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Authors: Mary Higgins Clark

Santa Cruise

BOOK: Santa Cruise
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Join the celebrations
with these sparkling Christmas novels from

MARY HIGGINS CLARK

and

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK

SANTA CRUISE

“If you want a frothy, holiday-themed whodunit starring the affable PI Regan Reilly, her husband, and mystery-writing mother—all aboard a luxury liner's three-day maiden cruise—then this is your ticket.”

—
Booklist

“Full of mystery-lite cheer.”

—
Publishers Weekly

THE CHRISTMAS THIEF

“A fun, speedy read.”

—
Entertainment Weekly

Santa Cruise
is also available from
Simon & Schuster Audio

“Filled with suspense and humor. Entertaining and an easy read.”

—
The Advocate
(Baton Rouge, LA)

“Light reading and good fun.”

—
Richmond Times-Dispatch

HE SEES YOU
WHEN YOU'RE SLEEPING

“A cheerful holiday tale.”

—
Richmond Times-Dispatch

“These bestselling authors blend suspense with a heartwarming story. . . .”

—
Atlanta Constitution

“A new spin on
It's a Wonderful Life
. . . .”

—
Los Angeles Times

“Consume in one sitting with a tumbler of hot mulled wine.”

—
San Antonio Express-News

“Blends suspense and redemption.”

—
The Virginian-Pilot

“A combination of slapstick and suspense [that] turns out to also be a tale of redemption and insightful observations on how our society has changed in forty-six years.”

—
Toronto Star

DECK THE HALLS

“In their first collaboration, mother and daughter have produced a holiday confection.”

—
The New York Times Book Review

“Mary Higgins Clark and daughter Carol Higgins Clark create a winning detective duo by teaming up favorite characters from their own respective novels. . . . An entertaining . . . Christmas treat.”

—
People

“Fans will greatly enjoy the pairing of two favorite detectives—and two popular writers—in a Christmas ornament of a book.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“For fans of either of the Clarks, this book is a real treat.”

—Bookreporter.com

“Some delightful Dickensian characters.”

—
Providence Sunday Journal
(RI)

“The authors have created a wonderfully unique cast of characters.”

—
The Pilot
(Southern Pines, NC)

M
ARY
H
IGGINS
C
LARK

C
AROL
H
IGGINS
C
LARK

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Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Excerpt from
I Heard That Song Before

Excerpt from
Laced

Acknowledgments

The ship has come to shore. Our very special thanks to our fellow passengers aboard the Santa Cruise.

Our editors, Michael Korda and Roz Lippel.

Our agents, Sam Pinkus and Esther Newberg.

Our publicist, Lisl Cade.

Our copy editor, Gypsy da Silva.

Thanks to Sigal Miller of Mahwah, New Jersey, who suggested our title,
Santa Cruise
. Cheers, Sigal!

And of course our families and friends who saw us off and welcomed us home. A special loving tip of the hat to John Conheeney, the perfect shipmate always.

Finally, to all our readers . . . until next time. . . . Anchors Aweigh!

In memory of Thomas E. Newton
A gentle man and our very dear friend
With love

1
Monday, December 19th

R
andolph Weed, self-styled commodore, stood on the deck of his pride and joy, the
Royal Mermaid,
an old ship he had bought and paid a fortune to refurbish and on which he intended to spend the rest of his life playing host to both friends and paying guests. Docked in the Port of Miami, the ship was being readied for its maiden voyage, the “Santa Cruise,” a four-day trip in the Caribbean with one stop at Fishbowl Island.

