Leyla Brand has one perfect day in her life: the day she meets rock singer Arran Lake at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville. They have so much in common, Leyla is sure they are soulmates and will have a future together.
The very next morning, when Arran receives the call to hit the big time, he vanishes into the world of California rock and roll to become an international star, leaving her behind. Only a few phone calls keep them in touch — until his phone is disconnected. After that, all she has of him is every new song that hits the charts.
Five years later, she gets a message on the Internet from an unfamiliar address. Someone wants to know if she’s the Leyla of Bele Chere. Should she open that door and discover who this might be? Who else could it be? And if it is Arran, why does he want to contact her now, after all this time? Will he just break her heart again?
This excerpt has a personal connection for me– at the time I wrote it, my daughter was working as a pastry chef at the Stable, at the Biltmore–and I included her very own strawberry and lemon custard pie in the story!!
As the first colors of twilight painted themselves onto the clouds overhead, Leyla and Arran walked through the rose garden at the Biltmore’s botanical gardens, hand in hand. She could hardly believe this was happening. She’d hoped for a simple meeting, a conversation. Instead, he’d swept her off her feet.
They’d lingered over a late lunch of roasted vegetable panini, followed by strawberry-and-lemon custard pie at the Stable, a casual restaurant built on the site of the former stables of the estate, the booths constructed from the wrought iron and solid wood of the old stable panels. When the staff politely eased them out at closing, they’d left the restaurant and strolled the gardens.
She learned that he refused to wear the glasses he’d been prescribed in junior high, because he thought they made him look old; that she’d been right that he didn’t drink, since he came from a family of alcoholics; and that his fear of needles had kept him from getting the typical rock star tattoos. She shared that her mother had left just before Leyla went to kindergarten, that she’d always thought cats sucked the breath out of people while they slept, which is why she wanted a cocker spaniel puppy, and that science fiction shows had always been her favorite.
“So you grew up fast,” Arran observed, reaching out to gently touch one of the tea roses along the walk.
“Had to. My dad worked all the time, and I kept house, cooked, you know, all that.”
She walked beside him, close but not touching, noting others’ glances at them. People stared. Did they recognize Arran, or was it the smile on her face, the one she couldn’t control, her delight warm and shining through?
He laughed, but it wasn’t an amused sound, more a bond of understanding. “My parents really quit keeping track of me about the time I turned fourteen. They spent more time finding the bottom of their bottles.” He hunkered down to examine the leaves of a plant. “So it seems like we both had to grow up on our own.”
“Well, kind of.” She didn’t feel sorry for herself. She really didn’t want him thinking she was just another loser. “I had plenty of friends, too. So I got out of the house a lot. Spent a lot of time running from reality, actually.”
“Oh, I know. Me, too.” He grinned. “Some pretty bad years there, about age fifteen, sixteen. I’m surprised I’m still alive, actually.”
She wondered what he’d done that was so bad. She knew her own sins. She’d bet everything in her wallet that they’d echo each other. We’ve got time to discover all our shadows. “Amazing,” was all she said.
THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, from the Wild Rose Press in ebook format–costs less than a cup of coffee. Give it a try!
Check out all the other great books on the loop here!
Family law attorney Suzanne Taylor understands her clients’ problems–her own husband left her with two babies to raise alone. Now that they’re teenagers, her life is full. The last thing she wants is the romantic attentions of a police lieutenant, no matter how good-looking.
Lt. Nick Sansone is juggling the demands of a new promotion and doesn’t need complications either. But when he sends a councilman’s battered wife to Suzanne for help, he realizes he wants to connect with the lovely, prickly lawyer on more than a professional level.
They are soon confronted with a different battle when the abused woman’s husband threatens retribution. The powerful, well-connected councilman can damage both their careers–not to mention hurt those they love. Can they bend enough to admit they need each other in a time of crisis? Or will a husband’s revenge take them down before they ever get a chance?
“Not in the same class, I’m sure.” Nick was forty-five; he’d always thought of Suzanne as at least ten years younger.
