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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

NEW RELEASE - MEET "SKIP QUINCY, SHORTSTOP"




MEET SKIP QUINCY, SHORTSTOP for the  New York Nighthawks. While this is book 6 in the Bottom of the Ninth series, it is a stand-alone read. 



   One minute ten-year-old Skip Quincy was riding in the backseat of his parents’ car, the next, he woke up in Little Angels orphanage. Within six months, he was adopted. He was welcomed by Mrs. Quincy, the woman he learned to call “mom”, but Mr. Quincy wasn’t a fan.
   Athletically gifted early on, Skip pursued baseball. He loved the sport and excelled, despite his indifferent dad. Driven to succeed to prove his father wrong, Skip worked hard. Under the guidance of his beloved high school coach, he won the coveted, challenging position of shortstop.   Though plagued by self-doubt, Skip made it to the Nighthawks. He focused on baseball and relied on brief encounters with groupies as a substitute for love. When two women entered his life, satisfaction with one-night stands faded. Mimi or Francie? Could either one give him the love and acceptance he’d never had?

EXCERPT

Skip, Bobby, Jake, and Nat donned sweats and headed for the field. They loped along, staying in a group until they’d done the warm-up, then they headed inside to pump iron. Skip loved the challenge of the weight room. He was reduced to adding reps, because Vic wouldn’t let him take a heavier weight. To avoid pulled muscles, the trainer insisted they stretch before working out.“Keep going. Push yourselves, just a bit. One more rep. Two more. But no pulled muscles!”Sweat soaked Skip’s T-shirt. He stopped to down a bottle of water, then jumped on the bike for cardio. Feeling his body perform, work, stretch, and grow stronger stoked his fire. Each session readied him more and more for the contest with the Washington, D.C., Wolverines. Playoffs were next week. He’d be ready.The men took a break. There was a buffet spread for lunch in the dining hall. Bobby got behind Skip in line.“What happened to that Banner chick? You didn’t bring her last night.”“Right. I’m taking her out tonight.”“Big night?” Bobby nudged him in the ribs and wiggled his eyebrows.“None of your beeswax, jerkoff.”“Just thinkin’ it might be nice if you got a little, for a change.”“I’m gettin’ plenty.”“Yeah? From who?” Bobby picked up a plate.“None of your damn business.”“Not from Francie?” Bobby’s voice rose.“No way. I keep tellin’ you, she’s like my little sister.” Skip speared a piece of ham and put it on his dish.“Good. Leave her alone.”“Says you?”“Yeah. She’s too nice for you.”“Fuck off. I’ll go out with whoever I want.”“She’s got enough problems, without you messing up her head with your dick.”“That’s weird, buddy. What you just said? Very weird.”“You know what I mean.”

EXCERPT

Dan swiveled and fired at Bobby, who was between first and second. Skip ran to second, anchoring himself with his back foot up against the bag, and stretching out toward the second baseman with his other one. Bobby tossed it to Skip, who bent down and tagged Weeks’ right foot as he slid into base. The bastard raised his left foot, aiming his cleats at Skip’s back leg, but the shortstop dove forward, into the dirt, bending his back leg at the knee, barely avoiding the spikes. And he kept hold of the ball, nestled snugly in his glove.

“Out!” The umpire called, making a fist and pumping it toward the ground.Weeks jumped up and immediately argued with the umpire. Skip smiled and loped toward the dugout. He knew he’d tagged him before hitting the ground. One glance at the Jumbotron, which showed a replay, and Skip shook his head, his grin widening. Eddie Weeks, once an asshole, always an asshole. Skip hit the dugout and nabbed a bottle of water, downing it in almost one gulp.Cal Crowley sidled up to him. With one nod and a pat on the shoulder, the manager said, “Way to go, Skip.”“Thanks.”After several teammates high-fived him, he sat down, waiting his turn to bat. Nat was up first, then Bobby, who was in the on-deck circle. Skip couldn’t wait. Confidence flowed through him. This was going to be his game. He felt it, in his bones. All the weeks, months, and years of endless practice would come together on this field, starting today.He stood up, walked to the front of the dugout, and glanced at the stands. The seat he’d bought for Mimi Banner was empty. Swinging his gaze to the left, he spied Francie Whitman, sitting next to Elena Delgado. That was all he needed to know.

