Authors: M. Garnet
Tags: #Contemporary, #erotic Romance
If you come from Michigan with nothing but snow and ice at Christmas time, what do you expect in the heat of Florida in December, hot decorations and hot love?
Gigi had given up on being happy when everything and everyone she cared for had been jerked out of her life, leaving her shattered. Three years later, she was transferred from Michigan to Florida. She ignored the handsome manager she had to work with. She ignored her co-workers who laughed through Thanksgiving while they looked forward to Christmas. Gigi grunted in disgust because they even decorated their silly palm trees since there weren’t many pine trees in front of the home in Sarasota. But fate always seemed to have a plan.
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Decorate my Palm Tree
Copyright © 2013 M. Garnet
Cover art by Carmen Waters
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Decorate my Palm Tree
Dedicated to my friends who helped me decorate my house on my first Christmas in Florida. I also want to thank everyone who helped during what was listed as the
No Name Storm
that hit the west coast of Florida without any warning.
Gigi pulled into the short driveway up against the useless garage door. The sad peeling paint on the panels reflected back at her in the bright headlights. She had worked late again. She turned the car off, waiting for the automatic lights to shut down. In the darkness, she could see the holiday lights on the neighbors’ houses on both sides.
The blow-up, giant, artificial snowballs along with lighted candy canes outlining driveways were only the start. Each house seemed to find something else to put lights on, including the pointed bushes in the yards and the palm trees. Each home that had a palm had found a different way to string lights on them. They wrapped the long knobby trunks in colors and put white lights on the fronds. Some had big red bows and large lighted balls hanging on them.
Her neighbors probably thought she was either Jewish or an atheist. In fact, in the cluttered block of small old homes, most only about nine hundred to twelve hundred square feet, hers was the only one without a single Christmas decoration of any type.
The area was lower class, but reasonably safe, full of small families and retirees who had been in these homes for many years. She looked at the decorations around her as she lugged her plastic bags of food into the house. Most of the trimmings were either very old or a lot of the cheap items found at the local chain stores. Yet, what always amazed her were the decorations in the palm trees.
Her company transferred her to Florida and she had admitted when asked about moving by her superior in the Lansing, Michigan office how she felt about moving to a warm climate, she told the truth. It just didn’t matter. Nothing had mattered after a car had wiped out her parents’ auto, killing them on impact.
She had been close to her parents as an only child. Dad had attended every one of her softball games and Mom had helped her choose her prom dress. The close little family celebrated Christmas by going to church on Christmas Eve and then going to the local family services center to give out the donated presents for the children.
They had a great and silly Christmas morning exchanging, at least one equally silly gift as well as several thoughtful items, then it was back to the church to help dish up the turkey dinner for all the people who showed up for the free meal. This had gone on for years as they went home in the cold winter night to their outdoor lights and the tree with its many glass ornaments.
All of that ended when the drunk hit her parents’ car in the side, wiping their car out as the vehicle was pushed between the front end of the SUV and the wall of steel that had been erected to prevent anyone from going over the embankment at the river. No, they didn’t go over the embankment, instead they were so smashed within the wreckage, it took two sets of
to pull their mangled bodies from their fairly new sedan.
The drunk driver and his equally intoxicated passenger walked away with a few scratches because of their airbags.
She had been picked up at work and escorted to the hospital by a polite policeman to identify her parents’ bodies. That was where she saw the driver and the passenger sitting in the hall. By this time, she had gotten the final shock of the whole event. The drunken driver that had killed her parents was her fiancé and the woman with him was obviously a prostitute, and a cheap one at that, with the heavy make-up, blond wig, and skirt that did not cover her ass. To confirm Gigi’s suspicion, the
had on a pair of handcuffs that belonged to the officer next to her.
Gigi never spoke to him since then, no matter how many attempts he made to get in contact with her, direct or through his attorney. He even tried through friends.
She read in the paper how long he would be a member of the local jail brigade. She put a block on her home phone to his jail phone calls and got a new cell phone. After the funeral of her parents, she stopped crying. She gave up on several things—Christmas, church, men, any type of holiday, and smiling. The last was the easiest of all.
The transfer from the large corporate insurance office to the little branch office in Sarasota, Florida made life easier for her. All the bad economics happening everywhere meant the corporate office had problems. They had to cut back so they had to layoff people, have some people take early retirements, and move people to branch offices. Most people grumbled, complained, and looked for help wherever they could find it. For Gigi, the escape from memories was what she was looking for. She didn’t care where they had wanted to send her: Alaska, North Dakota, New Mexico, it just didn’t matter. She sold the house, being told she lost money due to the market and paid cash for the first thing the salesman showed her in the outskirts of Sarasota.
