This weekend excerpt is a Christmas scene from RANNIGAN’S REDEMPTION, a three-novel contemporary erotic romance. Inveterate player Michael Rannigan is a founding partner and the public face of the Manhattan law firm of Murphy, Rannigan, & Metheny. Hiring smart redhead Maggie Flynn to join his elite 50th floor team changes his life in ways he never imagined.
Enjoy this holiday teaser, but beware…SPOILERS abound.
Michael glanced around his living room and sighed deeply as an unfamiliar wave of contentment washed over him. He’d missed the Orphans and Misfits since he and Maggie had parted ways and had forgotten how much he’d enjoyed being in the midst of all the joyful chaos.
After their late-afternoon buffet-style dinner, the handful of children in attendance opened their gifts. Then Ben headed up the annual gift exchange, handing out numbers and presiding over the picks and swaps. Maggie and some of the others set out dessert on the dining room table and made sure that the bar was stocked with plenty of cups and ice so that everyone felt free to help themselves.
Ensconced in his spot close to the windows at the far end of the huge leather sectional, Michael realized that everywhere he looked, he saw people who were connected in some way to himself or Maggie or both. Rance, Jason and a few more were out on the terrace taking in the view. A handful of others watched a football game on television. Across the room, Nate and Ben chatted with a petite blonde woman.
That’s Casey, Maggie’s friend from law school, he reminded himself. Casey’s husband John was on the floor in front of the Christmas tree with their little boy, putting together something with Legos. Closer to Michael, sitting on the floor leaning against the sectional, Maggie was playing a game of peek-a-boo with a toddler who was sitting on her lap.
That must be Casey’s daughter, he thought, judging by the little girl’s nearly white blonde hair. In his mind’s eye, he saw Maggie playing the game with a red haired child, and he smiled contentedly. It’s all coming together.
Veronica slid onto the sofa beside him. “You’re looking awfully pleased with yourself.”
Michael grinned. “That’s because when you’re good, you’re good. And I’m good.” He winked at her.
“And oh, so humble,” she purred, fixing him with a mocking exasperated smirk.
Casey joined Maggie on the floor. “How’s Princess Nastypants doing?” she asked, taking her daughter from Maggie.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, this is the sweetest child,” Maggie said, laughing.
“Well, she’s momentarily charmed by her Aunt Maggie, but don’t let her fool you. We’re up to our eyeballs in the ‘terrible twos.’ ”
Afternoon blended into evening as dusk fell, and Maggie noticed that not only had no one left, they all looked as though they were settling in for a long stay, some even helping themselves to plates of leftovers.
“How are you feeling, Michael?” she asked, squatting beside him. “Should I start shooing people out of here?”
“Don’t be silly, Mags,” he said, flashing his best Michael Rannigan grin. “Everybody’s enjoying themselves. This is the nicest Christmas I’ve had in a long time.”
She looked up at him and smiled, squeezing his hand. “I’m really glad.”
As she made her way back to the kitchen, her phone buzzed in her pocket. Finally. Bobby had called early in the morning and they’d chatted briefly, but they hadn’t had another chance to talk all day.
“Hey there, cher,” he greeted her. “How’s my best girl?”
Maggie laughed into the phone. “I’m better now. I’ve missed you all day, but I know you were busy. We’ve been busy here, too, come to that.” She walked down the hallway for more privacy.
“Would you believe that everyone is still at Michael’s?” she whispered. “Nobody has left yet.”
“I asked Michael if I should start moving them along, but he seems happy to have them.”
Bobby laughed. “It sounds like you throw a hell of a party. Nobody wants to leave.”
“How was your day? Did Savannah like her present?” Maggie had sent Bobby with a portable artist’s kit to give the little girl.
“She just loved it.” Maggie could hear the smile in his voice. “That child had more stuff by the end of the morning than you would believe.”
Maggie laughed happily. “Well, good. I’m so glad.” She sighed. “I just wish you were here.”
“Me too, cher, believe me.”
“Do I need to let you go?” she asked.
“Yeah, I should probably get off the phone.”
“Okay, then,” she breathed. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Maggie. I’ll see you soon.”
Maggie disconnected and made her way back down the hallway towards the living room which was as full of people as ever. It seemed less than fair somehow that everyone had someone with them today. Casey had John, Ben had Nate, Rance had Jason, hell, even Michael had Veronica Whatever happened to the Orphans and Misfits? She knew she was being petty and tried to shrug it off.
