Glitter Girl – Part 4

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Hopefully for you, the hustle and bustle of this time of year is almost done. I’m mostly done and am looking forward to spending the next couple days with my family.

My present to you is the 4th installment of our Holiday round-robin, Glitter Girl. If you’ve missed parts 1-3, click the links at the bottom of the post to catch up. For the rest of you, grab a cup of coffee and some Christmas cookies and enjoy!

Best wishes for a healthy and happy Christmas and New Year!

Maria

Glitter Girl – Part 4

Tessa glared at her former self on the computer monitor. The photographer had captured her tear-streaked face just as the verdict had been read. The worst possible moment of her life had been recorded on film and could be Googled for all the world to see. Freaking great.
(more…)

Castle of Dreams Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of our round robin short story month. I hope you enjoyed reading Jaye’s great start with Amelia & Rafaele’s story. This week, I get to pick up where Jaye left us hanging. So pull up a chair, a glass of wine, and enjoy!

Before I start, though, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Femme Michele Mannon for her first contest final. Her story, OCTAGON GIRL, finaled in the Sheila Contest in the Single Title category. Best of luck in the final round Michele! We’re all rooting for you!

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win this month’s prize…a tin of specialty tea and a mug, from Hugh Jackman’s Laughing Man coffee and tea company (www.livelaughingman.com).

Okay, without further ado, here’s Part 2 of Castle of Dreams. Enjoy!

Maria

Amelia thought the time and distance apart would lessen the heat of their passion, but it was even more explosive than before. Rafaele’s mouth commanded hers and she opened her lips, desperate to taste him. And oh, did he taste good. Like the Malbec wine he drank, sweet and rich in texture.

He broke away and kissed along her neck. “I’ve missed you, cara mia. Please tell me you missed me, too.”

Miss him? She’d done nothing but over the past five months. What wasn’t to miss when she’d found her perfect man…and then had to let him go.

“I did, Rafaele.”

He slid his hands under t-shirt and was working his way up her back. In no time he’d unfastened her bra and filled his hands with her breasts. She nearly fainted from the pleasure. But she wasn’t ready for this…yet. They had things to discuss first.

“Rafaele,” she gasped.

“Yes, cara,” he whispered before simultaneously claiming her mouth and rubbing her nipples between his fingers.

They were moving now and before Amelia knew it, he’d led her onto the couch. Things were happening so fast, her mind couldn’t catch up with the brigade of sensations hurtling towards her.

She jerked away from his embrace. “Rafaele, we must talk.”

“Later. Now I want to make the most passionate of love to you.”

Yeah, he’d made that pretty much clear as his fingers slid under her skirt and were making their way up towards her…

“No. You need to stop.” She used all her strength to push at his broad chest. When that didn’t get a reaction, she did the only thing she could think of. She yanked a few chest hairs.

“Dios mio! What are you doing, cara?”

“Don’t you want to know why I’ve come here?”

“Your reason doesn’t matter now that you’re here.”

The familiar smell of his cologne filled her nostrils, making her want to do nothing more than straddle him on that couch. She took a steadying breath and rose to get some space.

He sighed. “Fine, cara. Tell me why you’ve finally come, after all these months.”

She felt him behind her and when she turned, he handed her a glass of wine.

Amelia took a deep sip and enjoyed the way the sweetness of the wine exploded with flavor in her mouth before sliding smoothly down her throat. “Made in your vineyard?”

He nodded.

She was procrastinating and based on the look he gave her, he knew it.

“I finished my master’s degree this semester,” she blurted.

“Wonderful, cara. Congratulations and a celebration are in order, then.”

After eight excruciatingly long years, she now had both a B.S. in Interior Design and Master’s in Architecture. It was a both a relief and a worry, now that she needed to get herself a job and pay off all those loans.

“I want to apologize for what I said to you when you left last year.”

“The part where you refused to come here to live with me or the part where you said you never wanted to see me again?”

A blush crept up her neck and stained her cheeks. “Both.”

He pressed a hand to his chest. “You broke my heart, cara. I’ve been lost here without you.”

“Your visa to teach at NJIT was up and I still had over a semester left to finish there. I was so close, Rafaele, I needed to finish. And you needed to get back to your family and run the vineyard. How is your brother?”

Pain flashed across Rafaele’s face. “He passed at the beginning of the year.”

Tears filled her eyes and she reached for his hands. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you let me know?”

He stiffened. “Because after you mailed me back the unused airline ticket I sent you, I didn’t think I’d ever hear from or see you again.”

She flinched. She had no right to attempt to step back in his life. But there was still one thing she hadn’t told him.

“I may have come if you offered more than a warm bed.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “What do you mean?”

