Cindy's Secret Santa [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Leta Nolan Childers
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: What are those mysterious packages arriving at Cindy's office and home in the days leading to Christmas? The messages hint at an old love with renewed interest, but which one? And just how does Cindy feel about this kind of courtship? More important, will Santa actually reveal himself as Cindy's one true love?
eBook Publisher: DiskUs Publishing
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Cindy's Secret Santa
"Roses are red.
"Violets are blue.
"The past doesn't matter,
"But the future is up to you!"
Cindy looked at the envelope again. No return address. A computer printed label addressed to her. And a brightly wrapped gift, complete with bow, ribbon and spangles.
No way was she going to open it. Instead, she picked up the telephone and dialed 9-1-1.
"Cynthia Quinn, over at Quinn and Associates. Yes, I just received a Christmas present," she told the dispatcher.
"Congratulations," the dispatcher laughed. "What did you get? Or are you one of those who has to wait until Christmas itself to open it?"
"You don't understand," Cindy calmly replied. "I don't know who sent it. And whomever did says they know me."
"And the problem is..."
The problem was that it was a crazy world--filled with kooks, nutcases and psychos. As a single woman--way single--Cindy had taken all the self-defense courses she could manage, had read all the stranger danger articles in all the women's magazines and followed the advice of her mother very carefully: always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident, never talk to strangers and always--always--look a gift horse in the mouth because you never can tell if there are Trojans in there
"It could be a bomb. It could be some sort of dangerous animal. It could be--"
"Santa Claus." The dispatcher cleared his throat. "Lady, are you in the habit of receiving bombs or dangerous animals from strangers?"
"Always a first time for everything," Cindy defended herself. "Hey, buddy--whatever happened to protect and serve?"
"That's our business," the dispatcher announced proudly. "There should be a patrol car right outside your front door."
Cindy hung up the receiver. Sure enough. There was a blue and white police cruiser parked outside at the curb in front of her office. She rose from her desk and walked out into the showroom. Winding her way through the maze of furniture, she met the officer at the door
"It's in there on my desk." Cindy pointed toward her office. "I assume you'll want to wait for the bomb squad."
The officer rolled his eyes heavenward. "Lady, you been watching too much TV. This is Boonesville, not New York or L.A. I am the bomb squad...and the dog catcher and occasionally the chief cook and bottle washer at the station." He pulled a notebook out of his back pocket and thumbed it open. "Gotta pen?
Cindy's mouth fell open. Didn't this cop even carry a pen? He pulled one out of his shirt pocket. "Just kidding. Now, tell me about this package. Who delivered it?"
"I don't know. It was waiting for me on my desk when I came in."
"Any signs of a forced entry?" The cop jotted something indecipherable on the notepad
"None that I saw. Though, I was out at a client's most of yesterday afternoon and didn't return here. So, my assistant Tammy might have placed it on my desk," Cindy admitted, only now realizing that she should have probably called Tammy to ask before calling the police.
The officer--Dave Nelson, according to his badge--rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Is she here?"
"No, she doesn't come in until ten." Cindy collapsed in an 1880 Victorian mahogany Spoonback easy chair. She smiled weakly at Officer Nelson. "You're right. I should have called and asked her first. It may be totally harmless."
The officer dropped onto a Louis XV nursing chair, then glanced at the chair nervously. Cindy allowed a small laugh. "It's more sturdy than it appears," she said, hoping to ease his nerves. This was such a typical male response to antique furniture. They always seemed to think that it was going to collapse beneath them. And that had only happened once
He folded his notebook closed. "Look, these things rarely turn out to be bombs or anything dangerous." He was placating her, but she found she appreciated that. "More likely, somebody thought they were doing something nice for you."
Nodding, she agreed. "Why don't I call Tammy and see what she has to say?" It was only eight in the morning and she doubted that Officer Nelson wanted to hang around her shop until ten. She rose and walked to the counter, Tammy's domain, and dialed her assistant. After a brief conversation, Cindy reported what she'd learned to the policeman.
"Tammy said that she found the gift on her counter shortly before closing. There were several people who came in about that time and she said she didn't see who left it. Just saw my name on the package and put it on my desk.
Again, the policeman ran a hand over his weary face. "Is there anyone who might want to do you harm?"
