It’s release day!!!
24 Dates was supposed to be a short Christmas story. I don’t know what I was thinking. The idea always was to write twenty-four dates, so I should’ve understood it wasn’t gonna turn out to be a 10k story. I should have, and yet I was surprised when it got be 38k.
Ah, well… 38k isn’t too long, and I had a great time writing it. I’m probably the least romantic person you’ve come across, so coming up with twenty-four dates wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t super hard either. I’m a bit sad that I’ve cleaned away the note where I scribbled down my ideas – I had ideas I didn’t use! LOL
In this story, we have Victor and Jian who’ve been a couple for years. Everything should be great. They’ve bought a house, moved to a new town, and should be in their happily ever after, but they’re not.
Jian is working all the time, and Victor hardly sees him awake anymore. They don’t talk, they don’t touch, and Victor fears they won’t last. Jian isn’t willing to give up, though. He has a plan – 24 Dates to woo his man.
24 Dates is an Up North story which means it’s standalone, contemporary, and takes place somewhere up north.
“Are you ready?”
Victor jumped. He’d been too occupied with his date planning to notice Jian coming out through the front door. “For?”
“Our date, of course.” A quick grin appeared on Jian’s lips before disappearing again, and Victor’s heart sped up. Damn, he’s hot.
“Erm… I guess it depends on what we’re doing. Do I need to change?” He gestured at himself. “Pee?”
“Pee might be good if you need to. There are no restrooms where we’re going. And put on shoes that don’t get wet…and maybe a beanie so you don’t freeze.”
Victor studied his expression for a second. “We’re going to be outdoors?”
Jian nodded, and Victor nodded in return before hurrying inside, rushing to the bathroom, changing shoes, putting on a beanie, and pushing some gloves into his pocket.
When he came back out again, Jian hadn’t rolled out the car. “Aren’t we going?”
“We are. We’re walking.” He offered Victor his arm.
Walking? Were they going to the cafe? “On Tuesday, do you have anything planned?”
Jian narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“Sara and Jonas, at work, usually go out to grab a pizza and a beer at some point each month or every couple of weeks or so, and they asked if I wanted to come.”
Jian’s dark eyes sparkled. “You should go. I know you haven’t found anyone to hang out with here, and I’ve been worried about it. You’re a social guy.”
Victor stared and allowed Jian to guide him down the sidewalk and back toward the school again. Jian had worried? Victor hadn’t known. But Jian was right, he normally had a lot of friends, but he’d… he didn’t know why, but he hadn’t had the energy. He’d only wanted to spend time with Jian, but Jian hadn’t been available. Perhaps Victor had been blind; perhaps it was how their relationship had always been, only he hadn’t noticed before because he’d been too busy having a life of his own.
No, before they’d moved here, they’d done things together. They’d had sex regularly, and a kiss hadn’t been something Victor had to analyze. Kisses had been part of everyday life, not like now, when a kiss was so rare, it made Victor nervous to initiate one.
“Don’t you want to go with them?”
“What?” Victor’s eyes flew to Jian’s. “I do, why?”
“You were frowning.”
“Ah…” He grinned. “I was thinking.”
Victor took a deep breath. Did he want to ruin the date? No, but… “How we got here.”
“We walked.” Jian winked but seriousness wiped away the sparkles from his eyes. “I’ve been working too much, and you’ve been acclimating to our new home and your new job.”
“We’ve lived here for two years, Jian. How much acclimating does a person need?”
“I read a study claiming it takes about five years before you’ve built up a new social circle after you’ve moved somewhere. I didn’t break up from my old life. Or I did—I don’t hang out with our friends back in Cortland like we used to, but I still have the guys at work. You started over.”
“Yes, but we have each other, or we should have had each other.”
Jian nodded. “I’m sorry, babe.”
Victor nodded, his throat grew tight. He wanted to blame it all on Jian, but they were two in this relationship, and maybe he hadn’t done what he could to make it work.
Jian tugged at his arm and had them turn off the road going through the town center. First, one tiny snowflake slowly descended toward the ground, then more and more followed. Jian steered them toward the graveyard. They walked along the thick stone wall, and Victor held his breath as he took in the sea of lit candles. “Wow. Is it a special holiday?”
“I don’t think so.” Jian opened a wrought-iron gate and held it open for him. The graveyard was deserted apart from one old woman standing by a grave farther in.
“What are we doing here?” Victor whispered, not wanting to disturb the peace.
“We’re on a date.”
“In a graveyard?”
Jian wiggled his eyebrows, amusement shining in his eyes. “Do you know of a more beautiful place in Northfield?”
Victor breathed in deep, tasting the winter night. The candles looked like a starry sky had fallen to the ground, and the snow slowly came down in big flakes. “No.”
They walked up one of the trails and Victor squinted to read the large gravestones. This was an old part of the graveyard—the bigger the stone, the more important the person. “Look at this.” He tugged at Jian’s arm. “This man was the mayor. I didn’t know Northfield had a mayor.”
“We don’t anymore, I don’t think.”
They walked past one grave after the other and all stress melted away from Victor. The winter wonderland stretched before him, all the beautiful wreaths and poinsettias people had left for their loved ones, the soft glow of the candles. “This is amazing.”
“Come.” Jian sat on a bench and held out his arm for Victor to sit next to him. Once he did, Jian pulled out a thermos cup from his inner pocket.
“We’re not getting drunk in a graveyard, are we?” Victor made wide eyes.
“No. I’ll save it for Halloween.” Jian chuckled. “It’s hot chocolate. I was looking at recipes for some cool Christmassy drinks, but there aren’t many hot ones, and we didn’t have the ingredients needed, so hot chocolate it is.”
Jian handed him the cup and pulled out another one from another pocket. Victor laughed. “Do you have anything else in there?”
“Why don’t you check?”
Victor chuckled and sipped on the chocolate. “This is beautiful.”
24 Dates in the JMS shop (20% off)
When Victor Hill bought a house with his boyfriend, Jian Kouri it was a dream come true. But now, two years later, instead of living their happily ever after, they hardly see the other awake.
With Jian out the door before Victor gets up in the morning, and asleep on the couch nearly as soon as he walks in the door, the life Victor imagined couldn’t be further from reality. They don’t talk; they don’t touch, and Victor fears he and Jian have already drifted too far apart.
The holiday season is a time for hope, but when Victor comes home to find Jian with a plan to woo him for Christmas, is it too little, too late? The dates are great, and there are filled with Christmas fun to get Victor in the right spirit for the holiday, but are they enough for the two of them to fall in love again? Or is there just too much in their relationship that needs fixing?