Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Release day for 'Texas Twist' by Cynthia D'Alba

Enter to Win


Gift Card, Mugs, T-Shirts, Etc

Real bad boys can grow up to be real good men.

Hit hard by the death of her parents, Paige Ryan needs to figure out what to do with her
life. She moves to Whispering Springs, Texas, to be near her step-brother. But
just as she starts to get her life on track, the last man she ever wanted to
see again sends it right back off the rails.

Cash Montgomery was on the cusp of having it all. Three bull riding titles, fame,
fortune and respect from his family. Until a bad bull leaves him injured, angry
and searching for comfort at the bottom of a bottle. With nowhere to go, he
moves into his sister-in-law’s old ranch house in Whispering Springs—which he’s
surprised to find already occupied.

As Cash rebuilds the dilapidated home and Paige starts out on her medical career, their
old friendship begins to reemerge and sparks are ignited. Paige knows that Cash
is nothing but a heartache waiting to happen. But maybe this bad boy has grown
up to be a real good man?

Warning: Watch out for falling lumber, falling in holes, and falling for the wrong guy…again. You can leave your hard hat on.

Award-winning author Cynthia D’Alba was born and raised in Arkansas. After being gone
for seventeen years, she’s thrilled to be back home living on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. When she’s not reading, writing or plotting, she’s doorman for her two dogs, cook, housekeeper and chief bottle washer for her husband and slave to a noisy, messy parrot. She loves to chat online with friends and fans

Monday, September 1, 2014

Dragoncon 2014

I am back from Dragoncon and Atlanta, and holy cow, am I tired. But I always post something about my experiences, and photos — because, hey, photos!

So Friday was a whirlwind. I mostly started out by people watching, as in standing back and gawking over cosplayers and admiring how in the heck they created such amazing costumes for this thing. I saw tons and tons of "Guardians of the Galaxy" cosplays, as in lots of Groots, Star Lords, and Rocket Raccoons. And this hilarious Sharknado cosplay.

I also thought this cosplay was particularly awesome.

The first panel I went to was for SyFy's "Being Human." If you read my post about the series finale, you know I heart that show and mostly Josh and Nora. AND THEY WERE THERE! Well, not the characters, but the actors. All four of them. Their panel — hilarious. They obviously had a lot of fun working together.

After that, I headed over to the panel hosted by the guys from "The Guild." Another fun one because those guys are every bit as funny as they are on the show.

Afterwards, I mozied over to the Walk of Fame, which is where all the celebrities gather to meet people, sign autographs and be gawked at. The "Being Human" cast were all there, so I went over to meet them. Yep, all four of them, starting with Nora, aka Kristen Hager, who was super nice and humble and let me talk to her for probably longer than was decent, considering her line was loooong. And then I met Meaghan Rath, who played Sally, and she is funny. As in had me laughing out loud talking about her dog. So then I went over to Sam Huntington — Josh — and waited and waited and finally got to tell him that I loved his version of Jimmy Olson in "Superman Returns" and loved, loved, loved him as Josh. He was super hyped to be there and joking with everyone. And he went out of his way to chat with the nervous and awkward young woman in front of me who was completely too tongue-tied to talk to him. So he earned brownie points for taking time to do that rather than simply signing her picture, smiling and saying thanks for coming.  A lot of celebrities don't bother to engage their fans at these things, and that is a sad truth. So anyway. Sam Witwer was next, and whoa mama. He is super hot in person. I never really had a thing for him before. I mean, I liked him, but not in that way. Again, he was taking time to talk to everyone. We talked about his role on "Smallville" and it turns out he's a Superman geek like me, although he said "I mean, there are few things I don't geek out about." ME TOO, Sam! Me too! Anyway. So yeah — the "Being Human" cast was super hyper and really engaged their fans, so they get a shout out.

Know who else did it too? The guys from "The Guild." I talked to them for a while. Got high fives. It was awesome. I can't wait to see what they do next now that "The Guild" is no more. *sniff*

When my niece got off work, she and her boyfriend met me for the "From L.A. to Sunnydale" Buffy the Vampire Slayer panel with Julie Benz, Emma Caulfield, J. August Richards and Todd McIntosh (the makeup artist from the show).

