Sweet Cinderella (A Christmas Novella) (The Klaus Brothers Book 4) (9 page)

BOOK: Sweet Cinderella (A Christmas Novella) (The Klaus Brothers Book 4)
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“No stories, Shirley. I want this spell cast tonight. She is struggling with guilt and fear, and I need to show her that we’re meant to be together. That she can trust me.”

“You do see the irony here, right? You want her to trust you, but you’re using a shady elfin spell to win her over?”

Gregor did not look amused. “Do you have any other ideas?”

She shrugged. “Actually, nope. I’m fresh out of ideas. As long as you treat her like a princess and shower her with love and affection, I’m good with this. I must say, you did great with the kids this week. I’m sort of shocked about that.”

Gregor smiled. “The kids are wonderful. Full of energy. They’re smart and fun. Her family is a treasure. Hannah is a treasure.”

Shirley tapped her chin. “You know, it’s sort of funny . . .”

“What’s so funny?” Gregor growled.

She held up a restraining hand. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch, Klaus. I’m just saying . . . for someone who swears he has no Christmas spirit, you sure did a good job faking it this week.”

Gregor took a step back. “What are you talking about?”

“The ice skating, the Christmas crèche, window-shopping on Fifth Avenue, watching
. This whole week was filled with holiday activities, and you actually seemed to enjoy yourself.” She fiddled with the snowflakes on his desk. “I mean . . . I know the difference between your ‘fake’ face and your ‘real’ face, and as far as I could tell, you were genuinely enjoying those Christmasy things. You know?”

Gregor furrowed his brow. “You’re right. I did.” He laughed quietly. “It’s different seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes. And through Hannah’s eyes. She is honestly delighted by everything. She is so smitten with the holiday, she makes everything shine.”

Shirley knocked her heels against Gregor’s desk. “In a million years, if I had to place a bet on which one of the Klaus brothers would take over for Santa, I would never have pegged you.

Gregor tensed. “What’s your point?”

“I’m just sayin’ . . . I know that the Überholen is coming up, and that one of you guys has to replace your dad when he retires.”

“And I’m clearly the most lacking in Santa qualities. I get it.” Gregor reached for his Scotch and drained the glass.

“Well, maybe a couple of weeks ago I would have agreed with you. But now . . . I’m not so sure. You’ve been hanging out with the kids, doing real Christmas activities. And enjoying them. You don’t look so uptight anymore. Maybe . . .”

“Maybe what?”

“Maybe you have more Santa-ish qualities than you think.” She cocked her head. “Hannah’s good for you.”

Gregor walked over to the enormous windows of his apartment and stared into the misty city. “I
her, Shirley. She’s the one.” He kept his back to her.

Shirley knew he was embarrassed for her to see the emotion on his face. But she could hear it in his voice.

He cleared his throat. “You need to clean up your mess and get lost for the night.”

“What! You’re throwing me out after everything I’ve done!”

He turned around, clearly exasperated. “I’m planning to seduce Hannah here this evening. Do you really want to stay?”

“Oh. Yeah. No way. I’m out of here. Where am I supposed to go?”

Gregor laughed. “Are you kidding? Half the people in the city are dressed as elves right now. You’ll fit right in.”

Shirley blew out a breath. “Fine. I’ll find something to do.” She began to collect her stuff from Gregor’s desk. “Just one thing. If you use
Zeit einfrieren
, you’ll have to explain what’s happening to Hannah. Otherwise, she’ll be worried about leaving her boys. And if you explain the spell, that means you need to tell her . . .
. You know, about the North Pole and the elves and Santa being your dad. That’s a lot for a Suddie to deal with. Are you sure she can handle that? If she’s too freaked out, your plans for seduction will be

Gregor stroked his goatee. “That’s a very good point. But I think she’ll be fine. She has a very strong belief in Christmas magic. I don’t have a choice. I’m keeping her with me until she admits her true feelings. I know she’s falling for me.”

Shirley knew that look on Gregor’s face. Icy cold determination.

