Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Taste Of Christmas - Jennifer McKenzie

Taste of Christmas
A Writers Vineyard Holiday Treat

Kelly’s bar was in the middle of nowhere. According to the map, it was inside the Sonoma city limits, but it was surrounded by vineyards.

Kelly’s didn’t sell wine, however. Instead, it had every beer imaginable on tap, in bottles, and in cans, but no wine.

The place was a haven for Tabitha. Raised on wine and snobbery,her sole aim in life was to get away and be a regular person. Kelly’s wasthe one place where she could do that.

It was a converted barn, and the outside was lit with neon beer signs and bug zappers. Inside, it had sawdust covered floors and a bar made of dark wood. The bar stools were chairs with stilts and the jukebox played every redneck song ever written. And Danny Boy.

As Tabitha looked around the bar, several people greeted her. She waved back and went to get a beer. Someone else came in after her, and several patrons greeted that person as well. Tabitha turned around to see if she knew the new arrival.

Well, well, well. Everyone seemed to know Mr. Tall and Handsome.

He waved and headed for where she stood. The bartender had a beer up on the bar for him before he got there. He was obviously a regular.

She lifted an eyebrow. “It’s funny that I’ve never seen you here.”

“I usually come on Monday nights during football season. And sometimes on Sundays, for NASCAR.” He took a drink of his beer as Tabitha received hers. He drank domestic, instead of some fancy microbrew, which put him up a notch in her book.

“I always come on Fridays. I guess that’s why we haven’t run into each other.”

He grinned at her. “Fridays are ladies’ nights. I avoid them.”

“Good plan, website guy.” She aimed a glare at him. “You probably wouldn’t survive.”

“So, why don’t you come on Mondays and watch football with me and the guys?”

Smirking, she put her elbows against the bar and looked out at the crowd. “I don’t consider watching football to be a social activity. I prefer live music.”

“So do I. So why haven’t I met you before? My family specializes in socializing with other rich winery owners. The Durst family is well known, so how have you avoided me?”

Eying him suspiciously, she realized the charm that usually turned her off was lowering her guard. “Didn’t you know? They only let me out twice a month. I’m the crazy sister. They’ve kept me hidden in the attic for years.” She tried to look mysterious, but it must have failed because he laughed.

“That would explain it.” Something about the way he was looking at her made her blood flow faster. Heat rose in her face. To hide her discomfort, she took another sip of her beer.

“I have the codes and passwords for the website written down for you in my purse.” She reached for her black bag on the bar.

“I told you.” He looked out at the large screen TV in the corner of the bar. “That’s not why I called.”

Tabitha looked at his profile. He had a perfect Roman nose, gorgeous chocolate brown eyes, and he was tall and good looking. Why would this guy call me? Don’t ask. Who needs that kind of rejection?

There was one swig left of her beer. She drank it, put the bottle on the bar, and shrugged. “Well, if you’re not going to tell me the real reason, I’ll just go home and go back to bed.”

She stepped away from the bar and found a wall of chest in front of her. Tipping her head up, she looked at him. “What’s the idea?” There was a scent of pine and wood about him. It went to her head and made her dizzy.

“I want you to ask me why.”


He looked down at her. “Why not?”

“Because then you’ll tell me.”

“That makes no sense.” Jim shook his head.

God, she wanted to run her fingers through his hair. But instead, she simply said, “See? You’re better off if I leave. I make no sense.”

Tabitha went to move, and he blocked her again.

“Tell me why you won’t ask me.”

“Why won’t you just tell me?” She countered.

The sudden smile that spread across his face was not reassuring.

“Why don’t I just show you why I called instead?”

Before Tabitha recognized his intent, she found herself in his arms and getting the pants kissed off her. Almost literally. She forgot she was in a bar. She forgot Jim was a virtual stranger. She forgot everything but those fantastic lips doing wonderful things to hers. Somewhere in the background she heard hoots, whistles, and a couple of people yelling, “Get a room!”

This has been an excerpt from A Taste Of Christmas
Once upon a time, there was a little girl...

I loved Harlequin romances when I was little and used to sneak them from my mother's bookshelf. But my father influenced me with Agatha Christie, Ngiao Marsh and Arthur Conan Doyle. I always loved to write but never thought about becoming an author.

In 2003, a profound experience changed that. My mother showed me a manuscript written by my father. No one had ever seen it. No agent. No editor. No one. He died in 2002 never realizing his dream to be a published author.

I wondered if that would be my fate? Would my family come across my attempts at story telling and shake their heads in pity? I vowed that I would at least try.

Romance seemed to be my genre, but there was a small problem. Dead bodies kept showing up. Apparently, I couldn't write a romance without a little mystery. Luckily for me, romantic suspense is a thriving genre.

I live with a Redneck, who loves to brainstorm with me on occasion, and my two dirt faced Okie kids in the Northern California Boonies. And I write all my love scenes with Thomas The Tank Engine in the background.

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