Every single year I look forward to the Buffy panels at Dragoncon. And every single year, I'm pretty sure everyone else does too. The line forms early and is long and half the people in line never make it into the panel. That's amazing that the show has so many dedicated fans so long after it's been off the air. Anyway. It was great. Emma Caulfield (Anya) is a huge X-Files fan like I am, apparently, and Julie Benz (Darla) is just always nice to her fans. We actually met Emma Saturday, and she was really nice. I reminded her of that time she Vlogged herself doing the "Which Walking Dead character are you?" quiz and how hilarious it was (she got Andrea), and she asked if she'd ever tweeted me back when I told her I followed her on Twitter and loved reading her tweets. And then she took a photo with my niece — and my stupid camera decided to be a jerk and not cooperate. She was cool and let us retake the picture until my niece had one. Thank you, Emma!

After that we did some more people watching. Dinner. Rode the Marta back to my niece's place and crashed.


We tried to watch the parade but mostly just saw heads and hands blocking our view. So we went to the Tolkien guests panel. It was four actors from the Hobbit movies, and they were all really funny and had great accents. British? New Zealand-ish? I'm not sure. I just liked hearing them talk. And Craig Parker is a total cutie.

I went to the "Arrow" panel next because, ohmygosh, Arrow! Sadly, Stephen Amell wasn't at Dragoncon. Neither was John Barrowman this year. But Manu Bennett (Slade/Deathstroke), Caity Loitz (Sarah/Black Canary), and Katrina Law (Nyssa al Ghul) were! Katie Cassidy (Laurel) and Paul Blackthorne (Det. Lance) were there too, but those two weren't on Saturday's panel. No spoilers were given, but some behind-the-scenes tidbits were shared. A fan asked how well Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) was fitting into the cast, and Caity said she'd just made a movie with Brandon and was thrilled to have him on the show. She said people were used to seeing him as Superman, but his character on "Arrow" is going to be very quirky — kind of like Felicity. I can't wait to see him on the show!

I met back up with "the kids" and we went to the "Guardians of the Galaxy" panel. The movie's director was very humble and gave great insight into how he wrote the script, did casting and made the movie, so that panel was just...excellent. So glad we got into it.

Then, we did some more people watching...

We also went to the panel "Five Truths and a Lie: Kessel Run," which featured six celebrity guests all telling a story to the same theme, and one person was lying. It was up to the audience to decide who the liar was. I won't ruin it, because you can download the podcast and hear yourself. It was quite hilarious.

So here's my I-will-never-forget-this moment from Dragoncon this year. Before this panel, we were starving. We grabbed some junk from the little cafe inside the Hilton and then sat on the floor in the line before the panel to eat it. There was a Hacking 101 panel going on in the room we were sitting across from. So there I am sitting on the floor, stuffing pineapple in my face, when I see the door open. A guy and girl walk out. The guy looks familiar. I'm thinking, "Wow, he could be Kevin Tran's twin." Kevin Tran, in case you don't know, is a character on my favorite show "Supernatural."

So he walks right up to me and says, "What are you lined up for out here?"

In my head I'm thinking "I am 99 percent sure this is Osric Chau talking to me right now. Nah, it can't be. He's not a scheduled guest." Because I would know, because I am a HUGE fan of that show, and I would know, right?

Anyway. My niece and I both answer him, he says, "Thanks" and then walks off. I lean over to the niece and say, "That guy looked exactly like an actor from Supernatural." And she shrugs and says, "I bet he gets that a lot." So I shake my head and say, "Exactly like him. I think that was him. Could that have been him?" She shrugs and forgets it. But not me, because I'm sitting there, 100 percent certain it was him. So I look on his twitter feed to see if he mentions being at Dragoncon. Um, he doesn't, but other people have mentioned running into him.

So I'm like, "Oh my gosh! I just talked to Kevin Tran! Well, not Kevin, because he's not real, but his portrayer and..." And in my head I'm freaking out, because he came up to me. And I did not say, "Are you on 'Supernatural'?" like my gut wanted me to. Gah! So we go look and he's gone. No idea where he went. And I'm still freaking out about it.

