I stared at the slip of paper in my hand. Surely this couldn’t be right. Blane never participated in the law firm’s annual Secret Santa gift exchange.
“Clarice,” I said, walking over to her desk, “are you sure this is right?” Clarice should know – not only was she Blane’s secretary, she was also the office coordinator this year.
She looked up from her computer. “Of course that’s right. Why wouldn’t you think so?”
I just looked at her.
“Okay, fine,” she sighed. “He didn’t exactly say he wanted to participate – the partners never do. I just thought with you and him dating….” She did a hand wavey thing rather than finish her sentence.
I stared at the slip of paper. “What do you get the guy who has everything?” I wondered aloud.
Clarice grinned. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
Blane Kirk entered the firm’s lobby that morning in a rather foul mood. A client had called, informing Blane that he’d been arrested for possession of narcotics, though he’d sworn to Blane that he’d quit. He begged Blane to not let this offence – his third – send him to prison. Although the law firm’s clientele were generally more business-oriented, they took on a certain percentage of indigent cases as a service to the community. This client was one of them.
“Good morning!” Clarice said cheerily to him as he passed by.
“Morning,” he automatically replied as he unlocked his office door.
Preoccupied as he was with thinking about his client, discarding his coat and unpacking his briefcase, it took him a moment to spot the small, gaily wrapped package on his desk. Picking it up, he turned it over curiously, but there were no markings to indicate who had sent it. He stepped to his door.
“Clarice,” he said, holding up the small box, “do you know what this is?”
She looked blankly at him. “A present?”
Blane bit back what he wanted to say to that, instead replying, “Yes, I can see that. Do you know where it came from?”
“Your Secret Santa left it.”
“My what?” Not much surprised Blane, but that had.
Clarice looked a little nervous now. “Um, I think your Secret Santa left it for you.”
This day was getting worse by the minute. “Please don’t tell me I’m someone’s Secret Santa.” Picking out useless gifts for a generic employee – no doubt a female – and sneaking them onto their desk was not a task he wanted to undertake this week. If Clarice had signed him up for that, he’d make her do it.
“Oh no,” Clarice said, her eyes wide, “of course not.”
Well, that was a relief. But still… “Then who left this?” He held up the gift again.
“I’m not at liberty to say the identity of your Secret Santa,” Clarice said blithely, turning back to her computer and ignoring him. He thought he saw her holding back a smile.
Disgruntled, he went back to his desk and sat down. With a sigh, he opened the present, discarding the paper until he was left staring at a small box. Lifting the lid, he saw it was filled with broken bits of black pebbles. Bemused, he stared at it before it occurred to him that it was coal. Then he noticed a note taped to the bottom of the lid. Unfolding it, he read:
You’ve been a naughty boy.
For the first time that morning, Blane smiled. He knew that handwriting. And that explained how it had shown up on his desk. Clarice wouldn’t let just anyone into his office.
Taking the little box, he moved it to the side of his computer monitor so he could see it as he worked. This may prove to be an interesting week.
There was an eagerness to his step that Blane chose not to examine as he walked down the hallway to his office this morning. He’d taken Kathleen to dinner last night, but hadn’t said a word about the box of charcoal. She’d kept silent as well, only a twinkle in her eye giving her away when she’d innocently asked about his day.
Clarice was on the phone so Blane merely nodded in acknowledgement as he walked past, unlocking his door and stepping into his office. His eyes immediately found the package on his desk.
Feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, Blane made himself act the adult and calmly remove his coat and unpack his briefcase as he always did before settling down behind his desk to see the latest from his Not-So-Secret Santa.
He took his time unwrapping the box and lifting the lid. As he surveyed the contents, he couldn’t help laughing aloud.
Blane lifted a coffee mug from the box, grinning at the words emblazoned on the side: “Lawyers Do It With Skilled and Nimble Tongues.” A t-shirt followed that said “Lawyers Have Feelings, Too (Allegedly)” along with a book filled with lawyer jokes. Blane slid a bumper sticker out from between the pages of the book. “There are 2 problems with lawyer jokes: Lawyers don’t think they’re funny and nobody else thinks they’re jokes.”
A folded note inside the box read – In case you get bored.
He couldn’t wipe the grin off his face the entire day.
Today’s package had Blane snorting in amusement as he paged through the Playboy magazine. Every picture had been carefully censored with black marker, obliterating the risqué bits in the images and leaving only the articles untouched. A calendar had also accompanied the magazine, the models’ bodies not censored, but each painstakingly dressed in cut-out clothes which had been pasted on. He couldn’t imagine how long it had taken her to do this.
