Just because you're broke doesn't mean you're poor...
Decorating for Christmas gives Andromeda more satisfaction than just about anything in her life, which makes working at one of the most exclusive hotels in Miami, Florida even better. Management always goes all out on the decorating, and even though she can't participate in the actual hanging of the decorations, watching it all come together is simply magical. Which is why she's puzzled the penthouse suite isn't being decked out.
Just because you're a billionaire doesn't mean you're rich...
Gabriel could take or leave Christmas. He doesn't normally go for all the commercialized decorations, but when a little maid captures his attention with her simplistic joy in the celebration of the holidays, he knows he's all in on the Christmas biz. He makes her a deal. He'll pay her ten million dollars if she'll show him the joy of the holidays. After a false start or two, Andromeda finally agrees, but it doesn't take long for Gabe to realize he has no intention of letting the curvy little Christmas addict go once her service is done.
Twelve Days of Christmas, and a few red diamonds later...
Determined to immerse Andromeda in his world, Gabriel pulls out all the tinsel money can buy. Not only does he treat her to days and nights at the exclusive Setai and his private yacht, but he lets her invade his personal space at his New York condo. After all that, surely the lovely Andromeda will fall for him. The one thing Gabe has always hated was that women were always after his money. Now, all the money in the world can't seem to buy Andromeda's heart. And he only has twelve days to figure out what will.
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Twelve Days of Christmas (Christmas Magic)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 Marteeka Karland
"I wonder what it would be like to be able to afford the penthouse for Christmas," Andromeda Bryant, or Andi as everyone called her, said as she finished scrubbing one of the five toilets in said penthouse. "They always have it decorated just perfectly, and you can practically see the whole city from up here. The sailboats in the bay are so colorful with the lights on their masts and along the railings... It's just magical!"
"You've said that every time we've cleaned this place this week," her BFF Sasha Marsch commented with a laugh. "Besides, it's much more fun to be in the action rather than looking down from above. All places like this do is eat money."
Andi sighed as she rose from her knees. "I know. But can you imagine staying here as a guest instead of cleaning it? It's only twelve days until Christmas. When will we decorate? Why haven't we already?" She knew she was talking a mile a minute, but she was just so damned excited. Her first Christmas cleaning the penthouse had her both nervous and excited.
"I suspect the current guest doesn't want decorations. If he does, he'll let Mr. Hadley know, who'll let Mrs. Arbor know, who will hand-select people to help her. Likely not anyone from the hotel. She'll bring in professionals."
"No way! I love decorating! Are you sure we won't get to help?" She knew she sounded disappointed and whiny, but she couldn't help it. Though she decorated as best she could at her own place, there was no one there to admire and appreciate it. It was why she often volunteered at the homeless shelters for Christmas. Nothing satisfied her like seeing people's eyes light up with their first look at the beautiful decorations during the holidays.
Sasha laughed. "Trust me when I say you do not want to be part of Mrs. Arbor's decorating team. That woman is a sadist. As to the other... Honey, I couldn't even afford a regular room in this hotel!" She laughed. "I'd rather not ponder what I'll never have."
Andi and Sasha had been together in housekeeping at the Setai for five years. They'd paired Andi with the older woman as a mentor, and they'd worked so well together, their boss had made them a permanent team. Even though Sasha was nearly twenty years her senior, she had always treated Andi as an equal. The result had been a fast, firm friendship Andi cherished. Especially since Sasha had given up the penthouse job in order to teach Andi the finer points of environmental services at such a posh hotel. Thankfully, they'd done so well together, their current manager had moved Sasha back to the penthouse and suites on the upper levels. The money was better, and the tips weren't bad either. But, then, when you worked for people who could afford to stay in a forty-thousand-dollar-a-night room, you tended to expect a well-earned tip. Most of these people were slobs and acknowledged it with a smirk.
"You can't tell me you've never contemplated what it would be like to bask in the sun on the private balcony overlooking the ocean instead of scrubbing it? Just think how luxurious it would be to sleep on the impossibly soft sheets we put on the beds every day. I bet I'd sleep like a baby." She sighed happily at the image.
"Look. I'm not saying I've contemplated lifting a sheet set now and then to take home, but I'm not not saying it either. That's all I'm admitting to, so don't even ask." Sasha laughed.
