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WRAPPED: A FIT Adjacent Christmas Novella (The Fit Trilogy Book 4) by Rebekah Weatherspoon (1)

1

Dear Santa, Save me from another awful man...

Shae Kenney stood on the porch of her cousin’s place in Atwater Village, freezing her ass off. Thanks to good old climate change it had been between eighty and one hundred degrees in Los Angeles clear through the end of November. A few days ago, though, the temperature had dropped and they were back to the cool winter nights a desert climate called for. She thought her trench coat would be enough. But the drive over to Keira’s house was so short it took the whole ride for the heat to really kick in and then it was time for her to head right back out into the cold.

“Fuck.” She shivered and hit the doorbell again.

“Coming!” she heard her cousin yell inside. The door flew open and Shae was bathed in the smell of Italian food and the sound of Christmas music.

“Hi!” Keira beamed in her usual chipper way, a common trait amongst most Kenney women.

“Hey!” Shae met her smile and stepped inside. She couldn’t help eyeing the Christmas decorations that hung from nearly every square inch of available space. “It’s so Christmasy in here! You two weren’t playing when you said you were going to do it up this year.”

“Thanks. There’s mistletoe in every room.” Keira shrugged, sticking out her tongue. “All the spontaneous smooching helps keep my mind off the wedding.”

“Aren’t you excited?”

“I am, but I think Mom and Mrs. Song are a little more excited than Daniel and I combined. They just asked if they could sing a duet at the reception.” Her cousin’s wedding was just a few weeks away. It would definitely make for a memorable New Year’s Eve, but what had started out as a small, intimate ceremony had ballooned into a full blown thing.

“A duet of what?!”

“They haven’t decided yet, but they’ve been bonding over karaoke and realized they missed their calling as the next hot thing in girl groups. I just want my man to whisk me away from all this,” Keira whined.

“You two are so cute. It’s ridiculous. Everything will be fine. Just tell them no to the singing and let them do an extra toast.”

“Oh, good call. I saw your text about the shoes. I’m glad they came.”

“Oh I’m all ready, baby. Ugh, you guys are really making me feel like I need to decorate. I might just get a fake tree this year. I should do something.” This was the first year in a long time where Shae actually felt like celebrating the holidays. Hopefully she could rise to the occasion and inject some Christmas cheer back into her own life. Being inside Santa’s Village, otherwise known as her cousin’s house, might help.

“I brought your favorite, the vanilla mousse filled, and I slipped two of the salted caramel in there for Daniel when he gets back.” She handed over the plastic container filled with her gourmet cupcakes. The plan was to rotate who was responsible for which parts of the menu for their weekly PRINCE CHARMING: New Zealand viewing parties.

Shae always handled dessert. It had taken a few years, but her bakery Sweet Creams was finally making a nice little profit. Never understatement the power of refined recipes and social media.

“Oh, thanks. I’ll put these on the table.”

“Don’t worry. I made extra for Meegan,” Shae said as she followed Keira to their open concept living and dining room. It looked like Mrs. Claus had gone on a decorating bender. Shae loved it. The doorbell rang again before she could shed her jacket.

“It’s me!” their friend Meegan called through the door.

“I’ll grab that.” Keira slipped around her and headed back to the front of the house.

Shae dropped her jacket on the back of a chair and made herself comfortable on their sectional. She could hear Meegan and Keira talking down the hallway, but she was too lazy to get up. She was pooped. She’d been working her ass off all weekend and this upcoming week was looking pretty packed as well.

She had to do all the regular baking for her storefront and she had orders for office parties, two birthdays and a regular customer that liked to have her own personal stash on hand when she wanted to hide from her kids. Shae caught her brain running through the rest of her schedule and had to force herself to stop. This was her night off. Instead of thinking about cupcakes and tarts, she pulled out her phone and opened MATCHED, the dating app her friends had convinced her to join.

After her divorce from Harvin, Shae knew it wouldn’t be easy to get back into the dating scene. Extra hard considering she and Harvin had gotten married almost right out of high school and she’d never actually been in the real dating scene before that. She just didn’t think it would be this difficult to find a halfway decent guy to enjoy her free time with. So far she’d been on two okay dates, five miserable dates, and one date with a guy she was convinced should be serving a lengthy prison sentence. She’d also been stood up twice. Needless to say she was still on the hunt.

“I brought salad!” Meegan announced as she came into the room. Shae looked over her shoulder. Keira was carrying the salad in question while Meegan pumped her fists in the air above her head. She collapsed on the couch next to Shae and lightly swatted her thigh. “What’s up? We didn’t see you last week.”

“I know. I had to bake a bajillion cupcakes for a wedding, but I got paaaaid.”

