Fueled by Imagination!


April Deals

Only 2 more days to get this book for $0.99. Price will go up April 3rd to $3.99 E-Book FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

99-preorderBandits, Broads & Dirty Dawgs (Adult).

It is a comedy of errors when two bumbling kidnappers kidnap the wrong women in this sequel to The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls. Will they get what’s coming to them or will they find out messing with a felon’s fiancée and fiery mistress is more trouble than it is worth?

Throw in four rascally seniors, a donkey race, an irate felon, a double dealing coyote, and a run for the border with a cool three million in the back of a pickup truck, and you’ve got a roller coaster ride of laughs and adventures.

Haven’t read the first book? Don’t worry, you can read this story as a standalone.

Read more on Amazon.com


The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls – $1.99 US – check it out HERE. 

(Sale of Silver Spurs is on Amazon.uk on April 24th – 30th)

The Thin Line of Reason – a paranormal thriller – $0.99 US – check it out HERE


The Dastardly Mr. Deeds – Book 2 in The Gumboot & Gumshoe Series – $0.99 US – check it out HERE






On writing equine novels – an interview

Where it all started: from my love of horses to what inspired me to start writing. In this interview with Carly Kade (Author Spotlight at Carly Kade Creative), I share a lot about my life, and how my life’s journey and the people and animals I shared it with inspired me to begin writing The Holiday Series of Middle Grade/family stories. I also cover how that morphed into a love for cozy mysteries and comedy. I hope you find something of interest to inspire you to begin your writing career. https://www.carlykadecreative.com/blog/episode-68-on-the-holiday-horse-book-series-writing-across-genres-using-comedy-with-laura-hesse-equestrian-author-spotlight-podcast

NEW RELEASE – Now on Pre-Order


What do a bumbling set of bandits and a backstabbing coyote have in common? The took on the wrong wily old ladies in the sequel to The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls!

In this funny caper gone wrong, Sylvie and Mary, take on the role of a felon’s fiancee and girlfriend in order to outwit two young men who think they’re going to strike it rich. Will the kidnappers get what’s coming to them or did they bite off more than they can handle?

Comedy. Action. Drama. This rollicking funny western drama-edy is edgy and naughty. A great read of you are a fan of Twin Peaks, Fargo, and Mel Brooks comedies.

NOW Available in Audio Book!

A dead guy, a Saint Bernard and an old lady walk into an outhouse – okay two out of three do!

The Montana family just wanted to save their ranch!

They thought they were opening up their sprawling ranch house and their stables to four retired cowgirls and their horses. Turns out three of the four women aren’t cowgirls at all, and their horses aren’t either.

And then there is the cheating husband that came along for the ride.

The word ‘baggage’ just got a whole new meaning.

If you think senior living means the party is over, then you haven’t spent a night at the Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls where romance is in the air and flirting with another woman’s man can be murder. Do you know what your grandmother is up to?

Now available in Audio Book:  Audible.com  Audible.ca  Audible.UK Audible.DE Audible.AU

Valentine’s Day Deals on Amazon

February 6 – 10th – FREE

Book Six: The Unicorn Wears Red

A Valentine’s Day children’s fantasy for unicorn lover. Gus and Jessie, embark on a perilous adventure to save Gus’ lost love from the evil sorceress, Morgana, in this Valentine’s Day love story of good vs evil suitable for ages 4 and up. Currently available in print, e-book and audio book.

The Unicorn Wears Red Audio book: The Unicorn Wears Red audio book is a fast paced bedtime short story complete with sound effects.

Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.uk  Amazon.australia

February 5 – 12th – $1.99

Only on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK only. FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

Valentino: A Stand Alone Story – Inspired by a true story (YA, Teen, Adult).

A blind girl and a Haida boy are stranded on opposite sides of a desolate island in the middle of winter. While the Native boy has a wealth of knowledge and Haida heritage to draw on, the blind girl must rely on her guide dog and an abandoned horse to help her survive.

Inspired by the true story of the horse that got left behind on Jedidiah Island when it was donated to B.C. Parks and a woman who survived for ten days after being shipwrecked on a remote coastline in Haida Gwaii. Available in print, e-book and audio book.

Read more on Amazon.com  Amazon.UK 

“A beautifully written, enthralling book.” Canadian Horse Journals. READ the full interview at The Canadian Horse Journals.

Bandts, Broads & Dirty Dawgs – News

In the Spring of 2021 – stay tuned for the sequel to The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls!

