The Best Medicine

The Best Medicine

Lifeis better
In honor of National Humor Month, we’re talking laughter.
smile
 
So. True. 
And it really is the best medicine:
 
bubbles
 
Laughter releases bunches of feel-good hormones. Research finds that humor can help you cope better with pain, enhance your immune system, reduce stress, even help you live longer. So you should, you know, do it a lot. 😀 
 
And how’s this for an “aww” moment:
makeherfall
 
I’m lucky that I’m married to a man with a wonderful sense of humor who makes me laugh every single day. But the best feeling is when I make him laugh. 
In books, movies, and real life, I always fall for the funny guy. And in friendships, I’m lucky to have several shades of humor in several different people.
wasted
 
Which leads me to one more quote:
favthings
 
So there you have it. Celebrate the folks who bring laughter into your life. 
 
And if you need more laughs, check out National Humor Month’s official website: http://www.humormonth.com/
 
 
Wishing you a day filled with belly laughs and giggles,
Susan-Sig
Go-to Tunes

Go-to Tunes

Go-to Tunes

We all have playlists — for working out, primping for a night out, relaxation, driving, etc. But do any of your songs cross over? 
Here’s a song that pulls double duty for me: “Eye of the Tiger”.
I’ve seen the Rocky movies countless times over the years. Maybe there’s an extra affinity because he’s from Philly and he’s Italian…I don’t know…but I like them.
This song works not only for working out (it’s on my running and kickboxing playlists), but it’s also background music when I’m writing or editing against a deadline. If Rocky can run through South Philly and up the Art Museum steps (if you come to Philly, you HAVE to run up those steps!), and can train like crazy in all sorts of weather, then I certainly can bust through whatever task is at hand and pound it into submission. 😀
 
For your viewing pleasure, here’s Jensen Ackles from Supernatural lip-syncing the lyrics. Enjoy 😉

And one full of Rocky highlights:

What are some of your go-to tunes?
Susan-Sig
Christmastime in the City

Christmastime in the City

I love my hometown, especially during the holiday season. Welcome to Philadelphia. I’m taking you on a tour of not-to-be-missed local traditions.
First up, the Macy’s Christmas Light Show.
The Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert at Macy’s is a Philadelphia holiday tradition that dates back more than half a century. The store, in Center City (downtown Philly) — housed in the historic Wanamaker Building — in the Grand Court atrium. You can do your shopping and when your spirits sag, stop and watch snowflakes, ballerinas, snowmen, and angels light up the screen along with the giant Christmas Tree. The finale of the four-story-high light show is accompanied by festive music from the Wanamaker Grand Organ. We visited the light show every year when I was growing up.
Up next, for the history buffs, we have Deck the Alley — Elfreth’s Alley
America’s oldest street, Elfreth’s Alley, decks the halls for the holiday season. Residents of the historic street open their homes to the public on December 5 as carolers and colonial reenactors create a festive mood. It’s a cool place to visit at any time of year, but especially when it’s all dressed up for the holidays.
Food-wise, Philly has more to offer than just cheesesteaks. So let’s go to Reading Terminal Market.
The Reading Terminal Market, at 12th and Arch Streets, (established in 1892) is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Cool, no? Here, you can find virtually every type of cuisine, (yes, even those cheesesteaks). During the holiday season, the market sets up a very cool holiday railroad. It has fourteen working train lines and miniature scenery of Center City and the countryside, surrounding almost one-third of a mile of track.
Let’s get physical! I’m talking ice skating, of course.  I have two awesome locations for you:
                       
The first is the Blue Cross RiverRink, an Olympic-size skating rink overlooking the Delaware River. During Winterfest, they also have a ski chalet-style lodge and winter garden, a heated tent, holiday trees, and fire pits. 
 
Option two is in the heart of the city at the ice rink at Dilworth Park, right next to City Hall. You’ll skate under great views of the city skyline.
If you’ll be in the city through New Year’s, then a tradition that’s a MUST is the Mummer’s parade on New Year’s Day. 
The Mummers Parade dates back to 1901. Men, women and children dressed in colorful, lavish costumes dance, perform, and strut down the one of biggest streets in the city. Mummers belong to more than 40 organized clubs. The clubs split into five divisions: the Comics and Wench Brigades satirize issues; the Fancies wear glamorous outfits; the String Bands play banjoes, saxophones, percussion and other reed and string instruments; and the Fancy Brigades are known for fantastic choreographed performances. The clubs are in it to win it – local bragging rights.
 
