Sweet Cinderella (A Christmas Novella) (The Klaus Brothers Book 4) (7 page)

BOOK: Sweet Cinderella (A Christmas Novella) (The Klaus Brothers Book 4)
12.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Damn him. He was stealing her heart, and that was absolutely
not
a good idea.

No matter how charming he was, she and Gregor were from two different worlds. And there was no way those worlds would ever overlap. She knew he was right about the chemistry between them, but he could have his choice of
anyone.
Supermodels. Celebrities. Why he would choose to spend the day in such an ordinary way, with an ordinary woman? She was stymied.

The day had started off slowly. It had taken him a while to loosen up. Hannah was convinced he didn’t often indulge in mindless, fun activities. He probably spent all of his time working. That made her sad—his momentary look of vulnerability as he’d stared at the twins, unsure of himself. But eventually he’d shaken off his stiff, uncomfortable vibe and had started to genuinely have fun. He taught the twins how to dig in their blades for a quick stop and how to swing their arms for more momentum. He’d even twirled her like a figure skater, until she’d grabbed his arms in a panic. By the end of their skate, he and the boys were laughing and joking on the ice. Afterward, he’d ordered an extra large hot chocolate for
himself
, and polished off the entire thing.

He’d held her hand the entire day. They were connected at all times. As though he were afraid she would try to run again.

When they finally returned to her apartment, Gregor’s shirt was unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up, tie gone. His hair was slightly ruffled from their windy walk home. The boys were exhausted but brimming with excitement. Matteo, who had complained of getting chilly, was wrapped in Gregor’s gorgeous cashmere scarf which now had chocolate stains on it. Hannah was horrified, but Gregor had simply shrugged and said, “Today was worth a few stains.” He’d treated them to a magical day. No matter what happened with him in the future, she would always be grateful for that.

Hannah sent the twins to get ready for bed. She stared at Gregor uncomfortably, not sure about the protocol for ending this unexpected date. “Well . . . thank you. I’m sure you’re eager to get back home for some peace and quiet . . .”

He shook his head. “Not really.”

“Gregggggggggggor!” Matteo screamed loud enough to wake the neighbors.

Gregor chuckled. “What’s up?”

“Come see our room. You can read us a bedtime story.”

Gregor turned to Hannah. “Is that okay? Do you mind?”

“Uh . . . no. That’s fine,” she sputtered. She couldn’t believe Gregor wasn’t racing for a quick exit.

Anthony grabbed Gregor’s hand and dragged him into their room, as she followed behind. “This is my leaf collection. And my rock collection. And my stick collection.” He pointed to his favorite things.

Gregor laughed. “A future naturalist. I’ll bet your mom loves all the rocks and sticks in your apartment.”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “No comment.”

“This is my side of the room. I have a Nerf basketball set. I’m really good. Do you play basketball?” Matteo tossed Gregor a Nerf ball.

Gregor bobbled the ball in his hands. “Can’t say that I have. Although my brother Oskar has a hoop in his office.”

“We’ll teach you!” Matteo shot a Nerf ball toward the net hanging on his wall.

Anthony jumped into the air and deflected the ball with ease. “Denied!” he yelled. “Here, Gregor.” He passed him the ball.

Gregor attempted a shot. The ball ricocheted off the rim.

“Good try,” Matteo said. “But no cigar!”

Hannah leaned against the wall to watch the game. “His grandpa taught him that expression.”

Gregor shot another ball toward the net. It bounced off the backboard. He frowned. “What am I doing wrong?”

“You’re shooting too hard. Lighten up,” Matteo said.

“More arc!” Anthony added.

Gregor took shot after shot and still had no luck. The look on his face was comical. It was obvious he was not used to failure.

Hannah bit her lip to keep from laughing.

“Any more pointers? I’m not getting the hang of this.” Gregor practically growled the words.

Anthony grabbed onto Gregor’s hands. “You’re whipping the ball too hard. It’s a Nerf ball, Gregor. Not a real basketball. Try it like this.” Anthony lightly tossed the ball into the air and it plopped right into the net.

Gregor followed his lead, and the ball sank in. “That worked!” He high-fived Anthony.

