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Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident

RJ Scott

Copyright RJ Scott 2013

Smashwords Edition

Published by Love Lane Books Limited

All Rights Reserved

This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission. This book cannot be copied in any format, sold, or otherwise transferred from your computer to another through upload to a file sharing peer to peer program, for free or for a fee. Such action is illegal and in violation of Copyright Law.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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Contents

Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident

Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident

When the snow began the white flakes were soft, gentle kisses that landed on Cameron’s jacket and melted almost instantly. He brushed at his nose as one landed there and a single drop of ice slid off the slope of the end.

“We should finish up now,” Neal advised. Cameron’s brother and partner in their small construction company peered up at the heavy clouds that threatened a big dump of the white stuff on Christmas Eve. An event that hadn’t hit Tacoma for years. Cameron’s watch showed it was only eleven am, but he wasn’t going to argue with Neal. He shoved hard at the last piece of wood they were covering with tarpaulin. His brother was right, they were the wrong side of the bridge and if offices decided to send staff home, add in the snow and it would be hell to get home themselves.

“Agreed,” he said with a shiver. There was no sense in hanging around at this large empty house when the owners weren’t back for a month—Cameron and Neal could make the time up after Christmas. At the car the brothers exchanged back-slapping hugs and wishes for a good Christmas, but Neal didn’t let him go straight away. He knew how much Cameron hated the snow and ice and how memories of Mark haunted him at this time of year.

“You’ll be okay, Cam.” Cameron held his brother tight for an instant longer, then released him. Neal looked at him steadily. “I can drive us both; we can leave your truck in the garage?”

For a few seconds Cameron actually considered the offer, then he shook his head. “I’ll be home in twenty. Stupid not to have my truck at home.”

Home. Emma, Jason, Deefur.

By the time he made it home, the flakes were large and heavy and visibility was bad. He was never more relieved to see Jason’s car in the garage, and as soon as the gates closed behind him and he turned off the car, he relaxed the death grip he had on the steering wheel. The drive had been pretty easy. The roads only just started to fill as Cameron made his way out of the city itself and into the suburbs, and he berated himself for even thinking of wimping out on driving. As his tension became manageable, he slumped in his seat and closed his eyes.

The snow had been pristine the evening the cops knocked on his door, as gorgeous and fresh a carpet as he’d ever seen in the streetlights. He hadn’t even put two and two together when he opened the door. An accident on the highway, a semi, Mark’s car. Suddenly his husband was gone, killed by bad luck and hidden ice. Gone without even being able to say goodbye.

This was his first real Christmas with Jason; they’d fought their attraction last year, still employer and nanny. He had Jason now, but still he couldn’t shake the memories that crept up on him at times when the ice and the cold stole into his heart. Somehow Mark wouldn’t let go of him, with memories all wrapped up in fear. He knew it was irrational. People drove in the icy snow all the time, and nothing was going to happen to Jason and Emma if they went out. Tragedy had already rocked his life once, it wouldn’t happen again because he wouldn’t let it. But, jeez, the minute it turned cold Cameron began to worry about Jason and Emma in the car, even if it was only traveling from home to school and back. Jason empathized, he always did. He was freakishly understanding, utterly compassionate, knew what was in Cameron’s head, but he never challenged it, and neither did Cameron. Which left Cameron sitting here, resentful of the gripping memories that meant he felt so damn scared.

The door between garage and house opened, and Jason descended the steps into the parking area. He was smiling and had his hand twisted in Deefur’s collar. Cameron made a show of being very focused on gathering wallet and papers, then left the car before pocketing his keys.

Jason moved to his side and without words, he pulled Cameron close. They hugged this way until Cameron realized the cold in the garage was enough to have both men shivering.

“Hey, sexy,” Jason said finally.

“Hey, yourself,” Cameron replied. They said the same thing every night. Buried deep in Jason’s hold, Cameron was home, both in heart and place.

“Let’s get inside. I have coffee.”

“I need coffee.”

“You’re home early.” Jason indicated Cameron should go up the step, then stopped on the bottom one. Cameron instinctively turned. This was a ritual, every night, when Cameron came in, if Jason was here then they would steal kisses before they spent time with Emma. Jason said he couldn’t go all day without Cameron’s kisses, let alone all evening until Emma was in bed. Cameron was happy to oblige. He needed that grounding connection today.

