Holly and Gerard go shopping.
Gerard frowned, “Where’s you mama?” He didn’t like the fact that Molly had come down and unlocked the door without knowing who had rang the bell.
“She’s on the phone.” Molly said turning to walk back up the steps.
Before they reached the top Gerard said softly. “Squirt, you really shouldn’t unlock the door like you just did.”
Molly frowned, “But mommy told me to. She saw you get out of your car.”
“Oh.” He was relived. “I didn’t know that.”
“Daddy.” She crossed her arms. “I wouldn’t open that door without mommy telling me to.”
“I’m sorry.” Gerard said scooping her up into his arms. “I forgot what a smart little girl you are.”
Molly giggled. “Yep I am.” She placed her arms around his neck to hug him tightly as he carried her into the loft. Immediately he saw that Holly was standing by the windows while talking on the phone. She motioned for him to take a seat.
“That is really a great charity.” Holly said softly. “But it’s such short notice. Couldn’t I just donate a piece?”
“Who’s she talking to?” Gerard whispered into Molly’s ear.
“Richard.” Molly whispered back.
He sat down on the sofa and Molly crawled up next to him.
“Did you know Alicia and I are gonna make cookies today? She called and asked me to.” Molly said smiling.
Gerard tried to pay attention to his daughter while listening to snippets of Holly’s conversation with Richard. “That’s great. Gonna make a special one just for me?”
“Oh course, Daddy.” Molly crawled up onto his lap. “You are the best daddy in the world.”
Gerard felt his heart melt. “Thank you, Honey.”
Across the room Holly was trying to concentrate on her conversation with Richard but she was watching Molly and Gerard.
“I’ve spoke to Arthur this morning.” Richard explained. “He said if you agree he’ll send one of your pieces over to the center. But Holly, all of the artists who have donated are going to be at the party. I’d hate for you not to be there.”
Gerard helped Molly off his lap then stood once he head Holly say she wasn’t sure she could find a sitter at such short notice. “Holly.” He whispered as he approached her. “I’ll watch Molly.”
Holly stared at him a minute. “Oh.” She honestly wasn’t sure if his offer made her happy or not. While she truly wanted to help the charity with their fundraiser the fact that it was tonight made her feel stressed. “Uh Richard, Gerard offered to watch Molly.”
“Excellent.” Richard said happily. “So I’ll take care of all the details with Arthur. You just have to be ready at six. Is that fine?”
“Okay, six.” Holly repeated. She and Richard said their goodbyes then she disconnected.
“Molly go put your shoes on.” Gerard said wanting to have a moment alone to talk to Holly. Once she ran towards her bedroom Gerard asked, “So, was it good or bad I offered to watch her?”
Holly gave him a confused look.
He smiled slightly. “Well it sounded like you wanted to help out whatever charity you two were talking about but I’m not sure if you really wanted to go.”
It was hard for her to explain her feelings. “It is a great charity. Tonight there is a benefit auction for a battered women’s shelter. One of the artists had to back out last minute and the art work she donated never arrived. Richard’s friend who is chairman of the committee asked him if I’d be willing to attend and donate one of my works.”
“So why the hesitation?”
“Like I said it’s tonight and from what I understand from Richard it’s a black tie affair. I honestly don’t have anything to wear except the same dress I wore last time I went to dinner with Richard.” She frowned realizing she didn’t like the way her words sounded. “But it’s not really just what to wear. To be honest I get nervous about stuff like this.”
He smiled, “You’ll knock them dead. Just remember how your benefit auction went. I’m sure you were nervous at first but when I got there you were all smiles, talking to people and enjoying yourself because you knew you were raising a lot of money for something important.”
“Thanks.” Holly smiled, “And thanks for offering to watch Molly.”
While he didn’t like the fact she’d be with Richard he tried to push that from his mind. He knew how important helping others was to Holly. “No prob. After we finish shopping I’ll bring you back here, grab Molly’s clothes and take her home with me. Beside tomorrow is Christmas Eve. She and I can just pick you up on the way to Mikeys.”
“You want to keep her all day?”
He shrugged, “Unless you don’t want me to.”
Holly tried to think. “I guess that would be fine.”
Wanting to see her smile again he laughed, “And as for worrying about what to wear tonight we’ll get you something while we’re out shopping today.”
Instead of making her smile she sighed, “No, we’re supposed to be Christmas shopping. I’ll just wear the same dress.”
“No you won’t.” He lightly put her arm around her shoulder. “I’ll help you pick out a dress.”
Holly gave him a disbelieving look. “You want to help me find a dress?”
