While on a break at Martin's Department Store, Derek Campbell, aka Santa, wishes aloud for a little something for Santa and he gets it, and more.
Derek Campbell loves his job as Santa at Martin's, but finds himself wishing for a little something for himself. He's surprised when an elf hears his request and answers him. Derek gets more than he bargained for when he meets young Michael and then Max, who just happens to own Martin's. He falls in love with both of them and they him, then something happens, something bad. They overcome because they're strong together, and they have a good Christmas. But then, even worse things happen. What now? What follows is a wonderful holiday story filled with love, adventure, fear, hope, and kittens. This is a re-release but has been greatly expanded and re-edited.
This book has been previously published. It has been expanded and re-edited.
"And what do you want for Christmas, young man? Have you been a good boy this year?" Derek muttered, leaning back against the wall in the dark hallway, the padding in his Santa suit making each movement awkward. This section of Martin's Department Store was used only by staff. Right now, he was alone.
He answered his own question. "I've been an exemplary boy, Santa. All I want is someone to love me. Is that too much to ask? A little something for Santa for a change. No more losers and no more rough stuff. I just want someone nice, someone who'll see me." Derek was tired of self-centered guys who expected things from him that he wasn't intoâ€”like pain. All right, so he was cute. He'd heard it all his life. Big f'ing deal. Cute didn't pay the bills. Hard work and several odd jobs barely allowed him to break even.
"I see you," said a small voice to his right, about knee level.
Derek jumped and nearly said a word Santa would never utter, especially in front of a young... his eyes widened... elf?
"Okay, I'm the only Santa working today and I know you're not one of my helpers. So who are you?" Derek looked down at the little tow-headed elf with big sky-blue eyes by his side. Holding his little pointed hat in his hand, the youngster gazed up at him in quiet contemplation, and then nodded his head as if having decided something.
"I'm Michael, not Mike, but Michael. Do you know anything about main headaches?" Michael asked, seriously.
Derek peered down at the elf in puzzlement, and then realized what Michael-not-Mike probably meant. With forty-five minutes before he had to go back out to the store for another three-hour shift, Derek could spare a few minutes now.
"I think you mean migraines. My mom used to have them." His mother had suffered greatly, and over the years Derek had gradually learned which remedies best eased her pain. Then there had been the heart surgery, which hadn't come in time. Derek missed her terribly. The bills were a constant reminder, and the reason he was so strapped for cash. It would be years before those bills were paid off, but he sent what he could each month, thankful for the hospital's patience.
"If you come with me, I'll take you to someone who isn't a loser and who's never rough with anybody. But he's got a really bad main headache again." With that, Michael took Derek's hand and tugged. Intrigued, Derek let the funny little elf lead him to an elevator he'd never noticed before.
"Where are we going?" Derek asked.
"To see my dad, but we have to be quiet 'cause he's really sick right now."
Ah, so this elf was really a child whose father must work for the store.
When the elevator doors opened, they were facing an office door in a hallway Derek was unfamiliar with. A luxurious carpet covered the floor, and the high-end decor led him to guess that the store's mucketymucks, as his mom would have called them, worked here. Michael again took his hand and led him to the door. Opening it slowly, he raised his other hand to touch a tiny finger to his lips.
Derek nodded his understanding and followed the boy into the darkened room. Michael closed the door and they stood a few seconds, letting their eyes adjust to the low light. A huge desk stood across the room in front of wide curtained windows. At a sound to his right, Derek turned and spied a bulky figure whose long limbs filled the generous proportions of a leather couch. One arm draped over his face. Derek recognized that position, remembering how his mother could never make the room dark enough to banish the pain.
Michael stepped over to the man and touched his arm, leaning down to whisper into his ear.
"Hmm?" The man's voice spoke of pain.
Derek could barely hear the word, the faint question. He had never seen such a large couch. The man, well over six feet tall, lay stretched out to his full length, but still room remained for the overstuffed pillows plumped at either end. Shaking off the distraction caused by the unusual furniture, he looked back to the man. His experience kicking in, Derek walked over and sat with his back against the arm of the couch by the man's head. He leaned over and said, "Shh, relax. Let me help you."
