Sunday, 9 December 2012

Cherie Noel - The Counterfeit Claus

The Counterfeit Claus


This story is dedicated to N.J. Nielsen, Tracy Tucker Faul, Val Hughes, Amara Devonte, and the evil urchin who sparked off the idea for the Rescue Twinks by spilling glitter all over my house. Thanks, kidlet!

...and as always, every story I will ever write is for my Balthazar.

Chapter One

The sound of Justin Bieber’s twinkish tenor crooning his latest hit carved a jagged little hole into the velvety silence cocooning Devon. He groaned, flailing one long arm towards the pesky little voice. What the hell was Justin Bieber doing in his bedroom anyway? A high note reverberated in his ears, exhorting him to just open his eyes and—Devon snagged his cell phone, flipping it open.

“Sot—” The thick southern twang combined with the use of his last name—or at least a portion of it—told Devon who his caller was before his sluggish brain caught up to the irony of a Bieber song announcing anything to do with “the one and only Michael Rose, badass extraordinaire.”.

“Rose, you are so fucking dead.” Devon’s voice crawled up out of his chest like a snarling, slavering beast. “You know I worked the show up on campus last night before my regular job. Christ man, I musta told you five hundred times how geeked I was to finally get a gig with campus security, even if—”

“Sargent So—” The silence after Rose’s bitten off utterance had Devon rubbing at his eyes and trying to figure out why in the hell Rose would be calling him at the ungodly hour of ten-thirty am.

Well, it was ungodly for someone who’d been at work until well after seven in the morning. Devon lost a good fifteen seconds musing about how he should have gone straight to bed when he got home. He rubbed a hand across his stubble covered jaw. Instead he spent time he could have used to sleep obsessing over the hottest guy he’d ever seen. Devon spotted Hottie McHotpants walking across campus two days ago with Roses’ younger brother, Sam. The guy with Sam was a pocket sized piece of perfection with the most delicious ass and—

A hideous retching sound spilling from the tiny speaker at the top of his phone snapped his attention back to the present. Devon sat up in bed, clapping a hand over his mouth as his own stomach clenched and roiled in sync with the vile squelching sounds coming from the other end of the phone.  

“Jesus Christ, Kid. What the hell is wrong with you?”

Rose grunted. There was an ominous splashing noise accompanied by a low, piteous sounding moan. A couple of gnarly, lung-and-stomach-clearing hacks later, his normally honey drenched voice rasped over the line. “Sergeant Soto. Sarge. I need a real favor. I’m due at work in like, an hour. Already talked to my boss, and he said as long as I have a replacement he won’t write me up as a late call-off. Please, Dev. You know the gig—the Santa thing, just like we did during the last deployment, but usually with less camouflage and swearing.”

Devon reached over to turn on the faux oil lamp he used as a bedside light. His mother was always foisting off kitschy stuff on him. He would never in a million years admit to anyone how much he actually liked the weird things him mom gifted him with. A small smile graced his generous lips. His madre was a hot mess, but he loved her beyond all reason and respected her right down to the soles of her feet. One of the things she’d drummed into him long before the Drill Sergeants at Fort Leonard Wood got their hands on him was that he was never to let down a friend in need. Scrubbing a hand along his jaw, Devon resigned himself to a grueling twenty-four hours before he could sleep again. “Rose, are you trying to say you want me to fill in at your job at the mall?”

A weak chuckle greeted his statement. “Yeah, could you? You’re the only one I know who’s worked there before, and fits my suit—I’d hate to screw Andy over after he bent over backwards to fit my work shifts around my classes.”

Devon groaned. “Andy’s okay with me filling in for you?”

The relief in Rose’s tone was palpable. “Yeah, in fact he suggested I ask you.”

Swinging his legs off the bed and grabbing his favorite jeans off the floor, Devon grunted. “Huh. I just bet he did.”

A pained sigh sounded over the phone. “Dev, I’m sorry I—”

Yanking the faded denim over his lean hips, Devon sighed. He picked up his tee shirt from the day before, sniffed it, and shuddered. Nope, the shirt was so far beyond wearable it should come with a bio-hazard warning. He turned, walking toward the dark wood dresser against the far wall. “Not your fault man. We just didn’t fit. Not Andy’s fault. I was the one too uncomfortable to work there again this year. Me. Just—drop it, okay?”

After a beat of silence Rose’s voice came back. “Okay. I meant it when I promised to not try to set you up with anymore of my old high school buddies. Is that alright?”

Devon snorted. Sometimes the kid was so damned dramatic. Really, how many of his school pals could possibly be gay? Recalling what Rose had told him about the group he hung out with in high school, Devon corrected his thought on the matter. Rose had been friends with a disproportionately high number of gay and bi kids in school. Devon took another step forward and then yelped as his bare toes connected with the one of his five pound weights. Mierda, he’d forgotten about leaving those out yesterday. Rose’s voice came with less Deep South honey and more combat medic concern this time. “Dev, what happened?”

Rustling cloth on the opposite end of the connection had Devon barking at Rose as though he were still the man’s squad leader. “Lay your ass back down, Rose. I stubbed my toe. Christ, Kid, one day you’ll be the death of me, but—”

Rose grunted, and a muffled thud told Devon the younger man had just obeyed him. “Hell, Sarge, I know how that ends. Today ain’t the day, right?”

Devon paused long enough to pull a plain black tee-shirt out of the middle drawer and slip it over his head. Spying the bottle of his favorite cologne, Drakkar Noir, sitting dead center on the top of the dresser, Devon sprayed a shot on as he checked himself out in the mirror. Same brown hair, same brown eyes as always. Same faintly olive skin two shades lighter than that of all his cousins, because his madre had gotten pregnant by what she called a beautiful Englishman. Seeing as how it happened during her senior class trip, Devon had to agree with his Abuelo when he called the man an unscrupulous cabron.

Devon eyed himself drolly. If his madre, Rosario Soto, had picked a nice Puerto Rican man like the rest of his aunts, then the dark circles under his eyes might not be so damn apparent. He snorted. The sleep deprived smudges were familiar from both his military stint and more recently from working two jobs and going to school full time. They were not his best look. He sprayed on another spritz of Drakkar to compensate for his haggard appearance, answering Rose as he did so. The kid had always been his favorite soldier, even though squad leaders weren’t supposed to have favorites.

Devon’s exasperated smile shaped the sound of his voice. “That’s right, kid. You still use the same locker combo?”

Rose coughed, one of those polite little coughs people gave when they were embarrassed as shit and didn’t know what to say. “Ah… yeah.”

Devon rolled his eyes.

