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"Come on, it's time for presents."
The pretty Hispanic woman bopped in and out of her cubicle so fast Molly Zaworski didn't have a chance to even respond. Not as if it would have made a difference. Tanya Garcia was stoked on this whole Secret Santa plan, and nothing was going to bring her down. Any other time Molly would be right there with her, but she wasn't feeling Christmas this year. It was less than a week until the holiday, and she still hadn't caught the spirit.
Three weeks ago she'd broken up with her boyfriend, right after the Thanksgiving fiasco. She'd forgiven him for his seeming lack of good graces while they dated, but his rudeness at her family dinner was the last straw. When she told him it was over, he'd shown his true colors, insulting her weight and ranting about how she was lucky he'd even asked her out. She was thankful she'd found out what an asshole he was before she'd slept with him.
Although she knew it had been the right thing to do, she still felt a little sorry for herself. This was supposed to have been her opportunity to exchange gifts with a significant other. Instead she had to settle for getting lame gifts from an office Secret Santa.
Tanya had bullied and bribed every employee in the small financial offices of Titus, Lang, and Bachman to participate in the holiday extravaganza, and even the founding partners weren't immune from her strong-arm tactics. Yesterday had been the day to pick the names. Molly had hoped she might pick Josh Bachman's name, one of the partners, but no such luck. Instead she'd gotten their secretary, Greta Hanson. She had no idea what to buy the older woman and had spent the evening agonizing over herpurchases.
She should be thanking her lucky stars she hadn't gotten her wish. With the crush she had on Josh, her gift-buying decision might very well have caused her a heart attack. Better to just admire him from afar than to bring her attraction to his attention and suffer the humiliation of rejection.
After the insults from her ex, she no longer was under the illusion that the extra weight she'd put on in college hadn't multiplied exponentially in the years since she'd graduated. In fact, once she realized she'd gone over the dreaded two-hundred-pound mark, she'd all but forgotten she had a scale.
"Molly, come on. We're waiting for you." Tanya's boisterous voice projected all the way from the other room.
Talk about humiliation.
She stood and headed toward the workroom where all the gifts awaited. Of course once she arrived she was forced to wait until they reached her name. Since it was alphabetical she had the unique advantage of seeing all the other gifts before she received her own. Just as she suspected, some were better than others. She had a pretty good idea who the male gift givers were. They stuck to the tried and true, Christmas candy.
Her name was eventually called and she could tell from the box she hadn't escaped the phenomenon. She smiled, but inside she fumed. Why would anyone give an overweight woman a huge box of chocolates? It wasn't as if she ate sweets every day. In fact, she was quite a healthy eater, at least most of the time. Everyone binged once in a while. It didn't seem to matter though. The pounds she'd gained in college had never left and every year they were joined by a few more.
She wasn't her ideal weight by any means, but she had started to work out on a regular basis. Right after her breakup, in fact. And she loved some of her curves, she thought, glancing down at her bountiful chest. It didn't mean she needed a gift to add to them. This was without a doubt going to become a re-gift. Of course that meant finding someone who wouldn't be offended by a box of candy.
The party began to break up, although some of the employees stood around chatting about their various gifts and speculating on the givers. Molly decided to hang out for a moment, hoping to speak with Tanya. She felt a tingling at the back of her neck and turned only to be caught up short. Josh was staring right at her. Or was he? She looked behind her, but there was no one else close and when she turned back he was walking right toward her.
The man was gorgeous, but in an understated kind of way. Sometimes he even wore sexy reading glasses, although they did nothing to shield his piercing, dark brown eyes. She could tell from his muscular build he exercised, because there was no way he could look like he did without some work. Most appealing to her, though, was his brown hair. Usually he wore it short, but once in a while he would let it grow longer and it would show a hint of curl. It was during those times she wanted to run her hands through the thick strands. She was always disappointed when he cut it.
"Did you enjoy your gift?"
"Oh, yes, thank you." Why she thanked him she had no idea. The man made her nervous. She was always worried he might discover her crush. "What about your gift? Was it ... nice?" Ugh, she might as well just give it up. She'd never be able to have a decent conversation with him.
