Buy a doll, his friend had suggested.
James scanned the shelves, out of his depth. He knew cedar from pine and redwood from rosewood, but he didn’t know the difference between a doll that cried and a doll that talked.
Was one better than the other?
Personally, he would have gone with talking over crying.
Knowing that he needed help, he turned to look for an assistant and saw the line stretching to see Santa.
It took him back to his childhood. He remembered waiting in a line much like that one with his mother and his sister. There had been baskets of candy, and small gifts wrapped in shiny silver paper to distract small children from the tedium of waiting.
This year the staff were dressed as characters from the ballet The Nutcracker. There were candy canes, snowflakes and a couple of soldiers.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught a flash of pink and silver.
The Sugar Plum Fairy?
And it looked as if she was diving for cover.
Intrigued, James watched the fairy plunge into the crowd, scattering harassed mothers and overexcited children.
Something had spooked her, but a quick glance round the store revealed nothing that might have created a reason to hide.
He was about to turn away and get back to his task of finding the perfect doll, when someone caught her arm and asked her a question.
She paused in midflight and James stared transfixed at the slope of her bare shoulders and the delicate column of her neck. He didn’t recognize the long legs, the creamy skin and the killer body, but he did recognize the short, spiky dark hair and the fierce green eyes.
No, it couldn’t be. They’d worked all day doing basic maintenance on a roof garden on the Upper East Side and now she was in the library, studying for her exam in horticulture. At least, that was where she was supposed to be. Except that she was right here, in front of him.
He’d worked with her for ten months. He’d seen her in combats and work boots, a sheen of sweat on her skin. He’d never seen her in tulle and tiara. This was Roxy as he’d never seen her before, and he realized two things.
First, that she looked good as the Sugar Plum Fairy, and second, that he was the reason she was hiding.
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