Authors: Penny Watson
But Gregor Klaus fit right in.
He joked with her father, chatted with her mother, told Dominic stories about German music, and ribbed Andi and Sven about their new engagement.
In a million years, she could not have imagined powerful Gregor Klaus sharing a holiday meal with her family and it not being an awkward affair. She was shocked and hesitant to believe this was happening, but after a while, she relaxed enough to enjoy herself and remember why she loved this tradition most of all.
Celebrating with family.
After a long, delicious meal with good conversation, loving looks, and thoughtful prayers by everyone, Hannah started to ponder her sister’s words.
And Hannah started to believe.
She started to believe that it was possible, maybe even probable—maybe even inevitable—that ordinary Hannah De Luca Andersen was meant to be with powerhouse Gregor Klaus.
Maybe, just maybe, it was her destiny.
“Mom, where are we going?” Matteo bounced up and down on the taxi seat.
“We’re heading to Gregor’s apartment today. He told me he had a special Christmas treat for us.”
“I really liked having him at our dinner last night,” Anthony said. “Mom, do you like him?”
“I do,” she whispered.
“I like him, too.” Matteo held onto Hannah’s hand. “He’s different from Dad. But he’s fun, and I can tell he likes us a lot.”
“How could he not like you a lot? You boys are treasures.” She hugged both of her sons.
“We’re also naughty imps. That’s what grandpa says.” Matteo giggled.
“I think Gregor really likes you, too.” Anthony looked at his mother with a solemn expression.
“What makes you think that, Anthony?”
“Well, he hugs you and kisses you a lot. And also . . . he told me.”
She laughed. “He did? What did he say?”
“He said he could never replace Dad, but he wants to be part of our lives. He thinks the De Luca-Andersen family is really cool.”
Hannah nodded and stared out the window. Delicate snowflakes began to fall from the sky, twinkling and swirling in the morning light. It felt like this day was filled with magic.
“We’re here!” Matteo yelled as the cab stopped in front of Gregor’s luxury apartment.
“Whoa. This is a reeeeeeeeeally tall building.” Anthony peered into the sky in amazement.
A dapper doorman led the three of them into the foyer and up an express elevator to Gregor’s apartment.
Gregor was waiting for them to arrive. Gone was the formal suit and tie and any vestiges of awkward behavior with the boys. Gregor was bundled in warm, casual clothes—a down sport jacket, knit hat, and boots. The boys raced to him and he squeezed them both in his arms, laughing and wishing them a merry Christmas.
She tentatively approached him, and he snagged her by the wrist. He pushed up her sleeve, saw the bracelet, and nodded.
“Merry Christmas, Hannah.” He kissed her softly. “I’m glad you’re wearing your Christmas gift.”
“I’m never taking it off.”
Gregor graced her with a brilliant smile, and Hannah knew he’d been waiting to hear those words. He handed her a mug of eggnog. “Here’s to many more Christmas celebrations.
She sipped the delicious beverage and felt like laughing out loud. There
magic in the air today. She could feel it.
He settled the twins at a dining room table with hot chocolate. “I have a very special day planned. But first I’m going to tell you a story.”
The boys spooned more whipped cream into their mugs. “What’s the story, Gregor?” Anthony asked.
“It’s a magical tale. An unbelievable story. And it’s something that only a select few people in the whole world know about.”
She watched as both boys gave Gregor their undivided attention. Matteo’s eyes grew wide. “What is it?”
Gregor looked at her and she nodded. “Once upon a time, there was a family who lived in Bavaria, Germany. They were toy-makers. Their name was Klaus . . .”
Hannah and Gregor and the twins stood at the end of a brightly lit street lined with old-fashioned lampposts, holiday wreaths, and peppermint-colored awnings. Snowflakes fell softly from the sky.
sparkled around them, singing, welcoming them. The scent of gingerbread filled the air. The sounds of bells tinkled on each street corner.
Every tree was decorated for Christmas, covered with twinkling lights and crystal balls, shimmery tinsel and hand-carved ornaments. Garlands made of beads were strung along the rooftops. Assorted shops came in every color of the rainbow.
They stood at the end of this brightly lit street, and watched a parade of elves stroll towards them.
They stood at the end of this street . . . in the
. A place filled with secrets and Magik.
A place that was
,” Matteo whispered to his mother.
.” Anthony shook his head, dazed by the sight in front of him.
Hannah turned to Gregor. “My God. How can you ever bear to leave this village? It’s extraordinary.”
Gregor held her tightly in his arms. “I’m so glad to share this with you and the boys. It
extraordinary. I’d forgotten. But you and Anthony and Matteo reminded me.”
Santa led the parade toward them. He and his wife, an adorable pixie in a red ski outfit, were followed by hundreds of elves. Elves dressed in jumpers and bell-tipped booties, with pointed hats and striped stockings. Elves who were singing and laughing and chattering with happiness. This was their special day.
Santa stopped in front of Hannah and Gregor and leaned down to speak to the twins.
“Merry Christmas, Matteo and Anthony. We’ve heard a lot of good things about you from our son.” Santa patted the boys on their heads.
“You’re Santa? You don’t look like Santa.” Matteo scrunched up his face.
“Yeah, you’re not fat.” Anthony scratched his head.
Santa nodded. “That’s true. I love my work-outs!” He belly-laughed, and the boys giggled with him.