Readers asked for it and I heard you!

Bandits, Broads & Dirty Dawgs – coming soon to Amazon for Pre-Order. Watch here for details on pre-ordering Book Two in The Silver Spurs Series. Initial price will be just $0.99. Expected pre-order date of March 1st and release date of April 1st.

It’s more fun, more adventure, and more shenanigans with the crazy ladies at The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls.

Here is just a short preview of what is to come.

Bandits, Broads & Dirty Dawgs Copyright 2021 Laura Hesse


If I’m feeling sexy, I’ll put on some heels – if that makes me a little taller than you, so be it. You have to be secure enough to stand next to a stallion.

Keri Hilson

Zoe Puddicombe raced along the highway in her little black convertible BMW heading to the penitentiary some seventy-five miles from The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls where she now resided with her Andalusian stallion, Zippo, and her filly, Extravaganza. The multi-divorcee and widow didn’t mind living with the Montana family. Sam Montana was a stud; unfortunately, he was still in love with his deceased wife and possibly the sultry redhead named Sylvie O’Hara. He thought that his starry love struck gaze had gone unnoticed, but it hadn’t.

Zoe had to confess she liked the brazen outspoken woman with whose husband she had an affair, but that was when she thought Sylvie was an invalid. The jury was out on how long Sylvie actually was immobile from a life changing stroke.

Sylvie’s husband was a rascal. He even brought his mistress along when the O’Haras arrived from Virginia. It was a toss up as to who killed him, even though Sylvie confessed. Zoe still believed that Maggie had done him in.

Zoe wasn’t one to hold a grudge and wished Sylvie the best of luck with Sam. At their age, there weren’t many single men to choose from and Sam Montana was a catch; although, since the body of Cade O’Hara had never been found, technically Sylvie was still married.

Zoe glanced in the rear view mirror.

“Damn you,” she swore as she saw the white dually pass the family in the minivan behind her.

Behind the wheel of the big truck was her nemesis, Maggie Carroll, her cocoa colored skin and mass of raven hair a stark contrast to Zoe’s pale skin and short white spikes that she had tipped with blue that morning. The blue accented the delicate peacock feather earrings brushing softly against Zoe’s long aristocratic neck.

“You are not going to get there first,” she seethed, her brown eyes flashing with anger.

Zoe stepped on the pedal. The beamer shot forward.

Behind her, Maggie followed suit. The big diesel engine bucked, the truck built for towing, not racing with a finely tuned sports car.

Zoe smiled crookedly as she saw Maggie grit her teeth and pound her hands in frustration on the steering wheel as Zoe steadily increased the distance between them.

In truth, they weren’t enemies, these two senior women, they were competitors.

Five months ago, the pair had made a deal: whoever got to the prison first, got to see Tommy first. A game of rock, paper, scissors, decided who got conjugal rights when it was allowed. It wasn’t that Tommy was a dream come true or even that he was particularly handsome, but a woman had needs, whatever their age, and Tommy fulfilled both Zoe’s and Maggie’s needs at regular intervals without the ladies having to make a lifelong commitment. It suited all concerned or so they thought.

They had met Tommy Cortez after his plane went down in the mountains close to the Montana’s ranch. A huge manhunt had ensued. Tommy was a wanted felon – drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder. He had retired but that didn’t matter to the law. Justice had been swift. The ladies pounced on the opportunity.

The sheriff’s brown and white Suburban passed her going in the other direction.

“Damn it,” Zoe swore, glancing in the rear view mirror as the sheriff came to a screeching halt and spun the SUV around, red and white lights flashing.

Behind her, the minivan with the family of five in it and Maggie in the one ton dually pickup truck pulled over to let the sheriff pass.

“Darn. Darn. Darn. Darn,” the seventy-three year-old woman fumed.

Zoe pulled over to the side of the road, the sheriff pulling his vehicle in behind her. She rolled down the window and waited for her just desserts.

She could argue the ticket and turn on the charm, but that would take time. If she burned rubber, she still might be able to beat Maggie to the prison. The best recourse was to plead guilty and be done with it. What was the worst that could happen? Her insurance would go up and she’d lose some points on her driver’s license? She had dressed up for nothing? Ugh. Decisions, decisions, she groaned inwardly.

“Mrs Puddicombe, you got a fire to put out,” Sheriff Cole Train drawled as he leaned in the window.

Maggie drove by slowly, a cat that ate the cream grin on her face. She waved regally and pulled away.

