Snow steadily falls outside the cabin windows, covering the rich autumn colours of the trees and earth with a dusting of white.
“Oh, this is magic.” LaVerne peels off her puffer jacket and stands in front of the blazing fire. “I’ve always wanted to experience a white Christmas! Usually I’m smothering myself in sunblock.”
“Move over.” Lilly bumps the excited hostess with her bottom, sending her flying. “Share the heat. I’m freezing!”
“Whoa!” With an expert manoeuvre, Mac raises a tray of delicious-looking drinks over her head as the human missile barrels past, landing safely in Mary’s cushiony bosom. Mac rolls her eyes and lowers the tray, a smug smile spreading over her face as she inspects for damage. “Not a drop spilled. Here ladies, help yourselves. Oliver has been busy creating. We’ve got sweet tea, hot chocolate with whipped cream, or for those wanting to be warmed from the inside out, hot mulled cider and Bailey’s coffee. Just leave me a cider would you?”
They all take a drink and Mac places the tray on coffee table before grabbing herself the lone cider left over.
“I hope Lyn gets here soon.” Mary smoothes her shirt back over the girls, tucking her chin and glancing down checking everything was in order. “I’m dying to meet Diane O’Key.”
Lilly snorts and raises her own glass to her lips. “Don’t you mean Trey Dalton? You know he’s taken right?”
“Of course and Abby is a sweetie, but there’s no harm in looking, is there?”
“None at all,” Mac agrees and then squeals with delight. “They’re here! Oliver!” The handsome butler appears in the kitchen doorway. “Could you start putting the food out now?”
He flashes her a smile and a wink and all the hostesses pause to watch his departing back and sigh in unison.
Lyn opens the door and stamps off snow from her shoes before entering.
“Oh!” LaVerne grips the back of an overstuffed couch and sways theatrically. “Anyone feel that? I thought it was an earthquake.”
“Ha, ha, very funny,” Lyn scowls and enters the cabin. “My feet are not that big. I don’t know where you ladies get that idea from.” Three gorgeous looking people come in behind her and her scowl transforms into a delighted smile. “Ladies, please welcome Diane, Abby and Trey. They’re very excited to be celebrating the release of their story Beyond Words with you this weekend. I got a sneak peek of it just now and I know you’re all going to love it as much as I did.”
Oliver steps up to take everyone’s coats and ushers them towards the table where a feast for the eyes sits waiting for them. A golden turkey takes centre-stage adorned by bowls of creamy mashed potatoes, green beans, glazed carrots, creamed onions and macaroni and cheese casserole. Antipasto platters of meats, cheese and olives sit at either end of the table for easy pickings and mouth-watering relishes stand by to complement the meat at the diner’s discretion. Oliver hasn't forgotten cheese grits for Abby and Danish pastries, either!
As they all gather around the table, Oliver filled everyone’s glasses of the finest champagne and Lyn raises her glass to lead the toast.
“Here is to great food, fantastic company and wonderful reading. Congratulations on bringing your fabulous story to life, Diane!
(This week's introductory 'skit' was written by LaVerne)
THE LAST THING ABBY MATHIESON WANTS…
is a take-care-of-the-business-end partner. Emotional and financial demons spur her dream of self-reliance and her vow to continue her aunt’s legacy, Beyond Words, a Blue Ridge Mountains book-and-gift shop.
IS WHAT SHE MOST NEEDS…
Trey Dalton, sexy CPA with a heart of gold and a backbone of steel, wants nothing more than to return to his home in warm, sunny Florida. But he made a deathbed promise to ensure Abby succeeds…whatever it takes.
Conflict and sexual tension ramp up as they wrangle over the shop and deal with Abby’s quirky best friend and the incorrigible resident parrot. Abby’s sworn to trust no man, but Trey has her tangled up worse than knotted fishing line. If she can’t overcome her insecurities before he unravels her finances and leaves town forever, her precious independence will cost her a love Beyond Words.
