Joe Naylor stared at the department store display. "I can not believe this."
"What?" His girlfriend, Noelle Winters, gave him a puzzled look.
"This!" He made a sweeping gestures with his arm to indicate the shelves. "It's October fifteenth and they're putting up Christmas decorations!"
He scowled at the Santas, elves, miniature trees and other Yuletide paraphernalia that sat mere feet from more appropriate seasonal wares. Pumpkins, witches, and skeletons grinned at him from their perches, their oranges and blacks an odd contrast to the reds and greens. It just wasn't right.
Noelle laughed. "Oh, come on. What's wrong with getting a head start on the holiday spirit?"
"You would say that." He shook his head. "That's what I get for having a girlfriend named Noelle."
"Oh, ha ha." She put her hands on her hips. "I didn't pick the name."
"I know." He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "I love you anyway."
"Smart ass." Noelle glared and smacked his arm.
"Seriously, don't you think there's something wrong with having this stuff out so far ahead of time? Can't we enjoy one holiday before starting another? Everyone knows when Christmas is; it isn't like it moves around. And what about Thanksgiving?"
"I don't know. On the other hand, what's so bad about Christmas? My grandmother decorates for it all year round. Maybe if we had more reminders of the Christmas spirit during the year, the world would be a little better off."
"You're such an idealist." He pulled her close and chuckled at her token resistance. "Still, it does make one appreciate the less commercial aspects of things like Buddhism."
Noelle rolled her blue eyes. "Right. I can see you sitting and meditating with the incense. It'd last fifteen minutes. You can't sit still and you have allergies."
"I'll get odorless incense."
"You're lucky you're cute, or I'd break up with you right here." The twitch at the corner of Noelle's lips belied her words.
"Cute?" Joe's eyes darted around to see who might have heard. "Jesus, can't you say 'handsome' or something like that? Rugged? Craggy?"
"Well." Noelle tilted her head and pretended to study him. "Let's see. Tall; blond hair that needs a trim; hazel eyes; a crooked nose that adds a little charm. Okay, I can go with handsome."
"I feel so much better now."
Noelle laughed and squeezed his arm. "Come on. Let's go, we still need to get a birthday present for my mom. You've bitched enough about the Christmas display."
"Christmas creep," he grumbled.
"Christmas creep. That's what this is. It gets earlier and earlier every year and next thing you know, we'll be buying reindeer in the summer."
"You're cute when you're indignant."
"Handsome, damn it. I'm handsome."
"Noelle, you going to watch the game?" Joe called from the other room.
"I'll be there in a few minutes. Just trying on something I bought today."
Noelle smiled to herself as she looked in the mirror. She didn't usually buy things like this, but it had been on sale and she couldn't resist. She'd found a green teddy trimmed in white fur, and had paired it with her red heels. A Santa hat on her dark hair completed the ensemble, and she laughed at herself. "Sexy elf" was not a look she'd ever thought she could pull off, but she thought Joe would like it. She decided it would be part of his Christmas present.
She agreed with him that it was ridiculous that Christmas merchandise came out almost as soon as fall started. On the other hand, she loved Christmas and everything that went with it and couldn't get too upset about the "creep."
As she'd told Joe, her grandmother did keep her house decorated for Christmas all year round. As a child, Noelle had loved to visit and see the elves and reindeer and angels during summer vacation. She would make paper snowflakes in July and frost Christmas cookies in August. As she got older, her grandmother had taught her to crochet, and the two of them had turned out tree ornaments by the dozens.
Noelle didn't decorate as her grandmother did, but she kept Christmas reminders out. A little elf sat on her nightstand, and she had strewn various reindeer, angels and snowmen through the apartment.
When she'd met Joe, he'd thought it was odd. His family had been much more traditional, and his mother had been adamant that there would not be so much as a pine needle in the house before December 1. She wouldn't even decorate a tree until Christmas Eve, which Noelle thought was sad, not to mention a waste of time and tree.
Every year Joe groused about the Christmas merchandise coming out earlier, and this year she'd decided to have some fun with it. Her plan wasn't finalized, but she had a feeling it was going to be fun the rest of the way. At least for her.
As Thanksgiving approached, Joe's stress levels rose. He sat at his desk, staring at a full email inbox. Christmas loomed like a big red and green Jabba the Hutt, demanding tribute of presents, candies, oversized socks and sappy orchestral music.
It wasn't that he didn't like Christmas, Joe thought. He did. He got a kick out of seeing his nieces and nephews open presents, visiting with family and eating the never-ending supply of turkey, pies and cookies. There were lots of good things about the Christmas season.