The fingers of her left hand ran lightly over the fork, cushioned in the folded white napkin on the table. “Well, I went for law school. We wouldn’t have seen each other anyway.”
“Probably not. It was twenty years ago, before I joined the force.”
She looked up, surprised. “I was just finishing up. But I was sure you were older than I am.” She hesitated, bit her lip. “I just turned forty.”
“Not so much. I’m forty-five.” There, he said it.
He hated thinking about the passing of the years. So many of them, so many alone. An awkward silence between them preceded the arrival of the wine, as well as hot bread with the strong aroma of garlic and cheese. He uncorked the bottle with a well-practiced hand, then poured them each half a glass. He suppressed the urge to ask about her love life. “Where’d you go for undergrad?” he asked instead.
“Penn State.” She took a sip of the wine, holding the cool edge of the glass against her lip for a moment.
“Business major?” he guessed.
“Oh, no! Sociology. Headed for a career involving ‘Would you like fries with that?’” She laughed. “Graduate school was pretty much a given.”
“So you’ve been bent on saving the world all along.”
She shrugged. “Some of it, at least.”
He could understand the sentiment. “I believe that’s what I do, too. God knows there isn’t much other reason to be on the street some days. I want to know I’m making a difference for some man, woman
or child every time I step out on the street.”
He waited for her to mock him, as other women had over the years. Many women wanted to date a police officer. Some found it a ticket to an “E” ride, great benefits, good pay, the opportunity for them to hang out with the girls at the outlet malls all day and get their nails done. Some, with violent men in their pasts, thought being with a cop would protect them. Some just were cop groupies, taking the thrill and excitement of the profession by proxy. But most denigrated his genuine need to serve as corny and fake.
Suzanne didn’t poke fun. She skewered him with a dissecting gaze. After a few silent moments, she ostensibly accepted him at face value. “Did you always want to be a cop?”
“Sure. I mean, the family history and all. Guess I never wanted to be anything else. Except an astronaut.” He grinned.
“You? Roger Ramjet? Hard to believe.” She laughed softly, and he thought the cool distance in her eyes mellowed. Maybe he had a chance with her.
Just when he starts to get his act together, Mansur wakes to an empty bed and a crying baby. His wife leaves him with their infant on the day he starts a new job. Uneasy and alone, he looks across the street to Faiza for help. As he relies on their long friendship, desires for the sexy firefighter reawaken within him.
Faiza can’t deny Mansur, even though she should. Her heart broke when he married another woman. She got herself together and moved on. Now, he is back in their childhood neighborhood and her life. She knows they’re just friends, but she can’t help longing for more.
Family and culture kept them apart when young, but Mansur won’t allow interference from anyone or anything. He is determined to make Faiza more than just a friend.
The Groom is a boy-next-door romance full of passion and an alpha who proves that he is no longer a little boy. **NO cliffhanger, Guaranteed HEA.**’
Fast, pray, love.
The men of the Ramadan Nights series love their Creator and women.
Igniting passion within them is worship.
The Ramadan Nights series features four exciting and inspirational romances by bestselling and award-winning authors. Get ready to be captivated by characters as they explore the links between faith and sensuality. This vibrant series includes a spectrum of New Adult and Adult fiction, from sweet to steamy. Enjoy romance stories of second chance love, friends to lovers …
Fall in love with strong, confident alphas and heroines as they undergo tests of resolve to love and captivate each other from sunset until daybreak.
Faiza reached for the popcorn bowl before Mansur put it on the table. “Thank you.”
He smiled and sat at Beni’s feet; his little body stretched between them. “Do you want anything else?”
“What you, need more time away from the feeding frenzy?” She popped a handful of buttery goodness in her mouth, looking at the screen and him.
He sat and rested an ankle on the opposite knee. “I told you, I’ve changed. So, let’s get into your sick fixation with cannibalism.”