Hannah didn’t stand a chance.

But that was a good thing. Because Shirley was starting to think that Gregor Klaus was Hannah’s destiny and always had been.

“Hey, Gregor. Make sure you give her some peppermint candy canes. She likes those.”

Time for Plan B . . .



Hannah tossed and turned in her full-size bed. It was the largest mattress she could squeeze into the cramped master bedroom. If she turned to the right, she would smack into the wall. If she turned to the left, she had twelve inches to maneuver between the bookshelf and the bathroom door. Yes, her room was crowded. But there was still enough space for the boys to jump on her bed and snuggle. And the bookshelf was lovingly covered with family photos and homemade artwork.

Tonight, the twins were snoozing in their own beds. Each boy cuddled with a favorite stuffed animal and a hand-knit blanket from Granny. Hannah’s mom was blind, but she was still an amazing knitter. Matteo owned a hunter green blanket, and Anthony’s was cherry red. The colors of Christmas.

Hannah curled on her side and rubbed her cheek on Gregor’s soft cashmere scarf. It was wound around her neck, surrounding her with memories and his delicious scent. She closed her eyes and thought about their kiss. How it felt to have his arms wrapped tightly around her, his mouth touching hers. She sniffled. There was no way she would fall asleep feeling sorry for herself.

She punched her pillow, trying to get more comfortable.

One second she was lying on her bed . . .

 . . . and the next second she was falling into Gregor Klaus’s arms.

She blinked a few times. Surely she hadn’t fallen asleep that fast? Could she be dreaming about Gregor already?

His touch felt real. The heat of his body warmed her back as he cradled her in his arms. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his neck. He smelled like brandy and fire.

“God, that felt good. Do it again.” Gregor’s voice was rough and low.

“I’m dreaming, right?” She touched Gregor’s face and was shocked to feel the softness of his beard. “Is this really happening?”

He leaned down, kissed her gently, and then lowered her to the floor. Gregor wore silk pajama bottoms and nothing else. The sight of his naked torso was devastating. It was massive, powerful, covered with dark hair. A tattoo encircled his thick bicep. This is what Gregor Klaus hid beneath the ultra-civilized clothes and polished demeanor—a primal masculinity that was no longer concealed. Hannah felt faint. She swayed on her feet.

Gregor shot his hands out to steady her. “Are you okay?”

She blinked up at him. “Wh-Where am I?”

“My lair.” His smile softened the inherent threat of those words. “You’re in my penthouse, my bedroom.”

She frowned as she glanced around in confusion. She was standing in the middle of an enormous bedroom, at least five times the size of her little space. A king-size bed took center stage in the room, covered with pillows and decadent linens. Low dressers lined the walls, and they were dotted with candles and fresh flowers. She placed her hand on his chest. His skin was on fire.

“Are you real?”

“Yes, Hannah.”

“I’m not dreaming, am I?” Her voice was husky.

“Don’t be afraid.”

“How did I get here? Wh—What . . . ? The boys!” She grabbed onto Gregor’s arms in alarm.

“Everything is fine. The boys are safe. I’ll explain in a minute.” He touched the scarf around her neck. “Is this mine?”

She peered down at her feet. “Yes. You . . . you loaned it to Matteo the other day. Remember? I was just . . . cold tonight. So I put it on.”

Gregor lifted her face in his hands. “Is that the only reason? You were cold?”

She closed her eyes as a blush warmed her cheeks. “No, not the only reason. I wanted to feel close to you. It was the only way.”

“It’s not the only way, Hannah. I’m here . . . flesh and blood. And I want you.” He lowered her onto the bed.

She was instantly aware of her embarrassing attire. She wore faded pajama pants and a thin T-shirt with Rudolph on the front. Gregor looked like a male model, and she looked like a haggard mom. She pulled up her knees and hugged her legs.

“What’s going on?” she asked quietly. “Is this some sort of trick?”

He sat down next to her on the bed. “I’m going to tell you a story. It will sound impossible. But keep your mind open.”

“That doesn’t sound like you, Mr. Practical-Bottom-Line.”

