Moonlight & Mistletoe
by Megan Hussey
Some men consider themselves God's gift to women; but with Derrick Barnes, it's just a given. What woman wouldn't want a sensitive, hunky blond exotic dancer under her tree on Christmas Eve; all wrapped up in a bright red bow for her enjoyment? Yet Derrick, by day a college student and department store stock boy, only has eyes for Sheila Baxter; the bright BBW p.r. professional at Leveaux department store.
This year serving as Sheila Claus, the jolly replacement Santa at Leveaux department store, Sheila Baxter has quite the crush on her 'elf' for the season, stock boy Derrick. Yet when she learns the secret about his scandalous night job, will she still be willing to meet him under the mistletoe?
Release Date: November 22, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Novella
~ A Pink Satin Romance ~
“Ho! Ho! Ah-choo!”
Stanley Turreck doubled over, clutching the faux white beard he had nearly sneezed off his face.
Stanley was the resident Santa Claus in the holiday shopping section of Leveaux Department Store. And in many ways, he seemed an ideal choice for this position.
He charmed the kids with his friendliness, his keen sense of humor, and his flawless execution of his character’s signature phrase, “Ho, ho, ho.” And this was a good thing, he often mused, as he often was required to repeat this phrase. Over. And over. And over. He also boasted the prerequisite hearty laugh, round belly, genial manner and an acute allergy to Christmas tinsel.
“Are you all right, sir?”
Derrick Barnes left his place behind the Leveaux gift-wrapping table and rushed to aid his stricken coworker.
Aside from being a Leveaux stock boy, Derrick currently appeared as this year’s Christmas elf in the holiday shopping department. And while kids sometimes scoffed at the tall, muscular man who called himself an elf, their mothers liked him just fine. Just fine indeed.
Derrick, twenty-two, boasted striking green eyes that matched the hue of his velvet costume, and dark blond hair that now was topped with a charmingly lopsided hat. Female customers often remarked that only he could make that hat look sexy. Usually just before they asked—sometimes out and out demanded—to sit on his lap and tell him what they really wanted for Christmas. And they meant, really.
Co-workers appreciated the polite professionalism that Derrick showed in response to these advances, insisting in a kind but firm manner that his admirers always maintain the highest decency and decorum in this family oriented atmosphere. He also boasted a gentle manner appreciated by Stanley, who rose from his plush burgundy Santa’s chair and patted his assistant’s shoulder.
“I’ll be fine once I resign,” he told him.
Derrick’s eyes widened, and he shook his head.
“It appears you have a cold, sir.” He shrugged. “You shouldn’t have to quit—maybe just take a day or so to rest. These winter bugs usually pass within a day or so, providing that you double up on the chicken soup and the over the counter meds and get plenty of sleep.”
Smiling, Stanley removed his festive red hat and handed it to Derrick.
“It isn’t a cold,” he admitted sheepishly. “I have an allergy to Christmas tinsel, the stuff that’s hanging all over our display tree. I tell ya, those sparkly glittery strands, while pure magic in the eyes of so many people, make my own eyes feel excessively itchy and runny. I’ve managed to sneeze on the last three kids who sat in my chair—Call me crazy, you wouldn’t be the first, but I’m passing sure that this singular act failed to fulfill a single one of their holiday wishes. And their irate mothers promised me in no uncertain terms that the cleaning bills would be in the mail, as opposed to say the traditional Christmas card, letter to Santa, or cookies with sprinkles.”
“I always have had an allergy to Christmas tree tinsel. I should have said as much in the interview,” he continued, “but I really needed this job. I have a wife and two kids to buy presents for, and my other job at the factory doesn’t exactly make my pockets ‘jingle all the way’ with extra dough, to coin a phrase.” He paused here, adding as he rolled his eyes heavenward, “As a matter of fact, at my present salary level, about all I can coin at the present time is just that—a bloody phrase.”
Derrick nodded, patting the man’s back. “I hear ya. Times these days are tough, dude. I’m working two jobs to support myself through college.”
Stanley cocked his head and winked slyly.
“Yes, I’ve heard about your ‘other job’.” He chuckled. “It sounds a tad more interesting—and profitable—than this one. I tell ya, if I could lose the belly and divorce the wife, I’d be right up there with ya.”
The Sudafed Santa again sneezed, saving Derrick from what could have been an embarrassing response.
“I have to go.” He offered Derrick an apologetic handshake, adding, “Please send my apologies to Ms. Leveaux.”
Nodding, Derrick returned the sniffling man’s handshake.
“I’m sure she’ll understand,” he assured Stanley.
~ * ~
“Who in the bloody hell has an allergy to holiday tinsel?”
The deeply tanned face of Sophia Leveaux turned a festive shade of red as she faced her resident elf across her freshly polished desk.
“Stanley, apparently.” Derrick shrugged. “His exact words were ‘I’ll be fine once I resign.’”
Chuckling dryly, Sophia tapped her ruby red fingernails furiously against the surface of her defenseless desk.
