A festive #WritingChallenge!

Writing Challenge BubbleHi everyone,

As Christmas is approaching, we wanted to get festive! As you know know all the many reasons why we love Christmas romances, we thought it would be fun to try and write our own Christmas romance – together! Below, we’ve given you the opening line to a romance, and we want to see where you take it!  The SYTYCW Editors are taking a break from the blog until 4th January, so you’ve got plenty of time to get into the story. We’d love it if each entry followed on from the last so let your imagination run wild – Christmas Eve proposals, Christmas miracles, New Year weddings… the creative options are endless! So, what are you waiting for? Get involved!

Lisa looked at herself in the mirror and took a deep breath. She looked officially office-Christmas-party-ready. But was she ever going to feel ready to approach Harry under the mistletoe…?

We hope you have fun, and very Happy Holidays from everyone at Harlequin!

The SYTYCW Editors x

19 replies on “A festive #WritingChallenge!”

Harry was the kind of guy who’d look good in anything, even in a Christmas jumper with a sparkling reindeer on the front. In fact, that’s what he was wearing earlier today, Lisa remembered, when he walked up to her in the office kitchen, grinned over his mug and told her to look up.
‘Look up?’ she’d asked. ‘At what?’
‘The mistletoe,’ he’d replied.
Lisa had frowned. ‘Harry, there’s no mistletoe up there!’
‘It’s invisible,’ he said, stepping closer. ‘A very special, invisible kind. And you look good under it.’
Lisa’s heart had practically jumped out of her chest. He was standing so close she could smell his Coolwater cologne and the vague waft of a mince pie. Harry was standing close enough to kiss her. But he didn’t. Would he ever?

Watching him walk away made it easier for her to breathe. The confusion she felt as to why he teased her in such a way. There was plenty of other single women working on this floor, that would be thrilled to have his attention.

Claude unfolded his arms and stood away from the wall.

He shook his head. Not the way he would have approached Lisa.

He was still of two minds whether he should even make a move at the Christmas party. It was that was planned for after work at the restaurant across the street from WingDing Publishing.

Claude was attracted to Lisa but she seemed so untouched and innocent. Did he want to be the one to put a rosa blush on those pale cheeks?
Actually, yes.

Lisa took her coffee back to her desk and pushed Harry’s teasing out of her mind for now. She couldn’t think about his curly blond hair, sparkling blue eyes or his swimmer’s lean body right now.

Not when she had a literal ton of work to get through before the party. No way did she want the spectre of unfinished reviews to be hanging over her head this weekend. Especially not this weekend.

If she stuck to her plan she would have Harry’s company for the weekend and maybe for Christmas and into the new year. She bit her lip just thinking about it.

(My insert for under Shirley Booth’s 12/18/2015 insert.)

But what Lisa had joined WingDing Publishing for, and what she was feeling about Harry right now, were two different things. Her initial intention had been to “spy” on the company, learn all she could about its workings, then get out, and apply everything she’d learned to her own floundering start-up publishing house.

It perhaps wasn’t ladylike for an educated, twenty-six-year-old, business type to do such a thing, Lisa knew, but she was desperate. After all, her younger sister, Marcia, had always overshadowed her—both in business…and in relationships. And since Lisa had worked one summer for Marcia, who just happened to be a corporate raider, Lisa knew some things—about how to get information, and then use it to your advantage.

But that wasn’t Lisa. And heck, she never expected meeting a “Harry” on the inside, who would melt her heart, or, have a guy like Claude eyeing her from the wings. So, what could she do? Ask Claude for help? Go along with her plan alone? Tell Harry about it, and hope that he’d still feel the same way about her? Step up and kiss Harry, as she knew that he’d wanted her to do under the invisible mistletoe, and chance losing both Harry and her own business in the process?

Decision making now was not Lisa’s forte, she knew, as she stared into her coffee for answers. She was in too deep. If she said the wrong thing to Harry, she could lose him; if she did the wrong thing business wise, she could jeopardize her own company’s future, and continue to be in Marcia’s shadow. If she denied Claude, would that be trouble for her, or could she set him up with her sister?

