Chapter 1- Welcome to Deadwood
I'm sorry to inform you that due to budget and contract concerns, the position in Lincoln, Nebraska, has been eliminated. I understand the inconvenience this will and may cause, and since this is a last-minute discord, we hope you'll understand the problem that has arisen. Because of this, I have spoken to the senior manager about the contretemps and can assure you; this will not happen again. We'll immediately take care of any arraignments you have already made and refund all monies you have already paid upfront because of this debacle. There is, however, another opportunity that has come to our attention in Deadwood, South Dakota. They specifically asked for you, and if you're still interested in the same position, it's yours to take. Attached to this email is the schedule they've presented to us. I ask that you look it over and immediately let us know what you've decided. If you would like to take on the job, all travel expenses, food, room, and board will all be paid by us.
Thank you for your understanding.
It was four weeks before Christmas, and the one time of the year Harmony utterly dreaded. As she drove down Main Street to get to work, she couldn't stop her stomach from turning after seeing the sidewalks, store-fronts, taverns, and more, filled with holiday lighting and decorations; White lights, colored lights, wreaths, and lit up Christmas trees. Something one would see once a year as magical or as an enchanting winter wonderland appeal with holiday cheer. But not Harmony. As she saw happy-go people roaming the sidewalks smiling, laughing, and holding hands, it had her feeling miserable. Actually, she was feeling more like Ebenezer Scrooge.
Harmony exited her car with a frown on her face, with that frown not lasting long. As she walked to the doors of the casino, the corners of her lips formed upwards into a smile when she saw a man holding the door open for her. "Thank you," she politely said.
"No problem. Merry Christmas," he happily emphasized.
She quietly groaned, took a deep breath, and without saying a word, she exhaled while nodding as she walked in.
To keep from hearing those two words again, she looked down, trying to avoid looking at anyone she walked by while heading to the employee's room to clock in and finish getting ready. Harmony had just put on her apron when Nick, her boss, entered the room, shut the door, and stood against it with his arms crossed along his chest. "You're late... again." he sighed. "Is there something going on that I should know about? Because tonight is your fifth day in a row of being late, with each day being a different excuse."
"No," she said, shaking her head as she neared him. "Nothing has been going on. I do have two little girls, you know."
"Yes, I know. And I also remember mentioning to you that if you needed help with a babysitter, my wife offered her help with your girls."
"I know. And I thank your wife for that. But I don't need her help."
His brows lowered, his hands dropped to his hips, then he studied Harmony's expression. "Then, will you please explain to me why you've been late for work? I can't have you late for every shift of yours without getting reprimanded and without employees talking to other employees, thinking we're having an affair because I haven't done anything about your tardiness."
Harmony looked away and sighed as she looked down to the ground. "It's just been a bad week for me. Now, if you don't let me out of this room and allow me to relieve the bartender, the employees will really start talking," she alerted, smirking as she looked back at him. "You don't want them thinking we were in here doing what we shouldn't be, right?"
He removed a hand from his hip and reached behind to the doorknob, opening the door. "Of course not," he said, looking disappointed as he stepped to the side. "You do understand that I'll have to write you up this time."
"That's fine. Write me up. I can only promise I won't be late again," Harmony said with no care in the world as she walked past Nick.
He watched her walk by, and as she walked down the hallway, he called out, stopping her. "Don't forget the tree lighting is a week away. Why don't you bring Amelia and Zoe? They'll love it, and my wife and kids would love to see you three there."
Harmony turned around and shook her head. "Thanks, but no thanks. You know I don't attend those sorts of events. Not to mention, celebrating anything that has to do with Christmas."
She turned on her heel and quickly headed to the bar before he could say anything more. As she entered behind the bar, she apologized to Celine, the bartender she was supposed to relieve thirty minutes ago. "It's okay. I've been enjoying my time with the eye candy over at the other end of the bar," Celine grinned, leaning closer to Harmony's ear. "He's quite the looker; look for yourself..."
Harmony looked over Celine's shoulder, glanced at the guy she was talking about, then looked back at her, shrugging a shoulder. "He's alright."
Celine's eyes widened in shock, then with the back of her hand, she playfully smacked Harmony's arm. "Alright? Are you kidding me? He's gorgeous! I know you have them pearly blues, but damn. He's got the most amazing piercing blue eyes I've ever seen, and that chiseled jawline he's got going on adding to that beautiful face of his? Don't tell me you don't see it? I mean, the man is pure perfection and the best eye candy I've seen around here in a long time. He's the kind of candy I could suck on and devour for hours."
