Read Christmas Miracle Online

Authors: Shara Azod

Tags: #Romance

Christmas Miracle

A Christmas Miracle

by

Shara Azod

 

 

Dressed up as Santa at a suburban mall isn’t where you’d usually find a Hollywood heartthrob, but it is Leslie’s secret passion. It helps him connect to Christmas traditions long gone for him, and maybe even captures the innocence of his childhood once more. The very last thing he ever expected was a precious gift of his own. One that reminded him of the miracles Christmas could bring. One thing was for sure—he wasn’t about to let his Christmas Miracle slip away from him, no matter what it took to keep his most precious gift.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews. This is a work of fiction. All references to real places, people, or events are coincidental, and if not coincidental, are used fictitiously. All trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, and registered service marks are the property of their respective owners and are used herein for identification purposes only. eBooks are NOT transferable. Re-selling, sharing or giving eBooks is a copyright infringement.

 

© 2014 Shara Azod

Cover Art: Marteeka Karland

Editor: Katriena Knights

 

 

Books are NOT transferable. Re-selling, sharing or giving eBooks is a copyright infringement.

Chapter One

 

Leslie loved Christmas. It reminded him of happier times, of being a child on a small farm in Iowa. Their family didn’t have two pennies to scrape together, but his parents always managed to make the holidays special for his sister Lili and him. In their tiny town there weren’t a lot of ways to extra money. Leslie found out much later his parents had often traveled several times over right before the holidays to take on extra work to make sure there were always presents under the tree for their children.

And every year, even when Leslie was well past the age of believing, his father would dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve. It was a family tradition.

Leslie didn’t have a family now. Years later, he spent the holidays alone, secluded from the false joviality all around him. The overly glittery, highly commercialized Christmases in his new world depressed him. He longed for the homey if over the top Christmas on the farm. It should be celebrated from the heart, not just a reason for gilt and glitter.

Funny, he’d always thought his success would make things easier. But the tiny white-washed house was the only place Leslie had ever thought of as home in the true sense of the word. It was the one place where he’d once known complete acceptance, unconditional love, and a wholesomeness that was completely lacking in his life today. There was plenty of money—more than he could ever spend in one lifetime—there was the adulation of people he didn’t know and sycophants at every turn. But he was far from happy. And never had he ever felt so alone, especially at Christmas.

Once upon time, it had truly been the most wonderful time of the year. Even though it might be freezing outside, on the inside their little family home was full of hot chocolate, tantalizing smells of goodies baking, tastes of his mom’s delicious holiday treats, Dad’s booming laughter, his little sister Lily’s sweet innocence. And love. There had been genuine love.

Then came Hollywood stardom and the destruction of everything he held dear.

How proud his parents had been when he’d won that football scholarship to State. That was supposed to be his avenue to helping out his family’s finances. If not through football, then through his psychology major. Either way, he was going to make enough money to make life better for everyone. Maybe even help pay for college for Lily. The first two years he’d been dedicated toward that goal, making the Dean’s list, blowing away school records for rushing stats. Everything was going as planned.

Until he met Mandy Livingston. That girl had been unlike any Leslie had ever met before. Countercultural was what his parents called her; they didn’t like Mandy much. Leslie had been completely hooked. He loved her completely uninhibited nature, the way she raged against the “system.” Half the time Leslie had no idea what she was talking about, but it didn’t matter. Unlike girls he’d dated in high school, Mandy slept with him on the first date; in fact, she was sexually “liberated,” complete with a shaved pubic area. The girl drove Leslie crazy.

Which drove him to try out for a college play Mandy was heavily involved in. Who knew a professor of Fine Arts had a big-time Hollywood producer? And who knew Leslie had a knack for acting? Three months later, he found himself in L.A. playing a supporting role in a huge action production. That quickly translated into a lucrative career, then superstardom. Mandy left him after the first film, but that hardly mattered. L.A was full of Mindy’s. Plus, it gave him the money to send back to his family, the people he loved the most.

