“Hi, I’m Samuel and I didn’t mean to, but I might’ve just fallen in love with my best friend, Sabrina. I’m sure nothing will go wrong.”
How To Fall In Love The Holidays: Big City Edition is a new series featuring big city romances beginning with Samuel Dawes and Sabrina Henry. Meet them and the rest of their friends as they slowly (or quickly) fall head over heels in love for the holidays.
How did two friends get here? Stealing out of work in the middle of the afternoon to meet up in secret?
Well, we both had a rough day. That’s how all of this started. One bad day, then a couple of drinks at our usual spot turned into a long, quiet walk to her apartment. At her front door, Sabrina dared me to kiss her, and I did. Neither of us expected to go any further, but we did.
Now, in a classic fool-in-love move, I’ve developed a maddening crush. It’s more than a crush and no less maddening. Naturally, I’m keeping my feelings a closely guarded secret from the object of my affection. How much longer I can pretend I don’t want more is anybody’s guess because when me and Bean are together, it doesn’t just feel real and substantial. It feels right.
Truth be told, that’s a new milestone for me.
On the eve of the Choosing Ceremony, Nyaria had a restless sleep. She woke before dawn with her mother clinging to her arm. Lady Stonebridge did not spare her from her wrath when she learned what Nyaria had done. Agreeing to marry into Lord Thrinn’s family without her mother’s consent was the final indignity for the lady to suffer. But they had no other choice.
Nyaria snuck from the bed and slipped into her heavy robes, quietly leaving her chambers. This early in the day, the temple was still, save for a few acolytes milling around on the lower floors. She made her way down to the praying rooms. Nyaria knelt before Neres, the god of fortitude, closed her eyes, clasped her hands, and prayed. After a time, she heard footsteps approaching.
“It is forbidden. To leave your chambers before you are summoned on the day of the ceremony. Even to pray,” a woman said at her back. “Your presence here might upset the gods.”
“I’m sorry,” Nyaria said and looked over her shoulder. The woman wore the exquisite robes of the high priestesses, but the pattern on her hood was unlike any she had seen before and Nyaria struggled in the low light to make sense of the woman’s features.
“What is it that troubles you, child?”
Where to begin? Nyaria thought.
“Nothing troubles me. I only came to say a prayer for my mother.”
“Ah yes, we have heard Lady Stonebridge has not been well.”
By now it shouldn’t surprise her that their trials in Atkah were well known to all inside the temple—and many outside of it. Nyaria shifted her skirts and pushed herself to her feet.
“Begging your pardon, I’ll return to my chambers now,” she said and dipped to show her respect.
“I knew your father, Nyaria Stonebridge. Everyone knew him as a good man with a great name, but it will be remembered in you, in your actions, from this day forward,” the woman said.
Nyaria raised her eyes to the priestess, found the woman smiling. For a moment, her body tensed, refusing to move. She contemplated asking the meaning of her words but reconsidered. She left the woman in the praying room, racing back to her chambers.
By the time her mother opened her eyes, Nyaria was already laced into her elaborate purple dress. Lady Stonebridge eyed her as she rose, her hair disheveled and her face gaunt. Her mother wore the same smock for days now, nibbled at her food, and wandered the chambers aimlessly. It was cause for concerns.
Nigel tiptoed to where the girl fell, dropping a knee beside her small, lifeless body. The mangled crown of flowers around her head told him everything he needed to know about who she was. She was the enemy.
Everyone knew Freig men and boys were raised as savages who killed noble knights while they slept beneath their blankets instead of facing them in battle. Cowards were what they were. But no one ever told Nigel much about Freig girls—or more likely, he never listened to those bits of the knights’ tales.
She didn’t look any different from any of the other girls in his village or his sisters. In fact, she was just as pretty. Even prettier than many of them, he thought; but it was dark so he couldn’t really be sure and that was the sort of thing he could give a fig about.
The girl’s eyes sprung open, breaking into his revelry. Nigel flinched, but he brought his dagger to her throat.
Neither of them moved until she said, “Help me. Please.”
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Alan squeezed his eyes shut. He drifted to some other place, somewhere not in the moment. Then he looked her in the eyes. Bri felt helpless. She remembered last month Alan told her that a man who was like a father to him was dying of cancer. That was the night of their first date. He was drunk and broken, and she knew having sex with him would take his mind off his troubles for a little while. But this…
If it were Will or Libbie, she’d know how to comfort them. But what was the protocol for properly consoling your not-real boyfriend?