For those who participate in the December holidays, See Jane Publish wishes you all the joy and happiness of the season. For those who don’t, we hope you enjoy the end of one year and the promises of fresh new year.
P.S. Monster Girl and Grumpy Old Man also wish happiness to whose who bring them greenies and morning walks.
A package from her brother, postmarked Scottsdale, awaited Nona in the mailbox when she got home from work on Christmas Eve. Excitement uncurled in her belly and she let out a tiny squeal. If Kieran had made it to Arizona on his solo cross-country motorcycle trek when the hand-sized box was mailed three days ago, he might make it to Oregon for the holiday tomorrow.
Fingers trembling, she ripped off the outer plain brown wrapper to reveal holly-sprigged paper and a card covered in Kieran’s block printing.
Merry Christmas, sis.
Sorry I couldn’t make it up to see you, but December isn’t the best time to brave the mountain passes on a Harley. Hope this’ll cheer you up for the holidays. Give my best to that big lug of a boyfriend of yours. See you when the snow melts.
She sighed, smoothing the gift’s curly red ribbon, lopsided and crushed from her brother’s usual haphazard packing job. She’d so hoped he’d make it here by Christmas, her first since moving from Maine to Oregon. Her first without any of her family.
She drifted into the study and set the package on the shelf, trying to ignore the homesickness ambush, because really, what did she have to complain about? She had a fun job, a great apartment, and Landon, the best boyfriend ever.
The click of the front door closing announced his arrival. “Babe? You home?”
Landon filled the study doorway, all broad shoulders and rumpled brown hair, the top button of his chef’s tunic undone. He pulled Nona into one of his world-class hugs, chasing away her brief melancholy. He kissed her, slow and sweet, then rested his cheek against her hair.
“Missed you.” His deep voice rumbled in his chest and she snuggled closer. “What’s in the package? The latest cow-of-the-week from your cousin?”
Nona leaned back, lacing her fingers behind his neck. “No. That arrived on Tuesday.” Like clockwork. Xan was nothing if not punctual.
“Why cows anyway?” He backed up to the desk and half-sat on the edge, bracketing Nona with his long legs. “She have a Gary Larsen complex?”
Nona laughed and settled herself against his chest, breathing in the scents that clung to the white cotton tunic — rosemary, lemon, garlic. A hint of cinnamon. “No. Xan’s family runs a dairy farm. When we were eight or nine, we helped her dad search for a pair of twin calves that had been born in a field of waist-high grass. It made such an impression on us that we both started collecting cows afterwards.”
“Mmmhmmm. When I moved out here, I packed them up and stored them in my mom’s attic, but when Mom moved to Kennebunkport, I think Xan got custody.” When she’d started shipping them to Nona at the rate of one a week, Landon hadn’t protested, just shifted some of his books to make room for the growing herd.
“So who’s the new package from?”
“Kieran. He’s…” Her breath hitched in an embryonic sob and she took a deep breath. Remember all that you have, not all that you lack. “He can’t make it for Christmas.”
Landon’s hands tightened on her waist, pulled her close again. “I’m sorry, babe. I know you miss them. Your brother. Xan. Your mom.”
Nona wrinkled her nose. “Not her so much.”
His mouth lifted at Nona’s disgusted tone. “Well, your home at any rate.”
She stroked his determined jaw, his five o’clock shadow rough against her palm. “I have a new home now.”
“Damned straight.” He kissed her forehead. “Let’s see what he sent to compensate for not getting his sorry ass up here.” He reached out with one long arm and grabbed the box from the shelf. “Do the honors, my lady.”
Nona turned, resting her back against his chest, pulled off the ribbon, tore off the cheerful paper, and opened the gift box. Inside, white gleamed from a nest of red and green excelsior.
“What in flaming hell is that?”
Nona lifted the ceramic cow out of the box. “It’s a…I think they call it a moo-cow creamer.”
“I’d call it something else,” he muttered. “I didn’t realize you still actively collected the moo-sters.”
“I don’t. I haven’t since I was fourteen. But Kieran doesn’t exactly pay attention to the passage of time.”
