A Convenient Christmas – Jody Holford

I ’ T I S T HE S E A SO N t wasn’t trespassing if she had the alarm code. Plus, a key. That made it visiting. She was the very definition of an unexpected visitor. A happy surprise. Keep telling yourself that. Abby Smith did just that as she pressed the numbers on the panel beside the front door, disabling the repetitive beep. Her heartbeat settled when the sound stopped. She’d lugged all of her boxes and bags, including the awkward tree, from the car to the cute little front porch first, so now she just had to get everything inside. It took some time, especially since she had to force herself not to get distracted by the gorgeous laminate floors, the huge marble-top island in the kitchen, the sweet pedestal sink in the half bath. She carried each box and bin into the living room, noticing but ignoring these enviable features every time she passed. When she set the last box down, she put her hands on her hips and turned in a slow circle. A dreamy sigh escaped her lips. “Wow.” This was some house.

There was nothing wrong with her apartment. One person on their own didn’t need a house. She repeated her earlier advice to herself in her head. Keep telling yourself that. This place…it inspired fantasies. Soft grey walls gave it a cozy feel, high ceilings and thick moldings added opulence without making it pretentious. She stopped her slow perusal at the stainless steel, built-in range and imagined popping some gingerbread cookies into it, filling the house with one of her favorite smells. “You’re on the clock, Smith.” She checked her phone to be sure but yes, she was limited on time. Finn Edenbury would be home in about three hours and in that time, Abby needed to perform a Christmas miracle. It was her first transformation of the season and her earliest one by far. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet but her favorite—and oldest —client had called in a favor. While the two-story, four-bedroom home—details courtesy of Finn’s mom—was immaculate and charming, it was also devoid of anything holiday related. Another full turn made her realize the walls were bare of art or design. He didn’t have any adornments that gave a house warmth.

No family photos or gorgeous landscape paintings. It seemed odd since she’d been in his mother’s house and even though it screamed opulence, it also felt like a home. “Not your problem.” It didn’t stop her from thinking it looked like a show home though. When she finished, it would like a Christmas wonderland. Again, her nerves tickled the inside of her stomach. Finn had no idea she was here. Abby didn’t understand how anyone could skip out on the most magical parts of the season. Trimming the house and tree was just the beginning for Mrs. Edenbury’s Scrooge of a son. Turning on her Christmas playlist, Abby started with the tree. She’d wanted a real one, especially with these ceilings, but as she didn’t know about allergies, she figured fake was safest. Bing’s voice found the Bluetooth speakers she hadn’t noticed and came through loud and clear. Abby grinned. “Perfect.

” Some people might enjoy Christmas. Some might love it. Abby Smith lived and breathed it. There were days it still shocked her that she’d been able to turn her small event slash concierge company into a full-time business that let her focus specifically on her favorite time of year. What had started out as planning office, baby, bachelorette, and birthday parties had morphed into living her dream. Straightening the individual branches of the tree, fluffing them out as much as possible—a tedious but worthwhile chore, she thought about how Finn’s mother was instrumental in making that dream a reality. The fireplace in the center of the far wall was perfect for the antique stocking hangers Abby brought from her own collection. The tree fit to the right of the fireplace as if the spot had been designed for that purpose. A show piece but out of the way. Slipping off her heels, she got down on her hands and knees to move the tree closer to the corner, jimmying it by the criss-cross base. Getting back up off the floor made her regret wearing a skirt. What was she thinking? Her lower back twinged as she straightened and smoothed out her skirt, her breathing a little heavy. She wasn’t even thirty yet. Maybe she needed to do more yoga. Or at least wear runners.

