Authors: Mina Carter
Tags: #Paranormal Erotic Romance
Cover Art by Mina Carter
Published by Blue Hedgehog Press: Dec 2014.
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Author's note: All characters depicted in this work of fiction are 18 years of age or older.
Santa’s Naughty List
Paranormal Protection Agency Book 8
USA Today Bestselling Author
Cole was a Claus elf. An honest to goodness Claus elf. Which meant that one night a year—Christmas Eve—he heeded The Call, joining his brothers to assume the mantle of Santa himself and deliver presents to all the children in the world. It was a job way too big for one man, even with magic, so generations ago (and elves lived a long time) the job had been split over the Claus bloodline.
Hundreds of Santa’s, just for one night.
Mia, hidden behind the huge Christmas tree in the center of the Paranormal Protection Agency office, sighed and sipped at her drink. Cheap champagne in a plastic cup, they were rocking it tonight. She snuck another glance at the object of her affections over the rim. Not that he would ever notice a lowly part-elf like her. But, and her chest puffed out with pride, at least that elf part wasn’t common woodland elf. No, she had
Sure, that was a step or hundred down from the Claus elves, but she and hers were just as much part of the magic of Christmas as his family. Without Christmas elves, there would be no one to make the toys for Santa to deliver. She loved it when her Grandpops told her about the workshops where they made the toys when he was young. His eyes, now dimmed with age, always sparkled with renewed vigor when he spoke. Toy soldiers, spinning tops, teddy bears and more… They’d made it all. But those were the golden days before electronics had taken over. These days it was all smartphones and tablets, and old elves like Grandpops couldn’t compete.
She looked down at the small package in her hands and smiled. Her offering for the office Secret Santa, and well, once a Christmas elf, always a Christmas elf. Blood always came out. Inside the bright wrapping paper, with the big red bow, was a tiny knitted teddy bear. She’d made it herself. Never let it be said that a Christmas elf gave a shop-bought present.
Dropping her empty cup in the trash, she skirted round the edge of the room. The office was decorated for Christmas. The desks had all been moved out of the way, and she had no idea how they’d gotten the tree in. Sparkling with hundreds of fairy lights that owed nothing to electricity, baubles glinted, and it even had its own snowstorm. Flakes settled on the branches, the top shrouded in mist. Magic, obviously. But then the PPA prided itself on using magic-users along with every other flavor of paranormal. Hell, she’d even heard tell that they’d hired a banshee just the other week.
The sounds of merriment filled the air, getting louder as the evening progressed. Most of the agencies employees were here, the night before Christmas Eve, to celebrate another successful year. She’d been with the agency six months, but it felt like she’d finally found somewhere she could settle. Where she didn’t feel out of place. Even though she was just an administrator, rather than a field operative, she liked the fact she was making a difference, that she was helping people. It was almost as good as making toys.
Heading for the corner of the room, and the table with all the presents, she pulled up short. A tall figure stood by the table, and a frisson rolled through her. Cole. But then he turned to the side, and she realized it wasn’t Cole, but rather his brother Rhod instead.
She liked Rhod. Like Cole, he was a Claus, and the potential of Christmas wrapped around him like a cape, which eased something deep inside her. Even though she’d never been to the Pole, even though her family had left when her father was a child, she still felt the pull. Being around Claus elves helped with that deep yearning. A little.
Rhod put something down on the table. A small, brightly wrapped present with a tag. Turning, he caught her looking at him and winked before walking away. Flushing to the roots of her hair, her cheeks burned but she resisted the urge to rush away and hide. A Claus had noticed her. At least it hadn’t been Cole, a little voice in the back of her mind said. If he’d winked at her like that, she’d have melted on the spot.
Her path clear now, she scurried up to the table and hid her gift among the others. Like the rest, the tag on her gift was blank. Secret Santa at the agency worked differently to other workplaces. Each person put a gift on a spelled table, and at midnight, the enchantment sorted them and put names on all the tags.
She bit her lip as she looked at her offering. Who would get her teddy bear, created with all the love and magic a Christmas elf could summon? A deep laugh caught her attention and she looked over her shoulder to see Cole chuckling at something his brother had said. When she’d made her teddy bear, she’d imagined it was Cole’s name she’d pulled from the hat…like in the secret Santa’s she’d had other workplaces. The regular ones, the mortal ones…the not enchanted ones.
Checking her gift again, she reached down to straighten its bow, then turned in search of another drink, and perhaps some nibbles.
“You know she’s a Christmas elf, don’t you?”
Cole turned at the sound of his brother, Rhod’s, voice and followed his gaze to the petite woman stood at the buffet table. Instantly, every cell in his body perked up to pay attention.
“She is?” He asked in confusion, without taking his eyes off the tiny woman.
