‘Tis the season to be jolly, but Jasmine Quinn is far from happy about her mother’s latest folly: her upcoming wedding to former Wall Street financier, Sam Sterling. Jasmine doesn’t like her future stepfather, or his values. Anybody with as much money as Sam, should be spreading it around, aiding worthy causes, making it count for something. Instead, he seems intent on using his wealth to embarrass her mother by throwing a ridiculously lavish wedding. But there’s one thing about Sam that Jasmine can’t help but admire, no matter how much she’d like to–the graduate student he’s hired as an intern.
Brandon Ablemarle is also finding it hard to get into the holiday spirit. Especially since his dream job has just become a nightmare, thanks in part to the fiery redhead with some of the goofiest ideas he’s ever heard of. But what else can you expect from the daughter of a self-proclaimed psychic? Marsha Quinn has a lot to answer for. Not only has she encouraged her daughter’s esoteric craziness, she’s also turned one of the most brilliant stock analysts Wall Street had ever seen into a nutcase as well. One who actually appears to believe that the answers to the stock market can be found in the stars!
It’s a clash of ideologies when Jasmine and Brandon get together. Can the spirit of the season, and the spirit of the place help them to see beyond their differences?
“You look tired, angel,” Sam murmured, coming up behind her to massage her shoulders and plant a soft kiss on her cheek. “Why don’t we go to bed now, and leave the rest of the clean up for morning?”Excerpt: Marsha stood at her living room window and stared out at the blackness. It had been a long, long, tiring day, even if it was, technically, the year’s shortest. The last of her guests had finally departed, and still, the longest night of the year was only half over.
“I am tired,” Marsha agreed, as she relaxed against him, breathing a happy sigh. She turned her head to smile at him over her shoulder. “You can go ahead, if you want to, Sam. I’m gonna stay up—or at least, try to. It’s kind of traditional to keep vigil at the solstice, and stay awake until sunrise.”
“Really?” Sam looked surprised. “And what exactly do you do during this vigil?”
Marsha shrugged. “Well, it depends. It’s a change of cycle, you see, from dark to light, so I’ve always liked to spend it thinking about the past and making plans for the future. But, that’s just me. A lot of people pass the time baking cookies, or bread, or whatever else they plan to eat for breakfast the next morning. Making wishes for the new year. Celeste always made rice pudding with crystallized ginger and dried fruit. I don’t know if there was any particular significance to it, it was just…” It was just something she always did. Spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and eaten cold, it always seemed to Marsha that the dish evoked a feeling of bright sunshine on even the darkest winter’s day.
“You really miss her, don’t you?” Sam’s voice was soft with sympathy.
Marsha nodded, too overcome to speak. It was too cold at the window, the night too dark, and she felt…vulnerable, exposed. As though hostile forces might crash through the insubstantial glass and steal away her happiness. She turned away, and went to sit on the couch, where the fire’s heat could warm her, where the fire’s light could keep her safe.
Even now, after a year and a half, it still seemed so impossible that Celeste could be gone. It was like a bad dream, one that would surely be over soon?
“I’m sorry we never actually met,” Sam said, as he sat beside her, and took hold of her hand. “I imagine I would have liked her.”
Marsha smiled at him. “I think she would have liked you, too.” She had a feeling Celeste would have enjoyed matching wits with Sam, although it was possible there would have been a little jealousy there, as well. As there had been with Alex.
Marsha had loved Celeste as a friend, and always would, but she was never in love with her. Not the way Celeste wished she could be. It was something her friend had seemed to accept, but still, there was always a doubt in the back of Marsha’s mind. How much of Celeste’s dislike of Alex was actually due to envy?
That doubt was the main reason she hadn’t confided in Celeste when her marriage began to crumble. And it was why she never mentioned the spells she’d taken to casting on Alex, until it was too late. How different would her life have turned out if she’d had the sense to listen to her friend, all those years ago?
Sam gave her hand a little squeeze. “So, all this thinking and planning, is it something you need to be alone to do? Or can someone keep you company?”
Someone? She smiled at him once more. “Well, that depends. Is the someone you, Sam? Because, you know the answer to that is always yes.”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment, and then he leaned in and kissed her, soft and sweet.
A wave of peace washed through her. I am so lucky, she thought, as he gathered her into his arms. I am so blessed to have this chance, to have this man in my life, to know even this much happiness, for however long it lasts. She felt his love surround her, bringing light into her darkness, and she closed her eyes, and gave herself over to the feeling of being loved, unconditionally.
The room around her wavered. Worries and concerns that had plagued her ceased to matter. Their love was a sacrament, as real and as holy as any prayer she could offer, any ritual she could perform. And, like all things sacred, it existed outside of ordinary reality, in a place where space and time could bend and change and melt together. Where dreams of the past and memories of the future could coexist in an endless present.
Where love, changeless and evergreen, reigned supreme.