"This Christmas" (a holiday short)
Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmakwanzakah blog hop! This hop was put together by my author friends Julia Kelly and Alyssa Cole to share some wonderfully written romance stories and today, I’m featuring my holiday short, "This Christmas," a mini-prequel to my current novel, "Because This Is Forever." My holiday short takes place during the main character's company holiday party and what Mia Trent wants this Christmas will be granted under a bit of stolen mistletoe...
By Lena Hart
By Lena Hart
“If you stare hard enough, you might be able to rip those trousers right off him.”
Mia Trent tore her gaze away from Nate McArthur and they landed squarely on her colleague’s knowing look. Though Nate stood far enough away from Mia to even notice her innocent ogling, Betsy O’Reilly never missed a thing.
“What are you talking about?” Mia continued to unstack the disposable, stemless wine “glasses” and arrange them on the counter. She couldn’t help the heated flush that flooded her cheeks, but she kept her embarrassment at bay and avoided eye contact with the Irishwoman.
“Oh, my dear, who are you trying to fool? The prescription of my glasses may be old, but even a blind man can see that you’re sweet on Charles McArthur’s son.”
Mia froze in her task, worry furrowing her brows. She glanced over at Betsy and caught her nod of resignation. The older executive assistant was more observant than most, but could others notice her humiliating fawning over Nate McArthur?
“I was just admiring his...hair. It looks different tonight.” Actually, his hair was worn the same way it always was when he came into the office. It was cut low with the few strands on the top gently windblown, but Mia didn’t feel guilty about her little, white lie. Though she liked and trusted Betsy not to begin any office gossip, Mia needed to keep her crush on her boss’s son solely between herself and God.
Betsy, however, wasn’t buying it. “In my country, when someone admires hair like that, we call that a fetish.”
Mia shrugged, a small smile tugging at her lips. “Well, now you know my secret. I have a hair fetish. But I promise I’m seeing someone about it.”
Betsy raised a pale brown brow, then burst out with a loud laugh. Mia shared in the woman's mirth and they resumed lining the counter with hard clear plastic cups filled with red and white wine.
This year, McArthur, Murphy and Company had decided to be “fiscally responsible” and host the company’s annual holiday party on the top floor of MMC’s corporate building. Unlike some of the disgruntle staff, however, Mia didn’t much mind where they had the party. She was more annoyed with the fact that said party was being held the night before Christmas Eve. With the unpredictable Chicago winter, Mia had much preferred to be on her way to Detroit to spend that holiday with her mother and sister. And she also took exception to playing bartender for the night.
Mia, along with several other executive assistants, had been tasked with serving drinks and performing “light” cleanup throughout the night. She and the other assistants had decided on shifts so that there would be an opportunity for them to enjoy the party and she and Betsy had only another half hour until their shift was over.
MMC was one of the top consulting firms in Chicago and Mia found it hard to believe that they couldn’t find the money in the company’s budget to hire a catering company. Instead, the beverages and hor’devours had all been delivered and were now being held in the main conference room, which had been turned temporarily into the holiday party storage room. Another inconvenience since that room was at the opposite end of where their makeshift bar and food table was currently situated. But Charles McArthur didn’t care about such things. It wasn’t easy being the executive assistant to the co-founder and CEO, but in her almost two years at MMC, Mia had learned what a shrewd and unsympathetic businessman he was. Evidently, he saw nothing wrong with having his executive assistant working during an employee-centered function.
Nate, however, was different then his father—at least from their brief interaction, he appeared to be. Though he resembled his father in many ways, there was a sort of compassion in his dark brown eyes that was missing in his father’s. There was nothing soft or tender about the CEO’s son—he was tall and masculine and carried himself with a sort of confidence that rivaled his father’s. But there was distinct warmth and passion emanating from him that drew Mia.
She sighed and mentally shook herself. She needed to put a stop to her fanciful thoughts of Nate McArthur. They had never had any interaction beyond the two, three words he occasionally spoke to her whenever he came to visit his father. He was always distant and aloof, too. She figured Nate either didn’t like her or he didn’t like anyone. Yet it was hard for her to believe either. If the eyes were the windows into the soul, Mia had to believe her attraction to him was not based solely on his good looks. There was more going on behind those dark brown eyes than he led anyone else to believe.
“You may want to put a smile on your pretty face, love. Your Prince Charming is on his way over.”
