Standing apart from its brethren, the lean, scarred spire of the white pine pierced the graying twilight shadows. The sweep of its battered branches touched the snowy ground in reverence and the resin of its long silvery needles kissed her fingers with sharp, clean fragrance.

"That seems a poor choice for a Yule tree, an ugly thing hardly worth the effort of acquiring it. Perhaps it should simply be left alone."

His voice was still compelling, even though its silk was frayed in places, now. The step that bore it to her ears, a little heavier than before, not so subtle in its stealth as it once had been, but growing stronger every day.

Her spirit sang with the tree's winter hymn. Evergreen filled her hands, the man filled her heart. Her reply was silent, but she knew he would hear.

"Perhaps it simply doesn't know how beautiful it is."