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Second Chance Santa

Second Chance Santa

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Hilarious. Steamy. All the feels.
A picklish holiday romantic comedy from JJ Knight's bestselling Pickleverse.

When a high-powered lawyer discovers her former boyfriend and law school rival has taken a job as a mall Santa, she sneaks into the line to spy on him, kicking off a hilariously rocky second-chance romance.

Second chance at love. Late 30s couple. Surprise family. Multiple lengthy high-steam love scenes (one on the mall Santa set!)


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Book Summary

What has happened to Mack McAllister? We were law school rivals. Absolutely insane in bed. Our two-year fling ended when we graduated. He had his ambitions. I had mine.

We were going to slay the competition. Now he’s sleighing it?

When I stalk him at Riverside Mall, he looks like Santa in every way. White beard. Rosy cheeks. Kid on his knee.

But I know better. That bowl full of jelly is hiding ripped abs. I’ve been inside that suit.

Something’s happened to the Mack I knew 10 years ago.

I don’t know how he feels about me now, but there’s only one way to find out.

Get in there and jingle those bells.

Read Chapter One

24 Days to Christmas

I admit it. I look suspicious.

Of course I do. I’m a grown woman in a Santa line.


Wearing a straw hat and sunglasses.

But I can’t let Santa figure out who I am.

Several kids stare. Two mothers keep glancing my way and whispering. A lanky teen boy in an elf costume eyeballs me as if I’m a creeper after Santa’s cache of candy canes.

Or, I suppose, Santa’s personal candy cane.

He might be right.

But first, I have to get close enough to Santa to know.

It’s been more than ten years since we laid eyes on each other, but he’d recognize me. Just as I know him, despite the red suit and white beard. I’m not fooled by that bowl full of jelly. This Santa is ripped underneath that pillow.

I’ve been inside that suit.

He’s Mack McAllister. Or Mack Squared, as he was known when we were in law school together.

He was the roughest, toughest, most ambitious of us all. Everyone expected him to take on the world. And win.

But now he’s a mall Santa?

I have to see this for myself.

I shift closer to a mother with a wiggly pile of children, hoping people will assume one of them is mine. Preferably not the one picking his nose.

This isn’t quite enough to throw off the attention I’m getting. I need them to stop staring so I stay with the line until we’re closer to the front. I want to take a look in Mack’s eyes and see if I can read them like I once could.

Is he down on his luck? Burned out? Gone soft?

The line is slow. I need a decoy to buy me some time, so I kneel next to the nose picker, whose shoe is untied.

“Can I tie that for you?” I ask softly, shifting the sunglasses to the top of my hat now that I’m out of sight.

The mop-headed kid, probably about three, is busy bobbing a sucker in and out of his mouth, but he sticks his foot out. I balance precariously in my pencil skirt and heels, realizing my outfit isn’t helping my camouflage. A power suit does not blend in here. This is the land of jeans and Lululemon. I should have changed clothes prior to my expedition.

But scoping out Santa was a last-minute decision. I was idly clicking through a lawyer networking site when I got an update notification about one of my contacts. I sucked in a breath when I saw it. Mack McAllister had taken a side gig as a Santa in a mall on the outskirts of L.A., a half-hour from my office.

I immediately dialed the mall’s information desk to ask when the devastatingly handsome, rock-jawed Santa with magic fingers and a panty-melting drawl would be in the chair.

Okay, maybe I left some of those details out.

But the woman on the line knew exactly who I was talking about. “Oh, he’s very popular. He’ll be here today from one to six.”

I set down the phone. My next meeting wasn’t until four. I had time.

I told my assistant I was stepping out and raced across town, hoping that visiting Santa on a Thursday afternoon might be easier than a weekend.

I was wrong.

The line stretches around the Christmas train, designed to squeeze more dollars out of the stressed-out mothers. They are promising rides right and left if only their precious darlings will behave for a photo.

The kids are in two camps. Half of them eagerly await their shot at convincing the big guy to bring them what they want. They bounce from foot to foot, counting how many kids are in front of them and practicing their pitches.

