It’s release day!!! 🥳
Normally, at this moment in the process, I’ve been posting about my upcoming release all over social media, I’ve written blog posts, both for my blog and other blogs where I talk about it, I’ve sent out ARCs and kept track of ranking on Amazon etc.
I haven’t done any of that this time. My mother passed away a few days ago, and in the days leading up to her passing, I spent in her room at the hospital. I didn’t turn on my computer for days, didn’t check my email or log into any social media.
But now we’re here, and this story is just what I need. Both because it forces me to focus on something other than grief, and because it’s short and it’s fluffy.
I wrote it back in July – I think it was July – because all Christmas stories had an early deadline, so when the edits came, I’d almost forgotten it. I hadn’t forgotten the story as such, but I’d forgotten that Ellis makes me laugh, and I needed to laugh.
We’re back in Nortown, though considering there is a snowstorm and Ellis and Dax are trapped in Dax’s cabin, we don’t see much of the town filled with queer lumberjacks 😆
Neither Dax nor Ellis wants to date. Dax because he doesn’t want to be in a relationship, Ellis because he’s drowning in work and doesn’t have the time. Their friends don’t listen, and when Dax and Ellis realise they’ve been set up, they plan their revenge.
I had so much fun writing this one, and who doesn’t love a snowed-in kind of story??
Below you can read the first chapter.
Three years ago, Dax Howard got out of a bad relationship and swore never to date again. He loves his picturesque cabin outside Nortown and is looking forward to three weeks of quiet over the holidays. He hadn’t foreseen a stranger turning in on his driveway in the middle of a snowstorm, claiming he’s there for a date.
Ellis Rush has risked his neck driving in a snowstorm to meet his friend Daniel and his boyfriend Dom for a double date he agreed to go on as a favor. Reaching the destination, he can’t see Daniel’s car anywhere, and when the mountain of a man opening the door says he’s never agreed to go on a double date, Ellis realizes he’s been played.
The more Ellis explains the situation, the more annoyed Dax gets. Dom is one of his closest friends, and he does not appreciate the setup, no matter how intrigued he is by Ellis. Since the roads are undrivable, Dax invites Ellis to stay, and together they plot their revenge. Cooking for Ellis, kissing Ellis, and sleeping next to Ellis isn’t the same thing as dating, is it?
Contemporary Gay Romance: 14,382 words
Ellis Rush tightened his hold on the steering wheel. He was gonna strangle Daniel, and then right before he died, he was gonna let up a fraction, so he could breathe for a second, only to then strangle him again. His brain painted a vivid image of his face turning blue. It didn’t look anything like how he assumed people being strangled looked, more like Daniel had become a member of the Blue Man Group.
The point was Daniel being blue and Ellis being pissed off as hell.
He was in the middle of fucking nowhere, not seeing more than a couple of feet ahead, and the snow was coming down in fast-falling, cracker-sized flakes. How the hell would he get home again?
Had he passed Nortown? Maybe he had. Daniel said it wasn’t more than a blip on the map. He’d gotten off the highway by the first sign to Nortown, as Daniel had told him to, but all he could see was snow.
He should turn around. Go home. Daniel would understand. Double dates weren’t something they did, and he sure as hell didn’t do blind dates. If Daniel wanted to date some small-town god, then he could do it without involving Ellis.
Fuck, this was stupid.
A knot formed in his gut. He’d been too focused on not getting stuck in the snow or driving off the road to think about the date. He had wine. Daniel claimed he was in charge of drinks, which was unfair. Why should he supply wine for four people, two of whom he didn’t know. He didn’t know if they liked wine. He’d bought both red and white since Daniel had failed to inform him what they were eating, and then he’d grabbed a few beers too since Daniel’s new obsession was a mountain man. Sasquatch. Daniel claimed he worked in a sawmill, but Ellis got serious Bigfoot vibes—he hadn’t met him, but he could sense these things. Demond was clearly a made-up name. No one in their right mind named their kid Demond… unless they were demons.
He had it all wrong. Daniel’s new boyfriend wasn’t Bigfoot. He was a demon.
Sighing, he slowed. He couldn’t see the road for all the snow and crept forward. If he had an accident and died, he’d haunt Daniel for an eternity.
Reaching for his phone in the cup holder, he growled. There was no reception. That settled it. He was gonna die. Being out of reception only happened in movies, not in real life. And when it happened in movies, there would either be a serial killer or a monster. Bigfoot and his friend would have him for dinner. Crap! He’d brought the wine, so they had something to wash him down with.