“I hate that woman,” Zoe spat. “She’s never going to let me live this down.”

“What woman,” the clean shaven good natured sheriff asked.

“Maggie,” Zoe simmered.

“Ah, you ladies are off to see Cortez again,” Cole grinned, noticing the white dually accelerating up the highway. “What’s the appeal? Bad boys and ugly dudes simply turn you on?”

“Oh, Cole,” Zoe rolled her eyes and shook her head in exasperation. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re a handsome young man with a pretty sweetheart and your whole life ahead of you. Once you get to my age you realize that all men are ugly so you may as well choose one that adds a little spice to your trysts.”

Cole roared with laughter, his grey eyes twinkling.

Cole reminded Zoe of a young Matt Damon. He was handsome in that boy next door sort of way.

“I have to give you a ticket, Mrs Puddicombe,” he said, writing her up. “Next time, either leave a little earlier, lock Miss Carroll in her room, or better yet, find someone else better suited for a spicy tryst. I suggest you come to the next barn dance, I can think of a few fellas there who would be happy to accommodate you.”

Zoe snorted in disdain as she plucked the ticket from Cole’s outstretched hand.

“See you Sunday,” the sheriff grinned as he walked away.

It was starting to get annoying having the law over for dinner every Sunday, but then the sheriff was dating Stacey Montana so there was nothing she could do about it.

Zoe waved to the sheriff as she pulled sedately back onto the highway. Cole waved back and followed behind her up the highway. “Seniors don’t get any respect anymore,” she whined, her eyes narrowing, her foot itching to put the pedal to the floor.

Free & Discounted Children’s Christmas book promos


Starting today, December 16th until December 20th, the children’s short bedtime story, GUS, is FREE on Amazon worldwide. It is a wonderful little story about a girl who gets lost in a corn maze and befriends a unicorn named Gus who takes her on an adventure to meet the Spirit Bear who guards the corn maze from a pumpkin stealing rat. Written in an easy to read play format.


For children and middle grade, get the popular holiday family classic, One Frosty Christmas, from December 23 to 30th, for just $0.99. This Hallmark hanky waving Christmas story is perfect for horse lovers ages 8 – 98. Join Hannah Storey on her quest to save a frostbitten mustang from freezing to death and to teach a town about the true miracle of Christmas. Read more at Amazon.com and Amazon.uk. (FREE on Kindle Unlimited). You can also join Laura Hesse on Facebook for the 10 day reading of One Frosty Christmas on her author’s page here: https://www.facebook.com/LauraHessewriter. It has already started but don’t worry, the videos are up.

Join me for a holiday reading of One Frosty Christmas

Please feel free to join me for a holiday reading of the classic Christmas story, One Frosty Christmas, beginning on Sunday, December 13th at 7:00 pm pacific standard time (Vancouver Island, B.C.).

One Frosty Christmas is a Hallmark style Christmas story for ages 8 – 98. It is about a lonely handicapped teen’s struggle to fit into a small rural farming community fallen on hard times. Hope, friendship & perseverance are the cornerstones of this story and, of course, it has a hanky waving happy ending. Hey, it is a Christmas story.

You can join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LauraHessewriter/ for the nightly reading – I will be doing one chapter a night for ten days.

Peace and wellness.

Middle Grade/Children’s trio of holiday horse stories – on sale now

The Complete River Bend Trilogy (3 books in 1):One Frosty Christmas, The Great Pumpkin Ride, A Filly Called Easter is on sale on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk for the price of a small cup of coffee ($1.99) from today until November 30th only!

Join Hannah Storey on her quest to save a frostbitten old mustang from its cruel owner in One Frosty Christmas, unravel the mystery behind a strange ring of stones Hannah and her friends discover in the woods in The Great Pumpkin Ride, and take on Mother Nature to help little Linda McCloud save Easter and her unborn foal in A Filly Called Easter.

Audio book:  Audible.com Audible.UK

Read more on Amazon.com, Amazon.uk,

FREE on Amazon Nov 13 – 17th only!

Gertrude & The Sorcerer’s Gold (Book 4: The Gumboot & Gumshoe Series)

Gertrude & The Sorcerer’s Gold – inspired by the true story of Brother XII, Canada’s first cult leader. Free on Amazon Worldwide but only for 5 days!

A cop, a pig, & a sorcerer know all that glitters is gold.

A pot-bellied pig and a Jersey cow with a nose for trouble… A retired RCMP Sergeant and her partner, a drug sniffing German shepherd afraid of crowds, determined to preserve law and order on an island where no one takes any guff including the blind old lady who just got flashed and the young mother bothered by a ghost in the attic.