EXCERPT

Glancing up, he spied Mimi, hesitating at the front of the restaurant. She wore a low-cut black dress. His gaze zeroed in on her chest. He marveled that such a petite woman could have such large breasts. He wondered if they looked bigger because she was so tiny. When he finally looked up at her face, he frowned. She looked lost. Skip raised his hand to catch her eye.She smiled and headed for his table. He rose and pulled out her chair. She smoothed her skirt over her thighs and sat down.“No one’s done that for me in a long time,” she said.“Rowley didn’t pull out your chair?”She shook her head.“You were his wife.”“Didn’t seem to make much difference.”“Don’t mean to speak ill of the dead, but he must have been kinda stupid.”“Thanks.” She shot him a warm smile.The conversation was going exactly where he wanted. He needed to come off as a thousand times better than her dead husband if he wanted to warm her bed. Soft, brown curly hair caressed her shoulders. He wanted to touch it but suspected she was skittish and would freak out if he reached across the table to comb his fingers through her locks.Rowley had smacked her around and been suspended, and eventually fired, for it—and for steroid usage. According to the coroner, steroids had caused the heart attack that killed him.“You must miss Rowley,” Skip said, signaling for the waiter. “What do you want to drink?”“Just ginger ale.”Skip raised his eyebrows. “I have a game, but you have no reason to avoid a drink.”“I stopped drinking two years ago.”“Why?”“Alcohol made Rowley more violent. I needed to stay sober to keep my wits about me when he was drinking. It just became a habit.”Switching to her choice, Skip ordered two ginger ales. He couldn’t imagine what it was like to be chained to a guy like Banner.“Makes sense. Are you hungry? All the food here is good. Trust me. I’ve eaten everything on the menu.”“All at once?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

Buy the ebook or paperback here:



BARNES & NOBLE/NOOK













Tuesday, January 23, 2018



EVERYDAY HEROES

After so many bad men making the news, let's look at the positive side of men. Although we sometimes berate men for not communicating more, most men share their love by doing, not talking. Today I honor those men, the ones who help for the sake of helping...the men who do small, unselfish acts everyday. 

Today is your day guys as I dedicate this blog to my everyday heroes, men I know, and don't know who have touched my life in positive ways...you know who you are:

1) To the two gentlemen who stopped, briefly, to pick me up, one guy on each arm, when I slipped and fell at the bottom of the wet subway stairs on a rainy day.2) To the man who stopped in the parking lot of Peck's grocery store in Narrowsburg. The second I put my hands under the hood of my car, he was there, asking me what was wrong and if I needed help. Then he proceeded to show me where to put in the wiper fluid, unscrewed the cap to the little tank and left before I even made eye contact! 
3)  To all the men on the streets of New York who have stopped to pick up whatever I dropped before I even bent my knees. Klutz that I am, that number is huge.
4)  To my friend in the community who came down to the lake because I told him I was going there to swim by myself and he felt it was unsafe.
5)  To all the men on airplanes who, when seeing me with a large carry-on bag, stood up and put it in the overhead rack for me without even being asked. And also, to those who took it down for me when we landed.
6)  To the thousands upon thousands of men who have held doors open for me, allowing me to pass through first.
7)  To the two young men on line in the grocery store who offered their frequent buyer cards to me so I could get the discounts, too.  
8)  To the man who took the dead mouse out of my mousetrap and disposed of it for me. Yucky!  
9)  To all the young men in high school and college who politely took "no" for an answer and either still continued to date me or became my friend.
10) To all the men who got up to give me a seat on the bus or subway when I was pregnant.
11) To my male writer friends who encourage me every day.
12) To the men I met on countless vacations who danced with me, bought me a drink at the bar and didn't hit on me.
13) To the man who came to the emergency room with me on a first date, waited forever and held my hand while I got a tetanus shot. 
14)  To my writing partner, Ben, who encourages me every day, never tells me my ideas are dumb or gives me a hard time about my typos or lack of punctuation…and listens, patiently, to me rant about life.
15) To the man who took two hours out of his day to show me how to do my website for the price of a bagel.
16) To the two men who took my pictures and designed book covers for me just because they are my friends.
17) To the man who walked me home after dark when I ducked into a bar because someone was following me...and took "no" for an answer with charm and grace. 
18) To the man who drove me through a blinding snowstorm and back so I could bring a stray cat with an infected paw to the vet.
19) To Doug, our guest, who surprised me with a Tiramisu cake just because I had admired it in the bakery window. 

