Weekend Excerpt–Christmas on Lake Miranda

She is the perfect combination of princess and warrior.

Scott Nielsen and Jackie Walker

Their attraction is instant from the moment they meet.
But he’s Dominant. And no way is she submissive.
Is it a missed connection? Or a divine appointment?

Scott Nielsen is ready for change. He’s walked away from his career as a wilderness counselor, planning to start his own outdoor survival school. He looks up his old friend and former colleague Blake Walker, intent on leasing space at Blake’s family’s remote wilderness guest lodge. That’s where he meets Blake’s sister Jackie, who runs the lodge with her brother’s help. Her strength and independence intrigue Scott. A single mom, Jackie has no intention of being anyone’s submissive.

In his personal life, Scott is tired of casual sex in the BDSM club scene. Envious watching his buddy Blake fall head over heels for his own submissive, Scott thinks he might be ready to take the plunge himself. As he and Jackie spend time together, he’s enchanted with her inner Warrior Princess. But Jackie’s been burned before. And she has two children who are her priority, not to mention the business to run. As independent as she is, she can’t see relinquishing her power to a man, not even one she’s falling for.

Scott’s heart aches at the idea of not having Jackie in his life. Can she take another chance on love, or will she insist on ignoring her submissive soul?

If you enjoyed LOST & BOUND, you’ll love this spin-off stand-alone story.

Join Jackie and Scott in this little Christmas teaser.

On Christmas Eve, after the kids had gone to bed, the adults gathered around the enormous festively-decorated white spruce. Light Christmas jazz played in the background, and outside the floor to ceiling windows, snow swirled lazily in the half moonlight.

Jackie handed Amy a mug of warm mulled cider and settled beside her on a leather sofa with a mug of her own. On the floor, Scott and Blake sat amid the scattered pieces of a pink Barbie house ‘Santa’ had found on sale months earlier and had put away until now.

Winking at Amy, Jackie suppressed a smile. “Did you guys read the instructions?”

“We don’t need the damn instructions,” Blake huffed, pushing a stray lock of dark hair out of his eyes. “We’re two intelligent, grown men. We can figure out how to put together a dollhouse.”

The women clinked their mugs and giggled gleefully.

Amy looked from Blake and Scott to the twinkling Christmas tree, and to Jackie. “I love this.” Her voice was soft, and though she smiled, a tear was in her eye. “This is the Christmas I always wanted.”

Jackie’s heart melted, and she reached for Amy’s hand. “I’m so happy you’re here.”

Blake pushed up from the floor and pressed a tender kiss to Amy’s temple. “This is our life, kitten. This is our family, your family. You belong here.”

Jackie smiled across the room at Scott, who winked at her, and she felt a familiar tummy flutter. She loved the man more than she’d thought humanly possible. And when summer came, she’d marry him.

After Blake and Amy retired to the guest room, Scott and Jackie went to bed, quietly making love, then holding each other until late into the night.

They awoke to a bright sunny day, the sky crystal cerulean, the sun reflecting brilliantly off the sparkling snow. Emma and Grant squealed excitedly as they saw the mountain of gifts under the tree. Scott sat at the end of the sofa and Jackie snuggled up beside him, each of them sipping steaming mugs of coffee. Blake and Amy sat opposite them on the sofa’s twin, smiling as they watched the children tearing into their gifts.

Once they were finished, the kids had fun delivering gifts to the adults. Finally, all the gifts were opened. Blake and Amy gave each other a conspiratorial look. “We have a few more gifts,” Amy said.

“More?” Jackie echoed, thinking of the extravagant handbag for her, and the top of the line boots for Scott. “You’ve done so much already, seriously.”

Blake reached behind the sofa and picked up four identical shirt boxes wrapped in metallic red paper. He glanced at the tags and handed one to each of the children and to Jackie and Scott.

Amy leaned forward excitedly. “You have to open them all together. Ready? One, two, three!”

With a bemused glance at Scott, Jackie carefully opened her box. Grant and Emma ripped theirs open. “It’s a shirt,” Emma said, holding up a pink t-shirt.

Grant peered into the box. “Thanks, Aunt Amy,” he said, making an effort to sound enthused about a shirt. “It sure is…pink.”

Scott tilted his head as he looked at his, then elbowed Jackie lightly. She looked at his, then gaped at hers. In sparkling letters across pink cotton, she read, World’s Greatest Aunt.

Jackie gasped. “I knew it! I knew you were pregnant! I’m so excited for you!” she squealed, rushing over to give Amy and Blake a big hug.

“We didn’t want to tell anyone until we knew everything was going to be okay,” Amy explained.

