A Christmas Song

an excerpt

Chapter One

"What do you mean Three-Ringed Circus is going to perform at the Christmas benefit?" Denise Stewart asked her best friend and boss, Bernard Douglas, as she sat in his office. She was in charge of the benefit to raise money for the Huntington Orphanage but no one told her.

Bernard continued to flip through a stack of bills on his desk. "It's a surprise. Trent and the guys are coming in for the holiday and volunteered to help out."

She supposed she could book a plane out of San Diego before they arrived. It would cost a pretty penny at the last moment, but it would be well worth it not to see Trent and his band, ever.

"Three-Ringed Circus is scheduled to start their world-wide tour after New Years, so they'll be out of the country for several months. We're lucky we know them and they want to help out."

Denise glared at him. "You mean you're lucky you know them and having them perform at the benefit will boost room rentals at your hotel."

"I won't deny it. Having Three-Ringed Circus perform for the benefit will surely put us on the tourist map." Keisha, a gorgeous brunette called into the office from her desk in the hallway.

Denise and Bernard shook their heads at the receptionist's eavesdropping.

Bernard had inherited the once five-star hotel from his parents and had been doing everything he could to make it popular again. The hotel had just been remodeled and he'd poured almost every cent he had into the renovation and advertising.

Raising money for the local orphanage where she grew up was a good thing, but Denise couldn't help but feel something bad might happen when the media found out the heavy metal band would be performing.

She could just picture the mob scene once everyone found out. Young people would be camping out on the lawn outside the hotel, trying to get a look at the four sexy rockers. Maybe she should hire more security before she fled the scene.

"Are you listening to me, Denise?"

No, she was too busy trying to figure a way out of this situation. "Yes."

"No, you're not. You're probably plotting a way to put as many miles as you can between you and Trent. It's been seven years since you broke the man's heart and refused to marry him."

Sure, sure, make everything her fault. She didn't want to be dragged all over the country while the band performed. And she certainly didn't want to watch young women and men fawning over Trent and trying to get him to sleep with them. No, she had done the right thing and refused to marry him. Hopefully he wouldn't even remember her. "When are they arriving in town?"

"This afternoon," Bernard answered. "They'll be staying in the top floor suites."

How in the hell could she be the assistant manager of a hotel and not know any of this? Maybe Trent wouldn't recognize her since she was no longer eighteen and she had put on a little weight. Well, not a little. Her ta-tas and her ass had a growth spurt and now Bernard teased her unmercifully when she wore anything low-cut or tight. Denise relaxed a bit. She didn't have anything to worry about. Trent had women throwing themselves at him and she'd heard he was dating some pop singer. What would he want with a twenty-five year old spinster black woman when he had his choice of almost any woman or man in the world?

This afternoon? Did he say, this afternoon? "We need to hire extra security." She wondered if Bernard heard the urgency in her voice.

"Relax. I've taken care of everything. You just need to concentrate on getting the Christmas tree decorated."

He spoke of the ten foot artificial fir tree originally owned by his parents and displayed in the main ballroom every year since his family owned the hotel.

"Keisha had some of the guys haul it out of storage, but it probably needs more balls and garland or something."

Denise rolled her eyes at him. She wasn't some peon he could task with mediocre work. She'd literally been running the place since he found himself a new boy-toy. Enrique was this hot little leader of a Latin singing group Bernard had been swapping spit with. "Don't have me hurt you, pretty boy."

Bernard put down the mail and tossed his bangs at her. "Like you could. Look at it like I'm doing your mean ass a favor. When was the last time you've been out on a date? Maybe seeing Trent again might melt your frozen heart and wake up the old Dee we all know and love."

Denise frowned at him. She didn't need some rocker to do anything for her. She wasn't some starry-eyed teenager, or the little girl at the orphanage who Trent and M. J. protected from the bullies. She considered herself confident and fearless, and she didn't back down from bullies any more. If she could put up with Bernard's arrogant ass, she could put up with anything. Denise and Bernard had been friends since junior high school when he developed a big old school boy crush on M. J.

He had begged her to introduce him to the tall red-head. M. J. didn't like Bernard at first, but the two of them soon became close friends when M. J. learned Bernard lived in a big fancy hotel. To an orphan, living in a hotel was far grander than staying in a dorm and sleeping on a cot.