20) To the man who jumped into a Facebook group to defend me when several people attacked my opinion.
21) To all the men who let me go first...from the checkout counter at the grocery store to the bread counter at Zabar's... simply because I'm a woman. 
22) To the unknown young man who gave me a lift 60 blocks up Madison Avenue to Mt. Sinai Hospital when the subway wasn't running and my father was in surgery.
23) To the men in IRM who are never stingy with hugs or encouragement. 
24) To DH who sometimes fixes things before I ask. 

To all you everyday heroes, thank you. Thank you for all you've done and continue to do quietly without fanfare...and for the shy smile you give me when I acknowledge your help. Love you all!

Who are the everyday heroes in your life?

Monday, January 8, 2018

BASEBALL IS BACK! SKIP QUINCY, SHORTSTOP....The New York Nighthawks have returned...


Meet Skip Quincy, Shortstop for the New York Nighthawks. Up for Pre-Order! 

I'll be posting new excerpts of this book right up to release day. Here's excerpt #1

Francie Whitman, barely twenty-six, was getting her Master’s degree in studio art at City College. Her stepmother controlled a trust fund her father had left when he died. A frugal woman, Calista Whitman, counted every penny, sending Francie to a public university, and putting her up in a tiny studio apartment. When she became twenty-seven, control of the fund would shift, and Francie would steer her own way.

Because she was still in school and four years younger, Skip considered her a kid. Although he was strongly attracted to her, he kept his hands off, settling for bantering, teasing, and kidding, instead of dating.

She seemed okay with their friendship, until today. Her willingness to play strip poker shocked him. Not that he wouldn’t have jumped at the chance, had they been alone, but she’d never gone beyond harmless flirting with him before. The minute she had said, “strip poker” blood had pumped to his dick. It stopped when he teased her and backed away. Her frown also surprised him. He’d expected blushes, stammers, and recanting. Instead, she’d faced him with a bold stare, daring him to take up her challenge.


Rather than sort through his mixed feelings, Skip focused on his date with Mimi. He expected to take a lot of shit from his teammates if he started seeing her seriously. Hell, she was the widow of one of the most hated guys in baseball. Even though they had attended his funeral, every single Nighthawk had despised Rowley Banner. Skip had pitied the guy and his addiction to steroids. But that was no reason to stay away from his beautiful widow.

Get it now for only $2.99. Price goes up to $4.99 on release day. 
(Steamy, contemporary romance. Caution: locker room language)

PRE-ORDER THE EBOOK, SKIP QUINCY, SHORTSTOP HERE:











NOOK (BARNES & NOBLE)


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS BY THE NEW YORK NIGHTHAWKS!



NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
BY THE NEW YORK NIGHTHAWKS




Dan Alexander, Pitcher
“No more hitting batters, unless they’ve pissed off my buddies. Buy my girl flowers once a week. Try not to yell at her parents. Remember, all I said was try.



















Matt Jackson, Catcher
“I plan to block the plate against all runners, and hide it from the umpire. Also pledge to stop criticizing Stormy, and telling her how to play softball. Yeah, I know, good luck with the second one.”









Jake Lawrence, Third Base
“I promise not to try out for any more Broadway shows, with or without Kate. I plan to run two extra miles before every game. Or at least try to. Trying counts, right?”












Nat Owen, First Base
“I swear I’ll stretch my legs until I can do a split. Or at least add three more inches so I can get every bouncer that comes my way. No, I haven’t been missing, but you can always do better, right? As for women? Stay away from celebrities. Honest. Really. I will. I’ve learned my lesson. I have, I swear.”










Bobby Hernandez, Second Base
“I promise to read the rest of Elena’s romance books in order. Also promise to stop giving Skip Quincy a hard time off the field. Yeah, right --on the second one.”










