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Excerpt: Kissing Santa

Excerpt: Kissing Santa

Book 4: Clover Park Series

Samantha walked over and plopped down on Santa's lap. She took comfort from the fact that she couldn't quite see Harold's face under the hat, wig, and huge beard. She focused on a pretty snowflake decoration across the room. It was almost like going to confession with Father Jensen, very private, just the two of them. The cafeteria was nearly empty now, except for a few volunteers cleaning up. Even the elf had taken off.

“Oh, Santa, I know it's silly, but I always dreamed of a sweet romance like you read about in books and see in the movies. It just doesn't seem to be happening for me. And believe me, I've tried to move things along.” She sighed. “It just seems like everyone's already married or gay or divorced with a lot of baggage. I just want to meet my Prince Charming, you know?”

At Santa's continued silence and good listening, Samantha confided all the heartache she'd endured over the last two years due to her failed romance attempts. First she told him the worst—the Tim Johnson affair—just to get it off her chest and explain what started her on her quest for romance. Then she moved on to the day her hair and makeup were ruined in the August heat while she waited for a mysterious Mr. Hunk to arrive on the scene to change her flat tire (and yes, she confessed, she'd let the air out on purpose) and how a toothless old lady had arrived instead to inform her she had a flat. She'd had to change the tire herself, ruining her white skirt and new heels. She told him of the British hottie who moved in next door to her parents' house that looked a little like Hugh Grant—she'd loved him in Bridget Jones's Diary—and just when she was thinking they might really be moving from borrowing sugar (she had a huge stash now) to actually hanging out, his boyfriend showed up.

She sighed and continued on with the advice she took from her friend to look for someone at a wedding and how that had turned out to be a second cousin she'd never met. “Luckily my mother told me before things moved off the dance floor,” she whispered.

Santa merely grunted, so she went on. “Online dating was horrible. All those men cared about was my…well, let's just say it wasn't working out.” She blew out a breath. “I have a huge hammer collection from all my trips cruising the aisles of Home & Tool for an eligible bachelor. I could never use them all.” She shook her head. “Besides, those guys are all married.” She straightened, suddenly indignant. “And the worst, my mother tried to set up an arranged marriage with this total player who was too handsome for his own good. He was all—” she waved her hands in the air “—look at me! Don't you want some of this sugar? And I was all, get away from me, you phony! The lines that came out of this guy's mouth! If my mother had known what he was really like…” She exhaled sharply. “Don't get me started on my mother.”

Finally, she wound down.

“This was all my niece's idea,” she said with a rueful laugh. “Since I'm here…my Christmas wish is to meet a handsome, smart, charming man that will just make my head spin with the happiness of true love.” She warmed to her topic. “Make him be someone who brings me flowers and candy just because, writes poems for me, serenades me, and likes to hold hands while we go shopping, ice skating, or maybe even walking along the beach.” She let out a dreamy sigh. “I guess that's too much for one Christmas wish.”

Santa's voice went low and husky. “I'll see what I can do.”

Her eyes flew to his, and she took a good look at the guy she'd just spilled her guts to. He smiled, and her hand went to her throat. This man didn't have wrinkles, pasty white skin, and blue eyes. This wasn't Harold! This was someone much younger with caramel skin and brown eyes behind those spectacles.

Santa was coming on to her!

She leaped off his lap and jabbed a finger at him. “You're Santa. You can't pick up women. You're married to Mrs. Claus.”

Dear Lord, what had she just told this complete stranger? Her cheeks burned.

The Santa-Harold imposter stood and raised his palms. “I'm off duty. You want to get a cup of coffee?”

She whirled and hurried over to her niece. “Come on, Gabriella, we're going.”

“Bye, Santa!” Gabriella called. “Merry Christmas!”

“Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas, Gabriella! I'll make sure the elves know about your Christmas wish and yours too, Samantha!”

She froze. Omigod. He knew her name. She'd never said her name. And that voice. Her mind quickly put the pieces together, that beautiful caramel skin, the brown eyes. It was her horrible blind date—Rico.

She took Gabriella's hand and speedwalked to the parking lot. Samantha had never been so embarrassed in her life. She buckled her niece in, muttering to herself about the nerve of some guys.

They drove home, and Samantha prayed she never, ever ran into that Harold imposter again.

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