Jason cradled his face and the kisses were gentle, a hello and an I love you all wrapped up in the soft touch. They parted and Jason’s hazel-eyed gaze was thoughtful. He added another hug as if he knew exactly what was in Cameron’s head, and Cameron felt ashamed that he was allowing old fears to get to him so badly. Jason wouldn’t call him on his over protectiveness, or tell him he shouldn’t grieve. He would just be there for Cameron until Christmas passed and another year began.

“Emma is waiting for the Christmas cookies to be done.”

You made cookies?” Of course he did. Jason was the perfect partner, he cooked, he worked, he made their house a home, Cameron’s daughter adored him, Deefur adored him, and Cameron was so in love with Jason.. How much more perfect could Cameron reasonably get in his life before the universe decided to balance it out with more tragedy?

“Of course. Christmas trees, Santas, present shapes, and elephants.” Jason smiled as he said the last.

“Christmas elephants?”

“I’ll let Emma explain that one. Let’s just say it’s an interesting story.”

Jason called Deefur, but the Great Dane was evidently experiencing his oft-used selective deafness. He was rooting in amongst the boxes they used for storage of everything from old photos, baby clothes to all the folders from Jason’s degree course, which he kept just in case. Thinking of the degree had Cameron remembering warmer summer days and seeing his lover receiving his diploma. Jason had passed with flying colors, and he’d started working at the local school where Emma attended preschool in September. Jason was loved by every child as evidenced by the thirty four hand-made Christmas cards that adorned the kitchen notice board. He was also, according to most of the parents, the architect of the best Christmas Play the school had ever had. Apparently Elvis as Santa was a Very Good Thing.

“Deefur, come on.” Jason said. He released his hold on Cameron and encouraged Deefur out of the boxes with a few muttered words and a hand on his collar again. Together they made their way up into the house, and as soon as Cameron rounded the corner, Emma flew at him from the kitchen. He scooped her up and held her high before swinging her around.

“Daddy!” she shouted in glee as she cuddled in tight. Just her weight in his arms and her scent made some of his tension slip away. Jason and Emma were a formidable team against the memories that pulled him down. Deefur scrabbled past him but lost traction on the tiles and ended up slipping under the table. The whole solid pine table moved, and Deefur emerged looking sheepish before shaking from nose to tail.

“Bed, Deefur,” Jason commanded. Deefur immediately slunk to his bed and made a big show of circling and mouthing the material before he slumped down nose to tail with a put-upon sigh.

“He’s been like this all day,” Jason said fondly. “I think he knew it was going to snow; it’s like he has the wind in his tail.”

“We made cookies,” Emma announced. “Santas and trees, but we didn’t have donkeys, so guess what we used.”

Cameron didn’t give away that he knew. He settled Emma back on her feet.

“I don’t know, pumpkin, what did you use?”

“Elephants,” she announced grandly. “I’m ’tending they’re fat donkeys an’ I chopped off the trunks.”

“That is such a good idea,” Cameron praised. Emma grinned up at him.

“Will you help me decorate them?”

“Of course I will, I just need a shower first. Is that okay?”

Emma rolled her eyes. “Can’t do it yet anyway, ‘cause they’ll be very hot for a long time,” she advised seriously. “We have hours and hours. I’m gonna put on Muppet Christmas.” She left the kitchen in a rush and the next thing Cameron heard was the familiar music of the movie.

Jason pulled out a tray of cookies from the oven and laid it on a glass chopping board. “I don’t know about Deefur, but Emma is so excited she can’t sit still. We’ve done paper chains, cookies, wrapped your presents, walked the dog, watched the Muppets once already today, all in between discussing whether Santa would bring her a bike.” He lifted each cookie gently off the tray and onto a cooling rack.

Cameron listened to the words, all the things Jason had done with Emma, the scents of a perfect Christmas filling their house, and love overwhelmed him and tears choked his throat. The bike was in pieces ready to be put together.

“Jason,” he said. He didn’t know what he wanted to say, but so much was shut up inside his head, all his fears about tomorrows and how long this happiness could last. Deefur stirred in his bed and let out a doggy snort. Jason looked at Cameron but abruptly Cameron didn’t know what to say. In a smooth move he used Deefur as a distractioncrouching down then burying his hands in Deefur’s fur.