Rose grunted. “Stop rolling your eyes, Dev. I only keep the stupid suit there. I hate learning new combos and passwords and shit.”

Devon sighed. Narrowing his eyes, he dropped his keys into his pocket and sat back on the edge of the bed to pull his socks on. “Not addressing that right now. You better believe we’re gonna deal with your lack of security as soon as you feel better.”

Rose full out whined. “Aw, Sarge, come on. That’s not fair.”

Devon shrugged regardless of the fact that Rose couldn’t see him. Snagging the edges of the duvet cover, blanket and top sheet all at once he flipped them all up over his queen sized bed. He shifted the phone back to his shoulder to free both hands. Devon straightened and smoothed the covers. “Life’s not fucking fair, Rose. I’ve been telling you for three years now that you need to get serious about protecting your identity. If it takes me kicking your ass at the gym to get my point across, then so be it.”

The petulance in Rose’s voice could be spread with a trowel. “Dev, you’re being a dick.”

Damn, the guy only got whiny like this when he was really sick. “Rose, is someone there with you?”

No answer came for a moment. Devon opened his mouth to ask the question again when Rose’s response came over the line. “Not exactly.”

Devon shook his head. Leaving his bedroom he strode into his living room and swiped his brown leather bomber jacket up from the couch on his way to the front door. “Not exactly had better mean you already called your brother and you’re just waiting for him to show up or I’m going to call him myself.”

Rose laughed weakly again. “Better. Mom’s coming.”

Devon’s shoulders dropped down a whole inch at those words. “You mean Mrs. Jimenez, the woman who mentored your Gay-Straight Alliance club all during high school?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. She just has to drive over. I think she’s gonna bring me back to her house if she doesn’t take me to the hospital.” Rose’s voice faded at the end of the sentence, signaling his exhaustion.

Pulling the front door open, Devon patted his pockets to make sure he had everything as he answered. “Okay. I’m just leaving the house now. You’re lucky I showered before I went to bed this morning, or I’d never have made it to the mall in time. Don’t worry Rose— I’ll be there in plenty of time for your shift. Feel better, and make sure Mrs. Jimenez has my number in case you need anything.” 

Rose mumbled a farewell, and disconnected after slurring out something Devon thought was supposed to indicate giving Mrs. Jimenez Devon’s cell number.

Shaking his head, Devon pulled his phone away from his ear and spoke to the blank screen. “Kid, you are still a mess. I sweartagod, you and mi Madre are cut from the same cloth.”

Stepping out into the chilly air, Devon pulled his sturdy, solid wood door closed. He checked the door handle to make sure the locking mechanism had engaged, and then slid his key into the deadbolt to engage that lock as well. Nodding to himself, Devon jogged down his front steps and headed down the block to the cross street he’d been forced to park on the night before. He should have enough time to swing through a drive-thru to get coffee for the drive over to the mall. Devon figured he’d need every drop of caffeine he could squeeze into his body today, tonight and tomorrow morning. At least the Santa gig would be over before he was tired enough to forget he was a civilian now. He snorted, pulling his gloves out of his jacket pocket as he reached his Jeep. The shiny black paint job made him smile even though he had to wash the damn thing twice a week in the winter to keep his poor baby from looking like some kind of car hobo.

Clicking the auto-lock device on his keys, Devon cracked a smile. At least Betsy hadn’t been parked long enough to build up a heavy coating of snow. Hey, if he couldn’t find a silver lining in almost any situation, he wouldn’t be Rosario Soto’s son. The jeep cranked up beautifully. Devon sat for a full five minutes to warm the engine before he considered pulling out to start toward—no, Starbucks was in the wrong direction—double D’s it was, then. He’d get a little caffeine boost, and then get two of the biggest damn dark roast coffee’s he could get once he got to the mall. Course plotted, Devon eased the stick into first gear. In thirty-six hours or so he’d be back, and his bed would be waiting for him.

* * * *

“Shit, shit, shit, shiiiiiitttttt!” The quiet popping, ripping sound of his elf hose giving way sent Adrien’s heart into a triple-time rhythm that could only be considered a good thing if he were trying to win a Salsa Dance competition worth a year’s entry free of cover charge at  his favorite club. He so did not have time for this.

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I picked up a new pair last night before we left. If I hit the lights right, I might be able to shave enough time off the drive to get there on time. God, it would be so much easier to just live at home with mom and dad some days.” His huge black cat, aptly named Michael Clarke Duncan, blinked skeptical green eyes at him. Adrien blushed.

“Fat lot you, know, Michael. And I am gonna get my ass chewed by Andy.” Adrien huffed out a breath. Andy still hadn’t forgiven Adrien for going away for a year after high school.

Adrien blew a puff of air up toward his forehead in an attempt to move the long lock of unruly brown bang off his face. The offending hair wafted up for a moment. As soon as he stopped blowing upward his silky bang drifted right back down over the right side of his face. He grabbed a plain gray pair of sweatpants out of his dresser, because there was no way he could be seen outside in the hot-pants Andy insisted were simply perfect for all the elves. The things clung to Adrien’s ass so tightly it was a wonder mall security didn’t try to arrest him for solicitation every day he worked. To be fair, Adrien did have a bigger butt than most of the elves. On the rest of them the damn things looked… cute, and respectably elfish. Only on Adrien did they look like go-go boy attire. He caught a quick glance at the clock on his bedside table, and started to really hustle.

Hopping on one foot, attempting to pull the sweats up while he tucked his newly highlighted hair behind his ear Adrien lost his balance. The hand that had been fixing his hair flailed out, thunking against something soft and furry. Michael the cat squalled out an indignant mewling noise. With a hiss, he ran across Adrien’s stomach and chest en route for the bedroom door. 

Adrien lay for a moment, looking up through the brown and gold strands of his hair. Heaving a sigh, he swiped the stuff out of his face again. Michael Clarke Duncan yowled again from the living room. Cripes, it was a good thing Sam wasn’t here. The whole humiliating episode would surely be hitting YouTube right about now if Sam wasn’t off somewhere with the study group he’d put together from his fellow nursing students.

Bounding up off the bed, Adrien hesitantly turned to the mirror hanging on the back of his closet door. His bare chest had a couple of ugly scratches, but thankfully they weren’t bleeding badly. Even better, the cat’s claws entirely missed his face. He so didn’t want to be the guy who scarred some little kid’s psyche and ruined Christmas for them forever with visions of evil elves. That kind of stuff was best left to their parents. A quick tally of his features assured him he was still passably handsome. If you asked him, his lips were a touch too thin, and his eyes a little too big, giving him an almost anime character look. He cast a glance over his shoulder. It was a darn good thing he’d gotten his mama’s gorgeous booty in the DNA lotto, or he’d have to work a lot harder for dates.

