The Magic of Christmas

an excerpt

Chapter One

With a flourish, Jared ticked off the last number on the calendar before the date circled in bright red. Already at work the talk was of Christmas parties, who was having family around, who was going away, who was hosting, and who visiting.

But Christmas itself wasn't a biggie for him. He preferred to take his holidays now, in mid-September, and then again in February. That way those with families could take the big Christmas break, while he provided the backbone of the skeleton staff in the office.

Unlike many he worked with, Jared didn't have family to gather cosily around a tree and exchange gifts. But the ‘annual friends get-together and have a good time vacation' started tomorrow. His friends were his family. He sighed, his smile faltering slightly. The five of them had been tight through high school and university. But now as thirty fast approached, things had changed for them all.

Sarah was engaged, but her fiance was happy for her to have one more friends' week away. Amber had been with a steady partner for two years, and hadn't been able to make last year's get together. This would be her last holiday with them, she and her partner wanted to focus on starting their family. Chase was getting married in February, and was having the week away instead of a stag night.

He swallowed slightly as he thought of the last member of their group. He'd been in awe of Casey from the day they met. But somewhere in the last year or so of uni, the feelings he'd felt had changed. Jared knew he loved his flamboyant friend, and probably always would, but Casey was a butterfly, while he, well he was probably more of a snail. Quiet, slow, dull, crawling slowly through life.

His degree in business and marketing complete, Casey had revealed his true calling. He was going to be a hairdresser. Several years down the line, his talent, coupled with his flair for marketing, meant Casey wasn't just stuck in a main street salon.

His friend was so talented, he already owned two of his own, very boutique, styling houses, and he was in demand to style the hair of the rich and famous. He was never still, lived quite happily out of suitcases, flitting from call to call. And that didn't just mean city to city.

Running his finger over the circled date, Jared sighed softly. Once they stopped their week's getaway, would he even see Casey again? He got random texts, quirky Facebook messages, and the odd postcard from exotic locations, when Casey was called to look after a demanding client who was on holiday and needed Casey's special touch.

In a way Jared was amazed they'd all managed to still keep in touch. Only he and Amber still lived in the area. Sarah lived with her partner at the other end of the country, Chase lived halfway between them. He wasn't really sure where Casey called home.

Shaking his head, Jared headed over to the kettle and flicked it on. He was a home-bunny. He was happy in his small town, and didn't feel the need to move to a bigger city. All he needed was right here. Well. Casey's smiling face popped into his mind. Not everything.

Because of the upcoming marriages, and the other million and one things in day-to-day life, they'd decided to make this year the last of their annual getaways. That meant this holiday was going to be a complete blow out. Off to Queenstown to ski, ride a dog sled, and have apres ski fun and frolics. It was the getaway to end all getaways, and he had to be up early to catch his plane.

If he was honest he wasn't sure he'd manage to get much sleep. He was too excited. He was looking forward to seeing everyone again. Even if this was the last time they managed to all be in the same place at the same time outside of the impending weddings. They were going to pull out all the stops for this holiday.