Home > You Make It Feel like Christmas

You Make It Feel like Christmas
Author: Toni Shiloh





Starr Lewis hated to return home a failure, but at least she had the cover of the holiday season to hide her embarrassment.

The wind whipped through her as she stepped off the train. She shuddered and drew her coat closed at the neck, then followed her fellow passengers up the escalator to the main building. The man in front of her held the door open, and she trailed in behind him. Warmth caressed her face in a greeting, chasing the chill away.

She sighed and took a moment to admire the arched ceiling over Union Station. People hurried around her as she made her way toward the front doors. Her brother Gabe was picking her up, which meant she’d have thirty minutes to kill until he showed up. Gabe was always late. Always.

Starr tightened her grip on the handle of her fuchsia carry-on and headed for Jamba Juice. A mix of passion fruit, mango, and strawberry would be just the thing to freeze out the hot shame of returning home jobless.

Who cared if she’d had a smoothie before leaving New York City? One could never have too many. Besides, she needed the liquid goodness to chase away reminders of being laid off and forced to live in her childhood bedroom for who knew how long. Out of the five Lewis children, Starr was the only one who no longer held an illustrious career.

Shake it off. You’re not a failure. This is just a setback.

Of epic proportions. Not only did she have to move back home, but her demise lined up perfectly with her sister Angel’s Christmas Eve wedding. To Starr’s ex-boyfriend. Ugh. God, please help me. I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the wedding without wanting to gag.

The hits just kept on coming. She’d better order a large smoothie.

Kelly Clarkson’s rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” crooned through the speakers. Starr shook her head at the unnecessary reminder and slowed as she got in line at Jamba Juice. Her cell buzzed in her coat pocket. She moved off to the side, pulling out the pink-encased iPhone and checking the caller ID. “Where are you?”

“Calm down. I’m on Union Station Drive with all the taxis and tourists. Should I park around back, or can you come out front?”

Her bottom lip poked out as dreams of smoothie bliss evaporated. “I’ll be out front in a sec.”

“Don’t sound so enthused.”

“I’m just a little hungry.”

“You mean hangry? Well, grab some food then. But keep in mind I’m taking up space, and security might be giving me the side-eye—”

“All right, I get it,” she snapped. The moment Gabe had said he was at the front entrance, she’d started walking that way.

Starr exited through the double doors and searched the cars lined up in front of her. “Are you in your car?”

“Dad’s. My car died last week.”

She sighed in relief when she spotted the familiar black Mercedes. “I see you.” She headed his way, dragging her carry-on behind her.

“I see you too.” Gabe popped out of the driver’s door and came around the passenger side as he pocketed his phone. “Sis!” He picked her up, twirling her around.

She chuckled at his exuberance. “Put me down.” Her head spun, but she soon caught her bearings. As she peered into Gabe’s familiar features a pang twinged in her chest. Gabe was probably her favorite sibling. Her older brother also had the smoothest skin she’d ever seen. Probably beat out women who held a daily regimen of wrinkle-free cream and exfoliation. He definitely fit into the pretty-boy category.

“Did you miss me?” He waggled his eyebrows, then grabbed her suitcase.

“Maybe.” Her lips twitched.

“Yeah, you did.” He winked at her and closed the trunk. “Don’t stand there all day. Mom and Dad are holding Thanksgiving dinner just for you.”

Thank goodness. She was starved. She slid onto the passenger seat and buckled her seat belt. “That explains why I didn’t have to wait too long.”

“Ha.” He shrugged. “What can I say? Life is meant to be enjoyed, not hurried.”

“No one says you have to rush for everything. Just be on time for what’s important.”

“Like picking up my little sister?” He tossed an amused expression her way before turning to look at the road.

“Exactly.” She slid her frozen hands under her thighs. “It’s so cold here. It wasn’t even this cold in New York.”

“Oh, look at me,” Gabe said in a high-pitched voice. “I just came from New York, and like”—he flipped his imaginary long hair—“I’m such a cosmopolitan now. DC is beneath me and all that I know.”

She smacked his arm. “I’m just making a weather observation.”

“For now.”

Same ol’ Gabe. She rolled her eyes. “How’s everyone?”

“The same. Noel is going to work himself into an early grave. Eve is following in his footsteps, and Angel is Angel.” He shrugged as he navigated through DC traffic.

Wreaths hung about the city streetlights as they had every Christmas since Starr could remember. She couldn’t help the smile that tilted her lips. “It’s good everything’s the same.”

“Is it?”

“Sure.” Well, maybe the physical things. She didn’t want to walk in the house and have everyone treat her like the baby just because she was the youngest Lewis sibling. She wanted to be taken seriously, but losing her job wouldn’t add points in that direction.

“I’m surprised your boss gave you such a long break. Mom said you don’t have to go back until the day after New Year’s. Is that right?”

“Yep. Nice, huh?” Though it wasn’t a vacation but her being handed a severance package and two letters of recommendation.

But that tidbit was her secret.

Starr had packed her household goods into a storage unit before leaving the city and returning to DC. If she was smart with her money, she could pay for the unit for four months. Obviously, she’d have to come clean to her parents well before then. If she was still here in the springtime, there was no way her folks would believe she’d been given that long of a vacation. Then again, maybe telling them she was working remotely would help her save face.

That’s lying.

She tensed. Hopefully by the end of the month, she’d find another job, and they’d be none the wiser.

“Suspiciously nice.”

Starr looked at Gabe, hoping she was projecting a calm demeanor that belied the fast beating of her heart. “The company values their employees.”

Only she hadn’t been one of them. Layoffs had to happen, and someone had to go. Why not the hardworking PR associate who saved more butts than the others? She’d only worked for the company for two years, which meant she was the easiest to say good-bye to.

Story of her life.

Her ex, Ashton, had had no trouble saying good-bye after taking one long look at Angel.

“I see.” Gabe met her gaze, raising an eyebrow in skepticism. “You know you can talk to your big brother, right? Tell me your worries. Your secrets.”

“I don’t have any.” She faced straight ahead, looking out the windshield, then gasped and leaned forward. “Is it snowing?”

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