Gregor’s father was a giant, like his sons, with silvery-white hair, a stylish goatee, and a very buff physique. He wore a red down coat with an Iron Man patch on the chest.
“Are we on the naughty list?” Matteo asked. “Just wondering.”
Anthony reached out to touch a
and it danced up his arm. “Is this really happening? It’s even better than the movie
Alena laughed. “Yes, young man, better than
How would you two boys like to see the Gingerbread Room? We have a model train set made of
gingerbread. And the whole room is alive!”
The twins turned to each other and squealed. “Yes, please!”
Santa winked at Matteo. “Not on the naughty list. Not even close.”
Matteo fist pumped into the air. “Phew! I was nervous about that.”
“You boys do know this a very special secret, right? No one can know about Glasdorf.” Santa used his sternest voice.
The boys nodded their heads solemnly.
“We know, Mr. Santa,” Anthony said. “Pinky shake.”
Santa hid a grin as he held out a pinky for the sacred oath.
“Hannah, it’s so nice to meet you.” Alena hugged Hannah and kissed her on the cheek.
“It’s nice to meet you, too. Thank you for inviting us to spend this day with your family. It’s . . .”
“Overwhelming?” Alena smiled knowingly.
“Yes, but in a wonderful way.”
“Oh, Gregor.” Alena’s eyes misted. “She is lovely, darling. Good choice. And the boys are adorable.”
Gregor kept his eyes glued to Hannah. “Who knew that fund-raiser would turn out to be the best night of my life?”
Hannah blushed at his heated look.
Alena glanced at Gregor. “My, my, my. What happened to the overcoat and wingtip shoes? You look positively . . . relaxed today.”
Santa raised a brow. “So you do. I like this new you.”
“Well, it’s cold. I thought a down coat would be appropriate.” He ignored their ribbing.
Alena winked at Hannah. “Thank you for making our son happy.”
Santa nodded. “Yes, I can see a change in him. You and your sons have thawed him out.” He turned to Gregor. “Mind if I bear hug your girlfriend?”
Before Gregor could utter a word, Santa had lifted Hannah into the air and was squeezing her soundly.
She giggled and sputtered, “Nice to meet you, Santa.”
“Santa’s hugging Mommy!” Matteo screamed and jumped up and down in the street.
Nicholas Klaus Senior set her back down on the ground and laughed. “Your boys are going to have a fabulous day.”
“This is the greatest Christmas gift I could ever give my sons.”
He smiled at her. “And you’re the best Christmas gift for
son. So I think we’re even.”
The twins began to play with the elves, tossing snowballs and making snow angels on the street. Their laughter was infectious.
Gregor pulled Hannah into his arms. “Is it everything you’d hoped for?”
“Are you kidding? This is a dream-come-true. Your family is so lucky to live in this magical place.”
“I think I started to take it for granted. I forgot how special it is. And living in New York—so far away from this world—made me forget who I am.”
She brushed her fingers on his face. He looked so stern and serious. “I know who you are. You’re wrong about yourself, Gregor. You’re not just about numbers and money and the bottom line. You care about people. You make people happy.” She glanced shyly at the ground. “You make me happy,” she whispered, so quietly she thought the wind had carried away that scary admission.
He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “Hiding from me?”
“No more hiding.” He cupped her face in his hands. “I was numb.
. I felt nothing. And then I saw you, Hannah. You thawed me out and made me feel again. I need you. I know we belong together. And hopefully someday you’ll believe it, too.”
Before she had a chance to answer, an elf knocked into her legs.
“Hey, Klaus. Are you almost done with the mushy stuff because I wanna say hi to Hannah now!”
Hannah looked down at the elf at her feet. She wore striped leggings, a plaid down jacket, and a Sherpa hat that said “HOT STUFF” in neon pink sequins.
“Shirley? Is that you?”
“Yes! It’s me!” She flung herself into Hannah’s arms and started babbling incoherently.
“I didn’t care if I got in trouble. I just wanted you to be happy.” She paused for a second. “You liked the candy cane, right?”
“I knew it! And you were so adorable with your pigtails and big hazel eyes. You’re the sweetest, nicest person. I know, for a fact, you’ll never be on the naughty list. Like me. I’m on the naughty list. I’ve actually been on the naughty list for
, but Santa says I can’t help myself, so it’s okay—”
Hannah tried to interrupt her, but Shirley kept going.
“I’m thrilled your boys are here. They’re going to have a blast. I have a whole itinerary planned for them today.” She glanced at Gregor. “Just ask him. I’m super good with plans. He said so. Also” —she gasped for breath— “I’m really glad you and Gregor are working things out because—let’s face it—Gregor needs a girlfriend, and believe it or not, I think you guys are a great match.”
Hannah giggled. “You are hilarious.”
Gregor sighed. “And irritating. She’s also irritating.”
“But he still finds me extremely useful. Right, Klaus?” Shirley crossed her arms.
“On occasion. But not now, Shirley. Hannah and I were trying to have a private conversation.” He shot her a pointed look.
“Oh. Got it.”
Shirley started to walk away, but Hannah chased after her. She kneeled on the ground next to the quirky elf. “Shirley, I just want you to know. That candy cane meant everything to me. I’m so glad I met you all those years ago. You kept me hopeful. You gave me something to believe in.” She hugged her and whispered, “
Shirley patted her on the back. “You needed me. And now . . . Gregor needs