Thursday, 22 December 2016

56. Greetings from the West

Hello from beautiful Western Australia – the place where everything is back to front. Well, I’m the one who’s back to front. The coastline that’s been on my right side for more years than I care to count, is now on my left. The sun sets over the ocean, which is a spectacular sight, and I’ve discovered the roundabout rules are different here too. I thought I had a good sense of direction. Now I’m not so sure.

I imagine everything will settle down once we familiarise ourselves with our new home, which was made easier by the timely arrival of our furniture. I know I’m lucky to have a roof over my head and a bed in which to sleep, but those few weeks of camping out on the floor whilst waiting for our belongings to arrive were brutal. I’ve never been so happy to see a bed – ever! I almost missed it more than I missed the computer.

A positive of not having access to a computer or furniture in general meant I had more time to read, so not only have I finished the books on my list from last, oops, I mean, October’s blog, I have a couple more that joined the reading pile. And because it's December, I've added one of my short stories to read too. :)

Book Reviews

Crocodile Virgin - A cold-blooded mating frenzy can be ridiculously hot! 

Nadia Lorre has her hard-earned college degree, a mountain of student debt, and a new job as a tour guide in Africa. The Sahara Desert, even its northern fringe, is hot and harsh—and that’s before the bullets start flying! Paul Carnarvon’s dramatic entry into Nadia’s life will change it forever. 

Orphaned at five years old, the only crocodile shifter Nadia knows is herself. But Paul is a King Croc, a shifter with the ability to compel other shifters’ transformation. He will compel Nadia to embrace her wild self. 

Ancient magic, modern terror, and a heroine afraid to love. 

Jenny Schwartz’s short story is about a young woman who believes she’s the only crocodile shifter in existence. Imagine her surprise when she discovers the man running toward her followed by a hail of bullets and shoving her into the tomb in which she’d just conducted an archaeological tour reveals he’s not only a crocodile shifter, but the king. Together they fight to keep the antagonist, a brilliant (human) scientist from discovering the secrets of the tomb and using them and the shifters’ abilities to control those secrets to power his inventions.

This had a steampunk feel to it, which surprised me as I was expecting a paranormal story, which it is, but somehow that steampunk vibe seemed to fit. I loved the ‘Indiana Jones’ vibe I felt in reading this. It had humour, romance, an element of danger, and of course the magic and mystery I love, which leads me to Ms Schwartz’s latest (and unfortunately last) in her Collegium series.

Alchemy Shift – A woman, her sword, and the bear-shifter who’ll steal her heart.

Delphi Cosmatos is an alchemist. She investigates the strange and magical objects that find their way to Collegium headquarters in New York. She has magic—and a big Greek family, all ready to “help” her (they mean, interfere). When Jet Walsh moves in next door with no family except the two young orphaned cousins he’s responsible for, it’s a situation of opposites attracting, especially since Jet is a bear-shifter.

But Jet can’t pursue a romantic relationship. He’s tracking the rogue mage who tortured and killed his cousins’ mom. Banned spells are being trafficked across the world and the centre of the trade is New York. 

Delphi knew her city was dangerous, but now her heart is in danger, too. Jet doesn’t have magic, yet he’s tangling with a powerful, ruthless mage. If she wants to save her man, she’ll need all the help she can get. No! Not from her family. Stashed in the evidence bunker at Collegium headquarters is the legendary sword Excalibur, and Delphi is just the woman to wield it. Maybe.

Becoming an instant father figure to two young children is difficult enough, but to be involved in their lives because of his cousin’s murder is more than Jet was prepared for. Still, he’s determined to find the murderer and even more determined to ignore the siren call of the beautiful woman next door. Fate deems otherwise because suddenly he and the children are staying in her house thanks to faulty wiring and burst hoses in his house and through her, a link to discovering more about his cousin's murder thanks to the human policewoman she calls ‘mother’. And that’s one more reason to stay away. As Bear shifters, they don’t belong in what the human world believes is ‘normal’. Delphi isn’t exactly ‘human’ though and she’s more than ready to handle a bear shifter, his cubs, and the serial killer her family are tracking because magic is about to cross their paths in a big way.

