Teaser Tuesday: An Unexpected Christmas

Chapter One

Bah-’Effin-Humbug

 

December 21st

Christmas was Adele James’s favorite time of year…or it had been. This year, Santa Claus could go sit on a candy cane for all she cared. Holly Jolly Jackass.

Adele’s lack of holiday cheer—and general Grinchiness—was due to one man: Troy Slater, Hollywood heartthrob and all around scumbag. They’d meet on the set of Ponce,the Downton Abbey-like TV show where Adele was the head costume designer. Troy had been playing a guest role for the season and he’d flirted with her shamelessly for the five months they’d been shooting. 

As a general rule, Adele didn’t get involved with people she worked with, and she’d absolutely refused to break that rule with him. Mainly because if things went sour, she didn’t want an uncomfortable working environment. He might just be visiting for the season, but the set of that show had become like a home to her. She wasn’t going to mess around with one of her safe spaces, which meant she wasn’t going to mess around with him. 

Plus, she’d seen the tabloids, she knew the gossip that swarmed around him. He had a different beautiful woman on his arm every other week. Except for those months he’d been pursuing her. During that time, there’d been no other women. Not a one.

But even with that, she’d held strong, didn’t give in…that was until the day they’d wrapped for the season. They’d both been looking for that dark corner where he’d laid a kiss on her that had quite literally made her weak in the knees. “We don’t work together anymore. Will you go out with me now?” he’d whispered against her lips between kisses.

He’d dazzled her. Made her believe in the possibility of something more. Something lasting. Something true. Something she’d thought could’ve been love. But she’d been wrong. Very, very wrong. Turned out, it was all a mirage.

Four months of a mirage. Or maybe the constantly flashing cameras that followed them everywhere had blinded her. From the moment they’d started dating, they’d been stalked by the paparazzi. Not all that surprisingly as Troy was one of Hollywood’s It Boys, everyone wanted to know what and whom he was doing. There were photographs of them on vacation in Hawaii, watching the World Series, walking the red carpet at two different movie premieres, getting breakfast at the café around the corner from his Manhattan apartment, and so on, and so forth.

The headlines with those pictures were all the same:

Slater Is Smitten!

Has Troy Slater Found Love At Last?

Is Troy Slater Finally Ready To Settle Down?

The last front page photos that had graced the tabloids had been taken two weeks ago. They’d gone skiing in Switzerland to celebrate his birthday. She’d gotten him this awesome vintage watch as a gift, the very same watch he’d been wearing in the newest picture, a picture she wasn’tin. It was of Troy at an exclusive club in New York…where he was in the middle of getting a blowjob.

The photo had gone viral within twenty-four hours of being taken, which was right around the time Adele had gotten off a twelve-hour plane ride from Scotland. She’d been on the other side of the Atlantic on the set of the current movie she was working on while her boyfriend was cheating on her.

Merry fucking Christmas to her.

The plane landed at seven in the morning, and it would be an understatement to say Adele’s phone blew up with notifications when she turned it on. There were thirty-eight voicemails, seventy-two missed calls, one hundred and sixty-one emails, and three hundred and nine text messages. Not to mention she’d been tagged on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram more times than she was going to count.

Many of those notifications were calls and texts from Troy, but the only thing she listened to was the first voicemail he left. She got as far as Adele, I can explain before she ended it.

Explain? What? Did the woman in the picture trip and fall? Was he choking and this was a new way to perform CPR?

Yeah, she didn’t think so, and she didn’t want to hear a single word he had to say. So once she talked to her family—and the few friends she felt needed to hear from her—she shut off her phone.

To say she was humiliated would be an understatement, but more than anything else she was angry. But she preferred it this way. Preferred to be pissed off. It was better than being sad. She knew if she let it, it would overwhelm her. Once she started crying it would be very hard for her to stop. So during this time while Adele wasn’tcrying, she decided to regroup at her best friend’s place in Atlanta. 

Felicity Carter was not only one of the stars of Ponce, but she was also the lead actress in the current film they were shooting in Scotland. It was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, except in this one the badass princess saves the prince. As it had been Felicity’s private jet they’d been flying on, she was sitting right next to Adele when all hell broke loose.

The first part of the regrouping plan was to eat—and drink—her feelings before sleeping off the jet lag. As Atlanta was Felicity’s hometown, she of course knew all of the best restaurants in the city. The problem was, so did the paparazzi. It was made perfectly clear within just a few hours that Adele was being stalked. Everyone wanted to get a picture and a comment.

“Did you know Troy was cheating on you?”

“Do you know who the woman in the photo was?”

“Are you devastated?”

“Did you love him?”

“Weren’t you going to spend Christmas with him?”

“What are you going to do now?”

Well, wasn’t that the million dollar question? What was she going to do now? Because she obviously wasn’t going to be spending Christmas with that man. She wouldn’t be spending any time with him everagain.

Before everything had gone down, she had been planning to spend the holidays with Troy and her family in Florida. But what with her current black mood, Adele really wasn’t in any state to be in the same house as all of the happily married people in her family. 

She just wanted to be alone. She didn’t have the energy to put on a happy face for anyone. Or to be the pitied, lonely sister/daughter at Christmas. So what if she was twenty-eight years old and the longest relationship she’d ever been in hadn’t even gotten past the six-month mark? She didn’t need anyone to feel sorry for her.

Nope. She just needed to get away from everyone and everything. No news. No photographers. No people who might recognize her currently veryrecognizable face.

All of those requirements left her with her current destination: the family cabin in Nashville, Tennessee. It was quiet and secluded, just what she needed. 

Another thing she needed was the car ride in which she blasted angry breakup music—there’d been absolutely no Christmas music coming through her speakers—and sang at the top of her lungs. Her four-year-old Dalmatian Katie (short for Katharine Hepburn) howled along for a few songs before she burrowed under her blankets in the back seat and took a nice long nap.

As Adele took her dog everywhere, Katie was no novice at traveling, whether it be plane, train, or automobile. This wasn’t her first rodeo.

Before hitting the road that morning, Adele had gone grocery shopping and loaded up a cooler with perishables. Besides a quick bathroom break outside Chattanooga, she hadn’t needed to stop for anything. The drive usually took about four hours, but what with holiday traffic and bad weather, it took her about six. 

It was almost three thirty when she started to make her way down the long drive that led to the cabin. The pine trees that lined the way were currently snow-free, but they weren’t going to stay that way for long. It was clear to her that a storm was settling in, the sky gray and gloomy, and it was only a matter of time before the snow started falling. 

Once Adele got to the cabin, she’d unpack, throw together a pot of stew, and take a long, hot bath. Despite the heater in her car, a chill had settled into her bones that she knew could only be washed away with a nice soak. She was beyond looking forward to a quiet night alone with Katie. Except, when she pulled up in front of the cabin, her evening alone was dashed in an instant. 

There was a familiar white Land Rover parked in the driveway and smoke was rising up from the chimney. The sight of the car immediately told Adele who was inside: her brother’s best friend and the lastperson on the planet that she needed to be stuck in a cabin with.

He was the very same man she’d had a crush on for the last six years.

Shannon Richard