Not ready to let the holidays go? I'm sure not. Here are a couple of quick seasonal reads that might just hit the spot.
Santa is a Lady by L.J. Holmes
Genre: Sweet Romance--Seasonal
Page count: 89
ISBN e-book: 978-1-926931-06-7
Christmas Miracles: Santa is a Lady - Book One in the series
Angie is someone who has had to walk through the fires of hell and battle with death itself to regain the use of her nearly shattered body. It’s Christmas, the time of wonder and magic for Angie, Cam a man who has spent the past nearly two years trying to pry his precious daughter from the unscrupulous hands of his late wife’s greedy Iraqi brother’s, and Jo, the precious daughter, who is finally free and in her father’s awed hands. Three people and one Christmas with so much magic swirling at last in their direction.
Read the excerpt!
He didn’t look to the left; he didn’t look to the right; he made a direct beeline for Santa’s North Pole Throne and Angie’s vulnerable lap.
It had already been an eventful day. Although Angie knew when she did it, it was probably a petty thing to do, she arrived at eight o’clock, not the earlier seven-thirty Beck had commanded the night before. It had given Angie a fleeting moment of righteous tit for tat pleasure. Of course, Beck had not been the least bit amused and had shown her annoyance in the manner she helped Angie get into her Santa disguise.
Angie turned a deaf ear to Beck’s litany of complaints, but by the time the doors actually opened, Angie’s body felt a bit tender from Beck’s “loving” ministrations and her limp seemed a bit more pronounced as she made her way to the North Pole Throne and another day locked into Santa cheer.
The doors opened onto a stream of Santa fans that had been lined up in the cold that formed a queue from Santa’s throne to the door. Many had brought digital cameras demanding Santa and their cherubs pose this way and that. Santa felt old before her time by the half hour mark.
The line worked its way down as the minutes moved on. The cash registers’ ka-chings had also gradually filtered, in Angie’s mind, blessedly into silence as the store emptied of Beck’s sainted customers.
Into that silence, though, he vaulted.
Known throughout all of Northeringale and twelve of the fourteen surrounding townships, Julian Harper arrived. Some people looked at Julian and saw an adorable though outrageously precocious scamp. Angie knew better. She’d babysat Julian once, almost a year ago, and had yet to fully recover from the experience. He was, to put it kindly, the proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop. Nothing he did was done by half measures including lurching up onto Santa’s lap where he landed with an inhuman thud.
Angie’s hip screamed out a chorale of yelps and she had to force her lips not to give voice to the silent screams within her. Biting down on waves of rippling agony Angie spouted her usual, “What can Santa bring for you, my fine boy?” spiel.
Julian Harper’s repertoire didn’t consist of sitting still either. Angie looked around frantically for the boy’s mother. And wondered why she’d allowed him to come into Sweets and Treats without her. No doubt to get her own reprieve from the little hellion, Angie thought sourly.
Julian Harper boosted himself up into a standing position so he could stretch over Santa and check out the long fall of Santa curls running down Angie’s back, catching his grubby paws in the acrylic locks. His fingers, sticky from whatever he’d had in them before coming into Sweets and Treats became ensnarled in the phony mane literally handcuffing Julian’s hands and the wig together.
Using his feet, Julian kicked out to get leverage, then jabbed, and jumped all over Angie’s lap trying to free himself from his captivity while screeching right in her ears at the top of his lungs. Angie, sensing the approaching disaster screamed for Beck to come and prevent the serious trouble about to fall upon them. Just as she screamed, though, Julian’s booted foot bulls-eyed down on Angie’s already battered hip. Another scream, this one loudly vocal and crammed with Angie’s suffering rent the air.
Beck reached the wildly out of control Julian and pulled him and Santa’s wig away from Angie in one powerful sweep.
Julian, his paws filled with the fake Santa hair, stared at Angie’s hairless Santa and began squealing, “Santa’s a fake” over and over again loud enough to wake the dead. He also began wriggling frantically in Beck’s hold, but she held onto him for dear life carting him into the back of the store where the bathroom waited to get his grubby hands free from Santa’s wig.
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The Boys Upstairs by Jane Lebak
Genre: Seasonal Christmas
Warning: Limited violence, sexual content, or language
Jay Farrell, a crippled priest, has begun housing homeless boys in his rectory. Once a street kid himself, he was riding the rocket-train to a lifetime in prison until the day he drove over a land mine in Iraq. Today he works at an inner-city parish, running a soup kitchen and struggling to manage an impoverished church.
With temperatures below zero and falling a few nights before Christmas, Jay's estranged brother Kevin dumps three more children on his front porch. Kevin, a cop who can't believe in God after all the evil he's seen, hasn't spoken to Jay in years, but he knows Jay will at least give the kids a place to stay. It isn't over yet, though. As they work together to meet the children's needs, they must confront the long-buried emotions that have divided them so long.
The Boys Upstairs examines the real gift of the holiday season and how hope can transform the ones society condemns as not worth saving.
