by Mary Ann Rivers
Part of the HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS anthology
Published by Loveswept
Jenny Wright can’t get enough of her erotic conversations with someone she knows only as “C.” Flirting online helps Jenny temporarily escape confronting the changes to her life as she slowly loses her vision. Jenny’s occupational therapist, Evan Carlisle-Ford, is helping her prepare for the challenges ahead, but the forthright, trustworthy man can no longer ignore his growing attraction to his fiercely intelligent client. Now Jenny must choose between the safe, anonymous “C”—or the flesh-and-blood Evan, whose heated kisses can melt snow faster than it can fall.
SNOWFALL EXCERPT – Christmas (Prologue)
This is the time of year we want most to tell the people we love that we’re okay.
I think that’s why we get on ladders and hang lights from the tallest eaves of our houses, from the very tops of trees. It’s to get some light in front of the darkness, to tell the whole world that we’ve made it, and that these lights, way up here? That’s what we think of the New Year, what’s coming—it’s all going to be light and joy and flame in the blackness and none of us have any reason to be afraid.
All those carols we loved as kids?
Now, they make us cry, because to sing them, to hear them, to pass a flame candle to candle while the lyrics come easy, is to acknowledge everything that has come since childhood.
The darkness and the light.
My favorite holiday is Christmas, mostly because it is the one time of year I come up for air and my mom is always there, waiting for me with a big Frasier fir wrapped in tinsel and lights.
There are always piles of presents and the rule is you can’t get anyone anything they actually need, presents are for the most frivolous wants possible—a subscription to a champagne-of-the-month club, a turquoise pendant carved to look like a frog, a prism to hang from the kitchen window so washing dishes can happen inside a rainbow. We love Christmas, my mom and I.
We spend it with each other and anyone else we love and can lure with impractical presents, tinsel, and lights into our tiny home. Sometimes there were boyfriends, blushing and overwhelmed. Always, our friends. As often as she could coax them, her parents.
We even have our own little legend that anyone you’re angry with, at cross-purposes with, has misunderstood or misunderstands you, if you make up with them at Christmas, you’ll have love the whole next year.
I knew, even before I finally left home after earning my PhD in Microbiology and accepting a postdoctorate position as a research scientist far away from home, that I’d always spend Christmas with my mom.
No matter what happened, or what was going on, what either one of us was dealing with, or who, we’d spend as much of the holiday together as we could.
We share the same philosophy, which is that whatever it is you’re doing, you do for love. Your work, the friendships you extend, the person you fall for and hope is the one—start with love.
Even the hard things, the things that seem impossible.
I’m a scientist, a microbiologist, and my very favorite slide is Staphylococcus aureus Gram-stained, its glowing crystal violet under a very modest 1,000x magnification.
In my work, I’m surrounded by some of the rarest culture samples of bacteria in the world, with some of the most sophisticated methods at my bench to look at them, but my favorite are still those perfectly common purple spheres.
Staph was the very first bacterium I ever saw, bent over my Swift Optical in AP High School Biology. My face got all hot while I slowly adjusted the stage, then the coarse focus, then, when all I could see was still a blur and I tried to figure out which eye to squint and which one to open and why I kept seeing my own eyelashes, I cranked the fine focus in frustration and then— Oh.
Me and staph, love at first sight.
I’ve been lucky in love.
As a little girl, I loved school. I loved figuring things out.
I loved the books, the other kids, and my teachers.
My mom raised me on her own, and because she was still a kid herself, she was my first best friend, and we did everything together. She taught me about friendship, and how to overcome some of the worst kinds of challenges. Because she had to get a GED and work her way through college with a baby and a little kid, when I was in college and ready to see the world, she was too, and we traveled together.
When she told me I could do anything I wanted, I believed her.
She knew, because she did everything she wanted, and did it all with a kid.
I love my work.
It’s not easy to be a woman in the sciences, but ever since I fell in love with my microscope and the world I could see through it, I was determined.
Test scores and my love of school meant I had choices when I graduated from high school, but I chose the University of Washington, in my own hometown, because they had the best bench science for their graduate students, and even as a college freshman, I had my eye on those labs.
Just before I left home in August, left Seattle, left everything familiar and well explored, my mom took me to breakfast and asked why I wanted to be a microbiologist.
It’s not that she isn’t proud of me.