The stress came from having to get ready for Christmas. Every year he intended to shop early and every year he forgot, or got distracted. The closer it got to Christmas, the worse it felt. There was less and less time to do everything.
Noelle took it all in stride, and he was jealous of that. She offered to help him shop, but that made him feel like a wuss. It was shopping, for God's sake, not anything difficult. Noelle didn't have as many people to shop for, he consoled himself. That's why she didn't stress over it like he did. She should try shopping for close to fifteen people, then she'd see how sanguine she was about the Christmas spirit.
Joe snorted to himself. Nicole could probably shop for an army of strangers two days before Christmas and think it was fun. Fun!
Plus, he thought as he glowered at his monitor, she'd invite the strangers over for hot chocolate and cookies.
His phone rang and he grabbed at the distraction. "Good afternoon. Joe Naylor speaking."
He relaxed. "Hi, Noelle. What's up?"
"Not much. Just checking to see how you were."
"Stressed. Why are holidays so damn stressful?"
She laughed. "Oh, poor baby. You need to relax."
"I can't relax when I've got to decide whether we spend Thanksgiving with Mom or Dad, and you know how they are. No matter which I pick, the other will pull a guilt trip on me. Then there's Christmas, which is even worse."
"I can help you with the shopping, you know that."
"No. I can do it. I just need a break. I'm going to take a couple of days off after Thanksgiving. I'll take care of it then."
"Look, forget about it for tonight. I'll meet you after work and we'll hit a couple of stores, then we'll get a nice dinner."
"Can we just go straight to dinner?" The Christmas onslaught was worse now that November was nearly over. Joe wasn't sure he could face it.
"We won't be long at the stores, I promise."
"Noelle, I'm not sure I can face one more smiling, singing snowman right now without strangling it with its scarf."
"You'll manage. Bye, sweetie. I'll meet you outside your office."
The day straggled to a close and Joe was glad to pack it in. Even shopping with Noelle would be better than work. He hoped.
He smiled when he saw her waiting, wrapped in a bright red coat with a green scarf and holding a few bags. He strode over and pulled her into a deep kiss. "Hi."
"Hey." She laughed and kissed him back. "How are you?"
"So much better since you're here." He gave her a pleading look. "Can we skip the stores, please? I mean, you love me, right?"
"I do. Which is why I took care of the shopping already. We'll go to dinner at your favorite restaurant." She tugged him closer and kissed him."
"You are an angel. A beautiful, sexy, considerate Christmas angel."
Noelle laughed. "You sounded so stressed I figured I should get it out of the way. Now we can enjoy dinner and look forward to later."
Joe raised an eyebrow as he took her hand and led her to his car. "Later? What's going to happen later?"
At the restaurant, after he'd enjoyed a medium-rare filet mignon and a baked potato along with a glass of shiraz, he asked Noelle if she wanted dessert.
"No, that's okay." She shook her head. "We'll get dessert at home."
Joe was curious about that. He didn't recall that she'd made anything recently, and there hadn't been any food in the bags she'd had when she'd met him at the office. He shrugged to himself; whatever it was, he wasn't going to be picky. It was Friday, the weekend was ahead of him, and he had Noelle and no other plans.
At home, he hung up his coat and shoved his bag into the closet. He didn't want to see any reminders of work until Monday morning. He wandered into the kitchen and found Noelle sorting through her purchases.
"I'm going to get changed, okay?"
"Sure." Noelle nodded. "I'm going to get organized here, then I'll get changed, and then we'll make cookies."
"Cookies? We have to make cookies?" Joe groaned but Noelle just laughed.
"Oh, it'll be fun. You'll see."
"Sure. Can we at least listen to some music while we do it?" Joe asked.
"You bet. I'll get it all set up." She walked over and kissed him. "Go on, get changed. You'll feel better when you're out of work clothes."
Noelle laughed when Joe came back out in the kitchen, looking resigned to his fate. "Cheer up, hon. It won't be so bad. I'll be right back." She gave him a soft and lingering kiss on the lips. He tried to snag her around the waist but she dodged and wiggled a finger at him. "Not yet."
"We could do that first and then make cookies." He looked at her with puppy-dog eyes.
"No, you'll enjoy making the cookies." She stepped back as he made another attempt to grab her. "I'll be right back. Just wait here. Why don't you pour some wine?"
"All right." Joe nodded and went over to the fridge and selected a bottle of Australian white. As he removed the cork, he realized Christmas music was playing. He banged his head against the fridge; he never should have left it to Noelle.