Dudley Loomis, his forty-year-old PR man, who would also serve as cruise director, joined Randolph on the deck. He took a deep breath of the refreshing breeze blowing off the Atlantic Ocean and sighed happily. “Commodore, I have e-mailed all the major news organizations once again to let them know about this unique and wonderful maiden voyage. I began the release, ‘On December 26th, Santa is turning in his sleigh, giving Rudolph and the other reindeer some time off,
and taking a cruise. It's the Santa Cruise—Commodore Randolph Weed's gift to a select group of people who have in their own unique way made the world a better place this past year.' “

“I've always liked giving gifts,” the Commodore said, a smile on his weathered but still handsome sixty-three-year-old face. “But people didn't always appreciate it. My three ex-wives never understood what a deep and caring man I am. For goodness' sake, I gave my last wife my Google stock before it went public.”

“That was a terrible mistake,” Dudley said solemnly, shaking his head. “A terrible mistake.”

“I don't begrudge her the money. I've made and lost fortunes. Now I want to give back to others. As you know, this Santa Cruise was created to raise money for charity, and celebrate those who have given of themselves.”

“It was my idea,” Dudley reminded him.

“True. But the money to pay for this cruise is coming out of my pocket. I spent considerably more than I expected in order to make the
Royal Mermaid
the beautiful ship she has become. But she's worth every penny.” He paused. “At least I hope she is.”

Dudley Loomis held his tongue. Everyone had warned the Commodore that he'd be better off having a new ship built than dumping a fortune
into this old tub, but I
do
admit it cleaned up rather well, Dudley told himself. He had been cruise director on mammoth vessels where he had to worry about several thousand guests, many of whom he found intensely irritating. He would now deal with only four hundred passengers, most of whom would probably be happy to sit on deck and read instead of having entertainment shoved down their throats twenty-four hours a day. Dudley had come up with the idea of the Santa Cruise when reservations for passage on the
Royal Mermaid
were almost nil. He was a PR man right down to the rubber soles of his yachting shoes.

“We should have a free cruise the day after Christmas to get the kinks out of the ship before any paying passengers, or reviewers, come on board,” he had told his boss. “You'll donate passage to charities and do-gooders. It'll only be a few days, and in the long run it will pay for itself with the good publicity I'll get for you. By the time our official maiden voyage rolls around on January 20th, we'll be turning people away. You wait and see.”

The Commodore had needed a few minutes to think about it. “A totally
free
cruise?”

“Free!” Dudley had insisted. “Everything for free!”

The Commodore had winced. “The bar, too?”

“Everything! From soup to nuts!”

Eventually, the Commodore agreed. The special Santa Cruise would set sail in one week, the day after Christmas, and return to Miami four days later.

Now, as the two men walked along the freshly scrubbed deck, they went over the final details. “I'm still hoping for one of the television stations to at least attend the pre-sailing cocktail party on the deck,” Dudley said. “I've sent word to the ten Santa Clauses you are treating to get here early so they can try on the lightweight Santa Claus outfits that you had made for them. They should be ready to mingle with everyone at our evening cocktail party.

“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise when I had that fender bender with that Santa Claus from Tallahassee last month. While we were exchanging insurance papers, he got weepy and confided how exhausting it was to listen to children all day long, have pictures taken with them, and, worse yet, be sneezed on. By the time Christmas Day rolled around, he'd be exhausted and unemployed again. That's when the light went on in my head to include ten Santas among the guests . . .”

“You're always thinking,” the Commodore agreed. “I just hope we get enough paying passengers
in the next few months to keep this ship afloat.”

“It'll all be fine, Commodore,” Dudley said in his most cheery cruise-director voice.

“You said we hadn't heard from all the people who won this trip at charity auctions. What's the status on that?”

“Everyone is coming—we're just waiting to hear from one passenger. She was by far the highest bidder at an auction for this cruise. I sent her a letter by FedEx, and as an enticement offered her the remaining two staterooms so she could bring friends. She's a good person for us to have on board. She won forty million dollars in a lottery, appears on television regularly, and is a contributing columnist to a large newspaper.” He did not add that he had lost the name and address of this winner—who had attended his friend Cal Sweeney's auction—and had just followed up on it. He almost fainted when he realized Alvirah Meehan was not only a celebrity, but a columnist.

BOOK: Santa Cruise
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