“I asked him to entertain the children with whimsical rhymes.” She shook her head. “That, however, was not the one I had in mind. I cannot believe, Derrick, that he wouldn’t disclose his allergies to me at the job interview. This lack of professionalism is simply unacceptable coming from any performer; even coming from someone whose entire dramatic performance revolves around the utterance of a single preposterous line—what in the blazes does ‘Ho, ho, ho’ mean anyway? No one laughs in such a preposterous manner—and the issuance of empty promises that some lad is going to get his Monster Morphing SpongeBob Transformer on Christmas morning, and/or that some lassie will find a Pretty Petula fashion doll whose freshly manicured hands are clutching a diet soda and the latest copy of ‘Cows-mo’ magazine, with an enclosed gift certificate for her first round of Botox.”
Derrick nodded, chuckling along with her weak attempt at humor as his eyes scanned the room for the nearest available exit.
Let’s hear it for senseless gender stereotyping when it comes to children and their particular play preferences, he mused in silence, adding aloud, “Look, Sophia, you might want to go easy on this guy. He has a family to support...”
“And I have customers to serve!” his boss interrupted, adding as she shook her head from side to side. “He should have known better than to take a job that he knew he could not complete.”
Derrick again shrugged, shifting uncomfortably.
“He also sent his apologies,” he offered.
“Did he send a new Santa?” Sophia barked, dark eyes flashing. “It’s only a month before Christmas, and I’m going to have some very unhappy children in my store.” She paused here, adding as she shot a tense glance in the direction of her nearby wall clock, “I realize that, when Stanley left, you closed the Santa Station for our standard lunch break. So, that means in about 10 minutes, we’re going to have a lot of cranky, crying kids and grumpy parents on our hands, waiting for the ungainly gent in the shockingly red suit to come and grant their Christmas wishes; wishes that Mom and Dad can fulfill in real by flooding our toy department and clearing its shelves. If Santa doesn’t show, they’ll take their kids, and their money, elsewhere—which will be ho-ho-horrible for us.”
“We do have a problem. A big one,” he conceded with a sigh, adding, “I’m one of the few male employees here, and one of the ladies here could take over the role of the elf, very easily. Would you like me to play Santa?”
Sophia smiled, her eyes scanning her employee’s tall, muscular frame.
“Ah, there’s just one problem with that idea, Derrick. You look nothing like Santa. The kids wouldn’t want to sit on your lap,” she informed him, adding with a wink, “at least not as much or as fervently as their mothers would.”
She paused, raising her eyebrows.
“Or, given your other profession, maybe you could sit on theirs,” she suggested dryly.
Derrick rolled his eyes.
Hardee. Har. Har, he thought.
Aloud, he asked, “Did you have another suggestion?”
Sophia narrowed her eyes in contemplation.
“As you said, most of our employees are women—very slender women who would never fit in a Santa suit.” She smiled slightly. “At ninety-eight pounds, even I would never qualify.”
Aside from that, Derrick thought, Santa is allegedly a nice person. Another strike against Sophia.
The firm snap of his manager’s fingers jarred his wayward thoughts. “I’ve got it!” she exclaimed.
What have you got? Derrick raised his eyebrows as he contemplated his openly smug employer. A heart finally? No, it’s just too much to hope for...
Oblivious to his ire, Sophia continued. “Sheila Baxter, our PR person, is a big girl,” she said bluntly. “She could fill out the uniform.”
For the first time that day, Derrick Barnes smiled.
As a stock boy, he had seen Sheila Baxter only a few times.
“Yet whenever I see her, she’s smiling,” he mused. “She has the prettiest smile and hair as blonde as an angel’s. She treats all employees with great respect, no matter what their job. Some of the guys who work here claim she even has come into the back room to ask for our opinions about store policies, campaigns and promotions. And she publishes a mean company newsletter—one the staff can read about halfway through without contemplating suicide. Bonus!”
Sheila could be defined as a full-figured woman, as Sophia indicated. And, he noted with a cringe, he had heard some of the younger clerks—many of them frighteningly accurate likenesses of the mannequins that stood at the center of their sales floor—cast aspersions on her curvy, rubenesque figure.
But whoever said that luscious curves were a bad thing in a female? He wiggled his eyebrows. Certainly, not me. I like a woman who actually enjoys my company—and her meal—at dinner, instead of endlessly obsessing over just how many fat calories are contained in every bite. And the appetite she shows at dinner might also show itself in other, more intimate activities….
“Derrick?” His lustful meditation was disrupted by the sound of a familiar—and annoyingly shrill—voice. “Are you quite all right? Your eyes are drooping and you are drooling. Are you having an attack of some sort? Don’t tell me that you, too, have a work-limiting allergy....”
Derrick cleared his throat.
“I would love to work with Sheila,” he affirmed, adding, “When you offer her the job, though, please don’t mention her size. She’s a sweet lady, and I don’t want to see her hurt.”
Sophia waved away his concern with a long, slender hand.
“No worries, young man,” she assured him. “I am the queen of diplomacy.”Saying a quick prayer heavenward, Derrick turned and left the office.