“Oh good. Did you bring more cupcakes tonight?” Meegan asked as she cupped her hands under her chin and batted her eyelashes.

“Yes, she did,” Keira laughed. “You can relax.”

“Oh! Where are they?”

Keira came over and sunk down on Shae’s other side. “On the table. Patience.”

“I’m going to grab one right now. Excuse me.” Shae laughed as Meegan jumped up and rushed over to the dining room table. She tore open the plasticware and went right for the goods.

“Save two for my man!” Keira yelled.

“I will!” Meegan said as she came back to the couch, double fisting salted caramel cupcakes. “Okay. Go on. What else is new? Besides all the baking in the world.”

“Nothing much. Had a date last week that tanked in the first five minutes. I may have said I was going to the bathroom then bolted out the front door,” Shae admitted with a wince.

“What happened?”

“He spent the first five minutes talking about how much he loved big girls, but vehemently denying that he was a chubby chaser. I still don’t know what was more off-putting—that dudes are still using the phrase ‘chubby chaser’ or if he thought I should find any of what he was saying to be flattering.”

Keira made a face. “Ew.”

“Okay. Give me your phone.” Meegan held out her hand.

“Why?”

“I’m gonna swipe for you.”

Shae glanced at Keira, who just shrugged. Right. She met her fiance the old fashioned way. Through friends. The doorbell rang and Keira jumped up to answer it, leaving Shae alone with Meegan and her itchy swiping finger. Shae gave in and handed over her phone. A few moments later, Erica, Sarah and Joanna came walking into the room, their arms loaded down with more sides and lots and lots of booze.

“Holy Christmas!” Erica said. “It looks amazing in here. How are you girlie?” Erica leaned over the couch and kissed Meegan on the forehead.

“Finding Shae a new lubber.”

“Oh, let me! Let me! I’m a master swiper,” Erica said.

“She’s right,” Sarah said. “She swiped on Angelo for me.” Shae had to admit that was a pretty good vote of confidence. Sarah and Angelo had been together for about six months and things seemed to be going pretty well. Angelo was a total sweetheart. Shae could handle starting over with a guy that nice and cute.

“Meegan. Give her the phone.”

“Whatever. I could have found you someone good. Take it.” She moved over so Erica could sit between them, then handed her the phone.

“You ladies swipe while we eat. Dinner’s ready.” That’s all Keira had to say to get them all to swarm the table, piling their plates high with food and emptying not one, but two, bottles of wine in the first go.

Once they were all settled back on the couch, ready to stuff their faces, Keira asked as she grabbed the Apple TV remote, “Okay. It’s time. Are you ready for Prince Charming?”

There were YEAH’s all around. Keira turned off the rendition of “Santa Baby” coming through the speakers, then pressed play on episode four. They all had their money on Jenna getting eliminated this week, if her shenanigans from the week before were an indicator. Erica started swiping. Shae wanted to know who Jenna was going to start shit on in this week’s episode, but she was more interested in Erica’s plan of attack. She watched her closely as she swiped right and left on several guys. Erica was onto something. Every guy she swiped right on seemed to be right up Shae’s alley.

“Do you have a method you use or…?” she whispered. On the flat screen, Chad was talking about his upcoming one-on-one date with April-Jane.

“Oh, I have a method, but I can’t tell you,” Erica replied. “It’ll ruin the magic. Don’t worry, we’ll Hallmark movie you right into a honey for the holidays.”

“Ha! That would make a good movie,” Keira giggled.

Shae smiled and turned her attention to the TV for a moment before she looked back at her phone.

“Oh, this guy’s hot,” Erica said.

“Oh my god, I know him.” On her phone was the picture of Aidan Meyer, one of the hottest guys she’d ever had the pleasure of knowing in real life.

“Yeah, see those little dots? You guys have mutual friends. How do you know him?”

“Work. We used to work together at Allight. He was our head IT guy.”

“Well he is hot and his bio isn’t awful.” Shae took her phone back and actually read the words below what looked like a recent company headshot. He looked even better than she remembered. Cute white guy with dark red hair and a red-brown beard. He’d changed his hair a little. The cut was a bit sharper than the way he used to wear it and she could have sworn he had different glasses, but it was definitely Aidan. And his bio wasn’t too terrible.

Just your average IT guy with a start up. Ladies have to do most of the work on this app.

If we match, I’ll do my best to shoulder the rest.

Didn’t mean to rhyme, but it’s too late to change it.

Short, sweet, nothing offensive or misogynistic. She flipped through all of his pictures. Everything seemed in order there too. No pictures of him holding an assault rifle or posing with young girls in foreign countries, and yes, that was definitely a pattern she’d seen on dating apps and it creeped her the fuck out.

“Okay, you’ve been looking at his profile for like five minutes?

“Lemme see,” Meegan asked.

