My friend and fellow author Elizabeth Barone had a fantastic idea for a Christmas themed blog hop! The theme for this hop is Wrong Gift, and I chose to write about two characters from my Collide series, Harlow and Jax.
I didn’t have time to edit this bad boy, but this is more for fun than anything. I hope you enjoy! Don’t forget to check out the other authors participating in this blog hop!
Wrong Gift (A Collide Series Short Story)
Snowflakes fell from thickly the sky, blanketing the sidewalks and roads and turning driving conditions into a nightmare. Cars were doing twenty miles per hour and still sliding all over the place. In the fifteen minutes it took me to walk from the post office to my apartment building, I’d witnessed three accidents and nearly got taken out by a bus, and the blizzard wasn’t going to end any time soon.
Normally, the whole situation would have made me extremely pissed off, but I was in a particularly good mood. The box I was carrying kept my spirits high, and for the first time in a long time…I felt excited for Christmas. I couldn’t wait to see the look on Jax’s face when he opened it.
I found a warehouse in China that sold all of the Mixed Martial Arts gear he salivated over at a bundled price: Performance Shorts, Torque Velocity Shin Guards, Torque Ghost Mouth Guard, Torque Moment of Force Handwraps, and Torque Velocity Boxing Gloves.
Jax’s old equipment was, well, old. I wanted him to have something new. He’d worked so hard the last several months to bring his MMA gym to life, and he deserved it. Plus, I knew I was going to really enjoy the sight of him in his new gear.
Hoisting the box on my hip, I pushed open the door to the foyer of the Victorian house-turned-apartment I’d lived in since moving to Ottawa for college. I shuffled up one flight of stairs and rapped impatiently on the door of the apartment I used to share with my best friend, Jenna Burke, before moving in to the upstairs apartment with Jax.
The door opened, and Jenna arched a delicate brow at me. “Is that for me?”
“Nope,” I replied, pushing past her. I placed the large box on the coffee table in her living room. “It’s the MMA gear I ordered for Jax. I’m going to wrap it down here before I head upstairs. I forgot wrapping paper, but I figured you still had your wrapping paper centre?” I asked, referring to the organizational bin that Jenna had purchased specifically for the purpose of storing wrapping paper, ribbon, and Scotch tape.
“Of course I do,” she replied, disappearing to the hall closet to drag it out. “Cutting it a little close, aren’t you? Christmas Eve is tomorrow.”
“I know,” I heaved a sigh of exasperation. “This was the last thing I was waiting on.”
Jenna set her wrapping paper bin in front of me. She brushed back a strand of her shoulder lengthened blonde hair and watched as I grabbed a roll of red wrapping paper and attacked the massive box with it.
“Aren’t you going to open it up and make sure everything’s there?” she asked me.
“I don’t have time,” I huffed. “Jax will be home soon with dinner and we’re supposed to exchange gifts tonight. Can I borrow a finger?”
Shaking her head and chuckling at the mess I’d already made of wrapping, Jenna stepped forward to help. With her expert wrapping skills, the present didn’t look half bad. “Hang on,” she said, reaching into the bin to grab a roll of gold ribbon. She wrapped it horizontally and vertically, then tied it in a large fancy bow. “Tada!”
“Thanks Jenna, you’re a life saver.” I let out a sigh of relief. “What time are you guys leaving for North Bay?” I asked, fixing her with an inquisitive gaze.
This was the first year that she’d be bringing her boyfriend, Kyle Russell, home with her. It was kind of a big deal, especially because her parents weren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of their precious daughter dating a popular musician. Mrs. Burke’s concerns had mirrored mine at first—I was certain Kyle would just hurt Jenna, and my best friend had enough hurt in her past. She needed a happily ever after, and I was still skeptical on how Kyle was going to provide that when he spent 90% of his time in LA recording music or on tour with his band.
“Kyle has to meet me there,” Jenna answered. She was doing her best to sound unaffected about it, but I knew she was disappointed. “He got held up in Boston. I was actually going to ask you and Jax if you’d mind giving me a lift.”
“Sure. We’re leaving around noon,” I told her.
My ears perked up at the sound of heavy footfall walking up the stairs. I knew it was Jax, and the accompanying smell of Chinese food only solidified my suspicions. I darted over to the door and opened it, catching him in the hallway.
Like every time I looked at him, Jax stole the very breath from my lungs. His long brown hair was tucked beneath a black snow covered toque, and he carried several bags from our favourite Chinese restaurant.
“Hello gorgeous.” He greeted me with a smile that liquefied my insides, and the returning grin I gave him made his brown eyes soften.
“Hi Jax,” Jenna said from over my shoulder. I turned to look at her, and she handed me the gift we’d just finished wrapping with a smile.
“Hey Jenna, grabbed you guys some food too,” he said, handing one of the bags to her. My heart swelled with love for him. He was the sweetest, most thoughtful guy I’d had the pleasure of knowing. Loyal and honest, and my hero in every sense of the word.
This was our second Christmas together, but in that short amount of time…I’d fallen so completely in love with the incredible man that he was. He softened my sharp edges, and he made me stronger. His light had guided me out of the darkness on more than one occasion.
“You’re the best!” She grinned, accepting the bag.
“What cha got there?” Jax asked, peering at the large, beautifully wrapped gift in my hand.
“A present,” I replied, giving Jenna a quick one armed hug. “See you tomorrow Jenna,” I told my best friend, grinning at her as I stepped out into the hallway.
“What kind of present?” he asked as Jenna closed her door. The excitement on Jax’s face was palpable, and I laughed.
“You’ll see when we get upstairs,” I told him, standing up on my tippy toes to press my lips against his in greeting.
