A Mistletoe Celebration by Serena Yates

January 15, 2015

Title: A Mistletoe Celebration

Author: Serena Yates

Pairing: Magnus and Lance from Mistletoe Science

Prompt: marzipan

Author’s Note

 

This short story is set a year after glaciologist Magnus Carstens was rescued from the icy crevasse he fell into at the end of a three-month stay at the Polish Polar Station at Spitsbergen, Sweden. Sent there by Stockholm University after severe budget cuts in early 2012, the unexpected assignment almost made him miss his wedding day. The incident prompted him to quit his job with the university upon his return to Stockholm.

Magnus got married to Lance Rivera on June 25, 2012 under the mistletoe-covered gazebo in his parents’ garden, at the end of The Mistletoe Experiment (Mistletoe Science 3).

 

 

Chapter One

 

“This is going to be more difficult than I thought.” Lance frowned at his computer screen and the images of glaciers he’d been staring at for a while. The anniversary of Magnus’s return from his ill-fated stay at the Polish Polar station near Spitsbergen last year was coming up fast, and Lance was determined to celebrate his husband’s safe return with as much fanfare as possible. It being Thursday today, and the anniversary falling on Monday, he didn’t have much time left to complete his secret project.

“What are you doing?” Jakob’s voice came from right behind Lance and he almost jumped from the sudden interruption.

“Research.” Lance wanted to hide the googled images so the boy wouldn’t find out about his plans, but he quickly thought better of it. Jakob, who had turned ten last September, was as much a part of their little family as Lance and Magnus, and always happy to help with any project around the house. And a little over a week before the start of the school summer vacation, there wasn’t much homework left to do, so Jakob had the time.

“Those look like glaciers. Continental glaciers.” Jakob frowned and turned his face toward Lance. The orphaned boy looked more like his uncle every day, and was determined to become a glaciologist as well. Magnus might not be his father, but the family resemblance was strong. Magnus had become Jakob’s guardian just over three years ago when Jakob’s parents died in a plane crash and while Magnus was not normally emotional, he’d grown to love Jakob like a son. Lance had felt drawn to the boy from the moment they’d met back in Mistletoe, Wyoming, and everything they’d been through since then had only strengthened his feelings.

“That’s because they are glaciers.” Lance smiled, wondering what the next question might be.

“Are you going to be a glaciologist too?” Jakob tilted his head, as if to give the thought more consideration. “I thought you don’t like the cold and snow?”

“You’re right, even after more than a year of living in Stockholm, I still haven’t gotten used to the winters.” Lance shuddered. It wasn’t just the low temperatures, although they were bad enough, the darkness got to him even more. “So getting closer to the ice than I have to here in the city is not on my agenda.”

“Then why are you looking at glaciers?” Jakob didn’t give up easily.

“Can you keep a secret?” Lance narrowed his eyes, feeling like a spy about to share a highly confidential piece of information.

“Sure.” Jakob squared his shoulders.

“Even from Uncle Magnus?” Lance bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from laughing. This was fun.

“Oh!” Jakob’s eyes widened. “Is it something good?”

“Yes, I think it is.” Lance nodded.

“How long do I have to keep it to myself?” Jakob fidgeted a little. “I’m not sure I can lie to Uncle Magnus.”

“No lying.” Lance ruffled Jakob’s blond locks. “Just—not telling him about the surprise I’m planning.”

“Okay. I think I can do that.” Jakob nodded, putting on his most serious face as he squeezed himself onto the same chair as Lance, moving as close as possible.

“Good.” Lance lowered his head and his voice for dramatic effect. “Do you remember when Uncle Magnus went away for three months last year?”

“Of course.” Jakob nodded. “It was horrible. I missed him a lot.”

“I know. So did I.” Lance had originally encouraged Magnus to go so he could keep his job with Stockholm University, but nothing had been worth the pain of separation. Thank God Magnus had come to the same conclusion and had ended up resigning from his position to find a job that wouldn’t require him to lead arctic expeditions or do field work. “He came back just before the wedding, and I thought it would be nice to celebrate his safe return.”

“That’s a great idea.” Jakob grinned. “But why the glaciers?”

“Well, I was thinking that any good celebration needs a cake, right?” Lance loved baking and had produced quite a few of the sweet confections since becoming a housedad. “So I thought I’d make a glacier cake.”

“A glacier cake?” Jakob looked from him to the screen and back. “Made of ice?”

“No, but it’s not a bad idea.” Lance filed it away for future reference. This one needed to be chocolate. The sweet was a huge turn-on for Magnus, and Lance loved reaping the rewards once they’d closed their bedroom doors behind them. “It’ll be chocolate, to make it look like earth or rocks underneath, and then I was thinking of decorating it with icing on top, shaping the whole thing like a glacier coming down from the mountains.”

“That’s perfect.” Jakob jumped up and down on the seat, his sky-blue eyes twinkling as he laughed. “It’ll look really real that way.”

“Exactly. And that’s why I was looking at examples of glaciers on the Internet.” Lance pointed at the three best ones he’d found. “I’ll print them out and we can use them as models. What do you think?”

“I love it.” Jakob jumped up. “When can we start? Oh, and will there be marzipan?”

“I think there will definitely have to be marzipan.” Lance grinned. Ever since Jakob had been introduced to the Swedish specialty “Prinsesstårta”, consisting of alternating layers of sponge, crème patisserie, whipped cream, and jam, topped with a layer of green marzipan, he’d become a huge fan. During the fourth week in September, just after Jakob’s birthday, a proportion of each sale was donated to the Crown Princess Victoria’s Fund—a charity for chronically ill and disabled children in Sweden. Most children’s birthday cakes were also variations of this recipe, and Jakob had quickly become addicted.

“Yay, marzipan!” Jakob did a little victory dance.

“It will help make the cake look more like a real glacier.” Lance nodded as he copied the pictures into a document, then saved and printed it.

“How do you mean?” Jakob took the sheets when Lance handed them over.

“Come to the kitchen and I’ll show you.” Lance checked the time before he logged off and powered down the computer. They had about two hours before Magnus returned from work. “We’ll have to hurry so we can finish the preparations and hide the cake.”

“Makes it feel like Christmas.” Jakob was a fan, just like the rest of the family.

Lance led the way to the kitchen, where a five-centimeter-high chocolate layer cake was already waiting. He’d baked it on a large sheet, planning to cut the glacier shape from it once he’d decided on the final shape.

“Oh, this is like an art project.” Jakob set up the pictures so they could look at them and rubbed his hands before putting on his little apron. “You’re going to cut the glacier from the bigger shape, right?”

“Yes.” Lance washed his hands, then took the big knife and started to shape the cake, setting aside the pieces he cut off for later use. “And this is where the marzipan will help. See how the edges are fairly straight and pointy right now?”

Jakob nodded.

“Once I’m done, I can mold the marzipan over and around them, so they’ll look more rounded, like a real glacier.” Lance finished the cutting and went to the back of the pantry, where he always kept some marzipan in an airtight container. He opened it, unwrapped the light-blue mass he had prepared, and put it on the cleaned workspace. Time to let Jakob help. “You want to roll it into a sheet, about half a centimeter thick?”

Jakob beamed at him and went to work. Lance added some of the cutoff pieces to the top of the cake to make it look like a mountain with a valley between two peaks. When Jakob was done, Lance covered everything in marzipan, making sure the surfaces were rounded and looked like ice flowing downhill. He left a small sliver of the brown cake at the bottom, making it resemble the earth and rocks pushed ahead of the mass of ice and snow.

“Wow, this looks amazing.” Jakob stood back when they were done.

“I’ll add some icing tomorrow, to make it look even more real. Then we’ll hide it at Ragnor’s house so Magnus doesn’t find it over the weekend.” Lance took the baking sheet with the piece of art into the pantry and stowed it at the back before carefully covering it with a couple of towels. Ragnor, their friendly neighbor from across the street, had already agreed to help set up the surprise party.

Lance couldn’t wait!

Moments after he had closed the pantry door behind him, the front door opened and Magnus strode in. With his leather briefcase in hand and wearing smart casual summer clothes, he looked every inch the professor he now was. Jakob ran up to greet him with a quick hug, then raced to the living room to watch TV.

“Hello, älskling.” Magnus closed the door, dropped the briefcase, and opened his arms.

“Hi, baby.” Lance stepped right into his husband’s embrace and tilted his head for a kiss. Magnus’s hot lips on his made him forget where he was, and for a while all that existed was Magnus’s strong arms around him, and the loving caresses they exchanged. Lance finally sighed into Magnus’s mouth and pulled back.

“Did you have a good day?” Magnus looked a little dazed.

“Very good.” Lance smiled and cupped Magnus’s cheek, feeling the slight stubble against his skin and looking forward to having it touch other places on his body later that evening. “Did the students behave?”

“No worse than usual.” Magnus grinned. “They all want to do well on their exams and papers, so they’re making an effort at the end of the academic year, at least.”

“You need some time for grading their work?” Lance was counting on Magnus being a little distracted over the next few days.

“I’ll get started this weekend, but I mainly have Monday and Tuesday set aside. With no lectures, I can easily work from home.” Magnus winked.

Lance blushed. With Jakob at school and only the two of them in the house, Magnus’s work wasn’t all that would get done….

 

 

Chapter Two

 

On Monday morning, Magnus awoke slowly, enjoying the feeling of Lance in his arms. As usual, his husband was draped half over Magnus in sleep, warmer than any blanket, and much more welcome. The thin sheet they used as their only covering in summer had slipped to his waist, revealing his husband’s strong back and offering a tantalizing view of the top of Lance’s asscheeks. The light coming through the edges of the blackout curtains they used in summer was just enough to make Lance’s skin look golden.

I am such a lucky bastard! Magnus smiled. Meeting Lance and falling in love with him had provided Magnus with more than enough evidence for his scientific mind to start believing in miracles. But realizing exactly how precious their life together was while Magnus spent close to two days at the bottom of an icy crevasse a year ago had prompted him to make some changes in his life. Accepting a position at Uppsala University was one of them. Running their masters and doctoral programs and doing desk research was a job Magnus enjoyed, and, unlike his alma mater and previous employer, Stockholm University, they had been very understanding about Magnus’s priority being his family. No arctic expeditions or international field research projects loomed in his future. He was happy to do training, but his place was with Lance and Jakob now.

Exactly one year ago today he had returned to Stockholm on a medical flight, injured in body but not in spirit. That was the day he’d made his commitment to his new life, and he hadn’t regretted it for a single moment.

“Hmm.” Lance cuddled a little closer. “Please tell me it’s too early to get up.”

“It is.” Magnus smiled and stroked his husband’s back. The sun might already have been up for hours, but that was part of Swedish summers, and the alarm clock showed it was only just before six. “And I don’t have anywhere to go today, so we can stay in bed until Jakob gets impatient or needs to get up for school.”

“That may be sooner than we want.” Lance lifted his head and blinked himself awake, a tiny smile gracing his full lips.

“He’s a good boy.” Magnus smiled back and tightened his grip on Lance. “And we’ll spend the rest of the day with him, when he comes back from school, so I’m sure he won’t complain.”

“We will?” Lance raised his eyebrows.

“Oh yes, I’m declaring today a family day, and we’ll do something together.” Magnus didn’t mind what it was, even an amusement park was fun with Jakob around.

“No work for you?” Lance’s smile widened.

“None.” Magnus shook his head for emphasis. “I think we should make this an official family holiday. What do you think?”

“That’s a great idea.” Lance stretched and kissed Magnus.

“Good.” Magnus slid his free hand behind Lance’s head to hold him in place for more kisses. The heat between them rose quickly, and Magnus moaned in delight when Lance’s erection poked him. He pulled Lance up and fully across his body, making sure their cocks aligned as Lance straddled his thighs. Better!

Kissing Lance was one of Magnus’s favorite activities, and full-bodied naked kissing, like they were doing now, made everything even hotter. Magnus held Lance’s neck with one hand, and pushed their groins together with his other firmly holding on to Lance’s perfect ass. He enjoyed their artful squirming and rubbing that pushed his arousal higher and higher, until he was ready to explode. When Lance started moaning at the back of his throat and sped up his thrusts against Magnus’s stomach, he responded in kind. Before he knew it, his orgasm slammed into him, and his entire body stiffened as he shook through his release.

Additional heat from Lance added to the effect, and he held on for dear life as he enjoyed the aftershocks.

“Love you,” Lance whispered, his head back on Magnus’s chest.

“Love you too. So much.” Magnus closed his eyes and held on. They’d remove the mess with their morning shower soon enough, but these shared moments of spent passion were too precious to ignore.

A short while later, a sharp knock on the door roused Magnus from his slumber.

“Are you awake?” Jakob’s voice sounded muffled.

“We are now.” Lance sounded gruff but he was grinning when he lifted his head.

