Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

Who doesn’t love a modern-day adult fairy tale?

Redhead woman embracing her man on snowy winter day

Europe’s most eligible prince.
A gifted sculptor who has no idea who he really is.
She’s everything he ever wanted…if he doesn’t blow it.

When artist Petey Cavanaugh agreed to show her steel and glass sculptures in a Manhattan gallery, she never planned on falling in love with a prince.

Following their chance meeting on a rainy evening, Nik realizes Petey doesn’t know who he is, and he savors his first-ever taste of ordinary. He knows he needs to be honest with her, but before he comes clean, Petey discovers the truth for herself.

Feeling humiliated and betrayed, she refuses to have anything to do with him. Will she give him the chance to explain? Or has his lie of omission cost him everything?

Here’s a new teaser from CHASING ORDINARY.

The man reached to shake her hand.  “Ms. Cavanaugh, enchanted.  We’re pleased to have you dining with us this evening.”

Dining?  Petey glanced around, seeing only a handful of small private planes and a red helicopter.

“If you’ll step this way, we’ll be ready to go.”  The man led them to the helicopter, which struck Petey as not unlike the one they’d flown in that night in Manhattan.

Petey climbed aboard, sliding over to allow Nik to climb in beside her.  She buckled her seatbelt and picked up a set of headphones.  “A helicopter?”  She arched an eyebrow.

“It’s a very exclusive restaurant,” Nik quipped, putting on his own headphones.

The engine roared to life and the rotors began spinning.  The aircraft lifted off the ground, and soon, Lars, Ada, and the car looked like toys far below.  Excited, Petey reached for Nik’s hand as they rose even higher.  The ground below was covered in a layer of snow, making the farms and forests look like a winter wonderland.

“That’s Ansgar,” Nik pointed out as they flew over the castle.  Petey could just make out her workshop and the barn with the brand-new stable behind it.  She leaned over to give Nik a kiss.  He smiled with pleasure.

After they flew over the estate, they banked left and headed toward the mountains.  The rolling farmland faded away as jagged granite mountains rose before them.  In the space between two peaks, Petey saw a vast open space covered in what looked to be deep snow.  Something clearly manmade marred the pristine snowfield, but Petey couldn’t tell what it was.

The helicopter circled around and landed at the edge of the snowfield.  Petey could now see that the rectangular anomaly was a dining table carved out of the snow.  Flanking it on either side were benches, also carved out of the snow.  While the table was elegantly set for a formal dinner, the benches were covered with red blankets, and each seat was defined by a thick white fur.

The pilot opened the helicopter door and let Nik out.  Nik, in turn, reached out for Petey’s hand, helping her climb down.

He smiled down at her.  “See why we needed ski clothes?”

She nodded, eyes shining.  “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Good.  Let’s have dinner, shall we?”

They chatted quietly over fresh seafood and champagne.  The only other people were the pilot and the two servers, who remained discreetly at a distance unless they were needed.  Warm enough with a blanket pulled over her lap, Petey gazed out across the valley to the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

When she looked back, Nik was smiling at her.  “Do you like it?”

She couldn’t stop the grin.  “I love it.  You know it isn’t necessary, though.  All this,” she rolled her eyes, “fancy stuff.”

He smiled at her tenderly.  “I know.  That’s why I wanted to do it.”

Together, they toasted the sunset as the receding light painted the sky in glorious shades of purple, rose, and orange.

If you love grown-up fairy tales, this is the book for you.
One-click Chasing Ordinary today!

Chasing Ordinary 7

Also…
CHASING ORDINARY has made it to the second round of voting in the All Author March Book Cover Competition.  I’d really appreciate your vote!  Thanks!!  ❤

All Author book cover

 

Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary

Europe’s most eligible prince.
A gifted sculptor who has no idea who he really is.
She’s everything he ever wanted…if he doesn’t blow it.

CO 5 Star reviews

CHASING ORDINARY, my new modern-day adult fairy tale,
launched February 13 to 5-STAR reviews.

When artist Petey Cavanaugh agreed to show her steel and glass sculptures in a Manhattan gallery, she never planned on falling in love with a prince.

Following their chance meeting on a rainy evening, Nik realizes Petey doesn’t know who he is, and he savors his first-ever taste of ordinary. He knows he needs to be honest with her, but before he comes clean, Petey discovers the truth for herself.

Feeling humiliated and betrayed, she refuses to have anything to do with him. Will she give him the chance to explain? Or has his lie of omission cost him everything?

