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Inn Love For Christmas Sneak Peak: Kissing Santa
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Torin and Lucy

    Lucy crossed the street, drawn to the magical village in the town square. She missed the days when sitting on Santa’s lap could grant the deepest wishes of her heart. If that was still true, maybe he could bring Eric back to her. Lucy sighed and stopped by one of the nutcrackers, watching Santa laugh a hearty "Ho, ho, ho" to the little girl on his lap. He shot a glance in her direction. She waved and sniffled. The magic of Christmas and Santa Claus had already lifted her morale and Lucy found herself breathing a little easier.

    “Careful!” a woman snapped as a little boy ran a circle around the line. The woman was holding another child’s hand, glaring at the little boy.

    The shout broke up the sweetness of the moment, and Santa set the little girl from his lap down handing her a candy cane. She ran to her mother and the parentless little boy jumped in front of the line of kids, beaming at Santa innocently.

    With some commotion, the little boy was sent back to his place in the queue. He waited there for a solid five seconds before ducking under the candy cane ropes, knocking over a post, and running straight for one of the large nutcracker sentinels.

    Lucy’s eyes grew wide. She didn’t know if she was more worried for the little boy or the nutcracker he was charging but she couldn’t let him hurtle into one of the massive decorations. Dashing across the grass, she reached the little boy, grabbing for him as he slammed against the nutcracker’s legs.

    She was too late. But it didn’t fall.

    Lucy walked the little boy around the nutcracker, finding Santa Claus on the other side, steadying the giant, decorative toy.

    The children in line cheered. The little boy in her hands began to squirm, shouting, “Let me go. You’re not my mom!”

    “Benny,” Santa Claus said, stepping away from the nutcracker and kneeling in front of the little boy. “Would your mom be okay with what you just did? You know I’m keeping a list.”

    “Don’t be a creeper, Santa.” The boy yanked his arm out of Lucy’s grip. “I liked the old Santa Claus better.”

    Benny zipped away, shoving Lucy for good measure.

    In her, more cute and less functional, booties, the shove did more damage than usual. Lucy stumbled, catching an icy spot in the sidewalk, her ankle boots slid out from under her, propelling her forward. She cried out, flailing as the magical Christmas land blurred into red.

    She should have changed her boots.

    Santa’s red suit was pressed to her face. The arms wrapped around her felt stronger than your typical pudgy-grandpa-mall-Santa and when she looked up she realized why. This was the most gorgeous Santa Claus she’d ever seen. Tanned skin, pale green eyes, dark hair peeking out from under the white fur of his hat, and a square jaw with just enough stubble to make him look like he belonged in the mattress ad campaign she’d been working on before she was fired. They’d have at least 50% of the market covered, since, she imagined, he could lure the entire female population to try out any bed he was lounging on.

    He lifted her up, steadying her while she got her footing. He didn’t look away, watching her till she must have looked safe enough and made a tiny shift, turning them away from the workshop, and whispered, “Can I have my beard back?”

    His deep voice was warm and rich and had her clenching her body to keep from falling apart in front of him. Lucy started her panic breathing exercises trying to slow her heart rate.

    He was easily six inches taller than her, even in her heeled boots, but he was still close enough that she could smell him and made the flash decision that peppermint and sandalwood was her new favorite scent combination. He grinned at her, and she couldn’t remember what he’d said.

    He leaned in, keeping his voice low, “I think we’re scaring the kids.”

    Lucy flinched and looked around him at the line of children who’d been cheering “Santa the Superhero” moments before and instead saw mothers hiding their children’s faces, while older kids belly laughed, pointing and making mock flailing motions.

    “Oh—oh my,” she said, finally looking at the situation outside of sexy Santa.

    She was still holding him, or letting him hold her, his beard clamped in her hand and the elastic snapped off one side. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I broke it. I didn’t realize.”

