Reindeer Games (multi-author series)
by Lily Vega
Ebook ISBN: 07565-02440
[ Paranormal Christmas Comedic Romance, MF ]
Santa didn’t give bad boy Elf Brody his Christmas wish. Instead of sexy Beryl, he’s stuck with goody-goody Holly for a partner. But Brody discovers the best gifts aren’t always wrapped in the fanciest paper and Holly is so sweet, she melts on his tongue.
Brody missed the days when he could bring his big bad Elf self to work and let the snarky sex comments fly like enchanted reindeer into the night’s sky. But Santa’s new sexual harassment rule meant all work and no dirty wordplay.
The idiotic policy wasn’t the only thing making his mood sour. Maisy, the only female Elf employed at Santa’s workshop, was off the market. Out of all of her potential suitors, she’d chosen to couple up with Zed, the lamest Elf at the North Pole. Together they’d convinced Santa to gift positive affirmations to the people on the naughty list instead of coal.
Way to suck all the joy out of Christmas.
If Maisy wouldn’t kick Brody’s ass, he’d bitch slap Zed until the wimpy Elf cried uncle. He tucked a “Be Nice, Not Naughty” button into a plastic bag along with a peppermint candy cane and chucked the small bundle into the finished pile. The slogan written on the next button he withdrew from the slime-green bucket made him twitch. He’d rather eat a reindeer turd than inflict “Niceness Rules, Naughtiness is for Fools” on a poor human.
What was the underlying message the buttons and mint candy were supposed to send? Nice people had fresher breath?
He jammed an unwrapped candy cane into his mouth and crunched.
“May I have your attention?” Santa’s words thundered across the workshop and all activity screeched to a halt.
What now? Would the man in the red suit make them hug during breaks?
Brody flung the dumb button back into the bucket and turned.
Two female Elves he’d never seen before stood on either side of Santa. The one on the left wore her dark hair long and her leather skirt short.
He let out a wolf whistle, earning a wink from the knockout and a glare from Santa.
“These are our newest employees. I expect everyone to make them feel welcome. Ladies, please introduce yourselves. Be sure to share a few personal details so the others will get to know you better.”
“I’m Beryl.” The dark-haired beauty waved. “I spike my hot cocoa with tequila and I dig monster trucks.”
If she threw in mud wrestling and porn, she’d be Brody’s ideal match. Maybe this year his Christmas wish would be granted. Nothing would make him happier than to have a sweet honey to make all his naughty dreams come true.
“Don’t be shy.” Santa coaxed the blonde-haired Elf forward.
“My name is Holly. I like reindeer.” She ducked behind the big man.
Brody knew the type. Blondie probably also liked flowers and butterflies and kittens. She had to be the reason for the new sexual harassment policy. He doubted the hot brunette would have a problem with spicy language. The naughtier and dirtier the better.
“My goal is to foster a friendly work environment where no one feels uncomfortable and everyone bonds as a team. Nothing fuels teamwork more than healthy competition.” Santa cleared his throat. “Everyone will be paired up for the first annual Reindeer Games competition. Each team will train their furry friend to run an obstacle course. The team with the best time will win a weekend getaway.”
If Beryl was on Brody’s team, he could woo her. Maybe they could win a vacation away from his boss’s stupid rules.
Santa held up two red silk bags. “I have the names of the Elves in one bag and the reindeer in the other.” He drew names until only four Elves and two reindeer remained unmatched. None of the female Elves had been chosen.
Santa called Brody’s name and stuck his hand into the bag to select a partner.
Brody scrunched his eyes shut. His heart thumped faster than a monkey toy clanked a tiny pair of cymbals.
Please. Please. Please. I swear I’ll be nicer to Zed if I get paired with Beryl. I’ll bring our reindeer apples and sugar cubes. I’ll even wear one of those dumb-assed buttons.
He opened his eyes. Instead of the brunette beauty, Blondie shuffled toward him holding a slip of paper. Maisy spoke to Beryl at the other end of the workshop and pointed at him.
Maisy was probably instructing the hot Elf to steer clear of him.
“Would you introduce me to Vixen?” Blondie’s voice was small and shaky.
“Huh?” The only vixen Brody cared about was the sexy brunette.
“Our reindeer.” Her rose-petal lips pushed out into a pout. Her faded pink dress hung well past her knees and purple-striped socks covered her calves.
He didn’t want to be in the same room with the goody-goody girl Elf.
“Screw the reindeer.” He dug a fresh button from the bucket, shoved it into her hands, and stalked off.
* * *
Holly pinned the “No Vice is Nice” button to her coat. She didn’t want the mean-spirited boy Elf as a partner either, but she preferred him over Beryl. During the sleigh ride to the North Pole, the other Elf talked non-stop to Santa and pretended Holly was invisible. The woman was full of pop-star diva demands and when she wasn’t asking for special treatment, she alternated between bashing the other job candidates and sucking up to Santa.
Holly wished she could share her adventure with a happy, positive Elf, instead of someone more toxic than nog made with spoiled rotten eggs.
