Christmas in his arms

From NYT and USA Today best-selling author comes a story of a non-wedding, a snowmageddon, and an unexpected union of old lovers.

My name is Opal Mae McCool. I love my parents, but that name? Ugh, but I’ve adjusted. This year has been rocking along until October when my entire life lands in the toilet and someone flushes. First, my groom dumps me at the altar. Confession…not as destroyed as I should have been. Then, I share a steamy kiss with old love which leads to…nothing. Radio silence. Fine. Disappointed, but moving on. However, it’s almost Christmas and I make a quick overnight business trip to Montana just in time for the snowmageddon and I’m stuck in Bozeman with only clean panties and a toothbrush. Next year has to be better, right? 

I’m Michael Rockland. Born, raised and will die in Texas and I’m fine with that. I’m a mechanic at heart, even if my everyday job doesn’t allow me under the hood. About a month ago, I discovered I’m the Friday Lunch Special at a local diner. I’d be pissed if it wasn’t for a good cause and it hadn’t led me back to the love of my life. One hot, steamy kiss, a promise for the future, and she shuts me out. Harsh, but I’m a big boy. I can deal with reality, except when she ends up on my grandparents’ doorstep in Montana.

My dad doesn’t approve of him. His mother doesn’t approve of me. It’s not quite the Capulets and Montagues, and we are long past the teenage years, so isn’t it time to let us decide if we belong together or not? 

Read an Excerpt

Copyright © 2019 Cynthia D’Alba
All rights reserved — Riante, Inc.

Dad and I stood out of sight from the opened double doors and watched as Risa made her way down the aisle as my matron of honor. I had to smile at her pregnant waddle, her floral bouquet not beginning to cover her protruding abdomen.

Wendy glided down the rose-petal-strewn carpet as though she were walking on air. I loved my cousin. For the past year, Roy and I had doubled dated often with Wendy and Everett, Roy’s older brother. Everett’s job took him out of town almost every week, so Wendy had stepped in to help Everett with his best man duties. I really owed her big time. First, she’d introduced me to my future husband, and then she’d performed all the maid of honor duties and the best man duties. She could’ve asked me for anything, and I would get it for her.

Dad lightly kissed my cheek. “You nervous?”

I nodded.

“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want. We can walk out the door, get in the car, and go home.”

Turning to him, I laughed. “I want to do this but thank you for telling me that, no matter what, you’re there for me.”

“In that case, I hope you’ll be as happy as your mother and I have been,” he said, his eyes growing misty.

“Me, too, Daddy.”

As we walked down the church aisle, I saw so many of my friends and extended family. My heart swelled with pride and gratitude that so many people had given up their Saturday evening to attend my wedding.

My gaze swept the front of church, expecting to see Roy staring at me, but he wasn’t. He was looking across the room. As I looked at him, his head turned toward me and he smiled, but then he looked across the room again. What had his attention? With everyone standing for my entrance I couldn’t twist my head around and try to find what he was looking at. And even if I could, I’d never be able to see around all the heads in the crowd. There had to be at least five hundred people packed into the Greater Dallas Methodist Church, which wasn’t surprising given that a McCool was marrying a Livingston. Either name alone would provide a draw, but both names together were too much for society to ignore.

Roy finally looked at me and smiled. I pasted on a smile as Dad and I stopped near him. My cheeks quivered from the smiling. The pastor started his spiel about marriage, and when he came to the part about who gives this woman to be with this man, my dad spoke.

He was supposed to say, “Her mother and I do,” but he didn’t. Instead he said, “My daughter is a mature woman. She does not need me nor her mother to give her away. She makes her own decisions, and we stand with her. Therefore, her mother and I welcome the man she has chosen as her husband into our family.”

With that, he kissed my cheek and joined my mother in the front pew.

I hope my mouth didn’t drop in shock. I have never been so touched by words and by his public declaration that he and Mom would welcome Roy into our family. They’d never been completely in love with the idea that I was marrying Roy, but this was their way of publicly supporting my decision. My vision blurred with tears. My parents were the best.

I turned toward Wendy to hand off my bridal bouquet. She smiled and winked. I returned her smile and wink. I turned back to Roy, and we joined hands.

His hands were damp and cold. His fingers shook as he held mine. I was pleasantly surprised and secretly pleased that he was as nervous as I was.

I’d been with Roy for over a year, and he wasn’t an emotional person. In fact, there had never been passionate expressions of love and need from him. But he’d explained that once he’d hit thirty, he felt he’d matured beyond such childish declarations. At first, I’d been a little disappointed and hurt, until I’d remembered Michael Rockland.

Michael Rockland and I had had a passionate and crazy-in-love affair the summer after I’d graduated high school. It’d continued until Christmas of my freshman year of college. It’d been fiery and frantic, as though we’d wanted to be inside each other’s skin. When the affair ended, I’d been bruised and crushed, and I’d decided that what I wanted in a life mate was calmness, patience, and reliability. Stability in a relationship would become more important than emotive outbursts and sex so hot the sheets caught fire.

And that’s what I’d spent these last ten years looking for and found in Roy.

As the pastor droned on about love and honor and family, Roy’s face continued to be somber, but his eyes kept shifting around as though he were looking past me. Abruptly, he dropped my hands and stepped back. “I can’t do this,” he said. “I’m sorry, Mae.”

A gasp rumbled through the onlookers.

“I don’t understand. What’s going on, Roy?” My brain fogged with confusion. I frowned as my stomach clenched. My heart skittered and fluttered with shock.

A sheen of sweat popped onto his brow. “I’m so sorry. Really, I am, but…” He looked past me again, and then his gaze met mine. “I’ve fallen in love with someone else.”

.

End of Excerpt

CHRISTMAS IN HIS ARMS

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