This is a short story set before the first book in the series.
Merry Christmas, y'all!
All I Want for Christmas
A Demon Trappers® Short Story
Chilly December weather drove Riley Blackthorne inside the Grounds Zero. Of course, she never needed an excuse to visit the one coffee shop that served the best hot chocolate in Atlanta. Since they were offering half-price drinks, the place was bustling on Christmas Eve.
Not everyone was enjoying the season: the barista behind the counter was dressed like one of Santa’s elves. What guy could be taken seriously wearing a red felt hat, pointed ears, a green tunic and red sparkly tights?
Riley barely stifled a smirk as she ordered her drink. Fortunately her job didn’t require such silly attire. Mostly she went for the stained T-shirt, ripped blue jeans look because after trapping a few demons the clothes were pretty much trashed.
When the “elf” returned with her drink, it was perfect: a cup full of dark rich goodness topped with real whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
“Thanks.” She eyed the costume again. “That has to be awful. Sorry.”
“Better than Valentine’s Day,” he said, taking her money. “I had to dress as Cupid. The wings kept falling off.”
As Riley walked toward her favorite booth at the back of the shop, she caught snippets of the other patrons’ conversations about Christmas shopping expeditions, company parties and family gatherings.
But not for us.
The Blackthorne family was just her and her dad now. Her mother had died a few years back and there were no close relatives other than a disagreeable aunt on her mom’s side, the one Riley couldn’t stand. Neither could her father, so it was just the two of them.
Riley settled herself in the booth, laying her cell phone on the table. She examined her perfect hot chocolate and then sighed. Christmas used to be a joyous time. Her mom would bake her special chocolate mint cookies, they’d go shopping and watch cheesy Christmas movies together. It was a family thing, one she’d taken for granted.
Now her dad would work tonight and on Christmas to try to pay the bills. Riley would be alone. Even going to the Demon Trapper’s holiday party wasn’t an option. The last thing she wanted to do was to hang around a bunch of drunken dudes who’d make jokes about her chest.
“This sucks,” she said under her breath.
After a test sip of the hot chocolate, she ripped a clean page from her notebook and dug a pen out from the bottom of her messenger bag. After some thought, she began a letter.
Dear Santa Claus,
This was majorly humiliating. She wasn’t eight anymore. Still, if it worked it’d be worth it. Riley gritted her teeth and continued the letter.
Hi. I’m Riley Blackthorne and I know it’s kind of weird for someone like me to write you, but it is almost Christmas and I need some help here. I figured you are the “go to” guy.
She gnawed on the pen for a moment and added:
Is it true about the “see you while you’re sleeping” thing? If it is, has anyone told you that’s way creepy?
Anyway, I’m an apprentice in the Atlanta Demon Trappers Guild. I’m the only girl and they hate me for it. I live in this way small apartment. Money is tight, so first thing I’d like to ask for is:
Please help my dad trap more demons, then we’d be better at paying our bills. But none of the really nasty ones because they scare me, okay?
Also, dad needs a warm sweater and a new coat. A heavy one so he doesn’t freeze when he’s out late at night. No socks, please. I got those covered. Oh, and he loves Civil War books so if you have any of those laying around the workshop send them down.
“As if this guy is really going to deliver the goods,” she whispered to herself.
I have a lot of things I want, but I figure you can’t bring my mom back so I better stick to the things you can do. Some lip gloss would be cool. I really love the Blessedly Burgundy stuff because it's awesome. Some jeans without holes would be good.
But mostly I need you to get my life back on track. I mean I’m supposed to be dating and having fun but instead all I do is go to school, worry about money and get laughed at by dumb guys. I checked: these are supposed to be my best years. They SHOULD NOT SUCK.
So get this fixed, will you? Because if you don’t I’m not going to leave those yummy chocolate chip cookies out for you ever again.
Not bad for a first draft. Maybe a bit whiny, but after the year she’d had no one could say she was being a drama queen. Maybe the threat of withholding the cookies was a bit severe, but she had to let the Claus guy know she was serious.
Riley jumped when her cellphone pinged. It was a text from her father.
WANT A REFILL?
“What?” That didn’t make any sense. Unless. . . She raised her eyes and found her dad in the line at the counter. He grinned at her and waved, causing her cheeks to flame.
What is it with parents? Have they no social skills?
I’M GOOD, she typed in reply before he did anything more to embarrass her.
