Genesis 5020

My Story for His Glory

Hawaiian Holiday by Michele Paige Holmes December 22, 2018

Filed under: Book Reviews,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 2:09 pm
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About:

Ten strangers. Six days in paradise. One unforgettable Christmas.

Hailey Walsh has always loved Christmas, and this year the holiday was supposed to be the most magical of all, spent with her large family and her fiancé in preparation for their wedding just two days after. Then Gage broke their engagement.

Now, instead of playing in the snow with her nieces and nephews, Hailey’s building a playground with children she’s never met before, spending her Christmas with strangers in Hawaii, on a service program she hopes will lift her spirits and help her begin to pick up the broken pieces of her life and heart.

Gage Stevens didn’t want to spend Christmas in Hawaii any more than he wanted to break his engagement, but sometimes fate has a way of slamming a guy against a wall and forcing him to tough decisions— for the good of others, be that his ex-fiancée or his mom. And while he’s certain that no ocean breeze or tropical wonderland can heal what’s wrong, one glimpse at a familiar head of red hair and Gage realizes fate may not be done with him yet.

My thoughts:

I love discovering new to me authors. And Michele was new to me. But I have to say I would be happy  to read more of her books if this one was any indication of her writing style.

This is a short read you can do in a couple of hours but it packs a big punch. There is much more to this story then just a Christmas romance. We get to see how God is working in these ten people’s lives and bring healing into their brokenness. This is something He gives to each of us when we surrender our desires to Him. I love that the author even says the phrase alternative endings. Yes! God specializes in this area and it ends up being even better than you imagine. You might say a Genesis 5020!

Visit Michele here.

Grab your copy at Amazon, or your favorite retailer.

A copy of this book was given to me. All opinions are my own. 

 

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Did you get the last chapters? December 21, 2018

Filed under: Melissa's writing,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 12:07 pm
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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

I’m not sure what happened last week but the last chapters didn’t get sent in the email. I updated it so it is on the blog but wasn’t sure if you anyone clicked on the title to go there. If not click here and you can read the last three chapters.

I hope you all have a blessed and Merry Christmas. May you celebrate the day with a fresh and new perspective and gain a deeper understanding of what Jesus did for us.

 

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright December 20, 2018

Filed under: Book Reviews,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 1:35 pm
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About:

In this heartwarming, feel-good novel, a snowstorm brings a cast of very different characters together at a sleepy New England inn, just in time for Christmas—and maybe even in time for a Christmas miracle. 

A New England inn seems like the picture-perfect place to spend the holidays. But when a snowstorm shuts the roads and keeps them all inside, the guests find themselves worrying that this Christmas may not be exactly what they dreamed of.

Molly just needs to keep her head down and finish her latest book, but her writer’s block is crippling. The arrival of Marcus, a handsome widower with two young girls, is exactly the distraction she doesn’t need.

Hannah was hoping for a picturesque winter wedding, but her plans come crashing down when her fiancé calls everything off. She reconnects with her childhood friend, Luke, when he comes to check on his grandmother before the storm.

Jeanne and Tim don’t know how they’re going to keep the inn open another year—or how to bridge the distance between them in their marriage. With a flurry of unexpected guests, they’ll have to work together to fix all the problems that crop up. But will it be enough to rekindle their relationship?

As the characters’ stories intertwine, they start to find hope where they thought it had been lost. With faith, and a little bit of Christmas magic, the inn—and its inhabitants—might just make it through the holidays after all.

My thoughts:

What a charming story. I loved being trapped at the inn with these characters during a winter storm. I could visualize the snow falling and the beautiful piles the following day.

With as many point of views that this book had I wondered if I could connect with the characters. But I did. I looked forward to each chapter and seeing what was going on that character’s life.

If you are looking for a cozy Christmas read, full of the hope of the season I recommend this one.

Grab your copy at your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com or your favorite retailer.

A copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley.com. All opinions are my own. 

 

 

A Timeless Christmas by Alexis Stanton December 18, 2018

Filed under: Book Reviews,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 6:12 pm
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About:

They’re from two different centuries,
but they’re perfect for each other.

Megan Turner is in love with the past. As a tour guide at a beautiful historic mansion, she tells visitors about its original owner, Charles Whitley. An inventor and businessman in the early 1900s, he rose from poverty to wealth…only to disappear without a trace.

Charles was always intrigued by the future. He just never expected to go there. But when he repairs a mysterious clock he bought on his travels, he’s transported to the twenty-first century, with his home decorated for Christmas and overrun by strangers.

Charles is determined to find a way back to his own era, especially when he learns about what happened after he left. But as Megan introduces him to the wonders of smartphones, pizza, and modern holiday traditions, they both feel a once-in-a-lifetime connection. Could it be that, somewhere in time, they belong together?

This magical holiday romance includes a free Hallmark original recipe for Stuffed Crust Italian Pizza.

My thoughts:

This is a super quick read that I enjoyed. I love getting that “Hallmark” feeling as I read a book.

This book reminded me a bit of “The Spirit of Christmas” on Netflix.

The whole time you know it has to work out but the author does a great job keeping you guessing on how it is going to happen.

If you love a good Hallmark movie I have no doubt you will enjoy this book.

Grab your copy at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or your favorite retailer.

A copy of this book was given to me through Netgalley.com. All opinions are my own. 

 

Try this again–Right On Time Christmas: The Last Chapters December 14, 2018

Filed under: Melissa's writing,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 7:45 pm
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aaron-burden-178369-unsplashApparently, this post was empty the first time I posted it, so we will try it again.

Here are the final three chapters of Right On Time Christmas. I was going to post two this week and the last one next week but I think that last chapter will have more impact if you read them all together. 

I hope you have enjoyed Stephen and Caylee’s story and can see God’s persistent love of us through their story. I hope you can also see that His timing is perfect, even if it doesn’t line up with ours. 

Chapter 9

Three days had passed. Stephen sat on the sofa and looked at the television but not really watching it. He  resisted the urge to call Caylee and talk to her. He did need time to process everything. But after three days of no contact his heart screamed the same thing. She was the one. Always had been.

“Sarah comes in two days.” Mom’s voice interrupted his thoughts, or maybe she was reading them. She was really good at knowing what he was thinking.

“I know.” Stephen didn’t tell Mom what was going on. He couldn’t give her hope, but somehow she seemed to know.

“Should you tell her not to?” Mom sat beside him.

“Why?” How much did she know?

“You’re in love with Caylee.”

“Yeah.” A smile spread across his face. He was in love with her.