Gregor smiled. “You’re right. It doesn’t. But I promise everything I tell you is the truth.” He took a deep breath. “You know my last name is Klaus.”

“Of course.”

“You know that my family makes toys and gives generously to children’s charities all over the world.” He picked up her hand and kissed the knuckles.

“Yes, I know that.”

“I haven’t told you where Klaus Enterprises is really located. Our offices here in Manhattan are purely to take care of the financial part of the business. The other part . . . isn’t here.” He moved closer to her on the bed.

Hannah saw something sparkle in the darkness of the bedroom. It looked like lightning bugs, or sparklers on the Fourth of July.

She remembered those lights. She’d seen them once before. Once, long ago, on a Christmas Eve when she was just a young girl.

“Our factories are up north.
up north. Beyond the arctic circle.” Gregor’s expression was deadly serious. “No one has even seen the factories, Hannah. The only people there are the Klaus family and our workers.”

The sparkling lights began to grow in the room. They coalesced in the dark corners and danced over the bed. They bounced from her hair to her arm to Gregor’s hand.

And they began to sing.

The lights were singing.

“Gregor . . .” Her voice cracked as the lights spun around the room. She cupped her hand, and it filled with sparkling gold.

. Shooting Stars. Magik from the North Pole, where I live.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You live in the north pole.
North Pole.”

“Yes, sweetheart. The legends you’ve heard about Santa? Well, some of them are false. And some of them are true. My family lives with hundreds of elves in the North Pole.”

A tiny girl in the shadows. With giant eyes and pointed ears. And a green hat with jingle bells. She beckoned to Hannah and when she was almost close enough to touch her, the girl opened her hand and offered her a fat peppermint candy cane. Hannah hadn’t eaten anything all day. She reached for the treat, and sparkling lights danced around their hands, weaving the most beautiful design Hannah had ever seen. Singing the most beautiful music Hannah had ever heard. And right before the little girl—the elf girl—disappeared, she whispered, “Merry Christmas, Hannah.”

Hannah’s body began to tremble all over. “It was real. That elf girl I saw when I was five years old.
It was real

Gregor wrapped his arms around her. “You remember that? Shirley wondered if you remembered . . .”

Her head snapped up. “Shirley? That elf’s name is Shirley? That doesn’t sound very elfy.”

Gregor chuckled. “Her full name is Shirley Fredericka Brinkerhoff. Does that sound elfy?”

Hannah laughed nervously. “Are you kidding me?”

He shook his head. “No. That’s her name. And she remembers you. In fact, she thinks the world of you. You have an elf fan.”

“I’ve never seen her again. Not since that one night.”

Gregor pushed a hair away from Hannah’s forehead. “I know. But she’s been watching you. Like your very own guardian angel-elf.”

“Oh my God. This is . . . I knew that night something special had happened. I never told anyone because I was sure they wouldn’t believe me. But it really happened!”

“Yes. Is that why you love Christmas so much?”

She nodded shyly and pressed her hand against Gregor’s chest. “That one moment changed my life. No matter how bad things got for us, I knew there was something more out there. Something magical.” She searched Gregor’s face for any sign of trickery. There was none.

“If . . . if your family lives in the North Pole. With elves. And you make toys . . .”

“Yes?” Gregor waited for her to finish.

“Your father is . . . your father is . . . ?”

“Yes, Hannah, my father is Santa.”

A trill of hysterical laughter burst out. She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry, it’s just . . .”

“Hard to believe?”

She nodded. “How is it possible? That you’ve kept this secret? How can no one know about this?”

“Glasdorf, our village in the North Pole, is protected by elfin Magik. It’s invisible to Suddies.”

She watched the sparkling stars dance around the room. “I believe in your Magik, Gregor. I can see it with my own eyes. This is so amazing. Tell me everything. Who delivers the gifts? Who makes the toys? How do you get home to the North Pole?”

BOOK: Sweet Cinderella (A Christmas Novella) (The Klaus Brothers Book 4)
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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