Skip Quincy, Short Stop
“I don’t have to make any because my book’s not out yet. But here goes anyway. I will stop listening to Bobby Hernandez off the field. And I’ll forgive Billy Holmes. Women? Well, I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’m keeping my resolutions about the women in my life to myself.” *snickers.*




FIND THEIR STORIES IN EBOOK, PAPERBACK AND AUDIOBOOK HERE:

https://jeanjoachimbooks.com/bottom-of-the-ninth-baseball-romance-series/




Monday, December 11, 2017

THE HOUSE-SITTER'S COUNTRY CHRISTMAS - EPISODES 11-13


Welcome back to the final episodes of this story. These will not be the totally final episodes, just the last few I'll be posting on my blog. The rest will be written and put out as a book, which will not be free. 
I hope you are enjoying the story. It may get changed in places when it's edited and put in book forms. Thanks for stopping by.


EPISODE ELEVEN


At ten o’clock, Laura and Ginger got in the car. Snow on bare branches glistened in the light of the moon. A few street lamps lighted the way. She drove slowly on the icy roads.
“Thank you for inviting me, Laura. I get the feeling you wanted me to meet George.”
“Are we that transparent?”
Ginger laughed. “Well, he’s single.”
“You two seemed to hit it off.”
“He’s invited me to breakfast tomorrow morning.”
“How nice.”
“It’s pretty soon for me to be thinking about another man.”
“Really?”
“It’s only been six months since I lost John. I don’t think I’m ready.”
“Take it slow, then. George is a wonderful man. Nothing wrong with having breakfast together.”
“That’s what I thought. But his British ways. It’s kinda strange to me.”
“You’ll get used to it. He’s simply the nicest man.”
Laura pulled into Jess’s driveway.
“Thanks again. And for the lift home,” Ginger said, exiting the vehicle.
When Laura arrived home, she found George and Craig enjoying a hot toddy by the fire. She joined them.

“Let me heat up one for you, dear,” Craig said, rising.
When he left, Laura looked straight at George.
“So, how did our little ruse work?”
“You mean Ginger?”
She nodded.
“She’s lovely. Much too soon for her, though. But a good choice.”
“Glad to hear. You’re breaking bread with her tomorrow?”
“Yes. I thought breakfast would be less intimidating than a dinner date.”
“Smart.”
“My life isn’t conducive to marriage. I travel too much. And the time I’m here, I like to spend some with my children.”
“I understand. That might work well for Ginger. Seems she’s not ready for a heavy-duty commitment.”
“Might be perfect, then?”
Laura chuckled. “Wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas present?”
“It would indeed,” George replied, raising his glass.
Craig returned, handed her a small glass, and sat down next to her. She sipped and put the warm beverage down. Craig enveloped her small hand between his.
“Perfect for a night like tonight,” she said.
“Is it always this cold? All winter long?”
“I’m afraid so. You get used to it, after a while.”
“I doubt I ever could,” Craig replied.
“Does that mean you don’t want to come back here in the winter?”
“Maybe,” he said, hedging his bets.
George cleared his throat. “When you’re dressed properly, it’s quite invigorating.”
“Oh, shut up, George,” Craig muttered.
“Craig!” Laura’s eyes widened.
“I’m sorry. But do you have to be so damn cheerful all the time?”
“Pardon me, sir. I just thought that you might consider some compromise. Considering you’ve found the one woman who meets your qualifications and will put up with you,” George said, his eyes hot.
“The one woman who…what?” Laura straightened up in her seat. “What qualifications?”
“Thanks, George,” Craig said, fuming.
“Nothinig, nothing. Just that he wouldn’t tolerate any woman who wasn’t smart and attractive.”
“Oh. That’s not so bad.”
“And one who would give him a hard time about how babyish, selfish, and annoying he can be,” George tossed in.
“I’m babyish? Who called a woman ‘madam’ and almost started World War Three a few days ago?”
“That’s a perfectly acceptable form of address where I come from.”
“Yeah? Well, we’re not where you come from. We’re where I come from.”
“Boys, boys! Stop.”
 “Sometimes I lose my patience, Miss. Mr. Banley’s finally found the one woman he could live with and now he’s complaining that the climate she lives in is too cold. I’m going to bed. Sometimes, I just can’t take him,” George said, shaking his head. “Everything is always about you. You need to learn the definition of the word ‘compromise’, sir.” George rose from his seat and headed for the kitchen.
Laura heard the water running. Wasn’t it like George to wash out his glass before retiring, even in the midst of a disagreement.
“George loses patience with me. But you don’t,” Craig said, facing her.
“I might. I mean if you are as childish as George says, then, well, who knows?” She cocked an eyebrow at him.
“You wouldn’t leave me because I don’t like winter, would you?”
“Probably not. But you have to make an effort, Craig. Not everything is going to be to your liking all the time. You need to learn to adapt.”
“It’s funny, but in the beginning, nothing in my life was the way I wanted. When I started working with Uncle C.W. and got a little success, well, then, I vowed that everything was going to be the way I wanted. Kinda making up for lost time.”
“I get it. But you’ve been living in style for quite a while now. Time to compromise a little. Don’t you think?”
“I hope I can. I’d hate to lose you,” he said, taking her hand.
Laura picked up her glass. Did she want to spend the rest of her life with a man who expected the world to tie itself into knots to suit him all the time? Could she live with someone who would never compromise? Did she want to give up her house, never be here to feed the birds and the deer in the winter? She swallowed.
He raised her hand to his lips.
“What are you thinking?”
She shook her head.
“Come on. You’re making me nervous.”
“So maybe you have to be nervous for a few minutes. Would that kill you?” She knew she was snapping at him, but she resented being pushed. She didn’t care to share her thoughts. They disturbed her, and until she had worked them out, they would be hers alone.
“Wow. Where did that come from?” He moved back.
“Don’t push me. If I don’t want to share something, that should be okay with you.”
“It is. It is. I’m sorry.”
His face became boyish, his eyes pleading. How could she deny him anything?
“George is right, you know. I’m selfish, uncompromising, set in my ways.”
“Are you trying to tell me something? Like I shouldn’t be with you?”
“Never! Not at all. But if you want me, you have to take the frog with warts and all, before you transform me into a prince.”
“Who said anything about a prince? I only want a man, who loves me.”
“Then you’ve got him. Here I am.” He leaned over to kiss her.
Laura heard George fussing in the kitchen.
“I think we should take this discussion to the bedroom,” she said, softly.
“You read my mind,” Craig responded. He arose and offered her his hand. She took it and they headed for the stairs. Her body tingled at the thought of what lay ahead. They had had tiffs before, and always made up in the bedroom. While she’d acknowledge that Craig Banley could be an obstinate man who would stick with his opinion, she admitted fully that no one knew how to make up in the bedroom like her Craig.

