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A NineStar Press Publication

Published by NineStar Press

P.O. Box 91792,

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

www.ninestarpress.com

A Season of New Beginnings

Copyright © 2017 by Layla Dorine

Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2017

Edited by: BJ Toth

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at Contact@ninestarpress.com

ISBN: 978-1-947904-49-1

Printed in the USA

First Edition

December, 2017

A Season of New Beginnings

Layla Dorine




Table of Contents

Dedication

A Season of New Beginnings

About the Author

Dedication

This story is dedicated to everyone who ever spent a holiday alone, wishing they could be spending it with someone special. I hope you find your ‘one.’



“Hey, babe, how’s your man?”

Joshua Thyer glanced up and rolled his eyes, groaning at the glittering red-and-green vest of the man who’d sat on the barstool next to him. Desi DeMartan was all flash and bounce as he ordered a Pink Squirrel, bobbing his head to the swinging Christmas song being pumped through the club.

God, if there was one thing Josh hated more than Christmas music that had been fiddled with to the point that you could dance to it, it was Desi DeMartan. Oh fuck, were those Christmas lights on his jacket? As if the sparkles weren’t enough. Add in the reindeer antler headband perched atop the man’s stringy blond wig and Desi looked like the holiday spirit had beaten him with every bad gimmicky novelty in existence. It was really quite pathetic that a man Desi’s age would even consider coming out of his home dressed so atrociously, let alone inflict himself on the rest of the world, but there he was and it sure seemed like Josh was the one he planned to inflict himself upon tonight. This was the third time he’d taken a seat, only to have Desi crash his solitude.

Josh picked up his drink, drained it, set it back on the bar, and then tapped the wood beside it, indicating he’d like a refill.

“He’s not my man,” he grumbled, while the bartender poured him another shot of whiskey, neat; the last thing he needed at the moment was ice to water it down, especially if Desi was going to insist on bringing up Clay.

The look on Desi’s face might have been comical, if it hadn’t come off as scripted—and poorly at that—the way he’d clasped his hands to his mouth, eyes going all wide like he hadn’t known that Clay and Josh had broken up. Everyone knew by now; it had been the biggest bit of gossip fodder all week, at least until Theresa’s wife, Elain, had gotten caught having sex in the laundry room of their building with Janet Huffleman, the prim, snottily stuck-up head of the historical society. Guess maybe the old broad wasn’t as prim as everyone thought.

Josh chuckled as he caught sight of her on Elain’s arm, cutting up a rug on the dance floor, an empty champagne flute in one hand and her hair all a mess. It was no wonder Theresa hadn’t shown up. She’d been the smart one. Next time, Josh was taking a page out of her book and staying home too. Hell, maybe they could ring in the new year together: two sad, tired old queers burned one too many times to keep on believing in love.

At least Clay hadn’t cheated on him, though that job of his could certainly have been considered the third party to their relationship, and when it came right down to it, no matter what seemed to be happening, Josh had always come in second to everything else Clay had going on. In the end, as he’d sat in their apartment on what was to be the one year anniversary of the day they’d met—cake made and dinner ready, feeling stupid as hell that he’d manscaped and worked in a plug, the single purple rose that he’d planned to have clutched in his teeth when Clay came in abandoned on the table—he’d finally come to the realization that nothing he did would ever hold Clay’s attention quite as much as the next party he’d been asked to plan.

And who could blame him? The glitzy, glamourous events were filled with interesting people. Clay helped to decorate grand mansions. He coordinated with chefs and musicians. Spent hours poring over menus and trying to convince retro-loving party throwers that there was nothing sexy or sophisticated about a disco ball.

Josh had listened to all of the stories and been fascinated. He’d laughed with Clay at the insanity of some of those requests, rubbed Clay’s shoulders and crawled beneath the table to blow him when the anxiety got to be too much, all in the name of supporting his boyfriend because he truly, genuinely cared if Clay was happy or not. And that was the kicker. Because even after all of the harsh words exchanged between them, Josh still cared if Clay was happy.

Sitting there, surrounded by partygoers in Santa hats and green elf shoes, he found himself wondering if Clay had found the time to trim his tree or shop for Christmas dinner. If he’d gotten the stack of cards he’d written out to the mailbox or if he’d set the DVR to record the Christmas shows he loved but would otherwise miss.

“Hey! Hey, wait a minute.” Desi’s screeching words cut through Josh’s thoughts like nails on a chalkboard. “I thought you two were dating?”

Josh pressed a hand to his forehead and dragged it down his face. Inside he was seething, and it was taking every ounce of control he had not to snatch that Pink Squirrel from Desi’s hand and upend it over his head.

“We were,” Josh snapped. “But that didn’t make him ‘my man.’ People aren’t possessions; I fuckin’ hate that term ‘my man.’ I’m my own fuckin’ person and so is he. Just because we were in a relationship doesn’t mean we stopped being individuals. And before you say some more stupid shit, I hate when assholes decide to call me babe. Makes me wanna jackslap them upside the head.”

“You’re a bitter, violent little queen aren’t you? No wonder you can’t keep a man.”

Josh growled, snatched up his shot of whiskey, and downed it before slamming the glass back onto the bar hard enough that it was a miracle it didn’t crack.

“Motherfucker, if you don’t get the hell away from me and stay the hell away from me for the rest of the night, I’m gonna forget this is David’s party, tear that ratty wig off your head, and ram it down your throat.”