“Maybe it’s time to tell her. And when I say her, I mean both of them.” Mom patted his leg.

“You’re right.” Stephen jumped up for the sofa. “I have to see Caylee first. I’ll call Sarah later tonight.”

Mom stood and placed her hands on Stephen’s arms.  “I always knew this would happen you know. You two belong together.”

“I hate when you’re right. Usually. But not this time.” Stephen drew her into a hug then headed for his car.

——

Three days. Caylee threw herself down on the couch. Maybe Stephen had decided not take a chance on her? Who could blame him after all the times she hurt him. But she wouldn’t this time. This time was the real thing. She loved him.

She let loose a laugh. She loved Stephen Meyer. She never dreamed she would feel that way. After all the guys she went through, Stephen had always been there, why did it take so long for her to see the truth?

A knock sounded at the door and her heart leapt. Could it be Stephen? She stood, straightened her shirt, glanced in the mirror, not so hot. Oh well.

She reached for the door with a smile and opened. Her heart dropped to her feet. Why was he here? Now?

“Hey sweetie, I was hoping we could talk.”

Josh? Here, on her doorstep, looking way too handsome and put together, his brown puppy dog eyes reminding her why she fell for him in the first place.

“Can I come in?” He stepped forward and that yanked her out of her thoughts.

“Uh, sure.” No, he can’t come in. Wonder if Stephen showed up? But she moved out of the way. When Josh passed her he grabbed her arm and kissed her forehead.

Wait, he broke up with her, why was he acting like he was back in her life?

“Let’s sit in the living room.” Her words sounded choked even to her.

He sat beside her on the couch, which felt way too close.

“What are you doing here?” She finally asked when he slipped off his coat.

“I miss you. I miss us.” He reached for her hands. “I made a huge mistake.”

What? Josh admitting he was wrong? But he wasn’t this time.

Being with Stephen was like being with no other man she had ever dated. It was easy, yet exciting. He knew her so well, better than she knew herself.

She studied Josh and couldn’t think of their break up as a mistake.

“I don’t think it was a mistake. As a matter of fact I think you broke up with me right on time.” Caylee smiled, confidence filled her heart.

“Right on time?” Josh pulled his hand away. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s hard to explain but the timing was perfect. That’s what God does. He is always right on time, not my time.” As she spoke hope flooded her. She had never been more sure about something as she was right now.

“Are you okay?” Josh drew his eyebrows together.

“Never better.” Caylee nodded. “I appreciate your apology and I do forgive you but I’m okay. We aren’t for each other. You’ll find someone else who will make you extremely happy.” Just like she did.

“Okay.” Josh stood and grabbed his coat. Caylee followed him to the door. “I’m glad your doing well then. I guess I was getting lonely since Christmas is only a few days away.”

Caylee leaned around him and opened the door. “I get that. But you can’t make something happen that isn’t meant to be. I wish you all the best Josh, you are a great guy.”

Josh stepped out on the porch and Caylee followed.

“I hope you have a Merry Christmas.” Josh drew her in for a hug. No sparks, no regrets. Yes, she was in love with someone else.

She pulled away and smiled, still hugging him. “You too. Be safe driving back to Columbus.”

“Thanks.” He kissed her forehead again, but this time she sensed no hidden agenda. Just parting friends.

He turned and headed toward his car. That’s when Caylee saw Stephen sitting in his car on the street.

——-

He couldn’t believe it. Caylee in another guys arms, again. She hadn’t changed at all.

Memories of senior prom flooded his mind.

He hadn’t seen Caylee for about a half hour. He thought maybe she had gone out to the parking lot to get some air. He went out but didn’t see her. Then he noticed a car with movement. He walked over to it, why he will never know, and saw her. Locked in an embrace with Jeff Thomas. It was more than an embrace though, it was down right passion. He should have walked away but he was glued to the cement. And then her eyes opened and her gaze collided with his.

That’s when he walked away. She soon followed, her gorgeous hair that he thought she had done for him was a mess, her lips red from kissing Jeff.

She pulled him aside in the banquet hall. “We’re just friends.”

“It didn’t look like you were friends.” Fire burned in his veins, his face flaming from the anger that raged inside of him.

“Not Jeff and me, you and me. We’re friends. I didn’t think you would care if I was with someone else.” Her words slammed into Stephen’s heart and couldn’t breath for a second. How thoughtless could she be? Couldn’t she see how much he cared for her, all these years? He waited for her, he never dated anyone, waiting for her to see him. She never did. It was clear she never would.

Now, sitting on her street, watching some guy walk away from holding her and her smiling up at him that same fire lit inside of him. But this time he was done. What a fool he had been thinking she had changed. That she could actually love him. What a stupid fool.

The guy drove away and Caylee stood on the porch and waved like nothing was wrong. Stephen pulled himself out of the car and strode towards her, his mission simple and clear. End this for good.

“You won’t believe who that was. Josh, my ex.” Her words rushed out but he didn’t care.

“Save it.” Stephen stopped short of the porch and looked up at her.

“What?” Her eyebrows drew together.

“Save it. I just came to say I am going to marry Sarah.” Stephen forced the words out and his heart ached with every syllable.

“Oh.” Her eyes glistened. Was she seriously going to cry?

“It looks like we both found what we were looking for. I’ll have Sarah and you can have Josh. You and I can be what we have always been, friends.” Stephen’s words dripped with bitterness.

“But I don’t want –”

“Have a Merry Christmas Caylee. See ya.” Stephen turned and headed for his car. It was the right thing of course. So why did it feel like he just made the worst mistake in his life?

Chapter 10

 

“Oh, sweetie it’s so good to see you.” Mom wrapped Caylee in a hug. She forced a smile, no need to bring them down with her.

“You too.” Caylee swallowed back the tears that wanted to continue flowing. She cried all night. No way could there be any tears left, yet there seemed to be.

“You look tired.” Dad took his turn hugging and kissing the top of her head.

“Yeah,” was all she could muster.

“Can you believe Christmas is only two days away?” Mom bustled around the house. “Oh, the tree looks wonderful. Thanks for getting it up. One less thing for me to do.” Mom threw a smile over her shoulder and disappeared in her room.

Caylee’s head was spinning. She wanted to crawl back into bed but that wouldn’t happen for several hours.

Mom came back out of her room and Dad went in, probably to take a nap

“So, what’s been going on with you?” Mom took Caylee’s hands and lead her to the couch.

“Not much.” Other then getting her heart broken by the one man I actually loved.

“I heard you’ve been spending time with Stephen.” Mom get right to the point.

“How?”