Another wonderful story with strong characters that are more than capable of looking after themselves, yet are the perfect foil and balance for the other. Again, it’s a standalone, but characters from the earlier books in the series are seamlessly intertwined throughout this story. I really liked Delphi.  I like to think we'd get along (if I could just figure out how to get into the book.) As for Jet, hmm, I’m thinking I could do with a bear hug right now. ;)  :)

Ms Jenny Schwartz - http://authorjennyschwartz.com/

Hen Party 2 – by Ms Ashlyn Brady - The Hen Party action is heating up in the Second Novella.

Secrets are never meant to be revealed…

Unlucky in love, Kyra Jamieson, is stuck in a rut. Her career in Sales is stalled and she’s all but given up looking for Mr. Right. As chief bridesmaid, she must put aside her failings, overcome her envy, and ensure her best friend, Elin’s hen party goes off without a hitch.

It should be a happy celebration if the crazy girlfriends don’t play tricks on her. And the racy entertainment doesn’t get out of hand. Who knew a gorgeous mystery man was going to invite himself to the girls’ night out?

CEO, Jovanni Tisci has a shocking agenda—to stop Elin’s wedding from going ahead without losing smart and beautiful Kyra, the woman he desires.

One kiss from seductive Jovanni and Kyra is caught in his sexy trap. Whether she gives away his secrets or not, there'll be consequences...for everyone.

The party isn’t over. Kyra won't stop unravelling Jovanni’s shocking agenda bit by bit, and kiss by kiss. Lookout for Hen Party 3 (The Third Novella) coming in 2017.

Kyra founds inner strength in this next instalment of Hen’s Party with a sassier attitude to match proving she’s not quite the little mouse the hockey crowd believed. Back in control, Kyra heads back to the party to ward off certain disaster, this time armed with the knowledge of Jovanni’s identity. Not only does she have to keep the bride to be from making a huge mistake, but now she needs to work out exactly what he has planned for Kyra too. Kyra found her backbone in this novella and it made the character more appealing. I’m not sure our hero is ready for whatever comes next.


The Warden’s Sword by Mr Paul Summerhayes - Corruption, Betrayal, Knowledge

The terrible rumours of war, echoes across the known lands as the master rises up to steal back his most prized object--which just happens to be the warden Finn's best friend, Anna. Pushing himself to his limit, Finn fights for his friend's freedom but fighting always extracts a heavy toll. Can he pay the cost? And will he be in time to save Anna?

At a critical moment, one of Finn's closest friends will double-cross him, betraying his trust. But who and why?

And what of the black sword? ...What does it want?

The second book adds new characters, yet another plot twist and more trust issues for Finn and Anna. There’s also allies in unlikely places and the revelation of yet another secret surrounding them. The momentum is greater in this book and there’s a stronger sense of urgency to know Finn and Anna’s fate. And while this story leaves you guessing the true nature of one character by the book’s end, the hint of a dramatic conclusion awaits the reader in book three. Again, for those new to fantasy, this covers all manner of exploits knowledgeable readers would expect from this genre. I loved the fight scenes and the sword’s call is becoming harder to resist.


On Delicate Wings by LJ Higgins - Mia Walters is optimistic that her final year of high school will be different. She’s tired of watching the cool girls from afar, and is sick of being a stereotypical loser. When new girl, Chelsea Saint, arrives at school with her sassy and confident persona, she offers Mia the very thing she wanted. The chance to be one of the cool girls. Alcohol, boys, sex, and drugs tear Mia in two. Caught between the good girl she used to be and the illusion of the person she wanted to be, Mia needs to be careful she doesn’t lose herself in the new world Chelsea has introduced her to. Is it too late for her to go back to the girl she was before?

How often as teens (and probably far into adulthood) do we wish we were someone else – the popular kid, the cool kid, the one who has it all together. Mia believes all her dreams are coming true when new girl Chelsea thrusts her into the spotlight. It’s where she wanted to be and cool kids try everything right? Drugs, alcohol, and so much more. And suddenly Mia finds herself doing things she never contemplated or wanted in this mad race to be everything she thought would make her happy. Sometimes, getting what you want isn’t a good thing at all. Mid-teens will enjoy this story as will those who want to briefly remember their own teenage years and be glad that time is far behind them. (Says the mother of a teenager.)