“Cool,” Grant said, pulling his new shirt over his head, “we’re going to be cousins!”

“Aunt Amy, are you having a boy baby or a girl baby?” Emma asked.

Blake grinned. “It’s a little girl. That’s why we gave you pink shirts.”

“Congratulations, man!” Scott grinned as Blake stood and the two embraced. “That’s great news.”

“I can’t believe it.” He shook his head. “I’m going to be a dad.”

Jackie sank onto the sofa beside Amy. “A little girl,” she shook her head smiling. “That’s fantastic.”

Amy nodded, eyes shining. “Do you want to see the ultrasound pictures?”

“I’ll get them,” Blake said, heading in the direction of the guest room.

Grant and Emma returned to their new toys. Scott perched on the arm of the sofa next to Jackie. “I’m so happy for you two,” he told Amy. She laughed happily.

From the direction of the guest room, they heard a tiny yip. Jackie frowned. “What was that?”

Eyes wide, Amy gave an exaggerated shrug. “I have no idea.”

“Uh oh,” Blake called from the guest room. “I think I found another present.”

Jackie looked up to see a shaggy black puppy with a huge red bow come running into the room. He ran straight to the kids, yipping excitedly.

“A puppy,” Emma squealed.

Grant squinted at the tag on the big red bow and gasped. “Mom! It’s for us, from Santa!”

Blake leaned against the doorway looking pleased with himself.

“From Santa, huh?”

“I think Grandma and Grandpa might have mentioned it to the big guy,” Blake grinned.

Oh, for f-” Jackie glanced up at Scott. “Did you know about this?”

He raised his hands in surrender. “I promise, I knew nothing about a puppy.”

“They love Bear so much, they need one of their own,” Amy said, smiling.

“So, what are you going to name him?” Blake asked.

Brow furrowed, Grant watched the Newfie puppy for a moment. “Max. He looks like a Max to me.”

Ruffling the puppy’s ears, Emma nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah. Max.”

Jackie shook her head. “He’s cute, I’ll give you that. But I still want to see those ultrasound pictures of my niece.”

WARRIOR MINE by Pandora Spocks

This Christmas, treat yourself to WARRIOR MINE,
Dream Dominant Book 4!
books2read.com/WarriorMine

Weekend Excerpt–Sneak Preview of BROKEN HARTS

Two weddings.
One Valentine’s Day.
And hearts will be broken.

A wedding on Valentine’s Day? It’s beyond cliché.
But it’s what Ali Hart’s niece Shannon wants. So Ali will wear the pink chiffon bridesmaid’s dress, carry the rose and eucalyptus bouquet down the aisle, and keep her opinion to herself.

Ali is back in New York to get ready for the wedding, but her older sister and brother seize on her visit as the perfect time for Ali to make arrangements for their elderly father, who can no longer independently care for himself.

A navigational error puts Ali on a collision course with destiny. Now what?

***
A wedding on Valentine’s Day? It’s perfect.
Unless you’re not positive that she’s the one for you.

In the dark recesses of his heart, Logan Pryce knows that Catherine von Hollen isn’t the love of his life. The daughter of his father’s business partner, they’ve known each other for years. She’s blonde, gorgeous, and everyone loves her. On paper, it’s perfect. On paper.

A chance encounter with a nameless redhead on a crowded subway platform causes Logan to question everything he thought his life was going to be. Will he stay with the safe bet, or will he take a chance on something more?

If you love your romance with a little heat and plenty of heart, you’re going to love Broken Harts!

Here’s a new, exclusive sneak peek at BROKEN HARTS.

Frowning, Ali swiped off her phone and resisted leaning into the woman beside her as the subway lurched around a bend. At least this time she’d gotten a seat, she consoled herself.

But Megan was on her last nerve with this wedding business.

Yes, she’d replied to her sister’s text. I’ll be at the bridal shop at 2:00. I told you I’d be there.

Moments later, her phone vibrated with another text. It was Shannon this time.

Sorry about Mom. She’s kinda freaking out right now. Thanks for putting up with her. My wedding wouldn’t be the same without you.

Ali had to smile. While she’d never had what she would call a close relationship with either her sister or her brother, she loved Megan’s daughter Shannon and her younger brother Kyle dearly. They’d all practically grown up together since Ali was merely two years older than her niece and three years older than her nephew. 

And she would. She’d make it to the fitting appointment on W. 69th, the day before Thanksgiving or not. Because it was important to Shannon, not because Megan insisted.