Landon ran both hands through his hair, activating his multiple cowlicks, which was so apropos that Nona was tempted to giggle. “The moo juice glasses I can handle. Even the Shrine of Cows, as long as it doesn’t start attracting fanatical bovine pilgrims. But this?” He took the white ceramic creamer from her, turning it in his big hands and squinting at it from all angles. “There’s something off-putting about a cow vomiting into my coffee. Can we give this one a pass?”
What had Landon asked of her since she’d arrived in Portland as a bedraggled traveler, with no job, no friends, and nearly no home? Not a blessed thing. This, she could give him without a qualm.
She retrieved the creamer and tucked it back in its box. “I’ll send it to Xan. She and her husband have this huge rambling farmhouse outside Montpelier. Plenty of room for a moo-tel. Do you want me to…” Nona swallowed against another twinge of stupid homesickness. “Do you want me to ask her to stop sending the rest of the collection?”
“How many are we talking about?”
“Um…I’m not exactly sure. I stopped counting after seven hundred fifty-two.” His eyes widened and his eyebrows traveled halfway to his hairline. “But some of them are really small.” The anxious edge to her voice made her wince. Men hated wheedling.
He smoothed her curls off her forehead. “Babe, she’s sending you pieces of your past. If they make you feel better, tell her to go for it.”
“You don’t mind? It doesn’t make you think less of me?” Gah! There went the needy tone again.
“Not a bit. Love you, babe.” He kissed her forehead again. Each eyelid. Her lips. “Love you ‘til the cows come home.” He tilted his head and grinned at her. “Which at this rate will be…”
She matched his grin, a glow settling around her heart. “Forever.”
Moo Cow Creamer Part 4 Story: The Police Report Says the Cow Made her Do It!
Disclaimer: A perk to writing this little snippet of a story is that you can turn your friend into a New York Times Best Selling Author and it will also cost her a little breaking and entering amongst friends….
“What do you think you are doing?”
Jessie Smith was busted. Not that she was a career criminal to begin with. In fact, she could barely bring herself to jaywalk on empty streets but for some eggnog-laced reason, she couldn’t resist the urge to sneak a peek into the bedroom of a best-selling romance author C. Morgan Kennedy while on route to use the bathroom.
Of course she would get caught committing her first offense. Her only hope was that her writing buddy, Mary Oldham, drank more rum than nog and could be convinced not to trust her own judgment.
“The door is cracked. It’s like she wants people to look.” Jessie exaggerated the word wants as a justification. She actually considered herself a much better guest than this. But it’s not every day that a girl gets invited to a White Elephant party in the home of a romance author, known for some sizzling love stories. Inspiration and blushed experiences surely lay behind this door and curiosity got the better of this mild-mannered citizen.
Mary shook her head. “And most party hosts worry about peeks inside their medicine cabinets.”
“Nancy would understand.” Nancy Brophy, a mutual friend, ran a successful catering business before launching her writing career. “People check out her kitchen all the time. They certainly judge her salt and pepper shakers. It’s the same thing.” Her conviction wavered with each sentence.
“Can you imagine if she actually caught you?” Mary crossed her arms over her chest.
Feeling the guilt without actually committing the crime, Jessie shoved the door open completely and was instantly hit with a wave of disappointment. “I suspect she was aware this might happen.”
Both looked inside. There was nothing strange about the room, except the row of teddy bears sitting on her bed, aiming water guns towards the intruders. One large bear, with a rhinestone eye patch, propped up a sign that read, Wave Hi to the Nanny Cam.
Mary jumped back, out of the bear’s view. “What did you actually expect?” she whispered.
Jessie stilled and shrugged her shoulders. “Mirrored ceilings and a disco ball.”
Mary muffled her laughter. “Let’s get back to the party.”
“Give me a minute.” Jessie adjusted a large object inside her purse that was poking the side of her stomach.
“I got your white elephant thing.” Jessie yanked it from her purse. “That moo cow creamer.”
“Ergh. My ex had one just like this.” Mary took a step backwards. “That ass and this heifer are not coming back to my house.” She pointed at the cow and then moved her finger from left to right repeatedly.
“Just hold it for a second.” Jessie shoved the creamer in her direction and felt a huge static electric shock when Mary’s hand made contact to push it back.
The cow dropped to the floor as the friends shook the sting from their hands. “Did you feel that?”
