Gabby’s Second Chance
Snow fluttered lazily around Gabby Adams like ashes. Waves crashed the shoreline with an icy coldness, echoing the emptiness in her heart. No matter how hard she looked past the docks all she found was the darkness of the night and sea taunting her. Whether she liked it or not, this was her life now, a world of frigid darkness.
It wasn’t that long ago she was full of life and love. That was before she’d lost her heart, and her life, to a bloodsucker. Not the kind that sleeps all day and roams at night. No, her bloodsucker was a deceitful man who took everything she had to give and then some…including her unborn child.
Gabby swiped at the tear slipping down her cheek before turning from the docks, chasing away the self-pity about to take over. She’d always found peace in the smell of the water and the rhythmic licking of the waves upon the rocky shore, but not so over the past year. Not since someone she trusted and loved tumbled her bright sunny world into the abyss of dark lies.
If only she could find her way, things might be different. She might be able to trust her heart to another man, but that was very unlikely. As much as she yearned for the simple warmth of a male’s arms, she just couldn’t chance it again. She wouldn’t jeopardize another life, let alone her own for love.
Gabby turned the corner leading to the wharf shopping district, absent-mindedly placing a hand on her tummy. Once there had been love growing there. Her whole being had been filled with the deceptive emotion. Why do you keep doing this to yourself, Gabby? You know no one will want a woman who risked her baby’s life for a man who wasn’t worth a plug nickel.
A shiver crept over her and she shrunk deeper into her coat, burying her hands into the warmth the pockets offered. Her black boots moved at a clip along the boardwalk, every step echoing her dismal thoughts.
Detective Joe Michaels is wrong. I’m totally lost and unable to love anyone again. Why did Ryan have to come into my life and ruin everything? I’ll be one of those old ladies who live in a big old house full of cats for company. The only patter of little feet I’ll ever hear is that of cats…no children running up and down the stairs. No, instead I’ll be living my life knowing the case was closed. A done deal. Investigation over.
“Welcome to Lacey’s Lamp.” A cheery voice rang out with the sweetness of holiday bells.
Gabby jumped sideways, her hand covering her beating heart. She hadn’t even realized she’d walked into one of the wharf’s many establishments. Catching her breath, she looked into the most inviting pair of violet eyes with a smile that matched. Kindness radiated from the woman in a provocative sort of way.
“Are you new? I come down here several times a week and don’t remember seeing the place before,” Gabby asked as she stumbled further into the bar, feeling like she did every time she’d gone to visit her grandparents…all warm and cozy. Magical, in a childish sort of way.
Long red hair framed the woman’s face, making her smile even more inviting and her eyes twinkling shades of lavender. “Why yes, I just opened tonight as a matter of fact.” She stood behind the glistening bar, bathed in warm light; the smell of sugar cookies wafting through the air.
Christmas…it smells like Christmas Eve. Gabby breathed in deeply, feeling the warmth of love and happiness envelope her. A feeling absent for far too long that it made her tear up again. God, how she missed that feeling.
“Lacey Flowers at your service. You’re my first customer, and I’d love to learn more about you.” Lacey’s eyes twinkled with happiness and something Gabby couldn’t quite define, or resist. “Besides, you look like you could use something to warm you up a bit.”
Gabby shook off her winter coat and then sat on a stool at the bar. “I guess I could use something warm, it is damp out there tonight and with the snow…” she started, wondering why she hadn’t seen the bar on her way down to the docks. “When did you say you opened? I don’t remember seeing a sign or anything earlier tonight.”
“I’ve got exactly what you need. You don’t look like a big drinker, so how about a Peppermint Patty?” Lacey replied, setting a cup of steaming hot chocolate in front of Gabby. The sweet richness made Gabby smile while the peppermint schnapps soothed her troubled mind with memories of a happier time.
Lacey leaned over the bar, dropping a couple of mini marshmallows into the steaming cup. “I must confess, I’m not really ready to open to the public yet. You just looked so cold when I saw you standing at the docks, that when you walked by I just had to flip on the sign. Sort of like a guiding beacon in the night.”
“This is wonderful.” Gabby licked her lips, catching all the richness of chocolate that might have escaped. “Why Lacey’s Lamp? I don’t get it.”
Lacey refilled Gabby’s cup, her eyes twinkling. “Because I’m a genie and can grant you any wish you want.”
“Yeah, right!” Gabby laughed. “All in the holiday spirit I suppose.”
“You might say that.” Lacey leaned in closer, mesmerizing Gabby with her eyes. “But if it were true, what would be your one wish in the whole world. The sky’s the limit.”
Gabby sucked the melting marshmallows from her cup, feeling like a kid. “You mean besides world peace?”
“Well, if that’s what you really want, although I have a feeling it’s a bit more personal than that.” Lacey’s smile was intoxicating in a way that a loving human being’s would be. You could tell this woman anything, your deepest desire or worst problems. She could be your best friend. Or your mother for that matter. Whatever you said or however you felt, she’d want to know and wouldn’t judge you in the least bit. Just be there to hug you and tell you everything was going to be all right.
Hey, she is a bartender after all, isn’t she? Aren’t they trained to listen to other people’s problems? “I’m not sure you really want to hear all my history, you must get enough of it as it is. I’d rather just enjoy this luscious hot chocolate.”
“Well, if you’re sure, remember I am a genie after all and your wish is my command,” Lacey teased, winking at her.
“So you say.” Gabby chewed on her lower lip for moment. What harm would it do to get rid of some of her pain for a few minutes if nothing else? It might lighten her heart, although she doubted it very much. Nothing else had worked so why should this? But Lacey’s eyes and smile assured that her secrets would be safe, so why the hell not?
Gabby held her breath and then released the words she’d been afraid of letting out. “Well, in a nut shell, I’d like my life back.”
“Hmmm, could you be a little more specific? After all, anyone could wish for that, and without knowing the particulars, how am I supposed to grant you your one wish?” The smile of encouragement on Lacey’s face held the promise of sincerity, making it more difficult not to tell secrets best left to oneself.
“By getting my life back, I mean to live again. To trust people, especially men.” Gabby sat back in her stool, her hands wrapped around the once again full cup of spiked hot chocolate.
“Mmm, I see…go on,” Lacey encouraged, her expression one of interest in every word. “Can you go into a bit more detail?”
Gabby took a long sip of the peppermint chocolate, finding courage in its richness. “I protected a man I shouldn’t have, and lost not only my heart but my unborn child. I was in the early stages of pregnancy when Ryan decided to bet on the horses and slowly cleaned out our bank accounts. You have to understand, he was my everything and having his baby was an extension of our love. I’d given all the love I had to both of them.”
Lacey stood behind the bar, her eyes darkening slightly before the twinkle returned. Gabby thought they looked like the star on top of a Christmas tree.
“Anyway, two men came to our apartment, busting down the door. Ryan barricaded himself in our bedroom, and I placed myself between it and the thugs. As I got shoved over the top of a chair, Ryan slipped out the window and down the fire escape never to be seen again.” Gabby swallowed hard, reaching for a napkin, and then swiped a tear from her eyes. She needed all her inner courage to speak the painful words. The agonizing memory felt more like yesterday than twelve months ago. “I lost my baby that night.”
~~ Do you believe in Genies granting wishes? Neither does Gabby. ~~
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