Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Enjoy an Excerpt from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Linda Wisdom



Nothing could send Ukiah Jones running except something shocking. Two of his best buddies got hitched and eternal Ki was determined not to be number three. Now he was holed up at the friends’ jointly owned Lake Tahoe cabin until he felt it was safe to come out.

There was only one, make that three, problems.

The cabin was taken over by a lady on the lam and two young kids. His masculine safe haven was quickly cluttered with toys and filled with the noise of kids singing Christmas carols. What didn’t help was Ki’s response to their beautiful and very mysterious protector.

But it wasn’t about to stop there. Not when Sydney and the kids wanted him to play not only Santa, but daddy!


"You're not listening to me, Leo. I'm quitting. I'm getting out of the business."

"This is a joke, right? You're trying to give me an ulcer by claiming you want out. No tricks, Sydney. Just tell me when you're coming back to D.C., which better be within the next twenty-four hours. I need you for an upcoming assignment. It's right up your alley. No one can handle this the way you can. Listen to me, babe. This is too important for you to take off and play Mommy."

Sydney Taylor looked out the phone booth's dingy Plexiglas siding toward the black Jeep Cherokee she had parked nearby. As far as she was concerned, the only things important in her life were the two small faces plastered against the windows. They watched her with anxious expressions as if they feared she would suddenly disappear from their sight. She pictured her superior, sitting behind his desk dressed in a rumpled gray suit and chewing on a cigar. She once told him he always looked and sounded like one of those sleazy theatrical agents you'd see in a thirties movie.

"I'm not coming back, Leo. To D.C. or to the agency. I know you don't like people quitting, but when have I ever done what you expected me to?"

"Never! Syd, you're killing me here!" Leo Birch, director of a government agency that handled international crimes, screamed through the telephone. "Nobody quits us and you know it." His voice suddenly turned cajoling. "What are you looking for? Perks? No problem. Whatever you want, sweetheart. We're here for you, you know that."

Syd shook her head. Leo's idea of keeping his people happy was to use bribery in the worst way. He'd flush out their weaknesses and use them to his advantage. It was a well known fact among the agents. The best story was Chaz Roberts spending a hot weekend with the actress of his dreams. Sydney tried to remember if she'd ever made jokes about seducing a particular man. She quickly quashed the images that played havoc with a long-denied libido.

"We can do this real easy;" He took a deep breath. "You can have your own Sweet Treat franchise."

Syd groaned. He'd headed straight for her weak spot. The Sweet Treat candy shops carried her absolute favorite candy and everyone knew it. If anyone wanted a little help they'd just mention a box of the candy and she was theirs.

"Great try, Leo, I really appreciate the thought, but no thanks. I've got two kids to look after now." She thought of her niece and nephew who needed her more than the agency ever needed her.

"You think I don't have a heart? You think I don't have feelings?  This may be hard for you to believe, but there's blood running through these veins, Syd. The veins I'll probably have to open because you're killing me here. You won't have to worry about those kids while you're in Marseilles.  I'll have my secretary find the best boarding school in the area. Hell, we'll even pick up the tab. You won't have to worry about a thing while you're gone. They'll be well taken care of," her boss assured her. “They want a pet. I’ll arrange it. Anything they need they’ll get while you’re doing what you do best.”

"Leo, they don't need a boarding school and they don’t need a pet. They need security," she told him. "They lost both parents in one fell swoop. Right now, all they have is me, and I intend to make sure they don't lose me because I've gone out on some insane assignment of yours and I don't come back. They need to know there's always someone there for them. Don't worry, I'll send you my resignation in writing, so everything will be official. You won't have any problem replacing me."

"Won't have any problem? Damn right, I won't!  But I don't want to go to the trouble of training someone else and I don't want your damn resignation! I want you back here, so I can send you on your next assignment!"


"Come on, Syd. I'd make a better mother than you would. Sorry, honey, it's just not in your mental makeup."

Syd tried to visualize the balding Leo singing a lullaby while chomping on one of his favorite cigars that made a stink bomb smell like roses. It wasn’t a pretty image.

"You forget, Leo. I have an edge. I can stand being around children. Don't talk to me about whether I can do this or not. If I can disarm a bomb without breaking a nail, I can handle two kids."

Syd held the receiver away from her ear as her ex-boss screamed every threat known to man and a few new ones even she hadn't heard of. And she knew, and created, a lot of them.

"Very inventive, Leo. I swear, no one can come up with threats the way you can. All I’m going to say is get over it. I'm outta there."

"You can't stay away and you know it. You need the danger and excitement. You feed on it the same way a vampire feeds on blood."

Sydney grimaced at his comparison. "Thanks, Leo, that really convinces me I need to get out while I still can. Look at it this way. You always accused me of never doing what you want me to do and now I'm proving you right."

"We'll find you!"

"I doubt it. You may be good, but you always said I was better." Without a hint of guilt, Syd hung up.

She offered a reassuring smile to the children inside the vehicle as she walked back to her Jeep. She opened the door and looked at the little girl and boy ensconced in the back seat along with two dogs leaping from back seat to front.

"Are we going home, Aunt Syd?" the little girl asked with a solemn, wide eyed gaze.

She reached across the seat and brushed the child's bangs away from her eyes. "No, Heidi, not right now, but I promise we'll go somewhere very nice."

"Are we running away? Daddy always said your boss wouldn't let you quit," the boy told her. "If he won't let you quit, you'd have to go away."

"No, I won't be going away," she stated emphatically.

"What are we going to do, Auntie Syd?"

Syd's heart clenched as she thought of her brother.  Shane, her twin brother who hadn't deserved to die.  Shane, her peace loving brother who protested when a mugger wanted his wife's purse and lost his life as a result.  She thought of Jenny, also dying because she fought back when confronted with the sight of her husband's bleeding body.  And she thought of Syd, the woman who vowed never to marry.  Syd, who told her brother it was a good thing he wanted kids, because she doubted she'd be a good mother, and who was now in charge of two children’s' lives.

Syd, who never flinched when facing a gun or a knife, and who was now scared to death as she realized her future had made a 180 degree turn.

She patted the honey blond curly wig that concealed her copper penny hair and shifted in the tight jeans and sweater that revealed the curves she normally didn't advertise. With the heavy makeup covering her face, she looked as if she belonged on a street corner cooing, "Hey sailor, new in town?"

"We're going to take a vacation, Jamie," she assured her nephew as she started up the engine. "Believe me, we're going to have a lot of fun." 

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