“Jeff found scuff marks on the windowsill.”

“Yes, from your shoes.”

“I wasn’t wearing shoes.”

“You weren’t?”

“No. I was in my stockinged feet. Cassidy, someone climbed in that window before I fell out of it.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Great stories; Great Cause: Wild Rose Authors Anthology Fundraiser for Australia Fires



The greatest anthology ever! From the authors of The Wild Rose Press.
February 14 is not just for Valentines—it’s also the release date for Australia Burns: Show Australia Some Love.

This is a three-volume book of stories by more than forty authors at the Wild Rose Press. Romance, thrillers, mystery—whatever you like, in one easy package. The best part is this: we are donating all proceeds to the Australia Red Cross, to be distributed as needed to help rebuild, rehabilitate, and help the thousands of people and animals affected by the horrible fires sweeping across Australia.



My contribution is Che Gelida Manina: a Story of Second Chances. It will be in the second volume.

Here’s the blurb:
Since Jack died, Grace has lost all desire for romance, but she’s lonely and joins a dating site, stipulating companionship only. Edward answers her post, agreeing to the terms. He is true to his word, but Grace soon finds herself wanting more. Can she convince him she’s changed her mind? Will he feel the same?

Australia Burns: Show Australia Some Love will be available at all online stores. Please help us raise funds to help in this tragedy. It is now available on Amazon and The Wild Rose Press.

NOTE: If you buy the print from the Wild Rose Press it will bring in more money to send. https://www.thewildrosepress.com/product/australia-burns-volume-one

Think of it this way: instead of a T shirt or commemorative mug, you get forty wonderful stories to enjoy and you’re supporting relief efforts in devastated Australia.




Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Mint Invasion—out of chaos comes jelly—I’m at Alicia Dean’s today



I’m on Alicia Dean’s wonderful website talking about a hobby of mine—and by extension, a hobby of my heroine Lacey Delahaye in Whirlwind Romance.  We’re both jelly makers—and both unapologetic romantics. Come for a story and a recipe for Cocoplum jelly!


Cocoplum





Monday, January 20, 2020

Winter Games review challenge--all February.


more
From Kathryn Knight:

Consumers often rely on reviews when making purchases...I know I do!  And on retail sites, products--including novels--with more reviews usually receive the most visibility in searches.  A reader can't even consider choosing a title they've never even seen or heard of, and the book market gets more crowded by the day.  A new title gets added to Amazon approximately every five minutes.

 Amazon, the largest online retailer for e-books with 88.9% of the market (Bloomberg), only about 5 to 10% of consumers leave reviews after a purchase.  Everyone is busy, and I know even if I love a product, I often never get around to leaving a review.  (One of my resolutions is to do better with this!)


Enter Winter Games...an event that brings readers who review together with participating authors for a month-long event.  I was one of the authors in the Summer event, and I had such a great time, I wanted to spread the word to both interested authors *and* readers for this upcoming winter version.

Full details, FAQs, and sign-up forms can be found on our host's website here.

Direct link to Author sign-up is here


Direct link to Reader sign-up is here

One important note...a Facebook account is required, even if it's not a very active account.  The events, book offerings, and communication all take place in the FB group.


And while there's no limit to reader participation, there *is* a max number of authors, so if you're interested, hurry!


Friday, January 17, 2020

Another five stars for Orion’s Foot!





Blurb: 

Petra Steele has just been left at the altar when her brother invites her to the Peruvian Amazon. Before she even sets her suitcase down, she's confronted with a dead man. In a research station peopled with a quirky assortment of scientists, she is drawn to Emory Andrews, a man with a secret past. Murders, secrets, and mysteries ensue, all in the deeply romantic, sizzling jungle.

 Here’s a snippet:

“Orion's Foot is a unique, compelling, fast-paced read… I love how the author was able to use elements of the setting in every aspect of the story, from the murders to the romance.”

Read more on Amazon:

Or at Goodreads:


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Changes in Latitude brings a change in Attitude--at Viviana MacKade's Today



A New Year’s resolution that went terribly right. Read all about it at Viviana MacKade’s wonderful blog. I’m talking about how a change in latitude breeds a change in attitude (with thanks to Jimmy Buffett). I also thoughtfully provided an excerpt from my mystery romance Flotsam and Jetsam: the Amelia Island Affair.



