Thursday, December 20, 2018

Advent Calendar Day 20

DAY 20???!!! FIVE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS? How can this be?!

But so it is. Day 20 and only five more days to go. I hope you're having as lovely a holiday season as I am. Frankly, I can't remember the last time I had such relaxed and happy holidays (I keep imagining something really dreadful is bound to happen--isn't that an awful way to think?)

This morning's offering is from one of ever most popular contributors, Steve Leonard--and I KNOW you're going to love it because it's got everything I love. :-D

A Jake Riordan Christmas Coda

“No way! Shut up!” J.X. choked out through a fit of laughter. He was doubled over in his chair and it was only Christopher reaching out to grab his arm that kept him from falling on his face. He looked at Adrien in horror. “You’re Avery Oxford?!”

Adrien had an affronted look on his face. He rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he sighed.

“Okay, let me get this straight,” Christopher said. He finished his gin and tonic and set the glass down. “They, the Finches, basically followed you for three years and cribbed scenes from your life for their book?”

“Pretty much,” Adrien said, taking a sip of his Caramel Appletini.  

“That’s not creepy at all,” Christopher said. “Hashtag, stalker.”


Adrien and I were spending Christmas at Pine Shadow Ranch this year and had invited Christopher and J.X. to spend a couple of days with us. They were leaving in the morning - tomorrow was Christmas Eve - because they had plans with J.X.’s family back in San Francisco. We’d had a surprisingly pleasant visit and I found I didn’t want it to end.

Christopher and J.X. had taken us to dinner in Basking at La Chouette, and we were now back at the ranch having a couple of drinks in the living room. J.X. had built a fire and the tree Adrien and I had cut down and decorated the day we’d arrive twinkled merrily in the corner.

“No offense to your friends,” J.X. said, “but Murder, He Mimed was awful.”

“Awful doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Adrien said. “That book is a crime against literature.”

“Yes,” Christopher agreed, and he had the same offended look on his face as Adrien. “It’s… oh, what’s the word I’m looking for? A cry for help?”

“Dreck,” Adrien supplied flatly, taking another drink. “That book is dreck.”

“Dreck,” I repeated, amused. Adrien glanced at me and I smiled. “I love it when you get all riled up, baby. You start busting out your five-dollar words.”

“Busting out my five d- What? Are you drunk?”

“Nice try, baby.” I winked at him over the rim of my glass. “Not even close.”

Christopher looked at me closely, and then Adrien. He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. “There’s a story here, isn’t there?”

“Oh yeah, there’s a story,” I acknowledged fondly, my eyes locked on Adrien’s as I remembered last Christmas Eve with the silk scarves and that peacock feather. I wonder if he brought them along this year...

Adrien looked away first and cleared his throat. “But not one for public consumption.” His cheeks were pink with heat and... something else.

“I haven’t read the book,” I said, steering the conversation back to the original subject. Adrien shot me a scowl and I couldn’t help but smirk.

“What?” J.X. asked. Now both he and Christopher were looking back and forth between the two of us. “What aren’t you telling us?”

I winked at Adrien and he blushed. “Oh, fine. Go ahead,” he said.

I took a sip of my Laphroaig and turned to our guests. “As a matter of fact--”

“Oh stop,” Adrien interrupted. “If you’re going to tell the story then tell it right. Not all Joe-Friday-Just-The-Facts-Ma’am.”

“Well, excuse me, Mr. Capote,” I said with mock indignation. I stood and bowed to him in a grand, sweeping gesture. “By all means, please continue.”

He sputtered and his Caramel Appletini sprayed across the table. “Ass!”

I coughed to cover my chuckle and reached out to gather up the empty glasses. “Let me refill everybody’s drinks while Scheherazade here regales you with the story.”

I was in the kitchen mixing another Caramel Appletini for Adrien as he started in on the story. God, what is with him and his sweet drinks? First Black Orchids and now this?

By now I knew the recipe for Caramel Appletinis by heart:

1 ounce vanilla-flavored vodka
1 ounce sour apple schnapps
1 ounce butterscotch schnapps
1 decorative squirt liquid caramel
(optional: 1 maraschino cherry UGH)

Christ, he’d even made me lug all the ingredients to Pine Shadow and now had J.X. drinking them as well. But hell if I was going to measure everything out ounce by ounce. I’d been doing a good enough job eyeballing it so far. Heck, I hadn’t heard one complaint all week.

I smiled as I listened to Adrien tell the story and my mind wandered back to that morning in April…

What is this?” Adrien demanded as he pounded into the kitchen, his phone in his shaking, outstretched hand.

I looked up from where I was reading the LA Times and set down my coffee. “What’s what?”

This,” he said frostily, waving his phone in my face.

I glanced at it. “I didn’t know you were on Instagram.”

“I’m not,” he said, “although maybe I should be. Emma texted this to me.”

I took the phone from him. “Hot Dudes Reading? Isn’t Emma a little young to be following an account like this?”

