North of Light

By: J.M. Paul

The Grinch


It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. If that’s true, then I want to know why it’s also the most depressing and annoying.

My name literally means Christmas, and I hate it. I’m bah humbug all the way. If my parents could hear me say that about their most treasured season, they would roll over in their matching silver urns. God bless their souls, but I can’t stand the cheesiness and cheerfulness that accompanies this time of the year. It seems that, for four weeks, everyone forgets how stressful their lives are, and they put on jolly masks and pretend everything is enchanting, delightful, and wonderful.

Bah humbug.

Life still circles in the same monotonous cycle it always does; people are just too self-absorbed to realize it. Or too blinded by the glitter and blinking lights.

A roar of cheers interrupts my grouchy contemplating. I glance up from the journal I’ve been writing in and discover what’s causing the ruckus.

Some guy wearing a stuffed turkey hat enters behind the spacious bar and lifts his arms in a victory stance. Then, he starts posing like he’s a bodybuilder. Laughs echo, and high fives between the customers and the intruder ensues.

Men.

Turkey Head starts collecting empty glasses and pouring drinks, and it’s apparent that he’s a bartender coming on shift at Harry’s. It’s Thanksgiving eve—the biggest bar night of the year.

My eyes wander around the crowded room, looking for the only person I brave this scene for, but I come up empty-handed. Running late is the forte for that one, even when it’s work-related.

I duck my head and start scribbling my thoughts down again—trying to ignore the festiveness, laughter, clinking glasses, and chatter—when I suddenly sense an unmoving presence in front of me.

“Whatcha drinkin’?”

The warm, deep voice runs over my skin in an almost physical sensation. The hair on my arms stands to attention, and a delicious shiver slides down my spine. I lift my eyes to the person standing before me, and it takes great effort to ensure my mouth isn’t hanging open and drool isn’t dribbling down my chin.

Turkey Head stands tall, his attention focused on me, and holy hell, he’s divine. I only got the backside view of him earlier—and his rear’s nothing to sneeze at—but the front version is yummier. He has to be at least six foot; he’s muscular, and he fills out his Harry’s T-shirt perfectly. His jaw is sharp and adorned with stubble, and his lips are perfectly plump and sinfully enticing. He has winking dimples, and his eyes—sweet baby Jesus in a wicker basket, those eyes—are a unique shade of jade I will definitely see in my dreams tonight. From what I can tell, his hair is a rich dark brown, possibly bordering on black, but it’s covered by the stupid bird hat.

I wonder what he’d think if I asked to sample his stuffed thigh meat.

“Water.” I’m not sure if that’s an answer to his question or if it’s a request for more liquid since my tongue suddenly feels like sandpaper.

“That’s boring.” Turkey Head flashes his pearly whites, crosses his thick arms over his wide chest, and leans his hip against the counter. “It’s the biggest bar night of the year.”

“News flash.” I give him a well, duh expression before I doodle in the margin of my notebook.

“Here’s a news flash for you, Journal Girl. Your drink is lame.” He snatches my glass and empties the ice into a sink below the bar. “No one drinks water the night before Thanksgiving. Order something real.” He rubs his hands together. “What’s your poison?”

“So … you’re not into peer pressure or anything.” I purse my lips in mockery.

“Of course I am.” He spreads his arms wide. “I’m a bartender. It’s what I get paid to do.”

“What if I’m an alcoholic? You just asked this poor, recovering addict to wash away all her hard-earned years of sobriety because you think water’s lame.” I flutter my eyelashes at him.

“Are you an alcoholic?” he asks point-blank.

“Well, no.”

“Then, shut up and order a drink.” He wiggles his brows.

Turkey Head’s face is expressive and cocky, and I have to suppress the laughter wanting to bubble in my chest.

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