Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Calendar Day 17

Today's Advent Calendar is another photo that I hope will inspire you to write something of your own. It can be a jokey try or a serious try. That's up to you. You can use my characters (GULP) or your characters. Whatever inspires you is fine by me on this rainy December morning.
On offer is the "winner's" choice of audio, print or ebook from my backlist. But the real giveaway is simply the pleasure and satisfaction of taking a few moments to do something creative during this hurried, harried time of year.

So here we go again, Write a paragraph or so about what you imagine is in that box. Who is giving? Who is receiving ....?


  1. Alrighty then, let's give it a shot.

    He stood behind a table with a wrapped package. He was surrounded by everything Christmas, a beautiful tree, ornaments and lights, Bing’s voice singing of a White Christmas. Further down the table were boxes and colorful paper and ribbons….and about twenty more presents he needed to wrap. Other. Peoples. Presents.
    It was very busy today. He had quite a crowd, though he thought it had more to do with the green tights he was made to wear. He looked out at the crowd. Yep. A lot of sightseers. He recognized a few young faces from the day before. Male and female.
    He went back to wrapping, measuring the paper, cutting the ribbon. He actually enjoyed his job, taking plain boxes and turning them into Christmas with colors and textures, and sometimes he would add a couple of bells that would make a lovely, tinkling sound.
    He was down to the last box when he happened to look up into the palest green eyes he had ever seen.
    “Coffee?” asked the eyes. Uh, no, the mouth below the eyes did the asking. A beautiful mouth curved slightly up in a tentative smile. Well Dang. He was due for a break, anyway.
    “Sure”, he answered the eyes.
    After all, he thought, you had to give extra points to anyone willing to have coffee with an elf.

  2. Rain and fog. How fitting. Exhaling loudly, Shawn got out of bed, took a deep breath and tiptoed to the living room. He would know soon enough. He felt his heart break a little bit at the thought. He loved Michael. He needed him here. But Michael had been distant lately, more quiet than usual, disappearing into his secret lair for hours on end, sometimes for days at a time. Serious. Always so serious lately.
    A prettily-wrapped gift waited on the coffee table. For him. He unwrapped it slowly – he always did love the wrapping paper almost as much as the gifts. Inside was a globe. And inside the globe, fuzzy scenes played. He squinted at it.
    "Try shaking it."
    He almost dropped the globe but didn't turn around. He still felt...raw. But he gave it a shake. A pond in winter, tiny figures skating and laughing. He could hear the small sound twinkle against the frosted glass. Another shake. He and Michael kissing in front of the cabin, snowflakes dancing around them.
    “You made this?” Tears clouded his eyes. “But how? The magic…it must have…” He turned around then, fearful and worried. “Are you all right?”
    Michael came to him then. Strong arms tentative around him, a soft kiss. “I’m all right. Merry Christmas, love.”

  3. Walking down the Street, watching myriads of people moving around, buying presents and enjoying the happy atmosphere these days always seem to bring about, he couldn’t help feeling a bit like the Grinch. It was not that he did not like Christmas. He used to love them. But that was before his boyfriend went to work abroad. It was eight months now, and he had not got used to living alone, to arriving back to a cold and lonely house. Their house felt as empty as his heart. Of course, there was the internet and the phone calls, but it did not feel the same. He could feel his love slipping away, the distance wreaking havoc on their feelings. Yesterday, when they were on the phone, he stopped pretending and plainly revealed how much he missed him, how sad he had felt when he set the tree and apathetically decorated the house in pretence of normality. “I know, babe”, he had answered. “I miss you to”.
    Berating himself for sulking and feeling miserable, he left the street and went into their house. Certainly he could find something to keep himself entertained tonight. He entered the house distractedly, pondering different recipes which he could try to keep his mind busy… Not that he was feeling really hungry, though… Walking through the living room in his way to the kitchen, he suddenly froze, desperately trying to process what his eyes were seeing. There, on the table, besides the Christmas tree, there was a present wrapped in brown paper, topped with a beautiful white and red ribbon… A present which hadn’t been there when he had left the house that morning. Blinking slowly, he kept looking at the present trying to make some sense of it, his absorption smoothly broken by a husky, familiar voice whispering into his ear: “happy Christmas, baby”.

  4. Featuring Robert and Noel from Icecapade

    The morning of Christmas Eve

    Robert slogged his way up the back porch of the house and took off his boots and coat in the mudroom. Repairing the fenceposts was back-breaking work, especially in the bitter cold of early morning, and the thought of a long, hot shower was suddenly foremost in his mind.

