Santa School, part of the Heartwarming Christmas Town Holiday series (a mulit-author sweet romance series)
Dominick Decker wife's last wish was that he and daughter Jessie move to Christmas Town. As a second generation repairman Dom doesn't understand why Christmas is so important to everyone in Christmas Town. You put up a tree, buy some gift cards and order a pre-made turkey dinner from the grocery store, which leaves plenty of time for service calls in between. What more does he need to do? A lot if he's to ensure Jessie has a good Christmas, the first without her mother.
Enter Ruby Caldwell, owner of Santa School and trainer of "professional" Santas. Now that she's been laid off from her day job, she needs to take Santa School from a part-time seasonal hobby to a full-time year-round operation. That requires a positive mindset, along with a healthy dose of creativity. Step one: Santa School for Busy Elves to train single dads like Dominick to put on a great Christmas by themselves. All she needs are a few willing dads and a don't-quit smile. With a challenge like Dominick, let's hope Ruby's smile holds out this holiday season.
A car was in the ditch, a figure trying to scale the bank to the road.
Dom pulled over and turned his hazard lights on. “Stay inside, Jess. Call for help if I get stuck in that ditch.” He handed her his cell phone.
Clutching the unit, his daughter undid her belt buckle and pressed her nose to the window.
Dom left the car in park with the heater on full blast and came around to the side of the road.
A short woman in a green jacket and blue jeans was struggling to ascend the bank where her blue car had landed. She waved at Dom as if she wasn’t sure he’d seen her and was a bit panicked.
Ruby wore one of those knit caps with fake white braids. They flew behind her in the wind, along with her dark hair.
Dom tested out footing near the edge of the road, found a solid layer of snow and reached for her.
She grabbed onto his hand with red knit gloves with Rudolph stitched on the back, similar to the ones the Knotty Elves had given Jessie. He hauled her to the shoulder.
“Thank you,” Ruby shouted, looking at him with eyes the dark blue of her denim jeans. Her lashes were frosted with snowflakes. She stared back down at her car. “The wind pushed me right off the road.”
The wind whipped between them, nearly pushing her back over the edge.
Dom grabbed two handfuls of green jacket and yanked her back to safety, which at the moment happened to be the shelter of his arms. She didn’t push away or cling. She just…fit, even though her head barely reached his armpits.
He chuckled. Somewhere up in heaven, Mia would be chuckling, too.
Just the fact that he’d used the word armpits to describe Ruby proved he wasn’t and never would be the romantic type.
“Are you laughing at me?” Ruby stared up at him. Illuminated by the headlights, her eyes sparkled, and her lips were as deep red as her name.
Dom stiffened. He hadn’t wanted to kiss a woman in a long time.
That didn’t mean he let go of her. If anything, he held on a little tighter as he tried to figure out what about this petite dynamo could have possibly reached through the layers of protection he’d security-installed around his heart.
“Of course, you’re laughing at me.” Ruby tried to shrug out of his hold. “You being you.”
The wind shifted, circled, sent one of her hat’s yarn braids slapping across his face. The puffy ends were frosted with ice and struck with force.
And that’s what he got for having thoughts about a woman that went beyond her ability to pay to fix her heating or air conditioning woes. “Get in the truck.”
“I’m not going to leave.” Ruby stopped struggling and rested her gloved hands on his chest. Snowflakes crusted on her cheeks and had begun collecting on the shoulders of her jacket. “I called a tow truck.”
“You’ll be a snowman by the time one arrives.” Dom wrapped an arm around her shoulders and steered her to safety. “Get in the truck.”
He opened his door. The wind tried to take it like a sail. “Because it’s not safe here.” If she waited by her car there was no guarantee another vehicle wouldn’t slam into her. “This turn and that wind spell disaster.”
“Dad, that doesn’t spell anything.” Jessie sat on her knees, staring at the two adults as the wind blew snowflakes in the cab. Apparently, not even roadside emergencies halted the smart wheels of his daughter’s brain.
“Get in,” Dom commanded. When Ruby didn’t immediately set foot on the running board, Dom lifted her toward the seat.
“Seriously?” Ruby crouched behind the wheel, boots still facing outward as if she was about to climb back down. “Just because I’m elf-size doesn’t mean you can just toss me about.”
“Why are you upset?” He gestured for her to move over. “Normally, I’d earn some respect for picking up a woman.”
“You are not picking me up!” Her blue eyes turned a stormy navy.
Those eyes, he decided, were the key to her mood.
For once, Jessie watched without a running commentary.
The wind gathered at his back, pushing the door open wider and sliding across Dom’s exposed skin – his wrists, his neck, his nose – taking his patience with it.
“Shove over, girls.” Dom pushed Ruby into the middle of the cloth bench seat the same way he used to push a football sled across the fifty-yard line in high school – with both hands on the most solid feature. In this case, her slender hips and upper thighs. When he’d made enough room, he climbed behind the wheel, shut the door and gripped the steering wheel to keep his eyes looking ahead and not at Ruby Caldwell.
Who he still wanted to kiss.