Hurrying into his private bath Adrien wet a washcloth, dabbed at the bloody stripes across his chest and the two divots on his stomach. He quickly dabbed the spots dry with a wad of toilet tissue. Sam was such a worry-wart, and the sight of bloody tissues in the shared bath in the hallway of their two bedroom apartment could only end with the brat making a panic call to their mom. Adrien shuddered. Their mom was amazing… and sometimes, she was just a touch overwhelming.

Adrien sighed as he slipped on a tight fitting green tee shirt. Then he put on the dizzying green and red top half of his elf uniform. He put his shiny green elf-a-go-go shorts into his back pack. In his head, Adrien always called them go-go shorts. Without the opaque tights under them that’s what they looked like on him. He shoved his feet into his sneakers—the pointy toed leather elf shoes stayed in his locker at the mall so he wouldn’t ruin them in the snow—and dashed towards his front door, only tripping over Michael Clarke Duncan twice on the way out.

Chapter Two

The awkward moment Devon expected when he saw Andy again showed up like a spoiled debutante at a weeklong party with free cocaine. He groaned inwardly, plastering a fake smile on his face. He had tried to tell Andy right from the start that he wasn’t looking for anything more than a quick fuck back when they met. Andy was cute as hell, and frighteningly capable of twisting anything said to him to match what he wanted the speaker to say. He wasn’t a bad kid—and at eight years younger than Devon chronologically and lifetimes younger in experience he definitely seemed like a kid to Devon. Andy was in love with being in love, and he fell in love at the drop of—well, not a hat, but surely at the drop of a couple of pairs of pants.

Devon, unfortunately didn’t find that particular tidbit of information out until after he’d fucked the kid silly for an entire weekend. Damn Corporal Michael Rose for not warning him about Andy the second he invited Devon to come home to Syracuse for a visit when their leaves lined up so perfectly. Devon’s annual leave started at the same time as the start of Rose’s terminal leave. With his mother out of the country visiting relatives Devon didn’t care to see in Puerto Rico, Devon was at loose ends. Going home with Rose had made perfect sense, and would have been a perfect vacation if Rose had given him an appropriate situation report.

If Devon had known that the sweet assed nineteen year-old would be picking out matching china the second he tapped said luscious ass he would fucking well have steered clear. He ground his molars together as quietly as possible and concentrated on being polite. He couldn’t stop himself from arching an eyebrow at Andy’s perfectly made up and carefully stoic expression. He nodded at the other man. “Andy. You look well. Which locker is Michael’s?”

Christ, he should never have given in to his boredom on that trip. It wasn’t like he’d needed to take a temporary job during his leave. Worse yet, he’d made assumptions about Andy, and he’d never meant to leave the kid heart-broken when he went back to Germany. It had actually been Andy’s tear stained letter that made him reconsider re-enlistment. Not that Devon had any designs on the kid—far from it. In fact, given Michael’s response to the whole of “Andy-gate”, Devon had feared losing the best friend he’d ever had. He and Michael discussed the incident exactly once. Devon apologized for hurting Michael’s friend. Michael punched him in the jaw hard enough to knock him on his ass. Devon sat on the floor, readjusting his whole thought process about how badly he’d fucked up while he moved his jaw gingerly from side to side. Then he said the three words that salvaged their friendship. “I didn’t know.”

Michael stretched a hand down, pulled him up into a hug, and told Devon the beers were on him for the rest of his trip. Devon figured the money spent paying a healthy sized bar tab was the least he could have lost.

Andy was talking again, tucking a hank of silky blond hair behind his almost girlishly delicate ear. Devon had no idea what he’d said while Devon was strolling down memory lane. “Sorry, could you say that again? I kind-of drifted off a little. I worked last night… don’t worry, I’ll be okay for the shift. I just need another cup of coffee.” Devon lobbed his Dunkin’ Donuts extra-large cup into the trash can in the corner of the small locker room.

“I said Michael’s locker is number seventeen.” Andy’s big dark blue eyes were heavily lined with black and his hair was a shockingly bright blond Devon didn’t remember from his previous encounters with the younger man. Whatever the reason for his new and improved look, Andy’s voice was still the same, low and husky. No wonder he’d managed to bend a straight arrow like Rose around… hell, the kid was cute enough to have the Pope waving a rainbow flag.

Andy gave him a shaky smile, finger-combing his long bangs down to frame his incredible sapphire eyes. “Did Michael say what was wrong? He sounded really sick, and he still made sure we were covered… oh, gosh, it’s almost time to open the village. Can you get into costume and meet me out by Santa’s chair? I’m afraid there’s something going around, and one of our elves is out sick as well, and Adrien, the other elf isn’t here yet. Well, that’s not unusual, because Adrien is almost always late. We’ve learned not to expect him until fifteen minutes to a half an hour after his shift starts. If it’s longer than that we call the hospitals to find out how late he’s going to be.”

The stiff feeling in Devon’s cheeks eased as Andy turned his attention to things other than gazing soulfully at him. He liked the genuine concern for Rose in the kid’s sexy voice, and after he caught the other worker’s name, he tuned out most of what Andy had to say about the guy. Devon snorted. Though, given the little bit he’d actually caught about what Andy said about Aaron? Adrien? Whatever his name was, it was just possible the hilarious stories Rose had told about his younger brother’s friend were true.

Andy shot Devon another wide eyed look when he snorted. The younger man bit at his plush bottom lip before turning toward the door and hurrying off. Devon shook his head.  He’d better get his ass in gear and get out to the Christmas Village before they were inundated with screaming toddlers and exhausted parents.  Opening Rose’s locker was pathetically easy. Devon didn’t even need the combination, as his former soldier hadn’t even bothered to check to make sure the lock engaged fully.

Devon huffed out an aggravated breath. He was definitely going to kick Rose’s ass as soon as the guy could put up a decent fight. He’d trained Corporal Rose better than this. Staying sharp with his police skills wasn’t something Devon had ever thought he would have to beat into the youngster. There was clearly more wrong with him than just a nasty case of stomach flu.

Devon pulled out the familiar red suit, glad to see it still there. Slipping into the outfit, he found the pants a little loose in the waist and the jacket a little tight in the shoulders. Eh, not much he could do about the slight discomfort. Hopefully the discomfort would help him stay awake and alert.

