Hello all, I’m really happy to be taking part in the Rainbow Advent Calendar for the second year in a row.
If you didn’t read the story that I wrote last year, you can find it here on Prolific Works.
If you’re not already a member of the Rainbow Advent Calendar FB group, you can find it here.
The master post featuring the links to all the lovely free stories every day can be found here.
So here’s my story.
All I Want
I blew on my hands to try and force some warmth into them as I paced up and down in front of the pub where we’d agreed to meet, the December cold kicking my ass. Lincoln was late, but then he’d never been on time for anything as far as I could recall ever since the day we’d first met as eight-year-olds, eleven years ago. I smiled at the vivid memory. I’d started a new school and despite my parents telling me over and over again that I’d quickly make new friends to replace the ones left behind in Nottingham, I hadn’t.
It was the third day that I’d spent break time alone in the playground, trying to look as if I didn’t care, when the curly-haired boy had run up and stared at me with wide brown eyes. Whatever I’d expected, it wasn’t for the boy to hold out an upturned palm with a red sweet that looked like it had been kicked around the playground by every pair of feet in it, and solemnly ask if I wanted to be his friend. I’d taken the sweet—because manners—and I’d gladly accepted the invitation to be his friend. And just like that a friendship had been born and we’d been inseparable ever since.
I liked to think it was because we balanced each other out. Where I was prone to being a little too serious, Lincoln was the joker. Where I frequently overanalyzed everything, Lincoln had a tendency to rush in without thinking of the consequences. Yet, we’d always been there for each other. Albeit, fifteen minutes late in Lincoln’s case, but you couldn’t have everything. No doubt he’d stopped to help an old lady cross the road, or found a lost dog wandering around and was trying to locate its owner. Because that was the kind of guy Lincoln was and you just had to accept it. And I had, a long time ago. It didn’t mean I wasn’t his priority; it just meant there were other people he’d deemed as needing him more in that particular moment.
It was one of the things I loved about him. And not loved in a brotherly way or a best friend way either, but in a love way. It had just taken me a long time to realize it. Somewhere in amongst all our teenage escapades, between discussing our first kisses—both with boys—my feelings had grown to the point where the only person I wanted to kiss was Lincoln. From that point on, it had become like a burning obsession where I wasn’t interested in anyone else apart from my best friend. I’d suffered through Lincoln having a boyfriend, hiding my own hurt by immersing myself into a fledgling relationship which had never really stood a chance. I’d somehow hidden my glee when Lincoln’s relationship had ground to a halt, short of the two of them sleeping together. I knew that because, oblivious as Lincoln was to my feelings, he still told me everything.
A week ago, I’d reached a decision. I couldn’t go on like this; I needed to tell Lincoln how I felt about him. Because maybe, just maybe, he felt the same. And if he didn’t, well then, I supposed we’d cross that bridge when we came to it. But at least I’d know, one way or the other and I could stop tormenting myself with how good we could be together—how much stronger a relationship might be if it was already built on an eleven-year friendship. Even the thought had my heart racing, and if my hands hadn’t been so cold my palms would probably have been sweaty too. Only, it was one thing to reach a decision. It was apparently another thing entirely to actually do it. I’d spent the last week trying to work out a way to raise the subject and chickened out every single time.
So tonight was the night.
I was going to tell him before the evening was out even if it killed me, even if I made myself look like the biggest idiot in the world and Lincoln laughed at me. Because at least I’d know.
My restless pacing sent me careering straight into the solid chest of a man on his way into the pub. I stumbled backward, almost falling over. “Sorry.” Jeez! The man was built like a brick shithouse, all muscles and bulk. Not my type at all. But then a guy would have to have brown eyes, dark curly hair and go by the name of Lincoln to register on my radar. I had it bad. Really bad. The man nodded, accepting my apology before politely stepping away, Christmas music spilling from the interior of the pub as he entered.
“Wow! I leave you alone for two minutes and you start throwing yourself at random men.”
I spun around, finding myself looking into the laughing face of my friend, the beautiful brown eyes twinkling with amusement. “I wasn’t… I didn’t… I just wasn’t looking where I was going.”
Lincoln’s forehead creased, the laugh segueing into an expression of concern. “It was just a joke. Are you alright?”
