Only a Few
On Christmas Eve, Sandi Scott and Nick Sartorio’s worlds collide. For Nick, the chance encounter with Sandi is a holiday miracle. For Sandi, she’s convinced a man like Nick isn’t meant for a street-smart, come-from-nothing girl like her.
Nick is mesmerized by Sandi’s beautiful blue eyes, the images of her sultry lingerie, and her wise cracking gutter-mouth. But as quick as she appears in his life, she is gone, swept away by the mass of holiday travelers at the train station.
Men are Saints
The only family Sandi had growing up was her older sister, and visiting her sister and young nephew on Christmas Eve is Sandi’s main priority. But she can’t stop thinking about Nick, the guy that got away…
Until their paths collide for a second Christmas encounter, proving that Christmas magic does exists.
The New York City train station was a mass of holiday travelers on the day before Christmas. Nick gripped his carry-on bag close to his body as he weaved through the crowd. An announcement blared through the noisy station – final boarding for his train to Massachusetts. Breaking into a sprint, he dodged a family bundled in puffy parkas, side stepped an elderly woman walking with a cane, and sought any clear path to the escalator leading down to track F.
“Excuse me. Pardon me. Excuse me,” he repeated as he pushed forward.
The escalator was a few feet away when he was hit with enough force to punch the breath from his lungs and send him sprawling on the hard, dirty floor. His bag skidded across the linoleum. Dazed, he shook his head, trying to decipher what had happened. Surrounding him was a pile of feminine lingerie he’d rarely seen any of his past hook-ups wear. And next to him, moaning and clutching her head, was a woman.
“Are you okay?” he immediately asked. At the sound of his voice, her head turned and he was struck speechless. Chestnut brown hair framed an angelic face. Flawless features and eyes the color of the warmest, clearest sea stared back at him. Her beauty captivated him, drawing him away from his urgency to board the train and retrieve his bag.
Jumping to his feet, he extended his hand to the woman still on the cold floor. But the angelic face he’d witnessed a moment ago had turned hardened and angry. Her forehead was scrunched up and her eyes darted around as she scrambled on the floor attempting to gather her belongings.
Her medium sized suitcase lay wide open, its contents dumped everywhere. She shuffled around on her hands and knees, cursing and muttering. “Son of a whore monger, turd of the earth, damn that good-for-nothing peckerface! Plowing into me and dumping my freaking life all over this nasty floor and making me miss my train! Son-of-an-assclown! And on Christmas Eve!”
As Nick retrieved his bag he realized he’d just missed his train and he’d be stuck here with a horde of holiday travelers. He hoped the next departure would be soon. How he hated mass transit! He cursed his decision to ride the rails over renting a car. But he hated holiday traffic too. It was a no-win situation. People travelled on Christmas, the delays and crowds were unavoidable.
Bending down, he began to collect the woman’s belongings. She paid no attention to him as she grasped various garments and tossed them into her suitcase. No one else stopped to help. Bodies flowed past them in haste. “Mother-cocksucker!” she blasted as she retrieved a dainty red, lace bra a large boot had trampled.
Nick couldn’t help smiling. Her gutter-mouth was the perfect distraction to his delayed plans. “Thanks for being a freak on Christmas Eve!” She yelled to a young guy who whistled loudly at the sight of the red thong he’d tossed at her. He winked and blew her a kiss as he disappeared down the escalator. “Ass-face!” she hissed as she pulled her bag closer. A foot away was a black and red bungee cord. Her manicured hand snaked out and grabbed it, inches from getting stepped on by another hurried traveler. “Watch where you walk,” she bellowed.
Nick reached down and grasped something silky and delicate. What the the hell was this thing? So lacy and dainty. He shook his head, clearing the image of the body part this barely-there piece of lingerie would cover.
“Ahem,” she cleared her throat, grabbing the same piece he held.
The pink lingerie stretched between them, lacy bra cups revealed. Just when he thought he heard a tear, he dropped the delicate piece. She hurriedly tossed it in her suitcase.
