As the Snow Fell

Coming November 21, 2017

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As the Snow Fell
Beautiful cover created by Tugboat Design

A Lake Harriet Novel


In the charming Lake Harriet neighborhood in Minneapolis, MN, where we first met Kristen, Ryan, and their beloved dog, Sam, in Walking Sam, we meet another couple who are struggling to find true love.

Mallory Dawson is planning the winter wedding of her dreams. She’s found a wonderful man to share her life with and is looking forward to a promising future together. But one month before her wedding, she runs into the man she once loved who she hasn’t seen in ten years and her entire life is turned upside down.

James Gallagher fled to California ten years ago to start his life over after the love of his life, Mallory, refused to marry him. But when his dad passes away and his mother becomes ill, he returns home to help run the family business. Seeing Mallory again brings a flood of memories back, and he begins to wonder what his life would have been like if he hadn’t left.


Will the wedding go on or will fate play a hand in Mallory's happily ever after?


Contemporary Romance
Publish date: November 21, 2017

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Read the first chapter of 
AS THE SNOW FELL


Chapter One



Mallory Dawson shivered as she and her friends stepped out into the crisp Minnesota night onto the well-lit street. She clutched her wool coat close to ward off the dampness as she gazed up at the sky. Clouds blocked the moon and the stars, proving that the weatherman had been right. It would definitely snow tonight.

“Let’s head this way,” Aaron Jacobs said, pointing up the street from the restaurant they’d just exited. “I’m sure there’s a bar somewhere on this street that has music on a Tuesday night.” Aaron reached for his wife’s hand and he and Elisa headed merrily down the street at a brisk pace. Mallory sighed as her fiancé, Brent Kincaid, tucked her arm through his bent one. He smiled down at her.

“We’ll just stop at one place for a drink, and then go home,” he promised. “You know Aaron. He loves to celebrate.”

Mallory smiled as she stared up into Brent’s warm brown eyes. He had a kind face with expressive thick brows and a strong jaw. With his perfectly cut wavy brown hair and dressed impeccably in a three-piece suit and long, black wool coat, he looked like a model right out of GQ Magazine. His personality was as beautiful as his looks were handsome, and she usually found it difficult to deny him when he asked so sweetly.

They walked along the Nicolette Mall in Minneapolis, catching up with their friends. Aaron stopped as they hit eleventh street and glanced in that direction. Soft piano music drifted out of a brightly-lit bar. Aaron’s smile grew wide.

“Look! Gallagher’s is open again. Let’s go!” He hurried up the street toward the Irish pub.

Mallory stopped short when she’d heard the name Gallagher’s. She took a deep breath of the icy air.

“Is something wrong?” Brent asked, looking concerned.

She bit her lip, forcing herself to calm her tense muscles, and shook her head. “No. I’m fine.”

They followed their friends to the pub’s entrance. Mallory glanced at the plaque that hung on the wall beside the wide doorway. “Gallagher’s Irish Pub. Since 1953. James Gallagher, Proprietor.” Her heart skipped a beat. James Gallagher had been the original owner, and then his son, James Jr., had run it until recently. But this past August, James Jr. had passed on, and that made her wonder, who owned the pub now?

“Come on,” Aaron said, waving her and Brent in. “Let’s get a seat. I’m ready for a shot of Irish whiskey.”

Brent groaned. “No shots for me, that’s for sure.” They snaked their way through the half-filled tables and found an empty high-top against one wall.

The piano’s melodic tune filled the dark wood-paneled room which was quite large and held several tables as well as a long, curved bar. The lights were turned down low and candles flickered on the hand-rubbed wooden tables. Dark green wainscoting on the bottom-half of the walls gave the room some color and a bit of Irish flair while scenic paintings and old wooden advertising signs decorated the top half. A mirror behind the bar caught the light, making the liquor bottles and glasses in front of it sparkle. Mallory’s heart warmed as she took in the familiar surroundings of the place she’d spent so much time at as a young woman. A time of her life that Brent knew nothing about.

“What can I get for you?” the waitress asked as she drew near the table. She was of medium height with thick, wavy dark red hair that had been pulled up into a bun with a pen struck through it to hold it tight. Her green eyes twinkled as she looked expectantly at the group.

“A glass of your best Irish whiskey for me,” Aaron said. He turned to Elisa. “What would you like, my love?”

