Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Please by Jade Falconer

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” muttered Ian, looking at the fuzzy red suit.

“Pardon?” the perky blonde manager said blankly.

“I said, I’m looking forward to this,” Ian spoke more loudly, forcing a smile as he accepted the costume from the woman. He reminded himself that this was a very brief, temporary job, and the money was good. That he would be sitting around at home during the holidays, feeling sorry for himself, if he wasn’t doing this. But a department store Santa...he sighed.

“Awesome! Why don’t you go on into the dressing room and try the suit on, and we can see if it needs any tailoring? You’re slimmer than the last Santa, he didn’t need any padding at all!” the manager enthused.

“Thanks,” Ian said, wondering if that was a compliment or not. He was only fifty, but his hair was a distinguished gray, leading most people to believe he was older. At least he wouldn’t need a wig. Just the beard. Which would hopefully keep anyone he knew from recognizing him. He would definitely need the padding, which was ironic because he went to the gym five times a week to stay in shape. He sighed again and headed for the changing room.

A few minutes later, a young man slipped through the door. “Oh. Sorry, they told me to change in here,” he stammered.

Ian already had the red pants on and was pulling on the jacket over his t-shirt. “Ah, you must be one of my elves,” he said warmly, eyeing the young man, who carried a colorful costume. He was beautiful, slender, and waiflike, with black hair hanging almost to his shoulders, face flushed from the cold outside. With his full lips and the subtle smudge of eyeliner around his pale eyes, Ian could bet that he’d been mistaken for a girl more than a few times. But to Ian, who preferred men, his sex was more than obvious. His oversized sweater barely met clinging, low-slung jeans, and he could have been a model or a rock star easily.

He smiled and extended his hand. “I’m James. Nice to meet you, Mr. Claus,” he said with a boyish grin.

Ian laughed. “Call me Ian. Please.” He shook James’ delicate hand, trying not to ogle him. This job had just gotten more pleasant.

“Ian. Yes. I’m one of your elves.” He dropped a messenger bag on a small desk and hung his costume on a hook. “Have you done this before?” he asked as he yanked the wooly sweater off over his head.

Ian snickered as he buttoned the red and white coat. “No,” he said, his mouth going dry as James began to strip. He turned his attention to the wide black belt they’d provided him. “Have you?”

“Nope. I just got fired from my job, so I was a little desperate,” he said as he kicked off his sneakers and unceremoniously peeled off his jeans. He held up the tights, brow furrowing a little.

Ian nodded. “Understandable. This does pay obscenely well.” He turned toward James, gaze flicking over his body. James was clad only in white Jockeys now. He was thin without being too skinny, and his ass...Ian had to turn away.

“I’m beginning to understand why,” James said as he struggled into the tights. With that accomplished he pulled on a pair of shorts the same color as the tights, and then a green tunic on top that reached mid-thigh. He examined himself in the mirror for a moment, then a goofy grin spread across his face. “God help me if my mom comes to see me.”

The corners of Ian’s mouth quirked up as he tried not to laugh. After all, he looked just as ridiculous. James, on the other hand, looked quite adorable to him. “Oh, but you’ve forgotten the hat,” he said solemnly.

James rolled his eyes. “Oh, please don’t punish me, Santa, for breaking the elven dress code,” he said, fluttering his eyelashes. He grabbed the little cap. It was green with a long red feather sticking out of it, and he put it on his head at a slightly jaunty angle. “Please tell me the shoes are not going to have bells on the toes.”

“They probably do,” Ian chuckled, picking up his own hat and settling it on his head. He would dearly love to punish James, but he decided that the boy surely didn’t know what ideas he was giving Ian. “But truly, you look adorable. I just look ridiculous.” He looked in the mirror at himself. He looked decidedly un-jolly.

James grinned. “Not at all. You look very Santa-like. Maybe smile a little. I think scowls frighten children,” he said, nudging him with an elbow. “What does Mrs. Claus think?”

Ian snorted. “There isn’t one.” He didn’t explain that there hadn’t been one since he’d finally admitted to himself, and her, that he preferred men over women. Surely James wasn’t asking his sexual preference; it was just small talk. “I shall smile when I must, and not sooner.”

James frowned a little and sighed. “Oh well, I’ll smile for both of us.” He reached over and patted the padding over Ian’s belly. “My head’s spinning thinking of all the people who could potentially show up to make fun of me.”

“Just don’t tell anyone,” Ian advised, trying not to stare at the beautiful boy. He couldn’t be over twenty-five. He felt like a pervert. “I know I haven’t.” He couldn’t help himself. “You mean you don’t want your girlfriend cooing over you in tights?”

