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Santa's Plus-One Surprise

Written by Melissa Senate

Chapter Eleven

Drake had a stunner of a Christmas tree in his living room, trimmed with lights and garland, and Felicity had suggested adding ornaments over the next few weeks. Now they were on their way to the Cartlands’.

“Mind if we stop in there?” he asked, pointing at Wedlock Creek Toys and Gifts on Main Street. “I’d like to get something for Colt.”

“That’s a great idea,” she said. “I was actually going to suggest it but I’m glad you thought of it first. Says a lot.”

He pulled into a spot. “There’s nothing fake about how I feel about Colt. Christmas and this,” he said, wagging a finger between them, “might be for show, but how I feel about my son is very real.”

She put a hand on his arm. “I know.”

“Sorry,” he said. “Can’t say I’m not seriously anxious about how this meeting will go.”

She gave him a soft smile that managed to soothe him. “Let’s go get that gift.”

Five minutes later he had a soft stuffed teddy bear with buttons and a Christmas-plaid bow tie in a shiny red bag.

As they pulled into the Cartlands’ driveway, Drake sucked in a breath.

“Show them who you are,” Felicity said. “That’s what matters.”

He didn’t want to tell her that he wasn’t sure “who he was” would score him any points.

Bag in hand, he rang the bell.

The Cartlands came to the door together. In their late fifties, Darlene and John once again reminded Drake of their tall, dark-haired daughter with the warm green eyes.

“So lovely to meet you, Felicity,” Darlene said. “My dear friend Sally’s granddaughter, Megan, is in your class. She just adores you. And another friend’s son is the assistant principal. He speaks very highly of you.”

“I love teaching at Wedlock Creek Elementary,” Felicity said. “And it’s so great that Drake is now volunteer coaching after-school sports there. He’s so good with the little ones.”

Darlene practically grimaced. “Well, why don’t we sit down and talk.” The Cartlands sat on the love seat across from Felicity and Drake on the sofa.

“We’ve been raising Colt for three months,” Darlene said, staring at Drake. “He’s in very good hands here. I can’t see why a cowboy who didn’t even know he had a baby would be interested in raising him.”

“Because I’m his father,” Drake said. “And that means everything to me. It’s more important to me than anything else.”

Darlene raised her chin. “He has a good home here.”

“I’d like to see him right now,” Drake said. “I just want to hold him.”

The Cartlands looked at each other. And took their time responding.

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Melissa Senate

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