Oscar has never liked the holidays and all the surrounding rigmarole, but that doesn’t stop his best friend from dragging him along for her Black Friday shopping spree. The only perk of the day is that he meets Nathan while he’s there.
With sparkling blue eyes, curly blond hair, and a smile that won’t stop, Nathan is a Christmas elf in the flesh. He even spends his days in a workshop! But Nathan is more than his bright smile, and he may be just the right person for Oscar. Assuming, of course, Oscar doesn’t drive him and his holiday spirit away first.
Alex Whitehall © 2016
All Rights Reserved
“Come on, Oscar, don’t be such a grouch.”
He glared at Marie. “That is so original.”
She shrugged, merry as ever.
He grumbled as they were forced to swerve around another mother with two shopping carts. “If you didn’t want me grumpy, then maybe you shouldn’t have dragged me out shopping on Black Friday.”
“You’re my best friend—”
“Which means you shouldn’t torture me like this.”
“Who else am I going to take?”
“I love the girl, but she doesn’t really know my family. And she can’t spot a sale to save her life.”
“I can’t spot sales!”
“But you know my family. Oh! I wanna hit this one.”
He sighed as he was dragged—yes, dragged—into Another Store. Under his breath, he muttered, “You could go alone.”
She continued on, oblivious. Or at least very good at faking it. He hoped this earned him some major points.
“What do you think of this?” She held up a cashmere-blend sweater in baby blue.
Her lips puckered in moue. “Me.”
“I thought we were shopping for your friends and family.” He mock glared. Well, mostly mock.
Marie flapped her hand at him. “Just tell me.”
He sighed and glanced over to the picked-through selection. “It’s gorgeous, but is it even in your size?”
She bounced—like she hadn’t even considered that, somehow—and twirled back to the rack, furiously searching through the remaining sweaters. She chirped and pulled out a much larger size in what Oscar could only call puce, folded it over her arm, and returned to the baby-blue ones. “I’ll have to ask if they have more in the bac— Oh my god, look at that sale!” She tossed the blue sweater to him. “Can you find a salesperson, and ask if they have a small? I need to be over there!”
And she was gone. Which left him with two options: say no and be a horrible friend, or say yes and tear through the crowds to find an overworked, overstressed salesperson. Joy.
With a sigh, he searched for someone in the store’s dress-coded uniform, and wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse when he spotted the cute guy smiling winsomely, surrounded by a mob of people. The most attractive thing was that his mob was smaller than the mob surrounding all the other salespeople.
Gritting his teeth, he clenched the sweater and elbowed his way over through arguing women, grumbling men, and a few screaming children. And that was only across six feet.
When he finally arrived at his destination, he noticed his salesperson was six inches shorter than him, with curly blond hair, and wearing an elf hat. He had shimmering blue eyes and apple-round cheeks. He couldn’t possibly be real.
The bright-blue eyes flashed up to Oscar with a literal sparkle in his eye, although that had to be the overhead lights. “Hello! How can I help you?”
Despite his elfish appearance, the dude’s voice wasn’t high-pitched. In fact, to keep with the ridiculous metaphor developing in Oscar’s mind, it was more like caramel or hot chocolate. It was almost enough to make him forget where he was.
And then some jackass elbowed him in the back, hard, and he was shoved forward. He growled and pushed back, not taking his eyes off his little elf helper. “Hi. I was wondering if you have more sizes of this in the back? I need a small.” He held up the sweater in question.
The little elf’s lips puckered in thought. “I can check, sir, but I think what we have out is all we have. Wait right here.”
He was gone in a flash, and Oscar was left standing there, blinking at the space where the man had been.
“Ex-scuse me,” a woman lashed out. “Can we not stand in the middle of the aisle, puh-lease?”
He heaved a sigh and stepped back—the six inches he could—to let the woman pass. She scrunched her nose at him and hurried on to the next big sale. Restraining another sigh, he wished he could close his eyes and sink into the floor, or vanish, or at least run the hell out of here. But no, he waited, like a good friend, for the salesperson to return. And it seemed to be taking forever, but he was sure that was his imagination—and frustration—playing tricks on him.
