Read An Excerpt

by Beth Albright

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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They pulled into the upward slant of the cracked driveway at Meridee’s old house in Glendale Gardens. She lived just down the street from Peaches Shelby. Dallas could see Ms. Peaches’s manger scene all lit up with her baby Jesus safely in the little plastic manger.

“I can’t wait to see everyone,” Dallas said as she got out and headed toward the screened-in porch. She and Cal entered the front door to Christmas carols being sung a cappella. Everyone had a highball glass with rum or Jack in hand, and Meridee had on a necklace that lit up with little Christmas lights. The main living room displayed a beautiful Noble fir tree filled with old decorations from all the years of history the house held. The scent of alcohol, evergreen and Meridee’s signature scent, Charles of the Ritz, filled the happy home. A large grand piano sat in the far left corner of the room, near the dining room, just begging to be played.

“Hey, y’all! Get your asses in here and have a drink,” Lewis said as he swung by, dancing with baby Tallulah in his arms.

“Hey, Lewis. Hey, baby girl,” Dallas said, grinning at the little redheaded baby as they passed.

“Hey, man, merry Christmas,” Cal said, patting Lewis on the back.

“Be right back, baby,” he said to Dallas. “Rum or Jack™ in your Coke™?”

“Jack, sugar,” she answered with a grin. Cal kissed her on the lips and then headed to the kitchen to get them both a drink.

“Hey, Meridee, aren’t you so pretty and festive,” Dallas said, hugging her. “Thanks so much for inviting us — and for everything, really.”

“Oh, honey, you are certainly welcome for everything. Now, come on in and have somethin’ to eat. Rum balls, cheese balls, sausage balls — hell, we got all kinds of balls here!” She winked and threw her head back, laughing her trademark rolling laugh, and walked away, toasting Kitty and the mayor as she passed by. Meridee was truly one of a kind.

“Hey, Dallas, child. How in the world are you? You were amazing the night of that Christmas parade, by the way,” Kitty said. “Mayor Charlie here and I watched the playback the next day and laughed our asses off.”

“Yeah, honey, you were terrific. I never laughed so hard,” Mayor Charlie said, then threw back a big swig of Jack, straight up.

Just then, Cal walked up with the drinks and handed one to Dallas. Blake and Sonny joined them, and there were hugs all around. Everyone exchanged merry Christmases and started telling stories. Dallas was lost in what she knew would become a new memory in the warmth of this magical home that Meridee constantly opened to everyone.

Soon Arthur and Bonita arrived, joining in the laughter and eating, hugging everyone hello. Everyone in Blake’s circle was there. It was the way Dallas remembered it, except now she was part of the circle, too, with Cal by her side. This time she felt as if she belonged. She was finally a real part of this amazing family, something she had secretly always longed for. She could feel the joy warming her from the inside out.