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by Pat McDermott

Party Time with the Connigan Clan!
The family's fine musicians engage in a post-dinner jam session
with an exciting grand finale of Christmas tunes.
Gabbi devises a special finale
for her and Ronan.


Gemma announced that dessert would be served in the parlor. “We want more music.”

“Christmas music!” shouted Joan.

Gemma asked Suzanne and Maura to help and insisted that everyone else remain in the living room. Gabbi didn’t mind, though she wished the music would start. The racket of the tuning phase made her cringe. Yet she loved the way the process cast its spell on Ronan. A man full of changing weather, all right.

Banjo ready, he sat beside Andy, who’d positioned his big Irish drum on his thigh. Bottles of water were handy to him and Brendan, the singers.

At last Ben tapped a shiny metal whistle on his arm. “Your call, John.”

John nodded. “We’ll start with ‘The Whistling Postman.’”

Indignance scrunched Joan’s brooding face. “He’d better be whistling a feckin’ Christmas carol.”

Grinning, John counted to three, and they were off. The difference between jigs and reels baffled Gabbi, let alone the names of the tunes. Nevertheless, she couldn’t sit still. Her foot tapped in time to the music whirling around the room.

A smooth transition to a new tune that also wasn’t a Christmas carol provoked another “hmmph” from Joan. Her annoyance seemed to insulate her from the sense of mischief charging the atmosphere. All of the men, and Nora too, looked unbelievably rascally.

Then it happened. The players blasted into the intro to “Feliz Navidad.” Andy and Brendan jumped to their feet and came in right on time, their Spanish impeccable, their powerful voices melodic. Happy with the music at last, Joan clapped along like an overjoyed child.

Ben announced last call. “Anyone whose glass is at low tide, fill ’er up! We’ve a busy day tomorrow, so I’ll be throwing everyone out by midnight.”

Beer and wine made the rounds. Gabbi stuck with tea, and Suzanne savored a cup of coffee. Most of the players accepted a glass of something, though they played with such intensity, few of them touched their drinks. The priceless evening came to a close with Andy and Brendan singing a comedic rendition of “O Holy Night.”

“Fall on your knees,” they sang as they melodramatically dropped to their knees. The snickering players managed to keep the back-up going, while everyone else sang along to the grand “Oh night divine” finale.

Joan whistled, and another round of cheers filled the house. As the noise died down, the instruments found their way into their cases. The guests thanked Ben and Gemma for a wonderful evening and retrieved their coats. Gabbi pulled hers from the pile on the hall table.

While Andy helped Suzanne with her coat, Ronan wandered in from the living room. He carried a banjo case in his right hand. “Gabbi said you might have room for one more.”

“We do,” Andy said. “Will we give you a lift?”

“That’d be great. Can we fit this in the boot?” Ronan raised the banjo case. “Nora let me borrow it till I fetch mine from Dublin.”

“Easy enough. Ready, Gabbi?”

“I don’t know. I think I left something I need at Ronan’s house today. Ronan, is it okay if I run in and get it?”

“Of course.” He set the banjo down and shrugged into his jacket. “If you’re sure you left it. Except for the usual shambles, I saw nothing lying about.”

“You wouldn’t. It’s small. My lip gloss. I must have left it in the bathroom.”

Head tilted in question, Suzanne buttoned her coat. “Don’t you have others?”

“No. I’ve been meaning to pick up a spare, and I can’t live without it. My lips have been dry all night.”

Andy’s eyes narrowed in slick suspicion. “You should learn to like beer, Gabrielle. It’s grand for dry lips.” Had he guessed her game? If so, he was gallantly playing along. He reached for the doorknob. “Shall we?”

The foursome called out one last round of goodbyes and strode into the brisk night air. While Andy and Ronan saw to the banjo, Suzanne and Gabbi jumped in the car. The trunk slammed shut, the guys got in, and Andy started the engine. Casual conversation about the weather, the food, and the music prevailed until Andy pulled into Ronan’s driveway.

Andy popped the trunk. Ronan retrieved the banjo and walked to the house with Gabbi. Once they were inside, he switched on the lights and closed the front door. “Have a look for your lip thing.” He placed the banjo on the floor, strolled down the hall with her, and switched on the light in the living room, which she’d have to cross to reach the bathroom.

She remained in the hall, however. When he shot her a questioning look, she patted her coat pocket. “It’s right here. I wanted to see you privately.” Two long steps brought her inches from him. She grabbed the open sides of his half-zipped jacket and tugged so hard, he lost his balance. “To take care of this morning’s unfinished business.”

Her well-aimed kiss punctuated the statement. Surprised and delighted, he pulled her against him and kissed her back, sliding his lips over hers and skimming his tongue between them. She opened her mouth for a deeper kiss; he obliged and then some. The taste of him electrified her. His stroking hands almost made her forget that Suzanne and Andy were waiting outside. Almost.

Nor did Ronan forget. He combed his hands through her hair and gently held her head. “You’re a foxy Lady Fox, Miss Gabbi. Not that I’m complaining.”

She stood close enough to hear his thumping heartbeat. “I’m glad, and now that we’ve seen to my lips, I’d better go.”

He opened the door for her. “See you at nine?”

“You bet.” She retraced her steps to the car.

Andy stared at her reflection in the rearview mirror. “Did you find the antidote for your dry lips, Gabbi?”

Ignoring his lewd innuendo, she plucked her lip gloss from her pocket and held it up so he and Suzanne could see it. “Right here. Thanks for letting me run in to get it.”

“Of course. A woman should have the things she needs.”

I’m working on it.



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