Hi, everyone! My contribution to the Rainbow Advent Calendar this year will be an excerpt from my novella His Christmas Sweater.
If you’re not part of the Rainbow Advent Calendar group on Facebook, you totally should be! Authors of LGBTQ stories are posting two new stories every day until Christmas, and there have been so many great ones so far! You can also check out the masterlist of all of this year’s stories by clicking here!
So let’s get to the excerpt!
In the kitchen, Jacob saw Owen gathering flour, sugar, and Ethel’s stash of chocolate chips which she hid inside a mostly empty box of baking soda so Mandy, and if he were being honest, Jacob, wouldn’t eat them before she could bake her signature cookies.
“Have you ever made Christmas cookies before?” Owen asked him with a bright, excited smile.
“Not like this,” Jacob replied, a note of amazement in his voice. “My mother would always buy the premade ones, the kind you just have to bake, with reindeer faces and Christmas trees on them.”
Owen wrinkled his nose in disgust, and Jacob couldn’t remember ever seeing someone have such a strong emotional reaction to cookies.
“Okay,” Owen said in the voice of someone trying to explain a concept for the hundredth time to someone who just wasn’t getting it. “Those aren’t cookies. Those things aren’t even wafers. They’re like desiccated, sugary little hockey pucks.”
“Oh, come on!” Jacob protested. “I thought you liked festive shit. Don’t I get extra points for eating cookies with Rudolph’s face on them?” He pushed the button in his sleeve and made the sweater play the tune to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” for emphasis.
“Hmmm,” Owen said stroking his golden blond beard as if considering Jacob’s offer. “Tell you what, I’ll give you three extra points for Rudolph, and another two just for being cute, but that still puts you several hundred points in the negative for not knowing what an acceptable Christmas cookie is.”
Jacob’s breath hitched at the compliment.
“Well then, would the all-knowing judge of all things holiday ever deign to teach me the secret to ‘real Christmas cookies?’” Jacob teased, suddenly more bold than normal. The smile Owen flashed him was reason enough to try more of the confident sarcasm in the future.
They made enough cookie dough to feed an army: two batches of sugar cookie, one snickerdoodle, and one chocolate chip, which even though it wasn’t technically holiday themed, Owen insisted that the archetypal homey feel of chocolate chip would go a long way with the guests. They joked and teased each other as they mixed and rolled out the dough, using Ethel’s robust collection of holiday cookie cutters to make candy canes, stocking, trees, Santa hats, and even little elves.
While the first round of cookies was baking, Owen whipped up an honest-to-God Swiss buttercream.
“Let me guess,” Jacob said. “Grandma Campbell’s secret family buttercream recipe?”
“Nope.” Owen grinned. “This one comes from America’s grandmother: Martha Stewart.” Owen held up his phone to show Jacob the recipe he found on Martha Stewart’s website. Jacob smiled and rolled his eyes. Maybe Owen wasn’t all-knowing after all. Even Jacob could look up and follow a recipe. In theory.
When the last two baking sheets went in the oven, Jacob finally worked up the courage to ask the question that had been on his mind all day.
“So what was it like?” he began. “Growing up in the Campbell household? You had me unpack all of my childhood baggage last night, so now the spotlight is on you.”
Owen hesitated for a moment, and Jacob worried that his tone was somehow too forceful, too accusatory.
“I- I mean,” he stammered. “If you don’t mind talking about it.”
“No, no.” Owen waved off the idea. “It’s fine. I’m just trying to figure out how to put it.”
Owen was quiet for another moment, and Jacob was almost ready to tell him not to worry about it, and that he shouldn’t have pried.
“It was good, but also hard,” Owen began slowly. “My parents were very poor, still are in fact, so my sister and I didn’t have a lot. Usually it wasn’t a huge deal; my mom was a whiz at finding creative ways to pretend that poverty didn’t exist. But it got a little hairy around the holidays.”
Jacob was listening and nodding along with rapt attention. He tried not to smile at the idea of Little Owen, given the tone of what Adult Owen was sharing.
“My parents are kind of a rare breed for small-town Colorado. They somehow managed to navigate the typical working-class poor lifestyle without all of the religion and fundamentalism that runs rampant through everywhere west of Vale.”
Jacob nodded. He knew what all the conservatism and religion could do to a family, particularly when one of the kids is gay. He scolded himself for feeling a pang of jealousy about Owen’s upbringing, despite the relative privilege of his own.
“So around Christmas time, not only could we not afford the vacations, or the flashy presents, or even the big, tacky, inflatable lawn ornaments, but we also didn’t do the whole midnight mass, nativity scene, first Christmas story part of the holiday either. In fact, my dad was very much of the opinion that if people were going to do the whole Christmas thing, they should at least be honest about it being all about Santa, selling expensive toys to bratty children, and keeping the ghosts of some obscure northern European solstice traditions alive for some reason. He always said, and I’m quoting directly here, ‘the whole magic baby charade was just a waste of time and money.’”
