Never had Finn enjoyed a shift in the grotto so much. The Snow Queen wasn’t just exquisitely beautiful—with her waist-length black hair, porcelain skin, and slanted, sapphire eyes—she also had a quirky sense of humor and deadpan delivery that kept him laughing all afternoon. Her haughty demeanor kept the queue moving briskly too.
Eventually, though, the shift ended. Santa ambled off, presumably to the nearest bar. Trixie hurried away with a wave, her phone pressed to her ear. Which left Finn and Del alone in the grotto. She drooped with exhaustion.
“How did you enjoy your first day, then?” he asked.
“That was a day?” She shuddered.
He laughed. “I know what you mean. And it will be a lot worse tomorrow. Christmas Eve?” he said when she looked blank.
There was something inherently classy about the Snow Queen, Finn thought. It was clear to him that she was used to better things, and he couldn’t help wondering how she had ended up in such a crappy job. But, of course, he knew the answer; the same way he had. Bills to pay and the need to eat.
His phone rang, and he smiled when he recognized Ben’s ring.
Del lingered, maybe waiting to walk him out. “I’m going to get changed before I go,” he explained, indicating his lurid green outfit.
With just another second’s hesitation, she nodded and made her way out. Finn waited till the tinsel fronds over the doorway settled before he pressed Answer.
“Hey, lover,” he murmured.
“How’s my little Irish leprechaun?”
Ben’s familiar voice sent a warm glow straight to Finn’s cock. “I’m an elf. And I’m knackered.”
Ben laughed. “Why don’t you wear your costume home tonight? I could make space on my shelf for my very own elf.”
“Our relationship’s in big trouble if you’re turned on by a man dressed like a stick of celery.” Finn held the phone away from his ear as he dragged the cheap green tunic over his head. “I’m going to burn this thing when I’m done with it. Ow!”
The tunic was stuck, caught on Finn’s fake ears. He pulled and tugged, nearly dropping the phone. A hook from the costume caught in the rigid plastic of one ear and ripped it right off, making Finn’s eyes water, but at least he could get the tunic over his head. “Bloody hell!” he complained, gingerly peeling off the second ear. “You’d think I’d learn.”
“Trouble with your ears?” Ben guessed, laughing.
“You rich guys have no idea the humiliations we downtrodden poor have to put up with.”
There was a moment’s silence. “You know you don’t have to worry about money.”
“I know,” said Finn quickly, not adding that he didn’t worry about money because he always paid his way. This close to Christmas was not the time to rehash an old argument. “If I ever have to play an elf again, I’ll find out where the Snow Queen gets her ears. Hers look great. But then, everything about her looks great.”
“Snow Queen?” asked Ben.
“New girl in the grotto.”
The silence dragged on a fraction too long. “Oh?”
“Down, boy.” Finn sighed. “She’s not for us. Sadly.”
“She’s gorgeous, Ben. But the timing’s off. It would take a while for me to work up to ‘Would you like to join me and my boyfriend under the Christmas tree for a threesome?’” While he spoke, he kicked off his horrible elf trousers. “It is a shame, though. Because I’ve been half-hard all afternoon just from being around her.”
He meant every word. In fact, the evidence swelled his boxers even as he spoke.
-hard? Want me to help you with that?” asked Ben in an exaggerated, throaty voice.
Finn laughed. “I’m in Santa’s grotto. I don’t think getting my dick out would be at all appropriate.”
“Bet I can get you off in a couple of minutes talking dirty.”
A warm thrill of anticipation passed through Finn. “I’ll take that bet,” he said, his voice husky. “But I’d like us to be in the same room first.”
“You know, I think I’d like that too.” He could hear the smile in Ben’s voice. “Okay. See you soon. Love you.”
“Love you.” Finn hung up.
The lights had begun to go out throughout the store, and he quickly finished dressing, thinking it was a real shame about the Snow Queen. Ever since Ben had admitted his deepest fantasy—to experience sex with a woman, just once—Finn had known it would be the perfect Christmas gift and had been on the lookout for the right woman ever since.
Unfortunately, he had been searching for weeks with zero luck, and now, with less than two days to go till Christmas, it looked increasingly unlikely he could make Ben’s wish come true.