Unfortunately, Leslie’s big break turned into a curse for his family. His baby sister Lily became hooked on drugs after a particularly unruly summer with her big brother. Sending her back to Iowa hadn’t helped. Sending her to rehab time and again hadn’t cured her. Eventually, the addiction killed her. The grief had been too much for his mother, who had lost her infectious smile, the sparkle in her eyes, and her ready laugh. She died six months after his sister, making his father a bitter shell of himself. James Brooks blamed Leslie for the destruction of his family. Leslie hadn’t spoken to his father since his mother’s funeral.

Now, fifteen years later, all he had left was the memories of what the holiday season used to be. Unable to let it go, he’d decided to play a more important role than the ones he played on the silver screen. Santa Claus. To him, dressing up every season was a way of recreating happier times, before his father became a recluse on that tiny farm that had once been home, before Lily and his mother died. Just like James had once done for himself and Lily, Leslie Trace Brooks, Hollywood’s number one leading man, played Santa at a mall in Santa Ana.

Every year for the past five years, Leslie had dressed up and played his favorite role with no one but his agent and his lawyer the wiser. And this particular mall was perfect, seeing as how he owned it. It was maybe a thirty-minute drive from his place in Laguna Nigel, so he would dress there and show up ready to go.

Today, however, he was running late. The latest up-and-coming starlet had managed to convince herself they would be perfect for one another. Unfortunately for him, this particular actress was certifiable. Somehow the tenacious woman had managed to track down where he was and refused to leave. Calling the police would’ve been messy in the extreme, especially given she was the niece of a studio bigwig. It had taken his agent, her handler, and both parties’ lawyers to get the woman to leave.

That one was trouble waiting to happen—but it wasn’t going to be his problem. Now he was running late for the only role that seemed to matter to him anymore. Thankfully, the dressing room in the mall was deserted. If he hurried, he could get ready before Santa’s elf showed up. This year played by an annoying blonde who was always running late. At least a wannabe actress was better than the evil woman that quite visibly hated children they had the year before.

Slipping out of his street clothes, Leslie breathed a sigh of relief. Almost home free. The next six hours was better therapy than any he could pay for, and he planned to enjoy it—enjoy the kids and getting lost in the holiday spirit. It couldn’t bring back his childhood, but at least he’d have the chance to remember what it was like. If just for a little while.

Chapter Two

 

“Please, Mikki? I really need this job, but I signed on to play Santa’s Helper for the whole season. Leslie Trace Brooks owns that freakin’ mall—I can’t just leave them high and dry! It might ruin any chance I have getting my big break!” Vivi batted her fake eyelashes at Mikki, completely forgetting Mikki was immune to her friend’s charms. But then, the vivacious blonde often forgot to turn off the sex appeal went it came to getting something she wanted.

It really was too bad. Vivi was a genuinely intelligent woman—she just tended to use what was easiest, which was her sexuality. Mikki didn’t blame her; her friend was absolutely gorgeous, with naturally blonde, curly locks that fell to the middle of her back, big aqua eyes and a kind, giving heart. Tall, lithe, and tightly stacked, Vivi turned many a head, even in the land where beautiful blondes came a dime a dozen.

It was annoying that Vivi was using her usual tactics now. Like Mikki would really say no. First of all, Mikki really needed the money, as Vivi well knew. Holding down three part-time jobs wasn’t paying the bills. Mikki was in serious danger of losing her crappy, run-down rental house. Secondly, there wasn’t anything Mikki didn’t love about Christmas. Not that she’d ever had great ones; as an orphan it had always been more about what Christmas represented. It was hope, and through most of her life, that was all Mikki had to go on. But that never bothered her. There was always tomorrow. And tomorrow never looked as bright as it did at Christmas.

It seemed a bit weird that the temperature never seemed to drop below seventy—maybe sixty-five—degrees in December, unlike her hometown of Chicago. But people still put up lights around their homes, with decorated trees prominently displayed in front windows. Kids running around with bright eyes, dreaming of the gifts they would be getting on Christmas morning. Mikki would have taken the job just to see the joy on kids’ faces. There was nothing better than the hope and belief of a child.

