***Excerpt*** The Christmas Grind


“Umm Tamela, what’s this?” My manager asked referring to the setup where I placed Tanasia. “Not to mention you’re late.”

“I’m sorry Matt, but I had no other choice. My mother is running behind, but she will pick her up soon. As for being late, I shot you a text letting you know that a meeting ran over at the school.”

“I haven’t checked my phone for being too busy making sure everything was in order. Normally, I wouldn’t trip too bad, but the big man is coming in today. There is no telling what he will say or do to all of us to find out we are running a daycare up in here.”

“She won’t be a problem, I promise. My mom could possibly be here well before he arrives.”

“You had better hope so because I can’t lose my job because you can’t find appropriate childcare.”

“I heard you loud and clear Matt.” I rushed behind the counter to clock in and get myself together. This day was turning out to be one straight from the pits of hell. He kept drawling on the same subject for a few minutes until he tired himself out.

“I had to run the front until you arrived, but I need to catch up on some paperwork. Can you take it from here?”

“Of course, can you ring me up for a hot chocolate first?”

“Please come and get me when the big man arrives.”

“Sure thing, what does he look like?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never met him personally.”

“You’ve never met the owner?”

“No, he basically used an agency to staff the store.”

“Then how am I supposed to know when to come and get you if neither of us knows what he looks like?”

“Good question.” Matt thought for a minute before he shrugged. “Just imagine what a Jeffrey Stanford looks like, I guess.”

“That name sounds a bit stuffy.”

“I was thinking the same thing, like an old white man that is in desperate need of a toupee.” Matt joked.

“You are not right,” I let out a small laugh. He wasn’t lying, it did sound like an elderly snooty individuals name.

“Just give me a shout if you see anyone that fits that description.”

“Will do,” I confirmed. If Matt was right about this man being snobbish, Tanasia being here would definitely be a problem.

“Hot chocolate for you little lady,” I carefully placed the cup on the table. “Be careful with this and blow first.”

“Yes ma’am,” she complied.

“You know what goes great with hot chocolate,” a deep soothing voice said from nearby. Turning towards the counter, I didn’t realize a customer had approached. He definitely wasn’t an old white man, so I didn’t feel the need to worry. “A chocolate chunk muffin,” he smiled. This man was so damn fine, I became tongue-tied.

“Mommy, may I please have a muffin?”

“Hold on Tan,” I gave her a look to say get back to work. “I’m sorry about that. What can I get for you, sir?”

“White mocha chocolate and one chocolate chunk muffin for me. And if it’s all right with mommy, another chocolate chunk muffin for the little one.” His dazzling smile made the breath whoosh from my lungs in a hurry.

“That’s not necessary,” I said.

“Please, I insist.”

“Mommy said that we shouldn’t take anything from strangers,” Tan commented.

“Tanasia,” I shushed her, but he seemed amused at her commentary.

“Your mommy is right; you should never take anything from a stranger.” He held his hand to his chest. “So that we are no longer strangers, I should introduce myself. Then I hope you will accept my offer to buy you a muffin. Deal?”


“My name is Jeffrey Stanford.” He announced and turned to me with a smirk. The size of my eyes must have given away my shock because he actually chuckled. “Would I still be considered as stuffy?” His question let me further know that he’d heard our earlier banter over his name.

The gorgeous giant before me did not appear the least bit stuffy with his sparkly white smile. Smile so bright, I could have sworn I heard the ting to signify excellent dental care on a toothpaste commercial. Smooth milk chocolate complexion, sharp line and neat goatee surrounding the sexiest set of lip pillows, this man was certainly no old white man.

“Is it too late to wish for the floor to open up and swallow me whole?”

“I would think so but be my guest.”

“Hi, my name is Tanasia Scott and this is my mommy Tamela Scott.”

“Such beautiful names.”

“Thank you,” Tan said all teeth. “Mommy, say thank you.”

“I’m sorry, thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Now that the introductions are out of the way, may we get those muffins?”

“Oh of course,” I went to retrieve the muffins and make his mocha. Closing my eyes while the milk steamed, I mentally prepared myself for what was sure to come. First, I bring my daughter to work and then I make fun of the man’s name. True enough I didn’t know he was in the building or that he was coming at all but everything about this was unprofessional.

“Tam, I’m so sorry. That traffic was a booger-bear.” I heard my mother rush out. “Come on baby girl, let’s get you packed up.”

“Okay Nana, this is my friend Mr. Jeff.”

“Friend?” My mother questioned with a raised brow at us both while sizing him up.

“Jeffrey Stanford, ma’am. I was just entertaining Miss Tanasia while her mommy worked, that is all. Nothing creepy, I assure you.”

“Mm-hmm,” she hummed.

“Mr. Stanford is the owner,” I gave her a sad smile.

“Oh shit,” she cursed lowly. “Hello Mr. Stanford, Jacqueline Scott.”

“Ooh, Nana cursed.” Tan dramatically said completely oblivious to what was at stake, my job.

“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Scott.” He smoothly stated and showed his amusement at Tan’s outburst.

“Same here. Okay, bug, let’s get out of here.”

“Goodbye Tanasia.”

“Mommy and Nana said it’s better to say see you later Mr. Jeff. Goodbye is too permanent.” Tanasia innocently frowned.

“Tan,” my mom and I went to intervene, but he started speaking.

“In that case, I hope to see you around Tanasia.” He chuckled.

“You too Mr. Jeff, see you tonight mommy,” she said.

“Yes ma’am, if not sooner,” I mumbled the last part. “Drive careful.” I hugged them both before they left the shop.

“How long have you worked here?”

“Two weeks,” was my answer. “Am I fired?” I asked deciding to forgo the bullshitting.

“Should you be fired?”

“The way this day is going, it really wouldn’t surprise me. A meeting ran over at my school, I had to bring my daughter to work, and then I insulted you. I learned a long time ago not to ask if it could get any worse.”

“You’re in school?”

“Not really, I’m a middle-school teacher. Some would argue that with teaching middle school, we learn just as much as we teach. These children test our patience and teach us lessons on stuff every day.”

“That is an arguable fact for sure, children grow up faster than how we grew up in the past. One thing is for sure, I don’t remember any teachers looking like you when I was in middle school. What do you teach?”

“Science,” I couldn’t help the blush that bloomed over my face when he complimented my looks. Though I didn’t feel anything was unattractive about me, it was nice to get a genuine compliment every once in a while.

“You definitely look nothing like the science teacher that I had back in the day.” He leveled me with a look that spoke genuine curiosity.

“Tamela, this is not Match.com. First, you are late then you bring your kid to work. Now you are treating the counter like the bachelorette.” Matt came bustling out of the back full of words before I could stop him.

“Matthew, I presume.” Mr. Stanford stopped Matt short of his ramblings. “Jeffrey Stanford, it’s nice to finally put a face with the name.”

“Oh shit, Tamela?” Matt cursed and then looked to me in an accusatory manner. As if I told him to run around ranting and raving, that was his everyday outfit – a damn drama queen. “Mr. Stanford,” he meekly stated.

“If you will excuse us Tamela, we have to get to the audit.”

“Of course, I have the front Matt.”

“Thank you.” That was forced out and I knew then that my days were numbered. If I wasn’t fired by the end of the night, it wouldn’t be long before he would find reasons to be nasty to me. His attitude already sucked on a regular basis. This incident would only make matters worse. If it weren’t for Christmas being right around the corner and my need to give a Tanasia everything she wished for, I wouldn’t even be here.

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