“We’ll join you in a minute.” Magnus sighed and stretched as soft footsteps sounded from the hallway, proof of Jakob’s retreat downstairs.

“Time to get up and face the day.” Lance pulled away and rose, on his way to the adjoining bathroom long before Magnus was ready to let him go, even for a short while. “There will be a reward for you if you make it downstairs on time for breakfast.”

“A reward?” That had Magnus racing after Lance and catching up with him just as he turned on the shower. He loved surprises, and a reward for getting up was definitely new.

“If you’re good.” Lance grinned and stepped under the warm spray.

“Oh, I’ll show you good.” Magnus quickly did his business, then joined Lance in the glass-encased shower stall. He soaped up his husband, touching every nook and cranny of Lance’s slim body.

When Lance returned the favor a few minutes later, Magnus closed his eyes and enjoyed the soft touches. He was looking forward to Jakob leaving for school; it would give them a few hours together before the boy got back around 4:00 p.m. The cleaning done, Magnus shut off the water and they dried, shaved, and got dressed in record time.

The scent of coffee greeted them, and Jakob was putting the finishing touches on setting the kitchen table for breakfast. The morning sun gave the eating nook a festive appearance, and Magnus sat down with a sigh.

“Close your eyes, baby.” Lance grinned. “It’s time for your reward.”

“His reward?” Jakob laughed. “For getting up?”

“For always being there for us.” Lance smiled and ruffled Jakob’s hair. “Can you make sure he keeps his eyes closed?”

“Oh ho, so Jakob is in on this—whatever it is.” Magnus pulled the boy onto his lap for a cuddle.

“I helped.” Jakob beamed at him then held up his small hands, clearly ready to enforce Lance’s order. “Close your eyes.”

Magnus did as he was told and relaxed back in his chair. He had no idea what Lance was up to, but his husband loved giving surprises as much as receiving them, maybe more, and Magnus was more than happy to play along.

Footsteps sounded, then the softly creaking pantry door opened, and the kitchen was silent for a while. Magnus listened to Jakob’s quick breathing and the birds tweeting outside as he wondered what culinary delicacy Lance had come up with. Then more footsteps followed, a soft thump told Magnus something had been placed on the table in front of him, then nothing.

Jakob giggled.

Lance snorted.

Magnus sighed. This was torture.

“Okay you can open your eyes now.” Lance sounded amused.

Magnus tore open his eyes, his gaze immediately drawn to a huge light-blue shape on a baking tray. In the middle of the table sat what looked like a small piedmont glacier, covered in white snow at the top, then turning the typical light-blue of glacier ice lower down. It came down from a perfectly formed valley between two mountains, its bulb-like lobe spilling into a relatively flat plain, pushing brown chocolate cake that looked like earth ahead of it.

“Wow.” It was the only sound Magnus could make.

“Do you like the glacier cake?” Jakob’s eyes had widened and he kept looking back and forth between the cake, Lance, and Magnus. “It has marzipan inside!”

“I love it. It looks absolutely breathtaking, and I am sure it will taste even better.” Magnus swallowed, touched by the effort Lance had put into this work of art, and amused by Jakob’s addiction to the sweet, almond-based confection. “Thank you.”

“It’s to celebrate your safe return from Spitsbergen last year.” Lance’s eyes looked suspiciously shiny. “I am so happy you decided to stay with us, and am sorry you haven’t been able to visit any glaciers. I thought maybe… maybe a chocolate cake would be the right thing to show you how much we appreciate your sacrifice.”

“Come here.” Magnus moved Jakob to his right knee and stretched his left arm toward Lance, pulling him in for a hug. “I love being with the both of you, and I haven’t regretted my decision at all. Not once.”

“Really?” Lance settled on Magnus’s left knee, hugging him and Jakob as he put his head on Magnus’s shoulder.

“Really.” Magnus was the luckiest man alive in that moment, with the man he loved beyond reason and the boy he wanted to become his son both nestled safely in his arms. “Glaciers are beautiful and interesting in their own way and they will always fascinate me. But this, here with you? That is where I really want to be.”

Lance’s smile was warm enough to melt ice, and caused the heat Magnus felt inside to increase beyond even what the thought of eating chocolate cake had done to him. Their afternoon together would certainly be interesting.

“Can I take some pictures before I go?” Jakob squeezed them both before letting go.

“Of course.” Magnus nodded. “As much as I want to eat the cake, it’s too beautiful to destroy. The least we can do is take as many pictures as we can.”

Jakob ran off to get his little digital camera, then snapped pictures until Magnus was sure the memory card was close to full. Lance set up the autotimer, and they got a few pictures with all three of them and the cake. When it was time for Jakob to leave for school, he clearly wasn’t ready to go.

“We’ll do something together when you come back.” Magnus smiled at the excited expression on Jakob’s face.

“Can we go to Gröna Lund?” Jakob loved the fairground with its rides and activities and went at every opportunity.

“Sure.” Magnus smiled and kissed him goodbye before Lance did the same. “Have a good day.”

“Bye.” Jakob raced outside to catch the bus, slamming the door closed behind him.

“Now, where were we?” Magnus tuned to Lance and pulled him into his arms.

“Right here.” Lance pushed closer and kissed Magnus deeply.

Right here indeed. Magnus kissed him back, ready to take their private celebration upstairs within seconds. With Lance, Magnus was always in the moment, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Did you enjoy Serena Yates’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code SerenaYatesFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 15, 2015.

A Laughton Farm’s Wedding by Andrew Grey

January 14, 2015

Title: A Laughton Farm’s Wedding

Author: Andrew Grey

Pairing: Eli and Geoff from Love Means…Endurance

Prompt: collide

“Eli, sweetheart, if we don’t hurry, we’re going to be late,” Geoff said from the bedroom doorway and then stepped in.  He stepped up to him and gently stroked his shoulder.  “If you turn around I’ll help you.”

“I never wore one of these before,” Eli confessed. Not that it was a surprise to Geoff.

“Maybe, but you look really good in the tuxedo.”  Geoff smiled and helped Eli adjust the cummerbund and straighten his tie.

“You look nice too.  But I can’t believe Joey and Robbie insisted on these things for their wedding.  They said they wanted to have it at the farm so I thought it would be simple and instead they went in for all this finery.”

“Hey, the farm is home and they want to make this day as memorable as possible.  Besides, you are going to steal the show.”  Eli looked amazing, although Geoff thought he looked amazing all the time.  The man was made for formal wear.  He was still trim and toned, possibly still a little too thin, but he’d filled out well over the past year after his fight with cancer.  His eyes were bright and that spark, the light that Eli had that always seemed to warm every room he stepped in was back.  That alone was enough to get Geoff down on his knees to say thank you to the powers that be.  He smoothed the front of Eli’s shirt and stepped back.   “You look so handsome.”  Geoff handed Eli his jacket and shrugged his own on, making sure everything was straight before leaving the room and joining the others in the living room.

Jakey sat on the sofa in his tuxedo with Adelle in a buttercup yellow dress that was the epitome of spring.  Robbie’s mother was also there looking pleased and proud, wiping her eyes.  “By the time the ceremony starts my eyes are going to be cried closed.”  Robbie’s father soothed her gently.

“We’re all ready for you,” Tyrone said with a grin and led them out onto the side lawn that everyone had worked on a few months earlier to ensure every bed was filled with flowers.  Adelle and Robbie’s parents sat down in front while Jakey, Eli, and Geoff took their places in the back with Joey.  There was no bride or groom.  Instead Geoff, Eli, and Jakey were standing up for Joey, and Arie and Duane were acting as Robbie’s groomsmen.

Jakey shifted and looked around until the rest of the party joined then.  Arie led Robbie to where the rest of them waited.  A string quartet made up of some of Robbie’s former students began to play.  “Okay,” Tyrone cued and Geoff took Eli and Jakey’s hand and led them down the aisle of white chairs while everyone turned to watch.  They took their places at the left side and then Arie and Duane walked down the aisle, taking their places on the left.

The music died and then shifted to an excerpt of the Ode to Joy and Joey gently guided Robbie down the aisle.  When they reached the front, all of them formed an arc as Len stepped forward.  “I was overwhelmed and honored when Joey and Robbie asked me to perform their ceremony.”  Sniffles were heard from behind them and Geoff had to swallow and blink to keep the lump and tears at bay.  “Marriage is the joining of two hearts and spirits into one.  I was blessed to be here when these two met and I’ve also been honored and truly inspired by their devotion to each other.  I got to see them fall in love and watch that love grow and prosper over the years.  Joey… Robbie… you help bring light and life to all our lives.”  Len paused a few seconds.  “They have written vows to each other.  Robbie…”

Robbie turned to Joey who took his hands.  “Joey, you see me for who I am and I always promise to do the same for you.  I’ll love and cherish you for the wonderful man you are.  You fill my life with joy each and every day.   You have opened my life to more things than I could ever have imagined.  I rode my first horse with you and I planted my first garden.  I hope that our lives will be filled with many more firsts as we spend the rest of our lives together.”  Robbie stopped speaking and Geoff took Eli’s hand and they shared a smile while they both tried not to cry.  Jakey sniffed a little next to him and Geoff placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Joey…”  Len prompted.

“Robbie, I promise never to stop loving you and I will care for you and nurture you forever.  You filled my world with music and life.  Your eyes may not work, but you sometimes see better than anyone I know.  I hope that together we can continue to fill each other’s lives with joy and love forever.”

Len talked Joey and Robbie through the exchange of rings and then they turned toward everyone assembled.  “It is my pleasure to pronounce you Joey and you Robbie as legally married husbands.  You may kiss.”

Joey pulled Robbie into his arms and kissed him.  Eli shifted closer and Geoff put one hand on Eli’s shoulder and another on Jakey’s.  Everyone applauded and Joey and Robbie slowly made their way down the aisle with the rest of them following.  Tents had been set up just down the lawn and the photographer Joey had hired wrangled everyone together for pictures of the wedding party.  “I’d like to get a picture of the grooms with their families,” the photographer said and proceeded to take pictures of Joey and Robbie with Robbie’s parents and Joey’s mom.

“We need one more,” Joey said.  “We need a picture of our farm family.”   Joey hurried and whispered something to Jakey.  He smiled and nodded and then ran to Adelle as fast as his legs would carry him.  She shook her head but led Jakey away.  Geoff wondered what was going on but then a few minutes later they both returned with Jakey leading his Great Dane and Adelle leading Robbie’s.

“I guess Joey wanted us all.”  Geoff said and they all got into place with Jakey and the dogs in front, Robbie and Joey in the center, Geoff and Eli next to them and Len and Chris in the back.  They all smiled and the photographer snapped the pictures.

As everyone moved away Geoff turned to Eli and drew him closer.  “I love family pictures,” Geoff whispered.

“I know.  The walls are full of them and I keep wondering what we’ll do when we eventually run out of space,” Eli whispered.

“That’s easy.  We’ll get more walls.”  Geoff smiled and tugged Eli in closer for a kiss.

______________

Did you enjoy Andrew Grey’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code AndrewGreyFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 14, 2015.

Because It Was He by Tinnean

January 13, 2015

Title: Because It Was He

Author: Tinnean

Pairing: Ransom and Parrish from The Best

Prompt: twisted

If I am pressed to say why I loved him, I feel it can only be explained by replying: “Because it was he; because it was me.” - Montaigne

The holiday season was coming to an end. Ransom Burke, CEO of Burke, Burke, and Hammett, and Parrish Rutledge, his lover, had spent Thanksgiving with Felicia Campbell, his previous executive secretary, and her husband and their twins, who weren’t quite a year old. It had been cute watching Parrish crawl around on the floor with the little boy and girl.

For Christmas, they’d gone to visit the Pitneys, the foster family who had taken Parrish in after his homophobic brother had tossed him out on the street.  It had been interesting seeing how Parrish got along with the Pitney children, who threw themselves on him, even though they’d been seven and nine when they’d last seen him five years before.

Now it was December 31, and the condo they were going to share from this day forward—or perhaps it would be the one he’d bought for Parrish at the beginning of the year, he thought somewhat giddily. Wherever his lover chose to live, as long as it was with him. Ran tugged the hem of his dinner jacket to conceal his erection. There were times when Parrish took the reins, and although Ran had never bottomed for any of the other men he’d had in his bed, the feel of Parrish sliding a finger into his ass and teasing his prostate had encouraged him to give it a try. Parrish had been so thorough in his care of him that Ran had come twice before Parrish mounted him. And then he’d come a third time.

That memory never ceased to arouse him.

What had his thought originally been? Oh, yes, he’d been admiring the way this condo was decorated for the New Year’s Eve party they were hosting.  There were party hats, noisemakers, streamers, masks, boas, balloons….

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Ransom?”