She scoffed. “How many times do I have to tell you? It’s not cannibalism. The Titans aren’t human, not exactly, anyway. They’re shifters. “She moved to the edge of her seat. A giant scooped up a poor townsperson, gnashing the snack between its enormous teeth. “See, that’s what happens when you don’t listen.” Her guffaws burst through the room with the next fighting scene. “Oops, Beni.” She covered her mouth and looked down at him. Barely a move. “Who am I kidding? He can sleep through anything.”
Mansur draped an arm over the back of the sofa. “That’s the truth.” He lifted one of Beni’s arm. It fell flat on the couch.
She waved a hand. “Stop that. We don’t want to take any chances. We’re only done with season one.”
“Wait, how many of these things are we supposed to watch?”
She lifted more popcorn in front of her lips. “It depends. How sorry do you feel? I think at least the first three seasons is enough penance.”
“It’s the weekend.”
“We have prayer.”
“We’ll make them between seasons like we did the last one. All you’re doing is proving that you’re still frightened.”
“Oh, I’m not scared. Fine, three seasons.”
She shoved the popcorn in her mouth, chest swelled with victory.
He winked. “I guess I’ll sleep here.”
That got a gasp out of her, allowing a piece of popcorn to wedge in the back of her throat. She lurched forward, coughing with no noise, grabbing the edge of the table for dear life. Bits of chewed popcorn sprayed in front of her, but the one morsel killing her stayed lodged.
“Crap, Faiza.” Mansur lifted and spun her. He wrapped his strong arms under her breasts and pulled her against him.
She clamped her hands over his hairy forearms. It would have been a turn on if she weren’t dying. The popcorn flew across the room after Mansur’s third try. Her entire belly ached, and pride sat lying on the floor next to the hunk food in a tiny pool of saliva. “Tha—thank …” She bent over, resting her hands on her knees while he stroked her back.
“Just breathe.” His soothing words clashed with a series of explosions bursting from the screen. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah.” She fell back in her seat. He sat across from her on the coffee table. “Humiliated, but fine.”
He laughed. “For real? It’s me, Mansur.”
She met his gaze. The kindness in his gray eyes drove away concerns of dying and flesh-eating giants. He was right. She shouldn’t be embarrassed, not with him. “I know it’s you. I’m glad it’s you.” She couldn’t stop staring at him. “Listen. We’ve been friends since we were babies, but lately—” A knock at the front door stopped her.
Lyndell Williams is an award-winning writer and bestselling author. She is a cultural critic with a background in literary criticism specializing in romance. She is an editor, writing coach and mentor. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals and writes for multiple online publications.
Most days, I write for a few hours, or edit. That makes me feel like a writer. With coffee.
But today has been different.
I started out reviewing my email, and found a request for cover art for my manuscript SIXSHOOTER, so I had to fill out descriptions for the three main characters and return them to the editor, along with the contract for the science fiction romance book.
I also got a request to approve my course description and contract for a class I’m teaching for Pennwriters this fall on writing sci-fi and fantasy.
Then I got the video book trailer I’d ordered for my romantic suspense book TENDER MISDEMEANORS, with a request for approval. It was fantastic! I’ll post it on the TM page here in a few days.
THEN I got a request to approve the schedule for two classes I’m teaching at the Flathead River Conference in Montana in October, one on writing series, and one on world-building.
THEN I got a five star review from Long and Short Reviews for ADVERSARIES, the third book in my Color of Fear series.
I haven’t even started writing yet!
Is this what authors’ days are really like? I’d like a lot more of them, please! 🙂
Meanwhile, I will share with you our flavor mix of the day–two torties with a topping of tuxedoes. 🙂
She coaches him in team leadership, but do they both need lessons in love?
Single mom Tessa Shore runs a successful leadership program at work and supports a mother with dementia. She can handle any challenge in her jam-packed schedule as long as nothing spins out of control…especially her feelings.
Engineer Mark Delaney is an expert on pipelines at the same company, but his interpersonal skills need a makeover. Advancing to an executive job requires enrollment in a leadership course he doesn’t think he needs.