What could possibly go wrong?


November 10 – 17 Kindle Countdowns (US &UK only)

From November 10 to 17th, The Unicorn Daze Series Box Set: Books 1 thru 6 – a series of short children’s bedtime stories for unicorn lovers – and The Complete Gumboot & Gumshoe Series Trilogy including Gumboots, Gumshoes & Murder, The Dastardly Mr Deeds, and Murder Most Fowl – a funny adult cozy mystery series – are on sale for just $2.99 for the e-book. They are FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

Just an early Holiday read to cheer up you and the kids.


The Holiday Series Boxed Set.

Just in time for the holidays. FREE to Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.

Includes all of these Hallmark/Disney style of favorites including One Frosty Christmas, The Great Pumpkin Ride, A Filly Called Easter, Independence and Valentino.

Fueled by imagination. Inspired by life.

Suitable for ages 8 and up. It is already #1 in New Releases in Teen YA Equestrian Non-fiction!

Buy Now!

One more day only! $0.99 for Chasing Santa

A cop, a pig, & a potty mouthed parrot go into a bar.

Its laughs and adventure on the high seas as Gertrude and Peaches become embroiled with a grinch dressed as Santa Claus set on stealing Christmas while Betty and Reggie get kidnapped by smugglers on their honeymoon.

Brother Twelve’s treasure is still up for grabs. When a precocious nine-year-old girl teams up with her special friend Also to try to unearth some more of the illusive prophet’s loot, Morris Tweedsmuir is none too happy.

This laugh out loud culmination of the series, written as a stand alone for those who haven’t read the series, will have you cheering on Gertrude, Peaches, and a whole host of dogs from Saint Bernards to Border collies and room clearing old pugs.

Available for pre-order for just $0.99 on Amazon, but only until October 31st so get your copy now. Release date: November 1st.

BUY NOW ON:  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca   Amazon.uk  Amazon.de  Amazon.australia

The Dastardly Mr Deeds – audio book

For Audio Book Lovers:

Coming soon – Christmas 2020. The second book in the Gumboot & Gumshoe Series will be released on Audible.

Early Halloween Read FREE on Amazon until October 19th

Defying Hope – an adult paranormal thriller/horror

“You can’t fix what’s already broken.” Hope Sanderson

For Hope Sanderson, the horror has just begun.

For Sister Constance, the horror started a long time ago.

It becomes a test of faith and endurance when junkie, Hope Sanderson, is chained to a steel girder inside a derelict building at an abandoned gravel pit by a renegade nun trying to fulfill a promise to her little sister to help her ‘bestest friend’ get clean.

In a world of good and evil, lines get blurred, and rolls get reversed in this disturbing paranormal thriller with a touch of comedy. Go ahead, dance with the devil in Angel P. Dark’s breakout new novella.

*** Note: Rating R. Some violence. Some profanity. Gallows style humor.

Amazon links:  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.uk  Amazon.de  Amazon.australia

Escape to Seal Island where everyone has something to hide

Looking for the Best Present Ever? Look no further than this funny & quirky cozy mystery series!!!

The Complete Gumboots & Gumshoe Series – the 5 book box set – is now available on Amazon worldwide. Read it for FREE on Kindle Unlimited or buy it now for 50% of the cost of all five.

Box set includes: Gumboots, Gumshoes & Murder, The Dastardly Mr. Deeds, Murder Most Fowl, Gertrude & The Sorcerer’s Gold, and Chasing Santa.

Indulge yourself this holiday season!

Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.uk  Amazon.de

On Sale today – The Great Pumpkin Ride


Starts at $0.99 from today October 8th to October 11th and then $1.99 until October 15th. Only on Amazon.com and Amazon.uk.

If you camped out at a haunted cabin in the woods on Halloween night, would you leave your horse saddled?  If you painted your pony purple and changed its name to Purple Lightning, will it run faster? What is the mysterious ring of stones in the meadow surrounding the abandoned trapper’s cabin in the woods?  To discover the answers to these questions, join The Great Pumpkin Ride today…go ahead…we dare you! OW AVAILABLE IN AUDIO BOOK!

The Great Pumpkin Ride is now available in audio book: Audible.com  Audible.UK  

Read more on:  Amazon.com  Amazon UK 

Chasing Santa – NOW available on Pre-Order – Gumboots & Gumshoes Book 5

A cop, a pig, & a potty mouthed parrot walk into a bar.