“Hmm? Oh, this is an excellent idea, sweet.” Ran had been startled by how much that simple endearment meant to his lover, but once he had realized it, he used it at every opportunity. And each time, Parrish would blush, give him a brilliant smile, and kiss him.

It just went to demonstrate how preoccupied Parrish was now because he completely let the opportunity pass him by.

Ran sighed. In fact, Parrish seemed to find his bowtie more fascinating than his lover.

The party they were hosting was not only to celebrate the start of the New Year, but their first anniversary as well. In spite of the fact they’d been lovers for a year—longer than any of Ran’s previous relationships save the one with Scott, which had lasted six years—the disparity in their backgrounds still worried Parrish on occasion. After he’d had to drop out of college due to rising tuition costs and dwindling grants, he’d struggled along in an effort to make ends meet, living in a matchbox of an apartment, taking temp jobs, and surviving on Ramen noodles and tomato soup made from ketchup so he could pay his student loans.

However, the fact that Ransom was exceptionally wealthy and Parrish… wasn’t… made no difference to Ransom. It was just one of those twists of fate.

While Ran’s family were aware of what Parrish was to him, his friends knew Parrish as his personal private secretary, who he’d hired away from the family company last winter. And because everyone knew Ransom Burke’s policy of not dating anyone who worked for him, they’d never questioned Parrish’s position in his life.

Of course Scott, who was still his lawyer, knew the spare bedroom in Ran’s condo was never occupied on those nights when Parrish stayed over, ostensibly to work, but he also knew which side his bread was buttered on, and he kept his mouth shut.

For the past year, Parrish had willingly remained in the background. “I know you love me, Ran, and that’s enough for me. You don’t have to shout it from the housetops.”

To his shame, Ran had gone along with it, had let everyone believe Parrish was nothing more than an employee. Oh, he could try to excuse his behavior by telling himself he’d been caught between a rock and a hard place: there had been an attempted hostile takeover because he hadn’t been at the company’s helm—he had to keep flying down to Florida where his father was in an assisted living facility, due to his numerous medical problems, and his mother had been diagnosed with advanced stage congestive heart failure—and while he’d beaten back that attempt with Parrish’s help, the last thing he’d needed in his business life or his personal life was more stress.

But enough was enough, and now it was time his friends and business associates learned how much more Parrish meant to him. And if they chose to snipe and snark at him, they’d regret it.

“I want to show off what a fantastic job you’ve done.” Ran had turned over all the preparations to Parrish, and as he’d expected, his former executive secretary had pulled it together with panache. He’d gone to the chef of Wild Rose and persuaded her to provide a variety of finger foods and fine wines, as well as an excellent champagne for toasting the New Year, as a favor to Ran, since her restaurant had become extremely popular thanks to his patronage.

However, when he’d told Parrish the party was actually to announce their coupledom to all of Charlotte, he’d been afraid Parrish would have an anxiety attack. As his executive secretary, Parrish had every confidence, but as his lover, not so much. This was something Ran intended to change.

It was Ran’s fault. Parrish had seen the way Ran had gone through a series of lovers—unfaithful or simply unsatisfactory—while he’d worked for him. That was because of Scott, who’d been his partner for six years, until he decided he wanted a “normal” life with a wife he could show off at company functions. Had Ran deliberately set himself up to be disappointed in each successive lover? If he had, it turned out to be a good thing— it left him available for Parrish.

“Did I do a good job?”

“Didn’t I just say so, sweet?”

Parrish stood before the mirror, fiddling with his bowtie, now stealing glances at him.

Ran pretended he didn’t notice. He pulled Parrish to him, took his hands from his tie, and draped them over his shoulders.  “Stop toying with your tie. You’re going to wrinkle it.”

“I am?”  Oh, not a good idea. He shouldn’t have opened his mouth. Parrish looked even more nervous.

“Never mind, sweet.” He leaned forward, and the closer he drew to Parrish’s mouth, the shorter his lover’s breath became. Ah, much better. Parrish had parted his lips. Ran opened his mouth to say “Kiss me,” but before he could, Parrish’s mouth was on his, nibbling, nipping, rubbing his tongue against Ran’s….

He’d planned to distract Parrish with a kiss, but as it turned out, Parrish did a very good job of distracting him.

**

In the midst of a kiss that was quickly growing too passionate for the amount of time they had, the chimes at his condo’s front door rang, announcing the first of their guests.

“I’d better—”

“The butler will get it.”

“But it’s my job—”

“Not tonight,” Ran interrupted again. “Tonight and forever after, you’re my partner.”

“But—”

“There are no buts, Parrish. That’s how I plan to introduce you.”

“You know you don’t have to….”

“No, but I want to. And frankly, it’s time.”

“Really, Ran?” Parrish stared at him in wide-eyed wonderment.

“Really, sweet.” Ran loved his chocolate-brown eyes. Ran… loved him, simply because it was him.

Joy flooded his features, and he pressed a chaste kiss on Ran’s lips.

“I love you!” he whispered. Then he straightened and looped his arm through Ran’s.  “All right, Ransom. Let’s get this show on the road.”

Ran had never been more proud.

**

“I’m so pleased to finally get a chance to see your condo, Ransom. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it.” Marjorie Lane, the wife of one of Ran’s business associates, had been trying to corner him all evening and had finally succeeded. “It’s so… masculine. Of course I would have expected nothing less from a man of your standing. Although I must say that chrome and glass are more to my own taste—they give a house an elegant, modern touch, don’t you think?” She drew in a breath, but before he could say a word, she chattered on. “Now, you must show me everything.” She linked her arm with his and tugged him away from the buffet and into the living room. “It was kind of you to allow your young designer friend to dabble at decorating your home.”

“Who?”

“That young man who’s going around acting as your host. So presumptuous.” She sniffed.

“He’s not acting. And he’s not my designer.”

“He’s not?”

“He’d be the first to tell you he was behind the door when God gave out the decorating gene. Although he did set up the objects on the mantel.”

“Well, that explains it.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your mantel.” She looked as if she’d tasted something sour.

She’d always struck him as a pompous busybody, and if she couldn’t appreciate how Parrish had arranged the things he had given him, then Ran had read her personality right.

“It’s great, isn’t it?” he enthused, wondering if it would drive her insane that a “man of his standing” appreciated something she obviously disdained. He studied the little procession. Parrish had told him they were presents he’d bought each year for his boyfriend, but since he hadn’t had a special guy in his life, he’d just continued buying them and letting them accumulate under his tiny Christmas tree.

When Ran woke up on Christmas morning, he’d found the small pile of presents scattered across the foot of their bed at the Pitneys’ house. Having been told the story behind them, he’d been touched and gratified as he unwrapped each gift: a Masters of the Universe action figure from the 1980s, a model from one of Universal Studio’s classic monster movies, a pewter horse no bigger than his little finger, a lead soldier dressed in Confederate gray and mounted on a stallion, a comic book, and lastly, a tiny scale model of an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway steam locomotive. They marched across the mantel, indicative, to him at any rate, of what a caring young man his lover was.

Great?” Marjorie sniffed again, and Ran began to wonder if she was coming down with a head cold. “It’s obvious someone”— she sent a glare in the direction Parrish had gone.—“has gone out of his way to make a horse’s ass of you! I must say, knowing your exquisite taste, I have to wonder how you could permit it. Such cheap, childish things.” She flicked the scarlet fingernails of one hand against the Creature from the Black Lagoon, toppling it to the brick hearth.

“Is that how they strike you?” Ran took her other hand from his arm and stooped to retrieve the Creature. The witch was just fortunate it was rubber and hadn’t broken.

“Well, of course! They’re nothing but Goodwill trash!”

Ran bit back a caustic retort and took a series of deep breaths in an attempt to calm down. Not even for Henry would he—

“Ran! Ransom! Look who’s here!” Parrish came hurrying up, inadvertently saving the day, dragging…

“Alex? What are you doing here?”

“A fine way to greet your brother.”

“Ass.” He hugged him. “You know you’re always welcome. But I thought you planned to ring in the New Year out in LA.”

“I did. But when Parrish sent me an invitation, I realized what an important occasion this was.” His straight brother had known almost as soon as he his feelings for Parrish, and had pushed for their relationship.

“Important in what way?” Marjorie Lane demanded. She’d latched onto Ran’s arm again.

“Shouldn’t I have, Ransom?” Parrish looked concerned. “I thought having him here would be ideal.” He lowered his voice. “It would let everyone know at least one member of your family supported our relationship.”

“And it will, sweet.” As he’d hoped, his lover’s face lit up, and Parrish pounced and kissed him.

“That is absolutely—” Marjorie’s face turned an unbecoming shade of puce.

“Marjorie!” Alex interrupted her, which was a good thing, because Ran had a feeling she hadn’t been about to say anything nice, in which case his response would have been to ask her to leave. “I didn’t see you there! It’s been too long! How are you? I thought I saw Henry by the buffet. Let’s go find him, shall we? We have so much to catch up on!”

She preened. “You always were such a charming young man, Alex.”

Alex rolled his eyes at Ran, winked at Parrish, and hustled the woman back to the buffet.

He’d have to buy his brother something special to show his appreciation. He gazed at Parrish, who stood staring after Alex.

“I think you owe your brother something very special, Ran.”

Ran burst into laughter. “I think you’re right.”

“I am sorry, though, handsome.”

“For what? Kissing me?”

“Never that, but I made a scene. I keep forgetting not everyone is accepting of homosexuality.”

“They’re not?” Ran widened his eyes, pleased when Parrish chuckled.

“Well, at least she didn’t faint.”

“That’s true.” Although he was afraid it was only a matter of time. When the ball descended at midnight, he planned to kiss his lover very thoroughly.  He raised Parrish’s hand to his lips and brushed a kiss across his knuckles. “So, are you enjoying—?”

“Burke! Are you out of your mind?”

Ran turned to see one of his friends had taken the comic book down from the mantel.

Ran sighed. Having this party to introduce Parrish had been a good idea, but perhaps inviting some of these people hadn’t.

“Why would you say that, Jack?” He’d gone to college with Edgewood Jackson, and he’d never struck Ran as homophobic. Well, they’d never have remained friends over the ensuing years if he had, considering Ran had been out and proud since his teens.

“How did you get this comic book?”

“It was a gift,” Ran told him.

“Who gave it to you?”

“I did,” Parrish said.

“Where did you find this?”

“In a used book store back home, before I left for college.”

“You’ve kept it like this for four years?”

“More like five, but before Ran opened it, I kept it wrapped in Christmas paper.”

“Oh my God!”

“Do you have a problem with that?” Ran was getting tired of Parrish’s gifts to him being disparaged.

“You bet your ass I do! This should have been bagged, with a board to keep the corners from bending. It’s amazing they haven’t torn!”

“What?”

“You don’t realize what you have here? This is Fantastic Four, issue twelve!”

“I’m aware of that. I do have eyes, you know.” Ran scowled at his friend. Former friend? Parrish had told him he’d originally bought the comic because he’d had a crush on Thing, the big orange member of the superheroes known as the Fantastic Four.

“You may have eyes, but you still don’t know what you have. This issue, in this condition? It’s worth more than ten thousand dollars!”

There was a thud, and when Ran looked down, it was to find Parrish passed out on the floor.

 

Did you enjoy Tinnean’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code TinneanFlash2. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 13, 2015.

Butterflies by Amy Lane

January 12, 2015

Title: Butterflies

Author: Amy Lane

Pairing: Patrick and Whiskey from Clear Water

Prompt: butterflies

 

Patrick might not have seen it if he hadn’t forgotten his shoes.

In the early breaths of spring he’d clambered up to the deck to drink his coffee, but even though it was February and they were out on the houseboat, he’d forgotten his shoes.

The deck was frickin’ cold in February.

His foot hit a patch of ice and he skid for a terrifying moment, flailing, coffee going everywhere, fully aware that he was heading for the side of the boat and about to fall off.  He coordinated enough to chuck the coffee cup overboard, and the splash reached his ears just as he threw himself in the air so he’d land, sprawled, on his stomach, his lean body making a hollow thump as he threatened to cave in the ceiling of what was probably his and Whiskey’s bedroom.

He was laying there, counting stars, hearing the “Holy fuck Patrick what in the hell was that?” echoing from the hold of the boat, when it fluttered stiffly to the prow and sat for a moment on the chrome railing of the boat.

He stared at it, dumbfounded, vaguely aware that his chin hurt and he was probably going to have a big honking cut on it when the dust cleared.

“Patrick?”

“Palos blue,” Patrick mumbled.

“Oh my God—Patrick!  Are you okay?”

“No. I think my chin is bleeding.  And the neighbors in the next boat are laughing their asses off.”

“They can go fuck a frog,” Whiskey swore.  Patrick felt big, reassuring hands assessing his arms, his legs, his cold and bruised toes.  “Jesus, Patrick—did you hit your head?”