“I want to pick out dresses and have you model them for me.” He admitted. Unfortunately his comment seemed to bother her. Quickly she pulled away causing her arm to drop.
“I’ll hurry Molly along.” She whispered.
As Molly ran across the yard towards Alicia who’d just opened the front door Holly had a chance to ask. “So did you get anything out of Bandit?”
He understood the question. “I asked her if she knew what Molly wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas.”
“And?” Holly glanced over and saw that Molly and Alicia had gone inside.
He sighed, “She has no idea. But she was more than happy to tell me what she wanted. Bad thing is she asked for different stuff this time than the stuff she asked for when Linds took her to see Santa.”
Holly smiled, “I’m sure she’ll like whatever you get her.”
“Well I’m gonna pick up a few things she asked for this time because Linds and Jake picked out things from her first Santa list.”
As they neared the door Holly lowered her voice. “I’m gonna talk to Alicia for a minute before we leave. Keep Molly occupied.”
He grinned loving how she was so serious it was like they were involved in some espionage plot. “Okay. Gonna see if she can get any info out of Molly?”
“Yeah or maybe Mikey can get her to talk. If they find out anything they can text us while we’re shopping.”
He nodded, “Got ya.”
Gerard and Mikey kept Molly occupied in the living room while Alicia and Holly snuck into the bedroom to talk. However before Holly could explain “Operation Molly’s Santa List” Alicia suddenly hugged her tightly.
“Holly I’m so damn happy.” She giggled.
“Obviously.” Holly said taking a step back. “You know it’s true pregnant women really do glow and you are def glowing.”
“Look.” Alicia pulled up her tee. “See?”
Holly placed her hand on Alicia’s very small baby bump. “Yep, you definitely are showing.”
“It’s all so wonderful.” Alicia gushed. “I love this time of year but this year is better than all the others. I can’t wait until Christmas Day to tell everyone. I wish Don was going to be here Christmas eve so I could share the news then but Mikey really wants to wait until his dad is here.”
Holly laughed, “I’m not sure how you’re gonna hide the news Christmas eve.”
“Me either.” Alicia agreed. “So anyway, what’s up? You did want to talk to me in private, right?”
“Yep.” She quickly explained the Molly/Santa situation.
“Okay once you guys leave I’ll talk to her about your trip to Big Bear yesterday. That way I can bring up Santa and see what I can find out.”
“So, how was yesterday’s trip?”
Holly had expected this question. “It was a lot of fun. The girls had a blast.”
“And you? Did you have a blast?”
Nervously Holly glanced at her watch. “Yep, but Gee and I need to be going. I’ve got a charity event tonight so I can’t be out all day shopping.”
“What charity event?” Alicia asked before Holly could reach the door.
“It’s for a battered women’s’ shelter. A friend of Richards is in charge of the event and one of the artists how to bow out.”
“Oh so he wanted Richard to ask you to fill in.”
Holly nodded, “Arthur is sending over one of my wind chimes to be auctioned off but all of the artists are going to be there so I have to go.”
Alicia’s eyes narrowed, “So Richard is taking you?”
“Who’s watching Molly?” Alicia asked.
“Gee offered to keep her tonight.”
Alicia gave her a surprised look, “So he knows you’re going out with Richard?”
“Alicia, it’s not a date and even if it was, so what? I told you to stop thinking that Gee and I are suddenly going to become a couple.”
Alicia felt her earlier happiness slipping away. “You guys just look like you’re really getting along so well.”
“We are.” Holly said firmly. “We’re getting along just fine. Now please text me if you find out anything, okay?” She didn’t want to upset Alicia so she added, “And for your information Gee is so okay with me going that he’s offered to help me find a dress today.”
This caused Alicia to laugh. “Gee is gonna help you find a dress?”
When they returned to the living room Alicia was still giggling. Holly might think Gee was okay with things but she knew differently. However he obviously was finding ways to stay close to Holly and that was a very good sign.
“Holly come out here.” Gerard said sternly.
“You can see it okay from here.” Holly said peering out of the dressing room entrance. The store was crowded and there was no way she was going to walk out in this short, silk dress Gerard had chosen.
He sighed, “Come on. I can’t see it from there.”
Suddenly a sales woman appeared. “Oh my, that’s lovely on you but wait.” She took off at a breakneck pace to return a moment later with several pairs of shoes. “You must try the dress with heels to truly get the full effect.”
Holly saw that Gerard was nodding in agreement. “Yeah, Holly. She’s right.”
