A woman determined to spread the Christmas spirit...
Former socialite turned community centre worker Candice Kane loves Christmas. In the run down area she works in, economics and rising unemployment mean that there isn't a lot of Christmas spirit to go around. Determined to do something about it, for the last couple of years she's arranged a Christmas Party, complete with a visit from Santa for the neighbourhood kids. This year though, a break in and damage from vandals means the party could be cancelled...
A Santa who hates Christmas...
Rhod is...was a Santa. For years he joined the other men in his family delivering presents, until the attitude and ungratefulness of the rich children he delivered to made him hang up his red suit. Working for the Paranormal Protection Agency, he's convinced himself that he's happier without being the big guy anymore.
When he and his partner rescue Candy from an attack in a deserted alley, all Rhod's decisions are put to the test. Can he hold out against a woman with Christmas spirit in her heart, or will he lose his own in the process?
© 2012 Mina Carter
Once, just once, it would be nice for things to go right. Candy sighed and dropped her head into her hands, closing her eyes to shut out the crap that littered her desk. She was screwed, six ways to Sunday and back again. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars… All that jazz.
Leaning back in her chair, she shoved her hands into her hair and looked at the papers on her desk. Bills filled it, almost covering the crime report in its neat little folder. Her heart hit rock bottom. After months of planning for the Christmas party, months of anticipation for the kids who came to the Chapel Centre, some fucking jerk had ruined it all. One break in, one act of vandalism and all that planning had been for nothing.
The Chapel was the only community centre of its kind, deep in the heart of the most deprived area of the city. Kids around here were lucky to eat one good meal a day, and Christmas…well, the bright sparkly Christmas peddled in department stores and on TV was beyond the reach of most of the parents. Parents ground down with job cuts and rent increases, their eyes shadowed and tired as they tried to explain to their children why Santa had run out of the big presents they wanted. She knew they tried their best, but there was only so much money, and she knew in most households there was more going out than coming in.
That didn’t matter with kids though. Kids didn’t care about finances; all they saw was the tree and presents. Which is why she’d organised the big Christmas party at the Chapel for the last three years. Held on Christmas Eve, there were party games and a Christmas sing-along before each child and the parents got a hot meal.
The kids knew the drill: after dinner, sleigh bells would ring outside and their special guest would arrive. Candy loved seeing their faces at the first sound of a booted foot…the anticipation and delight as that red suit and the big white beard came into view. By the time the first ‘ho-ho-ho’ rang out in the hall, at least four kids had squealed and one started to cry. Then they all lined up and by the end of the night, each child had spoken to Santa and gone away with a brightly wrapped gift.
Every Christmas Eve for the last three years. Not this year though. Because of some little jerk, the party was going to have to be cancelled. She fought back tears at the thought of disappointing all those kids, pinching the bridge of her nose as she closed her eyes again. Somehow she had to make this right.
Candice, when are you going to stop messing about with your little pet project and come home? Her father’s voice rang in her mind, his derisive tone setting her teeth on edge. Your mother and I would like you to meet Robert, he’s new with the company. Up and coming, very nice young man. Just your type.
Shaking her head, she opened her eyes. Just her type. Yeah, right. Her father had no clue what her type was. All Sebastian Kane saw was what he wanted, and in the Kane family that was all that mattered. Everyone deferred to her father without question. Except her.
Fed up with his overbearing manner, Candy had moved out as soon as she’d come into her inheritance from her grandmother and gotten her own place. Then she’d started putting what money she had to good use: renovating the dilapidated old chapel and turning it into a community centre. In three years, they’d gone from a few curious youngsters to being at the centre of the local community. Mom and toddler groups, homework clubs, fundraisers…if you could think of it, they did it. And every year they built towards the Christmas Eve party, the bank account swelling and plans in place to make the money go as far as possible.
She pulled the repair schedule toward her. All that effort had been shattered with one random selfish act. Once the repairs they needed had been paid for, the money would be gone. Wiped out. She couldn’t feed people on fresh air or promises. They’d have to cancel the party.
With a sigh she picked up the phone, steeling herself to ring around and tell the suppliers that she couldn’t pay the bills, then arrange for workmen to arrive in the morning to start putting the place right.
An hour later she put the phone down with a little of her faith in humanity restored. Once they’d heard what had happened, most of the suppliers had either offered their products free or alternatives at a vastly reduced cost. A row of sums crawled down the pad near the phone as she added everything up. She could just about cover it out of her own pocket until the insurance money came through in the new year.
There was just the problem of getting a new Santa, since the guy at the agency—‘Genuine Claus elves to put that extra magic in your Christmas’—had flat out told her, no money, no Santa. He’d even refused to refund her deposit. Bastard. Pushing to her feet, she grabbed her coat and bag to head for the door. That was a problem for tomorrow. Tonight, she’d had enough.
“You are one fucking lucky bastard, Stone. You know that?” Rhod Claus demanded as the woman in red, his best friend’s new mate, walked off with a sexy little sashay in her hips and headed back inside.
“Oh, don’t I just know it.” Stone, leaning on the wall next to him as the pair stood outside the brand spanking new PPA offices, grinned and twirled the liquid in the bottle between his fingers.
It was the company’s Christmas cum office-warming party, and all the agency’s operatives had been ordered to attend.