Santa's Naughty HelperBy: Ari McKay
Kevin glanced up from the brief in front of him and smiled as he saw Shelley, one of the office paralegals, hovering at his door. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but she wore a Santa hat and a pair of shiny earrings shaped like a menorah.
“Isn’t it a little early for so much holiday cheer?” he asked, raising one eyebrow at her.
“I’m on official business.” Shelley grinned as she crossed to his desk and held out a Kwanzaa gift bag. “I’m Santa’s helper. The big bosses decided to hold the holiday party early this year because of when Hanukkah falls, so we’re having people draw names for the secret gift exchange before Thanksgiving. That way they have time to think about what to give their lucky recipient.”
“Ah, that makes sense.”
The law firm, Caldwell and Monroe, was big on the holidays, and the party was always an elaborate catered affair, complete with a champagne fountain and ice sculptures. The gift exchange was a highlight of the party, and everyone hoped to be the lucky person drawn by the senior partner, Cal Monroe. The previous year Cal had given his recipient season tickets for the Yankees, and while not everyone could afford that kind of extravagance, everyone in the firm enjoyed the exchange.
Shelley shook the bag and held it out. “I envy whoever you get. Anne wears the watch you gave her last year every day.”
“Hey, isn’t this supposed to be secret?” Kevin gave her a mock glare as he reached into the bag and ran his fingers through the slips of paper. He selected one, pulled it out, and held it closed within his hand.
“We have our ways of knowing things,” Shelley replied airily, waving away his protest.
Chuckling, Kevin shook his head. “It figures. You guys are too good at research to miss a trick, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely!” Shelley looked pointedly at his hand. “Aren’t you going to open it and see who it is?”
“Not until you leave! I don’t need the Sherlock Holmes of the holiday elves figuring it out before it’s even December.”
Shelley shrugged, a gleam of amusement in her eyes. “Don’t think I won’t!” she promised with a wink. “You’re a thoughtful man, Kevin. Your recipient will be very grateful you drew their name.”
“Well, I’ll do my best.”
Shelley nodded, and then she turned and headed out, presumably to spread more cheer. Kevin looked down at the piece of green paper dubiously. He liked giving gifts and making people happy, but it wasn’t always easy. He’d barely known Anne, one of the legal secretaries, when he’d drawn her name, and it had taken more than a little covert research of his own to figure out what she might like. He knew he could have just given her a gift certificate, but he’d always felt they were a form of cheating.
The whole point of the exchange was for the firm’s employees to get to know one another on a personal level, but unlike most of the other lawyers, Kevin was shy. He wasn’t a flashy criminal attorney; he preferred the relative peace of corporate law, drawing up contracts and investigating patent disputes. He’d been in court often enough over the years, but he wasn’t the lead attorney when it came to litigation. He didn’t care for the spotlight, the television interviews, or the notoriety that sometimes surrounded the cases. Just doing his job well brought him a great deal of satisfaction.
As a result, he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the thought of having to ask subtle questions about a relative stranger to determine what they’d like, so it was with more than a little trepidation that he opened the paper and read the name.
“Oh.” Dumbfounded, Kevin stared at the paper, relief warring with unease. In one way, drawing Erik’s name made things simpler for him. Erik was his closest friend; they worked out together at the gym, and they met up regularly, whether it was to try a new restaurant or relax with a pizza and a movie. They shared a love of art, especially the classics, and had visited a few special exhibits together over the years. Kevin knew Erik’s tastes well, which should have made choosing a present easy.
Unfortunately, he was also madly in love with Erik, which meant he had to figure out what to give Erik without making his feelings all too obvious. It would take a Christmas miracle to make a man like Erik ever look at him. Erik had it all: he was smart, sexy, and outgoing. He was tall and broad-shouldered with dark hair and bedroom eyes, and half the women in the office would have been vying for his attention if he weren’t gay. Where Kevin was shy, Erik was friendly, and while Kevin disliked having to stand up and speak in court, Erik thrived on it. They worked together because their expertise and skills sets meshed well, but Kevin knew it was Erik who had the drive to win their cases that went to trial. Kevin didn’t resent it in the slightest, because he was a background kind of guy. Erik could have any man he wanted, and he’d never given any indication that he saw Kevin as more than a friend.