Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Sham by Alicia Dean - Chapter Four - The End

(For previous chapters, scroll to the bottom of the page and click 'Older Posts')

Chapter Four

Relief and gratitude fluttered in Nina’s heart. “What about your family? Suzette? Won’t she gloat that your ‘girlfriend’ abandoned you? You’ll have to sit through their wedding alone.”
“I don’t give a damn what any of them think. I never should have cared in the first place. I’m sorry I ruined Christmas for you. No wonder you and the other employees call me Jack the Jerk.”
His words took her by surprise, and heat flooded her cheeks. “You knew about that?”
He laughed. “Of course. It’s apt, perhaps, but not very original. Maybe something like Trescott the Terrible would have been more clever.”
She smiled. “I think both would have been way off base.”
He smiled back. “Let’s go home and get your suitcase. I’ll take you to the airport.”
For a moment, she wanted to remind him about the almost kiss that had been interrupted, to ask if they could take up where they left off, but this had all been just a ruse. Even though she’d seen a kinder side to him, even though he’d said he was attracted to her, she was still just an employee.

Nina had convinced Jack to let her take a cab rather than his driving to the airport this late, and an hour later, she was waiting in the foyer with him.
“I’m really sorry about all this.”  He cupped her cheek. “My plan was foolish. I was trying to save face and just ended up being humiliated all the more.” He exhaled long and hard. “And I caused you a lot of heartache in the process.”
“I’m sorry Suzette hurt you.”
“I think it hurt more that my brother…” He shrugged. “Well, you know.”
She nodded. “I know.”
A horn sounded from outside. “That must be your cab.” Jack took her suitcase. “The family is in bed. I’ll tell them goodbye for you.”
She followed Jack outside. He opened the taxi door for her and helped her inside, then leaned in. Now would she finally get that kiss? It would be a good-bye kiss, but still…
“Well, you have a safe flight. Merry Christmas, Nina.” He straightened from the window.
Disappointment weighted her chest. “Merry Christmas, Jack.” But he wouldn’t have a Merry Christmas, would he? Staying here, watching his brother marry his ex, and knowing people were either smirking about him or feeling sorry for him. And, truth be told, her Christmas wouldn’t be as Merry without him… “Jack?”
“Yeah?” He bent, leaning his arms on the door.
“Uhm, how would you… I mean, I know it can’t be pleasant facing what you’ll be facing tomorrow. What would you think about coming with me?”
His brows rose. “To your mom’s for Christmas?”
Nina nodded.
“I don’t think she’d be happy about a complete stranger imposing on your family time. Besides, I appreciate the gesture, but you don’t have to pity me. I’ll get through it. No worries.”
“I didn’t offer out of…” She paused. What was she doing, begging? No sir, no way. Bottom line, he didn’t want to come. He’d rather deal with the dysfunctional mess of his family than spend Christmas with her. Message received. “Never mind. I understand. See you at the office.” She sat back in the seat, pretending his rejection didn’t bother her and wondering why it did.  Ridiculous. Twenty-four hours ago, she’d barely known him. Hadn’t even liked him.
Jack seemed about to say something, then he shook his head and stepped away. When the cab drove off, she tried not to, but couldn’t resist looking back at him. He stood in the circle drive, watching. A lump rose to her throat, and moisture filled her eyes. She desperately wanted to see her mother, but why did the thought of leaving Jack behind hurt so much?
Nina settled into the seat of the plane and looked out the window at the stars twinkling in the darkened sky. Poor Jack. What a lousy Christmas he was going to have. Watching your former girlfriend marry your brother had to suck.
Jack’s flight attendant, Bonnie, a twenty-something girl with a tight blond ponytail came by. “I’m afraid there will be a slight delay.”
Uneasiness slithered through Nina. “Is everything okay? Because if there’s something wrong with the plane, I can take a commercial flight.”
Bonnie smiled. “No, nothing like that. The captain took a phone call and was asked to wait before taking off.”
Nina frowned. “Okay, thank you.”
Ten minutes passed, and Nina was about to go up front to check with the pilot when the door opened. Her pulse rate kicked into high gear when Jack entered the cabin. Her breath caught and a silly surge of hope took hold. She forced back her excitement. There had to be some practical reason for his visit.
“Hi,” she said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Did I forget something?”
He stared down at her in silence for several seconds. “No, I did.”
He bent and took her face in his hands. His eyes lowered to her lips, and her stomach lurched. “This,” he murmured. His lips claimed hers, firm and soft at the same time, seeking, taking, tasting…
This was different…so different than the earlier kiss. This one was meant to be savored, and she did, reveling in the warmth of his tongue, inhaling his masculine scent, and the touch of mint on his breath.
After he broke the kiss, she stared up at him, dazed. “Jack…I don’t get it. What are you…?”
He let out a sigh and dropped into the seat beside her, taking both her hands in his. “I couldn’t let you go without telling you.”
When he didn’t continue, she said, “Telling me what?”
He shook his head. “I don’t really know how to say it, except that these past twelve hours have been the best of my life. I’m not ready for them to end.”
“You—you’re not?”
“No.” He grazed her cheek with his thumb and smiled tenderly. “I also don’t want to wake up on Christmas without you.”
Shock and joy rendered her speechless. She wanted to say “yes, oh yes, hell yes,” but it had happened so suddenly. This was about more than just accepting her invitation to spend Christmas with her family. This was some kind of…declaration. But did he mean it? Or was he just trying to soothe his hurt over Suzette?
She didn’t realize she was taking so long to respond until a shuttered look came over his face. “Never mind, this was foolish. Just because I feel the way I do, it doesn’t mean you feel the same.” He tightened his jaw. “I’ll leave you alone, let you get to your mother’s.”
He released her and placed his hands on the arm seats, preparing to rise. She gripped his bicep to hold him still. “Don’t,” she whispered.
He frowned at her. “Don’t what?”
“Don’t go. I do…feel the way you do…I mean, I think I do. How do you feel?”
He studied her for several moments and then smiled. He unbuckled her seatbelt and pulled her to her feet, wrapped his arms around her, and tugged her tightly to him. With his lips against her ear, he whispered, “Like this Christmas sham was the best idea I ever had.”


