The Millionaire's Christmas Wish

By: Lucy Gordon



‘Of course there is. All you have to do is find a replacement who can do this in exactly ten minutes’ time.’

He ground his teeth.

‘All right. Get the costume and let’s get this over with.’

‘I’d rather you came out to the car with me. I don’t want to let you out of my sight.’

‘Dammit, Corinne!’ Alex said furiously. ‘Why must you overreact to everything? I’ve said I’ll do it, and I’ll do it. After all, how hard can it be?’

She fetched the costume and took him into a small kitchen where Jimmy had planned to change. As Alex dressed she explained his duties.

‘You have to go around both the children’s wards with your sack, giving out presents.’

‘How will I know who to give what?’

‘Leave that to me. I’ll be there. I’ll tell you who everyone is and hand you the right present. After that you go and sit by the big tree in the hall and you’ll get some children who are in here visiting people. Then I’ll have to leave you for a few minutes to collect Bobby and Mitzi.’

‘Did you tell them I called? That I was coming a day early?’

‘No, I thought I’d let it come as a nice surprise when you turned up.’

‘You mean you thought I’d let you down?’ he asked wryly.

‘Well, if I did I was wrong,’ she conceded. ‘Maybe I’ve done you an injustice. When I heard your voice I thought you were going to cry off again. But you didn’t, and that’s wonderful. It’ll be the best Christmas ever.’

Remembering how close he’d come to cancelling, he had the grace to feel awkward and was glad that fiddling with his beard gave him an excuse not to look at her.

‘Here,’ she said, laughing. ‘Let me fix that.’

‘There’s an awful lot of stuff to put on,’ Alex said. ‘I thought it would just be a white thing with hooks over the ears.’

‘Well, there are hooks, but there’s also glue so that it fits your mouth and stays in place. Jimmy believes in doing things properly. He got this from a theatrical costumier, and he chose the best.’

‘Jimmy?’

‘Jimmy is spending Christmas with us-or he was before he was knocked down by some maniac driver.’

‘I did not knock him down,’ Alex said through gritted teeth. ‘He fell.’

‘Whatever. He chose the costume, and it’s a good one.’

Alex had to admit that it was the best. The beard was soft and silky, gleaming white, with a huge moustache that flowed down into the beard itself. When it was fixed in place it covered his mouth almost completely.

But there was something else.

‘A wig?’ he protested.

‘Of course. How can you be convincing with a white beard and brown hair?’

‘Won’t my hair be covered by a hood?’

‘Even with a hood they’d notice. Children notice everything these days. They see wonderful special effects on films and television, and when they get close up to reality they expect it to be just as convincing.’

He grumbled some more, but when the wig was on he had to admit that it looked impressive. Long, thick and flowing, it streamed down over his shoulders, mingling with the beard, which was also long and flowing.

He looked nothing like himself, and that was some consolation, he reflected. At least nobody would be able to identify him.

He was beginning to get into the part now, driven by the instinct that governed his life-to be the best at whatever he undertook.

If you weren’t the best there was no point in doing it. Right?

In some respects he had the physique, being over six foot. But there was one flaw.

‘I’m too thin,’ he objected. ‘This suit was made for someone a lot bigger.’

‘There’s some padding,’ Corinne said, diving back into the bag.

With the padding in place he had a satisfactory paunch.

‘Will I do?’ he demanded.

‘Your cheeks need to be rosier.’

‘Get off! What are you doing?’

‘Just a little red to make you convincing.’

‘I won’t even ask what you’ve just put on my face.’ He groaned. ‘I don’t want to know.’

‘You look great. Completely convincing. Now, let’s have a ho-ho-ho!’

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