Excerpt: ‘Tis is the Season to Kiss Santa

“So that was your dream when you were a kid? To be a PR man?”

“Maybe.” Mitch couldn’t remember his dreams as a kid. Other than the need to get away as soon as he could. “Was that your dream—to be a pastry chef?”

“Yes. I always loved cooking, but especially cakes and desserts. I loved it when Betty came over to stay with us in the summer. She taught me how to make a proper gingerbread house.” Ellie smiled. “I made one for her to take into the hospital with her earlier this week.”

It didn’t surprise him. He’d already worked out that she was the sort who’d think of others.

He parked in the street as close to her place as he could. It looked as if it was one of the traditional Philadelphia row houses: three stories, with a flat roof and a bay window on the ground floor.

“I guess this is home, then,” he said.

“Yes. Well, my godmother’s.” She looked out of the window. “The snow’s getting worse. I didn’t see a snowplow all the way here, and I don’t like to think of you driving in this. Why don’t you come in for a while and wait it out? It’ll give the snowplows time to come and sort out the roads and make them safer for you to drive on later.”

What she said made perfect common sense—but it also gave Mitch an odd feeling. He wasn’t used to anyone being concerned about him. “I don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“My family’s all in London and my godmother’s in hospital. I don’t have any plans other than visiting her tomorrow, so you’re no inconvenience to me.”

She wrinkled her nose. It was incredibly cute, and it made Mitch want to lean over and kiss her.

He stopped himself.?Just.?“Though I guess you need to get in touch with your family to let them know where you are and that you’re okay,” she said. “They’ll be worrying about you.”

No, they wouldn’t. He’d been gone too long. He shook his head. “There’s nobody to worry about me.”

“Nobody? But—won’t you be seeing your family or friends for Christmas?”

“Not everyone celebrates Christmas.”

She flushed deeply, looking mortified. “Oh, no. What with you being Santa, I made the wrong assumption. I’m sorry. Obviously you’re Jewish.”

“No, I’m not Jewish. I just don’t celebrate Christmas.” “Why not?”?“Just call me Ebenezer,” he said lightly.

“Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t help out at a kids’ party and donate the gifts,” she pointed out, frowning.

He couldn’t take credit that definitely wasn’t due. “I helped out because my boss asked me to, and he’s the one who paid for the gifts.”

“Even so. Scrooge still would’ve said no.”

“I just don’t like Christmas. I don’t have particularly good memories of it when I was growing up.” The words came out before he could stop them.

Unbelievable.

She was practically a stranger and here he was, spilling his guts to her.

Big mistake. He needed to get going. Like now.

And yet there was no pity in her face when she looked at him. Just warmth and understanding. “I apologize for being pushy and nosy. Come in and have some coffee and warm up.”

He should say no. Make an excuse. Drive away as fast as the snow would let him.?But there was something about her he couldn’t resist, and he found himself saying thank you, locking his car, and following her into the house.

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