Gingerly, Patrick got to his knees and then to his feet, looking unhappily at the blood patterning his shirt.

“No. Just my chin. Fucking hurts.  Did you see that?” he asked, making sure Whiskey had heard him the first time.

“Yeah, you said Palos Blue.”  Whiskey hadn’t shaved in days, and his beard was almost full, but that didn’t stop his warm brown eyes from being accessible and concerned over it.  “That’s why I thought you’d hit your head.”

“Yeah—noLook, Whiskey—it’s right there!”

Now see?  Anyone else Patrick had ever known would have just chivvied him off down into the boat and fussed over his chin, which was going to need stitches.

But Whiskey knew that Patrick would think this was important too.

“Oh my God—Patrick what in the hell is that thing doing here?”

They were extremely rare—and extremely rare in California in the winter.

“Someone must be breeding them,” Patrick mumbled.  “Is that illegal?”

“I don’t know,” Whiskey muttered.  “It’s damned hard to breed butterflies.  I don’t know what kind of impact that would have.”

As they both stared at the thing, it stuttered and fell over.  Whiskey left Patrick’s side with a reluctant pat on his shoulder, and took off his moccasin.  Very carefully, he picked the dead butterfly up by its leg and deposited it into his shoe, where it wouldn’t get more banged about before he went downstairs and got a sample bag.

When that task was done, he let out a curse.  “Holy hell, is it cold up here.  C’mon, Patrick—let’s get you downstairs and dressed.  We’re going to need to see the doc about your chin.”

Patrick groaned.  The doctor—if they got the same one, and they’d been seeing him practically every time they’d been to Kaiser in the last two months—had made his opinion clear.  He’d made it clear when Patrick had nailed his hand to the deck, and he’d made it clear when Patrick had slid down the houseboat stairs and banged his head on the last step.

He’d definitely make his opinion clear now.

“You know what he’ll say!” Patrick whined.

“He’ll say we need to move into a real house and not the houseboat where you’re going to kill yourself,” Whiskey recited grimly.

“Yeah.  That.”

“Well, I’m starting to think he’s got a point.”  Whiskey sighed, and helped him down the stairs.

“But Whiskey, we’ve got to find out about the butterfly!  It’s important, right?  An ecological anomaly?”

“Yeah.  We’ll find out about the butterfly.  But maybe we’ll find out about an apartment too.  I’d really like you to stop bleeding on the carpeting.”

Patrick’s chin opened up into a giant ache.  Maybe Whiskey had a point, but he didn’t want to talk about it now.

“Whatever.  Just give me some toilet paper and I’ll bleed on that.”

Whiskey grunted and did what he said.  “Palos Blue,” he murmured half to himself, setting the shoe down on the breakfast table.  “You’re probably the only one who could find that.”

“Yeah,” Patrick said, feeling spiteful.  “But only if we live here.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Whiskey returned, but he was already pulling his phone out of his pocket and dialing the doctor, so Patrick wasn’t sure how much he meant it.

Patrick rooted around in the shoe for a moment.  “Palos Blue,” he mumbled, “Palos Blue… let’s think of a way to stay home where we belong.”

 

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Foxtails by Elizabeth Noble

January 11, 2015

Title: Foxtails

Author: Elizabeth Noble

Pairing: Nick and Todd from Marked Yours and Together Bound

Prompt: celebration

Nick dropped the knapsack full of salt, magnetized iron, knives with silver edged blades, and sacrosanct oil onto the floor next to a chair. He sat on the same chair, leaned his elbows on his knees and rested his chin in his hands. Barely moving, he tracked Todd’s movements around the large room. A couple of dozen round tables covered with white cloth, and chairs stacked beside them, dotted the room. Todd went from table to table, looking under the clothes and moving the chairs around.

Todd stopped and turned, staring hard at Nick. “Are you going to help?”

Shaking his head, Nick said, “No.”

Glaring, Todd let his hands drop to his sides, tilted his head and sighed. “The party starts in a few hours. We’re the only sentries in Elk’s Ridge.” He waved at Nick in a ‘get up’ motion. “So, let’s get at it.”

“There’s no ghost.”

“Yes, there is. How do you account for all the weird things the owner told us has been going on around here lately?” Todd asked.

“I’m a psychic. If there was a ghost here, I’d know it,” Nick reminded his mate. “I’ve never been wrong before.”

Todd huffed an annoyed noise. “There’s a first time for everything. How do you explain—?”

“I don’t know. If there was a ghost, it’s gone now.”

“It could come back,” Todd countered. Nick nodded, conceding the fact Todd could be correct, but said nothing.

It was New Year’s Eve and Nick had much better ideas on how to spend the afternoon with his mate than chasing ghosts around. On a good day that wasn’t his favorite thing to do.

Elk’s Ridge had become their home. The town had taken them in during the war between New Colorado Protectorate and West Caldera Protectorate. Like many other owner/slave couples they’d fled north to Yellowknife Protectorate and landed quite by accident in Elk’s Ridge.

Now they had a house and a small farm to care for when they weren’t busy being sentries and chasing after supernatural threats.

This so-called ghost wasn’t so much of a threat as it was an annoyance. Every New Year’s Eve the town of Elk’s Ridge hosted a huge celebration. That celebration would begin in a few hours in this room. It took up one entire floor of a hotel and the proprietor insisted the place had become haunted recently.

He’d told them yesterday—when Todd had cheerfully volunteered their services—things had been disappearing, food was disturbed, and items were moved. It was more poltergeist behavior than a true haunting, but thanks to Todd and his quick-draw mouth, Nick had only had a day to research the building, employees and land. Research that had turned up a big, fat nothing as far as useful information went.

“I’m hungry… and cold. Can’t we go home and get ready for tonight’s celebration? There’s nothing here.” Nick tried not to whine, but judging from the arched eyebrow and the look he was on the receiving end of from Todd, he’d failed miserably.

“Not until this place is deemed safe for the guests tonight. It’s our duty as sentries.” Todd pulled a bottle from the shelf behind the bar and held it up. “How do you explain this?”

The cork had crumbled and pieces of it were floating in the whisky inside. The bottle’s label was scratched, but none of the liquid seemed to be missing.

Nick shrugged. “Okay, you don’t see that every day, but it doesn’t prove a ghost. And, let’s revisit the fact I can’t sense any spirit in this building.”

“The sooner we finish here the faster we can get home and I can warm you up,” Todd said and smirked. He leaned down and looked under the bar. “There are more bottles down here like this.”

“Really?” Nick got up and crossed the room. Joining Todd behind the bar he bent down and looked for himself. “This is weird, I’ll give you that.”

“Are you sure you don’t sense anything?” Todd asked. Nick shook his head and Todd held one hand up, his forefinger and thumb an inch apart. “Not even a little bit?”

“Not so much as a twinge,” Nick said. “Let’s go home now so you can warm me up.”

Todd slid one arm around Nick’s waist and tugged him close. “The faster we get this place clear, the faster you’ll get warmed up.” Todd’s voice was deep and smooth, his breath hot against Nick’s ear. His hand slipped down Nick’s back and gave his rear a quick swat. “If you want more of this,” Todd’s thigh pressed between Nick’s legs and against his groin, “we need to get rid of a ghost first.”

Scratching and something falling off a shelf under the bar made them both stop. Grumbling, Nick went one way. Todd was far too excited about searching in the other direction. Crouching down as they walked to search underneath the bar, they each made a complete circle around it, examining it entirely until they were back where they’d started.

Todd held up a pair of heavy drinking glasses. “Explain this.” He tipped them back and forth a few times before he replaced them to the shelf under the bar. “They weren’t stacked nicely like the rest of the glassware and one was on the floor.”

“Explain the scratching,” Nick countered. “Ghosts don’t make noise.”

“They sometimes knock things over,” Todd said. He crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his foot.

Nick stepped close enough to rub one hand up and down Todd’s thigh. He leaned in and pressed a sting of light kisses along Todd’s neck before saying, “I don’t sense any ghost.”

Todd put one hand on Nick’s chest and moved him back a step. “What about tonight’s celebration? Hmm? How embarrassing will it be to have everyone from town here and weird shit starts to happen? After the sentries deemed the place clean.” He slid one arm around Nick’s waist and pulled them together. Todd kissed Nick, lightly at first, but a few seconds later Nick was moaning into the kiss as his tongue slipped over Todd’s. When Todd broke their kiss he smiled and said, “You’ll get more after we have cleared up whatever is causing the problem, remember?”

Banging came from the kitchen and cut off Nick’s impending complaint. The kitchen was off the ballroom and there was a swinging door separating the two rooms. Letting go of Nick, Todd sprinted to the door saying, “It may not be a ghost, but there is something.”

Nick silently cursed whatever was keeping him from the warmth of his mate’s body and trailed after Todd. The kitchen was dark and it took them a few minutes of fumbling to find the Faraday lanterns evenly spaced along the wall. Todd prowled close to the large double oven and cook top. He pressed his cheek to the wall, looking behind the appliance.

Cans of food rolled on the floor near an opened pantry and a bag of sugar had been ripped open. It lay on its side, contents still pouring out onto the floor. Nick righted it and rolled the paper down to close the bag. He leaned it carefully against the back of the pantry shelf.

Todd must have heard the scratching at the same time Nick did. It came from a cupboard under the sink. Holding his finger to his lips, Todd dipped his head at the origin of the noise and moved quickly in that direction. Nick nodded, keeping his steps light and fast as he closed in from the other direction. They each took hold of a handle. Nick met Todd’s gaze steadily, took a deep breath and when Todd nodded, they pulled the doors open.

“Whoa!” Todd jerked to the side, lifting one foot when something red and white flashed by him.

Nick punched the air with his fist. “Ha! Not a ghost!”

“Alright, fine! You were right. What do you want, an extra blow job?” Todd spread his arms wide.

“Yes.”

“We still have a problem to solve before tonight’s New Year’s celebration. Wild animals can’t be running loose in here,” Todd said and shut the cupboard door. “How the hell did they get all the way up to the third floor anyway?”

“I think the more appropriate question is how do we get them out?” Nick asked. He sighed, shut the other door and leaned back against the counter. “I wonder if there’s just the two of them.”

Todd looked at him. His shoulders sagged and he groaned, not in the having hot sex way either. “There’s at least one more in the other room, if that’s what pushed the glasses over and chewed up the corks in the whiskey bottles. Waste of good whiskey.”

“Our only other explanation is a ghost, which I would sense,” Nick reminded him.

“That you don’t even sense a tiny bit,” Todd said. “Let’s deal with what is in here first.” He strode to the kitchen door and moved the bar that would stop the doors from swinging into place. “You’re the animal expert, any ideas?”

“I know about livestock.” Nick looked around the kitchen. “Let’s find some meat, fresh or dried.”

“Good idea.” Again they split up. Todd rifled through the refrigerator while Nick searched the pantry. After a few minutes Todd straightened and held a covered platter in one hand. He gave the refrigerator door a shove and it swung closed. “Fish. They like fish.” Looking around, he added, “Now we need something to trap them with.” The platter was handed off to Nick. “Here, put your knife skills to good use and cut this into smaller chunks. I’ll find something to make a trap with.”’

“I don’t like fish, why do I have to cut it up?”

“Because making a trap is my job,” Todd said and smiled that cocky smile of his.

“We are going to catch them alive, aren’t we?”

Sighing and dipping his head to one side, Todd rolled his eyes. “Yes! We’ll just catch them and turn them loose. Problem solved.”

“Uh-huh.” Nick found a cutting board and a butcher knife and went to work on the fish, dicing it into bite-sized chunks. He heard Todd rummaging through the kitchen; items were moved, doors opened and closed. After a few minutes the room became suspiciously quiet. Nick turned around to find Todd grinning at him. He raised his eyebrows and stood there watching his mate.

“All we have to do is get them into here,” Todd said and pointed inside a wooden crate. He dropped the lid and continued, “We close the lid and viola, back outside they go. Celebration continues and most importantly our awesome reputation remains intact.” Setting the crate at his feet he held up both thumbs.

“Uh-huh.”

Todd waved Nick’s doubts. “Oh, ye of little faith.” He carried the crate to the corner of the kitchen with the most shelves. “They ran this way.”

“Plenty of places for them to hide.” Nick shrugged and scooped up the pieces of fish. He laid trails of fish fanned out in front of the crate Todd had set down on its side. They backed up so they both stood behind the crate.

It didn’t take long for a small canine with pretty red fur, brownish legs and a white tipped tail to slink cautiously toward the fish. Nick wondered if Todd was holding his breath too, afraid to move and scare the little creature.

Sniffing the fish, the fox’s tail flipped side to side. It pawed at the pieces then jumped sideways. Todd snickered and Nick swallowed a full out laugh. “It’s just a kit,” he whispered to Todd.