The note today said simply – In case you get lonely.
One of the models had blue eyes, her hair a close shade to Kathleen’s, but not nearly as long or full. Blane replaced her with Kathleen in his mind, imagining her in a similar state of undress and pose…
Best not to think about that at work, Blane decided as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair and adjusted his trousers. If he asked very nicely, he wondered if Kathleen could be convinced to make him his own personal calendar.
Blane could admit that he was an unapologetic snob when it came to food. He preferred artisan cheese, well-aged scotch and Italian meats, which made today’s package downright revolting. On his desk sat the largest box of processed cheese he’d ever seen, along with a box of generic crackers, a can of Spam, several sticks of beef jerky, a can that squirted more processed cheese and a bottle of whiskey that could double as lighter fluid and no doubt tasted about the same.
In case you get hungry.
Blane was sure he’d have to be extremely hard up to touch any of these items and even then – he thought perhaps he’d rather starve.
They’d watched Kathleen’s favorite holiday movie at her place last night, It’s a Wonderful Life. Kathleen had cried at the end.
“It’s a happy ending so why are you crying?” he’d asked, pulling her closer from where she’d been snuggled against his side. “Haven’t you seen this dozens of times?”
“I always cry at the end,” she’d said, flushing red as she swiped at her tears. “It doesn’t matter how many times I watch it.”
“You’re too soft-hearted for your own good,” he’d gently teased her, though he thought that was actually true. Kathleen was too sweet-natured, too willing to see the best in people, and much too oblivious to her own well-being.
He’d kissed her and she’d returned the kiss with fervor. Her warm and sweetly curved body pressed against his had caused all thoughts of Jimmy Stewart and Clarence the angel to be instantly forgotten. Then his cell had rung and he’d had to leave to bail a client out of jail.
Blane jerked himself out of his reverie, frowning at the odd assortment of so-called food on his desk. What to do with it? Taking it home was unthinkable.
“Clarice,” he called out. “Do your kids like cheese?”
Blane held up the pair of men’s briefs. They were black with a Superman symbol etched on the front and the words “MAN OF STEEL” emblazoned in red on the waist band.
At the bottom of the box was a key. He read the note that accompanied today’s gift.
So you don’t have to break in anymore.
Kathleen had never given him a key to her place, but then he’d never needed one.
At the bottom of the note, she’d written a time. Seven p.m. Blane wondered if he was supposed to wear the briefs, then realized with some chagrin that if there was one woman for whom he’d even consider wearing ridiculous undergarments, it was Kathleen.
He could hardly wait until tonight.
I fidgeted nervously as I waited, glancing at the clock for the hundredth time in the last ten minutes. It was nearly seven. Blane should be walking in the door any second.
Absently, I touched the curlers in my hair before fiddling with the high lace collar of the ankle length, long-sleeved flannel nightgown I wore. My hot pink fuzzy slippers completed an outfit that could figure in most men’s nightmares.
Blane hadn’t said a word all week about the things I’d left for him, though Clarice had told me she’d heard him laughing at some of the “gifts.” I hoped he’d had as much fun receiving the motley collection as I’d had compiling it.
The key scraped against the lock, signifying Blane’s arrival. I took a deep breath as the door opened and Blane stepped inside.
He took my breath away, as he always did. The charcoal gray suit he still wore from work lay across his broad shoulders, the color making his eyes seem more gray than green. He’d removed his tie and loosened the collar of his crisp white dress shirt. His dark blond hair was slightly mussed, either from the wind or from his habit of running his hand through it, I couldn’t tell.
Blane closed the door behind him and watched me, his eyes moving down as he took in my attire. His face gave nothing away, but I thought his lips might have twitched in an almost smile.
“How was your day, dear?” I asked innocently.
“It’s looking up,” Blane replied after a moment.
My smile froze in place as Blane moved purposefully toward me. The look in his eye, akin to that of a predator, made my heart beat faster. A nervous giggle wanted to erupt but I swallowed it down, backing away from Blane until my back hit the wall. His palms rested against the wall behind me and his arms formed a barrier on either side. He leaned forward and I could smell his cologne – spicy and mingled with the scent of his skin.
“Do you think this getup is going to make you any less appealing to me?”
His words, spoken low and directly into my ear, made me shiver.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I protested, stubbornly maintaining my innocence.
Blane’s hands moved to my hair, one of my best features in my opinion, and it seemed Blane shared that view. I could feel the curlers loosening as Blane took them out, one by one.