Friday, January 3, 2020

Rocky, or the Year of Santa’s Cold: A Christmas Story by M. S. Spencer



Rocky, or the Year of Santa’s Cold:
 A Christmas Story 
by M. S. Spencer

Rocky was napping. He was usually napping. Except when he was in his Snow Master F-130 racing sleigh with ultra high molecular weight polyethylene runners and top-of-the-line CD player. Which was way too often according to his dad. Of course, Santa was a bit Old School when it came to sleighs. Actually, he was a bit old school when it came to everything. Like the reindeer. “I mean, why can’t Chert be in the lead? He’s the fastest.”
“His time will come, son.”
Rocky mumbled in his sleep. The dream he’d been having—flying through Icebreaker Canyon sideways at a hundred miles per hour—had evolved into one where he was being bounced around, scratched and bruised by the rock walls. He woke up with a start. “Wha–?”
“Rocky, Dad wants to see you.”
“He does?”
“Don’t be so surprised.” Sapphire, Rocky’s sister, pulled at his sleeve. “He’s been coming down with a cold for the last two days. He needs your help.”
“So? Where’s Feldspar? He should be talking to him. He’s in charge.”
“Feldy’s down in Anchorage with Beryl. You know she’s been ordered on bed rest and they decided to be closer to the hospital.”
Rocky rubbed his eyes. “Okay. I’ll get my coat.”
They walked out into the snowy lane. Rocky’s house sat at the end of a cul-de-sac. Twinkling lights led them down the main road to the Claus mansion. On either side were shop fronts and taverns decorated as always with holly and pine boughs. As they passed a sign advertising ribbon candy and licorice, the light in the store suddenly went out. The ground rumbled beneath them. Rocky looked down the street and when he turned to Sapphire a plume of smoke rose behind her. “What just happened?”
Elves poured out of the buildings on either side of what had been the candy store, now a hole in the ground. “Mica’s shop is gone.”
“Huh? Was anyone inside?”
“No. It was closed, thank Santa.”
The small crowd stood, gazing down. The ground rumbled again and farther down the street a long low building hit the dust too. “That’s the men’s dorm!” The elves galloped down the street. Sure enough, a number of scantily clad elves were shivering in the middle of an empty lot. Rocky grabbed his sister. “Dad will know what’s going on.”
They entered the great hall of the mansion. At one end a fire roared in a great stone fireplace. Before it, wrapped in a fur cloak, in an overstuffed chair, sat Santa. He held a handkerchief in one hand and a steaming mug in the other. “Dad.”
Santa held up a grizzled hand. “Hang on.” He sneezed.
Outside they heard yells and calls for help. “It’s the kitchen!”
Rocky knelt before the old man. “Dad? Is this your doing?”
“Yes, it’s me. Hasn’t happened in, oh, eighty years. If I snee—” He held up a hand again and sneezed. More cries came from outside. “Sneeze, buildings evaporate. Strangest thing.”
Sapphire sat on the arm’s chair. “But what’s happening to the buildings? Are they gone for good?”
Santa shook his head. “No, it’s only temporary. Lasts at most a day.”
“What about the elves?”
“They’re fine. It doesn’t affect them.” He wiped his nose. “But this cold seems to be getting worse.” He put a hand on Rocky’s arm. “Rocky, you know Feldspar is with Beryl. I may have to call on you for the Christmas run.” He peered at the young man. “Do you think you’re ready?”
Rocky bounced to his feet. “Are you kidding? I’ve been training for the last five years.”
Santa huffed. “If you call daredevil stunts in that power sleigh of yours training. I want you to go take some practice runs with the big sleigh this afternoon. Christmas Eve is tomorrow.”
Rocky bounded out of the house and headed toward the barn. His favorite reindeer, Chert, greeted him with a nuzzle. “Guess what? I’m taking the run tomorrow, and you’re going to head up the team!” He surveyed the other animals. “In fact, there’s going to be a new order. I’ve been watching you guys. You, Galena, you haven’t been pulling your weight. Or rather, you’ve been pulling too much weight. You can be ballast along with Gneiss. Then Schist and Shale, you’re next, and—”
The building shivered. He waited, expecting to be suddenly exposed, but the barn stayed put. He peeked outside. The greenhouse was gone, the seedlings in their pots shriveling as he watched. Elves ran to cover the plants with blankets. He called, “How long do the disappearances last?”
The elf named Agate replied, “Usually only a few minutes. Sometimes hours. Kitchen’s still gone. I sent Amber and Ruby over to the gnomes to get carry-out for lunch.” He coughed. “Damn creatures put way too much MSG in their food. Half the elves are sick and the other half are hungry an hour later. We’ll use up our whole month’s food budget at this rate.”
Rocky left the barn and spent the afternoon test-driving Santa’s sleigh. He wasn’t worried about managing the big sled. I can drive anything. His priorities were how to attach his CD player and if he would be able to tap the cocoa keg without looking up from the air lane.
The next day he checked in with his father. The old man was in bed. “How’s the village?”
“We lost the haberdasher and the shoe store, but the kitchen’s back.”
“That’s good. Are you ready, Rocky?”
The young man saluted.
“You haven’t changed the reindeer order, have you? Chert is not ready to take the lead.”
“But Dad!”
“Maybe next year. Godspeed.”
With Agate’s help, Rocky oiled and rubbed the harness and groomed the reindeer. He skipped his customary mid-day quaff of pine sap ale, wanting to keep a clear head for the task at head. As he slipped the traces on each deer, Chert flashed a hopeful eye at him. “I don’t care what Dad says, you’re ready.” He put his friend in the lead, and filled in the other spaces.
At sunset he donned the Santa suit his father had given him on his twenty-first birthday. “Still fits!” Agate laughed.
“It should. It’s only been six months.”
He got in the sleigh and Agate pulled it out into the main square. Rocky thought he heard a collective gasp, quickly stifled. A trumpet blared and Agate announced, “Due to the indisposition of our dear Leader, Rockstone Pebble Claus will do the honors for us.”
No one said a word. For the first time Rocky wished he hadn’t been such a prankster in his childhood. Looking out over the sea of upturned noses and pixie ears, he despaired of finding one face he hadn’t hit with a pie, or dropped a bucket of water on. Would any of them help if I needed it? He took a deep breath and shook the reins. “On Chert, on Clay, on Schist and on Shale, on Onyx and Ebony, on Gneiss and Galena. To the top of the roof, and dash away to”—he checked his map—“Siberia!”
As the sleigh rolled past them, the elves managed a weak cheer. Ruby called, “Go get ‘em Rocky. Don’t forget to—” Her words were lost to the sound of slick runners sliding across the ice. He flew into the night.

