Click on image to enlarge.
by Katrina Strauss
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Gay Fiction
Description: With a birthday near Christmas, Ryan Foster's learned to compromise. He loves a straight friend who won't reciprocate his feelings, and holds a boring job to afford college. At the end of the week, Ryan vents his frustrations through his webcast, "Alone Time with Ryan." He's careful not to name names -- particularly since each webisode ends with a mock masturbation session.
Greg Beaumont seeks a fresh start in a new home, but wasn't counting on the holidays being lonely. When gorgeous, young Ryan shows up on Greg's doorstep, it's a warm ray of light on a cold winter's day. Greg's attracted, and tempted, but as Youth Director at the local recreation center, he must conduct his private life carefully. Seducing a college student seven years his junior isn't the wisest choice, no matter how hot Greg's fantasies are growing by the day -- or night.
When Ryan's ode to December birthdays goes viral, his show becomes an overnight sensation, but with exposure comes consequence, and Ryan's Sagittarian wits won't get him out of this one. When he turns to Greg in a moment of need, both men must face the consequence of their passion, making for one steamy winter.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
11 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [182 KB]
Reading time: 108-151 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
A brisk breeze blew, dropping the temperature to freezing, but Ryan was burning up in the late-morning sun. He unzipped his coat, revealing the hoodie underneath, and set back to work. He knew from experience that if he started sweating, the breeze would bite to the bone so that he might as well not be wearing a coat at all. Gripping the shovel handle with gloved hands, he flexed his biceps and plunged the wide scoop into the foot of snow that blanketed Mrs. Grant's driveway. He worked steadily, his breath fogging the air as he went, the pile of discarded snow by the mailbox growing a shovelful at a time.
Once the bulk of the snow was clear, Ryan flipped the shovel over and dragged it, thankful his stocking cap muffled his ears from the grind of metal against concrete. The trick was to scrape rather than shovel the bottommost layer of slush, then allow the sunlight to do the rest and melt any remaining ice. He'd used that trick on Mrs. Grant's sidewalk, and it was already clear.
As he scraped the last strip of driveway clean to the curb, the garage door squeaked open. At that same moment, an elderly woman poked her head out the front door of the house. "The salt's in there, same spot as usual," she said, gesturing toward the garage. "You're such a fast worker."
"Nothing to it, Mrs. Grant." Ryan propped the shovel against the mailbox and headed for the garage. Some people liked to spread salt, others didn't, so Ryan only did if the homeowner requested he use what they had on hand.
He scattered the salt from street to door, crystals sparkling in the sun. As he dusted off his gloves, he noted the icicles lining the eaves of Mrs. Grant's window had grown another inch since his arrival.
Mrs. Grant paid him, unaware Ryan charged her less than he did anyone else for his services. "Would you like to come in for a cup of hot cocoa?" she asked, like she did every winter. "Oh, and I'm baking snickerdoodles!"
"I thought I smelled cinnamon." He stuffed the money into his coat pocket. The aroma of fresh-baked cookies wafting from the house was tempting, but Ryan had more doors to knock on before his neighbors took snow removal into their own hands. "I appreciate it, but not right now, ma'am."
Mrs. Grant flashed a row of even, white dentures. "It's so nice to hear a young man who still knows how to show an old lady some courtesy."
If you only watched my videos, Ryan thought. "I'll be back this summer, when the grass starts to grow." In addition to shoveling drives in the winter, Ryan mowed lawns during the warm months.
"Oh, you will?" Mrs. Grant beamed. "I was worried you'd be leaving us when you graduate college this spring."
"Actually, I have one more year."
Mrs. Grant looked puzzled. "You're going for five?"
"No, ma'am, just the standard four."
"Oh yes, that's right. How could I forget--you're a December baby! You have what they call a 'late birthday.'"
