Home > Christmas Ever After

Christmas Ever After
Author: Karen Schaler

Chapter One



   Riley Reynolds heard them moments before she saw them. People were singing Christmas songs, different Christmas songs, all at the same time, in exuberant, joyful voices. There was “Joy to the World,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

   “What in the world . . .” Riley said as she stepped out of the hotel elevator into the lavish lobby of the Royal Grand Central Park, one of New York City’s finest hotels, and found more than a hundred high-spirited Christmas carolers. They were all wearing elaborate, vintage Victorian costumes and passionately singing as if their entry onto Santa’s Nice List depended on it.

   Riley barely had time to take it all in before she was surround by one group of carolers singing “Joy to the World.”

   “Joy to the world, now we sing

Let the angel voices ring . . .

Joy to the world, now we sing

Repeat the sounding joy . . .”

   Riley quickly moved to the right and the left trying to get by them. She had a car waiting for her out front to take her to a live TV interview on the top-rated Sunrise in the City national morning show to promote her next romance novel. She didn’t have time for these carolers to repeat anything.

   “Help!” she called out, joking, but instantly regretted her request when one of the handsome male carolers took her hand and spun her around for a dance as he kept singing.

   “Joy to the world, now we sing . . .”

   “No, no, no,” she said, laughing as she was twirled around. “I gotta go.”

   When she let go of her dashing dance partner’s hand, a new group of carolers singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” circled her. Every time they sang “We wish you,” they’d point at her on the word YOU.

   She felt like she was trapped inside the musical production of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol . . . on steroids.

   Then the two caroling groups faced off and got louder.

   “We wish you a merry Christmas,” the first group sang.

   “Joy to the world,” the second group of carolers countered.

   “We wish you a merry Christmas,” the first group sang louder.

   “This is insane,” Riley said, still laughing. When she finally saw a small opening to get by the carolers, she made a run for it. She was almost to the hotel’s front door when a third group of merry carolers, singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” started coming toward her.

   She narrowly escaped them by dancing her way around them just as the doorman opened the door for her.

   “Thank you!” Riley said to the doorman, breathing a huge sigh of relief. She looked back at the carolers, shaking her head. “This is . . .”

   “Amazing!” the doorman said.

   Riley gave him a skeptical look. Amazing wasn’t the word she was about to use. She had been thinking more along the lines of insane, crazy, nuts, but not amazing.

   “What is all this?” she asked, not able to help herself.

   The doorman was now happily humming along with the carolers singing “Joy to the World.”

   “Dueling Christmas carolers,” he answered and then continued humming.

   Riley laughed loudly. “Wait. What?”

   “You know, like dueling pianos,” the doorman said. “But instead this is with Christmas carolers. There’s a big competition this weekend at one of the Broadway theatres.”

   Riley shook her head in amazement as she headed out the door. “That’s really a thing?” She looked at the carolers, then at the doorman again. “You’re not making this up?”

   “Oh, it’s as real as Santa’s reindeer,” the doorman answered with a grin.

   Riley’s steps faltered.

   “What?” she asked, even more confused. “So it’s not real?”

   But her question was forgotten when a gust of wind caught her black scarf and sent it sailing down the street.

   “Oh no!” she called out as she raced after it. She had just splurged and bought the scarf yesterday. It was from a top designer and pure cashmere. The scarf danced in the wind before falling to the curb right next to a black town car. It was the only car waiting.

   “My car,” she said, breathing a sigh of relief as she snatched up her scarf and quickly grabbed the back passenger’s-side door handle. But when she opened the door to hop in, she found three carolers, singing “White Christmas.”

   The car’s driver, an older woman, was singing right along with them.

   Startled, Riley jumped back. “I’m so sorry. I thought this was my car.”

   When the carolers just kept singing, Riley quickly shut the door. She’d had enough Christmas carolers for one day.

   When she stepped back on the sidewalk and looked around, she didn’t see another car waiting. “Where’s my car?” she said to herself, growing more confused by the moment.

   When her phone rang, and she saw it was her new publicist, Mike Conneley, she took a deep breath. She knew without even answering that he probably already had his tinsel in a tangle.

   Before she even had a chance to say hello, Mike jumped right in.

   “Riley, where are you?” he demanded. “The car service just called and said they’ve been waiting for you for ten minutes, but you haven’t shown up.”

   “I’m right out front,” Riley answered as she paced back and forth in front of the hotel. “There aren’t any cars here waiting for me. I mean, there was one, but it wasn’t mine.”

   It was starting to snow.

   Riley looked up at the sky in disbelief as chubby snowflakes started to fall.

   They were moving so slow you could catch them, but right now the only thing Riley was catching was grief from Mike.

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