After the first eleven hours Rocky felt pretty good. He’d hit Asia, Australia, and India, and finished Europe. He was on his way to South America when a snow squall hit, spinning him around. The compass stuck, but he pulled out the atlas that served as backup and they muddled north to Canada. Rocky checked his watch. “Only western Canada and Alaska to go, then home again, home again, lickety split.” He licked his lips, tasting the congratulatory ale that his father would surely award him with. “What do you say, boys. Shall we celebrate with a few triple loops?” Sure, he’d only done them with his little racer sleigh—equipped for speed and light as a feather. This old clunker would be a bear to flip. “If anyone can do it, Chert can. Let’s go for it!”
He headed the reindeer downwards until he found a convection current. As he had practiced a million times, he flicked his wrist and guided the team into the updraft. The sleigh was jerked up. He kept the reins tight and the sleigh slowly, ponderously, made a complete somersault. “Yay! We did it! Now once more, for the ribbon, guys.”
This time he had to descend even closer to the ground to catch a thermal wave. The sleigh was going a great clip and was uncomfortably close to the earth when Rocky pulled it up. The reindeer climbed, reached the upper atmosphere, and took off.
Without Rocky.
As he floated down to the ground the thought struck him like a blow to the head. That’s what Ruby was trying to tell me. Don’t forget to buckle up.