"Yes, ma'am." Ryan nodded. Having a late birthday meant he'd started kindergarten when he was nearly six and graduated high school at eighteen. Throughout his childhood, people who didn't understand the age cutoff for school registration had asked him if he'd failed a year. Mrs. Grant was a retired teacher, however, so she knew the drill, even if she was growing forgetful in her old age. He bid the kindly woman good-bye with a promise to stop by later for snickerdoodles.
The next three houses were busts. "Sorry, no cash on me. You take debit card?" a man joked.
"I've got an able-bodied teenager to earn his keep around here, as soon as he gets his lazy butt out of bed," a middle-aged woman said. She followed with a curt slam of the door, her voice piercing the barrier as she yelled, "Get your ass up before I give your allowance to this other kid to do your job!"
Another mother, one Ryan had known for years, stood in the doorway in a silky robe, her nipples outlined through the clingy fabric as the breeze drifted past. Puffing a cigarette, she raked her gaze up and down his body, the look in her eyes less than maternal. "No, thanks, hon, but you're welcome to come in and warm up."
Unsure how to interpret her offer, Ryan hastily bid her a good day, stumbled through the snow, and got the hell back to the street.
Shovel braced over his shoulder, he trudged around the block, boots crunching salt and sand, courtesy of the truck that had plowed the street earlier that morning. With a clear blue sky and the sun nearing noontime zenith, the roads would thaw for a few hours before the temperature dropped below freezing at nightfall. In spite of three rejections--at least in a business sense, he thought, still unnerved by his would-be seducer--Ryan knew people would be anxious to get out of their houses during that brief window of safe travel time.
He turned onto Birch Lane. DEAD END, the yellow sign announced. He hadn't been up this street in a while. He made his way uphill, making note of whose drives needed clearing, the plan being to start at the end of the street and work his way back. He passed a brick house, one of the few single-level homes in the neighborhood. The place had been for sale the past two years, after Mr. Fleming passed away and his wife moved in with their daughter. Ryan noticed the real estate sign was gone and the lights were on. A column of smoke spiraled up from the chimney. Ryan sniffed, inhaling the homey scent of pine.
Curious as to whom his new neighbor might be, and hoping he'd snag a customer, Ryan broke routine and waded across the yard. He propped the shovel against a bush, then carefully picked his way up the steps, planting his feet down evenly to avoid slipping. He reached the porch unscathed and rang the doorbell.
A shape loomed behind stained-glass windowpanes. Those are new, Ryan thought, recalling they'd previously been plain glass. The doorknob was different too, its antique style somehow fresher looking than the simple modern one that had previously graced the door.
The door opened; an attractive, familiar face peeked out. "Yes?"
"Hey," Ryan greeted. "I know you." At the spark of recognition, his body went warm and tingly. The hot older guy from the grocery store...
The gentleman squinted at Ryan. His face broke into a smile. "Oh, hello! I didn't recognize you out of your uniform." His cheeks flushed slightly, and his smile went awkward. "Okay, that sounded bad."
Heat prickled up Ryan's throat as he got the joke. He laughed. "I know what you meant. I didn't know you bought the old Fleming place."
"Yeah. I just moved in a few months ago." Hot Older Guy opened the door wider and stepped out from behind it.
Ryan couldn't help but take in his new neighbor's long, lean body in a sweater and snug jeans. Trying not to stare, he dropped his gaze and noticed the wooden floor. "Wow, so that's what was under the carpet."
"Yeah, I've been doing a little renovating."
Ryan gave a knowing grin. "I liked Mr. and Mrs. Fleming, but I always thought the place could stand a few updates." Like my house, he mentally added. "So welcome to the neighborhood. I'm Ryan Foster." He extended a hand.
"I know. I mean, I've seen your name tag at the store." The other man's face flushed darker as he took Ryan's hand. "Greg Beaumont."
Even through glove-encased fingers, Ryan felt a spark from Greg's touch, followed by a dizzying rush of sensation.
Whoa, what the hell? Reeling, Ryan pulled his hand away and managed to find his voice. "Need your driveway shoveled? I'm cheap."