Across the room, Michael looked tired and he was using his oxygen again. She wondered briefly whether she should just start moving people along in spite of what he’d said. A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.
“Hey Mags, could you get that?” Michael asked.
Sighing to herself, she crossed to the door, wondering who’d locked themselves out. She didn’t notice that as she swung open the door the room fell silent.
“Merry Christmas, cher.”
Momentarily speechless, she froze for second before launching herself into Bobby’s arms. He had to take a step back to keep from falling.
“Well, I’m glad to see you, too,” he laughed.
Through tears, she sputtered, “But…I mean, what…How did you…”
“Calm down,” he laughed as he carried her into the room. “Merry Christmas, everybody.” Bobby gently set Maggie down, and she gripped his hand in hers, unwilling to lose contact with him.
Casey brought a plate of food from the kitchen. “Hi, I’m Casey. I figured you were probably hungry.”
Bobby bestowed on her his best lop-sided grin. “Nice to meet you, Casey. I’m Bobby. And thanks, I am pretty hungry.” He took a seat on the end of the sectional, nodding at Michael. “Merry Christmas, man.”
Michael smiled, his eyes crinkling. “Merry Christmas, Beau. Glad you could join us.”
As Bobby ate, Maggie introduced him to those he hadn’t met. While everyone went back to their own conversations, she peppered him with questions. “What happened? Did you really call me from the hall? Why did you come back tonight? I thought you were staying in Louisiana for a couple more days.”
“I wanted to surprise you,” he grinned.
“Well…you did. I’m so glad.”
Taking her hand, he kissed it gently. “Let’s go get a breath of fresh air.” He stood and held her hand, helping her up, and they let themselves out onto the terrace. The cool air was a nice change from the warmth of the crowded apartment. They walked to the railing and stood side by side looking out over the city with its sparkling lights and flurrying snow.
“It’s such a beautiful night,” Bobby murmured, and Maggie nodded, tucking her arm around his and resting her head on his shoulder. “Such a beautiful lady.”
She looked up at him, and he kissed her lightly. “When I think back on that day that your shoe broke,” he looked down and she giggled, “that seems like the luckiest day of my life. I think of all the things that had to happen for us to meet at that moment.” He gazed down at her. “It’s like it was meant to be.”
He took both Maggie’s hands in his and faced her. “I love you with all my heart. I don’t ever want to know a day without you in my life.” His eyes glittered with emotion and he slowly lowered himself to one knee. Maggie’s jaw dropped, and her eyes widened.
“So I’m asking…Maggie, will you marry me?”
Maggie felt all the breath leave her body. In a mad rush, memories from the last few years swirled through her mind, her infatuation with Michael, her engagement to Mike, her resolve to remain alone, that day she and Bobby had met.
She looked down into Bobby’s eyes and saw a twinge of anxiety and realized she hadn’t answered. Unable to formulate the words, she nodded vigorously as tears filled her eyes. Two things happened simultaneously. Relief instantly flooded Bobby’s face, and raucous cheers went up from the crowd who’d pressed up against the living room windows to watch.
“You had me worried for a minute there, cher,” he laughed. He reached into his pocket and removed a small midnight blue velvet box. Opening it, he removed something and slid it onto Maggie’s left ring finger. “You’ve made me the happiest man in the world.” He stood and gazed down into her eyes before lifting her chin and kissing her passionately. Again, their audience cheered loudly.
“Bobby, it’s absolutely beautiful,” Maggie said. “I love it!”
He laughed. “You can’t even see it. I hadn’t counted on it being so dark out here. Come on, let’s go on inside.”
Hand in hand, they went back inside the apartment to the hearty congratulations of their friends. In the light of a lamp beside Michael, Maggie and Bobby looked at the ring. The band of delicate platinum filigree held a huge emerald-cut diamond surrounded by dozens of smaller diamonds.
“Oh, Bobby,” she gasped. “It’s unbelievably beautiful. So delicate and vintage-looking.” She turned and threw her arms around his neck. “I love it!”
“Oh, for God’s sake, can we finally open the champagne?” Ben called out. As champagne was poured and glasses were passed around, Maggie looked down at Michael who had a Cheshire grin on his face.
“This is the gift Bobby showed you?” she said, tilting the ring his way. Realization dawned on her. “And it wasn’t leftover champagne? And this is why nobody would leave?”
“Everybody except you knew this was an engagement party, Mags,” he said quietly.
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I said yes,” she said.
“Oh, like you would have said no,” Casey quipped, and everyone laughed.