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A White Wedding Christmas Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:46:12

He seemed like a nice guy, though, and even Natalie could see that under the tattoos and hair, the guy was completely hormone pair-bonded to Lily. She wouldn’t say they were in love because she didn’t believe in love. But they were definitely pair-bonded. Biology was a powerful thing in its drive to continue the species. They could hardly keep their hands off each other at the engagement party.

“Okay. If that’s all for this morning,” Bree said, “I’m going to head to the lab and finish processing Saturday’s wedding photos.”

Natalie looked over her checklist. “Yep, that’s it.”

Bree and Amelia got up, filing out of the conference room, but Gretchen loitered by the table. She watched Natalie for a moment with a curious expression on her face. “What’s going on with you? You seem distracted. Grumpier than usual.”

That was sweet of her to point out. She knew she wasn’t that pleasant this time of year, but she didn’t need her friends reminding her of it. “Nothing is going on with me.”

Gretchen crossed her arms over her chest and gave Natalie a look that told her she was going to stand there until she spilled.

“Christmas is coming.” That pretty much said it all.

“What is this, Game of Thrones? Of course Christmas is coming. It’s almost December, honey, and it’s one of the more predictable holidays.”

Natalie set down her tablet and frowned. Each year, the holidays were a challenge for her. Normally, she would try going on a trip to avoid all of it, but with the late wedding, she didn’t have time. Staying home meant she’d have to resort to being a shut-in. She certainly wasn’t interested in spending it with one of her parents and their latest spouses. The last time she did that, she’d called her mother’s third husband by her second husband’s name and that made for an awkward evening.

Natalie leaned back in the conference room chair and sighed. “It’s bothering me more than usual this year.” And it was. She didn’t know why, but it was. Maybe it was the combination of all her friends being blissfully in love colliding with the holidays that was making it doubly painful.

“Are you taking a trip or staying home?” Gretchen asked.

“I’m staying home. I was considering a trip to Buenos Aires, but I don’t have time. We squeezed Lily’s last-minute wedding in on the Saturday before Christmas, so I’ll be involved in that and not able to do the normal end-of-year paperwork until it’s over.”

“You’re not planning to work over the shutdown, are you?” Gretchen planted her hands on her hips. “You don’t have to celebrate, but by damn, you’ve got to take the time off, Natalie. You work seven days a week sometimes.”

Natalie dismissed her concerns. Working didn’t bother her as much as being idle. She didn’t have a family to go home to each night or piles of laundry or housework that a man or child generated faster than she could clean. She liked her job. “I don’t work the late hours you and Amelia do. I’m never here until midnight.”

“It doesn’t matter. You’re still putting in too much time. You need to get away from all of this. Maybe go to a tropical island and have a fling with a sexy stranger.”

At that, Natalie snorted. “I’m sorry, but a man is not the answer to my problems. That actually makes it worse.”

“I’m not saying fall in love and marry the guy. I’m just saying to keep him locked in your hotel suite until the last New Year’s firework explodes. What can a night or two of hot sex hurt?”

Natalie looked up at Gretchen and realized what was really bothering her. Colin’s rejection from the night of the engagement party still stung. She hadn’t told anyone about it, but if she didn’t give Gretchen a good reason now, she’d ride her about it until the New Year. “It can hurt plenty when the guy you throw yourself at is your best friend’s brother and he turns you down flat.”

Gretchen’s mouth dropped open and she sunk back down into her seat. “What? When did this happen?”

Natalie took a big sip of her soy chai latte before she answered. “I had too much chardonnay at Lily’s engagement party and thought I’d take a chance on the big brother I’d lusted over since I’d hit puberty. To put it nicely, he declined. End of story. So no, I’m not really in the mood for a fling, either.”

“Well that sucks,” Gretchen noted.

“That’s one way of putting it.”