Today we have more fiction -- an Adrien English coda from my dear longtime pal Steve Leonard!
A Jake Riordan and Adrien English Christmas Coda
By Steve Leonard
It was later than I expected when I finally turned onto our street. The Christmas lights we’d strung up a few weeks earlier blinked and twinkled, illuminating our house like a runway. I pulled into the driveway alongside Adrien’s Subaru Forester, and as I got out of my car the smell of a wood-burning fire was heavy in the crisp evening air. It smelled like Christmas.
The street in front of our house was lined with familiar cars. It looked like everybody was here for our Christmas Eve Party. Our first of what we hoped would become a new tradition.
I chuckled when I thought back to the night I suggested the party. We’ve been together for a little over two years now, and it was our second Christmas. Adrien is always so amazed at how I had, in his words, ‘taken so well to domestic life.’ He tends to forget that even before we were a couple I always wanted home and hearth and the happily ever after. Of course, when I was younger I had assumed it would be with a wife, but life had something else in store for me. I have no complaints.
I walked in the front door, trying to be quiet and unobtrusive, but he saw me from across the room and started over.
“Five minutes,” I mouthed, holding up my fingers as I bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
I stripped out of my street clothes in the walk-in closet and reached for the new slacks I’d bought for tonight. Adrien would probably call them fawn or camel or something equally ridiculous, and I would humor him. They fit well in all the places I knew he’d appreciate. I put on a clean t-shirt and the fitted black cashmere sweater I knew he liked.
I scrutinized myself in the bathroom mirror as I dabbed on a bit of cologne. Today had been a very long day and a quick pass with the electric razor probably wouldn’t hurt, but I was already late so my five o’clock shadow would have to do.
I checked my phone again – probably for the hundredth time today – and still nothing. Why did I even bother? My Mom kept telling me to give him time, but my hopes dimmed a bit with every week that passed. I thought maybe because it was Christmas and that it had been more than two years. But no.
Festive noises drifted upstairs, pushing my thoughts away. I slid my phone back into my pocket and went down to join the party.
I spied Adrien near the tree. We’d gone all out this year with a nine-foot Douglas Fir decorated to the hilt. He was talking with Natalie and Angus, and as I made my way over, Angus spied me and stiffened slightly, which made me smile.
I still found Angus weird, but I’d gotten used to him and tolerated his quirks. Plus, he and Natalie ran the bookstore like a well-oiled machine, which gave Adrien the freedom he wanted so he could focus on other things, and I was grateful for that.
“There you are,” Adrien smiled, handing me a drink. “I figured you could use one.”
“You figured right,” I said, as I took a swallow and leaned in for a kiss.
“Get a room,” Natalie chuckled as our kiss lingered, and we all laughed. Even Angus.
It’s hard to imagine there’d been a time when I was hesitant with public displays of affection toward Adrien. That hadn’t been a problem for a long time now.
“I better make the rounds,” I said after a while, giving his arm a squeeze. I headed over to where Bill and Lisa were chatting with Paul Chan, but was intercepted by Emma.
“Merry Christmas, Jake,” she greeted me with a cheery smile, taking my arm in hers.
“Hey, Merry Christmas to you, too,” I replied. Reminding myself she was no long a kid, I resisted the impulse to ruffle her hair and settled for a hug instead.
We stopped at the bar so I could fix fresh drinks for Bill, Lisa and Paul. “So how’s life with Mummy Dearest these days?”
“She’s not that bad,” she said, stifling a laugh behind her hand as she put the drinks, along with cocktail napkins, onto a tray.
“Yeah, I know. She’s actually starting to grow on me,” I confessed, speaking low with my head bowed so only she could hear. “But you breathe one word of that to her and I’ll have to kill you.”
“Back at ya, Riordan,” she quipped without missing a beat.
We fist bumped and then she was off, cell phone in hand, doing God knows what teen-aged girls do these days.
Two hours later the party was winding down and our guests were getting ready to leave,
I took a tray of empty glasses to the kitchen, balancing it on one hand while I checked my phone with the other. There were texts and notifications from friends and former co-workers, but nothing from my Dad.
My shoulders slumped as I slid the phone back into my pocket. I downed the rest of my drink and set my glass along with the others next to the sink and went out to the foyer where Adrien was saying good bye to everybody.
They were all lined up next to the front door and it reminded me of a scene from ‘The Sound of Music’ which he and Emma had made me watch a couple of weeks earlier.
I dutifully hugged and kissed the family as they filed out, while ‘So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night’ bounced around my head. I was going to need another drink.
“Dinner is at 2:00 tomorrow,” Lisa reminded me as she returned my kiss and drew me in for a hug.