Straddling the worn suitcase, she wedged it closed. Nick watched, fascinated, as she held the luggage shut with her knee and secured it with the bungee cord. No working zipper, hence her clothes flying haphazardly. Seeming satisfied, she straightened and stood, her suitcase clutched tightly in her hand.
Nick acknowledged her handiwork. “You think that will hold?” He eyed the bungee cord skeptically.
“It will have to. It’s all I have.” Her eyes finally rested on him and she tilted her head in curiosity. “I’m sorry, by the way. Are you okay?”
“Don’t worry about me,” he dismissed. “How’s your head? I saw you clutching it. Did you knock it on something?”
“Yeah, some big asshole! Guy barreled into me then took off for his track. Everyone’s in a hurry to get somewhere but that doesn’t mean he can elbow me in the head to get there.” She absently rubbed her head gingerly.
“Come, let’s get out of this busy path. What track are you headed for?” He extended his hand and shielded her from the flow of people.
“F. Doesn’t matter. I just missed my train.”
“Well, in that case, follow me. We have some time to kill.” She hesitated, giving him a long stare. Her blue eyes assessed him openly, but then she shrugged.
“Fine. I need coffee anyways,” she relented.
Nick guided her to the travel board and noted the departure time for the next train to Bayside, Massachusetts. He had an hour and fifteen minutes to kill. An hour delay shouldn’t interfere with his plans tonight. But, she was obviously upset about the schedule change.
“This can’t be happening to me! I’m screwed! Totally f-ing screwed! My sister is going to be pissed if I’m late.” She turned away from the board and ran her hands through her long hair. Stomping her feet in frustration, she spun back to the board, looked at the time again, then cursed some more. Nick noticed several people giving her wary looks as they walked past. Perhaps he should leave her to her own devices and go his own way.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I just hate travelling around the holidays and I’m on a really tight schedule. I’d be on the train now if it hadn’t been for that –“
Nick held up his hand, cutting her off. A family with small children walked by. “I know how you feel. But we missed our train and now have an hour to kill. How about we look for a place to get some coffee?”
“We?” Her eyebrow arched as she once again regarded him.
“You have other plans?” he countered.
With a resigned sigh, she pointed in the direction of Starbucks. He led, she followed. They ordered their coffees and carried them back to the main terminal, finding seats side-by-side.
“It does feel nice to sit down,” she sighed, sipping the non-fat mocha he’d treated her to.
The moment of rest allowed him to take in her overall appearance. She was stunning. He estimated her height around 5’6” or 5’7”, her age probably ranged from early to mid-twenties. Her figure was disguised under the long winter coat she wore but it was cinched tightly around her slim waist. Her long hair cascaded over her shoulders like chocolate silk. But her eyes were her most amazing feature. Expressive, fierce and strong. Her gutter-mouth was nothing compared to the icy glares she shot at passerby’s.
He couldn’t help wonder why she was so hardened. Who, or what had made her that way?
“Fuck!” she exhaled. She scrolled through her messages on her smartphone. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”
She rested her coffee cup on the armrest. Urgently, her fingers tapped a reply on her phone. When she was finished, she slipped her phone into her bag, picked up her coffee and sipped it, sliding down into her seat to stretch her legs out in front of her. Nick couldn’t help but think she was going to trip someone. She was oblivious to others around them, much like they were oblivious to her when her belongings were scattered all over the terminal floor.
“Thanks for the coffee,” she finally spoke. “By the way I’m Sandi, with an “I” in case you were wondering. And thanks again for your help earlier. And I’m sorry for slamming into you and sending you sprawling. At least your things were more secure than mine.” A slight smile touched the edges of her lips. The intriguing, beautiful, gutter-mouth girl had a soft side to her as well.
“You’re welcome and again, don’t worry about it. I guess we’re in this together now.”
She raised her fist to him and he hesitated a second until he realized she was giving him knuckles. “It’s you and me, um..”