Finn swung his bag onto his shoulder and walked through the store, calling out a cheery good night to the security guards as he passed through each department, letting them know he was leaving. He had parked his car on a side street and was fishing in his jeans pocket for his keys when a flash of white caught his eye. Looking over the car, he saw the Snow Queen standing in a darkened shop doorway, her long cape billowing a little in the chill wind.
“Are you waiting for someone?” he called, thinking he would wait with her. The neighborhood was pretty decent, but even so, he didn’t like the idea of her out here alone.
She shook her head.
Logic told him that if she had a car, she’d be in it by now. Finn crossed the street. “How are you getting home?” To his horror, tears welled in her blue eyes. “What is it?” he asked in alarm.
“I have no home.”
“What do you mean?”
“My mother has cast me out.” She held her head high, but her voice shook.
Anger surged through him. What kind of woman kicked her daughter out at Christmas? He made up his mind instantly. “Come on.” He took her arm.
“You’re coming home with me. Relax,” he added quickly, realizing how that might sound. “My partner is there. My male
partner,” he emphasized. “You’re perfectly safe. Ben will love to have you,” he said, crossing his fingers. “The car’s just here.”
His car was a rust bucket, a joke among his friends. Finn didn’t mind their insults, but he suspected the Snow Queen was used to better. Opening the passenger door, he gallantly swept the crumbs off the seat and onto the floor with his sleeve. The result didn’t look much better. He would have suggested she take off her snowy white cloak, except the heating didn’t work.
He remembered her comment about being naked under the cloak, and though he knew she had been joking, his cock surged to life. Great.
He was finally taking a woman home to Ben, and she was way too vulnerable for him to even hint at anything improper. Life could be cruel.
They drove in silence, Finn trying to figure out how to explain the unexpected houseguest this close to Christmas. Del stared out the window with the same alert interest his nieces and nephews had shown when he’d once driven them through a safari park. There was certainly plenty to see. People hurrying home laden with brightly wrapped gifts. Gaily decorated shop windows. Houses and trees draped with lights. A Salvation Army band playing on a corner.
Del twisted in her seat, looking back. “What do the musicians collect in their tins?”
Finn glanced in the rearview mirror. “The Salvation Army? Money. For charity.”
She looked at him blankly.
“You know. Raising money for people less fortunate?” Her slanted eyes still showed incomprehension. “Christmas is supposed to be about giving, isn’t it? No one likes to think of others going without at Christmas.”
“They don’t?” She frowned. “I had no idea humans practiced s’Elflessness.”
Finn laughed. “Maybe not as often as we should, but we try. Especially at Christmas. Look, we’re here.”
Ben’s single-story house was on a quiet suburban street, every house and garden bedecked with Christmas lights and decorations. Finn swung the car into the driveway, and parked behind Ben’s car. For a second he considered asking Del to wait in the car while he had a word with Ben. Not that he thought for a moment that his lover would turn her away. It was more that he worried Ben might get his hopes up when Finn arrived with a beautiful woman.
He waited too long, because Del climbed out the car and the moment was lost.
The front door opened to Ben wearing a Santa hat and a welcoming grin, his shirt rakishly undone, revealing a broad expanse of smooth, muscled chest. The stud of his jeans was also undone, and he held a glass of eggnog in each hand.
“Oh.” His smile froze.
Finn kicked himself for not calling ahead. He tried not to read too much into Ben’s expression. But Ben had a glass face, completely transparent. And, God love him, Ben was not completely comfortable with his sexuality. Finn read panic on Ben’s face as he tried to figure out, did he know Del? Should he know her? If so, did she know he was gay? If not, had he done anything so far to out himself as gay?
And then Ben looked past Del to Finn, and his panic was replaced by apology and shame.
All this took a microsecond, but Finn was used to it and steeled himself not to react. Ben had to work this through himself. “Meet D’Elfine. The Snow Queen from the grotto.”
“Oh.” Then, “Oh?”
Finn shook his head quickly. “Del’s got nowhere to stay. I said she could crash here for a bit, if that’s okay?”
“Of course.” Ben stepped aside and ushered them in. “Have some eggnog.” He thrust a glass at each of them, then swiftly fastened his jeans and his shirt. “D’Elfine? What kind of name is that?”
The Snow Queen sniffed delicately at her drink. “It is more of a title than a name.”
Ben shot Finn a look. “Title? Um, right. Well, make yourself at home. Can I take your cloak?”
She nodded. When she touched an invisible catch at her throat, the snow white cloak puddled to the ground.
She was stark naked.