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All Wrapped Up in You

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CHAPTER ONE 

"Ninety-nine cents." Ellie stood outside the Burbank Media Mall showcasing a Christmas broach in her gloved hand to shoppers rushing by.

She kept a smile plastered on her face, offsetting desperation rising in her throat, and wiggled her foot, adjusting the cardboard patch over the hole in her boot.  

It had been three weeks since she ditched Prince Charming and the 'castle'. Had she made the right decision?  

She replaced the broach in the basket, and scooped up the coins on the bottom. Two sales on Christmas Eve, not a good sign.  

The Santa Ana winds sliced through her thin coat, numbing her flesh; a gust swayed the Palm trees lining the boulevard. She pulled the snowy cap lower over her ears, glad she'd also worn the matching scarf.

"A dollar ninety-nine." Ellie counted the money in her palm and a tremor shot through her. What could she buy with the pennies in her hand? She rifled through the pockets of her coat to ensure she hadn't missed any coins. Nope, she hadn't. 

She leaned against the street lamppost and heaved a breath. Air frosted her lips. Her heart thudded, and she fisted her fingers, the coins grating in her palm. "I can't return to the castle...and to him."  

But she had to get home...a laugh bubbled inside her, and she bashed it down before it erupted from her in a hysterical sound that'd have people gaping at her. She dropped the coins in her purse, and with her head slightly bent against the wind; she made her way to the bus stop, but stalled in step when a Porsche pulled up along side of her. 

"Get in," the driver commanded, his voice sending shimmers of awareness through her. "You'll freeze waiting for the bus." 

"No." 

"Ellie, don't be obstinate," he said, a ripple of impatience in his voice. "I'll give you a lift home."  

An eerie silence ensued in the lull in the wind, and the melody sailed to her from the car radio. 'Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la...' 

She nearly snorted at the lyrics. Jolly... Huh!  

Peter Medeci, M.D. The highly sought after neurosurgeon, the man of her dreams. The man that had given her everything except the one thing she wanted most...and that's why she skipped out on him. To get close to him again would be self-destructive, but even as she reasoned, her body hummed with yearning. 

"I'll make my own way." But as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she cringed; she didn't even have enough for the bus fare for the ten-mile ride to her North Hollywood mouse-hole. 

"You will not." She heard the car door open, and paused. "Get in, before you make a scene." 

A gust whipped her, and she quivered, glancing at the warm interior of the car. Sighing, she reluctantly got in. He reached across her to shut the door, and his arm bumped her breast. A shiver invaded her body but it had nothing to do with the cold weather. "Tha-ank you." 

He grunted his acknowledgment, revved the engine and shot into the traffic cruising onto 101 Hollywood Freeway. 

Awkwardness filled the interior, but it suited her because she was in no mood to talk. But then she noticed he knew the way to her digs. "You know where I live?" 

"I do." He shot her a shadowed look, his jaw a hard line. "I've been keeping an eye on you, Ellie." 

She should've realized that Peter Medeci would not easily relinquish what belonged to him. And in his view she belonged to him. She crinkled her brow wondering why it'd taken him three weeks to force a confrontation. "I don't doubt that." 

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