Mikki loved children, though she’d probably never have any of her own. Kinda hard to meet a prospective husband while working all the time and going to night school the rest of the time. Most people had no patience with kids, like Vivi. Mikki was frankly shocked she’d lasted working with kids this long.

“Stop it with the eyes.” Mikki sighed heavily, rolling hers. “You’re going to make me puke. Of course I’ll do it for you. You already knew that, so the dramatics are hardly necessary.”

Vivi actually squealed, a high-pitched sound that made Mikki cringe. The blonde threw her arms around her, squeezing with a little more force than necessary. Not for the first time, Mikki wondered how on earth they came to be friends. They couldn’t be more opposite. Unsure how to react to the embrace, Mikki just sat there and took it. It wasn’t that she hated human touch—she just never quite knew what to do with it. She hadn’t been hugged a lot in the foster homes she grew up in.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Vivi shrieked happily.

It was a bit much. Perhaps Vivi was just readying herself for the part in the play she’d just scored. Usually, her friend was way more sensitive to Mikki’s public display of affection problem.

“Get off.” Mikki finally lightly shoved Vivi, unable to take anymore. “I already said I’d do it, for crying out loud. Just be happy and move on.”

“You have to get ready to go!” Vivi exclaimed, jumping off the couch and running around her apartment. Mikki loved spending time at Vivi’s. Her own place was way too depressing. At least Vivi decorated for the season. It gave the illusion of a home. Vivi ran into her bedroom, then came back out with a dry cleaning package Mikki assumed was the uniform she was supposed to wear. Oh, crap. Mikki seriously hoped it would fit. She had a bit more up top and behind than Vivi did. “And here

” Vivi tossed Mikki her car keys. “You can take my car. The director’s picking me up.”

Mikki was more than a little grateful for the use of Vivi’s car; her own hooptie was running on fumes. Still, Vivi was a friend, so she felt she had to give her a little friendly advice, even though she knew Vivi wasn’t going to listen.

“You really need to stop sleeping with your directors,” Mikki warned, knowing it would go through one ear and out the other. “It may be helpful at first, but it always ends in disaster one way or another.” Like the time one of the directors thought he was so in love with Vivi he couldn’t live without her. The man stalked her for months.

One day soon Vivi would probably find some rich older man to marry. The would-be career as an actress was going nowhere, and Vivi refused to actually enter L.A. County to save her life. Odd for someone who claimed to want to be a star. Like Vivi was really going to get discovered doing plays and commercials in Orange County. The likelihood Vivi would get discovered at all was close to nil. There was no shortage in the supply of gorgeous blondes in Southern California, and though Mikki would never admit it out loud, Vivi wasn’t really that great of an actor. Not that Vivi didn’t know that already. Which was probably why she never strayed from local plays with mediocre casts and horny old directors.

“Oh, pooh,” Vivi scoffed, gracing Mikki with her best thousand-watt smile. It made Mikki incredibly sad in this instance. It didn’t mask the sadness in those incredible eyes. It just made it more pronounced. “Things will work out, you’ll see. Oh!” Vivi quickly changed the subject. “If you see Leslie Trace Brooks anywhere near the mall, you gotta swear you’ll call me. And don’t let him leave until I get there.”

Riiiiiiiight. Because an international superstar would really be seen at a Santa Ana mall.

“Of course I will,” Mikki promised, managing to sound sincere.

If she did see the man, the last person she’d call would be Vivi. Not because she didn’t love her friend, but rather she couldn’t bear to see her friend crushed. Leslie Brooks had all kinds of women throwing themselves at him all the time, all over the world. Not once had he ever been married, or even had a serious long-term relationship. Vivi was beautiful and all, but they were talking Leslie Trace Brooks here. The man didn’t visit the realm of mere mortals.

Besides, how on earth would Vivi even get to the mall? Mikki had her car.

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