By the time she made it through one of Bing Crosby’s albums, she was ready to hang the star. She put a minimal number of ornaments on the tree, hoping that Finn and his five-year-old daughter would add more. Before taking care of the star, she strung lights along the banister and the mantle. The urge to peek upstairs, maybe add a few surprises there, was strong. If it were her home, she’d have decorations in every room. Some clients felt the way she did—there was no thing as too much Christmas. But she didn’t want to overwhelm Finn. Abby added simple touches like a trio of fat, red and green candles in the middle of the dining table and a colorful, hand-drawn penguin in a Santa hat sliding in a sled on the glass patio doors to bring the kitchen and living areas together. Looking around, she was pleased with what she’d accomplished. It was more initiation than intervention. A gentle helping of holiday spirit. She sent a quick text to her assistant: Just going to hang the star and then start loading my stuff back into my car. Back soon. Holding the large, silver, wire star in one hand, she climbed the five steps of the ladder and reached up, trying not to go on tiptoes so she didn’t lose her balance. “You really didn’t think your outfit all the way through.

” Like she was in the pivotal scene of a holiday movie, the crescendo of the song built as she stretched. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and willed her fingers to go…just…a…little…higher. The music softened as the star plunked down but before Abby could admire her handiwork, the strangest sound had her spinning on the ladder tread. She saw a man she recognized but didn’t know charge forward, a long saber of light slashing through the air as she tumbled down, landing with a sickening thud on her elbow and hip. Blinking rapidly as Finn rushed toward her, she couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing. Had she hit her head? Why did he have a light sabre? “Are you okay? Don’t move. Is anything is broken? Who are you and what are you doing in my house? What are you doing to my house?” Abby’s body, mostly the part she was still lying on, ached. She didn’t think she’d hit her head but her pride had taken a definite knock. Still, she couldn’t focus without an answer. “Is that…are you holding a light saber?” Blurred vision or not, she was certain she didn’t imagine the pale, pink flush that hit his slightly stubbled cheeks. He set the object in question down and kneeled beside her, his eyes scanning —probably for injuries—while his hands reached out. “Yes. It was the first thing I found. Careful, don’t move just yet. Where are you hurt?” He ran a hand over her arm and tried to help her when she moved to sit up fully.

The scent of his cologne made her brain a little fuzzy. Or maybe that was the fall. Definitely. Probably. Or maybe from a concussion. From falling on your hip. Sure, Abby. She swatted at his hand and then winced. “Stop. Give me a second. I’m fine.” “You’re not fine. Why on earth are you standing on a ladder?” He sounded like he was accusing her of something. Arching her brows was worth the pain. “Because I’m not ten feet tall.

I know it’s hard to tell with me lying on the floor but I’m afraid it’s true.” Finn scowled. It bugged her that even with the deep creases digging into his cheeks as his lips tugged downward, he still looked good. Better than any of the pictures she’d seen. She may not have met him but Abby felt like he’d been a part of her life for the last five years. His engagement party had been one of her first significantly large events. Mrs. E had spared no expense and the guest list had resulted in hundreds of referrals. It was weird, laying on his living room floor, looking at him, in person, for the first time and feeling a bit like she knew him. This must be how it feels to meet a celebrity. If celebrities had grumpy faces, little patience, and smelled stupidly good. He hooked her under the arms before she realized what he was doing, then stood, taking her with him and setting her, unsteadily, on her feet. “Oof,” she said. Abby cringed. Oof? Really? “It doesn’t seem like you’ve broken anything,” Finn said, still doing a visual assessment that felt more clinical than personal.

Still, she wanted to smooth herself out and throw on some protective layers of professionalism. Abby straightened her elbow and gave a cry of pain, cradling it to her body. Finn reacted immediately, taking her arm and cupping the elbow, rotating it slightly. “Ow,” Abby groaned. Trying not to jar it, she pulled her arm away from him. “Are you a doctor as well as a Jedi?” His brows nearly snapped together but she saw his lips quirk. “What? No.” “Then hands off, mister. That hurt.” “Sorry.” They stared at each other another beat and she was just about to introduce herself properly when he did a slow circle on the spot. When his gaze came back to hers, she felt scorched by it. “What have you done to my house? Who do you think you are, coming in here and vandalizing my home?”


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Updated: 24 November 2021 — 02:16

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