When  he woke up, he was lying atop a pile of brush. It must have broken my fall. He tested his limbs. He couldn’t move his left arm. Must be broken. It was cold. He squinted up through the trees. The full moon was low to the horizon, but still shed some light. The only light. He couldn’t see any sign of habitation. He lay back.
He must have fallen asleep because he woke to something warm and wooly tickling his nose. He opened his eyes. A vision gazed down at him, concern on her face. Soft gray eyes shot with silver, above a delicate nose and a heart-shaped mouth. Long, filmy, white-blonde hair fell over her shoulders. She touched him again. “Are you all right?”
She spoke Elvish, but with an unfamiliar accent.
He sat up. “I think I broke my arm.”
“Oh, dear. Let me help you up.” Together they stumbled off the pile. She led him to a small sleigh, a lantern swinging from its post. Four huskies were harnessed to it. “I’m Pearl.”
“Rocky.”
“Can I take you home?”
“Depends. Where are we?”
“My forest.”
“Your?” He scratched his head. “But what country am I in?”
“Country?”
The line of questioning seemed unproductive, so Rocky merely said, “How about we go to your place.”
She gave him a funny look. “There’s no where else to go.” She cracked the reins and the dogs took off at a trot.
A pale sun shone through the bare trees. After a while they reached a clearing in which stood a square log house. Gray smoke puffed out of the chimney. Pearl unhooked the dogs, then helped Rocky out of the sleigh. She led him into the cabin. It was warm. She lit lanterns, revealing a cozy room. Several wooden chairs with goose down pillows sat in the middle. A ladder led to a loft. In the far corner an el projected out, creating a small kitchen, with a wood stove and an ice box. A fireplace filled one wall, the embers of a raked fire glowing. Pearl put a few more logs on and blew on the coals, reviving the fire. She turned to Rocky. “Let’s take a look at that arm.”
She sat him down and removed his coat. “Scarlet, huh. Unusual color. What did you dye it with?”
“Dye it?”
“You know, willow bark, alder, cranberry? Cranberry makes a pinky-red—not like this deep color.”
He shrugged. “No idea. Opal makes all our clothes. She probably uses whatever they used for Dad’s coat.”
Pearl stared at him for a minute, then picked up his arm. He winced. “It must be broken. What were you doing in the tree?”
“Tree? I wasn’t in a tree.”
“Then where did you fall from?”
Now, Rocky had never been out of the North Pole before, but he knew it was supposed to remain a secret. However, living in the land of the elves, he also had never had occasion to lie before. What do I say? “I…uh…fell down a bank. I walked from there until I collapsed where you found me.”
She seemed to accept that and bustled around the fire boiling water. They ate some dried meat and old apples and she made him a bed on the couch.
The next day she was gone, but returned that evening. This happened for a week. Meanwhile, Rocky’s arm was improving. One night he made her sit. “You haven’t told me who you are, and why you live out here all alone.”
She blinked. “I’ve always lived here.”
“But you must have come from somewhere.”
She gazed at him, her misty gray eyes filled with tears. “My father. My father brought me here when I was a baby.”
Rocky took her hand. It was delicately formed,  but the palm was work-hardened. “He abandoned you?” He thought of his father. Despite all the trouble he’d given him, his father would never have left him alone in the wilderness.
“No, no. I grew up here. He built this cabin. He taught me how to survive in the forest. He…he died last year.”
“Aren’t there neighbors nearby? Relatives? Someone you can live with? Surely you don’t want to be out here without any company?” The elves of North Pole Village were extremely social; he couldn’t imagine being alone for more than a few hours.
She bristled. “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. My father taught me how to build a fire, to hunt, to make my clothes from hides, and to plant a garden. I have plenty to eat and a warm place to sleep. What else do I need?”
“Companionship? Friends? Family?”
She turned her back on him. After a minute, she said, “If you need company, there is a village over the hill. I can take you part of the way, but they will not speak to me.”
“Why not?”
She whirled. “Look at me! I’m…I’m white. They think I’m a ghost! The natives are very dark—brown and short. They are frightened of me. They leave me alone in my forest and I leave them alone.” She sat down and put her head in her hands. “They hate me.”
Rocky stroked her glistening hair. “Sometimes fear manifests as hate. You’re just different. Humans—I’ve been told—aren’t comfortable with things that are different or out of the ordinary. They don’t hate you.”
“Then why do they throw rocks at me if I get too near? Why do they order me to stay away?”
“I don’t know.” Rocky felt his arm. Almost healed. “I will go there and check them out myself.”

