WIP Wednesday returns: The Mistletoe Maneuver

After the long, hard marathon of Nanowrimo, WIP Wednesday makes its triumphant return! And you’d think I would start sharing the manuscript I spent those frantic thirty days writing, but you’d be wrong. Dragonspire is not yet ready for reading consumption.

Instead, I’m going to share the first part of a story I’m kind-of, sort-of writing for Christmas, with the hopes I’ll finish it up on the plane on my way to Chicago later this month. The prompts were mistletoe and May/December, so I’m bringing those elements together along with my own little twist.

This one doesn’t have a summary yet, so I’m just going to launch right into it.

The Mistletoe Maneuver

The worst of all Christmas carols was jangling out its jaunty theme of cuckolding and maternal adultery when Kenneth Whitaker crossed the polished expanse of marble that took him across the vast glass-walled lobby. Kenneth clenched his back teeth and put on a smile for the benefit of Sheila, the receptionist, as he bent to sign in at the front desk. “Seems unfair that they keep you working while everyone else goes upstairs to party,” Kenneth said, as though he hadn’t been working sixty hours a week through the holidays for the past fifteen years. The Vanderbrandt company party was the one free pass for all executives.

Sheila gave him a brief show of red, red lips stretched over very white teeth. “After I sign everyone in, I lock the lobby doors and I get to go upstairs, too,” she replied. “We party all night, after all. I don’t begrudge everyone else the head start.”

Kenneth nodded. Someone from the Vanderbrandt group had left out a Montblanc to sign the register and he penned his name with an offhand flourish, dropping it into the bend where the pages met. He paused and scanned over the list of those present, but wasn’t quite bold enough to flip back a page. “Anyone from the Yamato group here yet, Sheila?”

That earned Kenneth a smirk. “Funny you should ask, when one of them wanted to know if you were here already. Twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh.” Kenneth squared his shoulders and pulled in a slow breath. Time to face the music. Hopefully it would at least be a different carol upstairs. “Better not keep them waiting, then.”

Kenneth’s short walk to the sleek silver escalators beyond the front desk was the march of a soldier going to battle. The Yamato group meant a very specific Yamato would be there waiting for him. The fact that Zach had asked Sheila was his advance notice that yet again, the hunt was on.

The elevator ascended, and Kenneth’s stomach attempted to stay on the ground floor. It had been years since he’d seen Zach Yamato–too young, too sleekly gorgeous, too precocious–and fended off his wandering hands and blunt proposition. He had to close his eyes for a moment to steady himself. “I’ve wanted you for years,” Zach had breathed into his ear, attempted to kiss him, and only when he’d pointed upward with a cheeky grin had Kenneth realized he’d been steered directly under the mistletoe at a darkened corner of the ballroom dance floor.

Kenneth’s eyes popped open when a chiming note heralded the arrival of his elevator at the party floor. The entire top floor of the Vanderbrandt building was a stadium-sized atrium complete with towering crystal skylight and sleek steel girders. They were draped for the occasion with boughs of evergreen punctuated with the bright red splash of holly. A woodsy scent assailed Kenneth’s nose as he stepped out of the elevator, gift bag dangling from the crook of his arm. The anonymous gift swap took place at midnight, and a table already piled high and wide was pushed up against a wall to his right. The table itself was covered in shiny mylar reminiscent of gift wrap. Kenneth added his contribution to the precarious stacks.

He turned to assess the brewing party for danger zones. Christmas with a more rock-driven beat drifted through hidden speakers, and the press of people was hidden partially from view by the staggered placement of three towering firs decked with all the tinsel and lights they could bear. A gauntlet of familiar faces stood between Kenneth and the wet bar at the far end, and the DJ was out of sight in a crow’s nest on the second level that wrapped around one side of the atrium. The other side opened onto a terrace that afforded one of the most spectacular views the city had to offer.

Yamato Senior was visible enough, standing in clear view within a cluster of the Vanderbrandt group’s most elite executives. As always, he wore an impeccably tailored suit and his slight frame and iron-gray hair provided no other tells for the massive clout he wielded. His bodyguards stood an unobtrusive distance apart, hands clasped in front of them, eyes shielded with dark glasses even indoors. His translator Reiko was beside him, stunning in a champagne-colored off the shoulder dress, her black hair newly clipped into a pixie cut. She was all smiles in contrast to Yamato’s stoic face.

There were other important players present, Kenneth noted, accounting for his colleagues, their allies, even a few key business rivals. The Vanderbrandt group’s Christmas parties were legendary, and not to be missed. He started out across the maze of mingling associates and headed for the far side of the room, keeping a weather eye out for a certain youthful storm.

The last time Kenneth had seen Zach, he had promised to make the same offer the following year, and reminded Kenneth he wouldn’t have the excuse of his being underage to turn him down. That had been three years ago.

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