Squinting ahead, he believed there was a light flickering, maybe. He didn’t dare look away from the road long enough to make sure, but with luck, he was here.
He wished he could stop and double-check on his phone, but he’d have to live with the embarrassment if he was in the wrong place instead. Turning in at the driveway, he yelped at how his car sank into the deep snow. When they came running for him with forks at the ready, wanting to eat him, there was no way he’d be able to drive out of here. He didn’t think Bigfoots—Bigfeet?—would stop and allow him to shovel his car out of the snow before they attacked.
For a few seconds, he rested his forehead against the steering wheel. If Daniel wasn’t dead already, he’d kill him.
With a deep breath, he opened the door and looked down at the snow. It was knee deep, if not deeper, and he wore sneakers and his good jeans. He might not want to be on this date, but he never went on one without making sure his ass looked divine.
Better bring the bottles at once so he wouldn’t have to walk back through the snow to get them if he was at the right place.
* * * *
Dax Howard watched some idiot in a car turn in on his driveway. He hadn’t shoveled it. The snow was coming down hard. It had started snowing while he’d still been at work, but it was a Friday night, and he’d be off for the coming three weeks. He hadn’t planned on going anywhere for a few days and wouldn’t be shoveling anything until it had stopped snowing.
What kind of halfwit drove in weather like this?
For a moment, he considered going out on the landing and waving him away, but it was already too late. He’d already buried half his car in the snow.
Dax sighed and went to put on his rubber boots. It was knee deep out there. He grabbed his jacket and put on gloves. The snow shovel was out on the landing, leaning against the wall, and he had another in the garage. Though he wasn’t looking forward to trudging through the snow to get there. If someone was stupid enough to drive in this weather, surely they had a snow shovel in their car.
He yanked the door open only to draw back since the man standing there had a hand raised to knock, and Dax had been punched enough times to know he wasn’t in the mood to get a fist in his face.
“Oh, shit, I’m sorry.” The man moved back so fast Dax reached for him. He didn’t touch him, but it was instinctive to try to halt his fall. He didn’t fall, but he balanced on the edge of the landing for a few seconds.
“It’s okay. You need help out of here.” He didn’t make it a question, since it wasn’t one.
“Erm… Daniel isn’t here, is he?”
Daniel? Dax didn’t know any Daniel. “No.”
The man’s shoulders slumped. “Do you know how to get to…” It clinked as he put the plastic bag down in the snow. Glass bottles, wine most likely, Dax recognized the sound. The man grabbed his phone from his pocket and held it up to Dax. “There.” He sighed. “I’m to go there, but there is no reception, so my dot hasn’t moved on the map for the last half hour or so. I hoped I was in the right place.”
Dax frowned. It was his house on the map. “Are you sure you typed in the right address?”
“Is this some kind of practical joke?” The anger glinting in the man’s eyes made Dax look at the phone again.
“It’s my address, but I don’t know any Daniel. Was he supposed to meet you here?” It better not be a joke. He didn’t want to be part of a joke. And if it was a joke, it was at his expense as much as it was at the guy’s.
“You don’t know a Daniel?”
Dax shook his head. “I’ll help shovel your car free of the snow so you can go.”
The man narrowed his eyes. “But this is the address!”
Seconds went by as Dax watched him. “There is no Daniel here, and you shouldn’t be driving in this kind of weather. It’s gonna snow all night. I suggest we get your car free, so you can go home. It’s the safest thing to do.”
The man looked at his car. “Don’t you think I can put it in reverse and back out?”
Dax shrugged. He didn’t think so, but if he didn’t have to shovel, no one would be happier than him.
“Right. Sorry for disturbing you.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Dax didn’t move as the man grabbed his bag of bottles and went down the stairs. Hopefully, he’d make it home okay. It wasn’t a night anyone should be out driving, but he was a grown man. He could take care of himself.
It was evident he didn’t have a lick of sense. He wore sneakers in a snowstorm. He was out driving in a snowstorm. He had no gloves and his jacket was way too thin. He drove a red Toyota Yaris. It was a miracle he’d made it as far as he had. He kept his mouth shut, though. The sooner the idiot left, the sooner he could go back to his quiet night in front of the TV.
“Fucking Bigfoot.” The man hopped between his previous footsteps, making the bottles clank in the bag. Dax hadn’t studied his feet, but considering he was a head, if not more, shorter than Dax, he didn’t think he had big feet.
“If the prints are big, it should be easier to step into them.”
The man stared at him over his shoulder. “Huh?”