He held up the box of scented candles. "Yeah, I'm sure these will come in handy."
She couldn't tell if he was being serious or sarcastic, so she just smiled. And then the awkward silence arrived, stretching between them until she thought she'd scream. Although it was only a few minutes--well, perhaps not even that long--it seemed interminable.
"I guess I should be getting back to work."
"I'll see you tomorrow then."
"Tomorrow?" As a billing representative, she didn't often interact with him.
"Gift-giving day number two."
"Oh yes." She'd forgotten for a brief moment they'd be giving a gift each day until the company holiday party on Friday. "Well, I'll talk to you later."
"I'll be looking forward to it."
Confusion furrowed her brow as she made her way back to her cubicle. This was the most Josh had spoken to her since she'd interviewed for her position six months ago. He must have been feeling the holiday spirit today.
Upon reaching her cubicle, Molly's discovered a small red-foil package sitting right in the middle of her desk. The card on top had her name written in a flourish. Not one to deny herself the joy of a gift, she began to rip open the package. Once devoid of paper, she lifted the lid and stared. She was bewildered by the items inside, two small silver rings. They didn't look like any earrings she'd ever seen. Remembering the note, she dug through the shredded paper until she found the paper with her name, opened it, and read the words written within.
I would be most honored if you would wear my gift tomorrow and think of me.
Once she read it, however, she was no more enlightened than she'd been earlier. Gathering everything, she sought out the one person who might be able to shine a light on this mystery. Tanya was alone in the workroom cleaning up when Molly walked in.
"Hey Molly, wasn't the gift exchange a blast?" Joy filled the petite woman's brown eyes. Her friend was her opposite in almost every way, from her lithe, tiny figure to her dark coloring, but most especially in her enthusiasm for this particular project. "This is so much fun."
"Yeah, tons of fun." She was trying her damnedest not to rain on her friend's parade, but she had to wonder, was the woman on drugs? "I need help."
"Sure, what's up?" Tanya threw the last load of trash in the garbage canister and pulled out a chair to sit down. Molly joined her at the table and handed her the jewelry and note.
"Can you explain this?"
Tanya read the note and then glanced into the box at the rings before busting out in laughter. "Oh my God, where did you get these?"
"I found them, wrapped up on my desk when I got back to my cube."
"No, I'm not. Now do you mind letting me in on the joke?"
"These, my dear innocent, naïve friend, are nipple rings."
Molly opened her mouth, but no words emerged. Thinking back over the note, she could feel her face begin to redden.
Someone had given her nipple rings and wanted her to wear them. That was ... well she couldn't even think of words to describe the request. Her reaction, on the other hand, was significant to say the least. She was actually turned on by the idea.
"You're considering it, aren't you?"
Tanya's words startled her. "What? No, why would you think that?" She should have known better than to lie to her best friend.
"Please, I see that gleam in your eye." Her friend's eyes shone with delight. "So, who do you think left you the naughty jewelry?"
"I have no idea."
"I know who you wish it was."
"Of course you do. But wishing doesn't make it true." Tanya was privy to all her secret fantasies about Josh and had been encouraging her to flirt a little with him. Flirting just wasn't her style, however. She wasn't aggressive and couldn't imagine coming on to him. Which was probably why she was alone for the holidays.
"But it could be Josh. I mean, it could be anyone." Never let it be said Tanya couldn't beat a dead horse.
"True. Like one of those bitches from reception playing a joke."
"Please, those two ding-a-lings couldn't come up with an idea between the two of them. This is a man. One interested in you. I say go for it."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Wear the nipple rings and see what happens."
Tanya was deluding herself. For one thing, Molly had no idea how to even put the things on. "How would he know I was wearing them? It's not as if I'm going to be topless."
"Silly, your nipples have to be erect to put them on. That's how he'll know. Then maybe he'll reveal himself."
"You mean flash me?"
"Now you're just being moronic. You know perfectly well what I meant."
"Okay, so I wear the nipple rings and find out who the mysterious gift giver is. What then?"
Tanya wiggled her eyebrows. "Then you let nature take its course."