Holiday Hottie, Book 2
Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, G.R. George.
All rights reserved.
Dev Garson squinted as the midday sun bounced off his snow-blanketed yard. The air, much like the temperature, was brisk and exhilarating. Overnight, a foot of the white powder had fallen. It was the coldest winter his little town had experienced in a decade.
“Bring it on,” Dev said with a smile as he shoveled his drive. He wore thermal overalls, winter boots, and an oversized parka with a faux fur-lined hood as he shoveled the two-car driveway leading to his garage.
He worked at the local community college as a professor in the science department, and with only two weeks left until the end of the fall semester, he, like his students, was ready for the winter break. Especially since he’d recently ended things with his off again-on, again-off again boyfriend of five years. Michael Corrigan seemed to dump him every year when it got close to Christmas. Dev had decided this year to beat the older man to the punch, but this time for good. Corrigan, the history chair at the college, was deeply closeted and regardless of the promises he’d made to Dev in the past, he intended to stay that way. It pained Dev to think about how much time he’d invested in a relationship that could never be more than Michael’s dirty secret. He’d been glad when he’d finally lost the last shred of hope for the two of them. Michael, who had been used to controlling their splits, hadn’t taken it well.
Dev let the cold envelop him as he pushed thoughts of his ex from his thoughts. The chilly breeze made him feel alive. He smiled, as the idea reminded him of the first line in Hans Christian Andersons’ story of the snowman who fell in love with a stove. It is so delightfully cold,” said the Snow Man, “that it makes my whole body crackle”. Another doomed-from-the-start relationship.
It made him sad, and on this cold, blustery snow day, sad was the last thing Dev wanted to feel. No more thoughts of Michael, he told himself. No more thinking about men, period. Although, with no siblings and his parents out of state, the Christmas holiday was looking might lonely. At least this year, he wasn’t dealing with heartbreak.
The laughter of children down the street shook him from his reverie, and the large flakes floating on the air gave him a moment of pause. He leaned against his shovel, tilted his head back, and took a deep, cleansing breath. He stuck out his tongue as a fat flake drifted slowly toward his face and waited for it to land. When the chilly jewel touched down, he smiled, his tongue still out. He waited for it to completely melt before closing his mouth.
“What are you doing?”
The low, masculine voice surprised Dev. He leaned too hard on the shovel. The blade bent under the increased weight. His feet slipped beneath him, legs flying in the air, and he fell hard on his ass. His cheeks warmed—the ones on his face, that is. A difficult feat considering the below-freezing temps.
A hand, belonging to Jack Moroz, reached down to him. “Hey, sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Jack, who was around Dev’s height of six foot, was much broader across the shoulders. His attire included a bomber jacket, jeans, and a pair of black boots, all of which highlighted his masculine physique and none of which seemed appropriate for this Arctic-like day. The man styled his black hair short on the sides and longer on top, young Elvis-style. And, other than a few fine lines around his eyes, Jack hadn’t changed much in the past decade.
Dev avoided eye contact as he reluctantly took Jack’s hand and allowed the dark-haired man to pull him to a stand. He let go immediately before taking a step back. No sense in giving the guy the wrong impression. Like the one that might make it seem as if Dev would gladly give up air if it meant he could stare into Jack’s aquamarine colored eyes until his heart stopped.
Yep, that would definitely be the wrong impression. He reminded himself he was done with dudes. Although, Jack wasn’t just any guy. He’d been Dev’s first major crush. Unrequited as it had been. It dawned on Dev that he didn’t really know what had happened to Jack after high school. He’d always just assumed he was out in the world living a perfect life, with a perfect girlfriend or wife, and a perfect job.
“What?” Dev asked when he’d realized he’d zoned out while Jack was still talking.
Jack’s lush lips tugged up into a grin. “I said elephants like to sit in pineapple pudding.”
Dev shook his head and fought to keep a silly grin off his face. “That’s really random.”
“Yes,” Jack said with all seriousness. “I know.” He grinned again. “You look good, Dev. It’s been a long time.”
“You too.” Dev heart raced under Jack’s jewel-toned gaze. Jack remembered him, and that fact alone put some zing into Dev’s mood. “I mean, you look good. Healthy.” Healthy? Really? He might have well have raised the “no game” flag. As if game would help. Jack wasn’t interested in him in a romantic way. The idea was moronic wishful thinking. “It’s been a while.”