If you love grown-up fairy tales, this is the book for you.

Check out this steamy new excerpt from CHASING ORDINARY.

She turned her face to meet his lips, devouring them hungrily, as he pulled her closer.  Sliding her hands inside his jacket, she helped him shrug it off without breaking the kiss.  Holding her tightly, Nik backed their way to the couch where he sat, bringing Petey to rest straddling his lap, and deepening their kiss.

He slipped his hands beneath her sweater, skimming up her torso to cup her breasts.  Finally releasing his lips, she dropped her head back and gasped as he kneaded her mounds, fondling her nipples, coaxing them into sharp points that strained against the fabric of her bra.  She raised her arms and he slipped the sweater over her head, dropping it to the floor.

Nik leaned back slightly to admire her perfect tits, tantalizingly on display in ivory lace.  When he looked back up, her soft brown eyes flickered with heat.

“I want you.”  Her voice was husky.

He plunged his lips to hers once again.  With his hands on her hips, he pulled her against his burgeoning erection, and she moaned into his mouth.  “Let’s take this to the bedroom,” he murmured.

Gently, he slid her from his lap, and took her hand, leading her to the library door.  “Wait!” she hissed.  “All those people are out there.”

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair.  He blew out a frustrated breath.  “Just one moment.”  He held up a finger.  Planting a quick kiss on her cheek, he slipped out of the library, closing the door behind him.

Petey stood awkwardly, endeavoring to catch her breath.  As an afterthought, she scooped up her sweater from the floor and slipped it back over her head.

Two minutes later, the door opened and Nik leaned into the room.  “All gone.  I sent them all away for the rest of the night.”  He frowned slightly.  “You got dressed.”

“I felt silly just standing here, so…”

“Come,” he held out a hand.  “Let’s get properly reacquainted.”

Not bothering to close the bedroom door, Nik drew Petey to himself once again, peeling off her sweater and her bra as well.  Hands resting lightly on her hips, he gazed down at her.  “You have the most exquisite breasts.”  He cupped them, hefting their weight, rolling her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers, encouraged by her breathy moans.

“You have too many clothes on,” Petey murmured, reaching to loosen his tie.  She dropped it to the floor and helped him remove his shirt, as well.

Pressing herself to his bare chest, she reached up to tilt his face towards her, claiming his lips with her own.  Nik lifted her, walking to the bed, where he lay her gently.  With an impish grin, he unfastened her jeans and removed them, panties and all, dropping them with the other clothes littering the floor.

His mouth watered at the sight of the neatly trimmed thatch of red hair at the juncture of her thighs.  But he knew he couldn’t hold off any longer.  He undid his pants and dropped them to the floor, releasing the raging erection that would not be denied.  A glance up at Petey showed her eyeing his cock hungrily.

Quickly, he reached for a foil packet in the bedside drawer.  Tearing it open, he rolled on the condom, crawled on top of her, and slammed himself home.  Petey gasped in his ear as she tightly gripped his upper arms.  “Oh, yes,” she hissed.

Feeling his moment rising, he increased his pace, and Petey responded with cries of pleasure.  “Come with me, love,” he encouraged.  On his next thrust, she arched beneath him, calling out loudly, as he exploded in release.

Use this link to get your copy of CHASING ORDINARY.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

 

Valentine’s Day Behind the Book–Chasing Ordinary

Happy Valentine’s Day!

    

CHASING ORDINARY, my ‘spicy vanilla’ modern-day fairy tale
is LIVE at your favorite online bookseller.

Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I want to take you Behind the Book.

In the story, red-haired Petey Cavanaugh is a young widow, living on her in-laws’ Montana sheep ranch.  She helps with the ranch during the day, working at night on her steel and glass sculptures.

When Petey’s best friend Jules, her former art school roommate, arranges a gallery show of her work, Petey jumps at the chance to bring in a little extra money to expand the ranch’s business.

I wanted Jules to have a really cool Manhattan apartment, and in doing my research, I found this fantastic place on the upper east side.  See what you think.  (Photos via Realtor.com)

Nik, in New York on business, meets Petey quite by accident one rainy evening.  He’s instantly taken with her intelligence, talent, and easy manner.  As they chat over apple pie and coffee, he realizes she has no idea he’s Europe’s most eligible prince.  Spending time with Petey is his first-ever taste of ordinary, and he knows he wants more.  But he has to tell her the truth about himself soon, before she finds out for herself.