Then there are the others. Watching kids get abandoned on the lap of a stranger in a red suit sends them into hysterics. They cry. They beg. They cling to their mothers. One or two have tried to make a run for it, only to be reeled in like oversized flounder via the leashes attached to their tiny backpacks.

My little guy is too short to see his future, so he’s fairly chill. I finish the shoelace. The mother hasn’t noticed I assisted one of her brood. The kid decides I’m all right and holds out his red sucker to offer me a lick.

“That’s sweet,” I tell him. “No, thank you.”

But this sticky-fingered Romeo doesn’t take no for an answer. He thrusts it at me again, and my peripheral vision tells me the mothers next to us think it’s adorable.

“Thank you, sweetie,” I say, hoping that sounds appropriately motherly. “It’s all yours.”

But the child squeezes his eyes shut. He shoves the sucker at me again, and his wail rises to a terrible pitch.

The mother whips her head around. “What are you doing to my Teddy?”

I stand straight up. “He just wanted—”

Another woman interrupts me. “That’s not your kid? Why were you tying his shoe?”

The mother grabs Teddy by the back of his red overalls and drags him closer to her. “Are you a child snatcher?”

“What? No?” Panic rises in me in a way I haven’t felt in years.

“Where is your kid?” another woman asks.

Uh oh. “I’m shopping,” I say, backing away. Time to go. I bump into the divider that separates the line from the mall traffic. I try to lift my leg to hop over the velvet rope, but of course, my skirt is too narrow. I teeter, my arms flailing.

“Stop her!” someone shouts. “She tried to kidnap one of the kids!”

The noise crescendos. Mothers yell. Children cry. Two elves rush my way.

I twist and fall on my butt, my shoe flying off. I crunch onto my bag and know I’ve most certainly cracked my cell phone. This stupid impulse I had keeps getting better and better.

The elves arrive, followed closely by a mall cop in a khaki uniform. He booms, “What’s going on here?”

“I fell,” I say, disentangling myself from the fallen divider with as much grace as I can muster. It’s important in this moment to stick to the facts. “I didn’t see the rope.”

The mother has Teddy in her arms. “She tried to snatch my baby!”

The security guard stares down at me with a frown. “Really? Her?”

“She—she tied his shoelace!” the other woman cries, then seems to realize how crazy that sounds and steps back to melt into the line.

I manage to scramble to my feet and locate my shoe. I slip it on as I slide my bag up my shoulder. “I did help the child tie his shoe.”

“That’s all?” the guard asks.

“That’s all,” I say firmly. If this tone works on belligerent CEOs, surely it will work on a mall cop.

An elf hands me my sunglasses, which flew off when I fell. One of the lenses is missing.

“Thank you,” I tell him, and tuck them into my purse. I take off the big hat and smooth my hair.

“Are you all right?” the guard asks.

I nod. “Just a little embarrassed.”

The crowd hangs back, other than Teddy’s mother. “What are you going to do about her? She tried to snatch my baby!” But the tone has shifted. Now she’s the one who is hard to believe.

“I’m sorry. I thought he needed help.” I’m in courtroom mode. “I have six nieces and nephews. There’s always a loose shoelace among them.”

This is a lie. I’m an only child.

But the mother backs off, now uncertain about her judgment of me.

“He’s adorable,” I add. “Reminds me so much of sweet Charlie. He’s three. Yours is close to that, right?” I pray I’m in the ballpark.

The mother frowns, clutching the boy as the elves set the rope back in place. “Three and a half.”

“Such a precious age,” I say.

“So everything’s okay?” the guard asks. “Are we good?”

“We’re good,” I say.

The mother slides into her spot in the line, gathering her children close to her. It’s over.


Clearly, my recon here is done. For good. These elves know me. The guard, too. I can’t come back. Serves me right. I chose my path with Mack a decade ago. So did he. We can’t go back on it now.

But I’m not entirely off the hook. As I turn around to head for the exit, I run smack into a red velvet coat.

I take my time looking up. He’s as tall as he ever was. And those green eyes stare into mine with a hint of amusement.

“Rory Sheffield,” he says, and the sound of my name on his lips makes me melt inside, just like it always did. “What trouble are you stirring up now?”

Well, damn. He really does know who’s been bad or good.

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