Home > His for the Holidays

His for the Holidays
Author: Samantha Chase

 

Chapter One

 

 

With an almost comical amount of luggage trailing behind her, Hannah Christy stepped out of the blustery cold and into her apartment complex lobby. It should have been glorious going from the bitter wind and snow into the heated warmth. Unfortunately, the scene in front of her was migraine-inducing. The Christmas music was blaring at a volume that could rival a rock concert and the holiday decorations looked as if a team of toddlers were in charge of them. It was a complete assault on her senses.

“Welcome back, Hannah!” Shawna Powell–the complex manager–called out loudly. Of course, how else would she be heard over the ridiculous volume of “Jingle Bells”? She was decked out in an equally loud holiday sweater, large silver bell earrings, and a Santa hat. “How was your trip?”

Resigning herself to making conversation when she really wanted to get her mail and go up to her apartment, she forced herself to smile. “It was good, Shawna. Thanks for asking. And yours?” Behind them, the maintenance crew was setting up the ginormous tree that rivaled Rockefeller’s.

“Fabulous as always! Did your mom make all your favorites?” she asked excitedly. “I know when I go home for Thanksgiving, my mom spoils me rotten! There is something so comforting about holiday traditions, don’t you think?”

Before Hannah could reply, Shawna was speaking again.

“I don’t know what I’d do if Mama changed the menu even one bit! One year she mentioned how she might not to make her famous oyster dressing and people threatened not to come for dinner! Can you imagine?” she said with a laugh.

Smiling, she nodded. “Yes, well…Thanksgiving dinner is always delicious and even though I don’t get to bring home any leftovers, my mother did bake a ton of cookies and sent them with me instead. So…”

“You mean you flew home?” Shawna asked incredulously. “But…why? The drive to Maryland wouldn’t take that long and then you could bring even more goodies home with you!”

It was the same argument her mother had given on every single trip Hannah took home. And although she’d never admit it out loud, her reasoning was so she couldn’t be guilted into staying longer. She loved her independence and living in Raleigh put three hundred miles and five hours of driving between them. It may have sounded harsh, but…this made it possible for her to love her family more than if they lived close by.

“I’m not a fan of driving long distances,” she said, her smile feeling a little stiffer. “If you’ll excuse me, I really need to get my mail and go unpack. My flight was delayed and we sat on the tarmac for almost two hours so…it’s already been a long day.”

The sympathetic smile and pat on the arm were expected. “Bless your heart, I’m sure it has.” Pausing, she walked over to the tree and picked up a gift bag before coming back over to Hannah. “Maybe this will help.”

Glancing in the bag, she saw it was two bottles of wine and smiled. “Oh, Shawna, you didn’t have to…”

“My best friend works for a wine distributor and dropped off about a dozen of these for me to give to some of the residents. You look like you could really use it.”

“Um…thanks,” she murmured before turning away and tucking the bottles of wine into her giant purse.

“Oh, wait! What do you think of the decorations? You can’t say this won’t get people in the holiday spirit!” Shawna exclaimed proudly.

Good Lord…

Nodding, all Hannah could say was, “Very festive,” before making her escape.

Once she was in the property’s mail room, she let out a sigh of relief. The music was just as loud, but at least there was no one else in there with her. The song changed and Hannah found herself singing along with her own altered version.

“On the first day of Christmas, the universe gave to me…one giant killer migraine.” Grinning at her own clever words, she continued to sort through the pile of mail and frowned at the large decorative envelope in her hand. “On the second day of Christmas, the universe gave to me…an invitation for two to my cheating ex-boyfriend’s wedding…” Okay, that one certainly lacked any of the traditional good feelings, but she felt like she was on a roll and the sound of her voice butchering a beloved classic wasn’t enough to deter her one bit.

But the sound of someone else clearing their voice behind her did.

Glancing over her shoulder, she inwardly groaned. She felt herself blushing from head to toe and wished the floor would open up and swallow her. It was bad enough that she was barely one step above pajamas because she wanted to be comfortable on the plane, but to look like a hot mess while singing poorly was just…

Ugh. Too much.

And, of course, it had to be the hot guy who lived on the floor above her. He was fairly new to the building and she’d only ever seen him in passing–or in the elevator–but they never did more than give one another a cursory smile. Normally Hannah was friendly and chatty, but something about this guy left her tongue-tied. Probably because he never had a hair out of place or looked anything but perfect.

Like now.

Today he had on a suit and a long, camel-colored wool coat and scarf. He looked like something off the cover of a Brooks Brothers catalog. Gorgeous deep brown eyes fringed with the kind of lashes women would kill for and his rich brown hair done in a classic Ivy League style cut. But…he had resting rich face. Just the way he carried himself told her he was out of her league.

Self-consciously, Hannah ran a hand over her long ponytail and mentally cursed the fact that she didn’t have on makeup either. With a small smile, she gathered up her mail and luggage and turned to walk to the elevators.

And silently prayed she got in one without him.

It looked like the maintenance crew was starting to clean up and she heard more than one murmur of how it was after five. She couldn’t blame them. She was equally excited about getting away from the lobby.

Pushing the button more times than was necessary, she let out a huff of annoyance as the music now changed to “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

“Damn,” she murmured, because she really liked this one and wished she could sing along, but…that wasn’t going to happen again.

When the elevator doors opened, she awkwardly made her way in while maneuvering her luggage with her. Two suitcases, a weekender bag, and a large purse. It was a bit excessive for a five-day trip, but she’d brought her work with her and needed each and every piece. Pushing the number four button, she let out a long breath when it looked like she was going to be alone.

“Hold the elevator!” someone called out, causing Hannah to mutter a curse. In the blink of an eye, Mr. Brooks Brothers joined her. “Thanks.”

She offered a small smile without making eye contact and leaned against the back wall. Closing her eyes, she thought about everything she was going to do once she was in her own apartment–unpack, do laundry, order dinner. Eating was a top priority because she was starving. The cookies her mother sent were definitely going to get opened while she waited for dinner to arrive. That was a given. After having something proper to eat, she was going to soak in a hot bath, maybe read for a bit, and go to bed. There was an 8 a.m. Zoom call she needed to be on tomorrow, so going to bed early was the right thing to do.

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