“Ready to call it a day?” Trey asked.
“And then some.” Abby yawned hugely behind her hand.
“I’ll walk you to your car.”
“I don’t have a car.”
Trey frowned. “Don’t— How do you get here?”
“Ever heard of feet?”
He looked as if she’d used a foul word.
“But…I mean, everybody…”
She took pity on him. “Before you dig yourself a bigger hole, pardner, I own a car. But home’s only half a mile. I enjoy the walk.”
His expression hardened. “You’re walking. At this hour.”
“Why not?” Geez, what was the big deal?
“It’s not safe. Dark. You’ll be alone.”
“I do it all the time. Wear a luminous-striped vest.” She sniffed. “And I’m used to being alone.”
His eyes flashed, part anger, part something softer, quickly gone. “Well, tonight you’re not walking anywhere except to my truck.”
“You don’t have —”
“Yeah, I do. Don’t argue. I’m too tired to go another round with you.”
How had she missed that? His handsome face looked drawn under its golden tan, his winter-gray eyes weary.
“I’ll get my jacket.”
Trey swiped up his keys. “Meet you out front.”
Once she’d hooked her seatbelt, Abby flipped down the vent.
“Too much?” He notched the fan to low. “Sorry, I’m not used to cold.”
Cold? He hadn’t seen anything yet. But then, he wouldn’t hang around long enough….
All light vanished beneath overhanging trees when he turned off the main street. High
beams on, hands white-knuckled, he slowed on the serpentine, uphill climb. Yup, Abby thought,
a Flatlander, for sure.
“I’ll walk you up.”
“No need.” What she needed, now, was to escape. Before she did something stupid. Like sink her hands into that silky, sun-bleached hair and find out if he tasted as good as he looked.
com (info and review)
Diane O’Key can’t ever remember not reading—or writing, for that matter. By the end of eighth grade, she’d written numerous poems and short stories and won an award for having read over 500 books grades 1 through 8. Her lifelong love of storytelling, classical literature, and history—inspired by incredible and demanding teachers—propelled her into a 22-year secondary language arts teaching career, in which her students and colleagues immeasurably enriched her life...though one of her great points of pride—and greatest fears—is that they remember her as OCD about grammar, spelling, and syntax....
Raised on the Jersey Shore, she discovered a deep love of theater (for which she won several awards) and gymnastics in high school. Aided by scholarships and loans, she worked her way through Georgian Court University, and upon graduation with honors and 42 English literature credits, taught high school in Pt. Pleasant and Pt. Pleasant Beach.
Then, she and her high-school sweetheart, now husband, moved to Southwest Florida, where she continued to teach. Married for 40 years, she and her better-half, a retired firefighter, have one grown son, a talented airbrush artist, and divide their time between we-love-winters-in Florida (though they’re there—at least for now—most of the year) and their beloved South Carolina Upstate lake home as often as they can get away.
Her interests include making custom jewelry and bookmarks, snow skiing, baking, and anything to do with the water. A member of SW Florida Romance Writers and RWA for eighteen years, she has two wonderful, multi-published authors as critique partners: the self-dubbed Three Musketeers. Diane writes medieval historical romance, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense.
Writing as she does “in the mist,” without absolute direction or outlines, is both a challenge and a joy. She delights in those moments when the characters pop full-blown into her head, carrying on a conversation. As that pop is rarely the first chapter, however, the struggle begins to write from that point-first backward, then forward. Keeps her awake at night...and life interesting.
Prizes: Abby wants to send you something from her Blue Ridge Mts. book-and-gift/local craft shop, Beyond Words. Really--a custom-made necklace!
Trey wants to send you something he and Abby purchased while on their Sanibel Island/SW Florida Gulf Coast honeymoon. Really--purchased on Sanibel Island, FL!
Contest ends on Sunday and everyone who comments is eligible.(We reserve the right to waive the prize in any week when there are not enough contestants for a draw to be deemed fair and unbiased)