Rolling her eyes Holly grabbed a pair of black heels from the top box. She vaguely wondered how the woman had guessed her shoe size because as she sat to slip on the shoes they fit perfectly.
“Okay now let me see.” Gerard’s voice was much closer causing Holly to grimace.
“Gee, this dress really isn’t me.” Holly said as she slowly stood while staring at her reflection in the mirror. The dark green satin gown was very from fitting. At first glance it appeared to be off the shoulder but was actually held in place by thin, delicate rhinestone straps.
“Holly I really wanna see.” Gerard said softly. “Please.”
Taking a deep breath Holly slowly walked out of the dressing room area towards where he stood. “Okay, see?”
He stood staring at her. “Wow.” His eyes drank her in from head to toe. “Much as it pains me to say you are a real knock out in that.”
“What?” She crossed her arms in front of her.
He forced himself to hide his true emotions while still admitting the truth. “Hey, you look great but you’re gonna be wearing that while you’re with Richard.”
“Gee, he and I are going to a charity event.”
“Yep.” Gerard spoke to the sales woman who was hovering nearby. “We’ll take the dress and the shoes.”
“Very good sir.” She prepared to follow Holly back into the dressing room but Holly was glaring at Gerard.
“Excuse me?” Holly began to tap her foot. “I’m not sure I want this dress.”
“Why not?” He asked. “It looks great on you. Besides we have Christmas shopping to do, right?”
“So, you found a great dress and shoes, we buy them then get down to business shopping for Molly.”
Her toe continued to tap. “Okay you’re right we need to get the Christmas shopping done. But if I decide I want this dress I will buy it.”
He grinned “Damn you are so cute when you’re made at me.”
“I’m not mad at you.” Holly said but stopped when she realized her tone made it obvious she was lying.
“Okay then.” Gerard said smiling. “Why don’t you go change so we can get shopping.”
“Fine.” Holly muttered. She started to turn but suddenly stopped. Looking over at the saleswoman she explained that Gerard had brought this dress to her but it had no tag.
“Let me check on the price for you.” The woman smiled.
When she came out of the dressing room area a few minutes later she gave Gerard a nod. He was the one who’d had her remove the tag before showing the dress to Holly. While he’d know the cost would have prevented her from buy it he’d already arranged to pay for most of the dress and shoes. The saleswoman would quote Holly a much reduced price. The plan worked perfectly. Holly agreed to take the dress and was pleased neither it nor the shoes were overly expensive.
Gerard smiled as they left the store. Doing things for Holly made him feel good, very good. “So.” He said as they entered the mall commons “Why don’t I run the dress and shoes back to the car so we don’t have to carry them around. While I’m doing that give Alicia a call and see if she’s found out anything.”
Holly nodded, “Okay but I’ve got a bad feeling that they haven’t found out anything. I’m sure she would have already sent a text if they did.”
Wanting her to keep a positive attitude he smiled, “Hey, maybe not. But anyway Alicia might have found out some stuff Molly wants for Christmas, right?”
“I hope so.” Holly said moving toward an unoccupied bench.
By the time Gerard returned she’d gotten several texts for Mikey. He’d explained that the girls were making cookies but neither he nor Alicia had gotten Molly to admit what she’d said to Santa. However he did text a list of things she told them she liked.
“So I guess they didn’t get it out of her?” Gerard said as he sat down next to a frowning Holly on the bench.
Holly sighed then handed him her phone. “No, but here’s some items she told them she likes.”
Gerard took the phone and quickly scanned the text. “Well this is good. It gives us something to go on. Well just get her this stuff and if none of it is exactly what she asked for we’ll just explain that sometimes Santa can’t get exactly what you want but he knows what you like.”
“Gee, we’re not going to get her everything on that list. I’ll get her a few items and you can get her a few.”
He understood Holly was worried about Molly becoming spoiled. “Yeah, okay. I have to get a couple of things for B too, you know Santa gifts. Linds and I explained to her that Santa was going to leave a few things for her at my house this year.”
“Okay then, lets hit the toy store.” Gerard said standing then extending his hand to help her up. “And cheer up, woman.”
“I know I’m just being silly about this.” Holly said trying to smile.
“No you’re not.” Gerard said softy. “We both want Molly to believe in Santa.” He decided to admit something to her. “Yesterday while you and B went for hot chocolate I asked Molly straight out what she asked Santa for but she just smiled and told me very seriously that she couldn’t tell me.”
“I got the same answer when I asked her this morning.” Holly frowned. “I really don’t understand why it’s such a big secret. She told me last year what she asked for.”
