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How Mr. Grinchly Found Christmas, #3

How Mr. Grinchly Found Christmas, #3

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At Christmas, a man with a name like Ebenezer Grinchly isn’t likely to find any holiday cheer… much less love. Right? When Ebenezer Grinchly discovers he's a father, teams up with his longtime crush Sandra to navigate the challenges of fatherhood, unexpected love blossoms. But as they grow closer, Sandra's hidden secret threatens to unravel their newfound happiness.

Main Tropes

  • Surprise Child
  • Friends to Lovers
  • Infertility

Synopsis

At Christmas, a man with a name like Ebenezer Grinchly isn’t likely to find any holiday cheer… much less love. Right?

Eb’s ex-wife just left her excess baggage on his doorstep, and he’s found out he has a daughter—and he couldn’t be more thrilled. Not about his ex-wife lying to him four years ago about the child being his, but about the gift of a second chance at fatherhood. Unfortunately, he knows absolutely nothing about little girls. But the woman he’s wanted to date for months sweeps in to help.

A lot of people think Eb is a grump like his name implies, but his friend Sandra Faragher knows better. He’s a good guy, only a little rigid and stuck in a rut. It’s her goal to help him out of it. She doesn’t expect to fall for the hot, nerdy dad he suddenly turns into, and his sweet interactions with his surprise daughter only make him more attractive. Sandra can almost believe her dream could come true.

But Sandra has a secret even her famous boss doesn’t know about. For her to get her dream, Eb will have to sacrifice his.

Intro Into Chapter One

Eb Grinchly stilled his body, forcing himself not to rip his hair out by the roots. Or jump up from his chair and run around the office raging. The ridiculous mental image calmed him. Wouldn’t that be a sight? After being promoted to director of public relations nearly a year ago, he couldn’t lose his cool. Though he never had. Not in public, anyway. He’d worked hard to prove how well he could handle any situation with coolness and logic.

But was his boss trying to break him? In all the years Edelweiss Ski Resort had hosted the Santa Claus Run, they’d never used the same person two years in a row as Old Nick. As one of Wyoming’s premier holiday events, it took complicated juggling of guests and sponsors to fit the ego of each year’s Santa. And time researching the person, so Eb got all of it right.

These last-minute changes might just kill him. He was good at what he did, thorough with an intuitive sense of what to include in the advertising. It took a lot of time and effort. When the first Santa for this year had moved to Hawaii, there was still enough time for Eb to do a quality job with the substitute. Now, with over three-fourths of the year gone, the resort owner had called to make yet another change. To the same actor they’d used last year.

Eb closed his eyes and took a cleansing breath. At least he was friends with the actor’s assistant and had worked with her before. Sandra was capable and efficient. And beautiful…

He shook his head. Her attractiveness had absolutely no bearing here.

Against the odds, the last-minute switch had worked out. Now, that had been an eleventh-hour change and hadn’t allowed him to do any research. The actor, newly nominated for an Oscar he later won, had generated enough word-of-mouth on his own. Fortunately, the event had been a great success, with Eb doing very little.

His shoulder muscles loosened. He could deal with this change too. Whatever else happened, he didn’t want to turn into his father, who’d let his job consume him to the point of a nearly fatal heart attack.

Still, once upon a time, Eb would have been thrilled at the opportunity to take on a challenge like this. And a part of him still did. But another part liked the rut his life had turned into, and he resented being forced to step outside of those comfortable grooves.

A voice filled his mind, sounding much like his younger self, asking if this life he’d forged would always be as vanilla as it was now. Would he never again have flavor in his life?

The ring of his office phone startled Eb so much that he nearly knocked it from his desk in his scramble to answer it.

“Ebeneezer Grinchly,” he said, moderating his voice to his usual business tone, hoping it wasn’t someone new who would make a snarky comment about the family name.

“Sorry to bother you, sir,” his assistant Inez said, a caution in her voice which signaled he wouldn’t like what she was about to say. “There’s someone here to see you.”

“It’s not Ms. Faragher, is it?” He woke his computer. “I have her down for four.”