“I get it, you know,” Jason said softly from his side. Cameron glanced up to see Jason taking a knee down next to him. “Christmas isn’t the easiest time for memories.”

“I just…” Cameron stopped.

“It’s fine, Cam.” Jason touched his arm. “The snow and ice today… I promise you, it’s honest and real to feel the way you do. He was your husband, the other half of you. You love him.”

“Jason, we need to talk—”

“Jason! The DVD won't work, it just stopped.”

Jason grinned at Cameron as if the conversation they were having was done. “Talk later,” he said with a nod. Cameron, coward that he was, decided he was happy to leave the memories in his head where they were. He had to make Jason see he wasn’t lost in the past, but scared for the future. Yes, he had every right to grieve, but not on Christmas Eve, when his lover and his daughter were here for him.

Coming, Em,” Jason said and pushed himself to stand. Cameron stayed where he was and laid a hand on Deefur’s heart. Jason’s words, he was the other half of you, left Cameron feeling unbearably sad. Yes, Mark had been his partner, his lover, his husband, and deciding to become a family had been natural, but that had been before. Cameron was with Jason now. How much longer was it okay for Cameron to worry and fear and base his future on a tragedy in the past? And why was Jason so understanding? Shouldn’t he be angry and demanding for Cameron to get his head out of his ass? Cameron wished he would because he was having a damn hard time doing it himself.

Selfish. Cameron Jackson, you need to stop being so fucking selfish.

By the time Jason returned to the kitchen, Cameron had pulled himself together and excused himself for a shower. With determination, he pushed away all the what ifs and made a concerted effort to focus on the here and now. He pulled on worn, soft jeans, the ones with the tears at the base of his butt, the ones that never failed to have Jason spend all evening with his hand on Cameron’s ass. Then he chose the sapphire blue university sweatshirt that was so old the logo had faded—Jason once said he loved the way it made Cameron’s eyes look so much bluer. Finally Cameron opened his sock drawer and chose last year’s Santa socks that Emma had bought him. If you couldn’t wear Santa stuck in a chimney in lurid red and yellow on Christmas Eve, when could you?

Reaching into the back of the drawer, his hand connected with his box of memories and treasures, and without thought he took it back to sit on the bed.

“Daddy, we’re decorating,” Emma informed him from the door.

“Close the door and come here, baby,” Cameron said immediately. “I have some things to show you.”

“What about the donkeys?” Emma asked, concerned.

“In a bit,” he said. “Look, this is you when you were born.” He held up two photos of Emma as a baby, and she peered at them closely.

“I was all wrinkly,” she said with a frown.

“All babies are like that.”

“Even you?”

“Even me. And look, this is Mark, holding you.”

Emma took the photo from his hand. “He’s nice.”

“He loved you,” Cameron said gently.

She looked up at him, and Cameron knew he was losing his audience. Being four wasn’t the age to have in-depth discussions of who would have loved her if they’d still been alive.

“Like Jason loves me,” she said finally.

“Just like that,” Cameron said gently. Then he added. “I have something to ask you. Serious stuff, you okay to listen to me?”

Emma clambered off his lap and onto the quilt. Scrambling to sit cross-legged, she finally waited with an expectant expression on her cute features. “Yep,” she said.

You want to call Jason daddy?” he asked. Because that was the only way he could think of explaining what he wanted.

“I already have a daddy, you’re my daddy,” Emma said carefully. “But I could call him something else, like Daddy J or something.”

“He’d like that.”

“But—” Emma bit her lip. “—he’s not like you; he’s not my proper daddy.”

Cameron glanced back to make sure the door was shut. “What if I want to make Jason your proper daddy.”

“Like…how?”

Cameron fingered the box he’d slipped in his pocket. The same ring he’d hidden in his memories box since he’d bought the simple bands two weeks before. “I was thinking we could ask him to marry us.”

Emma said nothing; instead, she threw herself at him with a dramatic hug. “I’d love that. Then he could be my real daddy.”

“But it’s a secret,” Cameron said. “You can’t tell him yet.”

“I can keep secrets. I didn’t tell anyone Freddy was eating crayons.” She smiled up at him with her dimples of cute. Then she got serious. “You can’t tell anyone about Freddy.”

Cameron placed a cross on his heart. “Promise.”

“Can we go ice cookies now?”

“After one last hug.”

