Betting on Santa [NOOK Book]

Overview

The odds are always against her...

But this time Tessa Jamison isn't leaving River Bluff, Texas, until she finds what she came for: the father of her sister's two-year-old son. And the stand-in Santa at the local church bazaar could be the man she's looking for.

Cole Lawry seems an unlikely candidate for instant daddy. What's more, the divorced ex-businessman and consummate poker player insists he's not a ...

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Betting on Santa

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Overview

The odds are always against her...

But this time Tessa Jamison isn't leaving River Bluff, Texas, until she finds what she came for: the father of her sister's two-year-old son. And the stand-in Santa at the local church bazaar could be the man she's looking for.

Cole Lawry seems an unlikely candidate for instant daddy. What's more, the divorced ex-businessman and consummate poker player insists he's not a father--never has been, never plans to be.

Until Tessa calls his bluff. Which means gambling everything she's got. Including her heart.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426808739
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: Texas Hold 'Em Series , #1452
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 763,710
  • File size: 185 KB

Meet the Author

Debra Salonen wrote her first screenplay at age 11 for the television series Flipper. The plot involved the older brother's romantic interest in a young girl, presumably Debra. The story—like Debra's showbiz career—never evolved past the "what if?" stage, but Debra's addiction to writing has never faltered.

"I've always found a way to incorporate writing into any job I happened to hold at the time...well, except for my stint as a flaxseed counter in college," she said dryly. "Don't ask—it wasn't pretty."

As an aide in a preschool, she went from distributing milk and cookies to writing the monthly newsletter. Her stringer work for a local newspaper turned into a full-time position as a feature writer and assistant editor. Salonen says that exposure to human-interest stories fed her writer's soul, laying the groundwork for a wealth of imaginary characters and situations.

"Modern fiction provides the medium to touch people's lives. If your characters are real, in the sense they face real problems and possess real hopes, wants, needs and flaws, people can identify with them. My stories are about imperfect people who must learn life's lessons, heal old wounds and find inner forgiveness before they can truly love another person. I think these are universal themes most people, men and women, can relate to."

Salonen, who lives in the foothills near Yosemite, credits the support of her family with a hand in her success. "My ivory tower is on the second floor of our house. My son recently used an extension ladder to hang a wind-chime outside my window to encourage the creative spirits to stop by foravisit."

She also recognizes the value of networking and associating with fellow writers. "The first hurdle you face as a writer is admitting you are one—like any other addiction."

"I'm thrilled by the validation publication provides, but I also feel a sense of accomplishment for all those people who have helped me learn my craft and encouraged me to believe in myself. Writing is a team effort directed by life experience, associations, imagination, and spiritual connectedness," Salonen said.

Salonen is currently at work on two new projects for the Superromance line. Her Flipper screenplay is on the shelf collecting dust—right where it belongs.

