Know what’s great? Having a BFF who is also a romance writer because it means I get first peek at all her books, plus I have someone to process stories with. Someone who really gets it when I’m stuck and thinking I’m the worst writer ever. It’s good to be that person for her, too! Today, I’m celebrating the release of that person’s newest novel. Liz Flaherty’s The Dark Horse: A Christmas Carousel Story is part of the 12 Days of Heartwarming Christmas series of holiday novels and it is a wonderful, touching story.
This isn’t a scene between the hero, Row, and the heroine, Chloe; rather, it’s between Row and his best friend. And it’s pretty close to my favorite. You need to know that there are four foster kids at stake here, two boys and two girls. And remember, this is Christmas Town, where love always finds a way.
Shoe was in Germany. Even though he didn’t remember exactly how many hours the time difference was, Row knew his friend would wake when his phone rang and that he wouldn’t be happy about it.
“Unless you’re terminally ill or at the airport needing to be picked up, you have to hang up and call back at a reasonable hour.”
Row laughed. He thought he’d missed Shoe’s James Earl Jones growl as much as he missed the man himself. “Would you have married Tatiana if she hadn’t been in love with you?”
“I’d have married Tatiana if she’d been in love with you.”
“She was, brother. We just didn’t want to tell you.”
Shoe chuckled at the old joke, his voice becoming more wakeful. “I don’t know that she was in love with me or even if I was in love with her then. She had a lot on her plate, being a single mom in medical school. She liked me and I loved her little boy, I had a steady paycheck and a car. I wanted to be Isaac’s dad more than I’d ever wanted anything—even more than I’d wanted to fly Black Hawks. So we got married.”
Row knew, simplified as the telling of the story was, that it was also the truth. He must have asked Shoe a hundred times if he was sure of what he was doing before he’d stood up with him in the Vegas wedding chapel. “What about now?” he asked, although he knew the answer to that one. He just liked hearing it.
“She’s the air that I breathe, man, and these kids? These kids are my reward for becoming a grownup. Did I tell you Isaac is starting on the basketball team here? As a sophomore? His mom is so proud.”
“I know. You’ve told me a dozen times. Too bad you’re not a little proud yourself.”
Shoe yawned hugely. “Now, since people are going to wake me up for church pretty soon, why don’t you tell me why you called so I can sneak in another half hour of sleep?”
Row told him. He talked about Connor and the music in the boy’s soul. He told about Chloe’s face when she sat with a sleeping toddler in her arms. He tried to explain how if felt sitting next to her on the couch or in his car. He said no, no, he wasn’t in love, just seriously in like—and he was worried about the Michaud kids. Big time.
Shoe laughed a lot from the other end, and then he said quietly. “Remember when we’d fly into places we weren’t sure about? We’d say a prayer and go in, because if we just hung there in the air, all we’d do is run out of fuel and get embarrassed when we fell out of the sky. I’ve waited a long time to hear that tone in your voice that Chloe seems to have put there, so go in, Row. Don’t wait to fall out of the sky.”
They ended the call then. Row sat on the loveseat in the guest house’s miniature living room, sipping the beer he’d poured from a growler when he’d come home after helping Chloe carry the little girls back upstairs at her house. He’d kissed her at her front door, held her gaze for a long time, and kissed her again.
It had been a long day and he was exhausted. But enlivened, too. He picked up his phone again and called his father. “Are you disappointed about not being a grandfather?”
Mr. Welcome hesitated. “Yeah, I guess I am. Are you thinking about making me one?” He chuckled, and the sound fell warm on Row’s ear. “I’ll take two of each.”
Liz is a multi-published author with Harlequin, The Wild Rose Press, and Carina Press. She has three grown children, the three they married and brought home to her, and the Magnificent Seven grandchildren who are, you know, magnificent. She and Duane live in the same farmhouse back a lane they’ve been sharing for 40 years and hope to share for…well, probably not another 40, but a long time more. She also hangs out with me–our 3-hour lunches are the stuff legends are made of. She’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or please come and see her at http://www.facebook.com/lizkflaherty