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Jill Shalvis, Hope Ramsay, Katie Lane

Small Town Christmas

© 2011

Kissing Santa Claus by Jill Shalvis

Chapter 1

“Merry Christmas,” Sandy Jansen murmured to herself, staring in her office mirror. She closed her eyes, trying to avoid the sadness in her own reflection. She loved Christmas, loved the decorations, loved the festivities, loved the joy of the entire season, but this year that joy was sorely lacking.

It had been for five months, ever since the day she’d watched Logan Perrish’s very fine ass walk out of her life.

It was silly because she’d known he was just a fling. Hell, it’d even been her idea. But she hadn’t known that she’d miss the NASCAR star as much as she had.

Or that all these months later, she’d still remember his smile, his warm, dark eyes, how she’d melted at the sight of him. And when he’d touched her… well. She’d gone up in flames for him, all of her, including her damn heart.

Sandy opened her eyes but didn’t meet her own gaze again. Instead she looked at the rest of her. As the town clerk of Lucky Harbor, she’d come to the annual employee Christmas cocktail party in a cute little red dress, her “holiday” dress, which never failed to cheer her up. Being all of five foot two was a bit of a problem, but her four- inch Manolo knockoffs helped.

What hadn’t helped her was the costume she now had on over her sexy little red dress, complete with a stuffed belly and butt, white beard and wig, red fur-lined hat, and the final touch, thick wire-rimmed glasses.

Santa Claus.

From outside her office and down the hall, there was only silence. The party had emptied out, leaving her alone in the building. Tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, everyone in town would be here for the annual Christmas parade, which Santa would head up in the same 1972 Buick convertible, aka rust bucket, that they’d been using for years. The evening would culminate at the end of the pier, with all the kids lining up to sit on Santa’s lap so they could whisper their holiday wish.

Sandy’s wish, if anyone had asked, would be that Anderson hadn’t caught the flu so he could play Santa as planned. She’d tried to get a last-minute replacement, oh how she’d tried. But Jax Cullen, Lucky Harbor’s mayor, was master of ceremonies of the parade. Ford Walker and resident hottie had taken his new fiancee to Palm Springs for a holiday getaway. Sandy’s third and final choice, Sheriff Sawyer Thompson, was going to be on duty at the parade, handling crowd control.

There was no one else to ask, which panicked Sandy. No one but her… She took her roll of town clerk very seriously, but this… this was going over and above the call of duty. Yet all she could think of was the kids of Lucky Harbor, and how disappointed they’d be without Santa. Dammit. She sighed and took one last look at herself. She did actually look a little bit like Santa, albeit a very short one.

“You, Sandy Jansen,” she told her reflection. “Are a sucker.”

The biggest. And she had a broken heart to prove it. With a sigh, she reached around behind her to unzip the Santa costume, but the zipper wouldn’t budge. She tried again. And then again. “Really?” she said to the room in general, most specifically to her karma. “Are you kidding me?”

Karma wasn’t listening. The zipper was stuck.

“Dammit,” she said, and tried again to no avail. “Well, isn’t this just perfect.” With an eye roll, she snatched up her purse and her keys and headed out into the night, hoping a neighbor was still up. But if anyone so much as smiled at this I Love Lucy predicament, Sandy was going to smack them. “Christmas,” she muttered, but it wasn’t annoyance she felt so much as bone-deep sadness. Her family was back East. She didn’t have a date, and she felt… alone. It was a feeling that someone who’d grown up as the nerd, the bookworm in a family of charismatic, outgoing people, should be familiar with by now. Shaking her head at herself, she hurried out to her car, her heels clicking on the asphalt, and she realized how she must look in the Santa costume-with her heels.

Santa in drag…

Good thing she was all alone. Except she wasn’t.

The lot was empty but for her rundown Toyota and another car, a convertible BMW.

And leaning against her car as if he belonged there was the cool, sophisticated, gorgeous Logan Perrish, as if she’d conjured him out of her nightly fantasies. Except in her nightly fantasies, he returned her rambling but heartfelt e-mails…

Clearly she was hallucinating. Because no way would karma be so cruel as to stick her in the Santa costume and then produce the man who’d crushed her.

“Sandy?”

At the low, almost unbearably familiar voice that she’d expected to never hear again, she dropped her keys. To give herself a desperately needed moment, she bent over, and her hat and wig fell off. What were the chances he’d believe she really was Santa?

“Sandy.”

Dammit! Oh, how she wished she could turn back time. Because then, when she’d gotten that sexy “hey, babe” voice mail message a few days after he’d left, she wouldn’t have then poured her heart out to him via e-mail.

To which he’d never responded…

She scooped up both the hat and the keys and hugged them to her padded belly as she straightened and shook her head wildly. Nope, not Sandy. No Sandy here-

“It is. It’s you,” he murmured, and then laughed.

Which settled it. He’d hurt her and laughed at her. She tended toward a mild- mannered and easygoing temperament, but this was too much for her. She was going to have to kill him.

Chapter 2

Logan pushed off of Sandy’s car and shook his head. He couldn’t believe it when, through the mist of the frosty night, came a very short, round Santa, wobbling through the lot toward Sandy’s car.

In four-inch FMPs.

It hadn’t been until Santa dropped the hat and wig that he realized he recognized that wavy mass of dark hair. Choking out a laugh, he took a step toward her. His smiled faded when she just stared at him. Her baby blues, usually so soft and warm, were putting out a chill to rival the December night air.

Not exactly the welcome he’d envisioned. And he had envisioned. His fantasies had involved her throwing herself at him, and shortly thereafter divesting them both of all clothing.

“Hey,” he said. “You okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

Hmm. That didn’t sound like she was gearing up to throw herself at him at all, much less anything indecent

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