“I wanted to be more than your lover. You asked me to come to live with you, in Italy, with no long-term promise.” She took a deep breath. “I thought you were going to propose to me, Rafaele. And when you didn’t…well, it hurt.”

He cupped her face. “I had planned on doing just that when we arrived here. I wanted you to see my house, my vineyards. I wanted you to be sure before I asked you.”

Her heart jumped into her throat. “Really?”

“Really. The question is, would you have said yes?”

She thought for only a fraction of a second. “Hell yes.”

He kissed her then, a slow and deep kiss that held the promise of an eternity of love and passion.

Suddenly, there was a crash behind them. Amelia jumped and grabbed onto Rafaele.

A woman Amelia had never seen before stood across the room, a tray of food and broken plates now on the floor, hands on her hips. “Who the hell are you, puttana, and why are you kissing my fiancé?”

Flowers for Emma – A Valentine’s Day to Remember

I bet you thought Valentine’s Day had come and gone. But my lady Femmes and I are celebrating love and romance the entire month of February. We love to write romance and wanted to share our stories with you. But we want to hear from you, too. Share with us one of your valentine stories, or even a funny one. It can be about a loved one or even a sweet gift you received from one of your kids. Comment on our blog all this month to be entered for a chance to win a bouquet of flowers with a box of Valentine’s chocolates!

I hope you enjoy my story.

Hugs,

Maria

Flowers for Emma

Valentine’s Day sucked if you were single, a restaurant owner, or a florist. Emma McBride was two of the three and not having a good day. She’d gotten up at four, skipped lunch, broke a nail, and pricked her fingers on more rose thorns than she could count.

McBride’s Flowers had been started by her parents over thirty years ago. As a young girl, she’d helped her mom make arrangements by handing her the flowers. Emma knew the names of practically every flower known to populate the planet by the time she’d turned six. When her parents announced their retirement last year, Emma bought their business. Now the proud owner of the most exclusive flower shop on Long Beach Island, demand for her unique and classic designs spanned the New Jersey coast and beyond.

Today, after close to fourteen hours on her feet, all Emma wanted to do was go home and relax with a glass—or three—of her favorite Chardonnay, takeout from Vincenzo’s Restaurant, a slice of tiramisu, and the DVD of When Harry Met Sally. But rather, she sat in a deserted parking lot, a bouquet of flowers in her lap.

Emma clicked off the ignition and glanced down at the paper with the last-minute delivery order. What weirdo had flowers delivered to the beach on Valentine’s Day? Barnegat Light State Park was deserted and she didn’t like the thought of wandering down towards the beach…alone…and in the dark. She opened the glove compartment and removed a flashlight.

Gathering the arrangement of red roses, daisies, miniature carnations, and Asiatic lilies, Emma headed towards the entrance to the lighthouse, known fondly as “Old Barney”. She knew the way by heart and could probably have found it without the flashlight, but better to be safe. How many times had she come here with Luke O’Brien—her high school sweetheart and last boyfriend? Too many to count. She shook away the painful memories and hurried towards the picnic area around the side of the lighthouse.

She rounded the corner and gasped. White lights had been strung through the trees. A red cloth had been spread across one of the tables. Atop it stood a bottle of champagne and a covered plate. Candles had been artfully arranged along the table and their glow winked out in the dark of the night. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make the evening special for some lucky girl.

“Um, hello,” she called out. “I have your flower delivery.”

She scanned the surrounding beach, looking for signs of anyone. Clearly someone was here. Maybe she arrived too late and the happy couple was off celebrating somewhere.

Then, she noticed a shadow by the lighthouse and goose bumps ran along her arms.

“Who’s there?” she asked, instinctively taking a step back.

“Hi Emma.”

She stood, dumfounded, as Luke O’Brien stepped out of the darkness.

Her tongue felt three times its normal size. “Luke. What are you doing here?”

“The day I left, I told you I’d be back,” he said.

She arched an eyebrow. “Really? It’s been so long, I must have forgotten.”

The nerve of the man, returning a year after having had broken her heart. She threw the flowers in the sand and turned away.

“Wait!” he called out and started jogging towards her. “Please, Emma. Don’t go.”

“Why not, Luke? Why the hell not?”

“Because I’ve missed you.”

She sucked in a breath. After dating in high school and three of the past four years, she’d missed him, too. More than she’d allowed herself to think. Now, with him standing in front of her, it took all of her willpower not to jump into his arms.

“Too bad I haven’t missed you.”

He flinched as though wounded by her words. Too freaking bad.

“Okay, I deserve that. Can we talk? Please.”

Something about the way he looked at her made her heart lurch. Maybe she needed to talk with him, to purge her mind of the hurt he’d inflicted on her, in order to move on with her life—without him.

She crossed her arms around her stomach. “Fine. You have five minutes.”