Emma squeezed him tight, and after a short tickle session, the two emerged into the kitchen breathless and red in the face. Jason turned from the oven, his hands in gloves and yet another tray of cookies in all their elephant goodness spread on the flat surface.

“Did you get him?” he asked Emma.

“Big time,” she said. The two exchanged grins and the last of the tension in Cameron slid away. He crossed to Jason and took advantage of the fact that his lover had his hands full to sneak in a sideways kiss. Jason huffed a laugh, and they broke apart. Jason mixed up green icing, with Cameron in charge of red, and Emma concentrated hard on making brown for the donkeys.

The cookie icing passed with a lot of laughter, and when Cameron had eaten his twentieth discarded elephant trunk, even he had to call time on any more eating of the actual cookies. Emma was happy to sit and watch a movie after they had tidied up, and Jason grasped Cameron’s hand, looking utterly determined.

“Did you see what I bought?” He indicated up on to the doorframe between dining room and hall. From the frame hung a bundle of mistletoe wrapped with red ribbon.

“We don’t need that to start a kiss,” Cameron teased. He leaned back on the doorframe and tugged Jason’s snowman-emblazoned sweater until Jason had no choice but to step forward and into his arms. Jason chuckled as he tumbled forward, and Cameron caught the laugh in a kiss. Passion ignited between them as they embraced beneath the mistletoe. Just a single touch from Jason, and Cameron was hard and needy. He reached up and curled his hands into Jason’s soft, dark hair, and he tilted his head to deepen the kiss. Jason groaned low and deep and rested his hands on Cameron’s hips.

“I love you so much,” Jason said as they parted for air. Cameron didn’t release the grip in Jason’s hair and stared deep into hazel eyes. Jason was his everything and he wanted to ask him now, here in the hallway of their home. He made to move away from the door, but his sweater snagged on something, and distracted, he pulled but couldn’t move.

Jason untangled the hole in the sweater from the nail sticking out of the wall. “Yeah,” he said sheepishly. “My bad, I had to move the wiring for the fairy lights for the mistletoe to stay up.”

“I go to work for one day and you destroy the house?” Cameron deadpanned.

Jason waggled his eyebrows and deepened his voice. “It only takes one day,” he said dramatically.

The moment to ask Jason passed as Emma came out to investigate their laughter with Deefur in tow. All of them ended up in a heap on the floor with Deefur on his back and four paws in the air. Emma clambered over him, and he huffed a low woof before settling to allow her to do whatever she needed. Cameron scooted back to lean against the wall, watching as Jason rough played with Deefur and Emma. He was so careful, but so invested in reducing Emma to giggles and getting Deefur racing around the house all rabbity and mad-eyed.

Emma was easy to get to bed. At her age she was still young enough for sleep to overcome excitement, and it was only seven pm when she finally gave in and was tucked in with an empty Christmas stocking hanging on the end of her bed.

“Ready to put this bike together?” Jason said, stretching tall and walking his fingers on the low ceiling. Cameron could no more resist touching his lover than Deefur could not eat everything in sight. The hug moved into a heated kiss. Evenings where they started just by kissing and hugging always ended up with the hottest, most passionate lovemaking Cameron had ever experienced. The slow buildup was perfect.

Like a million dads all over the world, building the bike was a source of pride and of great irritation.

“The picture made it look so easy,” Cameron grumped.

Jason took the piece of cerise pink plastic from Cameron and turned it the other way up. In that position it slid neatly over the handle.

“There you go,” he said. Then he sat back on his haunches to admire the little bike with its training wheels. He looked so ridiculously proud that Cameron wanted to ask him to marry him there and then. But he didn’t. Not when Deefur sauntered up next to them and whined.

Jason petted him, then turned his attention back to the bike, fiddling with the training wheels with an intense look of concentration on his face. Deefur whined again and this time he lay down with his head on his paws.

“What’s wrong, boy?” Cameron asked.

“He ate an entire family bag of Cheetos this morning,” Jason said. Stopping what he was doing, he joined Cameron in ruffling Deefur’s fur. “All that was left were suspicious orange stains on his muzzle and an empty bag added to his collection in the hedge.”

