AsparaguspeelerI admit it. I’m a bit of a grinch when it comes to Christmas. My ideal Christmas is spent camped in the bush or by the beach, with some delicious food, fine wine, and only my partner for company. Oh, and fine weather as it’s the start of the wet season in my part of Queensland.

Part of what makes me grumpy around this time of year is the mindless consumerism of it all. Endless racing around spending money you probably don’t have (if the surveys on Christmas spending and credit card debt are even remotely accurate) buying crap for people who would much rather have a decent bottle of Shiraz. Or the money. Or even a pair of socks.

Of course there are some gifts you have to buy. The office Bad Santa, the family Kris Kringle, something special for your special one. A marrowbone chew toy for Boris the dog.

So here is Cheyenne’s Holiday Gift Guide – Part 1: a couple of suggestions of what not to buy and what to buy this holiday season.

Bad Santa Gift

An asparagus peeler. WTF? I’m a total foodie and fresh asparagus is one of the greatest things in the spring, but who eats enough of it to need a special peeler? Who peels asparagus anyway? And who peels enough asparagus to even think about spending $345 on this piece of bench clutter? To me, it looks like the contraption is peeling a cucumber – it’s the thickest piece of asparagus I’ve ever seen.

Aside: Asparagus pee. Discuss. Can you smell it? Apparently everyone’s pee stinks after eating fresh asparagus (tinned doesn’t count) but only 25% of people can smell it.

Good Santa Gift

XOXO

Or you could buy this: xoxo: Sweet and Sexy Romance edited by Kristina Wright. Short, sweet, romantic and sexy tales from 30 authors including Sommer Marsden, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Saskia Walker. Just perfect for a Christmas stocking, or gift wrapped under the tree. Amazon is shipping NOW (despite what it says on the site) so you’ll receive it in time for Christmas. The Kindle version is available soon.

My story “Perk of the Job” is included in this collection. It’s a story of Mel, a veterinary nurse, Mohinder, her boss, and Ralph, Mel’s Staffy. I have a tradition of using animals I know in real life in my stories, and Ralph the Staffy is alive and well and living (and eating everything in sight, and absconding the second the gate is unguarded) in Queensland.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Is that Ralph in doggie daycare?”

Mohinder, my boss, leaned carelessly against the door of the examination room, his white coat hanging from one finger. I took a minute to compose myself before I answered.
“It’s Ralph.”

“What’s wrong with him this time?” Mohinder ran a hand through his shaggy black hair.

I longed to smooth it for him. Actually, there was a lot I longed to smooth on my boss’ rangy body.
“He’s fine. It’s his monthly check.”

In truth, I knew that Ralph, my rescue puppy, was bounding with health. But Mohinder had suggested monthly checks and I wasn’t going to argue. A perk of the job as a veterinary nurse was free care for our own animals.

“He’ll bankrupt us. How about I double your salary but rescind the free care for Ralph?”

Old joke, but I pretended to consider. “No go. It would break Ralph’s heart if he couldn’t see you.”
Ralph adored Mohinder but he’d survive. Me, on the other hand…

The day passed quickly. I worked with Mohinder, and with the grumpy senior partner. I was equally efficient with both, but I didn’t find the need rest my hand on the senior partner’s forearm to emphasize a point, didn’t flirt with him over the dressings tray. With him I was strictly professional.

It was no hardship to work alongside Mohinder, hoping for the not-so-accidental brush of bodies as we passed between the examination table and the bench. I loved listening to his low voice crooning to a recalcitrant animal, his gentle hands soothing their fur. The thought of those long fingers on my body had given me any number of spiraling flights of fancy.

Staff pets were left until last. It was a long day. Surgery with complications. A feral cat that escaped and ran amok. So when Mohinder called for me to bring Ralph in, everyone else had already left.

Ralph pattered in, grinning as only a Staffy can. Mohinder bent to pat him and Ralph went into ecstasies, rolling over to display his huge stomach to be rubbed. Between us, we hoisted him onto the examination table.

“He’s a credit to you, Mel. This isn’t the same malnourished dog of six months ago.” Mohinder’s voice was warm, and I smiled with delight.

Mohinder was close, only a finger’s breadth away from me. His white coat brushed my bare arm and I fought to suppress the shiver

“I’ll give him a vitamin shot, but I think he’s doing well.”

I turned away to draw up the shot, and when I swung back Mohinder was scratching Ralph behind his ears, crooning to him in low tones. My breath left my body in a shaky exhalation. If only Mohinder would talk to me with the same warmth. If only his hands would soothe my body instead of Ralph’s.