Catch That Santa (Novelette)
When widow, Sara Marks, hears her Grams has gone on the lam from Happy Acres Residence on Christmas Eve – on Santa’s arm, no less – she teams up with sexy stranger, Francisco de la Vega, to chase the couple down with one thing in mind. Keep her Grams from becoming Mrs. Claus. Of course, Francisco's grandfather is not really Santa Claus, but Grams did run off to Vegas to marry him and she's obviously not in her right mind.
Will they catch Santa and his crazy Mrs. Claus before it's too late? Or will love stop them in their tracks?
“An octogenarian escaping her retirement home to elope with the visiting Santa? And the grandkids are left to be the responsible ones? How can you resist?” ~ KarmaBites
“What do you mean, Grams ran off with Santa Claus?” Sara Marks stared at the first floor orderly, Buddy Cantor, who’d met her outside her grandmother’s room at Happy Acres Residence. She could barely catch her breath after dashing through the facility carrying her sleeping seven-month-old. It had taken her a full thirty minutes to drive from the church near her apartment across Denver’s snow packed streets in her crotchety, old Ford, when it should have taken ten. Twenty minutes too long if her grandmother was truly missing.
She should never have gone to the Christmas Eve service. She’d suspected Grams was up to something when she called and told her to come later so she could take a nap before their usual dinner together. There was something in her voice, but Sara hadn’t paid enough attention with little Lanie fussing in her ear. “Next thing you’ll tell me is Santa took her to the North Pole in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.”
“No. A gold ’57 Ford Fairlane convertible.” The man shuffled uneasily in the doorway. “And they’re headed to Vegas. We think.”
“Vegas.” Movement in her arms made her aware Lanie was fully awake and ready to play. She grinned up at Sara with two shiny new bottom teeth, like she’d woken up just to laugh at her great-grandma’s latest flight of fancy.
Oh, Grams, what have you done?
Sara frowned at the orderly. “This is insane,” she said. “She has to be here. You searched the building? She loves the arboretum.”
Buddy nodded. “We’ve canvassed the entire building, mast to deck. Stem to stern.” The orderly fancied himself a sailor, although Sara couldn’t see how buying a bass boat gave him the chops to litter sailing terms through every conversation she’d ever had with the man.
“Could she be hiding for some reason?” There was never an inkling Grams was unhappy at Happy Acres. Or that her faculties were failing. The woman might be pushing eighty but she was still sharp as a tack. It was her mobility that forced Sara to accept her grandmother’s insistence she move to this facility.
Happy Acres was a large complex with suites on the west side for more independent residents, while those who needed assistance lived in the east wing. Grams had moved herself into the east wing after her fall four months ago, claiming it was time she move out of Sara’s tiny apartment anyway and make room for her first great-granddaughter. Sara argued until she was blue in the face but her independent Grams had already signed the papers and paid the upfront, non-refundable fees. It was a done deal by the time Grams asked Sara to help her pack.
A knot of apprehension grew in her chest, right above where little Lanie was elbowing her sternum. Sara smothered her growing panic and laid the baby on the bed to remove her new hat and coat. “Okay, so Grams isn’t here.” She picked up Lanie and refocused her attention on the orderly. “When did she leave with this Santa Claus? Did she know him?”
She answered her own question. “Of course, she had to know him, or she wouldn’t have left with him.” She frowned. “Why do you think they’re heading for Vegas?”
He reached into his pocket and handed her a folded piece of paper. “Your grandmother left this note on her bed.”
Sara unfolded the paper. Sara, honey, don’t fret. Santa’s finally come, as I told you he would. Getting married in Vegas. Your Christmas present is under the bed. Don’t wait till tomorrow to open it. You’ll need it. Love, Grams.
There was a postscript. P.S. Didn’t have time to water my begonias. Please take care of that for me before you come? Can’t wait to see you!
Grams’ hold on reality was becoming dicey in Sara’s mind. “I don’t understand.”
She glanced around the small room at the begonias Grams babied like children – fifteen begonias to be exact, scattered on bookshelves, an antique dresser and armoire, on the floor near the sliding glass doors that led to her private patio – as if the hand-painted pots also held the answer that would end her confusion. “How long has she been gone?” she asked.
Buddy shrugged. “We’re not sure. Last time anyone saw her was at the Christmas party before dinner. Santa was here handing out presents to all of the residents.” He reddened. “She sat on his lap and whispered something into his ear, they disappeared soon after that. No one knows when they left the building. We weren’t even sure she’d gone off with him until we found the note a few minutes ago.”
“Did you check under the bed yet? The note says there’s a package. There has to be more, some reason, something to tell us what she’s doing. Maybe it’s in there.”
Join Sara and Cisco as they head west in the worst snowstorm in decades, chasing his
grandfather's '57 Ford Fairlane over the river and through the woods.
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