Read the excerpt!
Kevin pulled his duffle bag from his locker. The belt weighted down his waist, but he didn't remove it. He took off his shirt, removed his bullet-proof vest, replaced his shirt, and then grabbed his jacket.
Christmas songs. Christmas lights. Christmas trees. Only a little longer until the gifts were exchanged (both with one another and at the stores) and the trees went to the curbside. The songs would play for a few more days, and then it would be over. Red and pink would go up for Valentine's Day, and the world would go back to normal. Christmas was only one day, but it had expanded to fill an entire sixth of the year.
Two years ago, Kevin had been joking with his then-partner in the patrol car when they'd gotten a call for a domestic. Routine for Christmas Eve—unfortunately, domestic violence rocketed around town like Santa on his sleigh at Christmas time. Always disgusting, but the character of the holiday threw the violence into sharper relief. Men beating their wives because they'd cooked the turkey wrong: joy to the world.
Kevin and his partner were just finishing up when they got a call about a car accident. They responded with sirens screaming, racing down the centerline of the boulevard as cars dived to the curbs. He arrived to find two cars mangled together like lovers shot by a jealous husband. A Ford Taurus on its back, the side caved in, and a Camry impacted so hard on the driver's side it was bent like an L. A third sedan, make and model unidentifiable, had its engine in the front seat, smashed head-on into a wall.
Running through the glass shards that crunched like ice beneath his steel-toed shoes, Kevin went to the Camry and shone his flashlight through the shatter-frosted window to see there was no way to help this woman. His partner checked the flipped Taurus, and again, nothing.
Kevin would have bet the house drugs were involved. Instead, the autopsy results came back clean. Just a driver racing to the mall.
Jobs that should never be done: calling the coroner on Christmas Eve. More than that: being the one to contact a dead driver's family the night before Christmas. He'd managed to secure the contents of one car for the family so they'd have at least this final Christmas gift.
Such a senseless crash, an act of stupid haste and three lives snuffed like a smoldering candle. Kevin would remember forever crunching up two icy steps on a wooden porch entwined with blinking white lights, a push of the doorbell, and the terror flashing across a middle-aged woman's face as she opened the door to a police officer. "Are you Mrs. Sherry Daniels?"
What more do you say after that? How do you make the unbearable able to be borne?
Next November, Kevin recoiled the first time he saw porches adorned with blinking white lights. It took two weeks to figure out why. He went to the Daniels family's house on Christmas Eve that year—no blinking lights, not then—carrying a plant and a sympathy card. They weren't home, so Kevin left them on the steps. This year he wouldn't go at all. He'd mentally kicked himself over and over for not considering the mother's reaction if she'd been there, if she'd seen him on a second Christmas Eve.
He never came bringing tidings of great joy, that's for sure. That was why everyone in the city either hated the cops or feared them. Kevin looked at himself in the mirror some mornings and thought, That's me. Someone to be hated and feared.
As he put his cap back into his locker, Kevin caught sight of the metal inside the brim, or rather the medal. Jay had given it to him when he'd entered the police academy, insisted he pin it somewhere on the uniform, and a lot of cops had the same one. A medal of Saint Michael. Kevin knew from the wings that Michael was an angel, not why he would be the patron of police officers. Do you ever manage to do any good, he thought to the angel figure, or does everyone hate and fear you too?
That was something Jay maybe understood, if Kevin ever felt like asking. Although Kevin couldn't say for certain, he figured priests too must be hated and feared. Feared as if they were judges or magicians, hated because they represented the Church and everything it stood for in the minds of everyone on Earth. Like the police, priests were meant to be trusted, access to a law higher than the citizenry, and so often unable to enforce a damned thing. Jay couldn't stop a man from sinning, and Kevin couldn't stop a young woman from dying on Christmas Eve.
He slammed his locker and sighed.
One of the other guys looked up. "Long night?"
"I hate Christmas."
"Ho ho ho. Merry paperwork." The guy laughed, but Kevin only left the locker room to head for home.
Thirty minutes later, Kevin walked into his apartment. Half an hour driving, listening to talk radio in his car, and watching the digital clock during light cycles. He locked away his gun and set aside his uniform. In front of the TV he flipped channels until he found a movie with lots of explosions, then left it running in the background as he changed into flannel pajama pants and grabbed a bag of chips. The recliner creaked as he settled himself. He checked his voicemail, one message.
Dad's scratchy voice: "I didn’t want to call later, in case you're sleeping."
Kevin rolled his eyes. I'm on a night tour, Dad—figure it out.
"I wasn't sure what your off days would be for the rest of the week. They've got a full schedule for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so I may not be able to catch you over the holiday. If I don't get a chance to talk to you, have a merry Christmas."
"You too," Kevin said to the voicemail. "You and five hundred other retirees in a gated Florida community." He leaned back in front of the TV set. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
The movie was boring, loud, and predictable. Kevin woke up an hour later to find it had already ended. He shut off the set and dragged himself to bed. Two more days until Christmas.
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