“Didja, Deefur?” Cameron leaned in to kiss the dog’s head. “You got tummy ache?” He chuckled as he said this. Deefur had a way of eating the weirdest stuff, and he would add each empty container to what amounted to a trophy cabinet in the twisted undergrowth of the row of bushes at the back of their yard. Jason found a shoe out there last week, chewed in half and proudly placed in with two egg boxes and an empty carton of orange juice. Deefur butted his hand as Cameron stroked from the tip of his nose to scratch between his eyes.

“Right, we’re done,” Jason announced. He stood and picked up the bike. “We gonna wrap this?” he asked doubtfully. “We could just put a throw over it, or undo a roll of paper and somehow…” He stopped, then turned the bike this way and that.

“I love that you are even stopping to consider what to do.”

Jason wrinkled his nose. “I want this Christmas to be perfect for Emma.” He looked Cameron in the eye. “It’s important to me.”

Cameron stood and removed the bike from Jason’s hold before hugging him close. “What is special is that you are here with us,” he said. “Now, I’m making hot chocolate, you want some?”

“With marshmallows and cream?” Jason said hopefully.

Cameron shook his head in exasperation. He was the one with the sweet tooth, yet he would pile on the weight if he wasn’t careful. But, Jason, the man who could take or leave sugary goodness, had the metabolism of a racehorse. “I wouldn’t make it any other way,” he said softly.

They kissed and just then would have been the perfect time to ask Jason to marry him, but maybe after the chocolate when they were sitting with the main lights off and the room lit only by the tree lights. That would be better. Decision made, he moved to the kitchen and took a second look when he saw the entire string of fairy lights in the hall had fallen haphazard to the floor. Clearly, hanging them by the one remaining hook wasn’t enough to hold them upright. Shaking his head and storing away the teasing he could do to Jason later, he scooped up the lights and with some twisting, managed to get them to stay up. He stepped back to admire them and stood on something squishy underfoot.

When he glanced down to see the mistletoe bunch in pieces on the floor he frowned. It didn’t look like it had just fallen in one place, it appeared spread out and…torn…a couple of the white berries were squashed. Had he just done that when he stepped on them? Fuck. Suddenly, with absolute clarity, he knew what could have happened.

“Jason!” He slip-slid his way around the corner to where Deefur lay and Jason was fussing with him. “Deefur’s eaten the stuff, the things, the kissing stuff.”

Jason stumbled to stand. “What?”

“The mistletoe, I think he’s…” Cameron fell to his knees next to Deefur. “Jesus. Fuck. Deefur. What do we do?” Cameron prized open Deefur’s mouth, like that was going to do any good, whatever Deefur ate spent a few seconds in his mouth and was more than likely swallowed whole.

“The vet. We should take him? Phone them, I’ve seen this before, he’s a big dog, he’ll be fine.” Jason’s voice was fractured and he appeared to be recalling information in small pieces. He volunteered at a dog sanctuary, that was how he and Cameron had met, but he wasn’t a vet. “Wait here,” he ordered. He left and came back immediately with a phone and dialed a number.

“Jason?”

Jason managed to speak relatively clearly as soon as he connected. “I have a Great Dane, we think he’s eaten mistletoe. No sickness, but he’s whining and lethargic… I can…we can be there in twenty.” Jason glanced down at Deefur. “We just need to get him in the car.” He hung up. “Veterinarian said he was there and we could take him, that we’re not worry, and that he’ll just need checking over.”

“You get Emma, I’ll see if I can get Deefur into the car.”

Jason shook his head. “I’ll ask Maureen next door to watch her.”

“On Christmas Eve?” Cameron said doubtfully. Then as he followed the thought process to its end, he nodded as he had reached the same conclusion as Jason. “Okay, see if she’ll come over.”

Jason left at a sprint to the front door and out into the snowy night. The swirl of snow that entered the house as he left was enough to remind Cameron of just what they were facing to get to the vet’s. The place was only a five minute drive—they normally walked for his injections and checkups. Maybe Deefur would walk?

“C’mon, Deefur, let’s get you standing up.” He tried to get Deefur up, and after a few tugs the huge weight of dog was finally on all paws. He looked okay, if a little sad and droopy eyed, and his nose was dry. There was no way he’d be walking anywhere tonight. Slipping on sneakers, Cameron backed out of the hall and toward the door from the kitchen to the garage. Slowly Deefur went with him, and after some persuasion the Great Dane was finally on the back seat lying down with his nose buried in his paws. There was no way Cameron was fighting to get him into his usual place in the trunk. Jason clattered down the steps.

