Losing her job so close to Christmas, Chloe’s only choice was to go back home to Aubrey Heights, where the Christmas spirit is celebrated in a tourist loving, wonderland. Perhaps she can pull herself together before the new year—before her new career search.
However, Jason follows her to Aubrey Heights—with a mission of his own. First he stole her job—now he wants to steal her heart.
Is the spirit of Christmas alive enough in her to let that happen?
Bells. They rang on high and they rang in the doorway of the buildings across the street—and they never stopped until Christmas had come and gone.
Chloe Richardson rubbed at her temples, seated at her desk in her fourth-floor office, which overlooked the bustling city draped in holiday glory.
It was the day after Thanksgiving and already every doorway had a charity-collecting Santa, trees were adorned in lights, and windows were decorated with items that everyone stood on the sidewalk and admired but could never afford.
Chloe had found herself standing outside the Tiffany store on her way into the office that morning, eyeing a bracelet she'd certainly put on the top of her list for Santa.
Tapping her pen against the contract that sat on her desk, she realized that it was just a few days into the holiday season but she wasn’t feeling the spirit of the holidays, which was already encompassing the city. Usually, as was her tradition, she pulled out her Christmas tree, the box of lights, and the box of ornaments, which had been handed down, the day before Thanksgiving. She would decorate her tiny apartment until it glowed. That way, when she returned home from her parents’ house after Thanksgiving, she was ready to celebrate Christmas. After all, having been born and raised in Aubrey Heights, which annually turned into a quaint Christmas village—tourists and all—there were some expectations as to what Christmas should look like, and Chloe took pride in that.
Being as organized as she was, shopping was usually done by the end of October, and the UPS delivery man was her favorite man in a uniform.
However, this holiday season—the entire fourth quarter actually—had taken her holiday spirit and thrown it right into the trash.
Since the end of September, she had been in that cramped little office nearly sixty hours a week. There had been no time to search Amazon for the perfect gifts, and worst of all, she'd missed Thanksgiving with her family. That was the straw that nearly broke the camel's back, she thought as she flipped through the pages of the contract that had now come back to her for a fifth revision.
She'd been asked to work on Wednesday, which was usually her set-up day and travel evening. Fine, she could reschedule the set-up of her decor, but when she hadn't even left the office at seven the night before Thanksgiving, all was lost.
Her mother, the trooper that she was, had simply said, "I'll put the turkey in the fridge, and we'll cook it on Saturday."
Now, as she sat at her desk at four o'clock on Friday afternoon, she wondered just how much longer she'd be sitting there before she could go home, pack, and figure out at what time she'd head out for the six-hour drive.
The headache pounding behind her eyes strengthened and she dropped her pen to her desk not wanting to see the words herein or henceforth.
What Chloe needed to remember was that she'd laid the groundwork to bring in a multi-million-dollar company to the tiny advertising agency. Now, just shy of turning thirty, she was in line for a hefty promotion—Account Manager.
By landing this new client, she was showing the owners of the firm that she was someone who could make things happen. Of course, she'd been showing them that for the past six years, knowing it would take time from the moment she was an intern.
Byron Mason, the owner of the firm, had been grooming her for the position since last Christmas. He knew her potential, but his son William, who had taken over the presidency of the company only a year ago, wasn't sold on a young woman executive. Even in today's society, there were still men who were just chauvinistic.
Still, she deserved the job, and no one in the entire company had landed a client as big as the one she was dealing with. All she had to do was get the contracts back to them and seal the deal. But now, in its fifth round of negotiations, she wondered if the contract would ever be finalized and if, in fact, she'd have a job the following week. For one year, it was worth missing Thanksgiving and not having a Christmas tree up and decorated. Next year, maybe her apartment would be bigger and she could have two trees. Yes, that would be a sign of success. That, and the bracelet in the Tiffany window. She'd make sure that little blue box was tucked under her tree. It would be a gift to her from herself for a job well done.
For the first time in days, Chloe laughed as she flipped through the contract one more time.
"What do you think? Did they sign off on everything yet?" Byron Mason walked through the door to her office. He'd aged considerably in the past six years, she thought as she looked up at the man who had a full head of white hair, a round body that was camouflaged by a custom-made suit, and a waddle to him that made her think of her grandfather.
"They added a few more stipulations, but I think we're almost there. I was just going over it one last time."
He smiled, which made his bushy white mustache wiggle. "May I have a seat?"
"Of course," she said, motioning to the chair in front of her desk. "Can I get you something to drink?"
"No. I'm headed out. The Mrs. made dinner reservations at the Plaza. I'm just waiting for her to call from the street and tell me she's here. No need to pay for parking."
"That sounds delightful."
"How was your Thanksgiving?"
Chloe forced herself to smile at the man. "It was quiet. I had a steak that I'd had in the freezer for a few months and some canned corn."
