Ah the holidays.
The time for family and loved ones.
Since I’m rolling out Tutus and Tinsel (a holiday short story where I take you back to Half Moon Bay and see what Deacon, Lang and Zig are up to), I wanted to also stop in on a few of my favourite couples on this tour. So, I invite you to join me as we catch up with Rook and Dante, Miki and Kane, Kai and Ryder as well as Cole and Jae over the next few days.
AND because it wouldn’t be the holiday season without a gift, I’m giving away a $25 gift certificate to the online store of the winner’s choice at EACH stop.
So sit back, grab some hot chocolate, tea or coffee and let’s catch up with some of our guys.
Much love and I hope you all have a great holiday…and be sure to stop by and see how Zig learns what family really means in Tutus and Tinsel. Release Day is December 21st and brought to you by Dreamspinner Press!
Everything had to be perfect.
Rook knew life, as a whole, was rarely adequate much less perfect but within its thread of events lay minute sparkling moments where perfection occurred in a blink of an eye. A glance the wrong way and that moment was lost. The key to life was to string more than a few of those diamond pristine nano seconds until a longer, Nirvana-inspired experience was wrought.
That’s what he was hoping for.
If only he could get the damned Christmas tree to stand up.
“It doesn’t have to be perfect, cuervo. Sometimes—” Dante must have felt the heat in Rook’s withering, baleful look because he closed his mouth before finishing his sentence.
“It’s got to be perfect. It’s our first Christmas, right? You know that, yeah?” He paced, dropping back a few feet to glare at the tree, willing it to straighten itself. “What the hell was I thinking getting an eight foot tree? What the fuck do I know about Christmas?”
“Rook…” Dante drawled, catching his attention.
“Breathe.” He walked over to the tree to grab its — Rook didn’t even know what to call that part of the tree; possibly its neck — and shook it a few times before tapping it back down on the floor. The tree literally sighed and gave up its tilt, anchoring itself into the stand Rook battled with a few minutes before. “There. And listen to me, nothing has to be perfect. So long as you and I are together, everything can go to Hell and we’ll be fine.”
They were as opposite as any two people could be; a badge-to-the-bone LAPD detective and a former cat burglar who’d figured he’d pushed his luck as far as it could go and had gone straight because he known it was only a matter of time before he’d be caught. Despite Dante’s parents kicking him off the family tree when he came out to them, he’d experienced a happy childhood and forged a strong relationship with his maternal uncle, Manny, a former drag queen and Rook’s current shop manager. Rook’s childhood was much different. He’d been dragged up in the middle of a rotating cycle of carnies and conmen while his mother worked her way through the circuit. Beanie had been a woman of loose morals and even looser ethics but she’d at least left Rook alone for the most part.
Although why she’d left her richer-than-God family to slum under the Big Top was a mystery no one seemed to have an answer for. Yes, her father Archibald was an asshole and Rook butted heads with the old man plenty of times since Archie reached out to him but they had their own rhythm… and if Rook didn’t look too hard at the old man, he didn’t see his own faults mirrored right back at him.
Dante was a different story. So far the detective had tried to pin him for burglary, fucked him, arrest him for murder, help prove Rook was innocent and eventually fall in love with him.
Rook in return did the only sensible thing any man could do; he fell in love with the serious-minded, handsome Hispanic detective right back.
It was just that Christmas was turning into a bitch and a half and Rook didn’t have a clue on how to stop it from getting worse.
“Come help me get the ornaments up on the tree.” Dante began opening the boxes they’d brought out from Rook’s storage area from his inventory warehouse. “And where’d you get all this stuff? Thought you said this was your first tree.”
“Kind of, yeah.” He sat down on the couch, reaching to drag one of the boxes closer. “Mostly this is from estate sales. Anything I found that was December holiday related, I stuck into storage. Figured eventually I’d want to do this whole Christmas thing some day so I saved shit.”
