Danielle attends her firm’s lavish holiday dinner party held every year in a museum in hopes of learning she’s made partner. She’s stepped on more than a few toes, but she isn’t concerned about the decisions made to ensure her rise to the top. When Danielle stops to admire the museum’s replica of the North Pole, she is caught off guard when Santa beckons to her. Lead by two of his elves, Danielle soon discovers this jolly old man is the real deal and there’s a price to be paid for continually being on his Naughty List. He gives her two options for redemption, but Danielle refuses to jeopardize her burgeoning career and agrees instead to become Santa’s toy. She will do whatever he and his two elves want to get what she wants, but all is not what it seems inside Santa’s Workshop...
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“Are you going to give me what I want, Santa?” Danielle said under her breath.
It was as if he heard her even though she was at least ten feet away from where he sat. Danielle’s stomach fluttered when piercing blue eyes focused on her. The imposter Santa beckoned to her, and she looked around to see if there was maybe a small child still waiting for his chance with the big guy, but there was no one else in the vicinity.
Her head shot up to see Santa beckoning to her still.
Had he said her name?
How could he know her name?
The questions made her pulse speed up as she considered ignoring Santa’s friendly summons, pivoting and leaving.
“Santa requests your presence on this fine night.”
Danielle jumped, startled by the surprisingly deep masculine voice coming from a small man dressed like an elf. “Excuse me?”
The elf smiled at her. “Santa wants to speak with you.”
“Umm…maybe next time? I’m actually late for a dinner party.”
Her response made the elf laugh and despite being annoyed, Danielle couldn’t help smiling back. He was handsome regardless of his funny costume.
“This way, Danielle.”
Danielle frowned when the elf opened the little wooden gate to let her pass. “How do you know my name? Who put you up to this?”
She barely noticed being taken by the hand while looking around to see if Mandy or another associate was close by laughing. There was not a single soul in sight. Danielle wondered how that was possible when she’d seen stragglers still making their way out of the museum. She tried to remove her hand from the elf’s, but was unable to pull away.
“This is very amusing, but really, I don’t have time to talk to Santa,” Danielle insisted.
“You do have time, Danielle.” Santa patted his leg with a merry smile. “Come here.”
Surprised by the butterflies suddenly taking flight in her stomach Danielle laughed. “Seriously?”
Her gaze shifted momentarily from Santa’s intense gaze to the other elf flanked by his side.
“I don’t think so, San–“ Danielle gasped when the elf holding her hand pushed her forward with more strength than she would have ever given him credit for possessing. Santa caught her before she could blink, placing her firmly on his lap. “Hey!”
“Shhh!” Santa said placing his finger over her lips.
Stunned, Danielle thought the deep blue eyes scrutinizing her seemed to hold less warmth than the easy smile curving his lips beneath his snowy white beard.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it, Danielle?”
“I think I was four.”
“Four and half,” Santa amended with a wry grin.
Flashes of being placed on Santa’s lap flooded her mind. She remembered the red pea coat she’d worn and the nervous excitement to finally have her moment with St. Nick. Now, that she thought about it, Danielle was certain she had been four and half.
“Wait…how did you know that?” Danielle asked unable to keep the surprise from her voice.
Heat flooded her cheeks when Santa simply chuckled. The elves joined in and deep boisterous sounds of the men laughing seemed to echo around her. Danielle thought whoever had put together the holiday exhibit for the Holberg Museum deserved a raise.
“So, Danielle, tell Santa…have you been naughty or nice this year?”
The elves fell silent; their gazes locking on her the moment Santa asked his question.
More laughter erupted from the elves, but Santa didn’t smile.
“Come on, Danielle. Be honest. Have you been naughty or nice this year?”
Was it her imagination or had Santa’s voice hardened just a little when he repeated his question?
Danielle frowned. She was impressed by the holiday display and even the dedicated Santa whose lap she now sat on, but the trip down memory lane had gone on far enough.
“Look, this is great. I think you’re the best Santa I’ve seen since I was a babe in Toyland. I’d love to indulge in this childhood game, but I’ve really gotta go.”
She tried to get up and gasped when Santa wrapped his arm around her waist to hold her in place.
“This isn’t a game, Danielle.”
This time there was no mistaking the hard edge in faux Santa’s voice.
What the hell was going on?
“Hey! Let me go,” Danielle said, her shock shifting to anger. Her heart fluttered when she met the steely ice blue gaze casually watching her struggle to get free.
“Be still and answer the question.”
“Excuse me? Who do you think you are—”
“I am Father Christmas. Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas and many know me as Kris Kringle. You may call me Kris.”
Copyright © Nichelle Gregory, 2012
Santa's Toy - Coming Nov. 19th with Amazon!