The next day Pearl took him to the edge of the forest. In the distance he could see blue ice and black water. On a flat plain by the ocean lay a cluster of huts. He left her and trudged across the snow toward it. A group of children were playing by the last house. “Hey mister! You lost?”
He said no, just here on a visit.
They led him into the house. A couple were in the kitchen. They looked very much alike. Shiny black hair, with chestnut brown skin covered in fine wrinkles, and sharp black eyes. They welcomed him. “Hello stranger, can we offer you some coffee?”
They took his coat and he sat down. One of them joked, “Look at that red parka. It’s just like Santa’s.”
Rocky froze. Would they suspect? “Santa?”
“You know. Santa Claus. Delivers toys to the girls and boys on Christmas Eve.” The woman held a finger to her lips. “Shh. The kids still believe.” She winked. “So, how did you get here? Did your truck break down?”
He decided the fewer details the better. He told them he was from far away, that he’d hurt his arm, and that Pearl had helped him recover.
“Pearl? Who’s that?”
“The young woman who lives in the forest.”
Both pushed back their chairs and jumped up. “The ghost? You saw the ghost?”
“She’s not a ghost, she’s a girl. And she’s lonely. Why won’t you talk to her?”
The man growled, “She lives by herself—survives the winter all alone. How could anyone human do that?”
“Her father taught her how.”
The woman crossed herself. “Her father—he wasn’t human either.”
“Not human? You mean, an animal?” Rocky had begun to perspire in the heat. He pulled his hat off.
The others gasped. “You too. You’re like him!” The woman pointed at Rocky’s ears.
“I am? How?”
“Your ears. They’re pointed. Like his.”
Pearl’s father was an elf? From the look on his host’s face, he gathered this wasn’t a good thing. What’s wrong with elves? Elves didn’t have any problem with humans; why would these people be afraid of them? Then he remembered. The Secret. They don’t know we exist. No wonder they’re frightened. He started to explain, then stopped. I’m not supposed to tell them. I’d better get out of here. He backed away and out the door. It opened again and his coat was tossed out in the snow. He trudged back to the edge of the forest.
To his surprise Pearl was waiting. “I told you.”
“But I don’t look like you.”
“It’s your ears. They’re like Daddy’s. Pointed.”
“That’s because I’m an elf. I’m guessing so was your dad. But why did he leave the North Pole?”
She didn’t know. They went back to the cabin.
A few months went by. Rocky had no idea how to contact the North Pole, but somehow he didn’t mind. Life was rather pleasant with Pearl. As spring broke through the ice, shoots and plants appeared that she made into delicious salads. She taught him how to trap small animals and stew them. They hiked through the forest during the day and played checkers before the fire at night. Rocky was happy. Now and then he thought of his old home, but then he remembered how bored he’d been. He wanted more responsibility, but Feldspar was the eldest. He would inherit the job of Santa. He’d always felt at loose ends. Here he felt useful.
Spring turned to summer and that ran into fall. The leaves turned glorious colors. The bears were fat and the fish plentiful. One day Rocky was snowshoeing through the woods when he came upon a reindeer. The animal raised its head. Rocky felt a surge of homesickness and began to approach. The buck stared at him, a glint of recognition in its brown eyes, but then it took off, crashing through the woods. Rocky trudged home.
He was thoughtful all evening. Pearl left him alone. She rarely asked him what he was thinking or how he felt. He sensed she was afraid he would get angry and leave. But I don’t want to leave. He wasn’t sure why he didn’t. I should be missing my family, my friends. Why am I so content?
He’d shrugged off the questions before. Now, after seeing the reindeer, images of North Pole Village kept flashing through his brain. The next day was no better. He came in with a load of wood and found Pearl weeping. “What’s the matter?”
“You’re not happy. You’re leaving,” she sniffed.
He dropped the wood and put his arms around her. He wanted to deny it, but for some reason he couldn’t. “Maybe it is time.”
She shook him off and ran outside. He waited for her but she didn’t come back. Finally, as the sun set, he went in search of her. The woods were very quiet; a light snow fell. He trudged along, now and then calling softly. He climbed up a bank, hoping for a better view, and almost ran into a reindeer standing on the summit. He’s the same fellow I saw two days ago. “Hello.”
The reindeer didn’t move. It didn’t look at him either. Suddenly from above he heard snorts and whinnies. Hovering in the air was Santa’s sleigh. Feldspar leaned over the side. “There you are at last, little brother.”
“Feldspar!” Rocky was overjoyed. “You found me!”
“Well, Shale found you. He led us here.” Shale butted Rocky, who patted his nose. “Are you coming?”
Rocky stared up at the sleigh. “How?”
A ladder unfolded and landed next to him. He climbed up and into the sleigh. His brother threw a blanket over him, turned to the reindeer, and flicked the reins. “We’ll be home in a jiffy.”

