I was thrilled the Roses decided to use this first sentence for our stories. Last year, my story ended with a kiss under the mistletoe. Here’s what happened next.
This was the absolute last time she kissed anyone under the mistletoe. As she and Sam broke apart, Abby’s cheeks burned hotter than the steam-filled kitchen.
First Bethany gasped “Mo-ther!” with all the exasperation seventeen-year-olds could muster. Then Mother and her boyfriend—could you really call a seventy-year-old a boyfriend?—George showed up, both grinning widely.
George slapped Sam on the back. “Hehehe, son. Better watch out for those Ten Eyck women. Just ask me. Now get out of the way and let me have some fun.”
With a playful poke, George elbowed Sam out of the doorway and took his place. With a move straight out of a 1940’s flick, he dipped Mother over his arm and planted a steamy kiss on her. Abby hoped she hadn’t had that dopey look on her face when Sam finished their kiss.
“Go, Grandma!” Bethany cheered.
Abby fumed. It was okay for her grandmother to kiss under the mistletoe but not her mother? She would have words with her daughter when they got home. Strengthening her resolve, Abby repeated her vow not to let anything spoil their last Christmas in the home she’d grown up in.
Our last Christmas.
Damn. Tears gathered behind her eyelids. She had to get out of there before she embarrassed herself further. Ignoring her mother’s giggles, Bethany’s cheers, and George’s antics, Abby raced to the back door and yanked it open. Blessedly cool—make that cold—air hit her along with a spray of snow. She stepped out onto the wide back porch, pulling the door closed behind her. God, what a mess. And she didn’t mean the blizzard blanketing Far Haven and most of West Michigan. Starting last night, the winds howled off Lake Michigan. Though the winds had diminished that morning, the snow kept falling. At least ten inches, according to the weather report that morning. More by now, eight hours later.
She wrapped her arms around herself, holding in her grief. If she let the tears fall, they’d freeze on her cheeks. Tears for a house. How ridiculous. Grief for her childhood home? A tear escaped. With freezing fingers, she swiped at it.
For the past month, she’d tried to convince her mother not to sell the old Victorian in Far Haven’s historic district. Did her mother listen? Of course not. Did her mother ever listen to her? Yeah, right.
A blast of heat enveloped her. Someone had opened the door.
“Go back inside, Bethany. I’m fine.”
“Not Bethany.” The deep baritone rumbled behind her.
Sam Watson. The man she’d met at the jail when they’d come to rescue her mother and his father, neither of whom wanted rescuing. That’s when Abby discovered her mother had a boyfriend. And met his son, aka Mr. Tall, Dark, and Sexy, according to Bethany.
“Same message. Go back inside.” Abby didn’t bother to hide her displeasure at Sam’s presence.
A heavy coat landed on her shoulders. “Flo is worried about you. So is Bethany.”
Nobody called her mother Flo . . . until George and Sam came along. Father thought nicknames inappropriate. He certainly didn’t approve of her nickname. “If we wanted you to be called Abby, we would have named you that.”
“I’ll bet they’re worried. Mother is more anxious that dinner will burn.”
“I think the three of them will make sure it doesn’t. Dad isn’t too bad in the kitchen.” Sam kept his hands on her shoulders, on top of the coat, generating a different kind of heat. “Did I upset you with that kiss?”
Upset her? Hell, yes. She’d liked it. More than liked it. His kiss that started out playful had turned into something more intense and awakened long-buried wanting inside her. A longing that embarrassed her more than Bethany’s exasperation or George’s teasing. What had she been thinking to succumb to a kiss under the mistletoe? From a guy she’d met in the wee hours yesterday morning?
When she turned her head to tell him to leave her alone, she realized it wasn’t her coat around her shoulders. She should have known since it was so long the cuffs covered her hands. The rich leather felt buttery smooth against her cheek. Besides the smell of leather, she caught a hint of sandalwood and outdoors. Like a forest. Not pine but something—
“I’m sorry.” Sam rubbed the top of her shoulders. “Not for kissing you, which I liked very much. I embarrassed you. And for that I am sorry.”
“I should go back inside.”
His hands held her still. “It’s beautiful out here. The first time Flo invited me over, I fell in love with the gardens.” He scoffed. “Me. A condo guy. I didn’t realize how soothing a beautifully-designed garden could be.”
“Mother has a green thumb. That is such a cliché, but it’s true.”
Mother’s pride and joy had always been her flower beds. As a Master Gardener, she’d arranged the flowers so something bloomed from early spring to late fall. Although she had a lawn-mowing service, Mother never let anyone touch her garden. The new owners would probably destroy the garden. Too much work.
“I can’t believe she wants to sell this.” Abby waved her hand to include the backyard plus the huge garage. At one time, it had been a carriage house, large enough for two coaches and four horses to pull them. Now the garage held her mother’s red Mustang convertible, the outdoor furniture, and Father’s workshop, with room to spare.
“That bothers you. A lot.” He stated the obvious. “She’s starting a new life, with my father. I think that bothers you more.”
She nodded. “She kept saying the house and property were too much to keep up. I didn’t know about your father until the two of them were arrested.”
Sam laughed. The way he was holding her, back against his chest, she felt the rumble of his amusement vibrating behind her. She wished he would let her go. She didn’t like the feelings provoked by a man holding her. A man kissing here. Fifteen years of going without holding and kissing. Without longing for more.
Ferret Face had killed that part of her.
Please return tomorrow for Part Two.