In fact, she’ll tell anyone who will listen about how I was on a design team in graduate school that integrated a special camera in a particular kind of electron microscope, how we had captured a poorly understood step in the process of phagocytosis.
She’ll go on and on about that, like I won an Oscar for it.
It’s that she really wanted to know, she wanted to know before I moved away from her, left everything I knew behind. My mom is connected like that, she wants to understand why people do what they do and love what they love. She writes poems, love poems, poems about all kinds of love.
If I was willing to move two thousand miles away from my mom, from the sea and the mountains, from the view I had always seen through every window, she wanted to understand, and I wanted her to.
I love her, and I love my home, and my friends and the work I’ve done here, but I needed to explain to her how it wasn’t that my world wasn’t enough, it was that my love of my home had showed me how much more of the world there was that I hadn’t seen.
The possibility that there was even more to know, and to love.
“What is it about it that makes you so happy, Jenny?” she’d asked over coffee, the very last day before I moved from Seattle to Lakefield, Ohio, where one of the biggest bacteriological laboratories was housed within the biological-sciences campus of Lakefield State University. “Tell me how it makes you so happy and maybe I won’t miss you so much.”
I had looked out over the water trying to find the words so she would understand, because I knew she absolutely wanted to, and my mom, a poet, was all about words. “It changes the way you see the world. Like—so I see, say, the sound.”
“Puget Sound?” My mom had leaned way over to listen close.
“Yeah. Just like it is now, steel blue and kind of choppy and it’s totally beautiful, I know because you’ve written a million poems about this exact view.”
“I have. It is beautiful.”
“So I see it, just like today, beautiful and huge and majestic. But then, I get to thinking about how it’s a little cold today. So I wonder how this changes the relative temperature of the water in the sound, and I imagine phytoplankton and zooplankton, and try to remember everything I know about cyanobacteria, because they’re so awesome and this pretty blue-green color. So, temperature, is what I was saying. I think, if I took a sample right now and did a simple wet mount, what would be there? What if I took another sample on a warmer day? And then what if I did that for a year?
“Then when I look at the sound again, it’s still all huge and steel blue and majestic, but it’s also about 2 million other colors, and the other colors move. They move around and they are so busy. Even though I’m not even in marine sciences, I think that. I even think about what they are doing in marine sciences, with virus studies and the really cool paper I read about it and how viruses explain how life got started in the first place.”
“Wow,” my mom had said. “You see a lot.”
“Exactly. If I’m a microbiologist, I can look at the view and see the water and the origin of life, all at the same time. It’s like getting rewarded, by the amazing view, for understanding exactly where it came from.”
“Oh, Jenny,” my mom said, looking at the view, “I’m not worried about you.”
“I’m not worried about me, either.” I hadn’t been.
What was there to worry about? The big stuff, you can always see. The small stuff, the stuff I love, I found out you can see that, too.
Entire worlds can fit on the head of a pin.
On the point of a pin.
Less than that.
This was before I knew you could lose sight of the big world, too.
About Mary Ann Rivers
Mary Ann Rivers was an English and music major and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing, publishing poetry in journals and leading creative-writing workshops for at-risk youth. While training for her day job as a nurse practitioner, she rediscovered romance on the bedside tables of her favorite patients. Now she writes smart and emotional contemporary romance, imagining stories featuring the heroes and heroines just ahead of her in the coffee line. Mary Ann Rivers lives in the Midwest with her handsome professor husband and their imaginative school-aged son.
Connect with Mary Ann Rivers
About HEATING UP THE HOLIDAYS
As leftover turkey and stuffing give way to stockings and little black dresses, this tantalizingly sexy eBook bundle offers up holiday-themed novellas from a trio of beloved romance authors. Lisa Renee Jones gives a dedicated reporter and a powerful businessman a chance to count their Thanksgiving blessings in Play with Me; Mary Ann Rivers presents Snowfall, the story of a woman who confronts a life-changing event—hopefully with a special man by her side—just in time for Christmas; and in Serena Bell ‘s After Midnight, an explosive New Year’s kiss leaves two strangers wondering whether they’ll ever see each other again.
Mary Ann Rivers – SNOWFALL giveaway!
Enter to Win
$20 e-Gift Card to Book Retailer
Provided by Random House - Loveswept