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Need some Happily Ever After in your day?

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Need some Happily Ever After in your day?

Grab this collection of six short stories--some sweet, some swoony, some with a little sprinkle of magic . . . and all guaranteed to make you smile!

From a Distance - When insomniac Alex hears violinist Ellery play on a nearby rooftop, he’s immediately intrigued. He wants to get to know her better, but dating's tricky when you're both in quarantine. Is it possible to get close when you have to stay six feet apart?

To Dream and Dance Beneath the Stars - On the eve of her birthday, for as long as she can remember, Allana has dreamed of him. But dreams fade away in the morning light, and she isn’t sure if the love of her life is actually a figment of her imagination. Will she give him up or put all her faith in the impossible?

It’s Just So Molly Ringwald: An 80s Love Story - Jess is a head-banging rocker with a soft spot for romantic movies. Brandon is a preppy jock with a soft spot for Jess. They come from two different worlds, but can they overcome the clash of cliques and take a chance on love?

A Piece of Cake - Emily is a matchmaker who doesn’t believe in love. Sam is a swoony cake designer who pops up as a match for her latest client. When practical, professional Emily develops a not-so-practical or professional crush on Sam, she has to decide if the magic of true love is worth risking her heart.

A Chance for Love - When Avery meets TV star Chance Evans, she’s thrilled to meet him, get an autograph, and move on. But when Chance reaches out for more, she’s not sure what to do. With paparazzi, crazy fans, and a not-so-little age gap, a happy ending for these unlikely lovers will take a leap of faith.

Unscheduled Departure - Rowan is devastated when her boyfriend, Finn, tells her he’s moving across the country to take over the family business, and thrilled when he changes his mind at the last minute and gets off the plane. But things get weird, and it’s not long before Ro’s questioning if Finn’s really who she thinks he is. Is she imagining things? Or are other forces at work that mean Ro could lose her Finn forever?

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I first met him the night before I turned four years old. The memory of the dream was vivid and crisp, like they all were. A little boy, dressed in blue jeans with a rip in the knee and a red t-shirt, stood on the sidewalk in front of a brick house, staring at me across the wide expanse of front lawn. I remember the odd color of his eyes—a blue so deep and dark it reminded me of my mother’s sapphire bracelet. His dark hair was cropped close on the sides, but left longer on top, and it swirled up from a cowlick in the back.

He said nothing, and neither did I.

We just stared at each other.

When I awoke, even at my young age, I realized something strange and wonderful had happened.

Then it happened again on the night before my fifth birthday . . . and on the night before every birthday since.

The settings for our unusual meetings were never familiar but always comfortable. At six, we played tag on a grassy hill, the sun warm on our backs. At eight, we walked through a cool forest, turning over rocks in search of creepy crawlies.

“What do you think this place is?” he’d asked me as we sat on the damp ground, leaning back against a rough stump. “Is it real?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. It feels real while we’re here . . . at least to me.” I reached out and picked a pink flower from a cluster growing near my feet. I rolled the stem in my fingers, brushing the blossom against my lips.

He scratched his cheek, leaving a smudge of dirt behind. “Yeah. To me, too. But in the morning, I’m not so sure.”

I nodded, still gazing at the flower.

“Okay, let’s try again,” he said, turning to face me with his legs crossed, leaning his elbows on his knees. “What’s your name?”

I looked at him intently, concentrating fiercely. “Alanna. Alanna Thomas. My friends call me Lannie. I live with my mom and dad, Bob and Anne Thomas, in Vinter’s Corner.”

“Alanna Thomas . . . Bob and Anne . . . Vinter’s Corner,” he repeated, his brow creased in concentration as he struggled to sear the words into his memory.

We’d tried it many times before. We could talk about almost anything . . . our families, school, our friends. But with the morning and our inevitable waking, our vivid conversations would become dazed and unclear. Eventually, like most dreams, our experiences together drifted into the realm of déjà vu and words on the tip of your tongue. When we were together, it would all come rushing back in sparkling colors and rich scents and intense flavors. It was real.

When we were together . . . it was real.