You have to see it to truly appreciate and understand: 

This is only a sampling of all the city has to offer for the holidays. Come for a visit!

Happy Holidays,
Susan-Sig
Food For Thanks

Food For Thanks

Thanksgiving is next week. And I’m doubly lucky because 1.) I don’t have to cook and 2.) I get to see my amazing family.

Even though I’m not cooking, I can’t show up empty-handed (credit goes to my Italian blood). But with other family members covering the traditional dishes, what’s a girl to do?

Add an element of fun, of course 🙂

And that leads us to Edible Centerpieces!

How cute are they? The best part is they are easy to make so you won’t spend a ton of time in the kitchen. The possibilities are endless. Add in whatever ingredients you like, in whatever order you like. Use your imagination and let your creativity fly!

Dressing up the table AND filling up people’s bellies, your creation pulls double duty. *high five*

So, which one should I make?

 

Happy Thanksgiving,

Susan-Sig

To Costume Or Not To Costume? That Is The Question OR Halloween: It’s Not Just For Kids

To Costume Or Not To Costume? That Is The Question OR Halloween: It’s Not Just For Kids

So, my better half and I were invited to a Halloween party this year. A costume party. I have to admit, the idea of going somewhere as a matched pair that’s not our usual selves is a pretty fun idea. We could be Snow White and Price Charming, Superman and Wonder Woman, Hulk and She-Hulk (green body paint would be fun!). The possibilities are endless. (Really. Endless. Search “Halloween costumes for adults” on Google. I’ll wait…) 
But costume party aside, I have several friends who work in corporate offices and they are allowed to come into the office in costume on Halloween. This is cool. This also never happened during my brief stint in the corporate world, but I’m all for it. I have other friends who wear costumes when they take their kids trick-or-treating or hand out candy, and friends who dress up their pets for the day. (If I had a pet, I’d SO do this too).
If you feel silly dressing up, remember this: People have been doing it for centuries. An early reference to wearing costumes at Halloween comes from Scotland (My ancestors rock!) in 1585. There are many references to the custom during the 18th and 19th centuries in Scotland, Ireland, Mann and Wales. It has been suggested that the custom comes from the Celtic festivals of Samhain and Calan Gaeaf. Halloween costumes were traditionally based on frightening supernatural or folkloric beings, but by the 1930’s costumes based on characters in mass media such as film, literature, and radio were popular. You can literally be anything you want to be.
 
I don’t think you’re ever too old to take part. And I don’t think you should take yourself or life too seriously, so if you have the chance to be Ironman or a fairy or a football player or a minion, or heck, a deck of cards for the day, why not take it?
 
So, are you dressing up? If so, what as?
 
Now I’m off to find a costume for my inner She-Hulk 🙂
Susan-Sig

 

Fresh New Start

Fresh New Start

It’s back to school time. The start of a fresh new school year. I don’t have kids, but as a writer, I appreciate the sales on writing supplies.
I stocked up on post-it notes, a couple of notebooks, and a box of “Xtra Fun” pencils (extra fun because they are multiple colors). We have tons of pens (collected from fellow writers and writing conventions) in the apartment, but had only one pencil – a golf one left over from a game of mini-golf a few years ago.
 
Some people use this time of year as a sort of New Years. They may start a diet or new exercise plan, or some other “big change”. They’re back from vacation, ready to get back into the grid. It’s the perfect time to implement a new routine.
The return of September also means the return of football. I’m super excited! Any given Sunday, your team has the chance to win. I have high hopes for a lot of teams, and players (and am personally vested several in thanks to fantasy football). 
Cue up Autumn Thunder and give me some Gridiron Greats. 

 
The weather is turning cooler, the air more crisp. Soon, leaves will fall, and we’ll swap shorts and tees for jeans and sweaters. After the heat of Summer, the first stirrings of Autumn are very refreshing. 
 
