This Divine Night By Mary Caelsto
RELEASE DATE: 11/06/2008
Pink Petal Books
genres: inter-faith inspirational romance (sweet to mildly sensual)
Claire learned the hard way not to want what she can’t have. But this year, she couldn’t help but listen to a children’s choir at a local mall during the holiday season. When a young girl’s Silent Night solo moves the man standing next to hear to tears, she does what any decent human being would do-she offers him comfort. This holiday season, a pagan teaches a Christian the true meaning of the holiday season and in turn, he makes her dreams come true.
Note: This book contains both Christian and pagan religious themes.
The bell rang above the door as more customers entered. For barely mid-morning on a weekday, business was brisk. She saw her twelve thirty appointment arrive, a small white mop of a dog that needed a bath. His owner, an elderly woman, smiled at Jenna.
Claire pushed back her desk chair. Time to work. After she bathed the dog, she’d call Neil. Consulting her schedule, she refreshed her memory of both dog, and owner’s name, then with a smile on her face went out to greet them.
Forty-five minutes later, Precious hadn’t lived up to her name. The tiny dog had been a terror, even restrained in the dog tub and at the grooming table. Cleaning up as best she could in the bathroom, Claire admitted that even the protective clothing she wore hadn’t been enough. Water splashed her sweater and jeans. Her hair stuck up in a million directions, and her makeup was nearly gone. Thank the goddess she was calling Neil and not seeing him. She pulled out her necklace, a goddess pendant, and ran it along the chain in a nervous habit.
“I’m going to be in my office for a bit,” Claire told Jenna as she hurried to her office.
“I’ll hold down the fort,” Jenna replied, grinning as the bell above the door jangled yet again.
“Thanks!” Claire ducked into her office before the customers could see her disheveled appearance. Sinking into her desk chair, she grabbed Neil’s card. She stared at it for a long moment, mustering her courage. Sure, it was an odd request. The worst he could say was no, and then she’d be no worse off than she was right now, trying to remember the name of a temporary agency who’d sent her a disinterested Santa.
She dialed his office number, hoping she wasn’t disturbing him. He’d mentioned something about a project, and she knew with the holidays quickly approaching how hard it would be to complete everything on schedule. The phone rang.
“This is Neil,” he answered on the fourth ring.
Just the sound of his voice sent familiar flutters through her stomach. She remembered their easy conversation, the comfortable time they’d spent together. “It’s Claire, from the mall,” she fumbled. Way to go. She forged ahead. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything, but I mentioned the holiday party I’m having on Saturday, and I’ve run into a bit of a quandary. I don’t have anyone to play Santa.”
“I see,” he replied.
Claire thought she detected humor in his voice and hoped it wasn’t at her expense. “I know we just met and all…”
“You want me to play Santa.” There was no mistaking the mirth she heard. He was laughing.
“I could call the temp agency, but the guy they sent last year wasn’t fond of dogs. And I know you have Rocky.” She’d remembered his name. Of course, she usually remembered pets’ names rather than the owners’, but still, it was a point in her favor. “I’d really appreciate it if you would. It’d mean a lot to me.”
Claire waited, half afraid he’d hear the neediness in her voice and run. She had no right to impose on him, though he could always decline her offer and she’d understand.
Paper flipped in the background. “Let me take a look at my schedule.” A few computer beeps filled the air, then the click-clack of fingers on a keyboard. “What time is the party?”
“Two o’clock in the afternoon. It’s scheduled to go until six and usually I’m done cleaning by eight or nine. But you don’t have to stay for that. If you can do the whole thing, that’d be great. People bring their pets for pictures with Santa and I have little treat bags you can give to owners.” Better let him know what he’s in for up front. She nibbled on her lower lip.
“Is there anything else I’d have to do?” He sounded dubious.
“Let’s see, pictures with Santa, hand out treat bags, basically be a presence here and act nice to the dogs and their owners.” She ticked off the items on her fingers. “That’s it really. Anything else would be up to you?”
“What’s the anything else?” Muffled voices sounded in the background, like Neil had put his hand over the receiver. “Sorry about that. I’ve got a meeting I’m scheduled in fifteen minutes. Jim, my partner, wanted to be sure I was ready.”
“I’m not keeping you, am I?” His work sounded horribly busy. Pressing her lips together, she wondered what the odds might have been that she’d see him at the mall a week ago and that he’d take her up on her offer of a drink. Probably about the same as if she hadn’t been taking an afternoon off and doing some holiday shopping. She grinned.
“No, not at all. In fact, I was about to take a break, so it’s perfect timing. You know, I should take a day off anyway. I’ll be working on this program pretty late the rest of the week. Yeah. I’ll do it. I’ll be your Santa Claus.” A chair creaked as he leaned back. She heard the atonal beeping of a cell phone somewhere nearby, quickly silenced.
“Thank you!” She sighed with relief. “You don’t know how much this means to me. Thank you.” Not that she didn’t trust the temporary staffing agency, but she just never knew who would be coming over for a four-hour job on a Saturday. “We can discuss your compensation later, if you want.”
“How about dinner?”