When their professional and personal issues entangle, life at the office gets a lot more complicated. Romance is impossible…or is it?
Margot Johnson grew up in a family of writers and has always loved books and writing.
She is the author of LOVE TAKES FLIGHT and her new release LOVE LEADS THE WAY. Before turning her focus to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is “Dream big and work hard.”
When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it’s minus 40!) She lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada with her amazing husband and beloved golden retriever.
For many years, I worked in a busy corporate environment, and I left a leadership role in human resources and communications to focus on writing. Now instead of guiding employees, I create characters who have minds of their own!
In LOVE LEADS THE WAY, Tessa coaches Mark in leadership, but they both need lessons in love! I hope you have fun with these clashing coworkers as they discover where love leads.
The story is fiction but draws on some of my experiences at work and at home. I’d love to have lunch with Tessa and compare notes on office gossip, single parenting, family quirks, and cute golden retrievers. One key difference is I didn’t meet my handsome husband at work!
Tessa and Mark both support a mother with dementia which brings some tough but also light moments. My late dad died of complications from Alzheimer’s, so that part of the book is close to my heart. He was a journalist who always encouraged me to read and write.
My characters love dogs, and my loyal, old golden retriever, Sophie, is the inspiration for the adorable dogs in my books.
When not writing, I love to travel. One of my more unusual adventures was appearing on the TV game show Let’s Make a Deal where I almost won a car! You can often find me reading a good book for my monthly book club while munching on a large bowl of popcorn.
Pacing around Crescent Park in moonlight trimmed with stars, Mark breathed fresh air and slowed his erratic heartbeats from the shock of Tessa’s invitation. Apparently, the woman who directed the class with the precision of an air-traffic controller could flex…at least, a little. She wanted to spend extra time with him, and he couldn’t refuse.
“I didn’t think we’d bump into other participants at this late hour.” She hugged tighter her windbreaker against the cool breeze. “We won’t mix business and pleasure. I’m strictly off duty, and so are you.”
“Okay, Tessa, whatever you say.” Zipping higher his jacket, he strode and sniffed moisture riding the wind. Guilt tiptoed around his collar, and he couldn’t escape the feeling this outing was a bad idea. He should avoid her, except in class, yet he accepted her invitation. But why did she break her own rule and contact him?
“If I can’t discuss work, can I ask you a personal question?” He admired her profile with pert nose tipped to the sky, breathing the fresh night air.
“I guess so since I’m the woman who persuades everyone else to dish.” She laughed and brushed a curl from her cheek.
Streetlights alternated with a full moon to light the pathway. Their footsteps crunched on gravel, and their murmured voices broke the peaceful silence.
“Ready.” She tucked her hands in her jacket pockets.
“Is Mr. Shore waiting at home?” He winced at his forward question. No sense beating around the bush. He shouldn’t pine for someone else’s wife.
When Inessa Regan gets a pink slip, laid off from her law firm at the age of 42, without prospects she’s sure her life is over. She hides from the world, until her neighbor brings her a client, a young Iraq war veteran dying of cancer.
Kurt Lowdon only wants to make sure his affairs are in order should the worst happen, but meeting Inessa gives him encouragement on the road to recovery. His quest to help her realize her self-worth leads them into dangers they never expected, as horrors from the war and long-hidden family secrets come back to haunt them.