     She jumped back holding out the beard and Santa let go taking it back. Turning it over, Santa examined the damage. “It’s fine,” he said, brow furrowed and green eyes focused. “I was getting tired anyway. I’ll close down here in a second. Are you alright?”

    Lucy looked quickly to the children “Don’t cancel on them.”

    Santa raised an eyebrow. “You’d rather I explain how I’m not really Santa?”

    She fought a smile and thought quickly. “Do you have scissors? Wait, I have scissors. I can fix this. Come with me . . . Hold this up.” She took the beard from his hands and stuffed it against his face, leading him to the back side of Santa’s workshop. She waved at the crying children as they passed, “We’re going to be right back. Okay? Santa’s going to be right as rain, in two clicks.” She hesitated after the words came out of her mouth, almost slipping again. Right as rain? Yeah, she’d just said that. Sexy Santa looked a bit confused and she shot him an embarrassed smile. “Sorry, my mother’s a hippy.”

    There was a little archway behind the Santa’s Workshop building, with a pathway running through it connecting to the main sidewalk.        The empty garden areas beside it made her think that at any other time of year this area was a landscaped garden.

    She took the beard back and looked it over. It was made of beautiful fibers and the material on the back was a heavy satin weave. The elastic was still intact, but the seam had popped where it attached to the base fabric. Lucy approved, but she couldn’t just cut a hole in it and tie a knot. “This is really well made.”

    “Thanks,” Sexy Santa said, his eyes on her again. Had they ever left? “It’s a family heirloom, so I think well-made is a requirement.”

    Her breath caught as he looked her over, and she resisted the urge to straighten her sweater. Even the idea that she had caught the eye of this man, in anyway, was absurd. He grinned and she looked down at the beard in her hands.

    She had to stop turning to goo every time she looked at Santa! Nothing was going to happen anyway. She had no job, no phone, nowhere to go, she didn’t even have a coat . . . Maybe he’d be interested in being her Sugar Creek, Sugar Daddy.

    Cut it out, she ordered herself and smiled up at him. “I can fix this.”

    He grinned at her, and her toes turned to putty.

    Not a good start, Lucy. She wiggled her toes, confirming she could still walk on them.

    Santa came over, looking at the beard with her. She gave her toes a precautionary wiggle.

    “Do you sew?”

    “Hmm?” she asked, and he pointed to the beard. “Oh, no. I mean, not really, but enough. I know costumes, anyway. Give me a second.”

    If she could have slapped sense into herself, she would have. She jogged, carefully, around the other side of the building and rubbed her arms now that Santa wasn’t holding her the temperature had dropped several degrees. She retrieved her suitcase and purse, grateful it was all still there. If she’d done something so careless in Miami, she’d have lost her wardrobe and wallet on top of everything else.

    She wheeled the bag back to Santa and unzipped it.

    “So, are you a traveling costume repair woman or something? I bet you set all this up and are going to charge me top dollar to fix me up.”

    “Not a penny for Santa,” Lucy looked up and almost laughed. Almost. It was more of a half chuckle as she lifted the lid of her suitcase, praying she hadn’t left her sexy undergarments on top, or her ten-year old comfortable bra. No one but her and Eric were supposed to see what was in there.

    She peeked under the lid before dropping it open and breathed a sigh of relief. She shoved a piece of blue lace deeper into the bag and started digging for her sewing kit. It had gotten hot again.

    She pulled out her little clutch of needles and thread. “I can’t tell you how many times this kit had saved me.”

    “So, I’m not special after all.” There he went again, making her body shiver with his delicious voice.

    “No, just lucky,” she lied, “but this,” she held up the beard and paused, caught in his pale green eyes again. Deep breath, one, two, three. Fully conscious again, she shook the beard gently between them. Neither of them looked at it. “This is definitely special.”

    His lips turned up softly. “I was thinking the same thing.”

    He stepped closer and Lucy dipped her head to her sewing kit. In a few stitches she’d reattached the elastic and tied off the thread. “Here, it should be fixed.”

