A Holiday Treat pt. 1 (Baby, It's Cold Outside)

Dear readers and friends:

Experience Christmas in New York this season with my upcoming holiday romance, My Silent New York Night. This novella is not only a treat for my readers this holiday, it's also an homage to the city that has become—and will always be—my second home. 

In My Silent New York Night, I do things a little differently. This story is a New Adult/Romantic Comedy—a mash-up you don't typically see in the New Adult subgenre with all their brooding/tortured heroes. Not that I don't enjoy a good read with a dark and disturbed alpha hero but this story is about a young aspiring actress coming into her own and learning some valuable lessons along the way. 

This is the first story I've ever written in 1st person (in the heroine's point-of-view) and I have to admit it wasn't as torturous as I would have thought. But then again, Celeste Nightingale is a diva and demanded she be the star of this novella. And through her, I discovered that I could write humor after all. Who knew!

As a special treat this weekend, I will be posting chapter 1 and 2 of the story for your reading enjoyment. The full story releases on Christmas Eve. Enjoy!

All my best,

1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside

       Dang, it was cold!
The frigid air whipped across my face the moment I stepped outside the taxi waiting area of LaGuardia Airport.
And I wasn’t prepared. The thin scarf around my neck did nothing to keep the chill from seeping through to nip at my skin. A shiver ran through my body and I clenched my teeth to keep them from quivering.
“Happy holidays, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to New York.”
I turned to the sound of the deep, booming voice coming from the stocky taxicab dispatcher in a bright, yellow coat. What did he find happy about being out in the cold night air of Queens?
“For those travelling to Manhattan, form a line here. We will get you into a cab as soon as possible.” The short man stood some distance away from the haphazard line that had begun to form. He was a small man, but his voice reached the far end of the long line where I stood.
I followed the crowd that began to venture to the “Manhattan only” line, growing more numb from the icy weather with each passing minute. I shifted in my platform boots, trying to keep warm. Thankfully, it was too cold for snow to fall, but that didn’t make the freezing weather any less depressing. The sooner I could get into a cab, the sooner I would be walking into my Nana’s home.
Looking at the two large suitcases next to me, I shuffled along the line with the others and watched as two taxi dispatchers scrambled to get us into cabs. They were filled with energy—a stark contrast to what was turning out to be an overcast evening. But looking at the line of people that wrapped around the small waiting area, there was no way I would be getting into a cab soon enough to keep from freezing. The sight of the huddled bodies in their long, dark coats and worn-out boots, trying to keep warm as they waited for their turn to be shuffled into a yellow cab, was a depressing one. In that moment, I missed the sunny skies of California, though Los Angeles hadn’t been kind to me these past five years.
  I looked up at the gray, dreary December sky and blew out a breath. I had made my decision—and a pact with God—to move back to New York and give it an honest try, so it was too late for regrets now. I just hoped God held His end of the bargain and made me famous.
Rich and famous,” I muttered as a reminder.
Twenty minutes later, a dispatcher finally handed me a slip and before I knew it, I was being shuffled toward an empty cab. The driver jumped out from behind the wheel and thankfully helped me with my bags.
“Where you going, honey?”
“139th and Lenox Ave,” I quickly rattled off then jumped in the cab. I hadn’t realized how cold it was until the ice began to melt from my bones. The cabbie quickly climbed in and soon we were leaving the crowded airport behind. I was on my way to Nana’s. Finally!
It had been five years since I’d been back to see my grandmother and I was embarrassed I had let it go so long since I’d been back to visit. After I’d graduated high school, my parents had decided to “retire” down in Florida. With my limited budget, I had been forced to choose between spending my small holiday funds to either see my parents in sunny south Florida or come back to Harlem where I had spent the first eighteen years of my life. I’d always chosen Florida.
Now I was back in New York, maybe even permanently, and I had to admit I missed my Nana.
“So are you returning home or just visiting?”
I looked up, startled by the question. Great. I was riding in a car with a talker. “I’m returning.” From the two large luggages he had to shove into his trunk, he had to figure I was more than just visiting.
“Ahh. Where are you moving from?”
“Really? You left the sun to move to this—hey! Watch it, you son of a—”
I grabbed the overhead strap to keep myself steady as the cabbie proceeded to let loose a series of curses in another language. I unconsciously glanced at his identification on the back of his seat. For some reason, it made me feel a little better to know the name of my cabbie. Not that it stopped Ahmet Karim from proceeding to drive with a speed and unruliness that kept my grip tight on the passenger hanger. It had been over five years since I’d ridden in a New York cab and I’d almost forgotten what an adventure it could be.
“Did you miss New York?”
Apparently, Ahmet Karim was a nosy talker. I didn’t mind, though. It helped take my mind off the uncomfortable ride.
“Yes and no,” I admitted. “I miss my family, and maybe the food, but I don’t miss the cold.”