* * * *

Adrien ran down the hallway to the tiny—and disgustingly smelly—locker room for the male employees. As he rounded the last corner he smacked right into Andy. They were roughly the same size—small—and bounced off in opposite directions, with Andy getting the worst of the collision. Adrien fell on his nicely cushioned ass, but poor Andy somehow managed to spin around and pull a full on face-plant on the concrete floor. When he sat up, the skin of his cheek was split open, and blood streamed freely down the creamy skin of his face.

“Oh shit! Andy, I’m so sorry. Oh my god, oh my god, your pretty face… oh.” Adrien clapped a hand over his mouth. Damn his clumsiness.

Andy reached a hand up to his face, grimacing when he touched just below the wound. He glanced over at Adrien, a panicked look on his face. “I’ll have to go to the hospital. Oh, crap-doodly, Adrien, this is bad.”

Adrien jumped up, and then thought better of his plan to rush over to help Andy. “Come on, Andy, I’ll walk you over to security. Liam’s on duty today He’ll give you a ride to the hospital and then go back and pick you up when you’re done. I’m so sorry. Do we need to close the Village?”

Andy shook his head. “No, you know how everything runs. I’m putting you in charge.” Handing over his keys and clipboard, Andy smiled. “I didn’t pick up the cash box yet… I can’t give that to you, so just let the parents know if they want to either leave checks or pay by credit card we’ll mail the pictures or they can come back next week to pick them up… and I guess if they have cash… um, give them a “rein-check” to come back next week, and we’ll give them a twenty-five percent discount for their trouble. Can you manage that?”

Adrien’s head spun. Yeah he knew how to do all the little tasks of running the village, but Andy had always put Michael in charge when he couldn’t be present before. “I… you aren’t going to put Michael in charge.”

Andy shook his head, grimaced, and then gripped the sides of his head carefully. “No. That won’t work today

He swayed then, and Adrien grabbed his arm to steady him. The security office was only a few more steps down the hall. “Hey, Liam! Help!”

Liam came boiling out of the security office in a flash, a thunderous expression on his lean face. He took in Andy’s battered condition and Adrien’s disheveled appearance in a glance. The anger melted off his face, an exasperated look crossing in its stead. “Damn, Adrien, you usually don’t take out casual bystanders.”

Adrien winced. “I know. I just. Shit.”

Andy patted his shoulder. “It was bound to happen at some time. You’re like a walking bio-hazard-natural-disaster and I’m a place waiting for an accident to happen.”

Adrien’s gut clenched. Oh. He hadn’t realized Andy just expected to get hurt all the time. Admittedly, Andy did get hurt a surprising amount—but to just expect the bad stuff was kinda like he was inviting those things to visit him. Gnawing on the inside of his bottom lip, Adrien glanced up at Liam. “Li, will your boss cut you enough slack to take Andy to the hospital?”

Liam nodded. “Yeah, he’s got a soft spot for Andy, just like the rest of us.” He rapped on the door to the security office. A huge bald-headed black man opened it. Liam grinned up at him. “Hey, Scotty, I gotta take Danger Mouse here to the hospital to get his pretty cheek stitched up. You need me to clock out?”

Adrien wanted to hide behind Andy when the big, older man’s gaze bored into him. Scotty was mountain sized, and he had mad-crazy ninja skills. The guy’s hands the size of small countries. Adrien swallowed hard. “I—” His voice squeaked and broke. He ducked his chin down, and then forced himself to look back up. “It was an accident!”

Scotty and Liam both got identical exasperated expressions on their faces. Liam shook his head at the Security Chief. “Never mind, Scotty. I’ll sort him out later. Adrien, you’d better get into your costume and over to the Village… you guys were supposed to open five minutes ago.”

Adrien squeaked again, and turned around on the spot. As he picked up his foot to take his first step, three voices rang out behind him. “Carefully!”

Glancing over his shoulder, Adrien nodded his head. He could do careful.

Andy sighed loudly, and Liam gave a frustrated sounding grunt. Scotty’s deep rumble was low enough that he probably hadn’t intended for Adrien to hear it. “Liam, we have to do something about that boy. He needs a damn keeper. Or a leash.”

Oh. Ouch. That hurt worse than the fall had. Adrien hustled very carefully to the locker room and very, very carefully put on his new tights and go-go elf-boy shorts. Then he very, very, very carefully went to find Santa. This had to be the worst day ever. Maybe Michael would be able to cheer him up.

Chapter Three

Devon looked around at the Christmas Village, warmth spreading through his center. The set up was identical to the last time he’d been here… but that wasn’t what made him want to work here every single day of the holiday season. No, what choked him up just a little was the way the damn Village looked almost identical to the one his madre used to take a train and two buses to bring him to every December when he was a kid. It even smelled the same, like fake pine and real peppermint. They’d been dirt poor back then, but his madre—well, Rosario Soto somehow always managed to find not only enough extra money for the double bus fare on a non-work day, but she also managed lunch at the mall and a cocoa at the transfer station on the way home.

The first time Devon asked Santa to bring his dad—just for a visit—and St. Nick didn’t follow through, he’d figured out that the jolly old guy in the snazzy red suit really didn’t have any special powers… but his mom did. He was six. He went along with his madre’s stories about Santa for another seven years before he could bring himself to let on that he’d long ago figured out that she was the one who brought magic and light to his world. Devon made his way past the handful of families in line, noting that most of the kids were already half-way out of their winter gear and starting to whine as hat bobbled in their small hands and scarves dragged on the ground. He walked behind the raised partition that gave the kids the illusion of a private time with Santa while allowing their parents to stand to one side with an unobstructed view of the whole area. He settled into his seat, and prepared to do his part to help spread a little magic in the world… just as soon as his helper elf showed up to get things rolling.

Twenty minutes later Devon faced an ever lengthening line of children and parents with absolutely no idea where either Andy or the promised “elf or elves” were. A little sprite of a girl with curly reddish brown hair, thick black eyelashes, summer blue eyes and chocolate on her face started crying. Sad faces spread up and down the line. Devon stood up, about to make up something about his helper elves dealing with a toy emergency at the North Pole. The young, fresh faced mother standing in line rocking her baby and petting the infant’s fluff of blond hair at random moments had even started to sniffle a bit as she rocked the baby against her shoulder. Suddenly, her eyes widened and she took a step back, bumping the man behind her. Out of the corner of his eye, Devon caught sight of a streak of green and red tumbling out of the hall where the locker rooms were. At first Devon thought the exaggerated flailing was part of an act. Then he realized the elf was actually in danger of falling and hurting himself or worse yet, one of the kids. The little fool had come around the corner from the locker room area at a dead run. At that pace, in the slick little leather slippers he had on his feet Devon would have to say the real Christmas miracle had to be that the guy hadn’t fallen and cracked his head open yet.