The penthouse was definitely the most luxurious place Andromeda had ever imagined. She'd worked at the Setai since she graduated high school at seventeen. Because her uncle had been the supervisor of environmental services, she'd managed to land a job at the entry level. She'd gone from garbage to laundry to housekeeping. This week had been her first time to even see the upper floors of the hotel, where the most expensive suites were. Only the most experienced workers were allowed on the upper floors. Not only were the clientele there extremely picky, but the hotel limited clients' exposure to long-term, trusted employees for obvious reasons. The fact that Andi was up here at all was because Sasha had worked at the Setai for more than fifteen years.
"Now, come on. We've only got an hour to finish before we're supposed to be gone. We don't want to be here when Mr. Alexander gets back."
The way she said it made the back of Andromeda's neck tingle. "Why not?"
"Let's just say Gabriel Alexander has a reputation for not being... tolerant with those he considers underlings." She grinned over her shoulder. "I seriously doubt he'll see two maids as anything but underlings."
"Oh," Andi answered with her own grin. "He's one of those."
"Exactly. He's a regular to this suite. If we stay on this detail long enough, you'll also see him go through women at an alarming rate." She giggled. "The man is seriously fine, and he knows it. Combine the natural arrogance of a billionaire with a man who knows how devastatingly good looking he is, and you end up with scads of heartbroken women."
"Heartbroken? If he's such a player, why wouldn't women he dates know the score?"
"Oh, they do. But every single one of them thinks she'll be the one to lock him down. When he tires of them? Poof! No more money. Thus -- heartbroken."
"Wow. Sounds incredibly... lonely."
"Trust me, sweetheart. The man is anything but lonely."
"That's not what I --"
She was cut off when someone cleared his throat.
"Aw, fuck," Sasha muttered.
A man in his mid-thirties stood in the entryway leading from the foyer. Andi wasn't versed on men's designer clothing, but the charcoal-gray suit and black shirt he wore left no doubt they were expensive and tailored. They fit him like they had been molded to his big, muscular build. He was a very large man, broad shouldered with a wide chest. His arms were big, but the material didn't strain to cover them. Likewise, his legs were developed, but the material of his slacks fit him perfectly. Narrow hips made his torso taper into a V she could see even underneath all that expensive material. The effect was mouthwatering. His hair was a dark blond and neatly cut, his face smoothly shaven, perfectly groomed. Green eyes glittered like jewels as he gave the women a cursory inspection. Simply put, the man was seriously fine. Even knowing there was no way she could compete with the women this man usually had in his company, Andi couldn't help but be hyperaware she wore a maid's uniform in light gray trimmed in white. Could she look any plainer? And why would she care?
Obviously, he'd been there long enough to overhear their conversation. His expression was measuring, but gave little away. Considering how they'd been talking about him, Andi expected him to look displeased in the extreme. Instead he looked as if he couldn't have cared less, already dismissing them as insignificant.
Andi groaned and slumped her shoulders. There went the great job with the pay nearly double what she'd made as a maid on the regular floors.
"Housekeeping was told to be finished by noon," he said. There was no irritation or anger, but the reprimand was clear.
Andi pursed her lips. Yes, they'd been talking about the guy instead of working their fingers to the bone, but if he was going to be angry at them, he should at least just say he didn't appreciate their comments instead of insinuating they weren't doing their job. But then, she supposed that would be acknowledging the opinion of the hired help (not even his own hired help) mattered to him. Yeah. Not happening.
"It's not even eleven," Andromeda said, heedless of his status as a guest in the most extravagant, most expensive penthouse suite in Miami. Not the smartest move, but oh well. If she were going to be demoted anyway, might as well make it worth the reprimand. "We were just finishing up. We'll be out of your way in a moment." She smiled sweetly to take the bite out of her attitude. Sasha grabbed her hand and the cleaning cart and dragged both toward the elevator.
He adjusted what looked like onyx cufflinks at his wrist. Without even glancing back -- or acknowledging her in any way -- he said, "Did you happen to see my watch when you were cleaning?"
Andromeda pulled her hand from Sasha's, taking the hint and intending to help with the cart. "It's on the nightstand in the master suite."
"Get it for me, please." He didn't even look at her. Obviously, the man was used to being waited on, probably for everything.
With a shrug, Andi hurried to the master bedroom and retrieved the watch from the nightstand. When she did, she noticed what had to be a diamond cufflink lying on the floor flush against the wood of the nightstand. She bent to retrieve it and held it up to the light, watching in fascination as light sparkled off the many facets of the gem.
"Wow," she whispered, admiring the jewelry before carefully laying it beside its mate on the little table, scooting them both to a safer distance from the edge.
After a gentle, appreciative brush of her fingers over the cufflinks, she picked up the watch and turned to head back to the main room...
And literally ran straight into Gabriel Anderson.