James snorted a little. “My ex-boyfriend would laugh his obnoxious ass off for a week.” He walked over to the bag with the rest of his costume and bent over, getting out the booties and the belt.

Ian’s eyes widened. This job had gotten even more interesting.

Christmas with Holly by Dana Littlejohn

The next morning she woke to the smell of heaven teasing her senses. Smiling she sat up and took a deep breath.

“Mmm, pancakes and bacon,” she murmured sleepily.

Suddenly her smile disappeared. “Omigosh!” she whispered, urgently throwing the covers back. “Someone’s cooking pancakes and bacon. Someone is here!” She looked around her room and dashed over to the corner where the broom was behind the door. Quietly she unscrewed the broom part from the stick and tiptoed out toward the kitchen. She peeked around the doorway. A man stood at the stove loading a plate with food. Holly stepped closer and he turned hearing the squeak of the floor and ducked just as she swung her stick at his head.

“Whoa! Hey! Wait!” he yelled, ducking and running around the table.

“Who the hell are you? What the hell are you doing here?” Each question accompanied a swing of the stick.

He threw his hands up when he was far enough from her not to get hit. “Okay, will you just stop swinging long enough for me to explain?”

“You’ve got five minutes and do it with your hands on top of your head where I can see them.”

“Okay, that’s fine. I can do that. Can I sit down?”

She stayed in swinging position, gripping the stick as she pondered his request. “Yes, I guess that would be okay, but keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Okay, okay. Well, my name is Logan. I rented this cabin for a few days so I could draw and paint.”

“What? Renting the cabin? I don’t know anything about that.”

“I called Mr. Black when I saw your car outside this morning. He told me you who you were. I can only assume that the troopers turned you around because of the weather. I saw them out when I was coming in last night. I figured you might be hungry when you woke up so I was making enough food for the both of us.”

She relaxed out of her attack stance and looked pass him to the counter where all the food was.

“Can I put my hands down now? The bacon is burning.”

“Oh, umm, yes.” She lowered the broomstick. “You know I’m going to call my father to verify your story.”

He flipped the bacon over and nodded a reply.

She left the kitchen and grabbed her cell phone from her purse.

“Hi Dad.” Holly plopped onto the couch.

“Holly, how are you? I saw Vermont received more snow than they anticipated.”

“Yes, I guess so. Dad, who is this white boy in here?”

“He’s not a white boy, Holly.”

“Well, he looks white to me.”

He chuckled. “I think both your parents have to be white to be considered white, dear. I believe only one of Logan’s parents are white, the other is black.”

“Well, whatever. What’s he doing here? I woke up to breakfast cooking; it scared the crap out of me.”

“He rented the cabin for a few days. He cooked breakfast for you? That was very thoughtful of him.”

“Yeah, well, he almost got his head knocked off for being that thoughtful. Why didn’t you tell me he was going to be here?”

“You said you were leaving. Had you made it home you wouldn’t have run into him at all. I saw no reason to mention it to you.”

She sighed. “Yes, I guess you’re right. So, have you seen the news? When will they have the roads clear enough for me to leave?”

He chuckled. “Sweetheart, they anticipated four-to-five inches and you ended up with ten inches. I’m afraid you’re snowed in for Christmas, sweetheart.”

“What?” she shrieked.

How to Ruin Christmas for a Vampire by Dahlia Rose and Crymsyn Hart

“Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way,” Diana Kringle sang along softly to the music on her radio. It was twenty-two days until Christmas and she was busy in her kitchen making Christmas cookies for the senior citizens center down the street.

God, I love Christmas, she thought as she buried her hands in the dough for gingerbread men. She had already made almost five dozen cookies and she was enthusiastically getting ready to make five more. Diana knew she probably went overboard around the holidays but she could not help it. From the time she could even remember she was bounced around from foster home to foster home. Some of them were definitely not the greatest places to be and some she never wanted to leave. But she always had to eventually. Either the family could not afford to adopt her or when the checks came late they sent her back to the home. One thing always stayed the same, Christmas. Each place she ever lived had some kind of tradition for the holiday and each year whatever she had saved from her meager allowances or what she could earn, Diana bought a Christmas trinket. From an ornament for the tree, to a bobble head Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Where ever she went, they went. Now at twenty-eight years old, she had amassed quite a collection, actually a garage full of Christmas cheer.

She had moved from Philly to New York after she had saved enough to buy a small house in Long Island. She moved to New York for one main thing—this was the place to be on the holidays. It started with the Thanksgiving Day Parade where Santa came to town, Rockefeller Center and the big tree in the center with people ice skating around it, and the picture windows in the big department stores in Manhattan. The whole city seemed to come alive around the holidays. For a long time when she was growing up she pretended that Santa and Mrs. Claus were her real parents that is why she had the last name Kringle. As she grew older and the awful predicaments she was in at some points made her rethink that theory. But she never stopped loving this holiday or what it meant. Good cheer, peace and love to all men. Yeah, Christmas rocked.