It wasn't a surprising question. Ever since she'd found the package and immediately set a new record at jumping to conclusions, she'd been wondering who might be angry enough with her to send her something lethal. There were only about 15,000 people living in Boonesville...and she didn't know about 14,990 of them very well. Come to think of it, she didn't know the ten she could list as friends or acquaintances all that well. Just Tammy, who'd been her friend and co-worker since she'd moved to Boonesville three years earlier and opened her interior design shop and showroom. Cindy had been so intent on establishing her business that it hadn't left much time to make friends, even though she had dutifully joined the chamber of commerce, her church and the boosters club almost immediately upon opening her doors for the first time. Except for the church, Cindy considered the other groups as necessary business networking.
And it wasn't as if the residents of the small community fell over themselves to welcome her. She was an outsider and knew it. And even if she hadn't known it, they would have made the fact readily apparent. Oh, it wasn't that they were unfriendly--far from it. They'd welcomed the addition of her shop and she had nearly more business than she could handle. She was already planning on hiring a new clerk, as soon as she felt Tammy had learned enough to be promoted to assistant designer
But, they'd kept her at an arm's length from them--neither embracing her appearance in their town nor shunning her. And face it, after ten years in the city, she was wary of any obvious signs of friendliness. She'd learned there that people usually only extended the hand of friendship if somehow it benefited them in the long run. It had only taken a few hard knocks for Cindy to realize that and lose the innocence of open-hearted friendliness herself.
Officer Nelson's snore roused her from her musing over potential enemies. Only in Boonesville would a cop fall asleep on the job. Though, how he could snooze, perched so carefully on that chair as he was, seemed beyond her understanding. Cindy cleared her throat--loudly. The officer snoozed on. Hesitantly, she reached out and tapped him on the shoulder. In his sleep, he brushed her hand away. Well, at least he hadn't pulled his gun from its holster
"You'd be more comfortable on the Penalara sofa," Cindy said loudly, motioning to the cream and mahogany couch sitting near his chair. It had round, bolstered pillows at each end that were particularly comfortable.
The policeman roused, yawning and blinking as he tried to awaken. "Sorry," he muttered, pushing himself to his feet. "Been on duty since yesterday afternoon. Didn't mean to fall asleep on you."
"Doesn't the town have enough policeman? Surely, you're not expected to work around the clock," she protested, amazed.
"We've got enough to go around, but when you're the chief, you end up working twenty-four/seven. We had some trouble with a kid--ended up lasting most of the night." He rubbed his face and shook his head. "But, that's not why I'm here. So, who's out to get you, Miss Quinn."
"I have no idea. I can't think of anyone who'd want to harm me."
Nodding, he yawned again. "Why don't you show me this suspicious package?"
Cindy led the way through the maze of armoires, sideboards, desks, couches, chairs, wardrobes, objets 'd arts and what-nots to her office. She pointed at the package on her desk. "Want me to open it?" he asked. Cindy nodded eagerly. "Do you keep the wrapping?"
What a question! Though the package seemed innocuous enough now, just laying on her desk, there was still the concern that it might be dangerous. No, she didn't want the wrapping. The officer read the note, grunted and tossed it onto the desk before picking up the package and ripping off the wrapping
"Here's your bomb," he grumbled, handing her a large book. It was a copy of her college yearbook. The year indicated it had been printed her freshman year. She'd never purchased one back then. Barely surviving on her loans, grants and two part-time jobs to get through school, she'd decided that spending all that money on a book that only contained one unflattering picture of her would be a waste of money
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a business card and handed it to her. "Here's my card. If you get any other suspicious packages, give me a call. My home number is on there, too. Don't bother dispatch--my men have enough to deal with this time of the year. It always gets a little crazy around the holidays."
Accepting the card, she thanked him. "I just can't imagine who might have sent this. It's so odd. Why an old annual from my college?"
Officer Nelson shrugged. "Could just be a clever way for the alumna society to try to get contributions for the college. I wouldn't worry about it too much." He smiled wearily at her. "Now, if you don't need anything else, my bed is calling me."
She walked him to the door before returning to her office and sitting down at the desk. Just looking at the crest on the annual's cover brought back bittersweet memories. Her course work had been tough and her jobs to pay for her education grueling, but she'd been determined to see it through, to realize her dream--and the dream her mother had never been able to see come true for herself, a college diploma. She'd done it. Sure, she might not have had the kind of fun her classmates had when they attended college. She'd missed out on the social scene, the dances, the big campus celebrations, but she had kept reminding herself that she wasn't there to have fun