Authors: Erin Quinn
KISSING KRIS KRINGLE
Books We Love
192 Lakeside Greens Drive
Chestermere, Alberta, T1X 1C2
Copyright 2011 by Erin Quinn
Cover art by Michelle Lee Copyright 2011
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
With Kissing Kris Kringle, I'm stepping out of my comfort zone (not to mention the dark that my stories usually thrive in) and trying my hand at something light for the holidays! I hope you'll enjoy this tale of love, Christmas magic and the spirit of giving. Make sure to check out the picture when you finish reading--the little pup, Cupid, is based on my own lab, Nala, who brought life to the character!
No matter what your beliefs, I hope this holiday season brings you closeness to your loved ones and much joy! And of course, may the New Year be filled with dreams-come-true!
Kris woke up spread eagle on his kitchen floor feeling like he’d been hit by a runaway sleigh attached to twelve rabid reindeer. He remembered going to Yule Tide’s with Nick and Rudy—two school buddies he hadn’t seen in ages. Rudy, because he’d moved away from the tiny town of North Pole, Maine years ago and now lived in New York City. Nick, because even in a town with the population of twelve hundred and two, life got in the way. Plus, with everything going to shit between the economy, lagging tourism and finally, the last insult, no snow…well, it made a person want to hole up and be alone.
Kris had been doing a lot of that lately.
But Rudy was in town for a short trip and he’d been buying. They’d drank beer, then tequila, then something pink and sweet with the word fuzzy in it, then more beer, then…well, who the hell knew what then. Certainly not Kris.
He sat, holding his pounding head on his shoulders with one hand to make sure it didn't roll off. The other clutched a black velvet bag. Kris stared at it for a moment.
He had no idea where it had come from or how it had come to be in his possession, but he had such a tight grip on the thing that his hand hurt. The bag was huge and at the bottom was a bulge that indicated it wasn’t empty.
Jesus, had he robbed somebody?
He discarded the horrified idea at once. No way. He hadn’t been that drunk.
Cautiously, he loosened his grip and peered inside. He caught a glimpse of something red, something white and something kind of creamy yellow. Frowning, he reached inside and one of those somethings moved.
With a shout he released the bag and hit his feet.
As he stared at the bag, the bulge at the bottom separated, became two bumps—one stationary and the other squirming like a whole nest of snakes. Except it wasn’t making snake noises. As Kris watched, the wiggling bump moved to the lip of the bag and out popped…
Where the hell had he gotten a puppy? And why had he stuffed it in a bag?
“Hey, there,” he said, hunkering down beside it. It was a cute little lab with golden fur and big brown eyes. It wagged its whole body in its excitement to see him, set its front paws on Kris’s thigh and stretched up to lick his chin. “Where did you come from?”
“Wruff,” it answered and licked him again.
Kris rubbed the little fat puppy’s belly before digging in the bag again, intrigued at what else might be in there. He pulled out a red hat with a white trim at the crown and a fluffy white ball at the end. A Santa hat. Ho, ho, ho. Scowling, he reached in again and out came a Santa suit—jacket and pants. Shiny black belt and boots followed. At the very bottom was a cheesy beard, wig and…a miniature Santa hat and a leash.
“I think that one’s yours,” he said to the dog.
“Wruff,” the puppy answered.
As he stared at the bizarre collection and the black bag which, of course, was meant to hold toys for all the good little boys and girls, he had to wonder yet again…
what had been in that fuzzy, pink drink?
He had no recollection of when, where, or why he’d lifted a puppy and a Santa suit, but somewhere in that alcohol saturated memory of his, he remembered a guy dressed like the jolly fat man himself, scolding Kris for being such a Scrooge and telling him he’d been relegated to the
Kris let out a shaky laugh that made his head hurt even worse. Had to be a dream—a nightmare. Kris dreaded Christmas—had since he was a boy and his dad had died on Christmas eve, followed a few years later by his mother—not on Christmas eve, but close enough to make December and all the holiday cheer, just a grim reminder of two people he’d loved who died too young.
He shook his head, rattling the few brain cells that had survived the drinking binge, and returned his attention to the bag, the suit and the puppy. Where had all this stuff come from? The pup gave him another lick, pranced in a circle around his feet and then trotted over and peed on his kitchen floor.
“Outstanding,” he said, shaking his pounding head. With a weary sigh, he got out the paper towels and disinfectant. The pup tugged at his pant legs as he cleaned the puddle, thinking it all great fun.
“You may be cute, but you’re not
Deciding he’d better take the little mutt out before it decided to do other things to his floor, Kris scooped it up and headed for the door. The squirming bundle of fur thought this a grand adventure and nearly wiggled right out of his hands in its effort to lick Kris’s ears. Kris tried not to be charmed by the creature, but who could help it?