News

Of course, the reading list never ends (thank goodness) but I’m pleased to announce that while Ms Schwartz’s Collegium series has finished, she will be releasing the first in a new paranormal thriller series in late December called Phoenix Blood with the next in the series, Fantastical Island, due for release in February next year. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it. Ms Schwartz’s story output is amazing and I’m very envious of her amazing talent. I will have more stories to read so I’m not complaining.

And finally, because it’s that time of the year – a short story from moi! :)




ONE NIGHT ONLY  

Contemporary Romance
Rated Naughty but Nice

Her eyes opened, surveyed the unfamiliar room, and then shut tight again as realisation struck.
            Pressed between the hard warmth of his limbs and the cool silk of the sheets, Emma took a deep, calming breath. While accusations screamed inside her head, she eased herself from his embrace, her goal to escape the bed before he awoke.
            The thigh moving above her own gave her an odd sense of loss as she freed her legs. The fingers that brushed against the underside of her breast sent her pulse racing but she didn’t dare linger. She couldn’t bear to face him, to see what he must think of her after the brazen way she’d acted last night.
            Emma’s feet touched the carpet in a silent whisper, her toes curling in the luxurious fibres. It was nothing compared to his feverish caresses, his lips, his tongue, his hands.
            A scowl crossed her face as she turned away, searching the dimly lit room for her clothes. She spied one high heel in the pot plant beside the door. The other lay half-concealed by the quilt that escaped its lofty position on the bed minutes after they entered his room. One more step and she’d have found it the hard way. She’d have no hope of escape then.
            Now where were her clothes?
            Her dress was a crimson puddle on the floor, the colour not as bright now as it had been under the lights of last night’s function. It was the first thing he’d noticed, he’d told her, before spouting some ridiculous line about her being the only red rose in a garden of ‘plastic’ flowers. Stupid, pathetic, and overrated. Yet she’d fallen for it, hadn’t she? She’d stood there, basked in his compliments, and felt her insides clench with desires the depths of which she couldn’t comprehend.
            As she clutched the dress to her nakedness, Emma questioned her motives. She hadn’t been drunk. Tipsy, certainly, but she was careful enough to be certain no one had spiked her drink. No thoughts of revenge on an ex-boyfriend either, she’d been single for some time. She wasn’t an innocent despite her less than modern take on the world of sex and dating and she wasn’t into one night stands, so why had she given in to her desire?
            The stranger rolled onto his back. Frozen with the fear of discovery, Emma couldn’t help but appreciate the view as the sheet moved down his body in much the same way she had done earlier. She swallowed hard as the slow, sensual tease of silk revealed delicious male flesh inch by glorious inch before her traitorous gaze. It was only when his hand searched for her that Emma spurred herself into action. Even when his hand stilled, she could scarcely breathe.
            Half-blinded by desperation, it took precious seconds to discover what she thought was his tie was the straps of her bra hanging off the bedside lamp. As close as she dared, she reached for it, almost knocking the lamp over in the process. There was a sharp click as she righted it, then soft light revealed a face that was beguiling, mysterious and filled with a raw sensuality that made Emma ache with lust all over again. She had to get out of there before her desire stomped over her common sense and left what little there was of her sanity in the same state as he’d left her body – limp, exhausted and strangely bereft. And then there was the matter of feeling completely satisfied.
            Oh no, she couldn’t forget that.
            This time, she exercised great care as she lifted the offending article of clothing from its resting place. She didn’t bother putting on the bra. The dress might hug her in all the right places but she could get from here to her room without worrying that she looked improper. At least she only had to travel down three floors and then she’d be free. She’d never have to see him again.
            Of course, there was one scrap of material she couldn’t do without.
            It was undignified to be crawling around the bed in a stranger’s room looking for an indecent bit of lace. He must have done something to her. He’d seduced her somehow, made her forget herself and what she believed was right. Perhaps he’d hypnotised her. Dark with mischief, those eyes had seen right through her, caught hold of her innermost desires, and acted upon them without ever letting her know his true intentions.
            And the things he’d done to her willing body.
            Damn him! She wouldn’t forget that either, not even if she tried.
            Resolved in her urge to flee, to bow to the instinct that told her to run, Emma resumed her search for the evasive piece of underwear with renewed vigour. Even his foot moving across the edge of the bed to hang as if suspended in the air did not detain her from her quest. At least, not until she looked up and saw the offending piece of lace hanging off his big toe like a decadent banner.
            Emma leapt up, grabbed the skimpy material, and forced her feet through its fragility. She paid no attention to the protests her tender skin made as she smoothed over the dress, collected her shoes, and squeezed the bra into as small a ball as possible.
            Now she could leave.