She thought about the thrill that had radiated up her spine, when she’d been under the invisible mistletoe with Harry. How cute was that, she thought. A mistletoe that wasn’t there. She shot a look over to Harry, as he mingled with Claude and some other coworkers. A guy with an imagination, and wit to boot. I could get used to that.

“Darn it all,”she said out loud and stamped her foot. “Men were always complicating things.” The receptionist standing next to her was drinking too much wine, but her hearing as ever was perfect. “I know who you are talking about, why don’t you go for it, let him know what you are thinking.”

That decision was still far away for Lisa, but starting a fire sometimes took a spark, not a flamethrower. Harry’s office was in the opposite corner to her own. She couldn’t raid it without the whole office seeing her and if Millie had noticed her feelings she would definitely start talking. Rumours flying around the office would hardly be good for her business plans.
Of course Claude had mistletoe hung in the doorway to his office, he was the type to corner any girl that came his way and kiss her without warning. Harry was courteous, a gentleman, watching Claude and the receptionist smooching, Lisa understood why Harry brought invisible mistletoe into the office. It was a good idea if there was only one person in the group who you wanted to kiss. It meant that you didn’t kiss anyone but your intended.
That was a great idea, but it didn’t help her make any progress with Harry at all, subtlety like minimalism, had its place, but it could be a bit boring. She had on her best frock, a short, red velvet dress with a bow in front. In her imagination, he had whispered to her that she was the only present he hoped for under the tree.
Maybe it was time to move project Harry into high gear.
The building where she worked was a heritage building. The windows opened and there were a number of cornices and ledges on the outside where carved gargoyles sat watching the street below. Lisa had an idea, a really crazy idea. She would steal a sprig of mistletoe from Claude’s doorway, take it back to her own office, climb out the window, and make her way on the ledge outside to Harry’s office. If she secretly hung mistletoe in his office without him knowing, she could walk in casually and announce the mistletoe had come to life! If she wanted to know if he loved her so, it would be in his kiss. Looking needy was a turnoff, she couldn’t make the first move without spoiling the mood. If he wanted to use magic, she could use it too, invisible, visible, on my command. “Abbracadabbra!”
Stealing the sprig of mistletoe was simple, Claude was expecting her to want him. Lisa feinted right and moved left and his lips moved towards her. She laughed and slipped around him.
Lisa walked back to her office, the party was in full swing now. She could hear the laughter and shouts as her colleagues relaxed and shared plans for the holidays. No one would be looking out the windows to see her creep around to Harry’s office.
She opened the window and climbed out onto the ledge. It was fairly wide, wide enough to walk on if she was careful and held onto the cornices. She could see the gargoyle that was outside Harry’s office, it seemed to be smirking at her as if it knew what she had planned. “Was it an evil omen? She was not superstitious, but the December winds were blowing hard, whipping up her pretty red frock, maybe the gargoyle had something to do with that. Lisa inched forward, the cold made her move faster, her fingers were turning blue and holding the tiny sprig made holding on difficult. All of a sudden, her foot slipped, she had not noticed that the ledge had broken off part way along. Lisa was in danger of falling three stories down to the cold pavement below. She clutched the cornice with her free hand. It was ridiculous to call for helo, she would have to either go back or make the jump from where she was to where the ledge continued. It was agony where she was, but she could not make herself move.
Her frock blowing up would attract attention from the street soon, someone would call the police, girl on ledge, possible suicide.
The office she was staring into was relentlessly empty. No one could hear her anyway. This was turning out to be the worst christmas ever. Lisa closed her eyes for a second. She would have to make herself jump the gap.
“What on earth, the window flew open and strong hands reached for her. It was Harry, Harry pulling her inside to safety. If Lisa had not fainted at that point, she would have heard what Harry said.

Lisa’s eye lids fluttered but closed again.

“What are you up to Harry?” Marsha Stackhouse demanded. She watched Harry carry one of the junior staff over to his office couch and gently lay her down.