Returning to the dock after a glorious hour’s cruise that she’d donated to herself and to life, she couldn’t seem to get the smile off her face as she drove back along Liberty Avenue to the East Side. She wasn’t intending to work, just to stop and pick up some files to take home for later, and also to share her day with Kurt. He’d appreciate it. She stopped at Panera to get a frozen mocha for herself and iced green tea infused with passion fruit and papaya for Kurt and continued to the office. Arms full, she breezed through the front door then skidded to a stop as two guns pointed in her direction. “At ease!” Kurt’s quick yell from somewhere she couldn’t see brought the gun-barrels’ aim to the floor, and she stepped back, knees weak, to lean against the wall. Rafe and Tommy Lee didn’t move from their defensive position near the door to her office. Kurt appeared and spoke quietly to them; they returned to his area in the rear. “I’m really sorry. Are you okay?” he asked, his tone showing he knew she wasn’t. He took the drinks from her trembling hands and set them on the desk in the waiting room. “Good thing we don’t have a secretary yet. She might be a little twitchy.” His grin failed to reassure her. “What the hell was that?” “Just getting the last touches on for tomorrow night. Is one of these for me?” He took the green tea. “You’re going to shoot them?” She peeled herself off the wall and set down her briefcase. She felt like hitting him with it, digging her teeth into her lower lip, not wanting to confront him. What the hell kind of greeting was that for an office? What if it had been a client instead of her? Fear kicking up her irritation, the question escaped anyway. “What the hell is going on here?”
BIO: Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, she loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter, who is the youngest of her seven children, two crotchety old cats, and five kittens of various ages.
When a rash of unsolved murders leaves two of Chloe’s classmates dead, she begins to suffer from disturbing hallucinations that build to the horrifying image of Trent as a murderous vampire. To make it worse, he’s cursed—no Halstead will ever know true love–and he’s desperate to find a way to break the curse. Could Chloe be the key?
Forced to move to California with her father, Chloe is once again starting over. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she has this gnawing sensation that she’s forgetting something important. And then Trent Halstead crashes back into her life, bringing with him everything she’s forgotten and the devastating news that there’s a coven of witches after her, and no one knows why.
Chloe is in a fight for her life. Literally. Held prisoner by the Rose Coven, they are desperate for her to break the curse and restore the magical balance, but Chloe adamantly refuses—until a nearly starved Jax Halstead is tossed in the room with her. Now, hanging on to her humanity might be next to impossible.
Having an unbreakable bond with Jax is hard enough, but fighting it will most certainly drive her mad. Until an unlikely source offers them a solution to their problem. There’s just one catch—in order to fully break the bond, Trent’s immortal life will be linked to her mortal one. Is the promise of eternal love is enough to make Chloe risk Trent’s life?
When a mysterious rogue witch arrives in town and starts causing trouble, Chloe ends up in the hospital, and it becomes clear that the Zoya are getting desperate. But are they really the ones behind the attack?
Kara Leigh Miller is a multi-genre published author and an avid reader with eclectic tastes that range from the tame to the taboo. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband, four (of five) kids, three pit bulls, and six cats. When she’s not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she’s spending time with her family, working out, or binge watching Netflix. And sometimes, she’ll even play golf with her husband, even though she totally sucks at it.
When I write I search for a model who captures what I think my hero and heroine look like. I try to capture them in the process of struggle, since the arcs of the story and scenes are so important. In this novel, Cinnamon & Sugar, published by The Wild Rose Press, the two models above are exactly how I pictured them. In the story, Alicia, is compared favorably to any number of young starlets. Humphrey when first seen disturbs Alicia s resistance, but she’ll struggle on.
BLURB: Humphrey Bertrand’s genius-level IQ can’t help him find his moral compass. His family is filled with racial conflicts and he struggles to find his own way. But he cannot let anyone drown, regardless of their skin color. Alicia Bloom, a gifted valedictorian and poet runs away from an abusive situation. While she is thankful to Humphrey for saving her life, she doesn’t want to be tied to anyone. When an attempt on her life forces them to hit the road together to stay one step ahead of a murderous maniac they wonder if their dreams of a future will be put on hold permanently.
A NOTE regarding recent events. People have told me I stole the story from the violence in D.C. I can’t write that fast. If ever you send a manuscript to a publisher you can expect a year to go by before it’s out. My story is about how love knows no boundaries.
When I was caretaking my daughter, I read to her from my draft manuscript that I have since dedicated to her. I read to keep her mind off her pain and that she might have to leave soon. I never imagined her reaction. She cried, yes, of course, it’s a tear jerker, but it was more than that. It was how she loved, lived, and taught. She, being who she was, instructed a professional writer (me), on changes she wanted (demanded). Since it was on a subject (racial hatred and brother and sisterhood) that caused her to march just like her old man did with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she made me promise I get a ‘real’ publisher, “and, Dad can you help my boys?” I said, “yes, honey, all the royalties will go to them.” So, Lani became my third muse and first angel. The story is rated PG.
