My Christmas List Is Naughty

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Let’s face it. The holidays are depressing. Even before the holiday season begins, the television is bombarded with commercials talking about “the happiest time of the year.” And the lonely, like me, start to believe in hope. No date or party invite for Halloween? That’s okay. Things will be better by Thanksgiving. Sifting alone at the table, or worse, at the kids’ table for Thanksgiving? That’s fine. Christmas will bring a new love.

All I had to do was ask Santa for the perfect man.

I came up with the Santa List for Gemma. Gemma, my best friend, could have any man in any place we walked in to—including farmer’s markets and bookstores. For some reason though, none of her first dates turned into seconds. Her suitors always had a fatal flaw—too tall, too short, too fat, too many muscles. Just not right.

Sitting at the winery with a lovely bottle of White Zinfandel, I forced her hand. “Gemma, no one will ever meet your standards if you don’t know what they are.”

“What, you want me to write up a checklist?” Gemma swirled the rose-colored wine in her glass before taking a sip.

“Couldn’t hurt. I mean really, John was perfect for you and he was gorgeous! And why did you dump him?” Honestly, I remembered Gemma’s weak excuse for dumping the financial genius that had somehow rode the market’s downturn without a hiccup in his portfolio. He’d been too focused.

“I just got the feeling that I wouldn’t be first with him. I mean, he had so much going on, maybe I’d be forgotten.” Gemma smiled at a passing hunk with ocean deep blue eyes and dressed in an expensive suit.

“And you got all that from a first date?” I shook my head. I had a feeling my friend was just too good at the catch and release game. She didn’t have any stamina for the long haul. Of course, I’d had one long-term relationship in the last four years, and Ted had dumped me for his dental hygienist. Total cliché.

“I can read people, Rachel. I’ve told you that.” Gemma looked at me, shocked that I’d question her psychic ability.

“Yeah, I remember. But I think you’re getting your messages mixed up.”

“And you’ve been so successful in the dating world?”

Ouch. “Okay, before we start throwing wine in each other’s faces, let’s get back to my idea.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snipe,” Gemma said as she refilled my glass. “What’s your idea? Please don’t tell me you think we should try that speed-dating thing again. What a disaster.”

“No, I never want to do that again either. This idea is more up your psychic ability alley. I saw it on one of the talk shows.”

“Really? Was it Oprah? She has some of the best guests. Especially now that she’s found her sensitive side.” Gemma loved Oprah. And soap operas. And the rest of the wasteland that the networks feed up as daytime television. “You are so lucky to work at home. You get to watch television all day.”

“Except you missed one fact. I work. I don’t watch television.” I paused on my tirade. Gemma didn’t get it. But neither did my parents, or my neighbors, or anyone who found out I was a freelance editor. They all thought I spent my days with the couch and the remote. Somehow the projects that paid the bills magically got done with minimal work on my part. The truth was that I worked longer hours than anyone, including my paralegal friend sitting across from me.

“So how did you come to hear about this great idea?” Gemma shot a wicked smile my way.

Busted. Of course, the one time I take a break, all the stereotypes about my life of leisure are proven true. “Never mind. Here’s the plan. We list out what we are looking for in a guy or in a relationship. Then we sort them by order of importance. We’ll trade, call each other out on the bull, and then we have a list.”

“A list that we take to the man store and go shopping?” Gemma giggled, the wine was starting to affect my friend. After two glasses, everything was funny.

“Something like that. We put the list away and when we meet a guy after the first date, we match his qualities up to the ones that we said were important.” I stared at my friend. “If he’s ranking high on the list, we say yes to a second date.”

“Even if he’s too tall.” Gemma was taking in the crowd, looking for her next prey.

“If being a certain height, isn’t on your list, yes.” I pulled out a notebook. “Now pay attention. List off what you want in a guy. We’re starting these tonight.”

Twenty minutes later, Gemma had an entire page.

Two young girls using smart phone

“That’s all? You don’t have one more thing to add, like brain surgeon?” I held up my pen waiting for the next one.

“No, that’s about it.” Gemma was quiet, she’d ordered a basket of hummus and pita bread while we talked. Scraping out the last of the dip from the bowl, she looked up at me, “What’s next?”

I glanced at the list before I ripped out the page and handed it to her. I hadn’t believed it would be this easy. Gemma knew what she wanted in a man. “Now take this home and rank them in order of importance.”

“Everything’s important,” Gemma stuffed the page into her purse without looking at it.