“I think she was getting a breath of fresh air and seems to be overcome.” Harry thought it was fortunate the CEO didn’t know Lisa’s name.

“On the window ledge? Is she drunk or high?” Marsha arched one perfectly plucked black eyebrow as she place a fist on one slender hip.

“I’m not certain yet. But I doubt either. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.” Harry straighten Lisa’s frock to cover her tempting thighs.

“Fine, whatever. When she comes to, hire a cab to take her home.” Marsha waved away the issue of the junior staffer. “I want to reiterate to you how important this merger is for WingDig Publishing. We are asset rich but cash poor. We need Fisher Press to come onboard. Make it happen.” The last was not a request.

Harry rose and turned to Marsha. “I have it well in hand, you worry too much.” He gave his boss’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

Lisa heard the clacking of Marsha’s shoes on the wooden floor and the click of the door but she still didn’t dare open her eyes.
“You can open your eyes now,” Harry whispered in her ear, Lisa could feel his breath on her face, his delicious smell that she had grown to know so well. Here senses tingled at his closeness and made her shiver. “Marsha’s gone.” Lisa’s eyes fluttered open, and she found herself looking straight into Harry’s concerned eyes. “You weren’t going to do anything silly were you?”
“What? No… I…” Lisa replied, sitting up and giving Harry and eyeful of her ample thighs, his eyes lingered on her bare flesh, and he gulped. She pulled down her skirt, and he shifted his gaze back to her face. “It depends on what you mean about silly?” How could she explain about the mistletoe and her plan?
“You weren’t planning to jump were you? Working here isn’t that bad you know?”
Lisa had to think fast she couldn’t tell him what she had planned to do, especially as the mistletoe was now down on the street, being squashed by the Christmas shoppers below. “No, it was silly I had a bet with Dan in IT and the window stuck. I thought I could make it across and into your office, but there was a gap. Thank you for grabbing me.” Lisa thought a little lie wouldn’t hurt, but felt guily that she may get Dan into trouble. Also Harry wouldn’t be able to turn her down flat embarrassing her in the process.
“It’s not a problem. I’d come in here to have a break from the noise and was just thinking of heading home when I saw you appear at my window. I was just going to ask you what you were doing when I saw you slip.” His hand reached her face and moved a stray hair from her eyes. “You scared the crap out of me when I saw you wobble.”
“Seemed a good idea at the time,” she shrugged.
“You’re very lucky that Marsha’s had a few gins and too full of her own self-importance to realise it was you. Come one I’ll take you home, don’t want you to get into any more trouble with the boss.” Lisa had never heard him speak about Marsha like that before he always seemed to respect her and her opinions.
Harry stood and pulled Lisa up from where she had been stretched out on his office couch. Her hand tingled at his touch and she swayed. He grabbed her and pulled her close. The air in the room crackled and Lisa the heat rise to her cheeks. “Why don’t you stay and enjoy the party, its Christmas Ever after all.”
“No I’ll make sure you get home and you heard Marsha, I’ve a lot of work to do.”
“Then let me help you.” Lisa felt guilty that she had spoiled the party for him and now he would be working on Christmas Eve of all days.
“Okay. Grab your coat and meet me downstairs.”