“Maureen is upstairs to keep an eye on Emma,” he summarized.

Cameron glanced up the stairs at the sliver of light from the kitchen. “You’re sure?”

“She’s fine. Let’s go.”

Irritation sparked in Cameron. Jason was acting like Emma wasn’t important and that Cameron shouldn’t worry. Then he saw Jason’s tortured expression and knew he was wrong. So much for a quiet romantic Christmas Eve snuggle on the sofa.

“I’ll drive,” Cameron announced. He could admit to himself he was a giant control freak and Jason knew that. If there was ice or snow or rain or hell, it was windy, then Cameron drove. They backed out onto the road as slowly as they could. The last thing they needed was to be stranded in the snowy roads outside their own damn front door.

Carefully Cameron made his way to the veterinarian, and it took longer than the few minutes it should have. Way longer. Cameron didn’t recognize the man in scrubs who was looking out of the window—it certainly wasn’t his normal veterinarian—probably some kind of cover for Christmas. In a flurry of motion and much faster than Cameron imagined, Deefur was in the examination room, his bulk lying on a floor-level bed that the vet cranked up carefully.

Cameron and Jason were ushered out of the room and suddenly it was just the two of them in the outer waiting area.

“What if he dies?” Cameron said in a dead voice.

“He won’t die,” Jason said immediately.

“How can you be sure of that?” Cameron challenged. Jason didn’t answer, and Cameron twisted his fingers in his hair. “How could we even have that stuff in the house?” The words just tumbled out and they sounded like an accusation. He didn’t mean them to; this wasn’t Jason’s fault. He quickly looked at Jason expecting to see devastation at the words, instead all he saw was compassion and fear in Jason’s eyes. Why didn’t Jason call Cameron on this? How could he stand there and allow Cameron to say something so awful? What kind of man was Cameron to even say something like that?

“I’m so sorry,” Jason murmured. “It’s all my fault.”

Cameron gripped his arm. “Bullshit,” he said firmly. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I didn’t mean any of that.”

“You’re right, though, I should have read up on what could hurt a dog and not had it in the house.”

“You didn’t know the damn stuff would fall down.”

“But he’s the last link you have to your husband, the man you love. Deefur was Mark’s dog. If he dies”—Jason yanked his arm free of Cameron’s hold—“how the hell will you ever get that connection back?”

Jason slumped in the nearest seat, and Cameron sat opposite him as he processed what Jason had said. Was that really what he thought? That Deefur was Mark’s dog? That Mark was still the man he loved?

“Jason?” He opened his mouth to ask all the questions that were on the tip of his tongue, but an assistant arrived with a clipboard.

“Can I get a signature and a few details?”

“He’s in your computer,” Cameron said tiredly.

“And our computers are updating software and down for the next hour.” She shrugged in apology. “Christmas Eve is normally quiet,” she added. “So if I can take your dog’s information.”

The process took a good fifteen minutes, and Cameron didn’t fail to notice it was Jason who knew the most about Deefur, from his diet to his toilet habits and the routes they took for walks. All of it was information that Cameron didn’t have to know, because Jason was the other half of this couple who tried their hardest to raise a daughter, deal with a dog who had a personality the size of a building, and keep on top of everything like their own careers. They were a team. When the assistant left, saying blood was being taken and that the results would be back shortly, Jason was suddenly silent. Cameron knew he had to fix this even though his stomach churned with fear for Deefur. He rose and sat next to Jason, then very deliberately took his hand.

“No one is to blame for this,” Cameron began carefully. “Deefur is a menace with the way he eats everything in sight. We know that.”

Jason squeezed his hand. “I know,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean to overreact.”

“And the other bit, about Mark, we need to talk.”

Jason nodded. “I get it,” he said. “If I was married to someone and they died like he did, I am not sure I would have survived as well as you.”

Cameron sighed. “It was a long time ago now. Mark will always have a place in my heart, all caught up and entwined with Emma and Deefur.” Cameron huffed a laugh. “But it’s a small part now. I have you, and a new life, and I never thought I would ever be as lucky again. Deefur isn’t just Mark’s dog, any more than Emma is only my daughter.”

“I love you too,” Jason laced his fingers with Cameron’s.

