Home > A Little Christmas Romance(4)

A Little Christmas Romance(4)
Author: H.M. Ward

Awh, frack. Is he serious? A cold rush of air fills the car. “Chris! Give me my keys back!” I jump out of my seat and stomp up behind him. “I’m tired and want to go to sleep. Don’t make me beg.”

After slipping the key into the lock, he pushes his front door open. The inside of his apartment looks like a Macy’s window. Red, green, and gold are everywhere. There are pots of poinsettias, garlands, and decorations on every surface. A smile spreads across my face, as my eyes wander around the little room. He even hung his stocking on the mantle over the fireplace. It’s so unlike him, so innocent and pure. In high school I had no idea he liked this holiday. He acted like it was stupid, but all this makes my jaw drop.

“I won’t make you beg, but I can’t let you spend the holiday alone.” He steps inside and tosses his keys on a table, before shucking his santa coat and hat. “Stay for some hot cocoa and watch an old movie with me. I’ll drive you home after.”

“Chris,” I whine and slump my shoulders, while smashing my shoes into his carpet. “I want to go to bed.”

“Really? I didn’t think I was going to get to nail an elf. Glad you changed your—ouch!” he yelps as I pinch his arm. “You’re sending mixed signals, babe. Make up your mind.” He’s laughing now, and when I try to pinch him again, he manages to get hold of my wrists. Chris gently pulls me inside and when his eyes lock on mine, something changes. My pulse pounds too hard, too fast, and I can’t breathe.

My voice comes out raspy, pleading. “This is hard enough, you know? Leaving after being here, with all this—going home to an empty apartment. Chris, I can’t do it. Don’t make me explain it to you.”

His grip lifts to my shoulders and he squeezes. “Of course not. I’m such an a**hole. Brooke. Stay here tonight.”

That was the last thing I expected him to say. My chin hits the floor and I can barely form words. “Don’t—”

He doesn’t let me speak. “I mean it. Stay with me. We’ll watch old movies, drink eggnog, and stay up all night. I can’t tell you how good it is to see you. I can’t let you leave. Stay.”

“I can’t.”

Smiling, he urges, “Don’t go.”

“I have to.”


“Because you…” intimidate me. Because you make me lose my mind. Because you’re you. I think all those things but can’t say any of them. His grip is still on my shoulders. Part of me wants to say yes, but I’m afraid of this—of him. “I just can’t.”

Chris nods slowly, like he understands, and fishes my keys out of his pocket. He holds them out so they dangle by the fob. Smiling sadly, he says, “I won’t make you stay, but I wish you would.”

We stand perfectly still and the moment feels tangible, like it matters. The truth is that I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to wake up alone tomorrow morning. I don’t want to wipe the tears out of my eyes because I miss my mom and I’m by myself. I don’t even have a cat. There’s no tree, no lights, no Christmasy anything at my place. It’s weird. I thought all those things would just remind me of what I was missing, but it didn’t work out that way. By refusing to celebrate, it put all the focus on my loss instead of my life.

Lowering my gaze to the floor, I leave the keys hanging between us. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

Chris takes a step closer, closing the space between us. He lifts my chin and looks into my eyes. “Because I’m crazy about you. I stood in line for three hours for a chance to say hello. I had no ride home. I ditched my friends and didn’t finish my Christmas shopping. I’m going to have to wrap the dog up or my brother will have no gift tomorrow.” He laughs and touches my cheek lightly. “But it was worth it, because it gave me a chance to talk to you. I never imagined that you’d be standing here tonight, that I’d get to be around you like this again. How could you not know?”

My heart slams into my ribs violently, and the way he’s looking at me makes me feel lightheaded. “Not know what?”

The corners of his mouth pull up nervously, like he wants to smile, but is uncertain. There’s a vulnerability in his eyes that undoes me before his gaze sweeps the carpet. His lips part like he wants to tell me something, but he closes his mouth and shakes his head, then runs his fingers through his hair and down his neck. “I don’t know. It’s just been a great night, that’s all. It feels like old times and I don’t want them to end.” Chris takes my hand and uncurls my fingers, placing my keys in my palm.

Pressing my lips together, I glance up at him. “I don’t want to leave.”

That sexy smirk crosses his lips. “I was hoping you’d say that.”


There’s a fire crackling in front of us. Chris is sitting on the couch next to me while I cradle a cup of cocoa and sip it slowly. I stare at the dancing flames, wondering if I’ve lost my mind. Not leaving now means that I’m staying. The snow is piling up outside and the roads are getting worse. I glance at the window again with worry twisting my gut into knots.

Chris notices and stands up after setting his cup down on the coffee table. He walks over to the tree and says, “You want to see something funny?” I nod. He twists the base so the trunk turns and the tree spins slowly. The part that faced the wall is bare. “I didn’t get a chance to finish so I shoved the undecorated side into the wall.”

I laugh lightly. “Slacker.”