Nick put a few more pieces of fish inside the crate. The little fox inched forward and gobbled up more of the fish then it stopped and looked up. Todd and Nick froze. Staring up at them the fox swished its tail and yipped. A second kit, smaller than this one, crept out from under the shelves. The two little fuzz balls wrestled, rolling over one another, then both grabbed a morsel of fish and played tug-o-war, the smaller of the pair winning the prize.

“C’mon, we’ll get you out of here,” Todd coaxed in a soft voice. He held a piece of fish out. The larger of the fox pups darted forward, grabbed the fish and scrambled off. It ran in a zigzag around the room, crashing into pans and toppling things stored on lower shelves.

Nick couldn’t help it; he doubled over and burst out laughing. That seemed to incite it further and made the second one join in. They apparently thought it was great fun to run close to Todd or Nick, snatch a snack and dart away, tails wagging, making squealing sounds.

Finally the larger kit ran headlong into the crate. It turned a circle and almost scrambled out, but Todd was faster by a mere second and managed to get the lid on the crate. The other fox darted around, between their feet, then it sprinted just out of touching range. It sat and looked at them.

Todd and Nick gazed back. The crate rattled in Todd’s arms. He balanced it with one hand and braced his other against the top of the crate.

Nick leaned down, holding out more fish. “We’re not going to hurt you. We’ll take you outside.” Slowly he sat down, cross-legged, and threw one piece to the floor. Never taking its eyes off Nick, the kit slunk forward, sniffed the fish swishing its tail a few times.

Scooting back a few feet, Nick repeated his actions. The fox smacked at the next piece of fish, jumped up, paced to the side and belly-crawled close enough to grab the food. Todd stepped silently until he was a foot or so from the fox and set the crate down, careful not to dislodge the top.

“When I lift the lid, you throw some pieces inside. That will keep the one inside busy and hopefully get the other one into the crate,” Todd whispered.

Nick nodded. He stood slowly and stretched far enough to grab more of the fish from the cutting board. The loose fox cocked its head to the side, watching. It whined softly and Nick smiled down at it. “Hungry?”

Todd’s plan seemed like a good one. Until he cracked the lid so Nick could get his hand and the fish in far enough.

The crate’s lid ejected out of Todd’s grasp and a red and brown blur scrambled up Nick’s arm, leapt to the floor and chirped happily as it bounded in a circle around Nick. Jerking his arm away, Nick gasped, slipped on the remains of a piece of fish and landed on his ass.

“Oops,” Todd said and laughed.

Nick grumbled, “Oops?” He pushed off the floor just as the kits chased each other around him and ran across his legs.

There was scratching on the opposite side of the swinging door, and loud yipping and barking. Both the kits ran to the door. Tails wagging, noses pressed to the space under the door.

“We get one in this crate and the other two will stay with it,” Nick said.

Todd nodded. “I think you’re right.” He whistled and the two young foxes turned, ears forward, heads up. “Play time’s over boys…girls…kids.”

He took the last bits of fish and tossed it into the crate then grabbed a salt shaker and rolled it along the floor at Nick. Stopping it with his foot, Nick met Todd’s gaze and grinned. He gave the shaker a push. It rolled back toward Todd.

The foxes jumped in opposite directions then scrambled after the glass shaker, their nails clicking against the wood floor. One kit ‘caught’ the shaker, pushing at it with its nose then leapt straight in the air and landed with the shaker underneath it.

Todd grabbed another shaker and rolled it neatly into the crate. Two heads, with black tipped ears straight up turned and watched. At the same time they took off, running so fast in circles around the crate they slipped and slid on the polished wood. Todd’s shoulders bounced and his entire body vibrated. He gave the crate a shake and the kits’ attention riveted to it.

Moving silently, Nick snatched up the lid and crept closer to Todd and the crate. A third shaker went into the crate, this time followed by two little foxes tumbling over each other.

“Ha! Gotcha!” Todd lifted the crate off the floor and Nick slapped the lid into place.

“We need more food for the other one,” Nick said. He hurried back to the refrigerator and pulled a plate of chicken out. Grabbing a few handfuls, he stuffed it in his pockets.

Nick peeked through the slats in the crate; two sets of deep brown eyes looked back. “I’ll get the door.” Crossing the kitchen to the door, Nick slid the bar free and looked back at Todd. “Think the other one will follow?”

“I think it’ll follow you,” Todd said. He tucked the crate under one arm, holding the lid securely in place with his free hand.

Nick opened the doors and stepped out into the main room, holding the door for Todd. Walking as fast as possible, and still keep quiet, they crossed the room. All the time Nick was aware of the larger fox. This one was heavier and he could easily tell it was female. She watched them from near one of the round tables. “Todd, look. I guess we were both right.” Nick sidled up and whispered in Todd’s ear.

The female was a deep gray with a vibrant white tip to her tail.

Todd nodded. “She almost looks like a spirit with that coloring. Come on, sweetheart, follow us and we’ll get you and the kids somewhere better for you than here.” He looked at Nick. “Give her a smell.”

Nick crouched down and rubbed his hands on the floor in front of him. When the fox took a few steps forward and sniffed, he extracted some of the chicken from his pocket and dropped it in front of him. Bushy gray tail arched over her back, waving side to side, the fox took a few more steps toward him. Nick stayed perfectly still while she crept forward and nibbled at the meat. Smiling he took a few more pieces and set them down, pushing them over the floor to her. She paced back and forth a few times before snatching the morsels.

“Poor thing is probably hung over from all the whiskey she broke into,” Todd said. “Let’s see if we can coax her down the service entrance.” He jerked his chin to the door leading to the back stairs. They’d checked all the exits before going into the room and knew it would lead straight outside.

As he had with the kitchen doors, Nick held the service entrance door open for Todd to get the crate through. The two kits must have smelled the adult fox; now they were crying and yipping, sounds Nick knew was one fox calling to others. He threw a few pieces of meat down the steps ahead of Todd. Walking carefully so he didn’t step on them, Todd made his way down the stairs.

The female fox eyed Nick for a minute then darted after Todd, barely stopping to snatch up the scraps Nick offered her. When they reached the exit, Nick pushed the door open and Todd slipped outside. The crate was jostling around in his arms, but he grinned and headed toward their wagon.

They wasted no time securing the crate in the wagon bed. Nick peered through the crate slots once again. The kits were curled together in a corner, watching him. When something poked his leg, Nick looked down. The female sniffed his foot, putting one paw on his boot.

Todd held his fingers to his lips and mouthed the words, “don’t move.” Nick watched as Todd moved to where the horses were hitched and untied them. He tossed the reins to the seat and jumped up. Todd twisted around and waved with his fingers for Nick.

Nick took the rest of the chicken meat from his pocket and tossed it to the wagon bed near the crate. Watching the female, he backed toward the front of the wagon. When he started to climb to the bench seat and take his place beside Todd, the fox bounded into the back of the wagon. Todd clucked softly and turned the horses, guiding the wagon down the street.

“Any ideas where to take them?” Todd asked.

“How about the woods along the edge of our farm? There’s a creek there,” Nick said. “They’ll have plenty of food and space and no danger of getting shot at going after someone’s chickens. They certainly don’t seem too afraid of people.”

“They’ve been living in a hotel for three weeks, why should they be? I’m surprised no one saw them before now.” Todd turned and looked between them before saying softly, “Nicky.”

Nick followed Todd’s gaze. The female fox had her front legs on the back of the bench seat. She sniffed first Nick’s arm, then Todd’s before backing away and sitting beside the crate. The day was cold, but clear and sunny. Todd held the reins in one hand and put his other arm around Nick, rubbing his shoulder for a few minutes. Nick scooted closer, relaxing against Todd’s side and sighing happily.

“Okay, you were right,” Todd said. He leaned to the side, giving Nick a quick kiss.

“I love being right.”

Todd chuckled. “We’re still sentries and that means protecting all sorts of families.”

It didn’t take them more than a half hour to find a suitable spot on their farm to release the little family of foxes. There was a thick covering of snow on the ground so they’d have to leave the wagon on the road. Nick swung his legs over the bench seat to the back of the wagon and untied the crate. The entire time he was closely supervised by the gray fox. She darted in, licked his hand when he loosened the ropes and ran in circles yipping when the crate was handed down to Todd.

They carried the crate into the woods, and set it close to the creek bank. Laying it on the side, Todd removed the lid and stood back. The female ran into the crate as the two younger kits came barreling out. Todd took Nick’s hand and squeezed while they watched three bundles of fur romp and roll over one another.

Letting go of Nick, Todd scooped up a handful of snow, patting it into a ball. He launched it and it landed just in front of the kits. They scampered after it, jumping up to bite at the spray of snow.

Todd hooked one arm around Nick’s neck and nudged him back to the wagon, but didn’t get in. Instead he turned Nick and leaned him against the side of the wagon. “Now, Nicky, I believe I promised to warm you up.” He cupped the back of Nick’s head, fingers threading through Nick’s hair while he pressed soft kisses to Nick’s cheek and down his neck.

Nick slid both arms around Todd, hugging him close. “Guess we’ll be a little late for tonight’s celebration,” Nick said softly.

Todd stepped away, and climbed into the wagon. He held his hand out for Nick to use to pull himself up and onto the seat beside Todd. “That’ll be going on until morning. In the meantime, we cleared away the ‘ghosts’ and gave a family a new home. The good people of Elk’s Ridge can have their party in peace, other than the ruckus the drunks cause.” He slapped the reins gently against the horses, and the wagon rolled forward. Taking the reins in one hand again, he slipped his palm between Nick’s thighs, fingertips rubbing along Nick’s hardening cock. “Now, Nicky, time for our own celebrating.”

That was one celebration Nick was looking forward to. He leaned in, nipped at Todd’s ear and whispered, “Drive faster.”

 

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New Drink Specials by Raine O’Tierney

January 10, 2015

Title: New Drink Specials

Author: Raine O’Tierney

Pairing: Bailey and Jem from Under the Table

Prompt: apple

Dead.

The entire club was dead.

Miss Rye Fontaine wasn’t one for slow—much less dead. Dead meant no patrons, no lonely souls filling the booths and drinking her liquor. Her boys looked bored. Listless. More than that, they looked like they were getting paid to do nothing.

She narrowed heavily made-up lids over gray-blue eyes.

“You’re going to get wrinkles if you frown like that,” Solstice blew maroon bangs out of her face and grinned, knowing she could get away with smart-talking the boss.

Miss Rye patted her assistant’s shoulder. “Thank god you work for college credit, Sol. Otherwise, after a drought like this I might have to let ya go.”

Solstice just laughed.

“And you’re wrong about the wrinkles. I’m never gonna age.”

For a moment Miss Rye stared at the heavy oak door, willing some timid housewife to walk through, eager for the companionship of a handsome man for hire. When her glare didn’t summon a patron, Miss Rye demanded to the room at large:

“Where in the hell is everyone?”

Her accented voice echoed back to her.

Only three boys were actually scheduled to work the floor that afternoon: Nicky, who lay in a booth with his feet up on the back, Rellen working on his thesis in the corner, and Callum—Under the Table’s number one host, and her secret boyfriend—the only one actually making her money. He cost her twice as much as the other guys when he was on the clock but at least he was working. He held his work cell and texted with his main patrons to make sure they knew he was “thinking about them.” Two more of her boys were on Outsides, Brook and Leon; they’d report in later that evening. The rest were doing whatever it was they did when they weren’t on the clock. She’d never been one to care.

“We knew when we started opening for lunch that it would be a gamble,” Tyrone, the floor manager, walked up behind Solstice. “It’s going to take some time for our patrons to get used to it.”

Miss Rye’s eyes narrowed further. She was not widely known for her patience. “Well, then you guys need to go out and make this less of a gamble and more of a sure thing.”

“And how do you propose we do that?”

“Do like they do in Japan, Ty. Go out on the street and promote. We have food. And liquor. And handsome men waitin’ to listen to a woman’s every inane thought.”

“You want us to solicit?”

“You make it sound like I run a brothel, you know I shut that down.” Her voice rose as she spoke. “I want ya’ll to go act like sexy sandwich board guys. If the ladies aren’t comin’ in on their own, go bring them in. Drag ’em in by the hair if you gotta.”

“So not soliciting. Kidnapping?” Solstice snorted.

Rellen had looked up from his research and Nicky’s feet twitched on the back of the booth. Callum ignored her, focused on his texting.

She cleared her throat and smirked. “All of you handsome boys, listen on up. You’ve got an hour. Bring back at least one patron each and you can keep your jobs.”

That got everyone’s attention. Rellen’s mechanical pencil clattered to the table and Nicky pulled himself all the way into a standing position. Even Callum looked at her with a raised eyebrow.

“Clock’s tickin’, boys,” she said, pointing one painted nail at the timepiece over the bar.