His schoolboy fantasies awoke as he remembered how often he’d dreamed about kissing Jack. Those lips, the way they curved, his upper lip thicker than the lower, were the star feature in most of Dev’s masturbation fantasies until well into his college years.
“Earth to Dev.” Jack tapped his arm. When Dev blinked at him, Jack smiled and said, “There you are. Let’s try this again.” He held out his ungloved hand. “Hello, Dev.”
“Hello.” He felt sixteen again—tongue-tied and ridiculously awkward. Dev stripped the glove off his right hand and shook with Jack. His skin tingled where it made contact with the gorgeous man. “I, uhm…” He dropped the shovel. “Hi.”
Jack grinned again. “I see you still live with your folks.” He pointed to Dev’s house. “Or are you just visiting?”
“It’s my place now.” Dev picked up the shovel and scooped up a load of snow from the drive and pitched it into the yard. “They moved to Texas after they retired, down by the Gulf. You know, where it’s warmer year round.”
Jack nodded. “I used to wonder what your room was like. Maybe you’ll show me sometime.” He winked, a wicked sparkle in his eye.
“You’re teasing me.”
Jack leaned in, his face a few inches from Dev’s. Dev’s stomach fluttered, and he felt light-headed with the growing buzz of pleasure at Jack’s sudden nearness.
“All I needed was an invitation.” Jack stepped away. “It’s nice to see you’re still around.”
Dev settled in for another scoop of snow and changed the subject. “I’ve always liked the cold. It’s silly, but I get melancholy for the snow. Winter is the best season.” It wasn’t just the snow. He remembered the frost pictures on his bedroom windows that appeared every year with sub-zero temperatures. His parents could never see the beautiful art etched in crystal, not the way he had. He smiled. His mother equated it to cloud animals and praised him for his imagination. She couldn’t understand that Dev saw more than bunnies and dragons.
In hindsight, she was probably right about those apparitions. He hadn’t seen a single one in years no matter how much frost built up on his windows.
“The cold weather makes you happy?” Jack snorted. “I don’t hear that very often.”
Dev tucked his chin. “What?”
“Are you sure you didn’t hit your head when you fell?” Jack asked.
Dev blushed again. “No, sadly, just my ass.” Against his better judgment, he pivoted his eyes to Jack’s face where they locked gazes. Jack grinned when Dev’s mouth parted slightly. Nooooo! God, he hoped he’d managed to keep his tongue in his mouth.
“I might need to check your ass out later to make sure it’s not broken.”
“Please don’t mess with me. I’m fragile right now, and I might take you seriously.”
“I hope you do.”
“Oh? So I should be impressed because you finally know I exist?” Dev’s frustration at his own lack of confidence forced him to challenge the notion that someone like Jack—gorgeous and edgy—would be interested in someone like him—average and nerdy.
“I noticed. I always thought you were cool.”
Dev shifted his eyes to meet Jack’s gaze. He’d never been adept at gauging sarcasm or sincerity, so he generally chose to err on the side of sarcasm. He shook his head. “Yeah, right.”
“Are you playing hooky today?” Jack asked, shifting the awkward conversation to another new topic.
Dev shrugged and gestured to the snow surrounding them. “Classes have been canceled on account of weather.” He sounded grouchy, but he couldn’t help it. He’d always been lousy at hiding his emotions. “Have you moved back or are you just visiting?”
“I’m just visiting for the winter. My dad needed some…extra help, and I agreed to take on more responsibility in the family business.”
Just visiting. Dev’s belly did a little flippity-flop. He was glad and sad all at the same time. Glad, because he wouldn’t be tormenting himself pining over the gorgeous Jack Moroz, and sad, because, well, pining was wholly underrated. “It really is nice to see you again.”
Before Jack could reply, a pink quilted bundle of exuberance hurtled toward Dev, knocking him down in the process. The back of his head hit the freshly shoveled asphalt.
“Baby!” Shelly Marsters, Dev’s neighbor and best friend, pulled down the muffler covering her mouth and kissed him soundly on the lips. “I knew I’d find you out here in this glorious weather.”
He knew when she was being sarcastic. “Ow,” he said, blinking away stars as the bright burst of pain on the back of his skull dulled. Shelly didn’t seem to notice.
“I had to put on five layers of clothes just to step out the door.” She rolled off Dev and onto her back. The padding made her look like a pink marshmallow, all fluff and stuff. She shielded her eyes from the sun as she stared up at a gaping Jack. “Oo-la-la-la. You are one sexy snow angel.”