“And we’ll talk when we get home?”

“Home,” Jason confirmed.

The veterinarian came out to them with a smile on his face. Both Cameron and Jason stood. Just that smile was enough for the stress to slide away from Cameron. “I’ve done a blood draw,” he announced. “The blood work all came back in the normal reference ranges. There’s no signs of toxicity. Looks like Deefur just has an upset tummy, and given he was just sick all over the floor, I’m guessing that too will pass.”

“So we can take him home?” Jason asked.

“You can. My assistant will give you a leaflet, but you should look for lethargy, gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting or loss of appetite. Any problems come straight back.”

They collected Deefur, who quite the opposite of ill looked like a damn huge puppy, all bouncy and bright-eyed. His nose was even wet. Looked like vomiting on the floor of the examination room was actually a good thing. He even jumped into the crate in the back of the car, and after a careful drive home they were finally able to thank Maureen profusely, promising her chocolates, then shutting the door on the world. Deefur immediately went to his bowl, nosing it around the kitchen and finally giving in, resigned to just having a full water bowl. With a groan and a grunt and a huff of displeasure, Deefur curled nose to tail on his bed.

“You want that hot chocolate now?” Cameron asked.

“God, please. I’ll check in on Emma and meet you in the front room.”

Cameron made chocolate and carried it in to the room. He placed the two mugs on the small table in front of the sofas, then did his own check in on Emma. Finally the two men sat on the sofa and Cameron dimmed the lights.

“So, you said you wanted to talk,” Jason began. He moved on the sofa so he could face Cameron, and the changing lights on the tree cast an eerie glow about his lover’s face. “We can talk now, while Emma is asleep.”

Where do I start? How do I show Jason how I really feel?

Finally he thought of how to word everything.

“I’ve been so unfair to you,” Cameron began.

“What do you mean? No you haven’t. I’m so lucky to be here with Emma and you.”

“No, I’ve taken you for granted and I realize that. Every day when I leave Emma with you, and when Deefur is walked, and dinner is cooked, it’s as if you have come into my life and grounded me, made me happier. Then today, coming home, with the ice and the snow, all I could think of was the absolute fear of what I lost happening again.”

Jason reached out and grasped his hand. “You won’t lose Emma.”

“Or you? Can you promise me you won’t leave me?”

Jason looked thoughtful and tilted his head. “I can’t promise that, Cam. We all have to die someday.”

“I didn’t mean that,” Cam said immediately. Of course that was what Jason would think he meant—it wasn’t as if he had been specific in what he was trying to explain. “I meant, please stay here, forever, with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Jason replied. He looked at Cameron, then frowned. “Are you okay?”

“I should tell you every day how much I love you and also that I’ve been thinking about things and about why I get stuck on repeat in my head and I’ve decided I want to move.” Cameron inhaled sharply as he spoke the words. The truth had been staring him in the face for so long: he wanted new but he’d never admitted it out loud.

“You do tell me you love me every day, and wait, you want to move?” Jason summarized, seemingly confused.

I want to start fresh with you where you can be sure that Deefur is our dog, and Emma is our daughter, and you never have to wonder if you are singularly the most important man in my life.”

Jason opened his mouth to say something, then shut it just as quickly. He reached for his mug, apparently as a delaying tactic, and took a healthy gulp of chocolate. When he moved the mug away from his mouth, he had a perfect creamy moustache and his lips looked damp and inviting. With a swift move, Cameron tasted the cream and pushed his way inside Jason’s mouth. He heard the oomph from Jason and hoped he hadn’t been the cause of a mug of spilled chocolate all down Jason’s front. They kissed and somehow Jason maneuvered them until they lay side by side on the sofa. What he had done with the chocolate Cameron didn’t know.

“We don’t have to move,” Jason said softly. “I love it here, and it’s Emma’s home.”

“But I need you to realize I’m not lost in the past, that I’m here for you, and I want a future.”

“I already do. Cam, you’re scaring me. A home isn’t a house, it’s in the heart, and I love my home.”

“Marry me, Jason.” Cameron wriggled until he had the box out of his pocket, and then he handed it to Jason. He’d wanted soft lighting, music, wine, and to be on one knee for this. Well one out of four wasn’t bad, he guessed.