At Betsy’s words, Mia looked up to find Nate making his way toward them. She only had a split second to decide what she would say to him. Merry Christmas? Happy holiday? Or maybe I should just ask him what he’d like to drink? I should at least say “hi” first, right?
Unfortunately, Mia wouldn’t get to ask him anything.
Nate was quickly intercepted by a man she recognized from finance and soon their counter was flooded by a bevy of thirsty partygoers. Disappointment washed over her, but she suppressed it. If she was in the wishing mood, she would have wished for one night where Nate McArthur noticed her, maybe even had more to say to her than “Good morning” or “Is my father in?” She had even taken a chance at wearing her new dress, hoping the red, fitted sweater dress would draw his attention. It had for a brief moment when his gaze ran down along the length of her, but it apparently was not enough for him to make the effort to come at least say “hello.”
The evening proceeded in a blur as she and Betsy continued to pour and serve and for the next half hour, she was able to lose herself in the holiday excitement of the crowd. People more than a little tipsy sang along with the Christmas carols playing over the loud speakers and Mia couldn’t help but laugh at the outrageousness that made their way up to the bar.
Eventually they ran low on everything but Betsy had no plans of restocking.
“Oh no, Mia. Let the next group worry about getting more. Our shift is over.”
Mia watched as Betsy began assembling the empty wine bottles into neat piles. She was right. A quick glanced at the time said they were actually five minutes over their time. “But the other two aren’t here to relieve us yet. We can’t just leave it unmanned. At least I can’t or I’ll never hear the end of it from Mr. McArthur.”
For a minute, Betsy looked as if she wanted to argue, but she understood the strain Mia was under working with the company’s CEO and Mia didn’t want to give him anything to mark against her.
Betsy sighed. “Fine. You hold down the forte and I’ll go find the slackers to take over.”
Fifteen minutes passed and Mia was starting to wonder if Betsy had forgotten about her. Luckily, things were now manageable so her patience, though thin, was still there.
“Are you going to stay behind there all night?”
She froze at the sound of the deep, baritone voice that was all too familiar and glanced up to find Nate staring at her from across the counter, a small smile on his handsome face. He almost never smiled when he strolled pass her desk and into his father’s office on those occasional visits to MMC. His smile was warm and sensual and she found herself grinning back.
“I sincerely hope not.” She smoothed her hands down her red dress just to give her hands something to do, but his gaze glanced along the path her hand took down her thighs. “I’m waiting for the other team to come take over and then—.”
“Sorry I’m late, Mia. I lost track of time. But I’m here now.”
She glanced at the bubbly brunette rushing around the counter and stifled a groan. Couldn’t the girl wait five more minutes? But it didn’t matter. Nate had been pulled away by an older woman Mia recognized from Human Resources. He didn’t bother to glance back at her as she watched the woman led him to the other end of the room.
Mia sighed in defeat. Tonight would have probably been the one and only time she’d get to have a regular, casual conversation with Nate McArthur, yet fate—and the great employees at McArthur, Murphy and Company—seemed to be conspiring against her.
Mia turned back to the newly hired receptionist, Julie, and quickly gave her the low down. “Until Betsy can find Cheryl, you’re going to be on your own. But it’s been manageable, so you’ll be fine.”
Julie pouted. “Do you mind at least bringing over some more wine?”
Actually, Mia did mind. She’d been behind that counter, smiling and serving drinks, for the last two hours. She was ready to relax, drink, and sing Christmas carols like everyone else. But instead, she gritted her teeth and nodded to the younger woman.
Mia made her way to the opposite end of the building and slipped into the large, messy conference room only to find more empty boxes of wine then actual wine bottles. The way the liquor was being guzzled, there was enough to maybe serve a reasonable crowd for another hour or so but that was all. For some reason that thought annoyed her. Here she was, the night before Christmas Eve, running around getting more wine for the already tipsy crowd, yet she hadn’t even gotten to taste the stuff.
To hell with that.
Glancing behind her, Mia quietly shut the conference room door and snatched up a bottle of Pinot Gris and a plastic wine glass. She made her way to the far end of the room—away from the scattered, unused holiday décor and large, empty boxes—and settled down into a large, leather swivel chair. She would have one glass of wine and then maybe she would see about bringing out more to the bar.
Mia was two glasses into her wine, enjoying the break and solitude, when she heard the quiet click of the conference room door open. She spun around in the swivel seat and jumped out of her chair when Nate walked into the conference room. He closed the door quietly behind him and regarded her with cool amusement.