“Mrs. Meyer told me. We are both so happy.” Mom squeezed her hand.

“Well don’t be. Nothing is happening anymore. He is asking his girlfriend to marry him. Probably in the next couple of days.” Oh, those words were like acid over her throat.

“What? Why?”

“I’m not really sure. I think he saw something that made him believe I was getting back together with Josh. I am definitely not. I love Stephen.” That was the first time she admitted that to anyone.

“Well, then tell him.” Mom’s eyes softened and pleaded with her. She was always a Stephen fan but tried not to push.

“I tried and he wouldn’t listen. The more I thought about it the more I thought I don’t want someone who doesn’t trust me.” Acid again. He had every reason not to trust her.

“Hmmm. You know I try to keep my nose out of things but maybe you should try talking to him again before it’s too late. I know he has always loved you.”

“I guess I could try calling. But how horrible will I be if Sarah is in town and I call  now and take him away from her?” She would feel like a fool if she was in Sarah’s shoes.

“How horrible would it be for Stephen to marry a girl he didn’t really love over a misunderstanding?” Mom spoke truth.

“You’re right, I need to try.” Hope stirred in Caylee’s heart again. She leaned over and hugged Mom. “I’m so glad you’re home.”

“Me too.” Mom brushed the hair from Caylee’s face and smiled.

Caylee rushed to her room and grabbed her cell. She sat on the edge of her bed and looked down at the phone. She could do this. She had to try.  

She dialed Stephen’s number but it went right to voicemail. He must have it silenced. She could try the landline that his parent still had. After two rings Josie picked up.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Josie, is Stephen around?” Her voice shook. Why was she nervous.

Silence for what seemed like a long time.

“He’s with Sarah.”

Silence again.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Josie almost sounded mad. “What happened? He wouldn’t talk to anyone. Just says it was never going to work between the two of you.”

Caylee drew in a breath and threw herself back on the bed. “He saw something and he interpreted it incorrectly. He saw my ex hugging me. I was giving him the boot because of Stephen, I love him. We actually left on good terms but doing so made it look like we left on really good terms, if you get my meaning.”

“That sucks.” Josie was always so bubbly, to hear her now you would think someone died. “It’s too late. He probably has already asked Sarah to marry him, that was the plan.”

If it was at all possible for person’s heart to fall to their stomach then Caylee’s did and she had no desire to pick it back up.

“I see.” Her words were only a whisper.

“I’m sorry.” Josie sounded as sad as Caylee felt.

“Me too.” Caylee thought she knew what heartache felt like but until that moment she didn’t. This is what it really felt like. Everything in her body wanted to curl up and hide and never come out. “Don’t tell him I called. This should be a happy day for him.”

“Okay,” was Josie’s soft reply.

Caylee hang up and stared up at the ceiling all strength and desire left her body. Stephen was gone for good this time.  She curled up into a ball and cried into her pillow.

——–

“Mom.” Josie rushed into the living room. Melinda looked up from her ipad. “She loves him and he’s going to marry Sarah.”

“What?” Melinda sat up and tried to make sense of the words rushing from her daughter’s mouth.

“Caylee, she called here wanting to talk to Stephen. She loves him. He saw her with her ex but Caylee said it was over. Stephen misunderstood and now he is going to marry someone he doesn’t love.” Josie stamped her foot. “What are we going to do? He might have already asked Sarah to marry him.”

“Pray. We can pray.” Melinda smiled and peace flowed through her.

“Oh Mom, that’s your answer for everything.” Josie walked away.

“Because that is the answer for everything.” Melinda leaned forward and bowed her head. “Okay, Father. You got this. Your timing is perfect, I have always believed it. For some reason these kids need to go through what that are going through and it will make them stronger. So build their faith. Make them sensitive to your voice. May they remember as we approach this Christmas season that you entered this world right on time and you can bring Stephen and Caylee together right on time. Everything happens in your timing and we are trusting you right now that things will work out just as you have planned. It’s in Jesus’ Name, I pray, amen.”

Once again peace washed over Melinda. Nothing more she could do. Nothing more she needed to do. God would work this out, He was a right on time God.

——–

Stephen had initially planned on proposing at the restaurant but  something told him to wait. So he did. Now darkness had fallen over Holly and the Christmas lights danced over the town.

Tomorrow was Christmas Eve. The town buzzed with excitement. But now all was quiet

as they neared the bridge where he enjoyed watching the Christmas parade.

He grabbed Sarah’s hand when his favorite spot came into view. The spot he brought Caylee too. The night he kissed her. He tried to feel guilty about that but he didn’t and that wasn’t okay.

Sarah kept up a constant stream of conversation that only required him to answer with grunts and nods. Thankfully. He had trouble focusing.

“You’re so quiet.” Sarah finally noticed.

“Sorry, just thinking.” Stephen stopped on the other side of the bridge, where it was quiet and the traffic not as loud. This was it. This was the perfect place to ask her.

“About good things I hope.” Sarah flashed a smile. She was very pretty and very nice. He was lucky to be asking a girl like her to marry him.

“Why don’t you sit here.” Stephen had her sit on large rock that was placed next the river. She must have been freezing in her dress in heals but she didn’t complain. “We’ve been dating for awhile now,” he began and dug in his pocket for the ring. He wrapped his fingers around it.

“Um-hm.” Sarah noticed emphatically.

“So . . .” Stephen had no idea what else to say. He pulled the ring out and looked down at it. His heart sank as realization flooded his. It was the perfect cut and setting but not for Sarah. It was perfect for Caylee. He couldn’t put this on Sarah’s hand, it was all wrong. It wasn’t her ring.

He looked up and confusion clouded Sarah’s pretty face.

“Stephen, what’s going on?”

He wrapped his hand around the ring again, even if Caylee never wore the ring Sarah couldn’t wear it either. It wouldn’t be fair to her.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do this. I thought I could be but . . .” How could he break this woman’s heart the day before Christmas Eve. As soon as Caylee crashed back into his life he should have called things off. It was clear from the first moment he laid eyes on Caylee he loved her.

“But you can’t?” Sarah stood and her eyes glistened, little puffs of frost came out of her mouth as she breathed faster.

“I’m a jerk, I know it. I don’t think I’m the one for you.” Stephen didn’t know who he was the one for but he couldn’t force this.

“Oh.” Her response was short. “Well, don’t I look like a fool.”

“No, I’m the fool. You’re a great girl but I can’t be the man you need me to be.” Stephen reached for her hand but she stepped away.

“I think I should go home then.” Sarah turned and walked away. Stephen followed and a stony silence went with them.

