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CHRISTMAS ON THE STRAND
Southern Breezes Series
BY LORETTA WHEELER
Winter on Galveston Island is a bevy of all types of weather. From gusty winds, Savanna Burke refers to as Male Gales, to a mixture of sleet, ice, and once in a while, snow. This winter, Savanna’s found the island winds are bringing change for her, and for Terence Whittaker, Galveston Island’s well-known clairvoyant. (And yes, Terence not only sees dead people, he talks to them…frequently).
Come visit Galveston Island with Savanna during Christmas and find the wonder of Christmas on the Strand.
Christmas on the Strand is the prequel to a series of cozy stories titled Southern Breezes. All the stories are set on Galveston Island, sharing the lives of a group of people who visited the island when they were young and have returned to claim it as their permanent home.
Savanna looked at the concrete sea waves sculpted into the median strip on the left side of the causeway, and the sultry feel of Galveston washed over her despite the winter chill. Dusk was descending and soon the causeway lights would flick on.
The wind tugged at her hair, fingering it up and down on her shoulders as though running a windswept hand through it. The convertible’s top was down, her heater turned on high. She punched up the volume on the radio, helping the Christmas music to hold its own with the road noise.
Dear God it all felt good, she thought. She was really looking forward to the weekend. It was the first time in the two years since her husband’s death that she’d even considered playing, letting her hair down.
She glanced in the rearview mirror and a laugh bubbled out of her. Talk about letting her hair down, it was already turning into a wild hair day. Dark wings of hair played by her face, and her gray eyes flashed with anticipation. Transferring her gaze back to the causeway, she caught a glimpse of waves as gray as her eyes, kicking up a fuss out on the bay.
The lights over the bridge flashed on calling her attention to the red and white candy cane striping running up the metal arms. They were accented on the end by faux candlesticks, artificial gold flames twinkling, challenging the overhead lights.
A spit of sleet brushed across Savanna’s cheek and she laughed out loud. Glorious! It was supposed to come a temper fit of a storm tonight and she was ecstatic. She loved wintery storms, and knowing she was booked into one of the best bed and breakfasts in Galveston made it all the more fantastic.
When Savanna crested the top of the causeway, she could see the pinpoints of Christmas lights spread in pockets of red and green winking through the sleet. The shimmer of the lights grew more pronounced as she drew closer to the island so she reluctantly pushed the button for the roof to come up from its collapsed position, battening things down inside. She hated letting go of the feel of wind and the light kiss of sleet, but it was better than arriving at the bed and breakfast looking like a bedraggled urchin.
She hadn’t told anyone on the island where she was staying, but it would be just her luck to accidentally bump into the guy she’d been in contact with on the Internet Accidents or coincidences happened to her frequently. Enough so that she’d come to accept fate sometimes took over, and if you were supposed to meet someone, it was going to happen, no matter what.
The convertible’s shell, as she thought of it, slid into place and she touched the lever for the car’s eyes, another term she used, to turn on brighter. Savanna smiled. She and the car moved together well, so well, she could swear it even sensed her moods. Reaching forward, Savanna ran a hand across the dash and softly murmured…“thank you, sugar…” She figured it couldn’t hurt to talk to the machine, you never knew, molecules might respond like other things. Stranger things had happened in the universe.
As Savanna began the preamble to the town, her blue-tooth went off. She glanced at the name on the car’s screen and smiled again. She’d just given Terence her number a few days ago and that had come after a lot of consideration.
Savanna punched the button on the steering wheel. “Hi, Terence, how are you?” She didn’t try to hide the pleasure in her voice. So far, she liked everything she’d read about him, and since their first phone call, she really liked his voice.
“Hello, Savanna…how’s the trip been?”
“Fantastic…the traffic’s been light and the weather perfect until a moment ago. Even the sleet is holding off a little. I think the storm won’t hit until I’m at the bed and breakfast.”
There was a slight pause before Terence spoke. “You still want to keep where you’re staying a secret until tomorrow afternoon?”
Savanna could hear the expectancy in his voice and knew he was hoping she’d change her mind.
“I really think I’d rather wait until tomorrow, Terence. You’ll be able to find me at the party, I’m sure. I’ll be the one in Christmas red.”
“I imagine there might be a lot of red floating around the room tomorrow, but I think I’ll be able to locate you from the picture you sent. Will your hair be up or down?”
Savanna laughed and brought the car to a stop at a red light. “I wish I could tell you, but I’m a mood-girl. It’ll depend on what suits me when I dress.”
There was another pause on Terence’s end, but when he finally spoke she could hear the smile in his voice. “All right, mystery woman. This could be fun. Especially when they suggested the guests wear winter-ball masks. Any hint about your mask?”
“No…no hints. We’ll just test those intuitive powers of yours and see how long it takes you to pick me out of the crowd.”
