I have life figured out—a good job, a nice car, and an ex-boyfriend whose heart I broke. But then my half-brother dies unexpectedly, and I go back to our hometown to settle his affairs. A quick trip before Christmas. Instead, I get the shock of my life. Do I face this new challenge or do what I’ve always done—run? Or will I stay and get to know the most amazing man I’ve ever met and take on a responsibility I've never dreamed of facing? This will be a holiday season like no other.
I’m a therapist who helps people deal with grief. My life is fulfilling. So what if I’ve been single for years? I have the kids I counsel and co-workers I adore. Maybe I’m tired of going home to an empty house and not looking forward to another Christmas alone. But I’m not going to be taken in by some slick city guy who can’t wait to leave town. I’m not going to upend my life just because I’ve met the man of my dreams. Right?
This is an 85k opposites-attract instalove mid-angst gay romance novel. Previously published in the charity anthology Secret Santa: A Romance Collection, the story has quadrupled in size with more love, laughs, and a touch of Christmas magic.
I entered the kitchen to find Angus hunkered down on a stool, watching Justin stirring something in a saucepan. A wonderful aroma of tomato and spices filled the room. I used to cook, once upon a time. Loved making elaborate meals for Maddox. I’d puttered around a few times since then, but mostly did takeout. What was the point of cooking for one?
And now two?
Justin’s eyes lit when he spotted me. He pointed to the stool with his wooden spoon. “You’re in time to solve the great debate.”
Tentatively, I sat. “Okay…” My voice held wariness. Of that, I was sure.
“Do mushrooms belong in spaghetti sauce?”
I looked back and forth between the man and Angus, trying to determine who was on which side.
“Don’t think about it,” Justin admonished. “Just go with your gut.”
Our gazes met.
My heart did a little flip.
“Portobello are the best, and you can never have too many mushrooms in the sauce.”
Angus pumped his fist in the air.
Justin rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. With exaggerated motions, he went over to the fridge and pulled out a container of pre-cut mushrooms. Another sigh exploded from him as he dumped half the tray into the pot.
Anything. I’d do anything to make him smile again like that.
Justin held out a raw mushroom slice, and Angus nabbed it, shoving it into his mouth.
Okay, I loved mushrooms, but that was a little much, even for me.
As Angus struggled to swallow, Justin poured a glass of water from the sink. “Drink up, kiddo.”
He did. After several gulps, he put the glass down. “My dad fries them up in butter for me. Mom didn’t love them, but I sure do.” His shoulders slumped.
I met Justin’s gaze, and he nodded, knowing what I was asking. What I needed. I placed a tentative hand on my nephew’s shoulder. Unbelievably, he didn’t tense.
Instead, he sagged into the touch.
He was slight beneath my large hand. So delicate. Much like his father had been around that age. “You know, I don’t remember your dad liking mushrooms so much, but I do remember how much he loved swimming. We had a swimming pool, and he spent every day of summer vacation in the water.” I hadn’t, of course. I’d been too mature for frivolity.
Angus perked up. “I love swimming. I take lessons all the time over at the pool. My teacher is a nice lady named Quinn. She’s going to be a veter…a…”
“Veterinarian.” Justin said the word easily. He pointed to the dry pasta. “Do we break it in half?”
“Only little kids need their pasta short.” Angus jutted out his chin. “I’m not a little kid.”
“No, you’re not.”
Justin said the words quietly, but I caught the flicker of pain in his eyes. Angus would never be little again. What innocence that had been left was gone for good.
I held my hand against the boy, offering what comfort I could. I might be an adult, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.
Gabbi lives in beautiful British Columbia where her fur baby chin-poo keeps her safe from the nasty neighborhood squirrels. Working for the government by day, she spends her early mornings writing contemporary, gay, sweet, and dark erotic BDSM romances. While she firmly believes in happy endings, she also believes in making her characters suffer before finding their true love. She also writes m/f romances as Gabbi Black.