            Despite herself, she turned and took one last look, committing him to memory. Each hard angle, every strand of dark hair and oh yes, that particular piece of anatomy would sustain many a lonely night.
            It took but a moment to reach the door. Seconds later, she was in the elevator, mercifully unseen. And it wasn’t until she reached her room that Emma realised she’d left her purse behind.
***
            He heard a soft click but his languid brain told him it was the bathroom door closing. David smiled as he imagined the shower starting and contemplated joining her. It took little thought to picture what would happen next and his grin widened with mischief.
            He splayed his hand over the silk of the sheets. His fingers found the lingering warmth of her body, the weave of fabric no match for the delicate softness of her skin. His nostrils flared as he caught the scent of her perfume. He inhaled, committing the intoxicating aroma to memory as his senses stirred in appreciation.
            Perhaps he’d stay right where he was, strategically posed, ready and waiting for her reappearance. She wouldn’t have to say a word to seduce him; she’d managed that feat with one sweep of her startling blue eyes last night. He’d never seen such a colour before. Clear, calm, and confident, they’d drawn him closer, ensnared him, and he couldn’t have moved away if he tried, not that he wanted to. No, he’d bought her a drink, showered her with the kind of compliments to which he normally only paid lip service, toyed with the notion of voicing some instinctual desire to drown in those limpid pools, taken her by the hand and led her to his room.
            When no sound of rushing water was forthcoming, he decided she must have been making use of the bathroom facilities. Another grin traversed his features. That meant she would soon be back in his arms and pressing that beautiful body of hers so tightly against him that he couldn’t be certain where she ended and he began. The expression of pleasure deepened as the decision to take things slower this time evolved, though neither had complained at the eagerness of the other in the hours that had transpired.
            His eyelids flickered before the thick lashes crimped together in an ebony tangle, allowing the semi-darkness to drag him back to his dreamlike state.
            He hadn’t wanted to attend the function to celebrate his company’s latest business merger. All he’d wanted was a quiet drink and to pore over his company’s latest reports.
            A chuckle escaped the sensual pout of his lips.
            He’d had no problem drinking in the shapely figure who looked as though she’d been poured into her dress.
            It was the first thing he’d noticed – that dress. That and the way it caressed the curves of her body the way he longed to. He almost felt envious. Then she’d turned and looked at him and all thoughts of a quick exit vanished. In seconds, he was at her side, guiding her to the bar, (no way in hell was he leaving her alone so some other guy could make his move) and hoping the words that spilled from his mouth didn’t scare her away.
            He thought he’d lost her when he’d mentioned her necklace, the stone of which nestled so invitingly in her cleavage. He’d compared it to the dazzling blue of her eyes.
            ‘It was my mother’s,’ she’d said, and her eyes had shimmered with the promise of unshed tears. ‘It’s passed down to all the first-born daughters in my family. Sapphires are meant to bring us good luck.’
            She’d turned away from him then and David knew there was more to the story, but he didn’t press for an explanation as to the change in her demeanour. He’d simply offered her a drink in the privacy of his room, smoothly adding that the view was almost as impressive as she was. He couldn’t believe his luck when she said ‘yes’.
            They’d barely made it inside the elevator before they were reaching for each other. Her heels placed her at the perfect height for the kisses he bestowed on her wanton lips. With deliberation, he’d leaned forward to unbalance her, forcing her to cling to him and press those soft curves against the hard angles that ached to claim her.
            David wasn’t exactly sure how he’d managed to manoeuvre them from the elevator to his room, but it was easy to recall the way she’d kicked off one shoe and pulled him in for another ravenous kiss the moment the door closed behind them. The other soon followed. He had no idea where they landed and he didn’t care to find out. Minutes later, he’d let her go long enough to grab the covers and fling them back before picking her up and depositing her on the bed in the manner of some lust-crazed Neanderthal. To his delight, her response had been just as primitive.
            His tie disappeared. His shoes and socks followed suit. Her dress slithered to the floor and his hands were quick to reach behind her, unhook her bra, slide it down her arms and toss it over his shoulder. What happened to the rest of their clothes, he hadn’t a clue. He only knew they were gone and he was touching her at last.
            David swore as the ring tone of his mobile phone shattered his preoccupations with the goddess that he’d made love to for most of the night. Arm extended, he reached for it but his hand closed around an earring instead. Another chuckle escaped him as he raised himself into a sitting position, briefly wondered when he’d turned on the bedside lamp, and glanced at the bathroom door. His eyes widened as he realised it was open and the bathroom was empty. With the phone ringing again, he moved around the apartment and felt his stomach clench inexplicably at the realisation that she’d gone.
            The phone gave one last indignant ring and fell silent.
            David walked back to the bed and sat down. He stared at the main door then let his vision shift bringing the pot plant into view. A moment later, he was smiling again for on the floor, almost out of sight, was a small, rectangular shape that could only be a purse.