He ran a hand through his gorgeous mane of brown hair. She’d always loved his hair, soft and silky to the touch.

“First, let me say I’m sorry I left you.”

“Right. Let me see if I remember correctly. Something about you feeling suffocated and needing to get away—to California.”

“My father wanted to retire and have me take over his real estate business. With my sister living out West, the responsibility fell on me. I hated to disappoint him, but I couldn’t live up to his expectations. My mother had also been at me, pressuring me to marry you.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Such a horrible thought?”

He stepped forward and grabbed her hand. “I’d been planning on it—long before my mother’s nagging. I’d planned on proposing to you last Valentine’s Day. But—”

“But what?”

“My father and I had a big fight that day. He told me he was disappointed in me and that I couldn’t handle the responsibility of the business let alone a marriage.”

“And you believed him?”

“He had me doubting everything I’d accomplished and what I wanted for my own future—one I wanted to spend with you.”

“So, rather than fight and prove him wrong, you did the exact opposite.”

He shifted his eyes down to his feet. “I’m not proud of it.”

Emma didn’t know what to say. Luke’s father tapped into his son’s insecurities to guilt him into taking over the business. Rather, it chased him away.

“What happened once you left?”

“I went to San Diego to visit Tracy. I’d only planned on staying a few weeks. But something happened out there that made it difficult for me to return home. I was biking with my brother-in-law, John, when a car lost control and crashed into us.”

“Dear God. Were you both all right?”

“I had been in the lead and only got tapped. I broke my arm, a few ribs, and had some minor cuts. John broke both legs, injured his spine, and suffered a serious concussion.”

Emma clasped his hand. “I’m so sorry, Luke. How is he doing now?”

“Better, but it’s been a difficult year. Their son, Michael, has a learning disability. Tracy could barely cope with a recuperating husband, let alone a ten-year old boy.”

“So, you stayed.”

“Yes. I couldn’t leave them. Tracy needed my help. Didn’t you get my texts?”

She snorted. He’d sent her three brief texts over the past year, none of which explained why he stayed away—or if he’d ever return.

“Your texts were vague. You could have called me and explained. I would have come out and helped you.”

“Which is why I didn’t call.” He squeezed her hand. “You had just bought the flower shop from your parents. Besides, I needed to handle it on my own.”

She yanked her hand out of his and whirled away. “That’s fine, but did you expect me to sit around and pine for you?”

He stepped towards her, moonlight shining down on his handsome face. “No…but I hoped it wouldn’t be too late. Is it, Em? Is there someone else in your life?”

Emma almost wished there was, so she’d have the satisfaction of hurting him as much as he’d hurt her. But she couldn’t keep the truth out of her heart or voice. After all this time, she was tired of pretending…and aching for him.

She shook her head and saw him sigh in relief.

He picked up the flowers she had discarded.

“These are for you.”

She stared at the flowers he pushed into her arms, her tears falling onto their soft petals. As she inhaled their sweet fragrance, she felt her resolve weakening.

“So now what?”

“I’m back, for good. I convinced Tracy and her family to move back here. They’re staying with my parents, at least for now. It turns out Tracy had gotten her real estate license in California. She’s going to take over my dad’s business.”

“And what about you?”

“I got my old job back at our high school. Em, please believe I would have come back sooner if I could have. I wanted to start a life with you, but after the accident, things got complicated. By the time things were under control, so much time had passed…and I didn’t have a plan. What would I have offered you?”

“Your love.”

“You’ve always had that. I’ve never stopped loving you, Em. You’re the only girl for me. Please forgive me and tell me you still care for me.”

More tears fell on the flowers. Her heart ached with what they’d lost the past year and the thought of never having Luke in her life or feeling the deep love she had for him.

“I dated other guys but…” She sniffled softly. “I’ve never stopped loving you either.”

“Oh, Em.” He cupped her face and kissed her, a sweet joining of lips that pledged a lifetime of tomorrows.

“Things will be different this time. I promise,” he said.

He dropped down on one knee and reached for something in his pocket. Holding up his hand, she saw the twinkle of a diamond in the moonlight.

“I’ve carried this around with me for a year, always planning to come back and put it on your finger. A year ago, I was lost and confused. But now, I’m very clear on what I want. And that’s a life with you, complete with a house and a bunch of kids. Please Em, will you marry me?”

Marrying Luke had been her childhood dream. One she’d thought had been lost. Now, staring into his eyes, she saw his love and knew they were fated to be together.

“Yes, Luke. I’ll marry you.”

He slipped the ring on her finger, pulled her into his arms, and kissed her until she was breathless.

“When?”

She gave him a bright smile. “How about this day next year? I hear February weddings are very romantic.”

“Sounds perfect.”

And a year later, with Old Barney behind them, it was.


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