Like I did to Nick.

I take a deep breath, then I gather up my new Advent calendar and straighten the hem on my dress, a white winter wool paired with a sky-high pair of red heels. Maybe I don’t need the heels to go toe to toe with Nick, but they do amazing things for my legs. And they don’t hurt my confidence any, that’s for sure. Besides, if this goes badly, I can always trip on my way out of his office and have an excuse other than my broken heart for taking the rest of the week off.

“I brought you a Christmas present.” I manage to walk into his office without tripping but I nearly stumble over the words once I’m there. I’m not even sure I spoke in a coherent manner, until Nick finally responds.

He glanced up from his computer as I strode into his office with my announcement, a flicker of surprise in his guarded expression. He likely expected me to avoid him. Or perhaps he thinks I’m here to tell him again that I’m not interested in a repeat.

I’ve been such a jerk.

I want a repeat. Of course I want a repeat.

“Is it a Christmas tie?” he finally asks, computer abandoned as he leans back in his chair to watch me. “Are you continuing the tradition started with my uncle?”

“No.” I shake my head and blush a Yuletide of reds. “Not a tie. And definitely not a gift I’d ever have given to your uncle.”

Nick is wearing a green tie today. It’s a mossy color and looks like it might be wool. It’s festive but fashionable and I’m fascinated with the way it makes his eyes even more impossibly green. Like the perfect Christmas tree or a four-leaf clover.

Sucking in a deep breath, I turn around and close his office door, my hand resting against the wood for a moment after it clicks into place. It’s early and there are only a handful of employees at their desks, but still. I need all the privacy I can get for this next bit.

When I turn around his eyes flicker from the closed door to my flushed face, one elbow bent on the chair arm, his forefinger tapping against his bottom lip. He’s watching me with more interest than he did a moment earlier, if that’s possible. Then again, it’s not like I’ve ever shut the door to his office before. Not with me inside it.

“I’m just going to say something,” I announce. Then I promptly say nothing. I exhale and twist my neck back and forth as if I’m stretching for some kind of workout.

“Did you want to give that to me?” He nods toward the package in my hand, clearly trying to prod me into some kind of action. His manner is encouraging, not impatient. It bolsters my confidence.

“Um, not yet.” I stand a little straighter. Be brave like Rudolph, I remind myself.

“Okay.” He relaxes in his chair and watches me. “Did you want to sit?” He nods toward one of the chairs in front of his desk

“No. It’s better that I stand for this.”

“Oh.” He looks wary again, sitting up a little straighter and resting his forearms on the desk, a flash of resignation crossing his face.

“No, it’s not like that.” I shake my head. “Last week you asked me to admit that I liked you.” He looks a bit wary again, but he doesn’t say anything, simply watching me, waiting for me to elaborate. “So that’s what I’m doing. I’m admitting it. I like you. I like you a lot.”

A hint of a smile plays at his lips and his expression softens enough to bolster my confidence into continuing.

“It’s not really practical, liking you. Or logical. It’s probably not smart, either. And you’re still kind of a jerk at times. And maybe you’ve changed your mind about liking me, even though you kissed me first and are an amazingly attentive lover.” I’m rambling now. Who the hell says words like ‘lover’ to their lover? Gross.

“Holly,” Nick interrupts me gently, a definite smile on his face now.

“Yes?” My heart is thumping so loudly I’m sure he can hear it.

“I’m certain you’ve prepared a speech and I’d really like to hear the rest of it, but I suspect the part where you try to talk yourself out of this is off script.”

Err, right. Focus, Holly.

“I wanted you to kiss me too,” I continue. “The very first day. Before the first day even, because I’d already seen photos of you on your sister’s social media accounts and I was attracted to you. I started imagining sexy things about you. Kissing you and—” I cut myself off here. He doesn’t really need to hear what my other thoughts were. His smile just got bigger though so I think he got the drift. “Then you showed up and I realized my little crush was dangerously out of control because it was like all the air was sucked out of the room when you walked in.” Like a punch to the gut. He was more attractive and magnetic in person than I’d been prepared for.