Diana dusted her hands against her candy striped apron and went over to the oven when its buzzer went off. Another batch of gingerbread men ready for gum drop buttons, she thought with a wide smile. She happened to pass her window when she came back from her oven and looked out at her decorations. The lights that were strung around her porch glittered merrily. All her new neighbors loved her Christmas montage on her front lawn and most of the other houses had some form of holiday cheer. All accept one, her neighbor directly across the street. Half the time there was no light even at night time and no one saw him in the daytime. On a few occasions she saw him leave his house at night with his long black coat.

He looked dangerous and made her shiver, was it from fear she really couldn’t tell but he intrigued her. She did have the sneaking suspicion he was causing her elves to molest each other and made Santa give Rudolph the finger plus broke a few of her candy canes. She woke up and found a few of her things wrecked but never mind she always had replacements. If anyone ever saw her garage they would think that the North Pole had permanently taken up residence. She replaced the trashed candy canes, fixed Santa’s fingers. Her elves were stuck in that very naughty position so she had to put them away and bring out the spares. Her holiday would not be ruined by a few pranksters who did not know she was the queen of Christmas.

By the time she was done with her first set of cookies, it was time for the Christmas party at the senior center. She boxed up the finished ones and made sure to tie each package with a large pretty bow in red or green. She had made an extra package for her neighbor. No one that young and handsome should be alone or cranky on the holidays. She took off her apron from over her tight wool sweater and even tighter blue jeans and put on her winter coat. It was blue with black feathers around the cuffs and collar. Her dark hair was pulled up in a ponytail. Diana checked her face in the mirror by the door and made sure her shimmer cherry gloss looked particularly luscious against her creamy brown skin.

“Why are you doing this? He probably isn’t even home anyway,” she muttered to herself. She put the rest of her cookie packages in the back of her car before crossing the street.

Her boots crunched on the soft snow and the dim evening light reflected off the powdery substance as she crossed the street. She looked up at the darkened house that somehow reminded her of the ghost houses she had seen in a few horror movies. She felt a chill go up her arms as she opened the gate and it creaked ominously every millimeter she pushed it. She looked up at the window once again expecting to see him looking through the thick drapes because he heard the gate open.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake!” she muttered. “You are a grown woman and there is nothing to be scared of!”

Diana gave the gate one big shove and gritted her teeth against the noise it made. The only sound she could hear was her boots against the gravel and snow. She looked up at the steps, there were only seven but somehow they looked like a whole lot more. “Let’s get this over with,” she said under her breath. The steps were wide and not even cleaned off from the snow. Obviously he did not give a damn if he came out and it was covered in ice and he broke his neck one morning. She reached the fifth step and decided that was enough. Diana reached over to put the box by the door when it opened inward and she was looking at two very large black boots standing there. Her eyes traveled from the boots to the long black coat that hung down to the ankles. It felt like slow motion as her gaze went up to the black jeans on lean hips, past the dark shirt and to even darker eyes.

Diana felt like screaming and running away like kids would when they got a scare. Instead she swallowed the lump of fear in her throat and stood up to her height of five six meeting his gaze and pasting a smile on her face. “Hi! I was going to leave this for you but since you are here, Merry Christmas!”

“What is it?” His short answer made her smile falter for a minute.

“It’s Christmas cookies, gingerbread men to be exact!”

“What am I supposed to do with them?”

Was he serious? Diana looked at him with an expression of surprise. “You eat them of course.”

“Lady, do I look like I eat cookies?” He asked. He leaned against the door jam and folded his arms. “Does it look like I do this whole Christmas thing?”

Diana let her gaze go to his chest. Damn he was rude and didn’t even crack a smile. “I don’t know, but you’ve never tried my cookies! And maybe you didn’t have time to decorate, I could come over and loan you a few of my things…”

“God, no! I don’t want any of that multi-colored crap anywhere near me! So what makes your cookies so good lady?”

“My name is Diana not lady and they are made fresh and with a healthy dose of Christmas cheer.”

“Then I definitely don’t want them…Diana what?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your name, you said Diana. Diana what?”

This conversation had gone completely off course. “Diana Kringle.”

He made a sound of amusement. “You’re kidding? You must have been teased unmercifully.”

“No I wasn’t.” Diana was getting irritated. “Listen, do you want the cookies or not? And since you know my name I should at least know yours.”

“Jarreth.” He supplied. “I’ll take your cookies. Maybe I can find some use for them.”