Its laughs and adventure on the high seas as Gertrude and Peaches become embroiled with a grinch dressed as Santa Claus set on stealing Christmas while Betty and Reggie get kidnapped by smugglers on their honeymoon.

Brother Twelve’s treasure is still up for grabs. When a precocious nine-year-old girl teams up with her special friend Also to try to unearth some more of the illusive prophet’s loot, Morris Tweedsmuir is none too happy.

This laugh out loud culmination of the series, written as a stand alone for those who haven’t read the series, will have you cheering on Gertrude, Peaches, and a whole host of dogs from Saint Bernards to Border collies and room clearing old pugs.

Available for pre-order for just $0.99 on Amazon, but only until October 31st. Release date: November 1st.

BUY NOW ON:  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca   Amazon.uk  Amazon.de  Amazon.australia


Independence – FREE today until Sept 28th on Amazon worldwide

With all the craziness going on in the world right now – floods, fires, political unrest, I decided to put Independence up for FREE on Amazon for five days. It is a wonderful coming of age story.

Two independent women seek to find common ground in a world on fire. (Teen, Adult)

Rogue wolves, love-struck cowboys, & a cattle drive awaits Susie Stetler as she steps into an unwanted summer in the mountains with her grandmother & eight-year old step-brother. The dread-locked surfer girl can only dream of riding the waves in California as she fights to survive one of the hottest summers on record. In the end, Susie must make a life-altering decision, one that if she’s wrong, could cost her grandmother and step-brother their lives.

READ NOW on: Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon UK  Amazon Australia

Also available in audio book: Audible.com  Audible.UK  Audible.FR  Audible.DE

This story is not for children under 10. While there is no foul language, sex, or violence of any kind, it has a mature theme of dealing with loss and difficult situations.

September 17 – 21 FREE Promotion – naughty western comedy!

September 17 – 21st – FREE on Amazon Worldwide

The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls

Four old horsewomen, one cheating husband, a barn full of stallions, a smuggler on the run, a hot ATF agent, and a pregnant St. Bernard, wreak havoc on a ranching family just trying to save their ranch in this funny naughty Western comedy for fans of Mel Brooks and Blazing Saddles.

What a wonderful way to spend an evening!!! This book was so fun and wow, what a crazy bunch of Old ladies!! I loved it as I’m almost there myself. I loved every character even the bad guys. There’s so much living, laughing, and loving left in us as we age!!! And oh the stories we can tell!!!! Thank you for such a delightful book!” Amazon Review

Absolutely one of the best, most entertaining books I have ever read. ..I loved this book…great characters. ..great plot. ..I would love to see more of these books.” Amazon Review

READ it NOW on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.UK, Amazon.AU.

Valentino – Review by Canadian Horse Journals

A heartfelt thank you to the good folks at Canadian Horse Journals, especially Margaret Evans, for the lovely review of Valentino. I think this book is one of my favs. It took two years to write because of all the research involved.  Read the review here.

You can read or listen to Valentino on Amazon around the world. Here are some links.

Audio book links: Audible.com Audible.UK Audible.FR Audible.DE

Read more on Amazon.com  Amazon.ca  Amazon.UK  Amazon.Australia

Gertrude & The Sorcerer’s Gold – FREE until September 7th

Gumboot & Gumshoe Series (Adult Black Comedy)

Gertrude & The Sorcerer’s Gold FREE on Amazon until September 7th

This book can be read as a stand alone story… it helps to read the first three books in the series to understand the characters and world of Seal Island, but you don’t have to with this one.

Gertrude & The Sorcerer’s Gold – inspired by the true story of Brother XII, Canada’s first cult leader. The Gumboot & Gumshoe Series: Book Four

A cop, a pig, & a sorcerer know all that glitters is gold.

A pot-bellied pig and a Jersey cow with a nose for trouble… A retired RCMP Sergeant and her partner, a drug sniffing German shepherd afraid of crowds, determined to preserve law and order on an island where no one takes any guff including the blind old lady who just got flashed and the young mother bothered by a ghost in the attic.

What could possibly go wrong?

Amazon.com   Amazon.ca   Amazon.uk   Amazon.de  Amazon. australia

Interview with fellow equine writer Carly Kade on horses and writing

I had a great time doing an interview on Melissa Banczak’s BooksCubed channel with fellow Western Romance author, Carly Kade, about writing in the equine genre. The link is below, but if you love horses and hot romances, cowboys and cowgirls, do check out Carly’s books on Amazon. Click here to view the youtube podcast. or on Apple for the podcast.

