Dreams and fantasies are just that for Mandy Brooks, assistant manager of Wentworth’s, an upmarket department store. Work always gets in the way. But then that is exactly how Mandy likes it. Until Christmas comes round again and she’s forced to play the part of Mrs Santa.
Christmas day five years ago, Tate Sullivan left town. It was also the day Mandy ditched him at the altar. Forced back because of his father’s death, he knows he’s got unfinished business with Mandy Brooks. He wants her back in his bed on his terms, his way. He’s out for revenge.
It’s meant to be sweet, isn’t it?
Janet stirred when the warm sunlight peeked through the window. She rubbed her eyes, looking around, suddenly remembering where she was. She couldn't believe she had spent the whole night out…at Clifford's. John must be going nuts. Good!
The smell of bacon filtered through the bedroom door. She made the bed, brushed her skirt and top with her hands as though ironing them out then went to the bathroom to freshen up. She looked through the cabinet for an extra toothbrush and spotted all the female toiletries. She figured this is where Cliff allowed his female one night stands to spruce up after a long spell romping in bed with him. A tinge of jealousy brushed through her and she shook it off immediately.
She found a package with two new toothbrushes in one of the drawers. After brushing, she took the liberty of using the available toiletries; applied a fresh application of make up, sprizted Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker on her wrists, then tied her red long tresses back in a ponytail with one of the scrunches. There was a whole collection of them in any color imaginable.
"Welcome to Chez Cliff. Have a seat. Our breakfast is almost done," Cliff said, as she made her way into the kitchen.
She stood by the doorway, unsure what to do. Her insides were telling her to get back home and figure out what to do with her relationship and John but her stomach gurgled with other plans.
He turned sideways, giving her a quick glance before turning back. "Well?"
Have a seat. I haven't been slaving in this kitchen for nothing, you know." A big victorious grin spread across his face as she headed toward the table. "Good. Now a decision has to be made…"
"A decision? You know, make up your mind?"
"Yes, I know what decision means, but I don't…"
"A decision whether you want sunny side up or snot eggs."
Realizing her mistake in thinking he was asking about her next move with John, she relaxed. "Sunny, please, not runny." She leaned back in the beige cushioned chair.
"Did you design the kitchen?" The dark brown granite counter offset the light tan cupboards. "I mean, I love the color scheme, and your choice of stainless steel appliances…well…"
"Surprised a man can have taste?" Cliff laughed as he continued to cook their breakfast, his back turned to her.
Within minutes, both were enjoying a hearty breakfast, not a word other than munching exchanged. Cliff finally broke the silence.
"Hate to spoil your mood but John came by early this morning."
She looked up, stunned. "Why didn't you wake me? Does he know I stayed here?" At that moment she spotted something out of place, something that should have hit her right off.
"Cliff, why are you wearing sunglasses…indoors?" She reached over the table and removed them. Colors of a fresh bruise surrounded his left eye; dark blue, greenish blue, hint of red… "John did this?" her voice coming out more like a squeal than anything else.
"Well it wasn't Santa Claus."
Janet was at a loss for words. When she finally found her voice, she slammed her hand on the table, narrowly missing hitting her plate. "How dare he hit you. For what? Being a friend?"
"Well…let me explain…" Cliff stuttered, obviously worried with what he was about to tell her. "When he asked me if I had heard from you I said yes and told him you were sleeping in bed. He never gave me a chance to say in the guest room before he lunged at me and gave me this shiner as a conversational piece." He swallowed hard before continuing, "I may have given him the wrong impression. I'm sorry, Janet."