Sometimes I write a scene in a book and it ends up deleted. Most of the time a scene is sacrificed for the flow of the story. This following scene takes place on New Year's Eve, before Adam reappears. At the time my editor felt it slowed down the pace and I, sadly, agreed with her. But here it is, a little more Daniel, Reverend Michael, and Liz and Noel. It's the "St Martin's New Years Bash."
“You girls have a good time now.” Giving them a toothless grin the ticket seller waved them inside the church function hall.
Liz sidled closer to Bella. “I’m the youngest person here.”
“No.” Bella smiled at the elderly man taking tickets at the door. She didn’t see him having much trouble keeping the rough crowd out. “That would be me, but you run a close second.”
“No wonder he tried to wave our ticket price.” Liz snorted a laugh into her hand. “At least if you pick up a stalker here, you stand a good chance of outrunning them.”
“Too soon.” Bella tried to glare at Liz, but it would only encourage her.
Someone had made an effort to infuse some good cheer into the hall. Red, green and yellow balloons bobbed in festive clusters in the corners and on the tables. The same colored paper chains draped across the institutional square windows and fire doors. They’d gone all out with the serape tablecloths and large sombrero center pieces.
On a small stage at the far end, Smokin’ Sam’s Complete Disco Service had set up its collection of lights and sound equipment. A mirror ball dangled in forlorn, isolated splendor above the dance floor.
“Thank God, they have a bar.” Liz dragged Bella in the direction of a plastic tiki hut.
A woman with orange hair beamed a set of ice-white dentures at them. “What’s your poison girls?”
“A dirty martini?” Liz looked hopeful.
The woman wheezed a laugh and planted her fists on the bar top. “I’m gonna make this real simple for you. I got wine:, white, red or pink. I got beer, light or normal. And I got Sangria, but I wouldn’t touch that because the stupid old coot who makes it every year can’t read the labels on his booze bottles anymore and refuses to wear his glasses.”
“I’ll have a glass of white wine.” Bella nudged a horrified looking Liz.
“Beer it is.” The woman thunked two bottles on the bar top and flipped off the caps. She winked at Bella. “You’ll thank me later.”
Bella paid for their first round of drinks because Liz looked like she might go postal any minute.
“Oh, and watch out for Walter.” The barmaid called. “He may be old as dust but the fucker’s got a thing for a nice butt and he’s got some pinch left in those fingers.”
“Ladies.” A dapper man with hair darker than it would have been in his youth, did a little two-step and slid past them. “You are looking lovely this evening.”
“I’m gonna punch you right in the boob.” Liz snarled out the side of her mouth. “We could be at the Alpine Arms enjoying gluhwein made to Lars’s family recipe. The recipe goes back hundreds of years. Not to mention the sheer joy of watching Lars serve it with those teeny-tiny T-shirts he wears. I’m also damn sure the canapés don’t involve cheese whiz.”
“This next tune is for the lovely lady who just joined us.” Sam took to the microphone like he was selling phone sex.
Lady in Red blared out of the speakers.
“Fucking kill me now.” Liz groaned.
Heads whipped in Liz’s direction, grinning and nodding at her in her painted on red dress.
“They’re playing our song.” A grey-haired man in a sharp suit held his hand out to Liz.
Liz scowled at Bella. “I don’t think so.”
“Unless you think you can’t keep up with me.” Liz’s admirer did a natty little step ball change. “Of course, young thing like you shouldn’t have any trouble showing me what’s what. Unless of course, you’re chicken.”
Liz thrust her chin out. “Oh, you asked for this Gramps. It’s on.” She slapped her evening purse into Bella’s chest. “You hold that.”
“You came.” Michael strode over to her with his wide, infectious grin.
Bella took a moment to appreciate the hard, man-scented hug he followed up with. “I said we would.”
“Yeah.” Michael chuckled and motioned the room. “But...?”
“Are priests allowed to dance?” Bella jerked her head at the dance floor.
Liz scowled at her over her partner’s shoulder as they shuffled around.
“They are.” If it weren’t for his collar, Michael’s grin could be pure bad-boy. “However, the Good Lord, didn’t always see fit to bless us with rhythm.”
“I’ll risk it.” Bella dropped her and Liz’s purses onto a nearby table.
Two women grinned up at her. “What Watch yourself, Reverend.” One cackled. “She looks to be a fast little floozy.”
Bella had never been called fast or a floozy in her life. She opened her mouth and shut it again.
“Gladys has a bit of a past.” Michael chuckled close to her ear. “Rumor has it she once ran a string of girls out of a farmhouse near Spruce Ridge.”
Bella couldn’t help but stare. Gladys looked like a Norman Rockwell grandma with her iron-grey curls and apple cheeks. “Are you supposed to tell me these things?”
“She’ll tell you herself.” Michael dragged her onto the dance floor. “Once she’s got half a glass of wine in her. After three glasses she might start giving you tips on how to handle your man.”
“Dead.” Liz slid past her.
Gladys quaffed her glass and scuttled back to the tiki bar.
“Sex tips.” Michael grinned at her. “Fancies herself as a bit of a Heidi Fleiss.”
“I’m quite sure priests shouldn’t know about her.” Bella’s cheeks flushed.
“I keep telling you, I’m not Catholic.” Michael put one arm around her waist and grabbed her hand with his. “Let’s do this.”
“Changing up the pace here.” Smokin’ Sam crooned into his mic. “Elvis has entered the building.”
“Oh, boy.” Michael sucked in a breath. “Things are about to get real.”
Liz gave her partner a tight smile and tried to move off the dance floor.
As Elvis got all shook up, Liz’s dance partner took on new life. He grabbed Liz’s hand and whirled her in, his feet tapping out a swing rhythm. Liz got hauled in, swung out and spun.
Around Bella and Michael the dance floor got busy.
Liz was in the hands of a master. One hand raised he moved her across the floor like he was on rocket fuel.
Liz stumbled along, trying to keep up. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkled as she got into it.
“Come on, Padre.” A man who barely came up to Michael’s shoulder bumped him out of the way. “If you’re just going to stand there and shuffle the pretty girl around the floor, let a real man show you how it’s done.”
“Best night. Of. My. Life,” Liz raised both hands in the air as Daniel and Noel walked them to her car at a hair after midnight.
After an off-key rendition of Auld Lang Syne the hall had emptied like a draining tub.
“I think I might have learned how to dance.” Daniel chuckled. He’d been in demand on the dance floor. A man without a collar and both his hips, as Gladys put it.
Bella had learned that it was, indeed, possible to suck a golf ball through a hosepipe. Michael had his hands full discouraging Gladys from a demonstration.
Noel and Liz walked ahead, Liz’s heels dangling from Noel’s fingers. She’d had the good sense to bring along her UGGs.
Daniel cupped Bella’s elbow to help her over a patch of ice. “Did you have fun?”
“I did.” Bella was inclined to agree with Liz. Very little alcohol involved and a playlist Nana would have loved had made up their evening. Along with lots of conversation, even more dancing and a genuine enjoyment of life without all the posturing and preening of an evening at the Alpine Arms. Lars and his little T-shirts would have been much petted if he’d spent the night here.
“Bella.” Daniel stopped her. He turned her to face him.
Bella’s heart skipped a beat. Oh dear, was he going to...?
“Happy New Year.” Daniel palmed her cheek and went in for the kiss.
Momentarily shocked, it took Bella a moment to realize Daniel could kiss. Really kiss. A smooth, firm glide of lips over hers that went straight to the knees.
His tongue slid past her lips and tangled with hers.
He stepped back and smoothed his thumb over her bottom lip. “Just a little something for you to think about as you start a new year.”