Here’s an excerpt.
Standing in the empty parlor three steps down from the entry, Maggie’s gaze traveled from the intricately designed hardwood floors to the crisp white crown molding, halting in amazement on the ornate stone federalist fireplace. Winnie was giving a running narrative though Maggie only half heard her. “Now you’ll notice lots of original details throughout this property.”
“When was this house built?” Michael asked.
“Got to be late 1800s,” Maggie murmured thoughtfully.
“1890 to be precise,” said Winnie sounding pleased. “You know your architecture. It’s believed that it was originally built to be the home of a gentleman’s mistress. He set her up in grand style.”
Maggie giggled. “Ooh, how scandalous! What an interesting history.” She walked the perimeter of the room. “Michael, do you see the wood inlay in the floor all around the edge?” she asked, stooping to lightly caress the design. “This is just exquisite.”
She turned to Michael suddenly. “You’re not seriously considering moving?”
He shook his head. “Nah, this would be an investment. I wanted your opinion on the place, though.” Crossing to a bay window that overlooked the sidewalk and street, he sank onto the seat and put his oxygen back in. “How about you look it over for me and see what you think.”
Winnie nodded. “If you go on back, you’ll see they’ve upgraded the kitchen while keeping the original style of the place intact.”
Maggie continued down the hallway past a formal dining room and into the kitchen. As Winnie had said, it was spacious and open, boasting high end stainless steel appliances and stone counter tops, but nothing overpowered the original stone floor and fireplace. At the end of the room was a space for a breakfast table and beyond that, tall vintage French doors.
“Oh, Michael, there’s a yard back here,” she called, letting herself out into a small gravel courtyard dominated by a huge old oak tree and edged by landscaping beds. There are probably tulip and daffodil bulbs that pop up in the spring, Maggie mused. The brick walls of the garden were covered with ivy.
She returned to the parlor. “Michael, this is absolutely amazing.”
“You like it, then?” he asked, seeming pleased.
“It’s beautiful. Maybe you should think about moving,” she said.
“You haven’t seen the upstairs yet,” Winnie reminded her. “This house has four bedrooms and four and a half baths. The master suite takes up the entire second floor. Two bedrooms are on the third floor, and there’s a smaller attic bedroom at the top. Oh, and the basement is finished. It’s perfect for a home office or a gym.”
Maggie had just started up the stairs when Michael called from the window seat. “Hey, Mags? Do you have a couple of dollars?”
“A couple of dollars?”
“Yeah. I want to buy a newspaper.”
“Michael, I’ll buy you a paper on the way home.”
“There’s a little store on the corner,” he hooked his thumb toward the window, “I just forgot my wallet. Can you loan me some money?”
Maggie returned to the living room. “Oh, for fu-,” she glanced at Winnie, “I mean, for Pete’s sake,” she muttered as she dug though her purse. “Here’s five bucks. Honestly, I would be happy to get your paper when we’re finished here.”
Michael flashed his best grin. “Thanks, Mags. By the way, can you sign as a witness? I’ve decided to buy the house.”
Maggie frowned at the document in his hand. “We haven’t even looked at the rest of it yet.”
“I’ve seen the pictures. And judging by the way you like this floor, I’m thinking this is a good deal.”
She took the document from him, her brow furrowed in thought.
“Maggie, wait until you see the claw foot tubs in the bathrooms,” Winnie said. “And they’ve maintained the vintage tile on the floors and walls.” Maggie looked up from the contract.
“Just sign below me, Mags,” Michael said, pointing to the line. Distractedly, she took the pen from him and quickly signed her name as Winnie continued talking.
“And the master suite has its own original fireplace similar to the one down here. Let me show you.”
Taking one last look at Michael, Maggie dutifully followed the realtor up the stairs. Michael smiled smugly to himself.
On the ride back to the east side, Maggie couldn’t stop talking about the house. “Michael, it’s an amazing find. A townhouse from the 1890s in such pristine condition? It’s absolutely beautiful.” She looked at him sharply. “What about your newspaper?”
Michael waved dismissively. “Oh, I changed my mind.”
Maggie shook her head. “Unbelievable. And I can’t get over you making an appointment to buy a house on Christmas Eve. Who does that?”
Michael and Maggie shared a Christmas Eve dinner of Chinese take-out on the living room coffee table in the sparkling glow of the tree. Following dinner, Maggie completed her preparations for the next day, including an inventory of the bar.
“Michael, what is all this champagne for?” With her head in the cabinet, her voice sounded muffled.
He waved a dismissive hand. “It’s left over from your birthday.”
“That’s a lot of leftover champagne.”
When she finished checking on the turkey brining out on the terrace, she returned to the living room and sank onto the huge leather sectional. Michael poured bourbon for both of them and they sat in comfortable silence, sipping and admiring the holiday lights reflected in the windows.
“It’s pretty,” Michael murmured, nodding toward the tree. “I can’t remember the last time I bothered to get a tree. Can’t remember the last time I stayed in town on purpose for the holiday, come to think of it.”
Maggie sipped her drink. “Yes, the tree is beautiful. And it’s nice, having Christmas at your place this year.”
He smiled. “It is. But I say that before we’re overrun with guests.” They both laughed.
Michael’s expression turned contemplative. “Are you happy, Mags?”
Bobby’s face popped into her mind and she turned to him, smiling. “I am very happy, Michael.”
His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “I mean everything. Bobby, work?”
Her left shoulder came up and she tilted her head. “Well, work, you know.” She pursed her lips and looked down. “I realized something recently. Since my time in law school, I wanted to be a prosecutor because I wanted to make sure that justice was served.”
She snorted, shaking her head. “How fucking arrogant is that? I’m going to right all the wrongs, protect the public from the bad guys. I’ve been so full of shit.”
Michael smiled sardonically. “Yeah, I wasn’t going to bring that up, but…”
“You’re an asshole, you know that?” she laughed, tossing a wadded up napkin at him.
“It’s just who you are, passionate about everything. I’ll never forget Mary Margaret Flynn, marching herself into my office and telling me that we should support local business instead of corporate greed.” They both laughed and resumed watching the tree in silence for a while.
Michael retrieved the bourbon bottle to top them off again. “Ever think about finding a different job, maybe with a firm that doesn’t do criminal law?”
She shrugged lightly. “Maybe, I don’t know. Bobby and I have talked about it a little.”
He met her eyes, his gaze intense. “He’s a good man.”
“Yes, he is,” she agreed. “I’m a lucky girl.”
Michael looked into his glass and swirled it gently. “When I go, I want to know that you’re happy. It’s important to me.”
“Stop it! I hate it when you talk like that.”
“It’s going to happen,” he said softly, not looking away from his drink. “Not talking about it doesn’t change anything.” His eyes met hers. “You deserve to be happy, to have everything you want.”
“Well, I can’t think of anything I need. I’m gainfully employed, I have a man who loves me, I have friends who support me. In a week Bobby’s moving in with me and we’ll start looking for a place together. I’d say I’m pretty much set.”
He watched her thoughtfully for a moment then lifted his glass. “Merry Christmas, Mary Margaret Flynn.”
Maggie smiled ruefully at his use of her full name. Again. “Merry Christmas, Sean Michael Rannigan.”