Denver was cold. Like arctic cold. It was a late Friday afternoon in November when Rachelle, the other finance manager, came to my office. Rachelle was gorgeous. Before being hired at Lexus she had been a Denver Broncos cheerleader, which also made her the finance manager with whom our male buyers most wanted to process their car purchases. Invariably they flirted with her, which she used to her advantage. She sold more paint protectant than the rest of us. If she wasn’t so picky about men, she would have broken up half the marriages in Denver.

“Hey, Kim,” she said, leaning through my door. “Could you please take this last customer? I’ve got an early date tonight with a guy as hot as a solar flare.”

“You say that about every guy you date,” I said.

“I can’t help it if I’m a heat magnet. And you might like this one.”

I shook my head. “Go on your date.”

“You’re a doll,” she said, mincing away.

“You’re a Barbie doll,” I said under my breath.

The man Rachelle had passed on to me was in his late fifties and, in spite of it being winter, wore plaid golf pants, a lemon-yellow sweater, and a pink Polo golf shirt that stretched over his ample belly. He also wore a beret, which failed to cover his bald spot. His forehead was beaded with sweat that he constantly wiped with the handkerchief he carried. I couldn’t believe that Rachelle thought this guy was my speed. No, actually I could. She had always treated me as a wallflower.

The man sat down in one of the vinyl chairs in front of my desk while Bart, the salesman who had sold the car, introduced us.

“Kim, this is Mr. Craig, the proud owner of a new GX 460.” He turned back to his huffing client. “Kimberly is one of our finance officers. She’ll take good care of you.”

“I do hope so,” the man said in a thin, whiny voice.

“I’ll run to service and make sure they’ve got your car ready to drive home,” Bart said to the man, then left my office.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Craig,” I said. “I’ll get your information typed up and get you out of here to enjoy your new vehicle.”

I was entering the purchase information when the man suddenly blurted out, “Is it hot in here or is it just . . . you?”

I looked up at him. He was gazing at me with an insipid grin.

“It’s a little warm,” I said. “If you like I can turn down the heat.”

“No,” he said, a little thrown that I hadn’t fallen for his line. “I like it hot.” Then he started to hum that song, “. . . some like it hot, some sweat when the heat is on . . .” He was definitely sweating.

“Okay,” I said. “What’s your phone number?”

“My phone number,” he repeated. “My phone number.” He pretended to look through his pockets. Then he said, “I seem to have misplaced it. Can I have yours?”

“Excuse me?” I said.

He just looked at me.

“Your phone number?” I repeated.

“It’s 555-445-3989.”

I typed in the number. I hoped that the awkwardness had successfully dissuaded him but it hadn’t. A few minutes later he said, “Your name is Kimberly?”

“Yes.”

“May I call you Kim?”

“Yes, you may,” I said, continuing typing.

A beat later he asked, “What time?”

I looked up. “What time . . . what?”

“What time may I call you, Kim?”

I breathed out slowly. “Okay, Mr. Craig . . .”

“Tim.”

“I’m flattered, Tim, but I’m not in the market right now, so you just hang on to those gems for some other lucky gal.”

He slightly blushed. “Sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” I said. “Now, if you’ll just fill out your insurance information.”

He silently filled out the paperwork. When he finished he said, “Are you almost off work?”

I looked up from my computer.

“Because, if you are, I’ll take you for a ride in my new car. Maybe we could go to dinner. Or something.”

“Just a minute,” I said, standing. “May I get you some water?”

“I’m not thirsty.”

“I meant to cool you off.”

The Mistletoe Inn: A Novel