“Nick,” he interjected.
“It’s you and me, Nick. Bayside or bust. May we have smooth travels from this point forward.” The hardness he’d seen in her eyes softened and again a hint of a smile teased the corners of her lips. Her tough exterior was an act?
“Bayside? You too? What part? North Side?” He hadn’t expected her to be headed to his hometown, Bayside, Massachusetts.
Her cool, blue eyes raked over him, taking in his leather boots, dark khaki chinos, and vintage twill mountain jacket. “You’re definitely North side. Even if you’re going to tell me you’re headed to South Side, I won’t believe it. You won’t fit in looking like an Abercrombie model.”
An Abercrombie model? He hadn’t realized he looked the part. Or was she being sarcastic and insulting? She confused him but her directness was refreshing. Too often he’d fall into conversations with women who put up pretenses, pretending to be someone they weren’t. Sandi spoke her mind and he appreciated her frankness.
“Well, it so happens that I am going to South Side,” he replied, bracing for her reaction.
Her eyes lit up and she slapped her knee in disbelief. “No freaking way! Rich, wealthy – so not South Side. You’re definitely Wall Street, Ivy League. Let me guess, you went to prep school too? Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll kiss you,” she challenged.
Then her face flushed and he couldn’t help noticing the surprise and annoyance that crossed her pretty features. “You’re partially wrong and partially right,” he teased. He shifted his body toward hers and noted the way her eyes darted down to assess the distance between their bodies. It was a scant inch or two.
“I’m not Wall Street but I am former prep school. Saint Christopher’s Academy,” he confided.
“I knew it! I knew you were a rich kid. You’re so clean cut and proper looking. Men these days don’t value their looks as much as they should. You’re obviously maintaining yourself very well.” Again, a rosy blush tinted her cheeks and neck. The inward angel was becoming quite outspoken.
“Is that a bad thing?” He’d grown up in prep schools and always had to maintain an impeccable appearance. Scuffed shoes and stubble on his chin were never allowed.
“No, it’s not a bad thing.” Her gaze shifted to his hand, and his to hers. No wedding rings.
He focused on her. “So, what’s bringing you to Bayside? Home for the holidays?”
She drew her coffee cup to her lips and her gaze settled on the people hurrying back and forth in front of them. “Something like that.”
She didn’t like the focus on her either? He understood. But he wanted to know more about her.
She’d retrieved her phone from her bag and angrily scrolled through it. Her face bunched up and her fingers jabbed at the screen. He didn’t want to stare but even when he tried to look away, he was compelled to watch her. Thankfully, she was so caught up in her own world she wasn’t aware of his attention.
Nature called. He didn’t want to leave her side, certain his seat would be occupied by the time he returned. The station was packed and seating was limited. Any sane man would claim a seat beside her if given the chance. He held out for another minute.
“You live in Bayside or just visiting?” He wanted to know something personal about her other than her name was Sandi with an “I”. A small sound escaped her mouth but her attention didn’t shift from her phone. He repeated the question, a little louder.
“Huh?” Her distracted gaze rested on him, then darted around the station, then back to him.
“You live in Bayside?” he asked for the third time.
“Oh, no.” She turned back to her cell phone.
This was going nowhere. He stood and gathered his bag.
“I’m off to the men’s room. If I don’t see you later, have a safe trip and a nice holiday.” She drew in her legs and sat up straight, looking a bit puzzled as she turned her head up to him. Her cell phone rang and she answered it quickly. He gave a slight wave and waited a second before turning away. She mouthed “thank you” to him and held up her hand, her slim fingers waving goodbye.
Disappointed, Nick turned to find the men’s room, but he wasn’t out of earshot before he heard a male voice ask, “Is this seat taken?”
Elena Andrews’ Run Like Hell is a spectacular debut. Suspenseful, with beautifully drawn characters– this is a wonderful new voice in fiction! – Heather Graham, New York Times Best-Selling Author