Today it’s my turn to talk about my story in the Xcite Cariad Christmas anthology, Love Under The Mistletoe – Christmas for One.
Christmas is a time for being with the ones you love –going to a midnight carol service, swapping presents, eating a huge dinner with the family and falling asleep in front of the Queen’s Speech. At least, that’s the traditional image, though a growing number of people are choosing to spend the holiday season alone. But what if that decision was forced on you? How would you react if the plans you’d made – not just for Christmas but the rest of your life – were irrevocably changed?
That’s the dilemma facing Dionne in Christmas for One. She’s planned a Christmas wedding, but when it becomes clear to her that marrying her fiancé, Richard, is the worst thing she could do she runs out on the church and resolves to get as far away from her well-meaning friends and family as she can.
This is the second story I’ve written for Xcite in which someone finds Mr Right in a foreign location at Christmastime. The first was the novella Christmas Rendezvous, which is set in a snowy Bruges. Here, the action takes place in Hawaii – somewhere I’ve never actually visited but which struck me as somewhere that couldn’t be more different from the usual winter landscape. It’s also the kind of place that attracts groups of tourists – like the party of senior citizens Dionne finds herself sitting with at the Christmas Day luau – or couples seeking a romantic getaway, rather than lone travellers. So how will Dionne cope?
When we’re on holiday we tend to present a new side of ourselves to the world. We’re more relaxed and carefree; willing to try new foods, new experiences, and to create a set of lasting memories to take back with us. Dionne, however, is at her lowest ebb when she reaches the paradise beach resort in Honolulu she’s picked as her bolthole. Luckily, hotel employee Scott is on hand to help her get over her heartbreak and that discover the magic of Christmas doesn’t fade, even if you are facing it alone.
Here’s the moment where Dionne meets Scott for the first time:
She hands me a key card, and I wait for the bellboy to come over. He’s tall, with blond hair that threatens to fall over one eye, and when he smiles, a cute little dimple appears in his cheek. The nametag on his burgundy waistcoat reads “SCOTT”.
‘Scott, could you take Ms Suvari to Room 24?’ the desk clerk instructs him.
‘Of course. May I take your bag, Ms Suvari?’
‘Please, call me Dionne, and there’s really no need …’
The tan leather carry-on isn’t heavy, but he’s already scooping it up out of my hand. When his fingers brush against the back of my palm, my skin seems to tingle in response, and I wonder if he feels it too. But already he’s heading for the elevator.
We take the short ride to the second floor, and step out into a quiet corridor.
‘Here we are.’ Scott takes the key card from me and opens the door.
I’ve been expecting the type of room that’s usually reserved for single travellers; a tiny box, stuck in some out-of-the-way corner, or so close to the elevator that the hum of machinery seeps through the walls. Instead, I find myself looking at a light, airy bedroom with a big, brass-framed bed, a low, cream leather couch, and a coffee table. A small balcony lets out on to the most breathtaking ocean view. The sun is already beginning to set, staining the sky in shades of red and gold.
‘This is really lovely,’ I murmur, reaching into my purse to find a couple of dollars for Scott’s tip. ‘Thank you.’
He gives me a little wink. ‘No problem, Ms – Dionne. And if there’s anything I can do to make your stay more pleasant …’
That sounds like a blatant invitation. Looking into those blue eyes, I recall the brief jolt of electricity that passed between us. But I’m clearly reading a little too much into his comment. ‘Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls,’ I quip.
‘Only the ones who look like they’ve been having a rough time.’
With that, Scott lets himself quietly out of the room. When I can at last tear my eyes away from the spectacular sunset, I pick up the folder on the coffee table. It contains all the information I could need about the resort, and lets me know that dinner is served in the restaurant until 9.30. Plenty of time for me to take a shower and change out of the crumpled clothes I’ve travelled in.
I hunt through my bag for a suitable outfit. Everything I’ve brought with me was intended for Richard’s eyes, from my floor-length black evening dress to my skimpy beachwear to underwear that’s all satin and lace. But there’s a short, floral sundress that I can accessorise with silver and jet jewellery and strappy heels; perfect for dining alone.
Once I’ve stowed everything else in the built-in closet, I take my wash bag through to the en-suite bathroom. It’s stocked with high-end toiletries, and a thick pile of fluffy white towels. Just the kind of luxury I need after everything that’s happened.
As I unzip the bag and reach for my toothbrush, my fingers close around a long, slim box. Intrigued, I fish it out, and don’t know whether to laugh or be shocked. It contains a small vibrator, in a fetching shade of pink, with a smooth shaft and tapered head. When I twist its base, it hums into life, so clearly whoever put it in here has thought of everything. There’s a sticky note attached to the packaging. Written in Jill’s big, looping handwriting are the words “To give your honeymoon a buzz!” She must have sneaked it into my bag while she was helping me put on my wedding dress this morning – and how long ago that seems now. Still, providing me with this toy supports her story that she didn’t have a clue about Richard cheating on me.
Part of me wonders where my rat of an ex-fiancé is right now. In the arms of Marcie Grace, most likely. Well, the two of them deserve each other. At least I found out the truth before it was too late; as humiliating as today has been, things would have been so much worse if I hadn’t learned about the affair until after I’d married him.
I turn the shower setting to “tropical”, letting the water beat down on me. The shower gel produces a creamy lather, rich with the scents of coconut and passion fruit, and it feels good to smooth it over my skin. When I close my eyes, a face swims into my mind. Scott, the cute bellboy with the sweet smile. I recall the last remark he made before he left the room, and wonder if my distress over Richard’s betrayal is really so evident.
It would be nice to have someone around who could help soothe the hurt away. Someone who, if only for a little while, could help remind me there are still plenty of decent, honest men in this world.
Almost without being aware of what I’m doing, I begin to concentrate on soaping up my breasts, brushing my nipples with the pads of my thumbs. In my imagination, Scott stands behind me in the shower stall, his body tight up against mine, and he’s the one who’s caressing my tits. The picture I’m creating is so vivid I swear I can feel the heavy bulk of his cock, trapped between our two bodies. His mouth is pressed to my neck, and he trails soft kisses all the way to the hollow at the base of my throat.
Is it wrong to be weaving a fantasy about a guy I’ve only exchanged a handful of words with? I don’t know, and right now, frankly, I don’t care.
Blurb: When Dionne runs out on her wedding ceremony, spending Christmas in Paradise, alone, seems like the perfect way to heal her heartbreak. But she hasn’t counted on meeting a very sexy Santa who will make this a sensual holiday to remember …