No, I wasn’t alright. I was an absolute bundle of nerves, Lincoln’s mere presence having the same effect on me as it always did. I wanted to lean in and cover Lincoln’s lips with my own and find out what he tasted like. I wanted to slide my cold hands inside his jacket and press our bodies together. I wanted it all and every time I saw him, the temptation just got harder and harder to resist. It was like an ache that never went away. If he rejected me, I was probably going to wither away before Christmas even got here. “I’m fine. Just… you know… cold, waiting for you to get here.”
Lincoln stepped forward, seizing hold of both of my hands. He wasn’t wearing gloves either but somehow his hands had managed to stay warm. Or at least much warmer than my own were. My breath caught in my throat, Lincoln’s gaze meeting mine as he rubbed my frozen fingers between the palms of his hands. It really didn’t help when he did stuff like that. “You should have waited inside.”
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Lincoln’s face, couldn’t force any sort of response past my lips. There was only the feel of Lincoln’s body warmth leaching into mine from the contact of our hands and the slight curve of his lips as Lincoln aimed his familiar smile in my direction. God, I loved that smile; it always made me feel so special. At this rate I wouldn’t need to tell him how I felt, Lincoln was going to be able to read it from the expression on my face. Maybe that was easier? Just let all the longing I’d felt for the last year since I’d admitted to myself how I felt show on my face?
Before I could come to a decision, Lincoln was stepping away and pulling the door of the pub open. “Come on, let’s get some beer inside you before you turn into a snowman.” He continued to chat as we made our way over to the bar to get drinks. “Sorry, I was late. I was on time but there was a woman around the corner who’d locked herself out of her house. I offered to climb through the window for her. I had a bit of a tussle with a Christmas tree, which was a bit of a close-run thing, but I won in the end.”
I smiled at the knowledge I’d been right; Lincoln had been playing the hero again. It was uncanny how he always managed to walk straight into rescue scenarios. Someone needed to get him a white horse and a suit of armor so he could play the knight role properly when he swooped in to save the day.
The pub hadn’t filled up yet so it was easy to find an empty table. A couple of hours later and we wouldn’t have had the same luxury. Lincoln winked as we sat down, gesturing over to the table opposite. “There’s your friend… the one you threw yourself at. He’s kinda hot if you don’t mind them a bit older.” I followed his gaze, finding the man I’d bumped into sat minding his own business nursing a pint of beer. Lincoln’s comment could be the opening I’d been searching for. I took a deep breath. “I don’t like them older. I like them the same age. In fact, I like—”
“I love this song.”
“What?” I blinked. I hadn’t even registered there was music playing, never mind what it was. It was only when he said it that I recognized the familiar strains of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas.’ “Yeah, it’s a good song.”
Lincoln nodded. “It’s part of the soundtrack to that new film. The one starring thingamyjig from Game of Thrones. We should go and see it because you like romantic films. No Kit Harrington, though, unfortunately.”
“Shhhh.” I quickly checked left and right to make sure no one had heard the comment about me liking romantic films. It was true, but that didn’t mean Lincoln had to tell everyone. He knew things about me that no one else knew. The same way I knew things about him—like his fear of crabs. Not the sexually transmitted kind, although I’m sure he wasn’t too keen on them either, the type you found a beach. He’d had a run-in with one as a toddler where one had attached itself to his big toe and refused to let go. Luckily, there weren’t too many crabs around in London. But he even averted his eyes if we passed a fishmonger’s window. I’d often joked that he was even scared of crabs coming back to life and chasing him down the street.
I needed to tell him how I felt. It was better to get it out there. The longer I left it, the harder it would get. The last week had proven that. “Linc, I—”
“He’s our age.”
This time Lincoln was staring at a young, dark-haired man. He looked irritated, his foot tapping impatiently as he stared into space. He sighed, before pulling a phone out of his pocket and shaking his head as he checked the screen. Seeming to come to some sort of decision, he put his phone back in his pocket and shrugged his shoulders into his jacket.
Lincoln cleared his throat. “Your type?”
“No.” You are. Just you. No one else. I closed my mouth to stop any of the words escaping, except I was meant to be telling him, right? Not like that, though. I wanted it to be a little smoother. I wanted to sound self-assured and maybe even a little blasé, like it wasn’t a big deal, even though it really was. “Actually, there’s someone that I’m more than a little interested in.” That was a good start. A huge understatement but at least it should get him asking questions.
Great! He sounded interested. Except his attention wasn’t on me. It was still fastened on the dark-haired guy. A bolt of pure jealousy shot through me. Was that why he’d been trying to find out if the stranger was my type? Just a way of ensuring that I wasn’t going to be competition? If so, we were so far off the same page, we might as well have been in different libraries.