“Big feet. It’s good with big feet when walking in snow.”
He nodded slowly. “I meant the man Daniel is dating.”
Dax nodded, only to then shake his head, and the man groaned. “He met this mountain man, but I don’t think he’s a mountain man at all. I think he’s Bigfoot. Oh, we’re queer, unless you’d figured it out by now. It’s not contagious. No need to kill me and bury me in the woods. You know what they say about big feet, and who can have bigger feet than Bigfoot? Anyway, Daniel and Yeti—”
“Bigfoot and Yeti aren’t the same.” Dax took a deep breath. He wasn’t surprised by the queer comment. Normally, he couldn’t tell when it came to people. Sometimes there was that spark. You met someone’s gaze, and you knew they were the same, but in general, Dax had been born without a gaydar. This man, Dax would’ve been surprised if he’d said he was straight.
“No, I know, Mr. Know-it-all, but Yeti is a nicer name than Sasquatch.”
Dax fought a grin at the exasperated tone. “You didn’t say Sasquatch, you said Bigfoot.”
“It’s the same thing!”
“I know, but it wasn’t the word you used.”
The man groaned. “I know which word I used.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Are you making fun of me? Why is everyone making fun of me today?”
Dax hadn’t been, but he couldn’t help but smile.
“It doesn’t matter. Daniel has turned into a necromancer and has summoned a demon.”
Dax was quiet for several seconds. “You didn’t have an accident on the way over here, did you?”
The man widened his eyes. “No.”
His car looked unscratched. “Didn’t get out of the car to have a look around and slip on some ice underneath the snow? Hit your head?”
The man wiggled his fingers at him. “Ah, I see what you’re doing. You’re trying to be nice about calling me insane.”
Dax scowled. “No. I think you might have a concussion, is all. I never meant to imply you were permanently insane.”
“Look, what’s your name?” Dax hoped he wasn’t hurt.
“Ellis Rush, chocolatier extraordinaire.” He bowed.
“The universe’s gift to humans.”
Was being a chocolatier a real job? There was a chocolatier in Whiteport. He’d never been there, but he’d heard people gush about it. “In Whiteport?”
“Ah, you’ve heard of me.”
“Not you specifically, but I’ve heard the… erm… salted caramel fudge, or whatever, is divine.”
Dax laughed. “I’m sure you are. Now, let’s get you out of here so I can get back to my divine life.”
* * * *
Ellis winced. He always talked too much when he was nervous, and while he didn’t think he’d found a mountain man, he’d sure found a mountain of a man, a god of the forest, and it made him weak in the knees. “What’s your name?”
The forest god studied him for several long seconds, and Ellis almost whimpered—he was pathetic that way.
Dax. Ellis gave a dreamy sigh. It’d look good doodled in a heart. It would fit on a chocolate truffle.
“Are you all right?”
Ellis jumped; having forgotten he was in the presence of a god. “Yes, sure, why wouldn’t I be?”
“You looked like you were spacing out, and I’m still not convinced you’re not suffering from a concussion.”
“Because of Bigfoot?” He took the last few steps until he could reach the handle of the car door. He could see how he hadn’t made the best first impression.
“Among other things.”
Should he be offended? “No concussion. I was born this way.”
“Fascinating.” The tone was dry, but there was a sparkle of amusement in Dax’s eyes.
“I think it is.” He hesitated before opening the car door. “You don’t have a working phone, do you? I should call Daniel.”
“I have a landline.” He gestured toward the house, which looked plucked from a postcard from the Alps.
“Wow, you’re some kind of ancient vampire, aren’t you?”
Dax breathed in deep. “About the head injury—”
“It’s not an injury.”
Ellis huffed. “Can I use your ancient device or not?”
“You can use it.”
“I didn’t mean it in a dirty way.”
Dax’s eyebrows climbed his forehead. “What? Dirty how?”
“Your ancient device. I figured you’re a good bit older than me, ancient even, and when I mentioned your device, I didn’t mean your cock.”
Dax didn’t move a muscle for several seconds, and it wasn’t until the world spun around him, Ellis remembered to breathe.
“I’m not sure how to unpack that.”
“No! No need for you to unpack it.” Ellis widened his eyes but couldn’t stop himself from dropping his gaze to Dax’s crotch. Sadly, it was hidden underneath a bulky jacket.
“Jesus, I should take you to a hospital.” Dax eyed Ellis’s car as if he was thinking about commandeering it and drive to a hospital, then he gestured at the house. “Please, go inside and call your friend.”