JD pulled the scarf tighter around his head and neck against the evening chill as he rode out to Nettie Wells' ranch. He missed his hat. He missed it a lot. But he'd sold it to Bart Peters for a good cause. He'd have hated to have nothing to give Casey on Christmas eve. But when all a fella gets is a dollar a day, there ain't much left for Christmas presents. And, despite what Buck said, Bart Peters had admired JD's hat a lot.
He just hoped Casey didn't laugh in his face the moment she laid eyes on him. He felt like an old woman with nothing but a wool scarf to cover his head. He'd made Bart Peters promise to take good care of that bowler so he could buy it back from him later. It had cost JD plenty to replace it after he and Chris had shot up the last one.
Then there was the traditional Christmas ball. JD was looking forward to taking Casey there tonight. Dressed in their best, spinning her around the floor, all the guys staring enviously. Yes, that would be a nice Christmas, all right. Nettie Wells was already in town, helping get the church ready.
When Casey opened the door, she looked a little surprised, but she just smiled. "Merry Christmas, JD."
Now it was JD's turn to look surprised. Casey was wearing her usual boots and jeans.
"Merry Christmas." He smiled, as he stepped inside.
Casey was grinning at him. Her eyes traveled to a spot over his head, so JD looked up. Mistletoe. He knew what to do and his heart pounded against his ribs at the thought.
It wasn't a long kiss, but it was a very heated one in his opinion. His eyes closed and his brain seemed to turn inside out as his lips pressed against hers.
They finally separated and sat down on a bench near the fire. She pressed a small, rectangular box into his hands eagerly.
"Open it, JD."
JD paused for a moment, then grinned and pulled at the wrappings like an excited little boy. He stared at the contents.
"It's a hat band," she said proudly. "See? Those are real silver conchos all around it. I'm dying to see how it looks on your hat. Why didn't you wear it?"
JD blushed. "Well, I...don't have it at the moment. I...er...sold it. To buy you this."
Casey took the package from him and looked at him, her eyes shining brightly. He swallowed. Just to see that look in her eyes was worth all the hats in the world.
She tore open the package. "Gloves...and a fan." She looked a little puzzled.
"The girls back east take 'em to fancy parties. And I want you to be the belle of the ball tonight."
"Oh, JD!" Her eyes started to mist. "Let's just stay here tonight, all right? I only have one party dress. And I sold it to Mavis Foster to buy your hatband."
She took his hand and led him back under the mistletoe. "I'm sure we can think of something to do."
JD grinned. Yep, this was going to be a very nice Christmas. One Buck would have approved of.