(Because I write HEA romances, I don’t really think these constitute spoilers, but I’ll put them after the jump just in case.)
It doesnâ€™t get any better than this. Travis sat in the private, family living room of Riverside Inn and watched as the two women in his life opened their Valentineâ€™s Day gifts. Heâ€™d even wrapped them himself, which was no doubt why Mia was having so much trouble getting through the ribbons.
He leaned close to his wife to whisper in her ear, â€œHey, Genaâ€¦you might want to shield her view of that gift with the lid.â€
She blushed even before she peeked into the box. After a questioning glance, she pulled out a turquoise Aeropostale hoodie. â€œWhy? Afraid sheâ€™ll be jealous?â€
Travis looked at the sweatshirt, shaking his head. That wasnâ€™t right. The sweatshirt was for…
â€œMia!â€ He jumped off the sofa and flew across the room, ripping the box out of his daughterâ€™s hands just as she started lifting the lid. Gena was laughing already, and it only took a second for Mia to realize what was going on and join in.
â€œI must have mixed up the tags,â€ he mumbled, scowling down at the box with the scrap of red lace and a pair of silly red fur handcuffs in it.
Heâ€™d wanted this first Valentineâ€™s Day to be perfect. Heâ€™d had a massive bouquet of roses delivered to Mia in English class. The furniture store had delivered a new curio cabinet to display Genaâ€™s antique creamers. And then heâ€™d botched these. â€œIâ€™ll go rewrap the boxes and we can start over.â€
â€œDad, it took me twenty minutes to get through the ribbons the first time. Weâ€™ll just switch boxes.â€
Mia squealed and Gena giggled, and when they threw themselves into his arms for thank you kisses, Travis knew he hadnâ€™t botched a damn thing. And when he opened his gift to find a professional portrait of his wife and daughter laughing into the camera, he knew he was right the first time. It just didnâ€™t get any better than this.
Jill peered at the menu, looking for somethingâ€”anythingâ€”written in English. It didnâ€™t help that upscale restaurant thought a Valentineâ€™s Day ambience meant candlelight. Only candlelight. â€œWhat are you having?â€
Ethan smiled at her, or at least thatâ€™s what she assumed the curved gleam of white across the table was. â€œThey donâ€™t have macaroni & cheese, sunshine. Youâ€™re going to have to pick a grown-up food.â€
She stuck her tongue out at him and leaned the menu closer to the flickering candle. She thought that word might mean chicken. Even French chicken was just chicken, right?
When she jerked her head up, and the burning corner of the menu brushed the fancy dried flower arrangement, which promptly poofed into flames. â€œOh! Ohâ€¦crap!â€
She jumped up and grabbed a tall flute of champagne from the tray a waiter was carrying past. As Ethan pushed his own chair back, she tossed the bubbly onto the smoking babyâ€™s breath.
â€œNo!â€ A guy from another table yelled at her and pushed past her, diving for the drenched, blackened floral arrangement. Singed rose petals flew as he pawed through the mess. â€œThere was a diamond ring in that glass!â€
The manâ€™s jacket sleeve was awfully close to the still burning menu, so Jill whisked the sheet away just as a hundred and twenty or so pounds of redhead tackled the man, squealing loud enough to break glass. â€œOhmigod, youâ€™re going to propose?â€
The romantic moment held her attention until the flame licked at Jillâ€™s fingers, and she flung the menu onto a nearby dessert cart. A flambÃ© ignited into life.
Ethan run his fingers through his hair and reached for his credit card. â€œI swear, sunshine, I canâ€™t take you anywhere.â€
â€œI told you we should have stayed home and played Pirates of the Caribbean.â€
He sighed as the maitreâ€™d approached them. â€œWell, at least we wonâ€™t have to wonder why the rumâ€™s gone.â€