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SUBMIT

Santa's Plus-One Surprise

Written by Melissa Senate

Chapter Five

Drake dropped down on the bench against the fence in the schoolyard, watching the kids getting on their buses or leaving with parents and caregivers. One little boy was holding his dad’s hand and smiling up at him.

Drake’s heart squeezed. He had a son, too—a son he wasn’t going to abandon.

“What do you mean?” Felicity asked, her eyes narrowed on him.

“I need to have the ‘right woman’ by my side for an important meeting tomorrow,” he said, hating the words coming out of his mouth. The subterfuge. But what else could he do?

“I’m listening,” she said, sitting beside him.

“Last year, I went on three dates with a woman named Gwenyth Cartland. We didn’t have much in common and that was it. Three months ago, I read in the newspaper that she’d died in a car accident, and I was really shaken. She’d been so full of life. And then gone, just like that.”

“I’m so sorry,” Felicity said, touching his arm. The contact felt good, soothing.

“I went to the funeral and her parents pulled me aside,” he continued. “Her mother held a baby in her arms, and her father looked like he wanted to knock me out. Her mother hissed at me that I’d shirked my responsibilities to her daughter and my son. My son. I had no idea Gwenyth had been pregnant. She never told me.”

Felicity gasped.

“They told me they didn’t want me anywhere near their precious grandson and to get out, that I wasn’t welcome at the funeral. I was so shocked that I left.”

“Oh, Drake. I can’t imagine.”

“As I was leaving, I heard her mother call the baby Colt.” He turned away, the emotional surge rising up in him so overwhelming he needed to close his eyes for a moment. “All I could think about that afternoon was my son. I went to see the Cartlands that night, explaining that I didn’t know about Colt, to let me just hold him, and they told me they’d see me in court and slammed the door in my face.”

She winced. “How long ago was that?”

“Four days ago. I met with a lawyer who assured me that as the father—as long as a paternity test proved that—I’d win custody. But I kept thinking about Darlene Cartland’s grief-stricken face, the pain in her voice, her husband’s red-rimmed, teary eyes. I don’t want to cause them more pain. But I do want my son.”

“And you need the ‘right woman’ beside you for…” she prompted.

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Melissa Senate

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