***
            The sapphire’s luck must be with her after all, Emma had thought as she hurriedly packed her small suitcase. Thank God the Night Duty Manager happened to be in the elevator as she was about to re-enter it and had gallantly come to her rescue. Though she’d been without ID, he’d remembered her from her late check in the night before and let her into her room. He’d been kind, not to mention discreet. She’d seen no signs of judgement in his expression either, just a look of concern. Emma could only hope the stranger would be as discreet when he took her purse to Reception, if he bothered, of course. And even if he had wanted to see her again, (and she was sure he didn’t) and looked inside the purse, all he’d find was her room key, a licence with an old address, some cash, a few tissues, and a lipstick.
            She’d miss the lipstick; it was her favourite shade. The money wasn’t something she wanted to throw away either but it was for the best. She wasn’t worried about him finding her here either. She knew his type. He’d had his fun and would move on. She told herself he was a ‘one night only’ kind of guy and as far as Emma was concerned, that was all she wanted too. What a pity it was that her body wasn’t inclined to agree.
            Emma crossed the room to stare at the bathroom mirror. Her necklace shifted with the movement and the reflected sapphire glinted as if giving her a conspiring wink. Her gaze met with her mirrored twin’s and her heart hammered beneath her breast as she recalled the way he’d compared the gem to her eyes. Eyes just like her mother’s.
            Now other memories swarmed in her head and not all of them were happy ones. Her father died when she was sixteen and her mother had never remarried.
            ‘There was only one man for her,’ she’d say. ‘The sapphire had brought them together and one day the precious gem would find Emma the love of her life too.’
            Emma had thought that part of the story was a load of nonsense brought on by her mother’s illness. When her mother succumbed to the cancer that ravaged her, Emma had found herself quite alone and in desperate need of a change.
            She’d kept the necklace. Despite knowing selling it would bring her a small fortune, she couldn’t bear to part with it or the memories it garnered. She’d sold the family home, found herself a job with a Brisbane based company, and moved her belongings into a modest apartment a short distance away from the main offices where she’d begin working in a week’s time. She’d attended the Surfers Paradise function in hopes of meeting her new boss in a less formal setting only that hadn’t happened. Instead, Heaven, Hell and an abundance of mortification had intervened.
            She felt ridiculous as she opened her door just enough to ascertain the corridor was empty. And dare she admit there was a touch of disappointment that he hadn’t come looking for her?
            She made her way to her car without incident. With hands gripped tight around the steering wheel, she stared through the windscreen as if she could see through the floors to the room where perhaps he still slumbered.
            Was he dreaming of her? Were the night’s events repeating themselves in sensual delight on the flickering screen of his mind? Or was he just waking up with some vague notion that he’d had a good time and didn’t care that she’d gone?
            Emma squeezed her eyes shut to keep the tears from falling. She was being ridiculous and she knew it but she didn’t understand why she felt this way. Wasn’t she certain that while she’d had a night she’d never forget he’d probably had a night he barely remembered?
            ‘Stop it!’ She told herself stubbornly. ‘You’re not the kind of woman who looks back and wonders ‘what if’.’
            As she struggled to remind herself that last night had been what she wanted, Emma moved her necklace from where it had twisted around her seatbelt, drove out of the parking garage, and didn’t notice that the sapphire had brightened.
***
            David stared at the report he’d meant to read a week ago without taking in a single word. Memories of ‘that night’ and the frustrating knowledge that somehow, he had let the best thing that had ever happened to him slip away consumed him. It was a ridiculous notion. One night! One night and he thought, well, he didn’t know what he thought.
            He reached for his phone, located the picture he wanted and lost himself in those incredible, sapphire coloured eyes. It was out of character but he’d taken a photo of her licence before returning her purse to Reception and discovered to his dismay she’d already left the hotel. At least he had a name now - Emma Louise Monroe - not that it did him any good. He wasn’t going to look for her, was he? He wasn’t the sort of crazed stalker who searched the internet looking for information on people to use to their advantage. But if he wasn’t that kind of guy, how was he ever going to see her again?
            The intercom buzzed on his desk and the dulcet tones of his personal assistant filled the office.
            ‘Your first appointment is here, Mr James.’
            David released a sigh. His father’s habit of meeting his new employees personally was something David had been pleased to continue, but the last thing he wanted was to converse with whoever was waiting on the other side of the door.
            With another sigh of resignation, he glanced at the day’s schedule and saw the name that all but leapt from his computer screen. A quick clatter of keys and David had all the information he needed.
            For the first time in a week, he smiled. With his finger pressed firmly on the button he spoke into the intercom.
            ‘Thank you, Margaret. Would you please tell Miss Monroe to come in?’