She’d joined the agency in the summer, and he hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind. Tiny and curvy, with masses of dark hair that reminded him of roast chestnuts and caramel eyes that sparkled with mystery, she was temptation personified. A temptation he’d have been quick to snap up, except for the fact that she went bright red and ran off every time he tried to talk to her.
Shy was not the word.
“Well,” he said with a shrug. “That explains some things.”
Like the little tug just under his breastbone every time he saw her, and the need to make her smile…to see those sad eyes sparkle with laughter. A Christmas elf without Christmas, without the Pole, was a sad creature. Unlike the Claus elves, who carried Christmas within them, Christmas elves didn’t. They needed regular infusions of the Christmas spirit to make them the happy-go-lucky creatures that nature had intended them to be. The Christmas in him felt her sadness, sensed the void within her, and needed to fill it.
But it didn’t explain other things. Like the need to wrap his arms around her, or the need to find out if those plump, bee-stung lips tasted as good as they looked. It certainly didn’t explain the red mist that wanted to descend every time she smiled at another man.
were down to good old primal instinct, and the fact he thought she was as sexy as hell.
He tracked her with his eyes as she moved around the room. Small groups of people parted to welcome her, and Cole had to grit his teeth as Darrick, one of the pixie operatives, casually looped an arm around her shoulders. He could tell from the set of her body she wasn’t comfortable with the casual touching.
“If you want her,” Rhod bumped Cole’s shoulder with his own. “You better make a move before Darrick does.”
Cole growled at him, but Rhod just laughed and walked off in search of his wife, Candy. It was still a running joke at the Pole, that only a Claus elf, that only Rhod, could find and marry a woman called Candy Kane. Now she was Candy Claus, which didn’t have quite the same ring, but made no difference, over half his brothers still fancied themselves madly in love with her.
Cole grinned into his drink, tipping his head back and finishing it in one gulp. There was one thing that those brothers forgot though. Rhod and Cole might be Santa’s for one night, and damn good Santa’s at that, but for the rest of the year they were protection operatives. Fucking good ones too boot, with all the skills and abilities required to guard VIPs, celebrities and sometimes, even royalty. Not just that, some jobs the agency took on were location and retrieval. It wasn’t unknown for them to drop into a war zone to retrieve a fairy Princess, or track a wyvern across the Antarctic.
He glimpsed Mia through the crowd, slipping out of the door opposite onto the terrace and smiled to himself. And those skills would come in useful to track and capture a delightful armful of a Christmas elf. Because he was determined that tonight, she stopped running from him.
Although Mia liked Christmas and parties, and all the revelry that came with it, she wasn’t a people person. Elves had a reputation of being cutesy and sweet. There was also that children’s book thing about them sitting on toadstools. So much so, that for the first three weeks working at the PPA, she’d had to endure the toadstool jokes. But elves were just like anybody else, they had their likes and dislikes. Some, like her cousin Roger, were assholes, and some wanted to party.
Mia though was a little bit more of a homebody. She liked the parties, liked getting dressed up and looking pretty (not cute, pretty. There was a difference), but she didn’t like crowds of people. She didn’t like being closed in. So after a while, she grabbed a drink and slipped out to the sanctuary of the terrace.
It was a lovely terrace, on the boardroom level and wrapped around the front of the building. Access to the back was restricted, but she knew that was just because the Dragons used it as a landing pad; people wandering around when creatures the size and weight of inner city buses hit the deck was a safety risk.
The Christmas decorations extended outside. Wreaths of holly and ivy wrapped around the balustrade, and yet more fairy lights twinkled among the leaves and berries. Picking a spot along the railing, she rested her elbows on the wood, and looked out. She loved the city at night, all the twinkling lights and the sense of peace that came when most of the population settled down to sleep. It was even better this time of year, at Christmas, when magic hung in the air.
The door open behind her, a blast of music and the sound of voices erupting into the silence for a few moments before it swung shut. She half turned, and smiled as Darrick, an operative whose cases she often dealt with, strode towards her.
A pixie with a shaven head and a thing about leather, he was as handsome as all hell. The kind of sharp-edged, dark and brooding look she often saw on billboards and movie posters. Darrick wasn’t a movie star though. He was one of the best bodyguards the PPA had. For all his good looks though, and his non-too subtle flirting, there was no answering flutter of excitement in her chest.
Not like when Cole looked at her.
Honestly girl, like a Claus will be interested in you,
she told herself as Darrick came to stand beside her.
“Little lonely out here,” he slid her a sideways glance and a hot look. “Thought I’d come and stop you getting cold.”
She opened her mouth to answer, but didn’t get a chance. Before she could speak a rough male voice interrupted.
“She’s a Christmas elf. We don’t get cold.”
Both she and Darrick spun around in surprise to find Cole stood behind them. Her heart lurched, then stuttered, and she put her hand up to her hair to smooth it. Almost instantly she realized what she was doing, primping and preening in front of him, and dropped her hand like it had been burned. Shit, now she looked like an idiot.