Christmas Lane by Samantha Jacobey



Prologue





“Carol!” Holly called loudly. Standing in their kitchen, she rolled her eyes to glare at the ceiling above her. “No answer,” she muttered. Wiping her hands on a towel, she left the remaining dishes to soak.

The stairs creaking beneath her steps, her fingertips trailed along the smooth wood of the banister, its fine craftsmanship soothing her ruffled disposition. The girls loved their house, after all, and for a moment her mind flitted back to the day Gerald Ford had taken them on a tour of the enormous dwelling. A smile teasing her lips as she reached the second-floor landing, she steeled her nerves to face her partner.

“Caroline?” Her voice calmer, Holly inched forward, her feet sliding slightly across the glossy hard wood of the hallway. Reaching the far end, she hesitated, the shape of a woman darkened by the bright light of the window before her. “Baby, are you ok?” she rasped as she eased into the room.

“It should have rained,” Carol huffed, her breathing ragged. Her fingertips swiped at her cheeks, removing drops of sadness while her eyes remained fixed on the scene below.

Outside, warm sunshine illuminated the freshly trimmed grass of their sizable yard. On the far side, a gentle breeze disturbed the roses, causing them to dance. “It’s too beautiful,” she sighed, imagining the rows of chairs and the arch she longed to stand beneath.

Reaching her, Holly’s hand started at the small of her lover’s back, her fingers kneading firmly as they worked their way up. At least two inches shorter, she gave a firm squeeze at the top, then rested her cheek against a warm shoulder blade. “Our day will come, Love.”

Carol sputtered a muted reply, then twisted to slide an arm around the other girl’s waist. Drawing her forward to stand beside her, she pointed. “I think the placement will be perfect, but we will definitely want an awning for the dancefloor.”

Holly winced, her mood sinking. “You’re holding out for a summer wedding, then?” Her heart heavy, she felt the strain of losing an entire year…another year.

“Of course,” Caroline coughed, squeezing as she elaborated. “I’m going to marry you beneath a bright, warm sun. Out in the open for all the world to see. If I have to wait a full year to see our matching gowns, well…” Her voice trailed away as she bent slightly, her lips grazing the warmth of Holly’s, “We’ll just have to watch our figures so they still fit,” she teased.

The flutter within her chest giving her courage, Holly blurted, “I’ve done something.” Her eyes flicking between Carol’s stern gaze and the lush lips she had just tasted, she added, “Please, don’t be mad.”

Her hands dropping, Carol stepped back. When an explanation did not come, she folded her arms across her chest.

“I just got off the phone, actually,” Holly gushed, her anxiety uncharacteristic of her. As the sturdy and level-headed member of their relationship, she tightened her jaw. “I was talking to Ben.”

“Ben.” Carol’s brow knitted in confusion, expecting some connection to their postponed nuptials. “That’s a bit random. What did he want?”

“He’s lonely, I think,” Holly blurted. “You know he lives alone. No family close by, no friends to hang out with due to current circumstances.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I offered him a room.” Her words tumbled out, a thick silence hanging in the air when her lips pressed shut.

“A room!” Carol shrieked. Taking a step back, she glanced out the window, the bright sun below suddenly too much. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“I thought the two of you were friends,” Holly defended, squaring her small frame. “Ben needs us. And we have plenty of rooms!”

She glanced around the room’s bare walls, the one they occupied held a chair, a table and a lamp, then muttered with a sigh, “I told Gary it was too much house for us.”

“Oh, baby.” Holly laughed, closing the distance between them and wrapping her arms around her best friend. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Carol spat, “but you could have at least asked me before you invited someone to come live with us.” Her mind jerking to the obvious, she demanded, “And why is he coming anyways? It’s not like he can’t afford his place.”

“I told you, he’s lonely. They’ve had courts suspended for months. He has nothing to do and no one to talk to.”