An excerpt – Chasing Santa – coming soon

Here is an excerpt for Chasing Santa, the final book in The Gumboot & Gumshoe Series.

I am hard at working writing the final installment in the series. All good things must come to an end and I thought a Christmas story would be perfect. After that, thanks to reader requests, I will be working on a sequel to The Silver Spurs Home for Aging Cowgirls.



The Santa Claus Blues

Chasing Santa. Copyright Laura Hesse 2020. All rights Reserved.

December 10


A small skiff made its way to shore. Salt water sloshed against the little rowboat’s sides as the man inside it, a jolly black-haired blue-eyed fellow dressed in a red velvet Santa suit, rowed as hard as he could against the out-going tide. Sweat beaded his forehead. His breath was a frosty stream in front of his face. His cheeks were rosy from the cold.

Behind him an old catamaran tugged gently on its anchor, far enough out in the Strait of Georgia that its hull wouldn’t end up marooned once the tide finished receding. Its sail was wrapped tightly against the main mast, the rigging still in the windless night. A solitary light glowed inside the round cabin windows.

The stars twinkled overhead, the Milky Way a bedazzling display of flickering lights against the rolling frigid clouds of fog that drifted over the water.

The boat’s hull crunched against gravel as it hit a small spit on the beach in front of a massive two-level cedar log home. Huge square pillars held up the shake roof that covered an entertainment sized deck which overlooked the strait. Patio bi-fold doors opened onto the great expanse. A stone fireplace and built-in gas barbecue walled in one side.

The wiry man dressed as Santa Claus jumped out of the skiff, his black gumboots splashing in the surf as he tugged the boat onto shore.

He reached inside the velvet overcoat and pulled out a red hat and fake white beard. He donned the last of his costume and then fished a large black plastic garbage bag out from under the seat. The bag smelled faintly of fish.

With a grin on his face, he tugged on the black leather belly bag that held the tools of his trade, and with a spring in his step, walked across the beach to the house.

Christopher Nicholas thought it fit that he assumed the role of Santa Claus to liberate the burdens of the rich to aid the poor; namely, Christopher and his daughter, Sam.

Sam was the apple of his eye. She was a resilient kid; he mused as he strode quickly across the deck and peered into the house.

Inside the house, vaulted ceilings gave way to a wall to wall window view of the ocean behind him. A plush white Italian leather sectional couch filled the living room. Original oil paintings of green forests and Haida carvings hung on the walls. Interspersed on the tables were glass vases filled with silver and gold Christmas balls. Fronds of plastic ivy wound its way up the staircase, red silk bows tied to each spindle. A tall imitation Christmas tree stood against one wall, its golden lights casting a soft glow around the room. There were already several Christmas presents wrapped in festive paper piled around the base.

Chris wished he could afford a house like this. He desperately wanted Sam to have a bedroom of her own again. All he needed was another hundred grand and he could buy a two-bedroom house on the northern tip of the island. His daughter could go to school, maybe make some friends. He could get her a dog too. That would be fun.

Chris walked over to the far side of the deck and leaned forward over a potted Japanese Maple.

He spotted what he was looking for, an alarm panel. It was on the wall beside the side door.

He tugged a pair of tiny opera glasses from his belly purse and examined the alarm.

“God bless these islanders,” he grinned, noting that the alarm wasn’t on. That meant the homeowners were home, asleep in their beds upstairs, thinking the cheap door locks were security enough.

Chris slipped quietly around the house to the side door and expertly popped the lock without difficulty.

Once inside, he took off his gumboots and left them by the door. He crept through the house, slinking upstairs, the murmur of velvet the only sound he made as he liberated the sleeping woman and man in the master bedroom of their jewellery. Chris noticed the small black safe tucked away on a shelf behind some folded t-shirts in the walk-in closet right away and smothered a laugh.

He retreated down the stairs and placed the safe by the side door. It wasn’t heavy, but its metal corners would slice through his loot bag.

Chris strolled into the kitchen and rifled through the cupboards. He found some boxes of sweet and salty popcorn and a bag of chocolate bars, plus a tin of honey roast peanuts. They all went into the big black bag.

He then went to the fridge and pulled some chicken breasts and a frozen pizza out of the freezer. These along with three packs of grape juice, a head of lettuce, a carton of milk, a block of cheddar cheese, and two apples, also went into the bag.

