Writing Challenge: 3… 2… 1…

by Evan Yeong

I somehow waited a full ten days, an entire week and a half, into 2020 before releasing the first writing challenge of the year. After all, this is the decade where we’re all (yes, I’m including myself) taking steps to be the best writers we can be! And what better way to start than competing for a spot on the Editors’ Choice Top 3?

Some of you may have noticed that each of my challenges has attempted to fit within the theme of the month it’s posted, and January is no exception. I may have skirted around explicitly asking you to write about Thanksgiving this past fall, but I found it impossible to avoid focusing on the New Year’s celebrations this time around.

Your task is to describe your hero and heroine as they share the final moments of 2019 together. They can be at a party or enjoying a quiet night in alone together. Maybe they’re total strangers who just bumped into one another, or mortal enemies who want to be as far away from the other as possible, the choice is yours! My added element to ramp up the challenge is that they cannot share a countdown kiss. Everyone else in the room may be locking lips, but not these two, and it’s up to you to tell us why!

Now this is typically the part of the post where I tell you all that you have “three to five paragraphs” for your submission, but new year, new rules! Over the past few months I’ve realized that not only were many of you not sticking within these guidelines, but different writers naturally have different paragraph lengths, which gave some a bit of an advantage. Going forward submissions are to be 650 words or less. You can utilize the Word Count function in Microsoft Word, or use an online tool if you’d like, but please stay within this limit.

As usual, we will be accepting submissions until the end of the day Sunday, January 12th, 2020. The following day the editors will be reading and judging them, and I’ll update this post that afternoon with the winners!

It’s an exciting new year for SYTYCW, and we’re eagerly anticipating all your takes on this romantic(?) moment!


UPDATE: If people are resolving to write more, they’re doing just fine halfway through January! We received a whopping 27 submissions, which (full disclosure) may be prompting me to shorten the word limit a bit. That said, everyone did stay within it, so excellent work on that front!

The first Editors’ Choice Top 3 for 2020 are:

Ruby in First Place, whose lovely engagement scene warmed our hearts (and acts as a helpful primer on time zones).

Kate Edwards in Second Place, who left us dying to know more about the actor and his frustrated publicist.

Cheryl Anne Graham in Third Place, with her stellar example of how a respectable mental health professional should behave.

Also worth noting is Hanna, who receives an Honourable Mention for a heroine whose sloppy evening at the bar was very funny and (just a little bit) relatable.

Thank you so much for participating, and for building one another up in the comments! Congratulations to our winners, and we hope you come back tomorrow for a special post  featuring multiple editors!

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  1. Ann Allen

    New Year’s Eve was always a big deal at the bar. It was busy, and a good night for tips. So, of course, I was working. I’d convinced my cousin Louise to come out for at least part of the night. She’d been invited to some parties but turned down all the invitations. I was afraid she was becoming even more reclusive.
    She was more a sister than a cousin to me, so I”d pushed. She and her two assistants had bought tickets for the party tonight.
    When I had a break, I joined them at their table. A couple of guys were with them, flirting with the assistants. Louise was nursing her drink, enjoying the show, but remaining a spectator.
    Damn. I’d hoped she’d find someone to kiss the New Year in with.
    I sat down with a sigh for my sore feet.
    “Busy night.” Louise noticed me. Her assistants were too busy laughing at some joke.
    Still, I managed to smile at her. “Good tips.”
    Louise gave me a thumbs up. “That’s why you’re here. I’m going to head out now.”
    Double damn.
    “But it’s still half an hour till midnight!”
    Louise raised her eyebrows. “I’m not expecting to meet anyone at midnight, and I think I’m done.”
    I was disappointed but not surprised. “Thanks for coming.”
    She shrugged. “My girls had a good time.”
    She picked up her jacket and said goodbye to her assistants. They objected to her leaving, but not seriously. They knew her as well.
    I followed her to the door and hugged her. “See you in the New Year.”
    She hugged me back. “Happy New Year, Talia. It’s going to be a good one for you, I feel it.”
    I wondered what she meant, but my break was over, and the place was slammed. I had to go.
    “Thanks Louise!”
    Just after I returned to the bar, some of the Blaze players arrived. They’d played tonight in Ottawa, and had just flown in, I assumed. I was angry with myself when I found my gaze drifting towards them to see if Royd was there, and not pleased at the lift I felt when I saw him.
    I needed to stop looking for Royd and stop worrying about him. We’d be divorced in weeks.
    I might be stupid, but no one else had to know about it. I was happy now that Louise wasn’t there to watch me. I put my head down and started preparing the champagne for the New Year’s toast. I refused to look around anymore. There was certainly enough work behind the bar to keep me busy.
    The champagne was delivered. I heard the countdown begin. Instead of looking to see where Royd was, and if he was with some other woman, I took off. Knowing people were dealt with for the next two minutes, I headed to the hallway to the bathrooms.
    I had no idea when I might get another break, so I took advantage. I heard the cheering and relaxed, knowing I’d managed to avoid the dangerous moment. I was quick, taking a moment to check that my makeup hadn’t run, or too much dirt covered my uniform, and I was ready to wrap up what might be the most profitable night of my year.
    It was the inverse of our run-in last September. I was tugging down my skirt as I left the ladies room, and I ran into a tall, hard body. Inevitably, it was Royd.
    I felt my heart leap into my throat, and I stared up at him, unable to think of a good quip. He had reached out a hand to steady me, and it rested on my arm. He was staring at me, and I knew I should say something, do something, but all I could do was stare into his eyes.
    “Happy New Year, T.” Royd finally broke the spell.

  2. Sandra Daniels

    “Five, four, three, two, one! Happy New Year!”
    Shouts from the crowd at the Dawson’s New Year’s Eve party couldn’t distract Adam from the woman moving into his arms.
    Janie.
    He pulled her into his embrace but bypassed her waiting mouth to rub his cheek against hers.
    “What,” she said, chuckling into his ear. “No kiss?”
    He leaned back and smiled down into her beautiful face. “We have to wait a couple more hours.”
    “A couple of hours?” She tilted her head and gave him a grinning, quizzical look, and then searched his face before finally blurting out on a laugh, “Okay. I give.”
    Adam tightened his arms around her waist and pulled her lower body into his. And, God help him, he couldn’t help but push his hardening cock into her soft belly.
    “Oh.” Janie sobered and bit her bottom lip. “So we’re waiting for that?” She waggled her eyebrows at him and motioned with her head toward the front door. “Let’s go.”
    “Mmmm.” He couldn’t hold back his groan as she wriggled against him. “But that’s not it. You see,” he said, willing his dick to behave, “at exactly two-fifty-two, one year ago, we shared our first kiss.” Her mouth rounded into an O as her eyes widened. “So, I want to save our New Year’s kiss until then.”
    “You remembered the time?”
    “Of course I did.” He remembered everything about their first night together.
    Janie lifted her left hand to his face, her eyes and expression turning soft. “Have I told you this year how much I love you?” The diamond he’d placed on her ring finger three months ago caught the light before her tender touch stroked over his cheek as he shook his head. “And just so you know, I like the idea of waiting.” Her face flushed. “And I know exactly where we should be.”
    “Our bed, with me deep in your body?” He grinned, liking that idea, although he might have a hard time holding back from taking her mouth in the process. Oh well, he’d just have to find other places for his mouth to worship her tender flesh before claiming her lips.
    She shook her head and gave him a shy smile. “In front of my old apartment.”
    “That sounds like the perfect place.”
    Adam pulled her close again—loving the way she melted into him—and let out a contented sigh while his gaze roamed over the crowd. Many of the partygoers remained wrapped up in each other, while others could be seen walking hand-in-hand out of the main room. He grinned to himself, thinking he’d have to be sure not to open any closed doors for the next thirty minutes or so. Making that mistake once a couple of years ago was enough, and unfortunately had left him with the lasting memory of a private celebration he’d rather not have seen.
    Who knew a pair of panties could be used for that?
    Then there across the room, appearing through the midst of the parting sea of people, stood Cassidy. His ex-girlfriend boasted a huge smile up at her husband while her hand stroked over her pregnant belly. Little had he known fourteen months ago when she’d broken up with him it would become the best decision for both of them.
    Cassidy turned and caught his stare, and then raised her brows in question.
    “Thank you,” he mouthed.
    Her gaze went to Janie, then to his, and then nodded with a sweet smile before reaching for her husband’s hand and leading him away.
    Adam bent his head and nuzzled into Janie’s curly hair, the sweet strawberry scent of her shampoo flooding his senses. He closed his eyes and breathed her in as Cassidy’s words came back to him.
    “When you find the one, you keep him.”
    Janie snuggled against his chest. Cassidy had been right.
    And he’d found his one.

  3. lucretia richmond

    “I think we can be good together.” Jarred hinted in his eyes how perfect it could be.
    “You do. Do you? How did you come to that impression?”
    “You’re here aren’t you? Out of every event happening tonight you chose to be at the one you will bump into me. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”
    “You can have anything you want tonight, but what makes you think I’ll give you me?”
    “Why not ask me this? How do I know you already have?”
    There was something about this man she thought she could refuse, but the kiss was worth waiting for. She would just have to prolong it a little longer. This was a night to remember.

  4. Chrissie

    This challenge inspired me to write a scene for my new WIP:

    There she was, not dressed in city-slicker clothes but a cable-knit sweater and jeans, even her cowboy boots said welcome home. Brandt’s heart tugged at what they might have missed if he hadn’t found the stray dog and kittens on Christmas Eve. He’d been on his way to propose to another woman, but all along she’d only been a stand-in for the woman he could never have until that magical night that changed everything.

    Last night he told Sara the truth. He wasn’t in love with her. She admitted the same and told him she’d dated him because of his wealth and status, nothing more. That hurt. He’d cared about her as a person. He glanced over to where Sara was dancing with an admirer. It didn’t take long for her to find someone new. With that problem behind him, he looked forward to tonight. The holiday season was such a wonderful, romantic time of year. Why not make the proposal he’d wanted to make ten years ago?