And…a discussion about September wouldn’t be complete without mentioning…pumpkin spice lattes.
They’re ba-ack! But I personally feel these should wait until October before making their appearance. 🙂
What are you most excited about this time of year?
Susan-Sig

 

Salad Days

Salad Days

It’s Summer. It’s hot. No one wants to turn on their oven. Plus, you’ve worked hard (or played hard) all day. You don’t want to spend an hour prepping and then cooking a meal. And so, *drum roll, please* I present to you my go-to Summer meal… (frankly, it’s my go-to every-season meal)…
 
The Salad.
 
And not just any salad. No. It’s special. It’s “tropical. And that means: your taste buds are about to go on vacation.
Tropical Spinach Salad
Recipe credit: Cathy at Lemon Tree Dwelling
Ingredients
3 c. fresh baby spinach
⅓ c. strawberries, chopped
⅓ c. pineapple, chopped
½ avocado, cubed
1 slice red onion, quartered ⅛ c.
⅛ c. chopped pecans
fresh-shaved parmesan cheese, to taste
(Change it up by adding in almonds, walnuts, or chickpeas)
Instructions
1. Layer ingredients in medium salad bowl.
2. OPTIONAL: Top with Sweet Lime Vinaigrette – (1/8 c. olive oil, 1/8 c. vinegar, Tbsp. lime juice, Tbsp. agave nectar). I find this dressing too sweet, so if I use anything, it’s a light drizzle of olive oil.
3. Combine ingredients in a small container with a lid; shake well.
Voila! Your meal is served. 
But, wait. Where’s dessert???
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget that!
Here it is, in all its gorgeous, colorful, vitamin-filled goodness 🙂
Summer Fruit Salad
 
Ingredients
 
Blackberries – 1 cup
Strawberries – 1 cup hulled and quartered
Grapes – 1 cup
Kiwi – 1 cup peeled and quartered
Blueberries – 1 cup
Oranges – 3 oranges, peeled and cut into wedges
Watermelon – 1 cup cubed watermelon
Instructions
 
   1. Mix ingredients into a bowl.
   2. Serve.
 
Beverage perfect for the meal:
You could have a glass of chilled wine, or coconut water, or regular water, or my go-to iced coffee.
 
There. Dinner (or lunch) done. Light and healthy and delicious. 🙂
Susan-Sig
Best Face Forward

Best Face Forward

There are people who hate wearing makeup. There are people who love wearing makeup. One group is not better than the other. Wear it or don’t, but please respect (or at least, don’t mock) the other side. I’m in the pro-makeup camp. I love playing with colors and using my face as the canvas. (Eye makeup only. Lipstick isn’t my thing. I’m more of a Burt’s Bees balm type of girl). And, yes, I do this every day. Again, because I like it, and it makes me happy. How can sparkles and shimmer not make you happy?

In medieval times, having pale skin was equated with beauty and high class. Many women went to great lengths to achieve a pale complexion, including bleeding out with leeches or draining some of their blood by slashing a vein. (Um, seriously, that’s the most painful beauty method ever!!). It wasn’t until 1920 when Coco Chanel was on a cruise to the French Riviera and accidentally got sunburned that tans started to become popular.
And speaking of Coco:
Back in the Victorian Era, makeup was seen as something reserved for prostitutes, actresses, working-class women and women of “questionable morals”. To that I say:
AND
   
Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite makeup quotes from a few beauty and style icons.

Liz Taylor’s advice:

liz

 

Marilyn Monroe’s thoughts:

 

marilyn

 

Audrey Hepburn is my fave, so she gets two:

                       audrey-eatingmakeup                 

 

Whether you’re PRO or CON on the makeup-wearing, don’t forget:

 

beautywithoutmakeup

 

AND:

No matter what:

 

Now, please excuse me. I’m feeling the urge to play with some new metallic shades 🙂

Susan-Sig

P.S. For my fellow eyeliner lovers:

Because it’s the Cup

Because it’s the Cup

By Susan Scott Shelley
It’s one of my favorite times of year – Hockey Playoffs are here! It’s about two months worth of non-stop action. I don’t watch much television, but the play-offs are Must-See TV. A frenetic energy fills the air. The intensity, battles in the corners for pucks, checking, skating, goaltending – EVERYTHING is elevated to a higher level, and it’s AWESOME.
2015_Stanley_Cup_playoffs_logo
 