Chapter 11

Christmas Eve.

Normally Caylee had a rush of excitement while she got ready for church. But the only thing she felt this year was a weight pressing in on her chest and an ache in her heart that seemed to get worse with each breath.

She would have to see Stephen and his fiance. She deserved this, even if it was a misunderstanding, she had hurt Stephen so many times over the years, now she knew what he felt like. It was terrible.

“You all set?” Mom popped her head in the room.

“I think so.” She tried to fake happy, but she was never very good at that and her tone reflected that.

“Oh, sweety.” Mom walked up and gave her a hug. Caylee swallowed back the sob that wanted to rip from her throat. “I’m so sorry.”

“I’m fine. Or I will be.” Caylee pushed away and grabbed her coat from the bed. “Let’s go.”

Mom shook her head. “It’s okay to hurt.”

“Not tonight. Tonight is about celebrating Jesus and that’s what I want to focus on.” Caylee planted a kiss on Mom’s cheek and walked out. If she kept her eyes on Jesus maybe she wouldn’t see Stephen and Sarah.

Caylee, Mom and Dad squeezed into an already crowded pew. The atmosphere buzzed with Christmas excitement. The lights were dimmed and candles peppered the stage. Caylee took a calming breath, closed her eyes and sent up a quick prayer, Father, let me stay focused on You tonight.

As crowded as the church was it would be easy not to see the Meyer family as long as she didn’t look around.

Service started and before long they were lighting candles and singing Silent Night. Caylee’s favorite part of the service. Tears filled her eyes, overcome with the gift of Jesus Christ and how good He was, no matter what was happening around her He stayed the same.

She glanced to her right and there he was. His back straight and tall, his brown hair brushed the collar of his white shirt. His profile took her breath. She looked beside him but only saw Mrs. Meyer and Josie next to him. Where was Sarah?

The pastor wrapped up with a prayer and service was over. Stephen seemed to sense Caylee’s gaze on him and turned just as the lights came up. Their gazes collided and the deep ache returned to Caylee’s chest. She couldn’t do this. She had to get out of there.

“I’ll meet you in the car.” Caylee turned to her parents and fled the building.

——

Stephen wanted to go to her, tell her he wasn’t engaged but that didn’t change anything. She was still with Josh.

“Stephen, have you talked to her?” Josie pulled on his sleeve.

“What?” Stephen turned to Josie.

“Have you talked to Caylee? Or did Mom talk to you?”

“I’ve hardly been home, and when I was Mom was here at church getting things ready for tonight.” Stephen’s shoulders tensed. The look in Josie’s eyes communicated that he missed something important.

“I can’t believe you don’t know. Caylee isn’t back together with her ex-boyfriend. What you saw was her saying good-bye to him. He wanted to get back together but she said no. She loves you.” Josie words rushed out of her mouth and over his soul like a healing balm.

This couldn’t be true. He knew what he saw. Yet, hope stirred in his heart. If it was true then they could finally be together. He turned back to where Calyee stood. She was gone and so were her parents.

“I have to go.” Stephen had to find her and talk to her.

It didn’t take long to get to her house. Lights were on. He jogged to the door and knocked.

“Stephen, what a pleasant surprise. Come in.” Mr. Thomas stepped back.

“Sorry to bother you on Christmas Eve but is Caylee home?” Stephen glanced around the house. No sign of her.

Mr. Thomas’s smile fell. “She took off as soon as we got home from church.”

“Did she say where she was going?” His throat tightened and he choked on his words.

“I’m sorry son, she didn’t.”

“Okay, thank you.” Stephen had to find her. But where?

 

——–

Caylee sat on the big rock next to the bridge and looked over the town. Christmas lights shined through the darkness. Oh, Father, thank you for sending your Son to shine in the darkness.

Even after her prayer her heart didn’t feel any lighter. Over time it would get easier, she believed that, but tonight it hurt. After all of this time she finally realized she loved Stephen and now he was gone.

She hugged her arms around herself to fend off the cold. She should head home and not ruin Christmas Eve for her parents.

“Caylee.”

Her heart lurched at the sound of the voice and she fought the tears that wanted to fill her eyes.

She turned and there he stood, his breath white puffs of air coming from his mouth, hands shoved in this pocket. She longed to jump up and run to him but she didn’t. She wouldn’t make herself vulnerable again.

“Shouldn’t you be with Sarah celebrating?” She couldn’t keep the bitterness from sneaking into her words.

“Sarah went home last night.” Stephen took a step toward her.

A small flake of hope danced in her chest. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” He took another step toward her. “I couldn’t ask her to marry me.”

Caylee searched his face, what was he saying? “Do you know Josh and I aren’t back together?”

“I do now.” He closed the distance and squatted down in front of her. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you a chance to explain. I assumed the worse.”

“You had every reason to. I’ve never given you a reason to believe in me.” A sob tore from her throat with the truth of those words. She hurt him over and over and didn’t deserve the kindness that poured from his eyes into her heart.

“God has given me a reason to believe in you.” Stephen took her hand and removed her glove, the warmth from his hand spread up her arm and through her body.

Tears poured from her eyes, overwhelmed by the moment. “I’m sorry for all the times I hurt you. For all the times I never saw you.”

He reached up and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I love you Caylee. I have for as long as I can remember.”

She covered his hand with her own. “I love you, probably longer than I ever realized.”

Stephen went to his knees and drew Caylee to him. His lips captured her’s and any thought of winter melted away in the sweetness of the moment.

He pulled back and removed a box from his pocket.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t wear a ring that you bought for someone else.” Caylee didn’t want to sound ungrateful but it seemed wrong.

Stephen laughed. “The thing is this ring isn’t for anyone but you. When I told the jeweler about the girl I wanted to marry I described you. It’s always been you.”

Caylee covered her mouth as giggles bubbled out. “Are you serious?”

“Very much so.” Stephen pulled a beautiful, sparkling ring out of the box. “This belongs to you. Will you marry me?”

“Yes, Stephen Meyer, I will marry you.” Caylee nodded.

Stephan slipped the ring on her finger.

“It’s perfect,”she breathed. Like it was meant for her.

“Yes, it is.” Stephan smiled. He stood and pulled her to her feet.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you and realize how amazing you are.” Caylee wrapped her arms around his neck. She fit perfectly in his arms.

“I don’t know. I think you figured it out right on time.” He pulled her to him and kissed her again.

Yes, this was a right on time Christmas because she served a right on time God.