She only wanted a roof and a garage, but she made a mistake. She found out within the first month that she should have moved into a condo. But she had never lived in an apartment, had even attended college from home. She had just not thought about living with people under her or over her, so, without hesitation, she took the small older home in the past-it’s-prime neighborhood.
The company allowed her one week before she had to report to work. One of the reasons she wasn’t laid off was that she was an organizer. She used the week to outfit her small little home and moved in. She bought just enough furniture from the local box stores that delivered and set up so that she had a couch and lamps, dinette set, new kitchen appliances and only the one bedroom. She didn’t expect to have company. The first flyer in her mailbox that was from a lawn service was the right one that got hired.
When the small shipment of her things arrived, she unpacked towels, dishes and blankets, and light clothes, and put the rest of the boxes in the small garage. The garage was dry even if it was full of little chameleons and spider webs. She heard that the little chameleons ate bugs, so she let them wander over her boxes. It didn’t snow in Sarasota so she didn’t need to park her car in the garage as she did in Michigan. Besides, the door was a bitch to raise as it didn’t have an automatic opener attached to it. Someday, she would have one put in, maybe. She wasn’t sure she wanted to make a home here or anywhere.
Gigi chose a light plain dress with a jacket, not sure what was appropriate for office wear in Florida when she went to work on her first day. She put on her standard mid-heel pumps with light-colored panty hose and tied her hair up in a tight knot at the back of her head, using a clip. She no longer wore makeup except for some pale lipstick to keep her lips from chapping. She just didn’t care how she looked as long as it was presentable for the office. This was similar to what she wore every day afterwards except she decided that she could forget the panty hose in this tropic zone.
The office was one of several offices attached to a bank on the corner of a pleasant center. The layout didn’t take her much time to get used to as she drove past to find an entrance to the parking area that separated the clean-looking business buildings in front from the long strip of small shops, restaurants, and bars that were in back of the large clean parking area. The landscaping was neat and tropical so this area had a slightly foreign feeling for Gigi, but she did like it. No, it wasn’t Michigan, but she was beginning to understand why so many came down here to visit.
It took her only a short period of working in the small office to get the lay of the land. First, all the work was identical to what she did in the corporate office. The computers were the same since ninety percent of the customer’s work process was done online. Her job was to process the processor’s work. Well that was a mouthful, which meant she checked the work of the people who worked directly with the customers either by the Internet, telephone, or the rare person who actually came into the small front office. Also, if any of the processors ran into a snag, they threw the snag on her desk. She was supposed to unravel all snags and she did it well while sitting in isolation in her small cubbyhole.
Gigi made it a practice to commit to memory everyone’s name so that she only had to greet them once in the morning and then say goodbye as she left. She ate lunch at her desk as she worked, or went out for fast food. She spoke only a word or two to whoever was in the break room when she got refills on her coffee. Other than that, it was an email correction to both the idiot and the corporate office. If too many email corrections, a processor was replaced and looking at filling in the unemployment forms.
Most of the people in the office were pretty much not in her circle of friends. Well, she no longer had a circle of friends. She kept all people at a distance since sorrow and anger was what she lived with. Her desk was the only one in the office without any Thanksgiving turkey candles or fall leaves. But the one person that raised her attention and got her to talk to herself was now propped against her door opening.
Doug Henderson was in charge of this branch office. Theoretically, she was next in line directly under him. That thought gave her a twitch that she immediately suppressed. Doug was the entire conversation of the women in the break room. At thirty-five or there about and single, he would fit the bill for the cover of
Muscle and Fitness
She looked at him filling her doorway with her usual frown without speaking. She took in the six-foot build of muscle topped by the tight short black hair cut. Striking blue eyes over the constant five o’clock shadow on the square chin made him a combination of handsome and bad boy. Too bad she had given up on men, especially a heart breaker like Doug.
Gigi took a breath, careful not to let him see that his presence disturbed her. She slowly sat back, waiting for him to talk first. His body seemed to fill her little office and she resented it. She liked the fact that she had a small private room, but she didn’t like the fact that when someone came in they blocked her exit, especially Doug.
She finally had to say something since she couldn’t stand his stare. “Can I help you?”
His smile made her shift in her chair. She felt he was always on the verge of flirting or innuendos, but was just not quite over the line. She had a feeling that he was pushing her, but she wasn’t sure why.
Finally, without moving, he spoke in that deep voice of his. “No holiday trimmings in your office?”
She glanced at her clean desk with all the papers stacked in neat rows. “I don’t do holidays.”
He raised an eyebrow. “That is unusual, but PC says we can’t question such things so I will let that statement sit for a while. Speaking of holidays, we have the company Christmas party coming up. We invite everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, because we don’t make it anything more than a company party. But guess what—it falls on your shoulders to plan it. Find somewhere that all thirty of us can go for the evening with food and drinks.”