Ahmet laughed. “It’s better today. Last week it snowed morning and night for four days straight!”
I would have thought he was exaggerating since it was rare to get a blizzard in the city this early in the season, but I had the cancelled and rescheduled flights to validate his story. I should have been in New York on the first day of December, but the blizzard had hit and I’d been forced to stay in Los Angeles a few days longer, which had not been fun since I had sold everything I owned and all I had left were my too-good-to-give-up clothes and shoes.
The cabbie hit the breaks hard—again—and I felt my stomach roll.
“You can drop me off here, sir.”
“Don’t be scared, honey. I’ve been driving cabs for over twenty years. It’s these idiots here who don’t know what they’re doing.”
Yeah, right. I braced myself again as the cabbie made another sharp turn. “My Nana’s building is right up the street. I can walk the rest of the way.”
“You sure?”
The man shrugged and pulled to the side of the curb. He stopped the meter and I frowned when the fare shot up another seven dollars. “Why so much?”
“Toll and surcharges, honey.”
“But that doesn’t make sense. Last time I was here, I didn’t have to pay this much.”
“You can thank the mayor for that!”
Ahmet chuckled before he jumped out of his cab, and before I was done paying the fare through the card reader, he had my two large bags on the sidewalk. I was barely out of the cab before a series of honks sounded behind us. I glanced back and was surprised to find a line of cars backed up around the corner.
“Yo! Move your ass!”
I jerked slightly when one of the drivers proceeded to shout obscenities at us.
“OMG,” I muttered, grabbing the handle of my bags from Ahmet. “Where’s the fire?”
Ahmet laughed. “Welcome to New York, honey.”
I gritted my teeth and watched as he jumped back in his cab and peeled off. Still mumbling, I dragged my bags behind me, instantly regretting not having Ahmet drive me in front of my grandmother’s building. I had underestimated the discarded snow that had piled up on the narrow sidewalk and the trash that lined the curb made it difficult for me to maneuver my large bags. But it was warmer out in the city tonight, unlike the icy air I had been forced to suffer outside of the airport.
I eventually made it to my Nana’s three-story brownstone and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Finally,” I muttered.
I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I had missed the small building where I had spent much of my childhood. I started to feel a lot better about my move.
The building was just as I remembered it. If anything, the fallen snow on the roof and windowsills gave it some added charm. Many of the trees lining the block were adorned with tiny white string lights around the trunk and branches. The one thing I certainly missed about the big city was the holidays. There was nothing like Christmas in New York and I almost forgot how it sort of seemed to transform the bleak, dreary city into something…magical.
Staring at my grandmother’s building, with its windows and banister also strung up with bright tiny lights, filled me with renewed hope. Everything would all work out for the best, I just had to have faith.
Feeling lighter than I had in months, I took a step toward my new home only to have my boots slip from under me. I had only a split second to process what was happening before I landed hard on my butt.
Pain shot through my bottom, up my back before radiating down my legs. But it didn’t compare to the embarrassment that flooded me. I closed my eyes as if that would help lessen my humiliation.
Did anyone see that?
Of course someone had seen me fall on my ass. This was New York City. And it didn’t help that I was still lying on the ground like some idiot.
Oh, great. I opened my eyes to find a guy in a large puffer jacket hovering over me. He was cute, with laughing eyes. Like Ryan Gosling. I couldn’t make out the color of his eyes but they were either green or blue—or both—and against his dark hair, they were striking.
“Are you okay?”
I took stock of my injuries again, but besides a sore backside and aching pride, I didn’t think I’d done a lot of damage.
“I think so.”
“You have to watch for the black ice,” the stranger cautioned in a heavy accent that sounded very European, though I couldn’t place it. Before I’d left New York, I had been very good at placing accents. Unfortunately, Los Angeles had siphoned away that talent.
 I stared at his outstretched hand for a minute longer before slipping my hand into his. He lifted me up with such swift ease I barely needed to put in any effort. I was carrying a little extra so it couldn’t have been easy for him. I glanced up at his face, but there didn’t seem to be any strain. I couldn’t remember the last time a man had been able to literally lift me off my feet. Heck, I didn’t think anyone ever had.
This guy, however, had done just that without pulling a muscle. Not only was he strong, but he was tall, too.
I was in love.
Oh, shut up, girl.
“Thanks,” I muttered, tearing my eyes from his and busying myself by slapping snow from my coat and jeans.
“You’re most welcome, milashka.”
I blinked up at the man, but before I could say anything, he had his hands jammed in his pockets and was already heading down the block, his long-legged strides taking him around the corner and out of sight.
Where had he come from? Not that I wasn’t used to seeing white people in Harlem, but never this far east—and rarely past 125th street.
Well, he’s gone now, so get over it.
I glanced back up at my Nana’s brownstone then down at the snow covered steps. With a heavy sigh, I grabbed my bags and braced myself.
Now, let’s try this again.