“No!” Erica reached over and gently peeled the phone out of Shae’s hand. “Let’s make a decision first. Then we swipe. Then we hand off the phone. When the swipe is up for consideration like this, you can’t make any sudden movements or you might miss the swipe.”

“I’m friends with him on Facebook,” Shae said. “I can always message him if we lose the swipe.”

“Just let me handle this. Okay?”

“You’re the master,” Shae said, putting her hands up in surrender. “Please proceed.”

“Okay. So you know him. You’ve been around him a little. You’ve talked a time or two.”

“Yeah, we worked together for a while. He was kinda quiet, really nice though. Super polite. He always made sure to thank me personally whenever I brought in dessert. I think he was dessert deprived though, so it might have just been the sugar going to his head. He was very professional, which couldn’t be said about a lot of the guys there.”

“Okay, so he passes that not-shitty test.”

“Yes.”

“Would you go out with him?”

“Truthfully, yes. Look how hot he is!”

“Hey, you’re no slouch,” Sarah said.

“Yeah, Shae. You're sexy,” Meegan said with a wink and she knew Meegan meant it. She often commented on Shae’s sexiness.

“I say swipe. At the very least, sleep with him. If he turns out to be a social dud, you can politely step aside and wish him the best,” Erica said.

“Or ghost on him,” Meegan said with a grunt and a thrust of her hips.

“Uh, ghosting doesn’t involve any motions of the pelvis,” Shae replied.

“Make this your Christmas wish.” Joanna held her hands up and started praying out loud in her low monotone voice. “Dear Santa and his badass wife, Mrs. Claus. Please let the super hot guy from Shae’s old job sweep her off her feet and give her the dicking of a lifetime, just in time for Christmas. In Frosty’s name, amen.” She dropped her hands and looked back over at Shae. “That should do the trick.’”

“Well, I guess you have to swipe on him now. Joanna blessed our union, just in time for Christmas.”

“Okay. I’m swiping.”

Shae glanced at the TV as April-Jane tripped and fell as she was walking with Chad toward their helicopter date. There was some giggling and talk of how she was afraid of heights, even from five feet off the ground.

“Uuuuummmmm…” Erica nudged her arm.

“What?” Shae looked back down at her phone. At first she didn’t believe what she was seeing. Her face in a heart. Aidan’s face in a heart and little sparking flames bouncing around them.

You have a new match.

Shae grabbed the phone from Erica’s hand. “Oh shit. What do I do?”

“What? What happened?” Keira asked.

“We matched.” Shae held up the phone so her cousin could see. Her heart was thumping. It was all so stupid. She was actually excited over something that would most certainly turn out to be nothing in the next thirty seconds.

“What do I do?”

“You wait,” Erica said. “You gotta wait. Some guys swipe on everyone. Wait until the show is over and then message him if he hasn’t unmatched yet.”

“Okay, I can do that.”

“Actually, give me your phone so you won’t be tempted,” Erica said, holding out her hand. “Watch Jeanna try and sabotage Lauren B. on this group date coming up after the commercial break.”

“Okay. That’s a good idea.” Shae let out a deep breath, then handed her phone back to Erica. She picked up her fork and decided to focus on the bizarre mating ritual unfolding on the TV screen in front of her instead of her own pathetic love life.

Thanks to the shit show that was Prince Charming: New Zealand, Shae managed to pretend that she wasn’t thinking about what was happening inside her phone for the rest of the night. Or at least until she got in bed a few hours later. She turned off her bedside lamp and lay under her covers, staring at her phone. It had been two hours and she, and Aidan were still matched.

The words MESSAGE AIDAN taunted her. She looked at his pictures again instead. He was really cute. The worst that could happen was him ignoring her and her feeling a little embarrassed for a few hours. The truth was, she had nothing to lose. And Joanna did pray to Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Just message him, she told herself. Shae clicked the little menu on the side of his profile and brought up the empty chat box between them.

Hey! Looks like we have a match.

She typed quickly, adding the smiling emoji with its tongue sticking out, then hit send before she could stop herself. Then she set her phone back on her bedside table. She knew what would happen next. He'd either see her message and immediately unmatch with her, realizing he'd swiped right on someone he had a first hand non-attraction to, or he'd message her back something crazy like his laxed opinions on gun control or our need for border walls. Then she’d have to block him and delete the app for at least a week to recover from the knowledge that yet another man had turned out to be a disappointment.

And honestly, that’s where she went wrong—getting prematurely invested in anything that could leave her feeling disappointed. “Turn the hopes down a little there, boo,” she said to herself as she rolled over to face the wall.

Five minutes later, her phone vibrated. Shae’s eyes popped open. She was mimicking sleep to encourage her body to relax, but the buzz of the notification had her alert as ever. She grabbed her phone and looked at the screen.

