Sugarplum: Canine Christmas

B.J. McCall
Available from Changeling Press

"How's Phil?"

Joy Kingston took a sip of her latte. Joy and her best friends, Karin Taylor and Michelle Ames, were taking a break from Christmas shopping at the mall coffee house. "He dumped me."

Karin's blue eyes widened. "He what?"

Michelle gasped. "He didn't?"

"He did. He called last night. It's over."

"A week before Christmas!" Karin shook her head. "That's cruel."

"Bastard!" Michelle hadn't cared much for Phil.

Joy wasn't sure which was more upsetting, admitting another relationship had failed or Phil's parting words. Joy decided it was the latter. "He said now that he's decided to take a permanent position in Boston, a long distance relationship is impractical."

"Impractical?" Karin's eyes narrowed. "That's what he said?"

"Ever the accountant," Michelle chimed in, shoving a lock of honey-blonde hair out of her eyes.

Karin reached out and placed her hand over Joy's. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

"I'm okay." Joy knew Phil wasn't the one and breaking up was for the best. "I cared for Phil, but I wasn't crazy-in-love with him."

"The new year is right around the corner. You'll find a new man to be crazy-in-love with," Michelle said.

Heartbroken she wasn't, but the big three-O birthday was Christmas day and she was still single. Michelle was married to a wonderful man and Karin was engaged, wedding in June.

Joy was letting a number get to her. So what if she was thirty and single? She'd live, but she didn't want to be alone, not for her thirtieth birthday.

Karin leaned forward and whispered, "Now that you and Phil are split, tell me how was he in bed?"

"Exactly like you'd expect an accountant to be, predictable, repetitive and methodical. His underwear has numbers on them."

Karin snorted, almost blowing the latte cream out her nose. "Maybe losing him wasn't such a bad thing?"

"You think?" Michelle said.

"Okay, Phil wasn't Mr. Forever, but my birthday celebration in Boston isn't going to happen and I'm stuck with a non-refundable plane ticket."

"Oh nooo! The big one," Karin said.

"Yeah. I'm going to be thirty in six days." Joy saw the panic in her friends' faces. They were both going away for Christmas, Michelle to her in-laws in Texas and Karin to her future in-laws in Florida. Joy's parents were on a cruise. Her older twin brothers were in the military and stationed overseas. Since she had no sisters, Joy had bonded with Michelle and Karin at the age of twelve. They'd been her best friends ever since. "Don't worry. I'll survive."

"We can't leave you alone," Michelle said. "Not on your big birthday."

Karin shook her head. "We've always been together for the holiday. It's not right."

Joy's mother and friends had always wrapped her birthday presents in flowery paper with bright purple ribbons and her Christmas presents in paper with snowmen and reindeers. Her habit was to unwrap her Christmas presents in the morning and her birthday presents later in the day. Over the years their efforts had made her birthday special while most of her relatives, including her father and her brothers, chose to lump her presents together.

"Don't even think about changing your plans." Joy knew she'd reached a moment in her life that demanded action. "Maybe it's time I did something outrageous for my birthday. Something wild."

"Wild?" Michelle looked at Karin. "Did she say wild?" Michelle shook her head. "Joy, you're not the wild type."

Now Joy was more determined to do something outrageous. "Whatever you've purchased for my birthday, take it back. I want something that will destroy the memory of Phil forever."

"I don't like where this is going," Karin said.

"I want a man for my birthday. I want sex. Not ordinary Phil sex, but passionate, curling-my-toes sex."

Michelle choked on her chai tea. "You want us to hire a male hooker? You're a legal assistant, isn't hiring sexual services against the law?"

"Not a hooker, a volunteer. Finding a man who likes sex shouldn't be that difficult. You don't want me to spend my big birthday alone, right?"

Her friends nodded.

"So find me a man." Excitement shot through Joy. Her blood was singing. Phil was history and the one guy she wanted… That wasn't eever going to happen. Thinking about Jake McCabe just made her heart hurt. It was time to take a walk on the wild side. "I want a guy wearing a big purple Happy Birthday bow around his neck at exactly midnight. I want him for twenty-four hours, and get me someone imaginative and untamed."

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