Terence laughed out loud. “Touché, pretty woman. I’ll let you go so you can concentrate on what you’re doing. Are you okay with a phone call tonight after you’ve settled in?”
Savanna smiled. Oh yes, she’d be very okay with that. “Yes, that would be nice. If I get the hoo-has all alone in the room with the storm whipping around outside, a phone call would be especially nice.”
She entered Galveston proper and took a left at the next street. The GPS was pinging, telling her it wasn’t far to the bed and breakfast.
“Umm, before you go…if I tell you where I’m staying, would you know if it’s supposed to be haunted?”
Terence’s voice went serious. “Of course I would. Why? Did you look it up?”
“Yes…the Internet implied that one or two rooms “might” be, but it didn’t specify. I just really want to have a good night, relax, have a glass of wine and listen to the wind howl. I don’t want to hear something else howl though.”
Laughing again, Terence answered her. “Shoot. Give me the name and I’ll tell you true, sugar.”
“It’s The Gulf Breeze Bed and Breakfast. In one of the best rooms they have. It has a garden view with this killer outdoor swing with a chandelier hanging above it. The chandelier’s guaranteed to be lit, unless they lose power. I made sure. I wanted to look at it as I drifted to sleep.”
“Ahhh…I know the place well. And the room you picked is over the top. It’s one of those usually taken by honeymooners. And yes, the chandelier stays lit if you wish. Most anything you desire is supplied there.”
Savanna raised an eyebrow. “You’ve stayed? Tried out this particular room with the view?” Her voice teased at him.
“Savanna, I’ve sampled a lot of rooms on the island. I’m usually invited to stay to “test the waters” you might say. Make sure everything feels right.”
Savanna smiled. He was a gentleman. No inferences, no braggadocios chest thumping about his past relationships.
“And how did this room feel?”
She was greeted by another pause and then realized the sign for the bed and breakfast was just ahead. Slowing the car, she pulled up the drive, which opened wide at the end, offering several parking areas. Driving to the back, she turned into the nearest vacant spot and slowed to a stop. Putting the car in park, she waited for Terence’s answer.
“I didn’t feel anything in the room you’ll be in, Savanna…so I don’t think you’ll have an eventful night.” Terence paused again and she heard the humor in his next answer. “Unless you decide to let me come over. Things might get a little eventful then…” his voice tapered off, followed by a low laugh.
Savanna smiled. What type of guy wouldn’t try? She hadn’t met one yet, unless they were playing a game. And she didn’t think Terence gamed. At least that’s what her intuition told her. “Thanks for easing my mind…I just wanted very much for this to be nothing but fun this weekend. I’m ready for fun.”
“Nothing but fun, Savanna, I promise. No expectations, no undue surprises. Other than trying to spot you in the crowd.”
She laughed out loud. “I think you’ll find me. As I said, just follow those vibes of yours. I’m sure I’ll be sending out a few signals.”
Savanna pulled back from the conversation and leaned forward, looking at the sky. “I’d better go, Terence. The wind’s starting to pick up, and I still have to get the luggage out.”
“I understand. Just duck inside, they’ll come out and take care of your luggage. Heck, if they see you pull up, give them a minute, they’ll be out with an umbrella.”
Savanna shook her head. It all sounded so perfect. “Thanks, Terence. I’ll talk to you later on, okay?”
“Definitely. I’m looking forward to it.”
Savanna waited for the click of disconnection, but it didn’t come. She smiled again. It had been a long time since a man waited on the other end, not wanting to let her go. She placed her finger on the end-call button. “Bye, Terence…” She touched the button and saw the name go off her dash. For the first time since she’d met him, she felt empty. Like something was missing. Something good.
Savanna popped the car door open, and then jumped when she saw a man standing there, black umbrella in hand, a welcoming smile on his face.
“Welcome to The Gulf Breeze. We’re living up to our name tonight!”
He extended his arm, so she could slip her hand through it, and sheltered her with the umbrella. “I’ll take you in and then come back for your things. My wife has some warm brandy waiting for you, or you can have coffee or tea if you prefer. Something to take the edge off.”
Loretta Wheeler lives in the south along with her Australian husband, their cat Lil’ Dickens, and their dogs, Jack and Charmin’. All their pets are rescued fur-persons who are very much loved.
Most of Loretta’s writing is set in southern locales, whether in the thriller or romance genre. She says she writes of southern things because most of her stories speak to her in a southern accent. Something she recognizes easily since her own is so strong.
Links to Loretta’s website, blog, books, etc.
Facebook: Author Loretta Wheeler
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Loretta will be offering three (3) free copies of Christmas on the Strand, selected from the comments. So come on over, ask a question, (I’m friendly. I’m from the South, y’all) or leave your thoughts and you’ll be entered in the drawing. *Christmas on the Strand is an e book, available on Kindle or the Kindle app.*
Thanks, Loretta, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!