I’m headed offline for the rest of the year to spend some quality holiday time with my family. Before I go, I have a bit of Christmas-related cheer for you. Here’s a look at my snarky demon hero Stryker’s year-round holiday store, aptly named Christmas & More, as he shows it to his love-interest Zara for the first time. Hope you enjoy it. 🙂
Happy holidays and see you back here in the New Year!
… she came to an abrupt halt. A gasp escaped her. He strolled around to catch her expression. It was her first time here in his holiday store, and yep, as expected, she gaped, gaze flitting up, down, right, left, repeat, repeat. Throw in a few rapid blinks, a couple slow eyelid squeezes, and a little head shake…
He chuckled. “My place has this effect on people. And apparently on angels, too.”
“Wow,” she breathed, gliding forward. “I mean…wow.”
She spun in a circle, then trailed her fingers over the golden garland and silver lights twined around his two-story artificial Christmas tree, the lighted angel topper of which hovered near the balcony of the wrap-around second floor and gleamed with luminous light, casting the space in a warm glow.
Christmas tchotchkes—nativity scenes in wood, porcelain, and marble, gaily painted nutcrackers both large and small, cheery metal holiday tins filled with treats, figurines of Santa and his merry little elves in various sizes, and more—adorned table after table on the first floor, and Zara moved in an otherworldly blur now, touching, lifting, and inspecting item after item. Her soft delighted laughs and squeaks pleased him, and he rubbed at a sudden tight spot in his chest. He loved the happiness beaming from her right now, so sincere and unrestrained.
“Snow globes, I love snow globes!” She stopped her whirlwind of activity by the checkout counter, brandishing a globe in each hand, fake snow swirling around little snowmen encased in the clear glass.
“Best sellers. They’re yours, free of charge.” Hell, he’d give her his entire Christmas collection simply to see this exhilarated expression on her face, cheeks pink, blue eyes aglow, lips curved in a genuine, real smile. And she aimed all this positivity at him.…
“Oh, I couldn’t.” She shook them both, seeming fascinated by the whirling glitter inside.
“You can and you will.” He opened up the store app on his phone and booted up a surprise for her. “Behind you.”
A cheery whistle sounded from the front window display. Zara’s eyes widened, and she twisted toward the source of the sound. Another delighted gasp. Jesus, joy oozed out of her every pore. Bloody brilliant.
She set the globes on the counter and hurried to the window display to watch the train and its attached red, green, and black cars chug lazily through the picture-perfect model town he’d set up. Mini pine trees, snowmen, and picturesque cottages dotted the entire snowbound landscape. Lights glowed in the windows of the quaint stores on Main Street. At one end of the street, tiny children figurines in winter gear skated on a mirrored faux pond in the town’s park. At the other, the train station and town hall teemed with holiday shoppers.
“Santa!” Zara clapped her hands when Santa in his sleigh pulled by tiny reindeer glided in a gentle circle over the town thanks to invisible wiring attached to a near-silent motor fixed and hidden in the ceiling of the display window.
Stryker’s face ached from all the smiling his happy angel had him doing, her glee as intense and endearing as that of the human kids who visited his store. “So, you like Christmas.”
“Who doesn’t?” She glanced at him for a millisecond before returning her attention to the scene.