    He winked as Rose looked at him from across the crowded barn where the entire town had come to celebrate New Year’s Eve. She moved toward him, slow and deliberate. Was that a smile or was she upset about something? It was the latter. He’d seen that expression before. Once a long time ago. Pure determination.

    “Good-evening, Rose.”

    “Is it?” She sipped her champagne and held the flute by its stem, looking through the glass as though it were a fortune teller’s ball.

    “I thought it was. What’s up?” Maybe he didn’t want to know. He hoped it wasn’t a problem with the kittens. He’d taken Mary back to his house with him when he’d left. She’d proven to be a good dog over the two days they were all snowed-in together. She’d cuddled those kittens like a mother hen. The thought made him smile. Rose had saved their lives and his in a big way.

    “Why aren’t you over there dancing with your fiancé?”

    “Pardon?”

    “Don’t play dumb with me, Brandt. It doesn’t suit you.” She swallowed the rest of her champagne in one big gulp and smiled. “This is a small town, remember? Gossip is like flies, pesky and always around.”

    “Look, I—”

    “Never mind. I don’t want to hear it. I can’t believe you took advantage of the situation over Christmas when you have no intention of following through.”

    “Rose, let me—”

    “No. I won’t let you, and by the way…stay away from me at midnight. The last thing I want is to kiss a deceitful jerk.” She narrowed her eyes and shrugged. “I trusted you, Brandt. Why did you lie to me?”

    “Rose, I never lied. I didn’t have the opportunity to tell you.”

    “Ha! We spent two days and nights together like it was old times, like we’d never been apart and I thought…No, I won’t tell you how I feel when you don’t feel the same. Still, that’s no excuse not to tell me you were engaged.”

    “Almost engaged.”

    She inched closer and ran her fingertips along his clean-shaven jaw. “What do you mean almost? Missy Harper said—”

    “Well, she was wrong. I was on my way to Sara’s for dinner when I found Mary and the kittens, then I ran into you at your Dad’s place and well, you know the rest. I was never in love with Sara, but I’m definitely in love with you.”

    Rose set her glass on a nearby table and pulled him closer just as the countdown began in loud chants. The big clock dangling by a rope over the barn rafters struck twelve midnight and cheers of Happy New Year filled the room. “You will not get the last kiss of 2019, Brandt Dugan, but if you play your cards right, you might get the first kiss of the New Year.”

  5. BethAnn Sheldon

    Sabrina did not expect to see him here tonight. She was so relieved he was alive and unhurt, yet so angry that had the nerve to just waltz into the party after months of no contact. Sabrina was now six-months pregnant and was so proud to be able to be a surrogate for her sister after years of heartbreaking infertility. She should be ringing in the New Year filled with hope and blessings, but after not hearing from her fiancé Pete for the past eight months, her joy was shadowed by his apparent rejection. But now, seeing Pete across the room at the Peak View Community Center’s annual New Year’s Eve Party, she could barely keep from fainting.

    Pete had fervently hoped she would be here tonight. His love for Sabrina kept him going for the past eight months of captivity in his yearlong missionary trip to Central America. He knew he should have contacted her as soon as he was freed, but he wanted to see her, hold her again, when he heard her sweet voice. He missed her so desperately that it physically hurt. He also needed to say, “You were right and I was wrong.” He thought he was “called” to this latest humanitarian mission, but he had not done a complete investigation into the danger. As she said, “he rushed into this without really thinking about her and their future.”

    Pete walked across the room to her as she was standing behind the drinks table. He couldn’t believe how beautiful she was in her gold dress matching her golden hair. But, her eyes were filled with complete shock, not love, and she was visibly shaking. When he got up close to her, he could see that she was – pregnant! A million thoughts raced through his mind including; “we promised we would wait for marriage, and “how could he have so misjudged her?” All Sabrina could say was, “you’re here!”

    Sabrina could feel her heart racing. She was so mad that he hadn’t responded to her last letter, explaining her reasons to surrogate, and begging him to understand her need to help her sister’s family conceive a child. She took his total silence to mean that he disagreed with her and was ending their engagement and was crushed. She thought they had been aligned in their mutual need to serve others. Sabrina felt herself losing consciousness in a dead faint just as the clock was striking midnight as she thought she heard Pete say, “I guess you couldn’t wait for me.” He left without a backwards glance.

    One year later, Sabrina was certainly not the same person. She was now an aunt to her beautiful nine-month old nephew and worked as a counselor to surrogates and their families. She was determined to make this her “year of moving forward” after all the painful emotion from Pete just showing up and then leaving one year ago tonight. She was determined to excel in her career and in being the “best aunt ever!” She vowed to never again allow any naive romantic thoughts to spoil her resolve.

    Pete was not looking forward to returning to Peak View Montana, but now that his latest missionary trip was finished, he knew it was time to see Sabrina and hope she still loved him too. He hated that he still loved a women who could so betray him, but he did. He walked into the annual New Year’s Eve party and found Sabrina talking with her sister Paige. Paige was holding a sleeping baby, whom he assumed was Sabrina’s son. Sabrina looked even more beautiful than ever. Just as the countdown to 2020 started he asked her, “Can we please talk?” But instead of kissing at midnight, with eyes that showed total disgust, she said, “Turn-around is fair play!” She then walked out of the party.

  6. Mufidah Tahir

    This year, Macy didn’t want to spend the New year’s Eve back in the United States.
    Without an atom of reconsideration, she broke the tradition of traveling back to Utah to her family for the New year’s Eve since she studied in a university in Newcastle and decided to stay back to celebrate her first New year celebration with Callum, the man who had proposed to her two days after December 1st; her birthday. What better way to propose than one of the jolliest moments of her life!
    This month, she came back from Utah on the thirtieth intending to spend the Eve with Callum and his family.
    Though Callum had qualms about her decision, but Macy assured him this was what she wanted. This was a win-win since the untameable curiosity in her whispered she needed a fresh new experience in her life, and staying in London with Callum this New Year’s Eve was just perfect.
    Expectedly, Callum planned for the best for both of them for the New Year’s Eve. He arranged for their experience to be at Sage Gatehead, and like icing on the cake, it was a 70s themed evening with a live band and disco music and so on, with a marvelous frontal display of fireworks and performances that would blow anyone’s mind away.
    After hours of googling outfits, she finally settled for a black leather jacket with a dark small belt which accentuated the jacket into a stylish peplum. The black maxi high-waisted skirt drew focus to her small waist and she paired with some nice pumps.
    One can never go wrong with black!
    In contrast to Macy was Callum in bright yellow suit which he left unbuttoned, paired with same coloured pants and a brown shirt that had a bit of an oversized collar.
    His sharp square face contained very bushy Chestnut locks which now fell over his brows and she thought no one could ever pull the look better than Callum.
    Macy’s jet black hair was pulled back in an effortless bun, highlighting a soft round face and a smile that glowed her sapphire orbs.
    They sat on a table undoubtedly enjoying what was unfolding before them.
    ‘I’m glad I didn’t make convince you into going to the US.’ Heavy British accent flowed out of his mouth.
    Laughter bubbled off her. “Next time I decide something, you Mister Callum Strathmore, should keep shut.’
    ‘Absolutely.’
    Lost in each other, they failed to register the announcement that the countdown had begun until they heard everyone’s raised voices. ’60. 59. 58. 57. 56…’
    They joined in.
    ‘…6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.’
    Fireworks blasted into the air in a burst of colorful shiny bright hues screaming ‘2020’
    Most of the couples were spotted lip locking in the most passionate way and Macy expected Callum to make a move.
    ‘Callum?’ She asked concerned.
    ‘Yes dear.’ He continued staring into the fireworks.
    ‘No kiss?’
    This time his caramel eyes faced hers.
    ‘Honey, I want us to enjoy all this’ He gestured his hands on air. ‘has to offer. I want to hold hands with the love of my life while gazing at the beauty above us, and after all is done, I hold you in my arms and give you the most romantic kiss that will absolutely put the other kisses to shame.’
    No words described the burst of love that she felt, so she simply grabbed at his side for a warm embrace gazing at the dancing sky together

  7. Apologies if this is a stupid question, but I would be grateful for clarification regarding the deadline. Does ‘end of the day Sunday’ mean midnight Ontario, Canada, time? I am from the UK so we are approximately 5 hours ahead. Therefore if the deadline is midnight Ontario, Canada, time (rather than midnight UK time) that would give me 5 extra hours for writing, re-writing, howling in despair, throwing my writing in the rubbish bin, having a cup of tea (and a chocolate biscuit), taking my writing out of the rubbish bin and trying again … !!

    • Chrissie

      Andrea, I’d ask this over in the Harlequin forum. since editors from both the UK and US and CA all take part… I’m not sure! Good question! I always do my best to get my entry in asap, then I don’t have to worry. Good Luck, Bite the Bullet and Just Do It, my friend! 🙂

    • Hi Chrissie, many thanks for your reply and the advice. I am loving your story about Rose and Brandt. Good luck to you and everyone else with the writing challenge. Every good wish from Andrea xx

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Andrea! Apologies, I will try to clarify in the future. Yes, the deadline is 11:59 PM EST (Toronto time) on Saturday night. You’re right, that might give you a bit of an edge over the competition!

  8. Knut Robert Knutsen

    No kiss for New Year

    Jake shivered, his stylish coat didn’t quite shield him from the biting cold. He cursed his own vanity. An advantage to arriving late to the party was that his car wasn’t blocked in by anyone else, parked down the street as it was from Michael’s party. He fumbled in his pocket for the car keys.
    «Jake, Wait.» . It was Rebecca. Drunk, shoeless and flushed from running through the snow.
    «Ms. Carter. What may I do for you?»
    «You’re leaving and it’s not even midnight.»
    «Is that so? Still, I felt it was too late for me.»
    «I’ve been trying to talk to you all night.»
    «I thought Phil was keeping you entertained.»
    «Phil can’t take a hint.»
    «Well, I really have to go…» Jake turned away.

