Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers!
by Jenna Jaxon
Tessa awoke on the sofa to the sound of the door opening. The lights were off, so Janice was silhouetted in the doorway. “Tess? I saw your car. What are you still doing here?”
Lights flashed on. Tess blinked and shielded her eyes. She tried to sit up but Hal’s big warm body had her pinned down. He lay sprawled half on top of her, wedged against the back of the couch.
“What the hell is going on here?” Janice’s shriek brought Hal’s head up. “What are you doing on top of my sister, Hal Chapman? Have you lost your mind?”
“I don’t think so, Janice.” He grunted and looked down at Tess. Ran a finger down her cheek that made her shiver. “I don’t think I’ve lost anything at all.”
“And you, you little slut.” Janice stalked over to peer down at her sister. “You were supposed to get rid of him. Not screw him.”
“I figured better me than you, Jan.”
Janice’s face flushed bright red. “Out! Both of you get out of my house, this minute.” She even stamped her foot, which made it hard for Tess not to laugh.
Hal shifted and eased off of her. He glanced around the room and located his pants, draped over an end table. As he pulled them on, Tess sat up and grabbed hers from the opposite end of the sofa. She stood and stepped into them, eyeing her sister. Janice’s chest heaved, as though she had run a marathon.
“I never want to see you again.” Janice swept the door open. “Either of you!” Tess grabbed the velvet box and shrugged into her coat. Hal slung his over his shoulder and put an arm around Tess, guiding her out the door. He stopped just before they crossed the threshold. “Merry Christmas, Janice. Thanks for the present.” He squeezed Tess’s shoulders and ushered her through the door. Tess caught a glimpse of her sister’s face, which approached the purple reserved for eggplants, as the door slammed shut. Hal pulled her down the short walkway toward the parking lot.
Once they were far enough away, she looked up at him. A huge grin spread over his face and he suddenly picked her up and spun her around, whooping with laughter. When he stopped, they leaned together, laughing until Tess felt boneless with relief.
“Now services have been completely rendered.” He stepped back from her, though his hand seemed to linger as it slid down her arm.
“Quite to everyone’s satisfaction.” She paused a moment. “Except Janice’s of course. Revenge is very sweet.”
Hal pulled his coat on and adjusted the collar against the cold night wind. “I just have one question, Tess, if you don’t mind answering it.”
“What’s that?” She dug in her pocket for her keys.
“What would you have said if I’d really asked you to sleep with me? ”
Tess went still, her hand clenched around the ball of keys. “I’d have said yes.”
His eyebrows swooped upwards. “Really?”
“Yes. But only because it was you. Not just because of the earrings. You know I need the money, but I…I wouldn’t have done it with anybody else.”
“Oh.” She couldn’t read his voice and the dark shadowed his face.
“It’s just that…I like you, Hal. I think Janice was awful to you, and you deserve someone better. You’re a good guy, and I…I wouldn’t have minded.” Tess’s voice dropped to a whisper. She turned and headed toward her car, her breath puffing in the crisp air.
“Tess.” He stood right behind her as she struggled to get the key into the door. His arm on her shoulder stopped her efforts and a shiver crawled down her back. She waited for the words that would take him out of the good guy category and put him into the one reserved for creeps.
“Do you think you could go from ‘wouldn’t have minded’ to ‘want to very much?’”
She turned to face him, confused. It was not the question she expected. “What do you mean?”
“I guess that was my lame way of asking you if you want to have dinner with me tomorrow? And to go to a movie with me on Christmas Day? To see each other for a while and then find out if you would ‘want to very much?’”
The light was so damned poor she could only see parts of his face, but he smiled at her and his eyes had a hopeful gleam. “I’d like that a lot, Hal. Dinner and a movie, and some…time.”
His smile deepened as his hand cupped her chin. Raised it just enough to brush his lips across hers. More shivers ran down her back. Good shivers this time. Ones that might soon lead to that “want to very much” feeling.
“Six o’clock tomorrow night?” Another brush of his lips set her on fire.
“Uh huh. You know where I live?”
“Yes.” He pulled away and opened her door. “You’d better leave now if you want a hope of having some time to decide.”
Tess smiled at him, but hurried into the car. She shut the door then he motioned for her to lower the window.
“Just wanted to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ Tess. You’re the best present I ever got.” He leaned in for a final kiss then was gone.
Tess watched him walk away, then picked up the box and opened it. The earrings caught the scant light and twinkled like stars. She stared at the cold jewels in her hand then glanced at the warm man retreating across the parking lot. “You’re the best present I ever got too. Merry Christmas, Hal. Very much.”
Hope you enjoyed my “present” to you. Have a safe and happy Christmas. Happy Holidays!