Devon was damned if something that potentially traumatizing to all these kid was going to happen on his watch. Not to mention what could happen to the poor, dumb elf. The elf flailed again, but this time he overcorrected. Everything broke down into scatter-shots of time, each instant moving as slowly as whole minutes. Snap. The little elf’s feet flew out in front of him. Snap. Devon launched himself off the platform in a long dive. Snap.

Devon had a golden moment where he seemed to float in the air. He could see he was going to just make it to the man before his head hit.  Mierda, when he crashed down on the hard floor the padding for his Santa belly would protect him from some of the impact but it was going to hurt like hell. The possible cracked ribs could be hidden from all the kids in line, though. Cracked ribs and bruises would heal. If elf-boy smashed his melon on the pretty, hard as hell marble flooring there was no telling if he would live long enough to heal.

* * * *

By the time Adrien figured out he didn’t have everything under control—and that he couldn’t even pull off a controlled crash without risking really hurting one of the smaller kids in the line he’d already overbalanced. He flung his arms out behind him, hoping to fall away from the kids. His feet sliding out in front of him answered his wish in seconds.

Adrien was going to end the day in one of the local hospitals, having traumatized countless kids in the process, because even if his brother Sam wasn’t here to catch the footage and post it to YouTube, dollars to donuts someone had their phone out and was already taping his latest bit of clumsiness.

He had an awful vision of mean bully older kids with hard faces showing the clip to horrified five, six and seven year olds for years to come. A whole generation of kids would forever think of Christmas as “the season when clumsy elves die.” As he slid past Santa’s throne in an ungainly skid headed more toward the horizontal than the vertical, Michael launched himself off the platform yelling at the top of his fool lungs. “Noooooooo!”

Remembering the horde of pint-sized shoppers watching in horror, Adrien kept his composure enough to bite back the utterance fighting to get out of his throat, which was a hearty “OH SHIT!” He didn’t even cry out Michael’s name. He wanted to do anything necessary in a desperate attempt to get the big goof-ball to use some of those finely tuned military police skills he loved bragging about. They would come in uber-handy for saving Adrien’s ass right about now. 

Michael hit the floor with a sickening thud. Adrien winced, both in anticipation of his own eminent thud, and at Michael’s having hurt himself to no good effect. The big idiot belly flopping on the floor couldn’t possibly save Adrien.

Except, somehow, it did.

Adrien had forgotten to take into account how the slick velvet of the Santa suit would keep Michael sliding forward. Just before Adrien hit the floor, Michael was there. He’d turned half on his side, and managed to catch Adrien’s head in the palm of one broad hand.

Adrien realized several pertinent facts simultaneously. The man in the shiny red Santa suit, the same one who had saved him from what could easily have been a serious injury, was not Michael. His fluffy white beard was twisted half off his face, showing a stubble-covered jaw that looked positively edible. A tsunami of lust crashed down on Adrien, and the only coherent thought he could muster for a second had to do with wanting to spend a few weeks nibbling on the not-Michael Santa. Reason returned with the realization that Adrien had fallen in a weird pretzel twist that showed off his flexibility in the most humiliating way possible.

His left ankle ended up somewhere around his right ear, his right leg bent and twisted so that leg was under his butt. His left arm was flung up above his head. He’d even managed to smack himself with his right hand. Sheesh. His only saving grace in the whole ridiculous mess was that the undignified heap he was in fell squarely between the counterfeit Santa and the kids.

The breadth of his shoulders, while not god-like, was enough to hide Santa’s dishabille for a critical few seconds. Thinking quickly, he decided to camp things up so the adult guests of Christmas Village could be left with a scrap of plausible deniability when their young charges started questioning Santa’s very un-Santa like behavior.

“Oh, Santa, I didn’t see the ice! That must be why you’re always telling all the elves to walk carefully.” Adrien used every bit of his high school theater training to project his voice as he wiggled closer to the strange Santa facing him. As soon as the crowd behind them broke out in exclamations, he leaned forward. Whispering quickly, in barely audible tones, Adrien broke the bad news. “Santa, your beard is broken. Pretend you’ve got to take me to Mrs. Claus for a quick bit of mothering, and then carry me out of here so we can hide your face.”

Santa’s big brown eyes widened and then narrowed intently. His voice came out in an equally hushed baritone. “Mierda! I don’t care how cute you are… I am not picking you up, Papi.”

The man’s voice poured into Adrien’s ears hotly, an aural aphrodisiac. He closed his eyes for a split second. Between falling three times in less than two hours and the effect Counterfeit Claus was having on his libido, he really might need to be carried. Adrien sucked in a deep breath. “Crap-Doodly.”

A warm hand cupped his cheek. His eyes flew back open, meeting a piercing brown gaze. Adrien hurried to explain the important parts of the situation to the slow-coach in front of him. “We have to get you out of here—Santa—at least long enough to fix your beard. If you don’t wanna pick me up so I can shield your face, just pretend you hit your head or something. You should be able to pull that off.”

Adrien untangled his limbs. As he lowered his left leg, managing to keep his body between Santa and the crowd, the big man on the floor with him watched him intently. Adrien ignored the man’s increasingly heated looks, turning to the crowd instead. “Folks, I’m afraid Santa bumped his head saving me. We just have to go get a good cup of cocoa from Mrs. Claus and some of her delicious cookies to fix us right up. We’ll be back in half an hour if you want to wait.”

Santa sat up next to him, one hand pressed to his temple to hold the edge of his beard in place. With a suppressed grunt he was on his feet. He bent down, wrapped one huge paw around Adrien’s slim arm and hauled Adrien upright with an ease that made Adrien’s heart beat faster. A delicious smell permeated the air around him… oh. Oh dear Lord, the damn man was wearing Drakkar Noir. The scent of Drakkar invariably made Adrien want to strip out of whatever he was wearing and offer his ass up to the nearest likely candidate.

Not that he was a slut. Really. The response was conditioned by his first lover. Adrien shivered. The man had been a complete prick outside of the bedroom, but holy shit-balls, he had a skill bordering on miraculous between the sheets. Adrien sucked in a deep breath and forced his wandering thoughts back to the present.

Tipping his head back, he looked up and up again into smoldering brown eyes. Holy guacamole, his whole body was going to burn to cinders in the wake of this man’s heated looks. Santa manhandled him around, turning him towards the locker room. Adrien went willingly when a broad hand pressed between his shoulders. He’d forgotten about the kids and Christmas Village the second the big man put his hands on him. The skin of Adrien’s upper arms tingled where the man’s rough palms rested, guiding Adrien along in front of him. The strange Santa walked close, heat from his big body radiating across the space between them. They turned the corner away from where the families could see them. Santa’s hands fell away from Adrien’s arms.

