Who's Been Naughty or Nice
by Sonja Gunter
Famous Christmas characters bring new meaning to romance with a modern day twist. Cherish this wonderful time of year in wanting to be on both Santa’s nice and naughty list.
Northern Polar Printing Company’s President, Zane Ashcroft, is in love with the Vice President, Annie McGrath. From their first encounter, both knew they were destined to be together. At the annual Christmas party, Zane, who dresses up as Santa, intends to propose to Annie after dinner. A recent argument concerning Nick, the janitor, and a shocking development thwarts his intentions.
Will Annie get that long awaited chance at love and happiness and risk being on Santa’s naughty and nice list?
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Genre: Contemporary | Holiday Romance
A Pink Satin Romance
“Hurry up. They’re saying there’s a backup on Hwy 176,” Annie yelled. She stood by the front door of her home tapping her foot.
“What’s your hurry?”
Zane, the love of her life, leaned against the wall at the top of the stairs. Her body had a mind of its own.
His little southern twang made her knees nearly buckle, not to mention the navy suit he wore. His rich chocolate eyes were bright with mischief and his brown hair curled slightly at the wet ends. Even after their early morning lovemaking, she wanted him.
“We have our year-end meeting, remember. I still have a few reports to finalize.”
“Annie, Mr. North won’t be worried if you’re late,” Zane responded.
He descended the stairs in a manner more seductive than a model on a catwalk. She moistened her lips. He halted in front of her, pulling her into his arms. Even through the thickness of her coat she felt the bulge of his arousal. Enraptured by his very obvious desire, she reached between them to knead those contours. The scent of his fleshly showered body awakened her senses.
“You mean us, right, Mr. President.” Annie almost gasped. She leaned into him, seconds away from stripping in the hallway to ‘have her way with him.’
“I love you,” Zane said huskily. “I’d kiss you, but I don’t want to mess your lipstick.”
She inhaled to pull herself together. “You’re so thoughtful. Come on, let’s go.”
He released her and took his coat off the hook. Outside, their breath created white puffs, in the Chicago cold. Thankfully, he’d used the remote start and his Porsche Panamera was warm when they buckled their seatbelts.
A few minutes into their morning commute from Bull Valley to Crystal Lake, Zane broke the silence. “See, all your worrying is for nothing. The roads aren’t as bad as they made them out to be. We still have time to stop at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks for coffee if you want?”
Annie glared at Zane. His smug look raised her irritation.
He’s always optimistic. She should have driven. What was she thinking?
That was the problem! She hadn’t been able to think with him pulling her into his arms making her want to call in sick. She willed the image of them naked in bed all day to go away.
“I’m fine. I’ll text Clarice to stop and pick up coffee. I really want to get the reports done.”
“We’ve made our numbers plus some. Don’t stress. Mr. North has already said how impressed he was with the company’s financials. The Season’s Greetings Charity account was a huge asset to the bottom line, which got us the Santa’s Coal Company account. Remember how it made national news,” Zane boasted.
“You’re a great Vice President. No one can question your work ethics or abilities. Stop worrying, Annie.”
“I know I shouldn’t but—”
His cell phone rang cutting off her reply. He pressed the talk button on the steering wheel and maneuvered into his parking space.
“Hello, this is Zane Ashcroft.”
Annie kissed his cheek, pleased with his compliment, and left him to his conversation. When she entered the green and white two-story building, she glanced over her shoulder. Zane still sat in his car.
“Good morning, Ms. McGrath,” Suzy, the receptionist said and drew her attention away from Zane.
Anne couldn’t help but grin. Suzy was always cheerful and smiling. Mondays most people weren’t happy to be at work, but not her.
“Good morning, Suzy. Has Mr. North arrived?”
“No. Do you want me to buzz you when he does?”
“That would be great. Thanks,” Annie replied and took one more glance out the window. “Mr. Ashcroft is on a call in his car. Can you tell him to stop by my office when he comes in?”
Annie reached up to touch a paper snowflake that hung from the ceiling. “I like what you’ve done to the reception area. I love these snowflakes.”
“Thanks,” Suzy replied. “I couldn’t help myself. My granddaughters and I made several over the weekend. Nick helped hang them this morning. He’s such a sweet man.”
Her praise made Suzy’s smile bigger. After fingering one more handmade snowflake, Annie made her way to her office. Most of the cubicles desks were still empty. She flipped on the light switch, took off her coat, and hung it on a hook on backside of the door. Then she saw Nick, the janitor.
