It was hardly even noon on Tuesday when my doorbell rang. I knew my friends were on their way– Larsa had texted me once he and Killian were on the freeway, and Stefan had let me know when he was about to leave his apartment– but I thought I had another hour before any of them would be there. I hit save on the document I was working on and hurried downstairs. I was on the second floor, about to take the last set of stairs when the doorbell rang again, this time more rapidly. That told me it probably wasn’t Stefan at the door; he would have been patient, wouldn’t have rung the doorbell a bunch more times.
“I’m coming!” I shouted as I made my way down the stairs. Once I got there, I could hear two voices talking on the other side of the door. I unlocked it as quickly as I could and swung it open.
“Leila!” Larsa cheered. He was practically jumping up and down with excitement. He had a large, brightly-wrapped box in his hands, and it had several frilly bows on it. “Leila, we’re here! We made it!”
I grinned back at him. How could I not share in his excitement? “Larsa! Killian! It’s so good to have you guys here! Come on in.”
I stepped aside so they could enter the foyer. Larsa was already gazing around in wonder, and I was sure that he’d want to run around exploring before too long.
“It’s like a cabin but also a mansion,” he breathed.
“I told ye it was big,” Killian said.
Larsa laughed. “It’s more than big! I could get lost in here!
“I know, Killian replied, “and that’s why I want ye tae stay next tae me.”
Larsa thought for a moment. “Well, sometimes getting lost can be fun…”
“I’d rather ye didn’t.”
He looked to Killian. “Why not? There’s nothing in this house that can hurt me.”
“Sure, ye say that now, but in an hour you’ll be runnin’ up to me with some sword ye’ve found.”
I giggled at that comment. “All the swords have been put away.”
“There are swords?!” Larsa asked. “Where?”
Killian shook his head. “Ye had to encourage him, didn’ ye?”
I patted his back. “This place isn’t that old. There’s a sword hanging above the fireplace in my room, and another one in the library. I’ve found a couple hunting knives and old daggers, but they’re put away.”
“Can I see your sword?” Larsa asked me, wide-eyed and eager.
“Well, it’s not mine,” I clarified. “I think it was great-uncle Morrigan’s.”
“How about we get settled in first?” Killian suggested.
“Oh yeah, those aren’t heavy, are they?” I asked. “I didn’t mean to leave you there holding them for so long. You can put them on this table over here.” I cleared off some space on a nearby table and let Larsa set the gifts down. “So do you guys want to bring your luggage in? I can show you the bedroom I set up for you. Unless Stefan is almost here… Should we wait for him?”
Killian pulled his phone out of his pocket. “I’ll check.”
“But… Stefan won’t text and drive,” I reminded him.
“I know,” Killian said as he opened up an application. “That’s why we started sharin’ locations with each other on Google Maps.”
“Yeah,” Larsa told me. “Didn’t you get the links we sent you? We shared our locations with you, too.”
I blinked and shook my head. “I… Oh man, I didn’t have my phone in my office. I’m sorry, guys, I’m just used to using ‘do not disturb’ mode. I’ll check it in a little while. Is he close?”
Killian zoomed out and back in on the map, then showed it to me. “It looks like he’s in Vancouver.”
I glanced at the map and nodded. “Well, he’s not too far from the base of the mountain, at least. So yeah, we have plenty of time to get you two situated before he arrives.”
We headed out to Killian’s car and pulled out their suitcases and whatnot, leaving them on the front porch while I showed him over to the covered parking. Then I showed them up to their room on the second floor. Larsa set his suitcase down and immediately hopped onto the bed.
“It’s so big!” he laughed as he bounced around. Then he stretched his arms and legs out over it. “Wow, look, I can’t even reach end to end!”
Killian chuckled and shook his head. “He was just as excited about my parents’ queen-size bed.” Then to Larsa, “Hey, at least take yer shoes off if ye’re goin’ tae mess around.”
“It’s okay,” I assured him. “The bedding isn’t vintage or anything like that, so I won’t be upset if he gets it a little dirty. That’s between you two.”
Larsa sat up and swung his feet over the edge of the bed, giving Killian a begrudging smirk. “Ooookay,” he sighed. “I guess it’s less fun to play if there’s dirt in the sheets.”
“Ye mean sleep,” Killian corrected him.
Larsa’s face looked hurt almost instantly. “But you said–”
“Be a gentleman,” Killian added in a warning tone.
“Oh Killian, he’s just young and excited.”
“You say that like I just turned eighteen or something,” Larsa replied, trying to sound hurt but coming off as more playful.
“I have a feelin’ that ye’re always going tae be young at heart,” Killian told him.
“It’s a good thing, actually,” I said. “You’ll be helping to liven the place up. Listen, you’re going to be here all week, so I want you to both make yourselves at home and have a good time.”
Larsa hopped off the bed and all but leaped into my arms. “Thank you, Leila!” he cheered. “I’m so glad you invited us up here for your birthday!”
“And I’m glad your here,” I told him as I returned the hug. “So… I’d give you a tour now, but I’d rather wait for Stefan. Do you want some tea or cocoa or–”
“Yes please!” Larsa declared. “Can you show me where the closest bathroom is first?”
Larsa was thrilled to see that I’d chosen a room with an en-suite bathroom for them. He was thrilled by every part of the house he saw, actually; the old wooden stairs, the rustic paneling, the paintings and tapestries. He oohed and aahed over the grandfather clock in the foyer, and practically ran circles around the kitchen island.
“Your house is so cool, Leila!” he enthused. “Your great uncle was so nice to give this to you!”
“I’m glad you think so,” I said as I opened the fridge to take out the tray of meat, cheese, and crackers I’d put together the night before. “You guys are welcome here any time, by the way.”
“It’s so cool that you’re up here in the mountains!” Larsa exclaimed. “Back home, it’s usually just the reindeer that go up this high into the mountains.
“Well,” I told him as I put the kettle on, “it’s not quite as snowy here as it is there.”
We sat together as we chatted and had our snack and drank our cocoa. After a while, I checked my phone, which I’d grabbed before heading all the way downstairs. I was able to accept the map sharing links, but when I checked for where Stefan was, he was still at least twenty minutes out.
“He sure is taking his time coming up the mountain,” I commented. “Do you think everything’s okay?”
Larsa look to Killian with big eyes. Killian shook his head at him. I think he thought I wouldn’t notice; he was fooling himself.
“Out with it!” I insisted. Not angrily, mind you; all in good fun.
“He’s fine, lass,” Killian assured me.
“Better than fine!” Larsa added, which got him a look from Killian. Larsa give him a petulant look back. “What? I didn’t tell her what the surprise is.”
“And now she knows there’s a surprise,” Killian sighed.
“Oh, it’s okay,” I laughed. “At least I know he’s not broken down or sick or something.”
“Yeah,” Larsa agreed with a grin. “It’s almost her birthday, so she gets a lot of surprises this week!”
“A lot of them, huh?”
“Larsa,” Killian chuckled, “ye’re a naughty imp, but it’s hard tae be upset when ye’re this excited for her.”
As Killian wrapped his arm tighter around Larsa and kissed his forehead, I found myself hoping more for hugs than surprises.