Harry was waiting for her when she reached the underground parade. He slid out of the front seat and walked around to open the car door for her. Lisa could see her reflection in the jet black finish of the Volvo S60, the lines of the car were long and sleek. “Nice car,” she murmured. Now that she was with him she felt shy again. The shyness she had felt as a child had never gone away completely. Oh, she could cover it up, keep the conversation going, pull others out of their shell, and shine herself, but at the back of it, was still girl, sitting alone, tongue tied.
Harry flashed a grin, which helped, the relation they had established from working together was a good one.
“Hop in, it’s cold out here, and those seats are heated.”
Lisa slid on to the seat, it was heaven.
She looked down to find the seat belt and saw something glinting in the low light. it was a woman’s necklace, plain gold, square links, and quite heavy. It had never occurred to Lisa that there might be another woman in Harry’s life, he had seemed so attentive and interested, Was he using her for some reason that she didn’t know about? Lisa casually dropped the necklace into the cup holder on her side. He would find it eventually, and if he received a tearful phone call from a worried girl friend, that would serve him right.
Louis Armstrong was belting out christmas songs, the old lyrics were her favourite and she hummed along. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Harry smiling. “Don’t you like to sing?”
Harry had taken the long route to her place, through Central Park. The lights on the trees shone red and gold and a few flakes of snow drifted down. There was not yet enough cloud cover to hide the moon and the silvery light shone, outlining the trees.
“Isn’t it wonderful, don’t you feel rich on a night like this.”
Harry didn’t seem to expect an answe to his question. he pulled the car over and turned towards her. He reached across and took her in his arms and kissed her for a long minute. When he released her, she could see his eyes were tender with emotion.
“I have an idea, let’s go for a walk, we can walk to the duck pond to see the moon reflected, and maybe if you are good, we will hear Santa and his sleigh in the sky making his way to all the children of the world.
“What about the work, Marsha gave you?”
The look on Harry’s face was strange. He groaned out loud. “I just wanted to take 20 minutes, enough time to make a memory that I would cherish for the rest of my life.”
Lisa held up the necklace, this tells me that you already have someone else, someone else you take liberties with under the silver moon.
Harry looked thunderous. “Where did you get that from?”
“it was one the floor of the car when I stepped in. I didn’t take it if that is what you are suggesting.”
The situation was ridiculous, perhaps it was time to ask him to drive her home. Project Harry was just not going to be a success.
Harry clicked open the door.
“Let’s walk, there is something I need to tell you.”
The romantic Harry was gone, replaced instead by a man intent on something. His pace was rapid and the grip on her arm was strong. Maybe too strong. The park that had looked romantic not looked dark and empty.
“Listen carefully. I am not really an editor, I work under cover for Interpol. We have reason to believe that Wingding Pres is using book shipments to smuggle antiquities from England into the states.You are the only person who I am sure is not involved.”
“Criminally involved?” Lisa’s voice was unsteady.
Harry’s face was sombre. “I will know soon, it may be that Marcia is just a pawn Ina bigger scheme or she may be in charge. Either way, some special deliveries are scheduled that might be carrying priceless stolen jewellery.”
“so this necklace is valuable?” Lisa asked.
“Part of a set worn by the Duchess of Lancaster, herself.”
Lisa laughed out loud. She was so relieved to know it wasn’t left behind by someone else, someone who was competition for his attentions.
“There’s a,party at Marcia’s house”, he held up a sheaf,of paper. “I finished my homework already. if you come with me, you can keep her busy with revisions while I look around.”
His eyes were limpid. A deep shade of blue. How could she say no to that face.