Upon returning to the living room, the tall Santa Claus bent over and examined the presents under the tree, lifting each one and shaking it. The smaller presents looked like they might contain jewellery or some other expensive item. These went directly into the bag.

“Santa,” a childlike voice gasped behind him, “you’re early.”

He spun around.

An impish three-year-old girl with big round eyes, a snotty nose, and wisps of curly blond hair, regarded him with wonder.

“Shhhh,” he whispered, glancing down at the medium sized present in his hand. The name on the tag was Brittany. Chris quickly scanned the tags on the smaller presents inside the bag.

“Hey, you’re supposed be asleep, Brittany,” Chris continued.

“You know me,” she squeaked. “You are Santa.”

“I am,” the fraudulent Santa muttered, pulling a small red and white candy cane from his pocket and handing it to the child. This was his last one. He’d have to stock up again the next time he and Sam went shopping.

“Can you keep a secret?”

Brittany nodded, an angelic look on her face.

“My elves made a mistake and mixed up the presents. I have to take these back to my workshop so we can deliver the right presents to the right Brittany,” Chris lied. “Don’t you worry, I’ll be back with yours on Christmas.”

“’Kay,” she muttered, sucking on the candy cane.

“Off to bed now,” he told her, resisting the urge to yell ‘ho, ho, ho’ lest he wake the child’s parents.

Brittany grinned and ran upstairs.

Chris breathed a sigh of relief, put Brittany’s present back under the tree, and bolted for the door. He slipped on his gumboots, picked up the safe, and ran back to the skiff carrying the safe under one arm like a football.

Santa tossed his bag of loot and the safe into the boat and pushed away from shore.

Chris smiled as he put his back into his oar strokes, the tide helping the skiff along as he rowed quickly back to the boat.

Brittany reminded him of Sam when she was that age, full of wonder and trust. That was before he lost his job, his house, and his marriage, in that order. The only thing he had hung onto was the catamaran he had salvaged and restored. Sam never asked where her mommy was. His wife never wanted kids, and Chris suspected Sam always knew that.


Sam lay in her bunk inside one of the catamaran’s pontoons reading a tattered copy of The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. C. S. Lewis was her favorite author. She had ten dog-eared copies of his novels in the tiny hatch overhead.

Sam sighed wistfully and leaned over to stare wearily out the window at the faraway coastline. The orange glow from the streetlights in Comox and Courtenay looked creepy in the advancing ice fog.

Here and there, the house lights were popping on in the city and along the shore as people started their day.

A faint red line had appeared on the eastern horizon, the dawn chasing away the night like an orca hunting a seal.

The catamaran rocked gently on the water, almost lulling her to sleep. The small propane fueled heater in the cabin buzzed softly.

The winter was going to be colder than normal. She could sense it. The geese and trumpeter swans had long since flown south. They had gone early this year. Except for the seagulls, the other birds had also disappeared. The grey and white gulls huddled on shore, rarely following the catamaran like they usually did. She hadn’t seen a humpback whale in ages.

Nine-year-old Samantha Nicholas grinned. Maybe it would snow for Christmas. That would be cool.

Oh, yeah, snow baby snow, she thought merrily.

A dull thud against the hull made her sit up.

Daddy was home.

She breathed a sigh of relief. There was always the chance that one day, he wouldn’t.

Sam tugged on a plain grey cable-knit sweater and her running shoes and hurried up onto the deck. She flipped on the running lights as she did so.

She saw Santa Claus toss a bulky garbage bag onto the deck. A black and gunmetal grey safe followed that. The safe slid across the slippery deck before catching in some rope rigging. Santa climbed up the aluminum ladder onto the boat. His velvet suit drooped, saturated by both fog and seawater. He immediately hoisted the skiff out of the water and turned towards her.

“Hey, honey, what are you doing up,” Santa Claus asked her patiently, clumping across the deck in his gumboots.

“Waiting for you,” she smirked.

“Oh, sweetie, I told you to stop worrying so much,” Chris replied, playfully flipping her ponytail into the air.

Her father had already removed his hat and beard. His face was ruddy, his glacial blue eyes dancing with triumph.

Sam wrapped her arms around her body and shivered. It was bone chilling cold despite the giant woolen sweater that fell almost to her knees. She could tell the caper went well.

“Hey, go back inside,” Chris commanded his daughter, concern replacing the penetrating stare he fixed upon her.

“What did you bring home for breakfast,” she asked, forcing a smile. She would give her right arm for Sugar Pops or Frosted Flakes.

