Frolic Exclusive: ‘Romancing the Season’ Excerpt
We have an exclusive excerpt from Jillian Graves' The Snowman, in the new Holiday Romance anthology Romancing the Season, out now!
About Romancing the Season:
Nothing evokes mood of the holiday season like a Christmasakkah miracle with the Sheriff’s Pumpkin Pie and a Dash of Jazz at Christmas. Or perhaps BFF PI’s on the case of The Krampus Killer meeting a sweet romantic end… A frozen retreat with a boss as lusty as a Lion… The Master of the Hounds on his mythical throne… A video game music composer coffee shop aficionado… The heroes of the season don’t all dress in red suits. If a Potato Menorah, a Lusty Snowman, day drinking margaritas straight from the blender on New Year’s Eve, and a touch of magical realism sound more tantalizing than gingerbread eggnog hot cocoa served by your childhood crush, we invite you to join us this for a diverse, entertaining, and delightfully unexpected anthology of sweet and sultry holiday-themed stories in Romancing the Season.
Edited by Jeanne De Vita, Book Genie, and designed by Nerdy Kat Books.
“Candle or log?” Holly runs out of her family’s cabin juggling a white pillar candle in one hand and a fireplace log in the other. After a tequila-induced stumble she catches herself on the rustic wooden railing of the porch steps. She recovers, then raises the two items up over head. “Candle or log!”
“I’m thhhinking!” I slur.
It must’ve been around shot number four that I lost any sense of the volume of my voice. Thank God Holly’s family cabin is at least a mile from the nearest neighbor and a full ten miles from the small California mountain town of Big Bear. Our drunken antics aren’t likely to bother anyone except the “future us” who will have to deal with the raging hangovers that a combo of wine, beer, and so much tequila will inevitably bring.
“Think faster, Noelle. I’m frrrreeeezing my ass off!” Holly slowly works her UGGs toward me across the snow, taking one cautious step after another. A few feet from me she stops and teeters back and forth with her arms outstretched for balance. The unequal weights of the log and candle throw her off and she falls back on her ass.
“Party foul!” I laugh, working up a large ball of snow. The pink shearling gloves do nothing to shield my hands from the wet chill, but the gloves and matching trapper hat were a ‘fashion over function’ purchase. This girls’ trip is my first experience with an actual winter and I am determined to live my snow bunny fantasy.
I plant my feet wide and start the dubious process of gathering more snow. Reaching down, I dip my head below my hips, and the world starts to spin. I sway dangerously in all directions, but I’m set on gathering as much material as I can. Either that or tip face first into the thick blanket of fluffy snow that appeared in a matter of hours this afternoon. Whatever happens, I accept my fate.
“Dude, that snowman is cut! What the hell are you planning to add to him?” Holly gestures with the log to the defined abs I carved into the snowman.
“He needs a beard.” I pull myself up to standing then shape snow along the his “jawline.”
“Whyyy?” Holly’s face twists into an expression of distaste as she manages to regain her footing.
Holly is strictly anti-facial hair—not that it matters. She’s got a clean-shaven fiancé to marry on Christmas Eve. This man is all for me.
“Becauuusssse it always pissed Lawrence off that he couldn’t grow a decent beard to save his life.” I cackle, adding another handful of icy beard to the snowman.
“Fuck Lawrence,” Holly yells into the frosty night air.
“Fuuucccck Lawrence,” I scream for thousandth time.
This besties weekend quickly transformed into an ex-boyfriend bashing affair. The day before the trip I walked in on my safe and stable boyfriend of two years bumping uglies with his secretary at the PR agency Christmas party. The cliché of it all would’ve been hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that we work together and had just signed a joint rental agreement.
A three-hour trip up the mountain with a Destiny’s Child sing-a-long, a non-ironic Lifetime movie marathon, and then lots and lots of booze added up to building my snowman Prince Charming. And of course I am designing Cole, so named because, the coal for eyes and all, to be everything that Lawrence is not.
“Now…” Holly bounces up to me, waving both the candle and log in front of my face. “How long do you want to be unable to walk for?”
“Yeesh, Holls. I’d like to be able to survive sex with the guy.” I can feel my cheeks burn hot.
I’m not a prude, but if I’m honest, it’s been a while. And even when it was happening, it wasn’t great. Don’t get me wrong. Lawrence could get the job done, but that was it. Job done and he was punching his time card. No overtime for him, which is really why I should have figured out the whole “late nights at the office” cheating thing a lot earlier.
“Dream big, baby!” She wags her dark eyebrows suggestively.
“Fine.” I grab the frankly ludicrously large candle from Holly, then eye the log and add, “I don’t think I could handle the splinters.”