* * * *
   Mumbling to himself, George ambled to the guest room on the first floor. Though there was a larger one upstairs, he preferred to be as far away from the master bedroom as possible. He’d avoid overhearing any noise coming from the room Craig and Laura shared. 
   Ever since they had gotten together, George had been examining his own life. He’d been too busy to be lonely most of the time. But when work stopped, like at the holidays, it became harder for him.
   At Thanksgiving, he’d made the rounds of his children’s homes. He’d been grateful for Craig Banley’s trips to Europe over Christmas. He’s sent gifts to his grandchildren from all over the world. And traveling on Mr. Banley’s dime helped him save money. It had been a true win/win situation. Craig’s temperament softened a bit over the holiday.
   But now, that would be over. He’d want to spend this time with Laura, which left George to be a third wheel. He hated intruding on their privacy. He’d stopped denying the pangs of jealousy he felt when he saw them together. They were so damn happy!
   He wanted to feel that way about a woman and have one return his affection. As for sleeping alone, he’d finally become accustomed to it, but that didn’t mean he liked it. Heavens, no, sleeping alone offered no comfort, even if he could have the blankets all to himself.
   Finding a woman who could live with his crazy schedule would be impossible. That was the reason he’d given himself for not even looking. But this woman, Ginger, had come along. 
   Their situations were not ideal at all –quite the opposite. How could she ever get away from the farm to come to New York? And how would he like mucking out a stall or tramping around in the snow and mud?
   He chuckled to himself. Perhaps he’d better take the advice he’d given Craig so freely. It was time to compromise, put up with, and share. The idea intrigued him. A bright man, he’d always welcomed a challenge. Forging a relationship with a woman who lived two hours away on a working farm would tax his creative thinking to it’s limit. Was she worth it? Tomorrow, he’d set about finding out.
   George changed into pajamas and slid beneath the plush comforter. As he lay in bed, his gaze roamed over the cozy quarters. He loved the room. With walls sporting a coat of warm, spring green, it had the flavor of the outdoors. The bed spread had a charming small flower print in light blue, yellow and two shades of green. The old fashioned lamp on the nightstand was a tap lamp. The small dresser was pine, with a clear finish. And the windows looked out on the back and side yards.
   George drifted off, thinking about his date with the lady with the hot temper and the auburn hair.
   In the morning, he arose before the others. Grabbing a quick shower, he dressed rapidly in the cool air, and hit the kitchen to put up coffee, and a kettle on the stove for his tea. He puttered around, setting up coffee mugs, and milk, as well as his tea cup. Humming Christmas songs to himself, he glanced out back to find the feeders empty.
Shrugging on his jacket, he headed out back with a bag of bird seed. After filling the feeders, he glimpsed something dark out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he faced a black bear about six feet from him. The bear eyed the bag of birdseed.
Panic shot through George. He tossed the bag of seed at the bear and flew back to the house. Shutting and locking the back door, he peer out through the back window. Huffing and puffing,  while the adrenaline in his veins slowed down, he witnessed the bear attack the bag, ripping it to shreds so it could chow down on the seed. Perhaps Craig wasn’t completely off about life in the country.