“Oh good lord, Nick, you scared me,” she exclaimed, putting her hand over her heart. “I didn’t see you enter. Can I help you?”
“Didn’t Mr. Ashcroft arrive with you?”
After she spoke, she felt vaguely embarrassed, but she shouldn’t since everyone knew they were a couple. Yet it wasn’t anyone’s business if she and Zane drove in together or not, and certainly not the company’s janitor.
“I have the conference room set-up for the meeting,” Nick said. “It’ll be nice to see Mr. North. He doesn’t come in very often anymore.”
“No, he doesn’t.”
An awkward silence followed. She moved to her desk, but Nick continued to stand in the doorway. What did he want? Having no time to engage in a conversation, she ignored him.
“Well, you have a good morning.”
“Thanks,” she muttered.
He moved into the hallway and out of sight. Suzy’s comment referring how nice Nick was, had her question her growing dislike of the janitor. Annie hesitated and then followed after him.
From her doorway, she couldn’t see him anywhere. Her womanly instincts warned her something was off with Nick. It wasn’t the first she’d felt this way and this time Zane was going to listen to her concerns.
With one last glance in both directions, she returned to her desk. She removed her laptop from her briefcase and pulled up the year-end reports. As current figures updated the files, her mouth thinned in displeasure. They were well above the estimated amounts.
How had Zane known the figures before she’d entered them? What happened to transparency?
Anger seized her. A simple conversation would’ve quelled her irritation. What had she expected? Five years ago, miracles had happened left and right. Everything Zane said or suggested came true.
Being the VP of Finance of a company in the red, she’d always worried about being fired. Bankruptcy wasn’t an uncommon word used by the employees. The old President, Mr. Bumble, had been loud, gruff, and even rude to employees and customers. He never encouraged new or technical advancements or allowed her to facilitate changes.
Then the owner, Mr. North, hired a new President, Zane, to jumpstart the company into the black. She remembered struggling to keep her cool during their introduction, not wanting to appear weak and silly in front of the man that had rendered her speechless. The serendipity of the moment threw her whole world upside down. Her instant attraction to a man she didn’t know meant she’d fallen victim to love at first sight.
“Why didn’t you text or call me? I could’ve picked up a coffee for you, too.”
Annie peered away from her laptop. Clarice Donner, her staff accountant, who from the day she first hired her, was more than an employee. She was her friend, held a coffee from Starbucks.
“Oh, what time is it? I got too involved with the spreadsheets for the meeting.”
“Like usual you’ve lost track of time. It’s a few minutes before eight. I could’ve come early,” Clarice blurted.
“No worries—” Annie stopped abruptly. Zane stood behind Clarice holding two coffees.
Clarice turned. “Good morning, Mr. Ashcroft.”
“Morning, I thought she might’ve not called you. Here is your favorite latte.” Zane chuckled. He placed both drinks on her desk. “Mr. North called. He isn’t able to make the meeting in person today. We’re going to do it via Go To Meetings.”
She gazed up at him. A sexual surge of excitement intensified by his bold and steady meaningful stare gripped her.
Had it only been a few hours since they kissed? Since they made love.
“Annie? Is everything okay?”
Zane’s words broke her delightful ambience. She blinked. “Yessss, I was… I’m wondering, if Mr. North isn’t going to be coming how
“If you need me to run the reports, let me know,” Clarice interrupted.
“Sure, sorry. Come and see me in fifteen minutes with the bank statements.” Annie spoke with fake confidence. She coughed to hide her slip. Clarice nodded and walked away.
“Don’t lie, Annie. What’s wrong?”
Zane’s mischievous look blazed at her. He placed both hands on her desk.
“As if you need to ask. I can’t think when you’re this close,” she uttered.
“The feeling is mutual.”
She picked up the Starbucks cup with her name on it as a distraction and sipped. The thudding of her heart eased, and she remembered her earlier concern.
“Nick came to see me right after I came to my office.” Annie paused, set her drink down, and rubbed her arms. “He scared me.”
Zane straightened, slipping his hands into his pockets. “I’ve told you he’s harmless.” He held up a hand, stopping her. “I’ll talk to him. Now finish your reports for the meeting.”
He gave her one of his heart-stopping smiles, picked up his coffee, winked, and left. Annie unconsciously moistened her lips wanting him to come back and kiss her, uncaring if he ruined her lipstick.