Though he dislikes Christmas, Alex Phillips works at the mall as one of Santa's elves, with their too-tight green denim jeans and Vulcan ears. He is flabbergasted when his co-worker elf for the season turns out to be Corin Perry, his old high school crush.
When they were still at school, Alex was the "gay emo goth" kid and Corin was the "handsome jock with a girlfriend" kid. They moved in different circles, although that didn't stop Alex from having a crush on Corin all through high school.
Meeting now as adults, Alex realises he might have been a dick to Corin in high school and that Corin has his own issues to face. Can their newfound friendship become something more and rekindle Alex's Christmas spirit?
“You seem to know what you’re doing with this whole decorating thing,” Corin said as we were laying under the tree fighting to get the silver glitter-covered tree skirt into place. So much glitter, as if I weren’t fabulous enough already.
“I’ve been working here every year since I was fourteen.”
“Wow. You must really love Christmas.” He grinned and the red glow of an ornament reflected on his cheek and in his blond hair. Corin had flecks of glitter caught in the stubble on his cheek. I could have reached out and brushed the tiny silver sparkles away and pulled him into an open-mouthed kiss, my tongue exploring the soft curve of his bottom lip…god, it was hot as fuck under these little white Christmas lights.
I cleared my throat. “Nope. Hate my family. Except for my aunt. She’s the mall manager.”
Corin’s mouth formed a perfect little O. “Do you hate your family because they don’t like you being gay?”
I was about to bust out with a what the fuck, dude? But, I checked myself. Maybe he wasn’t being malicious, he was just clueless. I wrestled with the tree skirt as I talked, taking my frustration out on the fabric instead of Corin.
“I hate my family because they’re fine with me being gay, but my relationships don’t get the same treatment as my hetero relatives’. Like my sister, Jen -- she’s allowed to be cute and cuddly and PDA at family stuff. Shit, they say ‘I love you’ to each other so often it’s no longer nauseating because I’m totally desensitized to it. Me, though, if I brought a guy I loved to a family function, I wouldn’t be able to do all that stuff like Jen and Ryan. Aunt Mel and her partner Betsy go through the same shit. Like my whole family loves Bet, but she and Mel’s relationship doesn’t get acknowledged. That’s why I hate my family, not because they’re angry, but because they’re willfully ignorant.”
The tree skirt was stuck under my hip and I rolled up on my side, bumping into Corin. His leg and hip was all muscle from what I could tell. The dude probably had like zero excess body fat.
“Sorry.” Corin scooted away from me.
“Why are you apologizing? I knocked into you.”
“Habit.” Corin shrugged as best he could while propped up on his elbows. “So your aunt is the only family you’re really close to, huh?”
“No. My granddad and I used to be close. He passed away last year.”
“Will you quit saying that?” I wondered how Corin had managed to be popular in high school, since every other minute he seemed to want to atone for existing.
“I feel bad, your grandfather’s dead. What was he like?” Corin asked.
“He was cool. He’s the one who gave me the LaSabre. Granddad’s hobby was restoring old cars and when he died I inherited his pet project.”
“Are you into that sort of thing?” Corin tugged at the tree skirt.
“What? Restoring cars? Hell no, but it was fun when I was a kid, hanging out in the garage listening to Grandad talk about his Army days and when he and my Great Uncle Mitch were kids.” I looked at Corin, checking for some signal that he was bored and this whole conversation was just him being polite, but he was smiling at me, listening intently.
Corin was so damned easy to talk to, but I didn’t know how he’d handle hearing about what happened to my Great Uncle and why my Granddad was the greatest person on the planet because of it. I changed the subject. “Mel didn’t hire you just to help decorate, did she?”
“No. I’m the photographer,” he said.
“Sweet. I’m crowd control, sort of. I guess you could call rogue toddlers climbing the ropes a crowd, right?” I tied off the tree skirt and shimmied backward out from under the massive fake Fraser fir.
“Guess we’ll be spending a lot of time together, huh?” Corin, first on his feet, put his hand out to help me up from the floor.
“Yeah,” I said as I shook the glitter from my hair.