Harmony giggled. She knew how good Celine was with getting men's phone numbers and felt she wouldn't be surprised if she had already asked for his number. Being curious, she had to ask, "If you like him so much, then why don't you get his number? Or did you already?"
"No. I would have, but the hottie mentioned he was here on business. So he's not worth my time," Celine said, then gave her a mischievous smile and rested her hand on her hip. "You know. You're single, and you keep saying you don't need anyone in your life right now. But every woman needs a little satisfaction from time to time, and it's been a long time for you. Maybe you should go for him and have a one-night stand? I'll bet he's as good in bed as he looks," she smiled widely.
Harmony shook her head, then shifted her eyes away from Celine and over to the man she was excited about. "I'm not into one-night stands. Besides, it's not healthy for my girls to see me with a man they don't know. It might confuse them."
"They wouldn't know. Just call the sitter, let them know you're going to be later than you thought you would, take that man to his hotel room, and give him something to think about when he leaves to go back home to Tennessee."
Out of the corner of Harmony's eye, she noticed the man waving for their attention. Celine looked at Harmony, smiled, and stepped aside. "Stare into his eyes; you'll see exactly what I'm talking about," she said, pushing her towards him. "I'll help these guys over here."
Harmony's eyes glued to the man she was approaching, and as she stood in front of him, she had to blink her eyes a couple of times after seeing what Celine was talking about. The man was definitely the eye candy Celine explained and swallowed hard before she spoke. "What can I get for you?"
Jasper wasn't excited about the sudden location change. Still, now, after seeing the beautiful blue-eyed blonde standing before him, that disappointment he'd felt since he left Tennessee, and arrived in Deadwood, immediately changed. He held up his empty glass and smiled. "I'd like another one of these Bad Santa Sugar Cookie Cocktail thingamabobs."
"I'm sorry. A what?"
He chuckled, extending the glass closer to Harmony. "Ask your bartender friend. She's the one who made it for me."
Harmony removed the glass from his hand and walked over to Celine, looking confused. "What on earth did you make him? He wants another one of these bad boy Santa drinks, and I've never heard of it."
Celine giggled. "It's not called a bad boy Santa. It's called a Bad Santa Sugar Cookie Cocktail. They're amazingly good. All it is, is sugar cookie vodka, light creme de cacao, Baileys Irish cream and cream... watch and learn," she insisted, as she grabbed a martini shaker. Harmony observed while Celine added the ingredients to the shaker. "Next, shake it, then rim a clean glass in sugar, add ice, then pour it over the ice," she explained, then handed it to Harmony with a grin. "There you go. Now you learned how to make the perfect drink for the perfect man over there."
As Harmony reached and grabbed hold of the drink, Celine held tighter, not letting her take it from her hand, smiling. "So? What do you think of him? He's a dream, right?"
Harmony, being stubborn, refused to admit she thought the same as Celine and stood tall as she got Celine to let go of the drink. "He's not my type."
"Oh, my God. You're such a liar," Celine groaned.
Harmony walked over to the man and placed his drink down in front of him. "Thank you," he winked with a smile. His hand then rested over hers when she turned to walk away, sending a warm feeling throughout her body. "Before you go help the other thirsty folks, can you at least tell me your name?"
She smiled, looked down, and pointed to her badge. "Harmony. Yours?"
"Harmony. What a beautiful name. Especially for this time of year," he winked, extending out his hand. "My name is Jasper. It's nice to meet you."
Instead of being like many women who become flattered by a man's simple remark, she wasn't. She could tell he was trying to be cute, hoping for more of a conversation with her, but she didn't take the bait. She took his hand anyway, shook it, and fake smiled. "It's nice to meet you, too, Jasper. Are you paying for this drink now, or do you already have a tab going?"
"I closed out my tab, but I think I'll start another one if that's okay."
"Sure. Do you have a credit card, or are you staying here and would like to add it to your room?"
"Add it to room twenty-five. Please, and thank you."
Before Harmony entered the bar, Jasper would call it a night and head up to his room, but after seeing Harmony, he decided to have a couple more drinks to see if he could learn more about her. He sipped his drink slowly as he watched Harmony with the other guests and employees while politely brushing off women who sat next to him, wanting to talk.
Jasper was in a zone and didn't realize a man had sat next to him until he finished the last of the contents in his glass and heard him speak, "She's a pretty girl, isn't she?"
"Who?" Jasper asked, turning his head to the man after feeling who he was referring to.
The man extended his chin towards Harmony. "Harmony. That woman there is the best bartender I have employed here at the casino. If only I could get her to stop being late, then she would be even better."
Jasper turned his body towards him, holding out his hand. "You must be Nick Anderson. I'm Jasper."