The dark-haired guy was oblivious to our scrutiny, his eyes meeting and holding the gaze of the man I’d bumped into earlier. On his way to the exit, there was a moment where he wavered before changing course and strolling over to the older man’s table. He leaned forward until his lips hovered by his ear, saying something too quietly for me to be able to make out what it was. It didn’t take a genius to work out though, that it was something sexual, the older man’s face lighting up like a Christmas tree as the younger dark-haired man held his hand out to him.
Lincoln leaned over the table without taking his eyes off them. “What do you think he asked him?”
I shrugged. “No idea and its none of our business, really.” Yet, I still didn’t look away, strangely fascinated by what might happen next.
A battle of wills raged across the older man’s face before he took the hand that had been offered and they both disappeared through the restroom door out of sight.
Lincoln grinned. “I bet they’re not going in there for a nice chat.”
“I guess not.” Why couldn’t I be that direct? But then there was a huge difference between offering sexual favors to a stranger and telling your best friend of eleven years that you’d fallen in love with him. If the stranger said no, there was nothing more serious than a slightly bruised ego to deal with. If Lincoln said no, then I was facing the possibility of losing his friendship. He would say that it was okay, but what if he didn’t really mean it? What if he started creating space between the two of us and things got weird? I wouldn’t be able to bear it. Not when I couldn’t even remember the last day we’d gone without speaking.
I sat back in my chair, no longer sure I was doing the right thing, my gaze straying to the large Christmas tree in the corner and examining every bauble carefully to avoid looking at Lincoln.
I tore my eyes away from the tree and forced myself to meet his gaze. “Nothing’s wrong.”
Lincoln leaned forward again. “Okay, let’s cut the bullshit. You’ve been weird for a while now. Weeks. Maybe even longer. Weird with me. Have I done something?”
“No!” Fuck! There I was thinking I’d done so well to hide my feelings and he’d sensed something was wrong all along. Why hadn’t he said anything before?
“Is it something to do with this guy you said you liked?”
So he had been listening. Shame really. Given that I’d changed my mind about admitting my feelings, I could have done without him hearing that. What was I supposed to say now? In lieu of any idea, I simply shrugged.
Lincoln sighed. “Who is it? Don’t tell me he’s not interested in you. He’d have to be an idiot.”
The words caused a flutter in my chest. “Would he?”
He smiled. “Course he would. You’re gorgeous. You’re caring. You’re sweet. You’re the best listener and you always know how to make someone feel better when they’re feeling down. Anyone would be lucky to have you as a boyfriend.”
The flutter turned into a fully-grown raven fighting to clamber out of my chest. I hovered on the precipice of what to say next. My brain said I should just laugh the words off, but my heart, well, my heart wasn’t feeling quite so amenable. I took a big gulp of beer and forced myself to meet his gaze, my heart beating so rapidly I felt dizzy. “So why haven’t we ever…?”
I didn’t need to finish the sentence. I could see from the expression on his face and the way he rocked back in his seat that he understood exactly what I was asking. What I couldn’t tell was what he was thinking apart from that. Whether he was just surprised by the question or horrified. Or something else. Please be something else.
“Because…” He dragged the word out as if every letter had to crawl out of his esophagus separately. “…I didn’t think you looked at me that way.”
“Didn’t you?” My response was barely a whisper. I was so close to putting everything on the line. Not in the way I’d intended, but I guessed how you got there wasn’t as important as reaching the destination.
Lincoln frowned. “Remember when we were thirteen and I told you I was gay?”
I did remember. I’d been so relieved to not only be able to tell someone I was too, but to share the experience with someone who understood. As a confused thirteen-year-old still coming to terms with the fact that girls held no interest for me, it had been everything. I nodded, wondering where Lincoln was going with this.
“Remember when I suggested we should practice on each other?” Lincoln’s lips curled into a devilish grin. “You turned me down flat.”
I struggled to think back, trying to remember all the reasons adolescent me had thought it would be a terrible idea to practice kissing with your best friend. But I couldn’t recall. It had just seemed ridiculous at the time. Maybe I’d developed slower than Lincoln had and I just hadn’t been ready? Or perhaps I’d been too scared of getting caught? I didn’t know. It was like trying to remember a completely different person.
