This Christmas, Amy is getting what she wants. Her career in fashion design is taking off. Her boyfriend Brad is the dictionary definition of a catch. Soon he’ll buy the massive diamond that makes it official: she’s nobody’s hard luck case anymore.
Her old friend Jon ought to understand. A decade ago he was the other scholarship kid with a crap family. He got her quirks, her insecurities, her rules, her passions. Now he swears she’s not really happy, and she’s forgotten something that proves it.
When Amy throws away everything she’s worked for with one impulsive, impossible word, she’s horrified she’s proved Jon right…and strangely, secretly excited. That he knows more than the past she wants to forget — he knows what heats her up, what makes her heart race.
But remembering what she’s forgotten since last Christmas might mean breaking all the rules…
The endorphins kicked in around mile three. They usually do, give or take. Good thing, too, because the bitter wind coming off the lake in the predawn dark had been sapping my will to persevere. A lot to say, coming from the Queen of Perseverance. I really do believe that everything in life can be had if we simply stick to a goal long enough.
I might have started out with nothing, but I’d finish with having it all.
Heat flooded through me, even my frozen face warming, my muscles going long and languid, naturally induced joy hitting my bloodstream. I let out a whooping war cry of triumph, the sound bouncing back from the silent asphalt. My whole life was hitting a metaphorical mile three—all the slog of hard work finally paying off and reaching maximum happiness.
Just like the acceleration of the holiday season. With the solstice a few days away, the Chicago nights grew longer and colder, the sun coming and fading again in brief glimpses. But soon we’d round that corner and then—Christmas! New Year’s Eve! Valentine’s Day, followed by burgeoning spring and hot, lazy summer, with boating parties and barbeques.
Autumn pretty much sucks for romantic holidays, so I’d looked forward to the end of that slog. Who ever had a cozy Halloween? And don’t get me started on all that’s wrong with the glut-fest of toxic food and family that is Thanksgiving. The Christmas holidays, now, they herald the beginning of the romance season. Played correctly, the festivity of the parties starting now could coast right through Labor Day weekend.
And this year, I had plans for a romantic autumn.
I ran at a fast and easy pace. The recent downturn with Brad just before and over Thanksgiving had been like nearing the end of the first three miles of any run—clunky, sometimes stiff, occasionally chilly, and always a challenge to stick through—and, yeah, it made me think about giving up. But now we’d hit our stride, and just in time for fabulous holiday dating.
I had my outfits planned, and the right guy in position at last—the perfect date to bring to the Wildwood Academy reunion dance. Not just any date, but Brad Deffelman, who’d been shortlisted twice now for Chicago Magazine’s Most Eligible Bachelor list. Plus, Brad had invited me to his parents’ Christmas Day open house, which would be so much better than going home to my disaster of a family.
I’d spent a lot of time on Brad’s Christmas present, and it was perfect. Well, it would be, once I finished. My first couture tuxedo, custom-made for Brad’s male-model physique. For maybe the first time in my life, Christmas would be fun and romantic and, well, joyous. No weird charity gifts. No odd array of unwrapped things my dad picked up from the only open convenience store on his way home from the bar. This year, Brad would give me that perfect Tiffany diamond ring I’d had my eye on. Made me giddy just to contemplate it.
Brad had been making all the right noises—the invite to spend Christmas with his family, confirming which ring I liked, talking about our future plans—so I wasn’t jumping the gun.
This was it. I wasn’t going to tell anyone—no jinxing it!—but I’d be engaged by the new year.
I’d made reservations for a spectacularly glitzy New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl of romance. Brad liked me to take care of that kind of thing, as he trusted my taste, and he did his part by footing the bill. The outfit I’d planned included fingerless gloves in case I’d get to show off that new ring. A bit of a fashion risk—I’d put a lot of effort into making sure they didn’t look too eighties—but the final look would be worth it. Especially as it would match the tuxedo I’d painstakingly crafted for Brad to wear.
If I worked my connections, and if his mother weighed in, we might even be able to pull off an autumn wedding. Then I’d have a romantic anniversary to mitigate the fall doldrums. I could picture the invitations. Not ostentatious, but subtly stylish, a floral theme but autumnal. Maybe an ivory vellum with rust-colored accents, a stylized chrysanthemum in burgundy, a slim ribbon in a deep chocolate brown. Depending on my eventual budget, I’d go for fantastic invitations and a simpler ceremony. Stylish and intimate. It’s amazing what you can pull off if you make the decorations yourself, which I had the skills to do.
I had to have four bridesmaids—no way I could leave out any of the Fab Five—but I could make their gowns and my own, no problem. And maybe Brad’s parents would host the whole thing. I wasn’t too proud for that. My parents certainly wouldn’t, even if they could find the money. A fall wedding would round out the year nicely. Late September or early October, I would marry Brad, and my life would finally begin.
Buy links can be found here: http://www.jeffekennedy.com/missed-connections-3/
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.