Release Day December 5th
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Los Angeles.
I’ve always loved working in an office setting. Women in tight skirts who are strong and in charge of the world.
Classy. Smart. Hot as hell.
It doesn’t get any better than this… or does it?
Christmas has rolled around again, and as usual, the company is sponsoring a “Secret Santa” event, but this year? They’ve got a twist for the single people.
The gifts don’t have to just be cute. They can be inventive, suggestive, fun.
Seems like being single might just be the best place for me to be this Christmas…
I was reading the email when John appeared at my desk, sipping his cup of coffee. I’d never seen the man without his mug in his hand. I wondered if his fingers could even unclench anymore to set it down.
Before I could get out a word, he asked the question. “Are you going to do it?”
I knew what he was referring to but hadn’t made up my mind yet, so I played coy. “Do what?”
The whole office had been buzzing about the email for the last ten minutes. Becca had sent it out just after lunch and it had spread through the open floor plan like wildfire.
One silver eyebrow rose and then his face went deadpan. “You saw the email.” It was a statement, not a question, probably because the email was still on my screen.
“It’s an interesting proposition,” I said, leaning back in my chair. The heading of the email was “Secret Santa with a Twist.” It seemed that this year, the office was taking their usual gift exchange to the next level.
This holiday season, those of you who’d like to try something new can opt into Singles Secret Santa. It’s time to think outside the gift box, so our office singles have a chance to come up with some creative and stimulating gifts for their own, more provocative, Secret Santa Exchange.
John nodded. “I’ll say. The usual Secret Santa is dull as dishwater. But this…”
“It gives a whole new meaning to ‘white elephant.'”
John burst out laughing, and for a moment I thought he’d splash coffee on his shoes. “You should do it,” he said. “Why not?”
“Would you do it?” I asked, although I already knew the answer.
“In a heartbeat.”
John was inches away from his 40th birthday and had been married for fifteen years. He had three beautiful daughters, each with carrot red hair that would mellow into the auburn waves of his wife Carolyn. Although I knew how much he loved his family, he nevertheless encouraged me to enjoy my ‘wild youth’ and to sow whatever oats I had.
“If I was your age and not the stately family man you see before you, I’d jump at the chance to do something a little more exciting than the typical coffee shop gift cards and fuzzy socks.”
I tapped my pen against the desktop. “It’s an intriguing idea, but it’s also a little difficult to know where to draw the line. I mean, it’s still an office party.”
John shrugged. “Liam isn’t rule-crazy. He wouldn’t give this his approval if he thought it would get out of hand. “
Liam Lewis was the owner of the investment firm that employed dozens of people, including me. He was worth billions, and a shrewd businessman.
I could see John’s point, but I still had my doubts. Or maybe my mind was just a little more…imaginative. “Still, if I’m reading the email right, Singles Secret Santa is less office party and more Red Light District.”
My coworker smiled. “That did seem to be the tone, yes.”
“Instead of hitting the mall, we’d be hitting the adult shop.”
“Not we,” he said with a chuckle. “You.”
I laughed. “Have you ever been in one of those shops, old man? You’d see things that would make your gray hair curl.”
John rolled his eyes. “I might be old, but I’m not dead. I could teach you a thing or two, whippersnapper.”
Everyone at the office seemed to go out of their way to remind me that I was the youngest one in the bunch. Only 25 years old, I was the firm’s baby boy. But, compared to the maturity levels of some of my coworkers, present company included, I felt like an old soul.
“Seriously, though,” I said, lowering my voice. “How far could you go? I mean, it’s not completely anonymous, since we’d eventually work out who gave what to whom. Say you went balls deep on this,” I started, then frowned when John chortled. “Okay, I’m sorry, bad phrasing. Say you went all in on this. How far could you go before HR was having security escort you out of the building?”
John’s expression grew serious. “Nothing with the words ‘vibrating’ and ‘realistic’ in the title.”
I laughed loudly, then slapped a hand over my mouth. We traded various ‘banned item’ ideas, and I realized that John might actually be able to teach me a thing or two. He was a font of ‘specialized knowledge.’
“You’re right,” I said, my abs starting to ache from laughter. “I disagree about the edible underwear. They’re not banned, since they’re probably more edible than Doris’s fruitcakes.”
John shook his head, his face red, and opened his mouth to respond, but I couldn’t hear what he said. At that moment, Madlyn Jones walked past my desk and the world stopped.
It stopped every time she walked by. Every time she talked to me. Every time we made eye contact over the conference table. Madlyn Jones was a goddess among foolish mortals, and I wanted nothing worse than to worship her.
Statuesque wasn’t the right word for her, since she wasn’t made of cold marble but warm olive skin. Chestnut hair cascaded in waves just past her shoulders, and her eyes were so dark that you couldn’t tell the iris from the pupil. She was so striking it was hard to think when she was nearby.
Madlyn was returning to her desk. She’d walked by earlier, her cup in her hand, and I’d wondered what her skin felt like. I knew what it felt like in my dreams. Like a mixture of satin and velvet, a texture that couldn’t exist in the real world.
I don’t know, I thought as she walked by. Maybe it could exist.
I dreamed about Madlyn more than I liked to admit, even to myself. She was a feminine fantasy, smart and funny. Organized. Efficient. Although her demeanor might come off as distant, she possessed an abundance of kindness that attracted me.
“Close your mouth,” John said, “before you catch flies.”
His words brought me back to the present. “Shut up, old man,” I said, turning my office chair back to my screen.
John laughed and slapped a hand on my shoulder. “Have you got up the balls to ask her out yet?”
I frowned, and John shook his head. “You don’t even have to answer,” he said. “What are you waiting for?”
I inhaled deeply. Ever since I’d started working in Liam’s office, I’d had the hots for Madlyn Jones. The first time I’d seen her, talking with our coworkers in the break room, I’d dropped the paper cup I’d been carrying and had to awkwardly wipe up the coffee that had spilled through the hole in the lid.
She hadn’t even glanced in my direction then, and I’d rarely received her attention since. In the months since I’d started, I’d learned that she was thirty-one years old, divorced, and the mother of a six-year-old son. I knew she preferred fruit and yogurt for breakfast and salad for lunch. And I knew she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.
Sometimes I wondered if she even knew my name.
“You should do it,” John said, leaning in and gesturing with his coffee cup towards the email that was still displayed on my screen. “Maybe you’ll draw her name.”
“Unlikely,” I grumbled. Not with my luck when it came to Madlyn.
“But possible. Even if you don’t draw her, you could still catch her attention with an interesting gift, after the Secret Santa reveal.”
The question of what Madlyn Jones might consider an interesting sexy Secret Santa gift sent the blood rushing south. I shifted uncomfortably. “You’ve got a point.”
John straightened. “Sign up. You’ve got nothing to lose.” His hand left my back and he headed towards his own desk.
There really was no reason not to opt into the Singles exchange. I was single, after all, and it sounded much more amusing that the usual Secret Santa fare. And if my luck changed and I did draw Madlyn, well, that would certainly provide an opportunity to get her attention.
I was working away when I realized a possible fatal flaw in John’s perfect plan.
What if Madlyn doesn’t opt in?
She might not. I’d heard she wasn’t dating, which led me to believe that someone had asked her out and had been rebuffed. Maybe being a single mother meant she wasn’t interested in silly singles games.
The rest of the afternoon I struggled to concentrate, my mind pingponging from Madlyn opting out of Singles Secret Santa to drawing Madlyn’s name. I forced myself not to think about shopping for her gift. It took an extra hour and a half to compile my weekly report.
Will she, or won’t she?