"Babe, you picked the wrong music," he called. He shook his head as he got out the wine glasses. "I mean, seriously, Noelle. Thanksgiving is next week. You couldn't have held off on the Christmas songs for another week? I'm bombarded with them all the time now. Home should be the one place I can get a break."
"Oh, I'm sorry, sweetie. You know how I am."
"Do you mind if I switch—" Joe turned around and lost his train of thought.
"Sorry? Switch what?" Noelle aimed for an innocent look and knew she must be failing in a big way. Joe's expression started at surprise but advanced to appreciation and then desire as though on a bullet train.
"You look great." He set the wine glasses on the counter. "Although it's not traditional cooking attire."
Noelle glanced down. She'd put on a short green skirt and a red silk camisole top. Her breasts swayed beneath the silky material. "Oh, this? You know how hot it gets in the kitchen. I figured I might as well be comfortable."
"Are you not comfortable?"
"What do you think?"
She couldn't hold in the laugh any longer. "I'd say judging by that bulge in your jeans, your pants are too tight." She laughed harder when he yanked her to him and kissed her. "All right, tiger. Come on, let's make cookies."
Joe looked at her with a combination of horror and disbelief. "Are you serious? You really want to make cookies?"
"Well, sure. I need to get some done for the office party. We're having it the week after Thanksgiving."
"That's over two weeks away."
"I'll bake them now and freeze them, and then I won't have to worry about it."
"You are a terrible tease, dressing like that." Joe scowled and poured the wine.
"I'm not teasing. I'm just ... heightening the anticipation." Noelle took the glass he offered and sipped the wine, then glanced down at his jeans. "Among other things."
Joe had to laugh at that. "Okay, okay. What do we do first?"
Joe relaxed as they mixed up the ingredients and rolled up the balls of dough. Noelle put some sugar on her finger and licked it off; her heart raced when she saw the look in Joe's eyes. She dipped her finger in again and held it out to him. He held her hand steady with his and never broke eye contact as he slid her finger into his mouth. She bit her lip as her body heated up. He rubbed his tongue over the pad of her fingertip and released it with a little pop.
After the snickerdoodles, Noelle washed and rinsed a few things before beginning to work on sugar cookies. She would use cookie cutters to make Christmas shapes and then put on icing and sprinkles and other decorations after they were baked.
"You're sexy when you cook." Joe placed a kiss on the nape of her neck; she'd pulled her hair back in a ponytail.
"You're distracting me." She closed her eyes and clenched her hand around the measuring cup.
"I'm just admiring. You can't expect me not to admire you in that outfit."
Joe slid his hands around her and cupped her breasts. "Indeed."
Noelle considered ditching the cookies and just taking Joe down with her to floor, but the floor was tile and uncomfortable and she still had plans. Joe was adjusting nicely to Christmas things before Christmas, but she wasn't done.
"No, no. Later." She tapped his hands with the spatula.
He let her go and grinned. "Now that's something I hadn't thought of. How many spatulas do you have?"
"None of your business. Now, get the sugar, please."
Joe watched Noelle as she mixed the ingredients. He knew his job in the kitchen: hand her ingredients, move bowls and cups to the sink, and keep her company. That was fine with him. Previous experience had shown him to be as good at cooking as a reindeer was at knitting. So he was cool with helping, talking and watching.
Watching had taken on a whole new dimension this evening, though. He was mesmerized by the way her hips rolled as she moved back and forth, reaching for the ingredients. It was an effort not to yank her away from the counter and pull off the camisole to get at her breasts. They swayed with her movements and he ogled, guilt-free, as she mixed everything together and her breasts bounced under the material.
If she was going to dress like that, then by God he was going to enjoy it. He considered it an early Christmas present.
She shot him coy glances every so often as she mixed up the dough. Once it was done, she placed some on a sheet of wax paper covered with flour and picked up the rolling pin. Joe watched her sway as she rolled out the dough, sure she was exaggerating the motion for his benefit. He stepped behind her and pressed his jean-clad erection against her backside.
"Here, let me help." He covered her hands with his and helped her smooth out the dough.
"Thanks." She wiggled her ass against him and he nipped at her neck. "Hey!"
"I'm trying to cook here." Noelle tried to sound stern but couldn't suppress a laugh.
"I know. I'm helping. See? I'm helping roll out the dough." He ground his hips against her while keeping his hands over hers on the rolling pin. She leaned back into him for a minute, then pushed him back.
"Here. Do something useful." She handed him a cookie cutter.