“We’ll be there,” I replied.
When the last of the Von Trapps … er … Dautens finally bid adieu, we quickly cleaned up the remnants of the party and then did the dishes. We have a long-agreed upon division of labor: I dry and put them away while Adrien washes.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a short time.
I looked up. “For what?”
He nodded at the phone in my hand. “Your Dad.”
“Oh, yeah,” I sighed, putting it back into my pocket. I’d been checking it almost non-stop since the party ended.
We didn’t talk about my Dad much, not that it was a sore subject or off-limits or anything. But it was what it was and neither of us could change it.
“I just keep thinking he’s going to come around, you know?” I said, leaning against the door frame. “I mean, everybody else has. Even Danny.” Danny, my youngest brother, had taken the news of my coming out pretty hard and had avoided me for months. But one day last January he showed up out of the blue at my office. The memory made me laugh out loud.
“What?” Adrien asked. He let the water drain as he wiped down the countertops.
“I was thinking about that day Danny first came by,” I said with a grin.
“Yeah, that was a good day,” he agreed, giving the sink a final rinse.
“It was.” We’d had a good long talk and then I took him down and introduced him to Adrien. Since then, we’ve gotten together on a number of occasions. In fact, all my brothers had stopped by over the course of the party tonight. It was nice. I didn’t expect my Mom to make an appearance, but we’d be seeing her sometime in the next couple of days.
“I’m gonna lock up,” I said as I put the last plate away and set the towel on the rack to dry.
I finished my rounds of the downstairs windows and doors when I saw Adrien with the dog at the front door. He was slipping into his coat.
“Just going to take Scout for a quick walk,” he said.
“Give me a second and I’ll come with,” I offered.
He shook his head as he fastened the leash. “No, that’s okay. You look beat. Go on up and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Okay. I am pretty beat.” And I was. Business had been very good for quite a while now, and I’d been out chasing down leads for the better part of the last three days on a new case. The last few days before Christmas is always a busy time at ‘Cloak and Dagger Books,’ and it seemed like Adrien and I hadn’t seen each other in nearly a week.
As if reading my mind, he said, “I’m looking forward to spending a long winter’s night with you.” And then he walked over to me, pointing to something over my head. I looked up to see a sprig of Mistletoe.
I took his face in my hands and kissed him deeply. As long as I lived, I would never get tired of kissing Adrien.
He finally pulled away and started pulling on his gloves. “Hold that thought,” he called over his shoulder as he stepped out the door.
I watched out the window for a few seconds as he walked Scout down the front sidewalk to the curb, and then I headed upstairs, stripped off my sweater and t-shirt, and went to wash up.
I set my phone next to the sink and gazed into the mirror. I started to think about the past couple of years.
I wanted to kick myself whenever I thought about those two years Adrien and I could’ve been together. Where would we be now if I’d had the courage to come out back then? Where would I be if I hadn’t?
But I told myself what I always did whenever I let my mind wander into such maudlin territory: no regrets. What was the use? I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t change anything I did. The past was the past. And honestly, from the day Adrien had shown up at my house in Glendale – after I’d given up on any chance of being with him – I only ever wanted to look ahead. To keep moving forward, day by day, with our new life.
I don’t know how long I stood there, lost in my thoughts, when I felt a cool finger trace up the length of my spine. I shivered and caught Adrien’s eyes in the mirror. Still the most beautiful guy I’ve ever seen.
“You look a million miles away,” he said quietly. “What are you thinking about?”
I smiled tightly. “It’s a wonderful life.”
He returned the smile and handed me a tumbler of Bourbon.
“Are you trying to get me drunk?”
His lips twitched and his eyes twinkled as he raised his own glass of his homemade Eggnog. He glanced at my phone on the counter. “Anything?”
“No.” I tossed the phone through the open door and onto the bed in the other room. I took a long drink. His smile had turned mischievous and I noticed he had one hand behind his back.
“Just how much Christmas Cheer have you had tonight?” I asked, leaning in and giving his glass a sniff.
He pulled it away and giggled. “Not much.”
“I’m fine,” he insisted, finishing the last of his drink and setting the empty glass down.
I opened the taps and started to wash my face. A moment later I felt his hand smoothing up and down my back. It was comforting and felt natural and I wondered again how I had denied this for so long.
I turned off the faucet and was reaching for a hand towel when I felt him pull at the waistband of my underwear, snapping it against my skin.
I narrowed my eyes as I looked at him in the mirror. “Easy now,” I said.
“Mhhmm?” he murmured innocently. He bit his lower lip and gave the elastic another playful snap.
“Somebody’s going to get a spanking,” I warned, my voice low.