So I tweet this. And get this response.

So holy cow, I kind of sort of met Osric Chau in a totally casual way, and dang it, I need his autograph for my collection. But still. That was pretty cool.

Then we went to a couple of dance parties — the Tolkien-themed one and the Star Wars-themed one — before dragging ourselves home, exhausted.


I started out by going to the Doctor Who discussion panel where fans of the show talked about the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Veronica Belmont and Ann Hoevel were there, and some other Whovians in the know. Geek girls especially should know who Veronica and Ann are, because they are awesome and represent. But that whole panel was awesome. Great insight into what's ahead.

Next, I went to the "Grimm"-themed panel with C. Thomas Howell, even though I've only seen the first season of "Grimm." I have loved C. Thomas Howell since I was a tween. The man was my first celebrity crush. No lie. "The Outsiders" is one of my all-time favorite movies. Ponyboy forever! I've seen most of his movies — yeah, even the bad ones — and was super nervous. He was amazing. Getting older, but who isn't? Nothing was off limits to ask. He seemed very humble. And he looks much better in person than he has been looking on TV lately. Just sayin'. I met him afterward, and I got tongue-tied. Yep. Can't deny it. And then my niece tried to help by saying, "She's loved you forever. She forced me to watch all your movies." Awkward. But then I think she realized what she'd said, because her eyes got wide and she added quickly, "And I loved them too!" Bahahahaha. Sigh.


After that, I made my way over to the Decatur Book Festival in nearby Decatur, because my friend and critique partner Abby Niles was scheduled to make an appearance. I got there late, sweat-soaked, and face as red as a tomato (Atlanta was too HOT and humid, y'all).  But I finally got to meet her in person, and it was awesome. Her latest book, "Winning Love," is now available, and you should go buy it because it is a great read. Trust me.

So someone mentioned pictures, right?

I've put up photo galleries on my Facebook page that you can go see here: FRIDAY photos. SATURDAY photos. SUNDAY photos.

I already can't wait until next year!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My first podcast interview is now live, plus...Dragoncon!

I am truly honored to be featured as the new and noteworthy author on this week's episode of PNR Radio, hosted by the lovely and talented author Arial Burnz.

This was the first time I've ever been the subject of a live audio interview, so of course I was a nervous wreck about doing it. Fortunately for me, Arial is a terrific interviewer who made it fun and painless. Plus, best-selling author Jade Lee is also featured in this episode, and we're both giving away free books, so please give it a listen and go enter to win, people! And if you want to leave Arial a comment thanking her for having me on or telling her how much you enjoyed her interview with Jade Lee, that would be wonderful and I will be eternally grateful.

A couple of things — we recorded this before the release date of SPIRITED AWAY was moved to Sept. 18, so ignore me when I mention it's already been released. And second, I am a lot older than I sound. Yeah. I'm not a big fan of my voice, but who is, right?

You can find more about the episode and listen to it on the PNR Radio website HERE. You can also download the podcast directly from iTunes HERE, or listen to it on the Stitcher Radio website HERE. To go straight to the page to enter the giveaway, simply click HERE.

Thank you for listening!

I also want to invite all of you to the Facebook party for "Winning Love" by Abby Niles. Abby is my awesome-sauce critique partner, and this book is amazing! I'll be taking part in the Facebook party, which is happening between 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 26. You can join the party HERE.

And finally...Dragoncon!

That's right. It's time for my annual journey to the Atlanta convention for all things sci-fi, fantasy, comic book, paranormal, and gaming. Anyone else going? I always have a ton of fun and report back on my adventures, so expect plenty of that to come your way next week! I will be lurking around the convention with my camera taking lots of pictures of cosplayers and celebrities and trying hard not to embarrass my niece and her boyfriend, who will be my sidekicks again this year. I am sure we will be at all the Buffy-related panels, I will try to get up enough courage to say hello to Veronica Belmont if I happen to find myself standing next to her again this year (yep — happened 2 years ago, but I totally chickened out at talking to her), and I hope to high-five the guys from "The Guild" again. They were awesome when I met them briefly a couple of years ago. And, the cast of Syfy's "Being Human" will be there, along with several cast members of my new maybe favorite show, "Arrow." It should be an exciting event this year.