 

 

Right On Time Christmas Chapters 7 and 8 December 7, 2018

Filed under: Melissa's writing,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 3:15 pm
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mourad-saadi-492065-unsplash

Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

Here is your next installment of Right On Time Christmas. If you don’t like romantic, kiss-y stuff you might want to skip these chapters 🙂

Chapter 7

Christmas shopping, so not what Stephen wanted to be doing right now. But it needed to be done and he needed to do it when Josie wouldn’t be home to insist on going with him.The mall gave him a headache, the blasting Christmas carols,  the lights, the people.

Yeah, the people.

Stephen tried to move out of the way when another person bumped into him without an apology. It was supposed to be the season of peace but making his way through the stores was anything but peaceful.

He finally got to the perfume counter that Mom loved. Every year she always asked for the same thing. But it made her happy. He slid down the counter looking for the exact one when he ran into someone. Now he was the rude person. Except he would apologize.

“I am so sorry…” His words died in his lips when he looked up into the most beautiful blue eyes he ever saw. “Caylee.”

“I was wondering who was being so pushy. Should have known it was you.” Caylee laughed. What a great laugh.

He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her since the Wassail festival. Who was he kidding. He hadn’t stopped thinking about her since she landed in his yard a week and a half ago. Had it only been that long? It felt like forever since that happened. Since he almost kissed her.

“Sorry. Looking for perfume for my mom.” Stephen finally found the ability to speak again.

“Me too. I think they wear the same kind.” Caylee pointed down at pink bottle.

“Yep. That’s what I need too.”

A sales clerk came and checked both of them out.

“Well, it was good to see you.” Her gaze seemed to search his face. He didn’t want her to go, maybe she didn’t want to go either.

“Hey, if you don’t have any place else to be maybe you could help me.” Stephen thought fast. “I have to get something for Josie and she is so picky I usually get her a gift card to American Eagle but it would be way more fun to watch her open an actual gift, could you help me find something for her?”

Something flickered in Caylee’s eyes. Did she not want to spend more time with him?

“Sure, I have some time.” Caylee flashed her perfect smile and made his heart kick up a notch.

They spent the next half hour laughing and joking over different outfits for Josie, imitating her response to some of the crazy stuff they picked out. They finally settled on a pair of skinny jeans and and top that Caylee thought would go well together. Stephen really didn’t care. All he cared about was the great time he was having with Caylee.

“Starbucks?” Stephen wasn’t ready to say good-bye.

“You like Starbucks?” Caylee raised her eyebrows.

“I don’t get the fancy-shmancy stuff. Regular coffee for me. But you look like the type who might like a latte of something like that. Plus, after all your help it’s the least I can do.” Stephen hoped he didn’t sound as desperate as he felt. When had his feelings changed from trying to stay away from this girl who broke his heart over and over to wanting to spend all the time he could with her?

“I’d love a latte.”

They made their way to the crowded food court and found Starbucks. Stephen ordered a Venti Cafe Verona and Caylee ordered a Tall Peppermint Mocha. Miraculously they found a small table among the crowd. They sat in silence for a few minutes sipping their hot drinks.

“So, tell me about this girlfriend of yours.” Caylee looked at him over her steaming cup.

Really? She wanted to talk about Sarah?

What was wrong with him? He was going to marry her, of course he should want to talk about her.

“Well, her name is Sarah. We met at school, we’ve been dating for about two years. She’s great.” Wow, that sounded rehearsed and unfeeling.

“I’m really happy for you. I meant what I said the other night. You deserve to be happy. I hope she will make you happy.” Caylee looked down at her cup. Did she mean that or did she think that was what she was supposed to say?

“Are you seeing anyone?” He really didn’t want to know the answer to that but he figured he should ask.

“I was.” She took a deep breath. “We broke up the day I landed in your yard. It wasn’t what I was expecting.”

So she got her heart broken. About time. No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t deserve to be hurt, no one did.

“I’m sorry to hear that.  I’m sure God has someone out there for you.” How Christian of him. He wanted to be that someone for so long but it couldn’t be. As much as he did like her now and missed her he couldn’t risk his heart again. She had trampled on it one too many times. The damage was done.

Chapter 8

“Yes, mom. I’m doing fine.” Caylee reassured Mom for the tenth time in the a ten minute phone conversation.

“We are leaving Florida on  Tuesday and should be back in Michigan by Thursday evening. We are so excited to see you.” Mom had to be smiling, it came through her words.

“I’m excited to see you too.”

“Are you going to the parade of lights tonight?”

Ah, yes. Another tradition in Holly. The Saturday after the Wassail Festival was the parade of lights. This time the town would be lit up with vehicles decked out with Christmas lights.

“Probably not.” Caylee had no desire to go alone and even though the thought of calling Josie, a.k.a. Stephen, crossed her mind she couldn’t do it to herself or him.

“You should give Stephen a call. I’m sure he’d be glad to take you.” Mom, she was always a Stephen fan. Truth was, Caylee was a Stephen fan, but Stephen was no longer a Caylee fan.

“I don’t want to bother him. You know he is asking his girlfriend to marry him.” Caylee needed to make that clear.

“Yes, his mother mentioned that. But she didn’t seem too convinced it would work out.” Was there something Mom wasn’t telling her. Did Mrs. Meyer say something to give Mom hope. To give Caylee hope?

No, Caylee would not hope in that.

A knock sounded at the front door. “I gotta go Mom, I’ll see you Thursday. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Caylee peeked out the window before she opened the door. Her heart jumped in a way it had no right to jump. Excitement flooded through her like a new string of Christmas lights.

He came.

She pulled open the door. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to get you out of the house, again.” Stephen gave her a smile that made her believe he cared.

“No Josie this time?” Caylee leaned against the door.

“Nope. She’s already there. But she did mention that you would probably be moping around tonight.”

“She’s was right. Give me five minutes. Come on in.” Caylee stepped back and let Stephen in.

“I haven’t been in here since I picked you up for our senior prom.” Stephen’s face paled immediately.

Yeah, the night she ruined their friendship. But they were making amends. She wished she had known then what she knew now. They didn’t come any better than Stephen Meyer.

Guilt flooded Caylee and she was at a loss for words. What could she say? An apology too late, did it still count?

“Go get ready. The parade starts in twenty minutes.” Stephen must not want to talk about it either. Good.

Caylee made fast work of changing into something more presentable for public viewing. Soon they were parked and made their way to the mass of people.

“Follow me. I have a secret place where I  like to watch.” Stephen reached for her hand and electricity seemed to shoot up her arm. Her hand fit perfectly inside of his, as if they were always supposed to be together. How silly. If that were true they would have been together a long time ago.