“Always. But now we have something to do until Santa comes.” He winks at me and reaches for a box that’s on the floor at the base of the tree. He sets it down on the table and opens the lid. “Come help me finish it. There are a few more ornaments in here and a shitload of tinsel.”

He’s so tactless sometimes, and I wonder if it’s on purpose. Chris is always suave, constructing these wonderful sounding sentences and then throws in some jarring slang or a nasty word just to mix it up. I love it. Every time he does something like that, it’s difficult not to smile. The corners of my lips tug up on their own and my bad mood evaporates.

I place my mug down and walk over, and pick up a glass ornament. It’s a green ball with ivy etched into the sides. I walk toward the tree and hang it on a branch. Something deep inside twists and I don’t feel the agony until the smile falls off my face. I swallow the tears, the loss, and every never-again scenario that pops into my head—basically, all the grief from losing my mom—and take another ornament.

I do it again and take a slow steady breath. Chris moves closer to me and reaches over my head, putting a plastic Santa head up high. Before he steps back, he lingers in the space and I can feel him there, wondering if he should put his hands on me and offer some comfort. He knows what’s going through my head, he always has. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he saved this to make me do it with him.

The first time is the hardest. For the past few years, I let this holiday come and go. There were no decorations, no lights or tinsel. Decorating a tree next year won’t be so bittersweet and the following year, it might even be nice again. But this year, right now, it’s ripping out my insides.

Chris lingers and slips another ornament into my hands. He takes my fingers and helps me reach forward and loop it over a branch. The added sensation of his touch shorts out the horrible feelings and makes them collide with the strong certainty that Chris brings. My pulse pounds harder as he does it again and again. His touches linger and I can feel his breath on the side of my neck. Somehow my mood changes, and decorating a tree becomes sensual. The painful memories fade and it’s just me and him, here, now. There are no ghosts, no remorse.

He hands me the last ornament and as we hang it together he whispers in my ear, “You’d make an excellent elf. I need to be careful that Santa doesn’t whisk you away tonight.” He laughs for a second and adds, “Between that outfit and your height, it’d be an easy mistake.”

The corner of my mouth tugs up into a crooked smile. I round on him and poke a finger into his chest. “You’re just jealous that this much awesome fits into one little package, especially since you’re so big and lacking.”

“Did you just comment on my package?”

My jaw drops and I shove his chest with my fingertips. “I did not!”

“Yes, you did. You said it was big, too. I heard you. I knew it! You want me.” He closes his eyes like Cupid shot him in the head and dips his shoulders from side to side like a lovesick girl.

I take the opportunity to grab a fistful of tinsel and stuff it down his shirt. When he opens his mouth to yell at me, I shove my other hand up, too. “Eat tinsel!”

Chris laughs and swats me away, spitting out the silvery strips of plastic before reaching for me. I yelp and back away as fast as I can, but the back of my knees hit his couch. Chris rushes at me and jumps, but I manage to sidestep him. He flies across the table and lands on the couch before rolling onto the floor. We both freeze for a second. I wait for him to move. For a moment I think he’s hurt until his lips curl into a smile.

“You’re going to pay for that.” He jumps up and lunges at me.

I screech and try to get around the table, but I’m lacking in the stealth department. He manages to grab my thigh and we tumble to the floor. Chris pins me down and has an evil look on his face as his gaze shifts to the cup of cold cocoa on the table.

“Don’t you dare!” I laugh nervously, and try to twist away, but he’s on top of me and way too big. I can’t move.

“I don’t know. You’ve been a little naughty Brooke.” He reaches for his mug and tips it slightly but the contents don’t pour out.


Wriggling beneath him, I try to get away, but can’t. “I have not! You’re the one who went all pervert on me. I was just stating a fact.” I laugh and try to twist, but I can’t roll over and I sure can’t push him up. His legs are pressing against mine, holding them in place, and he’s got one hand next to my head and the other is holding the cup of cocoa.

“Yes, I heard you say it—I have a big package. Come on, let’s hear you say it again.” In a falsetto voice, he continues, “Chris, I like your package better than anything UPS could ever bring me.” He’s grinning hard, showing a dimple on his cheek that I haven’t seen in forever.

“No, I’m not saying that!”

“Oh, I think you are.” He tilts the mug to the side and I wiggle like a hooked worm beneath him, making the contents slosh. A drop of cocoa jumps out and spills on my throat. It’s tepid, not hot, and not cold. I feel it streak across my throat and puddle behind my ear.

His eyes trace the drop of chocolate around my neck and then flick up to my face, before dipping down to the deep V of my neckline. “I bet you don’t have a change of clothes, either. A wet chocolate elf sounds kind of kinky.” He winks and tips the cup.

I screech, thinking that he’s going to pour it on me, but he doesn’t. He rights the mug and laughs. But it takes me too long to notice. Thinking I’d be covered in chocolate, I reached for the other cup. My fingers grab the handle and before he can look up, I dump the beverage on his shoulder.

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