From this angle, and with the bright glare directly in Dev’s eyes, Jack glowed. His skin took on a silvery white sheen, his black hair had a bluish cast, and his green-blue eyes twinkled like a dying star.
Shelly, still on the ground next to Dev, whacked him across the chest with her pillowed arm. “Don’t be rude, Dev! Introduce me to this handsome stranger.”
Dev groaned. “Oh, right. You’ve never met Jack. He moved away a few years before you bought the house. His dad is Mr. Moroz,” he explained as if Shelly needed to know Jack’s history. He sat up, bracing himself with his palms on the ground behind him. “Shelly meet Jack. Jack. Shelly.”
“Nice to meet you, Shelly.” Jack’s lips were pulled into a tight smile, and tiny frown lines creased the corners of his eyes. “How long have you all been together?”
Dev’s face flushed with heat again. Shelly laughed. “Seven years.”
“That’s great,” Jack said, but his furrowed brow and downturned lips contrasted his words. “I’m happy for you.”
Oh, God. Jack thought he was a vagina-loving heterosexual. He needed to put a stop to that notion immediately. “She’s teasing.”
“Oh.” Jack’s eyes brightened again. “In what way?”
“Alas, we have too much in common for it to work.”
“Really?” Jack asked, his smile warming. “I’ve never heard that as a relationship deal breaker before.”
“Well, the problem is that I like dick.” She winked at Jack. “And so does Dev.”
“Shelly!” Dev’s friend had zero filter for a medical professional.
The right side of Jack’s mouth tugged up in a crooked grin. “Oh. I get it.”
“I’m sure you do,” she said. “All. The. Time.”
Dev gave her what he hoped was a convincing shut-the-fuck-up look. “I’m sorry about Shells.”
Shelly shot Dev with a don’t-you-dare-apologize-for-me glare then bolted upright. She covered her mouth. “Oh, Dev. You’re bleeding.”
He reached behind his head and touched the sore spot. He brought his hand around so he could look. Bright, red blood wet his fingers. “I don’t feel so good.”
Shelly got on her knees and grabbed his arm. “Help me,” she said to Jack.
“Maybe he should see a doctor.”
“I am a doctor,” Shelly told him. “Now help me get him inside so I can get the wound cleaned and see what the heck is going on under all that blood.”
The ground wobbled around Dev. “I’m dizzy.”
“We’re going to get you inside,” Jack said.
Dev felt a hand hook under his other arm. He turned his head in that direction. Jack. The man still sparkled like diamond dust. “Shiny.” A loopy smile played on Dev’s lips. This close he could smell a mixture of peppermint candy and sugar cookie dough on the man. “You smell like Christmas,” he said.
Jack smiled. “Can you stand?”
“I think so.” His feet only touched the ground for a few seconds. In the next instant, two strong arms lifted him from the ground.
Jack clenched his jaw as his rigid cock pressed painfully against the fly of his jeans. Dev Garson, covered from head to toe in winter gear, still made him rock hard. When Jack had spotted him from across the street, his head back and tongue out waiting to taste the snow, it had taken all Jack’s willpower not to tackle him to the ground and kiss the daylights out of him. Dev had been one of Jack’s fantasies when he’d been young. It used to delight him to watch Dev trace the ornate crystal pictures on his bedroom window as the morning sunlight brought the scenes to life. He’d never met anyone with as much love for the cold as he.
Dev had never missed checking his window in the mornings during the winter months, and in a way, he’d become Jack’s greatest desire. Even now, as he had then, he knew a relationship with a human would be impossible. He questioned his reasoning in approaching Dev in the first place. He chalked it up to a couldn’t-help-myself moment.
When the woman in pink had kissed Dev’s pertly, pale lips, Jack had wanted so badly to trade places with her. Now, he carried the injured man to a small, but tidy ranch house.
“I’m snow-blind!” Shelly said. “I hope you haven’t moved your furniture around, Dev, or you might end up on the ground again.”
Jack could see just fine, and he directed the three of them to a camel-colored couch that rested against the windowed front wall of the living room. He avoided whacking his leg against the coffee table as he carefully set Dev down. Next, he opened the curtain and light flooded the room. There was an oil painting of snowy mountains on the right wall. A bookshelf on the left filled with academic books and a full set of encyclopedias, probably something his parents had bought when Dev was a child. There was an area rug that covered the dark hardwood floor in the living room. A media stand in the same wood as the coffee table that held a large flat screen television, a DVR, and a Blu-ray player, and two end tables on either side of the couch. He noted there were no Christmas decorations. Nothing in Dev’s home spoke of holiday cheer.
