If you haven’t read All I Want for Christmas is the Hot Guy in the Santa Suit, you’ll enjoy this sneak peek!
CHASE, MY ONLY child, was the love of my life. He’d just turned five in October, but that birthday couldn’t compare to his excitement about Christmas. And, because of my fond memories of how my parents had made the holidays fun when I was a kid, I couldn’t help but want Chase to enjoy the magic of holidays as well.
Up until this year, he’d had no interest in “meeting” Santa Claus. In fact, when we’d walk by the Santa station at the mall in years past, he had seemed hesitant—like the way kids view clowns. There’s something inherently frightening about a stranger in red, I guess, especially when you’re young.
But this year, Chase was jazzed about seeing the big red guy. Unfortunately, my work schedule had made it hard to get down to the mall, but here we were on a Friday night waiting in line for Santa Claus. Chase had a list in his head, and he’d mentioned a couple of things he wanted, things I’d managed to get (or have his grandparents purchase for him), so I was hoping his conversation with jolly old Saint Nick would solidify my gift choices.
God, I was bored out of my mind standing in line. How many kids lived in this city anyway? It was after seven and I usually had Chase in bed by eight. He didn’t have preschool (at his daycare center) in the morning, so he’d live with a later bedtime, but I was exhausted and ready to put my feet up.
Christmas comes but once a year, I told myself, and hoped the battery on my phone would hold out while Chase amused himself with one of the games on it. In the meantime, though, there was only so much I could do to keep myself awake and alert—without dragging my poor kid out of there.
One thing I’d say about Santa as we got closer—he seemed pretty attentive to the little kids. As we approached, I noticed that he had the most beautiful crystal-blue eyes I’d ever seen on a Santa—or any man, for that matter. His eyelashes were long and dark, too, and surrounded by the white hair and beard, I could almost picture this guy at the North Pole, ho-ho-hoing to all his little elves dressed in green.
That suit—I was betting it was hotter than hell and the guy was likely more miserable than I, but you wouldn’t have known it by the way he acted. He was a natural with kids, chuckling, smiling, asking them questions that got them to talking. I couldn’t complain about the snail’s pace of the line when I heard how good he was with the kids. If the tots weren’t convinced he was Kris Kringle by the time they leapt off his lap, it was through no fault of this guy’s. Even I was beginning to buy his act, even though I could tell he was a little (actually, a lot) younger than the white hair let on.
This guy should have been on stage in Denver—no, Broadway. He was that good.
At last, after over an hour in line, we were getting really close—and still the last in line (waiting till it was almost Christmas had helped with that, no doubt). We’d had several kids and families take up the caboose position multiple times since we’d been there, but they hadn’t had the patience to stay. What probably helped was the sign that let them know Santa would be there all day Saturday and Sunday—the last weekend before Christmas—and this guy was supposedly off duty by eight.
It was now eight-fifteen.
My youngster showed no signs of sleepiness, however, as he continued to crush candies on my Android.
By a quarter till nine, Santa had the second-to-last youngster on his lap. Chase stopped yawning and stood, wide-eyed and ready. In fact, he was waving at Santa. I knelt over. “Honey, I know you’re excited to see the big guy, but we have to wait our turn.”
“I’m just waving, mommy.”
“I know, but we don’t want to distract him from the other boy’s attention. You wouldn’t like it if that happened to you.”
Chase frowned but I knew he’d gotten the message. After a few seconds, he said, “Mommy, I’m gonna ask him for some LEGOs and a hammer.”
“Oh, really?” These were gifts I’d already known about, and his grandparents—my mom and dad—had already purchased three LEGO sets for him. I was a little saddened that we were moving from the big blocks to littler ones, but my son’s fine motor skills were developed enough that he deserved to put them to good use, even though I remembered from having a brother totally into them that they hurt like the dickens when you’re not wearing shoes and one happens to hit your arch as you’re walking over it. But I had to pretend like I didn’t remember the presents he wanted; otherwise, what would he tell Santa? My cute little towhead had no idea that Santa had already purchased the hammer, one made for a kid his age, and it was sitting under my bed along with other age-appropriate versions of tools like a screwdriver, wrench, and pliers. “I’m sure Santa can’t wait to hear it.”
