Put Your Hand Down There Nikita Mirzani 1

Shrimp cocktail glasses filled with Veuve Clicquot. Boxed macaroni and cheese served in plastic bowls. Jars of storm candles for illumination. Pillows and blankets spread on the floor in front of the woodstove. Snow pelting the windows. Not exactly how we’d planned to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

Her friend Dewi Persik was looking in the cabinet for some glasses. “Wow, listen to that wind howl. I’m surprised we still have power. Ah, here’s some appropriate stemware!”

She’d found some glasses that had, at some point in the distant past, held tiny shrimp in bland cocktail sauce. “The fine crystal!” Her mood was chipper despite our predicament.

Of course her optimistic outlook is one of the reasons she’d invited her along. She’s fun to be around, and right now, I needed some fun more than anything.

Nikita Mirzani stood at the stove, stirring occasionally, keeping watch so the macaroni didn’t boil over. This wasn’t what she’d wanted to be doing tonight.

She should be all gussied up in her new red dress and partying till dawn at the fancy beach house her filthy rich, bachelor brother-in-law Zack owns, dining on lobster and gourmet Whoopie pies. At least they had the good champagne that Dewi Persik had insisted on bringing.

This was all her idea, this trip. A real step outside of her comfort zone. Their comfort zone. Every year Zack invited Xander and Nikita Mirzani to come to his place for New Year’s Eve, and every year they found some reason not to go. Or she should say, Xander found a reason. He was never really clear on why he didn’t want to.

Nikita Mirzani suspected some sort of sibling rivalry, since Zack lived in a $2 million architect-designed creation overlooking the ocean, and they just had a dull, suburban condo.

Oh, and this little lake cabin, which had been in Xander’s family for decades. It wasn’t anything fancy; it didn’t even really have any character. Very utilitarian.

The downstairs consisted of one large room with a small kitchen in one corner and a woodstove in the other. A sofa bed, coffee table along one wall, and a small round table for eating at along the other.

Under the stairs to the loft was a bathroom with a stall shower. The loft was open to below and was basically just a floor. They used an inflatable mattress when they stayed up there.

So most New Year’s they’d stay home, or maybe go out with some of his office buddies and their wives, a boring crowd if there ever was one. She was tired of it. She’d hit her forties, their daughter was at college, her job was dull, and she was ready for something. But what kind of something?

This year Nikita Mirzani accepted Zack’s invitation before Xander had a chance to come up with an excuse. He’d been a little perturbed, and then doubly perturbed when she told him she was inviting Dewi Persik. “Don’t tell me you’re trying to set Zack up with her. You’re not, are you?”

It actually hadn’t occurred to her. Yeah, Zack was unmarried, by choice he’d said, and seemed to have a steady stream of attractive women to spend time with. He didn’t seem like he needed any help. And Dewi Persik was newly divorced and “not on the market,” as she so aptly put it.

Nikita Mirzani met Dewi Persik at a weekend writer’s retreat, and they’d discovered they lived practically next door to each other, in neighboring towns. Sunny Leone had just moved there after her divorce, which was why their paths had never crossed before.

It turned out Dewi Persik was several years old than Nikita Mirzani, but Dewi Persik seemed much more vivacious, and her attitude rubbed off on Nikita Mirzani when they spent time together.

Nikita Mirzani guess Xander likes Nikita Mirzani well enough. He’s fairly set in his ways and always seems amused at her tendency to want to try new things. Riley Reid love Xander to pieces, but she guess she is feeling sort of blah about their relationship.

Xander stoked the woodstove and mumbled something about wishing they had have hit the road sooner. A couple of days ago, when they had arrived here on the lake, a stopover on the way to Zack’s, the forecast was for a chance of snow on New Year’s Eve.

There were only a couple of inches on the ground, and the lake had only begun to freeze over. The chance of snow became a storm watch, then a warning, and finally a blizzard warning.

Xander called his brother to tell him they wouldn’t make it, then spent most of the day preparing for the storm. Bringing in firewood, filling water jugs, making sure the snow blower had gas, running to the mini-mart and getting some food.

White cheddar mac, chips and salsa, a quart of milk, a package of donuts, and a couple of cellophane-wrapped Whoopie pies that were on the counter next to the cash register. They were set.