Page 7 of Forbidden Stranger

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Sending Noel a quick drooling face emoticon, I make my way out of the hotel.

Once I’m on the street, I notice a few things right away.The first is that the town is just as crowded as it was last night, and there’s a line for coffee at what seems to be the only bakery in town.The other thing that sticks out is me.Apparently black isn’t a Christmas color because literally every person is dressed in something sparkly and bright.

“What the fuck?”I mumble to myself as I put on my black jacket and turn the collar up around my neck.

Deciding I have to have coffee no matter how long the wait is, I get in line.After only a few seconds, a tall man in a bright red suit comes up to me and holds out a card.He’s also wearing a Christmas tree tie that lights up, and although I don’t think it’s meant to be serious, this town has me second-guessing everything.

“Hi, I’m Mayor North.We're glad you’re here in Troping.Have a free coffee on me.”He passes me the card and then walks away like some kind of GQ Santa Claus.

“What the fuck?”I say again, and the person in front of me turns around.

“He does that a lot,” the older lady says, and then she smiles before moving forward.

When I’m inside the coffee shop, I’m greeted by the overly happy owner and given my free coffee.Then she slides me a free cookie and tells me about the crawl happening today.I’m barely able to make it out of there without more people trying to talk to me, and when I’m back out in the cold, it’s a relief.

“What the fuck?”Is that all I can say about this damn town?

Taking a sip of coffee, I’m surprised when it’s good.Really fucking good.Lifting my grimace a little, I drink some more, and the grouchy mood that I couldn’t seem to shake melts away.Or maybe the hangover is starting to subside.Either way.

Once my cup is almost empty, I look down the street and see the place I’m after.It’s been a long time since I was inside a library, but I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this.



“No!”I half scream in the middle of the library.Everyone turns to glance my way, and Joy’s face starts to turn red.“Sorry,” I whisper.

Way to go, Noel.I can’t keep quiet in my own freaking library.Not that it’s super quiet here today, anyway.Still, I’m pretty sure what Joy is telling me is a secret at the moment.

“Noel.”Joy tries to hiss under her breath, but the girl is too sweet to hiss at anyone.

“I got excited.”I whisper this time.“When did you find out?”I’m trying not to burst with excitement.All my friends are going to end up pregnant.I have a feeling Frostie and Tinsel will be pregnant any time now, and Carol already is.Will I be the oddball out?Maybe I’ll be the quirky aunt with a house full of cats and books.That doesn’t sound terrible.I've always wanted a cat, but I also want to experience true love.

“Last night.We haven’t told anyone.”I swear hearts are dancing over her head.

“I’m the first person you’ve told?”I grab her and pull her in for a giant hug.The girl gets married and is knocked up within seconds.Mayor North really doesn’t do anything half-assed.

“You’re the first I’ve told.I’m not sure if North told his parents or not yet.”She gives a small shrug, her blush growing.

I know Joy loves Troping, but I also think we can be a lot to handle.She went from a small town that was a jerk to her to one that was overwhelming with acceptance.Not to mention her parents kind of suck.

She never outright says that, but there is a lot in what she doesn’t say.They haven’t come here once since she moved to Troping, and Joy has never talked about visiting back home.She should go back to her old town and shove it in all their faces that she’s living a fairy tale, but that’s not Joy’s style.Their loss was our gain.Now she really does have a true family, and I don’t only mean everyone in town but Tinsel and North’s parents are sweethearts too.

I knew she was going to be a perfect fit for this town when she told me she took the job as North’s personal assistant and then told me how much she loved office romances.It was her favorite trope.

Not only did her life turn into that, but she also got herself some forced proximity that stuck her and North together all night where he talked her into what she thought was a marriage of convenience.The only thing convenient about it for North was him coming up with a quick way to get Joy to marry him.

“North’s mom is gonna die, but you better tell them soon.No one can keep anything from Tinsel.”

“You two talking shit?”

“Ahh!”I scream as my heart jumps into my throat.Where the hell did she come from?Again, everyone in the library turns to glance our way.Sorry!I mouth.

“Stop apologizing, you own this place now.”Tinsel puts her hands on her hips, and I see she has on her uniform along with reindeer ears on top of her head.She’s in full holiday mode, but I guess we all are.

“You have frosting right here.”Joy runs her finger under Tinsel’s chin, collecting it for her.

“Thanks, sis.”Tinsel winks at her.“So talking shit about me?”Her eyes bounce between the two of us, and a small smirk starts to form.

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