Glancing around, he checked on where Marie was, because today he wouldn’t put it past her to leave without him or the sweater, and found her almost swallowed up in the jewelry section. He nodded and looked back to where his elf had been, only to find his helper had reappeared, cheeks rosier, curls somehow unrulier, and elf hat slightly crooked.
“Good news! There was one small tucked behind another bunch.” He held up a slightly rumpled blue sweater. “Looks like it may have gotten missed when the stock was brought out. It doesn’t look damaged or anything, but feel free to inspect it and let me know…”
The guy trailed off, probably because Oscar was staring at his hat. It shouldn’t have been humanly possible for a disheveled hat to make him that much cuter. But it did. Oscar slung the sweater he was still holding over his shoulder, reached out, righted the salesperson’s hat, and then tucked a particularly rebellious curl under the rim. There. He smiled. Much better.
“Uh, sir?” the guy asked, not quite squeaking, but definitely breathily.
Oscar’s eyes shot down to meet those sparkling blues. “Oh! Sorry. It was… You must have knocked it when you were getting the sweater. So I… It was only right that I help. Thank you. For the sweater.”
Certainly not for the pounding of his heart. He held out his hand for the top.
The elf’s uncertain, wide eyes scrunched up with his grin. “Thank you for fixing it.”
He really had the bluest eyes. It seemed like they would have to be contacts, but Oscar didn’t think even a company could manufacture that pure a blue.
Oh hell, it was the woman from before. Oscar couldn’t move much and was about to tell the woman she could probably go around, but the little elf flashed a customer’s-always-right expression and glided over, clearing the aisle and putting not much between them but the sweater.
Oscar’s breath caught. The little elf beamed up at him.
“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”
Oscar had some ideas. Some very dirty ideas, actually. But then the elf blinked, casting a glance at the chaos surrounding them, and Oscar remembered now wasn’t a good time to be hitting on a salesperson.
And that he was waist-deep in Black Friday. He groaned and slid his fingers around the small sweater, gently taking it.
“I think this will be all. Thank you very much,” he murmured—well, as much as he could murmur and still be heard in this mess.
The elf’s smile widened—if that was possible, and somehow it was—and his eyebrows lifted with the excitement strewn across his face. “Well, I hope you have a good day. And I really hope you come back again sometime.”
Then, just like that, Oscar’s helpful little elf was swallowed up by the crowd.
The cheerful good-bye was probably a standard store requirement, Oscar told himself as he turned to hunt down Marie. It almost certainly wasn’t to entice him to return just to see his elf again. The guy probably wasn’t interested.
Oscar sighed. Though his eyes had seemed to light up when they’d been pressed together. And he hadn’t minded Oscar taking certain privileges with his hat. And he had been so very helpful. Which, yeah, it was his job, but…
A tiny tot ran into his shin, the mother glared at him, probably for standing in space that her child wanted to occupy. When he looked around, he realized he’d lost where Marie was.
Several glares were shot his way. He didn’t care, though.
“Did you find someone?” popped Marie’s voice from behind him.
He spun around, clenching both sweaters to his chest. “Jesus!”
“You found one!”
“Yes, I found one,” he snapped, shoving the smaller size at her. When his hand was free, he began searching out the original location, but even with his height advantage, the store was a swirl of bodies and colors. He glared at Marie. “And you can put the other one back.”
She pouted. “But you’re supposed to be helping me—” She clicked her jaw shut at his glare. “I mean, you found one in my size, so thank you so much! Let’s go return this one to the rack.”
She led the deceptively easy way back to the sweaters and hung it up. “Okay, with that done, let’s get on with the day.”
He groaned, knowing that the best part of the day had already walked away.
Meet the Author
If there are two types of people in the world, Alex Whitehall probably isn’t one of them, despite being a person. Their favorite pastimes include reading, horseback riding, sleeping, watching geek-tastic television, knitting, eating, and running. And wasting time on the internet. And spending glorious afternoons laughing with friends.
While Alex prefers sleeping over doing anything else (except maybe eating), sometimes they emerges from the cave to be social and to hunt for food at the local market. They can be found blogging, searching the Internet for more books to read, and tending after their aloe plant Cornwall. That’s a lie; the single plant has become an entire forest.