s house outside of Aberdeen. I’m trying not to let Lachlan know how much it’s freaking me out. I know I’ve already met his adopted parents, Jessica and Donald, but that was back before we split up, before my mother died, before our lives went to shit. I haven’t seen them since I’ve been back—Lachlan’s been pretty busy with rugby as it is—and I’m on edge about meeting his grandfather, George. From what I’ve heard, he’s a bit of a cantankerous grouch, and that’s coming from Lachlan who rarely says anything bad about anyone.
While we check to see if the park is clear before we let the dogs off the leashes, Lionel and Jo fluffing up the snow while Emily still seems utterly bewildered, I ask him, “Do you think there will be snow up in Aberdeen?”
He opens his mouth to say something. I’m guessing he wants to say “maybe.” But he just smiles, nodding once, and then says, “Yes, I do.” He pulls me close to him, wrapping his strong arms around my waist, and studies my face. “Are you worried?”
“About the snow?”
He squints at me. “About Christmas. About being around my family, staying there, when you haven’t been around them often.”
How this man manages to read me so well, I don’t know.
I rub my lips together, wishing I’d brought some ChapStick with me. “Yeah, a little. I’ll be fine. I’m more worried about getting them all the right Christmas presents, to be honest.” I sigh and lean my head against his chest. “And then I start thinking about having enough money to buy them, then I start thinking about how badly I want this writing job, then I think about what happens if I don’t get it. What am I going to do with myself? And then I wish I could just…” I trail off, swallowing hard. “I wish I could talk to my mother about this, just for a second, you know?”
He exhales heavily and kisses the top of my head. “Kayla, love,” he says gently. “I know none of this is going to be easy for you, and what you can give to me, I’ll happily take. But my family should be the least of your worries. Really. They don’t need anything for Christmas and you know they already love you.”
“I’ve never met your grandpa,” I mumble into him. “You said he was grumpy.”
“Aye,” he says with a bit of a laugh. “You know I don’t sugarcoat things. But if I can handle him, you can handle him. Besides, he’s gotten a bit better with age.”
“I thought you said he’d gotten worse with age.”
“I guess it depends on the Christmas,” he says, sounding unsure now. “To be honest with you, he’s never been all that accepting of me to begin with. Viewed me as the black sheep of the family. Even now, though I should be grateful that he considers me family at all.”
I look up at him. He’s staring off into the distance, frowning, and I know he’s being pulled into a darker place. “Of course you’re family. He’s had, what, almost twenty years to get used to you. You’re a McGregor. You’re family.”
He nods. “Aye,” he says absently. “But he’s always treated me different from the way he treats Brigs, which is to be expected. I just don’t know if he knows anything about, well, my current condition. Jessica and Donald may not have mentioned my…problem.”
What he’s meaning to say is that he’s an alcoholic. I know admitting it is the supposed first step, but it still takes a lot for Lachlan to say it out loud sometimes. I don’t push it. He’s doing so well as it is, and he knows exactly what his problem is.