    A snowball hit him in the neck. Rebecca stared at him angrily.
    «Yeah, you heard me.»
    «You didn’t say anything.»
    «We need to talk. You and me. About us.»
    «Rebecca, you’re drunk.»
    «No, I’m …» she hesitated. «Yes, I am, but I’ve tried saying this sober, and it doesn’t work.»

    Jake shook his head. «There is no us. You made that perfectly clear.»
    «If that’s what you heard, then I wasn’t clear.»
    “I like you. Even though you’re arrogant, and …”
    “This doesn’t sound like you like me. “
    “Stop. I don’t know if I can trust you yet. We’re on opposite sides of this project and that means sometimes I’m going to get mad at you or work against you and yell at you. A lot. But I like you. “
    “So you’re saying you want to talk.”
    “I’m saying I want you to kiss me. “
    “You’re drunk”.
    “If I weren’t I don’t think I could do this.”
    “Let’s get you inside before you lose those cute toes to frostbite.”

    Jake took off his coat, draped it around her shoulders and swept her into his arms, to carry her back up the driveway. The cold snapped at him and the driveway was slippery. “Don’t groan”, he thought, “she’ll never forgive you.”
    “Kiss” Rebecca pursed her lips together and leaned in with her eyes closed.
    “No”. Jake’s reply was abrupt as he turned his head away.
    Jake set Rebecca down on the small chaise-lounge in the nook beside the front door. He lifted her feet into his lap and started massaging the blood back into them.
    “You were supposed to kiss me and fix everything”.
    “You’re still drunk.”
    “You’re mean”.

    Satisfied that her feet were no longer at risk for frostbite, Jake knelt on the floor beside her, and touched her cheek to make her look at him.
    “My mom taught me that one should never make huge life decisions while drunk. Us kissing? That is huge. What follows, that’s a life decision. I want to have that conversation, but both of us are going to be sober for it. “

    The party fell into a hush as a countdown was about to start to the new year.
    “It’s Midnight” Rebecca insisted as she draped her arm around his neck. “Lovers kiss at midnight”.
    “We’re not lovers yet. We’ll have that conversation in the morning.”

    It took all of Jake’s strength to pull away. He caught the attention of Rebecca’s friend and designated driver Jackie, who promptly looked to her, and as Jake navigated back down the driveway to the sound of midnight bells he wondered whether she would even remember in the morning.

    He hoped she would.

  9. Marcie Smith

    I hadn’t expected to see Coop again, much less at a small New Year’s Eve party. When he walked in the front door less than an hour before midnight, I had to draw a deep breath and felt my heart quicken.
    “Isn’t that Brad Cooper?” Maria asked me, tipping her head in his direction.
    “Certainly is, I didn’t know he was in town,” as I scrutinized the man I once thought I might marry.
    As I saw him look my way, I quickly diverted my gaze to Maria and continued with small talk. “I hope he doesn’t notice me,” I whispered.
    In my peripheral vision, I saw him not only see me but make a deliberate stroll toward me.
    “Well, if it isn’t Green Toes Elmore in person,” he said.
    “And Mr. Cooper, I don’t guess you’ll ever let me forget that.”
    He laughed and said to Maria, “The first time we met at the club pool, she had bright grass green toenails, and I’ve called her that ever since.”
    “I remember… I’ll let you two catch up, I need to get some more champagne before the magic hour arrives,” as Maria excused herself.
    He hadn’t changed other than a deep bronze tan since I last saw him a year ago.
    “I thought you were in Saudi, Arabia, on a job too good to pass up?”
    “Samantha, that’s where I’ve been the past year. Some risk, but it paid five times what I’d make in a year staying here. I saved it all. Job’s over, and I’m back for good. Thought I’d find you here tonight.”
    “You don’t expect to pick up where you left off, do you?”
    “Yeah, that was tough. Leaving you was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve missed you like crazy.”
    “You couldn’t write, text, or call me?”
    “I didn’t have the words. I knew how we left things, and I didn’t know what to say, and maybe not the guts to try.”
    He was shifting from one foot to another. I watched his pained expression, I could see it wasn’t easy for him. I could feel my heart pumping harder, and those old feelings crept back and overpowered my initial rejection.
    “I was kinda hoping we might kick-off 2020 as least with me seeing you again,” he said.
    “It’s not that easy. I’ve dated other men since you left me.”
    It wasn’t true. I’d only had lunches or dinners with a few guys, but they fell so far short of Coop, I never continued. What we had before was terrific but a year apart with no guarantees…well, he shouldn’t expect anything.
    “Anyone special? You don’t seem to have a date tonight.”
    “Maybe, and maybe he’s sick.”
    I couldn’t help but crack a smile, and I knew he saw it. The truth was my heart was aching for him. To see him home again and wanting me, melted my resistance.
    “I swore when I came to this party, I was not going to kiss anyone for any reason tonight. Just didn’t want to be alone.”
    He took my hand, and I felt his warmth.
    “If you just open the door a crack,” he said, “I’ll earn a place in your heart again, and with my nest egg, we might be able to feather a nest together.”
    The time was close to midnight, and the count-down was about to start. He smiled that beautiful smile at me as he squeezed my hand.
    “No kissing here, I made a vow, and I’m sticking with it. But you might want to join me in my apartment next year, say in about an hour, and we’ll see.”
    “That’s a date,” he said as he gave me a hug. “And do you have any of that green toe paint left?”
    “Could be,” and I hugged him back.

  10. “Ariel, I didn’t know you would be back in town for New Year’s Eve.” Surprise showed all over Tom’s face, whether from being glad to see her or not, Ariel couldn’t tell.
    “I was a bit surprised, myself.” She wanted to keep him guessing. She didn’t want him to know why she was back and she certainly didn’t want him to know how his very presence was affecting her.
    Moving closer, the familiar scent of his cologne threatened to take her back to better days. “If I had known, I would have asked you to the dance myself.”
    Shifting her weight to her other foot in an effort to put a little distance between them, she shot him a look. “And how do you know I would have accepted?” This was not the time or the place to let Tom unnerve her.
    “I don’t. But I would have asked you anyway.” His arrogant manner missing, his voice held a note of sincerity. Maybe she had been wrong. Maybe he had been trying to tell her something important the last time. And she had just cut him off.
    Staring into her glass, she watched the bubbles lining the side of the glass from her freshly poured soda. If she knew what to say, how to apologize, she could look him in the face.
    “Would you like to dance?” he asked.
    Turning her face towards him, she offered her smile, hoping it conveyed the apology she couldn’t seem to put into words. “Yes, I would love to.”
    He gently placed his hand in hers, leading her onto the dance floor. The warmth of his arm against her as he pulled her close reminded her of years ago. They had shared a dance then, too. Before so many mistakes had been made. Letting the moment wrap around her, she knew what she needed to say. Ready to trust again, she tilted her head up, holding his gaze.
    A noise unlike the swaying rhythm of the song interrupted the moment. “Ariel, I need to take this call. The hazards of being the only veterinarian around here tonight.”
    Before she replied, his hand was guiding her off the dance floor. He nodded to her, then strode a short distance away from the crowd. Watching him return, his face was etched with determination. “I have an emergency. Down at the Wimberly Ranch. I have to go.”
    “Will I see you later?”
    “I’ll call you.” One final clasp of his hand and she stood watching him rush from the barn, all lit for the dance. Her feet planted, unable to rush after him. The other couples were no longer swirling around her, the strains of music silent.
    “3…2…1!” Shouting erupted. Everywhere, happy couples were embracing, sharing the New Year’s kiss. Everyone but her. The only person she had ever wanted just rushed out the door, before she even had the chance to say the words held captive in her heart for so long.

  11. Maya glanced at the task list in her planner with a sigh. It didn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Perhaps she should have agreed to hire a caterer. At least, thanks to Zane, the drinks’ cabinet was already fully stocked; she would only need to prep the lemons and limes before the party. Guests would start arriving at 7pm that evening which gave her nine hours to complete everything else on her list. Plenty of time as long as she stuck rigidly to her schedule.

    She tilted her head when she heard Zane thundering down the stairs with an unusual lack of elegance. She frowned. He’d been acting distracted all morning. If she didn’t know him better she would suspect he was planning a New Year’s proposal. But that would be in the middle of their party and a public display would make him completely uncomfortable – both of them really.

    “Hey,” he said, standing in the kitchen doorway, “Can you come with me into the Living Room please.”

    She smiled, walking over to give him a light kiss. He looked as frazzled as she felt. “Okay but there’s a lot to do still,” she agreed gesturing at the chaos in the kitchen.

    “I’ll help you in a minute,” he said hurrying her into their living room, bringing them to a halt in front of the fireplace where they’d christened their new home three months earlier. “I want to see the New Year in with you first.”

    “But it isn’t New Year for another fourteen hours.”

    “Not here in London no, but look at the world clock.” He held his tablet in front of them. “Watch the time in Kiritimati.” She stood wrapped in his arms both watching intently as the second hand counted down the last few seconds to midnight in Kiritimati.

    “Isn’t that incredible,” he said. “It’s already 2020 in the world.”

    She laughed at the excitement in his voice. For a man with the wealth to buy anything he wanted or to travel anywhere in the world he still found delight in simple pleasures. “You’re such a dork,” she said reaching up to cup his cheek, running her thumb along his chiselled cheekbone, “But I do love you.”

    He smiled, planting a kiss on her palm before showing her the world clock again. “Look at the time in Pago Pago,” he said.

    With a curious expression she looked at the display. “11pm yesterday?” After a few seconds her face lit up with understanding. “It’s three different days across the world right now! That is amazing!”

    He turned her towards him taking both her hands in his and raising them to the level of his heart. His hands were shaking a little, hers too. “Yes it is. And it’s the way I feel about you.”

    “What, I’m like the world clock?” she asked trying to control the sudden rush of blood to her ears; the pounding in her chest. Her breath caught at the intensity of love evident in his penetrating gaze, all thoughts of her task list long abandoned.

