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Merry Christmas 2018

I stand by my decision. 

No one else on the team could have pulled off Santa Claus better. 

Most of the lineman are so big, they’d frighten small children. The wide receivers and other star offensive players are too egotistical to pull off humble and loving. But, a particular running back has all the best qualities of Father Christmas—the warmest twinkling eyes, a smile that instantly disarms, and the sweetest disposition.

Usually. Unless there’s a break in the action, and he’s throwing me murderous glares for talking him into this. It might be more disconcerting if he didn’t then quickly glance at his lap where there’s a noticeable wet spot from a toddler who obviously hasn’t mastered potty training yet.

Kaylie, another PR guru for the team, sidles up to me, biting her lip. “Is it wrong I just keep picturing all the rippling muscles under that suit and pillow belly? I want to sit on his lap and tell him what a naughty girl I can be.”

My palms burn where my nails slice into the skin in an effort to play it cool. While I might be fiercely protective of the jolly elf who’s masterfully guiding another child onto his clean leg, we have a strict arrangement. No strings, no complications. Telling anyone he’s off limits would definitely violate those terms. And yet, I can’t stop imagining a Christmas-themed male review now. The images dancing in my mind make me feel like a total perv. “Santa doesn’t reward naughty girls.”

Her smile grows five sizes. “Oh, Tori. You’re so cute. Far be it for me to crash your naïve reality.”

I breathe a sigh of relief as she sashays away in her sexy elf outfit that is really not appropriate for a children’s event. Who ever heard of a Santa’s helper wearing visible garters? Certainly not this naïve girl. 

My naughty is completely concealed beneath a green body suit and baggy red pants that would make MC Hammer proud. 

Santa beckons me with a come-hither motion of his finger when another child vacates his lap. 

Being the dutiful helper I am, I scurry over to bend near his ear so our exchange won’t be overheard by the kids. Maybe Santa needs a potty break, too.

“Are you wearing them?” he whispers in a low voice.

I jerk back, glancing around as my face heats until it surely matches the color of my pants. “I thought you needed something! You can’t talk to me like that…here!”

He laughs, his faux bowlful of jelly jiggling with the movement. “I do need something. An answer.”

I narrow my eyes at him, unwilling to give in so easily with a crowd of elementary schoolers watching our interaction. “What do you think?”

He purses his lips, then his gaze zeroes in on my breasts before sliding lower, lower, lower. He curls his hand in his lap like he might be resisting the urge to reach out. “They really are sheer, aren’t they?”

“Let’s just say if we were at the North Pole, I might have some bright lights of my own going on. Seeing as it’s a hundred degrees in here, I’m safe. And child appropriate.” Although the longer he looks at me like that, the more danger I’m in for my nipples to perk up from anything but cold. As it is, a fine sheen of sweat coats my skin as my personal thermostat kicks up a few degrees. It’s always been this way around him. Something about the guy sets me on fire.

He continues perusing my body with his eyes as he tugs at the collar of his furry suit. “It is hot in here. I’m dying under all these layers. Would you mind bringing me a bottle of water?”

I fold my arms over my chest because that’s safer than admitting I’m enjoying this much attention from him. Ten more seconds of this, and I’ll be begging for things I’m not supposed to want. “Maybe a bucket of ice would be better. Please don’t scar any small children who have no idea they’re sitting on pervy Santa’s lap.”

“I’m not a teenager, you know,” he hisses. “I can control myself.”

“Could have fooled me.” I glance at his still damp lap before departing to do his bidding. Not until I’m safely out of earshot do I let my giggles burst free.

 

***

 

As nighttime settles over Albany at the ripe old hour of five, the party winds down. More children are yawning after a day of excitement instead of jumping up and down the way they did when they arrived at the Wolves’ annual Holiday Cheer day. 

A few thirsty parents are still angling for photo ops, but for the most part, everyone has been well-behaved and grateful. 

Santa slumps on his throne. “God bless you for renting a second suit and giving me ten minutes to change. I didn’t know urine could smell so bad after only thirty minutes.”

He says the weirdest things sometimes. “You know what urine smells like after, say, an hour?”

“My friend Alex has little brothers who are way younger than us.” He shrugs like I should already know this information though I’m sure most people don’t. He rarely speaks much about his past. Maybe that’s because whenever he does, an unmistakable sadness blankets him. “We babysat a lot during middle school and junior high when his parents would be out. If it was up to Alex, he’d just leave those kids in wet diapers for hours. Rob and I couldn’t take the smell, though. We’d tag team on changing them as soon as they made that face.”

