Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Cop Who Stole Christmas (Tall, Hot & Texan) by Christie Craig Excerpt

The Cop Who Stole Christmas (Tall, Hot & Texan) by Christie Craig

It’ll take a tall, hot Texan and a little holiday spirit to mend a broken heart and catch a Christmas killer . . .

Savanna Edwards is feeling downright Scrooge-like. Who can blame her? A truly unjolly Santa—suit, beard and all—just repossessed her car because of her ex’s shady business dealings. She’d like to murder the no-good lying cheat, but somebody already did that for her—and left him right in the middle of her kitchen, wrapped up with a bow.

Detective Mark Donaldson has a rule against getting involved with his neighbors. He can look—and he’s studied every sweet curve of Savanna from across the street—but he can’t touch. So when she lands on his doorstep in need of help, he finds himself torn between being naughty or nice, and fights every urge to unwrap her like a shiny new Christmas present. 

Trouble is, even Mark can’t resist a little holiday magic . . . and there’s definitely something magical happening between him and the girl next door.


Chapter One

Get your hand off my bumper!” Savanna Edwards clutched her pink, nubby housecoat to her chest against the frigid December air as she bolted across her yard to her driveway. Cold mud oozed between her toes.
Did you hear me?” she yelled over the sound of “Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer” bellowing out of the wrecker. She came to a sudden stop, her breath catching with shock at the sight of the man hooking up her Mustang.
Santa Claus was stealing her car.
I heard you lady.” Crouched down at her bumper, his long white beard dangled between his knees. He even donned the traditional red suit with the floppy hat sporting a white ball. When he finally looked up, his eyes widened.
The cold snuck beneath her robe, and afraid something might be showing, she tightened the housecoat around her. A chilly gust of wind tossed a heavy strand of mayonnaise-laden hair onto her forehead. That’s when she remembered she also had on a neon blue facial mask.
What do you think you’re doing?” She’d heard the clanking while soaking in the tub—her Saturday morning pamper-me ritual. Having just replaced her mailbox after the neighborhood juvenile delinquents had smashed it to smithereens, she’d bolted out of the tub thinking she’d caught the hoodlums red-handed. It hadn’t been delinquents she found, but a wrecker backing up into her driveway behind her car.
Santa stood, his eyes roaming over her. “Just doing my job, Ma’am.”
That’s my car.”
Title Mama would argue that fact.”
Title Mama?”
You give them a title, they loan you money? You pay ’em back, no problem. You don’t pay ’em back, you get me.”
I didn’t borrow money using the title.” Even as she said the words, doubt formed in her gut. Her ex was a certifiable asshole, but he wouldn’t have stooped this low, would he?
Oh, hell, who was she kidding? Clint had brought his intern into her house while she’d been at the hospital with her dying mom. He had no stooping limits.
He walked to his truck and pulled out a clip board. “Read it and weep.”
Savanna glanced at the papers. There it was—her heart plummeted—her ex-husband’s signature on the contract. She really did feel like weeping.
When she looked up, Santa was back to work hooking up her car. “Stop! Please. This is a mistake. I got the car in the divorce. So if someone gave him a loan on it, it was . . . illegal.”
The wrecker driver’s eyes cut up to her. “I hate it when that happens.” He actually sounded sincere.
She felt the skin-firming, pore-reducing mask tighten her face. “Just let me call my ex and get this resolved. Please.”
Sorry,” he muttered.
Blinking back the sting of tears, she saw a curtain in the house across the street flutter. Her gaze shot to the neighbor’s front door. Was he coming to her rescue? If anyone could help, he could.
After ten seconds of no one walking out, her gaze shot back to Repo Santa. “Look, he got the house, I got the car. It wasn’t even fair, but I didn’t want the house after . . .”
He stood up again. The Jolly Ol’ Soul’s knees popped, even though he didn’t look that old. “You seem like a nice lady. A little weird maybe.” He stared at her face. “Really weird, but I have a job to do. I’m Santa, I give to those who are good and take away from those who are bad.”
I haven’t been bad.” Her heart pounded. She knew if she didn’t calm down she was going to hyperventilate. Or worse, she would fly into a complete rage and start kicking St. Nicholas’ ass. She could see the headline now: Local florist bashes Santa.
Her gaze cut back to the house across the street. She paid city taxes, the city paid her neighbor. That meant he basically worked for her. Tightening her robe’s belt, she high-stepped it across the street hoping to make it before Santa got away with her car.

