I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling in the holiday spirit! The decorations are up, the music is playing, I’ve squirreled away gifts for those I love. So I’m in the mood for a Christmas scene.
This one is from RESISTING RISK, the first book in the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy. Fledgling attorney Maggie Flynn is alone in the world. Her mother abandoned her and her father when she was a toddler. And her father during her college years.
So every year, Maggie hosts her annual Orphans and Misfits Christmas for her friends who, like her, have nowhere to go. One particular Christmas, she has a surprise guest.
“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 canceled. 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 front of everybody.” 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.”