“They make a face?”

“Oh, yeah,” he assures. “Kind of a weird glassy look in their eyes when they’re pissing in their diaper, but definitely a grimace for number two.”

“Are we really having this discussion right now?” And he thinks I’mthe socially awkward one.

“Sue me for trying to make small talk while we wait for the room to clear out, so we can change into regular clothes and get on with our lives.”

I dig my fingers into his shoulder in what I hope is a calming rhythm. When his moods swing so wildly like this, I can’t help but buy into his anxiety over possible CTE symptoms. He’s not a bad guy. For the most part, he possesses one of the most even temperaments I’ve ever seen. “You know what you need? Adult interaction for the rest of the evening. I think all the kids’ excitement about meeting Santa has worn you out because you were nervous about letting them down.”

He scoffs. “I was not nervous.”

“Were, too.”

“Was not.”

 A smile creeps across my lips he can’t see from where I’m standing behind him. Annoying him always brings me this weird sort of joy. There’s just something about goading this big, surly man to devolve into childish banter that gives me the warm fuzzies. “You were so nervous this morning when I was helping you put your suit on that you barely spoke two words to me.”

I hear the grin on his face though I can’t see it. “Maybe I just don’t like talking to you.”

“You don’t seem to have a problem doing other activities with me.”

“Those don’t require talking.”

That’s the other thing I love. He never hesitates to give me back as good as I dole out to him. “You don’t have to fear admitting you actually love talking to me as much as you enjoy our other adventures. It can be our little secret.”

“Oh my God.” His words are garbled under a blanket of chuckles. “That’s what you meant by adult interaction for the rest of the evening? Maybe you’re the one who has a secret to hide, Peaches.”

“What are you talking about?” He’s laughing so hard people are starting to glance our way, questions painted on their expressions he wouldn’t dream of trying to answer.

Mischief dances in his warm eyes when he turns his head toward me, then lowers his voice. “You have a Santa fetish you’re dying to test out?”

Breathing becomes a casualty of my shock. I cough and sputter, which only draws more attention to us.

He seems to enjoy making me squirm because his smile grows wider. “The changing room could work. No one would suspect a thing.”

“Who are you and what have you done with Mike Mitchell?”

The devil in his grin contradicts the image of the saintly elf he’s impersonating. “You wanted me to help you let loose. Safely. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The no more and no lessremains unspoken.

“Fine.” Calling his bluff seems like more than enough excitement after such a long day. And I know he’s bluffing because the changing room is a terrible idea. Not only would people absolutely suspect something if he takes more than five minutes to strip off a jacket and pants, but changing rooms are a completely cliché place to have sex. “Meet me there as soon as the last kid stumbles out.”

“Okay.” His smile spreads ear to ear beneath his long white beard.

Knowing he’s probably just messing with me, I saunter away, swaying my hips side to side in what I hope is a seductive motion. 

Kaylie catches my eye from across the room and sends a wink of approval at my antics. My cheeks flame in embarrassment. We’re not so different after all, it would seem.

I don’t bother turning on the lights. The temperature in the changing room is easily ten degrees cooler than in the banquet hall, so I take a moment to appreciate the sensation of goosebumps spreading down my arms. Besides, the cover of darkness seems appropriate for what Mike suggested. 

Actually, now that I have time to think about it… I’m the one making crazy suggestions, and he’s the level-headed one who pulls me back when I go too far. That’s the whole point of our arrangement.

What game is he playing? When did the rules change?

The door creaks open, casting a beam of light across the floor. A tall shadow with a portly midsection slices through the brightness. He doesn’t bother with the lights, either.

“Tori?”

I could keep quiet. He can’t see me; can’t hear my rapid breathing; can’t feel my heart pounding in my chest. I could keep our status quo. But, I don’t want to. This is the feeling I’ve been chasing all along. The one Mike’s supposed to help me catch.

“Over here.”

The door snicks shut, followed by the deafening sound of the lock engaging. He finds me in the darkness, his hands clamping around my waist. Warm breath washes over my neck with his exhale, then words. “Why are the lights off? You won’t get to enjoy the full experience without your sight.”