“I hope you don’t mind frozen pizza for dinner,” I said blithely.
Blane didn’t reply right away, busy as he was with the curlers, tossing them over his shoulder as he unrolled each one. When he finished, I reached up and ran my fingers through my hair, loosening the long, strawberry-blonde ringlets so they lay in a heavy, tousled length down my back. I noticed with satisfaction that Blane’s eyes darkened as he watched me.
“I think you may be overdressed for frozen pizza,” Blane said, his voice rougher than usual.
My breath hitched when his fingers closed over the first of the buttons running down the front of the nightgown. His eyes met mine and I couldn’t look away, the intensity of his gaze making the blood heat in my veins.
A whisper of air informed me that Blane had successfully parted the soft flannel and with a slight shrug of my shoulders, the nightgown fell to puddle at my feet.
Now it was my turn to watch as Blane’s breath caught and the pulse in his neck jumped, because the flannel nightgown had concealed an outfit I’d turned six shades of red just picking out in the department store.
Tiny, red and transparent were the words I’d use to describe it. Add some itchy white feathery stuff at the top and the hem, a g-string bikini that I swore I’d never wear again, and you had what could pass as an X-rated Secret Santa outfit. The sales lady had assured me that my man would “go wild” over it.
“Cat got your tongue, Counselor?” I teased, my voice more breathy than I would have liked. What could I say? I was a little nervous in this getup, and I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to have a glass of wine or two before Blane came.
“This almost makes up for the Cheez Whiz,” Blane rasped.
I opened my mouth in indignation at the comparison, but then his lips were on mine, his hands sliding underneath the fragile fabric, and I forgot what I was supposed to be annoyed about.
“What do you call 25 skydiving lawyers?”
“How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?”
“His lips are moving.”
“What do you have if you have three lawyers buried up to their necks in cement?”
“Not enough cement.”
“How many lawyer jokes are there?”
“Only three. All the rest are true stories.”
“This is not fair!” I said in disgust, slamming the book shut and tossing it across the room.
“I told you – I’ve heard every lawyer joke there is,” Blane said, and not even his lips pressing small kisses to my neck could disguise the smugness in his voice. I pouted even as I let him tip my head to the side to give him easier access.
I was momentarily distracted when Blane’s mouth moved from my neck to my shoulder. He’d pushed aside the plate of snacks we’d been munching on – some of those expensive cheeses he liked so well, water crackers and some prosciutto and salami I’d picked up at Dean & Deluca.
Blane’s new Superman briefs lay strewn on the floor along with my little red Santa outfit. I hoped I could hide it away somewhere so Blane couldn’t convince me to wear the itchy little torture device again, though I supposed even if I did wear it again – it wouldn’t be for very long.
“Now, where were we…”
Blane’s body moved over mine, gently forcing me to lie back down on the bed. I grabbed for the covers, remembering his comment from earlier.
“Oh no, apparently that outfit wasn’t enough to help you recover from your near brush with processed cheese,” I teased, squirming to get out from underneath him. He caught me easily, his leg inserting itself between mine.
“I must admit,” Blane said, his roaming lips and hands making it hard for me to concentrate, “I wasn’t aware a cheese-like substance could be sprayed out of a can.”
“I bet you didn’t know whipped cream came from a can as well.”
He stopped abruptly, lifting his head to look at me as if to gauge the truthfulness of what I’d said. I waggled my eyebrows at him.
“I bet I could find a great many uses for a product like that,” he said, his tongue dipping into my navel.
“I’m sure you could.” My voice was higher than usual and my fingers dug into Blane’s shoulders.
“You have some?”
“In the fridge.”
Blane bounded off the bed and into the kitchen, returning moments later with a fresh can of whipped cream and a wicked grin on his face.
Well, it was certainly better than Cheez Whiz.
The cocktail recipe inspired by this story and Kathleen herself is called A Flannel Nightie (recipe follows). The Godiva gives it sweetness, the Goldschlager and gingersnaps give it spice, a little nuttiness is provided by the Frangelico, and underneath it all is a rich depth of flavor from the brandy.
A Flannel Nightie
1.5 oz good quality brandy
2 oz Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
½ oz Frangelico
1 t Goldschlager (optional)
2 oz half n half
Crushed gingersnaps for garnish
Rim a chilled martini glass in crushed gingersnaps. Combine ingredients over ice and shake. Strain into martini glass. Sprinkle with crushed gingersnaps.