    Francis had called in a panic at the crack of dawn to let them know his llamas had found a breach in their neighboring fence and were escaping from his property to theirs. Robert had gone out alone to make the repairs, deciding to let Noel sleep off the ‘Christmas cheer’ from the night before. It was only the rare occasion when Noel overindulged - if you could call getting tipsy overindulging. But it had been nice to see Noel so relaxed and unbuttoned and joyful at their party the night before and he didn’t have the heart to wake the sleeping man.

    After the fence repairs he’d stopped over at Valspar’s place to check on her greenhouse generator. Once again Valspar went on and on about his aura and as much as he didn’t believe in her cockamamie ways, he realized just how genuinely fond of her he’d become. Of all of Noel’s friends and neighbors who were now his friends and neighbors.

    He didn’t realize how tired he was until the smell of freshly brewed coffee hit him as he entered the kitchen and he immediately perked up. He didn’t see or hear Noel and as he poured himself a cup he wondered if he was still sleeping.

    He carried his cup of coffee with him upstairs and was a little disappointed to see no sign of Noel. The bed was made and fresh towels had been laid out for him in the bathroom. He stripped out of his wet clothes and stepped into the shower. As he stood under the scalding spray, Robert reflected on this: his and Noel’s second Christmas together. Against all odds, considering their past, they were making a go of it. Building a life together. And every day with Noel served to heal Robert’s heart a bit more from the pain of losing his parents. It really was a wonderful life.

    The heat and steam of the shower went a long way to loosening the tight muscles in his back. Maybe if he asked nicely he could sweet talk Noel into a back rub. Not that it would take much. He had been pleasantly surprised at what a generous and thoughtful lover Noel was.

    He shaved quickly and then pulled on clean underwear and a soft black tshirt. He was about to step into his flannel pants when he noticed the colorfully wrapped package on the dresser. Had that been there fifteen minutes ago?

    Christmas had always been a big deal in his family and the gifts had been plentiful and not limited to Christmas Day itself. It warmed him to realize Noel was embracing his traditions.

    He reached for the card and smiled as he read the first line. He didn't think he'd ever get over how Noel calling him ‘beautiful’ made him feel. His eyes widened slightly as he read the rest of the card and his cheeks reddened as he felt his cock harden in his suddenly too small briefs. He slid his hand down to adjust himself and jumped slightly at the muffled sound of a throat clearing behind him. He cast a look over his shoulder to see Noel standing in the open doorway, appraising Robert's reflection in the mirror and grinning broadly.

    "Is that my Christmas present," Noel asked, his twinkling eyes focused where Robert's hand was resting.

    Robert's blush deepened as he dropped the card and hastily put on the flannel pants. "Just one of them," he said huskily as he closed the distance between them and pulled Noel into an embrace. "And if you've been a good boy I might even let you unwrap it early."

    Noel's smile grew brighter and he pulled Robert closer. "Oh, I've been a very good boy," he growled, pressing his lips to Robert’s as he tugged at the waistband of his pants.

    1. Steve, this is lovely! I love Robert and Noel and their story so much.

    2. Thank you, KC!!

  5. MC "That SOB! Can you believe he told me he will not pay the window dressing job because I was waging a "war on Christmas"? Just because the package on the window says 'Happy Holidays!' and not 'Happy Christmas'! F*cking cheap idiot. Didn't he get the memo? 'Inclusiveness' and 'diversity' a must nowadays if you want to sell anything."

    Checker: "Calm down, Josh! Just calm down and turn down the volume. You don't want to say too much, you may loose a client."

    MC "Yeah, a client that is not going to pay me! That job is worth more money than they were going to pay me in the first place anyway. And btw. what is it about your eye blinking. I tells you, you work too hard, honey, you're beginning to have ticks caused by stress, with your eyes winking and your head jerking."

    Checker jerks head a little more.

    MC smiling: "And btw., you didn't tell me you were hiring. That new guy over there is just my type: tall, lean, a killing smile and that sexy smexy café con leche skin color... mmmhhhh"

    Checker "Shutupshutupshutupshutupshutup... He can hear you!!"

    MC: "I don't mind him hearing. I didn't say anything bad, did I? Actually, why didn't you introduce me? You are being a bad friend not introducing to me all the hot studs working with you. Maybe one of these days one is going to stick around... you know, it's a question of statistics. I could certainly make an effort for a piece of ass with the quality of that one. Are you feeling OK? Your eyes went all big. You look a bit pale."