Matteo cringed. “Uh-oh. Now he knows the secret. Time for some defense.” Matteo tackled Gregor and tried to snatch the ball.

Gregor teased the boys with the ball just out of reach, and finally he banked a shot into the hoop.

Anthony giggled. “Every man for himself!”

All three of them grabbed Nerf balls from the bin and began to shoot. Hannah watched the game in silence, shocked by Gregor’s transformation. His shirttails were hanging out, and he was laughing just as much as the boys. When the twins double-teamed him, he tossed the ball to Hannah. She took a shot and the ball sank right in.

“I want Hannah on my team next time,” Gregor announced.

“Mom’s really good at this game. She’s had lots of practice.”

“You’re looking rumpled, Mr. Klaus.”

Gregor stared down at his disheveled appearance and shot her a sheepish look. “So I am. Next time I go home, I’ll be able to stun Oskar with my Nerf skills.” He turned to the boys. “How about a story now? Your mom looks tired.”

Matteo nodded. “Let’s read this.” He passed him a copy of
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
.

“How appropriate.” Gregor arched a brow at Hannah.

She laughed softly.

They read the book together. The boys offered non-stop commentary on each page. Gregor was patient and accommodating. He answered their questions and laughed at their silly observations.

“What did you think about the Grinch?” Gregor closed the book and placed it on the night stand.

Hannah perched on the end of the bed.

“I liked it when he sang with the Whos. We like singing in our family. It’s the best way to celebrate Christmas.” Matteo nodded sagely.

“My favorite part is when the Grinch rides the sleigh down the hill. That looks super fun. And fast.” Anthony made a whizzing sound.

Gregor got a peculiar look on his face. “Maybe someday I’ll take you for a ride on a . . . super fun sleigh.”

“Really? That would be great!”

Gregor leaned over and picked up a photo from the dresser. “Is this your family?”

Hannah tensed.

“Yes.” Matteo snuggled next to Gregor and pointed out each person in the photo. “This is my dad. He died last year. He was sick.” Matteo’s face fell.

“I’m so sorry to hear that. You boys must miss him.” Gregor turned his gaze to Hannah. She swallowed painfully at his sympathetic expression.

“We do,” Anthony replied. “We look at his pictures a lot and talk about him with Mom. She says that’s the best way to remember.”

“And this is Uncle Dominic. He can’t look you in the eye, but he’s really good at playing the flute.” Matteo tapped the photo.

Anthony nudged his brother out of the way. “This is Auntie Andi. She’s a writer. And she lets us watch horror movies when she babysits.”

Matteo nodded. “Yeah. And there’s Granny and Grandpa. Granny is blind. We listen to books on tape with her, and it’s really fun. And Grandpa takes us for rides on his wheelchair.”

“Where was this photo taken?” Gregor asked.

Hannah answered. “Our old brownstone. Before . . . David died. We had some problems with the insurance company . . .” She waved her hand in the air. “So now we’re here. In our cozy spot, right boys? It’s closer to my parents.”

Gregor frowned at her but she ignored it.

“Gregor? What do you do?” Matteo asked.

“I help to run Klaus Enterprises. My family makes toys.”

Anthony yelped. “Klaus Toys! We have an airplane from you! Matteo . . . remember the airplane!”

“Wowwwwwwwwww. You own Klaus Toys? You must be loaded.” Matteo gazed at Gregor with newfound admiration.

Gregor laughed. “Our company is successful. But we like to give money back to those people who need it. My father is very particular about that.”

“Do you have a fancy car?” Matteo asked.

“I have a nice car, yes.”

Anthony bounced on the bed. “Do you live in a high-rise penthouse?

Gregor looked uncomfortable. “I do.”

“Do you have tea with the Queen of England?”

Hannah covered her face with her hands. “Oh, dear Lord. Boys—”

“I have never met the queen. But I do get to travel a lot. That’s one of my favorite things.” Gregor tried to hide his grin.

“What’s the coolest place you’ve ever visited?” Matteo’s eyes were shining with excitement.

“Last month I visited Hawaii. We’re negotiating a chain of toy stores there. I got to fly over a real volcano in a helicopter. Lava was exploding and flowing down the mountain. It was spectacular.”

