Jason loves working at the Bright Eyes nursery, but he's not so keen on what happens at the kids' Christmas party. As if having to don an ancient, tacky Santa costume isn't bad enough, he's mortified when he suffers a costume malfunction. Especially as it happens right in front of the hot -- and impeccably dressed -- Alec, a single dad he's fancied for ages.
But when Alec's daughter Poppy invites Jason round for tea, he finds Alec was only too pleased to get a glimpse of Jason's naff underwear. In fact, he'd like to see a whole lot more of it. A Christmas miracle? Maybe ... but there's one more embarrassment in store for Jason next morning.
There was a squeal of "Jason!" and a pint-size whirlwind in a bobble hat flung her arms round my legs.
"Poppy?" I crouched down to talk to her -- she was rosy-cheeked from the cold and her nose needed wiping, so I pulled out a tissue and got her to blow. "I thought you'd gone home, Popsicle. Where have you been hiding?"
"Daddy let me play outside. It was too noisy indoors. I found a conker." She held up a battered looking fir cone.
"That's not a conker, sweetie, it's a fir cone, from a fir tree. Like a Christmas tree, you know?"
Poppy looked at the fir cone like it had been hand-picked by Santa himself and sent down the chimney especially for her.
I heard a throat being cleared and stood up to find Alec smiling at me. "Interesting visit from Santa, wasn't it?" he said with a smile that made his eyes crinkle up at the corners, like birds' footprints in the snow. "Oh -- before I forget." Alec fumbled with his wallet and pulled out a couple of notes. "Here. It's a donation. For a new, ahem, pair of trousers for Santa?" His eyes were twinkling.
I gave a mock groan. "Thanks," I said ironically, shoving the notes in my back pocket -- but suddenly I didn't feel so bad about it all.
"Is Jason going to give it to him?" Poppy asked.
I nodded. "I'll make sure Santa gets it. Wouldn't want him getting cold while he did the rounds on Christmas Eve, now would we?"
Poppy's little eyes widened, and she shook her head so violently her hat fell off. I bent down automatically to get it, and almost banged heads with Alec when he did the same thing. "Sorry!" we both said in unison, and then laughed. He had a nice laugh, and his cologne had hints of spice. There was a place under his jawline he'd missed with the razor this morning, where the stubble was longer than the five o'clock shadow that added definition to the rest of his face. Not that I was drinking in every detail or anything.