Tom Webster has had a crush on his boss ever since the man was transferred to the Decor Store almost two years ago. It’s a hopeless crush and Tom knows it — Antonio has a steady partner — but a man can dream. Besides, it’s almost Christmas. While Tom is dreaming of a certain somebody under his Christmas tree, his best friend and fellow employee Kirsten comes to work breathless and flushed and gushing about the new mall Santa. The hot mall Santa.
And she’s not the only one to think so. Women and men, with kids and without, are flocking to the mall to sit in Santa’s lap. Tom goes to sneak a peak only to agree that the man in the Santa suit is sex on legs. Not that he’s going to join the throng of admirers. He has work to do, especially if he wants to be promoted to assistant manager. Tom’s been doing the work of one for almost a year now, and Antonio keeps promising to put his name in the hat the next time there’s an open position. To keep in Antonio’s good graces, and to keep the man looking at him in the way he has, Tom stays late for closing, comes in early to work, does all the little things that need being done. Tom is aware that he’s being used, but it’s all for a good cause.
During a lunch break, Tom goes to his favorite and secret place in the mall, a little room up an out-of-the-way stairwell. As fate would have it, for the first time since Tom found the place, it’s not empty! Sitting in his chair is none other than Hot Mall Santa. The two of them start talking, awkwardly at first, and then with greater ease as Tom discovers a kindred spirit in Randall. They leave notes for one another tucked away in drawers, talk about the places they want to be — or, in Randall’s case, the places they’ve been. It isn’t long before a friendly flirtation turns into something more.
This is an charming meet-cute story between two aimless men. Tom is so stuck in his box he has no idea how to get out; Randall is so used to going with the flow he has no idea how to choose his own direction. The friendship they develop over the course of the story feels natural and easy. Even the way their relationship goes from friends to something more than friends is as gradual and inexorable as a river meeting the ocean.
There are no surprise twists and turns in this holiday story, just a nice bit of character growth. Tom, so used to pining for Antonio, living in a dream world where a touch might linger or a look might have a hidden meaning, has to learn to put that crush aside. It’s not fair to Antonio or Tom — especially when Antonio proves not to be worth the daydreams. Especially not when Tom has Randall right in front of him, someone who honestly wants him and wants to be with him.
For Randall, he’s so used to being nothing more than a piece of meat — with women giving him lap dances or guys giving him their number all because he happens to look a certain way — that he can’t help fall for Tom who never came to visit Santa, who talked to him about the ocean and travels, and who took the time to talk to Randall, not Hot Mall Santa.
The two of them complement each other. Randall helps Tom let go of the past and learn to fight for his future, and Tom helps Randall realize that maybe drifting with no plan isn’t the best way to get what he wants out of life. They’re a cute couple and this is a cute story with a sweet happily ever after.