“There can be only one.” This is true for Highlander, and also for the eventual Stanley Cup champs. 16 teams battle it out for the honor of hoisting the Cup. And the term “battle” is appropriate. Fresh off of a grueling 82-game season, their quest for the cup is comprised of four playoff rounds, and each round is a “best of seven” series.
The first two games are played at one team’s home arena, then the next two games are played at the opponent’s home arena, and then it goes back and forth for each of the next three games, until one team has won four games. Then they do it all over again in the next round.
That’s a lot of hockey. A lot of skating, a lot of checking, a lot of shots, a lot of sweat, and depending on the match up, a lot of travel time. Also, games can’t end in a tie, so when you tack on extra periods of play…well, let’s just say the players will be downing a lot of Gatorade.
 
Hockey players are some of the toughest athletes in sports. They battle through all sorts of injuries and will play despite broken bones or severe gashes from sticks or skates. (Google some pics…it’s not pretty). Some are also superstitious come this time of year. You’ll see playoff beards appear and hear of some interesting pre-game rituals.
 fire-ice
Let’s talk playoff teams.
Canadiens vs. Senators – These teams hate each other, so that makes this series all the more intense. Goaltender match up: Carey Price against Andrew Hammond. I like both players, but think the Habs will win the series. Their up 3-0 as of today.

Predators vs. Blackhawks – Chicago finished first in the league in shots, while Nashville finished third. I think Chicago, with Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane, will take the series.
 
Capitals vs. Islanders – Two words: Alex Ovechkin. LOVE him. The sniper carried the Capitals, and had a league-leading 53 goals this season. I’d love to see his team win.washington-capitals-forward-alexander-ovechkin
Blues vs. Wild – The Blues may have won the Central Division, but I wouldn’t count out the Wild. I like Zach Parise, and goalie Devan Dubnyk and hope their team wins.
 
Lightning vs. Red Wings – Interesting tidbit: Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman played for the Red Wings for his entire NHL career. I’m thinking the Lightning, with their captain (my fave) Steven Stamkos, will win the series.
Rangers vs. Penguins – The Pens may have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby but the Rangers have Rick Nash (42 goals in the regular season), Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle, Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan McDonagh, and more. I’m betting on my Rangers.
lund
 
Ducks vs. Jets  – The Ducks have Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. The Jets have Dustin Byfuglien on defense. I’m thinking the Ducks will take it.
 
Canucks vs. Flames – I have a soft spot for the Sedin twins and goaltender Eddie Lack (Want some fun entertainment? Check out his Twitter feed). I’d love to see the Canucks win. Three games in, it’s obvious these teams do NOT like each other…
 
What about the final round?
For the Cup finals, I’d like a repeat of 1994: Rangers v. Canucks, with the Rangers winning it all. (Back then, the Rangers won the series, 4-3, and Captain Mark Messier scored the winning goal. Talk about a perfect ending.) But I think the more likely match up this year will be the Rangers v. Blackhawks. I still think my Rangers will win it all.
 
I’m going to mix sports here, and leave you with a Vince Lombardi quote that I believe describes the Stanley Cup winning team perfectly: 
vince
 
Who are you rooting for? Share! Bonus points and virtual confetti will be awarded to any Ranger fans. 🙂
Susan-Sig-SpiceAisle.jpg
 

 

Just a taste of “Rekindled”

Just a taste of “Rekindled”

Just in time for the start of baseball season…

Rekindled

Chapter One

Gemma Norwood shivered in her sweatshirt and glanced at the lake. The winter wind whipped blasts of icy cold air in stinging, tingling shots. Four years of living in Los Angeles had softened her tolerance of the harsh New York winter in the Catskill Mountains. Snow-dusted pine trees and calm waters set up a picture-perfect backdrop to the excited chatter and colorful bathing suits of the dozens and dozens of people milling around the embankment.

Beside her, Jocelyn pointed a gloved finger to the snow covering parts of the ground and gave an exaggerated shiver. “What idiot decided that jumping into a lake at the end of January would be a smart idea?”

