Christmas with Her Millionaire Boss

By: Barbara Wallace



She needn’t look so horrified. It wasn’t as though he’d suggested euthanizing the creatures. “I want customers to buy toys. And they aren’t going to if they are busy looking at reindeer. What’s that?”

He pointed to a giant moose-like creature wearing a Santa’s hat and wreath and standing to the right of the archway. It took up most of the wall space, forcing the crowd to congregate toward the middle. As a result, customers looking to walk past the archway to another aisle had to battle a throng of children.

“Oh, that’s Fryer Elk, the store mascot,” Noelle replied. “Ned created him when he opened the store. Back in the day, he appeared in the ads. They retired him in the eighties and he’s been here ever since.”

“He’s blocking the flow of traffic. He should be somewhere else.”

For a third time, James got the folded arm treatment. “He’s an institution,” she replied, as if that was reason enough for his existence.

He could be Ned Fryberg standing there stuffed himself, and he would still be hindering traffic. Letting out a long breath, James reached into his breast pocket for his notebook. Once the sale was finalized, he would send his operations manager out here to evaluate the layout.

“You really don’t have any respect for tradition, do you?” Noelle asked.

He peered over his pen at her. Just figuring this out, was she? That’s what happened when you spent a fortune crafting a corporate image. People started believing the image was real.

“No,” he replied. “I don’t. In fact...” He put his notebook away. “We might as well get something straight right now. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that matters is making sure Hammond’s stays profitable for the next fifty years. Everything else can go to blazes.”

“Everything,” she repeated. Her eyes narrowed.

“Everything, and that includes elks, tradition and especially Chris—”

He never got a chance to finish.





CHAPTER TWO

FOUR STITCHES AND a concussion. That’s what the emergency room doctor told Noelle. “He’s fortunate. Those props can do far worse,” she added. “Your associates really shouldn’t be flying remote-control drones inside.”

“So they’ve been told,” Noelle replied. In no uncertain terms by James Hammond once he could speak.

The drone had slammed into the back of his head, knocking him face-first into a pile of model racecar kits. The sight of the man sprawled on the floor might have been funny if not for the blood running down the back of his skull. Until that minute, she’d been annoyed as hell at the man for his obvious lack of respect toward Fryberg tradition. Seeing the blood darkening his hair quickly checked her annoyance. As blood was wont to do.

That was until she turned him over and he started snarling about careless associates and customer safety. Then she went back to being annoyed. Only this time, it was because the man had a point. What if the drone had struck a customer—a child? Things could have been even worse. As it was, half of Miss Speroni’s first grade class was probably going to have nightmares from witnessing the accident.

Then there was the damage to James Hammond himself. Much as she disliked the man, stitches and a concussion were nothing to sneeze at.

“How long before he’s ready for discharge?” she asked.

“My nurse is bandaging the stitches right now,” the doctor replied. “Soon as I get his paperwork written up, he’ll be all yours.”

Oh, goodie. Noelle didn’t realize she’d gotten custody. She went back to the waiting room where Belinda was finishing up a phone call.

“Bob is working on a statement for the press,” her mother-in-law told her. “And we’re pulling the product off the shelves per advice from the lawyers. Thankfully, the incident didn’t get caught on camera so we won’t have to deal with that. I doubt Mr. Hammond would like being a social media sensation.”

“I’m not sure Mr. Hammond likes much of anything,” Noelle replied. She was thinking of the remark he made right before the drone struck him. “Did you know, he actually said he doesn’t like Christmas? How can the man think that and run a store like Hammond’s?” Or Fryberg’s.

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