Jason awkwardly opened the small box because one of his arms was trapped under Cameron. His eyes widened when he saw the identical platinum bands nestled in the velvet and silk inside. He moved the box a little so more of the tree light fell on them.

“They’re beautiful,” he whispered.

“I asked Emma if it was okay for us to marry you.”

Jason lifted his gaze to Cameron; his eyes looked suspiciously bright. “What did she say?”

“Yes. Say yes to me as well, Jason.”

Jason blinked. “Yes. God, yes.”

They embraced and talked until finally Cameron slid off the sofa and held out a hand to Jason. “Let’s go to bed,” he said softly. “We can talk more there.”

They stopped by Deefur, who raised his head like he was questioning why two of his humans were still up this late.

Jason turned to Cameron. “I know we said we’d never let him sleep in our room, but I want to keep an eye on him, in case he needs us.”

“Yes” was all Cameron said.

Deefur trotted after them and was probably as confused as hell. Of course Cameron didn’t count on Deefur wanting up on the bed. But when he climbed up, looking suitable pathetic with big brown puppy eyes, who could tell him off? Cameron and Jason soon realized there wasn’t much room for two men and a Great Dane, even on a queen bed.

Which is how Cameron and Jason, newly engaged and planning a wedding in the summer, ended up sleeping back out on the sofa and taking it in turns to check on Deefur.

And how Deefur, after the great mistletoe incident, ended up with the best bed in the house.

THE END

RJ Scott

RJ Scott lives just outside London. She has been writing since age six, when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and was told to write a story. Two sides of A4 about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born. She loves reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror; however, her first real love will always be the world of romance. Her goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and more than a hint of happily ever after.

Email: rj@rjscott.co.uk

Webpage: www.rjscott.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.rjscott

Twitter: rjscott_author

Also from RJ Scott

For an up to date list of all books please visit www.rjscott.co.uk

CONTEMPORARY

Texas

The Heart of Texas #1

Texas Winter #2

Texas Heat #3

Texas Family #4

Texas Christmas #5

Texas Fall #6

Sanctuary

Guarding Morgan #1

The Only Easy Day #2

Face Value #3

Still Waters #4

Full Circle #5

The Journal of Sanctuary One #6

Worlds Collide #7

Bodyguards Inc

Bodyguard to a Sex God #1

The Ex Factor #2

Max and the Prince #3 (coming soon)

Heroes

A Reason To Stay #1

Last Marine Standing #2

Deacon’s Law #3 (coming soon)

Deefur

Deefur Dog

Deefur and the Great Mistletoe Incident

Standalones

The Christmas Throwaway

New York Christmas

Jesse’s Christmas

Angel In A Book Shop

Valentine 2525

Child of the Storm

Spirit Bear

All the King’s Men

One Night

The Decisions We Make

The Art of Words (with Meredith Russell)

The Fitzwarren Inheritance

The Soldier’s Tale (book 2)

Sapphire Cay - with Meredith Russell)

Follow the Sun #1

Under the Sun #2

Chase the Sun #3

Christmas in the Sun #4

Capture the Sun #5

Ellery Mountain

The Fireman & the Cop #1

The Teacher & the Soldier #2

The Carpenter & the Actor #3

The Doctor & the Bad Boy #4

The Paramedic & the Writer #5

The Barman & the SEAL #6

The Agent & the Model #7

Montana

Crooked Tree Ranch

PARANORMAL

Supernatural Bounty Hunters

The Vampire Contract #1

The Guilty Werewolf #2

The Warlock’s Secret #3

The Demon’s Blood #4

The Incubus Agenda #5

The Third Kingdom #6

Fire

Kian’s Hunter #1

Darach’s Cariad #2

Eoin’s Destiny #3 (coming soon)

Oracle

Oracle (#1)

Book of Secrets #2

In the Shadow of the Wolf – with Diane Adams

Shattered Secrets #1

Broken Memories #2

Splintered Lies #3

The End Street Detective Agency – with Amber Kell

The Case of the Cupid Curse #1

The Case of the Wicked Wolf #2

The Case of the Dragon’s Dilemma #3

The Case of the Sinful Santa #4

The Case of the Purple Pearl #5 – Coming soon

Standalones

The Gallows Tree

The New Wolf (Building The Pack #1)

YOUNG ADULT

Love…

Love Is In The Title #1

Love Is in the Hallways #2

Love Is in the Message #3


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