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Lindsay Working as an elf during the holidays isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I moved to the big city to be an actress, but when a job at Marley’s Department Store opens up, I take it. The only problem? I find out I’ve got bigger shoes to fill when I discover Santa passed out drunk right as the kids are lining up to see him. Someone has to play Santa. That someone is me. But when I meet the ‘mean’ Crane Marley, will I be able to keep up the holiday charade?
Has the mean Mr. Marley finally met his match?
Celia’s Note: Accidental Santa is the perfect mix of naughty and nice. This over-the-top Christmas novella has a happily ever after to keep you merry and bright.
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“We’re already in the black, sir. Nationwide, the Marley’s stores are all running at a profit, and we haven’t truly entered the buying season yet.” Higginbotham taps his sheaf of papers. “This extra push for the holidays—while excellent at maximizing profit—is going to be a real imposition on all the staff. They expect usual operating hours. After all, your father never made them work on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve.” He pushes his glasses up his nose, a bead of sweat trailing down his temple.
The rest of the boardroom is utterly silent, my executives smart enough to keep their mouths shut. But Higginbotham has never been smart. After all, he’s sitting here right now bringing up the ghost of my father. Worse than that, he’s second-guessing my plans to wring every single dollar from the foolish holiday shoppers who fritter away their money on all the merchandise I can stuff into my stores.
All eyes are on me as I stare at Higginbotham, at his okay suit and expensive glasses, at his neatly handwritten notes and thinning hairline. My father hired him. He once worked on the sales floor at the New York Marley’s two streets over. Head of toys, I believe it was. So typical of my father to promote an uneducated rube to the executive suite.
I finally move, but only to drum my fingertips on the conference table.
Graves jumps, then clears her throat to hide her fear. She’s one of my hires. A good lap dog, she does as I instruct, no questions asked. Higginbotham should’ve taken notes from her, not come up with his own.
“Tell me, does anyone else agree with Mr. Higginbotham?” I keep my voice low. I don’t yell. I don’t have to. Everyone’s already wincing from nothing more than my tone.
I look at each of them in turn. A dozen minions, all eager to please.
Then I turn back to Higginbotham. “I’m afraid your suggestion is one that I simply can’t agree with. The shareholders have put their trust in me to make sure this company is profitable.”
“But your father—”
“My father,” I say sharply. “Is dead. I run this company now, and I say that Marley’s will open early on Thanksgiving. We will lure shoppers in with deals, and keep them here to buy all those silly little items they don’t need. And then on Christmas Eve? We’ll do the same. Last minute shoppers will have no place to go except here, where our friendly staff will load them up with gifts that their loved ones neither want nor appreciate.” I stand.
Higginbotham holds up a finger. “It’s just—”
“Now, as we have no other business to conduct, I have appointments. Graves, bring me ad copy by the end of the day for Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Also, hire the usuals for the Santa display downtown. We want those children coming to Marley’s for their Christmas pictures with Santa. Nowhere else. And don’t let them out the door until their parents have grabbed up whatever trinket catches their eye.”
Turning, I open the door. “Book the Santa now. I don’t want to end up with the drunken one from three years ago. Litigation is still ongoing.”
“Yes, sir.” She scribbles down everything I say.
“A word, sir?” Higginbotham hurries after me as I stride down the hall to my corner office. “I just think that our employees are the best in the business, and we should reward them with Thanksgiving with their families. Why not open on Black Friday the same as always, but maybe an hour earlier? That way they have time with their loved ones and can show up to work the next day full and happy.”
“Happy?” I stop at my office door.
Beverly gives me a sideways glance, then focuses on Higginbotham.
“What on earth does being happy have to do with it?” I turn and peer down my nose at him.
His mouth opens in dumbfounded confusion. “Happiness is why we get together for the holidays, why we celebrate, why we put presents under the tree. Happiness, sir, is why we do what we do. Your father knew that.”
I push through to my office and turn. “As you may have noticed, Higginbotham, I’m not my father.”
Slamming the door in his face should be satisfying. And it is, but there’s something missing. Something that bothers me deeply, getting under my skin as I look out onto the sunny city from my corner office. I walk to my desk, and I’m about to sit down when I realize what the problem is.
“Beverly,” I call, a smile turning my lips. “Bring me the executive bonus list. I have a deletion to make.”
“You can’t just take any job you see.” Grant frowns.
“I can, and I will.” I stretch out, my hands magically existing in both the bedroom and kitchen of our tiny New York apartment at the same time.