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HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS Anthology Excerpt

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Heating Up the Holidays - Cover

SNOWFALL by Mary Ann Rivers

Part of the HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS anthology

Published by Loveswept

ISBN: 978-0-8041-7840-2

Jenny Wright can’t get enough of her erotic conversations with someone she knows only as “C.” Flirting online helps Jenny temporarily escape confronting the changes to her life as she slowly loses her vision. Jenny’s occupational therapist, Evan Carlisle-Ford, is helping her prepare for the challenges ahead, but the forthright, trustworthy man can no longer ignore his growing attraction to his fiercely intelligent client. Now Jenny must choose between the safe, anonymous “C”—or the flesh-and-blood Evan, whose heated kisses can melt snow faster than it can fall.

SNOWFALL EXCERPT – From Chapter One – First Inch, Early December

Seriously, and I thought I had told you this story, I made my first camera when I was seven.

After my encounter with Bob and a long bus ride home in the snowy cold, I snuggle with my laptop to look at the pictures C has posted on his photography blog today. They are dark, black-and-white, with black edges, but the images of the marble-columned Lakefield Metropolitan Library in the middle are so sharp and crystalline they look almost three-dimensional.

You really took these with a camera you made?

Yeah, a pinhole camera with black-and-white film. I figured it was a good time to get some cool pictures because the new snow would throw the light in interesting ways for a picture of architecture. I made this camera with an empty oatmeal can.

Then he sends me a link with directions on how to make a pinhole camera so I can see what he means.

Why are the edges all around the library black?

That’s how the light entered the box. There are ways to prevent that, but I like how it looks. I like that it frames exactly what to look at, and that this was the only way this camera could see. Just what is right in front of it, without any other clutter.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to tell him about what is happening to me, the way the world is narrowing in, but what he’s told me gives me chills. C and I don’t talk about ourselves, not exactly.

We talk about his pictures.

We tell funny stories about our childhoods, but only the stories that could be from anyone’s childhood.

We tell each other where to put our hands.

All of it, by mutual agreement, though I know the online anonymity is only respectful deference on his part.

If I asked, we’d meet, we’d be more than pictures and stories.

I don’t ask.

So I don’t say that the pictures make me genuinely uneasy and tell him why. Instead I write that they’re a little spooky, almost.

I’ve been kind of obsessed, lately, with what we see versus what we’re looking at.

What do you mean?

You can look at anything, direct your vision at any part of the world around you, but it doesn’t mean you actually see anything. Notice it, think about it, take it in. I’ve just been thinking, lately, for lots of reasons, a few of them personal, that maybe it’s not really the mechanics or objective quality of the looking that’s important, but what is actually seen and noticed. I took these pictures with an oatmeal container. Objectively, much worse equipment than I’m used to. But my fancy camera would never have captured this image, isn’t even capable of seeing this image. Two cameras, pointed in the same direction, at the same thing. The pinhole camera really “sees” the library, I think.

These pictures are beautiful. The marble of the columns looks so tactile, almost like bone.

The pictures remind me, too, of the field of vision under a scope, how the dark circle around what you’ve focused on just bleeds out into infinity while you look at what’s right in front you, centered on the slide.

They remind me of me, of course, though my loss of vision at the edges isn’t some dark ring I can see, it’s just what isn’t there.

I can’t tell him any of this.

How do you get the pictures out of the oatmeal container?

I have to develop the film I put inside.

Like, with a red lightbulb and the basins of chemicals and stuff?

Yeah, but I don’t have a special darkroom because everything’s digital nowadays. I just develop them in my bathroom. But I still screw in a red lightbulb.

That is very cool. It’s too bad that’s not the moment where the murderer’s face is revealed in movies, anymore.

Ha! True. Yet something else technology has stolen.

I smile, ready to play. I toggle away from his library pictures, though.

I print out C’s pictures, sometimes, to pin up by my kitchen sink, or in my office, and maybe I’ll someday want to look at these again, print them out, they’re so beautiful, after all.

Not yet, though.

Instead, C and I walk into a dark room together.

I beckon him, respond,

Exactly, because it was always kind of sexy, too. Or, it seemed like there were a lot of hard-bitten detectives and their pretty clients all close together in the tiny darkroom, waiting for the picture to magically develop in the basin thing, slooshing it around with the tong things, glancing deep into each other’s eyes trying to deny the inevitable.

That the murderer was SOMEONE SHE KNEW?

No, that the hard-bitten detective and his pretty client were IN LOVE. And also, that it was SOMEONE SHE KNEW.

Are you looking for a re-creation?

Of the darkroom scene?

Let me turn out the lights. Turn out yours, too.

I don’t have to, I’ve already turned out the lights. I balance my laptop on a stiff sofa pillow and lean against the back, ask him.

Who gets to be the hard-bitten detective?

You can. I’ll work on being unwittingly irresistible.

When I first started exchanging messages with C, we were careful and polite. Friendly. I liked his pictures. He liked what I had to say about them. I sometimes scroll through our saved chats trying to pinpoint where the turn was, when we started playing, when we said something that led to our teasing the other about where our hands were when they weren’t on the keyboard.

It’s impossible to say how it happened.

A zillion harmless words between two strangers keeping the other company, and then a night with a handful of reckless words.

It had felt so good.

It was a risk I could take.

Did you? he had asked.

I did, did you? I had answered.

Yes, he’d said.

And then we weren’t strangers, not exactly, but I didn’t tell my mom about him, either.

You’ve got that covered, I answer, pulling open the knot on my drawstring pajamas. You’re so irresistible I’m already tucking your hair behind your ears, clenching my fists to keep from touching you.

Where do you want to touch me?

Where are you touching yourself?

I’ve been touching myself since you said that darkrooms are kind of sexy. Now I’m hard, and I hate stopping to write, but I don’t want to stop what we’re doing.

I’ve never done anything like this before, cybering, cybering with a stranger, role-play cybering with a stranger. Then again, there isn’t anything I recognize about my life anymore, so why not?

Why not grab another pillow and push it between my legs so I have something to kind of roll against while I tell him how to hold himself tight at the base, and then rub his thumb over the top because when I write that, when I imagine it, it makes my clit feel three sizes too big and wet besides and that’s about a thousand times better than feeling afraid or lonely or angry.

Now faster. Lick your palm if you need to.

He doesn’t answer, but that’s how I know he’s listening.

About Mary Ann Rivers

Mary Ann Rivers was an English and music major and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing, publishing poetry in journals and leading creative-writing workshops for at-risk youth. While training for her day job as a nurse practitioner, she rediscovered romance on the bedside tables of her favorite patients. Now she writes smart and emotional contemporary romance, imagining stories featuring the heroes and heroines just ahead of her in the coffee line. Mary Ann Rivers lives in the Midwest with her handsome professor husband and their imaginative school-aged son.

About HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS

As leftover turkey and stuffing give way to stockings and little black dresses, this tantalizingly sexy eBook bundle offers up holiday-themed novellas from a trio of beloved romance authors. Lisa Renee Jones gives a dedicated reporter and a powerful businessman a chance to count their Thanksgiving blessings in Play with Me; Mary Ann Rivers presents Snowfall, the story of a woman who confronts a life-changing event—hopefully with a special man by her side—just in time for Christmas; and in Serena Bell ‘s After Midnight, an explosive New Year’s kiss leaves two strangers wondering whether they’ll ever see each other again.

GIVEAWAY

Mary Ann Rivers – SNOWFALL giveaway!

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Timitra

Thanks for sharing the excerpt.