The Millionaire's Christmas Wish

By: Lucy Gordon



‘Ho-ho-ho!’ he intoned.

‘No, you need to be more full and rounded. Try it again, and make it boom this time.’

‘Ho-ho-ho!’

To her surprise, he made a good job of it.

‘Well done,’ she said. ‘That was really convincing.’

‘You thought I couldn’t be?’

‘Jimmy never manages it that way. He tries but it comes out sounding reedy.’

‘What about my eyebrows?’ Alex asked. ‘Are they white enough?’

He was right. His dark brown eyebrows now looked odd against the gleaming white hair and whiskers.

‘There aren’t any false eyebrows,’ she said, inspecting the bag. ‘You’ll have to go as you are.’

‘No way. We’ll do this properly. This is a kitchen, right? Won’t there be some flour?’

‘The kitchen’s just for making tea,’ Corinne objected, opening cupboard doors.

But, against all odds, she found a small bag of flour with some left inside.

‘Fancy you thinking of that,’ she said, rubbing it into his eyebrows until the natural colour faded.

‘When I was a kid I wanted to be an actor,’ he said.

‘You never told me that before.’

‘I was never trapped under half a ton of gum and whiskers before.’

She stood back and regarded him.

‘You look great,’ she said. ‘Here’s your sack of toys, all labelled. Are you ready?’

‘Let’s go!’





CHAPTER TWO




E LEPHANT W ARD had been designed and decorated for children. Streams of cheerful-looking cartoon elephants walked around the walls and played games with their trunks.

Alex stood in the doorway and boomed, ‘Ho-ho-ho!’ to an accompaniment of shrieks from the rows of beds. When it quietened, Corinne murmured, ‘First bed on the right, Tommy Arkright, broken pelvis. Fascinated by ghosts.’

Whoever had planned this had done it well, Alex realised as soon as he began talking to Tommy. The name, the ailment and the interest were all accurate, and when Tommy unwrapped his gift, which turned out to be a book of ghost stories, it was a triumphant moment.

It was the same with the next child, and the next. From being self-conscious, Alex began to relax, and even to enjoy himself. In part this was due to the knowledge that he was unrecognisable. Not that people here would have known him anyway, but the total anonymity still made him feel easier.

He was in a good temper when he came to the end of the ward and turned in the doorway for a final wave and a cry of, ‘Goodbye, everyone.’

‘Goodbye, Santa!’ came the answering roar.

‘I’ll say this for that Bradon woman,’ he growled as they headed down the corridor towards Butterfly Ward. ‘She prepared the ground properly.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Every detail was right. Good preparation is the secret.’

‘I agree. But why do you give the credit to her?’

‘Didn’t she organise all this?’

‘No, I did, you rotten so-and-so,’ she said indignantly. ‘I personally went round every child, asking questions, trying not to be too obvious about it.’

‘You?’ His surprise was unflattering but she told herself she was past being bothered by him now.

‘Yes, me,’ she said lightly. ‘Feather-brained Corinne who can just about manage a shopping list, remember? I prepared the ground, gathered intelligence, surveyed the prospects-er-’ She clutched her forehead, trying to think of other businesslike expressions.

‘Appraised the situation?’ He helped her out. ‘You did a great job.’

‘So did you.’

‘Much to your amazement,’ he said with a grin that she could just detect behind the beard.

‘You see over there-’ she said, not answering directly ‘-the Christmas tree in the corner?’

‘Yes.’

‘When you’ve finished on Butterfly Ward that’s where you go and sit. I’m off to collect Bobby and Mitzi, and I’ll be back as soon as possible.’

‘Are you going to tell them it’s me?’

‘No, I think it will be nicer not to. Let’s see if they guess.’

‘Of course they’ll guess. I’m their father.’

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