Free Christmas story

I spent yesterday putting the finishing touches to a new, free Christmas short story set in the world of my paranormal romance novel ‛December Roses’, involving Nat, a former soldier turned gardener, his elusive musician lover Richie, and a cigarette case with a story to tell.

Nat’s been living at Frogmorton Towers for four years. He’s content with his life, working in the garden and slipping away to see his ghostly lover Richie every now and again. This year, though, he wants to give Richie a present, to say thank you for everything Richie has given him. He chooses to pass on his engraved silver cigarette case, but forgets that time doesn’t work the same at Frogmorton as it does everywhere else. The gift finds its way back to him unexpectedly, bringing its own story of loss, but also of hope and homecoming at this magical time of year.

His breath hitched at the surprise of it, even after all this time. The change was silent and happened without him noticing, even when he was half-expecting it. One of these days he’d understand how it managed that: what processes were at work to turn a perfectly ordinary garden into something so unique and magical. Not today, though. Today he had other things on his mind. Because there, a few yards away, was Richie, propped against his favourite apple tree. His hands were thrust deep into the pockets of his flying jacket and his face half-hidden behind an impossible scarf in shades of sepia and mauve that did nothing for his skin.
‛You startled me.’ It wasn’t entirely true—he’d been hoping for exactly this—but it was still hard, sometimes, to admit those feelings out loud.
The full lips tilted up into Richie’s customary impish smile. ‛Come over here and I’ll do more than startle you.’
Nat took a step, then several more, until he was close enough to reach out and touch the other man. It was pure temptation. He wanted nothing more than to kiss the corners of those lips, to poke his tongue into the soft, yielding space between them, to feel the rasp of rough stubble under his fingertips. But that wasn’t why he’d stayed out here, or wished that Richie would come. He had something else to do, and needed to distract himself before every last thought flew out of his head. ‛Like the scarf,’ he said.
Richie’s eyes danced. ‛Hideous, isn’t it? I have to wear it though. Elsie knitted it for me.’
The last sentence was imbued with brotherly pride. Hardly surprising, Nat thought. Since the thing was about three miles long, it was no mean achievement for a nine year old. ‛Good for her.’
‛Yeah. Gave it me for Christmas. It’s ghastly but it keeps the cold wind out.’
And cold it certainly was. Nat shivered, suddenly. The day had begun sunny and quite mild; he’d been working in a sweatshirt with the sleeves rolled up. Suddenly, with the sweat of his labour drying on his skin, his clothes were no match for the bladed wind.
‛Ah, look at you, you’re freezing. What were you thinking coming out dressed like that?’ Richie unwrapped a couple of loops of scarf and dropped them over Nat’s head, then used the ends to draw them close…

Want to read more? The story will be available to readers of my monthly newsletter, completely free, so why not sign up now? You’ll also get another free m/m romance, Monster in the Maze, when you do.

Thanks, hope you enjoy the stories, and have a lovely Christmas!

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