“Yeah. I swear that damn thing is cursed.”
“I’ll go with that.” Jessie gingerly went down on her knee to pick up the creamer that bounced under the hallway side table.
“Really? Because you like to write paranormal stories?”
“No. I’d rather say the cursed cow made me open her bedroom door rather than have Morgan question her choice in friendships.” She reached under the table and pulled out the cow. Even though it dropped on carpet, Jessie felt a small crack. “Oh.” Jessie stood up and showed Mary the damage.
“Still not taking it from you.” Mary rolled her eyes.
Jessie walked into the bathroom and turned the water on at to the sink. The liquid poured from the top and also exited through the stomach, “Exactly what it needed, an extra udder.”
Mary pointed to the trash can. “Ditch it.”
“No. I can paint it green.” She tipped the creamer upside down to remove all the excess water. “Tell people the cow suffered from Alien Experimentation.”
“Ha…”Mary was well-versed with Jessie’s jokes, “…ha.”
“I could start an Etsy line of exotic creamers.” Jessie used the bathroom’s monogrammed towel to dry the curious object.
“Save the drama for your novel.” Mary turned off the bathroom lights as they started to return to the party.
“Well, I’m definitely going to rinse it out with holy water to see if steam shoots out its ears.”
“Good luck with that.” Mary yawned.
“With what?” Morgan approached them from around the hallway counter.
Guilty looks were exchanged. “Just admiring my white elephant.”
“Oh, did you get that from Gina?” Morgan put her hands up defensively. “Maybe you should talk to her before you take that thing home?”
“Why?” said both women. If their friend Gina Fluharty was involved, there is manure and a fan somewhere nearby.
“That’s really her story.” Morgan said sheepishly about a cow.
“I knew there was something wrong with it.” Mary became indignant.
“Yeah, and then you gave it to me.” Jessie quickly ducked inside Morgan’s room and came out holding a water gun semi-intentionally aimed at the cow.
Morgan raised her voice. “You looked inside my bedroom.”
“I’m dealing with evil cow issues.” She shook the gun and cow in the air. “Unless you want to take this?”
There was a long pause until Mary laughed and walked away mumbling something about going to find Gina.
Morgan closed the distance between them, “I’ll get the front door for you.”
In honor of the holiday season, us Janes would like to give you (dear reader) the gift of great stories. This month, each Jane will post a short story that includes an object that will be passed from one Jane to the next. For some reason, we selected a Moo Cow Creamer. Now, we know you are scratching your heads wondering why anyone would want to write a story that includes such a random object….we wanted the challenge, of course!
Stop by throughout December to see how each Jane incorporates a moo cow creamer into her prose. And trust us when we say that the poor thing is in for a bumpy ride.
The Key: A Moo Cow Creamer Story
I hate white elephant parties. You know, the parties where everyone brings some sort of gag gift wrapped in some ornately deceptive way. The gifts are picked by some preordained method ending with everyone laughing like loons at the piece of junk sitting in their laps. Groan. I’d much rather spend my money on a great pair of shoes, but somehow I managed to get roped into attending three of these damn parties this year.
June’s party was the first on my calendar. Sue, my chauffer for the day, sat next to me on the fluffy, blood red sofa closest to June’s art deco themed Christmas tree. I kicked a piece of gold wrapping paper off my foot, before I leaned in for more coffee.
“So, what’s wrong with your car, Morgan?” June asked before taking a sip of eggnog. Her gift, a princess tiara sat crookedly in her red hair.
“It’s the transmission. Thank God it’s all covered under a manufacturer’s recall. Otherwise there’d be a huge dent in my Christmas spending budget.”
Tony pursed her lips. “Who cares about the car?” She waved her hand flashing a gaudy, green rhinestone ring she picked during the gift exchange. “I want to know more about this steampunk Christmas party and your escort, Charlie.”
How she knew about the party and Charlie was beyond me, until I glanced at June. Her eyes seemed to beg me for forgiveness. Tony had a way of worming secrets out of hidden places.
“Charlie is just a friend. We met at Gear Con in July and the party is sponsored by a local steampunk club. He bought us tickets ages ago. So, what other parties do you all have on your calendars this month?” I tried to sound flippant as I stood up and walked over to the kitchen counter on the pretext of refilling my plate with snacks. The buttery smell of fresh baked Christmas cookies was calling my name.
