The fire crackled in the fireplace as Trace Brodine wiped the condensation from the window with the side of his hand. He reached down into the fireplace for a flaming twig and held it up to the cigar between his lips, turning it gently until the end glowed red. He tossed the twig back into the fireplace and looked up at the sleet bouncing off the pane of the den window. The winter storm they’d predicted for a couple of days had finally arrived.
He took a long draw of the cigar and removed it from his mouth. He blew smoke rings toward the ceiling and looked at the cigar between his fingers. The retired freighter learned to savor these moments, since the cigars were becoming harder to find and he was down to his last box. He’d have to pay a visit to his old friends on the freight docks that always seemed to be able find him an extra box or two.
He turned from the window and gingerly lowered himself into his favorite armchair in front of the fireplace. Years of spending nights in his freighter protecting his cargo had finally caught up to him. He leaned back in his chair and watched the firelight dance on the walls and ceiling while the freezing rain tapped at the window. A smile broke across his face at the laughter and the sound of little footsteps running down the hallway toward the den.
“Those things stink, Grandpa,” said the curly, red haired little girl, holding her nose when she stopped in front of his chair.
He tamped out the cigar, set it in the ashtray and picked up his frowning granddaughter and sat her on his lap. Her curly, red haired twin brother ran up to his chair a second later. The six-year-old twins were his pride and joy.
“Tell us a story, Grandpa,” requested Jenna, as her brother climbed up into his grandfather’s lap opposite his sister.
“Tell us about space pirates,” demanded Jason. Trace put his arms around his grandchildren and settled them in his lap.
“I’ll do better than that,” he answered, looking over at his smiling daughter, Rena, who’d eased into the room and settled herself into the other armchair in front of the fireplace. Her fire red hair draping her shoulders left no doubt as to who the children belonged to. “I’ll tell you about the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy.”
“Yeah,” replied the twins in unison.
“And the story I’ll tell is true,” he continued, “because your mommy and I were both there.”