 

<<< >>>

 

“Should I go too?”

It was Jem, her bartender. Most nights he poured the most delicious drinks for Under the Table—but once a week he worked in tandem with one of her top selling hosts, Bailey, who was at that moment sitting at the end of the bar. There were rows of empty glasses spread out in front of him.

If they hadn’t worn her down on the issue, Miss Rye never would have let Jem host. Her bartender was too timid and his drinks were too damn good. But a woman could only take so much of the mournful looks, before she just had to give. Plus he’d proved himself in a pinch one night and made her a ton of money. Puppy dog eyes alone didn’t pay the electric bill.

“I need you here to pour,” she replied sweetly.

“But…no one is here.”

“A patron could walk in any minute and without a bartender, what would we do?”

“I’m here,” Bailey said after a moment’s delay. There was a slight slur to his voice.

For the last two hours, Jem had been experimenting with new cocktails, trying to develop a new, exciting flavor, and Bailey—who was not on the clock—had been sampling the wares. Thumbs up, thumbs down.

“You aren’t scheduled,” Miss Rye said firmly.

It was funny, really. Bailey was paid to drink with women every single night—but in all the time he’d been in her employ (and he’d been around from the beginning), Miss Rye could not remember ever seeing him really drunk. His bleary-eyed look was amusing.

“How much has he had to drink?” she asked Jem.

“I’m fine,” Bailey insisted. “Put me in, Coach. I can walk the tightrope.”

“Um,” Jem flushed. “Well, he was just taking sips, but then I made the poison apple and—”

“Delicious,” Bailey insisted. “Y’know what, lover? Hit me again.”

Without missing a beat, Jem reached for a glass.

“Miss Rye,” Bailey said. “Since you need patrons, tell you what. I’ll pay you to book the private room.”

She looked at him uncertainly.

“A round of poison apples, your finest host, and the private room…”

“The hosts are—”

“I can do it!” Jem agreed emphatically, his smile warm.

Taking a deep, controlling breath, Miss Rye said, “You do realize that if I catch y’all doin’ in there what I think y’all are gonna be doin’ in there, there’s gonna be consequences, right?”

Jem nodded earnestly and Bailey shrugged.

“And I’m not giving you a discount just because you work here. You’ll either pay for the room outright or work tonight off the clock.” And then judging the state of him, she decided. “Or tomorrow, off clock.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Bailey looked over at the bar where his boyfriend was blushing furiously.

 

<<< >>>

 

“You didn’t have to rent the private room,” Jem insisted, as he let the door click quietly closed behind him. Inside was a large maroon couch, big enough, at least, for six, pressed up against the wall, and a round table, plus a small wet bar and a television. The lighting was low, intimate. It was nice.

“I know,” Bailey agreed. “Except you wanted to go out and drum up business and I’m not on the clock. What if she’d said yes? You’d be out there flirting with women and trying to get them into the club. Couldn’t have that.”

“You’re so jealous.”

“Yup,” Bailey agreed shamelessly. “Now get over here and sit in my lap.”

Jem knew he should have a little decorum. If Miss Rye caught them—and she was sure to catch them—they were going to get it. But Bailey’s alcohol-flushed cheeks and come and get it smile were so gorgeous that Jem couldn’t resist. He walked over to where his boyfriend sat on the couch and allowed himself to be pulled into Bailey’s lap. Warm arms wrapped around Jem’s waist and Jem leaned forward into a kiss.

“The poison apple is making you bold.”

You’re making me bold, kid.”

They did this sometimes for their patrons—well, a variation of it. Touched each other and kissed for the fantasy and entertainment of onlookers. But they’d agreed that when they did it for the club, there would always be an element of play to it. (Ha! As if Jem could play pretend where Bailey was concerned…) Now, completely alone, Bailey’s lips on his, Jem melted into Bailey and there was only the two of them, only their mingling breath, only their hearts thudding in time, only their hands feeling up under each other’s clothing, only the taste of poison apple on Bailey’s lips.

“Let’s break her rules, Jem.” Bailey insisted, nipping playfully at Jem’s neck.

He’d have hickeys. It didn’t matter. He didn’t care. All he could do was groan.

“I want you.”

Jem nodded dumbly in agreement.

 

<<< >>>

“Jem, honey, I need ya to—” Pour. The word caught behind pursed lips as Miss Rye stopped just within the door of the private room. Her bartender was underneath her number two host, the latter out cold, though from drink or post-orgasm, she couldn’t tell. She took a deep, steadying breath. “I should fire y’all both, y’know that, right?”

Jem nodded dumbly, obviously trapped under Bailey’s weight.

She was too nice. She was too damned nice. It had always been a fault of hers. Plus, there were patrons waiting on drinks.

“Need me to shove him off of ya?” she asked.

Jem shrugged as best he could.

“Let me put it to you this way. If I don’t shove him off of ya, are you going to be behind the bar in three minutes like I want you to be?”

Jem considered this for a moment too long and Miss Rye, on a heavy exhalation of breath, walked over to Bailey, got her hands up under his naked torso and rolled him. He fell away from Jem, muttering and smacking awake.

You,” she said to Bailey as he groggily opened his eyes, “are workin’ a double tomorrow. Without pay. What do you have to say to that?”

Bailey’s lips quirked and his lids fluttered closed as Jem scurried off the couch. “Worth it.”

 

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Sugar Makes You Fat and Horny by Pearl Love

January 9, 2015

Title: Sugar Makes You Fat and Horny

Author: Pearl Love

Pairing: Victor and Steve from That Which Doesn’t Kill You

Prompt: sugar

“Stupid traffic…. Stupid post office….”

Steve grumbled under his breath as he tried to fit the key into the lock of his apartment door without dropping the box he held.  The post office, which had been packed with people shipping and receiving last minute Christmas gifts, was located inconveniently close to a large mall.  It had taken him nearly an hour and a half to make the six-mile round trip.

“I hate New Jersey.”

The gripe was as pointless as the rest of his complaining. The city was still rebuilding after the alien attack that had decimated Manhattan over a year ago. His old apartment had been ground zero, so he’d been forced to retreat over the river to find suitable accommodations. Fortunately he had company in his hopefully temporary exile. Unfortunately, that very company was only aggravating his current irritation.

The key finally decided to cooperate, and Steve managed to shoulder open the door without incident. He stopped immediately inside and glared at the gorgeous vision of his roommate lifting the couch with one hand so he could vacuum beneath it. And since it was Victor, who ran hot on the coldest of winter days, he was performing his self-appointed task shirtless.  Typical.

Victor’s firm muscles, which sheltered unimaginable strength, flexed beneath smooth, sun-kissed skin.  His ink-black hair was plastered to his forehead from the shower he liked to take first thing in the morning. A pair of sweatpants hung precariously from his slim hips, threatening to slide down with every movement of his arm as he pushed the noisy machine back and forth over the carpet.

Steve gritted his teeth at the blatant display of virile masculinity. “Your mother sent me biscochitos!” he yelled over the roar of the vacuum.

Victor raised a perfectly arched eyebrow and gave him the side-eye. “You don’t have to shout. I can hear you, you know,” he replied as he turned off the machine.

Steve glared at him, unappreciative of the reminder of Victor’s super powers. The jerk could probably hear the rush of blood as his face flushed with annoyance. Victor gently lowered the couch back to the floor as though it were no heavier than a sheet of paper. Ever since they’d cracked the mystery of his powers—sex after Victor ate spinach took his abilities to the next level for some crazy reason—his body had responded accordingly, leaving him even more delectable than he’d been already. Steve found himself drooling as Victor reached his arms above his head in a full body stretch.

“I said, Rosita sent me biscochitos,” he repeated just to be contrary.

Victor sent him a crooked smile. “She said she would. Your birthday is tomorrow, and you know how she loves to cook for you.”

Steve gritted his teeth. Yeah, and if he had never met Victor, then he’d never have met Victor’s sweet mother and her delicious food. “Having a birthday on Christmas Eve is just as bad as having it on Christmas Day,” he mumbled.

Victor grinned and walked over to him. “Which is why I wanted to throw this party for you. You should get your special day all to yourself. You know Mamacita and Papa wanted to be here, but Papa’s back is acting up, so they couldn’t travel this week.”

Steve instantly felt like a tool. He loved Victor’s parents as much as if they were his own flesh-and-blood. When they realized they couldn’t make it for Christmas, they’d insisted Victor and Steve come visit them in San Antonio for New Year’s. Steve was looking forward to the trip, but the threat of being at the mercy of Rosita and her kitchen was too much to bear with Victor standing in front of him looking like some sort of Mexican-American Greek god.

“…going to make me fat…”

Victor looked down at Steve in mild confusion. “What’s going to make you fat?”

“Arrg!” Steve growled as ripped the tape off the box in his hands. “This!” He pulled the lid off the tin nestled in a protective layer of torn up newspaper and the delicious aroma of cinnamon and sugar wafted up to smack him in the face. “Your mother is trying to kill me!”

Victor’s nose twitched and his fingers curled as though he were fighting not to reach in and snatch one of the cookies for himself. “That’s not true,” he replied mildly.

He and Steve had been a couple ever since the aliens had attempted to destroy their greatest enemy—Victor’s superhero alter ego, El Magnifico—only to get their asses handed to them for their trouble. Previously, Steve had been forced to keep his lust for his journalist partner to himself due to the fact that even the slightest hint of nookie made Victor lose his power. But their forced abstinence had come to a glorious end after the fortuitous discovery that the combination of spinach and smut rendered Victor damn near invincible.

“Yes it is.” Steve hated that he was whining, but he was convinced Victor’s mom had it out for him. “She knows I’m turning 36, and she has to know that after that age the human body’s metabolism turns to shit. Yet she still sent me cookies for my birthday? She’s trying to turn me into a tub of lard.”

Victor gave up his inner battle and snatched up a cookie faster than Steve’s eyes could follow. He was munching happily away, crumbs clinging tempting to his full lips, before he shook his head in amusement. “It’s just her way of showing love. Believe me,” he added with a chuckle, “if I were human, I’d weigh four hundred pounds with the way she used to feed me as a kid—” He blinked when Steve shoved the tin hard against his chest.

“Then here, you eat them!”

Steve let go of the tin before Victor reached up to grab it, trusting that Victor’s lightning fast reflexes would keep the biscochitos from ending up all over the pristine carpet. Unfortunately, Victor was also fast enough to take hold of his arm before he could stalk away.

“Steve….” Victor spoke in that low soothing tone that never failed to make Steve’s inside melt into squishy goo. He pulled his resistant partner toward him until he could wrap Steve in his arms. “What’s really going on with you?”

Steve held out for all of two seconds before breaking down with an embarrassing sniff. “I’m getting old, and you’re not.” He buried his nose in the warm hollow of Victor’s chest.

“What?” Victor’s voice rumbled in Steve’s ear.

“I mean, do you even age? I’m going to grow old and fat, and you’ll probably always be as young and gorgeous as you are now, and you’re going to get disgusted and leave me—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Victor leaned back so he could look down at Steve’s face. It was undoubtedly puffy like it always got when he was trying not to cry. “Where is this coming from? When have I ever given you the impression that I would do something like that?” He took Steve’s chin in his fingers and lifted it until their gazes met. “I love you, Steve. I’ve loved you since the day we met and you called me a clueless rookie. And I’ll love you until the day you die.” He smiled softly. “Even when you’re old and fat.”

Steve laughed despite himself. He sniffed and shoved at Victor with unconvincing force. “Get away from me with your perfect abs and 3 percent body fat.”

Victor chuckled. “You know, there is one surefire way to burn some calories.” He bent down and pressed his lips against Steve’s neck. Steve shivered as he felt Victor’s tongue against his skin. “I have a spinach smoothie in the fridge.”

“Yeah, okay,” Steve mumbled, admitting defeat as his body expressed its enthusiastic approval of the suggestion.

Victor handed Steve the tin and stepped away, his lips curved in an adorable expression of eager happiness. Steve reached for a cookie as he watched Victor walk toward the kitchen. Knowing how this usually went, he’d be lucky if he were conscious by the time their guests arrived that evening, let alone able to walk straight. He would need his strength, he thought, stuffing the delicious treat into his face. He sent Victor’s mother a silent, heartfelt word of thanks before banishing her prudently into the part of his brain that wasn’t currently entertaining dirty fantasies of her baby boy.

 

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Lanterns of Love by Susan Laine

January 8, 2015

Title: Lanterns of Love

Author: Susan Laine

Pairing: Bro and Lacey from The Sweetest Scent

Prompt: lantern

“I’m scared.” Lacey’s voice shook slightly as she stared at her reflection in the tall oval mirror. She swallowed, hoping her frayed nerves would calm.