    Hot Stud (HS): "Good morning Ms. Checker. How are you doing this morning, is everything OK?"

    Checker: "Yes Mr. Boss, Mr. Lanyon was just telling me about the nice new Christmas window dressing he just finished. Let me introduce you, Mr. Boss, the new general manager responsible for all the Canadian branch shops."

    HS: "So you are our talented window dresser, Mr. Lanyon?... I really enjoyed the job you have done there, a real piece of ass...sesing. Yes?... You are looking a bit pale, Mr. Lanyon? You're really not looking good. Maybe you should take a coffee, a milk coffee, to improve your blood pressure."

    MC: "ReallyJane,Iwasalreadygoing,Ihavesomuchtodotoday.Lookhowlateitis.Ireallywouldliketostay,butIleftthethecarinthestreet...andyouknow...yeah...byebey...bye..."

    HS: "Mr. Lanyon! Before you go, wouldn't you like to discuss the possibility of making window dressing for our other branches? I think you did a great job here."

    MC: "Ermmm... weeeellll"

    HS winking and smiling: "I have a very good milk coffee in my office."

  6. “I don’t think it’s going to work, Daniel.”
    Dan stared at the painfully bright red strips of the present bethween them. Behind him, the stereo played “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” and it was giving him a heartache.
    No use to pretend he didn’t understand what Lucke was talking about. Things were a little rocky lately. Not so much from Dan’s point, but Lucke just wasn’t comfortable dating someone wealthier than him. Wealthier as a couple of millions wealthier.
    “It’s just a Christmas present. A very small one, you see?” Dan tried to smile but his lips didn’t cooperate. Lucke was wearing that expression again. The expression that said Dan couldn’t understand simple thruts of the world.
    “What about the first class plane tickets? The skiing in St Moritz? This place?“ Lucke waved at the interior of the room, his face closed and grim.
    The Christmas tree was decorated with sparking red balls. Lights were glittering merrily on the branches. In front of them the fire crackled and spat sparks. There were even stockings hanging from the mantle.
    “It’s traditional. I don’t-” Dan’s voice gave out. He could see how this would going to go. Quick and sharp cut, Lucke wasn’t the hesitant type. Dan pushed the box toward him. “Open it. Please.”
    Lucke’s eyes searched his face. His expression altered.
    “All right.”
    Dan watched as those calloused hands carefully unwrapped. Watched as they finally reached the small figure.
    “Dan”, wispered Lucke.
    “Okay, I have mony”, said Dan in a hurry. “And nobody tries to see beyond them, ever.” His throat closed. “Exept you.You see the real me. I wanted to show you that I see you too.”
    Lucke put the small wooden toy train to the nearby table.
    “I collect them from forever. It’s the best present”, he said. Paused. Those blue eyes didn't look icy any more. A tentative smile was curving his lips and Dan answered with one of his own. “Do you want to see yours?”
    “Yes. Very much.”

  7. Danyon tightened the bow on the last of presents and set it aside and sighed,. Feeling quite chuffed he pondered the other gifts under the brightly lit tree. Very festive he thought with all the neat bags and boxes in shiny Christmas colors of red, green, blue, silver ---purple and black? Where did that one come from? He knew he didn't wrap that one cause really who would put purple and black on a Christmas present. Maybe his sister came by and left it. She was always journeying on the outside of the box, pun intended, in her wonderfully colorful world. Danyon picked up the tightly wrapped gift. It was smaller than the proverbial bread box he mused but bigger than well-- the one thing he was hoping for. There wasn't any indication of who it was for much less who it was from. He was still chewing this over when he heard the floor creak behind him and a wonderful warm woodsy smell wafted over him. God! He loved that smell. Though the warmness of the masculine scent was the distinct opposite of the hands snaking down the neckband of his sweater.
    “Damn!” Danyon griped, “Your hands are freaking cold! Go warm them up under some hot water or get a cup of Coffee or something! Jesus!”
    “I'd rather find a more enjoyable way of warming them up.” Darius purred. And at that Danyon found himself under the wonderful weight of about 220 pounds of solid male. With said male making his way up underneath the sweater leaving shivers in his wake. Fortunately Darius' hands were heating up as the rest of him followed suit when the caressing and kissing became more impassioned. Tongues dueling, teeth nipping, moans escaping and breathing heavy.
    RINGGG! RINGGG! “Let.” Kiss. “The.” Kiss. “Voice mail pick it up.” Darius panted. Danyon didn't have a problem with that as his mind, body and yes his soul was otherwise occupied with their own exploration of the love that was progressing beautifully between them at the moment to care if a lion, tiger or bear ,oh my, were sitting at the table having a beer and playing poker.
    Danyon vaguely detected his sister's husky voice over the intoxicating rush of blood pulsing in his body and obviously pooling in his groin making the painful awareness of his jeans being too tight. That consciousness brought him up out of the wicked mire of Darius' administrations to put a minor halt to the festivities. Something about a present?
    “NO. NO, no, no, you can't leave me like this!” The laughing growl was whispered in his ear sending lovely little jolts through Danyon's already taxed system.
    “She said something about a gift. Wait! I just had it. I knew it must have been Glory's doing cause I didn't think you'd wrap a Christmas present in black and purple.” Sliding out from under his exceedingly grumpy and frustrated man, Danyon kissed his slightly swollen lips. “Don't forget where we were.” And kissed him again with a bit of force to help with the remembering part. Seeing the non Christmas colored box, he picked it up and went to the phone to replay his sister's message.
    Opening the gift, was like trying to get into Fort Knox. Glory was always very liberal with the tape. She said it made it more fun that way. Danyon was wondering for who. Glory probably. Finally getting the paper off, Danyon held a beautiful cherry wood box. It kind of looked like a music box with a Celtic knot inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Lifting the lid Danyon and Darius gasped in unison. Tied together with a simply green ribbon was a set of rings. Wedding rings to be exact. Both Exquisitely engraved with the same Celtic patten as the box. Darius pulled the rings out and untied and held them in the palm of his hand offering them up to the man he love more than anyone.