And no, I'm still not in shape enough to cosplay as Wonder Woman, or anyone else. *sigh* Maybe next year?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meet the Character Meme

I was tagged for this meme by Sonya Clark, who writes awesome paranormal and urban fantasy books. Since the third book in my series, Spirited Away, releases Sept. 18, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce the book's main character, Emma "Spider" Fisher. And many thanks for tagging me, Sonya!

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Spider is definitely a one-of-a-kind fictional character, or so I like to think. She was born Emma Fisher, but she gave herself the nickname Spider for a reason — mainly so she could feel a little bit more badass, and so she could put her troubled past behind her. She's not proud of who she was when she was known as Emma.

2) When and where is the story set?

It's set in Atlanta, Georgia, where Spider works in the private detective agency owned by the hero of On the Scent

3) What should we know about him/her?

Spider is a computer nerd — the agency's cyber security specialist — and a major geek. She often gets treated like everyone's kid sister, which drives her beyond crazy because she wants to kick butt like her associates. Even though she's 25, she also still lives with her father, which is why she jumps at the chance to housesit for Zach while he honeymoons. 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

She meets Noah West, the hottie neighbor next door, but he's very mysterious, which intrigues her. She decides to find out more about him and ends up being pulled into a deeper, dangerous mystery surrounding the house in which he lives and his past.  

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

She wants to prove she's every bit as capable as her associates at solving an investigation. Establishing her independence is her main motivation throughout the book. 

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Spirited Away is the final title, and you can read more about it on my website. There's an excerpt and I also created a short playlist. You can find it here. And here's the short synopsis.

Socially awkward Emma “Spider” Fisher prefers her laptop to people, so she’s more than happy to oblige her boss when he asks her to pet- and housesit while he honeymoons in London.

It doesn’t take long for accident-prone Spider to lose a dog, get locked out of the house, and set off the house alarm. Thankfully, her hot new neighbour is more than happy to come to her rescue.

But Noah West is a mystery to Spider—and one she intends to solve. Because either the man is seriously living in a haunted house, or he’s a serial killer. Either way, he’s a total hottie, so Spider will have to guard her heart while she and the animals sniff out the truth.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

It releases Sept. 18.

Please visit the following authors who were also tagged this week:

Amy Burgess

Eleri Stone

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Written Fireside Christmas Blog Hop: "The Misfits of Christmas" Part 2

Welcome to the 

Written Fireside August Blog Hop!

Fifteen authors from Harper Impulse, a digital first imprint of Harper Collins 
will write fifteen stories all starting from one shared starting paragraph 
written by competition winner Georgia Beyers

Each author will share a snippet/s from her story according to the schedule below, and then at Christmas time all fifteen complete short stories will be available to download as one awesome and free holiday anthology. 

Come, join us by fire

Enjoy how each author's voice takes the starting sentences and creates a unique tale.

Lori Connelly - Aug 1,2,3  
Erin Lawless - Aug 4,5
Mandy Baggot - Aug 6,7 
Aimee Duffy  - Aug 8,9
Teresa F. Morgan - Aug 10,11
Angela Campbell - Aug 12,13 
Lisa Fox - Aug 14,15 
Lynn Marie Hulsman - Aug 16,17
Linn B. Halton - Aug 18,19 
Carmel Harrington - Aug 20,21 
Charlotte Phillips - Aug 22,23
Romy Sommer - Aug 24,25
Jane Lark - Aug 26,27 
Zara Stoneley - Aug 28,29 
AJ Nuest - Aug 30,31

Without further ado, here's part 2 of my contribution. Be sure to enter the giveaway below!
The next afternoon, Lucy grumbled in her arms and tried to wiggle away while they waited for one of the sisters to come let them in. Charlotte probably should have left her cat at home, but it was Christmas and they’d both been invited. Why not?