“Nothing, thank you,” she said. “It looks like I’ll be driving.”

“A Guinness for me, please,” Brent said. He glanced at Mallory. “What would the birthday girl like?”

She raised her eyes and the waitress did also, staring right at her.

“Mallory?” the waitress asked, her eyes growing wide with surprise.

“Megan.” A smile broke out on Mallory’s face. She hopped down from the chair and the two women embraced. “It’s been so long.”

Megan pulled away and grinned. “Too long, that’s for certain.”

“So, you’re the one who re-opened the bar?” Mallory asked, relief flooding through her.

“Oh, yes. I’m half owner and I have a partner,” Megan said, tipping her head toward the bar. Mallory gazed in that direction and saw him immediately. “James,” she said softly.

Megan nodded. “Yes. We thought long and hard over this decision and decided we wanted to keep the family business open.”

“I’m glad you did,” Mallory said, her attention returning to Megan. “Downtown wouldn’t be the same without Gallagher’s.”

“Are you going to introduce us to your friend?” Brent asked, interrupting the two women.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Mallory said, embarrassed at being so rude. “This is Megan Gallagher-Conway. Her father owned this bar for years, as did his father. Megan, these are my friends, Aaron, Elisa, and my,” Mallory stumbled over her words. It seemed almost impossible to say the word “fiancé” in front of Megan. “Brent,” she finished.

Brent stared at Mallory strangely, then smiled and shook Megan’s hand. “Yes. I’m her Brent,” he teased. “And her fiancé.”

“Oh.” Megan looked a bit startled. She recovered quickly. “It’s nice to meet you all. I’ll get your drinks right away.” She walked a few steps then turned back. “I forgot to get your order, Mallory.”

“Nothing, thank you,” Mallory said. She felt too out of sorts already. She didn’t want to add alcohol to the equation.

“How do you know Megan?” Brent asked, and the others looked at her curiously.

“I used to come here with friends when I was in college,” she said. “I got to know Megan and her father quite well.”

“Ah, so you were a party girl once,” Aaron teased. “But now that you’re thirty-two, you think you’re too old for all that.”

“We’re all too old for that,” Mallory said with a grin.

“Amen to that,” Elisa said. “With a job and a toddler at home, I’m over drinking the night away.”
Mallory smiled. Brent and Aaron had known each other since grade school and had attended college together. They were thirty-eight years old and had solid careers. Brent as a lawyer and Aaron was in finance. Aaron and Elisa had been married for four years and had an adorable one-year-old girl.
Megan came back with the men’s drinks and then left to make the rounds of the tables.

“Just think. A month from now, you two will join the ranks of the old married people,” Aaron said cheerfully. He raised his whiskey glass in a toast. “To Mallory’s birthday and to the impending nuptials. May you and Brent be as happy as Elisa and I are.”

Brent clinked glasses with Aaron and the women pretended with invisible glasses. “Here, here,” Brent said before taking a sip.

As Aaron discussed plans for Brent’s upcoming bachelor party, Mallory tuned them out and glanced over to the bar. She watched a tall, dark-haired man draw a beer from the tap and place it on the counter.

James.

His shoulders had grown broader, but he’d always been a muscular man. His nearly black hair was still wavy and he wore it longer than he used to. His face had become even more sculptured with age, but it had always been his eyes that had made her heart melt. Brown eyes that were so dark, they sometimes looked black. Ten years. Had it been that long? Ten years since that night when he’d stormed out of her life.

As she studied him, he raised his eyes to hers. Her pulse jumped. She quickly turned away, feeling her face heat up with embarrassment at being caught staring.

“I’m going to run to the Ladies’ Room,” she mumbled to Brent. Grabbing her purse, she made a beeline for the back of the pub.

In the bathroom, she ran cold water onto a paper towel, wrung it out, and then placed it on the back of her neck to cool off. Despite it being only thirty-two degrees outside, that brief moment her eyes locked with James’s had heated her up several degrees. Had he known it was her he’d been looking at? Had Megan told him she was here? Or was it her ego that thought he’d recognized her in that split second?

“Stop being silly,” she told herself as she tossed the paper towel into the trash. “He probably didn’t even recognize you.”

Taking a deep breath, she stared into the mirror. The damp air outside had turned her natural waves to frizz. She wet her finger tips and ran them through her shoulder-length, sandy blond hair to calm the frizzy curls. Then she pulled lip gloss out of her purse and carefully applied it. Satisfied that she didn’t look tense or upset any longer, she headed out into the back hallway.