“What’s he doing here?” The last she’d heard her father was at Turner Field trapping a Grade Three, one of the omnivorous eat-everything-in-sight kind of demons. Considering he was in a good mood, that trapping must have gone well.
Riley brightened up. Any time spent with her dad was good, even if it was in a coffee shop. She tracked him as he walked toward her. As usual he wore jeans, a sweatshirt, an old coat and carried a trapping bag full of supplies. His brown hair was mussed, but it was always that way. Before the schools went bankrupt, Paul Blackthorne used to be a history teacher. Now he was a master demon trapper, one of the best in the business.
As he set the white ceramic coffee cup on the table and took his place opposite her, he checked out the piece of paper. "Math homework?"
"No," she said. Why hadn’t she hidden it? Riley placed her cup and saucer in the middle of the text to try to obscure it.
“Love letter?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
That earned him a frown. “No boyfriend, remember?”
“Only temporary I’m sure.” Then he blinked in surprise. She should have remembered he’d always been good at reading upside down. It was a teacher thing.
“A letter to Santa?" he asked, bewildered.
Riley shrugged. "Figured it couldn't hurt."
“Maybe this will help.” He dug into his coat pocket and pulled out a small package. It had reindeer wrapping paper and a tiny red bow.
"Merry Christmas, Pumpkin,” he said, using her least favorite nickname. “There’s another present in the car, but we’ll save that until tomorrow morning.”
“Ah, yours is under the bed,” she admitted. It wasn’t like four pairs of socks were going to take that long to wrap.
Riley carefully removed the bow and the paper, saving them for reuse. She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping for something cool.
Inside the box was two tubes of the lip gloss. Yeah, that’s cool alright. She beamed. "You rock, you know that?"
Her father matched her smile. "Of course I do. So what else did you want for Christmas?"
She could think of tons of presents she’d love: a new coat, one of those incredibly soft sweaters she’d seen in a shop window, a new computer, maybe even a new apartment that wasn’t the size of an airplane toilet.
Riley shoved all those aside. “I want to spend more time with you. I miss you, Dad. You’re gone too much.”
He didn’t reply as he stared into his coffee cup, face pensive.
“I’m getting better at catching the little demons. Well, sorta.” Most of the time they got away from her, but they were smart and quick and cheated a lot. “Come on, let me go with you more often, okay?”
“It’s not been a good year for us, has it?” he murmured, avoiding the question.
She shook her head, but refused to be deterred. “So how about it?”
Before he could answer his phone erupted into The Hallelujah Chorus. He gave her a why do you do this to me? frown because she’d been screwing with his ringtones again. “Blackthorne. Sure. Where is it? Okay, I’ve got it.” A pause. “Thanks. Merry Christmas!”
He drained his coffee and rose from the booth. She could tell from his expression he was going on a run and he wouldn’t be taking her with him. It was like he thought she wasn’t good enough.
“Come on, drink your hot chocolate. We need to hit the road,” he urged.
Her heart sank. He was going to drop her at the apartment. Then he’d stay out all Christmas Eve.
“That’s okay,” she said, shaking her head. No way she wanted to be at home on her own right now. “I’ll catch a bus.”
“You’re not coming with me on the trapping run?” he asked.
She jerked her head up.
“It’s a Grade One demon, a Biblio-Fiend,” he explained, that twinkle in his eyes again. “We can work on your trapping technique. After we’re done, we’ll swing home, get cleaned up and go over to Master Stewart’s for supper.”
“Supper?” This was the first she’d heard of this.
“Angus has promised us there’ll be roast turkey, mince pie and some excellent scotch.” Her father winked at her. “Will you act as designated teen and drive your old man home if he gets too tipsy?”
It hit her what he’d said. “You’re taking the night off?” That almost never happened.
“And tomorrow too,” he said thoughtfully. “I want to be with my daughter. You won’t be seventeen forever.”
Riley’s eyes teared before she could stop them. That was better than any gift in the whole world. Even the lip gloss.
She sucked down the last of the hot chocolate in a rush, which would constitute a crime in any other situation. Then she crumbled up the letter and dropped it into her bag. She didn’t need it anymore.
I have what I want most for Christmas. I’ll be with my dad.
But what if Santa Claus really had been listening?
Ah, hey, so you know, I was just kidding about the cookies. Honest.
© 2012 Jana Oliver
Demon Trappers® is a registered trademark of Jana G. Oliver
All Rights Reserved.
is an international & multi award-winning author in various genres including young adult, urban fantasy and paranormal romance.