38,202
07.03.2019

Mackenzie plays quietly on her phone while I work. She’s mature and considerate like that. After a half hour I glance at the couch to thank her—and see that she’s fucking gone.

I shoot to my feet. “Mackenzie?” When there’s no answer, I rush for the door. Flinging it open I call, “Mack—”

I actually said her full name, but you couldn’t hear it.

Because the blaring of “Angels We Have Heard on High” drowned out my voice. And if that wasn’t loud enough, there’s the echo of bells jingling in the background, the hum of a dozen audio-animatronic elves, reindeer and headless gingerbread men scattered around—and let’s not forget the crunch and whistle of falling snow.

Yes, actual snow—inside my goddamn office building.

The main floor outside the offices has been transformed into a winter wonderland.

I just stand there. Stunned.

But I have to say, this beats the shit out of anything the mall has ever come up with.

Then my sister, Alexandra, comes walking around the corner. She’s decked out in elegant holiday finery—a red, strapless satin dress, black heels, her hair piled high on her head, with a pearl tiara nestled in the blond curls.

She surveys the room. “God, I’m good.”

I cross my arms and lean back against a snow-covered desk. “A little overdone, don’t you think?”

Alexandra raises her shoulder. “If you can’t overdo Christmas, what can you overdo?” Then she regards me with bright green eyes.

And I deduce, “You’re not here to pick up your daughter, are you?”

“No, my daughter is safe and sound. Why do you think I’m here, little brother?”

“I’m starting to think it’s because every member of my family has been body snatched by green-eyed aliens hell-bent on keeping me from getting any fucking work done.”

She shakes her head. “Even your alien invasion theories are egomaniacal.”

I push off from the desk. “All right, let’s go. The sooner we do this, the sooner I can get back to my desk.” And I can’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Show me your vision, Christmas ghost. Teach me the error of my ways.”

Alexandra scowls. And checks out her manicure. “Now I’m not in the mood.”

I grit my teeth. “Alexandra . . .”

“I don’t like to be rushed, Drew. You have to invest the time—smell the holly bush, get the full experience. I’m not some wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.”

My face contorts. “I certainly hope not. That’s fucking gross.”

“The heavens have chosen to intercede on your behalf!” She stomps her foot. “To help you. A little gratitude would be nice.”

I pinch my nose, breathe deep, and compose myself. Because the spirit bitch is obviously in a tormenting mood, like a cat toying with a mouse before it’s devoured. Trying to wriggle out from under her paw will only prolong it. My best option is to just give in. Play dead.

Submit.

“I apologize for being flippant, Alexandra. Thank you for taking the time tonight to educate me. I’m truly fortunate to have a sister and heavenly angel who care so much for my emotional well-being.”

Her head bobs side to side, weighing my sincerity. “And do you like the decorations?” she asks petulantly.

I smile. “The decorations are lovely.”

Alexandra’s expression slides toward appeasement. “And the music?”

“One of my favorite songs—a classic.”

She grins teasingly. “I worked really hard on the snow.”

Submission isn’t my forte.

“Goddamn it, Lex!”

She holds her hands up. “Okay, okay.” She straightens and clasps my hand. “Come with me.”

Together we walk to Steven’s office. Instinctively, I close my eyes as we step through the doorway. Then I open them.

“This is . . . this is your apartment,” I state.

My sister’s condo has the typical regal appointments of an exclusive and ultraexpensive New York City living space. Panoramic views, high ceilings, detailed dark wood moldings, shiny, pristine marble floors. But there’s a warmth to it—earth-toned walls, comfy couches, colorful throw pillows, children’s framed artwork—that makes it a family friendly home.

“Brilliant observation, as always,” she returns.

“When is this?” I ask.

❮❯