Adrien bit back a moan. Nibbling at one corner of his lip, he looked over his shoulder. The man had stepped back, and now stood slightly more than an arm’s length away, his eyes locked on Adrien’s elf-a-go-go clad ass. He looked up all at once, his whole posture changing, becoming more intent. The effect was startling. Adrien met his hot, dark eyes. A shiver swept him from head to feet. Santa’s sinfully bitable lips curved into a wicked smile. Stepping forward, he reached past Adrien to push open the locker room door. Adrien licked his bottom lip, sucking it into his mouth afterward. The counterfeit Santa stepped forward, leaning down to whisper in Adrien’s ear. “We should probably go into the locker room. I imagine some of the nosier folks are working up their nerve to follow us around that corner.”

The hot rush of air against his ear combined with his two falls, and Adrien’s knees gave out on him. Okay, so the warm, moist air from that beautiful mouth could easily make him weak kneed all by itself. Even without the added zinger of the—oh God, Adrien’s clothes really needed to come off—damned Drakkar. He clutched at Santa’s sleeves. “Santa, I’m going to—”

A husky chuckle cut across his words. “You can call me Devon. I just play Santa on TV.”

Laughter shook loose from Adrien in quick bursts that rocked his compact frame and put enough starch back into his knees to keep him standing. After a moment he manfully tamped the noise down by biting him bottom lip as he looked down. One glance up into Devon’s twinkling brown eyes ended his attempted decorum. Giggling helplessly, Adrien stumbled backward into the locker room. Muscles in his neck and shoulders loosened from the knots two hours of nearly continuous catastrophes had caused.

Santa—Devon’s smile grew wider, his slight Hispanic accent growing stronger with every word. “You are just a hot little mess, aren’t you? I didn’t believe Michael when he said he knew someone who was more trouble than he could ever dream of being, but here chu are, papi.”

Adrien’s mouth dropped open. During the big brou-ha-ha out at the Village, the man must have hit his head. There was no other acceptable explanation for him—

“Did you just call me a mess?”  

Chapter Four

Devon took a quick inventory. He’d learned a long time ago not to assume the feeling was mutual just because he was hot for someone. His sweet little mess—Adrien’s— pupils were dilated, leaving only a thin line of golden brown around them. He was taking short, shallow breaths, and ay-ay-ay, the hot little elf had enough wood in his tight shorts to keep Santa’s fires stoked for quite a while. The wash of heat flooding his body cranked up in intensity. He put his hands on the compact form in front of him just to feel those finely sculpted muscles flex under his fingers.

What had Adrien asked him? Oh, right… Adrien asked if he’d called the pocket sized beauty a mess. Devon gave his best lecherous grin and waggled his eyebrows at Adrien. “No. I mean, yeah, I did call you that, but not just a mess. I called you a hot mess.”

While he spoke, Devon slid the hands he’d wrapped around Adrien’s upper arms along the soft skin of the man’s biceps. Mierda, he wanted a bite of that caramel colored flesh. Curling his fingers around the back where Adrien’s triceps flexed and bunched under the hem of his short sleeved tee shirt he picked the smaller man up. Two steps put them at the end of the row of lockers. He turned and pressed Adrien’s back against the smooth metal side of the row. Adrien squeaked, his eyes enormous above his high cheeks bones. Devon spread his legs, bent slightly at the knees and pressed his chest hard against Adrien’s. Another jolt of heat flashed through him. Devon growled, and then fought to control his breathing. He refused to allow himself act like an animal. He would give the sexy little man a choice about what happened next.

He leaned down to breathe his words directly into Adrien’s ear. “I’m going to kiss you, hard and deep enough you’re still going to feel it tomorrow. After I’m done kissing you, you’re gonna help me fix this damn beard, and we’re going to go back out to the Village and make those kids believe we just spent a half an hour getting patched up by Mrs. Claus. And at the end of the day, I’m either going to walk you to your car, or I’m going to walk you to mine. If you come to my car, I’m going to put you in my Jeep, drive you to my place on Walnut Street, call off my other job and screw you until the only name you remember is mine because you’re so busy screaming it. If I walk you to your car, I’ll wait until you get it started and drive away. And that will be that. No—don’t speak now. After I kiss you, if you don’t want to come with me tonight, say mistletoe. Got it?”

Adrien’s head nodded, brushing his cheek against the line of Devon’s jaw. The silk of his brown and gold mop of hair brushed Devon’s temple. His stomach flexed where it pressed against Devon’s, and his legs—ay-ay—parted to wrap around Devon’s waist. He tilted his head back against the cool metal behind him and closed his eyes in a classic waiting-for-a-kiss pose. His long, dark lashes cast faint shadows on his cheeks, and the trusting pose sparked a feeling of possessiveness in Devon. He pulled Adrien forward enough to slip his arms behind the other man’s back. Crushing Adrien’s lithe form against his chest, he sealed his mouth over the sassy little elf’s lips.

* * * *

Adrien’s chest stung where his cat had scratched him, his bottom was bruised from the earlier debacle with Andy, and his side throbbed something fierce from his most recent fall. Devon had one hand on his jaw though, massaging gently as the sexy man licked across the seam of Adrien’s lips. The cool metal at his back had warmed, and Devon’s other hand held a goodly portion of his left ass cheek.

Right in this moment, every single bite of pain just amped his arousal higher. Adrien moaned, opening his mouth for plundering. Devon made an indescribable noise—half chuckle, half moan and half growl. There were too many halves, and that made perfect sense, because the one thing Adrien was sure of was that this was entirely too much man for him. He wrapped his arms tightly around Devon’s neck. There really ought to be a way to crawl right into the man’s skin with him.

Devon lifted his head, lapping at Adrien’s lips in a barely there tease. Adrien growled, chasing the other man’s mouth. Devon pulled farther back, moving the hand on Adrien’s jaw around until he was tracing the damp line of Adrien’s lips with one finger. Adrien closed his mouth. He shot Devon a petulant look. Devon chuckled and pressed down on Adrien’s lower lip. Electricity arced through Adrien, bowing his back up and forcing a tiny whine out of his throat. He caught Devon’s finger in his mouth. A warm, slightly salty taste burst across his taste buds. He wanted more. Nownownownownow. He bit down lightly, liking the way Devon’s finger felt in his mouth. He licked around the base, right over the webbing between one finger and the next and then sucked Devon’s longer middle finger into the hot depths of his mouth.  He bit down again, a touch harder. 

