Trimming the tree is more fun with three.
Twin Cities developer Dale Davidson has come to Logan, Minnesota, to turn it into Christmas Town, not to give in to Arthur Anderson’s offer to join him and his fiancé, Gabriel Higgins, for a Christmas Eve threesome. Dale is polyamorous, but it’s clear Arthur is offering a night of fun and nothing more. Maybe one night with the couple he admires so much won’t hurt…
Together the three of them light a fire hot enough to boil Lake Superior in January, and one night of fun becomes an extended engagement as Dale puts down some tentative roots in his new hometown. Everyone loves Dale, Logan’s own Santa Claus, and somehow no one knows what wild times are happening right underneath their noses. No one knows, either, the complicated ways they’re falling in love with one another.
But a shadow from Dale’s past emerges, an abuser threatening him with violence and shame. Ronny doesn’t want a happy ever after for Dale, only to draw him back into a consuming darkness. It will take the love of not only Gabriel and Arthur but all of Logan to convince their Santa he has nothing to be ashamed of—and that he will always have a home in their hearts.
With a lusty sigh, Arthur sipped the soda he’d grabbed for himself, as if the foundations of his world weren’t shuddering and shaking beneath him. “So, Dale. Enjoying the eight million meetings Logan’s finest have been putting you through?”
Dale smiled wryly over the top of his wine and shrugged. “Honestly, so much of my life is meetings, I haven’t noticed a difference except the people are nicer and more excited about my work.”
Gabriel had been putting the flowers in a vase, but he lingered over them, fussing with the blooms. “Are you in the office most of the time, or do you ever work on sites you develop?”
Dale leaned on the edge of the counter, resting his elbows and canting his hips slightly as he watched Gabriel. “Oh, a bit of both. Depends on the type of job and the time of year. I only started Davidson Incorporated six months ago. Before that I worked in a different division of my parent company. I still work for them, but this has all been a new venture, the latter half of this year. I’m more independent and flexible. Right now I’m making less money, because I work on commission and I’m starting essentially from scratch, but I don’t mind. I’m doing what I love. Though it’s been a little more admin work since I became the head of my division. I miss my fieldwork.”
Gabriel smiled as he listened to Dale talk. He still played with the petals, ostensibly looking at them, but his gaze was on the frame of Dale’s crotch. Arthur had to admire the move. It was one of his favorites. Right now, though, he watched it with a question burning in his brain: did he mind that it was happening? Did he mind it, knowing Dale wanted more than Gabriel’s body? Did he mind knowing Gabriel was so preoccupied with the man he’d been barely able to talk about it all week?
Was it enough that he’d had the outburst on the couch, the vow that Arthur came first? Did Arthur trust it?
He cleared his throat and turned away from the sight of the two of them. “Going to get cooking these steaks so we can eat, if that’s all right with you folks.” He said it a bit too loudly, and the you folks felt odd, like he was behaving as if they were the couple.
Perhaps he’d been too obvious, because Gabriel abandoned the flowers and came around to the other side of the oven, putting the appliance and Arthur between himself and Dale. “Arthur makes incredible venison steak. They’re my favorite things in the world. He makes them better than any I’ve ever had.”
“I can’t wait to try them, then.” There was so little challenge in Dale’s reply he might as well have been on his back with his legs in the air.
Jesus, this shit was a mess and nobody was naked yet.
Arthur pulled the sizzling pan from the oven and placed it on the burner before carefully arranging the raw steak inside. “I’m fairly confident I can serve up meat to please the both of you.” He laid the last steak in place, then nodded at Gabriel. “Sprinkle the bowl of spices I have ready over it while I wash my hands, will you?” He started to turn away, and then as an afterthought, maybe even as a test, he glanced at Dale and added, “Dale, why don’t you give him a hand?”
He took his time at the sink, washing his hands slowly, deliberately not looking, giving them time to do whatever the hell they were going to do, or not do. He wasn’t sure what it was he was going to see. He scrubbed his fingers, under his nails, along his knuckles, then simply played in the warm, wet stream until instinct told him it was time. Then he grabbed a towel, and as he dried his hands, he pivoted to give himself a view of the stove.
They stood side by side, bodies touching at the leg, the hip, the elbow, heads bent together as they dressed the steak. They spoke quietly, their voices murmurs, Dale’s low and suggestive, Gabriel’s higher and…well, Gabriel, something between admonishing and encouraging. Arthur had given them a test, and he had his answer. He hadn’t been sure of what he was testing at first, but he had it now.
They had a spark. More than sexual attraction, more than casual interest. There was something pulling between the two of them. Something bigger and brighter than a single night of fun. A bit of tinder that could turn into a flame and become a raging fire.
It appeared as if the fire had already started.
Will this pull him away from me?
His whole life, Arthur had argued for others to trust in a wider vision of what relationships could be, what love could be. He wasn’t poly, but he believed in polyamory. This idea that people could only ever love one person in their lives, as if they were shutting out the rest of the world for them, was ridiculous. However, as he stood in his kitchen, watching the man he loved so much tentatively open his heart to another…well, for the first time Arthur understood what a terrifying risk it was. Because for all Gabriel’s promises on the couch, there was potential for loss, wasn’t there? If Arthur let this keep going, if he didn’t object, Dale and Gabriel’s relationship absolutely could make a brighter spark than the one Arthur had with Gabriel.
And yet what kind of lover would he be if he said no, you must choose this dimmer flame?
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family.
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