• • •

Mark Donaldson backed away from the window, and stared at the steaming cup of coffee he held. Santa versus Smurf. Had to be a dream. He took a long swig of coffee, gave the caffeine a second to do its magic, and then looked out again.
He wasn’t dreaming.
And now his blue-faced, hot-looking neighbor was hot-footing it across the street. He dropped the curtain. She couldn’t be coming over here, could she?
He peeked out again. Yup. She was. The pounding started on his door. “Shit.” His gripped his cup tighter.
Just because she knocked, didn’t mean he had to answer.
Blowing on the too-hot coffee, he waited for her to leave, hoping she’d assume he wasn’t at home, or was still in bed. As the pounding continued, he surmised his neighbor was behind on her car payments and . . .
The doorbell chimed.
Then he heard her. “I know you’re in there. I saw you looking out your window!”
Frowning, he went and opened the door. A gust of 34-degree wind blew in and reminded him all he had on was a pair of boxers.
Her gaze shot to his eyes, then slipped down to his bare chest, and then inched down a bit more where it lingered around the belly button for an appreciative second, and then shot back up.
His gaze bypassed her blue face and gooey hair and shot to the V opening of her robe, slipped to the swell of her exposed breast and stayed there.
She clutched her robe tighter to hide the nice view. He didn’t do a damn thing to cover up. Let her look. It was all she was going to get from him. All he was going to get from her.
He took a slow sip of his coffee. “Yeah?”
I need you,” she bellowed, sounding breathless.
He choked on the hot liquid.
Good line. It had been too long since a woman told him that, but this was a first. Never had it come from one painted like a smurf. Not that he didn’t know that below the mask was a pretty face. And while he wouldn’t mind another peek behind the robe, he’d seen and appreciated her body numerous times—from his side of the street, and with her clothes on, of course.
Well, he’d undressed her in his mind on more than one occasion, but that didn’t count.
The temptation to cross the street and introduce himself had crossed his mind. But logic had intervened. ‘Never get your meat where you get your bread.’ Meaning, don’t date anyone at work. And while he didn’t work with her, he was sure there was some kind of clever idiom about not sleeping with your neighbor. Maybe, ‘Don’t shit in your own backyard.’ That would work.
As pretty as she was, that had bad idea written all over it. Not that he’d had any other ideas lately. It had been a long time since . . . His gaze shifted back to the V at her neckline.
Another cold wind blew past her. He relented, and still holding the mug, he crossed his arms over his chest. “What do you need?” He knew damn well what she was going to say. But part of him liked having her on his doorstep — even if it wasn’t going to lead anywhere.
She hesitated. “You’re a cop.”
Yeah, that he was. And a plainsclothes cop. So how the hell did she know about that? This was a prime example of why he hadn’t gotten to know his neighbors. He didn’t want them coming to him with their speeding tickets and crap. He frowned. So she thought he could flash his badge and prevent Santa from impounding her car.
She thought wrong. He wasn’t even working for Piperville Police Department. He and his partner had recently transferred from Houston to a smaller precinct, Attalla, where they’d both been hired on as Homicide. They’d gotten bored of chasing robbers, and thought murderers would be more interesting.
Santa Claus is stealing my car.” She pointed across the street.
Maybe she’d been a bad girl. “Are you behind on your payments?”
I don’t owe payments on it.” She sighed. “It appears my ex-husband got a loan using the title, but the car belongs to me, so legally, if they take the car, they’re stealing it.”
He looked across the street then back to her. “Was the car in his name?”
She drew in a deep breath. “It doesn’t matter. The courts gave it me.”
He frowned. “It matters. I’m sure your lawyer told you to get the legal documents changed over.”
She glanced back at Santa hooking up her car. He caught another peek at the opening of the robe. Was she . . . naked beneath that thing? Things in his boxers started to twitch. Yup, it had been too long since he’d allowed himself some temporary company. The fact that he always went for the temporary kind was another point to why playing with the neighbor wasn’t a good idea.
She turned back to him. “I pay city taxes and you work for the city. You have to stop him.”
Right there, that’s the reason he didn’t get to know his neighbors, so how the hell . . . “I’m a homicide detective. If you had a dead body, I’d be your man. But I don’t deal with the car repos. I don’t even work for this city.”
She inhaled. “Well, there’s going to be a dead body if you don’t stop him, because I’m either going to kill Santa or I’m killing my ex.”
Desperation shined in her blue eyes, eyes that looked brighter due to her blue face. Frowning, he walked over to the sofa and snagged his leather jacket, and slipped it on. “All I can do is check if he has the proper paperwork. If he does, you’re on your own.”
He was right. She was on her own. As Santa drove off with her silver Honda, Savanna Edwards couldn’t have looked unhappier. Or bluer. A couple of tears ran down her blue cheeks. But damn he hated seeing a woman cry, even a smurf woman.
And then bam! Just like that, he felt bad. He couldn’t have stopped Santa, but damn it. Did he have to be so callous? Christ! Was he turning into his parents? Afraid to feel any empathy for fear someone would use it against him?
It wasn’t her fault he’d been in a bad mood for two years. Or that during that time he’d only gotten laid a few times. And none of them had even been particularly good. He opened his mouth to apologize, but she spoke first.
Thanks for nothing!” She stormed back inside her house, slamming the door in her wake.
He sighed. “Merry Christmas.”

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