Devon growled down at him, nostrils flaring as he fought to keep his breathing steady. His eyes, hot and dark, were almost wet looking as he snarled out the most possessive thing Adrien had ever heard and liked. “You are going to be mine.”

The words washed warmly over Adrien. He wanted that. He wanted to be naked in this man’s bed, with those big hands holding him down and pushing him high enough to burn like the center of the sun.

Damn it. The Anthropology exam was tomorrow. His timing always sucked. He released the big man’s finger reluctantly. “I sure hope so, but does it have to be tonight? Tonight doesn’t work for me at all. I have an exam tomorrow morning and I still have to study for it.”

He unlocked his ankles from where he’d hooked them together at the small of Devon’s back. Letting go of Devon felt wrong, and Adrien hurried to push words between them. “We’d better get your beard fixed. Our half-hour’s nearly over.”

Adrien pushed against Devon’s chest, his legs slipping down a fraction—

“Where do you think you’re going?” Devon’s hands grasped Adrien’s thighs, and he leaned in, pinning Adrien in place, a low moan slipping from him as his hips surged against Adrien.

“I—we have to get back to the village.” Adrien stared at Devon’s jaw as the words slipped breathlessly from his mouth. The muscles and—oh god—the tendons there flexed. Adrien’s mouth watered for a tiny nibble of the lightly tanned skin.

Silence slipped a thin, cold wall between them. Devon’s body held Adrien pinned against the locker as his hands loosened, sliding up the outsides of Adrien’s thighs. Devon’s hands laid a trial of fire all along Adrien’s sides as they traced a simmering trail of awareness up from hip to chest. He stopped there a moment. Adrien held his breath. Devon peeled his hands away long enough to grip Adrien’s upper arms again. He eased Adrien down until he stood on the floor, his own shaking legs all that held him up. Then Devon stepped back until there was half an arm’s length between them. Something dark and hurtful flitted across his face. He stepped farther back, the look solidifying into a lip curl and eyes narrowed to slits. “If you didn’t want me to touch you like that all you had to do was say so. Fuck, I gave you time.”

Shaking his head in denial, Adrien swallowed hard and tried again. “I’m not like this. I don’t wanna be the guy you fucked in the locker room at the mall, Devon. You’re hot, you’re wearing Drakkar—which is like, my favorite scent to jack-off to ever since Michael accidentally left a shirt some friend of his wore and left at Michael’s and then Michael left it at my house but that doesn’t matter now—and Oh. My. God. You just went all super-hero-action-figure on me and saved me from getting hurt, or worse yet squishing one of those tiny minions of Doom out there into kid-jelly all over the floor of the mall. Don’t be stupid. Of course I want you. I just—I really do have an exam, and we have to get back to the Village. You’re filling in for Michael, okay. I need this job. This isn’t a fill in gig for me. I can’t afford to lose my rent money over one fuck from a hot guy.”

His stomach burned. Devon stopped backing away, his angry look softening. He nodded, one corner of his mouth lifting in a wry curl. “Okay. I shouldn’t call off tonight anyway—we’re short staffed right now with all the student workers who went home for the holidays already.”

Everything in Adrien loosened. He ignored the feeling, tilting his head to the side like it would somehow give him a better perspective on what was happening. He used words in his best smoke and mirror style to deflect the vaguely questioning look in Devon’s eyes. “Give me a sec to get the spirit gum I keep in my locker… Michael lost his beard entirely one day, when a little girl decided to pull on it. It happened right at the end of our shift, and there weren’t that many kids around, but still… it was just awful. After that we both thought it would be better if we glued it down every day.”

Devon cocked an eyebrow at him. He didn’t say a word, just looked at Adrien straight on and waited.

Adrien flung his hands in the air, sidling around Devon to get to his locker. “What? I was well aware that I was gay in high school. The theater department was like a second home.”

If Devon’s dammed eyebrow climbed any farther up his forehead the freaking thing would be in danger of falling off the back of his head. Adrien bristled. “Oh, whatever—I could give two shits if the stereotypical nature of my being a gay boy who liked theater offends your manly sensibilities, Mr. Action-Hero.”

Devon choked, and then threw back his head to laugh, his teeth gleaming whitely against his honey colored skin. Watching the way the man laughed made Adrien’s heart hurt a little. The openness of his face and the strong line of his throat reached right in through the walls of Adrien’s chest, grabbed his heart and squeezed. Adrien’s breath caught in his throat. For just a second, he forgot everything but Devon again while his unruly cock screamed out a litany of gimme-gimme-gotta-gotta-have-it-bay-beeeee. Adrien shuddered, and Devon caught the reaction as he finished laughing and lowered his chin to look back at Adrien.

Devon just watched him silently for a handful of heartbeats. Adrien thought he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from grabbing Devon’s face between his hands so he could hold the big man still while he kissed him again. Adrien’s mouth watered at the thought of licking the little divot on Devon’s chin. Right then, in the second before he moved, Devon walked over, tapped Adrien on the nose, and sat down on the bench between Adrien and the lockers. “Do your stuff, Mr. Theater. We really do need to get back out there asap. We can still make it so their parents have a shot at keeping this a good trip to see Santa for most of these kids… I wouldn’t want them to have bad memories about Christmas because of me.”

Devon’s voice dropped a little at the end of his little speech, and Adrien knew. Somebody somewhere had fucked up Santa for this guy, and for whatever reason the hurt had been big enough, or important enough to linger well into his adulthood. Adrien let his eyes wander a meandering path from the tousled top of Devon’s head to the tips of his shiny black boots. The urge to peel the man out of his shiny red suit and lick all the points in between those boots and then along his chiseled jaw to his dimpled chin left Adrien flushed with a wild mix of anger, sorrow and yearning. Maybe there was a way to make whatever it was up to Devon? Adrien kept his questions about who’d messed Santa up for Devon on hold for the moment. This was not the time, nor the place. Hopefully he’d get another chance to ask them.

Chapter Five

Devon sat still, letting Adrien apply the spirit gum to his face, and press the beard down. Adrien stood between his spread thighs, his lean hands moving delicately over Devon’s face. With the younger man intent on his task, Devon took advantage of the opportunity to observe him closely. Adrien’s lashes were tipped with gold, and he had the faintest smattering of freckles across his nose. Devon’s stomach lurched as he realized that in another few hours he’d be parting company with Adrien. He might never get a chance to really map those freckles, not unless Adrien gave him permission. Adrien was the Hottie McHotpants he’d been obsessing over since the first time he saw him. Hell, if he was honest with himself, he’d been intrigued ever since the first story Rose had told about Adrien. He had to get Adrien to commit to going out on a date with him. His breath hitched as Adrien leaned closer. Then the brush of Adrien’s firm thigh against the sensitive spot on the side of his knee shot a flash of heat through him.