But first…

Ali absently twisted the strap of the shoulder bag resting on her lap and stared into space. Before the fitting appointment, she was making a little side trip on the upper east side. It hadn’t even been a conscious decision, really. 

After a restless night, she’d gotten up early, showered, and dressed in her least-faded skinny jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, her long camel-colored blazer, and black ankle boots. Her normal year-round Florida wardrobe consisted of lots of shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops, so wearing cold-weather clothes was a welcome change of pace.

At breakfast, her father had seemed very lucid. He’d announced plans to spend the morning writing, which Ali took to be a good thing. Again, she’d wondered whether Megan and Brendan were merely being alarmist. 

She spent an hour or so organizing her notes for the new book series she wanted to pitch to her publisher when they met the week after Thanksgiving. Then she popped into Jackson’s office where she found him tapping away at the old blue Remington manual typewriter, and she had to shake her head. No matter how hard she tried to convince her father to move into the 21st century, the old man remained defiant.

“This baby has never let me down. She’s never lost my blood, sweat, and tears into some goddamn black hole in space.”

“How’s it going, Dad?” she asked, placing her hands on his shoulders and kissing the top of his head.

He reached up and placed his left hand on top of hers. “Going fantastic, Ali-gally,” he grinned. “This may be the best one yet.”

“Good,” she nodded. “Listen, I’m heading out for a while. How about we order Chinese for dinner tonight? My treat?”

The old man nodded. “Sounds about right. I plan to keep plunking away right here while the muse is with me.”

Ali kissed the top of his head again. “Love you, Dad. I’ll see you later!”

Now, Ali watched as commuters hustled off and on the stopped subway car in an arrhythmic folk dance. Her heart began to pound noticeably. The next stop was hers, the wrong stop from the previous day. Now, she was headed to the 86th Street station on purpose.

This is ridiculous, she chided herself. He won’t be there. Why would he be there? Like he lives there at 86th Street or something. This is a colossal waste of time

She glanced at the time on her phone. It was 11:47, the same time she’d been on her way to the Golden Years center yesterday.

Hugging her purse to herself, she jiggled her right foot nervously. 

What, exactly, was the plan? She’d get off at 86th Street, look around the platform, not find him, the man from yesterday. Then what? Her appointment at the bridal shop wasn’t for another two hours. The trip to the upper west side would take half an hour, tops. What was she going to do in the meantime? 

This is such a dumb idea, she thought as the train slowed down to approach the next stop.

**

Shortly after 11:30, Logan hefted his tan leather messenger bag higher on his shoulder and stepped onto the down escalator at the 86th Street station. This felt increasingly like a fool’s errand, and more than once, he’d had to stop himself from turning around and heading home. But with the laser measuring tool tucked away in his bag, he figured he could at least do a few re-measurements to firm up the dimensions of the retail space.

Entering the platform, he glanced around and as expected, there was no pretty redhead in sight. He saw only a few commuters milling around waiting for the next train to arrive. 

Logan sighed heavily, swallowing his disappointment. 

It was too much to hope for, he supposed. Besides, you have a beautiful fiancee back in Chicago. Why in the world are you chasing some mystery woman?

Shaking his head, he dug the laser measurer out of his bag and headed toward the intended construction zone just as the next train rumbled into the station. Unable to help himself, he turned to watch the doors open and riders spill out onto the platform.

People of every shape and size and color and age moved with purpose toward the same escalator he’d descended only minutes before.

He almost turned back to his measurements when the crowd thinned and he saw her. The redhead from the previous day. She moved to the center of the space and stopped, her back to him as she stared in the direction of the wall where he’d waited for his clients twenty-four hours earlier.

He was moving toward her before he realized it. 

“Hey,” he offered softly when he was closer.

She whirled around, her cognac-brown eyes wide with surprise. “You’re here,” she breathed.

Logan felt himself smile. “You’re here, too.” 

She gave an uncertain laugh. “I’m, uh, Ali.” She offered a petite hand.

“I’m Logan,” he returned, gently accepting her handshake. “Listen, can we go for coffee or something?”

While he watched her rosy lips shift slightly as if she weighed his question, he relished the smattering of copper freckles across her nose and the apples of her cheeks. How had he not noticed them yesterday?

She finally nodded. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Good! Great! Let’s…” He motioned toward the escalator.

Her chuckle was musical. “Yes, lets!”

BROKEN HARTS by Pandora Spocks

BROKEN HARTS is one of four romance novellas in the FOREVER YOURS collection, coming this Valentine’s Day. And right now, each book is on pre-order for just 99¢ apiece!
Check them out!

ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND SPELLS by Victoria Escobar
BELLA’S WISH by Linzi Basset
MY ITALIAN VALENTINE by Diana Nixon

Reserve your copies today!

Weekend Excerpt–Christmas With the Orphans & Misfits

Michael Rannigan had his life arranged
exactly the way he wanted it.
Meeting Maggie Flynn changed everything
in ways he could never even imagine.

RANNIGAN’S REDEMPTION is the three-novel story of high-profile Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan and his complicated relationship with Maggie Flynn, the new lawyer he hires to join his elite firm.

She’s nothing like the women he dates. She’s way too smart, for one thing. And he prefers blondes, too, the more like Barbie, the better.

But there’s something about this spunky redhead he just can’t get out of his mind.

Maggie knows her crush on Michael is all but hopeless. For now, she’s content to work with him as they defend the rich and famous clients who rely on Michael and his team.

Here’s a holiday teaser from the first book in the trilogy, RESISTING RISK:

“Maggie, is the turkey ready?” Casey asked.

Maggie checked the clock and shook her head.  “No way, it has at least another hour, then it has to rest.  We can put in the beans and the stuffing when it comes out.  Nate, how do we reheat the red beans and rice?”

As Nate answered Maggie’s question, Ben wandered over to the window.  The buzzer rang again.  Ben glanced at Maggie in the kitchen.  “Somebody’s buzzing downstairs, Flynn.”

Casey was helping Maggie turn the turkey around in the oven.  “Well can you please buzz them in?  I’m a little busy here.”

Ben pressed the buzzer but made no move to open the apartment door.  About a minute later there was a knock.  The others were engrossed in the football game.  Ben stayed put.  “Somebody’s at the door, Flynn.”

“Oh for God’s sake, I’ll just drop everything and get it myself,” said Maggie, tossing down pot holders in exasperation.

Maggie flung open the door to find Michael standing in the hallway.  He grinned sheepishly.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

She blinked, confused.  “Michael, I…I mean, Merry Christmas.  But what…Shouldn’t you be in St. Bart’s?”

“I got snowed in.  My flight was cancelled.  I have a charter later on, but I thought I’d stop by here.  Do you have room for another orphan?”

A slow smile spread across her face.  “Of course, there’s always room.  Come on in.”

Maggie turned to find that everyone in the apartment was watching the two of them.  “Everyone, this is Michael.  Michael, everyone.”

“Hello, Merry Christmas,” he greeted the group.  To Maggie, “I brought wine.  I wasn’t sure…”

“Wine is perfect, thanks,” she told him.  Waving toward the kitchen she said, “Help yourself to something to drink.  We’ve been enjoying the munchies out of your gift basket.  Dinner will probably be another hour or so.”  She smiled at him.  “I’m so glad you’re here.  Shocked, but glad.”

After he dropped his coat and his suitcase in Maggie’s bedroom with the other coats, Michael got a beer for himself and settled in the living room, striking up a conversation with the guys watching football.  Casey sidled up to Maggie in the kitchen.  “You didn’t tell me Mr. Wonderful was coming.”

“I didn’t know Michael was coming.  He’s supposed to be in the Caribbean.  With someone, you understand, nobody goes to the Caribbean alone.”

“Maybe.  But he’s here now.”

Michael relaxed on the couch and looked around appreciatively at all the activity.  Maggie and Casey were       in the kitchen along with a couple he didn’t know.  There was an older woman chatting with Nate from the firm.  Several others were watching football.  Everyone seemed happy and at home. 

“This is nice,” he commented to Ben.  “It feels like a scene from Rent.”

Ben smirked.  “Viva la vie Boheme!” he raised his beer.

Michael chuckled and raised his beer as well.  “La vie Boheme.”

Dinner was served on three tables pushed together in the middle of the living room.  Plates were filled buffet-style in the kitchen.  Ben insisted that Maggie toast before they ate. 

She raised her glass of wine.  “I feel like the luckiest girl.  I’m here celebrating the holiday with my most favorite people in the entire world.  There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.  Merry Christmas!”

After everyone ate as much as they could, the guys agreed to do all the clean-up.  Maggie supervised returning the tables to their proper places then sank onto the sofa, resting her feet on the coffee table.

“What about the dessert, Flynn?” Ben asked when the leftovers were packed up.

“Let’s be informal.  Grab some if you want some.  I want to do presents,” Maggie said.  Michael brought her a fresh glass of wine.  She looked up at him, grinning in appreciation, and patted the space beside her.

“I’ll sit on the floor, I don’t mind,” he said, sliding to a spot beside her feet.