Actually, I was hoping Santa would cut the visit short. I was hungry and tired and hoping that our meal at home wouldn’t be overcooked by the time we got there.
The little boy who’d been in line in front of us hopped off Santa’s lap, a happy, satisfied look on his face. Apparently, he was confident Santa was going to fulfill his every wish. That thought made me squat and say in a low voice to Chase, “Remember, Santa can’t always give you what you ask for.”
“I know…but I have to ask anyway.”
You couldn’t blame him there.
My normally shy child grinned and marched right up to the man playing the big guy who looked at him, his smile evident under the white beard. “Hello, little boy. Come on over.”
I said, “This is Chase.”
I could see the twinkle in his eyes as he said, “Thank you, ma’am, but I was pretty sure this guy was Chase.” As my son scrambled up on his lap, Santa said, “Now, I know the answer to this, but what do you think? Have you been a good boy this year?”
Damn…he was good. Really good. And Chase bit the bait. “Well, Santa, I’ve mostly been a good boy this year.” And then I heard my own words echo out of my son’s mouth. “But I sometimes have a bit of a behavior problem.”
I had to stop myself from laughing out loud and, by the looks of Santa’s eyes, so did he.
“So what do you want for Christmas, Chase?”
Another point for handsome Santa for remembering my little boy’s name. Most people I met, it seemed, didn’t give a crap about anyone but themselves, but this guy seemed to really care about others. I knew my son was at an impressionable young age and this encounter would likely stick with him for his lifetime. When he was older and found out that Santa was make believe, I hoped he would remember the kindness and sweetness of this man and embrace the spirit of giving.
I was mesmerized by his gorgeous blue eyes, ones that would have made the real Kris Kringle green with envy, getting so lost in them that I almost missed what my son replied.
Chase’s brown eyes were big like saucers when he said, his voice full of hope, “I want to see my daddy for Christmas.”
“Oh…” Santa was a little stumped by this one, and I thought I was going to die. I’d never spoken ill of the deadbeat, no good, lying scumbag, but he already had at least eight (yes, eight!) other children by three different women, and he had knocked up another girl just after Chase was born and ran to her as fast as he could. I didn’t have much hope that he gave a shit about the son he had with me. But I didn’t want to break my son’s heart or ruin any chance he had of a relationship with his father later when the no-good jerk decided to pull his head out of his ass and live up to all his responsibilities, so I’d just tried to deflect questions when Chase asked. I wasn’t sure what else to do, except to try to make sure my bitterness didn’t come through.
The guy had seven daughters. One other son. I’d originally hoped that would work out in Chase’s favor but nowadays I figured my kiddo was better off not having that jerk as a role model. My son (and all his kids really) deserved better than that. And just because my judgment had been clouded once upon a time, it wasn’t anymore.
I had to make sure I didn’t sound angry now, either. I cleared my throat, hoping to help jolly old Saint Nick out a bit, and said, “Honey, you know your daddy has to take care of his other family…but someday I’m sure he’ll be able to spend time with you.” In addition to not sounding angry, I also hoped I didn’t sound as skeptical as I felt. If I wound up seeing the man at times other than court hearings, it would be a miracle—and, no doubt, it would help with my anger issues.
Santa cleared his throat and said, “Well, bud, I’ll do my best. I can’t make any promises, because it’s not like bringing you a cool toy or something. I’m not able to deliver people, you know?” Chase nodded but I wasn’t sure he was completely buying it. Cute Santa went on to say, “I want you to know I’ll do my best to get you the present you want.”
Chase nodded and I half expected him to jump down and declare Santa to be an extreme disappointment. Instead, I saw a twinkle in his eyes and he nodded again, but this time he cupped his hands around his mouth. Even covered by his hands, the grin was unmistakable. Santa took the hint and leaned over, turning his ear toward Chase, and then my son began delivering what appeared to be a litany of non-human toys.
The poor guy playing Santa. I was sure my kid’s woes—after hours of playing the Santa role, no less—were more than he’d signed up for. But he nodded occasionally, giving my son little affirmations until he was done.
“Is that all you want?” Santa asked.
