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Christmas Eve and not a creature was stirring, except for Sarah Addison as she worked on closing up shop for the holidays. Everyone else seemed to disappear throughout the day but as she had no place to go later, Sarah didn't feel much like rushing home to her empty apartment.
"It's the hap-happiest season of all," played over the radio. "Bah. Humbug," Sarah said switching off the carol.
"That's not very Christmassy of you?"
Sarah nearly tumbled out of her chair. Her reaction caused a slow, deep, chuckle to rumble behind her. She slowly turned to look up at the very handsome, yet obnoxious face of her arch-nemesis.
"Noel. Didn't think anyone was still hanging around the office."
"Obviously. So, that begs the question... why are you still here, Miss Sarah Addison?"
Sarah adjusted her wire-framed glasses and tucked a haphazard blonde curl behind her ear. "Because I'm all alone and it's Christmas and I don't want to go home and ponder how my life has come to this depressing point," was of course what Sarah thought. What came out was, "Just finishing up some last minute things before signing off for the holidays."
Noel, made a face like he somehow knew there was more to the story but then shrugged as if he could care less. "Okay, if that's how you want to play it."
"What's that suppose to mean?" Sarah asked, annoyed.
Ever since Noel came to Global Graphics he has been a thorn in her side. Sarah gave up everything to move out west, to take this job in the hopes of advancing her career and in a year she had done just that, spending every waking moment on her job. Sure she had no social life, no time to make friends or even think of a relationship but hey, she became the agency's Golden Child. There wasn't a project she touched that didn't become an instant success. So, why her boss chose to bring Noel on was beyond her.
"Come on, Sarah. It's Christmas Eve. Can't you take a break from being little miss perfect? It's just one night. Try letting your hair down. Have a little fun."
His comment bristled her. "I'm not trying to be perfect. I just want to..."
"Blah, Blah, Blahbiddie, Blah. Hey there, Clueless. Not trying to get into a debate about your work ethic, just trying to see if you're free for some dinner maybe?"
Sarah shook her head in confusion. "What? Dinner? With me?"
Noel chuckled that deep throaty laugh again. Looking around he asked, "You see someone else around here I may be talking to?"
Sarah scoffed, "What's the catch?"
"Seriously?" Noel asked.
"No, really," Sarah pressed, "you hate me, so why would you want to spend a night eating together."
Noel smiled. "I think you have that backwards. You hate me, but I've never been one to be put off by a challenge."
"I still don't get it."
Sarah closed her laptop and turned away to slip it into her backpack. Planning on taking it home to get some work done over the holiday. Noel swiveled her chair back so he could look at her.
He had her pinned with his hands on her armrests. She had no place to go. He leaned in to look her in the eye. His brown eyes were so dark Sarah thought she could lose herself in them. Then a strange thing happened. Suddenly all the smugness went away and what Sarah saw startled her. He let his guard down and somehow became even more attractive, damn him.
His light brown hair hung slightly in his eyes as he leaned in even closer, and for one insane moment she thought he might kiss her. The fact that she felt excited about the idea deeply disturbed her. He stared at her for a long, hard moment and then abruptly stood up, sending her chair backwards, bumping her desk.
"Okay, I can see you are not one to be toyed with. So, you want the truth of it. Here it goes. I am not from around here. It is Christmas Eve and I have only lived here about a month. I haven't had much opportunity to make friends. Minnesota, which is my home, is miles and miles away and I thought for one crazy moment that you might possibly understand. May even be feeling a little lonely too and perhaps not objectionable to dinner, even if said dinner was with me. Perhaps, I misjudged?"
Wow. Noel's brutal honesty left Sarah speechless.
Noel shook his head frustrated. "Never mind. Merry Christmas, Sarah." As he said this he pulled a small box out of his pocket and tossed it across her desk.
Sarah looked down at the beautifully wrapped box, confused. Noel laughed without humor. "I picked your name for Secret Santa. When all the gifts were exchanged, and you didn't receive yours I thought perhaps I might get you to seek me out. What a laugh, right? Not only didn't you seek me out, I seriously doubt you were even aware you didn't get a gift. Am I right?"
Sarah ran the soft ribbon bow through her fingertips. She shook her head no. She didn't trust herself to speak at that moment. For some reason, getting a gift on Christmas Eve hit a cord that made her feel very homesick but she refused to cry, especially in front of Noel.
"No, you did notice. Or no, I'm right?"
Sarah took a deep breath. "You are right. I didn't notice. I'm sorry. You are right about that and about the other thing too."
Surprised by this breakthrough, Noel asked, "What other thing, too?"
Sarah sighed, "I am all alone this Christmas. I moved out here nearly a year ago from the east coast and well I haven't had much time...no that's not true. I haven't tried to make new friends and so yeah I'm here because I'm not looking forward to going home and being alone on Christmas.