Holiday Ever After- Kimberly Kincaid

Chapter 1

“Jusssst hear those sleigh bellzzz jingling, ring-ting-tingling toooooooooo…”

The drunk decked out in full Santa regalia hiccupped in loud punctuation to his serenade, and okay, yeah. That settled it.

Sofia Vasquez fucking hated Christmas.

“Alright, Mr. Freemont,” she said, tapping her way through the results of the toxicology report she’d ordered when he’d stumbled into Remington Memorial Hospital’s emergency department an hour and a half ago, complaining of—wait for it—dizziness, nausea, and an upset stomach. “The good news is, your tests don’t show anything serious. The bad news is that your blood alcohol level is high enough that you’re probably going to have a killer headache tomorrow morning.”

“But my head feelzzz fine right now,” Fake Santa assured her with a look of bleary-eyed confusion. “’Cept for the spinning. Whoa. Maybe all that eggnog was a badddd idea.”

Turning roughly the color of the Grinch, he gripped the rail on the gurney, and Sofia grabbed a second emesis basin to match the one the nurse had provided him with upon check-in. She’d learned the better-safe-than-puked-on lesson on Day Three of her internship. Since that had been fifteen months ago…yeah. If she was going to have to change her scrubs, there had damn well better be a good trauma involved. Preferably with a nice six-hour surgery on top. Upchuck need not apply.

“I’d say that’s a yes,” Sofia told him as he tried for some deep breathing, strategically maneuvering herself out of range of his bourbon-soaked exhales. “Next time, go lighter on the holiday cheer.”

His brow furrowed beneath the fuzzy white brim of his Santa hat. “Where’s your Christmas spirit?”

An image of her Papi’s face, bursting with pride in the glow of the multi-colored lights from their tree as she’d opened her acceptance letter to Remington University’s medical school, flickered through her mind’s eye before she could cage it.

I knew you would do it! Top of your class, full honors! My daughter. Doctor Vasquez…

When Sofia got to the part of the memory where tears had formed in his dark eyes, she forced herself to stop. “Guess I’m fresh out. I’ll have a nurse give you an anti-emetic to go with your IV fluids, and we’ll monitor your vitals here in the ED until you’re feeling better.” No way was she turfing him anytime soon with a BAC like that. He could get hurt—or worse, behind the wheel. “There’s a call button on the remote if you need anything. And no more eggnog for a while.”

He mumbled something about the naughty list under his boozy breath as she pivoted on the heel of her Danskos and walked out of the curtain area. The memory of her father still lingered, the reality that it had been their last Christmas together sticking in her ribs like shards of glass. So she spent her holidays hating the holidays, so what? It was better than faking her way through a whole bunch of merry and bright, which had never been her thing, even before her father’s car had been crushed by that drunk driver’s pickup truck. Nope. She liked the unfiltered truth, thanks.

The unfiltered truth was that she was hungry.

Making her way to the nurse’s station, Sofia nailed her focus back to the here-and-now. She ignored the twinkling lights and the paper garland boasting blue and silver dreidels strung over the front of the counter—she was completely in favor of both diversity and inclusion, hating all December holidays with equal fervor—and tapped an update into Mr. Freemont’s chart.

“Marcus, let’s get Mr. Freemont in Curtain Three some Zofran and monitor his vitals,” she said to the nurse covering the night shift with her.