EPISODE TWELVE

   George brewed another cup of tea while he watched the bear demolish the bag and gobble up the bird seed. Once his nerves were settled, he returned to his room to look in the mirror. He made a face. How could he pick the green tie with this shirt? He ripped the offending garment from his neck and pawed through the selection of neckwear in his suitcase.

   One tie after another was discarded, thrown, in disgust, on the bed. Finally, he concluded that the ties were fine, but it was the shirt that was wrong. He checked his watch. It was eight thirty and Ginger was due at nine. He had no time. Whizzing through the shirts he’d hung up upon arrival, he finally settled on the blue striped shirt because it would go well with the green tie.
   
   His eyes were pale green and he’d been told that green in a shirt or tie highlighted that. Pushing the tie into position, he then checked his image in the mirror. Finally he’d found the right combination.

   After his frantic wardrobe emergency, his hair needed combing. He tidied up, brushed off his shoulders, and headed for the foyer. Craig and Laura hadn’t even come downstairs yet. George chuckled to himself that they had already found a better way to wake up than a cup of coffee. His thoughts turned to the occasional morning when he and Eleanor had tasted of marital delights before breakfast. She had been a spunky woman, up for any adventure, be it visiting a new country or a new sexual position. He’d been a lucky man.

   George sighed. Long ago, he gave up the hope of finding anyone up to her standard. Perhaps, after all this time, he’d be happier lowering the bar a bit and not being alone. The honking of a horn drew his attention.

   He opened the door and greeted Ginger, who kissed his cheek, then turned to wave farewell to Jess.
George offered her his arm. “Shall we depart?”
   “Of course,” she replied.  

 George opened the car door for her and Ginger gave him directions. The diner was warm with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and cinnamon buns in the air. George’s stomach rumbled. The small place had about half a dozen booths and the same number of tables. A waitress with a name tag that read “Holly”

“Sit anywhere. I’ll be right there with menus,” she said, gesturing.
There were two empty booths by the windows.
“Where would you like to sit?” He asked Ginger.
As soon as they were seated, Holly whizzed by, dropping menus and offering coffee. George declined, but Ginger accepted.
“Tell me about your life in New York City. Where in the world have you traveled? Or should the question be, where haven’t you been? Do you like working for Craig Banley?”
“Whoa! Hold on. Wait a minute. One question at a time. Please.” He laughed.

   They ordered blueberry pancakes with bacon. George regaled Ginger with his travels with C.W. She seemed to hang on every word, asking good questions.
“Where would you go, if someone handed you a blank ticket?” He asked.
“Gosh. So many places. Guess it’s between Paris and Rome. No, wait, Paris and London. Maybe. What’s your favorite place?”
“Paris is beautiful, even if the people aren’t always so friendly.”
“Then, Paris,” she said.
George took her hand and looked into her blue eyes. “I’d love to take you there.”
“Let’s go so I can start packing,” she said.  “Have you ever been on a farm?”
He shook his head.
“My goodness! You’ve been to Africa and Europe, but never on a farm. We’ll have to fix that.”
“I’d love to visit.”
“I have a guest room with your name on it,” she replied.
“I’m honored. Tell me about a typical day at the farm.”  