The door opened, and Trevor stood there in a god-awful ugly red holiday sweater sucking on a candy cane. His smile enveloped his whole face when he saw her.

“That sweater reminds me of my Chinese friend,” he said. “His name is Ug Lee.”

She tilted her head in mock sympathy. “Just how closely related were your parents?”

“I see Lucy’s not the only one who has her claws out today.” He fake kissed each side of her face. “Merry Christmas. Get inside before that devil cat turns this into a horror show and kills us all.”

Set free, her cat explored her new surroundings with caution. Charlotte glanced down at the eyesore of a sweater her grandmother had given her at some point—the one that looked like giant snowmen were attacking a village of Gingerbread men—and sighed as her stomach growled out its hundredth complaint of the day.

Of course Daniel would choose that moment to appear around the corner, a bowl cradled in his hands as he frantically whipped something up. “Dinner’s almost ready. Help Trevor finish setting the table so Mildred and Eugenia can relax.”

Her face grew so warm she wondered exactly how red it was and if it matched Trevor’s gaudy sweater. A tiny squeak of dismay escaped her lips after Daniel disappeared back into the kitchen. She grabbed Trevor’s sweater and pulled him close.

“I thought you said he wouldn’t be here!”

“Relax, darling. Even men are allowed to change their minds.”

“You didn’t think to warn me? The plan was for me to change into a sexy outfit and take him leftovers later.”

“We’ll just have to improvise,” he said before sauntering toward the kitchen.

Trevor, improvising? God have mercy on them all.

She took a look in the mirror, groaned at her tacky attire and winced because she hadn’t bothered with too much makeup. Her honey blonde hair was a hot mess and—

Her gaze spotted her calico cat sitting on the dining room table behind her, chowing down on something in a bowl. “Lucy!”

Springing over to pick the cat up, she wrestled to get a piece of something—was that sliced ham?—out of the growling feline’s mouth.

Eugenia came out of one of the back bedrooms, walker in hand, and froze when she saw them.
“What on earth are you and Wendy doing over there? Is it time to eat yet?” Eugenia yelled because she was so hard of hearing, she always yelled.

“Who’s Wendy?” Charlotte yelled back, setting Lucy on the floor.

“That cat.”

“You mean Lucy.”

“Who’s Lucy?” Eugenia yelled.

“My cat.”

“Oh, okay.” Eugenia sat in one of the recliners and bent to wiggle her fingers at Lucy. “Come’re Wendy. Let me pet you.”

Lucy ran underneath the sofa like some kind of rabid animal, a large piece of meat hanging from her mouth.

Oh, for heaven’s sake.

After taking a moment to bury her face in her hand, Charlotte finished setting the table while Mildred gossiped about everyone in the building who wasn’t there. Charlotte’s gaze kept straying to the kitchen, wondering what on earth Trevor was up to in there. Curiosity got the better of her, and she wandered in on the excuse she needed more silverware.

“Anyway, I’m not saying she’s a slut, but she’s been on more wieners than Ketchup.” Trevor lifted his drink and glanced in her direction.

Had he been talking about her? He’d better not have been talking about her, because she absolutely was not promiscuous and—

“I was just telling Daniel some facts about Janet. You know her, right? The tramp who swore on her mother’s life she and Daniel played hide the willy at your office party a few weeks ago.”

Her eyes widened. “Trevor!”

“What?” He reached behind him for another glass. “Mimosa?”

She grabbed Trevor by the arm and dragged him out of the kitchen. “You are not helping.”

“He was eating out of my hand. Trust me. He was very interested to hear what dear Janet had told you.” Trevor poked her in the chest. “He’s still into you. I can tell.”

Feeling flushed and, to be truthful, hungry and therefore irritable, Charlotte was loosing her patience with the entire situation. “Trevor, just stop. Let me handle this.”

Spinning on her heels, she went back into the kitchen to find Daniel putting the finishing touches on a very delicious-looking turkey. Mouth watering, she stared at it, distracted. Her man sure knew how to dress a turkey.