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Read an Excerpt

Thursday, November 29, 2007
"Smile, Santa."
Cole tried. It wasn't easy with Sally Knutson on his knee and her three cats wreaking havoc on his costume. The gray one was tangled in the glossy white beard, batting at the lush strands. The calico perched on his shoulder had every needle-tipped claw hooked solidly through the red velvet, his undershirt and his flesh. The slightest movement on Cole's part meant instant pain. The third—the "shy" one—was wedged between its owner's ample bosom and Cole's two-pillow padding.
His mother hadn't said anything about hazard pay when she volunteered him to fill in for Ray Hardy, the man who truly was Santa to most of the citizens of River Bluff, Texas. A fixture at the Congressional Church's annual holiday bazaar and toy drive, Ray hadn't missed a night—until he slipped in the shower that morning. Now the man was facing hip surgery.
"Look at the camera, Sugar Baby," Sally cooed. Cole assumed she was talking to the feline on his you were was to flex Unfortuthe cat on his lap pounce, which spooked the cat on his shoulder.
"Somebody moved," Melody accused, fiddling with the camera. "Stay put. We have to try another."
Sally shifted her weight to reposition the cat on his shoulder, and Cole's ankle twisted slightly. A shaft of pain radiated upward from his old injury. One that had never completely healed right—a legacy of a holiday he preferred to forget.
"Am I squishing y'all, honey?" Sally asked, apparently hearing his swallowed moan. "You need a bit more padding on your tushy, like Ray. Wasn't it a shame about his fall?"
"Terrible," Cole said through clenched teeth. "Mom said he's had a big crowd here every night since the bazaar opened." And the church's holiday festival ran through the middle of December.
Sally disentangled the tabby's paws from Cole's beard. "True. I was here last night and gave up after about an hour. The girls aren't patient."
He could tell. The "girl" on his shoulder was using his costume for a scratching pad. "Um, Sal, could you do something about this one, too?" he said, turning his chin to point.
The "shy" one suddenly took a swipe at his beard, pulling it down a good inch so the attached mustache covered his lip.
"Okay, everybody, let's try again," Melody called.
"Say Merry Christmas."
"Murway Kwemat," Cole mumbled, eyes watering. "Oh, this is cute, Sally," Melody exclaimed, studying her camera. "I think it's a keeper."
Sally got up, a cat under each arm. She adroitly hopped off the raised platform and walked to where Melody was standing. The third cat scaled the side of Cole's head, finding purchase in his beard, plush red hat and scalp.
"Ow!" he howled, reaching up clumsily in his oversize white gloves to try to dislodge the beast.
"Sally, help."
She shoved the other two pets at Melody, who dropped the compact digital camera. Melody's cry was muffled by Sally's loud, "Ooh, poor Sugar, did you think Mama was going to leave you with the big, mean stranger?"
"Mean? What'd I do?" Cole complained, rubbing his head in a way that made his costume shift back and forth. He had to straighten his beard before he could spit out several cat hairs.
"You're not a cat person, Cole. Animals can tell." He would have tried to defend himself but she didn't give him a chance, instead hurrying back to where Melody was kneeling over the remains of her camera.
Cole checked his watch. Fortunately, Santa's booth was due to close in ten minutes. He looked toward the candy-cane gate. Only one person in line. A stranger with a toddler on her hip. By the bemused expression on her face, she'd witnessed the entire spectacle. Cole was glad to have a fake beard to hide behind.
The woman looked to be about his age. Jeans, a belted leather jacket and an oversize purse apparently used to counterweight the toddler on her opposite hip. Cole guessed the boy's age to be about two.
Not that Cole knew a lot about kids, but he'd learned a great deal after just one night as Santa. For instance, he now knew there was a difference between teething and mere drooling.
"Um…sorry. We're experiencing technical difficulties," he said. "Santa left his other—more efficient— elves at the North Pole."
Melody suddenly burst into tears. Sally gave him a reproachful look that made him feel like a heel, and he lumbered off the dais. The toes of his size-fourteen boots—Ray's boots—were stuffed with newspaper, which made walking a challenge. Plus, his balance was off because of the lopsided padding across his middle.
"Aw, Melody, I'm sorry. I was kidding. You're doing great. It's not your fault the camera won't work."
Sniffling, the girl picked up the small silver digital. She pressed what Cole assumed was the On button. Nothing happened.
Melody shook her head. "It's shot, but luckily the photos I took tonight will be okay. I can take out the memory card and print them on my computer at home."
Cole said a silent thank-you before looking at the last customer in line. "Sorry about this. We could probably have a new camera by tomorrow. I'd like to tell you the real Santa will be back by then, but I doubt it."
The woman looked at her son, who didn't resemble her in the least. The child was a towhead with wavy hair that curled around the collar of his denim jacket. Even in the dim light of the Christmas bulbs looped around the poles, Cole could tell that the boy's mother was beautiful. Shoulder-length, dark auburn hair pulled off her face with a simple clip. Wide-set eyes that were blue or green—far lighter than he'd expect with her dark coloring.