    Danyon took the slightly smaller ring looking up into Darius' pale green eyes, “Are you sure?”
    Darius leaned his forehead to Danyon's and whispered gruffly, “With all that I am, yes.”

    from Gail Staggs

  8. I wonder if he still likes red ornaments. And bows. Maybe I should have tone it down. But it's Christmas, it's suppose to be festive and silly. Right? Right. So, the ornaments stay. And why am I so nervous? Jesus, it's just family affair ,Christmas and a few other people. We do this every year. With the same people. It's just that he'll be here and some of the things are different. Detail,details. It'll be fine. Fine!
    There are twelve people in the room and I feel restless. He's not here. He's late. Maybe he changed his mind and he's not coming. Maybe his car broke down. Or he had an accident. Or storm hit...somewhere and he couldn't leave the house. And he can't call because they don't have electricity. The snow and all. Or he just doesn't want to see me.
    We had a fight. An ugly one. Bitter and loud. We don't fight. We talk, argue, I pout, he goes for radio silence for a couple of hours, and then we talk. Agree on whatever. Or agree to disagree. Or something. We kiss and make up. We had a fight nine days ago. I haven't seen him since.
    Room is full of loud people. My family. His family. Close friends. My sister divorced three months ago and she is still recovering, but she put on a brave happy face for my dad's sake. I haven't told them about the fight. I'm too scared that, once I say those words, they will be real. More real then I'm capable of handling. I'm looking at my sister and I'm scared. What if that's me?
    I decorated my parents' house for Christmas, like every year. I love it. The Christmas feel. Shiny ornaments, cookies, evergreen all around. I don't decorate our place as much. He says he can't live in Santa's place. Except red glass ornaments. He likes those. As a compromise, we go to my parents' house on Christmas Eve. Place where I can indulge my passion for drama. I'm not so crazy about it right now.
    So this year I bought new red ornaments. Big and sparkly. I placed them all around the house. I told my parents that I'm staying with them till Christmas because he's out of town on business. They were thrilled. I was numb.
    I heard door bell and my dad went to open the door. I jumped. "I'll do it." He was clean-shaved. And smelled like cold air. I stared, starved for his eyes on me. Something broke inside of me. I said:"Yes." "Yes?" he was frowning. "Yes, I missed you. So,so much." He visibly relaxed his shoulders. Sighted. Shook his head. And hugged me. I grabbed his arms. Tears just appeared, uninvited. Everything became a blur. He's here. He's still here. "I bought four dozens of red Christmas balls and they are all around the house. You'll hate it and I really hope you'll like it." He laughed. The kiss melted the chill in my heart. He's here. We are still we. We'll fix it. I'll make sure of that.
    I got him a travel mug with dancing red dwarfs on it. That was the official gift, for our families to see. The unofficial one was a red bow around my...let's say my neck.


