Authors: Linda Winstead Jones
Tags: #Novellas, #Christmas, #Anthology
Jingle Bell Rock
Linda Winstead Jones
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, Copyright 1997, 2013 by Linda Winstead Jones.
Always on My Mind
, Copyright 1998, 2013 by Linda Winstead Jones
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Cover design by Elizabeth Wallace
EBook Design by A Thirsty Mind
Linda Winstead Jones
Jess tried to concentrate on the calendar on her desk and the appointments she’d jotted so neatly there for January, but she couldn’t. Her mind wandered, her fingers fluttered, and her eyes drifted from the calendar to the door. The noise in the main office, just outside that closed door, was more than distracting. It was maddening.
Dean was doing his Elvis impersonation to encouraging hoots and hollers. It was a Christmas Eve tradition Jess had reluctantly become accustomed to, Dean’s rendition of “Blue Christmas,” sung very badly but with a great deal of enthusiasm. With a sigh she pushed her swivel chair back, and resigned herself to the fact that she wasn’t going to get any more work done tonight. Truth be told this was a sight she didn’t want to miss. After all, it only came once a year.
She opened her office door to a Christmas party already in full swing. Sure enough, Dean had donned his Elvis wig and white jumpsuit—the one with red and green spangles, bell bottoms, and fringed sleeves—and he was standing on Lorraine’s desk as he performed for the crowd. Dark sunglasses hid his beady eyes. In an unmistakably sensual manner, he occasionally caressed the long scarf that hung around his neck.
Maddening or not, the performance was great. Dean had his act down, complete with rotating pelvis and seductive sneer, both directed toward the females in the audience. If only he could carry a tune.
The crowd was receptive, as always. Even Terry Bartlett, Vandiver Records’ no-nonsense accountant, grinned as he watched the show. Jess shook her head in wonder. She’d have thought that people who worked for a recording company would be more discriminating.
All eyes were on Dean, including hers, so she didn’t realize that Jimmy Blue was making his way toward her until it was too late to retreat into her office without looking like a complete fool. She turned her head. His eyes instantly locked on hers, he smiled, and with a few fluid strides of those long legs, he was standing beside her.
Compared to the festive apparel worn by every other female in the room, her perfectly tailored gray suit was drab, downright dowdy, and Jess was suddenly all too aware of that fact.
“I thought maybe you were going to spend Christmas in your office,” Jimmy said with a smile, and Jess knew then that he’d been watching for her. Watching and waiting. He held two cups of putrid-green punch in his hands, and handed Jess one as he reached her.
He looked particularly gorgeous, but then he always did. It was the thick dark hair, short but not so short that an errant strand didn’t brush his forehead now and again. It was the smoky gray eyes set in a face that was handsome without bring pretty. Gorgeous as he was, Jimmy had a man’s face, angular and sharp, tough and tanned. His long, lean body was, as usual, encased in worn denim. Hell, even if he couldn’t sing—and boy could he sing—he was going to be a star.
“I couldn’t possibly miss Dean’s annual performance,” she said coolly, trying to be friendly but not
Jimmy studied Dean for a moment. A pained expression came and went quickly. This was Jimmy’s first Christmas with Vandiver Records, and watching his A&R man put on a bad Elvis impersonation was obviously a shock. “You know,” he said in a low voice, “if I’d heard this before today, I don’t think I could’ve cut this song for the Christmas album.”
The Christmas album had been Dean’s idea, and “Blue Christmas” was the title track. It was one of Dean’s favorite songs, and it seemed a perfect play on the rising star’s name.
The first time Jess had heard the recording, she’d known Jimmy’s success with his first album was no fluke. “Legs” had been an instant success, and the title track had gotten great radio play, including a little crossover onto rock stations. The video—which was nothing more than Jimmy, his Sunburst Stratocaster, his band, and a small collection of women with appropriately impressive appendages—had played regularly for months, and still showed up on CMT now and again. It had an insane number of hits on YouTube.
“Legs” was a good time, it was country sprinkled heavily with southern rock. The song was hard-hitting, a little raunchy, and it had spawned a short-lived dance that had shown up in clubs all across the country.
