Brad sat on the edge of Jordan’s desk. He folded his arms in front of his chest. It was a sign that he had no intention of going anywhere anytime soon. “I thought you and Iris were seeing each other,”
“Why are you asking?”
“On my way to work, I saw someone shoveling her walkway.”
“Good for him.” Jordan swallowed to contain the salty comment Brad didn’t deserve hearing.
The argument between Iris and him opened a door for other men to take a chance at her. It was his own fault for allowing himself to be put in the middle of Iris and Shannon.
Brad leaned back. “Hmmm, in that case, do you know what kind of flowers she likes?”
Brad was not Iris’s type. Neither was whoever shoveled her yard. Jordan was supposed to be the one doing kind things for her. “Why are you asking?”
“Since you got her to admit she was the Holiday Kisses Angel, people feel like it’s okay to do nice things for her. I thought I would do something too.”
“Why don’t you send flowers to her grandmother. That would get Iris’s attention.” As soon as he said it, Jordan regretted it. If he hadn’t said anything, he could have done it himself. Now, if he sent flowers to Iris, it would look like he copied Brad.
What Jordan wanted was to have things right between Iris and him. He texted to make sure she was okay. Her reply, “I’ll be fine. Thank you for your concern,” didn’t leave too much room for continuing the conversation.
Then Shannon called, and he got caught up in planning a meal delivery for a family. The task seemed worthwhile, but it didn’t have the same effect as when he was Santa with Iris.
Jordan tapped the edge of his desk with his fingers with the sprout of an idea. He could tell Iris that he was the person who sent her the care packages. Then it would open the doors for the “I get it” conversation. Then he hunched in his chair, “That plan stinks.” Fifteen years later, he still had things to learn. He had made the same mistake—letting Shannon come between them. No wonder Iris’s uncle kept guard over Iris. Jordan hadn’t figured out to protect what he cherished. If he was Iris, he wouldn’t talk to himself too.
The City Hall building had been in the center of Paradise Hills for over one hundred years. The large entryway leading to the various floors was decorated with garland and lights. Jordan could almost hear Iris gushing about how festive the rooms made her feel. If she were beside him, she would compliment his mother, who happened to be the mayor’s assistant, for having such a keen eye for detail. She’d also say something like the City Hall building was the perfect place for a pre-parade gathering.
Jordan saw Iris before she noticed him, kneeling in front of the large Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by school-age children. From where he stood by the stairs, he watched her talk to Serena’s daughter, Brittany. Serena fiddled with what he guessed was a braid on the back of Brittany’s hair.
For some reason, Iris’s eyes roamed the building as though they were searching for something. When they stopped on Jordan she looked away and quickly returned to her conversation with Brittany. The absence of a warm greeting chilled Jordan. He knew the onus was on him to repair the rift between them but wasn’t sure where to begin. After hearing what he said through Iris’s voice, he understood why she wouldn’t want to talk to him. However, awareness did nothing to lessen the ache of missing her.
A tiff between Carrie and Brad pulled at Jordan’s ear. He turned to the two of his friends who were on the other side of the stairs.
Carrie stepped away from Brad and pouted. “I don’t need the help.” Jordan thought to himself it must be a theme among the women in this town. He prepared his “we’re in this together” talk for Brad and waited.
Except, the course of the conversation took an interesting turn. Brad used a kind and witty tone of voice Jordan wasn’t familiar with. “How about this. You hold on to my bicep.” He winked playfully before adding, “I dare you not to be impressed by the gun show.”
Carrie rolled her eyes and said, “Oh my goodness.” Then she sided up to Brad and took a hold of his arms. She pursed her lips and said, “I’m not impressed.” Her lips slowly curving at the corners said otherwise.
Brad said, “I guess I’ll have to try harder,” and they headed toward the elevator.
Rod Shepard leaned in to talk to Jordan. “How much do you want to bet I’ll have a new son-in-law a year from now?”
“I didn’t know Brad and Carrie were a thing,” Jordan mused aloud.
“They weren’t. I pulled Brad aside and gave him a little advice,” Rod said. “By the way. Thank you for filling in as Santa. I hear you were a hit with the kids.”
“Being Santa was fun.”
“I also heard. You and my daughters have taken on a little project.”
“It was mostly Shannon’s idea,” Jordan admitted.
Rod raised his glass to say hello to a couple who passed by them to go up the stairs. “Shannon?” he followed it with a surprised sounding, “hmm,” and took a sip of his water. His eyes reflected an awareness of there being more to Shannon, Carrie, and Jordan working together on good deeds around the community. “How are things going with you and Iris?”
“We’re not so good,” Jordan admitted. “I kind of pushed a little too hard for something I thought I wanted, and things were said. You know how it goes.”
“Ah yes, the old foot in the mouth,” Rod said. His eyes flitted toward something across the room. “You know what is stronger than the foot in the mouth. Letting her know you need her.”
He wagged his brow. “At least it works for me.” He held out his hand so Jordan could see the face of his watch. “Story hour is about to start. We should get a move on.”
Jordan followed Rod to the Great Room. Every year the parade was kicked off with a reader’s theater-style Christmas story. It gave the people who were riding in the floats time to line up behind City Hall. When the narrator said, “The End,” the bell at the top of the building chimed to give the signal that the parade was set to start in twenty minutes.
People sat in rows around a large chair that was elevated on a large box painted to look like a present. Rod pointed to Iris who sat off in the corner with her grandmother. Rose pointed at something at the other side of the room.
Some guy Jordan had seen around town waved at Iris. The floodgates of Jordan’s discomfort burst under the pressure. What did that guy think he was doing? He had no right flirting with Iris. Besides he was doing it wrong. Iris didn’t pick up on subtle hints. Then Jordan shook his head in confident indignation on Iris’s behalf. But wait, the guy obviously had interest in Iris.
Iris’s shy smile sent off another surge. She could wave at a stranger, but she couldn’t say hello to her best friend? Jordan glared at Iris, and the familiar dislike of the holidays hit him. His jaw tightened before he threw her, Iris, one last look and turned to leave, which set him on a crash course with Simon.
“Just the person I wanted to talk to,” Simon said. “Can I talk to you in the hall for a minute?”
“Sure.” Jordan blew out a breath of air and left through the door he used to enter the room. He braced himself for Simon’s criticism of what had transpired.
When they were back at the stairs, away from where anyone could hear them, Simon began. “When are you going to get it right?”
The night was full of contradictions. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
“I am tired of Iris moping around the house. She gave me decaf coffee today, which I know is your fault. Tell her you’re sorry. Make her happy, and we’ll forget that you’re not good enough for my niece.”
Jordan blinked for a good three seconds before fumbling through his words, “Tell her I’m sorry?”
“A guy looks as good as you has no clue with women. Who would have thought?” Simon’s face twisted in dismay. “What a waste. When you make Iris mad, you just have to act like you know you hurt her and say sorry. She’s a sucker for it. That’s how I get away with eating all her cookies.”
“Yeah. This is the first and the last time I’m helping you. Now I’m heading over to the fire truck.” His face relaxed, making him look like a child trapped in an old man’s body. “They’re letting me blow the horn.” He tipped his head at Jordan and walked toward the door. Before exiting the building, he formed a “v” with his fingers and pointed from Jordan, to his eyes, back to Jordan and mouthed, “I’ve got my eyes on you.”