Home > Rebel Without A Claus

Rebel Without A Claus
Author: Emma Hart



“We’re out of eggnog.”

I blinked up at my grandfather. “It’s nine-thirty in the morning.”

“Is it?” He looked toward the clock that was sitting on top of the fireplace. “So it is. We’re still out of eggnog, Quinn.”

“I am not making you more eggnog at nine-thirty in the morning. I have a potential crisis on my hands and your lack of eggnog is not it.” I got up from the armchair and walked into the kitchen where my six-year-old niece, Jasmine, was making a royal mess decorating Christmas cookies. “Hey, Jazzy.”

She grinned up at me, showing where she’d just lost her other front tooth last night.

Her two front teeth really were all she wanted for Christmas this year.

“Hi, Auntie Quinn. Do you like my cookies?” She shoved a candy cane shaped one at me.

I examined the mess of red and green icing. “I think it looks amazing,” I half-lied. “Can I try one?”

“Not yet. Gran says they’re for later.”

I bet that was what Mom said. “Have you seen Gran today?”

“She’s upstairs with Grandpa. He’s sneezing a lot.”


Dad being sick was the last thing anyone needed.

This was probably a very good time to introduce myself. My name is Quinn Langley, and my family has run the Santa’s Grotto at the Christmas fair in town for the past fifty years, ever since the inception of the fair itself. The current Santa, my dad, was currently in bed with what my nurse mother insisted was the flu.

Santa could not have the flu, and this was a complete and utter disaster.

Why, I hear you ask? Because it’s ten days until Christmas, and if there’s no Santa in the grotto, there’s no Santa. Breaking fifty years of tradition was not in my family’s wheelhouse, and there was nobody else in our house who could be Santa.

My brother-in-law was too busy running the Christmas tree lot on our farm, and my sister was too pregnant to even pretend to be a man. My grandfather was evidently relying on spiked eggnog to get him through the holiday season, and I’d seen enough bad Christmas movies to know that a drunk Santa was not the best idea in the world.

As for me…

Well, no, thank you. Pretending to be a male Santa was not my idea of some holiday fun, and all those kids wiping their grubby mitts on me? Ugh, I’ll pass.

Not that I didn’t like kids. I did. I liked kids just fine. As long as they were Jasmine. I wasn’t so hot on other people’s kids.

I also had the world’s shortest patience and a tendency to speak before I could think it through, a friendly gift inherited from my gramps. I didn’t think Santa was that kind of person.

Either way, if my dad’s flu test came back positive, I was in the shit.

Because finding a new Santa would be my job, and I couldn’t think of a single person in this godforsaken town that could fit the bill.

Snow Cove, Vermont, population two-thousand, three hundred and one—soon to be two, thanks to my sister—had been named the ‘Best Small Town for Christmas Vibes’ for the past ten years. The town was a weird shape in that the boundary of it stretched out down to the mountains and one large resort for people who liked snow sports, but the edge of the old, original graveyard was close enough to the Canadian border that one could say it flirted with it. The road that ran up to and along the border was enough to stop people accidentally slipping into Canada.

Unless they were on the run from the law. Then the road didn’t stop them.

Don’t ask me how I know that. It’s a long story, and one I don’t have time to tell you right now. I will tell you that it involves a Chevy, a murderer, a puppy, and a pumpkin.

Don’t worry. No puppies were harmed.

Or pumpkins.

“Yes… Yes, thank you, Dr. Jarvis… Okay, yes, I will. Thank you.” Mom clicked off the phone call as she stepped into the kitchen. “Oh, Jasmine, look at those. They’re lovely.”

Jasmine gave her the same gap-toothed grin she’d given me, then responded by enthusiastically tipping a small pot of edible red glitter over a cookie shaped like Santa’s hat. The glitter went everywhere, making Mom wince as it scattered over the floor tiles.

That was her own fault. I told her not to give her the glitter. Edible or otherwise, glitter was made by the devil.

“Well? How did his test come back?” I asked, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

She grimaced. “Flu. Sorry, Quinn. You’re going to have to help us find a new Santa, or the grotto will have to close.”

I ignored the cup. “Are you kidding? The grotto is supposed to open in twenty-four hours. How the hell am I supposed to find a Santa in one day?”

“I don’t know, honey, but—”

“Why can’t Michael do it? I’ll run the tree farm. That’s so much easier than the alternative.”

Mom sighed. “Because your sister is two weeks from her due date and Michael needs to stay close in case she goes into labor, you know that. He won’t be able to up and leave the grotto if she goes early.”

“And he can leave the tree farm?”

“Of course he can. The other guys will be able to run it, and Sam is more than capable of assuming control.” She put a cup of water in the microwave and turned it on to heat it. “Come on, Quinn. There are plenty of guys in town who will be able to take over, and we’ll pay them well for their time.”

“No, there isn’t. Who in town doesn’t have a job, Mom? It’s busy. Everyone will be working. The chance of us finding a Santa now is next to zero.”

“Don’t be so pessimistic.”

“I have to be a pessimist. If you always expect the worst, you can’t be disappointed,” I muttered. “Why do I have to find the new Santa? Verity is lying in bed. She has a phone. She has a direct line to half the town, for goodness’ sake. Why can’t she do it?”

“She’s resting.”

“She’s pregnant, not dying.” I grabbed my coffee cup. “Honestly, you’d think she’s the only woman to have ever been pregnant. Never mind that she’s done it once already.”

“Mm.” Mom took the cup of hot water from the microwave when it pinged. “I’m not going to argue with you about that, honey, but it doesn’t change the situation.”

“She’s a drama queen.”

“You won’t bait me into agreeing or arguing with you, Quinn. All this standing here and complaining is wasting time you could be using to find a replacement Santa.”

“I have ten thousand things to be doing at the grotto. It’s not ready yet since Verity won’t help me. Presents still need to be wrapped, and I need to wipe all the snow from the outside decorations. I really don’t have the time.”

“Fine. Then go to the grotto and do all those things, and when it’s all nice and pretty and Christmassy and ready for the kids to come, you won’t have the most important thing.” She peered over at me and raised one of her perfectly shaped eyebrows. “A Santa Claus.”

“Silly Gran,” Jasmine said, putting icing eyes on a snowman. “Santa is in the North Pole with all the elves.”

“Of course he is, Jazzy, but I explained this to you. He’s very busy and can’t be at every single grotto, so he asks some very special friends to help him out to make children everywhere happy,” Mom replied without batting an eye. “Now Grandpa is sick, Quinn’s job is to find a special friend to help Santa.”

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