“You look beautiful.” The hollow, low voice behind her echoed in the room, and she smiled at the encouragement. A strong hand came to rest on her shoulder, radiating warmth through her body.

“Thank you, Sebastian,” Lacey said, grateful of the praise, beaming at him from all her heart. “You don’t think it’s… too yellow…?” She signed the last two words to ensure Sebastian understood her. Over the past four years she’d learned how to sign adequately to converse with Sebastian who’d been deaf since childhood.

Sebastian cocked his head to the side, assessing her in the mirror. “No. It’s perfect.”

His hair was so black it glowed blue under the lights, adding to the blue of his piercing but always kind eyes. He had such an expressive face, concealing nothing, and when he smiled it was like the sun coming out from behind dark clouds. His appearance was almost identical to that of his younger brother, Bro—who happened to be Lacey’s boyfriend of four and a half years. But where Sebastian was slender, Bro was more muscular like an athlete.

Next to Sebastian, Lacey saw herself as petite, yet never weak. For a twenty-one year old young man who preferred to wear women’s clothes, Lacey was small in size. She was dressed in roaring twenties style, in a mid-thigh, gold-and-pink sequined vamp flapper dress, with a fringe hem reaching down to her knees. On her legs she wore glimmering fishnet silk stockings

Her vintage glamour look was crowned by a tucked, pinned hairstyle, with a few cascading honey-blonde curls to frame her delicate features. She had a golden-colored headband also with a yellow tea rose attached to the side of her head. The tea rose symbolized her relationship with Bro who gave her a yellow rose at their every anniversary as a couple.

The elegant costume was completed by a twice-looped long pearl necklace. Her full, pouty lips shone with pink lip gloss, and her hazel eyes had dark golden eye shadow.

Not many would be able to look at her and know she was a boy underneath her pretty dress. Well, she was twenty-one now, so she was more a young man than a boy.

Today was going to mix styles radically, but so what? This was her special day. Her dress signified the raucous jazz playing that would follow the ceremony.

With trembling hands Lacey checked herself once more from top to bottom.

Sebastian laughed in his hiccupy way. “Stop. You look beautiful.”

Lacey chuckled, her anxiety gone and replaced by bubbling happiness. “Thanks.”

The door cracked open with a minor creak. In peeked a handsome, muscular man with a head full of platinum-blond curls, mischievous emerald-green eyes, and loads of black and gray tribal tattoos. “Guys, you coming out eventually, or what?” He made a theatrical point of tapping his wrist watch, his eyebrows quirked in query.

Sebastian rolled his eyes. “Ignore the rushing joker at the doorway. Jordan’s opinion doesn’t count. Take all the time you need.”

A feigned disgruntled hey! came from the doorway. “It’s her day, yeah, but others are waiting too, honey-muffin.”

Lacey glared at him. “You didn’t just call me that, did you?”

“Of course not, sweetie-pie.” Showcasing cute dimples, Jordan flashed an irreverent grin, a gesture Lacey was sure he’d learned from Bro. The two men were so alike sometimes it was freaky. It was hard to believe they were brothers-in-law, not actual flesh-and-blood brothers. “Now hustle, you two.” Then he retreated quickly and shut the door, probably to escape scolding.

Lacey faced Sebastian. “You’re positive he’s the man for you?”

Sebastian laughed loudly, his unusual voice tinted with humor, tickling Lacey’s funny bone too. “Yup.” He gave Lacey one last once-over. “You look perfect. It’s time to go. Ready?” His long, elegant fingers moved in time with his words which he pronounced better than some people. He had a habit of speaking and signing at once sometimes.

Lacey loved him like a brother. She nodded. “Yes.” She readjusted Sebastian’s black tie an inch, then nodded her own approval, at which Sebastian grinned.

He held an arm out for her, and she took it. Together they stepped out of the room to outside and to the white graveled lane through the trees and bushes, past the flowerbeds and moon doors, the view to the artificial pond and the arched bridges over it in the distance.

The Chinese pavilion they were headed for was open on all sides. Though the day was cloudy and gray, drizzly and windy, the structure was large enough to block the elements. It was well illuminated by ninety-nine red paper lanterns hanging above them, from the roof beams and up-curved eaves. Red silk curtains with Chinese calligraphy—Chinese characters for words like happiness, joy, and love imprinted on them—hung from the rafters between the red-painted wooden pillars.

Lacey had seen it all before during their preparations and rehearsals. Today her sole focus was the gorgeous dark-haired, fair-skinned, blue-eyed angel waiting for her.

Bro, my love.

Unable and unwilling to keep the smile off her face, Lacey walked confidently to the young man waiting for her. Bro had grown a lot bigger since the two of them had met at the tender age of seventeen. His beefy, ripped physique was the result of him having gotten into the practice squad of the Washington Redskins only a few short months ago, right after his graduation from Howard University. But the wicked twinkle in his blue eyes and the open, blissful smile on his lips was born from his affection for Lacey.

God, but he looks yummy in that tuxedo. The James Bond outfit definitely suited him to a tee, showcasing his broad shoulders, narrow hips, long legs, and delicious bulge. Lacey’s heart skipped a beat and she damn near tripped over her high heels. Bro winked at her, as though he could read her mind and see all the saucy, naughty thoughts running through her head.

Lacey stopped in front of Bro, who took her hand. His grip was firm and feverish, like he too felt the current sparking between them. He looked as happy as she felt. There’d been a time when she’d feared they would never get to this point in their lives, that there were simply too many things pulling them in different directions.

But Bro was nothing if not adamant. What he wanted, he pursued with enthusiasm and vigor. And since their teens, Lacey had been Bro’s heart’s desire.

Exactly as Bro was Lacey’s heart and soul.

Faintly aware of her surroundings, Lacey knew they were surrounded by friends and family. They had all come here to celebrate on an autumn’s afternoon: Sebastian, Bro’s big brother; Jordan, Sebastian’s husband and detective in MPDC; Jack, Jordan’s younger brother and fireman; Kevin, Jack’s fiancé and Jordan’s partner in MPDC; Bradley, Bro’s best friend and offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins; Audrey, Bradley’s girlfriend, Lacey’s best friend, and paralegal at a private environmental law firm; Parker, Lacey’s other best friend and pianist, both jazz and classical; Deacon, Parker’s boyfriend; Luke, Jack’s best friend and fireman; and Ricky, Bradley’s twin brother and sous chef for a three-star Michelin restaurant in DC.

Last but not least, close by stood Roger, Lacey’s father. There was a good reason why it was Sebastian who escorted her to Bro, and not Roger—who was a recovering abusive alcoholic. On his formal jacket, Roger wore four bronze chips to mark four years of sobriety plus a single dark gold one for the additional two months into his fifth year. They were symbols that both reminded him of the past and dedicated the milestones of getting past his prior hardships. He even held a steady job at an accounting firm.

Their relationship remained enflamed and awkward most days, as the memory of hate-filled words and outright violence was too vivid and stark to forget. At least it was for Lacey.

Nonetheless, Roger was there, cleaned up and sober. His shy smile had a mildly rigid, insecure quality, since he still felt weird about his only son preferring female attire, appearance, and identity. He was trying to make amends, so Lacey tried to bury the past too.

Lacey smiled quickly for her father’s benefit, and then refocused on Bro. He squeezed Lacey’s hand, the soft touch at once a reassurance and a question. Lacey nodded firmly. I’m fine, I promise.

The woman priest stepped forward, her smile genuine and kind. “Dearly beloved. We have gathered here, in the China Garden, today to celebrate the loving union of Bro Sumner and Lacey Adair.” A couple of loud claps and whoops, plus a distinctive wolf whistle accompanied the statement, and Lacey and Bro both giggled. Yes, this was only her second week as Lacey Adair, not Lance as she had been born. She’d had her name legally changed. “Bro and Lacey have written their own vows. Please.” The priest gestured for them to begin.

Bro cleared his throat, and for the first time in ages he appeared nervous, his hand hot and trembling, his forehead sweaty, and his voice cracking. “Lacey. The first time I became aware of you was through your music. I heard your violin’s sad song play in the high school halls. I had to meet you. It was fate, I think.”

Lacey could scarcely draw breath, she was so flustered and heady and excited.

“During your darkest hour,” Bro went on, soft and solemn, “I told you I knew you, heart and soul. That I’ve never known anyone as full of light as you. That you shine bright as the sun, blinding me with your brilliance. So… as you and I stand here, underneath these red lanterns that pale in comparison, I say to you again: You shine, Lace, and I’ll love you forever.”

Lacey blinked hard but the misty, blurry veil of unshed tears remained. She coughed to be able to speak from the heart. “Bro. In every dark hour of my life, you have been there for me. You never ask or demand, you always give, freely and without expecting anything in return. You are the best person I’ve ever known, and I’m proud to stand here with you, to tell you how much you mean to me.”

The sudden flash from Bro’s eyes, a sultry heat burning in blue flames, almost had her stumbling in her speech. But the vow came from her heart, so even with different words than what she had planned, they still rang true.

“We’ve been through a lot, haven’t we?” Lacey continued, a swift chuckle following her words. Bro wasn’t the only one to react with a snort. They all knew the details of the path that had finally led them here. “I admit, there were trying times when I was positive we’d never get to this point. But like you always said, love conquers all, and so does family. No matter how much time or space is between us, we’re bound together with unbreakable ties. Our own makeshift family of oddities and crazies.”

Bro grinned, a cocky swagger to his approach. “I’m just overjoyed you agreed to move with me to Fredericksburg, so we both have a reasonable commute.”

Lacey laughed. “One hour or so. We can both work with that.”

“And make our future work,” Bro said, his brashness paving the way for shyness.

It was true their lives took them in opposite directions. Lacey had finished her studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and her career as a rising star with a violin was about to lead her to a six month artist-in-residency at a prestigious university in Italy. Bro, on the other hand, divided his time between the Redskins training camp in Richmond, Virginia, and teaching various ASL classes in the DC metropolitan area. They’d bought their small house smack in the middle, in Fredericksburg, to ensure their job commutes rarely were more than an hour, an hour and a half.

“Yes, to make our future work, together as a couple.” Lacey admired Bro’s strength and total confidence that everything would turn out okay. He was an optimist, and Lacey tried not to be a pessimist and ruin what they had. “I love you, Bro. Because of you, I have faith in the future and in us. You’ve changed my life for the better. You say I shine; I say you glow. When I look into your eyes, I see the light that guides me to you, always. I love you.”

Bro’s eyes shimmered with tears.

At that exact moment it started to rain. The big droplets pattered on the roof tiles, like nature herself serenaded in honor of their marriage.

Then Bro pulled Lacey into his arms, and they embraced one another with the certain knowledge that be it the sheen of the candles inside the paper lanterns or the brightness of the sun in the sky, their love would continue to shine and guide their path forward—together.

“And now, the rings….”

 

Did you enjoy Susan Laine’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code SusanLaineFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 8, 2015.

Honey Crisp by Rick R. Reed

January 7, 2015

Title: Honey Crisp

Author: Rick R. Reed

Pairing: Duncan and Peter from Legally Wed

Prompt: Apple

 

Duncan awakes for two reasons. One, there’s a bit of a swell that morning on Lake Union, causing the houseboat in which he lives with his husband, Peter, to make a little dip and rise, strong enough to be felt.

The second reason is that he’s alone in bed. He turns his head to regard the empty space beside him and realizes it’s not completely empty.

There’s an apple on the pillow. While there are dozens of varieties of apples, especially here in Washington State, Duncan recognizes this lovely, shiny specimen as his favorite—the honey crisp. He turns to the apple and reaches out a hand to touch its firm, smooth skin. He wonders why an apple has replaced his husband.

Speaking of which, he hears Peter bustling around in the kitchen. It’s a Sunday morning and Duncan sits up, fragments of dream and weariness scattering all at once. He’s hungry and hopes the man he married is making something good for breakfast. From the smells drifting his way, Duncan has a clue to what’s being prepared. There’s a sharp note of cinnamon, perhaps just a touch of nutmeg combining with it. There’s brown sugar and butter, caramelizing. And underneath it all… yes.

The scent of apples, softening under the irresistible embrace of the butter, sugar, and cinnamon.

“Oh boy,” Duncan whispers. He gets up from bed in only his boxers and tiptoes around the partition that separates their bed from the houseboat’s common area.

He glimpses Peter from behind. And what a view! The soft reddish hair has caught a shaft of sunlight coming in through the window above the sink, turning his red locks almost a burnished gold. His hubby is clad also in a pair of boxers. Duncan grins because the boxers are white, but decorated with a repeating pattern of—you guessed it—apples. This time, though, it’s the lovely and somewhat arresting green of the Granny Smith.

Peter hums as he flips pancakes at the stove and Duncan relishes this quiet moment, when Peter doesn’t yet realize Duncan’s awake and Duncan can watch without Peter knowing. What’s the tune? Something jazzy and sweet, from a bygone era. Ah yes, “Sentimental Journey.”