“Do you plan to hide in here all night?”
Mia cleared her throat and set her half empty glass of white wine next to the open bottle. She was grateful her sudden nervousness hadn’t caused her hand to tremble. She wanted to appear cool and composed when she eventually found her voice to respond to him. “Uh, I’m not hiding. I was just—”
He laughed. “You don’t have to explain. I get it.” With slow, unhurried strides, he made his way further into the room, toward her.
“There are people looking for you. Someone mentioned that you had come back here for more wine.”
“I was just taking a short break, but yes, I’ll bring some out now.”
“Don’t bother. Someone had already brought out a case. They should have more than enough now.”
Mia frowned and glanced at the open bottle she had selfishly hoarded for herself. So they hadn’t been in danger of running out of wine?
“I’m glad I finally got you alone.” His dark eyes were watchful and alert. If she’d ever wanted his attention, she certainly had it now.
“I wanted to tell you how beautiful you look tonight.”
Mia blinked at him, surprised. She hadn’t known what to expect, but it hadn’t been that. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. But you look beautiful every time I see you. I just don’t get a chance to tell you so.”
She was blushing now and was grateful for her medium brown complexion or her face would have been as red as her dress. She wasn’t drunk enough yet to pretend she had misheard him, but she wasn’t sober enough to think of what to say to that.
As she struggled to find the words that would make her appear less affected than she was, he grabbed something from the table and advanced toward her with determined steps. He didn’t stop until he was standing directly in front of her and she debated whether she should take a step back or lean in toward him.
“Do you know how the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started?” She frowned at the random question and shook her head. He grinned. “Me neither. But I do know that it’s bad luck to refuse a kiss when caught under one.”
“But we’re not—”
She barely caught a glimpse of the green twig with the tiny red berries that he held above their heads before his lips came down on hers. The kiss startled her at first—then literally took her breath away. He kissed her with a skill of a man who had been born to it and with an eagerness that revealed just how much he wanted that small contact.
Yet there was nothing slight in the way his lips moved over hers. She didn’t realize she had her arms looped around him until his arm tightened around her and he drew her close, until her body was pressed along the length of his. Breathless, they pulled away and she tried to control the tremors running through her.
Nate continued nipping at the corner of her lips and she released a soft, shaky sigh. “You know there’s another tradition that says for every berry on this twig, I have to kiss you.”
They both glanced at the bushel of tiny red berries lining the twig still in his hand. If that were true, they were looking at a lot of kisses. She couldn’t help the bubble of excitement that spread through her, but it was quickly replaced by anxiety. She couldn’t forget who he was or where they were.
“I like that tradition,” she murmured, glancing at the conference room door. “But we don’t have the time, and anyone can walk in here.”
“You’re right. Here is not the right place, but it doesn’t have to be tonight.” He brushed the pad of his thumb lightly across her lower lip. She shivered from the light touch. “We have tomorrow night and the night after that, Mia, to get through those berries.” His eyes lit up mischievously. “And you know how we’re going to do that?”
Contentment filled her at his words and her smile widened. She had an idea, but she asked anyway. “How?”
“One kiss at a time.”
He leaned down and fitted his lips over hers and once again, she lost herself in his embrace. She looped her arms around his neck as delight and pleasure flooded her. It seemed this Christmas she was getting more than she wished for, after all.
~~~~~♥~~~~~Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the story and don’t forget to check out the next holiday story by Jenny Holiday. To see the author list and check out the full schedule of the the “12 Days” blog hop, click here or follow #12DaysHop on Twitter.
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~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~About Because This Is Forever...
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Former hopeless romantic, Mia Trent, is crushed when the love of her life, Nate McArthur, reveals that he doesn’t want to get married—or have children. But it’s too late. Mia is already pregnant and her dream of “happily ever after” is sharply put to an end when she decides to keep her pregnancy a secret, refusing to force him into a life he doesn’t want.
The compromise that made them a family...
Five years later, Mia must reach out to Nate for help or risk losing her home and shelter for their son. Stunned and outraged by the sudden news of his child, Nate proposes a compromise: give him the summer to get to know his son and he’ll save her home. Yet with Mia back in his life, Nate isn't willing to lose her—or their son—again. What starts off as a temporary arrangement soon becomes a chance at rediscovery and becoming a family. Only Nate must convince his jaded dreamer that his love for her is true…and will last now and forever.