Happiness for her friend warred with disappointment. Reba’s good fortune meant Mia would have to cut her time in Connecticut short. Her time with Kit. She kicked a clump of snow off the path.
“What was the call about?”
She glanced up at the really nice guy walking at her side. When was the last time she’d met a man like him? Oh yeah—never.
“Reba found out why her boyfriend has been sneaking around and keeping secrets.”
She couldn’t hold back a smile. “No. An engagement ring.”
“That’s great. Good for Reba.”
Her fingers tightened around his and squeezed. “I’m so happy for her. She really loves him and was devastated when she thought he was cheating.”
“I guess planning a big surprise isn’t always the smartest move.”
“Isn’t that the truth? I think we both learned the same lesson last night.”
“Maybe you want to give them some more time alone? We can hang out for as long as you like.” He stopped walking and faced her. “All evening. Heck, I’ll make a huge sacrifice and let you spend the night, for a good cause of course.”
She smiled and ran her toe across the ice-coated path then sighed. “I’m afraid it means I have to leave town sooner than expected. My parents freaked when I told them I wasn’t coming home for Christmas, but Reba needed me.”
“Christmas is almost over. Visit them for New Years instead.”
“I wish.” She shook her head. “No. I can’t do that. My whole family is together. If I get a really early start, I’ll be home for breakfast in the morning.”
“So this is it? You’re going to walk away, and I’ll never see you again?”
“Never is an awfully long time.” She tucked her hand through his arm. “You can walk me back to Reba’s place. It’s on Begonia Way.”
“Right next to Azalea Lane. Convenient—or it would be if you were sticking around.”
She stopped at the rink to grab her skate bag then swung it at her side as they walked. “What do you do when you’re not making syrup?”
“I skate too.”
She turned and stared. “You’re kidding?”
“Real skating. The kind with a big stick and a puck. None of that sissy twirling stuff.”
Her laughter echoed through the darkness. “That’s good. I can’t picture you in tights and sequins.”
“If you could, I’d have a serious problem. Not that there’s anything wrong with sequins.”
“You’re a funny guy. And nice. Did you play Santa for your nephews last night?”
“I did. Woke them up at two in the morning when I knocked over the fireplace screen. They were so excited they didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. Which meant I didn’t sleep either, but it was worth it. The expressions on their faces…” He cleared his throat.
“What did I say—nice.”
They turned on Begonia Way. Mia stopped in front of a small house painted cranberry red. Christmas lights twinkled along the eaves and porch rails. A stuffed Santa and an elf perched on top of the mailbox at the end of the driveway.
“This is it.”
He touched her cheek with his thumb. “Getting to know you has been a pleasure, Mia.”
“It’s been an interesting Christmas. One for the memory box.”
Dropping her bag, she stood on her toes, clasped his face between her hands and kissed him. When she finally pulled away, he grabbed onto the mailbox.
“I like to do things with style. Merry Christmas, Kit.”
Turning on her booted heel, she scooped up her bag and walked away without looking back.
Dawn crept across the sky outside the kitchen window as Kit stared at the coffee maker and yawned. When it gurgled and sputtered, he yanked out the pot and poured a cup of steaming brew. A few drops hit the hot plate and sizzled. He wrinkled his nose.
Two nights without sleep was at least one too many. With another bone-cracking yawn, he walked through the silent house and out onto the front porch to take a deep, bracing breath of frigid morning air.
Not that he had an excuse for his sleeplessness. So the most beautiful, interesting, sexy woman he’d ever met had walked out of his life without a backward glance. Was that a reason to toss in bed all night? It wasn’t like his life was ruined. He still had his family and friends, his business. Nothing was changed. Still, regret he was losing something—someone—truly special sucked the spirit right out of him.
With a sigh, he leaned on the railing. Something white fluttered behind his old pickup in a gust of wind. He squinted toward the end of the driveway and blinked. What the hell?
Setting his coffee mug on the top porch step, he strode down the walkway and around his truck. All he needed was to have kids messing around—
Kit sucked in a breath. A pillowcase strung across the tail gate flapped in the breeze. A message was painted in holiday red and green, the letters and numbers outlined in—sequins. Happiness burst inside him as he read the words.
Call Mia at 212-555-1212. This is only the beginning!
“Whoop!” His cry pierced the morning air.
One thing was certain. The woman definitely had style.
I stayed up late to read the ending to your story. Yup, I loved it that much. Thanks for giving us an awesome holiday read.
You made my night, Vonnie. Not quite so late here, so I'm not as crazy as you are to be up!
I feel all warm and fuzzy! Too bad I have to go to work now. So, so, so wonderful, Jannine! :)
The first story ends on that wonderful high note. BTW folks, the free book, and the whole series are terrific!
Leah and Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed the ending. It's tough writing a story this short!
Margo, Thanks for the plug! Please download the free book everyone. I need to move my ranking in those mysterious Amazon algorithm!
GREAT ending! This story is awesome and it certainly put me in a festive mood. Excellent job, Jannine. It is VERY difficult to write a story this short. Kudos!
Thanks for the vote of confidence. Short, short stories are definitely a challenge!
I love the ending, Jannine. Great story. You captured the essence of both characters in such a condensed story. A great talent.
Now that is one great ending!
Diane and Alison, thanks! I was worried about how to "end" this. The only way I could figure was to leave the reader with hope for the future. Glad it worked for you. If I were really motivated, I'd make this short story the beginning of a much longer book. So many projects. So little time! LOL
LOL. I answered while logged in to Beach Read Authors, that was me, Alicia who posted the comment. Sorry!
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