Daniel’s husky voice drew her attention back to him. “I just wanted to apologize for Trevor and whatever he told you. I wanted to tell you myself so that you would, hopefully, understand why I freaked out and believed her.”

A hint of a frown teased his lips. “Why did you believe her? You and Janet aren’t close friends. I didn’t even know you liked her.”

“I don’t, especially now.” Charlotte tugged at the hem of her sweater. “All I can say is that I’ve been very stressed at work, waiting to hear about the promotion, and she caught me at a bad time when I was so jumpy I was willing to believe anything she said. Like you mentioned, I barely know her. Why would she lie about something like that?”

Sighing, Daniel removed the apron he wore. “I don’t understand why she would say something like that either, or why you would believe her without giving me the benefit of the doubt.” He leaned closer. “I love you, Charlotte. I thought you felt the same way.”

Love. Not past tense. That gave her a boost of courage. “I do! But you know you’re out of my league. We both know it. Janet is gorgeous and I saw the way you were looking at her at that party and—”

“Whoa! I wasn’t looking at her any way because I was a complete and total nervous wreck that night. Believe me, if I paid her any attention, it was all an act.”

Charlotte’s brows drew together. “What do you mean? Why were you a nervous wreck?”

“When are we gonna eat?” Eugenia yelled, and Charlotte turned to see the elderly woman standing in the doorway a few feet away. “It’s already past my supper time. What are you trying to do, starve me to death?”

Charlotte glanced at the clock. It was only four-thirty in the afternoon!

She helped the sisters get seated at their table, and then turned to find Trevor sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, messing with Lucy. He snickered, and when he stood up, she saw why. He’d written “I don’t need Christmas because it’s not food. Is it food? Where’s my food?” on a piece of paper and hung it around the cat’s neck like a sign.

Trevor bent down to take a photo with his phone, no doubt to post on Instagram or some such nonsense. Charlotte smacked him on the arm.

“What are you doing to my cat? That’s not funny.”

“Oh yes it is. That’s hilarious!” He snapped away. Lucy grew tired of the hindrance and fell on her side, chewing at the paper. She probably thought it was food.

After removing the paper from her cat’s claws, Charlotte wrangled Trevor into a seat before sinking down into the chair beside him. Please! It was like dealing with a pack of naughty children.

She took a deep breath and tried to relax. What had Daniel meant he’d been a nervous wreck that night? He carried the turkey in and sat it on the table. Trevor and Mildred began clapping, but Charlotte was too anxious to join in.

“Is somebody knocking?” Eugenia yelled and glanced toward the door. “What’s that noise?”

“Oh, you old coot, it’s just us.” Mildred snorted at her sister. “Why don’t you go put some Christmas music on while Daniel puts food on our plates. I left an album out over there for us to enjoy today.”

Oh, that would be nice. Charlotte always enjoyed hearing Christmas music while eating the holiday dinner. That would help settle her nerves.

Scooting her chair back, Eugenia slowly ambled over to the old-fashioned record player near their small television. A scratching sound blared from the speaker as she made her way back to the table.

The loud guitar strings on Johnny Cash’s classic track “Ring of Fire” blasted out of the speakers. Charlotte blinked and glanced around. Trevor looked confused. So did Daniel. But Mildred and Eugenia were reaching for food without a care in the world.

“This is a good song,” Eugenia yelled. “Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas,’ ain’t it?”

“No, you coot,” Mildred returned. “It’s Dean Martin. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” She turned and shook her head at Charlotte. “I swear my sister is as deaf as a nail.”

Trevor settled his hands on both sides of his face. “Oh. My. God. We’re trapped in an episode of Candid Camera, aren’t we?”

Oh, this was absurd.

Charlotte shoved her chair back and leaned close to the younger of the sisters. “Do you mind if I put on something else, Mildred? This song, er, makes me sad.”

“Oh, you poor dear. Go right ahead.”

Sighing, Charlotte lowered the volume and flipped through the set of albums off to the side of the record player until she found a nice one: a Christmas album by Elvis Presley. His soulful voice crooned the beginning of “Santa Claus Is Back In Town,” and some of the tension melted away from Charlotte’s tightly wound muscles. It was a bonus that Elvis was one of her and Daniel’s favorite artists.