   While he listened, George took note of Ginger’s best features. Surely, she had the most beautiful, clear blue eyes. Her pale skin reminded him of heavy cream as he had poured it out to create whipped cream. He noted her breasts, plump and inviting under her apricot sweater. The rest of her was hidden under the table. But he’d seen enough to know her form was enticing.

   Surprised to find his thoughts running through the same gutter at Craig’s, he almost chuckled. Instead, he cleared his throat. There was no way he could explain what he was laughing without offending. He gazed at her face, animated with the love of her animals, house and garden.
“The British are big on gardens. Are you a big gardener, George?”
“I have dabbled occasionally, though I can’t say I have a very green thumb.”
“Too bad. I could use some help in mine.”
“I’d love to see it.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until spring,” she said.
George took her hands in his. “I’d be happy to wait until spring.”
Her face flushed the most becoming shade of pink. He raised one hand to his lips.  
“You’re just a big flirt, George.”
“Ah, you’ve caught me. Yes, I am. Especially around beautiful women.”

*************************


EPISODE THIRTEEN

“It’s Christmas Eve. There’s a lot going on, for a small town like ours,” Laura said, sipping coffee at the kitchen table.
“Like what?”
“A late service at the church up the hill, followed by a midnight hayride. There’s caroling outside the café at three. Kiwanis is throwing a big Christmas Eve dinner. We have plenty of people out here who can’t afford a big Christmas dinner. There’s a surprise book exchange. People gift wrap some of their gently used books and give them away. Some people have garage sales actually held in their garages!” She laughed.
“Do we have to do all those things?”
“Of course not. Which ones do you want to do?”
“Well, I’m not much on second-hand stuff. No one cooks a better meal than you. I’m probably allergic to hay…so that leaves, caroling? How long will it take?”
“I thought you came out here to absorb a country Christmas?”
“I did. A country Christmas with you. I don’t care about the other stuff. I don’t know anyone here.”
“You’ll never meet anyone hiding out in my house.”
“I’d prefer to hide out in your bed,” he snickered.
“But this is such a nice time. There are many wonderful people out here. They put a lot of time and energy into these events. Some people look forward to them all year.”
“Do you?”
“I used to. Before I started house-sitting for you and your uncle.”
“You mean you attended all these?”
She nodded. “The dinner is especially good. People make their best dishes. There are dozens of dishes to choose from. I swear I put on five pounds after the dinner, the school bake sale and the caroling at the café.”
“How does caroling put weight on you?”
“You can’t just sit at the café and not order food. Their hot chocolate is wonderful.”
“What if I don’t want to share you with the town?” Craig refilled his mug.
Laura frowned. This wasn’t going the way she expected. Perhaps thinking Craig would love everything she did, simply because he loved her, had been a mistake.
“I’m not used to doing anything for Christmas.”
“I forgot. And you liked that?”
“I got used to it. It was a day off from work and a good meal.”
“You don’t know how sad that sounds,” she replied.
“Don’t feel sorry for me. I have everything I could ever want and need, except you.”
“But you do have me.”
“Do I? You love it here, don’t you?”
She smiled.
“Would  you ever sell your house and live in the City with me?”
“Sell? Oh good heavens, no. Why? Why can’t we live in both places?”
“I don’t think I’m cut out to be a country boy.”
“You haven’t given it a chance. Please come to some of these things today. Try them. You need to get the Christmas spirit.”
“I did. I gave a fat check to Santa’s Thrift Shop.”
“That was wonderful, but it shouldn’t stop there. Let the people of the town give to you.”
“What can they give me that I can’t buy for myself?”
Laura’s mouth fell open, she frowned. “None of this is about money.”
“Isn’t it? At the church service, they’ll send around an offering plate, right?”
“Yes, so?”
“And at the dinner, they’ll ask for a small donation to cover the food, right?”
“It’s voluntary. Only if you can afford it.”
 “And the bake sale is to raise money for the school, right?”
“I see what you mean.”
“I’d rather send a check to each of these places and stay by the fire, having a hot toddy with you.”
“But that’s not what Christmas is about.”
“It is for me. Or it has been for many years now. Except for the gifts you left and the decorations, I’ve never participated in any of those things.”
She took his hand in hers. “I’m so sorry, Craig. You’ve missed out on so much.”
“Have I? Here I sit. On top of the world, with plenty of money, a beautiful home, and the girl of my dreams. Am I missing much?”
“Won’t you come with me and see?”
He frowned and his brow wrinkled. “Do I have to?”
“You can stay here. But I’m going,” she said, pushing up from the table, her body rigid as she put her mug in the sink and headed for the bedroom.

