“Like the air that I breathe,” she whispered,
so softly he almost missed it. “No,” she said carefully,
chin elevated and eyes bright, “He is the air that I breathe, Patrick.
The reason I live each day with hope despite trial or tribulation.
The strength in my bones when I’m too weak to go on.
The very Presence in my heart that brings
peace and joy to my soul.”
A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story
by Julie Lessman
Yep, it’s Friday the 13th, but I gotta tell you—this is my lucky day! Because if you’re reading this Friday morning, I am off-road biking with the love of my life. And you want to know why? Because I finished my edits on Marcy and Patrick’s prequel last night, so WHOO-HOO!!
And it that isn’t enough to sparkle my day, my sweet hubby threw together a quick composite for my agent of what we’d like to see the cover look like (and yes, I included it down below!!), and it motivated me SO much that I kept the doc open on my computer the whole time I did edits. It’s GORGEOUS, and I hope it gets you as excited about this book as it has me!! PLEASE NOTE: This is ONLY an idea of what I am thinking of for the cover, NOT the final cover, and I don’t even know if the final cover will end up looking anything like this, but I love the idea of it anyway. Although I wasn’t able to use my daughter’s face for this comp because she’s out of town two weeks studying for the bar, the picture on this cover looks just like her! So if we go with this comp for a cover, I’d like to reshoot it with my daughter in an 1895-ish hairstyle and make the snow globe (which is prominent in the story) more colorful and the “light in the window” more defined.
Anyway, since I just finished the edits, I thought it would be appropriate to include an excerpt between Marcy and Patrick who are only friends, mind you, since Sam is courting Marcy. Unfortunately (because you KNOW how much I love kissing scenes), there is only one kiss between Marcy and Patrick throughout this entire book (until the very end, that is), and that kiss ends with a slap. Sigh. But … it’s a slow-growth kind of love that ends with a bang-up finish, so I hope you’ll enjoy Marcy and Patrick’s beginnings as much as I do!
This is a scene where Patrick is walking Marcy and her best friend Julie home (Sam’s sister), and I’ve included the pictures of the models I envision for a young Marcy and Patrick to help you picture them too.
I hope you enjoy it and happy weekend!
A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story
By Julie Lessman
One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?
“Well, here we are—home, sweet, home.” Julie stifled a yawn before she gave Marcy a hug, hands latched to her arms as she studied her in the moonlight. “You sure you don’t want to spend the night, Marce? Mother promised French toast.”
Marcy shook her head, the wisps of gold silk fluttering on her neck drawing Patrick’s gaze. “No, Jewels, better not. I promised Mother I’d help sew new curtains, bright and early.” Her full lips curved in a beautiful smile that triggered Patrick’s pulse. “If you and I spend half the night talking, I’m pretty sure there will be very little ‘bright’ or ‘early.”
Julie laughed. “All right, but I can’t say Sam won’t be disappointed.”
Sam. Patrick averted his eyes to stare at the sidewalk, Julie’s remark causing a twinge in his gut. His best friend and Marcy’s beau.
Marcy laughed. “Not if it means more French toast for him,” she teased. “Good-night, Jewels—I’ll be over later in the day to study, okay?”
“Sounds good, Marce. G’night, Patrick.”
“Good night, Julie,” Patrick said, waiting until she entered her house before continuing on. They walked in silence, Patrick suddenly nervous with a woman for the first time in his life. His tongue felt so thick, it was several moments before he managed to eke out a comment. “Sounds like you and Sam have really hit it off,” he said quietly.
She hugged her arms to her waist, as if the subject made her uncomfortable, but her soft tone told him all he needed to know, causing his heart to sink in his chest. “We get along well,” she said carefully, “despite the unlikely match.” A nervous chuckle toppled from her lips. “But then, like you, I’ve been part of the family since I was five, so it’s a comfortable fit.”
A comfortable fit. Patrick swallowed hard, his response stuck in his throat at the image that conjured—Sam kissing Marcy, their bodies so close, the very thought seared the walls of his mind.
His silence must have given her pause because he sensed her tentative glance, and when she spoke, her tone was gentle with just a hint of concern. “So, for me, it’s the best of both worlds, you see. Not only am I able to grow close with a boy for whom I’ve had a school-girl crush since I was eight and spend time with his family I adore but …” Her hand lighted on his arm with a feather touch, halting both him and the breath in his lungs. “I have the added blessing of forging a dear friendship with his best friend as well.”
A friendship. The words inflicted a blow to his hope as effectively as Marcy’s hand had to his cheek the night she’d the whacked him for kissing her on her porch. Forcing a casual air, he flashed a bright smile, determined to pursue the friendship Father Fitz suggested. “Then, a winning scenario for us all, I’d say.”
She grinned, her relief evident in the sparkle of her eyes. “Agreed.” She peeked up with a curious smile. “So, Patrick … how is your college fund coming and just exactly what field of study do you hope to pursue?”
He returned her grin. “Well, by Christmas, I should have the funds needed for the spring semester at Boston College where I hope to study journalism and English literature.”
Her eyebrows rose considerably, suggesting surprise that a rogue would entertain any field of study other than women. “Very impressive,” she said with a wide span of eyes.
He laughed, the surprise in her tone coaxing another flash of teeth. “Yes, hard as it is to believe, Miss Murphy, rogues can actually read and write too.”
She had the grace to blush. “Touché. I seem to be prone to all kinds of misconceptions where you’re concerned, so please forgive me.”
“Don’t fret over it, Marcy,” he said, burying his hands in his pockets. “Till now, my reputation for roguery far exceeded my aptitude for the written word, but that’s about to change come January.”