After they’d settled Dev onto the couch, Shelly said, “I’ll get a washcloth so I can examine his wound.”
“I’m fine,” Dev said.
“Take off his gloves and his coat, Jack,” she said as she walked toward the hall.
Jack stared down at the now prone Dev. His high school crush blinked up at Jack. Dev’s dreamy, gray-blue eyes were the color of storm clouds, angled down at the corners and deep-set. Jack’s heart started to pound.
“Here,” he said, leaning down so he could move Dev’s chin aside and unzip his parka. “Doctor’s orders.”
“You just want to get me out of my clothes,” Dev said, instantly blushing as the flirty words left his mouth.
“If I thought you were serious…” Jack let the opening hang.
Disappointingly, Dev said, “Ignore me.” He looked out the window but held up a gloved hand.
Jack removed the glove and brushed his palm against Dev’s. The electric spark in that touch quickened Jack’s breath. He took the other glove off without lingering. This was impossible. Why was he flirting with Dev? He’d forgotten how much he liked him, which was bad considering he’d never be able to be honest with him. He wasn’t allowed to tell Dev who or what he was. It was the reason he avoided relationships. He’d never really minded because he’d never really cared. But Dev was different. He always had been.
Dev waved his hand in front of Jack’s face to get his attention. “I can see your breath.”
“What?” Jack blinked now.
“I must have hit my head pretty hard because I can see your breath like a white fog.” Dev smiled. “Oh, and it feels cold.” He touched Jack’s cheek. “And your skin.” He shook his head “Ow. Not a good idea moving my head around.”
“What about my skin?” Jack stood, a trickle of fear running down his spine.
“I won’t, Dev.” Jack shoved his hands in his pockets to stop the tremble. “I promise.”
“It’s all glittery like a gazillion stars against a silvery-gray sky.”
Jack staggered back, his calves catching on the coffee table. “You really must have hit your head pretty hard. Maybe you need to go to the hospital. I have to go. I promised to help my dad…” His voice trailed off as he stumbled toward the door.
Shelly walked in as he reached the knob. “Hey, why’s he still in his coat?”
“I’m sorry,” Jack said. “I have to go.”
He burst out of the door, slamming it closed behind him. He started out at a fast walk toward his father’s house, but by the time he reached the street he was in a full-on sprint.
When he finally made it home, safe inside, he fell back against the wall and slid to the floor. His dad, a tall man with white hair, blue eyes, and the same silvery skin as Jack asked, “Are you okay, son?”
“He can see what I am, Dad,” Jack said numbly. “Dev knows I’m a Jack Frost.”
Three days after the “incident” as Shelly had started to call it, Monday had rolled around, and Dev was back to teaching upper-level astronomy to college students. Since Shelly was a family practice doctor, she’d insisted Dev go to the emergency room for a full workup, especially since he’d started hallucinating after his head injury. He’d really freaked Jack out with all his shiny skin talk.
He’d hoped to get a chance to see Jack over the weekend, but he’d had no such luck. He’d researched the phenomenon of hallucination after head trauma online and found one psychiatric report a few towns over of a man who believed he saw monsters. It reminded Dev of Donnor Thomas, who’d been committed a couple years ago—right before Christmas. He’d claimed his boss was an ogre—a real one, and that his roommate at the nut house was one of Santa’s elves. Shortly after his stay in the mental hospital, Donnor had met an underwear model and they’d moved to New York.
Lucky guy. He’d gone from insane to love-struck in the span of a few weeks. Dev wondered if crazy was a necessary component to falling in love. If it was, then he was well on his way. The hallucinations were getting more intense. In his second class of the day, he nearly had a heart attack when a young girl with blue skin and pointy ears sat in his front row. When he called out roll, she answered, “Amanda Green,” and he immediately recognized her voice, even if she didn’t look the same.
Also, the frost art of on his window was back again. He’d noted it Saturday morning when he’d gone into his office to grade some online posts by his students. It happened Sunday too, and again this morning. The sight of wintery mountains, a beautiful lake scene, and lush pines filled Dev with an unequaled joy. Shelly, like his parents, couldn’t see the wonderlands in the finely, frosted pane. He didn’t care. It was enough that he saw it.
During his office hours, he called Shelly. “I need my head examined.”