* * * *
Craig halted as a gust of frigid air assailed him. George came through the door.
“Hurry up, get dressed, Craig. We have places to go. Ginger gave me the schedule. First event begins in an hour. Hurry, man!”
“You, too? Damn it. I don’t think so.” Craig huffed up the stairs and into the bedroom, slamming the door. Startled, Laura jumped and turned.
“What was that for?”
“George just came home with Ginger. Full of that Christmas spirit you’re talking about. Now he wants me to do to these things, too.”
“Good. Then you agree?”
He shook his head. “I suppose I have to.”
“No, you don’t. You can stay here.”
He shed his robe and fished through the closet to find something to wear. After making love to Laura this morning, his mood couldn’t have been better. Now, that good cheer had vanished. Grumbling to himself, he grabbed his clothes, stuffed them under his arm and trudged to the bathroom.
After showering and shaving, he dressed and returned to the bedroom. Within seconds, George was pounding on the door and yelling. Well, maybe simply speaking in a louder voice than normal.
“Hurry up, Craig. We’re waiting for you.”
He glanced out the window. There had been more snow overnight. The white powdery stuff glistened in the sunlight. Picture-book pretty, but annoying and dangerous to drive in.
He opened the dresser drawer to get his watch and spied the small, square box resting on his T-shirt. He stopped. Perhaps this was all a mistake? Could being with Laura simply end up a delightful fling that had run its course?
He shivered at the thought of losing her. Yet, here he was, being dragged to places to rub elbows with people he could care less about. He picked up the box and placed it back in his suitcase. He’d had a near miss. He let out a breath at how close he had come to disaster. As much as he cared for Laura, she wasn’t the girl for him.
She had ties to Pine Grove he couldn’t break. She’d always want to come back to this drafty house, cramped with one full bathroom. How could he be comfortable here? And hanging with people who couldn’t afford a regular Christmas meal? He’d never be comfortable with that –those were the people he didn’t have to meet or see, the ones he took care of with the swipe of his pen on a check.
Laura seemed to care about the people here. She had ties, lived a different life from his. It appeared to be one she wouldn’t be happy to part with. Did he want to spend the next forty years being miserable at Christmas? Of course, he’d been miserable at Christmas for many years already. He had thought Laura was his ticket to a perfect holiday. Just her, maybe George, and his townhouse.
He sighed. Sadness filled his heart. He truly loved her, but compromising his life to live her way seemed liked reaching for the moon. He wound a wool scarf around his neck and turned toward the door. His shoulders slumped as he made his way down the stairs.
Smiling would be an effort. He knew what he had to do. But he’d wait one more day before taking action. Give Pine Grove one more chance to prove itself worthy. He didn’t hold out hope that anything would change.
Would Laura give it up for him? Probably. She was that kind of woman and she seemed to love him, but how happy would she be? Doomed from the start. A heaviness in his heart made every step feel like he was lifting ten tons. But he got in the backseat with Laura, while George manned the wheel and Ginger rode shotgun.
He avoided Laura’s gaze, unable to let her see the unhappiness in his eyes. He stared out the window at the frozen landscape and buttoned his coat all the way to the top.
George and Ginger chattered away about each event, but it all blended together as background noise. Craig’s heart broken piece by piece as he looked for a way out, but found none. Which path he should take became clear.
Laura slid her hand over the seat and clasped his.
“Are you all right?”

He looked down at their hands and nodded. Emotion gathered in his chest and he didn’t trust his voice. 


OOPS! Sorry, but the story ends here, temporarily, until the book is completed and available for sale. Thank you so much for stopping by to read. I will post when it's completed. 


In the meantime, if you want to read the first book, "The House-Sitter's Christmas", a sweet fairy tale holiday romance, here's how to get it. It's even in large print (great gift for those with visual issues) and on audio with dual narrators! 



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