    “No, not exactly,” he said with a light laugh drawing her a little closer. “I mean right now our past, present and future are entwined and I hope we will keep it that way always. Maya, I loved you yesterday. I love you even more today, and I know I’m going to love you tomorrow and for the rest of our lives. Will you marry me?”

  12. Montana White

    New Year’s, the mark the end of one year and the start of a new one. New chances at life, change who you are and what possible be for the future.

    Mia got invited to a party for the New Year, by a friend and his family. The party was great, but what wasn’t so great, was going with her best friend, to go pick up his girlfriend. His girlfriend who hated Mia, who hated other people that wasn’t family that stood close to him by five feet.

    “Uh, sure,” she had said.

    They got in his truck, went to go pick up his girlfriend. They drove in silence till Noah said a word. “So, any New Year’s resolutions?” he asked, as he turned on his girlfriend street.

    So badly she wanted to say, “Not in this truck, where you girlfriend could very well try to murder me.” But of course, she didn’t say that to him. “To have a better year, then I did in the old year. What about you?”

    They pull up into his girlfriend driveway, where they sit for a few seconds for her to come out of the house. “What I want for the new year, is that I want something great to happen to both of us.” He looked at her then, the look that said he wishes he could change so many things, but the agreement was there between them. Unsaid, unheard of, but it was there, no dating between them. Support and best wishes, that’s all.

    Noah girlfriend came out just then, she opens the door and glares at Mia. Mia goes to slide out, so Rain could sit by Noah, but Noah grabbed on to Mia shoulder. “It’ll take longer if everyone switches seats, just get in or we will miss the count down.”

    Rain looked between them, glaring at them. “I’ll pass, I got another party to go to.” With that, Rain slams the door shut and marches back into the house.

    Mia, looks at the slamming door and then to Noah. “Yeah, I think you just messed up big time. I should just stayed with everyone else.”

    Noah backed out of the driveway and started to head back to the party. “Truthfully, it’s for the best, we weren’t good for one another. I’m sorry she hated you like she did.”

    “Why did you even want me to come, if you knew there was a chance, that she would act that way?” Mia asks.

    He glances at her and then to the darkened road, that the headlights try to fend off. “We both deserve a fresh start for the New Year. Could gone about it a lot better, but it is as it is.”

    The drive back is quite, but there was a new bound freedom to it. For at least Noah and as for Mia, an urge to slug him for having her go with him. But the urge would have to wait till they weren’t in the truck.

    Back at the party they get out of the truck, grab drinks and join everyone that is the back yard, waiting for the fireworks to go off. “So what is your next grand plan, to find a new girlfriend?” Mia asks, just to be a smart-alecky.

    He looks at her, a look on his face Mia can’t place. “I think I’m going to step back from dating for awhile and just be happy with what I have and who is in my life.” He tells her.

    Mia thinks his words over and then shakes her head approvingly. “Resolution?” he shakes his head yes. “Good one, I like it.” The fire works start to go off then. “Happy New Year’s Noah.”

    He holds his drink to her and she taps her drink to his. “Happy New Year’s Mia.”

  13. Michelle

    King Scottley took Clarissa’s hands in his. Her hands were sweaty and shaking. His were steady, confident. How did he not notice her trepidation?

    “Ten!” Everyone in the palace shouted excitedly starring up at the podium where the couple stood.

    In ten seconds, as the new year struck, King Scottley and Clarissa were going to say, I do. They would be married. Permanently. His country and hers would be joined forever.

    Clarissa’s stomach churned at the thought. His country was aggressive warriors. Hers was peaceful artists and lovers. But it was for this very reason that her country needed his. The world was entering a time of unrest and they needed protection.

    “Nine!”

    Clarissa looked into King Scottley’s grey eyes searching for a connection, but at a moment when his eyes should be locked on hers, they wandered around the room from one cinched waist and hoisted breast to another. It wasn’t that he didn’t notice her nerves; he just didn’t care.

    “Eight!”

    She let her own eyes wander through the crowd, quickly finding Greyson, King Scottley’s brother. To the ignorant observer, Greyson was leaning against the pillar casually, bored with the evening, but Clarissa knew better.

    She could see the outrage etched in the thick muscles of his jaw. His lips drawn together in a flat line. She could still see the words pressed on his lips that he had whispered to her last night. Don’t marry him. Marry me.

    “Seven!”

    When Greyson had said this, he had promised to protect her. He was a smart and strong warrior, but he could not protect her entire country on his own. Especially not against his brother’s army.

    If Clarissa had chosen to follow her heart and marry Greyson, she would’ve made her country King Scottley’s biggest target. She knew by the rage she had already witnessed in the king, the repercussions for her decision would be brutal and swift.

    “Six!”

    Clarissa could still have Greyson, though. It was common practice for Kings to take mistresses, so why couldn’t Clarissa have a lover on the side for herself? She would just have to be quieter about it than the king.

    “Five!”

    They could steal kisses in abandon castle corridors and sneak lingering touches as they passed in empty halls. He could meet her in the woods every morning when she took her daily horse ride without her handmaidens. There, in natures bed of flowers and fallen tree leaves, they could have each other fully.

    Clarissa’s breath shallowed and her center warmed as Greyson’s eyes locked with hers from across the room. He bit his bottom lip revealing that his mind had also wandered into lustful fantasies of their future.

    “Four!”

    Clarissa felt King Scottley’s grip suddenly tighten around her wrists.

    She tried to pull away, “You’re hurting me.” She said, but the king wasn’t paying attention to her per usual. He was staring at his brother. He must’ve caught her longing gaze and realized that it ended on Greyson.

    “Three!” The palace continued the countdown unaware of the drama unfolding. Everyone was focused on their own partners to kiss.

    “Get your hands off her!” Greyson growled pushing through the crowd making his way to Clarissa. From the podium, Clarissa could see the guards following behind Greyson, drawing their swords.

    “Two!”

    Greyson reached them and with ease, out muscled his brother, flinging him from the podium. The crowd erupted. They did not know what the fight was about, but they were trained to always be on King Scottley’s side.

    Greyson took Clarissa’s hand lacing his strong fingers through hers. “I won’t let go.” He said calmly surveying the room for a safe exit.

    The bells chimed as the new year struck. Clarissa was not wed. She could kiss Greyson, her true love, instead. But first, as the mob brandished their weapons and narrowed in, Clarissa knew that they must…

    “Run!”

  14. Kate Edwards

    Cassie checked her watch again, noting that it was only a few minutes until midnight. She looked up, scanning the room until she saw Justin. He wasn’t difficult to spot, surrounded by people at the center of the party. He was dressed to the nines in a black suit with velvet accents, the jacket hugging his muscular shoulders. Cassie took a moment to admire her work. She had chosen the suit, made his barber appointment, even made sure he was wearing the right cuff links. He had to look perfect for his big New Year’s Eve blowout. Cassie always planned everything to the letter and Justin himself was the final detail.

    The rest of the party had come off without a hitch. Everyone in the top floor hotel suite seemed to be having an amazing time, and the photographers she had invited were capturing it all. Cassie spotted a few Hollywood executives in the room and she suspected that Justin would have another movie deal after tonight.

    She was content to sit back and watch it all unfold. Cassie had chosen an understated little black dress paired with pearls for her own outfit. She had spent the evening mingling quietly, giving guests a nudge in the right direction when needed, but mostly staying out of the way. And she had her eyes on Justin all night. Only because she had to manage him, of course.

    Now she drifted through the crowd until she reached Justin. He smiled when he saw her, and it lit up his whole face. “One minute, ladies, let me just check on something with my publicist,” he told the women around him. They dispersed, giggling. Justin was so smooth, but for a moment she wished he hadn’t referred to her as his publicist. How about friend?

    “This has been amazing, Cassie. Thank you so much.” Justin pulled her in for a hug, and she savored the feeling of his strong arms around her and the scent of his spicy cologne. “I know this will help my comeback.”

    “It’s my pleasure, Justin. “ After his comeback, he would probably be too busy for her, but at least the world was beginning to see the kind, sweet man she knew. “It’s almost midnight. Remember what I told you to do?”

    “Of course.” He let her go, squeezing her shoulder. “Hey, I was thinking, after the party…”

    She cut him off, catching sight of their target across the room. “Let’s talk later. Hurry, there she is.”

    Justin obeyed and strode over to the tall, blonde woman on the other side of the room. Miranda Haight was the up and coming actress of the moment and Cassie knew a kiss with her would seal the deal for Justin’s rising popularity. She took a deep breath and vanished back into the crowd, grabbing a flute of champagne from a passing tray.

    “Three, two, one…” The partygoers began counting down to midnight. Cassie joined in, even though her heart wasn’t in it. “Happy New Year!” Cassie lifted her glass and then drank the rest of the champagne. Around her, everyone was kissing. She felt alone in a sea of people. She knew she shouldn’t look, but she couldn’t help it. She focused her attention back to Justin, where he should be standing beside Miranda. Instead, he was alone, and Miranda was storming off. They were most definitely not kissing. Then Justin turned and their eyes met. She didn’t see disappointment in his expression. No, there was a very different kind of heat directed at her.

    Oh, she was going to have words with him about messing it up, even if she was secretly relieved that he hadn’t kissed anyone else.