When two opposites collide, will their differences ignite a spark or send them into turmoil?
Frankie and Sebastian live totally different lives. Lives that are entwined through polo, the sport of kings.
Frankie’s a country girl, working hard toward her dream of turning the family farm around. She needs to endure one more polo season to make that happen. She has no interest in high society or the rich, arrogant riders she has to deal with, especially Sebastian. Her heart may be softening to his charm, openness and love of working with horses, but her brain won’t be convinced. She looks forward to her summer break on the farm, away from him, until her parents decide to invite Sebastian to stay.
Sebastian descends from royalty. Rich and arrogant come with his family title. But that status is something he’d rather avoid, just like he avoids returning home to a life he doesn’t want. Sebastian sees a freedom in Frankie he wishes he had. Her life is full of love, family and horses; something he can only dream of. And her, he can dream of her. But a dream is all it will be, seeing as Frankie does her best to avoid him.
If only he can convince her to look past his title, and see that his hopes and dreams aren’t so different from hers.
“Princes have many talents I’m sure you’re not aware of.”
“Such as?” She turned to face me; her body so close I could feel her breasts pressing against my chest.
“We like to roll around under the covers as well.”
“Is that so?” Her breath brushed against my lips. Her body pushed against mine, sending electricity through me. I imagined her standing there in her lace bra and matching knickers. I wrapped one arm around her back pulling her tightly against me. The other cupped the back of her head, tangled in her pony tail. Her lips met mine and opened and I sought out her tongue. Her hands found their way around my back and held tight.
I couldn’t let her go. I wouldn’t. I’d wanted to kiss her like this for months. This was so much better than what I’d imagined. My erection pressed against her. I deepened the kiss, holding her tight. She sighed into my mouth.
I shouldn’t have kissed her. I shouldn’t have invited her down the road of misery I would soon be facing. Only one of us should have a broken heart.
About the Author
Cynthia Terelst is a project officer by day and a writer by night. She is a contemporary romance writer who likes to share a little bit of history, some Australian scenery and a whole lotta love. Cynthia does not shy away from difficult topics, as she feels that they should not be ignored.
She lives in Queensland, Australia, where the sun shines at least 283 days a year.
I adore smart, dashing gentlemen who aren’t afraid to live on the edge. They can be a bad boy, a billionaire, a prince, or a secret agent. That hint of danger just hooks me! However, I they have to be paired with strong, independent women who aren’t afraid to fight for what they want, even love.
Q. Why did you write “The Last Christmas?”
My father is 94-years-old and as you might expect, has had a number of serious medical, age-related events. Each time, we were told to prepare for his death. Each time, he survived. The fact was, my Dad wasn’t ready to die. And his children and his grandchildren weren’t ready to let him go either. So I started thinking about terminal diagnoses and how they are really a best guess, not a guarantee. That, of course, led to thoughts how a terminal diagnosis often causes people to give up and prematurely mourn the death of the person who is ill. I wondered how that impacted the outcome. And because I was preparing to write a holiday book, I also started thinking about the power of family, and how, time after time, families are capable of creating miracles.
That led me to “The Last Christmas.” Christmas truly is a time for miracles, and thought it important that everyone be able to experience one through the tale of the Wright Family.
When the doctors say there’s no hope, Santa begs to differ. After all, he claims, miracles are love combined with action to get the desired result. And at Christmas time, everyone deserves a miracle!