I pulled out my phone and shot a text to Charlie that read, “HELP. Rescue needed. Can u pick me up ASAP?”
The phone buzzed with his immediate reply, “On my way. 10 min.”
“Well, I heard he’s helped you get in and out of corsets at these conferences,” Sue, my dear friend and traitor, added. Her comment elicited broad grins and eye twinkling from the eleven women scattered around the room.
“Look, you all know my corsets are worn over my clothing and he has been extremely helpful with straightening them out. Especially since it’s extremely hard to tie the front laced ones and impossible to cinch the back laced ones by myself.”
“I’m sure that something other than your corsets is straightening out,” Tony added with a Cheshire cat’s grin.
Everyone burst into laughter, while I thanked God that my brown skin makes it difficult to tell when I’m blushing. I returned to my seat next to Sue and she patted my arm.
“Oh, Morgan, we’re just teasing you. We all know it’s been a long time since you’ve dated anyone. Woody and I were friends, before we started dating. Don’t let friendship blind you from the possibility of something more.”
The doorbell rang and June hopped up to answer the door. After hearing the door open, Charlie’s British accent floated into the main living room.
“Hello, I’m here to collect Morgan. I believe she’s here for a party.”
“You must be Charlie,” June replied as she closed the door, “So nice to finally meet you.” As they entered the living room, June looped her arm through his. With a wink to the room and sweep of her free arm, she announced, “Everyone, this is Charlie. Charlie, meet everyone.” She bounced on the balls of her feet as she released his arm. “I’ll get your coat, Morgan,” she chirped and nudged Charlie forward.
For once, my girlfriends didn’t have a word to say. With wide eyes and gaping mouths they just stared at him. Now, I have to admit, he did look yummy. Standing before us in jeans and a black, tech fabric coat zipped halfway to reveal the knitted scarf I gave him for his birthday. He pushed black, curly hair out of his green eyes and cleared his throat.
“Hello, ladies. How was the party?”
Before anyone could answer, June returned with my coat. “Here ya go, Morgan.”
I gave a still shocked Sue a half hug, before I stood up and grabbed my purse from behind one of the side chairs. As I walked towards June and Charlie, he took my coat from her arm and held it open for me.
“Ready to go,” he asked as he helped me with my coat.
“Yes, thanks,” I replied before turning my attention back to the main room. “Bye girls. Thanks for the ride, Sue, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Heading out the door, as I passed June she whispered, “Call me later, girl. I don’t care how late.”
Now standing on June’s porch, Charlie offered me his arm and I gladly took it. His sleek, red, Tesla S model sedan sat waiting at the curb.
He opened the door for me and paused, “They’re still watching. Let’s give them a real show.” He cupped my chin and gave me a luscious kiss, then smiled as he closed my door.
My lips tingled, as Sue’s words echoed in my mind and the thought of having more than a friendship with Charlie bounced around my brain. I shook my head and pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. No way would he actually want to date me. I rolled down the window, while he ran to the driver’s side of the car, and waved goodbye to the eight gaping heads in the front window and three smiling faces at the door.
As the Tesla glided from the curb, I heard Tony yell, “Friends my ass.”
Charlie and I laughed, as he rolled up my window via the driver master controls.
“You are so bad.” I turned to face him, resting my cheek on the headrest. The new car smell mixed with his cologne tickled my nose. “Thank you for coming to get me, especially on such short notice.”
“First off, I prefer the word, mischievous over bad and secondly, it was my pleasure. I was already heading to Sellwood.” He gave my hand a gentle squeeze. “So, what did you get?”
“Oh, I got a moo cow creamer.”
“A what? Is that some new kind of sex toy?” Charlie wiggled his eyebrows and cut me a naughty glance.
“As a marketing professional, I would have to advise any sex toy manufacturer to avoid the words moo or cow when naming their products. Especially when their target customers are sexually active women.”
Charlie flushed crimson, but he managed a snort.
I pulled the small white cow out of my purse. “See, a moo cow creamer.”
“So basically, that thing pukes cream into your tea?”
“Or coffee. Either way, I don’t have a need for it. It’ll be my gift for Delilah’s party.”