“Legs” had put Jimmy on the map, but “Blue Christmas” was quickly making him a star. Jimmy Blue didn’t only look good in a tight pair of jeans; he could sing. His voice was natural, never forced or harsh. After the success of the slow and easy version of “Blue Christmas,” Dean was already talking ballads for Jimmy’s next album.
“I tell you what.” Jimmy leaned just a bit closer and lowered his voice. “How ‘bout we leave Dean in Nashville and you come to L.A. with me next week.”
In a room full of people—secretaries, executives, and musicians—it suddenly seemed as if she and Jimmy were all alone. They weren’t in the middle of things, here against the wall, but it wasn’t distance that separated them from the crowd. It was Jimmy Blue’s voice, and the way he shifted his body so that all Jess saw was
She hated the way he did this to her, made her feel like a lovestruck teenager who allowed her hormones to rule her head and her heart. Her stomach knotted, her knees all but wobbled, and she could swear her heartbeat sped up considerably.
“No, thanks,” she said calmly. “I’m sure Dean has big plans for you in Hollywood.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Jimmy whispered.
A cameo in a Western comedy Jimmy had recorded a song for was taking him to Hollywood. The part was very small, just one line, but Dean was sure this was another step in making Jimmy Blue a big star.
“Do you know what he’s bought me now?” Jimmy all but moaned. “A frock coat and a red silk vest. I swear, he’s trying to make me look like a riverboat gambler.”
“So?” Jess refused to let her anxiety show. She could be tough when she had to. “You refused to wear the leather pants and the sequined jacket, and the beaded shirt and ten-gallon hat, and that other”—she waved her free hand as she searched for a proper description of the bizarre outfit Dean had recently tried to force upon Jimmy—“thing. Just tell him thanks but no thanks.”
No matter how Dean tried to reshape Jimmy Blue, he failed. Jimmy said, sang, and wore what he wanted. His wardrobe reflected his pre–showbiz life in Texas, and that meant jeans and cowboy boots, a very plain black cowboy hat, and simple shirts—T-shirts or button-down collars without adornment of any kind. Jimmy was every woman’s all-American dream, but Dean wasn’t quite satisfied with that.
“I already did, but I hurt his feelings.”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret. He doesn’t have any feelings,” Jess confided in a hoarse whisper.
Dean launched into a new number, “Jailhouse Rock,” and Lorraine, who was normally an efficient and sensible employee, provided the obligatory swooning-female scream.
Jimmy closed one eye and grimaced. It wasn’t Lorraine’s scream that distressed him, Jess knew, it was the fact that Dean was horrendously off-key.
“I can’t take it,” Jimmy said softly, and with a gentle and strong hand he propelled Jess into her office. She took a single step backward, almost stumbled, and then Jimmy closed the door behind him and leaned against it.
Jess recovered her balance and her composure, and slipped around the desk to take her chair. That simple move placed the desk between her and Jimmy—just as she’d planned.
“Better,” he said as he stepped up to her desk. He placed his punch cup at the corner, next to hers, and sat casually on the edge, twisting his body so he could look down at her. “I have a favor to ask you, and I couldn’t do it while that was going on.”
She could still hear Dean, but beyond the closed door his voice was muffled and distant.
“A favor?” she asked when Jimmy hesitated.
“Dean said you’re not going home for Christmas.”
“No.” Thank goodness. Finally, a Christmas without a disaster. No family feud, no burned turkey, no annual holiday crisis. Well, all those family traditions would be present in the Lennox household; Jess just wouldn’t be there to participate. “I’ve got lots of work to pick up on right after the holidays, so it didn’t make much sense to try to make the trip to Florida.”
Jimmy leaned toward her slightly. “What are you going to do?”
Jess smiled, a true and easy smile. “I’m going to eat chocolate chip cookies and canned soup, wear pajamas all day, and watch television. You know,
It’s a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
“So, you don’t have any plans.”
He nodded his head as if he understood, but he didn’t. She was sure of that.
“I have kind of a problem, and you could really help me out, Jess.” He was using that down-home, good-ol’-boy, aw-shucks, honeyed voice he reserved for moments when he really wanted something. She’d been caught in this trap once before.
Jess steeled her spine and strengthened her resolve. No matter what this favor might be, the answer was going to be no. “Get this over with Blue, and tell me what you want.” The sooner she got rid of him, the better.