The look Dante gave him was one Rook couldn’t decipher. He’d seen it before and despite its infrequent appearance, he hadn’t quite figured it out. On some level, it disturbed him that Dante had a secret expression Rook couldn’t crack, especially since he’d pretty much lived on his wits and ability to read people for years before he’d hooked up with a law-abiding lifestyle but asking seemed… treacherous so he kept silent, hoping one day to get a clue.
It wasn’t forthcoming any more now than it was the last twenty or so times Dante’s face looked that way.
“So let me get this straight,” Dante murmured, leaving the boxes alone to crouch down in front of Rook. While it was nice not to crane his head back to look at his lover, Dante’s gentle voice set off a wave of alarms in Rook’s brain. “You’ve been saving dead people’s holiday stuff for years now? Just in case you might get a tree?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, there’s memories there in those things. I don’t have memories. Well, not good ones. Not of Christmas. Or kind of anything Beanie wasn’t exactly the cookies waiting for me after school kind of mom.” Having Dante so close was distracting. Much more distracting than simply having a hot guy practically kneeling in front of him. “It’s hard to explain.”
“I know. And I’m trying to understand,” Dante murmured, resting his hand on Rook’s knee. “And this isn’t going to sound good but I don’t know how else to put it. It’s kind of like you’re gathering up leftover memories.”
“Babe, that’s what I do for a living. That’s all I ever do. There’s threads that we can’t see connecting us to stuff in the past and I collect those things so other people can have them again.” Rook leaned his head back, staring up at the ceiling because he didn’t trust himself to speak while staring into Dante’s soulful honey-brown eyes. “Sometimes it’s the little things like a toy they got in a cereal box because they don’t make that kind of cereal anymore and it was a treat their mom would only buy once in a while. And maybe their mom’s dead now that’s something that brings her back. Or it’s a baseball signed by some player a little girl had a crush on when she was nine but see, he really wasn’t famous but she met him once and he was nice to her. And it could’ve been a day she really needed somebody to be nice to her.
“That’s kind of why I keep all of this stuff because a lot of it old and someone had enough of their lives wrapped into this shit that it meant something. And I’m never going to know what those stories are but I can imagine,” he said, his voice growing hoarse for some reason. “Everything with Beanie was never real, never permanent. There wasn’t anything we did every year to hold us together. Fuck, sometimes we have to ditch everything we owned because we were either one step ahead of the law or running from someone she stole from. And I guess I feel like if I toss any of this away, I’m throwing away these people who see the plate on Christmas Eve to wrap things for their kids or lit a candle for over a week to commemorate them not running out of oil long ago. I don’t know. I just feel like whenever I find this stuff in what I buy, I should hold onto it. And maybe pick through all the boxes and find stuff I like so I can continue their memories.”
“But you could have had trees before this,” Dante reminded him gently. “You didn’t have to keep this stuff in storage. You could have —”
“I never wanted to build something with someone before you,” Rook whispered, dropping his head down and cupping Dante’s strong jaw in his hands. “I probably will donate or do something with a lot of it but I wanted to have someone with me when I started looking at other people’s stories. Or at least began imagining where something had been or why it was important. Everything I’ve had in my life has been leftovers. Or at least when I was growing up they were. There was never anything new and it was always a struggle but I knew one day I would find someone I loved and they would give me their childhood to share, their heart to hold onto. So I guess, you’re that guy. You’re the one I want to dig through boxes with and make up stories about why there’s a one eyed reindeer made out of pipe cleaner tucked in with expensive crystal ornaments.”
“Let me guess, you’ll be keeping the reindeer,” Dante said, chuckling.
“Yeah, probably.” Rook grinned at Dante’s deep rolling laugh then stole a kiss the smile could leave Dante’s lips. “No matter what’s in those boxes or whatever we end up putting on the tree, you are always going to be the one who lights up my Christmas and warms my heart. I don’t give a shit about the crystal or even if we found stacks of gold coins in those boxes. Nothing’s going to be as important to me as you. So, let’s dig through this crap and maybe go out and buy some pipe cleaners. I think it’s time we make our own one eyed reindeer so we have something to hang on our tree every year.”