Desi pursed his lips, narrowed his eyes, and licked his tongue out along the glittery metallic pink of his lip gloss before batting his eyes flirtatiously at Josh, a sight that made the younger man’s stomach turn.

“That’s not what I’d prefer for you to be ramming down my throat,” Desi practically purred, as Josh all but fell off the barstool in his haste to get away. “Nor is it your mother I’d love to be fucking.”

“God I hate you,” Josh grumbled and stomped across the room.

“Merry Christmas, sweetheart!” Desi called after him. “Now that’s one queen that needs to get laid.”

Josh almost turned at Desi’s parting remarks; the only thing stopping him was the fact that he didn’t have enough money on him for bail, at least for the kind of charges he’d end up with if he did everything to Desi that was running through his mind. Shouldering his way past people, and ignoring the looks and questions they hurled his way, he headed for the door. He’d almost made it to the coat-check room when he crashed into Brayden Parker, nearly sending the other man plummeting to the floor. Of course, wherever Brayden was, his partner, Chase Bennington, was close at hand, and after he’d steadied Brayden, his ironclad grip clasped around Josh’s arm, holding him firmly in place.

“What the hell’s your problem?” Chase demanded as he gave Josh a bit of a shake. Josh wasn’t a small man, but compared to Chase’s six-foot-six muscle-bound frame, he might as well have been.

“Sorry, just in a hurry to get the hell out of here.”

“Yeah, well, too bad,” Chase grumbled.

Balling his hands into fists, Josh glared up to see Chase glaring right back at him, his ice-blue eyes seeming even colder, even with the bright colors from the Christmas lights overhead reflecting in them.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Josh growled as he twisted, determined to yank his arm loose from Chase’s hold.

“It means you ain’t going anywhere yet, not until David unveils his surprise. He specifically asked that all of his friends be here to share whatever it is with him and Dion, and knowing how he feels about you, it would hurt his feelings if you weren’t here to see it, so sit down and stop acting like you’re the only one who’s ever gone through a breakup. You’re an adult; act like it.”

“What the fuck do you know?”

“I know you’ve been acting like a selfish little punk all night, glaring at everyone who tries to talk to you and storming around like you’re just spoiling for a fight. Well, if that’s what you’re after, we can go outside, just as long as you know I’m dragging your ass back in here when we’re done.”

Now that got Josh’s dander up. He might not have the size advantage, but he’d been in his share of fights and was never one for backing down.

“And what makes you think you’d win?” Josh demanded, drawing his arm back, itching to punch the smug look right off of Chase’s face. He would have too, if Brayden hadn’t stepped between them.

“Behave yourselves, both of you,” Brayden hissed. “Chase, I’d like another Sloe Gin Fizz please.”

The smile he fixed his boyfriend with was one part innocence and two parts predator. Josh had to chuckle. While Chase might be the bruiser in the family, it was clear who was truly running things. Chase sighed, his face softened, and his stance relaxed.

“Sure,” Chase replied and turned, heading back the way Josh had come, toward the bar.

“He’d have broken you in two,” Brayden cautioned as soon as Chase was out of earshot, “and then he’d have felt like shit about it. The last thing I need is him being broody and mopey at Christmas, so ease up, will ya?”

“I’m not the one who started it.”

“Really? Hmmm, guess it’s some other guy plowing through the place looking to bowl people over on his way to the door?”

“Yeah, well, I am sorry about that. Desi was being an ass; I figured if I didn’t leave, I’d end up going to jail for beating him half to death with his own wig.”

“Aw, honey, you need to relax a minute, before you go and do something you’ll regret, though it seems like you already have. It’s an easy fix, you know. If you miss Clay so much, why not just tell him that?”

Josh snorted.

“When? Between the playlist that needs tweaking or the guest list that’s gotten out of control? If I had the cash, I’d schedule a consultation with him, because that way, at least, I’d have his undivided attention, which is about the only way I’m gonna get it.”

“Wow, I never took you for the needy sort.”

Josh glanced at the shocked expression on Brayden’s face and then glanced away. He’d never taken himself for the needy sort either, until he’d looked around and realized that about the only time he really got to spend with his boyfriend was if he was keeping Clay company at his place, while Clay was multitasking or glued to that fucking phone that never seemed to be far from his ear. Josh had lost track of how many times he’d longed to take the phone and smash it, and it hadn’t been lost on him, either, just how many times his temper had threatened to get the best of him. It had been years since he’d felt himself losing control of his emotions so easily, but then, it had been years since there had been anyone or anything he’d cared about enough to actually allow himself to feel.

The memory came unbidden, another time, another place, a gathering of family and friends all dressed up with glasses held high. In the corner had stood a five-tier cake in purple and black, the icing sparkling with shimmering glitter dust to look like twilight and stars. Five shades of purple roses, some solid colors and some swirled, had adorned each tier of the cake. Purple roses had always been his favorites, and Max had indulged him, just as Max had indulged him in so many things.

It should have been the happiest night of their lives, dancing their first dance as a married couple, holding one another and swaying to “I Hope You Dance,” the song having come to mean so much to them, especially when Max lay in bed beside him, singing it. Sometimes he wondered if Max would have sung it to him that night, if they’d have lain entangled in their hotel room, whispering in the dark, reliving the moments that just kept growing and multiplying between them.


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