It wasn’t until the lights of North Pole Village twinkled below that Rocky remembered Pearl. “Oh my God, she’ll think I’m lost!”
In the general excitement of his return Rocky didn’t have a chance to talk to his father. It wasn’t until the next day that the old man summoned him.
“I’ve been getting bits and pieces of your adventures from the elves, but not a full accounting. Tell me what happened.”
Rock felt ashamed. “Oh father, I was an idiot.”
Santa did not contradict him.
Rocky confessed about the showboating and falling out of the sleigh. He told him about Pearl and of the natives who were afraid of them.
Santa asked him to describe Pearl again. He rubbed his beard. “Alabaster skin, you say? Pearly gray eyes? Tall? What about her ears?”
“Pointed, like mine.”
“Did she talk about her mother?”
“She never knew her. Her father raised her.”
“How old would you say she was?”
“About my age.”
Hmm. Come with me.” Santa took Rocky to the Hall of Records. In the section filled with registers of North Pole Village he pulled the  volume from Rocky’s birth year. Flipping the pages, he stopped at one. “This is it.” He laid the book out for Rocky to see. “Jasper Gold. Banished from North Pole Village, April 24, 2000.”
“Who is that?”
“Pearl’s father. Jasper fell in love with a snow maiden—at that time a serious offense. He was given the option of leaving the village or giving her up. He chose her.”
“But why? What’s wrong with a snow maiden?”
“At that time the snow giants were threatening to expose us to the world. Their king was a bitter man who felt that his people weren’t properly respected. He claimed the elves were infringing on his territory. Negotiations for peace were at a very delicate stage and the snow giants insisted there be no contact between giants and elves. We risked the very existence of Santa Claus if we defied their embargo.”
“So Pearl’s father left. And you never heard from him again?”
“No,” said Santa sadly. “Once we’d signed an agreement with the giants we searched for him, but he had disappeared into the lower world.”
“Pearl told me her mother died in childbirth.”
“Ah.” The bell for dinner rang. “You go along.”
In the days that followed, Rocky tried to settle in, but he couldn’t stop thinking of Pearl. He was doodling her name on a roll of wrapping paper when his father’s heavy hand fell on his shoulder. “Son? Want to talk about it?”
Rocky didn’t know what to say. “I guess I miss my life down there.”
“And Pearl?”
“Well, she was part of it all. Learning how to make things from scratch. How to grow things. Make things. The peace.”
“How did you feel about her?”
“Her?” Rocky was puzzled. He scrunched up his nose, trying to explain. “Sometimes when she came near my chest would tighten up. I’d have trouble breathing. Sometimes she’d boss me around and I thought it would make me angry, but it didn’t. It’s like…like—” He appealed to his father. “Like she cared about me.”
The old man just smiled.
Rocky continued. “She was pretty too. When the moon shone on her hair she looked like an angel. And that time we were walking beside the creek and she slipped and fell in the mud. She was all covered in goo, so I found this deep pool and—” He hiccupped. The image of a slim, ivory body shimmering as it rose from the water, of long, straight blonde hair swirling around Pearl’s head, her warm, smoky eyes seeking him out, stopped him cold. He turned to his father. “She was my friend, but Dad? Something feels different.”
Santa laughed. “There’s a name for it, son. You’ll figure it out.”
But Rocky didn’t, and fell more and more into a funk. What was the matter with him? The Christmas season was upon them. North Pole Village was in the usual uproar. He sought out Chert, his favorite reindeer. “I feel just as restless as I did before I fell out of the sleigh. Something’s missing, Chert. I’m not even hungry.”
Chert blew in his ear.
It was a week before Christmas. Feldspar and Beryl had taken their boy Garnet to Anchorage to see the pediatrician. Rocky, out exercising Chert, saw their sleigh floating down by the barn. He loped toward it. Feldspar let Beryl and the baby out, then turned back to help someone else. Rocky stopped short. “Pearl!”
She looked both frightened and elated. All the activity around her made her seem small and young. Rocky ran to her. He stood before her, drinking her in. “You’ve come.”
She nodded at Feldspar. “He said I should.” She peeked at Rocky. “I…I wanted to see you. I missed you.”
“Oh, Pearl.” He wrapped her in a bear hug.
Santa came out of the barn. “Have you figured it out?”
Rocky released Pearl. “What out?”
“The feeling, silly boy.” Beryl giggled.
Rocky, bewildered, looked at Pearl. She pushed him gently. “Love, Rocky. It’s love.”