But wonder if that wasn’t their time, wonder if now was the right time?

———

Stephen pulled Caylee to his favorite spot to watch the parade. He discovered it when he was a kid, no else had managed to find it in all these years.

He tried to focus on the activity around him but that proved to be an issue. All he could think about was the warmth of her hand. Why weren’t they wearing gloves? At the moment he didn’t even care. He was holding Caylee’s hand and taking her to his secret place.

They ducked under a small bridge and came around to the other side. And the crowd was gone. The parade would pass over this bridge but for some reason no one ever bothered to cross over to this side of it. Often times the river was too high from the rain and snow, but not this year.

“What do you think?” Stephen looked down into Caylee’s eyes, his heart lurched and ached. He loved her. . . still. What was he going to do?

“It’s perfect.” She gave him a smiled that stole his breath and it took every ounce of control to keep from pulling her close.

He could stop holding her hand now, but he had no desire and since she didn’t pull away he kept holding on.

Soon decorated tractors and trucks drove by. Trailers pulling carolers singing festive music. It wasn’t a lengthy parade, unfortunately, and before long it was time to leave. He still didn’t let go of her hand.

His girlfriend was coming to town in four days and he just admitted he was in love with someone else, someone who didn’t love him. Granted, he only admitted it to himself, so it didn’t count. Right? He would get over this once Sarah was around.  

He opened the car door for her and finally let her go. That’s what he needed to do in his heart too, let her go. But wonder if . . . no, he bought an engagement ring for Sarah.

“So you think you’ll stick around Holly?” Stephen asked as they made their way back to her house.

“I hope so. I just need to find a job.” Caylee shrugged and stared out the window.

“You okay?” Had Stephen crossed the line holding her hand so long?

“Fine.” She drew in a deep breath and looked over at him. “I missed this stuff.”

“Me too. Holly is small but it is charming. Like you.” He couldn’t help joking with her.

“Looks who’s talking. I was bigger than you through most of high school.” Caylee shoved his arm.

“Don’t remind me.” Stephen hated that it took him so long to put on weight and actually start looking like a man. “I’ll walk you up.” He said once they pulled in her driveway.

Stephen climbed out knowing full well that walking her to the door was extremely dangerous. He would say goodnight and be on his way.

“Thanks for dragging me out again. I needed that.” Caylee stepped onto the porch, her gaze cast to her feet.  

“You’re not okay. What’s wrong?” Not thinking Stephen lifted her her chin and searched her face for a sign for what was going on. “Did I do something?”

“No.” Caylee shook her head and tried to look down again but he held tight. “When I said I missed this stuff I meant our friendship. I missed you.”

Did she still think of him as a friend because every desire in him was not friendly. “I missed  you too.” His words came out choked.

They stood there and stared at each other, Stephen fought the urge to kiss her. He was tired of always doing the right thing. He always did and looked what it got him. Nothing. Not the woman he loved.

Slowly, he lowered his lips to hers, giving her time to back away if she wanted. She didn’t. He still held her chin and softly, tentatively, placed his lips on hers and pulled away a centimeter, savoring the feel of her lips. Soft and smooth.  Lips he had dreamed of kissing for as long as he could remember.

He could see the frost from the their breath mingling, becoming one. He leaned in again, still tentative, searching for her consent. He started to pull away again but this time her hands wrapped around his neck and that was all the encouragement he needed. His hands found her waist and brought her closer to him. He hungered for her in a way he never hungered for any other woman. The woman he thought about for years was in his arms and kissing him back.

He could sense the kiss becoming more than he could handle, more than what was right, he needed to stop, hold back, even though he didn’t want to.

“Wow.” He breathed but kept holding her.

She rested her head in her his chest, her breathing heavy. “What was amazing.”

“Yeah.” Stephen smiled. Amazing indeed.

She looked up at him. “So, now what?”

He had no idea.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have encouraged you to kiss me. It was wrong, you have a girlfriend.” Caylee stepped out of this arms and he immediately felt the emptiness.

“Um, I’m pretty sure I kissed you.” Stephen raked his fingers through his hair. “I guess I need to break up with Sarah.”

Caylee’s eyes widened. “No.”

“Wait, what? Why not?” After that kiss she didn’t want to be with him?

“Think about it first. This was impulsive. You bought an engagement ring for this girl. You can’t decide after one kiss you should break up with her. I just got out of a relationship. I think we both need to think so we don’t ruin anything.” Caylee looked so serious. But she was right. Maybe this was a curiosity thing and his feelings would go away after a couple of days.

“Okay, you’re right.” But his heart wouldn’t be changing, it never had. He had settled for Sarah, never believing this moment with Caylee would transpire. He didn’t want to push her, not this time because this time was the right time.

 

Right On Time Christmas: Chapters 5 and 6 November 30, 2018

Filed under: Melissa's writing,Uncategorized — Melissa Finnegan @ 2:03 pm
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Photo by erin walker on Unsplash

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Here is your next installment of Right On Time Christmas. I hope you are enjoying Caylee and Stephen’s story.

If you missed the first four chapters you can catch me here and here.

Have a blessed weekend!

Chapter Five

“Oh, please stay one more day.” Josie leaned over and pulled on Caylee’s arm. They had finished lunch and were starting to clean up the dishes.

Stephen shook his head and headed for the kitchen with hands full of dishes. His sister had a way of getting whatever she wanted. And she wanted Caylee to spend one more day and help put up the tree.

“I really should go home.” Caylee’s gaze darted around, never landing on him, but he could tell she wanted to stay. Was she lonely? She always had someone to fill her time.

“To what? An empty house?” Mom joined Josie. “Stay and put the tree up with us. You can go home tomorrow.”

“If you’re sure.” Caylee looked at him now. For approval again? What was going on with her?

“Yes, we’re sure.” Dad chimed in.

“It’s all set. And tonight we can have a slumber party and you tell me all about your life in Columbus.” Josie jumped.

“There’s not much to tell.” Caylee looked at the floor. Something happened in Columbus. Must be the reason she was back.

Soon they were dragging boxes down stairs and playing Christmas music. It took hours to decorated the tree and the house, Mom had a place for everything.  

They ordered pizza for supper and laughed and sang while they ate. It was ten o’clock before they were finished and everyone was tired and ready for bed.

“You have school tomorrow young lady. You need to get to bed.” Mom kissed Josie’s head.

“Okay. Let’s go Caylee.” Josie pulled on her arms and dragged her up the stairs. Stephen hardly talked to her all day. Which was probably for the best. She would leave tomorrow and they could go on living their lives as they had before.