He turned the knob on the backdoor and pulled. The door didn’t budge. He tried again, finally risking putting the puppy down so he could use both hands. He twisted and turned, pulled until the tendons in his arms bulged and it felt like his head might explode. Nothing.
Cursing under his breath, he double checked that he’d thrown the locks, confirmed that, indeed, the bolts were back. But the damned door wouldn’t open. At his feet, the pup whined.
“I know, I know,” Kris muttered.
He moved to the front door, dog at his heels. That door wouldn’t budge either.
“Damn it,” he shouted, putting his weight into the task, thinking the wood must have swollen in the damp. But it wasn’t damp out. It had been the driest winter anyone could recall. No snow. No rain. No hint of either. A heat wave in North Pole, Maine with Christmas just around the corner. It was beyond comprehension.
Pissed off and hung-over, he turned around in frustration and let out a startled shout. The Santa suit and bag he’d left on the floor now lay carefully arranged over the back of his sofa. Jacket spread out above the pants, belt looped at the waist. Boots at the end of the white cuffed legs. Hat beside them.
Kris looked at the puppy. The miniature Santa hat sat propped at a jaunty angle over one of its ears.
“How’d you do that?” he demanded.
Predictably, the puppy answered, “Wruff.”
Angry now, feeling like the brunt of a joke he hadn’t gotten, Kris stormed to the back door and jerked on the knob again. It gave not an inch. Feeling trapped, confused, and at the end of his rope, he turned and found the Santa suit had relocated to the kitchen. With the same meticulous placement, the suit sprawled across his kitchen table.
“What the fuck is going on?” he demanded.
Another ten minutes of trying to escape his own damn house and Kris grabbed a hammer from his tool belt and busted one of the panes of glass in the backdoor. He reached out and tried the knob from the other side with no success. Cursing wildly now, he busted all the glass panes in the door, pounded down the spindly frames and tried to climb through the opening.
An invisible force pushed him back so hard he fell on his ass. Shaken, freaked out, pissed off and
hung-over, Kris gave it the good fight, trying again and again while the puppy watched with its head tilted curiously, offering encouraging barks every once in awhile.
Finally, exhausted and so confused he couldn’t think straight, Kris collapsed on the floor, sitting with his back to the wall and his hands dangling between his bent knees. The puppy happily jumped on his lap and begin licking him again.
A shower made him feel better. Clean, shaved, teeth brushed and three extra strength aspirin later, he’d convinced himself that he’d overreacted. The doors had been stuck—sure. But that stupid suit hadn’t moved and nothing had pushed him back from crawling through the broken glass to freedom. Obviously he’d still been a little drunk and considering he’d consumed enough to forget how he’d ended up with a puppy and the Santa bag, he shouldn’t be too surprised that a few hours sleep hadn’t cured his intoxication. But now he felt clearheaded and ready to face the day, return the stolen goods if he could find their owners, and get on with things.
He reached for the clean clothes he’d set on the bathroom counter. They weren’t there. Towel wrapped around his hips, he went into the bedroom, thinking he’d been mistaken about where he’d left them. What he found was the Santa suit spread out on his bed. The puppy snoozed in a little ball, half in, half out of one of the toppled boots. Frowning, Kris hurried to his closet and pulled out a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and socks. He yanked the shirt over his head, donned a pair of boxers and stepped into his jeans, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror as he reached for his work boots.
He was dressed in the Santa suit.
The sight of his reflection caught him like a blow. He spun, looking at the bed where the suit had been laid out. His jeans and t-shirt waited in its place.
For half an hour, Kris had tried to get the stupid suit off but like the doors that wouldn’t open, he’d failed. Finally, after being manipulated by God knew what freak of nature, he’d found himself fully garbed, from white wig, to beard, to shiny black boots. His front door opened without so much as a squeak. The back door, too.
The puppy yapped with glee when he put on its leash and headed out, its little red and white hat bobbing merrily as it trotted ahead of him. It seemed to know where it wanted to go. Dazed and numb, Kris followed it.
The streets of North Pole, Maine, looked bare and sorrowful with only a few intrepid shoppers out and about. He remembered going to Las Vegas once. He’d arrived at night amidst the glow of casino lights. The place had seemed magical to him. But the next morning, lit by the unforgiving sun, it had looked dry and dirty and completely without allure.
That’s how North Pole felt these days. The flailing economy had taken a toll on this town. An apartment building just off Prancer Street that had once sported blooming poinsettias and immaculate lawns had been foreclosed on. Rumor had it that new owners had bought in, but Kris couldn’t see any signs of life in its future. The dark windows and dead plants served as a grim reminder of North Pole’s future. It felt like the whole town might dry up and blow away before too long.
“Look, Mommy, Santa Claus!” a little girl cried in delight as Kris walked by. Kris recognized her mother, Merry. They’d been neighbors and gone to school together as kids.
He smiled and gave her a self-conscious wave.
Yeah, I know I look like an ass.
“Hey, Merry,” he said.