I know! It's been like three or four years! But I found this story on my computer and felt a strong urge to continue it. I don't even know if my reviewers will still be around after so long, but here's to hoping. Chapter five is up, and I will try to stay focused and not disappear again! Hope anyone who reads this enjoys it!
Chapter Five: Of Table Cloths and Storage Rooms
I sigh as I look around at the lack of elves decorating the Grand Hall. Daniel likes to refer to this spacious room as our best kept secret. It's his way of telling Bernard that he thinks we should have way more parties than we're currently allowed. Aside from the few holidays Bernard allows us to celebrate, we don't use this room for anything other than wedding receptions.
I turn around at the sound of my name to find Quintin striding toward me with Bernard in tow. My heart gives a little flutter and I'm suddenly very aware of my attire. I'm wearing one of Remy's red button-up shirts, but it's tied just under my bust so that an expanse of skin is visible between it and my blue jean Capri's. I haven't taken the time to fix my hair, yet, so it's a pile of frizz secured into a precarious bun atop my head, with a few tendrils hanging down around my face. I fidget nervously as I feel my face heat up.
"Quintin!" I breathe as they come to a stop before me. I keep my eyes focused solely on Quintin as I try to hide my nervousness. "What brings you here?"
"I heard that you were short on workers, so I thought I'd drop by and help out," he tells me, looking over my shoulder to search the room. "And I brought back up!"
My nerves melt away as I grin. "Are you sure nothing else influenced your decision?"
He gives me a sheepish smile. "I may have other reasons for being here," he admits.
I finally turn to look at Bernard. His arms are crossed and he's glaring at Quintin, making it clear that he'd rather be anywhere else. I lean toward him a bit, grinning as I say in a flirty tone, "So I get to boss you around for a change?"
His eyebrows shoot up and the agitated look fades into one of surprise. It takes me a whole minute to realize what I just did. Oh, no. No, no, no, no. I fight the temptation to close my eyes and pray that this isn't happening. I can see the amused smirk donning Quintin's lips out of the corner of my eyes, confirming that it did, indeed, happen. I can pray for a distraction, though, which I fervently do as I worry my bottom lip between my teeth.
Then Bernard does something that makes my heart stop. He smirks, not in an unpleasant way, and replies with, "Guess you do." And I forget how to breathe. How to speak. How to think. Holy holly, I can't even remember my own name.
"For Christmas' sake, Bernard, don't give the girl a heart attack," Quintin says, his smirk growing into a full blown smile. "You're supposed to be the horrible, no fun having boss, remember?"
"But I'm not the boss today," Bernard shoots back, still smirking. "Evelyn is."
Evelyn. Right. That's my name. At least, when it comes to Bernard. Always Evelyn, never Evy. My heart starts beating again, and all my functioning capabilities return. He doesn't feel the same about me that I do about him. He was just playing along. Just goofing around.
"That's right," I retort in a sassy tone, gaining their attention once more. "I'm the boss today. So let's find you something to do."
"Yes, ma'am," Quintin replies, standing up straight and giving me a proper salute. I giggle while Bernard rolls his eyes, but his smirk has turned into a small grin. I stifle the sigh that tries to slip past my lips because I wasn't the one to make him grin like that.
"Let's see," I mutter as I turn to scan the room once more. "Bridget and Daniel could use help with the seat covers." As soon as the words leave my mouth, I realize my mistake, because Quintin rushes past me, heading for the corner where Bridget and Daniel are working diligently.
"On it!" he calls happily over his shoulder.
My shock only lasts for a split second before I shout, "You had better work more than you flirt, Quintin!"
He waves a hand over his shoulder at me, as if to casually brush my order off. I roll my eyes, but I can't stop the smile spreading across my lips. I know they'll get the job done.
"What about me?" Bernard asks from behind me.
I turn to face him again, and I can't see a trace of the elf that had been joking around just minutes before. He's all serious again. I stifle another sigh as I ponder what task to assign him. I do need someone to accompany me to the storage room to grab the table cloths. My eyes find Jeremiah after a quick scan of the room. He's helping a petite, blonde elf, Mavis, put up the lights. He's been crushing on her all year, so I know I won't be able to pull him away.
"You'll be coming with me," I tell Bernard. "We need to grab the table cloths from the storage room."
"Alright," he says with a curt nod. "Lead the way."
I fight the urge to scream in frustration as I lead him out of the Grand Hall. Oh, sure. He can goof off when Quintin's around, but when it's just us, he's back to being standoffish. I want to cry, to slap him, to yell, 'Can't you tell that I love you, you jerk?!', but I don't. I push it all aside, because Judy's getting married at five and the Grand Hall needs to be finished before then.