Had he been holding onto that for years? Taking teenage rejection as evidence that… but then that would mean he felt the same. My gaze shot to his, my tongue darting out to moisten suddenly dry lips. He shrugged beneath my scrutiny, looking more uncertain than I’d ever seen him look before. Our eyes were locked together, neither of us speaking. One of us needed to break the impasse. My fingers inched across the table, stopping just short of his. “I’d practice with you now. Thirteen-year-old me was clearly missing brain cells.”
Lincoln went still. “Would you?” His fingers moved forward until the tips were touching mine. “Since when?”
I curled my fingers around his. “A long time. Too long. I just didn’t know how to say it. I thought you’d laugh.”
He shook his head, the curls I loved so much bouncing with the movement. I longed to bury my fingers in them. Lincoln smiled but it still held that edge of caution. “I would never have laughed. Not at you. Not about this.”
Time seemed frozen for a moment. I peeked under my eyelashes at him, feeling strangely shy. Lincoln was the person I knew better than anyone in the world, but not like this, not with our emotions scattered across the table between us. This was brand new territory for both of us and it was scary as hell. I just needed to take that last leap of faith and believe that Lincoln would be there to catch me. I threaded my fingers with his. “I’m kind of… in love with you. I have been for a while.”
A slow smile spread across his face. “Kind of?”
I laughed. That was the Lincoln I knew, always ready to pick me up on being vague. “Okay. More than kind of. I’ve been trying to—”
“What?” He couldn’t mean what I thought he meant. There was no way the stars could align that perfectly and I could be that lucky.
His fingers tightened around mine. “The love thing. Me too.”
The world was suddenly a bright technicolor when before it had been muted. Colors were brighter, smells more pronounced, sounds were clearer. And apparently Lincoln, my childhood friend, the boy who’d grown into a man by my side felt the same as I did. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a choir of angels had suddenly appeared right next to us. As it was, there was no angels. There was just Lincoln and he was more than enough.
Lincoln’s fingers separated from mine and he bounded away from the table, leaving me confused. He stopped in the middle of the floor, turning to grin at me. “Come here.”
Despite my befuddlement, I left the table. Because whatever Lincoln asked, I would do it, even if it meant crossing a shark-infested sea. As there were no sharks, I crossed the floor to stand in front of him. “Why are we…?”
He tilted his head, his gaze moving slowly upward with mine automatically following until I saw the mistletoe nestled in among the hanging Christmas decorations. “Oh!”
Lincoln moved closer. “I thought…”
We both seemed incapable of stringing more than a couple of words together. If we couldn’t talk then we were probably better off doing something else. Like kissing. I stepped forward, giving in to temptation and sinking my fingers into Lincoln’s curls. They felt just as good as I’d always known they would. His arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me in and I savored the moment.
Our first kiss. Hopefully the first of many.
And then I stopped thinking and concentrated on feeling, our lips meeting in a kiss which started off chaste but then quickly deepened, our mouths moving so easily together that it might as well have been choreographed. Our words might be awkward but luckily our bodies were much better at communicating.
When we finally broke apart, we were both grinning like idiots. Lincoln cupped a hand to his ear and pointed to the speaker just as Mariah Carey sang, “All I want for Christmas is you.”
I nodded and we both started laughing.
The feeling was mutual. This was going to be one hell of a Christmas.
Want to know what was going on with the other pair in the pub and what they got up to in the restroom?
Find out in my recent Christmas release, Christmas Riches.
Opposites might attract. But does that include age?
Christmas comes early for Aiden Malone in the form of a seductive, blue-eyed stranger down on his knees. But a shocking revelation about his new “friend” has him running for the hills and cursing his stupidity before the night is out.
Tom’s not prepared to give up that easily. He may be rich where Aiden’s poor. Innocent in a way that Aiden isn’t. And on the wrong side of twenty. But he’s old enough to know what he wants. And that’s Aiden. He just needs to persuade the older man to look past his hang-ups about age and wealth.
Lust and prejudice pull Aiden in opposite directions, severely testing his willpower. As Tom’s layers begin to peel away, Aiden discovers the younger man’s life of privilege may not be all it seems. If Aiden gives in, they could have the sweetest Christmas that either of them has ever tasted.
But Tom’s about to shatter their joy with a surprise announcement. Decisions need to be made on both sides. It’s down to Aiden, though, to stay strong and decide whose happiness is more important. His? Or Tom’s? Because they can’t have it both ways.
It’s possible their relationship won’t even last as long as it takes for the snow to melt.