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Her Christmas Elf by Sarah Mäkelä

Her Christmas Elf
Santa’s Helpers (multi-author series)
by Sarah Mäkelä

Changeling Press

eBook BIN: 06106-01960

Traveling alone in Finland around Christmas isn’t exactly what Vera Hayes had imagined she’d be doing. When her longtime boyfriend dumps her before the trip at the last minute, she decides to go anyways. However, she gets lost in a forest in Lapland and starts to panic until she runs into a magical man who looks suspiciously like an elf without the pointy ears. Pekka, one of Santa’s elves, soothes away her worry and helps her find her way back to her cabin, giving her a Christmas Eve to remember.

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Chapter One

Shivering, Vera Hayes watched the soft snow falling around her. The landscape was so pretty and so dangerous at this chilling temperature, especially considering she had no clue where she was. She’d gone on a walk when the sun had been up, but now darkness rapidly descended on the forest.
Damn it!
This trip had been nothing but trouble, and she’d been stupid to actually take it. Her ex-boyfriend Steve had wanted this, not her. She’d gone ahead with it thinking it would help free her somehow, but this was far from freeing.
Vera stomped her feet and huddled deeper into her coat, which was starting to feel a little too thin for the current weather. She leaned against a  birch tree and hunched her shoulders, beyond frustrated with her current predicament.
Snow dusted her, and she scanned the forest again. Hope failed her, and she set off walking again. Damn, damn, damn.
Faint rumbling sounded in the distance behind her and she stopped. The noise grew louder until she could identify it. Hooves. Lots and lots of hooves. Adrenaline flooded her veins, but her body froze in place from fear.
In the distance, she spotted a herd of reindeer running in her direction. A quick look around her showed no trees with low-hanging branches. So much for easy climbing. She reached for the closest birch, its bark broken by the frost. She wrapped her hands around it and began to climb.
Behind her, the noise grew louder. Among the trees, a herd of reindeer led by a massive gray bull trampled its way through the forest. Snow and frost caved beneath their hooves with almost no resistance.
The glance startled her, and her feet slipped down the birch. Panic struck her chest as she dropped to the ground. To her left, she saw a small clearing among the trees.
She tried to sprint through the almost knee-deep snow, but her progress was too slow. With the herd not far behind, she screamed. When would this nightmare end?
Just as she reached the clearing, a man grabbed her by the arm. He pulled her toward him then and shoved her against a tree, his firm body nestled against her back.
Her breath came out in pants, and not only from her running. “Let me go,” she yelled, fear audible in her voice.
“Hush. The herd will ignore you.” The man’s low, accented voice calmed her a little.
For a moment, Vera considered kicking him and racing away, but his grip tightened on her. He pressed her tighter to the tree. His body molded to hers as if they were puzzle pieces. She only had a second to ponder that as the herd of reindeer stampeded through the clearing.
The large reindeer bull slowed to a stop beside them. Intelligence gleamed in its black, glaring eyes as it waited for the rest of the herd to pass.
“She won’t hunt your kin, Old One. I’ll look after her,” the man said. The reindeer turned its gaze to the man and snorted, shaking its head.
Vera trembled. The cold and numbness she’d been fighting against was draining away her energy. She barely made out the man saying something she couldn’t catch. Her attention now focused on the huge bull that stood close enough for her to reach out her hand and touch. The other reindeer were easily her height from hoof to head, but this one made them look small in comparison.
The reindeer stared at her then blew a cloud of steam from its nostrils, obviously not impressed, before galloping after the rest of the herd.
She watched it go until it was barely in sight, then the man grabbed her shoulders. He spun her around, and his gaze dipped to take her in. His expression soured, and he returned his gaze to hers. “What are you doing out here dressed like that?”
Surprise at his audacity had her pulling away from him. His clothing didn’t exactly inspire confidence in his sense of fashion either. From what she could tell, his clothing looked to be made of animal pelt. She placed her glove-covered hand against his chest and marveled at the sleek fur.
He snagged her wrist yet didn’t move her hand. “There’s a storm coming. You shouldn’t be out here. You’ll die.” His gaze whipped over her again, and he grimaced. “Where are you staying?” His words held a melodic lilt that was so pleasant.
“At the cabins.” Her teeth chattered a bit more, and she huddled in on herself.
He gave her a quizzical stare then cursed an almost lyrical string of sound. “You’re far from safety. What are you doing way out here?”
What did he mean? She hadn’t been walking for that long. Or maybe it just hadn’t seemed so.
He scooped her into his arms, and she considered falling asleep in the warmth of his grip. But she didn’t know anything about him, and after what had just happened with the reindeer…
The thoughts churning in her head kept her somewhat aware as the man quickly moved through the forest as if the knee-deep snow didn’t bother him much. Before she knew it, he was walking along the path she’d started out at near the cabins.