“I know, but some qualities must be more important than others. Like being able to cook. Would you give that up if he had a great job?” I worried I had created a monster. Gemma wasn’t a girl used to compromise.

“I guess,” Gemma’s voice quavered, “but I wouldn’t want to.”

“Just try it.” I felt like I’d assigned homework to a high school cheerleader the night before the prom. I closed the notebook and was slipping it into my purse when Gemma cried out.

“Stop!” Gemma held her hands out in front of her.

I glanced up, wondering what I’d done now. “What?”

“We haven’t done your list. Give me the notebook and I’ll write while you talk.”

Seriously? I hadn’t thought I’d make a list. Usually our get-togethers were all about Gemma. I didn’t mind being the tag-along. Working alone all day, it was nice to just get out. I needed adult companionship, even if it was on Gemma’s terms. “Okay, if you have time.”

“I’m not the only one who needs some good luck in their dating life. When was your last date? Two months ago?”

Try two years, but who’s counting. “About that. . .” I sat back and thought about what I wanted in a life partner. “He has to be cute. Bad boy cute, not captain of the chess team cute.”

Gemma grinned. “I knew you liked bad boys.”

“I said bad boy cute. You know, kind of rough looking, scruffy. The opposite of a suit.”

“Glad we’re looking for two different types or we might fight over the perfect man.” Gemma nodded. “What else?”

“He has to be smart. Like he could be captain of the chess team.” I giggled. My expectations were total opposites. No wonder I was still single. “And he has to want a family. Not a big family, but the normal two point five kids.”

“And live in a house with a white picket fence,” Gemma teased.

“You got it. Or a cottage on the beach. That would be cool.” My daydreams surrounded what a perfect life would look like.

“Brown hair or blond? Tall or short? What else?” Gemma tapped the pen on the notebook. “Earth to Rachel. Let’s get busy here.”

I grinned. My list only took fifteen minutes to complete. My dream lover had danced through my mind enough times that all I had to do was let the description come out. Fantasy, total fantasy. I didn’t have the same problem as Gemma, too many suitors. I was sure the Santa List would work for her. But me? It was a long shot.

Putting the list into my purse, I agreed that I’d rank the list before we got together again on Saturday. Riding home in the cab to my apartment, I pulled the list out and glanced over my description of the perfect man. Someone who would curl up with me on the couch in front of the fireplace and read books with me on a Sunday. He had to like dinner theater or at least tolerate it. He loved to travel.

I sighed and stuffed the list back into my purse. It was a dream. A wish list for Santa. That’s all.

The next morning brought snow and a problem. My Internet connection was out. Picking up the phone, I called the apartment manager.

“Christen Homes, you’re on your way home, this is Alexis, how can I help you?” Alexis, was the receptionist, leasing agent, and on-site emergency after-hours contact. She was also one of the few people I saw enough to call a friend.

“Hey Alexis, it’s Rachel. My Internet link’s dead. Is yours?”

“Hold on. I was just online looking for new furniture for the clubroom. The stuff we have is so dated, don’t you think?” Alexis was always trying to get the owners to cough up money for renovations. Most of the time the answer was no, but at least Alexis was persistent.

“I guess. Is your Internet still up?” I was getting concerned. I had several projects with due dates in the next couple days. All my current work was due back to the magazines before the staff took off for their long Christmas break. I had no time for anything to go wrong. And although working in the clubroom until my connection was back up was an option, the thought of trying to work next to Alexis’s office with her constant Christmas music made my head hurt.

“Hold on, I’ll check.” Alexis mumbled something away from the phone. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard “pain in my butt.” When she came back on the line, her voice was all sweetness and light. “My connection’s fine. Did you pay your bill?”

“Of course I paid my bill,” I grumbled, hoping I was right. I thought I’d paid the bill.

“Call the company and have them troubleshoot for you. If they can’t help, my cousin is pretty handy with computers. Maybe he can stop by.”

Alexis had been trying to set me up with her cousin for months. “I’m sure the Internet company will be able to fix it. I’ll talk to you later.” I hung up the phone before she could respond. I didn’t need someone’s cousin hanging around and ruining my friendship with Alexis.

I dialed the number of my Internet provider. After ten minutes of commercials about how I could solve my problem by just going online and checking out their new website, I was ready to pull out my hair. I decided to put the time to good use and clean out my purse. Wallet, pens, hair comb, lots of change, and a sheet of folded up notebook paper—my Santa List.