    He took the beard and looked it over. “That’s perfect, thank you.” She blushed and Santa came closer. “I’m feeling bad that I don’t know the name of the woman who just saved Christmas in Sugar Creek.”

    Lucy giggled, “I didn’t do that.”

    “I disagree. If you remember, I said this costume is a family heirloom. You saved Christmas and my hide.” His eyes drifted over her, and fire rose from her toes. “You blush pretty easy, don’t you?”

    A short laugh burst from Lucy, and she tried to hide behind her hands. Her skin was hot to the touch. She’d be candy cane red by now. “Yeah, it’s genetic.”

    “You should thank your mother. It’s cute.” Santa laughed, but it was no "ho, ho, ho".

    Even this guy’s laugh was sexy. She’d just broken up with Eric. She’d cried all the way here. And still, she should not be so turned on by someone so soon. Sorry, Eric.

    She was probably just caught up in some kind of Christmas magic. If she saw him at home in sweats, he’d probably look ridiculous. She glanced at him adjusting his hat and bit her lip. Nope. He was beautiful.

    She rolled her shoulders and looked him full in the face. No melting. So, what if he was good looking. She was a grown adult, fully functioning, woman. He tucked the elastic over his ears, twisting the front mustache in the process and smiled at her. Fully functioning. That was part of the problem. She smiled back and crossed her legs, ignoring the butterflies that were freaking out inside her, and tried not to let him know that she was counting her breaths.

    “Well, I guess I should get back to work.” The beard only partially hid his gorgeous features. The eyes were still a problem. His dark lashes set off his green eyes like wishing flowers over grass. “How do I look?”

    “So good,” she breathed, and caught herself. “Good! Good. Great. You’re very merry. Just, this one thing.” She reached up, hovering her hand in front of the beard. “Do you care? If I help you?”

    He shook his head, and she slid her finger under the edge of the beard, straightening the white curls and pulling it to reveal his mouth. Mmm. “It was twisted.”

    “Mommy are they gonna kiss?” A little girl walked with her mom several yards away.

    “Of course, honey. They’re under the mistletoe,” the mom responded, juggling shopping bags and her daughter. She kept walking, unconcerned with Santa’s romantic life.

    Lucy looked up. The arch behind the workshop had been decorated for Christmas with fresh evergreen swags, berries, and glittery, red, twists for Christmas flair, all the way up to a full bunch of mistletoe hanging from the top.

    “They’re not kissing!” the little girl shouted, and the mom rolled her eyes.

    “Do you mind?” she asked, exhaustion heavy in her voice. “Would you? I mean you’re obviously a couple, right?”

    “Sure,” Sexy Santa answered and looked down at her. “Do you care? It’s just a kiss.”

    She’d been about to protest, but he’d come in closer, and tingles shot through her body. She had the vague fear that if he touched her, she might explode.

    “Sure.” She hadn’t just said that.

    She looked up at him, his green eyes roving her face as he cupped her cheek in his hand, lifting her jaw. There was a silent question in his eyes, asking if it was really okay. He hovered inches from her lips, as if waiting for additional approval to cross the final space. Her lips trembling as she arched up to face him. Every breath moving tiny wisps of his Santa beard against her lips.

    It’s just a kiss, it’s just a kiss, she chanted silently. White noise buzzed in her mind. There was nothing but Santa’s gorgeous face over hers. 

    Who was this guy?

    His hand slid from her cheek to the bend of her neck, cradling her head, pulling her centimeters closer.

    “Mommy!” the little girl complained again, and Lucy thrust her body upward, closing her eyes as her lips made contact with his.

    He moved gently over her lips in not one, but two, and then three motions of his mouth pulling and moving against hers, a soft, insistent suggestion of desire. He pressed closer and she gripped his arms just before he pulled away.

    He’d only left the suggestion of space between them, his peppermint breath making little puffs of white around them in the cold air.


    That was not just a kiss.

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