Taking a seat across from Trevor, she realized Daniel had piled her plate full of the most delicious-looking food she’d ever seen. Bless his heart.

She smiled up at him as he filled his own plate. Catching her expression, his own softened into a warm smile. “Go ahead and eat up. We’ve got enough for leftovers.”

Bless. His. Heart.

Charlotte’s hand hovered over her fork. “It’s Christmas. We can’t eat without saying a prayer first.”

She expected a smart comment from Trevor, but he only nodded, closed his eyes and waited, palms clasped in front of him. Daniel sat in the chair beside Charlotte.

“Mind if I do the honors?” he asked. When no one objected, he bent his head and shared a lovely prayer, wishing each of them blessings and giving thanks for the ones they had. Before he finished, he added, “Thank you for reminding us all here today that family isn’t always about blood. It’s also about the people in your life who want you in theirs and accept and love you no matter what.”

After a chorus of “amen” from everyone except Eugenia, who was already chewing away, completely oblivious to the wonderful words that had just been spoken, Daniel’s hand covered Charlotte’s. He leaned over and murmured, “We’ll talk after. Now, eat up.”

Hope unfurled in her chest, erupting in a smile as she sampled the mouth-watering feast Daniel had presented without scarfing it down like a starving wolf. Daniel and Trevor traded good-natured insults while Mildred talked over them, determined to make it known “that man in 205” had cut her off at the mailbox a week ago, and young people these days simply did not have any ethics whatsoever.  God bless their souls.

After dessert, Trevor, Charlotte, and Daniel cleaned up, and the atmosphere had lightened so much that Charlotte felt almost…normal. As if this was an average Christmas gathering and not some awkward circumstance forced upon each of them.

“Mildred and Eugenia, thank you so much for inviting us into your home today,” Daniel said before grabbing Charlotte’s hand and edging toward the door. “Charlotte and I have something to discuss. Trevor, stay out of trouble.”

“Never.” Trevor winked at them and settled in on the couch beside Mildred, in no hurry to leave. Then again, “White Christmas” was on the television, and lord knows he couldn’t resist a musical.

Charlotte scooped Lucy up and followed Daniel across the hall to his apartment. Her heart was galloping around her chest. What should she say? Should she let him start?

“I didn’t cheat on you with Janet,” he said, making the decision for her. He hit a switch and lit the large Christmas tree in his living room. “Let’s get that straight right now.”

“I know.” Her cheeks grew warm. It hadn’t taken her long to realize Janet had been after Charlotte’s promotion and had been playing some serious mind games to earn it. Janet had admitted as much after Charlotte had been named an associate partner at the advertising firm.  “I’m so sorry, Daniel.”

“Good.” He bent and reached beneath the tree to retrieve a small package. “I bought you this the morning of the party, so I was a bit nervous and preoccupied about whether you’d like it. I was in no state to so much as think of another woman. Go on, open it.”

Holy smores. Was the small box what she thought it was?

Hesitantly, with trembling fingers, she tore away the wrap and revealed a ring-sized jewelers’ box.

“Daniel!” The lights on the tree caught and sparkled in the diamond on the ring inside.

“Charlotte, you silly woman.” He dropped to one knee. “Now that we’ve cleared a few things up, I would still be honored if you would be my wife.”


Standing, he silenced her by pressing his lips to hers. “Say yes, and we can sort out the rest later.”

“Yes!” She threw her arms around his shoulders.

They stood there embracing, Charlotte’s world suddenly feeling all right again, until a rustling from the tree caught her attention and drew them apart. Seconds later, the tree tilted and fell crashing to the floor amidst a loud, “Mreoow!”

“Lucy!” she and Daniel shouted at once.

The cat sauntered out from the mess as if she had no idea what the fuss was about. A ribbon trailed behind her, and a crocheted decoration hung around her neck proclaiming “Merry Christmas!”

Smiling because she couldn’t help herself, Charlotte realized, as crazy as this holiday had been, it was a Merry Christmas indeed.


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