I unfolded the sheet and smoothed it out. Gemma had great penmanship. Flowery, light, and girly—just like her. My writing was so bad that people had asked me if I was a doctor.

Bad boy cute, smart, funny, willing to try new things—my list sounded like one of those online dating commercials about how the actor found their perfect love by just answering a boatload of questions and plopping down thirty bucks a month for a membership. I started numbering the fifteen characteristics that made up my perfect man.

Fifteen items I thought would bring me true love. At least when I met up with Gemma on Saturday, my homework would be done. Gemma had probably already lost her list.

I was just trying to rank the last two items when a live voice came over the phone. “Speedy Cable, this is Nathan, can I have your account number or phone number to took up your account?” The sexy male voice cooed in my ear.

Scratching down a sixteenth item—a good, deep voice—I gave Nathan my account number. “I can’t get on at all. I checked my bills, and it looks like I sent your payment. Of course, I can’t see if it’s cleared since I can’t get online.”

Nathan chuckled. “You get dependent on the connection. I don’t make a purchase without checking out what the online review sites say about the product.”

I could hear ticking in the background as he reviewed my account. “I work out of my home so I need my connection. I’m feeling lost,” I admitted to this stranger who was miles or even continents away.

“I understand. Looking at your account, your bill was paid so that’s not the problem. Let me shoot a signal through your system. Do you have your computer turned off?”

“Hold on,” I walked over to the desk and shut down my system. “It is now.”

“Great. Now unplug your modem and wait to plug it back in until I tell you,” Nathan hummed while time passed. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t doing anything but watching the clock pass for the suggested time from his script. “Now plug it back in and turn on your computer.”

I followed Nathan’s directions and when I went to sign into the Internet, I held my breath. “Work, please work,” I whispered to my monitor. I had a project that had to be sent off this morning. I kicked myself for not sending it last night when I’d finished, but I’d wanted one last look to make sure it was perfect. And now I couldn’t send it.

The monitor fluttered and then an error came on the screen. I sighed.

“Did it work?” A hopeful Nathan asked in my ear.

“No, so now what?”

“Let’s try again,” Nathan walked me through all the steps on the cheat sheet on how to connect dummies to the Internet. Thirty minutes later, we were at the same point. Nowhere.

“So now what?” I was tired and frustrated and I’d eaten my way through a bag of red licorice while we talked.

“I’d suggest replacing your modem. We could send a guy out to troubleshoot, but that would be an hourly charge. If it’s your modem, you can fix that yourself.”

“I’ll go get a new one.” Why not? I wasn’t doing any work. I thanked Nathan for his time and hung up my cell. Before leaving my apartment, I copied the project onto a flash drive and hoped that Alexis wasn’t out of the office showing an apartment.

The smell of pine and cinnamon hit me as soon as I opened the office door. Bells chimed in the background, announcing my arrival. I headed up the stairs to the office. “Hey, Alexis? You up there?”

I heard rustling in the clubroom. “In here,” she called back.

Walking into the room, I’d found Santa’s workshop. The ten-foot Northwestern fir tree took up the area where the foosball table used to be as well as the poker table that the guys over in building B used each Friday night. Alexis was leaning over in the corner, and when she stood up, the tree sprang to life and an electric train circled the tree skirt.


“Wow. . .” I was speechless. At home we’d had a tree, but nothing like this. Alexis’s tree looked like something out of the holiday stores or even a movie. The ornaments were tastefully color-coordinated with the room and gave the club­room the feel of a cabin somewhere on a lake.

Alexis grinned. “You like it, huh? I can see it on your face.” She headed to the counter where she had piles of wrapped presents just waiting to be strategically placed. “I wasn’t looking for furniture this morning when you called. I’ve been working on this for a few days.”

“It’s great, Alexis. Very tasteful.”

Her comment about my call reminded me why I was there. “Hey, can I use your computer for a few minutes? I  have to send off this project or I’ll lose the contract.”

“You didn’t get your Internet to work?” Alexis kept moving one present, left, then right, then put it aside and pulled out another one to place.

“Nope. I’m going to buy a new modem. That better work,” I turned toward the office.

“I can call Felix.”

“Who’s Felix?” I checked my watch. I had an hour left for me to hit send. Please let this conversation be short, I prayed.

“My cousin. I bet he could fix all your problems.” Alexis settled a box into what seemed like a perfect placement and then pulled it back.

“Alexis, I don’t want your cousin coming by to help.” I headed back into the office. Jeez, the woman never gave up.

“He’s coming by today anyway. He could stop by your apartment around two o’clock?” Alexis called out from the clubroom.

