Thank you for reading our winter serial romance story by Limington resident Judi Phillips. The conclusion of “Winter Fireworks”.
Seeing her furrowed brow, Jack tried to lighten Karrie’s mood. "Guess we're having our own fireworks--early and inside."
When the corners of her rosy lips tilted, he was pleased.
"That's one way to look at it."
He stepped back and smothered the few live ashes that landed on the hearth rug, ignoring the twinge from his sore ankle. As good a diversion as any to keep from pulling her into his arms and kissing her.
Gingerly, with the help of the broom, Karrie retrieved the carcass and wrapped it in a plastic bag. "I'll put this in the outside trash barrel."
He looked out the window. "It's dark and the fireworks-the outside ones-will start soon. How about this? I'll work on the fire. You prepare the food. 'Cause I'm a lousy cook."
"Based on my karma today, a lousy cook may be the better option."
Jack laughed. "Or make it even worse."
She sent a mock frown in his direction before going into the kitchen. Leaning against the doorjamb, he watched as she quickly blended the cream cheese and minced clams. After tasting the dip, she scooped it into a dish. Opening the jar of salsa, she poured that into another bowl.
She nodded. "Seems to be."
He heard voices as people began to gather outside. "Let's go." He slipped into his jacket and held Karrie's for her. Donning hats and scarves, they were ready to brave the falling snow.
* * *
Karrie paused on the front porch for a moment. A bonfire blazed in the circle of the cul-de-sac. The campfire ring had been there as long as the camps. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Brings back lots of memories."
Memories of New Year's Eve with Grammy Lou flooded her. "All happy ones."
She crossed to the table set to one side for food and deposited the dip and salsa. Jack set the bags of chips beside them.
Brenda Stanley, Grammy Lou's closest friend, walked over, wrapped her arms around Karrie, and hugged her. "I miss Lulu so much."
"Me, too." Tears flooded Karrie's eyes before she could squeeze them away.
David Johnson came up and patted her on the back. "Glad to see you here, Karrie." His voice was gruff as if he was holding back his own tears.
Karrie swiped her eyes. "Tonight isn't a night for being sad. Let's make this a celebration. Gram always loved the winter fireworks."
"You are so right, dear." Brenda leaned close and whispered in Karrie's ear. "I'm so glad she left Birch Haven to you."
"Thanks. That means a lot to me."
Brenda strolled away, followed by David. Interesting.
"Hey, Parker." Jason Dinsmore joined them.
Jack turned. "Hi, Jason. I go by Jack."
"What are you doing now?"
Jason blew on his fingers to warm them. "I've just started my own architect firm. Going solo after the outfit I was with collapsed. The housing bubble burst the firm."
"Good luck with that."
Jason looked across the fire. "My sister and her family just arrived. Catch up with you later." He lifted a hand and walked away.
"I thought he was married,” Karrie said. “Wonder where his wife is?"
"Maybe another casualty of the recession."
"Wouldn't be the first."
"Let's get something to eat," Karrie suggested.
They joined the group around the table.
Melissa Perkins stopped beside Karrie. Once upon a time Melissa and Karrie's mother had been friends. "Hi there. Haven't seen you in a while."
"Been away at college." No need to go into detail about her crappy family. "What about you?"
"Just got a promotion to purchase manager at Dad's construction firm."
"Not sure it's that great. I seem to have more work and not a lot more pay."
"I'm finishing up a B.S. in business administration at Colby-Sawyer."
"Give me a call when you graduate. If we don't have any openings, I may be able to help. For sure I'd love to talk with you."
"Thank you so much. I'll be in touch."
Melissa smiled and walked away.
"That's cool," Jack said.
Karrie spotted Taylor Winslow standing beside Brad Jennings, holding hands. She'd never seen them as a couple before this evening. His daughter, Faith, was perched on his shoulders.
Karrie slid her arm in Jack's. "C'mon. This way."
"I want to try the clam dip."
Sounded bogus to him, but whatever.
She stopped further down the table. "Hi, Taylor. Do you know if anyone has lost a cat?"
Taylor looked at Brad, a knowing gleam in her eyes. "Not that I know of. Have you heard anything, Brad?"
"Nope. No missing Yorkies, either."
Taylor laughed. "Long story about my little dog escaping."
Brad gazed at her. "And how we were blown together."
Karrie smiled. "I'd love to hear it sometime. I seem to have acquired a cat with a taste for salmon--hence the clam dip."
"If we hear anything, I'll let you know."
"Okay, folks," Dave Johnson called out. "Time for the Campfire Circle Annual New Year's Eve fireworks."
By city standards, the display was small. Mostly roman candles. Some whistled, some crackled and some glittered. Around the fire, three-foot sparklers alternated with morning glory sparklers. At the end was a nice finale with a shower-burst.
The light snow made it even more magical. Everyone ooohed and aaahed.
As the falling snow thickened, people drifted away from the fire and back to their camps.
Back inside Birch Haven, curled on the rug in front of embers in the fireplace, the cat greeted them with a yawn and a meow.
"Looks like I have a new pet."
"What's her name--assuming it is a girl."
"I'm thinking Shadow, because that's how I saw her, the first couple of times."
"Works if it's a boy or girl."
"You are so practical. I never would have thought of that."
They settled in front of the fire on either side of the cat, facing each other. This was a much better New Year's Eve than she'd planned.
Karrie stroked Shadow's soft fur, not sure what she wanted to happen next. Well, sort of sure, to be perfectly honest. She smiled slightly.
Jack reached out and cupped her face with his hands. He studied her for a long moment.
Suddenly shy, Karrie glanced away.
He leaned forward and kissed her, slow and soft. She moaned, and he deepened the kiss. She forgot to breathe. Her blood heated as if fireworks blazed inside her.
He lifted his head and gazed at her.
She smiled and shook her head. "This has been the craziest New Year's Eve ever."
He grinned. "And the best."
Here's a taste treat for all my Campfire Circle fans, the recipe that Karrie couldn't make, thanks to Shadow.
Salmon Cream Cheese Spread
1 pkg of frozen smoked salmon (4 oz.)
1 pkg of cream cheese (8 oz.)
Cream or milk
Prepared horseradish to taste (1/8+ tsp.)
Defrost the salmon and have the cream cheese at room temperature. Break the salmon into pieces and put in food processor. Whirl until minced. Add the cream cheese, 2-3 tablespoons of cream or milk (to aid blending), horseradish (I use between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon) and salt and pepper, if you wish. Whirl until blended. You may need to stop the food processor and stir in some of the unblended clumps.
Put the mixture in a covered dish (if you plan on hoarding it for yourself) or in a pretty bowl for a party. Absolutely delish when spread on Ritz crackers.
Ziploc is the registered trademark of S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.
Ritz crackers are the registered trademark of Intercontinental Great Brands, LLC.