“Awesome!” Anthony yelled and ran to get his books on volcanoes. After ten more minutes of the twins pestering Gregor, Hannah finally convinced them to settle down for the night. She and Gregor tucked them back into bed and turned out the lights.

“Sorry about that.” She sighed as they entered the living room. “They are so pumped up about meeting you and today’s activities. Thanks for being such a good sport.”

Gregor shook his head. “It was nothing. I enjoyed my time with them. And with you. I—I forgot what it’s like to do simple things like ice skate and enjoy hot chocolate. I’m so entrenched in the business part of Christmas, I’ve forgotten the other side. You and the boys reminded me today.”

Hannah leaned against the couch. “It must be hard. Working the business end while your brothers are making toys and gingerbread cookies.”

Gregor sighed. “Yes. They’re involved in the festive side of the holiday . . . toys and treats and philanthropic events. My work is not so benevolent.”

“But it’s necessary. You keep the business afloat. I’m sure they must be appreciative of what you do.” She touched his hand, trying to reassure him.

He glanced down at her hand and then caught it in his own. “They are. But I feel . . . removed from them and the holiday. Today helped. I needed that as much as the boys did. Maybe more.”

“Well, the boys had a ball. I don’t think they’ll be having any bad dreams tonight. They’re both wiped out.” She glanced at his less-than-pristine clothes. “I think they got you rumpled up today. Your high-brow outfit didn’t survive intact.”

Gregor smiled. “I’ll live.”

“Thank you for everything. It was wonderful.” She heard the hitch in her voice.

“Yes, it was. I’m looking forward to many more wonderful days together.” Gregor sent her a heated look that made her nervous.

“You must be joking.”

“Not in the least.”

“Gregor, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to keep seeing each other.” She pulled her hand from his grasp. “We should probably just say good-bye. I don’t want the boys to get used to seeing you if . . . if . . . you know.
I
don’t want to get used to seeing you. I already had my heart shattered enough this past year. I’m really not in the mood to set myself up for more heartbreak.”

Gregor stared at her hand. “You’re dismissing me? Is that it? After today, a perfect day, you’re bailing. Why?”

“I’m scared.” There was no reason for pretense. She would just tell him the truth. “You are out of my league, and I’m not setting myself up for a huge fall. Or my boys. They already idolize you.”

“That’s the second time you’ve used the expression ‘out of my league’ and I have to say, I pretty much hate it. It’s an insult to me.”

“An insult to you?”

“Do you really think I’m that shallow? That I judge people based on money or status or some other ridiculous way? Well, I don’t. You are one of the sweetest, kindest women I have ever met. And I want us to continue to seeing each other.” He cupped the back of Hannah’s neck. “Now, let’s figure out another time to get together. I want to make this perfectly clear. I’m not taking no for an answer.”

He kissed her. It wasn’t slow or gentle or easy. It was filled with passion.

Hannah pulled back and touched her swollen lips. “You’re just used to getting your way. I can tell. You say ‘jump,’ and everyone jumps. Well, I have news for you, Gregor. I’m not one of your minions. This isn’t going to work.”

Gregor tensed. “I know you’ve had a brutal year. I’m so sorry about David. Honestly sorry, Hannah.” He stroked a finger down her cheek. “I understand your worries. But I’m not going anywhere. This is just the beginning.”

She hugged herself tightly. “I can’t hang my hopes, and the twins’ hopes, on something that’s not a sure thing. We’ve been through enough this year.”

Gregor’s face blanked. It was a frightening expression. Hannah could only imagine how intimidating he must be in the boardroom.

He kissed her again. This time, a gentle quiet kiss. Was it a kiss good-bye? She tried not to cry.

“I’m so sorry to disappoint you, sweet Hannah. But I disagree. I think we should see each other again. So be expecting me. Tomorrow.”

He left the apartment, and Hannah wasn’t sure how to feel.

Angry that he had just totally ignored her wishes? He was so arrogant!

Or secretly relieved that she would be seeing him again?

 

C
hapter
7

BOOK: Sweet Cinderella (A Christmas Novella) (The Klaus Brothers Book 4)
12.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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