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Epiphany by Mychael Black

Epiphany
Santa’s Helpers (multi-author series)
by Mychael Black

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06094-01956

Ryan Garrett ducks into a packed restaurant, hoping for a bit of reprieve from the traffic. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves… except for the snarly elf who shows up to take his dinner order. By the time he hits dessert, Ryan has a plan: to show the gorgeous elven waiter that Christmas means a whole lot more than crowds and stress.

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Chapter One

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Kael Selwyn stared at the plastic-wrapped pile of green fabric in his hand and contemplated hurling it at the back of his manager’s head. But winter wasn’t the best time to be unemployed, so he swallowed the urge. What paragon of brilliance came up with this idea, anyway?
Sighing, Kael resigned himself to his fate and escaped into the men’s bathroom. He locked himself in the handicapped stall, briefly wondering if he could fit through the floor drain. Fuck it. He stripped off his clothes and wiggled into the costume. The bright green material hugged every single inch, which would’ve been perfect if he’d been going to a rave — and in black. Right now, though, it only proved that elven men were quite… well-endowed. Flesh-colored, plastic elf ears dropped out of the folded red hat. Kael rolled his eyes and tossed the ears into the garbage. Then he tucked his longish, ponytailed hair behind his own — real — pointed ears and put on the hat.
He purposely ignored the mirror and stuffed his clothes in a corner of the manager’s office before heading back onto the floor. His coworkers all seemed rather content in their seasonal attire. The men were dressed like obscene elves, while the women wore the skimpiest Mrs. Claus outfits allowed by law. Thank the gods the restaurant catered more toward adults; Kael didn’t think any child should be traumatized by the wait staff.
The place already swarmed with patrons. Most of them seemed to be shoppers, if the bags around their feet and in empty chairs were any indication. Order book in hand, Kael headed for the first table seated in his section. The guy had a menu in hand, head bent down while he looked over the choices.
“Welcome to Grady’s. I’m Kael and I’ll be your server. Can I get you something to drink while you look over the menu?”
The guy looked up, and Kael wished with all his heart that he could sink into the floorboards. The man’s smile only made the humiliation complete. It figured the cute one would sit in his section — today out of all days.
“Nice outfit.”
Kael scowled. “It’s not out of choice, believe me.”
“You’re not the Christmas type?”
Kael gestured to one pointed ear, eyebrow raised. “Most of us don’t celebrate it.”
“Ah.” The man returned his gaze to the menu, giving Kael a welcome relief from eyes the color of milk chocolate. “I’ll start with a Pepsi. Do you have a favorite appetizer?”
Kael wrote down the drink order and shrugged. “I like the mozzarella cheese sticks, but I hear the potato skins are good, too.”
“Then I’ll get the combo appetizer platter. Hopefully I’ll figure out the rest of my meal by the time you come back.”
With a nod, Kael hurried off before he went up in flames.
* * *
Ryan Garrett gave up the pretense of perusing the menu in favor of watching the sweetest ass on the planet walk away from his table. Kael… And a true elf at that. Even though elves first came out of hiding decades ago, most people still fawned over them. Ryan had a few elven friends who avoided crowds just for that reason alone. He couldn’t blame them, really. This elf, though, caught his attention. Slim yet toned body, black hair that seemed to be just past his shoulders, and alluring pale green eyes — Kael exuded sex appeal on every level.
Elves, from what Ryan knew thanks to his friends, celebrated holidays more in line with pagans, revolving around the wheel of the year. With Yule right around the corner, Ryan wondered if Kael had family somewhere to visit, or if the elven waiter, like himself, preferred holidays in peace and quiet. Before he could think much more on it, however, Kael returned with his drink.
“What do you celebrate this time of year?” Ryan asked. “Or do you?”
Kael regarded him warily for a moment before answering. “My family moved to Scotland. I stayed here in the States. They do the winter solstice thing, but I usually just lock myself away from the idiots on the road and enjoy the quiet at home.”
Ryan nodded. He didn’t generally struggle for conversation topics, but Kael had him tongue-tied already. “How long have you been working here?” he asked, wincing at the less than smooth attempt at something more than generic chat.
When Kael didn’t reply, Ryan looked up to find the elf’s gaze narrowed on him. “You aren’t like most guys who come in here.”
“Oh? Dare I ask?”
“Most either make some asinine comment about gay elves, or they outright grope me.”
Ryan barely managed to avoid choking on a sip of Pepsi. “Well, I like to think I’m a bit more cultured than that.”
“Believe me, you are,” Kael said. Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan saw Kael shift, lean hip barely touching the table. “Thank you.”
Ryan glanced at Kael in time to see the slightest hint of smile before it faded back into a more neutral expression. He swallowed, realizing how much he wanted to see another smile, albeit in far more pleasurable circumstances. “So when you aren’t dealing with the flocks of annoying shoppers, what do you do for fun?”
“I paint — mostly landscapes, though more fantasy than reality.”
“Yeah? Do you have any up at the gallery downtown?”
“Not yet. It’s in the works, but with the holidays things are backlogged for a bit. I need to check on your appetizer. I’ll be back shortly.”
Ryan scanned the restaurant, wishing the place wasn’t so busy. Maybe then he could get away with at least asking for Kael’s number. With the patrons steadily pouring in, though, it didn’t look like Kael would have much more time for chatting. Ryan grabbed his napkin and flagged down another waitress.
“Can I borrow your pen, please?”
“Sure!” She handed it to him, then continued on. Ryan figured she had a spare tucked away in her apron.
He wrote down his cell phone number and email address under his name. It wasn’t perfect — certainly not a business card which he’d left in the car — but it would have to do. Kael came back with a tray, the platter of cheese sticks, potato skins, and chicken tenders steaming hot. He set the platter down, along with extra napkins, and started to leave again. Ryan caught him by the hand, just enough to grab the elf’s attention.
“I know you’re busy, and I’m sorry if this is too forward, but…” Ryan handed Kael the napkin. “I’d like to get to know you away from the craziness.”
Kael studied the napkin, then Ryan. “No promises, but I’ll try.”

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