“Pizza,” her father declared proudly, pulling a frozen ham and pineapple pizza box out of his bag of swag.

“That’s great, daddy,” she lied, hiding her disappointment. They ate pizza a lot.

“I’ve also got grape juice, chocolate bars, popcorn, and peanuts,” he grinned. “After we move on and moor someplace for the day, maybe we can watch a movie on the VCR and pig out on junk food.”

“Okay,” Sam laughed. That was appealing. Hey, she was just a kid.

“Can we watch Free Willy?”

“Again,” her father frowned.

Sam pursed her lips into her best pout ever, letting the bottom lip drop and quiver.

“Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore,” her father chortled. “Take ‘the take’ down below while I haul anchor.”

“Yes, daddy,” she agreed, dragging the weighty bag towards the hatch. “What’s in here? The kitchen sink?”

“Lots of stuff,” he responded. “Chicken, milk, lettuce, presents… oh, wait, did I just say presents?”

“Presents, huh,” Sam’s voice warbled.

Food, jewellery, coins, stuff like that was okay to steal by her way of thinking. That was what insurance was for, Daddy told her. Stealing somebody’s Christmas gifts bothered Sam in a way that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She and her dad had been thieves for as long as she could remember. She went with him when he needed someone small to climb through a window to open a door. They had got the idea after watching the movie Oliver.

Wait! Did that mean her father was Fagan?

Sam laughed lightly. She thought the Fagan character was a riot, even if he was a little hard on Oliver.

Did she want her dad to stop stealing? No.

She loved the prettily wrapped presents that appeared in her stocking on Christmas morning.

One Christmas, her father had mistakenly given her a very expensive pearl necklace. Another Christmas, she got a Cuban cigar and a toy hand grenade. At least, she thought it was a toy. Her father had almost fainted when she pulled the weirdly wrapped football out of her stocking and unwrapped it. She was excited; she had thought it would be a Nerf ball. Surprise! Daddy had ripped it quickly out of her hand and tossed it overboard, so she wasn’t quite sure about that one.

“Don’t worry,” Santa-daddy replied. “I didn’t take Brittany’s.”

“Who is Brittany,” she shouted from inside the galley.

“Later,” her father yelled back.

Instantly, Sam heard the scrape of the anchor as her father hauled it aboard. The boat skipped sideways, caught in the current. The catamaran tended to surf the waves rather than tilt sideways like a regular sail boat, the two pontoons providing incredible stability.

Sam began unloading the food out of the garbage bag and tucking the chicken, milk and juice away in the small fridge in the galley, and the dry goods into the cupboards. She unwrapped the pizza and popped it into the microwave.

Her father started the twin engines. The two small diesels sputtered into life and the catamaran smoothly over the salt water as her father guided the boat into the middle of the Strait. There wasn’t enough wind to use the sails.

Drop anchor, do a job, hoist anchor, and find a deserted cove to see what they got, rest and repeat. That was the Nicholas family’s life.

Sam thought it was a glorious life, imagining her daddy as Blackbeard and she as his first mate, feared pirates of the high seas. Women would swoon when they saw Daddy coming. Men would run in fear.

She thought the thirty-eight-foot catamaran was aptly named for pirating. Her father had christened it Polar Bear Express when he re-built the boat from the fiberglass hull up, skimping only on the quality of the interior, which he bought from Ikea and later customized.

Sam leapt forward, one arm raised over her head, legs bent in a sword fighter’s pose, her lips pursed into a thin line, her brows knitting together as she plunged a butter knife into the empty pizza box like a sword: the famed Nicholas’ were here! Pirates of the high seas. Pillagers of the West Coast.

Sam backed up and saluted the torn pizza box with the butter knife.

Life was good.

Once a month they would go to Vancouver to see Uncle Harry to cash in. Uncle Harry wasn’t her real uncle, but he was always nice and had a special gift just for her. Usually, it was homemade jam or muffins that his wife made especially for Sam. She liked the strawberry jam the best.

That was how they lived.

What kid her age could helm a boat, go to sleep listening to whale song, laugh at the dolphins playing in the catamaran’s wake, and eagle watch to her heart’s content. And then there were the spirit bears. Her father had taken her to see the sacred white Kermode bears when she was only four. It was the trip of a lifetime and they had done it not once, not twice, but ten times already.

Yep, being a thief’s daughter wasn’t all that bad, not when your daddy was Santa Claus to boot.