Lisa thought about it for a minute. Did she really want to be caught up in this? She had her own undercover scheme to get started. The last thing she needed was to become involved with international crime. She looked again at Harry. He looked as if he would burst if she didn’t give an answer soon. Ok, she said nodding in agreement. Great. We just have to get to the party and I will take care of the rest. But Harry, won’t Marcia think it strange that you’re with me. She just saw me stretched out on your couch less than an hour ago. Don’t worry about that, he said. I’ll handle it. Besides, Marcia is probably floored by now. She may not even remember five minutes ago. If she does I’ll tell her I didn’t think you needed to be left alone and that bringing you to the party with me was for your safety. You know Christmas is the season for goodwill towards men and such. I can make it work, trust me. Lisa looked into those sapphire blues and she was lost. She trusted Harry. For some reason, she really did, but now she wondered if Harry was even his real name. He definitely didn’t look like a Harry when she thought about it. He grabbed her hand and they began walking towards the duck pond. Are you going to be okay with this Lisa? I know this is a lot to ask. I haven’t even asked if you had other holiday plans. Sure, she replied. It’s only a party. Tomorrow no one will be the wiser. She saw Harry’s jaw tighten under the moonlight. What is it, she asked. Harry turned to her with a wry smile. If Marcia’s as involved with this as I think she might be, we may have to pretend a little longer. Longer? What do you mean longer? Lisa didn’t like where this was going. She wasn’t seeing anyone right now and she was crazy about Harry, but the idea of being thrown together made her feel slightly uneasy. I know its a lot to ask, he continued. But if she is, if they all are, the only way that I can keep you around is to pretend we are lovers. Lisa felt her heart beat faster. Lovers!! We barely know each other. I know, he said. But we can pretend. We can, can’t we? She again nodded yes. Why did she keep saying “yes”? Then we’re set. You probably won’t have to worry about it tonight, everyone will be too blitzed to care. But over the next few days we will have to meet to get our stories straight because there will be questions. Many questions. Lisa had to admit that she liked the idea of spending more time with Harry, she just didn’t like the idea that eventually she was going to get hurt. I can do it, she said squeezing his gloved hand. He bent down and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She could feel the heat radiate throughout her entire body. See the trees look beautiful from this view. Harry turned her to face the duck pond. You’re right, Greg, they do. Greg, where did that come from, he asked grinning. Lisa smiled. Since you said you’re undercover I most certainly don’t believe that your name is Harry. He let out a loud laugh and grabbed her hand to head back to the car.

Harry drummed his fingers against the roof of his Maclaren 570s as he waited for Lisa for appear. He supposed she was freshening up before meeting him in the car park.

“Ducking out early?” Claude asked.

Harry jumped. “Where the hell did you come from?” Harry snapped. He narrowed his eyes at his main competition in the office and for Lisa’s attention.

Claude chuckled at the other man’s discomfort as he strolled past Harry and beeped unlock his silver Honda Civic. “I just came from the party, same as you.” Claude paused and eyed Harry’s ride. “What exactly are you doing for Marsh to be able to afford a car like that?”

Harry could plainly hear the accusation in Claude’s tone.

He frowned as their eyes clashed. There was no love lost between the two men.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” Lisa breezed through the connecting door from the restaurant.

This was supposed to be after Jo Hughes. There was nothing posted just be for I posted. Sorry we collided.

Collisions, collisions, a fleet of cars waiting for Lisa is just what she would have wanted. Your excerpt is fantastic!

“Aw, yeah,”she sighed, we are going to catch a crook tonight.”
“Careful Lisa, I’m the one with the badge here, your role is to distract them with your beauty, not pull out a gun.” Harry tried to look serious as she swept her hair up and reapplied her lipstick.
“Locked, and loaded and ready to roll,” he breathed and slammed the car. Into gear.
Lisa gave a little frisson of happiness as they walked up the steps to Marsha’s home. Harry’s hand was on her hip, holding her close to him. A little voice reminded her that it was just pretend, but for now she didn’t care. Wasn’t that the essence of christmas giving, taking pleasure in the small moments of joy that presented themselves as you cared for those who are in your life? A christmas tree decorated only with a single white star stood by the doorway echoing her sentiment.
Harry seemed to know everyone. “Which one is the representative from Fisher Press,” she asked.
“Not sure, I have never met him. Keep your eyes open, I am going to look for Marsha.”
Lisa lifted the flute of champagne to her nose and took a sip, enjoying the bubbles, admiring the rich room.
“Lisa,” Claude’s voice shocked her out of her reverie. “What are you doing here? Harry answered for both of them by walking over and pulling her close. He winked at Claude and put a finger to his lips, “not the time for gossip, let’s celebrate!”
“Que sera, sera,” he shrugged. “I’m getting head hunted out of Wing Ding anyway.”
Maybe the gargoyle had come to life to deliberately ruin things, sitting beside Claude was her little sister Marcia. Lisa loved her sister but the girl in the gold skin tight dress who a minute ago was locked in an embrace with her nemesis now had her violet eyes on Harry. Her red velvet frock, that had seemed so pretty seemed to fade into the background.
Marsha wasted no time in breaking up the tension. This is a working meeting.
“Lisa, you can take the contract and review it for grammatical errors, Claude run the numbers in it one more time. You can work in my office, no one will disturb you. I want all four hundred pages checked and double checked by midnight. The president of Fisher Press will come by to sign the deal and then I am flying out to Grand Caymen for a well deserved holiday.”
“Harry, you are with me.”
Lisa noticed Marcia wasted no time joining Harry.
“Still holding on to your little lost lamb from this afternoon are you? Marsha’s voice was derisive, Harry’s reply was inaudible as the senior staff moved into the front room.
There was nothing for it but to pick up the pages and take them into Marsha’s office where the light was good for reading.
Rejection hit her like a freight train, she would always be second, the kind of success she dreamed about would never be hers. She could no more run a business than she could hold on to a man. Every door seemed to be an exit that said, this way to run away. Run, like you always do instead of standing up for what you truly want. The decorations on the tree which had looked precious a moment ago, now seemed to say that whatever happiness comes to you, comes from money.
Claude had the decency not to tease her.
“You and me both kid,” he sighed.

