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Avalee's Gift

Moonlight Mississippi Series, Book 2

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: SWEET
Word Count: 92,010
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Avalee Preston tries to silence the demons from her past and takes a chance at love with Ty Jackson, a man twelve years her junior and the brother to her long-dead fiance.

As if she needs another complication in her life, his parents resent her, and he has grown children. Is love really enough for them to build a life together or is she confusing it with a fairy tale? Just what is love anyway? Maybe love was never intended for her after all. Ty deserves better.

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We strolled hand-in-hand down Washington Avenue admiring the Christmas trees shining from living room picture windows in homes along the street. A peaceful quiet settled in with the drifts. The only sound was a crystalline ping as if tiny fairies toasted the day with minuscule goblets. Occasionally, vivid red cardinals sang out, cheer, cheer, cheer, from evergreen boughs blanketed in white. When we walked though the gate I marveled at the scene before me. The park looked enchanted. The swings, slides and the grounds were sparkling and pristine. So much so, I hated marring the surface. We brushed off the seats and sat on the rubber slings. Rocking back and forth, I enjoyed the moment.

“Avalee?” Ty turned his swing around toward me. “Remember the morning I carried you across the swinging bridge over Moon Creek?”

“Remember? I still have nightmares.” I didn’t mention the other dreams of desire related to that particular day while suspended thirty feet in the air.

“Don’t I know it? You nearly strangled me holding on so hard.” Snow laced his beanie and caught on his ridiculously long lashes. I swear, Mother Nature did prefer her boys. No woman I knew had lashes like that unless they were fake. “But when I realized you actually were afraid of heights, I was sorry for putting you in that position. That’s when I knew I wanted to protect you and care for you the rest of my life.” He leaned forward and kissed my nose. “I already knew that I loved you.”

“It was then I realized I had fallen in love with you, Tyler Jackson.”

He reached into his pocket. “We aren’t on the swinging bridge, so these swings will have to symbolize that day.” Ty held up a small red satin box and opened it. Nestled in black velvet was a ring sparkling with diamonds.

“Oh, babe.” I looked closer. It looked like a blooming rose. Petals set with diamonds surrounded a large solitaire. The delicate platinum band had diamond encrusted leaves on either side. The pave-set wedding band was simple and elegant. “I love it.”

“Merry Christmas.” He took the engagement ring and slipped it on my finger. “When I saw this rose, I couldn’t pass it up.”

I opened my mouth, but he put his finger to my lips.

“It is none of your concern about what it cost or how I paid for it.”

“How did you know the size?”

“Miss Cladie did some sleuthing. She found a ring you wear and traced the band.”

“It’s gorgeous.” I tore my gaze off the ring long enough to kiss him.

“Just do me a favor.” He smiled at me with his impish grin that pushed his dimples deep.

“What’s that?”

“Never take it off.” He held up his hand like a boy scout. “And I promise I will never give you cause to throw it at me.”

I studied his face. “No, I don’t think you ever will.”

He took my hand and kissed it. “Come on. Let’s go show Momma Cladie and warm up with that cocoa.”

“Let’s.” As we walked home, I noticed the snow had covered the tracks we made on our way to the playground. It felt like a good omen to me. Past mistakes erased, a fresh beginning.