  15. Tessa Redlin

    A new plan
    Audrey carefully placed a sticker that read, “New Year, New Plan, New Life” on the January calendar in her day planner and picked up her glass of Moscato to take a sip while enjoying the satisfaction of seeing the entire month planned out with colorful stickers and inspirational sayings.
    This year was going to be different, she vowed, glancing at her phone to check the time. Three minutes to midnight, perfect.
    With a smile, she stood up, wrapped the hand-knit blanket that had been draped over her legs across her shoulders, picked up her glass of wine and headed out to her balcony to watch the fireworks and usher in the new year.
    The unseasonably warm weather over the holidays was a welcome treat after the bitter cold, not to mention snowy, November. Fifty degrees on New Year’s Eve, the warmest in decades. Audrey tucked a stray lock of hair that had loosened from her ponytail, behind her ear as she swirled the wine in her glass and contemplated the night sky.
    She had such plans for 2020, she couldn’t wait for it to start. The past year contained enough trauma and heartache to last a lifetime. The discovery of her husband’s affair, on Valentine’s Day no less, had led to 10 months of divorce lawyers, unveiled secrets and emotional turmoil. The man she thought she was married to for three years never existed. Everything she thought she knew was a lie – his income, his fidelity, his love….
    Audrey took a deep breath as the first firework exploded in the sky to announce the new year and held up her wine glass to the sky.
    “Good riddance, 2019,” she shouted to the bright red burst light and nearly dropped her wine at the hearty laugh from her neighbor’s balcony.
    Her head snapped to the right so hard it hurt. “You scared the hell out of me!” she accused with a laugh, shocked to find her neighbor, Matthew, out on his balcony. She thought she was pretty much alone in their four-family apartment building.
    “Sorry,” he chuckled, hauling his lanky frame out of the chair he occupied. “I guess we had the same idea to ring in 2020.”
    Audrey grinned broadly. “I am so ready to put this past year behind me.
    “Yeah, I know,” he said solemnly. “It’s been a rough year for you.”
    The tall, dark-haired man had been a silent support over the past year, never prying or overstepping his bounds, but there to help dig her car out of the snow or move a heavy piece of furniture. She very much appreciated the space he’d given her.
    “You know what?” she asked. “I’m actually much happier this New Year’s Eve than I was last year. The divorce sucked, no doubt about it, but if I’m honest with myself, I wasn’t very happy in my marriage.”
    Matthew regarded her quietly for a moment before speaking. “No party tonight?”
    “No,” she sighed with a shake of her head. “The last thing I wanted was a crowded room and a lot of noise. I needed some quiet time to mull over my options. So much has changed. I actually spent the night deciding what to do with all the money my lawyer found.”
    “I hope you’re planning on doing something fun,” he advised. “You deserve it.”
    “I booked a trip to Greece already,” she said happily. “And when I get back, I’m going to start looking at houses.”
    “For that family you want?” he asked and she nodded her head. “What about a dad? Is that position still open?”
    Audrey tilted her head to the side and looked him up and down. “Why, do you know a qualified candidate for the position?”
    “I might,” he flashed a wicked smile with the reply.

  16. Michelle Goben

    Holding her bags close to her body, as she made her way to her apartment. Reaching into her coat pocket for her keys’, Not finding them. ” Maybe I drop them in my purse. “Looking through her purse. Not there either.

    As she fears she had done what she thought she done. Looking through her car window, there they sat in the front seat. Walking back to her apartment, standing outside. She retrieved her cell phone from her purse to call Mr. Waltz to see if he could come and let her into her apartment. She left him a message on his voice mail. Hoping he will call her back soon. Leaning back against her door, Liz could hear music playing from behind Nathan’s door. She didn’t want to knock on his door, but she couldn’t stand the cold anymore.

    ” Hi, Nathan.”

    ” Hi, Liz! ”

    ” I hate to bother you, I have locked my keys’ in the car, and I called Mr. Waltz to let me in, but he hasn’t returned my call yet. I was wondering if I could wait inside your place for him? ”

    ” Sure! ” Come on in.” Nathan holding the door open for her to enter. She saw he was cooking in the kitchen. ” Are you expecting someone?”

    ” No.” I wasn’t. I have made some dinner, would you like some?”

    ” I shouldn’t.”

    ” There’s plenty,” Liz took a set at the bar.

    They begin to eat in silence. Liz was enjoying the meal he made.

    ” I thought you would be out tonight? ”

    ” I didn’t want to go out tonight.”

    ” What about you?” Your not out on the town celebrating tonight?”

    ” Oh, I don’t go out much,”

    ” You don’t go out much, like with friends or dating? ” He narrowed his eyes at her.

    ” Both! I am not one of those girls, guys find attractive.”

    Pushing his plate away and standing up next to her, he held his hand out for her.” What are you doing?” I would like to dance with you.” I don’t dance.” Liz said.” Come on.” Liz taking his hand and moving to the living room floor. He pulls her close, into his arms. He could feel all of her curves in his embrace, lacing his fingers with hers. Watching her face as they moved slowly to the song playing. ” Before she could say anything he unclips her hair clip and let it fall to the middle of her back. He brushes her hair back with his fingertips and looks into her eyes. ” I think it is beautiful.” Liz’s mouth went dry and she was lost in the moment with him. ” I want to kiss you, Liz.” Nathan was moving in closer, gently caressing her face with his fingers. She watched him move closer to her lips with his. She always wondered what it would be like to kiss Nathan. Before she could have the chance, there was the knock at the door that distracted them. ” I better get that,”

    ” Hey, Jerry!”

    ” Hey, Nathan!” Is Miss Anderson here?” Mr. Waltz asks.

    ” Yes, she is here!” Liz was standing next to him.

    ” Hey Mr. Waltz” Thank you for coming, I locked my keys in my car and I couldn’t get in my apartment.” I am so sorry to bother you.”

    ” That’s ok, Miss Anderson!” Sorry, Shierly and I were not home when you called, we went out for dinner and a movie to bring in the New Year.”

    ” Here you go!” Your door is open.”

    ” Thank you so much!”

    ” You have a goodnight and Happy New Year.” Mr. Waltz!”

    Turning back to look at Nathan leaning against his door.

    ” Happy New Year Liz! with his gorgeous smile.

    “Happy New Year Nathan! Liz, closing her door.

  17. Cheryl Anne Graham

    Betsy looked down at the brightly coloured paper in her hand, balloons everywhere, and a caption that read, “Get 20/20 vision!Come to our party, 8:30 pm. Be there or be square.”

    “Oh I don’t know if I feel like a party.” Betsy had been so down in the dumps lately, especially since her beloved counsellor had up and abandoned her without warning. People were always doing that to her.

    But she decided she would go. It was better than staying home and watching When Harry Met Sally again.

    Bob had just finished his last counselling session when his phone rang. He often kept late hours around the holidays to help his patients make it through them, and he had just booked a new patient appointment. He answered the phone. “Jerome, buddy, how are you? What’s going on? No. I was just going to go home, watch a movie and relax. Come out with you? Okay.” He didn’t know if he wanted to go, but he did love New Year’s.

    “Betsy you came! And you brought more decorations, wonderful!” Belinda checked out the festive 20/20 glasses and the multicoloured necklaces that lit up when you pressed them. 2020 2020 2020. These are so cool. Wow they will make great prizes,” she said hugging Betsy, and I’ve got a great guy for you, tall and swell, just like you like ‘em.”

    Betsy laughed, “Belinda nobody says swell anymore.” She went to tell her about the man but Betsy replied, “No, I don’t want to even know. I will just help you with the party. Don’t even tell me his name. I’m too bummed.”

    “You got to get out there.”

    “Who says? Believe me I do not need to get out there,” Betsy returned as she put the noisemakers on each of the tables. But the evening ended up motivating her. Everybody was laughing, swinging with the music, and dancing, she began to.

    “You dance really well. What’s that called?” Bob said with just a bit of alcohol in his voice.

    “The spinster shuffle,” she laughed, she really laughed.

    “Would you like to dance with me?” He had a 20/20 golden top hat on his head and a yellow lei around his neck, how could she say no?

    “Sure I would love to. Whirl me around Romeo,” she was a bit stewed herself.

    “My name is…” Bob began.

    “No names! Just for tonight let’s be anonymous and throw caution to the wind.”

    “Okay, if you want to.”

    They danced the night away. Betsy thought she had met the best man she’d ever been with, but she needed a bit of a time out and it was almost midnight. They sat down at a table with a bit more peace.

    “Tell me about you stranger.”

    “You’ve got kind eyes. I need some kindness right about now.”

    “What is it?”

    “Oh my counsellor up and left me, right at the holidays. I mean who does that!”

    “I know. That would be awful. I would never do that to any of my patients.”

    “Wow, you’re a counsellor. Must be a challenging but rewarding job.”

    “Yes it is, I really like it. Helping people find their way. I hope you find yours,” Bob said putting his hand on hers. “You’ve got to keep looking. There are good ones out there.”

    “Well I am. I’ve got an appointment tomorrow at 11 am.”

    I’ve got a new patient appointment at 11 am.”

    “Weird.” They both said together.

    “Who’s it with? Maybe I know him.” Bob said just as the New Year’s countdown began.

    “Bob Chalmers. I hear he’s good.”

    Bob looked at her.

    “You’ll kiss me at midnight right!” Her eyes were bright.

    “Not if you want to keep the appointment. Hello my name is Bob. Happy to meet you,” he said extending his hand.

  18. As Felipe approached her through the crowd, Gemma’s stomach did the little flip it always did since meeting him a month ago at a salsa class. She’d trodden on his toes countless times, even tripping over her own feet and dragging him down with her once, but miraculously she hadn’t scared him off. When he’d asked her out for New Year’s Eve she’d been thrilled. If she could avoid doing anything clutzy for few minutes she would get that New Year’s kiss.

    “Four minutes to go,” he said, handing her a plastic cup of spiced wine, his sexy Spanish accent making Gemma’s insides melt. “Salud,” he held out his cup.
    “Salud,” Gemma lifted her cup to meet his just as the man behind her turned, knocking her elbow. As if in slow motion, Felipe’s cup squashed against hers, squeezing out the hot burgundy liquid in a clove-scented wave that splashed onto the front of his jacket.
    “Oh God, I’m so sorry!” Mortified, Gemma brushed at the stain with an old receipt from her pocket.
    Felipe chuckled and put his hand over hers, “It’s fine,” he held her hand against his body and moved closer, sending Gemma’s stomach butterflies into a frenzy, “You are very beautiful Gemma,” he whispered and Gemma closed her eyes as he dipped his head.

    “Uvas?” Interrupted a voice beside them and Gemma’s eyes flew open, disappointment making her scowl at the man beside them. Felipe took two small bags from him, he gave one to Gemma.
    “Um, thanks?” She said.
    “Grapes, for the bells,” Gemma’s expression didn’t change. She’d been in Spain for three months and there were still many things about Spanish life that were baffling.
    “It’s tradition at Nochevieja to eat a grape on each chime of the bells to bring in the new year. It brings good luck.”
    “Oh ok,” Gemma smiled, delighted to learn a new Spanish tradition.
    “Be quick, it’s difficult to do,” Felipe warned her, opening his bag in preparation.