A laugh that sounds entirely too husky to belong to me escapes. I run my fingers through his long fake beard, then across the fur collar of his suit, down the juxtaposition of velvety soft fabric draped over a hard chest. The muscles Kaylie wanted to see so badly dance beneath my hands until my fingers make contact with the cold metal of a large brass belt buckle which I quickly loosen. It makes a clanging sound when it hits the floor, but neither of us jump at the noise. 

“This was all your idea, Mitchell. I’m enjoying myself just fine.”

“I guess we can cross Santa fetish off your list, then,” he mumbles as his tongue darts out to taste the skin at my collarbone. “Shame. I thought we’d finally found the key to unlocking your wild side.”

“You don’t want to unlock my wild side,” I pant as I crane my neck to the side to give him better access. “You want to give me just enough to have a taste without getting the full banquet.”

“Hmm.” The rumble of his lips against the base of my throat sends another wave of goosebumps skittering across my body. “Hardly seems fair since I can’t resist feasting on you whenever I get a chance.”

The last hook keeping me from exploring his skin disengages after no less than an eternity of fumbling. I sweep the heavy fur coat across his broad shoulders, down his arms until it falls to a heap on the floor with a much quieter thud than the belt made. A sigh of contentment fills the scant space between us when my hands slide across his chest, and I’m honestly not sure which of us made the sound.

“It isn’t fair,” I assure him as my heart thrashes inside my chest. “We need a level playing field.”

“That’s something I can gladly help with.” In much less time than it took me to remove a measly two articles of his clothing, he rids me of my ridiculous costume. The small part of my brain still rooted in reality pouts when I hear the telltale sound of ripping fabric. There goes the security deposit on my rental.

Breath audibly whooshes out of me when he lifts me to his waist, then practically slams me against the wall. His heavier body presses against mine as he claims my mouth in a fierce kiss that surely smears the red lipstick I had on across both our faces. 

He grinds into my center as he slides his lips, tongue, and teeth across my jaw, behind my ear, down my neck. The darkness surrounding us is replaced by bursts of light dancing across my field of vision.

“You’ve been such a good elf today. You should be rewarded.”

“Please.” The plea ghosts from my swollen lips. I’m so desperate to rid myself of this throbbing ache, I’ll beg if he requires it. Without any shame.

I feel his mouth stretch into a smile against my skin. “Please, what?”

“Please…Santa?” 

A rumble of laughter vibrates against my sensitive breasts, only heightening my arousal. “Have you been a good girl this year, Victoria?”

“Yes,” I admit sadly. “I’m still a very, very good girl.”

“You are.” He places what feels strangely like a cherishing kiss against my lips. “There’s nothing wrong with that. When are you going to stop trying to fight it?”

“Hey.” I bite at the skin of his shoulder to prove to him—myself—there’s still a wild girl waiting to be unleashed inside me. “You’re supposed to help me be naughty safely. Not try to talk me out of it.”

His gaze finds mine. Even without light, a myriad of emotion shines through his eyes. “Why would I do that? I like the good in you.”

“Because you promised,” I whisper against his lips. “I can’t do this without your help.”

A war takes place inside him that I can’t understand. His muscles bunch with tension, relax in understanding, then tighten again as he adjusts to hold me with only one arm.

Before I can question whether he’s calling the game, two thick fingers slide into my center, prompting my head to meet the wall with an echoing thump. I release myself to the burning stretch, luxuriating in the end of my torture.

All I can think of now is release from this prison of arousal. My hips move in time with the thrust of his fingers, grinding into the palm of his hand where it bumps against my throbbing clit.

“Please.” The begging I’d considered before becomes a litany from my lips. “I can’t do this without you.”

“Ah, Peaches. You can’t be selfish even when you try.” He drops me to the ground.

I sway on my feet as disappointment screams through me. Leaning my sweaty back against the cold, stable wall doesn’t ease my discomfort. 

An apology for pushing the envelope too far rests on the tip of my tongue but before I can give voice to it, the rustle of a condom wrapper being torn open absolves me.

In another heartbeat, I’m back in his arms as he pushes into me. My moan echoes through the room. It’s so good; he’sso good. There’s nothing else on Earth like the first invasion of his body into mine. His hands grip my ass as he plunges in and out, slowly at first. He picks up the pace as I grip his shoulders tighter, silently asking for more. 