But the other 364 days of the year—365 on leap years—Aiden was a flash of memory. A mysterious figure just around the next corner. A quirk of a smile. A pair of cobalt eyes that burned at me behind the lids of my own but were unrecognizable. Even his name evaded my thoughts just a few moments after I awoke . . . melting away as consciousness finally claimed me. I eventually took to keeping a notebook by my bed and tried, in those first muddled minutes, to write down what I could remember from my dreams. My scribbled ramblings made little sense, but I treasured them anyway.

No matter how hard we tried, there was no way for us to find each other in the waking world—nothing that could prove it was all really happening.

“You try,” I demanded, brushing crazy red curls away from my eyes. “Where do you live?”

His eyes narrowed as he willed me to remember. “Chicago . . . it’s in Illinois.”

I rolled my eyes. “I know where Chicago is, Aiden.”

He shrugged and stood up, brushing off his jeans. “I don’t know why we even bother. It never works.”

A loud screech drew our attention upward to the patches of blue peeking through the trees.

“Here he comes,” Aiden murmured. “I guess it’s time.”

A pure white hawk flew down through the treetops, his wings spread wide. He arced gracefully to the right before coming to rest on a low branch above our heads. His head tilted, and he blinked at us with jet black eyes.

The hawk was the only constant in our dream visits . . . a signal that the waking world was returning. Wherever we were, at the appointed hour he would swoop in, descending upon us with a loud call, and we knew our time together was drawing to an end.

I turned away from the hawk to look at him. “Well, I guess I’ll see you.”

He nodded, his deep blue eyes serious. “Yeah. See ya’.”

He blinked . . . and I awoke in my bed.

The rest of my life—my waking life—was pretty much like anyone else’s, I guess. I had friends, went to school, played softball, and baked cookies. But for some reason I only felt truly alive on that one night a year. It was as if he and I were two pieces of a puzzle—and nothing else quite fit unless we were together.

Despite our limited encounters, Aiden became my best friend and my closest confidant. I could tell him anything, and he understood me like no one else. When I was eleven, he helped me through my parents’ divorce. I held his hand when his dog died at twelve. We endured bullies, betrayal, insecurity, awkwardness . . . and we shared our burdens equally. Maybe it was because he was made of my dreams—a creation of my own subconscious. I didn’t know. In fact, I didn’t even care. The nights we spent together were truly the happiest times of my life.

When I was thirteen, something changed . . . a subtle shift that, at the time, I couldn’t put my finger on.

“I mean, I don’t know what the big deal is anyway,” I told him as we sat on a dock, dangling our feet in a clear mountain lake. “It’s just a kiss.”

I was bemoaning the fact that my two best friends, Amy and Nicole, had been bragging about receiving their first kisses behind the school gym.

Aiden shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’d even want to kiss any of the girls at my school anyway.”
I slid him a sideways glance. “So, you’ve never . . . you haven’t kissed a girl?”

“Nah,” he replied, flinging a rock and watching it skip across the surface of the lake.

“Six. Nice.” I nodded approvingly at his superior rock-skipping ability.

“Have you?” he asked.

“Have I what?”

He huffed, rolling his eyes. “Kissed a boy?”

“Oh.” I felt my cheeks redden. “No.”

“Huh,” he said. He threw another rock. “Do you wanna?”

I bit my lip. “I don’t know . . . I guess . . . maybe . . . just to see what it’s like.” I swung my feet in the water and watched the ripples flow outward, peeking at him out of the corner of my eye. “Do you?”

He shrugged again. “Maybe.”

We sat in silence for a while, and it felt like the air grew thicker and hotter around us. Butterflies swirled in my stomach and my heart started to hammer in my chest. It pounded so loudly I wondered if he could hear it. I swallowed, a lump in my throat, waiting for . . . something.

Suddenly, the white hawk shrieked above us, and I let out a heavy breath, feeling a surge of disappointment.

I turned to him to say goodbye . . . and was met by the feel of Aiden’s chapped lips pressing on mine. His eyes were wide open, staring at me almost in surprise. I gasped as he pulled back a bit, before he leaned in to kiss me again softly.

I felt tingles race through my body as he sat back again, observing me unblinkingly.

“Bye,” he breathed before I woke once again in my bed, touching my fingers to my lips in wonder.


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