room. “Stop jumping! I do not need another trip to the emergency room! Santa is watching you!” She returned to the phone. “I need a break. You up for a late night Christmas shopping run once Joe gets home?”
Samantha went back to her unicorn, erasing the stubble. It was just as ridiculous as the rest of her life.
~ ~ ~
That night Samantha braved the Mega Toy Crazy store with her sister.
“It’s a special two-hour sale,” Lucia said as she maneuvered into a parking space. “Come on! Our mission is Violet. I heard they just got a fresh stock of them.”
Lucia leaped out of the car, surprisingly agile for a pregnant woman battling morning sickness, and was already halfway to the entrance when Samantha broke into a run to catch up to her.
So much for a sisterly heart-to-heart about men , Samantha thought wryly. Lucia had vented the entire drive about her pregnancy fatigue and nausea, and how she was sure Gabriella was acting out because she knew she wasn’t going to be number one anymore.
She followed Lucia to where a mob was swarming the doll section. Samantha stayed back. The fluorescent lights overhead combined with the crowd and “Feliz Navidad” blasting over the speakers made her want to run screaming out of the store. What in the world was so great about a Violet doll? She waited while the voices rose and fell as people jostled each other to get the coveted doll. A few people emerged triumphant, and then Lucia appeared, Violet doll hugged close, guarding against a possible dollnapping from another insanely eager parent.
Lucia beamed. “I got it!”
The doll wore a violet dress, violet shoes, and had huge violet eyes. Kinda creepy, actually. At least her hair was brown, not violet.
“What’s so special about…” Samantha’s voice died in her throat. Rico was heading right for her, Violet doll tucked under one arm like a football. “It’s him,” she said under her breath to Lucia.
“Him who?” Lucia asked loudly.
“Hey,” Rico said, stopping in front of her. He smelled like musk and leather, and her knees weakened.
“Hey,” Samantha croaked. She cleared her throat. “This is my sister, Lucia. Lucia, Rico.”
Rico shook her hand. “Nice to meet you. Looks like we both came out victorious.”
“It was close.” Lucia grinned. “Luckily I elbowed my way in there.”
“Why are you buying a Violet doll?” Samantha asked Rico.
Was this another one of his strange things? Had he followed her here because of some movie? A chill ran down her spine. Was he a stalker?
Rico smiled sheepishly. “My sister asked me to get it for my niece Sophia. They’re sold out in Florida.”
They stared at each other, right there in the middle of Mega Toy Crazy, with parents buzzing all around. You can’t win me over , she told him telepathically. No matter how good a kisser you are.
“I’ll, just, ah, do a little shopping,” Lucia said, scampering off. She called over her shoulder, “Meet me at the register!”
“Okay,” Samantha called.
“Samantha,” Rico said.
The way he said her name sounded like a melody. Most people called her plain old Sam.
“What?” she asked, reaching for strength against his obvious charms. This was exactly why he was a player. Women fell for that stuff. She was stronger than that.
He took her hand and pulled her away from the crowd. He looked so strange in this environment with his black leather jacket and worn jeans like a motorcycle-riding badass. Behind him were pink and sparkly princess dress-up clothes.
“I meant what I said the other night,” he said urgently. “You’re not like those other girls, like Jolene, just out for a good time. That’s what makes you special.”
“But what about you? You are like them, out for a good time. Aren’t you? If your mother hadn’t set it up, you never would have asked someone like me out.”
“I don’t want to be one of your long list of