A fresh sheen of sweat resurfaces on my skin as he brings me closer to the brink of ecstasy. “Mike…”

He thrusts in all the way, holding his position as deep inside me as he can be while he rolls his hips to create the perfect undulating rhythm against my throbbing clit. “Ssh. I’m Santa, remember?”

Indeed. Merry Christmas to me.

As the first wave of bliss washes over me, a commotion in the hallway causes Mike to still, effectively sending my orgasm back into the depths.

His eyes are wide as Christmas bells when he stares at me. “I can’t remember if I locked the door.”

“You did,” I assure him. I can’t be angry. He’s only trying to protect me from his rambunctious teammates, and he genuinely has a difficult time remembering things. “But, maybe it’s best if we adjourn this for a more appropriate time and place.”

“There’s a more appropriate time and place for a Santa fetish?”

I whimper when he pulls out, effectively calling the game. “Sure.” I affect my most nonchalant and not at all disappointed tone. “Christmas Eve at the North Pole.”

“I hate to break it to you, Peaches, but Christmas Eve is the fat man’s busiest day of the year. Probably not a great time to demand kinky sex, no matter how good you’ve been.”

He’s really putting far more thought into this than I am. And whoever said anything about kinkysex? I wave off his usual pessimism with a flick of my wrist before bending down to salvage my authentic elf costume. “Santa is magical. The constraints of time obviously don’t apply to him or he wouldn’t be able to visit every child’s house in twenty-four hours. And since I’m an angel, he would totally grant my wish.”

His sigh further dampens the previously erotic mood. “I was trying to grant your wish. Sorry the overgrown children killed our buzz.”

Right on cue, a loud banging on the door makes me nearly jump out of my skin. “Mitchell! Did you get lost in that costume? Let’s go! We made reservations at the club! Bring your beard, and you’ll be guaranteed lap dances from all the naughty girls for the rest of the night!”

The thought of Mike getting lap dances from anyone makes my skin itch, but I pretend the tattered remnants of my body suit and MC Hammer pants are far more problematic. “How am I going to get out of here without showing everyone my new lingerie?”

He doesn’t answer but instead turns away, stalking across the room.

The next thing I know, I’m blinking against light.

While I’m still basically blind, he pulls the costume from my hands. “Oh, shit. I didn’t realize how rough I was. I’ll pay for it. Don’t worry.”

As much as my paychecks are a concern, that’s not the real problem. “I wore this costume here. I don’t have anything to change into like you do.”

The feel of a large hand tracing the curve of my breast forces my eyes open. “You could barely look the staff in the eye at La Perla when you bought this. I don’t expect you to hold your chin high and walk out of here in front of an entire pro football team.”

“Is that a challenge, Magic Mike? Do you think I can’t do it?”

His chuckle turns to a wince when the callous on his finger catches on the delicate lace. He withdraws his touch, then meets my gaze. “I think you can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, especially when you know damn well I wouldn’t let a single one of them lay a finger on you. The bigger question is why are you even considering it?”

I shrug, but no matter how much I try, I can’t look him in the eyes. Just like in La Perla. “I’m trying to unlock my naughty side, remember?”

“Being bad should be your choice, not something you feel forced to do just to prove a point.” He retrieves his Santa coat from the floor, then drapes it around my shoulders, taking the time to fasten each hook with his too-large hands. “So, how about a compromise? Pretty sure this jacket paired with your knee-high boots are a sexy enough sight without showing the whole team everything you’ve got. You can accomplish your naughty goal without having any regrets tomorrow morning.”

“You’re really good at this.”

He glances up with a small smile. “What? Keeping you safe during your walk on the wild side? That’s what I agreed to.”

“No.” I cough through the balloon of emotion strangling my throat. “Taking care of me. It would have been enough to make sure no one touched me as I walked to my car in nothing but my bra and panties. This is more than that, Mike. Thank you.”

The tiny grin on his face disappears in an instant. “You’re not thinking through all the ramifications of your wild ideas. You could lose your job for fraternizing with team members, let alone acting like a hired stripper in a situation where anyone in the front office with a grudge could snap a photo and provide the GM with proof of your behavior. Just because those catty women in the marketing department think you don’t have what it takes to do this job doesn’t mean they’re right. I’m telling you, Tori. They’re setting you up to fail. In more ways than one.”

I should have known better. Really. Any time I intimate we might be more than friends by circumstance, he takes us right back to the level of co-conspirators, only looking to get what we need out of our deal. 