“Claude, do you know the representative from Fisher Press?” Lisa asked.
“No, but I heard Marsha say that he had promised her an extra special present if the deal goes through tonight. Something valuable.”
“Hmmm… Any ideas, what it would be?”
“I’m an accountant, the only thing that makes sense to me is figures, dollars and women. Fisher deals in classic books, it’s a nice addition to our lines here.”
Marsha had left a laptop open on the desk beside the proposal. If she happened to glance at the screen while reviewing the document, she could hardly be faulted for it. Lisa read the email aloud.
From Geoffrey Smith to Marsha, to find your christmas present, look for the lady it once belonged to, you will find it there still, even though some seven hundred years have passed.”
“Claude, will you do me a favour and take my sister Marcia out for a drink, I have something I need to tell Harry alone.”
Claude relented, “okay, I want to talk salary anyway. Give me five minutes to extricate myself. Can I ask why?”
A smile like the Cheshire Cat spread over Lisa’s face, I know where the present is and even better, I know what it is.” Lisa tapped her nose, “this is going to make a name for me.”
“I thought there was something off in the numbers,” Claude laughed.
“Will this help with project Harry? Then I will do it.”
Lisa sat quietly thinking for a few moments, she could hear Claude and Marcia leaving. She heard Marsha shouts, she sounded desperate, and then nothing but silence.
Lisa walked into the front room. Harry was sitting beside the christmas tree with a glass in his hand. He poured another for her and held it out to her.
“Customs checked the shipment from Fisher Press and it was clean, no stolen jewellery, just books, no antiquities.”
Harry held his head in his hands. “I was so sure.”
The clock on the mantle chimed midnight. It was christmas, a time for joy, but Harry looked dejected. “Some secret agent, I am.”
There was one christmas present under the tree. “Who is that present for? Corporate gift from the president of Fisher to Marsha, means nothing because it is not personal.”
Lisa dissolved into a gale of laughter, “you darling nincompoop.”
Lisa picked it up and shook it. It’s a book by Chaucer, Harry groaned. “I can’t even read that.”
“Read the clue again, this book is the Duchesse of Lancaster.”
“So,” Harry asked.
“She was famous for jewellery.”
Harry opened the present carefully, “we will wrap it up if…”
Harry slit open the binding.
“You, beautiful, clever girl, you solved it. I was a fool to doubt you for a second.”
Lisa held up the diamond necklace. Harry clasped it around her neck.
“You can wear it until the cops get here.”
Harry held her tight. “I never want to let you go. you are all I want under my christmas tree for the rest of my life.”
The rest of what happened to Harry and Lisa is classified, you are welcome to check the website for further…
Merry Christmas to all.

I LOVE THIS! What a funny, smart and unique twist on the typical Christmas romance! Thank you so much to everyone who joined in, and I hope you’ve all had a brilliant start to 2016!

The Sold Blog’s wish is our command, Flo! 😉 This connecting-part-holiday-romance story shows just how much we SYTYCW peeps are in sync. Awesome that you loved it!

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