Sunday Sampler: A Father for Christmas by Rachelle Ayala
December 6, 2015
In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Sunday’s Sampler is an excerpt from A Father for Christmas, a heartwarming romance for the holidays by Rachelle Ayala.
As one reviewer said: If you like romances, second chances, and Christmastime books this is exactly what you need to pick up.
2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Award Winner
Single mother Kelly Kennedy can’t afford lavish gifts for her four-year-old daughter, Bree. Homeless veteran Tyler Manning doesn’t believe he deserves a Merry Christmas.
When Bree asks Santa for a father and picks Tyler, both Tyler and Kelly vow to keep Bree from being hurt while fighting their feelings for each other.
Tyler struggles with frightening flashbacks that scare Kelly. Meanwhile, Kelly’s criminal past threatens her chance for happiness. Tyler and Kelly must believe in the power of love to give Bree her best Christmas ever.
A rent-a-cop tapped Tyler’s shoulder. “Move along. You’re not here for the Santa line, you have to stay outside the play area.”
Tyler shrugged away from the guard without answering. He browsed by the Holiday Express train. Nope, he definitely wasn’t interested in taking a ride. It reminded him too much of the train set his father used to set up every Christmas before he’d disappeared during the First Gulf War.
Tyler wandered toward the towering Christmas tree, craning his neck to see the star at the top. Whenever his father had been home for Christmas, Tyler had been the one who had sat on his broad shoulders and placed the star on the tip-top branch. He and his mother would have decorated the tree from the bottom up, hanging ornaments and stringing the lights, but they could never reach the top. His mother would take the golden star out of the box and place it on the mantle, waiting for the family to gather around the tree. There’d be popcorn and Christmas carols, and once his father stepped through the door, he’d pick Tyler up and hand him the star. Everyone would clap and cheer as Tyler mounted the star. It had made him feel the same as if he’d scored a game winning touchdown.
They never had another tree after his father disappeared and was later found dead.
“Mister, can you please take a picture of us?” A young woman waved her hand in front of Tyler and gestured to her group of friends.
“Sure, no problem.” He took her phone. “Where’s the shutter button?”
“On screen,” the woman replied. “Tap the target.”
“Sure.” Showed how long he’d been gone. When he was deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11, the phones had push buttons and no camera feature. He shot a few poses for the family and handed the fancy contraption to the woman.
After they gathered their coats and bags from the floor, he noticed they’d left a takeout container. He picked it up and looked around, not spotting them. Not that he tried too hard. He was hungry, and the food smelled delicious. It was Chinese take out, orange chicken and chow mein. A wrapped almond cookie sat in one of the pockets of the container.
His mouth watering, Tyler swiped a fork and napkins from a nearby concession stand and sat on a bench under the massive Christmas tree. He gave thanks and dug in.
“Papa? Can I have a cookie?” a tiny voice squeaked in close vicinity. It was the little girl who’d asked for a father for Christmas.
Tyler glanced around, but didn’t spot the girl’s mother. “Where’s your mother?”
“She’s looking for you, but I found you sitting under the big Christmas tree just like Santa pwo-mised.” The girl beamed expectantly at him.
“Well, it isn’t Christmas yet. Still two more weeks.” Tyler wiped his lips with a napkin. “Let’s see if we can’t find your mother.”
“Okay, Papa.” The girl put her hand in his. “I can’t wait to tell her, Santa got you for my very own.”
Tyler wanted to let her hand go. This wouldn’t look good. He hastily replaced the lid on the takeout container and dangled the almond cookie. “Here, you can have the cookie, but you have to help me find your mother.”
“Yay!” the little girl squealed, snatching the cookie. She ripped the wrapper and took off, running. “Mama, I found him.”
Tyler pitched the rest of the food into the trash and loped after her. She could get lost in this crowd, and he wasn’t sure he spotted her mother anywhere.
Sure enough, the little girl’s glee turned to confusion and then fear as she whipped her head back and forth, crying, “Mama? Mama?”
The cookie dropped to the floor, and her eyes grew big. She paused to take a large breath, the kind children did right before letting out a loud scream.
Tyler reached for her hand. “Honey, don’t be afraid. I’m sure your mother’s looking for you.”
“Mama,” she yelled, screwing her fists into her eye sockets.
Several bystanders glared at him, rocking from one foot to the other, as if deciding whether to intervene or not. A woman whipped out her cell phone and snapped a picture. Great. Just great. He was about to be reported as a child kidnapper.