Christmas with Niagara by Susan Jean Ricci

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CHAPTER ONE

A Day in the Life

Jace DeMatteo whistled as he wrapped prosciutto and sliced provolone around thin asparagus stalks, like he was tucking tiny, fragile infants into receiving blankets. He gently placed each on a tray, drizzled them with a smidgeon of olive oil, and then set his masterpiece aside to bake.

A bottle of vodka chilled in the freezer, ready for their Friday night martini. Niagara liked hers dirty, with three olives, while he preferred four.

He smiled, recalling the first time he even considered drinking a martini, the night they’d met at the Top of the Falls restaurant. What a wussy he’d been at the time, and not just about the topic of cocktails.

The asparagus appetizer was one of Niagara’s favorites and he couldn’t wait for her to arrive. He rinsed his hands and dried them with a dishtowel, while his feet danced side to side to one of his favorite oldies songs playing on the XM radio. Trim hips swayed in time to the beat with a panache he’d been proud to conquer.

Ever since Niagara had taught Jace’s clumsy ass how to groove to music, dancing had become one of his favorite pastimes. He never got enough of it, any more than he could resist Niagara’s kisses. Jace impatiently checked his watch, noting she wouldn’t be finished with her half of the job for another hour. The graphics she created for his computer software were amazing, and he was positive the company wouldn’t have such enormous sales and the following it currently enjoyed, if not for her special gifts with advertising.

He opened a bottle of chardonnay, poured himself a small glass, and retreated to his office.

Booting up his desktop, Jace looked over the news of the day, while the music continued in the background. His foot unconsciously tapped beneath the desk until he grew bored with the headlines. He carefully typed in the password to his business website – correction – his and Niagara’s business website.

Instead of looking at the end of the week profits, he leaned his chin on one hand and sighed with gratitude. That heaven had shown him had such favor six short months before remained a mystery, but one he didn’t try to solve.

On the day destiny changed his life for the better, he’d been standing on the observation deck at Niagara Falls, grieving, alone, and wondering what the hell possessed him to visit there in the first place. It was then he’d spotted her through his binoculars, as she held onto the rails at the bow of a tour boat.

The stranger’s breathtaking beauty had fascinated him. He’d gazed with longing as her long, raven hair streamed behind her at the whimsies of the wind, until the boat had sailed out of sight.

A rainbow had suddenly flared against the clear blue sky, surprising the bejesus out of him. The sky remained a clear, azure blue, and he’d prayed it was a sign of better days to come.

Their chance meeting later that night at dinner had opened the door to a wondrous future and, since then, the couple had formed a loving bond deeper than either of them had ever imagined.

He shook his head in disbelief, even now, that this wonderful creature had become such an integral part his life. He chuckled out loud, too. Thank the good Lord he’d inherited his dad’s penchant for cooking, and his abilities as well. As his stepmom often said, “There’s something about having your own sexy chef slog away in the kitchen to steam up a marriage and make things broil.”

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