It's brand spankin' new! And Simple Gifts arrives this Friday 11/25 from Musa Publishing (and is available at the usual third party vendors as well!)
A former ward of the state, Jason Ferris is protective of his carefully guarded private life. When he's felled by a rogue lawn ornament at a Christmas party, Jason finds himself in the care of his first and most devastating love-- dark, dangerous, and equally damaged Lt. Robb Sharpe.
Newly returned from years away in the military, Robb's homecoming isn't exactly the stuff of fairy tales. Now thrust together after a ten year hiatus, Jason and Robb discover that perhaps some things are worth waiting for.
We arrived at the library door where an enormous tree filled the room. Cocooned in finely spun angel hair, and crisscrossed with strands of bold lights and flimsy strings of popcorn, the fragrant pine floated above a sea of tastefully wrapped gifts. It looked exactly as a real Christmas tree ought to — only more so. Wooden toys, ceramic birds, and shimmering bells weighed every branch. Round glass ornaments hung from the boughs. The tree-topping star could have guided the Magi east.
“I know. Christmas is what I do best, however I lose all sense of proportion during the holidays. Maybe Sunny warned you?” Mrs. Sharpe winked before turning to dig through the pile of loot on the rug. “Now, let’s see...I have a little something here for you.”
“For me?” I almost asked her why, but I sealed my lips and settled my feet.
Mrs. Sharpe straightened and dumped a bulging Christmas stocking, com- plete with a striped candy cane poking from the top, into my empty hands. I hadn’t had one of these since...well, ever. I squeezed the velvet until the sound of crumbling paper stopped me from strangling the thing. She’d written my name in glittery cursive on the cuff. Handcrafted, like I was family or something.
But I wasn’t family. No family of mine had ever given me a scrap, unless you counted the one-way ticket to foster care.
Yes, Sunny and I always exchanged gifts. We were friends. This year, I had a new book on astronomy and I’d given her a tiny hedgehog charm for her bracelet, but a gift from Mrs. Sharpe? I was practically a stranger to Sunny’s parents. Probably the gesture meant nothing — maybe she gave presents willy- nilly to every constituent who entered her palatial lake house.
But, damn it, her gift meant something to me.
My throat closed and I swallowed against a rising tide of emotion.
“Merry Christmas, Jason.” Mrs. Sharpe said gently and, alcohol afflicted or no, she seemed so fucking sincere I had to look away. Robb’s quiet stare met mine from across the room. He saw right through me. He always had. Heat reached my hairline. I broke free of his gaze and squinted down at my overfilled hands.
You knew better. You knew not to come.
My eyes blurred.
I had nothing in return for this woman. Not a bottle of wine, or a grocery store poinsettia, or even a lame greeting card. A plate of cookies, for Christ’s sake, I could have made a paper chain for her tree. Something. Anything. I hadn’t even come properly attired.
There should be a handbook for orphans. Honestly.
Mrs. Sharpe waited, her eyes soft.
Damn Sunny all over again. She could have given me a heads up about this, too. She knew I’d arrived here like that pitiful Drummer Boy from the song. I had nothing to give. And I hadn’t offered a single word of welcome to Robb.
The shame that had stolen my tongue as a child returned, but I managed to keep things real enough by eking out a simple, “Thank you.”
“Oh, you’re very welcome, hon. We’re glad you came — and if you’d like to stay, please do. We’ve plenty of room and we’d love to have you.” She gave me another squeeze, rumpling the present between us, and when she let go, the second after I wrinkled her dress with my sweaty orphan palms, I fled.
I nabbed my coat, located the nearest exit through a jungle of elephantine pink poinsettias, and hit the Sharpe’s narrow sun porch at a goddamn trot. A zillion festive white lights lit my way until I passed through that dazzling portal to a silent, frigid night.
I sucked sweet air into my lungs once my feet were safely on the porch and clutched the collar of my coat, then tucked the stocking under my arm. Pinpricks of sleet bit my cheeks, but at least there weren’t any Sharpes here — only a howling gloom that whistled over the frozen waters of the lake and shaped the fallen snow into long, spiny hills. Lights flickered on the north shore. Or maybe that was Old Saint Nick himself headed this way.
Maybe he could give me a lift back to town.
To celebrate Thanksgiving, my new release, and your continued support, I have a couple copies I'd like to give away.
So, what are you thankful for this holiday season?
Leave a comment right here by midnight, Wednesday November 23rd and I'll chose two winners to receive downloads of my new novella, Simple Gifts!
Contest open internationally. Good luck!