When she received word she’d been chosen over the hundreds of other Elves who’d applied for a position at the North Pole, her heart swelled with pride. Finally, she could quit her humiliating job.
The Winter Wonderland theme park received few visitors during the month of December, let alone in the off season. If her family didn’t need the money, she’d never have agreed to don the itchy costume. The pointy shoes hurt her feet and the jingle bells on the hat gave her a migraine. And her boss, a human who made his living as a poor imitation of Santa, stunk of stale beer and abandoned dreams.
The job at the North Pole gave Holly the means to provide her family with financial support. Instead of the Winter Wonderland’s cheesy wooden cut outs of animals, at the North Pole she’d have unlimited access to reindeer, her favorite creatures in the whole world.
The need to take first place in the Reindeer Games set a fire burning in her gut. Even if she did all the work, she’d happily share the prize with Brody. And winning would show Santa her gratitude for this incredible opportunity.
Despite his unfriendly demeanor, the boy Elf with his wild, sandy-brown hair and evergreen eyes was kind of cute. But trying to engage him in conversation sapped all her energy and most of her spirit.
All of the other pairs chatted to each other about their thoughts on the winning strategy.
She stared at her scuffed brown shoes and wished she could disappear. Two huge, shiny black boots appeared next to her feet. She looked up into Santa’s twinkling blue eyes.
“Would you like to meet your reindeer?” His jolly voice boomed and dimples appeared in his round cheeks. Without waiting for a response, he let out a belly laugh and waved for her to follow him outside.
Packed snow and ice crunched under their tread and their exhalations clouded the chilly air, but Santa’s attention had the warmth of a heating lamp and the effect of a hug. Just what she needed when she felt scorned and unwanted by her partner. Not that she was unfamiliar with those particular feelings, but she’d learned to slink into the shadows and console herself with daydreams.
In her imagination, she was a fairytale princess surrounded by woodland creatures and seven dwarfs who loved her collectively more than a single man ever could. But her true wish was to be loved by one man with all his heart, not seven. To have one special pet rather than a forest full of adorable creatures.
Santa’s sleigh gleamed in the afternoon light, and she could detect the faint scent of leather from the polished seats. Although he’d traveled from her town in Oklahoma to Ohio to pick up Beryl before returning to home base, Santa’s chariot sported not a single speck of dust. The frigid North Pole weather made car washes impractical, but Santa’s magic kept the vehicle pristine.
Strawberry-red hats of garden gnomes peeked out from under a thick blanket of white fluff. She couldn’t wait for the snow to melt to see Mrs. Claus’s garden with its magical plants and flowers.
The thin coat of ice on the path made for a slippery trek to the huge wooden door. Shivering, she pulled her threadbare coat tight. If the temperature dropped any lower, her extremities would turn Smurf-blue.
Santa pulled open the barn door, and scents of hay and animals filled her nose. She stepped inside and a sense of peace enveloped her. Something wet tickled the back of her neck.
Squealing, she turned to find a reindeer. Her first reindeer nose kiss. More reindeer emerged from stalls to greet her.
“This is Vixen.” Santa gestured toward the first animal, who was slightly smaller than the others with a glossy coat the color of toasted almonds. “She’s smart and fast. I think you’ll enjoy working with her. Speaking of your, um, team… “
For the first time since she met him, a small frown appeared on the big man’s face.
“Brody can be a bit of a troublemaker. One of the reasons for this competition is to give him one last chance to prove he can be a team player. If he fails to work well with such a sweet, easygoing Elf as you, he’ll be transferred to Easter Island.”
She gasped. “Is that the scary place with the big heads?”
“No, little Elf. The place you’re thinking of is near Chile. The Easter Bunny runs his operation from the Florida Keys. The island has an official name, but with the main export being Easter eggs, the name Easter Island stuck. We don’t usually send Elves there. The climate can be brutal for those used to Arctic living.” Santa stroked his long white beard. “If one of his employees breaks a rule, the Easter Bunny is known to lock the offender in a cage with a couple of hens. But there are far worse places to work. The Tooth Fairy also has job openings. That rambunctious weasel of an Elf is lucky that he hasn’t pissed me off enough yet to send him to Fairyville.”
She shuddered. Working for the tooth fairy was a living nightmare. He made his minions create disturbing artwork from the bits of enamel he collected. If the work failed to meet his lofty expectations, the cruel man was prone to fits of rage and random acts of biting.
“If Brody treats you poorly or does anything out of line, I’ll send him to Fairyville instead of Easter Island. I do owe Old Toothy a favor.”
Holly couldn’t imagine anyone doing something bad enough to warrant being sent away to work for a biter. Exile to Easter Island to paint eggs for a giant deranged rabbit would be a different type of torture.
Even if he continued to reject her friendship, she’d do her best to work with the snarky Elf. She scratched behind Vixen’s silky ears and developed a plan.
If she was extra nice to him, the crabby boy would have to like her. Wouldn’t he?