Gingersnaps: Santa Paws
by Lena Austin
cover art by Reneé George
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-098-8
Length: Hot Flash
Phaedra hates JR for destroying her home forest and the lives of her family. Now a caregiver putting herself through college, she’s determined to give the most evil and handsome man she knows a piece of her mind.
So why does she want so badly to sit in Santa’s lap?
JR Thornton’s Mercedes pulled to the side of the road long enough for him to check his newest delivery at the construction site just down the road from his destination. Yes, the huge truck was there, waiting for his crews to return after the holiday. One repayment on the long road to his redemption. He smiled to himself. Despite what his sister-in-law had advised, JR just couldn’t seem to let go of his lists and plans.
“Learn to be impulsive, you big furry idiot!” she’d told him. Charm wasn’t known for her tact.
He was trying, dammit. That was why he had sent his chauffeur home, donned a Santa suit -- God help him if any of his colleagues saw him like this -- and was now on his way to an orphan’s group home on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to a bunch of kids who weren’t even there. He pushed the accelerator and eased the car back on the road.
The Lucky Charms Group Home stood isolated in the middle of his project. He’d cleaned out the rest of the rundown subdivision surrounding the group home. In its place would be a planned community with modern homes, a shopping complex, community center, and even a library and post office. The fifty-year-old one-story ranch, owned by Charm and his brother, was the only remnant of the old neighborhood. ’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. At least he hoped the children were all nestled in their beds. This shit was still new to him, but damn, he felt strangely good.
JR parked and nervously jingled the keys, feeling very awkward in the padded costume. According to Charm, who was on her honeymoon with Lucky, the kids were at an all-night sleepover party in town. All JR had to do was lug in the presents, meet the caterer bringing the feast for the kids, and leave to spend another lonely holiday. Funny how you could be lonely in the middle of a werewolf pack, even if you were the heir presumptive to the pack leader. He wished he could linger to see the kids open their presents. Children had a joy for life he’d lost somewhere along the way.
He first grabbed the big red sack from the back seat, which contained the smaller presents, just in case a kid caught him. No spoiling their little illusions. If he hurried, he could get back home in time to watch the old Rankin/Bass classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He was a sucker for that movie show, though no one would believe it of him. Next year, he’d bring the disc with him and watch it with the kids here. Yeah, that was the solution. Holiday specials and cookies until they nodded off and were put to bed. Damn, why did Christmas only come once a year? He’d make a note in his planner to return next year with a holiday movie marathon and all the trimmings.
The key turned easily in the lock, and JR stepped quietly inside. The tree twinkled from its position on the wall opposite from where he stood. He hefted the bag and made one step toward his goal.
The clear ka-chink of ammunition loading into the chamber of a rifle stopped him cold.