Montana Secret Santa | Chapter 16 of 26 - Part: 1 of 5

Author: Debra Salonen | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1052 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Nine

Krista draped her coat over one arm as they walked toward the area of the lobby set up for Santa. She couldn’t remember a more blissfully delightful date. Jonah was the perfect gentleman—smart, witty, generous, and attentive. No text messages or calls. In fact, no phone in sight. She’d kept hers turned off and in her purse, except when she checked the time. Then, she’d had to resist the temptation to find out how the pastry chef made her flaming baked Alaska.

“I’ve really—”

“The hotel is—”

Small talk. Fill-in to avoid the husky polar bear in the room. She wanted to be with him. He wanted her, too, she knew. But she had a strict rule about first dates, and now was not the time to break it.

“The Graff is amazing. I never saw it before the reconstruction, but the photos are nothing like this,” she said, gesturing toward the lobby where a twenty-foot fir stood, adorned with a million or so twinkle lights, scads of glittering glass ornaments, and yards of dark red velvet ribbon. The tree was a truly inspiring centerpiece against a backdrop of dark wood walls and gleaming marble floors. Everywhere, the addition of fresh pine swags and spectacular wreaths nearly took her breath away.

“Very classy. And given the lateness of the hour, I bet the line for photographs with Santa is pretty short.”

“Are you in a hurry?”

His cheeks colored noticeably even in the muted lighting. “Honestly? I’m having a wonderful time, and it kills me to admit this, but I’m worried about Bindi.”

If she’d been a little in love with him up to this point, his admission just took her feelings to the next level. Damn. Why couldn’t they have met months ago? Or the last time he was in town? Why did their first date have to take place on the eve of her crazy family descending on Marietta?

Jonah wasn’t Thomas. He didn’t appear to have any interest in the limelight, but new relationships were fragile, easily crushed by loud, boisterous, spotlight-seeking thespians. Could a guy used to spending days—even weeks—in the seclusion of a lab survive the madness she called family?

She stopped a few feet from the folding sign that read—Santa, with an arrow. “If there’s a long line, we’ll skip it. Okay?”

“You’re a good sport. Thanks.” He held out his hand. “Shall we?”

The sound of their footsteps was masked by a low hum spilling out of the hotel’s bar. Maybe a nightcap?

She pushed away the thought. She needed to stay on her toes and not give into temptation. No doubt the nineteen new text messages from her family, each one wanting something from her, would kill any momentary weakness she might experience.

“Whoa,” Jonah said a few seconds later. “Looks like we’re too late.”

The person playing Santa was on his feet talking to a pretty young woman in an elf costume holding a professional looking camera. Both turned at the sound of Jonah’s comment.

“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa called out in a booming voice. “Come on over. Just stretching a moment. I have all the time in the world… well, until December twenty-fourth.”

The jolly fellow laughed at his own joke, motioning them to come closer. As fake Santas went, this one might beat out the Santa of her memory. Evenly rounded belly with no telltale lumpy padding. Nicely trimmed white beard that looked real. His classic Santa suit of plush, red pile fabric and pristine white fur trim was not the sort one picked up at a costume rental shop.

She could sense Jonah’s reticence and nearly said, “Forget it. Let’s go.” But Jonah took her elbow and marched them toward the ornate—possibly a tad over-the-top—golden chair.

Santa sat and motioned for Jonah and his assistant to move two sturdy-looking stools to either side of his throne. “No offense, but the knees can’t take the weight, anymore. When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you learn to make concessions to age and gravity.”

Krista felt a chill pass up her spine. Her father blamed age and gravity for all his physical complaints and limitations. “Are you sure we’re not too late?”

Jonah’s eyebrows scrunched together. No doubt wondering what had happened to her gung-ho determination to check this box off her bucket list.

“Absolutely not, my girl. Sit. Sit.”

The elf produced ruby velvet tufted cushions for both seats then hurried back to her tripod to set up the camera. “I’m assuming you’d like a photo together, correct?”

Krista looked at Jonah and nodded for both.

“Wonderful,” Santa said. “Then let’s get the formalities out of the way. Krista, you first.” He leaned sideways and held one hand up to his ear to keep whatever she said between them. “What would you like Santa to bring you this year?”

She swallowed hard. “How’d you know my na—” She shook her head. Em, of course. The woman had her fingers in every pie in town. “Never mind.”

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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