I almost laughed. For as long as Chase whispered loudly in the guy’s ear, it sounded like he’d requested enough toys for three holidays. Was that all, indeed. Chase nodded, though.
“You sure, bud? Santa can—”
“No, Santa. Mom told me you only have to get me one present. If I’m greedy, you can’t help all the other kids around the world.”
Santa got a huge grin on his face that was easy enough to see under the white facial hair. “Fair enough.” Chase got a clue and slid off the guy’s lap. “You keep behaving now, okay?” Chase nodded while he added, “I don’t want to find out that you decided to be super naughty at the last minute.”
“Oh, no, Santa. I promise I’ll be a good boy.”
“Great. ‘Cause you know I see everything you do.”
Chase tilted his head. “Yeah…how do you do that?”
“I can’t tell you all my secrets, bud.”
Chase smiled, walking over to me and taking my hand. “Merry Christmas, Santa.”
“Merry Christmas, Chase.”
I smiled and said, “Thank you.”
Cute Santa gave me such a sweet look—and it had to be all eyes, because I really couldn’t see much of the rest of his face. He nodded, smiling, and then stood as we walked off.
“Cheesy pretzel now, mommy?”
I chuckled. I had promised him that, even though it would probably ruin his appetite—but I also hoped it kept his hunger at bay until I finished my shopping. It was way past dinnertime (and even his bedtime) now, so I had no objections. There was a bookstore not too far from the food court and I wanted to find a thoughtful gift there for both my parents. They were avid readers, so I could even just get them a gift card and do well.
While we ate the pretzel at one of the tables with the rock-hard benches, Chase talked nonstop about Santa and how he knew now that he would get the best present ever. I asked, “So what did you ask him for, buddy?”
“I can’t say, mommy. I won’t get it if I tell.”
Where the hell had he ever gotten that idea? Not from me. In fact, in years past, that was how I’d figured out what present or two Santa had to bring. Of course, I’d had the advantage of writing out the letters to Santa for my son before tonight.
I was going to have to get clever to extract this information from my son—but I was too tired to work my magic right now. It would have to wait until tomorrow. I could get him to let it slip and then, if he noticed what he’d done, I’d have to assure him that Santa wouldn’t hold it against him.
But we finished the pretzel and then we had one more stop before heading home.
We had to backtrack a bit to go to the bookstore, but I really wanted to get a gift card there for sure—and maybe even a book or two. I had Chase all set up, looking at Dr. Seuss books just a couple of feet away while I browsed through the home improvement section.
I was marveling at how my boy could read some of those words while sounding out others, following them with a finger, and I had his daycare center to thank for that. Their emphasis had always been on education—and thank goodness. For the amount of money I gave them out of my paycheck each month, the least they could do was potty train my two-year-old toddler and then teach him to read as he got older. Honestly, they were worth every penny, because I never worried about my little guy while I was away at work at the registration office of the local community college. And his kindergarten teacher next year was gonna love him.
Smiling, I turned my head back to the shelf in front of me. Every tenth book or so was turned so that I could see its face, but I didn’t need to see the entire cover. Usually what I needed to feel intrigued was a good title, and so I was scanning the spines in DIY, trying to figure out what might tickle my father’s fancy, when I sensed someone approaching from the other side.
I turned, allowing my eyes to take in the gorgeous guy walking my way. It took me a second to realize he wasn’t wanting to get past me. He was coming to me. Those blue eyes of his looked familiar, but he wasn’t someone I knew. He was tall with light brown hair, a light beard in the making (three or four days’ scruff), and cheekbones a model would kill for. His genuine smile warmed me down to my toes as I wondered why this good-looking guy was approaching me. Since I’d had Chase, I wasn’t in high demand like I’d been when I’d been unfettered—and that was fine, because I wasn’t in the market. Chase’s dad had ensured that men were low on my list of life priorities.
But as this man got closer, I took him in. He wore jeans and a blue Denver Broncos sweatshirt over a solid body, holding a big paper shopping bag in one hand.
If men weren’t a priority, why was I feeling excited about this guy?
“Hi,” he said, his grin baring sparkling white teeth that created an infectious grin.
I said hello back before glancing over at Chase. The kid was captivated by Sam I Am.
