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Wonder With Me (With Me in Seattle #11.5)
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From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby comes a new story in her With Me In Seattle series…
Reed Taylor doesn’t pay much attention to the holidays—until he receives a surprise present. Four-year-old Piper is the daughter he never knew about, and with the death of her mother, is also now the roommate he never expected. He’s determined to make their first Christmas together one she’ll never forget.
Noel Thompson has gotten her share of strange requests in her career as an interior designer. The call to design a beautiful home for Christmas is more like a dream come true. And that was before she met her new employer—sexy and mysterious, he’s everything she ever hoped Santa would bring her.
As Noel showers his home with holiday spirit, Reed showers Piper with love. And the busy life he’s created for himself no longer seems nearly as important as the one Noel is helping him build with his daughter. But if he can’t convince his decorator to stay, this could be the only year he feels the true wonder of the season.
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
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One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories… to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier’s daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story… I begin a new
one… like the one that you, dear reader, have before
“Yes, Becca.” I sit back in my desk chair, pull my glasses from my face, and rub my tired eyes. A glance at the time tells me I’ve been staring at the computer for a few hours. The interruption is welcome.
“You have a visitor, sir.”
I frown at my assistant, who’s hovering in the doorway of my office. Becca’s been with me for a couple of years. She’s young and driven. And unlike most of the other assistants I’ve had, she’s focused. She’s never come on to me, and I swear she knows what I need before I do.
Becca’s a gem.
And she’s currently watching me with hesitation written all over her face.
“I never have visitors, unless they’re scheduled appointments.”
“I know. If you’re busy, I can ask them to come back. But I don’t think you’ll want me to do that.”
Now, I’m intrigued.
“No, it’s fine. Send them in.”
She nods and turns away, and I stand to stretch my legs as I wait for this unexpected guest to walk through the door.
I tug my suit jacket on just as a woman walks into my office, holding hands with…
A little girl.
They must have the wrong office.
“Reed Taylor?” the woman asks as she directs the child to sit in one of the two seats in front of my desk and hands her a stuffed bunny to cuddle.
“Yes, ma’am. And you are?”
“Melinda Hale. Mr. Taylor, I’m with the Department of Child Protective Services.” She glances at the girl, whose head is bowed. “And this is Piper.”
I shift my gaze between Ms. Hale and Piper, my eyes narrowed.
“Hello,” the little girl whispers as she tugs the bunny to her chest. She’s dressed in jeans and a hoodie from Old Navy, and her dark hair is pulled back into a long braid.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why we’re here.”
“I’m hopeful you’re about to tell me.”
Ms. Hale smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. She pulls a file out of her briefcase and sets it on my desk, opens it, then passes me a letter.
“You should read this first.”
The mystery of all of this is starting to grate on my nerves. I consider myself a patient man, but I’m also an efficient one.
Just get down to business, for Christ’s sake.
I open the letter and frown as I read the words before me.
I know this is a shock. Everything has happened so fast, and I know I should have reached out to you, but well, it seems I’m not strong enough to.
Piper is a sweet little girl. You’ll love her, I promise.
Please take good care of her.
I fold the letter and look up to Ms. Hale. “Vanessa Downey?”
“That’s right. Do you confirm that you had a relationship with Ms. Downey that ended roughly five years ago?”
I blow out a breath. Did I have a relationship with her? Vanessa would have liked that. I never committed to anything so permanent with her.