Duncan tiptoes up behind Peter and wraps his arms around his waist, which causes Peter to gasp and jump. To calm him, Duncan lays the gentlest kiss, barely a whisper, on the soft, almost translucent hairs that grow on the nape of Peter’s neck. Peter’s shoulders go up and he laughs, tickled, at the feathery touch. “Good morning, you. And as delightful as that is, I need to remind you that I’m over a hot stove, so startling and tickling me may not be the wisest idea… in terms of kitchen safety at least.” Peter wriggles his backside against Duncan’s front. “That reminds me. I need to get the sausage started.”

“Oh, you’re terrible, Muriel,” Duncan says, quoting a line from one of their favorite movies.

Peter edges away. “Let me finish here. Buttermilk pancakes with sautéed apples and sage chicken sausage. Sound good?”

Duncan reluctantly moves away from Peter, thinking how much he’d like to just pull the man back into the still-warm covers of the bed, but also understanding Peter’s working hard to make him a nice breakfast. As he would tell his elementary school students, “All good things come to those who wait.”

He sits down at the table and notices the new, yet retro, apple placemats, the glasses of already-poured apple juice, and the card propped up against the bowl of, yes, apples.

“What’s this?” Duncan snatches up the card, smiling, yet a little panicked as it dawns on him what day it is.

Peter turns to him and shakes his head. “Just like a man.”

Duncan opens the card. Outside is a painting, very Thomas Kincaid, of an apple orchard. Inside, Peter has drawn a single eye to stare out lovingly—or maybe accusingly—at Duncan. Below it, Peter’s neat script says, “You’re the apple of me eye. Happy anniversary, Sweetheart!”

Duncan closes his eyes. How could he have forgotten their first anniversary? “Oh, this is so sweet.” He begins to stammer out an apology but Peter stops him with an upturned palm.

“Hey, no worries. You’ll make it up to me.” He grins. He turns from the stove, with a fry pan in each hand. The smells are pure heaven.

“You’re wonderful,” Duncan says, as Peter lays down the feast before him. “I don’t know how I got so lucky.”

“You let me plan your wedding,” Peter responds. “And I’m a pro. How could you lose?”

He sits down and begins to dish up the pancakes and sausage, smothering both in the glistening and fragrant sliced apples.

Duncan takes a bite. “You know that phrase, ‘died and gone to heaven’?”

Peter nods, a little smirk of satisfaction emerging from his red beard.

Duncan points at the pancakes. “This.”

They eat in contented silence for a moment or two, then Duncan asks. “Why apples?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, aren’t first anniversaries traditionally supposed to be about something else? Like, I think, paper?”

Peter covers Duncan’s hand with his own. “Sweet man, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a wedding planner it’s that couples need to create their own traditions. Paper’s so boring. So, for us, this time, it’s apples.” He takes another bite of pancake and sautéed apple. “Maybe next year will be our rutabaga anniversary.”

Duncan’s touched and feels a little dampening at the corner of his eyes. He nods, takes a forkful of apple pancake, lifts it to his mouth, and says, “Out with the old and in with the new.”

“Exactly.” Peter smiles.

Did you enjoy Rick R. Reed’s story? If so, check out the rest of his books and take 25% off at checkout with the code RickRReedFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 7, 2015.

This Crazy Little Thing by Elizabeth Noble

January 6, 2015

Title: This Crazy Little Thing

Author: Elizabeth Noble

Pairing: Jonas and Blair from Electric Candle

Prompt: apple

Jonas Forge held out a fork full of pastry and fruit. “Here, try this. Little slice of heaven is no exaggeration.”

Blair leaned forward and caught most of what Forge offered, in his mouth. He smiled, eyes lighting up, and groaned. “That’s good.” He licked up the little bit that dribbled off the fork with a swipe of his tongue under his lower lip.

Autumn was wonderful in America’s Midwest, Forge’s favorite time of year. He was a 240-year-old vampire and he’d had plenty of time to decide this season was the one he liked the best. “I’ve lived quite a few different places, but I have to say this part of the world has definite advantages this time of year. I bet you didn’t get pie like this in New Mexico.”

Blair shrugged. “True, but no one up here knows what a good burrito is.”

“Touché,” Forge said and grinned. “But the leaves don’t change color in the desert either.” He cut a piece of pie for Blair and handed it across the table. They had two entire nights alone at Boggs’s Castle, a rare occurrence. In fact, Forge wasn’t even sure how that happened. He couldn’t remember the last time everyone else was away for so long at once.

Blair Turner had been living here, in Flint, Ohio with Forge just about a year now and this was the first night they’d been alone in the house. He poked at Blair’s plate. “Want some ice cream with that?”

“No, I like it just the way it is.” Blair took a forkful and scooped more of the pie into his mouth. He swallowed and there it was, exactly what Forge was waiting for. Leaning back in his chair he watched Blair’s Adam’s apple slide up and down as he swallowed. Some of the filling slipped off the fork and oozed down Blair’s chin. He used the fork to scrape it off and into his mouth. Stopping mid-swallow, fork still in his mouth, he met Forge’s gaze and raised his eyebrows. “What?”

Forge and Blair had been soul bonded last year. It was autumn then as well, but too much had been going on for them to enjoy what the season had to offer. Bonded vampires felt each other’s emotions to varying degrees, depending on the individuals. For Forge and Blair that connection was very strong.

Tonight it was clear Blair was sensing Forge’s feelings a bit more intensely than usual. From the expression he wore and the emotions rolling off Blair, Forge knew he liked the way Forge watched him.

Blair swallowed leisurely, smirking around his fork. Earlier, while they were setting the table, Blair had put music on. Despite Forge being born before the artists popular in this century, he and Blair shared very similar tastes in music.

Humming along with Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Blair scooped up another forkful of pie. He eased it into his mouth and swallowed even more slowly than before, eyebrows bobbing and eyes twinkling. Before taking another mouthful of apple pie Blair asked, “So, what do you want to do tonight?”

Forge blinked at him and poured more wine into both their glasses. He ran his tongue along his lips and shrugged. “I hadn’t thought about it.” There was a fire crackling and popping cheerfully in the living room fireplace. Moose, of course, sprawled in front of it, soaking up all the heat.

“Wine and pie don’t really go together well,” Blair pointed out. He plucked a loose slice of apple from the pan and sucked it deliberately into his mouth. Then he swiped the tip of his tongue across his lower lip.

Clearing his throat, Forge stood up. “I’ll make some coffee.” He waved at the remains of their main course. “We should clean up so Moose doesn’t help himself to scraps.” He stacked the dinner plates and wandered to the kitchen.

“You’ll probably need the caffeine for extra energy, old man,” Blair murmured. Forge snickered when he heard the sound of Blair’s footsteps behind him and his humming made Forge smile. Setting his plate with his half-eaten piece of pie on the counter, Blair used one finger to scoop up a chunk of apple.

Forge put coffee beans in the grinder and pressed down, turning to face Blair as he did so. Blair’s eyes had changed to solid hazel. He put the piece of apple in his mouth and grinned, licking the juice off his finger a second later.

“You’re distracting me from my mission of making coffee,” Forge teased.

Blair swayed with the music, brushing against Forge’s hip. “Um-hum. Yes, I am.” He took another finger-full of pie and held it up between them.

Forge leaned in, slipped one arm around Blair’s waist and ate the offered fruit. Pulling Blair close, he licked Blair’s lip then kissed him. “You taste like apples.”

Blair smiled into the kiss and scooped up more pie. This time he smeared some of the filling down his neck. He stepped back so he could lean against the counter. “You like apples.”

“I do.” Forge’s fangs dropped and he used them to rake lightly over the skin of Blair’s neck before sucking the juice off. “Love them actually.”

Blair’s Adam’s apple bobbed, but this time it was caused by the deep, needy moan he exhaled. Forge wrapped both arms around Blair and moved him so he was wedged securely between the counter and Forge. Using one hand between Blair’s thighs Forge pressed his fingers against the inside of his left thigh, rubbing the marks he’d made there when they’d bonded. He knew they were hot-wired directly to Blair’s cock. Blair squirmed against him, breath coming in fast pants.

When he thought of it, this whole soul bonding thing was crazy. Being drawn to someone who was in many ways his opposite—no, complement, Forge reminded himself—was mind boggling. Mind boggling, amazing and incredible all at once, but love in general was a little crazy he supposed.

Letting go of Blair, Forge took one step back, held his arm up and made a big deal out of looking at his watch. “We can still get to that orchard a few miles outside of town and get some cider and apple fritters for breakfast.”

Blair sagged back against the counter. “Huh?” His voice cracked and Forge chuckled. “You want to go now?”

Forge shrugged. “They close a few hours after dark. We should get another pie. I bet they have hay rides.”

“Do you have some kind of bizarre addiction to apples?” Blair asked. Feelings of lust, heavily spiced with impatience and a dash of annoyance radiated from him.

“I know you’ve only been a vampire for a handful of years, but we have plenty of time. There’s no ru—” Forge’s words were abruptly cut off when Blair reached out, grabbed Forge’s shirt in both hands and yanked him hard against Blair. In the next instance he had a mouthful of Blair’s tongue.

Turning them, Blair reversed their positions. Now Forge was trapped against the counter. Widening his stance, Blair stepped close so one of Forge’s thighs was between his legs. The tips of his fangs skimmed a path across Forge’s jaw before he nipped lightly at Forge’s ear.

“So, are you saying you don’t want to take a car ride?” Forge ran one hand up Blair’s spine and moaned softly when Blair’s tongue followed his fangs.

“I’d rather take a walk,” Blair said softly, squeezing Forge’s waist and pressing even more closely to him.

“Oh, okay, if that’s what you want. Your wish and all. Let me grab Moose’s harness, we can’t go for a walk without him,” Forge said. He laughed when Blair’s feelings turned to aggravation and innocently asked, “Am I missing something?”

Blair bounced with the music and gave him a playful shove, forcing Forge to stay where he was. Snatching up more apples from the pie, Blair smeared the juice over his lips then licked his fingers clean. He sucked in a ragged breath and Forge was drenched in an emotional cocktail of love, desire and needy desperation.

“I hate you,” Blair grumbled.

“Uh-huh.” Forge grinned and Blair smiled back.

“Not buying it, huh?” Blair tipped his head back and gave Forge complete access to the length of his neck. He took full advantage of that offer.

Forge ran his fingertips along Blair’s left inner thigh again, making him shudder. “Nope.” His own body quivered in response. Pulling them together again, Forge pressed a hungry, long kiss to Blair’s mouth. His tongue slipped over Blair’s and his hands moved to Blair’s hips, moving them in time to the music. He put his other arm around Blair and walked him backward toward the door. “A minute,” Forge said, stopped and held up one finger. “I really do have to take care of this or else someone…,” he tipped his head in Moose’s direction, “…will clean up for us.”

“Right.” Blair sidestepped and grabbed the garbage bag out of the can, holding it open so Forge could dump the contents of the plates inside. He sprinted to the dining room and came back with the pie dish and what was left of their dessert. That went into the refrigerator.

Forge tied the bag and took it out to the garbage can, secured the lid and bound back into the house, locking the door after him. “You were asking about what to do tonight?”

“I have an idea or two,” Blair said. He held up one hand and crooked a finger as he backed toward the stairs to the second floor.

“Only one or two?” Forge shook his head and rested his hands on his hips. “You’re slipping.”

Blair arched an eyebrow, a subtle enough gesture. The emotions that accompanied it, however, took Forge back to him thinking how much he loved Blair. And how crazy it was, considering they’d barely had much chance to get to know one another. When one’s life span had the potential to cover hundreds, if not thousands of years, one year together was a mere blip.

“We still have time to get to the apple orchard,” Forge said innocently.

Blair threw his hands up in the air. “Arrrgghh!” He turned and bolted up the steps.

Forge laughed. “Or we can go tomorrow.”

Feelings of love and craving washed over Forge as he bounded up the stairs to join Blair. Tomorrow they’d have a late breakfast at the orchard and get some extra cider to bring home. Later in the afternoon was the Ohio State/Michigan football game—go Buckeyes—complete, of course, with the halftime band show featuring the ‘best damn band in the land’.

Blair was starting a fire in the bedroom fireplace. He stood to face Forge, grinning. Forge snagged him around the waist and hustled him to the bed, dumped him there and pounced on top of Blair, loving how his chest vibrated when he laughed.

Autumn in Ohio was Forge’s favorite time of year. There were apples, football, trees awash in golds, reds and oranges and nights spent in front of a fire. Even better was this crazy soul mate bonding thing and a future forever with Blair.

 

Did you enjoy Elizabeth Noble’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code ElizabethNobleFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 6, 2015.