Feliz Naughty Dog - Roxanne St. Claire

Chapter One

Pru stared at the text message on her phone, a ribbon of disappointment curling through her.

“Seriously, Emma?” she murmured, falling back against the Buick’s back seat as she ripped the wrapper off a mini candy cane that was about to become breakfast and comfort food all in one peppermint sugar bomb. “Way to steal my Christmas Eve joy.”

Instantly, Gala, the dachshund sitting on Gramma Finnie’s lap in the passenger seat, turned and gave her a sad look that reflected exactly how Pru felt.

“Is there a problem, lass?” Gramma Finnie asked, stroking Gala’s tan head. “Are we running late for your meeting? Traffic is heavy in Bitter Bark today.”

“Oh, no, we’re right on time for the team kickoff in Bushrod Square. It’s just…other stuff.” Vague, but easier than trying to explain to her great-grandmother why this news was such a drag.

“Donchya be worryin’, dear Prudence,” she cooed in her lilting brogue. “I find it hard to believe you’ve left a single stone unturned organizin’ the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness for Bitter Bark High. Look at that bag full of instructions and lists and other RACK goodies to help your school win.”

“Win.” Pru grinned and slurped the candy cane. “And eat.”

Gramma laughed. “General Pru’s got this.” She winked as she said the nickname their family had been calling Pru forever. “I’ve no doubt Bitter Bark High will beat the other schools in the county by RACKing up the most points.”

Pru let out a sigh and threw a look at her backpack, which was, as her great-grandmother had correctly noted, a General Prudence Kilcannon Bancroft special. Maybe if the general spent less time managing college résumé-building projects like RACK IT UP and more time flirting with guys on the basketball team, she’d have a boyfriend for her team partner today, like Emma did.

“I guess.” Pru sucked the candy to a sharp point and tunneled her free hand into the fat rolls on Pyggie’s neck, Yiayia’s other doxie, who was curled next to her in the back seat. “But it’s never fun to get ditched for boys.”

“What do you mean?” Yiayia, the Greek grandmother who’d come into their extended family a few years ago, took her gaze off town traffic long enough to eye Pru in the rearview mirror.

“Emma and Charlotte were supposed to be my RACK IT UP partners today,” Pru explained. “And I made us the absolute most amazing list of Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, too.” And maybe overdecorated it just a bit. “But Emma just texted me that they want to partner with their boyfriends today.” She rolled her eyes. “So I’m flying solo.”

“That’s a random act of Christmas unkindness, if you ask me,” Yiayia said. “Is there anything worse than picking a man over a friend on Christmas Eve?”

“Nothing,” Gramma Finnie said with a sideways look at Yiayia. “Unless it’s dragging your friend along to shop for one on Christmas Eve.”

Pru frowned at the puzzling comment, but then another text came in from Emma.

You’re not mad, right? We figured since you’re running the show you can get another team. Or come with us, of course!

“Just what I want to be, a fifth wheel.” She thumbed back a quick, No problem! You guys have fun! and tossed the phone on top of her bag, pushing down her growing resentment.

“There are no other teams,” she said, more to herself than the grannies. “And now I’ll have to do my random acts alone, on foot, since Emma was going to drive. We were going to take Linda May’s raspberry croissants to the Starling Senior Living Center.” She made a face. “Now they’ll have all the fun of handing them out to the seniors and get any extra croissants.”

“Doesn’t really matter as long as your school ‘racks’ up the points, right?” Gramma Finnie asked, always seeing the silver lining in any dark cloud. “The more points, the more chance you have of Bitter Bark High winning.”

“True.” Pru grabbed her phone and checked the RACK IT UP app. “In Vestal Valley County, it’s still a three-way tie between Holly Hills, Bitter Bark, and Sweetheart Springs, which is a shock considering how little interest my whole school has in this. But they’ll all want the prize.”

Most of her friends acted like participating in Random Acts of Christmas Kindness was totally bogus and dumb, but they’d all be first in line if Bitter Bark won an all-expenses-covered Winter Formal with DJ Fearsome McQ.

“Did you say Sweetheart Springs?” Yiayia asked, her dark brows rising with surprise.