Heidi Cullinan’s Sleigh Ride With An Excerpt and Giveaway
Title: Sleigh Ride (Minnesota Christmas Series: Book 2)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Length: 285 pages
Blurb: The way to a man’s heart is on a sleigh.
Arthur Anderson doesn’t want anything to do with love and romance, and he certainly doesn’t want to play Santa in his mother’s library fundraising scheme. He knows full well what she really wants is to hook him up with the town’s lanky, prissy librarian.
It’s clear Gabriel Higgins doesn’t want him, either—as a Santa, as a boyfriend, as anyone at all. But when Arthur’s efforts to wiggle out of the fundraiser lead to getting to know the man behind the storytime idol, he can’t help but be charmed. The least he can do is be neighborly and help Gabriel find a few local friends.
As their fiery arguments strike hotter sparks, two men who insist they don’t date wind up doing an awful lot of dating. And it looks like the sleigh they both tried not to board could send them jingling all the way to happily ever after.
Warning: Contains a feisty librarian, a boorish bear, small town politics, deer sausage, and a boy who wants a doll.
Buy links: Samhain, Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes
Book Page for Let It Snow (book one in the series)
The sleigh was, to put it mildly, a hot mess.
Half of it was rotted, all of it was rusted, and nothing remained of the cushioned seat. Technically Arthur knew how to repair it, but it was a lot of work and involved a great deal of trial and error and plenty of swearing. So much swearing that one afternoon in early November when the replacement plywood panel snapped in half yet again as they tried to wrestle it into place, Thomas said, “Son of a bitch” before Arthur could.
Arthur winced. “Sport, you can’t say son of a bitch.”
Thomas regarded him earnestly. “But you say it all the time. And fuck, and shit, and goddamn it.”
Shit. Arthur rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, but I shouldn’t. Somebody should wash out my mouth when I do.”
“Okay.” Thomas crouched and frowned at the broken panel. “It doesn’t want to bend. That’s our trouble.”
“This is truth, buddy.” Arthur nudged the broken board with a sigh. “Let’s go get hot cocoa and see if we can’t find an idea on YouTube.”
Thomas brightened. “Cocoa with marshmallows?”
Arthur ruffled his hair. “And whipped cream too, and sprinkles.”
They made their drinks and hurried into the den, closing the door before Brianna wanted to join in or Corrina gave them something additional to repair. He’d love up his niece later, but he wanted some quality time with his best boy first.
Thomas climbed into Arthur’s lap and snuggled while they waited for the computer to warm up.
“I heard you were a fix-it man for Halloween,” Arthur said.
Thomas looked Arthur in the eye. “I’m gonna be a real fix-it man someday and work with you. And I’m going to have three babies. Little girls in dresses, like Brianna and April. Maybe a boy, but I want two girls for sure.”
Arthur melted. “That’d sure be nice.”
Thomas nestled his head under Arthur’s chin. “I’m going to live with a boy when I grow up.”
This was about the third time Thomas had said this, and he knew it was going over like a lead balloon with Becky. Trouble was, Arthur still didn’t know how to respond. He did his best to play it cool. “That so?”
“Yes. Girls are gross. Boys are more fun to play with.”
Arthur couldn’t stop a smile. “Yeah, they sure are. Keep your options open though, buddy. If you still feel this way at twelve, come back to me, and we’ll have a talk.”
Thomas sat up again, worried. “I can’t talk to you before then?”
Six-year-olds, the most literal creatures on earth. “You can talk to me any time you want, Thomas. Godfathers are always on call.”
Thomas visibly relaxed. “Okay.” He bit his lip, though, and Arthur could tell he had more to say.
Arthur chucked his chin. “What’s on your mind, squirt? I can see your head spinning.”
Thomas squirmed and stared down at his jeans, picking at a hole in the knee. “I tried to take Soupy to school for show-and-tell, but Mom said no. And now Soupy is sad.”
Out of one land mine, straight into another. Because Soupy was, essentially, the Anderson family Waterloo. The doll Corrina had bought for Thomas one day when they were out in Duluth, the doll Becky hated, which meant Soupy was also the toy Thomas wanted to take everywhere he went.
