I’ve got a Christmas anthology coming out next month with my writing pal, Carolyn Hughey. And I’m currently finishing up the last chapter of my story for this special project: The Gift of the Magic. No, that’s not a typo; it’s a twist on the O. Henry classic, The Gift of the Magi, a perennial favorite of mine. My story takes place in Krakow, Poland right before Christmas.
Here’s a little taste of what you can expect. As details become available on cover art, release date, title, etc., I’ll be sure to let you know.
Once again, she passed the bakery. God, she was starving! Maybe she should splurge on a real dinner tonight. Grab a cheeseburger deluxe with fries and onion rings. And some fresh apple fritters for dessert.
This time around, she couldn’t help but stare longingly at the glass display case where lighter-than-air pastry shared a starring role with loaves of freshly baked bread. Gaze riveted on the goodies in the shop window, she turned the corner.
Wham! Something huge collided with her midsection and knocked her onto the slushy sidewalk. Stars exploded in her skull as the back of her head slammed against the pavement. When she finally opened her eyes, a hairy gray face came into view, with sharp teeth inches from her nose. A wolf! She cried out and raised a hand to shield herself from a vicious bite.
A wet black nose snuffled into the space between her elbow and her chin, and she gave a low whine, squeezing her eyes shut, tensed for the attack.
“Hunter, tu przyjść!” a brusque voice ordered.
Who was that? Slowly, she lowered her arm, opened her eyes, and came face to snout with her attacker. Not a wolf. A dog. A tremendous, wiry-haired dog with a toothy grin.
A dog that had just licked her nose. Ick. She wiped a sleeve across her cheeks to swipe at the doggie slime.
“Hunter, tu przyjść!” The order, dark as smoke, came again. Lucky for her, the man patted his thigh, and the dog immediately bounded off her to stand beside him.
Polina looked past the not-so ferocious beast planted on her chest to the owner of both the smoky voice and the overly affectionate animal. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and despite the frown he flashed at her new furry friend, very appealing with a wide face and hazel eyes, framed by thick honey-colored hair. His clothes were expensive, shoes gleamed. Money. He smelled of it, reeked of it.
“Przepraszam. Czy jesteś dobra?” He held out a hand to assist her to her feet.
With her very limited grasp of the Polish language, she had to rely on the man’s body language to assume he was apologizing and, maybe, asking if she was hurt. “I’m okay,” she replied with a smile she hoped would translate.
“You speak English?” Surprise glazed his words stronger than the very British accent he used, and he gripped her hand a little tighter.
She nodded. “I’m American.”
His smile beamed white, lighting up his face, and Polina’s heart sat up and took notice. “Oh, thank God. My Polish isn’t exactly flawless yet.” Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a leash and clipped it to the dog’s collar. “I apologize about the dog. He belongs to the son of a colleague, got away from the kid, and I’ve been chasing him for the last three blocks. Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Uh-huh.” Her brain spiraled into free fall as his gaze raked her from disheveled head to booted toe. In an attempt to regain some sense of calm, she turned slightly and hitched up the nylon backpack. “I landed on this. Not exactly a plush cushion, but it’s better than full contact with cement.” Of course, the knot blooming on the back of her head said differently, but she opted to keep that a secret. Along with her now crushed and useless sandwich. She didn’t want to engage in explanations or additional conversation.
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