“Oh, there you are.” Megan was coming out of the kitchen. “Your friends were wondering if you’d gotten lost.” She laughed good-naturedly.

Mallory was about to respond when a round bulldog came waddling down the hallway and looked up at her expectantly. The sight of him made her smile wide.

“Brewster? It can’t be! He couldn’t possibly still be alive.” She kneeled on the polished hardwood floor and pet the dog lovingly on the head. Brewster opened his mouth in a doggie smile and his tongue fell out. Mallory laughed out loud.

“No. He’s not the original Brewster,” Megan said. “But he does look exactly like him. Brewster died a few years ago, and poor dad just couldn’t stand not having his partner following him around. He got a new Brewster, and even gave him the same name.”

“He’s adorable!” Mallory exclaimed. She stood and her expression sobered. “I’m sorry about your father, Megan. He was such a kind man and everyone who knew him loved him dearly.”
Megan nodded. “Thank you.”

“I was at the funeral, but I’m sure you didn’t see me,” Mallory said.

“I knew. We all did. We appreciated that you were there.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should approach the family,” Mallory said, sorrow edging her voice. “After what happened between me and James, I wasn’t sure if I was welcome.”

Megan pulled Mallory into a hug. “Of course, you were welcome. My parents adored you, and I do too. But I understand why you’d feel uncomfortable.”

“Thank you, Megan,” Mallory said softly after they’d separated. She gazed around and out into the bar area. James wasn’t behind the bar any longer. “I always loved hanging out here. I’m glad you were able to keep it open.”

“Me, too,” Megan said. “Hey, don’t be a stranger, okay? Come see me any time.”

Mallory smiled. “I will.” She glanced down at Brewster. “And you, too, Brewskie.” She looked back at Megan. “Do you call him that? Like you used to call the former Brewster.”

“Yep. It just seems fitting, doesn’t it?”

Mallory said goodbye and walked back to the table. She frowned when she saw Brent and Aaron with fresh drinks. “I thought you’d be ready to go.”

“Don’t be mad, Mal,” Aaron said. “It’s all my fault. I wanted one more. Why don’t you let me buy you something? You’ve hardly celebrated your birthday.”

“I think you’ve celebrated enough for both of us,” Mallory told him. Glancing around the bar, she suddenly felt as if everything was closing in on her. The music was too loud and the chatter and laughter at the other tables was grating on her nerves. Maybe the memories were suffocating her or maybe she was suddenly very tired, she didn’t know for sure. All she knew was she needed to get out of there—now.

Grabbing her coat, she leaned over Brent. “I need some air. I’ll be outside.” She dashed away before he could respond but she could hear Aaron asking if she was angry. She didn’t hear Brent’s answer. She hurried across the room and out the front door.

Once outside, Mallory closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. When she opened her eyes again, she felt better. The air was frigid, but she didn’t care. The intense feeling of suffocation was slowly leaving her and she felt she could breathe easier out here.

The street was nearly empty with no groups of people rushing to and fro and no cars rushing past. Inside the pub, the piano music had stopped. Mallory glanced at her phone and saw it was exactly eleven o’clock. Being a Tuesday night, she figured the music ended early.

Pushing her hands deeper into her coat pockets, she thought back to the last time she’d come to Gallagher’s. It had been ten years ago on a summer night when the sun didn’t go down until after ten o’clock. She and James had argued several days before, and she’d come to talk to him and smooth things over. But when she’d entered the bar, she’d seen his father’s long face as he watched her make her way up to the bar.

“He’s gone,” the elder James had said sadly. “Packed up his truck and left.”
Mallory had been shocked by his words. Gone. When she’d declined his marriage proposal, James had just left without a word. But then again, she shouldn’t have been surprised. James was often impatient and impetuous. When he’d thought he couldn’t have what he’d wanted right then and there, he’d disappeared.

If you’d really wanted a life with me, you would have waited, she’d thought on that night so long ago. 
And as she stood here now, so many years later, she thought the same thing. The least he could have done was said goodbye. And now, ten years later, he was back.

“Mal?”

Mallory stiffened when she heard a male voice speak her name behind her. She turned slowly and stared into the dark eyes of the man who’d just filled her thoughts.


“James.”

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