“I don’t think you remember me.”
He was right there. Yes, those eyes were familiar, but… “Should I?” I knew I hadn’t gone to high school with him, but maybe he’d been a student at the college when I’d first started working there—there’d been enough people in and out of the place that it was a definite possibility.
The grin hadn’t left his face, making me feel warm. Sticking out his hand, he said, “Name’s JD.”
Okay, so that didn’t ring a bell, either…but it made me realize that even if I knew him, I didn’t know him enough to have known his name. “Serena,” I responded, shaking his hand.
His warm, strong hand.
What was wrong with me?
“I also sometimes go by the name of Claus. As in Santa.”
I laughed then, realizing that was why his eyes had seemed familiar but nothing else about the man had rung a bell.
I’d just seen him less than half an hour ago.
He glanced at Chase before holding the bag out to me. His voice was so low, it was almost hard to hear when he said, “This is what your little boy really wanted for Christmas.”
I cocked my head, wondering if I understood him right. “What?”
His grin was infectious—and why the hell was I finding myself attracted to this guy? I’d sworn off men after getting royally screwed by my ex, going so far as to train myself to look as neutrally at the opposite sex as possible.
But this man…holy hell. He made Santa look sexy.
“This is a gift from Santa Claus,” he whispered. “It’s what your son asked me for for Christmas. Well…other than the request I couldn’t fulfill.”
I felt my cheeks growing warm as realization of what he’d done flooded my brain. He was trying to hand me the bag but I held my hands up, palms facing him, and said, “Oh, no. No, no, no. I can’t possibly accept that.”
Why would a complete stranger be compelled to do something like this? Yes, it was kind and compassionate, but it also made me wonder what his angle was.
“I insist,” he said, taking my hand and placing the handles of the bag in it before I could stop him. The sensation of his hand touching mine was electric, and it was then that I realized I’d gone way too long without the touch of a man. How stupid that had been, because now I felt desperate—not good. His soft blue eyes all but caressed my skin as he added, “I don’t want you to think of this as pity or anything like that, but I want to help. Your son whispered it in my ear, and I got the feeling he wasn’t going to tell you his deepest desire. I know this is what he wants.”
He let go of my hand, leaving me to feel the weight of the gift. I couldn’t very well turn it down now, could I? Not when he’d been thinking of my sweet, precious child who deserved much better than I could offer. I peeked inside and saw the words Hot Wheels on the box. Now that I saw it, I remembered Chase saying something about a cool toy when a commercial had popped up a few Saturdays ago when he was watching a cartoon. At that thought, I glanced over at my son who was, fortunately, absorbed in a book. What could I say?
“Thank you so much…JD?” He nodded, letting me know I’d remembered his name correctly. “That is too kind of you. To show my gratitude, I’d love to invite you over for dinner. I have some beef stew in my slow cooker at home—more than enough for three of us. My way of saying thanks.”
His lovely blue eyes searched mine and I realized then how easily I could get lost in them.
I would love nothing more.
Then he grinned again. “Yeah, I think I could use a bite to eat. How ‘bout I give you my number? Then you can call or text me with your address when you’re home.”
I smiled, thinking that giving me his number was probably a big deal. I fished my phone out of my purse and typed it in. Then I felt Chase by my side as I asked JD, “Do you want my number?”
The positive expression on his face was infectious as he replied, “Well…I’ll have it if you text me, now won’t I?”
Hmm. That he would. And as he sauntered away and I tried not to check out his gorgeous ass, Chase asked, “Who was that man, mommy?”
“A new friend, I think.” Shaking my head as if to gain my bearings, I said, “And he might be coming for dinner.”
Only time would tell. But, if nothing else, I still had my original date, the handsome young boy beside me, and I took his hand in mine. However, I couldn’t stop the hope brimming in my heart.
Oh! The blurb…
All I wanted for Christmas was for my little boy to be happy…so I took him to meet Santa Claus in the mall, and he could tell the jolly man all of his wishes and hope that they would come true.
But it was also magical for me…because it turned out that the guy in the Santa suit was HOT. Underneath the white hair and beard and padding was a guy that could melt my panties with a look.
The danger was that he had the potential to melt my heart…