“Well, actually, you did.” She laughed and dodged her best friend’s swat. The foreign laugh was something she hadn’t experienced in a long time. Life wasn’t funny while a career, and a dream, floundered like a fish suffocating on dry land. Twenty-four hours ago, she’d stood staring at palm trees, wondering if she’d ever see the West Coast again. Hopefully, a dip in the nearly frozen water would shock an answer into her system.

Murmuring about hypothermia and frostbitten toes, Jocelyn stamped her fur-lined boots against the ground. “My dad and brother decided this would be a good thing. If it were up to me, we’d hold a bake sale instead.”

Gemma sidestepped two little girls twirling in circles, giggling over the chance to wear their bathing suits in the middle of winter. “Your charity will raise a lot of money this way.”

“I’m thrilled about that part, but I’ll leave the jumping in the lake part to you crazy people. I’ll stick with my duties of organizing the event, helping out with pre-plunge participant check-in, and handing out hot drinks at the refreshment stand after the plunge.”

“I’m happy to help you pass out the hot chocolate.”

Amid banners promoting Hudson Contractors’ Caring Home Repair Fund, people were jumping around in creative attempts to keep warm. But there weren’t any signs of Mr. Hudson or his first-born son.

“Are your dad and brother here?” Straining to keep her voice casual, she peeled her sweatshirt over her head. Goosebumps seemed to pop out on top of goosebumps. The warm temperatures of L.A. had never seemed so far away.

“Dad’s probably checking to see if the mic’s working for his speech. He’s bummed about not jumping in the water this year. The cold weather is too hard on him.” Jocelyn’s smile dimmed. “Ever since his heart attack, he just doesn’t have the same stamina.”

The heart attack and triple bypass surgery that followed had taken a toll on Jocelyn’s entire family. Gemma squeezed her hand. From three thousand miles away, she hadn’t been able to offer more than prayers and a sympathetic ear. “What about your brother?”

In the whirlwind rush of packing her bags and arranging for the dog’s travel and flying home to Hunter’s Peak, she deliberately hadn’t asked Jocelyn about Adam, preferring to put off the conversation for as long as possible. A decision she now regretted. If he showed up, she’d have to rely on her acting skills to help her get through the encounter.

“Adam is supposed to be here but I don’t see him. You know, I just realized something. The first time we held the plunge was the first time you two met.” Jocelyn’s voice took on the extra-cheerful tone she always used when talking to Gemma about Adam. Being her ex-boyfriend’s sister could have meant an awkward end to their friendship, but Jocelyn seemed just as determined as Gemma to maintain their relationship. And when she occasionally hinted at trying to get them back together, Gemma ignored her and changed the subject.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m doing this for me. Not anyone else.” Her hands shook as she shimmied out of her yoga pants. She dreaded seeing Adam now that she’d reached her lowest point. Her stomach clenched, and she searched the crowd. No sign of him. A deep breath eased her nerves.

Jocelyn glanced at her and shivered. “This isn’t exactly the welcome home I’d choose, but to each her own.”

She needed to do it. Maybe it was stupid. Maybe she would regret it. But maybe, just maybe, she’d get her wish and figure out what to do next.

She handed the shirt and pants to Jocelyn, and they slowly shuffled into the crowd of people waiting for the Polar Plunge to begin.

“Do you think someone will recognize you and ask for an autograph?” Cradling the clothes and a few towels, Jocelyn tugged her hat tighter onto her head.

“I doubt it.” Four years of landing bit parts in B-movies didn’t translate into a large fan base. Heck, it hardly translated into any fan base. And while four years of catering countless parties had improved her culinary skills and paid the bills, it didn’t guarantee loyalty.

Frosty chaos? Yeah, that was her life for the past three days. A job lost. A rejection from the last production company she could find. Both had dumped a bucket of icy water onto her acting dream and thrown her into a tailspin. Admitting her exhaustion, frustration, and fear to her parents resulted in a plane ticket home. They didn’t care if she had her name in bright lights, but she sure did.

Jocelyn’s dad, wearing a Hudson Contractors jacket, stepped onto a wooden platform on the shore. The crowd’s noise lowered to murmurs as he gave a speech about the charity. When he finished, Jocelyn nudged Gemma’s arm. “I’ll wait for you by the fence near the parking lot. Don’t turn into an icicle out there.”