“No, don’t send him to my apartment. Besides, I won’t be there,” I sat down at her desk and slipped my flash disk into the slot. Pulling up the project document, I carefully reviewed my changes and updates. I’d sent the wrong version of a not-­so-finished project once. I never got work from that editor again. Now I checked everything twice before sending my completed finals out to the world.

Thirty minutes later, the document was reviewed one last time, saved to an email with an invoice attached, and sent to the editor. I came in under the deadline, but not by much. Now I only had four more rush jobs to finish before Friday and then I’d officially be on vacation.

Time to head to the Computer Warehouse and pick up a new modem. Merry Christmas to me. I just hoped my credit card had enough room for this one last purchase. I’d kind of gone crazy buying toys for my niece this year. I didn’t see her often and this was my time to spoil the kid.

“Alexis, I’m out of here. I’ll talk to you later,” I called into the Christmas clubroom that now had a manger scene on the mantle. Ten to one the management would make her take that down. They were sticklers on avoiding controversy.

“See you,” I heard Alexis call from behind a pile of presents she was still trying to fit under the tree.

Alexis’s over the top decorations made me glad I’d skipped the tree this year. Well, I guess I’d skipped it for several years now, since Ted had left. His timing had been horrible. The apartment we’d shared had been filled to the brim with Christmas cheer and hope. The same apartment where I currently lived. Now even thinking about putting up a tree made me miss the man. Stupid but true.

Swinging open the door of the leasing office, I walked straight into someone. I looked up into the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. Jet-black hair spiked around his head and a crooked grin on his face, this six-foot giant was one handsome man. Hmm, maybe a potential neighbor?

All of a sudden Ted’s absence didn’t feel like such a loss. “I’m so sorry,” I murmured.

The man had reached out to sturdy me and had his hands on my shoulders. “No problem.” He turned me to the right and headed into the office.

Watching him, I called out, “The leasing agent’s in the clubroom decorating for Christmas. The room looks great.” Now why did I say that? Babbling, I was babbling.

Romance cover guy turned back toward me, his black leather jacket framing the ZZ Top t-shirt that peeked out. “Looking forward to Santa’s visit?”

Heat burned my face. “I. . .Yes, I am.” I don’t know where my conviction came from, but I committed to the Santa List at exactly that moment. And from what I could see, this man met all my criteria. Especially the bad boy cute section.

“Me too. I’m a sucker for this time of year.” With that, he waved and headed up the stairs to the club­room. Later it dawned on me that I hadn’t told him the clubroom was upstairs.

Humming “Jingle Bells” to myself, I headed to the car. Maybe I needed to get out more during the day. I’d been locked up in the apartment working for weeks and hadn’t seen a sole except Gemma and Alexis for I don’t know how long.

I turned up the music in the car and sang along. While I drove, I wished for a brighter new year than this year had turned out to be. I felt like I was in a stall. Not going forward, not worrying about the past. Just being. And that wasn’t a good place to be.

I pulled into the parking lot and found a space way at the back. Christmas shoppers filled the store. My cheerful mood vanished.

Reluctantly, I headed into the store. I promised myself I’d stop for sushi on the way back to the apartment. I needed some sort of treat to get through the Christmas shopping crowds.

Twenty minutes later, I was still waiting for help in the computer aisle. Who knew there were so many different types of modems? I had my choices narrowed down to two, one four times as expensive as the other. I didn’t want to buy the expensive one unless I had to. Freelance editing may pay the bills, but it didn’t build up the bank account.

Frustrated, I sat down to wait my turn. Six couples in line before me were all bickering about the right netbook to buy their kids. Listening in on the conversations, I realized that some of these kids were still in grade school. What happened to the balls and games and toys Santa used to bring to kids? Now it was all computers, cell phones, and video games.

I noticed boots and jeans step in front of me. I followed the long legs up to see who was attached.

“I guess we are on the same wavelength today,” the familiar voice called down to my place on the floor.

It was the guy I’d run over at the leasing office. “I guess so.” Not my wittiest comeback.

“What are you doing? Taking a nap?”

I sighed. “I wish. I’m trying to buy a new modem for my computer. My Internet won’t boot up and the provider thinks my old modem died.” Struggling to my feet, I held up the two boxes. “I’m down to these choices, but I don’t know if I’m right or not. And I’d rather wait and find out than come back later.”

“I’m a computer geek. Let me see what you have.” The man who looked nothing like a computer geek took the boxes and read the back of each. “What’s your computer’?”