  9. (Dear Josh, I sincerely apologize for this one. It honestly wrote itself, it's in two parts because of length. This is part 1)

    When Jake introduced me to the concept of secret Santa, I was sure, painfully so, that it had to be something kinky.

    Call it the story of my life, the itching on my bones. A person doesn't get involved in at least five murder investigations, a shooting or two, have a heart attack close to an operation date, without picking up a thread of sarcasm and possible psychic power.

    Jake still had friends, not that I’ve seen very many of them, and I had my own. But the number of willing secret Santa participants was suspiciously low. Further fueling my notion of this obviously being a kink scheme in a private club somewhere, where leather daddys were all laughing themselves silly at the non-practitioner in the art of pain, playing father Christmas with all of them.

    Jake remained, Jake and frustratingly silent on all my speculations. Which was a new trait of his that I loved to hate, his loss of patience with me was something I never thought would sort of fade away.

    Apparently I was some sort of secret glutton for punishment. Not in a physical sense. Never.

    Jake’s detective instincts told him I was spying on him, and they were right, I needed to be inspired for my own secret Santa gift, and if kinkdom was the theme, my only source of decent information was the one who snored softly next to me in bed.

    But he was like the ninja to my pirate, quite elusive.

    “Something thoughtful?”

    Which is when I thought backup would be handy, and enlisted the help of author, friend, and master of the art of paranoia and suspicion, Christopher Holmes. The raging monster of jealousy that was author J.X. needed no sort of prodding in joining the game. Christopher wasn’t enthused about the prospect of gifting strangers, but my plight and plea, doctored with my suspicions and theory, won him over.

    I shuddered to think about a Miss Butterwith book with whips and chains, but figured the greater good would prevail. Then I recalled her expertise in botany, and my own research into ginger roots and figging and wished my mind would turn off sometimes.

    No one liked to be made a fool of, and no one wanted to be manipulated into anything, and I wasn’t facing either, just this weird inkling that I was being tested, and wining would be affirmation, and losing would be? Losing would be the providence of what boring is, especially now that all my challenges seemed to be, purely domestic.

    It was with a few glasses of drink, one eye covered, and an incredibly early hour that I made my online purchase at an online sex toy shop, curtsey of Guy, and his lust-crazed, sex-magic brain addled Harry Potter.

    The gift-wrap option saved me from traipsing around the house with it and dealing with the wrapping myself. The would all be sent to a friend of Jake’s who would then randomly shuffle them towards different recipients.

  10. Dooms day, or Christmas, which was spent home, despite Liza’s wishes for us to join in on their celebration, arrived.

    There were two boxes that lacked an actual sender’s name, one in Jake’s name, and one in mine.

    The golden wrapping was accented with a wide, red and cream sash, thin golden threads weaved in. The card simply said, Happy Holidays.

    The cards were both the same, probably the handy work of Jake’s friend. I tried to rattle the box, hopping for a cue, when Jake’s presence, midst the delicious smells of food, made themselves pronounced. Task abandoned, I went to stock up on fuel for my body and something for my soul.

    It was much later, after warm wood, languid kisses and a few stray and eager hands, did we sit down for the task of opening our surprises. I waited for Jake to open his, unexpectedly excited about what it held, being proven right, and that one continuous thought of triumph driving it.

    The cuff-links were elegant, not really Jake’s style, golden and tipped with a black stone. I willed my mind not to come up with a kinky use for them. Maybe a nipple thing? Ugh.

    I worked the wrapper off, pealing it back and revealing a normal box, padded with shredded paper and several rolls of...

    Cat socks. In every color I’d never wear, were socks that had cats on them. There was a chocked, pained sound coming from Jake’s direction, that I didn’t want to analyze, lest I flung all my socks at him.

    I leaned back into the couch, digging fingertips on both sides of my temple, and sighed.

    “You could have just said something.” I glared at Jake.

    “And deprive you of a mystery?”

    I snorted, always the scout. I paused my brain massage and wondered who’d managed to get my gift?

    Little did I know that miles away in Frisco, Kit was cowering in a corner of his new house, staving off the wicked advances of a J.X., armed with a pink ball gag.

  11. I wasn’t expecting him to be home. His last words to me this morning – “I just need some time to think about us” – still rung loud and clear. I didn’t see his car. The house was empty even though I saw the holiday lights glittering through the window. The housekeeper must have turned them on before she left. I’d find a bottle of wine chilling for us. She was thoughtful that way. Always thinking about us.

    Us. Would there even be an “us” in the new year? I hoped so. But after this morning, after shouting words drove us further apart, my hope for a future with John dimmed.