A memory made Gerard suddenly smile. “My favorite thing she asked or last year was those Sock Monkey PJ’s for you.”
That memory also made Holly smile. “That was sweet of her and it was very sweet of you to get them for me.”
He took her arm and they started moving slowly down the mall. “Hey, you look damn cute in those.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “Would you stop with the damn cute?”
“Can’t.” He laughed. “You are damn cute.”
“I thought that was only when I’m mad at you.” Holly grinned.
“Nope you’re damn cute all the time.” He said looking into her eyes. “But especially damn cute when you’re mad at me.”
“Gerard you are such a weird man. It almost sounds like you’re happy when I’m mad at you.”
He gently tightened his hold on her arm. “That’s not exactly it. I don’t like you to be really mad at me but when you are..well, at least I know I have your attention.”
Holly gave him a startled look.
He shrugged. “Hey, it’s true. I get that cute, mad glare and I know it’s only for me.”
“Weird man.” Holly muttered but deep down his words made her feel strangely good. But suddenly that thought made her frown. She realized that interacting like this with Gerard was too much like it had been in the past.
“Oh no. Frowny face again.” Gerard said glancing over at her.
She forced herself to smile. “Just worried about this Santa thing.”
He didn’t believe that was the complete truth but for now he’d keep that opinion to himself. However he believed she must be realizing that they were once more getting close to how acted towards each other so long ago.
After they purchased several gifts at the toy store it was decided they would head to another larger one not far from the mall. However Gerard insisted they stop first for lunch.
The waitress seated them at a table then left to give them a few minutes to look over the menu. When she returned they placed their orders.
Holly sat back with a sigh. “This place is packed.”
“Hey don’t worry. We’ve got a good start on shopping so far and I think Molly will like what we’ve gotten.”
“Yeah, I think so too.” She said as her eyes glanced around the restaurant. Suddenly she leaned forward lowering her voice. “Do you ever get used to it?”
He understood the question already having seen several people casting looks over at their table. “Hey, it goes with the territory. But it’s not as bad out here in LA. There’s lots of famous people.”
Holly sat back. “I suppose.”
“Besides.” He laughed. “You’re assuming they are looking at me but remember yesterday? They might recognize you.”
“I hope not.” She admitted. “That makes me uncomfortable.”
“You’ll get used to it. People recognizing you just means they are familiar with your work and like it.”
Holly considered his words while playing with the straw in her water glass. Up and down the straw went, in and out.
“Relax.” Gerard laughed.
“I’m nervous about tonight too.” Holly whispered.
“Oh.” He smiled, “Try not to worry about it. Just think about how what you’re doing is helping others.”
“And you’re gonna look hot.”
Her head snapped up to stare at him.
“Please don’t say that.” She said frowning.
“You want me to lie?” He teased.
She stared at him.
“Holly, you’re gonna look beautiful tonight. That dress is the perfect color for your eyes and..” He paused but wanting no secrets between them added, “And it will really go well with the emeralds in the bracelet Richard gave you.”
This comment caused Holly to look down. “I had a feeling you’d seen it.”
“Sorry, I know I shouldn’t have snooped.”
Before answering she took a small sip of water, “It’s okay. He said it’s just a gift in appreciation for the work I’m doing for him.”
While Gerard didn’t believe for a moment that was the only reason Richard gave her the bracelet he didn’t voice that opinion. “Well it’s a beautiful bracelet for a beautiful woman. But you should wear a gold necklace tonight.”
Holly’s fingers automatically reached up to touch the snowflake pendant around her neck. “Uh, thank you. I meant to tell you earlier how much I love it.”
He grinned “Kinda figured you must like it since you were wearing it.”
“It’s beautiful.” Holly whispered. “And I’m gonna wear it tonight.”
“Sugar, you should wear the bracelet.”
Holly smiled, “I’m going to wear it and this necklace. Don’t care if it’s considered wrong to wear gold and silver together.” She sat up straighter. “Hey I’m an artist with my own style I’m allowed to be quirky.”
Gerard threw back his head with laughter. “Quirky, I like that. So since I’m an artist do I get to be quirky too?”
Holly joined in with his laughter. “Oh Gee. Uh, you’ve definitely done quirky with your hair colors.”
“Well not anymore.” He said touching his dark hair.
“I’m sorta glad about that.” Holly said growing serious. “I like your real color.”
Just then the waitress arrived with their food halting the conversation for the moment.
Gerard couldn’t stop smiling as the food was set on the table. Maybe Holly didn’t realize it but this was just like a date, a very good date.