“Not the point,” he said crisply. “Look closer.” 

“Easy now.” I looked at the screen again. “You know, you should get a bigger phone. This screen is so small I can ba--”


“Okay, okay.” I leaned in. “Oh hey, that’s me.” The photo was dated yesterday and showed me sitting on a bench outside of Cloak and Dagger reading a book. When he didn’t say anything I looked up at him. He was still glaring, his mouth agape. I held the phone out to him. “I know this might surprise you, but I do read you know.”

He made an exasperated noise and grabbed the phone. I stood, my hands out in a placating gesture. “What are you so upset about? The fact that I’m reading or that somebody thinks I’m hot?”

“Look at what you’re reading,” he said icily, biting off each word. His nostrils were flared and he practically thrust the phone in my face.

that," I said sheepishly. I looked down at the paper.

"’Oh, that’?” he mocked. “You're reading Murder, He Mimed?!"

“I wanted to know what all the fuss was about,” I said with a shrug.

“The fuss? What fuss?”

“They’re making a movie out of it.”

He lost all color. “They’re what?!”

“Making a movie… It was in the paper yesterday. They’ve got David Warner writing the screenplay."

"David Warner?" Adrien sputtered, his voice shooting up an octave. "That hack?!"

"Yeah, and Matt Bomer’s going to play the Avery Oxford character.”

"M...M...Matt Bomer?!" He was apoplectic.

“Yes,” I said patiently. “How do you not know this? Like I said, it was in the paper. Hell, I thought Jean and Ted would’ve mentioned it to you by now.”

“Where’s the paper?” he ground out. Ouch, he was going to pulverize his teeth if he wasn’t careful.

“It’s on the counter by the door,” I said cautiously.

He stalked across the room and snatched up the paper, tossing pages aside until he found the entertainment section and hastily flipped through it. His brows furrowed and he pursed his lips.

“I don’t see it,” he said, clearly irritated.

"April Fools, baby," I said, waggling my eyebrows as I pointed to the calendar on the wall. “Gotcha!”

He went white, then red, then white again. "You...Emma...Gah!!!"

J.X. was howling with laughter when I delivered the drinks. “Thanks,” he gasped as he accepted his and took a big swallow. “Oh my God, Jake, that was epic.”

He was half-smashed after all those Caramel Appletinis, and I had a feeling if he kept up his current pace Christopher or I was going to be carrying him to bed.

“I’m glad one of us thinks so,” Adrien sniffed, trying not to smile, but deep – deep – down I could tell he was amused.

“I need to meet this Emma,” Christopher said, arching his brow. “You know, friends close, enemies closer, and all that.”

“Emma’s great,” Adrien said and I could see the affection in his eyes.

J.X. put his drink down and slumped in his chair. He leaned his head against the back of his chair and looked at Christopher. “I think I’m drunk, honey.”

“I’m glad I was seated for that shocking revelation,” Christopher deadpanned.

“What? What do you mean?”

“I mean, I’m not surprised, what with the way you’ve been sucking down those Caramel Appletinis tonight.” He gestured to J.X.’s nearly empty glass.
“But they’re so good,” he protested draining his glass. “They go down like candy!”

“Been there, done that,” I concurred, remembering last Christmas and how Adrien’s Black Orchids had gotten the better of me.

Christopher rose and held out his hand to J.X. He flashed him a leering look. “We should really call it a night.”

“Oh?” J.X. said, as Christopher helped him to his feet. His cheeks were flushed and you could hear the smile in his voice. “I guess that means somebody’s getting lu-”

“Say good night, Gracie,” Christopher interrupted, slapping a hand playfully over J.X.’s mouth.

He giggled and pulled Christopher’s hand away. “Sorry, Kit,” he said sheepishly. He leaned in and gave him a quick peck on the cheek as they left the living room.

I looked at Adrien. “You too, Betty Ford.”

Adrien’s eyes widened. “What?” he spluttered. “I’m fine.” He finished his drink and set his glass down, nearly missing the coffee table. “Okay, well, maybe I’m a little tipsy.”


“That was so good last night, Kit,” I overheard J.X. saying to Christopher when I walked into the kitchen the next morning, tugging at the sleeves of my sweater to make sure the faint red marks on my wrists weren’t showing. “You were wonderful. Why don’t we do that more?”

“Really?” Christopher had an exasperated but amused look on his face. “How long have I been saying this?”

“Well, I-” J.X. stopped when he saw me and quickly rose from where he and Christopher were sitting at the kitchen table. He winced and massaged his right temple. “Jake, I want to apologize for last night. I don’t normally drink so--”

“Hey, nothing to apologize for,” I said easily as I clapped my hand on his arm. “We’re all friends here.”

“Still, though.”

I shook my head and gave his arm another squeeze. “No need to. Truly.”

