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A Splash of Christmas by Mary Manners

A Splash of Christmas

When Faith O' Fallon’s best friend ropes her into attending a popular reality show audition, the last thing she expects to find at the studio is the love of her life.
Ben Ward resents his family for coercing him into holding auditions to snag a date for the holiday episode of their reality show, Poolside Oasis. But when a studio mishap accidentally matches him with the lovely, rambunctious Faith O'Fallon, he finds that sometimes family knows best.
This holiday season is filled with the perfect blend of heartwarming surprises splashed with a dose of sweet romance.


I should have worn flat heels, Faith thought as she neared the antique shop. She’d walked a good five minutes with Ben at her side, and still she felt wobbly from his kiss. He had a habit of doing that—surprising her with unexpected kisses. She should mind…but she didn’t.
            She wanted more.
            Faith chastised herself. The very thought was ridiculous. Remember, this is Ben Ward, the same fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants guy who blew off you—and the kids.
            Trusting him once again could prove dangerous.
            Not trusting him would prove worse.
            Faith turned, wondering who had spoken. The voice rang clear, steady. No one lurked behind here, simply Ben at her left side.
            “Did you hear that?”
            “Hear what?”
            “I thought there was a voice. You didn’t hear it?”
            One eyebrow arched as Ben slowly shook his head. “I didn’t hear it, and ventriloquism certainly isn’t one of my talents. Maybe it was the wind.”
            “Maybe…” But it wasn’t, Faith was sure of that.
            Soft lights welcomed them into the shop. The scent of cedar mingled with vanilla from coffee service counter in a cozy corner. Faith drew in the scent, sighing as her equilibrium found its footing once again.
            The clerk—a woman in her sixties or so, dressed in pressed navy slacks and a white silk blouse complimented by tasteful costume jewelry—stepped forward to greet Faith.
            “Hello, dear. How may I help you this evening?”
            “I’d like to see that music box in the window display, please.”
            “Of course.” She nodded slightly. “Make yourself comfortable. Pour a cup of coffee and I’ll fetch it right away.”
            “Thank you.”
            The slight rustling at Faith’s heels caused the woman to glance up and over Faith’s shoulder. She paused slightly before exclaiming, “Ben!”
            “Hello, Mrs. Parker.” He stepped forward to enfold her in a bear hug. “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight. How are you?”
            “Back up on the horse, so to speak, and doing much better now. It helps to keep busy.”
            “You look good. I’m glad.”
              “You always did have a knack for flattery.” Mrs. Parker fanned herself with one hand. “I couldn’t have done it—done this—without your help last March. You helped me in my greatest time of need. You’re an angel, son.”
            An angel…son?
            Faith waited with all the patience she could muster as Ben and Mrs. Parker caught up with one another. Questions whizzed like runaway tennis balls through her head.
            What does March have to do with it? What help? Could this be the reason Ben backed out of the fundraiser?
            No. Faith shook her head. Her imagination was running away once again.
            “And who is this lovely young woman?” Mrs. Parker’s voice drew Faith back in.
            “Faith O’Fallon. She’s going to guest with me on the Christmas episode of Poolside Oasis.”
            “Is that so?” Mrs. Parker’s gaze fell twinkled like sunshine. “Well, Ben, I believe that’s merely the beginning. Faith here is going to do much more than that.”

How I spend Christmas:

Now that my kids are all grown, I begin Christmas morning with a slow cup of coffee while Christmas music plays and the tree twinkles with light. When my family wakes, we enjoy a huge breakfast with all the trimmings and dig into our stockings (the hanging kind) for a little candy dessert. Then it's off to church and then the exchange of gifts followed by a delicious Christmas dinner with my extended family. My husband and I finish the day with a glass of warm cider near the Christmas Tree with the jubilant song of carols and a bit of happy conversation.


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