Christmas with Her Millionaire Boss

By: Barbara Wallace

“Temporary short-term memory loss can happen with concussions. It should recede soon enough. However, I think you might have a more pressing problem.”

“I do?”

“He does?”

The two of them spoke at the same time. “I’m not sure the Nutcracker has any rooms,” the nurse replied. “You know how booked it gets during the holidays.”

“Wait a second.” James tried to look up at the nurse, only to wince and close his eyes. “Please don’t tell me there’s no room at the inn.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” the nurse replied. “Did you know that once we even had a baby born—”

“I doubt Mr. Hammond will have to do anything quite as dramatic,” Noelle interjected. No need for the conversation to head down that particular road.

The nurse offered a tight-lipped smile. Apparently, she didn’t appreciate being cut off. “Either way, you’re going to need someone to look in on you. Doctor’s orders.”

“The concierge will love that request,” Hammond muttered.

“We could arrange for a private duty nurse.”

“Good grief,” Belinda said. “That doesn’t sound pleasant at all.”

“Pleasant isn’t exactly on the table right now.” Hammond’s eyes had grown heavy lidded and his words were slurred. It was obvious the entire conversation was exhausting him, and Noelle couldn’t help but feel bad.

Although she doubted he’d appreciate the compassion. A man like Hammond, with his disregard for sentiment and tradition, would despise showing any hint of vulnerability.

“Of course pleasant is on the table,” Belinda said. “This is Fryberg.” The meaning behind her emphasis was obvious.

Hammond let out a low groan. Still feeling compassionate, Noelle decided the noise was coincidental.

Her mother-in-law continued as if the noise never happened. “We’re not going to let you spend your weekend in some hotel room, eating room service and being attended to by a stranger. You’ll spend the weekend with me. That way you can recuperate, and enjoy a proper Thanksgiving, as well.”

The strangest look crossed Hammond’s face. Part surprise, part darkness as though her mother-in-law’s suggestion unnerved him. Noelle didn’t picture him as a man who got unnerved. Ever.

“I don’t want to put you out,” he said.

“You won’t. I have plenty of room. I’ll even make you some...oh, shoot.” A look crossed her features, not nearly as dark as Hammond’s, but definitely distressed.

“What is it?” Noelle asked.

“The Orion House Dinner is this evening. I completely forgot.”

In all the craziness, so had Noelle. Fryberg’s was being honored for its fund-raising efforts on behalf of homeless veterans. “Would you mind?” her mother-in-law asked. “I don’t want Orion House to think I don’t appreciate the honor. The project meant so much to Ned.”

“I know,” replied Noelle. After Kevin’s death, her father-in-law had channeled his grief into helping as many veteran programs as possible. Orion House had topped the list. “He was very passionate about wanting to help.”

“That he was,” Belinda said, getting the faraway look she always got when they discussed Ned. The family had been through a lot these past years, and yet they continued to channel their energy into the community. Their dedication in the face of grief made her proud to bear the Fryberg name.

“Would you mind stepping in instead?”

“Not at all,” she told her. “I’d love to.” It’d be an honor to accept an award for them.

“Thank goodness.” The older woman let out a long sigh. “I was afraid that because of our words earlier... Never mind.” Whatever her mother-in-law had been about to say she waved away. “Let me pull my car around. I’ll help you get Mr. Hammond settled, and then go home to change.”

Help her...? Wait... What exactly had she agreed to do?

Noelle opened her mouth, closed it, then opened it again. Nothing came out though. That’s because she knew what she’d agreed to. As surely as the sickening feeling growing in her stomach.

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