    The scent of Christmas overwhelmed me as I entered the living room. The housekeeper had finished decorating the tree. There were now red and silver ornaments sparkling among the lights that I had put up last night. I wanted to finish the decorating with John. He had shown no interest in the lights but I thought I could get him involved with the finishing touches.

    Tears filled my eyes and I quickly slapped my thigh. Stop it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. I had to clear my head and make plans for Christmas eve. No more pity parties for me. I had plenty of friends. I just had to make the effort to call them.

    Then I saw it. A bright gold-papered box tied in red and white striped ribbon. Happy Holidays sprouted from the bow. I stared at the box for a minute. It hadn’t been there this morning. I recognized John’s writing on the gift tag. To Andy. From John.

    “John,” I called out. “Are you here?” No answer.

    I cautiously shook the box and heard the contents scrape against the sides. The box was so light; the weight didn’t correspond to the size of the present. I unwrapped the package and lifted the lid. Folded pieces of paper filled the box.

    I dropped to the sofa and eyed the chilled wine. I’d probably need something stronger if the little notes were what I feared they were. All the reasons, one by one, why John couldn’t stay with me. I’d been down this road before with another boyfriend and even my own family.

    Dread filled me and I shivered as I opened the first note.


    Uh? I tossed the piece of paper aside and opened another one.

    Generous lover.

    I searched for the bow and looked at the gift tag. Happy Holidays. To Andy. From John. No mistake then.

    I quickly worked through several more notes. Adorably shy. Honest. Smart (sometimes too smart for your own good). Great taste in music. Trustworthy.

    The words went on and on. All in John’s block-style printing. Finally, I came to the envelope in the bottom of the box. A love letter from John. He still loved me and he’d just given me 100 reasons why. He said it would take at least 100 more notes to tell me the x-rated reasons he loved me, but he planned to save those for our anniversary 25 or 50 years from now.

    Andy, we may fight and back off from each other, but I’ll never walk out on you. I know you’ve had people in your life who wouldn’t fight for you, but I’m not like them. My love runs deep.

    There was more but my eyes blurred with tears. I’d have to re-read his words when I could actually see them. Thank God I saw the postscript.

    P.S., I learned that I actually like decorating Christmas trees! Who knew? Next year I want a tree in every room. I have a few great ideas for each one, especially the one in our bedroom.

    P.P.S., A limousine will be outside the house at 7:00 p.m. to drive you to our favorite restaurant. I’ll be sitting at the table in the back (the dark corner) with cocktail in one hand and a small present in the other. The wine will keep until later. Love, John.

  12. "Pat! Get your freckled ass out of bed," I called down the dark hallway.
    I was thirty-two, so sticking with traditions that had been around since childhood may have appeared strange to some, but habits are hard to break. I was up before the sun and had the lights of the Christmas tree plugged in, quiet holiday music playing and coffee brewing in the kitchen.
    It was my first Christmas with my big, hunky, Irish boyfriend and to say I was anxious for it to start was an understatement.
    "I'm right here, baby," he mumbled from the open doorway, rubbing the sleep from his face. His voice was deep and scratchy and sexy. "It's still dark out, Everett."
    "I know, I know, but my sister and I would always wake our parents up really early." I handed him a mug of coffee and led him over to the tree.
    Patrick raked a hand through his fiery red hair as he sat down on the floor beside me. He immediately reached out for box in simple gold wrapping with a red and white bow. "Open this first."
    I grinned and took the offering, giving it a small shake. "Is it a new house?"
    "I like your shitty little apartment."
    "An island vacation?"
    "It's awfully crowded this time of year."
    "I'll settle for students actually interested in my courses."
    Patrick offered a lopsided smile. "They're all interested, Professor Maxwell. Especially that perky redhead in the front row Art in the Renaissance."
    "Redhead?" I echoed, muddled brain automatically scanning faces from my art history courses. "Julie Henderson."
    "Sure," Patrick said with a shrug. "She's onto you and your preoccupation with freckles."
    I snorted and shoved him. "The only freckles I like are on your cheeks."
    "Which ones?" Patrick smirked before taking a sip of coffee. "Open," he gently urged, pushing the package into my hands again.
    I looked down and pulled the ribbon free, savoring the first tear of wrapping paper and the childish excitement that accompanied it. Inside of the box was-- another box. I took it out.
    "Kleenex tissues?" I asked, looking at Patrick.
    That ass was only smiling, refusing to comment. The box seemed too heavy for tissues, so I tore the side away and pulled out another box. "Oh for-- graham crackers. What did you do, steal all of the boxes from recycling?"
    "They're being recycled," Patrick insisted, nodding his head at the present.
    "I don't think this is what they meant," I answered as I pulled out yet another, smaller box that was made out of the cut portions of a taco box. "Good grief, Pat."
    Laughing to myself, I pried open the tape and cardboard only for a black, velvet box to tumble into my hand. My voice died and my heart sped up. I turned to Patrick.
    He smiled back.
    "I-- I don't think your other gifts are going to top this," I whispered.
    "Probably not."
    "I should have opened it last."
    "Merry Christmas, Eve."