Devon blurted out the first reasonable word he could dredge from a brain rapidly losing blood to points south. “When?”

Adrien’s head jerked back. As he met Devon’s gaze, his brows lifted. “When what?”

Devon groaned. Oh, suave. He’d only blurted out the one word. Way to sound like a freak of nature. “When can I see you again?”

A little smile tipped the corner of Adrien’s firm little mouth up. “You’re seeing me now, Devon. We’re in the middle of a shift. You’re going to be seeing me for several more hours.”

Devon lifted his hands up, resting them lightly on Adrien’s sides and giving him a little shake. “Don’t be deliberately obtuse, Adrien. When can I take you out? You know, on a date?”

Adrien’s mouth made a sweet little “O”, all pink and luscious looking. Devon met his eyes, tightening his fingers fractionally on Adrien’s sides before he continued. “I wanna take you out. You can ask Rose—Michael, about me. He’ll vouch for me. I was his squad leader, you know? The man lived practically in my pocket for two years. You ask him anything you want to know. I’ll tell him it’s okay to tell you the answer to anything you wanna know.”

Adrien’s lashes dipped down as he listened. He drew in a fast breath, peeping out from underneath those thick lashes. “I know about you. Michael used to write me letters. He said you were an okay guy, and if I ever got around to wanting to settle down I should steer clear of you, but if I just wanted to play, you were the go-to guy.”

A jolt of something lava hot and sharper than the edge of his bayonet cut into the center of Devon’s chest. “Rose said that?”

Adrien opened his eyes wide. “Yeah, and I’m not looking to settle down—but I wouldn’t mind playing with you for a bit… just not in a locker room at work, you know, and not tonight. I have that exam tomorrow.”

A thin wire of hurt cut into Devon’s throat like a skillfully applied garrote, choking the words he’d been meaning to say to Adrien. He closed his eyes. “Okay. Maybe give me your number before we leave tonight, and I’ll call you sometime.”

Those weren’t the impulsive, baby-be-mine words that had been scratching to get out of his throat just minutes before. And maybe that was for the best. 

* * * *

As they walked back towards Christmas Village, Adrien gnawed on his lower lip. Normally, nothing was less like him than telling a whopper like the one he’d just laid on Devon… but he’d heard Andy’s side of things, and well… he didn’t want to be just another notch on Santa Devon’s wide black belt. As they passed Annie’s Cookies, his favorite counter-girl, LaTrece, came hurrying over with two mugs filled to the brim and topped with small mounds of whipped cream. The scent of baking cookies and chocolate wafted with her. She smiled and lifted an eyebrow as she reached them. “Here, take these. Hah. I guess this makes me Mrs. Claus, huh?”

Devon snorted with laughter. Adrien looked between the two of them, his forehead crinkling up for a moment. “Oh, right. We were gonna get coco from Mrs. Claus to fix us up. Good save, Trece.”

Handing off the drinks, LaTrece flipped a hand at Adrien. The bright white of her smile grew wider in the rich brown of her flawless skin as she spoke. Within seconds the expression lit her whole face. “Baby, you the only one I let get away with dropping the La from the front of my name. You are just so damn cute, I can’t stay mad at you. Get back over to your village before those parents make another run on my coco and cookies. Some of us actually want to get out of here on time tonight!”

Adrien reached to hand Devon his drink, and as Devon took the cup, their fingers brushed. A spark of electricity jumped between their hands. Adrien gasped, his gaze flying up to meet Devon’s. The big man’s eyes were dark pools of pained longing. Adrien threw caution to the wind, baring his heart right there in the echoing cavern of the food court. “I didn’t mean it. I do have an exam tonight, but I lied about the other thing. I—Michael used to write me about you and he did say I should be careful but he also said he thought when you were ready to settle down that I should—that he thought I was maybe the guy who could get you to. Settle down. But not settle, because he said he thought maybe you’d be—”

The seconds between when Devon placed his fingers against Adrien’s mouth and when he started to speak were the longest in Adrien’s whole life. “If we weren’t standing in full sight of at least twenty-five to forty little kids and their parents, I’d kiss you until your knees gave out again. In a moment, I’m gonna take my hand away from your mouth, and you’re gonna say—yes, Devon—and you’re gonna be saying yes to these things: me coming to your house tonight. I’ll make dinner, and you’ll study, and then when you’re done I’ll put away whatever I’m doing and we’ll go to bed. I’m not going to have sex with you tonight, because if we get started, you won’t get any sleep, and then you’ll flunk your exam. So you’ll sleep under the blankets and I’ll sleep on top, but I’ll still have you in my arms all night. Then, tomorrow, after your exam is over and I get home from my regular job, we’ll spend a little time talking. You’re gonna have the night off because you’re gonna call Andy first thing in the morning, and I’m not covering another night for Rose. He never stays sick longer than a day anyway. And after we talk, I’m gonna take you to bed, but not to sleep. After that we’ll see where this thing is going.”

He lifted his fingers, and Adrien grinned up at him. Devon stared down at him, and the whole mall seemed to fall away, all the noises of restless children and muzak versions of at least three different Christmas carols fading into the back ground. Adrien lifted his to-go cup of hot coco to his face, breathed in the warm rich chocolate and cinnamon smell of the drink and with a heart as light as the fragrant steam rising from his drink spoke the only two words possible. “Yes, Devon.”

The End

As Promised
The cover for the sequel 

PS: on another day I am going to pimp some more of Cherie's Xmas stories so keep your eyes open on- DECEMBER 21 for:
 Christmas Rum Balls 
 Cuddle Time Chicken Soup

Find Cherie Here
Tales from the Writing Cave


  1. Oh, NJ, you made it look so purty! Thank you for the opportunity to share a little Christmas magic on your blog. *muah*
    ~~Cherie Noel

    1. No worries my friend - any time... It was great to read and share.

  2. I adore this story, it melted my old dead, black, heart and made it beat again. Adrien is such a klutz, and had me giggling and Devon is just so yummy. I also love the cover art you now have for it too. I can't wait to read 'Worth a Thousand Words' so I can see what they all get up to next. *hugs and love* Val xox

  3. This is one of the funnest stories I've read this season, Cherie! I adored Adrian and Devon is pure Hottttness!!! Thanks for sharing!