The snow wasn’t as deep here, yet he didn’t offer to set her onto her feet. A small thrill fluttered through her.
“Which cabin are you staying in?” he asked. His gaze met hers, and she caught her first good look at him. Blond hair stuck out of a pointed red hat that tilted a little to the side. He had a reserved beauty about him that she hadn’t seen in any other man.
“Who are you?” Her voice came out as a breathy whisper.
He frowned and adjusted her weight a little as if uncomfortable. “My name is Pekka. Where are you staying? We need to get you inside.”
“Pekka,” she said, marveling at his name. She moved her hand away from his chest and pointed to the cabin her ex-fiancé had reserved for them prior to breaking her heart.
Pekka headed toward it, and when they reached the door, he finally let her down.
She pulled her keys from her pocket and dropped them. She bent to pick them up, but he was already there. Her glove brushed against his, and she looked into his dazzling green eyes. “Sorry.”
He remained quiet, but he helped her stand up. He unlocked the door, and they walked inside the cool cabin. It was well insulated, but she must’ve been gone longer than she’d thought.
“Which fireplace did you use?” Pekka asked, his gaze scanning the cabin.
“The one in the corner. Why?” Vera pointed toward it as she closed the door behind them. It took her a couple tries, but she locked the door too.
He pulled her into his arms, forcing a gasp from her throat. His gaze descended on her and curiosity filled his eyes, but he looked away to the cabin’s living room. They crossed the decent-sized space, and he placed her gently on the couch close to the massive masonry stove that dominated the center of the cabin.
“I’ll be right back. You need something to warm up with for a moment.” He went to her bedroom only to return a few seconds later with her blankets.
She appreciated the way he wrapped her in the cozy white blankets, but it did little to stop her from shivering. Her teeth continued to chatter, and she snuggled deeper under the covers.
Sighing, Pekka set about preparing a fire. “Those fireplaces are for your viewing pleasure. This one is intended to keep the place warm. The heavy stone retains heat much better. Unfortunately, it will take a moment to warm up.” He easily tore the birch bark from the wood before putting it into the stove. Once the flames had started, he put the wood in.
Her eyelids were heavy, but she tried to remain focused.
Pekka busily nursed the flames in the big stove, but she desperately wanted to sleep.
After a few moments, the fire in the stove covered the wood. Pekka used a very heavy knife to cut smaller pieces from a block of wood, then fed them to the hungry flames.
Her gaze drifted over him, taking in his muscular form. She watched his hands work with the knife, and she couldn’t help noticing its design. The blade was wide and its dark wooden handle had seen its fair share of use.
Pekka nodded to himself, satisfied at the state of the flames, then he turned his gaze to her. Concern lit his eyes. “You still need to warm up. I’m sorry. This might be an odd request, but you need to get naked. Skin-to-skin body heat might help you to recover.”
She was wary of his suggestion, but the thought of getting warm was too much to resist. Besides, he was pretty easy on the eyes, and this was a foreign country. Not like she’d have to get wrapped up in more guy drama. She tried to stand, but her legs didn’t want to work. They were sluggish. How cold had she gotten?
Pekka picked her up along with the blanket and made his way to the bedroom, which gradually warmed due to the stove’s heat. He laid her on the bed, and the look in his eyes sent a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold through her spine. He unzipped her coat and piece by piece removed her clothing until she was in her underwear.
His breathing was a little heavier, and she couldn’t help but squirm beneath his penetrating gaze. “May I?” he asked, his hot hands resting on her shoulders. She wanted to press herself closer against him to drink in more of his warmth.
“Yes.”
After helping her into a sitting position, he slid his hands behind her back and unhooked her bra. The air kissed her breasts, and his gaze lowered. He licked his lips, and she looked down to see her nipples harden.
Desire pooled between her thighs, and she wanted this mysterious man. She wasn’t the type of woman to have one-night stands, but there was something almost magical about Pekka.
She leaned back and dropped her hands to the hem of her panties. Before she could remove them, Pekka had them down her legs. She took a shuddering breath and stared at him.
“This isn’t what I’d intended.” As he spoke, he stripped away his own clothes, revealing a deliciously muscular body used to hard work. “I’d only meant we should press our bodies together, but…”
She parted her legs as he climbed up her body. His cock stood ready for her, yet a flicker of doubt crossed his face before he could suppress it.
God, she must seem like a wanton hussy. Damn it.
He moved to her side, though the bed was small enough he wouldn’t be able to go far from her before falling to the floor. She rolled to her side, facing away from him. Before she knew it, they were under the blankets with the feel of his warm body against hers.
She cradled herself against him, trying to warm up.

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