“Don’t threaten me with a good time,” he retorted as he pulled the band back again. We stared each other down, eyes riveted to one another in the mirror. He let the elastic go with a crack and jumped back when I spun around. He thrust out the hand he’d been hiding behind his back. He was holding a long, thin rectangular box, wrapped in metallic red paper with a bright green and gold bow.
I eyed it suspiciously. “What’s this?”
“What does it look like?” he asked, looking at me with his mouth agape. “It’s a Christmas present. Go ahead and open it.”
I eased the ribbon and bow off the box and tore the paper open. I slid the top off to reveal two silk scarves and an ostrich feather.
I leaned against the vanity and lifted out the familiar objects, appraising them with an arched brow. “Kinky.”
“Mmmm… but they’re not for me,” he said coyly, looking up at me with wide eyes.
My jaw dropped and my mind flashed back to earlier this year when Adrien had ‘Scarf & Feathered’ me. It was my birthday and he’d surprised me with a weekend trip to Pine Shadow Ranch, which had been spruced up and was being used as a vacation rental. After a home-cooked dinner and some eighteen-year old Laphroaig (probably a little more than I should’ve had), he convinced me to do something I’d never done before.
He was tentative at first, but with some encouragement on my part and an assist from the Laphroaig, his devious side came out, and after a long and at times intense session of teasing, edging, and denial, I’d ended up begging – for the second time in my life.
He took me to places I’ve never been and exposed me to sensations I’ve never experienced. And then, when he finally filled me and began to move inside me… well … it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever felt.
“Oh baby,” I rumbled. The thought of a repeat performance made me tingle with anticipation and I charged him, dipping down and scooping him up over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
“Jake!” he gasped as I gave his backside a firm smack with my open palm, grabbed the scarves and feather, and marched into the bedroom.
I flopped him gently down onto the bed and straddled him. His hand worked furiously at my belt and then fumbled with the button and zipper on my pants.
“Down boy,” I chuckled at his frantic efforts to get my pants down with me still atop him. “How about letting me get my shoes off first?” I moved off him to the edge of the mattress and bent down to untie my shoes.
I was pulling my socks off when I felt him grabbing the waistband of my briefs again. This time, though, he gave the elastic a tug upwards. The hell?!
I jumped to my feet. “Did you just try to give me a wedgie?!”
He feigned innocence which turned into righteous indignation as I continued to glare, and then he burst into a fit of giggles. I couldn’t help laughing as I pounced on him.
“Oh, you’re in for it now,” I growled, pinning both his hands over his head as I ravished his mouth with kisses. Once he was distracted, I secured his right wrist to the bedpost with one of the scarves.
“What are you--” He broke off in a gasp as my hand slid down the front of his pants and into his underwear. “Jake!”
“What do we have here?” I asked as I delved deeper, my hand clasping hot, firm flesh.
“I… I have a permit for that, Detective,” he purred as he began to thrust slowly into my hand.
“Oh, I bet you do, Mr. English.”
I squeezed a little harder and then stopped. I pulled my hand back and sat up.
“Don’t quit now,” he panted, arching his back.
I swallowed hard and opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out.
Adrien looked up at me. “Jake?”
I worked my jaw and he reached to untie his wrist. He scooted out from under me and got to his knees. “What’s wrong?”
I blinked and then looked him directly in the eyes and shook my head. “Nothing,” I said, my voice gentle. “Nothing’s wrong. But I don’t think I want tonight to be about kink, Adrien.”
“Okay,” he nodded. “Sure.”
I put my hand to his face and stroked his cheek softly. I swallowed again and continued. “I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and these… these past couple of years with you have been the best of my life. I never dreamed I could be this happy.”
My voice caught and I could’ve gone for one of his smart-aleck remarks, but he just stared at me, his blue eyes seeing right into me. Laying me bare. I blinked again and went on. “You’ve made me a better man, Adrien. I’m a better person today, because of you. I wanted you to know that.”
He didn’t say anything. He reached out and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close. I let myself be drawn in. His warm breath on my neck felt like home.
“I feel the same way,” he whispered, kissing my shoulder and stroking my back.
I held him tight, my eyes squeezed shut. There was a prickle behind them and I felt the wetness on my lashes. “I love you, Adrien.”
“I love--” My phone, which I’d tossed onto the bed earlier, started to ring. We reached for it at the same time and I froze when I saw the number flashing on the screen. Adrien handed it to me.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” he said, moving to disentangle himself.
“No.” I pulled him back to me and hastily wiped my eyes. I slid my thumb across the screen to accept the call. “You’re right where I want you.”
He settled in next to me and gave me a gentle kiss on my bare chest as I answered the phone.
“Hi Dad. Yeah… Merry Christmas to you, too.”