I pulled out a piece of paper that I had listed all the relevant information on before I left the apartment. “Here, this is what I got off the box the computer came in.”

He looked at me funny. “You save your boxes? How long have you had the computer?”

“Two years,” I cringed. Ted had hated my habit of saving empty boxes. I only did it on the big purchase items and sometimes, like today, it came in handy.

The man shook his head and grinned. “Whatever.” Comparing my notes to the modems I’d picked out, he walked over to the shelves.

Scanning the available modems, he pulled one down and quickly checked the back. Satisfied, he put the other two boxes back on the shelf. “This is the one you want.”

“Are you sure? I looked at that one, but I didn’t think it matched.”

“Trust me. This is more than enough for your computer. And it’s cheap. I’ve got the same one.”

“Thanks.” I paused before heading to the checkout counter. “I’m heading to the sushi place for lunch after this. Do you want to join me? My treat for saving me hours in that line,” I nodded toward the help line that hadn’t even budged while we were talking.

“I can’t. I’ve got an errand I have to run after this.”

“No worries. I guess I’ll run into you again.” I still was hoping he was moving into the building. Although, my luck, he probably was moving in with his fiancée. But there wasn’t a ring on his finger. I’d checked while he was busy reading boxes.

“I’m sure we will.”

I was in the checkout lane waiting when I realized I hadn’t even asked him his name. I scanned the store to see if I could pick him out of the crowd—no luck.

Kicking myself for not even asking his name, I hurried to pull out my debit card to pay for my purchase. / will see him again, I promised myself. Putting my game face on, I walked back out in the snow to find my car in the crowded lot. I almost believed it was true.

Two hours later, I was back on the phone with the Internet provider, and the girl who answered my call didn’t know squat about computers. I asked to speak with Nathan, but apparently he’d gone off shift.

“Will he be back tomorrow?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to give out that information. But you do understand it’s the week before Christmas. People have lives you know.” The woman’s voice was getting under my skin.

“Thanks for all the help.” I hung up the phone, not waiting for an answer or the list of questions asking if they had fulfilled my expectations for customer service. Let’s just say I was less than delighted.

I went through all the steps again. I unplugged and plugged in the modem. I turned my computer off and waited ten minutes, enough time to heat up my teakettle and brew me a cup of holiday cinnamon blend. I loved Christmas tea blends. Going back to the computer, I pushed the power button on and prayed.

After the computer booted up, I tried getting on the Internet. No luck. My prayers had gone unanswered. Maybe I should put computer geek on my Santa List. I checked the clock, half past three. Alexis’s cousin was probably long gone by now. Swallowing my pride, I called the office.

“Happy holidays,” Alexis’s voice came over the line as full of cheer as the room she’d been decorating.

“Hey, it’s Rachel.” I gritted my teeth and asked, “Is your cousin still there? I’ve tried everything and I can’t get this stupid thing to work.” I hated to blame the bad boy, but maybe he’d let me down with the modem he’d chosen.

“Felix was just getting ready to leave. I’ll send him right up.” Alexis was ecstatic. I could hear it in her voice. Now it would be months of dodging questions like, “Why don’t you call Felix? The two of you would make a great couple.”

But I was desperate. I’d deal with the fall out later.

A knock came at the door. Felix was quick; I’d give him that.

Opening’ the door, I started my sad computer story of woe, “Hey, thanks for coming. My Internet won’t work and I bought this stupid modem, and now, I’m. . .”

I looked into Felix’s blue eyes and realized he was the bad boy cute guy I’d been running into all day.

“And now you’re stuck with this stupid modem that some idiot told you to buy? Right?” Felix leaned against the doorframe.

“It’s you.” I was filled with snappy comebacks today.

“When Alexis said Rachel needed help, I was hoping it was you. Although you never told me your name.” He nodded toward the apartment. “Can I take a look?”

“I’m sorry, come in.” I closed the door behind him and waved my arm toward the desk. “The computer is over there.”

He sat down in my chair. “Nice set up. Printer, scanner, huge monitor, you’ve got it all.”

“I work out of my home. I spend a lot of time here.” What’s wrong with me? I was a smart, intelligent woman, but I could barely put together a sentence in front of this guy.

He pointed to my cup. “Do you have any more of this? I’ve been outside stringing lights all afternoon and my hands are frozen.”

“Sure, I could make you coffee or hot chocolate?” Great hostess I was.

“No, this tea will be fine. Did you get this over at the bookstore?” He leaned under the desk checking the connections.