  13. Huddled on the couch, Avery lifted the bottle of Grey Goose to his lips and took a long, hearty drink. Ajay and Cameron had finally gone off to the guest bedroom. Avery loved them but would have preferred to be left alone.

    They'd burst into his home, declaring it was Christmas Eve and time for celebration. They'd dragged Avery's arse out of bed and cleaned the house and decorated every available space for the next day. As cheery as Ajay and Cam were, Avery could see the strain and sadness lurking underneath. Ajay cooked what was surely a fabulous meal, but Avery wasn't hungry. The few bites he'd forced down tasted like everything else had these last two months - nothing.

    The tree was ablaze with hundreds of small white lights, reflecting in the red, silver, and gold ornaments. Artfully wrapped gifts were arranged under it. Max lay curled among the gifts, his fluffy white fur a stark contrast to the green pine branches. On Christmases past, Avery would have whipped out his camera and spent hours lost in taking pictures of its beauty and wonder. He'd always loved this time of year. Now...

    He was angry.

    Angry at his friends for forcing their way in. Angry at the 'comfort and joy' of the season. Angry at having the tree and presents. Angry at the world for taking the best thing that had ever happened to him. Angry at being left alone.

    Why hadn't he died the day Riley had?

    -Andy Slayde

    1. That's me, spreading Christmas cheer. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and it is filled with comfort and joy. And never fear, Avery does get a happy ending :)


  14. Don and Ricky-Joe from Coal Miner’s Son*

    “Did you expect any more deliveries?” Don called from the open door. He had been on his way out to clear the driveway from the freshly fallen snow while Ricky-Joe had been puttering around in the kitchen, contemplating if he should bake another sheet of cookies.
    “No. It’s probably for the Smiths next door. UPS has been dropping of packages for them all week.” Ricky-Joe answered.
    “That doesn’t look like something they ordered on Amazon.” Don stepped back inside and came to the kitchen. He set a box on the table and frowned down on it. Ricky-Joe stood next to him, stroking his strawberry-blond moustache.
    “That is one nice looking gift.” He mused. And it was. An almost perfectly cube-shaped box, wrapped in understated paper with a big red and white bow on top. The card said “Happy Holidays!” and that was it. Ricky-Joe turned the card but there was no address or greetings or name or anything that would have given a hint where the parcel belonged.
    “Do you think it’s for us?”
    “Hand-delivered to our doorstep without anybody knocking or at least a note?” Ricky-Joe couldn’t help feeling concerned about the unknown provenance of the box. “We don’t know that many people in town yet and everything else has already arrived. Should we ask the neighbours, do you think?”
    “We could open it.” Don had always been the more adventurous of the two of them. “Just to see if there’s any clue…” His gaze sought Ricky-Joes and when he nodded, Don drew the bow from the box and carefully lifted the lid.

    *In case you don't know who Don and Ricky-Joe are, find out more about them here on Josh's Goodreads group:

    1. I didn't think it was possible to improve on the original story, but you really added to the depth of these guys. The only thing I think is missing is whipped cream in their collective mustaches. Maybe it will be added to the third book in the series

    2. :-D :-D :-D

      You're right of course, there could have been some hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. But remember the miraculous food-free-van-dyke? I'm not so good with paranormal/fantasy to pull that of. ;-)

  15. This was fun. Never occurred to me before to try writing myself. Might even try again :o



    Thomas lifted the midnight-blue pair out of the box. He resisted the urge to rummage around in the copious amounts of tissue paper that had disguised the gift, just in case something else was hidden within and the socks were merely decoy. For a ring, or whatever.

    Jake looked expectedly at him.

    "You got me...socks."

    "They're cashmere."

    "" Thomas stared down at the neatly folded pair.

    He obviously didn't quite manage to insert the appropriate amount of awe into his tone as Jake's smile faded at his words and he gazed worriedly at the gift in Thomas's hands.