David Wright is dying from cancer. He is not expected to see another Christmas. At least that’s what the medical professionals say. Fortunately, Santa begs to differ. After all, modern medicine is nothing more than a best guess. Santa believes anything is possible until you give up. When Santa tells David’s wife, Joan, that heaven is full and she has to keep her husband alive, she is beside herself. She has no medical skills. How can she save anyone’s life? Set your skepticism aside as Santa embraces a family already mourning their father’s terminal diagnosis and teaches them that a Christmas miracle doesn’t always require heavenly intervention. Sometimes, all it takes is a family with enough love to create their own. As Santa says, a true miracle is when love combines with action to get the desired results. And only humans are capable of that. Will Santa’s words fall on deaf ears? Or will Team Wright find a way to save their father’s life?
“It’s not about you, it’s about him, Joan,” a grumbly voice said. “You’re looking at this all wrong.”
Joan turned so fast she almost lost her balance. She glared at the old man who had spoken. He was around seventy, with ruddy cheeks and twinkling blue eyes. And thick white hair. Lots of white hair. Flowing over his shoulders, winding up in a very lush beard. On top of his head was perched a brightly colored red knit hat. She frowned. “Wait a minute. You’re Santa Claus. Without the red suit, but clearly, you’re him. I’d know you anywhere.”
The man bowed and with a smile, said, “At your service.” He gestured toward a park across the street. “Let’s take a walk.”
“Oh, no. I’m not going anywhere with you.” Joan shook her head. “I didn’t mean you actually were Santa Claus. Everyone knows he doesn’t exist. I just meant you looked like him. You’re just a man who looks like him. I don’t know you. Why would I…” She glared at him. “You’re not even wearing a red suit. And since when has Santa taken up armchair psychiatry?” She ran a hand through her blonde hair. “I must be hallucinating.” Despite her objections, she followed him across the street.
Santa laughed. “My dear, I have been dispensing advice since I was old enough to talk and make people listen. God chose my role a long time ago and I have gotten very good at it.” He looked toward the heavens. “Sorry, old boy. Still working on that humility!” He chuckled. “Man never stops reminding me.” He smiled at Joan. “Do you sense any ill-intentions from me? Of course not. I’m Santa. All I want to do is talk.”
Joan reached out and touched his shoulder.
He laughed again. A laugh that came directly from his belly. “Yes, I’m real. Well, as real as a centuries-old spirit gets. I even eat all those cookies children leave me each year. And let me tell you, that’s a heavenly feat.” Again, he looked skyward. “Yes, sir, I am well aware that borders on gluttony. A sin. You know darn well it has nothing to do with gluttony and everything to do with the magic of Christmas, an affirmation that Santa is real. I do it for the children.” He smiled at Joan. “Sometimes, He gets a little overbearing with his angels.”
He smirked. “Even God has his faults. He is by no means perfect.” A strong wind swirled through the plaza, nearly catching his knitted cap. He clapped his hand on his head to hold it down. He whispered, “And he doesn’t take criticism too well, either.”
Joan stared at the man. Surely, she was losing it. Santa a spirit, an angel? He and God didn’t even travel in the same circles. She shook her head, trying to make the hallucination go away.
Santa sighed. “I know, I know. You’ve been taught that I’m not real. That I’m a myth. That’s a rumor started by Satan himself, the old devil. He can’t stand the fact that people embrace the goodness in the world. And that I spread good cheer. He would much rather unleash a plague and make people miserable. He hates Christmas. He hates that the birth of Christ is celebrated, and his birth, well, is not. He really can’t stand the fact that love binds people so tightly during the holidays.” Santa shook his fist toward the ground. “The fool pouts all through the holidays.” He then sat up straight and gazed at Joan. “Christmas is really about love, you know. All kinds of love. The type of love he’ll never have. Love of family, love of children, love of—”
“What the heck do you want?” Joan blurted. “People are starting to stare.”
When not spinning her kinky tales, Ms. Kay ghostwrites nonfiction for lawyers and other professionals. She resides in a bucolic exurb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she shares a home with her son and enjoys opera, gourmet cooking, organic gardening, and an occasional bottle of red wine.
Ms. Kay is an MS warrior and ruthlessly battles the disease on a daily basis. Her message to those diagnosed with MS: Never give up. You define MS, it does not define you!