“You’re right. Of course, you’re right. We shouldn’t be fraternizing at all. I’m trying to keep my job, not lose it. I’m good here. Thanks for the coat. If you, uh, would be so kind as to head off to the club, that’ll draw the boys away, so I can make an undetected exit.”

He frowns as he begins dressing in his street clothes. “It’s like you don’t even know me at all. I’m not going to a damn club on Christmas Eve.”

“I don’tknow you at all,” I mumble so he won’t hear. “You won’t let me.”

“What was that?”

I clear my throat, then paste the kind of peachy smile on my face he expects from me. “I said, what do you normally do on Christmas Eve?”

“Binge watch Christmas movies while drinking too much eggnog.” He gapes at me like it should be obvious. “Isn’t that what everyone does?”

“Eggnog is Satan’s way of trying to ruin Christmas, so no.” I slip into my boots, then bend down to zip them up. “My family usually has a table full of hors d’oeuvres, and we play board games together until my mom forces us to go to bed early, so they can slip all the gifts under the tree.”

His expression of confusion grows exponentially. “You’re an adult. Why would your mom still play Santa? And what do you have against eggnog?”

I wait for him to finish pulling on his sneakers with my hands on my hips. It’ll probably be at least another half hour until all the guys head to their cars and out for the evening, so I’ll have to hunker down in here until the coast is clear. “She likes to keep the magic alive, I guess. Must be part of empty nest syndrome. Eggnog is made with raw eggs, which is just disgusting. Any other questions?”

It’s an unspoken dare. He might try to deny our friendship until he’s blue in the face, but his actions say otherwise.

“No.” The sounds of laughter carrying through the door from the hallway mitigate the serious look in his eyes. “I’m sorry you weren’t able to fly home for the holidays.”

“Random.”

“It’s not. I can hear how sad you are about missing out on your family’s Christmas Eve traditions.”

There it is again. The part where he toes the line between professional and something more. He isn’t wrong. I’m ready to bail to the solitude of my apartment, so I can nurse my heavy heart in private. The desire to go out for some adult fun this evening has worn away. “Well, you have no reason for tears. Better get a move on, so you can indulge your favorite holiday traditions with your family. Is that why you’re not going to the club? You could have invited them to the party today, you know.”

“My mom and sisters couldn’t make it for Christmas, either. That doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon years of tradition. I’ll FaceTime with them. Better from my couch than from some seedy club.”

A genuine smile creeps across my lips. “That’s nice. I’m glad you’re not upset they couldn’t make it, and you’re still going to have a good Christmas Eve.”

He studies me as I fiddle with the fur lining of his coat. “You could come over since you don’t have plans. I’ll even teach you to like eggnog.”

“That would probably violate the no-fraternizing rule and our agreement.”

He shrugs, but his gaze skitters to the floor. He seems suddenly nervous and far less confident than I’ve ever seen. “It’s Christmas. There must be exceptions for the best holiday of the year. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t.”

“I’d rather not sully your family traditions by forcing you to keep secrets.” My mood plummets further. Another few rounds of this, and I’ll be unable to not pout like a girl who’s just received a lump of coal in her stocking.

His gaze snaps to mine, and a somewhat creepy grin lights his face. “What if it didn’t have to be a secret? And what if I just figured out a solution for getting you out of here with a viable reason for not having your costume on?”

Skepticism sneaks down my spine. “I’m listening.”

“You’re sick.” He nods once as he approaches me with sure steps. “You threw up all over your costume. That’s why we’ve been in this room together for so long. I helped you clean up and offered you my Santa coat to keep you warm. No one will think twice about me making sure you’re okay for the rest of the night.”

That’s actually a brilliant idea. “Okay. Great. You see me to my car, then we drive off and no one is the wiser.”

He shakes his head as he stands directly in front of me. “You can’t drive in your current condition. You’ll have to come with me.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “This doesn’t sound like not-friends with benefits.”

“Like I said, Peaches.” He plants a kiss on the tip of my nose. “It’s Christmas. If you wanna get wild and crazy, then you’ll have to do it with spiked eggnog and this Santa costume. In the safety and privacy of my home.”

I yelp when he lifts me off the ground.

“Get ready for the craziest Christmas you’ve ever had.” He grins as he beckons for me to open the door. “And if you’re a really good girl at selling this, I’ll even promise to spank you later.”

Well, then. I guess I’ll be a naughty elf tonight after all.