His bushy white brows drew together. "A meal for one?"
"You didn't go home?"
"I didn't have time this year. I'll head out early in the morning to drive to my parents’ house. She saved dinner for me for the weekend."
As he pushed himself to his feet, he pointed at her. "I promise you'll never have to work this hard again. Next year, you'll be home for Thanksgiving. I promise."
"That's very kind. Thank you. Enjoy your dinner."
"I will," he said as he walked out of her office just as his son walked in.
"So? What's the verdict?"
Chloe swallowed hard as she looked up at the younger Mr. Mason, who was much taller than his father, thirty years younger, and much more straight forward.
"They added a few more clauses to the contract, and I'm finalizing that right now."
"Get on that, Ms. Richardson. I want to see final signatures on my desk on Monday."
"Yes, sir. I'll get these back to them right away so they can have legal go through it one more time."
"Monday," he restated as he walked out the door.
The headache she'd been nursing continued to throb, only now it had a new beat to it.
Pulling open her bottom drawer, she plucked out the Tylenol bottle and flipped off the lid. Pouring out two white pills, she popped them into her mouth and swallowed them down with the cup of cold coffee that sat on her desk.
"Excuse me," another voice came from the doorway. This time it was a younger man, exquisite suit, dark hair, and contrasting blue eyes that had Chloe choking on the bitterness of the coffee.
She coughed and covered her mouth as she tried to regain her composure, but the coughing wouldn't stop.
The man walked into her office and right to her desk. Now she could smell that his cologne was as exquisite as his suit.
"Here," he said as he pulled a bottle of water from his messenger bag. "I haven't opened it. I just picked it up in reception."
He handed it to her after twisting off the top.
Chloe took the bottle and sipped the water. Grateful that it worked, she pushed away the fear that she was going to spit it all over him and damage his suit.
"Thank you." Her voice was raspy from the coughing. Once she'd caught her breath, and taken a few more sips of water, she looked up at the handsome stranger in her office. "Sorry for the rudeness."
"I didn't think you were rude," he said as he slung his messenger bag back over his shoulder. "I thought you were choking."
He flashed her a smile that lit up those brilliant blue eyes. "Well, now that we have that all worked out, I wonder if you might be able to lead me to the office of Byron Mason. The receptionist wasn't at the desk out front, so I just came back."
"Oh, no problem. I'm not sure if he's still here, but we can go look. I know his son, William, is here."
Chloe stood from behind her desk to escort the man toward Byron's office. She expected him to just follow her, but he was shoulder to shoulder with her as they walked down the narrow corridor of the old building.
"I've met William," he said. "I was hoping to meet Byron before Monday."
"Are you only in town for a few days?" she asked, assuming that his rush to meet her boss meant he was leaving again.
"Oh, no. I live in the city. It's just good to get to know who you're working for before you start your new job."
That made her stop and turn to look at him. "New job? You're going to start working here?" Maybe it was some kind of Christmas miracle, she thought, inhaling that intoxicating cologne he wore.
"I am." He held out his hand to shake hers, and she took it. "Jason Mitchell."
"Ah, your name was on my list of employees I'd be working with."
The smile was easy on her lips as she looked at him. Oh, Christmas miracle indeed. Santa had brought her a new glorious employee to look at while she took over the Account Manager position.
"So, we'll be working together?" she asked, realizing he still had a grip on her hand.
"Yes, I'm the new Account Manager, and I hear you've been a very busy bee this year bringing in some amazing accounts. I can't wait to see what this next year will bring."
She knew the smile had slipped from her lips, and now she could feel that headache pounding between her ears again. Had he seriously just said he was the Account Manager?
Those brilliant blue eyes were dull now as she dropped her hand to her side.
"Oh, Jason," William's voice echoed through the hallway. "You made it. My father just slipped out, but I convinced my mother to up her reservation for dinner, so we will join them. Let's chat in my office."
Chloe didn't want to turn and face William. She didn't want to know if he had a smug little smile going on or if he was absolutely clueless.
"Chloe," Jason said capturing her attention again. "It was very nice to meet you. I look forward to seeing you on Monday."
"Monday," she stammered. "Nice to meet you."
She stood there as he walked around her and a moment later she heard the door to William's office close.
Account Manager. She'd been completely bypassed for the job she'd been killing herself for. Did Byron Mason even know what his son had done?
Quickly she walked back to her office and kicked the door shut. If she made it home for her suitcase in the next hour, she'd head out of town right away. She could use a good dose of turkey dinner and time with her mother now. Maybe, just maybe, she wouldn't even come back to work on Monday. Maybe the Account Manager could find another puppet to bring in new clients.
She looked down at the contract on her desk, picked it up, and sent it right through the shredder.
A moment later, she shut the lights off in her office and headed out for a late Thanksgiving weekend.