The Tesla silently rolled into my condo’s attached garage. Charlie turned off the car and unlocked the doors, as I fished my keys out of my purse. He pulled his new Christmas costume from the back seat, then we both made our way to the door.
“You’ve been talking about your costume for the past month, Charlie. I can’t wait to see it.”
“It is rather posh. I think you’ll like it.”
Tonight’s ball was our third costumed event. We both seemed to have settled into a routine for getting dressed for the festivities. Charlie walked straight to the guest bedroom, with its own full bath, on the ground floor to change into his costume. I ran up stairs to my bedroom to do the same.
Almost an hour later, I emerged from my room to find Charlie standing at my kitchen counter reading.
“I’m enjoying the first chapters of your next steampunk adventure. Does your main character really have to shoot her opponent in the crotch?” He looked up from the pages to look at me and paused.
I wore a white, scooped neck, peasant blouse over a gathered black skirt that draped in the front and made a bustle in the back. Red fabric and a white petticoat both peeked out at the front and bottom of my skirt. I clutched an open backed, cherry red corset with a holly trim and loose strings to my chest. His black pants, red vest, and white dress shirt matched my costume perfectly.
“Morgan, you look brilliant.”
“Well, thank you, sir.” I did my best curtsy. “You look rather dashing, yourself. Now, if you would be so kind as to strap me into this thing, we can take our leave.” I turned my back to him and glanced over my shoulder. “Not too tight, this time.”
He released a maniacal laugh and cracked his knuckles. “I love strapping you into your corsets.”
He stood behind me and I felt him pull the top strings first, then the bottom, working his way towards the middle of my back. Every so often he would pause and whisper in my ear, “Tighter?” His heated breathe sending a Tesla coil surge of electricity throughout my body. All I could do was nod in reply. When I reached the point where I could barely breathe, he tied the last two strings in a bow and patted my hip.
“All done. Let’s have a good look at you.” He took my hand and walked me over to the framed, full-length mirror in my dining room. “Wait, our jackets and hats.” He walked out the room and returned a few minutes later in his tailored, coat with tails and top hat. My black, high collared riding coat was draped over his arm. He placed my hat on the table, then helped me with my coat.
As a final touch, I placed my top hat cocked to the side on my head and straightened the holly pinned to my hat band. He stood next to me in the mirror and for the first time, I noticed the moo cow creamer perched on the brim of his hat tilting down. A giggle escaped me and I soon realized how hard it is to belly laugh in a corset.
“What’s so funny, Morgan?”
I laughed even harder.
“Is it the cow? She’s jumping, you see? She’s just tacked on with a bit of thread from your sewing room. She can still be your gift for the next party.” He released a chuckle and put his arm around my waist. We both stood silently looking at each other in the mirror. “We match perfectly, Morgan. We make a perfect couple. I have something for you.” He pulled a silver necklace out of his pocket. A heart shaped lock with its matching key dangled from the delicate linked chain.
I looked into his eyes searching for the joke, wondering if he was serious. What had I missed? I knew that I was Ms. Oblivious, but how did I manage to be completely blind to his feelings. All the thoughts and possibilities that I pushed to the corner of my mind came rushing forward. All this time I denied myself the luxury of thinking that there could be more and then he said the magic words I thought I’d never hear him say.
“I want to be more than friends. I hope you feel the same way, too.” He stepped behind me to fasten the necklace and once again, all I could do was nod my head. He turned me around to face him then whispered, “Happy Christmas, Morgan.”
Then he laid another of his luscious kisses on me. I felt my toes curl in my boots, as I knocked off his top hat and ran my fingers through his hair.
He moaned then broke our kiss. “Do we have to go to this party?”
I shook my head. “Nope. But I do think you have to help me out of this corset.” I gently pushed on his chest and took two steps backwards out of his embrace.
He laughed maniacally and cracked his knuckles, as I hitched up my skirts and ran from the room.
For a chance to win a silver heart lock and key necklace, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “The Key” in the subject and your first and last name in the body of the email. Your name will be added to my email distribution list – don’t worry, I’ll only bug you when I have a major announcement or pending book release. The winner will be notified by January 15, 2014. Happy Holidays, Morgan. 😀