    “Diez…..nueve…,” the crowd chanted and Gemma joined in, beaming with excitement, “….tres….dos…..uno,” the chimes began and everyone put a grape into their mouths. Gemma followed suit and chewed fast, remembering Felipe’s warning. The second chime came quickly and Gemma shoved in another grape. By number six her mouth was bursting and she looked in amusement at Felipe. How was he doing it? Was he swallowing them whole? Making an effort to clear her mouth, Gemma managed to get to number ten. Now she was laughing along with everyone else as they struggled to finish their grapes. Number eleven went in, Gemma’s cheeks bulging. Felipe turned to face her holding up his last grape.

    Gemma gulped down the contents of her mouth. She wanted to be ready for the moment. The final chime came and Felipe popped his last grape into his mouth. Gemma felt his arms go around her waist, pulling her close. She shoved her last grape in and tried to swallow as the crowd erupted into cheers.
    “Feliz Año Nuevo,” Felipe whispered, moving closer, but Gemma couldn’t respond. Her hands flew to her throat and her eyes bulged. She couldn’t catch her breath, the grape was stuck! She coughed desperately and Felipe recoiled. Realising what was happening, he began slapping her back. It didn’t help. Gemma was doubled over gasping when his strong arms circled her from behind. He squeezed. The grape flew out of Gemma’s mouth in a graceful arc.

    The sky exploded with colourful fireworks as Gemma caught her breath.
    “I’m sorry I ruined the moment,” she said, “I’m such a dork.”
    “Oh well,’” Felipe shrugged, “We’ll have another chance in a year.”
    “A year?” Gemma said in horror and Felipe laughed. She grinned back. If she got to spend more time with him in 2020 she would be very very feliz!

  19. Tia Colborne

    Ten. Rose heard the shouts from the parking lot as the countdown began. At least she might still make it for a midnight kiss.
    Nine. She tottered across the icy lot toward the stairs of the local legion. Rose always thought the legion was for veterans, but it seemed like every social event was held there in Gold Lake.
    Eight. Purse! She forgot her purse. She turned around.
    Seven. Nope, too late. If she went back, she would miss the ball drop.
    Six. Rose wouldn’t be in this predicament if she weren’t such a suborn idiot. Kye knew that she didn’t like to dress up, but he drove two hours to the nearest dress shop. He picked an entire ensemble out. She should have swallowed her pride, put the dress on and accompanied him to the party.
    Five. The wine coloured velvet dress was a perfect fit. Long sleeves and a short hemline, sexy yet practical. Perfect for a New Year’s Eve party. She wouldn’t pick this colour for herself because of her auburn hair, but this dress worked in all the right ways. The heels fit too, and it didn’t feel as if her feet would need first aid in the early hours of the new year.
    Four. She reached the wooden stairs that lead up to the heavy metal front doors. The temperature had been hovering around zero all evening. The mountain mist that always seemed to be hanging in the air turned to ice on every surface it touched — invisible ice. Her heel hit the first step and zigged out from under her. Her weight shifted back, and her arms flew up. She managed to get hands on the railing and right herself. The last year flashed before her eyes, so much had changed. This new year with Kye had so much potential. Why was she trying to sabotage it?
    Three. Springing back into action, Rose mounted the stairs and barged through the doors.
    Two. The lobby was empty; everyone was at the stage with their lover waiting for the first kiss of the year. She burst into the hall just as everyone shouted…
    ONE!
    Rose scanned the room. First, the bar, expecting Kye to be lonely, drowning his sorrow. Then to the tables along the side, maybe one of the guys from the shop was solo as well. No sign of him. She made her way toward the stage where the band was playing Auld Lang Syne.
    The dance floor seemed to part as she walked through. Couples stepped right and left. As each new set of eyes landed on her, she felt the tension of the moment rise.
    The last person stepped to the left. She saw him frozen in tableau. The band played, the mirrored ball spun, and they kissed. Her heart clenched, and she stood frozen. Nothing moved, but a single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.
    Gasping for a breath, she stumbled back. Her friends started to close in around her.
    “No.” She pushed their comforting hands away and broke for the door.
    Her voice broke the spell Tara had over Kye.
    He saw Rose. “Wait!”
    She heard him, but she would not wait anymore.

  20. James Montgomery

    FBI Agent Bryan Killen twisted in his chair, attempting to free himself from the layers of rope that had already begun drawing blood. His partner Katie was no better off; the two of them had been bound together, back to back in cheap dinette chairs that had been swiped from the kitchen table.
    “Quit moving around,” Katie whispered over her shoulder. “You’ll loosen the ropes too much, and they’ll notice. We have to wait until they’re both in the room at the same time. Then we pounce.”
    “Why are you in such a bad mood all of a sudden?” asked Bryan. “I guess you blame me for this.”
    “Hell yeah, I blame you for this. Right now I could be at my sister’s annual New Year’s Eve Bash. But no. Because somebody forget to line up a backup unit. So here we are.”
    Katie’s whispered conversation temporarily came to a halt whenever Natalie, the youngest of their captors, skipped into the room with her hands tucked behind her back, her nine-year-old smile filled with so much innocent charm, and now twinkling through her warm brown eyes. Looks like Natalie had a secret, and she was dying to tell it.
    “Daddy said I get to help this time.” Then, from behind her back she revealed her big surprise . . . Daddy’s brand new electric filet knife. “He said I get to carve YOU up all by myself. He promised.”
    Then Natalie ran back toward the kitchen with that knife cord dragging across the scuffed wooden floors. Daddy was calling for his little helper, to come assist him as he lined one of the garbage cans with an oversized Hefty bag. Naturally, there would still be plenty of cleaning up to do afterward, but this should help contain most of the blood and bone and tissue, and with a little luck they wouldn’t be up half the night scrubbing like last time.
    “What is that little weirdo talking about now?” asked Bryan. “I can’t see from here.”
    “She’s excited because she gets to help filet us. No, wait, scratch that. She gets to help filet ME. I guess that means Daddy gets you all to himself.”
    Through a small window to their left, Bryan and Katie watched as an explosion of fireworks electrified the night sky. The fact that they could hear none of it was a reminder that this house of horrors had been designed specifically for keeping out noise . . . and in. Looks like no one would hear their screams if little Natalie got her way with that filet knife.
    “You think it’s midnight yet?” asked Bryan when he noticed another round of fireworks detonating in the night sky.
    “Who cares?”
    “I care!” he said. “This will be the first time in years I haven’t had my New Year’s Eve kiss.”
    Bryan then let his forefinger stroke the side of Katie’s hand, a make-do kiss under such extreme circumstances.
    “You disgust me!” she said, rocking back and forth, now ready to break loose.
    “Stop wiggling,” he said. “The ropes are going to fall.”
    “Then quit touching me!”
    Bryan laughed out loud. That was what turned him on the most about her. . . that spunk and that venom.
    Both of them suddenly froze whenever they heard a new conversation growing closer, a discussion between Daddy and his little girl. The two were standing by the kitchen counter, debating freezer bags and wondering if they were the right size, and if they had enough, and even a possible trip to Wal-Mart before they kicked off the official blood-letting.
    “You can have the little girl,” said Bryan. “I’ll take him.”
    “Like hell! You don’t think I can take him, do you? That’s so sexist. Just because I’m a woman . . .”
    “Look . . .”
    “No, I’ll take him. You can have little Wednesday Addams.”

  21. Jindriska Mendozova

    Beginning at the end
    The cottage was almost snow-covered. There was a fire burning in the fireplace. I sat on the sofa, a book in my hand, and a glass of wine beside me. It was the last day of the year and the dog and the book were my only companions. He was missing.
    Midnight was approaching, and I didn’t even pretend to be happy about the coming New Year. What could it bring me when the finishing one stole me him? We couldn’t even say goodbye. That was probably the worst.
    Without realizing it, tears flowed down my cheeks. At one point, I felt as if they were being wiped off. Stupid, I had to run my hand across my face myself.
    The feeling that I was not alone in the room persisted.
    My dog, Percy, raised his head and looked around nervously. He could only see what I could. Empty room. For a moment, I felt envy that everyone else was celebrating with someone close. But it was me who refused all invitations.
    Again, I felt like someone was lightly touching me. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone at all. For the first time in four months. As if an unexpected wave of happiness rose inside me.
    Then came the fireworks. Midnight. Suddenly I felt a touch again. The air in front of me was shivering. Percy was sitting beside me, shaking his tail enthusiastically. Nothing like this has ever happened to me, but I wasn’t scared. I held out my hand carefully.
    Fine armor. As if the electricity was coming through me. “You have to move on, Evy.” I felt like someone stroked my lips. An attempt of the last kiss. Unreal. Non-existent. Because he was no longer of this world.
    The last blow of the church clock.
    “Cheers, love,” I toast to the invisible. Suddenly I knew the New Year would bring me something. I could say goodbye. I could be the old Evy again …

