The sexy, smoldering “Bachelor Firemen” of San Gabriel were usually seen in turnouts, SGFD t-shirts, or without any shirts at all. But on a day shortly before Christmas, Station 1 was awash with Santa gear as the firefighters competed for a role only one could play.
“Why shouldn’t a woman be Santa? We’ve never had a female Santa.” Sabina Jones wore a Santa hat that kept falling over one eye, probably because it belonged to her husband, Chief Roman, who had the build of a gladiator.
“Only one person here has the belly to be Santa.” Double D patted his stomach, which always grew a few inches around the holidays, what with all the baked goods the citizens of San Gabriel kept dropping off at the firehouse.
“Santa Claus isn’t about the belly.” Vader, the fittest guy on the crew, shouldered his way to the front of the small knot of firefighters. “It’s about personality. Kids love me. I’m like a superhero to them. Fire-Man to the rescue.” He struck a pose, his open Santa jacket exposing his bulging muscles.
Fred Breen snorted. “Santa isn’t a superhero, Vader. He’s the spirit of Christmas, meaning peace and joy and giving. I should play Santa. I get along great with kids. For six years I played an elf in the San Gabriel Christmas pageant. Beat that, superhero.”
“Then again, Santa is called Father Christmas, and I’m the only father here,” said Captain Brody proudly. As the first Bachelor Fireman to tie the knot, he savored his new role as dedicated family man.
“Fine, pull the Dad card,” grumbled the station heartthrob, Ryan Blake. “I’m the one who should be Santa, because I never had a decent Christmas in my life before I came here.”
“Hey, if that’s the standard, I’m your front-runner,” said Dean Mulligan, the newest member of the crew. “But I’m not in the running,” he added quickly. “Unless you want to scare kids away from the fire truck. Then I’m your man.” No one argued with that. Mulligan’s broken nose and tough guy attitude were catnip to the ladies, but probably wouldn’t make for the best Santa.
photo credit: Bill Bailey, The Calhoun Chronicle
“This is ridiculous,” declared Sabina. “While we’re standing here arguing, who’s going to pack all the gifts into the rig? Or string the twinkle lights? Or hang the wreath on the front of the engine? The truck has to be ready to roll by six.” Their traditional delivery of Christmas gifts to families across San Gabriel was scheduled for that evening. The crew had been collecting presents for weeks, and the community had been pitching in with enthusiastic generosity. Everyone loved the Holiday Fire Truck — perhaps the crew most of all.
“Brody, you decide,” said Fred. “We’ll go with whoever you say.”
Amid a chorus of agreement, Brody surveyed the firefighters, with their motley array of Santa adornments. “Hmmm … well, it’s a tough choice. I know you’d all make great Santas. You’re all kind, you’re all generous, you’re all good-hearted. But since we can only have one Santa, I’m going to say—”
“Ho ho ho!” A booming voice interrupted Brody. A huge, broad, white-bearded man strode into the training room. He wore a red velvet suit with white trim – classic Santa attire. A profusion of white hair covered most of his face, and a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles balanced on his nose. “Merry Christmas!”
The crew stood frozen to the spot. No one seemed to recognize this Santa. Stan the Dog zipped out of the captain’s office, where he’d been napping. Overcome with excitement, he jumped up and down on his hind legs, a trick no one had ever seen him do before. They all watched in amazement. When they looked up from the little beagle, the strange Santa had disappeared.
“Was that Joe the Toe?” Mulligan asked, referring to a fireman at the Porter Ranch station. “He’s the only guy I know that size.”
“Pretty good makeup job it if was,” said Vader.
Brody shook off the spell. “Come on, let’s catch up to him. He strode down the corridor, the others following in his wake. When he reached the entrance to the apparatus bay, where the pumper, truck and engine were housed, he stopped short. The others piled up behind him. “What the …?”
Engine 1 radiated color cast from twinkle lights that outlined every door, every compartment, every sleek line of the rig. Soft pools of glowing light, orange and red and green, filled the garage. Fresh pine scented the space — thanks to the giant wreath adorning the engine’s grille. And inside …
The firefighters ran to the engine door and peered inside at piles of brightly wrapped presents of every size and shape, wrapped in gold or green paper with red velvet bows, with shrink-wrapped candy canes sprinkled here and there.
“Wow,” breathed Vader.
“Who did this?” Fred whirled around. “”Where’d that Santa go? I was in here half an hour ago and this rig was empty.”
“I bet Porter Ranch sent a whole crew over here to do this. That must have been Joe the Toe,” said Ryan Blake.
They all ran into the street, while Vader called Joe on the phone. “Joe’s with his family in Boston,” he informed the crew. “Everyone spread out. We have to find that Santa!”
But as hard as they looked, no one ever saw any sign of the huge man in the Santa suit. No other station in town – and no other fire department in Southern California – ever confessed to the deed.
But the children of San Gabriel had a wonderful holiday season, as did the Bachelor Firemen. When the crew spoke of it in later years, it was in hushed tones, and with the general agreement that it had definitely, without a doubt, been the best firehouse Christmas prank ever.
Unless it wasn’t …
Hard-edged fireman Dean Mulligan has never been a big fan of Christmas. Twinkle lights and sparkly tinsel can’t brighten the memories of too many years spent in ramshackle foster homes. Although he’s established himself as one of the top firefighters at San Gabriel Station 1, he doesn’t think he’s good enough for someone like gorgeous Lizzie.
Lizzie Breen is used to fighting—from her alpha male brothers who try to smother in the name of safety to the childhood life-threatening illness she overcame. She knows what she and Mulligan feel for each other is a lot more than a fling, but she can’t get him to see that. The only gift Lizzie wants to give him this season is her love, but he’s not willing to accept it.
When Mulligan is trapped in the burning wreckage of a holiday store, a Christmas angel arrives to open his eyes. But is it too late? This Christmas, it’ll take an angel, a determined woman in love, and the entire Bachelor Firemen crew to make him believe … it is indeed a wonderful life.
Winner’s choice of any of the Bachelor Firemen books (print or download),
along with a Bachelor Firemen Christmas mug
Jennifer Bernard is the USA Today bestselling author of the Bachelor Firemen of San Gabriel series. A graduate of Harvard and a former news promo producer. The child of academics, she confounded her family by preferring romance novels to any other books. She left big city life for true love in Alaska, where she now lives with her husband and stepdaughters. She’s no stranger to book success, as she also writes erotic novellas under a naughty secret name not to be mentioned at family gatherings.
Besides reading, writing and living romance, another passion is Ashtanga yoga. She practices daily, and has traveled to Thailand, India and Hawaii to learn from the best teachers on the planet. Other than that, she love hiking, meditating, hazelnut chocolate, the children she is graced to have in her life