He kissed me deeply, and for a moment…I forgot where we were. Everything ceased to exist but the two of us. His free hand wrapped around the small of my back, pressing me against his hard body, and I let out a sound halfway between a sigh and a moan.
Hearing it, he smiled against my lips. “Let’s take this upstairs, shall we?”
He kept his hand on my back as we walked up the stairs and unlocked the door to our apartment. I glanced around at the space, warmth flooding my heart. In six months, this place had really become a home for us both. I couldn’t help but remember what Jax’s room used to look like—aside from some MMA posters, it was almost void of him. My room had been almost the same, save for Jenna’s magic touches. She’d been the one to make our space feel like a home.
This though? This was all Jax and me. The white built-in shelving unit that Jax had made was full of books, photographs, trophies and various other memorable items we had. The four foot tree sat in the corner of the living room. Jax had insisted on getting one, even though we wouldn’t be home for Christmas. He didn’t have many good Christmases growing up, so I let him drag me to a tree farm. His excitement ended up wearing off on me though, and I could feel a new tradition in the making.
We peeled our jackets off and hung them on the hooks by the door. Jax walked to the coffee table and set down our dinner while I placed his present under the tree.
“So, how was your day?” I asked, flopping down on the sofa and grabbing the plate he’d fixed for me.
“Good,” Jax answered with a grin. “The gym is booming ever since that article published. Thanks for that, babe,” he added, reaching to squeeze my hand gently. A few weeks ago, I’d written a freelance article about the gym and what services it offered—including the self-defence classes for women I helped run. To my astonishment, the article had gotten picked up by one of the major newspapers in the city.
“Glad to hear it.”
“How was your day?” he asked me, taking another bite of a spring roll.
“Oh you know. Same old, same old. At least Jamie was entertaining today. He kept singing I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. Mark threatened to lock him in the freezer.” I laughed. I was still working at the café, but I also had several freelance writing gigs and I was working on publishing my first novel. I’d decided to go the independent route, because I wanted full control over my characters and my novel. The first draft of the manuscript was completed, now it was just a matter of saving up for the editor, the proof-reader, and the cover designer.
“I would have liked to see that.” Jax chuckled. He stood up, clearing our empty plates from the coffee table before I could even blink.
“That’s all you’re going to eat?” I asked, surprised. Usually Jax put away three plates, but tonight he was excited.
“I’m good. I really want to give you your gift now though,” he answered with a smile that made my heart skip a beat. He crouched down, reaching beneath the tree. “You have no idea how hard it was to keep it from you this long,” he added, glancing at me over his shoulder.
He sat back down beside me, handing me a beautifully wrapped box. “Did Jenna help you wrap this?” I asked, grinning.
Jax laughed and shook his head ruefully. “Just open it.”
I did as he commanded. Lifting the lid of the box up, I eyed the presentation duo tag with suspicion. “What’s this?”
“This, my love,” Jax said, pausing to take it out of the box. “Is a booklet of cover samples from the best freelance graphic designers in the indie world. I wasn’t sure which person you’d want to go with—that’s entirely your decision—but your gift from me is a cover of your choosing for your book.”
“Oh my God,” I gasped, unable to keep the tears from welling up in my eyes.
“And…not to spoil your birthday gift, but it’s an editor and a proof-reader. Again, your choice on who you go with it.” Jax added. I looked up at him, my eyes wide with bewilderment.
“This is too much,” I bit my lip, shaking my head. It was expensive to publish a book independently. I had notebooks that outlined exactly how expensive. It was basically three months’ worth of rent.
“Harlow, I think this goes without saying…but I believe in you. This book is amazing, and it needs to get published. I want to help you chase your dreams, like you help me chase mine.” Jax’s words and tone conveyed the depth of his love for me, and the way he looked at me made my knees feel weak. It was a good thing I was sitting down.
Flinging myself into his arms, I kissed him deeply. “You seriously are the best boyfriend ever.”
“I know,” he grinned. “But that’s only because you’re the best girlfriend ever.”
“Okay, enough with the cheese. It’s your turn,” I laughed, forcing myself up off his lap to grab his present. I set the large box down on the coffee table, unable to hide my smile as I watched him rip into it. He used his pocket knife to open the box from the warehouse, then froze while he stared inside. “Do you like it?” I asked, an uneasy feeling settling in my gut at his lack of reaction.
He looked up at me, then down into the box again, a befuddled look on his face. “Um, Harlow? What makes you think I need a blow up sex doll?” he asked, peering up at me. His lips twitching with amusement.
“What? No, it’s new martial arts gear,” I exclaimed, peering down into the box too. My jaw dropped open as he pulled out a deflated sex doll. “What the hell!?”
Jax doubled over, laughing so hard that tears appeared in the corner of his eyes. He couldn’t even form a word.
“I swear Jax, that’s supposed to be new gear. I ordered it from this website in China and—I don’t know. I guess they mixed up the orders somehow.” I said, sitting down beside him. My shoulders dropped with disappointment.
“It’s okay,” he choked out, brushing the moisture from his eyes. “Cheap bastards didn’t even send an air pump though,” he added, putting his arm around my shoulders and pulling me to him.
Unable to contain myself, I started to laugh hysterically. Of course I’d mess this up, it was typical of me. I was the worst shopper ever—I hated malls and I’d been so excited to find this warehouse deal because it meant I wouldn’t have to spend an afternoon trying to find something worthy of him in a mall.
“I’m sorry,” I said when I’d calmed down enough to speak. “I’ll call them and find out where my package is. Unless you want the doll.”
“I’ll pass on that,” Jax chuckled, kissing my forehead. “This has got to be my favourite gift mishap ever, though.”
“Tell anybody about it, and it’ll be the last thing you do,” I joked, poking him in the ribs.