Faith trudged up the walkway of her mother’s duplex clutching her two cans of cranberries to her chest. Looking up at the house, her steps slowed. The faded brick and white awnings were exactly the same as when she was a kid. Warmth seeped slowly into her chest, but she couldn’t help but shake her head.
Distance-wise she was only a few miles or so from her own apartment. But her neighborhood, with its mixture of industrial buildings, artists’ studios, and funky little shops, was a long way from the tree-lined streets and neat rows of duplexes that marked the Brooklyn neighborhood she’d grown up in.
She clutched the wrought iron railing separating her mother’s stoop from the neighbor’s, ready to navigate the too-steep concrete steps in order to get to the welcoming warmth of her family home.
Definitely too steep. Faith tottered up on her slim heels, wishing her feet were snug inside a toasty pair of Uggs instead of the heels that were sure to be the death of her. But there was no way she could arrive at her mother’s house for a holiday in comfortable clothing. Her mother would have her head if she showed up in the jeans and boots she wanted to wear. She’d opted instead for a little black dress and the silver heels of death. She might still catch hell for not being more festive, but for some reason she had no sweater sets featuring pumpkins and fall leaves. She rolled her eyes as she remembered the outfit her sister Maddie wore to Thanksgiving last year.
Faith raised a hand to knock, but the door burst open. She tripped over the threshold and fell into her brother’s arms.
He snatched her into the house and shoved her into the powder room just inside the front door before she could so much as blink. “Faith, thank God you’re here.”
She gave him the stink eye. “What the heck, Frank?”
He took her by the shoulders. “Just wait. Wait until you see the yummy morsel Mom invited to dinner.”
She scrunched her nose at him. Frank didn’t usually have such a flare for the dramatic, but they did seem to share the same taste in men. A fact their mother tried to ignore, often inviting a “nice girl” over for dinner in an attempt to convince Frank that being gay was just a phase. His excitement over his mother’s guest definitely raised her curiosity.
Frank slid her coat off her shoulders and opened the bathroom door enough to slip an arm out and hang it on the hall coat rack. He cracked the door a bit wider and poked his head out, ensuring the coast was clear before tugging her by the hand to the living room doorway. With a finger to his lips, he motioned for her to take a peek around the corner while he moved stealthily to the other side to get his own gander at their guest.
Faith’s gaze immediately fell on the man standing in front of the fireplace admiring the considerable display of family photos. With only a view of his back, she scrutinized what she could make out—dark hair falling just over his collar, starched blue oxford shirt tucked into khaki pants.
The outfit was a little conservative for her taste, but those broad shoulders, long legs, and tight buns could make up for a plethora of fashion faux pas. A thought began to tickle at the back of her mind and she narrowed her eyes. The tickle became a smack upside the head as the man turned from the mantle. They jumped back, each hiding on their respective sides of the doorframe.
“Dibs,” Frank whispered.
Faith smirked and shook her head. She didn’t need to see full frontal, so to speak, to know who her mother’s guest was. “He’s taken.”
“What? By who?”
“He’s taken by God.” She kept her voice low to ensure the room’s occupant couldn’t hear her. “He’s a priest.”
“No way!” Frank mouthed at her, his mouth dropping open.
“What are you two doing skulking around out here?”
They jumped as if on cue. Faith rolled her eyes. Talk about skulking. Of course they hadn’t heard their mother come down the hall from the kitchen. Stealth was one of their mother’s greatest gifts. Right up there with giving guilt and matching her shoes and purse to her lipstick.
“Faith, don’t roll your eyes. Come in and greet our guest.”
Great. Back home for less than five minutes and already feeling like a ten-year-old. She leaned over and pecked her mother’s powdered cheek. “Happy Thanksgiving, Mom.”
Her mother gave her an affectionate, if absent-minded, pat on the shoulder and immediately homed in on Faith’s hands. Faith’s empty hands. “You forgot the cranberries.”
Faith knew she made the right decision forgoing her paycheck in favor of getting those cranberries. The horror in her mother’s voice made it sound like forgetting the cranberries was a sin akin to selling herself on the street. Now if only she could remember where she left those cans.
“Oh!” She scooted back into the powder room. There were the cranberries, perched exactly where she left them on the edge of the sink. She emerged from the bathroom holding a can up high in each hand just as their guest appeared from the living room. Their gazes met and a slow grin spread across his face.
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Genre - Contemporary Holiday Romance
Rating – PG
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