I figured a crown prince would stay in an ultra-luxurious hotel.  I finally settled on the Royal Plaza Suite at the Park Plaza.  Go ahead and take a little tour.  Notice the elegant dining table?  In the book, some naughty business happens there…

CHASING ORDINARY is now available
at your favorite online bookseller.
And just between you and me,
the 99¢ sale is held over for Valentine’s Day.
Get your copy here: books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

 

Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

Chasing Ordinary 7

She’s everything he ever wanted.

When Nik meets Petey on a rainy Manhattan night, she’s his first-ever taste of ordinary.  As crown prince of his country, he’s accustomed to women chasing him for his title or his money.

This extraordinary red-haired sculptor seems to have no idea who he is.  She takes him at face value, as simply a man and not an institution.  A quality he finds immensely attractive.

Obviously, he needs to be honest with her.  But he’s afraid to break the magic they share.  What will happen when she finds out the truth?

Nik glanced around.  “I take it you’ve been here before.”

“I have,” Petey grinned.  “Jules and I practically lived here during art school.  I place the blame for my ‘freshman fifteen’ squarely on the shoulders of Morelli’s.”

Nik smiled, too.  Coffee and pie were delivered, and Petey watched carefully as Nik took his first bite.

“Oh, my God,” he moaned around the cinnamon-apple confection.  “This is amazing.”

Pleased, Petey dug into her own dessert.  “I know, right?”

Nik washed that bite down with a sip of coffee and regarded her curiously.  “Now can you tell me a long story?”

She frowned.  “A long story?”

“Your name.  You said it was a long story.”  His blue eyes sparkled and he suppressed a smile as he waited expectantly.

“Oh, that.”  Petey rolled her eyes.  “It was my grandfather, really.  When I was born, my parents named me after my great-grandmother.  But my grandfather hated the name.  He ranted at them, ‘Call her anything.  Call her Pete.  Just don’t call her Cecilia.’”  She gestured in imitation of her mother’s father.

She smiled at him ruefully.  “Pete just kind of stuck.  I’ve been Petey all my life.”

Nik brushed his fingers over his lips, obscuring his smile.  “Cecilia’s not so bad.  But you do seem like a Petey to me.”

He took another large bite of pie and Petey nibbled at hers.  Then she cleared her throat.  “So, you’re from England?”

Shaking his head, he finished chewing and swallowed.  “No, I’m from Beruvia.”

“Oh,” she replied, eyes wide.  “Just, well…your accent.  I thought you sounded British.”

“I went to boarding school in England.  That’s where I picked up the accent.”

“Boarding school?”  She frowned deeply.  “That’s horrible!”

Nik laughed out loud.  “Why is that horrible?  It was a very good education.”

Petey blushed furiously.  “I don’t mean…I mean…well, I just felt so sad for a little boy being sent away from his family.  It seems so lonely and cold.  How old were you?”

In his eyes, there was a spark of something Petey couldn’t identify as he watched her for a moment.  Then he smiled warmly.  “Around eleven, I think.  And I wasn’t all alone.  My brother was there.  Our parents came to visit us when they could, and of course, we went home for holidays.  It’s a family tradition, actually.  My father attended there, and his father before him.  It wasn’t horrible, I promise.”

He took another bite of pie, and Petey smiled sheepishly.  “Well, if you say so.  God, I sound so judgmental!  I didn’t mean it that way, really.”

“I didn’t take it that way,” he shook his head.  “You have a kind heart.”

Petey blushed again and busied herself with another bite of pie.  He watched for a moment, glancing down at his phone when it buzzed.  Jorgen had sent a text message.

I’m taking a cab back to the hotel.  Security detail is in place, and the car is across the street.  Let Lars know when you’re ready to leave.

Nik keyed in a short reply and looked back to Petey.  “I noticed drawings on the walls beside the sculptures,” he encouraged.

She nodded, chewing quickly.  “That was Jules’ idea.  She thought people would be interested in my sketches.  I don’t know.”  She nodded at his phone.  “Do you need to go?”

He smiled reassuringly.  “No, not at all.  You sketch your designs first?”

“Yes, I get an idea and I have to put it down before I forget it.  Sometimes they come quickly, and other times they take a while.  And then I think about the materials I have on hand, and the things I might need to gather from other places.”  She quirked her head.  “Sometimes I use ‘found’ materials.  It just depends on the soul of the piece.”

“’Found’ materials?” he wondered.