  22. Sally Freytag

    ‘No!’ The exclamation that fell involuntarily from her lips was softly spoken but full of horrified intensity.
    Edward Langdale. Why was he here?
    Cassie walked carefully into the ballroom. There was no need to worry about Edward, He would probably never notice her.
    ‘Cassie!’ Jed, her boss, called to her. ‘I want you to meet the CEO of Aspect Computers.’
    Cassie raised her eyes only to have them dilate in shock as her gaze locked with the very man she wished to avoid!
    ‘Cassie, Edward Langdale. Mr Langdale, may I introduce Cassie Mackenzie, my personal assistant?’
    Cassie felt herself losing what little colour she’d regained since first seeing Edward Langdale.
    ‘Mackenzie, eh?’ Edward murmured, a surprised question in his voice. ‘I should have realised…Cassie and I know each other… perhaps I should say knew… each other well a few years back,’ Edward explained to Jed. ‘It’s no doubt a bit of a surprise for her to see me again.’ His always pleasantly deep voice held a new, to her at least, note of authority.
    But the biggest surprise of all was his gentle expression and the way Edward looked searchingly into her eyes as he continued to hold onto Cassie’s hand. ‘How…’ he paused and cleared his throat. ‘How have you been?’ he finally asked, a touch of hesitancy in his voice.
    This wasn’t what she’d expected.
    She glanced at his chiselled features, marvelling anew at the sheer masculine beauty of him, his grace and magnetism. His eyes, those clear, intensely green eyes she remembered so well, looked deeply into her blue ones and she could have sworn there was concern in them. Concern? Edward? For her?
    ‘Fine,’ she mumbled. ‘I’m fine.’
    For a few more seconds of silence, Edward held onto her hand and then, it seemed almost reluctantly, he released it gently and turned once more to Jed.
    ‘Well,’ he spoke more easily now, ‘I understand you were going to introduce me around, is that right?’
    Jed nodded and the two men walked off.
    Some three hours later, Edward returned.
    ‘It’s been a long time, Cassie,’ Edward said softly.
    Her lips tightened and she dipped her head in acknowledgement.
    ‘I’ve thought of you,’ he added, regretfully. ‘I’ve often wondered how you were, whether…’ he shrugged. ‘I’ve always regretted we parted. I owe you an apology. I…left things as they were for a while, after you left. Then I came looking for you.’ He fell silent.
    ‘That must have been…a couple of years after we split,’ she observed, thinking back.
    ‘Yes, a couple of years…I didn’t know what to do after that and, well, here we are.’ He spread his hands wide and gave her a faint smile. ‘You reverting to your former name didn’t help in my search. Funny,’ he added, ‘I never considered that.’
    This was a changed man, Cassie thought, watching him carefully.
    ‘Cassie…’ he hesitated again. ‘Cassie…why did you never file for divorce?’
    ‘Is that why you asked Jed if you could talk to me? You haven’t been able to trace me to get a divorce and now here I am. Well, lucky you. Manna from heaven,’ she said bitterly
    No!’ he stepped forward. ‘You misunderstand me. I didn’t mean that. I’m sure a solicitor could have found you easily enough but you had every right to leave me,’ he said, ‘and I was ashamed of what I’d done to you.’
    ‘Edward!’ Cassie shook her head, a frown pulling her brows together. ‘What are you trying to say?’
    She sank down into a chair, legs suddenly trembling, a small ember deep inside glowing red, a spark of hope blossoming.
    It was at that moment the whistles and bells grew in a crescendo of sound and Big Ben started to chime. Edward and Cassie stared at each other, both frozen in that moment of time. Both unable to take that further step with a conciliatory kiss.

  23. Gena L. Washington

    Mia continued to curse under her breath, “Dammit, Dammit, Dammit,” then look at her watch, she had less than three minutes, to get to the party, grab a cocktail and then grab a man before the New Year. Glancing around the elevator, she crossed her eyes in frustration, she was invited to a rooftop New Year’s Eve Invite Only party at Westin Hotel in Uptown Charlotte and she should have arrived at least two hours ago but she worked late and the traffic from Ballantyne to Uptown Charlotte, where she lived was a mess! Not to mention, showering, moisturizing her body, taking the twists out of her hair, fluffing her Afro, pulling on spanks, lifting her boobs with tape and beating her face, she was running late! Luckily for her, all she had to do was walk several blocks from her condo to the light rail station and viola, she would be at the Westin! Of course, it didn’t go the way she planned! The elevator was filled with people and everyone seemed to want to get on and off on every floor! Closing her eyes in frustration, she took several deep breaths when the door once again pinged open and several tipsy women stepped onto the already overcrowded elevator. Opening her eyes after eyes, when she heard to door close, she immediately wet her lips as she focused her attention on the tall, dark and handsome man in a black tuxedo who stepped onto the elevator and faced her, and she wondered on a scale of one to sin, yes sin, what kind of sinful acts that could do.

    Grant locked eyes with her as soon as he stepped onto the elevator with the young women that he had met earlier when he arrived at the hotel. He was invited to the New Years Eve party on the rooftop and arrived early and ended up spending the last hour and half with the young women going from ballroom to ballroom dancing and drinking with other guests who were ringing in the New Year. After the last party that wasn’t in a ballroom but a suite that smelled like weed, Grant decided to cut the ladies lose and go hang with the “Grown and Sexy” people who were over forty. Not that he had an issue with someone smoking weed, he just felt that there was a time and place and New Year’s Eve in the Westin Hotel with off-duty CMPD as security wasn’t the time nor the place, not to mention marijuana wasn’t legal in North Carolina and didn’t have time to go to jail, it wasn’t on the list of things that he wanted to do in 2020. Less than a minute after he arrived, he left and was able to catch the next crowed elevator but stopped when he looked into the eyes of the curvaceous African-American woman in the black, strapless, slinky jumpsuit with the thick, curly afro unashamedly look him up and down and he felt his body immediately react to the lust he saw in her eyes and the lust that coursed through his body.
    Mia, get a grip on your lust, she told herself, but she couldn’t help it! What was she supposed to do when Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome stepped onto the elevator and got you all excited? As the elevator chimed on each floor, that it stopped at, the intense lust that she felt for him grew and from the look that he was giving her, he was felt it also!
    Before they reached the rooftop, the countdown had already begun and Grant parted the crowed elevator as if it was the Red Sea, he had to get to her! Five, they stepped toward each other, four, another step, three, another step, two the final step, one and they grabbing for each other!

  24. Anna stared into Justin’s dark eyes, studying them, as if it were the first time. “You’re, you’re already married?” The bouquet dropped from her hands as her fingers found and twirled her large engagement ring.
    Justin’s adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. “I was going to tell you before all of this.”
    “You were going to tell me? Tell me what? That I can’t be Mrs. Justin Werner because there already is a Mrs. Justin Werner?” Her shoulders trembled in an effort to release a bit of the rage that suddenly coursed through her body.
    “Everybody! Your attention, please!” The dj walked to the front of the room clinking a glass to catch the holiday crowd’s attention and quiet the band. The music waned in the large banquet hall situated high atop the city amidst its sparkling holiday lights. “Ten seconds to midnight!”
    “It’s not what it seems,” Justin said. “Let me explain.”
    Anna crossed her arms as the party goers began to chant.
    “Ten! Nine! Eight!”
    “No,” Anna said. “It’s definitely not what it seems. We walk into this room to start the new year with our new life. A kiss and then a marriage. A life we’ve fought for, one together, just you and I, and then you tell me you can’t marry me because….” She pulled the ring from her finger. “You know what? I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Nothing is what it seems nor is it anything I will ever want!”
    “Seven! Six! Five!”
    Justin grabbed her arm as the piece of jewelry hit him square in the face. “Anna!”
    “Four! Three! Two!”
    “You are a snake!” Anna said. “I don’t ever want to see you again!” She gathered up the skirt of what would have been her wedding dress and turned away.
    “Anna, wait! You don’t understand!”
    “I don’t want to understand! Let me go!”
    “I married Barbra. I married your sister.”
    “Happy New Year!”
    Horns blared as Anna turned back, open mouthed.
    “Day before yesterday,” he said. “We did it to make sure it could be filed with the clerk before the end of the year.”
    Anna’s breath slowed. “You, you did what?”
    “We got married. So she can stay now.” He pulled her close and placed his hands around her shoulders. “She can stay until we figure something else out. And when we do. It’s our turn.”
    Anna’s eyes darted with his. “You married my sister?”
    “Yes.”
    Anna’s hand slapped his face. “You son of a…”
    He grabbed her hand and bent down to retrieve the ring. Slipping it back on her hand, he said, “You’re welcome.”

  25. New Year with the Tempting Tycoon

    Flurries of snowflakes danced across the runway. Esmée moved closer to the windows of the airport lounge, trying to see if there was any abatement of the storm that had caused the delay to her flight to Paris. ‘Oww’, she exclaimed, as her skull cracked into the skull of another passenger who had decided to look out of the window at the exact same second.
    ‘Damn! I am terribly sorry.’ She twisted her aching head and met the gaze of a pair of compelling brown eyes, like pools of meltingly dark chocolate. ‘Are you alright?’ She was about to reply that she was fine, when a wave of dizziness assailed her and she swayed against him.
    He put his arms around her and she felt the muscular strength of his deliciously hard body. ‘Here, sit down.’ He sat beside her and she felt a ripple of excitement tingle through her body at the proximity of this sensationally handsome stranger. He pulled off his jumper, giving her a tantalising glimpse of taught abs underneath a pristine white tee shirt. ‘Rest your head against that.’ She took the jumper, her senses going into overdrive at the feel of the soft cashmere, still warm from the heat of his body and imbued with the woody masculine scent of his cologne … and him.
    ‘Are you sure you’re ok?’
    ‘I’m fine, thank you.’ She was touched by the genuine concern in his voice. ‘We didn’t bang heads that badly. I’m really stressed, so that probably contributed.’
    ‘I know, who needs a snow storm on New Year’s Eve? Where are you heading?’
    ‘Paris.’
    ‘Hey, me too!’
    She felt a warm glow surge through her. The glow turned into flickering flames of desire as he bestowed her with a lazy grin, revealing perfectly white teeth and a sexy dimple in his chin. ‘Maybe we could meet up for a drink?’ Her first instinct was to eagerly accept his invitation. But duty, as ever, put a straight jacket around her heart. ‘That would be … wonderful. But I’m not sure if I’ll be able to.’
    ‘My apologies, I should have guessed someone as stunning as you would have a boyfriend.’
    Her porcelain complexion blushed to a deep rose at the compliment. ‘Oh it’s not that,’ she gasped, as her emotions swirled in confusion at the impact his presence was having on her. ‘It’s just … complicated.’
    ‘I’m good at complicated … can I help?’
    She sighed deeply, doubting if anyone could help. But she had nothing to lose by trying. She smiled gratefully. ‘I’m Esmée de Laval by the way …’
    She was unprepared for the look of scalding fury directed at her. ‘I don’t believe it. You’re Esmée de Laval. The naïve fool who has caused me to cancel my New Year’s Eve party for five hundred people and why I’m now sitting on the floor of this damned freezing airport in the middle of a snow storm waiting for my flight so I can go and save my deal.’
    She was stupefied with shock, until a clock chiming midnight jarred her into the present.
    ‘Your deal! So you’re Gideon Alverston. The heartless philistine who is trying to ruin my family’s chocolatier business. Well Mr Alverston, I’m going to make it my New Year’s resolution to stop your deal going through. And what’s more, when I do, I’m going to tip a vat of our melted chocolate over your head in celebration.’ She took a steadying breath. ‘For clarification, cooled melted chocolate.’ After all, she thought, she didn’t want to scald him. Just wipe that smug look off his face.
    ‘Well my New Year’s resolution is to take over your family’s company and also take you into my bed. And I’ll be the one tipping melted chocolate. All over your naked body. And then licking it off … so here’s wishing you a bonne année mademoiselle.’

