A/N This story is my submission for the Christmas Fan Fiction exchange. My story is dedicated to Melissa Atwood and her daughters Gracie and Abbie. Her prompts were that it be a Nathan and Elizabeth love story. Takes place in the early 1900s. Her chosen song is O Come All Ye Faithful. Her three props were hot chocolate, a wooden manger, and bells.

Melissa worked closely with me on my November Heart Story "NEVER FORGET" and spent countless hours encouraging me and beta reading for me. After pondering a while and talking with her, I decided to make a short sequel to the Never Forget story due to the special Christmas event I had planned. I think it will fit the parameters of Holiday Fan Fic Exchange much better and will provide a nice ending to Never Forget.

This is the sequel to the story NEVER FORGET, which revealed their journey back to a deep friendship and healing. This story reveals the courtship and their love story. I hope you enjoy it. As always, the Characters are not mine but belong to Janette Oke and Crown Media. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.


Thursday, December 5, 1918

Nathan had been thinking over the past week about what he wanted to do about his relationship with Elizabeth. Tonight was the dinner at the café where he would satisfy the debt for losing a bet with Elizabeth. He smiled as he thought back to last week when instead of coming to the dance, she came to his home to sit with him. He had developed an infection and fever after receiving a gunshot wound.

Nathan just sat there looking at the woman smiling shyly down at him. "Elizabeth, shouldn't you be at the dance?"

"No, I'm where I want to be, Nathan." She said softly, feeling self-conscious and nervous suddenly. Nathan was floored, and happiness flowed through him, creating warmth and maybe a tiny spark of hope.

"Anyway, a little bird told me you are quite the chess player," Elizabeth said with a sly grin.

"Would that little bird be named Allie?" Nathan asked with a grin, silently thanking his niece.

She chuckled. "It doesn't matter who it was. The important thing is that I am too, and have managed to beat everyone in town. But we have never played before, so I think a tournament is needed to determine the Hope Valley Champion, don't you?" She stood with a brow raised in silent challenge.

He chuckled as he recalled that competitive glint in her eyes as she challenged him to the chess matches. He couldn't help but respond to her and the challenge she was presenting.

"Set up the board, Thornton," Nathan said with a smirk. "But I should warn you that you are going down."

"We shall see about that, Grant, because I was playing chess before I could talk." She responded with a giggle walking over to the table to set her basket down. "Before we start, I brought beef stew and apple pie for dinner."

"That would be great, Elizabeth. Besides, I wouldn't want you to have a reason for losing other than lack of skill when I beat you." Nathan teased.

"I think your hunger has confused you, and you are not thinking clearly." Elizabeth teased back. Then with a mischievous smirk said. "I fear you may be at a disadvantage, kind sir."

"I fear, my dear lady," Nathan said, affecting a similar formality, "that you are indeed mistaken, and I will walk away victorious." He chuckled as he saw the spark of competitiveness in her eyes, which ignited his own.

"Shall we make a friendly wager then, Nathan?" Elizabeth said playfully.

"What did you have in mind?" Nathan replied curiously, wanting to see where their banter was heading.

"Oh, I wouldn't wager money or anything, but how about the winner chooses the prize?" Elizabeth said, blushing a bit.

He quickly agreed to the wager, knowing what he would choose when he won, for he had no intention of losing.

He chuckled as he recalled that satisfied smile as she called out Checkmate after their first game. He had been surprised that she had won handily. He realized then that she was a formidable opponent, and he didn't make the same mistake of underestimating her. The second game went in his favor leaving the third to decide the winner.

"Okay, Elizabeth, this last game will decide the champion, agreed?" Nathan said with a smile. It was his crooked one, which always drew her focus to his lips, and she struggled to concentrate.

"Agreed," Elizabeth said, already anticipating the win. It was a close call, but ultimately, the game went to Elizabeth. Nathan was disappointed and nervously waited to see what she would choose. He was hoping that whatever it was could lead to a future together.

"Well, Grant, I guess that I remain the Hope Valley Chess Champion!" Elizabeth said smugly.

"Enjoy it now, Thornton, because I will be coming back for a rematch very soon," Nathan said good-naturedly.

"I'm looking forward to it. But for now, as to our wager, "Elizabeth began nervously, "I choose that you have to buy me dinner at the café on Friday."

He had been stunned by her choice, and his heart began thumping so hard it felt like it would beat out of his chest. Though they had had meals together before, other than the one a few weeks ago when he came upon her upset on her steps, they always had others with them. Though nothing had technically changed, he suddenly felt that everything had. But as the old fear began to assert itself, his joy overshadowed it. Trying not to give himself away had said, "I guess I can handle that, Lizabeth,"

Then after Faith and Gabe arrived, she shocked them all when she bent over and whispered huskily, "See you Friday, Constable." Then, as it was an ordinary occurrence, she winked at Nathan, smiled, and left without a word though her cheeks were a bit red. He couldn't remember exactly his response except that he had said yes. Even now, he could recall the feeling of her lips on his cheek and the sparks that rocketed through him. The subtle hint of her lavender and lily scent had captured his senses, making forming a thought impossible.

He vaguely recalled that Faith and Gabe had arrived, but when he returned to himself, they were gone. As he stood up to go to the door to look for them, he could hear Gabe talking to Faith about him and Elizabeth. Instead of opening the door, he stood with his ear pressed to it and just listened.