"I am. And I know who you are," Nick said, shaking Jasper's hand with a serious look in his eye. "But I must tell you if you're finding any interest in Harmony. All I can say is you have your work cut out for you... and I wish you luck."
"Oh? Why is that?"
"The woman has a good heart; she just doesn't know how to use it anymore. The reason for me on wishing you any luck is, she refuses to let men into her life, ever since-" Nick started to say but cut himself off before he shared Harmony's story.
"Since?" Jasper questioned curiously.
"You know what? Nevermind. I should never have said anything. I just need you to know that Harmony's a good woman who has two beautiful little girls. She doesn't need any more heartache, alright?" Nick warned.
Jasper nodded, smiled, and pushed his empty glass to the edge of the bar. He didn't know what he meant by Harmony, not needing any heartache. As he felt nobody needed that in their life. And since Nick mentioned she has two little girls, it had him thinking the father of those children isn't in the picture and felt Nick was giving him a warning not to do anything that would hurt Harmony or her girls. Which he then wondered who she is to him. "By worrying about Harmony, it has me wondering what she is to you. But I will tell you; you don't have to worry about me. I'm here for a reason. And that's to bring smiles to all the children, families, and couples here in Deadwood. I'd also like to thank you for contacting Klaus Enterprises and asking me to be the one to bring on the holiday cheer around here."
Nick liked what he heard and smiled. "Your mentality is why we specifically asked for you. I think you will do well here in Deadwood. As for what Harmony is to me? Her parents were friends with my parents. Which means she and I have known each other since we were kids."
"I assume you two must have dated at some point?"
He nodded, "We did. But we were kids and in middle school," Nick chuckled. "Once we started high school, we decided it was best to remain friends, and to this day, I continue looking out for her."
Jasper slyly smiled while arching a brow. "You still like her, huh?"
"As a friend, of course. I'm married with kids, myself. Although if you were to ask the employees around here, they might tell you differently," Nick sighed, "You see, Harmony uses our friendship as a way of getting away with a little more than she should around here, and the employees see it. The next thing we hear is we're having an affair."
"No," he assured, shaking his head. "Harmony is like a sister to me. One of the reasons we called it quits when we were kids. When we kissed for the first time, she said it felt wrong to tell you the truth. Saying it felt as if she were kissing her brother. That's when we called it quits."
Jasper looked away from Nick and tried waving for Harmony's attention. "So. What you're saying is, if I can talk her into going out with me one night, I better watch myself. Since you're like a brother to her and will kick my ass if I were to hurt her."
"Exactly," Nick admitted, standing. He leaned to Jasper's ear, quietly speaking as he watched Harmony near them. "I didn't just hire you to be Santa in this town for the next month. I heard many good things about you. Things you've done and have accomplished. Harmony needs work, and I think you're the right guy to help change her way of thinking."
"I'm not a psychiatrist."
"I never said you were. Good luck, and welcome to Deadwood," Nick said, patting Jasper's back. He looked at Harmony, saluting her. "I'm heading out. I'll see you tomorrow."
Harmony looked at Nick strangely. She noticed the look in his eye, and it had her wondering what the two were talking about. After Nick walked away, she reached for Jasper's glass and looked into Jasper's dreamy blue eyes. Curious to know what the two were heavily discussing, she asked, "You two looked like you were in deep discussion. Do you two know each other?"
"No," he said, shaking his head and looking at his empty glass. "I'll have another one of those, and when you come back with my drink, I'd like to ask if you'll leave your phone number on my coaster," he winked.
"I don't give out my phone number."
"What were you two talking about?"
"If I tell you, will you leave me your phone number?"
"I'll have to think about that. It all depends on what Nick said to you."
Jasper chuckled and covered his neck with his hand, sounding strained when he spoke, "I'm feeling a little parched... how about I'll tell you when you come back with my drink and your phone number."
Harmony walked away, set his glass next to the other dirty glasses, then made him a new drink, hoping she made it right. And as she set his drink down, she noticed him looking at the coaster. "I don't see a phone number."
"And you didn't tell me what Nick said to you."
"He welcomed me to Deadwood and thanked me for coming here at the last minute."
She scrunched up her nose. "Last minute? Last-minute, for what?"
"He hired me to get things done around here," he admitted, knowing that wasn't a lie.
"Oh... so you're a contractor. There's a lot of fixing to do around here."
"Yeah. I'm something like that," Jasper grinned. "And that's what I hear... so, now, do I get a phone number?"
"If you call, and I don't answer, that means I'm busy with my kids," she said, hoping it would scare him off with her having kids.
"That's fine. I know how to leave a message."