“Did you see the dinner forks I incorporated in the one I called Bear?  I was at a flea market in Bozeman, and I came across this bunch of mismatched cutlery.  I just loved the forks and figured I could use them sometime.”

Nik leaned forward on his forearms, smiling.  “That’s fascinating.  Where do you get your ideas?”

Petey launched into an explanation of her creative process, eyes alight with enthusiasm.  As she did, Nik felt the tension of the day melting away.

Part of his fatigue was due, no doubt, to the fact that he felt immense pressure to perform his responsibilities in a dignified manner.  After all, he represented not only himself, but his country, and indeed, the crown itself.

Somehow, sitting across from this gorgeous red-haired sculptor, he felt free to let down his guard, to simply enjoy her company.  As she described working on her latest project, he felt his cheeks begin to ache from smiling.

She spoke without inhibition, without pretext.  Perhaps the fact that he’d passed her little test had given her a sense of trust in his sincerity.  The thought would have been encouraging but for one small detail.

She doesn’t know who I am.  That reality was stunning to him.  Not that he thought he was particularly someone of note.  His heritage had often seemed more a curse than a blessing, in more ways than he could count.  But he couldn’t recall ever having met someone who didn’t already know his name, his title, his obligation.

He’d need to come clean, obviously.

Why would I have to do that?  We’re having conversation over coffee.  It’s nothing more than that.

He smiled at her as she continued to describe her work.  He knew exactly why.  This was the first woman who’s sparked his interest in as long as he could remember.  He couldn’t let it end with one conversation over coffee.  He wanted more.

preorder2

CHASING ORDINARY is the contemporary adult fairy tale
I’ve always wanted to write.
It releases February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
But you can reserve your copy now for the special
Pre-Order price of 99¢!

books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Cover Reveal! CHASING ORDINARY

Chasing Ordinary 7

I’ve always wanted to write a contemporary adult fairy tale.   With CHASING ORDINARY, I’ve done just that.

Here’s what it’s all about:

Red-haired Petey Cavanaugh is a sculptor who welds steel and glass creations.  A young widow, she lives on her in-laws’ sheep ranch in Montana where she helps out during the day, working on her art at night.

Looking to raise money to expand the ranch’s business, she gratefully accepts her art school roommate’s offer of a gallery show in Manhattan.  It’s been years since she was in the city, and she’s happy to visit her old friend.

Nik is in New York on business.  He’s been traveling for nearly a month, enduring endless meetings, attending obligatory dinners, and battling jet-lag.  On his way to yet another business dinner, his world collides with Petey’s one rainy Manhattan night.

Their mutual attraction is immediate, but Nik’s skeptical.  Could it possibly be that this gorgeous, enchanting artist has no idea that he’s Europe’s most eligible prince?

Spending time with Petey is Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary.  What will happen when she finds out the truth?

CHASING ORDINARY comes out February 13,
just in time for Valentine’s Day.
But until then, you can pre-order it for just 99¢.

Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

 

Red-haired sculptor Petey Cavanaugh is in New York to attend the opening of her gallery exhibition.  While in town, she meets Nik, a sexy businessman who happens to be Europe’s most eligible prince.

Not that Petey would know that.  Between helping out on her family’s Montana sheep ranch, and working on her art, she has little time or patience for silly celebrity gossip.

Nik’s not offended in the least.  On the contrary, he’s charmed by the fact that she treats him as a man rather than an institution.  But she’ll find out eventually.

And when she does, she feels betrayed by the man she thought she had feelings for.  Reluctantly, she agrees to meet him at his hotel and give him the chance to explain.

CHASING ORDINARY comes out in February, and the cover reveal will be very soon.  For now, though, here’s a little sample.

Petey wasn’t surprised when the car took them to the hotel’s underground entrance.  She was surprised to see Colin St. John waiting there.  Her stomach knotted.  She’d thought of him as a friend.  But he’d known the truth all along, too, and hadn’t bothered to mention it.

When the car stopped, the woman in the front passenger seat quickly got out and opened her door.  “Ms. Cavanaugh,” she murmured.

Petey glanced at her but said nothing.  Jorgen joined her and they made their way toward the door, where Colin waited.

He smiled her sadly.  “Hi, red.”

Petey bit her lip, willing away the tears that threatened.  Not trusting her voice, she nodded curtly.

“You know I couldn’t say anything.  Your friend and his family have been guests here for years.”

She shrugged, and cleared her throat.  “You didn’t owe me anything.”