"So, what do you think happened between those two," Gabe asked.

"From that kiss on the cheek and Nathan's response, I would say things have definitely changed." Faith said.

'I think that you are right, my friend,' Nathan thought.

Then Faith shocked Nathan by saying, "I think that kiss on Nathan's cheek was Elizabeth finally making the first move."

Nathan was stunned at her words. 'Could it be true that Elizabeth was making the first move to change the status of their relationship? Was he ready for their relationship to move to a romantic one?' He was brought out of his thoughts by Gabe's question.

"You think so?" Gabe asked. "I'm hoping that they are in a place they can."

'that seems to be the million dollar question, Gabe,' he had thought.

"I know so because Nathan was afraid to move forward in anything other than a friendship with her. He was pretty hurt by her after she chose Lucas, you know. Nathan wasn't sure he could ever get to a place where he would feel he could open his heart to her again. She has managed to rebuild the trust, but I think his fear of rejection is as big as her fear of losing another love. But as I said, her making the move tonight that she did has managed to overcome that. Now the ball is in Nathan's court, shall we say."

As Nathan listened, he began to think of how wonderful it had been between them working together for the good of Hope Valley. He couldn't help thinking of what it would be like for them to raise a family together. All the interactions that he and Elizabeth had with their children had been easy and comfortable. Nathan then noticed that Gabe got quiet and began to focus on what they were saying. He smirked as he recalled what had happened next.

"Faith, can I talk to you?" Gabe asked nervously. Nathan had been excited, wondering where his friend was going with the question.

"Sure, Gabe. What is it?" Faith replied.

"Well, um ..." Gabe had stuttered, and Nathan smirked 'Not so sure of yourself now, are you old friend now that it's you in the hot seat.'

Then, of course, Gabe asked Faith about her feelings for him and Carson. He could understand him asking about Carson, but he was confused as to why Gabe would ask about him. Nathan and Gabe had had a few discussions about his relationship with Faith, and they had decided to remain friends. Nathan had strained closer, hearing the anxious tone in Faith's voice though he knew it wasn't about him. She was still hurting over Carson.

Then he heard Gabe say, "Faith, I have come to have strong feelings for you that aren't just those of friendship. I'm not asking for details of what happened between you and Nathan, Faith. But I need to know before I get closer is there the possibility of anything more between you and Nathan than friends? Have you completely moved on from Carson?"

Nathan was stunned that Gabe apparently didn't really understand what happened between him and Faith. He made a mental note to reassure Gabe where his feelings stood.

Faith responded, "Regarding Carson, I have fully healed from that heartbreak and am ready to move on from it with the right man, which isn't Nathan. I had a conversation with Elizabeth earlier, and we came up with the plan for tonight that obviously worked." She said with an amused smile.

Now that had surprised Nathan and made him a bit antsy and made him a bit insecure.

"If I had feelings for him, that would have been the last thing I would do. I certainly would not have been happy for them to reconcile, which I am. While I love Nathan, it is the love of a friend, nothing more, I assure you."

Something about her words warmed him, and he realized that Elizabeth wouldn't do something she didn't want to, especially as they were repairing their relationship. That kiss and their banter was all them.

He smirked when he heard her say, "Besides, he was supposed to be putting in a good word for me with a certain Mountie friend of his."

"What a coincidence because he was supposed to be putting in a good word for me with a certain town doctor."

Nathan had rolled his eyes at the two of them and, feeling mischievous, decided to do them all a favor. He opened the door and could tell he startled them a bit. With a smirk, he said, "Faith, my certain Mountie friend Gabe really likes you. Gabe, my certain town doctor friend Faith, really likes you too. I highly recommend that you two get to know one another and maybe even consider courting. There, now, my duty is discharged, and you two can stop wasting time." Then with a wink, he went back in and closed the door.

He had gone back in, made himself a cup of tea, and sat with a smug smile for a job well done. If he was going to be in the hot seat of courtship, then he might as well have company. After a few minutes, they walked into the house but didn't say anything, and he couldn't tell whether or not they were in a relationship.

So, he asked them if they were done wasting time, although he was the last one who should have asked that question.

But Faith refused to answer him and asked one of her own, instead saying that he didn't need to know until he was ready to answer himself. He had tried to play dumb and avoid the question though he should have anticipated it would be asked.

But oh no, Gabe wouldn't let it drop and said, "She means that unless you are ready to stop wasting any more time with Elizabeth, then you don't deserve to know,"

"We are going to dinner on Friday," Nathan said. "Now, what about you?"

Faith had seen right through his response and said so. "Sorry, Nathan, but I know for a fact that it was the result of a friendly wager."

"Which I'm betting that Elizabeth won," Gabe added smugly. Sometimes it sucked to have friends who knew you so well and didn't hesitate to call you out. Knowing he had been caught, he had no choice but to admit, although he had told her that he had originally planned on asking her to dance. Then, of course, the hard questions had come, and those were much harder to answer, at least then.

Faith had said, "Surely, by now, Nathan, you are ready to move on with her?" That was the question that started the dismantling of the final walls that he had erected in his mind came down, and it had all started with Gabe and Faith.