“It’s a good thing you had that extra weight on you to soften your fall.”
“Very funny, Nana.”
“I’m not trying to be, chipmunk. Your bootie is a blessing. As many times as I’ve talked to Miller about those steps… I should sue him.”
I shook my head and took another sip of my tea. If my grandmother had ever gotten around to suing the countless people on her list, we would own the brownstone by now, and my Nana could fire the no-count super. “You don’t need to sue him, Nana. Just remind him that he needs to shovel the sidewalk and salt the steps.”
“I’ve tried, chipmunk, but you know how he is. It’s always ‘tomorrow, Ms. Gayle.’ Well, today is tomorrow and did he do anything? No.”
I watched as my grandmother bustled around the small eat-in kitchen, preparing her famous cinnamon squash soup. It was below forty degrees outside but felt colder in my Nana’s three-bedroom apartment, thanks to the broken radiator. I was bundled up inside the apartment, hoping the hot tea could warm my insides until the super could get here, but even the tea couldn’t get me warm enough. I hoped my Nana’s soup would do the trick.
“You know with Miller, you have to stay on top of him with stuff like this.”
“Oh, I do. Even Meesha has said something to him about salting the ice.”
“Yes, Meesha. My new roommate.” Nana cocked her head to the side. “I didn’t tell you?”
I stared at my Nana, incredulous. Who and how? “Nana, when did you get a roommate? Actually, I take that back. Why did you get a roommate? And all the times we’ve talked, you never mentioned having some stranger living here with you.”
“What do you mean all the times we talked? Child, you never call me and you never answer my calls.”
I fumbled for words, but what my Nana was saying was true. The last time we had spoken had been on her seventy-first birthday—six weeks ago.
“Anyway, Meesha has only been here for a month and is good company.”
“Well, Nana, how long—” I bit my words back before they could leave my big mouth. I was going to ask how long this Meesha person planned to live here but then realized having someone besides myself to help my grandmother with the rent would be to my advantage. Of course, Nana hadn’t asked me to pay rent. Now I wouldn’t feel bad for not offering.
“How long, what, chipmunk? You need to learn to finish your thoughts.”
I shook my head. “Nothing. I just wanted to know where I’m supposed to sleep then.”
“In the bedroom next to mine. Meesha has the back room. For more privacy.”
I sipped my tea to mask my relief. Good. The back room was smaller anyway. And this way, we wouldn’t get in each other’s way.
“Did you include the utilities in the rent, Nana? You know, that stuff adds up.”
“I know, chipmunk. Joanne helped me set this all up. I posted it on Greg’s list and Meesha called me the next day.”
“You mean Craigslist, Nana?”
“That’s what I said.”
I didn’t argue. Instead, I thought about my best friend, who I had done an even worse job of keeping in touch with. “You and Joanne still talk?”
“Of course we still talk. You girls have been friends since the second grade. Joanne is practically family. She comes to church with me some Sundays, too.”
“But we haven’t talked in like…a year.”
“And whose fault is that?”
I frowned, not at all happy with my grandmother’s silent accusation. “I guess we’ve both been busy ‘cause I don’t see her rushing to call me.”
“Oh, Ceese, don’t be petty. It doesn’t cost a thing to pick up the phone and call your family. And if you had called me last night, I would have told you that I got you an interview with Manhattan Clean tomorrow morning.”
“What? Nana, why? You know I need my days open for auditions and stuff.”
“I know, chipmunk. That’s why this is perfect for you. It’s part-time and the hours are late nights.”
“Don’t but me, girl.”
Nana turned to me, her hand on her hip and the sternest look on her face that put me in my place. My Nana may be as small as Cicely Tyson but her temper was as big as Mike’s.