“Not true.  I owed you honesty.  And for my part, I apologize.  I meant it when I said that you’re welcome here anytime.  With or without the prince.”  He winked kindly.

She nodded and followed Jorgen into the building.  Wordlessly, they went to a bank of elevators, where he used a key card to enter a car marked ‘Private’ by a small brass sign placed discreetly by its door.

Petey was surprised when they only went up a few floors.  For some reason, she’d pictured a huge suite on the top floor of the hotel.  A pair of security guards greeted them when the doors slid open.  Jorgen nodded to them and they stepped aside, allowing Petey and the secretary to move past them and down the hall.

They stopped in front of a pair of antique white double doors.  Another small brass sign declared that they had arrived at the Royal Plaza Suite.  Jorgen used his key card once again to unlock the door, which he swung open to reveal a small but elegant foyer.  The narrow hall opened onto a much larger circular foyer, anchored in the center by a small round table topped by an extravagant arrangement of white flowers arranged in a silver urn.

Moving past the flowers, Jorgen led her to the left, where the foyer opened onto a luxurious sitting room, that was, at the moment, abuzz with activity.  Petey counted at least seven people, not including herself and Jorgen.  One man was setting up enormous lights on stands, while another appeared to be coordinating three cameras on tripods.   A couple of the people were wearing headphones, and a woman with a clipboard seemed to be directing the action.

“Petey,” called a familiar voice.

She turned to see Nik purposefully striding toward her.  Dressed in a dark grey suit, he had tissues tucked into the collar of his blue dress shirt, and a woman with a makeup brush was hurriedly following him.  He turned to the woman.  “Could you give us a moment, please?”

Nodding politely, she returned in the direction from which they’d come.  When he reached her, he softly repeated her name.  “Petey.”

She crossed her arms in front of her and chewed her lower lip.  “Hi.  I said I’d come.  Now I’m here.”  She glanced around.  “You seem kind of busy, so…”

He rolled his eyes miserably.  “I have to do this interview.  But after that, I’m free.  Will you stay?  Please?”

Her heart hitched at the sadness in his deep blue eyes.  She’d fallen for this man.  There was no sense in denying it to herself.  But she couldn’t stand to be made a fool of.  She swallowed the lump in her throat.  “I’m here, so, I suppose I might as well stay.”

Relief flooded his face.  “Thank you.  I’ll make this as quick as I can, I promise.”  He cupped her elbow and squeezed gently before heading back to the makeup woman.

“Ms. Cavanaugh,” Jorgen said, “you’re welcome to sit here and watch the interview.”  He indicated a sofa upholstered in dark tan brocade.  On shaky legs, she crossed to the sofa and sank onto its soft cushions.

“Would you care for something to drink, Ms. Cavanaugh?” a woman asked, materializing out of nowhere.

Petey looked to Jorgen.

“Perhaps a glass of wine?” he suggested.

She nodded gratefully.  “That would be nice, thank you,” she managed.

From where she sat at the end of the sofa, she noticed a pair of blue upholstered chairs set before a nonworking fireplace, and that area seemed to be the focus of the cameras.  She supposed Nik would sit there with an interviewer.  Unconsciously, she slipped off her shoes and pulled her feet up, sitting cross-legged as far into the corner of the sofa as she could squeeze herself.  When the woman returned with a glass of white wine, Petey softly thanked her.

CHASING ORDINARY comes out February 13, 2018.
You can pre-order it NOW for just 99¢.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Fun Fact: The Royal Plaza Suite is an actual suite at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.  Click the video to take a little tour of Nik’s hotel home.

 

Maggie’s Orphans & Misfits Christmas–Holiday Excerpt from Rannigan’s Redemption

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Maggie Flynn, smart red-haired lawyer from Rannigan’s Redemption, was raised by her father after her mother abandoned them both when Maggie was small.   When he died while she was in college, she found herself alone in the world.

Rather than indulging in self-pity and despair, she forges ahead, gathering a collection of friends who, like herself, are alone.  And at Christmas, she makes sure no one spends the holiday by themselves, creating a tradition called the Orphans and Misfits Christmas.  If someone has nowhere to go for Christmas, they know they’re welcome at Maggie’s.  Occasionally, someone surprising shows up.

This excerpt is from RESISTING RISK, Book 1 of Rannigan’s Redemption.

“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.

Couple in love on the background of the spring city.

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.”

Treat yourself Rannigan

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RANNIGAN’S REDEMPTION boxed set
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