"Can't. Hurts. Michael, honey, what's... oh..." His question ended with a groan. Grasping the man's shoulders, Derek stretched one leg along the back of the couch. The other he set on the man's other side, making a warm cocoon for the man's head and shoulders.
"Hey..." His patient tried to sit up, but pain forced him down again. Derek needed to reassure him before he could relieve his pain.
"Michael brought me up here. I've got about half an hour left on my break. I can help you if you'll let me. Shh, relax. My fat Santa suit makes a nice soft pillow, huh? I'm going to try what used to work on my mom's migraines, okay?"
There was no answer, but the man relaxed back into the V of Derek's legs. Softly, Derek put his long fingers to work, starting at the forehead and slowly, gently, stroking the temples. Interpreting the man's quiet acceptance as permission, Derek eased his fingertips further back into the thick, dark blond hair. In the scant light glowing from a partially open door, lines of stress and pain stood out on the man's face.
Meanwhile, Michael sat on the floor beside the couch, his small hand resting on his father's clenched fist. Care and love for his parent radiated from the little boy's face and in his posture.
"Relax your muscles if you can. Unclench your fist and let peace take you. Hold Michael's hand." Derek knew that physical contact helped release tension and pain. Clearly these two shared a strong bond. In response to his son's light touch the man slowly opened his fingers. Michael slipped his hand into the man's much bigger one. The man sighed and Michael's lips curved up in a smile.
Derek began to hum quietly, but not the Christmas carols one might expect from someone dressed as Santa. No, he hummed "Soaked" by Adam Lambert, his latest musical obsession. His mother would have loved the singer, with his flamboyance and gorgeous voice. They used to watch American Idol together and rate the singers, most often agreeing on choices. His mom had been pretty cool, Derek thought with a smile. Her response to his being gay had been one of acceptance. She had supported him in every way possible.
Derek kept his tone low and soft. His fingers never stopped their gentle motions. He moved them back to the man's forehead and now drew upwards toward the top of his skull and into his hair. Long minutes passed as he kept up the soft movements and moved on to "Broken Open," keeping to the ballads. He followed that up with a soothing version of "Mad World."
The man relaxed more and more; his body settling and his breathing slowing, and Derek felt happy for the first time in a long while. His life wasn't horrible. It just wasn't filled with joy and good things lately. Well, not for a long time. He leaned further over the man to look more closely at the chiseled features, gauging the degree of pain by the lessening of the tension around his mouth and the tightness bracketing his eyes. Derek knew he'd helped, but a quick glance at his watch told him he would have to hurry and get back into his headgear and become Santa again.
"I'm sorry, but I have to get back to work now. Lots of little kids are waiting to tell me their wishes for a holly jolly Christmas. I hope this helped you." Derek scooted back a few inches.
"No, don't go. I... you... that helped, really. That was nice of you. Who are you?"
"Santa. A little elf brought me to you. I've really got to go now." Derek regretted having to leave, but he'd have to beat feet if he was going to make it back to his big chair in time.
"Michael, can you sit up here with a pillow on your lap and do what I was doing for a little while more? Just be very soft and gentle." Derek stood and helped Michael up from the floor and onto the couch, putting a big pillow on his lap. He helped the man lean up and then back onto the cushion.
"Santa?" The little boy looked up, a worried expression pinching his features.
"I can't sing those songs. I don't know them." Michael sounded like he might cry if he couldn't do it right.
"It doesn't matter what you sing as long as your voice is quiet and soothing. Hum some Christmas carols or anything. I've got to go. Good luck, buddy."
"Yeah, thanks Santa." The man gazed up at him for the first time and Derek almost gasped. The beautiful dark blue-green eyes made him think of jewelry or paint chips. What color were they? Teal. That was it. His mother had loved teal and fuchsia. But no one had teal eyes. They must be contacts.
"Merry Christmas." Derek let himself out the door, closing it gently and heading back to the second floor where the Santa scene was set up.
Whew, that was a trip. Wonder who the man was? It was clear he had the pure love of his son going for him. Well, that and a killer bod with gorgeous eyes, soft hair, and wide shoulders. Okay, enough, Santa, back into the toys, Barbies, and video games mode.