FREEBIE FRIDAY EXCERPT!
Today's excerpt is from An Unexpected Wreath by Annabelle Blume. This short story was part of the Winter's Sweet Kiss Anthology.
We hope you enjoy today's tease!
"No, ma'am, this is a full service delivery. Show me what kind of tree stand you have.
It’s not one of those cheap aluminum things, is it?"
She scrambled to come up with an excuse, but she could tell by the expectant look on his face he already knew the answer.
"No problem." He reached into the bed of his truck and rustled around, pulling out a
wide-based plastic tree stand. "I always carry a spare."
Then he winked at her. Winked. Stella couldn't remember the last time a guy actually
winked at her. Grayson was like a character out of a black and white holiday movie. All
charm and rugged good looks with snow covered shoulders and probably a sprig of
mistletoe in his back pocket.
"Lead the way," he said.
"Oh, right, come in." She waved for him to follow her through the barren garage.
"Not the front door?"
Stella’s cheeks and neck grew hot. "Ah, no. I...um...don't have a key."
"This is your house, right?"
"Yes," she said on an exasperated sigh. "I gave my only key to the dog sitter.” She
looked behind her to check if he was still following.
"The what?" A look of utter confusion wrinkled his face as he yanked his beanie off and stuck it in his pocket before he crossed the threshold.
"Dog sitter, you know? The woman who comes to visit and walk Fred while I'm at work."
As soon as she said his name, the jingle-jangle of his collar sounded from the living
room. “Now, I have to ask for the key back so I can make a copy for myself. It's
Fred bounded around the corner, tail wagging, tongue dangling.
Stella held up her hand and spoke in a whisper. "Fred doesn't know he's different and he's the happiest dog I've ever known." She scratched his back and patted his head.
"Fred, go lay down, sweetie."
Fred trotted to his blanket on the far side of the couch and hopped up.
"Stella, your dog is, um..."
"Unique, I know. He was abused as a puppy. The rescue center I volunteer with saved Fred and I fostered him. They had to remove his eyes. He was in so much pain from the physical trauma he suffered, but he hasn’t let it change him." Stella swallowed hard, a
knot forming in her throat at the memory of those first weeks with Fred. "After he healed,
I was supposed to bring him to the adoption event they host on Saturdays. You know,
the one over at PetBarn? But, I couldn't let him go. Fred has been with me ever since."
A moment of quiet contemplation settled between them. She stared at the floor, hoping he didn't think she was totally crazy after her ill-timed over-sharing.
"That's the happiest ending to a sad story I've ever heard," he said.
She glanced up and found him looking at her. Caught in his gaze, her heart skipped a beat, and she thought she could spend hours staring into his rich coffee-colored eyes. His whole face opened up into a warm smile, eyes crinkling at the edges and everything. Grayson smiling was even sexier than Grayson winking.
Relief flooded her and she shrugged. "He was the one for me."
She realized her words carried an affection usually reserved for soul mates, spouses, and the like, but she'd never met a man as trusting and loyal as Fred, so it seemed a fair assessment. Deciding she’d better move on to lighter topics before the entire
afternoon became even more awkward, she took a deep breath and pointed to a spot
near the window. "So, I was thinking the tree would fit over here."