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Originally released January 2004; re-released with new publisher/cover July 2015.

**Available as a standalone ebook or as a bonus story in the print version of Chance of a Lifetime**

In her misspent youth, Constance used sex as a shallow substitute for the intimacy and love she craved. Fifteen years later, she whispers her deepest wish into Santa's ear at a Christmas benefit, only to discover he is someone who was part of that unfortunate and embarrassing time of her life.

Mortified, she plans an early exit from the party, but Santa has different ideas. Sam Coble always wanted to get to know the girl behind the reputation, and now that she is an accomplished, independent woman, that determination spurs him to action. Constance is going to discover this particular Santa has a soft spot for naughty girls. He plans to give her everything she ever put on a Christmas list... and then some.


© Copyright 2004 - All Rights Reserved

“So what do you want for Christmas, little girl?”

Constance Jayne Bradwell looked over her shoulder, startled and then amused to find Santa looking directly at her.

The Children’s Home Benefit Party was one of the city elite’s most popular Christmas Eve events. The organizers had wanted some of the hands-on volunteers here tonight to mingle with the wealthy attendees and answer questions about the shelter. She was told she had a pleasing appearance that would fit in well. She’d done her duty, mixing, mingling, making conversation, all the while wondering if any of them had the slightest inkling what it was like to face Christmas alone in the world, belonging to no one but yourself.

She hated this holiday, with its pounding messages of family, love and togetherness, a scream so strong there was no escaping from it. Another hour and she could go home, put a pillow over her ears and sleep until it went away. She tried not to watch the dancing couples, one woman’s elegantly manicured hand resting on the shoulder of her husband, his hand around her waist. What would it be like to have that casual intimacy? Any intimacy at all?

It had been a long time since she’d had sex, and she was lonely enough to long for even the artificial intimacy it could conjure. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a safe guy to take her home, let him inundate her with mindless physical desire, and make her forget what she really wanted? What would it be like to have a man guide her to the dance floor with a protective, possessive hand to the small of her back? Get an aspirin out of the medicine cabinet if she had a headache, rather than having to stumble there by herself, blinded by the pain? What would it be like to have someone else hold the reins for awhile, not because it was his job or volunteer shift, but because he’d made a willing commitment to make her his, to cherish and care for her?

It was a confusing yearning, as if she wanted a parent and a lover both. She’d always been terrified to let go of control of her life, and yet tonight she had an overwhelming desire to do just that.

“You can’t tell me a pretty little thing like you doesn’t want anything for Christmas. Come here.”

Santa held out his hand. On an impulse, she set her rum punch on a nearby table and took his offered hand to help her up to his throne. Some of the wrapped packages around his feet had gotten scattered, so she had to pick her way carefully through them with her heels. Santa’s other hand touched her waist to steady and guide her, then she was up the step. He sat back down, using their clasped hands and the hand on her waist to guide her onto his knee.

Well, they always said “knee”, but it was really a man’s thigh you sat upon, a very intimate posture. There was no doubt the person on whose leg she sat could feel the shape of her bottom, the division of her thighs, perhaps even the small apple-sized area of vulva and labia, the dress being a typical formal, thin silken cloth that hugged her curves and sparkled.

“Let me guess.” She arched a brow. “It’s getting late, so you decided to make a play for the only other person at the party without a date.”

His lips curved into an appreciative smile. Hazel eyes tipped by dark lashes looked at her from the framework of the curly white wig and beard. Putting that together with the muscular thigh that felt capable of accommodating her as long as she wanted to sit there, Constance realized with some surprise that this Santa was in his late thirties.

It made sense. Ironically, there were no children at this event, so his efforts were geared toward adults, exchanging quips with the men as he handed out presents, and encouraging ladies young and old to take his knee for a moment’s flirtation.

“Not necessarily. You looked sad, and I thought you might like to tell the one person at the party who’s supposed to grant wishes what would make you happy.”

He had a compelling voice, with the smooth, rich tones of a late night radio talk show host. It was a voice that inspired confidence and comfort, and Constance felt something in her chest tighten, as if his words had the ability to wrap around her heart and squeeze out thoughts she would normally have no intention of saying out loud.

“So, is this like a confessional? Nothing I say will be repeated?”

“What’s spoken in this ear,” he tapped it with one finger, cocking his head, “is only repeated to elves and angels.”

She’d asked it half joking, but his response was serious, and her attention clung to those beautiful eyes. She had an urge to reach out and touch his mouth, and decided she needed to go home before she embarrassed herself.

But the shallow, harsh noise of two hundred impersonal voices pressed against her, and his touch, kind and strong against the small of her back, his expression attentive, steady, roused things in her she couldn’t ignore.

He was Santa, and she had a very special wish. Maybe wishes whispered into the ears of a symbolic Santa would get to the ears of an angel and, if she’d been very, very good, some small part of her desire would be answered. She’d believed it once.

Constance leaned back, her shoulder pressing into his chest so she was speaking into his ear, not to any party guests standing too close. He tilted his head closer and when she spoke, she inadvertently brushed his ear with her lips, her jaw line pressing against the silky cotton sideburns of the beard.

She closed her eyes, shutting out reality, giving herself the same courage that the screen of the confessional provided. A safe place to voice her sins, her fears, her deepest wants. His hand tightened on her waist, holding her to him, and the words tumbled out of her mouth.

“I don’t want to be here. I want to be home with someone who cares about me. I want to wake up tomorrow with someone’s arms around me. I want to hear someone whisper ‘Merry Christmas’ in my ear, and be able to believe, if just for that moment, that I’m the most important person in his life. I want to be swept away, taken over. For one night, I want to believe I can trust my happiness in someone else’s hands.”

She straightened up, looked into those golden green eyes. “Pretty tall order, hmm, Santa? Bet you don’t have anything in those little boxes at your feet to cover that.”

She pushed off his lap before he could respond and walked away, already feeling like a fool.

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