“Now the way this works is, everyone takes a number.  We go in order starting at 1.  Number 1 picks first.  Number 2 can pick a new present or steal from Number 1.  Everybody got it?” Ben asked.  Maggie watched in amusement as some played shyly while others were cut-throat. 

“What’s this?” Michael asked quietly.  She looked down to see him holding an ornament from the tree.  It was a small red glass ball held by a green paper cone.  Her name was spelled out in glitter. 

“I think I was about six when I made that,” she smiled.  “The Christmas ornaments were some of the few things I took from my dad’s house.”

He grinned.  “I like it.”

When the gifts were over, Maggie had a new hand-crocheted toilet-roll cover.  Michael had a $10 gift card to Starbucks.  “Guess somebody didn’t get the memo,” he quipped so that only Maggie heard, and she giggled softly. 

He winked and leaned close.  “Mags, I should be making my way to the airport.”

“Okay,” Maggie sighed.  “I’ll walk you out.”  She got her coat and hat while he said his goodbyes.  “I’ll be right back,” she said to Casey as they headed out of the apartment.  They walked down the stairs without chatting.

Once out on the sidewalk, Michael turned and faced her.  “I had a great time, Mags.  Thanks for inviting me.”  He glanced up.  “We have an audience, by the way.”  He waved at the crowd gathered in Maggie’s front window.

She looked up at them, scowling.  “Come on,” she said, turning right and heading down the sidewalk.  She stopped just around the corner.

Michael smiled.  “Thanks.  I just wanted to say goodbye privately.  I brought you a gift but I didn’t want to give it to you in there.”  He pulled a small flat box from his pocket.  It was light blue, tied with a white ribbon.

Maggie’s eyes widened.  “Sean Michael Rannigan, you did not!”

“How did you know the S stands for Sean?”

She shrugged.  “Everyone knows it’s Sean.  I can’t believe you went to Tiffany…”  She stopped and looked up at him, smiling sadly.  “This wasn’t for me.  This is supposed to be for someone else.”

“No, Mags, this is for you,” he said earnestly.  “I mean, to be honest, I went there yesterday looking for something for Jana.”

“What, Toys R Us and GapKids were closed?” Maggie quipped.

“Ah-hah-hah, you’re very funny.  I found a little trinket to give to Jana, but then I turned and saw this.  All I could think was that you should have it.  It’s for you, Mags.”

Curious, Maggie slowly pulled the white ribbon and lifted the lid.  In the box resting on light blue velvet was a delicate silver bracelet.  It had a vintage look to it with large rectangular milky white cabochons alternating with trios of small round diamonds surrounded by platinum filigree.  She looked back up at Michael, eyes wide.

“Those are moonstones,” he said proudly.  “This was in the vintage case.  It was made in 1915.”  He gazed at the bracelet.  “It’s graceful and classy, just like you.”

“I don’t know what to say, Michael.  I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.  Will you help me put it on?”

He lifted the bracelet from the box and as Maggie held out her left hand he fastened it around her wrist.  She held it out and watched it catch the natural light.  As she did, she noticed a tiny platinum tag hanging from the clasp.  Peering closer she saw that it was engraved.  To Maggie, From Michael. 

“See?  I told you it was for you.”  She looked back up at him, eyes shining, and as she did, a gust of wind caught some stray hair, blowing it across her face.  Michael gently moved the errant strands, tucking them behind her ear.  Without planning it at all, he planted a tender kiss on her lips. 

He moved back slightly as Maggie looked up at him, eyes shining with desire.  He leaned into her again, the kiss this time all heat and passion.  She brought her left hand up to cradle his right cheek, her desire matching his.  When he stopped kissing her, he pulled her close, tucking her under his chin and they stood like that for a moment. 

Finally, he gently set her back from him.  She looked up, the sad glint once again in her eyes.  After all, he was leaving her to go to someone else.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

“Merry Christmas, Michael.”

RANNIGAN’S REDEMPTION by Pandora Spocks

RANNIGAN’S REDEMPTION
is available at your favorite online bookseller. books2read.com/RannigansRedemption

Weekend Excerpt–Merry Christmas!

This final weekend before Christmas, I’m sending you warm wishes for a wonderful holiday!

And I’m posting one last Christmas excerpt, but this one comes with a warning:
There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read Rannigan’s Redemption from the beginning, you might want to stop right here.

This snippet comes from the third book of the Rannigan trilogy, RANSOMING REDEMPTION.

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.”

“No?”

“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.

The Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy is RESISTING RISK,
RUNNING ROGUE, and RANSOMING REDEMPTION.
It’s available as a three-book boxed set, or as individual novels.
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