Chapter 7: NYC Christmas

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Emma finished off her weekend meetings and emails so that she'd be free on Sunday to enjoy the day. She hadn't been skating to Rockefeller Center in years, even though she'd been working across the street for five Christmases. Without telling Andrew, she'd also made plans to go to the Country Girl store and restaurant, and later to the see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.

She'd prepaid everything so that Andrew wouldn't have to foot the bill for what would be her holiday dream day. Still, she wasn't sure how strict he was with the girls. Maybe he'd want to skate and then dart home. Whatever he wanted to do, of course, would be fine by her, and he knew how much excitement the girls could handle in one day. Even so, she hoped he'd let them enjoy the day she'd planned, and tour the city as her guests.

Awaiting their arrival, she paced around her penthouse in her jeans, green blouse, and a scarf she'd made for herself out of the same star-patterned material she'd used for her mother's headscarf. She loved the black and gold pattern, and the sparkly thread gave it a holiday feel. Wearing it reminded her of Christmases with her mother.

Emma needed to channel her mother's strength and grace that day. She wasn't good at the social, people-type stuff, especially around holiday season. She hoped she wouldn't be too pushy with the family who'd been so kind to invite her along.

Panic overtook her as she raked her mind, her palms sweating as she fisted them at her sides. Had she forced herself on this man? Had she invited herself? She grabbed her phone from her kitchen counter and pounded out a text.

Emma: It's just dawning on me that maybe I've overstepped. If you want to spend the day with the girls alone, I totally understand that.

In seconds, the phone rang, his name displayed over the screen. She picked up. "Andrew?"

"Got your text. Everything okay?"

She could tell he was in the car, on speaker, from the muffled sound. "Yeah, I—"

"Is that Miss Emma?" one of the girls yelled. "Hi Miss Emma! It's Devon! I brought my doll, Ginger."

"And Bella! I'm here too. I have Stella with me. Is Santa there? Daddy, are we in the city yet?"

"We have to go through a tunnel," Devon answered. "Right, Miss Emma? Do you know Madeline?"

"Eloise," Bella yelled. "Not Madeline."

Emma laughed and opened her mouth to answer but the girls kept yelling out questions. Finally, she gave up and let them argue, until she heard a rustle.

"Sorry," Andrew said. "Hold on."

She smiled as she heard him say, "Calm down. Let me talk."

"Emma?" Andrew asked, as the girls chattered in the background. "Are you having second thoughts about today?"

"Oh, no, but..."

"Tell me what's on your mind. Use code if you're afraid of the Realsies twins."

She sputtered a laugh. "You're such a nerd."

"I take that as a compliment."

She heard the flirt in his tone. "As you should," she countered, with a little flirt of her own.

"He is a nerd," one of the girls yelled. "He wears math socks." The other started cackling.

"Girls, please. Settle down. And they aren't math socks." He yelled at them, any ounce of flirtiness replaced with his stern "dad" voice. "Emma?"

She cleared her throat as she paced her kitchen, then took a deep breath. "Okay, well, I sometimes overstep boundaries and I know we've set some. And I wanted to make sure that you weren't just trying to be polite by inviting me or afraid not to because of the work situation." She waited, biting her knuckle and cringing at how she'd blurted that all out.

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