"Sure." Greg shrugged, his blush receding, his manner nonchalant, but his eyes lingered in a way that made Ryan forget the chilled winter air. "How much?"
Ryan named his price. Greg agreed.
Twenty minutes later, Greg stepped onto the porch in a coat, a stuffed trash bag slung over his shoulder. "You're done already?"
Ryan stopped scraping and stood straight. "I'm just finishing." He wiped the back of his arm across his brow, where the stocking cap clung to his skin. He was starting to sweat, and the cold was starting to bite.
"Do you know if the trash still runs Monday?"
"If the roads are clear, yeah."
"Could you help me take some stuff from inside to the curb? I'll throw in an extra five bucks."
"Okay." Money aside, Ryan was admittedly curious to see what other changes Greg had made to the house. He also found himself wanting to get a little more up close and personal with the tall, good-looking man.
Ryan stomped and wiped his boots on the welcome mat before stepping inside. As he passed through the living room, he took in more of the wooden floor. Just needs some polish, he thought. He glanced at the plush living-room furniture, the Christmas tree, the roaring fire. All symbols of comfort, but something about the lone stocking dangling from the mantel sent an odd pang of loneliness through Ryan.
"Through here." Greg motioned toward the kitchen.
Ryan followed. "Nice floor," he said as he noticed the new tile. "But where are your cabinet doors?"
Greg laughed. "Over there with the old floor." He nodded at a pile of debris gathered in the corner on a drop cloth. "I'm replacing the countertops next. I probably should've done the floor last, but I'm a newbie at this sort of thing."
"You're doing all the work yourself?"
Greg nodded. "I've watched some how-to clips on the Net. Crazy thing is, I've been posting before-and-after photos on my blog, and now people are asking me for advice! I told them I'm the last person they should be consulting."
"Hey, you learn as you go. The floor looks great." As Ryan passed the stove, he couldn't help but notice a pleasant scent. He peered into the pot on the back burner. Quartered orange slices stuck with clove spikes floated alongside cinnamon sticks in a simmering amber liquid. "Smells good. What are you making?"
"Hot apple cider," Greg said. "It's that time of year." With a grunt, he picked up a stack of cabinet doors.
"That it is." Keeping his lower back straight, Ryan squatted and hefted a roll of what he identified as the kitchen's former linoleum flooring.
It took them three trips to clear the pile. When they were done, Greg slipped off his coat and hung it on a peg by the door. "You're shivering."
Ryan felt warm, but his teeth were chattering, and his back was starting to feel the strain of the day's work. "I'm a native. This is practically a heat wave."
"I'm from the St. Louis area too. The cold can still kill you. Why don't you take a break? You're welcome to a cup of cider by the fire. Maybe a sandwich or soup for lunch?"
Between being cold, sore, hungry, and intrigued by Greg, Ryan caved. "Okay, you talked me into it." He took off his coat and hung it on a spare peg. He followed suit with his hoodie, leaving his torso clad in a short-sleeved T-shirt over a thermal henley. If he'd been home, he would have tugged off his jeans and stripped down to his thermal underpants.
He took off his gloves. "Where should I put these?" he asked.
"The coffee table's fine."
Greg's gaze skimmed over him, the same way Ryan was pretty sure it had at the store a few times. He decided he didn't mind.
As Greg disappeared into the kitchen, Ryan caught a glimpse of his ass. Yep, still nice. He tugged off his hat, noting his hair was plastered to his scalp, and dropped it alongside the gloves. Running his fingers through his hair, he made himself comfortable in a chair by the fire. He studied the solitary stocking, wondering if it indicated single status on Greg's part. He then questioned why he would care.
Because an attractive, lonely man might want more than just company over lunch; that's why I care. Ryan started thinking of excuses to come over again and get to know Greg better. By the time his host appeared with a tray of food and two steaming cups of cider, Ryan had formulated a plan, one he hoped guaranteed he'd be back tomorrow.