Christmas in the Boss's Castle

By: Scarlet Wilson

She was standing at the end of the roof, staring out over London. She wasn’t thinking of...

No. She couldn’t be. But the fleeting thought made him reluctant to shout her back in.

He crossed the roof towards her. As he neared he could see she was shivering—shivering badly.

He reached out and touched her shoulder and she jumped.

‘Grace? What are you doing out here? You’ll freeze.’

She must have recognised his voice but she didn’t turn towards him. Her arms were folded across her chest and more wisps of her hair had escaped from the bun.

He walked around slowly, until he was in front of her, blocking her view.

Her lips were tinged with blue and her face streaked with tears.

Guilt washed over him like a tidal wave.

Him. He’d caused this. He’d made this girl cry.

Why? After five years he’d thought he was just about ready to move on. But Christmas was always the hardest time for him. He was frustrated with the rest of the world for enjoying Christmas when it only brought back what he had lost.

Thank goodness he still had his coat on. He undid the buttons and shrugged it off, slipping it around her shoulders.

She still hadn’t spoken to him. She was just looking at him with those huge brown eyes. The ones that had caught his attention in the first place. The ones that had sparked the reaction he should never have had.

Why was that? He’d always kept things locked inside. His friends knew that. They knew better than to try and discuss things. They spent their lives avoiding Anna’s name or any of the shared memories they had of her.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said hoarsely. ‘I should never have shouted at you.’

She blinked. Her eyes went down to her feet. ‘I should never have decorated the room. I’m sorry,’ she whispered.

He shook his head. ‘No, Grace. You were trying to do something nice. Something sweet.’ The words made his insides twist a little. Was it really so long that someone had done something sweet around him?

She blinked again. The shivering hadn’t stopped yet and he could tell why. The wind was biting through his thin knit black jumper. It didn’t matter he had a shirt underneath. It had been a long time since he’d felt this cold.

She bit her bottom lip. ‘I...I sometimes forget that other people don’t like Christmas. I should have been more sensitive. I should have thought things through.’ A tear slid down her cheek. ‘Did you come up here to fire me?’

‘What? No.’ He couldn’t believe it. That was the last thing on his mind right now.

She looked confused. ‘But you said—’

‘Forget what I said,’ he cut in. ‘I was being an idiot. I’m tired. I haven’t slept in three days. I’m sorry—I know it’s no excuse.’

‘I’m sorry about your wife,’ she whispered.

It came out of the blue. Entirely unexpected.

Sweeping through him like the brisk breeze of cold air around him.

It was the waver in her voice. He’d heard this a thousand times over the last few years. Most of the times the words had seemed meaningless. Automatically said by people who were sometimes sincere, sometimes not.

This woman—Grace—hadn’t known his wife at all. But there was something about her—something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. It was as if she knew mourning, she knew loss. It was probably the sincerest he’d ever heard those words spoken and it twigged a little part inside him.

He stepped back a little. He stepped back and sucked in a breath, letting the cold air sear the inside of his lungs. She was staring at him again. Something about this woman’s vulnerable eyes did things to him.

He wanted to protect her. He wanted to make sure that no one hurt her. There was something else. It wasn’t sympathy in her eyes.

He couldn’t stand the look of sympathy. It only filled him with rage and self-loathing.

A tear slid down her cheek and the wave of protectiveness that was simmering beneath the surface washed over him completely.

He couldn’t help himself. He reached up with his thumb and brushed it away, feeling the coolness of her smooth skin beneath the tip.

He stepped closer again. ‘Don’t,’ he said quickly, his voice rising above a whisper. ‘I’m sorry I made you feel like this.’ He wanted to glance away—to have the safety of looking out over the capital’s skyline—but Grace’s chocolate gaze pulled him in. His hand was still at the side of her face. She hadn’t pulled away. ‘I meant what I said.’ He pressed his lips together. ‘Christmas brings out the worst in me. It just brings back too many memories. And I know...I know that not everyone feels like that. I know that maybe...just maybe I should be able to get past this.’ A picture swam into his head and he let out a wry laugh. ‘As for the Christmas decorations in the hotel? They might be a little on the sparse side.’

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