Everyone dispersed and Stephen went up to his room. He slipped on a pair of athletic pants and t-shirt and laid in bed. His mind kept going back to Caylee crying in church. What was up with that? What was really going on with her? His mind made up all kinds of stories.

Finally, he gave up. He headed downstairs to watch t.v. and hope that would put him to sleep. His heart dropped when he saw Caylee sitting in front of the lighted Christmas tree, her knees drawn up to her chin. She almost looked like an angel sitting there.

He stopped and studied her for a minute. He studied her a lot when no one was looking and sometimes he studied her when someone was looking, it was only bad when it was Caylee who caught him looking. Like this morning when he took her in wearing that sweater that hugged her in all the right places.

So many times he had  thought she was the woman for him, the girl he would marry. They seemed perfect together. But it never happened. She never returned those feelings.

Her blond hair hung long down her back, almost to her waist. He needed to stop starting.

“Hey.” He cleared his throat and walked toward her and sat down.

“Hey.” She jumped and gave a little smile.

“Can’t sleep?”

“Nope. You either?” She looked over at him.

“Nope.” Because all he could do was think about her.

They sat side by side staring at the tree, mesmerized by the lights.

“What ya thinking about?” The question slipped out before he could think about the consequences of asking her.

“Hope.”

“Hope? What about it?” It was then Stephen noticed the trail of tears on Caylee’s cheeks. His arms ached to pull her close and comfort her.

“I lost mine somewhere along the way. But I think I found it today.” Her voice was a whisper, she sounded so fragile.

“I’m glad to hear it. Mom always says things happen for a reason, maybe you crashed here so you could go to church today and hear that message.” It wasn’t so they would find their way back to each other.

“Maybe you’re right.” She turned toward him and their gazes collided, crashed and something shifted in the atmosphere. Heat seemed to radiate between the two of them. She was beautiful, everything he always wanted and still did.

“I should try to go to sleep.” He  had to get out of there before he lost all control and kissed her. Kissed her like he always dreamed about. The way the light from the trees danced in her eyes made her even more attractive.

“Me too.” She pushed herself up and he followed. Caylee lost her balance and he reached for her.

“Woah. You okay?” Stephen wrapped his fingers around her upper arms and made the mistake of looking right into her eyes again, he could get lost there.

“Yes.” The word came out breathy and sent  heat rushing through his body.

Silence hung in the air and they stood there, neither one of them moved. But wanted to. Oh, yeah, he wanted to. He wanted to move right onto her lips and end the agonizing mystery of what they taste like. Did she want him too? 

“Good night.” And just like that it all ended. She stepped away and ran up the stairs.

Fine. He had a girlfriend. A serious one at that. He cleared his throat and headed for the bathroom. Time for a cold shower.

——-

Caylee fell into bed. What was that? Why didn’t Stephen kiss her? Why did she want him to? What was wrong with her? She needed to get out of this house, the sooner the better.

Yes, first thing tomorrow she would go home. No one would talk her into staying any longer.

She almost lost herself in his blue eyes and that couldn’t happen again.

Caylee pulled the covers over her head and waited for sleep to sweep her away before her thoughts did.

 

———

Caylee quickly dressed and headed down stairs. Hopefully, no one else was awake yet and she could get out of the house without talking to anyway, especially Stephan. The feelings he stirred in her were totally out of line. He was dating someone, he obviously wasn’t interested in her. If he was he would’ve kissed her last night and he made no move to do so.

No sounds emanated from the kitchen. Good. She could slip out undetected.

“Going somewhere?”

Caylee’s heart jumped to her throat and she froze in the kitchen doorway.

“Um, home.” Why did she feel guilty?

“Why not some breakfast first?” Mr. Meyer smiled over his mug.

“I really need to get home. I’ve been imposing long enough.” Caylee relaxed a little, her shoulders sagged.

“You aren’t an imposition. You’re like family.” He put his mug on the table.

“Well, thank you for that, for everything. You all have been so kind. But I really need to get home.” She stepped closer to the door.

“Okay. If you think it’s best.” Something lay hidden in his words.

“I do. Thank everyone for me and I’m sure I’ll see you around.” She forced a smiled and slipped out the door into the the cold November wind. Freedom. So why didn’t she really feel free? Why did she feel like she was running away?

Caylee made her way through the slushy, barely there, snow that had gotten her into the mess in the first place. She climbed into her car and it started without trouble. Before long she puled into her driveway.

Home.

Chapter Six

Stephen clutched the steering wheel of his Chevy Malibu. Four days. Four days since Caylee left. Left without saying a word. He missed her and he hated that truth. He had no business missing her.

He made a right into downtown Clearwater, a larger neighboring town next to Holly. After he almost kissed her she hightailed it out of there. Sure, she had called to thank Mom but that was it. Not a word to him.

She didn’t owe him anything. He had a girlfriend. Who would be coming to visit in just over two weeks. Hence, the reason for the trip to the jewelers. He had finally decided it was time to ask Sarah to marry him and he would do it while she visited for Christmas. It would be perfect. His final declaration that he was free from Caylee.

He pulled into the parking lot, shut off the engine and took a big breath. His heart pounded in his chest. Nerves. This was the right move.

He nodded to make himself feel better, it didn’t work, and climbed out of the car. Christmas music filled the air of the small shop. The place was decked out with decorations, Christmas spirit filled the atmosphere.

Glass cases lined the walls. He walked over to one and started looking.

“May I help you?” An older man stood behind the case.

Stephan stood up and cleared his throat. “Yes. I want to buy an engagement ring.”

“Wonderful. A Christmas proposal?” He smiled and wrinkles deepened around the man’s mouth.

“Yes. Do you have recommendations?” Stephen sure hoped so. He had no idea where to start.

“Oh, well, that all depends on the one receiving the ring. Tell me about the young woman you are in love with.” The man’s eyes softened.

“Well, we’ve known each other since before we could walk. I’ve always known I would marry her, even though she didn’t know it. She’s much more special then she realizes and deserves to be the happiest woman I know.” Wait, what? That wasn’t Sarah.

“Then you need something very special. Something unique that will show her how truly one of a kind she is.” The man slide down the case and motioned for Stephen to follow. No way he could admit that he just described the wrong woman.

The man brought out a beautiful princess cut diamond surrounded by several smaller stones. It would look perfect on her long, slender finger.

“What do you think?” The man smiled again and leaned forward.

Stephen turned it every which way, the light caught the diamond and shimmered. “Yes, I’ll take it.”

The words left his mouth without thought. He had  just agreed to buy the perfect engagement ring for Caylee.