Our trek to the storage room was quiet, but I doubt Bernard minded. I didn't even mind at the time. I was still highly frustrated and maybe a little mad. When we reached the storage room door, I pulled my key out of the pocket of my jeans. Jack Frost snuck in a few hundred years back and stole all the decorations for our End of the Year party, so we've resorted to keeping it locked at all times.
I unlock the door and push it open. The light is already on, as I've been making trips between here and the Grand Hall all day. "They're this way," I tell Bernard over my shoulder, and I'm surprised it came out sounding so normal. Like nothing is bothering me.
He doesn't reply as I lead him past numerous shelves overflowing with boxes. I inwardly cringe at the chaos in this room. Jeannie was not very good at organizing. Daniel and I are going to have to hole ourselves in here one weekend and straighten it up. When we reach the shelf the table cloths are on, I start to climb up the ladder propped against it.
"What are you doing?' Bernard asks, reaching out to place a firm grip on my elbow.
"Getting the table cloths down," I tell him, a little confused at the look on his face.
"Where are they?"
"The top shelf," I say, "where they've always been."
"I'll get them," he insists, trying to tug me off of the ladder.
It dawns on me what that look is. Worry. He's worried, but I don't know what about. Shaking my head, I gently remove my arm from his grasp. "Bernard," I say, locking eyes with him. My heart rate increases exponentially, but I ignore it. "I've been in Design ever since I started working at Santa's shop. I've climbed this ladder, and every other one in this room, at least a hundred times. It'll be fine."
He purses his lips together in a thin line, but pulls his hand away from my arm. Very reluctantly, I might add. I start to climb up the ladder once more, fighting back the smile that is trying to make its way onto my lips. I bet he's worried I'll knock a box off on his head. Or break something.
"Okay," I call down as I reach the top. "I'm just going to drop these down to you."
"Alright," he calls back, preparing to catch the boxes I send down to him.
This process runs smoothly until we get to the last box. I pull it toward me and twist to the right to drop it down to Bernard. But the unexpected happens. The corner of the box gets caught on something, and I lose my grip on it. It goes tumbling to the ground at the same moment my foot loses purchase on the rung of the ladder. I close my eyes as I start to fall, not wanting to see the impact I know is coming.
I hit something solid but warm, which was not was I was expecting. A strained 'oomph' reaches my ears as whatever I hit slams into the shelf behind it, and I suddenly know what I hit. I slowly open my eyes to find my vision flooded with deep, dark red. The color of the shirt Bernard's wearing today. My eyes slowly travel up to lock with his once again, and I can't help noticing that our noses are almost touching.
I've never been this close to him before, but I immediately wish I had. Because being this close, I can see the flecks of copper swimming in his brown eyes. Even though I'm a bit mesmerized by his eyes, I manage to mutter, "S-sorry."
"It's okay," he mutters back, his nose bumping mine.
Wait. We weren't this close before. I'm sure of it. And I didn't move closer. I know I didn't. So what's going on here? And do I smell snicker doodles? Yes, I do. And it's coming from him. My mouth is suddenly dry, so I lick my lips, and those intense brown eyes dart down to witness it. Oh, no. I'm starting to lose the ability to think clearly. Come on, Evelyn, keep it together! You can not kiss your boss! Can not! Under any circumstances! So don't even think about it!
"Evy?" Daniel's voice calls from the door.
I quickly push away from Bernard, feeling the heat rising to my cheeks. "Back here," I call back as I move to gather the table cloths that spilled out of the box that caused all this trouble. I inwardly cringe at the fact that I sound a little out of breath.
"We came to see if you two needed any help," Quintin's voice drifts back to us, and I can tell he's moving through the shelves toward us.
"Actually, we could use two more pairs of hands. Here," I say, shoving the now full box into Daniel's arms. "Quintin grab one of those." I motion to the last two boxes as I kneel down to scoop up another.
"I think we could've gotten it ourselves," Bernard mumbles as he scoops up the box next to the one Quintin grabs. My ears must be playing tricks on me, because I swear he sounds a little disappointed.
Quintin and Bernard walk a little ways behind Daniel and I, exchanging heated whispers that I can't make out. I don't speak at all, despite the worried looks Daniel shoots my way every few minutes. I'll fill him in on everything when I can get him alone. Right now, I'm just trying to process what happened back there.
Ooo! What DID happen in the storage room? Guess you'll have to read and find out! Also, I was thinking of having the next chapter be in Bernard's POV, at least partially. If you would like to see what's going on in his head, let me know and I'll make it so!