A fit of laughter exploded out of Jacob with such force he was practically spasming. On one hand, he was surprised to hear such vehement anti-religious sentiment from any blue-collar small-towner. On the other, though, he couldn’t help but laugh at the image of his mother’s face if she could have heard the “magic baby” line. He imagined her turning redder than Owen’s Santa hat.
When they had both calmed down a bit, as Jacob’s reaction had set Owen off laughing as well, he continued his story.
“So anyway, we basically had to make our own Christmas celebrations from scratch.”
“That’s where the famous Campbell Family Traditions came from, then?”
“Mhmm,” Owen replied, but his gaze was somewhere far away. “My grandma would bake enough to feed the whole town, we’d decorate with anything we could get our hands on or make ourselves, and somehow mom would find some kind of activity to keep our spirits up every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Over the years, we kept the ones we liked and built on them. Even after Grandma died, and I went away to college, and eventually to Denver for work, we kept the traditions alive. And now that my sister has her kids, there’s another generation to enjoy them.”
Owen smiled wistfully, and Jacob felt a tightness in his throat brought on by the emotion Owen’s story conveyed.
“I guess that’s why Christmas is so special to me,” Owen concluded, snapping out of his reverie. “Because it’s something that we built together, sometimes even out of nothing. It’s a big part of what kept us going, even during times when we couldn’t really afford anything else. And it’s what kept us together, even after we all went our different ways.”
Owen finished his story, looking Jacob in the eyes and giving him a little half smile that Jacob identified as bashful, vulnerable.
Jacob searched for something to say, but he couldn’t think of any words that fit what he was feeling. Instead, he acted on the only thing that did come to mind.
Jacob stepped toward Owen and kissed him, firmly yet tenderly, hoping that he could convey how grateful he was that Owen shared that part of himself, how special he felt to be given a peek inside such a special memory, and how happy he was to be spending this holiday with him, even if it did break some traditions. He tried to project all of this through his kiss, hoping that somehow Owen could sense it.
Then, as if he could indeed hear the thoughts that Jacob was practically shouting in his mind, Owen kissed him back.
Owen parted his lips and allowed Jacob’s tongue to explore his own. The kiss caught him off guard. He didn’t think that rambling monologue about how his family tried to make the best out of their scant circumstances was particularly romantic, but the tenderness in Jacob’s lips said otherwise.
Jacob moaned softly, but it was enough to send a shockwave of desire through Owen, emboldening him. He reached up to knot his fingers through Jacob’s hair with one hand and to wrap the other around his waist, pressing them together. At another, deeper moan from Jacob, Owen took control of the kiss, his desire an almost tangible heat between them.
Owen pressed them up against the kitchen wall, hoping to find a good angle to compensate for the three or four inches Jacob had on him. Jacob’s body melted under Owen’s touch, willing him to take control, to go further. Owen pressed one more kiss onto Jacob’s mouth, their teeth knocking together with the force of it, the need, before moving to scatter quick, searing kisses across the sharp angle of his jaw and down onto his neck.
Owen stayed there for a moment, savoring the spicy-sweet musk of Jacob’s cologne and drinking in the sounds of Jacob’s hitched breath and small noises of pleasure like they were his only source of sustenance; he felt like he could live forever in those few brief seconds.
Jacob’s hands were busy exploring all of the curves and lines of Owen’s body, and Owen felt its enthusiastic response. Electricity shot through his body, lighting up his nerve endings like fireworks under Jacob’s touch, and the rapid tightening in his pants conveyed his need for more contact, more friction, more heat.
Owen slipped his hand all the way down Jacob’s firm stomach, down to palm the erection bulging under Jacob’s jeans. Right when he thought nothing in the world was as important as loosening the belt and freeing Jacob’s cock, the timer on the oven sounded. The cookies were ready, and holy shit, he’d almost went down on Jake right here in the kitchen, where anyone could see. Was he really that thirsty for it? Apparently so, Owen thought, mentally scolding himself.
Jacob snatched the oven mitts of the counter and bent to remove the two baking sheets.
“Come on,” he said, voice husky and demanding, as he stepped toward the door.
Owen grabbed the two sheets of frosted sugar cookies and followed him. When they reached the lobby, Jacob placed the cookie trays on the front desk.
“Hey, everyone,” he announced, his voice more assertive than it typically was with the guests. “Owen made Christmas cookies They’re fantastic. Help yourselves. Owen, I need to speak to you in the office.”
With that, he turned on his heel and marched into the hotel office. Owen hoped the other guests didn’t suspect anything from the few staccato sentences he barked at them. Still, the need building in Owen’s belly pulled him toward the office like a magnet.
You can read more about Owen and Jacob and what happens in the office in His Christmas Sweater, their Christmas novella. It’s available to one-click on Amazon, or free to read in Kindle Unlimited!