When she turned to face him, he had a momentary sense of déjà vu. Had they met before? Was she from around here or maybe someone he'd sold a house?
No. He definitely would have remembered a face like hers.
"I have a camera. If you wouldn't mind, I could take Joey's photo with you and have a copy printed later. I'd still pay, of course."
He liked her. Firm, direct and businesslike, but feminine, too.
"Um…" He looked around for someone to ask if there were rules against do-it-yourself photography, but Sally had moved off to pack her cats into their lavish pink leather carrier. Melody was on her cell phone, no doubt complaining to her dad, Cole's poker buddy, Ed, about Santa's lack of empathy with her broken camera. Cole's mother was probably helping at the refreshment booth where a few stragglers still lingered. "Why not?"
The woman set down the boy—Joey, she'd called him—and dug a camera out of her bag. It was much more elaborate than the one Melody had been using.
"I'm going to take your picture while you sit on Santa's lap, sweetie," she said in a soft voice, as she led Joey to the platform and waited while Cole climbed into his chair. "Can you do that for Auntie Tessa?"
Auntie?
Cole settled back against the wide, hard throne, subtly shifting his padding to make room for the boy, who didn't look too sure about this whole thing.
"Hi, there, Joey. How are you tonight?"
The boy's big blue eyes grew even rounder and he appeared to be holding his breath. Cole had wanted kids, had imagined raising a boy just like this one. But Crystal had insisted they weren't ready. "We need to establish ourselves financially first," she'd said.
What she didn't say was if that didn't happen she'd kick his butt to the proverbial curb faster than a Texas tornado could demolish a mobile home.
He refocused his attention on the child on his knee, his uninjured left one this time. The boy was a featherweight compared to Sally, and Cole bounced him reassuringly, picking up speed as the child's bottom lip started to curl outward.
"Um…what kinds of toys do you like, Joey? Trains? Bob the Builder? I'm a builder. Um, in the off-season," he added, feeling like a complete idiot. "How 'bout a bike? I mean, trike. Would you like a tricycle for Christmas?"
Joey opened his mouth but no words came out. Cole was just happy the kid wasn't bawling his expressive blue eyes out. Cole looked at the aunt for help and found her squatting a few feet away, snapping shot after shot.
"Smile, Joey. Your aunt looks like a real professional. I think she's done this before."
"Less bouncing, please."
Cole felt his cheeks heat up. Duh.
He used this gloved finger to turn Joey's chin his way. Giving the kid his most friendly, concerned smile, he said, "Just tell me what you want, Joey."
"Mommy," the little guy said.
Then, a second later, he threw up. All down the front of Cole's brilliant white beard, red suit and wide black belt.
Chaos ensued.
Women appeared out of nowhere. Like an old-time magician, Joey's aunt produced a plastic container filled with wet wipes from her purse and started cleaning the child up. Cole's mother, whom he hadn't seen since she helped him get into the bulky red suit, dashed to his side with a towel.
Joey sobbed. "I'm so sorry, baby," the woman said, comforting Joey after thrusting a glob of wet towelettes into Cole's gloved hands. "It's okay, sweetie. It's not your fault. I should have known we were trying to squeeze in too much." She rocked the child back and forth.
As his cries subsided, she apologized to Cole. "I'm so sorry. The minute Joey spotted you he wanted to see Santa, and I thought it would be great to take a photo back to my mother. She's with my sister. Joey's mom. Who's in the hospital," she added under her breath.
"How sad," Cole's mother said. "There's no good time to be sick, but it's especially difficult during the holidays. Is it serious?"
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 2 of 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This contemporary is an entertaining sure bet

    With her sister¿s critical injury, Tessa Jamison is left with her two year old nephew Joey. However, although she loves the child, she feels the father should be made aware of what happened but she has no idea who sired Joey.---------- Her sister¿s diary mentions the kindness of and much more about Cole Lawry of River Bluff, Texas. Deciding he is the prime suspect, Tessa and Joey travel to the small town. She explains why she came to see him, but he persuades her that though he knew her sister and cared for her when she was in town, he is not Joey¿s dad. Cole joins Tessa in her search to find Joey¿s biological father even as she falls in love with her host, who denies he feels the same way as she does.------------ The lead couple makes BETTING ON SANTA a wonderful holiday romance enhanced by a fine mystery. Tessa knows how she feels about Cole and refuses to accept his insistence that he¿s not in love. The amateur sleuth investigation adds to the fun as neither knows what they are doing. This contemporary is an entertaining sure bet.-------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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