Thank you so much...I hope you've enjoyed our holiday stories so far. There are lots of wonderful stories to come. Merry Christmas!


Diane Burton said...

I can't believe I'm the first to comment. Yay! What a terrific ending to a great story. Merry Christmas to you, Alicia.

Alicia Dean said...

Congrats on being my first. :) Either people lost interest, or they're getting a slow start on this lazy Sunday morning. I hope it's the latter! Thanks so much.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing the story. Enjoyed it so much!!!

Alicia Dean said...

You're most welcome, Ann. Thank you!

Unknown said...

No sham of a story! Love the ending, well actually, the whole story. Thanks for posting and sharing the holiday cheer!

Jannine Gallant said...

GREAT ending, and hay, it's still early in CA! People are yelling for breakfast, but I had to read the ending first. Thanks for a terrific story!

Alicia Dean said...

Thank you so much, Ashantay. I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. I love the holidays, so I'm glad I could spread some cheer. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Haha, Jannine. I hope your family isn't too upset with me for delaying their breakfast. Thank you for your kind words.

Christine DePetrillo said...

AWESOME ENDING! I love the vulnerable side of Jack. I feel like I just watched a Hallmark holiday movie. Great work, Alicia!

Leah St. James said...

I'm in the "lazy" crowd this morning! LOVED the final installment, and the whole story. (Big sigh.) What a great way to start my (late) day. :-)

Alicia Dean said...

Christine...I am SO flattered. Thank you for the kind words. I'm delighted you enjoyed my story. A Hallmark movie, wouldn't that be awesome??? :)

Alicia Dean said...

Thank you, Leah. You know, as hard as you work all week, I think you deserve a lazy day. :-) I appreciate you so much!

Betsy Ashton said...

Had to do some prep-before-the-storm maintenance outside before I got to the computer. Great story. I'm glad Jack the Jerk wasn't a jerk. After all, it's Christmas. It had to have a happy ending. Great job, girl.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Loved every installment of this story. You certainly held my interest. I think it's official: Jack the Jerk is Jack the Jewel.

Alison Henderson said...

Just plain lovely.

Alicia Dean said...

Thank you, Betsy. LOL. I didn't expect everyone to read as soon as they opened their eyes. Hope the storms don't do any damage. I appreciate your support and kind words. Glad you enjoyed! Yes, Jack the Jerk definitely needed to be redeemed. :)

Alicia Dean said...

Aw, Vonnie. I like that, Jack the Jewel. You're a jewel too...thanks so much!

Alicia Dean said...

Alison, thanks bunches. I can't wait until your adorable story is out for all to read. Loved it and I look forward to savoring it day by day. :)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Diane took my spot today! Not to boast, too much, but I read chapter four on my iPhone in the car this morning and LOVED IT! Yeah, Jack the Jewel all right. What a great guy. You and Jannine did a nice job of starting our stories off this month!

Alicia Dean said...

Thank you, Margo! Yes, Jannine did steal your number one spot. :) I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. I kind of grew fond of Jack myself.