Christmas Wonderland


She’d run straight into him. The beautiful little elf that probably thought him the biggest Scrooge around. She should. He’d been nothing but unpleasant, if not rude to her from the moment he first saw her.

He had to. Had his daughter to think about. She was so fragile. In so much pain. He needed to spend every minute away from work with her. Not mooning over some beautiful, lithe girl that took his breath away.

When her friend had broken her leg and suggested Miss Noelle be allowed to take her place, he’d almost said no. Her resumé seemed too good. Too perfect. Then she’d walked into the interview room.

His brain had ceased functioning. All blood traveled south and left him without a sane thought. All he could think about was the young woman standing before him. Light brown hair cascaded halfway down her back. And her eyes. Eyes the color of brandy. She’d smiled, and the smile had reached her eyes. Surely they’d seen clear into his soul. Seen his loneliness.

He’d hired her on the spot. First time in his life he’d make such a reckless decision.

Surprisingly, he didn’t regret it. He’d watched her today. Not that she’d seen him. He imagined she wouldn’t have liked it if she’d known. He doubted she knew he owned Nickel’s as well as the entire shopping center. Most people assumed he was merely the manager. He liked it that way. He wanted people to judge him for himself, not for his family’s money. Ever since Amanda walked out on him, he’d made it a point not to let people know his family connections—still primarily in Chicago. Only a few people locally knew his background.

He’d been pleased with her performance throughout the day. Keeping children and their parents happy hopefully meant they’d shop in his store and other stores in the center—pleasing his store managers. And happy managers meant healthy profits. Not that he needed more money—his family’s extensive business interests kept him more than comfortable—but he enjoyed what he did.

But she’d gone far beyond his expectations of an elf. She’d acted like she cared—not just automatically directing each child to Santa’s lap. She actually talked to them. Paid attention to what they said, often kneeling on one knee to look into their eyes. Make them feel important.

Greg wondered what it would be like to have those eyes peer into his for any length of time. Talk to him like she had the children. Care about what he felt.

Stop it! She’s not a date—she’s an employee. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not since he’d met his wife had a woman affected him like this. He’d thought their love would last forever. Had wanted it to. Clearly Amanda hadn’t felt the same. After their daughter had been born she’d told him she was leaving. She’d met someone else. Someone who could advance her career. She’d left and never looked back. Divorce papers had arrived in less than a week. He’d felt gut punched when she told him she’d never loved him. Had only wanted his money.

For the first time in years, Greg found himself wanting to open up to someone again. Be near someone other than his tiny daughter. He’d shut out everything—everyone— after Amanda left.

He’d seen Miss Noelle every day for the past week while she’d been in training. Greg shook his head. Whoever heard of week-long training to be an elf? He’d devised the class for employees from all the stores who rented space from his shopping mall merely as a means to see her. The woman with the Christmasy name. The woman with the haunting brown eyes. Eyes that called to him. Made him want more.

He was a fool.

©2006 Leanne L. Burroughs



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