An air horn’s wail blared. The crowd surged and swept Gemma to the water’s edge. She forged ahead, splashing into the lake. Frigid water slapped her skin. Some enterprising soul dove into the water headfirst. His belly flop sent a swell of water over Gemma’s chest and chin.

Sucking in a breath, she stiffened her muscles. She had known it would be cold, but she wasn’t prepared for the frigid temperature. She should have been. She’d done this before. But back then, she’d had Adam’s hand to hold. And being in love with him made the entire world seem warmer, safer, more comfortable.

But that ended when he boarded a plane bound for major-league baseball in Northern California and left her behind.

Teeth chattering, body shaking, she fought the bone-numbing chill seizing her system. The stark cold was a sharp reminder of her lonely reality. All around her, people grabbed onto each other. Shrieks and screams accompanied laughter. Someone shouted an idea to swim across the lake. The couple next to her shook their heads and headed back to shore. Chill turned to an ache. Her toes hurt, her legs hurt, but she kept moving, determined to stay in the water just a little longer.

When the water level reached her chest, she turned back. Her foot slipped on a rock, and she pitched forward. Water rose up to meet her and closed over her head. It flowed into her nose and into her mouth. The shock of cold seized her muscles. She sank further. Heart pounding, she kicked out and felt for the lake floor. She pushed up and broke the surface, sputtering and coughing.

A large hand curled around her elbow. “Are you all right?”

The rough gravel of his voice, sharp and sexy, pumped fresh adrenaline into her system. Continuing to cough, she regained her balance and looked up the muscled torso and into the face of Adam Hudson. His firm mouth, straight nose, and intense brown eyes were just as she’d remembered.

The small scar running through his left eyebrow hadn’t been there before. He’d earned the mark eight months ago, but not being a part of his life meant she didn’t have the right to check up on him.

News of Adam Hudson, starting pitcher for the Sacramento Storm, getting hit by a line-drive that fractured his skull, had made national news and scared her enough to drive six hours up I-5 North to see him for herself. Heavily medicated, he hadn’t known she was there. And the cool blonde who slipped into the room when Gemma stepped out, solidified the notion that Adam had moved on. In the months that followed, the only way she’d been able to keep informed of his recovery had been phone calls with Jocelyn or scouring sports news sites.

His brows lifted, and his fingers loosened and then tightened their hold. “Gemma.”

The surprise in his voice cut through her discomfort. They stood in the crowded water, staring at each other. A rush of memories crashed into her like a tidal wave. Emotions jumbled together—longing, regret, wanting, need.

“Are you hurt?” He stooped, and his gaze searched her face. His other hand gently tapped against her back.

“I’m okay.” She stammered through trembling lips and coughed a few more times. Why did he have to find her at such a disadvantage? So much for her plan to appear cool and collected if they met.

“What are you doing here?”

“F-f-f-freezing.” Attempting a smile was difficult when frozen cheeks and frozen lips wouldn’t cooperate.

Something passed over Adam’s features, too quickly for her to name it. “Your lips are blue. Come on, mermaid, time to get out of the water.” His hand gripped hers, and he led her through the crowded water to the shore.

Feet like blocks of ice couldn’t feel the lake floor. She curled her hand more securely in his and followed his lead, saying a silent prayer that she wouldn’t slip under again.

When they reached dry land, his grip remained firm around her fingers. “Where’s your towel?”

“Jocelyn’s holding my stuff.” Her arms trembled. Shaking fingers formed fists in a useless attempt to keep warm. “She was supposed to wait for me by the fence, but I don’t see her.”

People darted around them, scrambling into dry clothes while a few brave souls ventured back into the icy waters. She pulled her arms in close to her body. She’d forgotten how painful the cold could be.

“You can use mine. Come on.” He pulled her through the throng and over to a grassy patch of land spotlighted by sunlight. After rummaging in his gym bag, he handed her a towel. “My sister didn’t tell me you were in town.”

“I arrived last night.”

“I thought your parents were in Florida this time of year.”

“They are.”

For a moment, they locked eyes and the chaos and noise surrounding them faded. He didn’t smile, just watched her with a neutral expression. “They usually have someone rent their house when they’re away.”