    "Er, the guy in the store said luxury bed socks were the perfect gift...". He trailed off as though the thought had only just occurred to him that he'd swallowed a sales pitch.

    Jake was normally the epitome of cool. Nothing ever phased him, his confidence was unshakeable - something that had been both attractive and startling to Thomas, who tended to get through life crossing his fingers and hoping to whoever was above for things to work out. That was until he met Jake. Jake who had from the start encouraged and supported Thomas to believe in himself (no mean feat in the world of art). Jake who had known just when to push him forward through a tough year, and just when to let him rest and regroup. Jake who had made the last twelve months the happiest of his life.

    So what if he'd bought him socks? Fancy, expensive designer socks to go in the draw with his regular cotton offerings. They were from Jake, another gift on top of everything else he had given him since they'd met. Far more than he could give voice to.

    Jake was still watching him anxiously, his green eyes flickering over Thomas's face. He wore grey boxers and a green sleeping t-shirt, fitted over his muscled biceps. His brown hair was mussed from sleep and stubble lined his jaw. Thomas's heart rose.

    "They're perfect, thank you."

    Jake exhaled in obvious relief and he leaned over to accept the kiss offered. Thomas breathed in the clean scent of him and rested his forehead against Jake's for a beat.

    "I'll make us some coffee." Jake broke the moment and rose, heading for the kitchen.

    Thomas stayed where he was, cross-legged and staring at the socks in his hands. Well, they were very soft.

    The gold box was sitting there, bereft of its treasure. He went to put the socks back in.


    Thomas turned.

    Jake grinned. His usual, confident grin. The one that said: I've got it this, as always. Except, this time Thomas had contributed to that confidence. Seen his lover exposed and chosen to build him back up - just as Jake had done for him, repeatedly and with infinite patience, for the last year.

    Or so he thought.

    "Did you check through all the tissue paper?"

  16. These. Were. GENIUS.

    Seriously, I am once again bowled over by how funny and creative you all are.

    The "winner" is Steve L. :-D

  17. It is the most wonderful time of the year
    The christmas tree, the presents, all is here

    Children sing about a holy night
    Bing Crosby loves it when it is white
    The christmas tree, decorated with gold
    The wrapped gifts with surprises to hold

    From the kitchen comes a wonderful smell
    Christmas is there, anyone can tell
    The christmas tree is the central place
    Arounded with amazing grace

    Everyone is busy with the last preparations
    Lovely christmas decorations

    I look to the tree
    And think, it could be me
    Waiting patientally

    The greatest gift on earth
    Under he tree it looks so small
    Ah well, we cannot have it all

    I think I stay happy, give just a smile
    It does look not too much
    But it is
    When it stays a while

    ==written by me (Hans) ==

  18. Congrats Steve. I had to hurry to read Icecapade so I could read your story.

    And Josh. You have to do this more often. I had just as much fun reading everyone's stories as I had trying to come up with my own, which by the way made me appreciate so much more what you give to us in your stories....Dang, I think that sentence got away from me.

    1. Haldis wrote: " I had just as much fun reading everyone's stories as I had trying to come up with my own, which by the way made me appreciate so much more what you give to us in your stories.."

      Yes. That, exactly. :-)

  19. For the first time in years a tree twinkled in the dim lighting. He sat there fascinated by the glinting lights. lost in reflection of the few times his foster homes had bothered with the christmas accoutrements.
    He heard Dan's soft steps gliding to the couch he sat upon, yet he could not tear his eyes from the sparkling lights.... of hope.
    As Dan sat beside him and pressed a glass of fragrant wine in his hand , he smiled ruefully. He was not unhappy, on the contrary , he was afraid of the joy that raced thru his veins.
    "here baby," Dan's lyrical voice sounded in his ear as he handed him the ribboned package that had previously sat alone for days beneath the festooned tree.
    Dan chuckled prodding him again with the gift" cmon open it. I saw you shaking it and poking it for a week. Its finally time."
    He tried to be mature but , that package had represented so many ,mysteries for him. Childishly he shredded the paper and looking into dan's soulful Brown eyes, he lifted the lid to find..... nothing.
    It was empty. Confusion wrinkled his brow, his blue eyes meeting Dans over the empty box. He knew that wasnt the way it was supposed to work... although holidays were those moments in his past that were the most empty.
    Dan chuckled again. He gripped his Mate's hand firmly over the lid of the box," i couldnt put the actual thing in there, way to messy; but never doubt the gift is real and true. Its my heart,Love. forever and a day."