“You can stay here with me as long as you like but it won’t be for free. You’re twenty-three years old, Ceese. I expect you to pull your weight around here, too.”
I tried to hold back a pout but it was hard. So much for my advantages. “A week to get settled would be nice, too.”
“Can you afford to be without a job for a week?”
No, I couldn’t, but it still would have been nice to have.
“I didn’t think so,” Nana said. It was annoying at how good she was at reading my mind. “Besides, I got Meesha a job there, too. Maybe you two can ride down together for work some nights. I want you both to be good friends.”
“Oh, I’m sure we will be,” I muttered. “Seeing as we’re going to be roomies and all.”
Nana frowned. “Don’t sass me, girl. That’s why you don’t have any friends now.”
I resented that. Of course, I had friends. I just didn’t have time to catch up with them all…
“What time is the interview, Nana?”
My Nana turned back to the pot and continued her stirring. “Nine o’clock. But you want to be there fifteen minutes early. Since it’s downtown, you want to give yourself some travel time. And wear something nice. Linda is doing me a favor by hiring you and I don’t need you going down there and embarrassing me.”
“It’s cleaning work, Nana. I’m the one who should be embarrassed.”
At the complete silence in the kitchen, I immediately regretted my words.
“That cleaning job helped me pay for this apartment and raise three children. And gave me enough to retire from. Now I don’t know what you learned when you were in Hollywood, but you better unlearn it real quick.”
“Sorry, Nana. I didn’t mean nothing by it. It’s just…how am I supposed to make a name for myself if I’m too busy cleaning toilets?”
Nana frowned. “You need to set aside some of that pride, Ceese. We can’t all be born into privilege. Most of us have to work hard for what we want and you’re no exception.”
“I know, Nana. I’m just saying, it’s already hard enough trying to get acting work. How can I follow my dreams if I’m too tired working all hours of the night?”
My Nana looked unfazed by my dilemma. Instead, she returned her attention to the bubbling soup. “You’re smart and strong, chipmunk. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You’re a Robinson, after all.”
I sighed. And that was that. My problems were solved. “It’s Nightingale now,” I reminded her absently. “I got it legally changed this summer so I can be more…memorable to talent agents.”
“Nevaeh Celestial Robinson is already memorable and there is nothing wrong with it.”
I groaned. “Nevaeh is just heaven spelled backwards, Nana, and I haven’t let anyone call me that since the first grade. Why would you even let Daddy get away with that?”
“Well, seeing as you came out of your mama on Christmas day, it seemed appropriate. And we all thought it was pretty.”
“It is, just not for me. Celeste Nightingale, on the other hand, it has a heavenly ring to it. Besides, the “Gayle” was named after you, you know.”
Nana huffed and waved her hand dismissively. “I liked the name your mama and daddy gave you.”
I shrugged. “My name now sounds special and much prettier to me.”
Nana shook her head. “If you saw what we did, you’d see how special and beautiful you already are.”
“I do,” I said with a small smile.
Grandmothers were made to say things like that, but I knew that’s not how the rest of the world saw me. Yet, that didn’t bother me. I was happy with my looks. Heck, if given the opportunity, I could have been a stand-in for Malinda Williams, or played Nia Long in any movie. In my eyes, I saw no problems with how I looked but I wasn’t delusional.
In my family’s eyes, I may be special, but to the rest of the world, I was just a curvy, shorter-than-average black girl with flawless brown skin, a stylish haircut, and a Cindy Crawford mole just above my lip. I may not be perfect, but in my eyes, I was perfectly fine.
After all, I was Celeste Nightingale—a born superstar.

Come back tomorrow for a peek into chapter 2!