“Yeah. I buy a couple tins before they run out for the season.” I headed to the kitchen. Bad boy cute had been in a bookstore? And he drank tea? The day was getting stranger.

“I found your problem. You didn’t hook up the second cable.” Felix’s voice called from the living room.

I sat his cup down on the desk. “Seriously, it was that simple? You’ve been here all of five minutes and you’ve fixed the problem I’ve been working on since seven o’clock this morning?”

“We’ll see once it boots up, but yeah, I’d say it was fixed.” He took a long sip of the tea. “Thanks, this hits the spot. I love Alexis, but she can be a slave driver when she’d determined.”

Laughing, I added, “I was surprised she didn’t have you over here after Thanksgiving to put up lights. She loves her holidays.”

“Believe me, she tried. I’ve been swamped at work. We just finished up a project that is going into production on the first of the year. I’ve been working ten to fifteen-hour days for the last month.”

“What do you do?” I watched Felix try to access the Internet.

Please work, please.. .

“I’m a software engineer. Not exciting, but I like it.” Felix’s face lit up when my home page filled the screen. Sixty new emails were waiting for me. He stood up from the desk chair.

“You did it!” I gave him an excited hug. “Thank you so much.”

His arms went around my body and I sank into his chest. I had meant the hug to be a short thank you, but it was turning into something more. My heart was racing when I pulled back.

“You’re welcome,” Felix looked down at me. “I guess my work here is done.”

We were both still standing in the same place. “I appreciate your help.”

He grabbed his jacket off the chair and started to walk to the door.

“Hey, Felix?” I called after him. This time I wasn’t going to let him go this easily.

“Yeah?” He didn’t turn, his hand on the doorknob.

“Can I buy you dinner?” I walked over to the door and put my hand on his arm, the soft smooth leather inviting my touch.

He turned toward me and leaned closer. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Saturday night I was sitting at the bar waiting for Gemma to arrive. My Santa List was in my hand. I’d marked off all the ways Felix met each and every one of my criteria. Smiling, I took a sip of my wine.

“Traffic was a bear. I can’t believe people are still shopping. Christmas is Monday!” Gemma slipped onto the stool next to me. The bar was filled with last minute shoppers and a few who, like us, were just out for a quick drink.

“I’m glad you made it. Did you bring your list?” I had to get Gemma to focus. She was too special not to have someone in her life. Someone who cared for her.

“I did. How about you?” She pulled the ragged sheet of paper from her purse.

“Mine’s right here.” I pushed it toward her and we traded.


She read the list silently for a few minutes. “I’m confused. I thought we were supposed to rank our choices, you just have check marks.”

“I had ranked them, but then I met someone. So I had to see if he met the list.”

“Wait, you met someone? Why didn’t you call me? When? Who?” Gemma stared at me, the list forgotten in her hand.

“I’ll explain later. Your list is great. You really have a clear idea of what you’re looking for.” I pointed toward her ranking. “So having a great job isn’t as important as listening?”

“Yeah, who would have guessed? I thought about the guys I’ve been dating lately and realized there was one that fit my list.” Gemma played with the lip of the wine glass.

“And…” She was hiding something. I knew it.

“I called him,” Gemma grinned then took a sip of her wine. “He’s a writer. He makes less than my cousin who works for that grocery chain, but he makes me feel important.”

“You are important. I’m so happy for you. Are you guys going out soon?”

“Tonight. I’m meeting him for dinner after this,” Gemma looked over at me. “Is that all right? I mean, I hate to leave you stranded.”

I watched him walk through the door. He was ten minutes early. Catching his eye, I waved him over. “I’ll be fine. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

Two girls at the bar with cocktail drink

Felix stood by my chair and leaned down to kiss me. We’d been out every night since he’d fixed my computer. Neither Felix nor I had pressing work until after the New Year so we’d decided to spend the time getting to know each other.

“Gemma, this is Felix,” I glanced over at my friend. She grinned at me and handed me back my list.

“Nice to meet you,” Gemma called the bartender over. “What’s your poison, Felix?”

“Miller Lite, bottle,” he said to the waiter.

We found Felix a chair and settled in to finish our drinks before we headed out to dinner.

Gemma’s eyes gleamed as she held up her wine glass. “A toast.”

“To good friends and a happy new year,” I added, lifting my glass.

“Nope, to the Santa List.”

Felix grinned. “To the Santa List.” I surrendered. “To the Santa List . . . and the future.”

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