Holly hated the way her heart leapt at the sight of him. He was wearing one of the suits she liked the most, charcoal gray with a midnight blue dress shirt beneath, no tie. The shirt set off his eyes and the dark color of the suit made his hair look even darker.
She hated how attractive he was.
She also hated that he needed to talk to her, although she knew why.
“You’re not leaving,” he said once they were inside the office. “I know you don’t have another job to go to and I’m not going to let you leave.”
Holly bristled at his demanding tone. She’d been doing fine on her own and he wasn’t about to tell her how to live her life. Sure, she was going to have to give up her home and move in with her parents if she couldn’t find something new in about a week or two, but that was her choice to make, not his.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see where you get a say in it. You’re my boss, that’s all. No matter what I might have thought before.”
His eyes locked on hers and held, like a missile ready for launch. She knew she shouldn’t have said that last part, but it slipped out before she could clamp her mouth shut. And of course he didn’t miss anything.
“What did you think, Holly?” he asked softly, almost as though he was afraid of the answer.
“It doesn’t matter. Not now. Not after I found out you manipulated me and my son.”
He closed his eyes, hiding his thoughts and emotions from her. When he opened them again, she was startled to see everything he laid bare at her feet.
“I never meant to hurt you. When I saw you that first night… you were the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. Once you were close enough for me to realize who you were I knew I was sunk. I hated the way you and Bobby spoke of me, but I knew you were both right. I was an ass, probably still am, but I’m trying. I don’t want you to leave. I understand why you feel like you should, but I promise you I’ll keep my distance from you. I won’t do anything to make you uncomfortable. And I still want you to work the adjusted hours we spoke of last week. Nothing’s changed except you know how much I want you.”
Holly wasn’t sure she could speak. He’d all but professed his love for her, and she stood there gaping at him like a fish gasping for breath. He couldn’t be serious though. They barely knew each other.
“You don’t even know me,” she finally managed to blurt out.
Bryan shrugged. “I know how your eyes sparkle when you look at your son, how your cheeks flush when you’re happy, how your lips part when you’re surprised. I know how you forget everything and everyone when you’re making sure Bobby is okay, how you’re dedicated to your work so much that you sacrifice everything else, and for that I’m sorry. I know you only want the best for everyone, and will put yourself last if you can do something for someone else. What I wish I knew was how your lips tasted when they touched mine, how your skin felt beneath my fingertips, the sound you’d make when I pulled you closed, the scent of your body first thing in the morning. I know I’ll never know those things, Holly, but if I were to meet Santa, and he were to give me one wish, that’s what I would wish for.”
Holly stopped breathing, seeing the truth in his eyes. He wasn’t teasing her. He was telling her the truth. So maybe she needed to tell him the truth as well.
“When I first saw you as Santa, I knew you were attractive. I also knew you were familiar. When you carried Bobby to my car you stole a piece of my heart. Then when you told me to spend more time with him you took another piece. All week you’ve been working your way past my defenses. Defenses I’ve worked a long time to construct. Defenses that came crumbling down when I realized the Santa I wanted to know and the boss I already knew were one in the same man. I was hurt, and scared, but what scared me the most was how much I wanted you.”
“Dear God, please tell me this isn’t a joke,” Bryan ground out as he stepped closer to Holly.
She tipped her head up and met his eyes, sliding her hands up his chest to his shoulders. “It’s not a joke, it’s a miracle, Secret Santa.”
Then she kissed him.