It’s a Mall World After All
by Janette Rallison
If they gave out diplomas for what you learn at the mall, Charlotte could graduate with honors. Ever since she got a job as a perfume spritzer, she’s become an expert on all things shopping related―oh, and she’s getting really good at spying on her classmates who hang out there. What she hasn’t mastered is the art of convincing her best friend Brianna to dump her boyfriend Bryant. After Charlotte caught him flirting with a mysterious, blond-haired girl, she knows he’s up to no good. Worse still, now Brianna is taking his side. Charlotte must prove who is right, once and for all, and that means catching Bryant in the act. This is where her mall roaming skills will come in handy. Perfume anyone?
Fans of Sophie Kinsella will love this book!
USA Today, bestselling author, Janette Rallison/ CJ Hill writes books because writing is much more fun than cleaning bathrooms. Her avoidance of housework has led her to writing thirty novels that have sold over 1,000,000 print copies and have been on many reading and state lists. Her books are fantasy, sci-fi, and romantic comedy because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage of humor, romance and hot guys who fight dragons. She lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric.
Bryant strode up to the Santa chair. He scowled at me, his eyes narrow and his face a blotchy red. In a low voice he said, “You just can’t mind your own business, can you? You’re some kind of freaking stalker who follows me around and sends pictures to my girlfriend. I bet you think you’re real smart, don’t you?”
I smiled back at him, refusing to be rattled. “Smarter than someone who doesn’t notice a stalker dressed in a bright red and green elf outfit.”
“You think you’ve taken Brianna away from me? This isn’t over.”
Colton turned to Bryant and still using his Santa voice—although not quite so jolly at the moment— said, “This is over for right now. My elf is busy. Go home, cool down, and we’ll talk about it later.”
Bryant threw a disgusted sneer at Colton. “Don’t tell me what to do, fat boy. This doesn’t concern you.”
Colton prodded T.J. off of his lap, stood up, and faced Bryant. He lowered his chin to let Bryant get a better look at his face.
“Stop yelling at the elves,” he said with forced humor. “Or Santa will put you on the naughty list.”
Bryant took a step toward Colton, squaring his shoulders. “Yeah, I’ll tell you what list you can put it on. You can put it on the list that you shove—”
“Bryant,” I said, “will you please just go away. You’re upsetting the children.”
Out in the audience every single eye was riveted on us. The kids had completely lost interest in their presents, and all stared at the guy who was yelling at Santa. Harris and Preeth took off in a fast pace for—I’m not sure where. They hurried into Bloomingdale’s and away from us. Maybe to call for mall security, or maybe just to avoid the ensuing bloodshed.
“Oh, you’re worried about upsetting people?” Bryant flung at me. “Too bad you never worried about upsetting me. You’re nothing but a self-righteous, two-faced, piece of—”
Colton put his hand on Bryant’s shoulder. His baritone voice had a growl to it. “Go. Home. Now.”
Bryant shrugged off Colton’s grip. “Don’t touch me. You don’t own the mall. I’ll say whatever I want to you and your little ho-ho-ho.”
“Bryant,” Colton said, and it was almost his normal voice. Bryant should have recognized him, but still didn’t. Bryant took a step toward me, but before he could reach me, Colton took hold of his arm and pulled him backward.
That’s when Bryant yelled a few words that weren’t appropriate for a room full of elementary students and swung at Colton’s face. I heard a smack and saw Colton’s head jerk back. He took a staggering step backward. His Santa hat nearly fell off, but remained attached to his wig at a drunken angle.
A collective gasp went up from the children, along with two or three shrieks from the girls sitting in the front.
And then in the next moment, Colton convinced me that wrestling is not such a useless skill after all. He grabbed Bryant’s elbow, threw his right arm over Bryant’s head, and in one swift movement pulled him over his hip and to the floor. Bryant struggled to get up, but Colton stayed on top of him, keeping him headlocked and on the ground.
Next to me T.J. let out slow breath. “Santa rocks!”
The girls in the front row clapped, and the kids in the back row all started cheering at once. Colton said something to Bryant, which made him stop struggling, but I couldn’t hear it for all of the kids applauding.
One girl said breathlessly, “I don’t care what my parents say. I’m staying up to see Santa this year.”
“Wait until my mom hears what Santa does to the people on the naughty list!” her friend replied.“
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