Page 8 of Single Bells

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“I didn’t even know that was legal.”

“I mean,youcouldn’t just go and buy a reindeer herd. The rules around that sort of thing are quite strict. But…”

“You and your credentials.”

This time, Nick laughed. “Exactly. I also had a contact here in Scotland—a farmer who owns a few hundred acres up in the Cairngorms. It turns out my reindeer get on exceptionally well with his Highland cows, so they live together for most of the year, and come down to the paddock here for the six weeks before Christmas.”

“That sounds… expensive.”

“Well, they go all over Scotland during the Christmas season. Up to Aberdeen, down to Dumfries, across to Glasgow. They’re popular animals.”

“And you’ve got a dozen of them?”

Nick nodded. “I started out with nine, and we’ve had three calves in the past couple of years. I know it’s more mouths to feed, but it’s a sign of a healthy herd, so I’m not upset about it.”

“Is that why you came back to Edinburgh? To be closer to your reindeer?”

“That was just a bonus.” He paused for a moment, looking around the small clearing they’d emerged in. Then he shook his head. “I don’t think they came in this direction. Anyway. Sorry for interrupting your Christmas break.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Joel said. “It’s not like I was doing anything important.”

“Taking some time to relax and not work is important.”

“Well, that’s both profound and sounds like the voice of experience.”

“I have been accused of being a workaholic.”

“Is it true?”

He shrugged. “I like my work. Animals are kind of a twenty-four/seven job; it’s not like they know it’s Christmas. If they’re going to get sick, they need a vet who can get out to them.”

“And if they get lost, a vet who will go and look for them.”

“I don’t mind,” Nick said, and Joel could feel Nick’s gaze sweep over him. “I’m enjoying the view.”

Nick rubbed his hand over a tree.

“If you tell me what you’re looking for, I can help,” Joel said.

“Sorry.” Nick fought to hide his frustration. Not with Joel—he was great. Just the situation. “Mostly I’m looking for any signs that the reindeer have been rubbing their antlers against the trees. And for poop.”

“Reindeer poop.”


“I’m not sure I could tell reindeer poop from any other type of poop.”

Nick grinned—aware that he was spending a lot of time in Joel’s company smiling. That wasn’t a bad thing, of course, he just needed to manage his own expectations. There was no point in getting all twisted up over a guy from the village.

“Just keep your eye out for the animals, then. They’re about a meter and a half tall, including the antlers.”

“Not difficult to spot, then.”

“Well… they’re also quite shy, and very good at camouflaging themselves in woodland.”


“This herd is actually woodland caribou, so they’re not migratory like a lot of other subspecies of reindeer.”

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