——-

Saturday night and Caylee sat at home alone. So pathetic. The annual Wassail festival would be in full swing soon. She sat curled up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and staring at a Christmas tree she decorated by herself. Every time she looked at it she couldn’t help but think about the kiss Stephen almost gave her and how badly she wanted it. In all the years she had known him she never wanted him to kiss her. Wanting him to now wasn’t fair to him and how shallow of her. Because he was better looking, more filled out? Was it because she was lonely? Or could there be something deeper behind her desire? Could now was the right time for them?

That couldn’t be, he was dating someone and he deserved to be happy and she couldn’t do that for him. She only caused him pain.

The doorbell rang and pulled Caylee out of her pathetic thoughts. She tossed the blanket aside and dragged her sad self to the door and swung it open, not sure who could be visiting her.

“I’m mad at you.” Josie’s smile betrayed her words. What a breath of fresh air.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye.” Caylee did feel bad about leaving so abruptly but she couldn’t risk seeing Stephen, her feelings for him where freaking her out.

“Well, I came to find you and take you to the Wassail festival. So go get bundled up and let’s go.” Josie pushed her way into the house.

“That sounds like fun.” Caylee smiled and hurried to throw on a sweater and thicker socks. She gave her face a quick perusal. Eh, good enough, she didn’t have anyone to impress and Stephen obviously wasn’t with Josie. Or was he? “Hey, you can’t drive yet so how did you get here?”

“How do you think? My sad excuse for a brother was sitting around just like you so I made him bring me. He’s waiting in the car and not very patient, so hurry.”

That changed everything. Quickly Caylee changed into a more flattering sweater, which was silly since she would be wearing a winter coat, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. She threw on some mascara and slid some lip gloss on. She stood back from the mirror. Not great, but better. It would have to do. Josie would know she was trying if she did too much.

“Okay, I’m ready.” Caylee stepped out of the bedroom.

A slow grin pulled across Josie’s lips. “Hm. Interesting.”

“What?” Caylee tried really hard to school her features.

“Nothing.” Josie wove her arm through Caylee’s and pulled her out the door. “Let’s go Wassailing. Whatever the means.”

Stephen gave a little wave as they headed to the car, Caylee waved back, mouth dry, heart pounding. She didn’t want to like him but she did.  

“You can ride shotgun.” Josie skipped away and when around the back door.

Okay, could she be more obvious?

Caylee climbed into the front seat and immediately took in the woodsy scent of Stephen that hung in the car. It took all her strength not to take a big whiff.  

“Hey.” Stephen gave a small smile. “Sorry, she insisted.”

“I’m glad. I was just sitting around feeling sorry for myself.”

“Same.” Stephen laughed and put the car into reverse.

Josie made excited chatter as they headed downtown. It was dark already, and Christmas lights hung from the lampposts, with wreaths dotting the doors of storefronts. Parking wasn’t easy but they eventually found a spot. People lined the sidewalks. Sanata always made his grand entrance the night of the Wassail festival. Children bounced up and down on their heels in anticipation. Many sat on their parents shoulders waiting for the man in the red suit.

“I forgot how much I loved this.” Caylee let the words slip from her thoughts.

“Me too.” Stephen wore a big, silly grin.

“See, aren’t you two losers glad I dragged you out?” Josie slipped between them and put her arm through the crook of both of theirs.

“Yes, dear sister,” Stephen laughed.

Caylee stared up at him, with his cheeks rosey from the cold his blue eyes danced even more under the Christmas lights. He took her breath away. An ache started in her chest and spread to her throat. She blinked back tears. Why? What was wrong with her?

“Hey, you okay?” Josie shook Caylee.

“Oh, yeah. Just cold.” Oh my, how long had she been staring at him?

“Well, after Santa comes by we can go get some wassail.” Josie smiled like she didn’t believe Caylee for a minute.

“Sounds good.” Caylee nodded and focused on the street.

Soon Santa came by throwing candy and waving at the crowd. Christmas carols filled the air sung by the local high school choir. Memories stirred in Caylee’s heart. She truly did love this town.

“I see some of my friends. I’ll catch up with you guys later.” Josie ran off before Stephen or Caylee could protest.

Now they were alone. Again.

“Should we get some wassail?” Stephen lifted one side of his mouth.

“Sure.” Caylee had never been tongue-tied around Stephen, she was always in control around him, he never had any effect on her and now she couldn’t think of a clever thing to say.

They followed the crowd to the large pots of the hot cider. They each got a cup and gathered around the large bonfire. The spiced cider warmed her insides, even though brushing Stephen’s arm through her heavy coat was having the same, if not more, effect on her.

Several students from the high school choir lead the group in Christmas carols. Soon Caylee found herself joining in and even heard Stephen sing a few off-pitch notes.

They laughed with the group of carolers as they came together in song. Music could do that to people.

After about a half-hour people started heading home. Stephen sent Josie a text asking where she was. She told him she would meet him at the car so they headed back to their parking spot.

Silence hung heavy between them while the walked. The last time they had been together they almost kissed. Where do you go from there?

“Why did you leave without saying goodbye?” Stephen shattered the void with the worse question possible.

Did he really need to ask? Didn’t he know?

“I just thought it would be easier.” Caylee tried to keep the answer generic.

“Easier for who?”

Caylee swallowed hard, heat rushed to her face despite the cold. “For everyone.” For me, I was afraid if I saw you again I would throw myself into your arms and beg you to give me another chance.

“Well, Mom was kind of upset by it. She thought I said something to make you run off.” Stephen turned toward her slightly. “It wasn’t anything I did was it?”

“No, of course not.” Of course it was. He almost kissed her.

“Good. I’m sorry I got so close that last night. I was wrong. I do have a girlfriend.” Stephen’s voice softened.

“Yeah, Joise told me.” Caylee’s throat ached again. What would have happen between them if he didn’t have a girlfriend? Yeah, because her track record with men was so great. She would ruin any hope of a friendship with Stephen. She couldn’t allow that to happen. It was better to be friends then not to have him in her life at all. She needed to remember that. Stephen was a great friend. Always had been. And that’s all he ever would be. “It is serious?”

“Yeah, I guess. I think I’ll marry her.” Boom. A weight fell on her chest. That was it.

“That’s great.” She managed to choke out.

“I bought a ring.”

“Then I guess you are serious.” Caylee bit her lip to keep from crying. “You deserve to be happy.” Her words sounded forced even to her her ears.

“Thanks. So do you.” Stephen bumped her arm

Did she deserve to be happy? She wasn’t so sure.