She nodded and wrapped the towel around her waist. Was he happy to see her? Angry? Anything? “I’m staying with Jocelyn.”

His mouth hardened. “How long are you staying?”

“I haven’t decided.” Clutching the towel tighter, she took a step back and drew in a deep breath to ease the tightness in her chest.

Goosebumps dotted his skin. “Let’s get you dry, and then some hot chocolate. You’ll warm up.”

“What about you? Your lips are blue, too.”

“I’ll be fine.” He rubbed his hand through thick, dark brown hair, dripping rivulets of water down his skin. His response echoed their last conversation, when they’d ended their relationship. If he remembered it, he didn’t let on. Instead, he pulled another towel from his bag and draped it around her shoulders. “I’ll look for my sister. Wait here.”

Gemma watched Adam stride into the crowd and rubbed the towel over her skin. The shock of the water was nothing compared to the shock of seeing him again. In all the ways she imagined they’d meet again, a sputtering half-rescue in an icy lake hadn’t made the list. But he’d been more than civil, he’d been kind. Maybe they could end up being friends.

The hollow feeling in her gut eased but didn’t disappear. Being this close to him again only reinforced how much she’d missed him over the last four years.

She wrapped the towel more securely around her body and stamped her feet and wiggled her toes, willing warmth to return. Workout clothes hung out of his open gym bag. She longed to pull on the socks and sweats.

Within a few minutes, Jocelyn and Adam strode toward her. Heat glittered in Adam’s eyes. A smile beamed across Jocelyn’s face. With a flourish, she held out Gemma’s clothes. “Sorry, I was helping set up the refreshments.”

Gemma tugged her sweatshirt over her torso, then wriggled out of her bikini top. With her towel wrapped around her waist, taking off the bottoms was nearly impossible, but she managed to slip them off and shimmy into her pants and sneakers without giving anyone a glimpse of something they shouldn’t see.

“No coat?” Adam stood in front of her, dressed in sweats and a jacket. His fingers brushed hers when she handed him the towels.

She shrugged and pretended the barb of heat hadn’t jolted her senses. “I gave away a lot of stuff before I moved to L.A. I didn’t anticipate needing a wool coat anymore.”

His gaze fixed on her chest and a muscle in his jaw jumped. “You kept my shirt.”

She glanced at the scarlet logo of his minor league baseball team emblazoned across the fabric. Heat flooded her cheeks. Keeping his sweatshirt after the breakup was one thing, but now he knew that she’d kept it. No way would she mention how many times she’d worn it or slept in it over the last four years. Why, why, why, did she have to wear it today?

What could she say? Before she could open her mouth, Adam unzipped his coat and placed it over her shoulders. She shook her head. “I can’t take your jacket.”

“Wear it. You’re still shivering.” His mouth finally lifted into a half smile. “Don’t fight me, or I’ll sic Jocelyn on you.”

“Just wear it, Gem. Adam’s tolerance of the cold is as tough as his head is hard. Let’s get some hot chocolate. I have to run back to help, so I’ll see you there.” Jocelyn turned away and broke into a jog.

Gemma gripped the coat against her body and turned to Adam. Warmth seeped into her system. “Thanks.”

People swarmed around them. He gestured in the direction his sister had ran. “Let’s get there before they run out.”

Walking side by side brought back a rush of memories of their first meeting at the plunge. She glanced sideways at Adam. Was he thinking about that, too?

Two little boys cut in front of her. She stopped short and Adam’s arm jerked out, blocking her from impact. His arm grazed her shoulder. Barely touching, but she could feel it. His chocolate brown gaze met hers. The spark of electricity that had always crackled between them flared to life so quickly, her breath caught in her lungs.

No. Not now. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Murmuring her thanks, she lowered her gaze and stepped away.

They reached the refreshments. His jacket smelled like him, a familiar mix of soap and cologne. Surrounded by warmth, Gemma gathered her courage. So much needed to be said. When they both had hot chocolate in hand, she faced him. “I’m sorry about your accident.”

He lifted his brow. “Thanks. I survived.”

“I’m glad you’re okay now.”

His eyes hardened, and he stared at the lake. “There’s a difference between surviving and being okay.”

 

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