“Really?” Her voice held an interest and respect he hadn’t heard before, at least not when it came to him. Hands clasped like a little girl, she looked up with such a glow of enthusiasm, it plucked at his heart. “What do you hope to do with your life?”
Marry you, Marceline … on my way to editorship of The Boston Herald. He cleared his throat, tamping down desires that may never be met. “Well, you may not know this, Miss Murphy, but I was editor of the St. Mary’s Gazette two years running, as well as founder and first-year president of the Lantern Club.”
She came to dead stop, the whites of her eyes expanding along with the gape of her mouth. “You? You’re responsible for the Lantern Club?” she whispered, almost in awe. “But how? Why?”
He chuckled. “Well, contrary to my dismal conduct record at St. Mary’s, my grades in literature and English Composition were actually pretty good, which is one of the reasons Father Fitz took me under his wing in the first place.” He slid her a sideways grin. “I was in his office for detention so much, we discovered a mutual love of books and verse. Turns out we shared the same favorites—Mark Twain and Stephen Crane. So when I read that both Twain and Crane were part of a writers group that formed two years ago in New York, I was fascinated. It seems this group of esteemed writers actually shared their work during literary banquets held every Saturday evening where one of the members would read a piece they’d written, which the others would then critique. Only negative criticism was allowed, mind you, and the highest regard a reading could be given was complete silence.” He snatched a gumball from an overhanging limb of a sweet gum tree and launched it down the cobblestone street, watching it skip bricks like a stone across water. “So I suggested to Father Fitz that St. Mary’s do the same, and he agreed.”
She slowed in front of her house, turning toward him with a hand on the gate. “Goodness,” she said with a chuckle, “You couldn’t have shocked me more than if you told me we were going to be a priest.”
A slow grin curled his lips as he ducked his head to scratch the back of his neck. “Well, I can assure you most wholeheartedly, Miss Murphy, that will never happen.”
She laughed and opened the gate. “Thank you for walking me home, Patrick.” She paused to study him with a tilt of her head, her smile ebbing considerably. “I misjudged you terribly,” she whispered, a hint of sadness in her eyes, “Can you ever forgive me?”
He found himself staring, certain he’d never met a more beautiful woman—inside and out. “There’s nothing to forgive, Marcy,” he said quietly. “You weren’t far off in your judgments, I’m ashamed to say, nor with your slap.” His smile was sheepish as he rubbed the side of his face, his beard rough against his palm. “In fact, I suspect you may have knocked some sense in to me that night on your porch because ever since, I …” He dropped his gaze to the street, unwilling for her to see the longing in his eyes. “Find myself wanting to be a better man.”
When she didn’t respond, he glanced up, shocked to see tears glimmering. She gave him a tremulous smile while she quickly swiped at her eyes. “That is possibly the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, Patrick O’Connor.” She drew in a deep breath and slowly released it, exhaling shaky air. “Thank you.”
“No, Marcy,” he whispered, “It’s I who needs to thank you.”
She shook her head, “But I didn’t do anything, Patrick,” she insisted, nibbling the edge of her lip with a guilty smile. “Except slap you silly.”
A grin creased his lips. “That you did, Marceline, but then I deserved it for losing my Irish temper, which,” he said with a note of levity, “it appears, has met its match.”
She chuckled and held out her hand. “How about I forgive you and you forgive me, and then God can forgive us both, deal?”
He studied her with a squint, ignoring her hand. “You know, Marcy, I see lots of people who profess God, but not many who live it, at least not like you.” He hesitated, trying to understand the quiet depth of faith she seemed to possess. “God is pretty important to you, isn’t he?” he said softly, hardly believing he was pursuing a conversation about God with a woman.
Her hand slowly sank to the side of her skirt where her fingers fiddled with the edge of her pocket, gaze drifting to the ground. “Like the air that I breathe,” she whispered, so softly he almost missed it. When she finally looked up, more tears glistened along with a fierce passion that seemed so out of character for the calm and gentle woman he was privileged to know. “No,” she said carefully, chin elevated and eyes bright, “He is the air that I breathe, Patrick. The reason I live each day with hope despite trial or tribulation. The strength in my bones when I’m too weak to go on. The very Presence in my heart that brings peace and joy to my soul.” A soft smile lighted on her lips as her gaze finally connected with his. “And,” she said quietly, the barest trace of sympathy edging her smile, “something I suspect you might relate to as well—the only One Who has ever truly taken my loneliness away.”
He blinked, blood heating his cheeks at the notion that she could read his mind, see into his soul the ugly truth he worked so hard to hide. He was alone. No matter the women that jockeyed for his attention or the mother or brother that occupied his home or even the best friend who knew him better than anyone else or a kind parish priest. The simple truth was, Patrick O’Connor was a lonely human being. A man searching for love through the affections of a pretty woman … or peace at the bottom of a bottle or mug. A chill shivered his soul. And somehow the woman before him knew it, as surely as he knew it himself.
He coughed to deflect his embarrassment, stepping back to plunge his hands in his pockets once again. “Well, I guess I better let you go—”
He stilled at the touch of her hand, the terrifying gentleness in her eyes. “He’s a force to be reckoned with, Patrick, and you will be too … with Him by your side.” And lifting on tiptoe, she pressed the softest of kisses to his cheek, paralyzing him to the spot. “Good night, dear friend,” she whispered.
He followed her to the door with his eyes, unable to move or breath or blink until he heard the click of the lock, and then he sucked in air like sustenance, never surer that Marceline Murphy was meant to be his. Bowing his head, he beseeched the Almighty right then and there for the very woman who was leading him home—to God and to a life he never dared to imagine.
A force to be reckoned with. He shook his head. Him? Exhaling slowly, he made his way down the cobblestone street. “No, Marceline,” he whispered, the faintest of smiles tipping the edge of his mouth. “That would be you.”