You have a message from Aidan.

“Okay. Chill out. Just chill out. He’s probably just saying hello.” Shae sat up and unlocked her phone, opening the MATCHED app. There was definitely a response from Aidan.

Hey! I thought you were married.

Shae’s eye twitched as she started typing her response. She wished people just knew she'd gotten a divorce so she didn't have to talk about it anymore. Hopefully Aidan wouldn’t have any follow up questions once she clarified.

Was. Married no more.

Shae stared at her phone for a minute and just when she realized he might not be sitting in bed hanging on her every word, those three little bubbles popped up.

I'm really sorry to hear that.

Unless it's a good thing.

Definitely a good thing.

Glad to be back out there.

Kinda.

This app is terrible.

She added the laughing emoji with the tears squeezing out of the corners of its eyes.

Have to agree.

Present company excluded.

Of course.

Of course.

Shae typed back. And then her mind froze. This was the point where things usually got weird for her. She could go the small talk route. Something felt off about that though. Should she just straight up ask him out? Then they could do the awkward face to face. Did she even want to go out with Aidan?

Um, dude? her brain chimed in. How many times did you and the other women in your office talk about how sexy and sweet Aidan was? The answer was literally every time they saw him. Should I ask the dumb question? Of course she should. She wanted to know the answer.

What brings you to Matched?

Looking for love?

The sex?

Hiking partner?

Cosplay partner?

Aidan answered right away this time.

The classic fear of dying alone.

Ah, that old chestnut.

I guess I shouldn't feel so special

about your swipe than.

Since you're desperate and all.

She added a wink.

I wanted to see if you were still baking.

I still dream about that chocolate caramel

crunch thing you made for the office.

You wanna come over and taste my sweets? She started to type, but she couldn't hit send. Aidan knew her. Not really well, but enough for that kind of cheap come on to come off as weird. She knew exactly how he'd respond. He'd say “as a matter of fact, yes” and then they'd sext until things got weird or they'd actually set up a booty call and then things would get weird. She was tired of things getting weird, but she knew it was already too late for things not to get weird.

Things got weird with every guy she'd talked to on the app. Also, as hot as Aidan was and no matter how much she’d seriously considered sleeping with him in the last few hours, she wasn’t sure if she was ready to go through with it in real life. She needed to be sure. Shae deleted her cheesy come on and started to type something more sensible, like Well it was nice talking to you again... Before she could hit send another message from Aidan popped up.

Let’s get off this app for one night.

Shae instantly felt hot all over. Was he asking her out?

What do you have in mind?

Lady’s choice, my treat.

Bowling. Dinner and movie out.

Dinner and a movie in.

People watching at the Grove.

We could be real creepy and go people

watch from some shrubs at Griffith Park.

How about this?

Why don’t you plan a date that doesn’t involve

hiking or any other outdoor activity

that makes me sweat and I’m game.

I think I can handle that.

Not a big fan of hiking myself.

What’s your schedule like?

I’m free most nights,

but I go into work early

so I turn into a pumpkin by 10 pm.

You’re up late tonight.

The eleven-fifteen at the top of Shae’s phone was taunting her. It didn’t stop her from smiling as she responded though.

I got a match.

Who can sleep through that?

Ha. True. You sleep.

We’ll reconvene tomorrow.

You might laugh, but I have to ask.

Does this mean we’re going on a date?

Or is this like a friend hang?

I’d love for it to be a date,

But if you’d rather meet up as friends,

I’m cool with that. We haven’t seen each other

in a while. We can catch up.

Shae had plenty of friends. She didn’t need more, not like this.

Let’s call it a date.

Okay. It’s a date.

Well since we have that settled

I should head to bed.

See you soon?

“Yes, definitely time for bed. Don’t want to fuck this up by saying anything else,” she said out loud.

Absolutely.

Goodnight, Shae.

Goodnight Aidan.

Shae locked her phone and put it back on its charger. Then she flopped on her stomach and took a deep breath before screaming into her pillow.

“Dear God,” she said out loud. “No, scratch that. You’re actually busy with illness and genocide and things. I hope. Dear Santa. Please let this go reasonably well. Please don’t let him be low key dickhead. Or a knife-wielding collector of women’s ears. I just want one good date. Or many good dates. Yeah, many good dates with this super hot guy that I know you sent my way because I have been such a good girl this year. Okay, that sounded really gross. To the republic for which it stands, in Mrs. Claus’s name. I really appreciate it.”

Shae rolled on to her back and stared at her ceiling. This was really happening. She really had a date with Aidan Meyer. Then she picked up her phone again and jumped on the group text she had with the girls.

Holy shit. I’m going on a date with Aidan.

Joanna responded first. Praise Frosty!

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