Mistletoe KissesBy: Marnie Blue
For Billy Dee. My very own hero.
O’Rourke was going to pay for this.
In his five years on the police force, Officer Justin Weaver had done and seen many things that made his stomach churn and his skin crawl. He’d endured sleepless nights on stakeouts, or from nightmares, broken up fights, put up with verbal abuse, and been caught in cross fire.
He’d even been pepper sprayed.
But none of those things bothered him as much as this assignment, playing Cop Kringle for Holly Hollow’s annual Ho-Ho-Ho Patrol, and riding in a pimped-out police car. There were antlers poking from the windows, a blinking red Rudolph nose attached to the grill, and even a three-foot plastic Frosty the Snowman mounted on the roof. Justin hoped the motor pool hadn’t stashed an inflatable ornament in the trunk or something, ready to spring out as soon as the car started rolling. They called it a sleigh, but mostly it looked like a car that had been puked on by the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Justin’s musings were interrupted when his partner, Kevin O’Rourke, climbed into their squad car with two covered cups. “This beard has fleas,” Justin muttered. “It’s making me itch.”
“Ho ho ho.” Kevin handed him one of the cups. “You’re lucky you only have to wear it for a week, Santa.”
“Don’t call me that.” Justin peered into the rearview mirror. He looked like a derelict. With mange.
“Sorry, dude. It comes with the suit. Embrace it.” Kevin flipped the tab on the cup cover and blew into it. “Drink up before the parade starts.”
“When Lieutenant Hanley told me I was going to go undercover for the week, I didn’t expect I’d have to be Cop Kringle. I thought I was going to be something good. Like a drug dealer or a mob guy.” Justin yanked the itchy beard off his face.
“Aw c’mon, Weave. It is good! You’re collecting toys for needy kids and making dreams come true. What could be better?”
“Something more…I dunno. Dignified?” He pulled the stupid red Santa hat off his head, too, then tossed both the hat and the beard into the back seat.
“Dignified is for dweebs,” Kevin said. He stretched out in his seat and yawned. “Besides, you’re gonna get an elf!”
“I don’t want an elf.”
“Sure you do. With any luck, she’ll be hot.”
“We’re talking about my luck. So she’ll be ninety.” Justin flipped the tab on the lid of his cup. The scent of peppermint rose to greet him. “What is this? It’s not coffee!”
“Sure it is. Candy cane–flavored coffee.” O’Rourke grinned at him. He knew Justin loathed flavored coffee.
Nearly as much as he disliked Christmas. Peppermint coffee was over the top.
“I hate you,” Justin said.
His partner shook his head. “No you don’t. You fa-la-la-la-love me, and you know it.”
“Get out of my car.”
“It’s not your car, it’s the city’s car. And right now, it’s a sleigh.”
“Get out of my sleigh.” Justin put the cup in the cupholder. “Before I pepper spray you.”
He didn’t mean it. Not really. Well…maybe a little. Because being Santa for a week was worse than Christmas carols at Halloween. Christmas was a farce as far as he was concerned, and it had been since he was seventeen years old. Since that Christmas Eve when his world had fallen apart, and his life had changed forever.
“Thhhpt.” Kevin blew a raspberry. “Pepper spray away. I’m not getting out until your elf gets here, Santa.”
Justin sighed. The problem with making threats you didn’t intend to keep was that they became ineffective over time. “One of these days, O’Rourke. One of these days…” Justin shifted on the seat and winced. On top of everything, the Santa suit seemed two sizes too small. It pinched. Mostly in the places a man didn’t want to be pinched. And when Justin shrugged his shoulders or moved, the scent of dust rose around him. Ugh. “I need an antihistamine. This suit should have been bagged and boxed.”
“Better dust than must,” Kevin said. “Maybe you can hang it up outside and hit it with your baton.”