“I’ve been telling you that for years, darling. I’m so glad you’ve come to your senses.”
“Not by a shrink.” Dev rolled his eyes. “I think I need a neurologist.”
“Still seeing things?” Her tone grew serious. Dev recognized it as her doctor voice. “Are you having any headaches? Nausea? Double vision?”
“No, nothing like that, Shells.”
“That’s Doctor Shells to you, buddy.” He could hear her clicking at a keyboard. “Okay. I have found three neurologists, but they’re all two or more hours away. Tomorrow, I’ll pick you up on my way to the hospital when I go in so we can get a CT scan done. I’ll get it scheduled, and at least we can get a radiologist to look at it to see if you have a tumor or a brain bleed or something.”
“Those both sound like terrible options.” He regretted calling her. “I truly feel fine, Doctor Shells.”
“Other than hallucinating, you mean?”
“Yeah,” Dev said. “Other than that.”
“The scan is open at two tomorrow afternoon.” More clicking on the keyboard. “I’ve added you to the schedule. Plan to be there thirty minutes early. We’ll go without contrast for now so you can have lunch if you want.”
“I’m so glad,” Dev said, less than thrilled.
“Buck up, my love. Worst case, we’ll probably just see hamsters running backward on the wheel powering your brain.”
Dev sighed. “I love you too.”
“It’s about time you gave me your undying declaration of amor.” He could hear the smile in her voice, and it made him smile. “Tomorrow?” she asked.
“Tomorrow,” Dev agreed. He disconnected the call and jumped in his chair when a large creature with two small tusks sticking out of his mouth walked into his office.
“Professor Garson,” the troll-looking monster said. “Can I get help with my dissertation?” He handed Dev a neatly bound partial thesis.
“Black Hole Theory: Science or Science Fiction”
by Brad Painter.
“Uh, sure, Brad. Just leave it with me.” He knew he must have looked foolish the way he avoided eye contact with the young man. “I’ll have some notes for you next week.”
“That’s great!” the monster said, in a very excited and non-monstery voice. “I’ll stop in next Monday then.”
Dev waved the paper in the air, effectively blocking his view of the creature. “I’ll see you then.” Maybe. If he survived the brain tumor, or whatever was making his mind play these illusionary tricks on him. His phone rang. The number was unknown, but his Midwestern politeness had him answering anyhow. “Hello.”
“Hello, Dev,” the man on the other end said. “This is Jack.”
“I know.” A giddy laugh rose up in him, and he stomped it down. “I’m just surprised to get a call from you.”
“I wanted to apologize for rushing out the other day. Are you okay now?”
“Yes, fine,” he lied.
“Oh, great,” Jack said. “Maybe we can get a bite tonight.” He quickly added, “On me, of course. My way of apologizing.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for. It wasn’t like you threw Shelly on top of me.”
“Still,” Jack said. “I shouldn’t have rushed off. Dinner?”
Dev pushed a pile of papers to the left on his desk. They needed to be graded by Wednesday morning. “Why don’t you come to my house for dinner? I’ll order something in. We can catch up.”
“Deal,” said Jack. “But I’m bringing dinner. Five-thirty okay?”
“Make it six.”
“It’s a date,” Jack said and hung up.
Dev stared dumbstruck at his computer monitor as the screensaver bounced around hypnotically. When he could function again, he hit Shelly’s number. When she picked up, he paced his breathing and said, “Oh my God, Shells. It’s a date.” He hung up on her and ignored the onslaught of return calls and text messages from her.
“What date?” Tall, dark, and distinguished appeared in the door of Dev’s office. Michael. His stiff lips turned downward. “Do you have a date?”
“What do you want?”
“Is that why you broke up with me? Because you’re seeing someone else?” Dev could hear the tight tension in Michael’s voice.
“How many times have you broken up with me before Christmas?” Dev ached to his toes. For too many years, Michael had made him feel worthless. “I saved you the trouble this year.”
“Keep your voice down,” Michael said in a hushed tone. “Someone might hear.”
Dev shook his head, feeling sad, yes, but also relieved. Being without Michael was far less painful than being with him. “I have a lot of work to do.”
“Dev. Don’t do this to me. To us.”
“We’re done,” Dev said without rancor. “Please go.”
Michael turned on his heel and walked away in an angry huff. Dev didn’t care. Michael was the past, and tonight he had a date with, he hoped, his future. He rubbed the sore spot on the back of his head and hoped his brain didn’t explode and ruin his dinner plans.