The End



Until next time, seasons greetings, happy holidays or whatever this time of year means to you, I hope you are safe, happy and spending time with someone you love. :)

8 comments:

  1. Hello D.D.

    Welcome to the West from a fellow Qlder/West Aussie hybrid. Merry Christmas to you and family in your new home.
    Wow, you had a few surprises in your blog. Thanks for the review of Hen Party 2.
    Can I feature your short story on my blogger site next year? Have a nice picture with the writing. Well done with your story also. Fantastic to see your creativity unfolding. I was thinking of a P!nk song as I read it--'Walk of Shame'. One step, two steps, counting tiles on the floor. The romance scene is set in "One Night Only", are you going to write more about Emma and David? xx Ashlyn

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    1. So wonderful to know I'm not alone in my hybrid status. :) Thank you for the Christmas greetings. I wish the same for you and yours.

      You're welcome for the review. :)

      Pleased you enjoyed the short story and I'm flattered you want to feature it. Thank you. :) LOL Walk of shame indeed. I wasn't planning on writing any more on them but never say never. :)

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  2. Gorgeous story, D - I was smiling at the end of it :) This is definitely the right season for believing in miracles.

    So glad that your purgatory of sleeping on the floor is over. Ugh. I don't think that was fun even when I was a kid. But YAY! to moving west. Your first Indian Ocean Christmas - I hope you have a wonderful day.

    And as always, thank you more than words can convey for your support and kind reviews of my stories. You're the best!

    Looking forward to 2017 and your east-meets-west blogging :)

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story, Jenny, especially when you write so many wonderful ones for me to read. :)

      LOL I was never much of a camper and roughing it.

      Christmas will feel a bit surreal this time around, I think. Next year will be better. We'll be more settled then.

      I'm sure I'm getting the better deal regarding your stories. :) But you're very welcome.

      I'm still in the design process for that blog. Poor hubby. LOL

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  3. I hope the muse visits and you write more. I'm so intrigued about what Emma and David are going to do after the night they can't forget. Yes, yes, I'll feature the story in Feb 2017 if you like. xx Ashlyn

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    1. I hope the muse stays with us both. :)

      LOL End up happily ever after, of course. ;)

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  4. Loved your story, especially the decadent scrap of lace hanging off his big toe. Definitely want more and am really happy that you are all settled in way out west. Hope you and your family have a fantastic Christmas.

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    1. LOL I get a giggle out of that little visual.

      Slowly settling in here. So much to see and do.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours too, Shelley. :)

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