Cole extended a smashed and twisted Christmas stocking for her to take. “Merry Christmas, Sugar.”
Shelby pressed the stocking to her chest. It was her only Christmas gift, except for those exchanged at the office between her co-workers. In her heart, the stocking was made of spun gold and decorated with precious gems, brought to her by her handsome prince. Tears blurred her vision.
A strong hand cupped the back of her bed mussed hair and brought her cheek next to his. He kissed her below the ear in a delightfully sensitive spot. “What a pair we are. I gave you a dirty stocking and you gave me a slug in the ass.”
The older EMT stood in front of her. “Ms. Hayes, I need to examine your head now. Would you mind sitting on your loveseat?” As the EMT cleaned her wound, he applied some butterfly bandages. “I think you’ll need a few stitches.” He used a light to examine her eyes and asked if she’d had any dizzy spells. When she told him she had, he mentioned a possible concussion.
A flurry of activity for a few minutes and both she and Cole rode off in the same ambulance. He glanced at her. “You’re still hugging your stocking.”
“You know I’ve been planning on asking you out. But I have to admit, this wasn’t what I had in mind for our first date. I mean, a ride to the emergency room is not very romantic, is it?”
“We could ask them to stop at the Seven-Eleven for a hotdog and a slushy. They’re always open. I bet they have green ones for the holidays.” She shot him a glance. “Slushies, I mean, not hot dogs.”
Cole laughed. “Your off-the-wall sense of humor was the first thing that attracted me to you. Sometimes my job drains all the joy out of life. You have a warmth about you that brings some of it back.”
Wow! How did one respond to a sentiment like that? She smiled and reached out with her hand. He took it and they held hands for the rest of their ride.
Once at the hospital, they were each whisked away to separate examining rooms. Medical personnel came into her cubical, one at a time—at a snail’s pace. It was Christmas, no doubt they were understaffed. She peeked into her stocking. There was a chocolate Santa and a see-through cane of Reeses peanut butter cups. She almost laughed out loud when she unwrapped the first gift; a pair of plain stretchy bedroom slippers. Lastly was a red-foil wrapped long, slender box. In it was a silver bracelet with a filigree heart charm. She put it on her wrist right away and held her arm toward the light so the charm sparkled. Cole Danfield had given her a heart—his heart, perhaps? Wishful thinking on a night of magic, to be sure.
After Shelby was stitched up and released with orders to rest for a few days, she went to the information desk and asked about Cole. The lady checked the computer and said he was in recovery, but would soon be moved to room 205. Shelby got a cup of coffee from the vending machine before taking the elevator and finding his room. She snuggled into the faux-leather chair in the corner of the room and waited.
She must have fallen asleep for she jerked upright when the door to the room slammed open and orderlies pushed in a gurney carrying Cole, sleeping, his face pale. They lifted him onto the bed just as a nurse made a back prop of pillows. “Lay the patient on his side.” She proceeded to hook him up to monitors. The nurse noticed Shelby. “You must be his Sugar he kept talking about as he was coming out of anesthesia.” The orderlies left the room and it was just the two women and one very handsome sleeping detective.
“Yes. I am. How is he?”
“He’s fine. The surgeon said the bullet wasn’t very deep and didn’t hit anything major. He’ll be grumpy for a few days. You know how men are when they’re in pain.” She winked at Shelby. “Pull your chair closer to him. I’ll keep the railing down on your side.” The nurse placed a pillow in front of Cole’s chest and another in front of his groin after she adjusted his catheter and connected his bag to the foot of the bed. “Now you can lie your head down next to him. But first tell me, was that story true about his getting stuck in your chimney while trying to play Santa?”
“Yes. I’ve crushed on him for a long time and the first he shows me any real attention, I shoot him in the behind.”
The nurse laughed and hip-bumped Shelby’s shoulder. “You know, I like you. My kind of woman.” The nurse snorted and snickered as she exited the room.
Shelby placed both arms and her head on the cushion in front of Cole’s chest. He was going to be okay. He’d have no permanent damage.
“So, just how long have you been crushing on me, Sugar?” His voice was raspy with sleep.
“It’s not polite to eavesdrop.” She smiled into the pillow.
“Hell, it’s not nice to shoot a man in his ass, either, but no one’s mentioning that.” His hand brushed her hair. “How many stitches did you need?”
“Only four. At least the shots they gave me for pain took care of the migraine I was suffering with before Santa started calling.”
“Some Christmas Eve, huh?” He brushed his fingertips across her cheek. His hand moved to her wrist and touched her bracelet. “I see you opened your gifts.”
“Yes, I did. Thank you for your kindness. I love the bracelet with the heart, although I was kind of surprised. I mean, what about Darla? The two of you seem close at the station.” She might as well ask, find out where she stood.
“Darla’s okay to tease, but she’s not the kind of woman who would be faithful to her man or understand his moods. While you, on the other hand, have a stronger character. I like that. In fact, what do you have planned for New Year’s Eve?”
“Popcorn and a movie, I guess. I don’t enjoy loud crowds.”
“Me neither. I’ll bring Chinese and a couple flicks. What kind do you like?”
Golly, he was asking himself over for New Year’s Eve. A slow smile spread. “Action. Shoot’em-ups.”
“Oh, Sugar, you are definitely my kind of woman.” He cupped the back of her neck, bringing her face to his for a kiss, and she felt her lonely world topple on its axis.
Come back tomorrow for the first episode of Alicia Dean's Christmas story. Thank you all for reading a bit of Elf Magic...may you all have magical times during your Christmas.