Holly keels back in laughter, landing flat on her back in the snow. She rolls with it and flails her arms up and down creating a lopsided snow angel.
I cautiously kneel in front of my “dream man” and try to find his crotch.
“Holls, does this look right?” I ask, holding the candle perpendicular to the snowman at about my head height.
“Perfection!” She gives me a thumbs-up.
With both hands I shove the candle into place, then I shuffle back to admire my work. This snowman is ripped. Cole’s got a six-pack, defined pecs, some crazy chiseled cheekbones, a glorious beard, and now a package any size queen would drool over.
“Okay, so he’s got seriously massive junk, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to use it right. How do I make him like all grrrrr in the bedroom and stuff, but not a dick about it?”
“Yeah, like all about you and checking in, but like super hot about it.” Holly mimes a sultry bedroom stare, but she comes off looking constipated and curious at the same time.
“Sexy consent.” I agree.
“The sexiest of sexy consent.” Holly nods her head vigorously. “Rough in all the best ways, but like tender too.”
“Yeah, a super rugged lumberjack who cares for blind orphan kittens on the weekend.” I muse.
“Yeah, and can go, hic, down for, hic, hours.” Holly hiccups.
“Yeah, and how do I make him cook me breakfast in the morning? I want crepes.”
“Mmmm, crepes.” She licks her lips and props herself up in the snow. “Dude, I’m so hungry. Can we go back inside and see if there is any pizza left?”
“Sure.” I stand and take another look at my man. “But doesn’t Cole look cold? I can’t have him all cold and stuff while we’re inside chowing down in front of the fire. What kind of snow girlfriend would that make me?”
“Don’t be a snow bitch, Noelle!” Holly points an accusatory finger at me as I run back into the cabin.
I grab a grey and white faux fur throw from the back of the couch, then run back out into the cold. With some struggle I toss the heavy blanket over my snow hunk’s shoulders. By now Holly has managed to stand but is sorta tipping to one side holding a small branch in her hand like a cartoon Christmas tree.
“Here!” Holly shoves the stick at me. “Write your name on Cole’s icy ass so he never cheats on you. Claim him!”
“Seriously?” I ask, looking from the stick to the general location of the snowman’s ass cheeks. And yes, I carved those out too.
“Fuck Lawrence!” Holly answers.
“Fuck Lawrence!” I agree and clomp my way through the snow.
I find what I guess to be the top side of the left cheek and sign my name in cursive, all loopy and girly, adding a curlicue flourish to the final E.
“Designing your perfect man has me famished.” Holly clutches at her stomach, already halfway up the porch steps. “Can we go inside now?”
“We can go inside.” I agree. I turn to leave, but at the last second and just because I feel like it, I add a heart around my name. “There, done.”
“Wh...what time is it?” My voice cracks into the cellphone as I roll back into my pillow. The hangover would’ve been worse, way worse if we hadn’t carb-loaded and drank our weight in water before turning in for the night. Still my head throbs, my eyes are glued shut, and most of last night is a blur.
“I don’t know. Noonish, I think. Doesn’t matter.” Holly sounds a hell of a lot more awake. I just can’t figure out why she is calling me from the next room. “Listen, this is important. Are you listening?”
“Yeah, I’m…” I have to think about it for a moment, process what I’m committing to. “...Listening.”
“I went out to pick up some breakfast and when I got to the coffee shop the whole area got hit with like a freak blizzard. The locals are saying this never happens and it should be over soon, but until it does I can’t get back to you and you can’t leave. Okay? And my phone is dying...so...do you understand?”
“Blizzard… you’re in town...don’t leave...phone dying....all good, got it.” Some part of my brain registers that this is a big deal, that I should get up and get a handle on the situation.
“So if you need help call 911, okay? And I’ll be back as soon as I can. Our emergency kit is in the hallway closet, got it? My phone is dying, got it?” Holly’s voice sounds frantic.
“Got it.” Finally registering the severity of the situation, I drag myself out of bed and put on my slippers and robe. “Holly, you there? I said I got it.”
I pull the phone back from my ear and look at the home screen. Holly is gone.
“Shit.” I stare out the second story window into a wall of pure, sparkling white. I try a light switch. It doesn’t work. “Shit.”
I jump in my bunny slippers. Then, with a sigh, figure it all out. Holly must’ve called me as a joke, maybe there is some crazy weather going on, but she isn’t stuck in town. I quickly walk, because running is out of the question with my headache, down the steps and to the cabin’s front door.
“Were you just fucking with me, Holls…” I throw the door open and freeze in place. I stare into the blinding snow at the stranger in front of me. “You’re not Holly.”
“No, I’m not.” His voice is a deep rumble. “Hi, I’m Cole.”