    650 words excluding title

  26. Renee Nurek

    New Years Eve was the worst night of the year In New York. You were forced to wear gowns with high heels when it was freezing cold and you settle for whoever asks you out. Anna longed to stay in but she was a single girl in a big city so she forced herself to slip into a long, red gown, shoved her feet into stilettos and draped her cape over her bare shoulders. Her auburn hair was held high in a shiny clip and sprayed stiff so the wind couldn’t dislodge it. She was ready for a gala affair. She had met her date last month online, he was shallow and rude but he had asked her out for the big night when no one else had so she hailed a taxi and jumped in to go meet her date Shane.
    On the other side of the cab a young man jumped in shouting “I’ll split the fare with you I need to get to a party!”
    “Fine, what party” Anna replied.
    “It’s called the Kennington Bash” he said
    Anna was headed there too so she nodded yes. The two sat in silence while the cab navigated the streets. She slid out her compact and began applying lipstick in the same shade as her gown. The man turned and stared at her not even trying to hide his interest in what she was doing.

    “Do you mind?” Anna said
    “Sorry, it’s just that remind me of an old girlfriend I used to have back in high school. She used to do this same thing on the way to dances. I always wondered what happened to her. She moved away in our senior year. Her name was Anna. “said the man.
    Anna turned to study this man and was amazed to realize this was her high school sweetheart Jim.
    “Well Jim, I guess you’re about to find out what happened to Anna” she said beginning to giggle.
    They talked all the way to the party and Anna was a lot less annoyed by the dressing up and going out by time they arrived. They talked about high school and laughed about how fate brought them back together. The attraction to Jim was still strong and she wanted so much to continue talking with him and spend the party as his date but she wasn’t Jim’s date. She was Shane’s date.
    She entered the party on Jim’s arm, leaned in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek and gave him her regrets as she went off in search of Shane. She found Shane at the bar and slid in next to him. He turned and winked at her and went back to chatting with his work colleagues. It didn’t take Anna long to figure out she was just here to look pretty on his arm. He said about three words to her the whole night.
    The whole night she searched the room for Jim trying to catch a glimpse of his date but he was always alone or with a group of older gentleman. He would catch her eye and raise his glass or send her a shy smile. As the countdown to midnight began she started crossing the room hoping to be close to Jim when midnight came. She wanted to kiss him, hold him in her arms and reconnect. Jim saw her approaching and began walking towards her his eyes locked on hers. Just as the two were about to meet in the center of the ballroom Shane lunged in, spinning Anna around and planting a big, wet kiss on her lips.
    “Happy New Year!” Shane bellowed chugging champagne from the bottle while tears of disappointment ran down Anna’s cheeks. Jim saw the kiss and quietly turned around, set his drink down and left the party.

  27. Hanna Plummer

    Allie’s heels clicked as she crossed the tiled dance floor, her eyes fixed on the muscled guy behind the bar. The rhythmic sound they made gave her confidence and she slid her hands over her hips sheathed in her tight blue dress and straightened her shoulders in their spaghetti strapped halter.
    Not adventurous, my ass.
    Screw you, Kevin.
    She tossed her blonde hair to the side as if all eyes were on her. Her ankle turned and she wobbled to the side, her hand reaching out blindly for the shoulders of a couple entwined in a slow rhythmic circle as she stumbled against them.
    “Sorry.” Her mumble went unheeded as they moved in their languorous motion, lost in each other.
    Allie blamed her three inch stilettos but if she admitted the truth, her stumble was more likely due to the three glasses of champagne she’d tossed back when she first entered the party.
    “Come out!” her friends had urged. She would much rather have sprawled on her couch for the evening, and watched the apple fall at midnight, nursing her wounded ego with wine.
    Or better yet, be in bed at the stroke of twelve and forget 2019 altogether.
    And the six months she’d wasted on…what’s his name.
    Allie regained her balance and set one foot more gingerly in front of the other, sidestepping the crowd of couples as she made her way to the bar. She was going to bring in this new year with a bang. She’d been watching the bartender from her first crystal glass of champagne to her third.
    Or was it her fourth?
    No matter. She was pretty sure no one could turn her down in this dress. She reached the bar and plopped her handbag down in front of her, thankful for a spot to lean. The waltzing couples were starting to make her head spin.
    “Hey bartender. Can I get another glass of champagne?” Muscled man turned towards her, his black shirt tight on his upper arms, accentuating his biceps.
    Jake. Thank god for name tags. Too bad his phone number wasn’t printed on the brass plate as well.
    He reached for the bottle of champagne and flipped a glass upright on the counter. One brow arched as she raised her hip to slide onto a leather stool, but missed and staggered again.
    “Are you sure you haven’t had enough already?”
    Her hackles raised. What was it with men offering their opinions? She shrugged off her annoyance and crooked her finger at him, beckoning him to lean over the bar. The music lowered and the emcee announced the start of the countdown.
    10. 9. 8.
    “I’ve got a secret for you, Jake.”
    7. 6.
    The scent of his cologne added to the sensation of the room tilting.
    “What is it?” A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth but a frown flitted across his face.
    5. 4. 3.
    “I’m going to welcome the new year by kissing you.”
    Confident he couldn’t resist her, Allie gripped the front of his shirt, pulling him towards her, her mouth pursed in a pucker. She closed her eyes, ready to feel his soft lips.
    2. 1.
    The room erupted with choruses of “happy new year” and cheers. She opened her eyes when she felt his hands enclose hers in a firm grip.
    “Sorry, sweetheart. I never kiss ladies that won’t remember me in the morning.” His face so close to hers she could smell the mint on his breath, there was no denying his serious undertone. Disappointment and frustration…about Kevin and being here at this stupid party…swelled and threatened to spill over in tears.
    And something else.
    Allie clapped her hand over her mouth and took off on her too high heels towards the washroom.

  28. Renee Toton

    Tonight, has been an utter disaster!
    First, I get a run in my hose within seconds of walking out the door. I mean, hello… who wears panty hose anymore! The super-rich that’s who and apparently, I’m the major faux pas having the audacity to bare leg in formal dress. Yet, here I go –stocking-less—trying to fit my triangle peg in the square hole and failing miserably.
    Then, my car battery dies, putting some nasty grocery-store icing on tonight’s shitstorm. Sucks Ubering to a party with the crème de la crème in a borrowed cocktail dress squeezing me like sausage, despite the Spanx hugging every inch of my curves. These socialites with their town cars already snub their noses at my knock off shoes and my home-dyed hair. What the hell was I thinking?
    I know what I was thinking… I was blinded by a pair of fiery green eyes and some butt hugging jeans, but I have a bad feeling about tonight. Luke couldn’t even pick me up like a real date. His mom wanted him early to set up. The woman has caterers coming out of her butt. What’s he gonna set up? No, she wanted me on my own… date-less. Deem me unworthy of the prodigal son.
    Which she validated as soon as I walked in, promptly passing my hand-me-down tweed coat to the tiny attendant at her side with one finger like it contains the plague.
    “Oh, sweetie. You look darling.” She hummed politely, air kissing both my cheeks. I can read between the condescending lines as well as the next girl, but my grandmother engrained politeness.
    “Thank you so much for inviting me, Mrs. Hales. I’ve heard so much about your New Year’s party.” I can’t help feeling satisfied by her scoff. I know she didn’t invite me, but it’s nice to rub it in her face a bit.
    “How lovely.” She threw a dainty wave to someone in the great room. “I must mingle, but wander around, I’m sure you’ll find someone to talk to. Grab a glass, it’s almost time to ring in midnight.”
    Gotta love that subtle dig at my late arrival. It’s not my fault the universe is telling me to tuck tail and run tonight. But, after grabbing a glass of bubbly from one of the passing trays, I set out to find Luke.
    Unfortunately, the last fifteen minutes wandering this cavernous house give no sign of Luke. He knows I’m coming. Just because I’m late doesn’t mean the boy can disappear on me.
    But, the more I search, the more frustration builds. This night has already sucked and there’s only five minutes left until midnight. Where the hell is he? The only thing that will make tonight worth anything is starting out our year together with a midnight kiss.
    Tears fight for freedom when the main TV starts counting down. 5… 4… 3… 2…
    Finally, I break into a run like a woman on a mission, shoving through hugging couples as I spot Luke’s tall blonde head on the terrace. Except, when I reach the terrace, his trollop of an ex is wrapping her manicured hands around my man’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss… my kiss!
    For a second, I think I’m dreaming, he’s going to push her away or preferably off the balcony. But, no… not my polite Luke, sweetheart that he is would never cause a scene at his mom’s party. Instead my heart shatters, feeling the weight of my world crashing around me with the sight of the beautiful one, the suitable one, at his side. Just like his mom wanted.
    My stomach twists with queasiness, as tears spill down my cheeks. No use hiding it now. Turning to leave as fast as I came, I don’t care that I hear him yelling my name. I shouldn’t try to fit where I don’t belong.