I smiled and poured myself a cup of coffee, visions of peacock feathers and silk scarves dancing in my head. Adrien was full of surprises lately and as I sat down at the table the tenderness in my backside reminded me just how pleasurable some of them were. We’d talked about making our own holiday traditions and it seems like we were well on our way.

“Is that coffee I smell?” Adrien moaned as he appeared in the kitchen door. Even though he’d showered and shaved, he looked disheveled. I handed him my cup and went to pour myself another.

“Well, don’t you look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning,” I said, flashing him a wink.

“Ugh.” He dropped heavily into the chair I’d been sitting in.


“Gage would love this place,” I heard Christopher say to J.X. as we walked them out to their car after breakfast.

“Who’s Gage?” I asked.

“My nephew,” J.X. said.

“More like the spawn of hell,” Christopher muttered and J.X. punched his shoulder playfully.

“Ouch! Kidding,” Christopher said, wincing. “He’s an acquired taste.”

“If you ever want to come visit, let me know and I’ll send you the keys,” Adrien offered.

“Really? That would be wonderful,” J.X. enthused.

We said our goodbyes and they were off. I looked over at Adrien as Christopher and J.X. drove out of view. He was looking at the distant mountains, smiling. He looked so happy, so content. I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my life.

I recalled the Christmases we’d shared and the ones we’d missed. Over the last year I’d finally been able to admit to myself that I was a big part of that smile - why he was so happy and healthy and content. My vision blurred and I realized my eyes were wet.

He turned to me as I was wiping at my eyes and his smile softened. “Jake,” he sighed as he stepped into me and I wrapped my arms around him. “Let’s go home.”

“I thought you wanted to get away from everything this year.”

“And we did. But this was enough. Besides, I miss having everybody around for Christmas.”

“What? You?”

“Hey, I like your family,” he said, tilting his head up for a kiss. “Heck, I even like mine a little.”


  1. I loved every minute of this! It also has everything I love. Two of my all time favourite pairings mixed! Thank you so much for sharing it <3

  2. That is a very camp cocktail even by my standards!

    1. It's quite yumilicious--if you don't mind all your teeth falling out an hour later. ;-D

    2. Like Black Orchids, you can make these by the pitcher full!

    3. Absolutely wonderful, I can't stop smiling....sigh...

  3. Aaaw! that was so cute. I always thought Kit and JX would be great friends with Adrien and Jake. They even could investigate something together... Not that I am suggesting it... ;)

    1. LOL No. NO ONE ever suggests THAT.

    2. Poor Jake and J.X. would be popping antacid 24/7!

  4. Thank you, Steve. You did a fabulous job as always. It's nice to see favorite characters hanging out together.

    1. He's becoming quite the AC superstar.

    2. Thanks, Lori! They are four of my favorites and such a delight to write.

  5. That was great! I especially liked the David Warner part. :-)

  6. Oh that was a treat! I look forward to your contributions each year Steve, and this coda was a delight!

    1. I agree! I'm so grateful for Steve and Meg and Kate and Haldis and Natasha -- for everyone who contributes past and present.

    2. Thanks, Ariel! I know I have fun doing it. There's so much talent here. We're all glad Josh has opened up the calendar to us.

  7. Thank you, Steve. That was wonderful! Favorite couples, favorite holiday, favorite I'm still laughing over, "That hack?" Just fun. :)

    1. LOL I choked when I first read that.

    2. LOL - Thanks, Karan! I DID get David's permission ahead of time! He's the best sport ever.

  8. ahahahahahahahahaa.

    I'm telling DAVID WARNER!!!

  9. Steve, thank you so much for another of your wonderful codas. You are very talented. I look forward to your contribution every year. Thanks again.

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Susan! But really, the credit is to Josh. Her characters and words have moved me for years. I feel a real affinity towards some, which makes it such a delight to imagine what're they're doing any given holiday.

  10. Thank you, Steve and Josh. Lots of smiles this morning. I love Jake and Emma's prank, and the four guys having become friends.

    1. That Emma! She's a fun one. And the 4 guys being friends? Yeah, I can totally see that. I can see Jake and J.X. pulling muscles in their eyelids from rolling their eyes so much. I also see a J.X./Jake best-selling thriller that nettles Adrien to no end!!

  11. Replies
    1. Thank you, Debby! Couldn't have done it without such well-written characters.

  12. Thanks Steve. So sweet.
    Looking forward to David's screenplay. ;-)

  13. Ha ha ha!! I truly love it.

    David "The Hack" W.

  14. This was so awesome!! I really loved it :)


  15. Such a fun read. Thank you so much!


  16. Thank you! Really lovely and yummy and warm for the holidays! :)

    1. Thanks, Rin! I love a good holiday story. I'm so glad you enjoyed my coda. I adore Josh's characters.

  17. Thanks, Steve and Josh...Adrien and Jake and Kit and J.X. are favorites!

  18. That was super special ... bringing the universe together in such sweet and sexy way.