Arthur cleared his throat, squelching all the things he wanted to say in favor of the things he should. He didn’t see a damn difference between playing house with a dinosaur instead of a baby, except the baby was a hell of a lot more natural. Why did Thomas have to play nurturer to monsters and animals instead of faux humans? He couldn’t say anything, though, because this was his godson and nephew, not his kid.
“I’m sorry.” He stroked Thomas’s hair and bled out at the expression in the kid’s big brown eyes. “Maybe Soupy wants to help us fix the sleigh instead.”
Thomas gave Arthur a hard glare. “Uncle Arthur, Soupy is a baby. She’s too young for tools.”
Arthur held up a hand in apology. “You’re right. My bad. Well, what does Soupy want to do?”
The hesitation should have been his warning. “She wants to take a ride in your truck. She wants to go get fries at the café.”
Fuck. Arthur frantically tried to figure out how to play this. It wasn’t that he minded taking Thomas out in public with his baby doll. It was that Becky would pitch an unholy fit if she found out. But now Arthur was trapped, because if he didn’t take Thomas and the doll for a ride, he was taking a side in the war. His mother would back him up, but it felt wrong to go against Becky’s wishes.
He decided to play the middle. “I’d love to take you and Soupy. But if I do, your mom is going to be mad at us. No getting around it. I’ll ride it out if you want me to though.” He tweaked Thomas’s nose. “Your call, squirt.”
Thomas sagged. “Soupy doesn’t like it when people yell.”
Was it bad Arthur was disappointed? “I’ll talk to your mom when she’s home from work. Maybe we can make it a special occasion. Just this one time.”
Thomas shook his head. “Let’s fix the sleigh, Uncle Arthur.”
They didn’t talk about the doll anymore, but they worked on the sleigh every night as soon as Thomas came home from school. By the eighth of November, they had the whole body repaired, and Arthur brought his mother out to the shed to show her his handiwork. “We still need to repair one last floor panel and give it a fresh coat of paint, but it’s really close. What do you think?”
Corrina clapped her hands over her cheeks and beamed at him. “Oh, Arthur, it’s perfect. It looks better than it did when I was a little girl, and you aren’t even done yet. Gabriel will love it. You’ll have to show him. I’ll bring him out for dinner sometime, and you can give him a tour.”
Arthur winced, realizing the matchmaking hadn’t died off after all. And Jesus, of all the potential dates. Gabriel. The Logan librarian, openly gay. A sweater-clad stick figure complete with plastic-rimmed glasses. A nice boy if ever there was one, and so far from Arthur’s type he’d need GPS to get home to bear country.
Corrina threw her arms around Arthur, squeezing him tight. “Thank you so much. You’re going to be the perfect Santa to Gabriel’s elf.”
Horror temporarily shut every brain circuit down, and when Arthur was able to speak, he mostly sputtered. This was ten times worse than matchmaking.
“Mom—what—are you fucking kidding—?”
Thomas popped out from behind the sleigh, his countenance grave.
“Grandma Cory, you need to wash Uncle Arthur’s mouth out with soap.”
Corrina kept smoothing out Arthur’s coat front, looking so happy she might cry. “I have it all arranged. Susan is sewing the costumes, and I have it set up for you to take driving lessons with Mr. Peterson and borrow one of his horses.
You’ll coordinate with Gabriel, of course—”
“Mom.” Arthur’s chest was tight with his need to stop this train before his mother got it up to full steam, and it took superhuman effort not to cuss. “Mom, I am not dressing up as Santa, I’m not driving a sleigh, and I’m certainly not coordinating with that—”
“Oh, Arthur. You have to play Santa. You’re perfect, and honestly, there’s no one else. Gabriel’s far too thin. Won’t you do this, sweetheart? For me? For the kids? For the library?”
Thomas stood beside them now, regarding Arthur with awe. “You’re going to play with Santa?”
Corrina crouched to Thomas’s level. “That’s right. Santa is coming to Logan.
Uncle Arthur is fixing his sleigh, and he’s going to give rides to everyone all over town.”
Thomas took Arthur’s hand, squeezing it tight. “Uncle Arthur, can I play with Santa too?”
Arthur cast a last, desperate glance at his mother, but she was too busy promising Thomas how amazing it would be to have Santa Claus giving sleigh rides in Logan.
If Arthur wanted out of this noose, he’d have to cut it on his own.
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Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and teenaged daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at http://www.heidicullinan.com.