“No, she’s not here yet, sir. This is someone else. I tried to tell her your afternoon was full and even came down to the front desk to talk to her in person.” Through the phone, Inez took a deep breath. “Um, sir, you really need to come down here.”

In all the years she’d worked for him, his assistant had never sounded so uncomfortable. Alarmed, Eb jumped from his chair. What else could go wrong today?

He put on his suit jacket. After a quick check in the mirror to make sure everything was in place and he looked professional, he strode purposefully from his office.

The doors opened to the main lobby of the resort’s business wing. Inez stood at the main counter with the receptionist, but he saw no one else in the room.

“I thought someone was here to see me,” he said with a frown.

The older woman stepped aside and showed what her plump figure had hidden: a young child of about four years old. Eb could only guess the age because he’d become acquainted with a man who had a young daughter. Not far away lay a large suitcase and a backpack—but no parents.

“If this child is lost, why haven’t you called security yet?” Eb found his gaze pulled to the girl’s wide, fearful eyes. Something in them went beyond the expected vulnerability of someone so young being lost and surrounded by strangers. It seemed to be directed at him. He swallowed against the unexpected lump in his throat and said, “I imagine her parents must be frantic, wondering what happened to her.”

He sent an accusing glance at both the women, but neither of them spoke. Instead, Inez handed him an envelope. Out of habit, Eb took it from her. If he’d taken the time to consider her hesitancy, he might not have.

The vaguely familiar writing added to his unease. It didn’t have a stamp, so whoever had delivered it had done so in person. Why hadn’t the deliverer stayed?

He lifted his gaze and met Inez’s. She nodded at the envelope and indicated with her finger he should open it. The disquiet grew to dread and made him tense.

Stiffly, aware of the eyes watching him, Eb ripped it open. A fragrance laden with unpleasant memories wafted from it, and his body went cold, his stomach queasy. Why would Paige have dropped this off but not waited to speak with him?

Irritation did battle with his wariness and won. As he removed a folded paper from the envelope, another document fell to the floor. He ignored it and opened the letter, while Inez retrieved the other page.

Eb, darling,
I thought I could do this single-parent thing. And I’ve tried, but it’s getting in the way of my career. All those years ago, you wanted to be a dad so much, and you’ve always been such a dear. So you can have her.
Paige


All the pains he’d kept buried inside pushed against the mental grave he’d buried them in. Shaking, Eb closed his eyes and put a hand on the front counter to steady himself.

“Are you all right, Mr. Grinchly?” Inez asked, her voice tentative and worried.

No, he wasn’t all right. He was far from all right. But he refused to admit it aloud; he had an image to maintain. Eb opened his eyes, and his gaze fell on the child. Was this her? Those old feelings gave a shove against his wall again, but he firmly forced them down. He must assess the situation logically.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Merely surprised.”

Intending to question the child, he opened his mouth. The difference in their heights struck him. She was so tiny. Eb’s six feet must make him seem like a giant to her. He squatted down, so their eyes were level, though he didn’t move any closer.

“Is your mother Paige Britton?”

At Eb’s question, the little girl nodded, and the women gasped.

“I thought she looked familiar,” Inez muttered.

He cringed mentally, thinking about how hard he’d worked to keep his past from public knowledge. As much as he enjoyed his job and the camaraderie of the staff, Eb had no illusion the work environment wasn’t also a petri dish for gossip. And now all the resort employees would know. He looked up at the women.

“For the benefit of the child, I expect neither of you to mention this to anyone.” Eb could be fierce when he needed to, something he’d had to learn after Paige dumped him. “And I will know who to look to should word get back to me about this. Am I understood?”

The women nodded, though Inez wore an indignant expression at the suggestion she wasn’t discreet. He shifted his gaze back to the child, worried the sternness in his voice might have upset her. From the trembling of the little girl’s bottom lip, he had no doubt she would lose it soon. He’d have to get answers quickly.

“Did your mother tell you why she brought you here?”

“To live with my daddy.” Her small face scrunched up, her voice turning into a wail. “Are you my daddy?”

Eb hesitated only a moment, his heart going out to this poor, unwanted waif.

“I believe I may be.”

With those words, she threw herself into his arms and burst into tears.

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