He gave her a half-hearted glare and took the cutter. For the next twenty minutes they cut out angels, Christmas trees, gingerbread men and other seasonal shapes. As the first trays baked, Noelle worked on clearing space to decorate the cookies and Joe amused himself. He ran his hand over the bare skin of her abdomen, rubbed against her ass again and dropped kisses over her bare neck and shoulders, moving away before she could tell him to stop.
After the cookies were done, she left them to cool and turned to cleaning up. While she washed some of the smaller dishes at the sink, he stood behind her and slid his hands under the camisole, palming her breasts and teasing her nipples to hard peaks.
She cleared her throat. "You're not helping."
"You always tell me I'm in the way, so I thought I'd stay behind you."
"I thought you'd be tired of making Christmas cookies so far ahead of time. I figured you'd go watch a game or something."
Joe laughed and wrapped his arms around her waist. "With you looking like this, not a chance."
"If you're staying in the kitchen, you're helping me decorate cookies." She turned and put a finger against his chest and pushed.
"Okay." He resisted for a minute, then stepped back with a grin.
Noelle got out the tubes and tubs of frosting and little jars of sprinkles in red, white and green. Joe watched and thought he'd rather be icing her than the cookies, but he'd start with the cookies. He opened the toppings while she put the now-cool cookies on a platter and brought them over to the table.
"Hand me the white frosting?" she asked.
"Sure." He picked up a tube and handed it to her, but not before squeezing it too soon. "Oh, sorry."
"No, you're not." Noelle tried to glare but couldn't as he grinned at her. Instead, she raised her hand to her mouth and licked the icing off the back of her hand. "Mmmmm." She took the tube and affected an air of nonchalance as she began to decorate an angel-shaped cookie.
Joe's cock pulsed against his jeans. He was about to speak when Noelle beat him to it.
"You don't have to stay for this part. It was sweet of you to help me cook, but I know this is boring. You know me, I love doing all this silly stuff." She looked at him with wide, sincere eyes.
"Oh, I don't think so." Joe shook his head and reached for more frosting. "I think decorating could become my favorite part."
"What are you—" Noelle jumped as he dropped the cool frosting down her arm, starting at the shoulder. He dragged his chair closer to hers and leaned over. She let out a shaky breath as he lowered his head and began to lick the frosting off her skin.
"I thought that—" She cleared her throat and Joe smiled to himself as he worked his way down her arm. "I thought that you didn't like Christmas stuff so early. You know, Christmas creep and all."
"I'm finding it may have its advantages." He drizzled icing in the crook of her arm and ran his tongue over the spot. When he sucked off the frosting, Noelle tensed and squeezed her legs together.
Joe laughed. "I forgot that's a sensitive spot for you."
"You have your own sensitive spots."
"I do, and you always find them. But I like yours better." He dipped his finger in the red icing and traced it over her lips. When he kissed her, the combination of sugar and Noelle made him groan. He pushed his chair away and knelt in front of her.
Joe worked his hands under the camisole and pushed it up, running sticky fingers over her breasts. Before he could replace his hands with his mouth, he realized her apron was in the way. He tugged on the neck strap. "This needs to come off."
Noelle lifted it over her head; Joe reached around and untied the waist strap and pushed the apron to the floor. He kissed her once more, plunging his tongue into her mouth before moving down to her breasts. She shuddered as he flicked his tongue over a nipple, and tangled her fingers in his hair to keep him close as he moved to do the same on the other side. Joe knew she was close; he could tell by the way she took in short, gasping breaths.
He dropped one hand to her leg and skimmed it up her thigh, stopping just short of her sex. He could feel her heat. When he paused, he felt her tense, waiting for his next move. He dragged out the suspense for another minute before sliding a finger inside.
Noelle dropped her head forward and found his lips, kissing him while her hips rocked against his hand. Joe opened his mouth to let her tongue in and then took control of the kiss. She tasted sweet, and he thought that Christmas cookies might have a whole new association after this.
He deepened the kiss and continued moving his fingers in and out of her. She clutched at him, and when he rubbed his thumb over the sensitive nub between her legs, she cried out and bucked against him. Joe kept up the rhythm with his fingers while he pressed his lips against the sensitive spot on her neck. She whimpered and after a moment reached down to still his hand.
For a few minutes, there was no sound save their ragged breathing. Joe pulled back and grinned at her. "I told you decorating would be my favorite part."
Noelle let out a breathless laugh and moved her leg against the bulge in his jeans. He groaned. "I think we need to move into another room."
"But I need to finish the cookies." Noelle looked at him in surprise.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "I think they'll keep."
She laughed. "I suppose they will." She reached down and squeezed his cock through his jeans. "Come on, you deserve your own special treat. We'll see how much decorating you can take."