Paralegal Seth Bellski is tired of being the secret lover of his boss, Lars Varga, founding partner of Finch & Varga Law. So when he asks Lars to spend Hanukkah with Seth’s family at their kosher B and B in Whistler, B.C., and Lars refuses, Seth realizes he will never get his self-conscious boss out of the closet.
So Seth prepares to spend his Hanukkah holiday alone in the B and B. Instead he finds himself running the place, as his aunt and uncle are missing, and seven demanding, peculiar, and danger-prone guests have arrived. To make matters worse, Lars shows up, begging forgiveness. Lars’s touches remind Seth of why he put up with his boss’s behavior in the first place. If only the words that came out of that beautiful mouth were as sweet as his kisses.
But how can Seth find time to fix his broken relationship when the guests are demanding kosher, gluten-free diets, losing their pet terriers, and hitting their heads on the ice? Seth and Lars find themselves put through the paces of being a married couple, all while still broken up. But then again, if they can survive this Hanukah, maybe they’ll be singing a carol of the Bellskis.
The breakup was a long time in the making. Nevertheless, the end happened so fast, Seth didn’t know it occurred until it was over.
After all, they had just made love, and it had been one of those achingly sweet ones where their bodies weren’t using each other as much as merging together, their movements soft and slow, as if time would remember this union, as if everything depended on it.
They no longer mapped each other’s bodies. They knew the routes by heart, and still, Seth took his time tracing his way along Lars’s skin, as if his subconscious knew this would be the last time to savor such a sight or feel the rough hairs on Lars’s leg and the reciprocal softness on his inner thigh; the last time he’d smell the musky earthiness of Lars’s desire and share the dark, welcoming entrance, such privacy, great secrets on display.
And afterward, that sweet embrace, kisses shared like whispers between them, and then a quiet descended, the comfort of familiarity and safety like a balm soothing the stresses of the workday, the world outside.
“Are you packed for tomorrow?” was all he had asked.
Lars stiffened beside him. He stared up at the ceiling. “I’m not coming with you.”
Seth stared up at the ceiling as well. Stains from the hotel room above seemed to sink through the floorboards, creating a muddied brown Rorschach print across the off-yellow paint.
“You said you would.” Seth hated the hurt in his voice and cleared his throat. “It will be fun.”
“I’m not stopping you,” Lars said. His hands had withdrawn from Seth’s body. “I just can’t come along.”
“You said…” Seth swallowed, tried to find a new approach. “It’s our chance to get away from it all. Remember? We discussed this. Whistler is beautiful. The skiing is world-class. You’d love it, and the B and B is really charming.”
“The B and B is another thing,” Lars said. His voice was cold now, lawyerlike. Even naked, he had a suit and tie on. “I don’t mind celebrating Hanukkah with you, but this is an orthodox B and B, kosher and…what do you call it when they observe the Sabbath?”
“Shomer Shabbat,” Seth said.
“I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to live up to those kind of expectations, especially for eight entire days.”
“The annoying part is just the Sabbath; that’s the only time you can’t turn on lights. And besides, my aunt and uncle have the whole place wired with timers. You won’t even notice. The coffee is made automatically; the shower turns on every three hours. It’s like magic!”
Seth knew he sounded desperate. But this had meant so much to him. More than he had even admitted to himself.
“Still. It’s a lot to ask of a person.”
Seth felt the disappointment like a crushing weight, sitting on his chest, pushing his happiness outward. “We discussed everything. Hell, you bought those books about hiking Whistler–”
“It was a fantasy, baby, nothing more.” Lars cleared his throat. “It would look too suspicious if we both went on vacation at the same time, especially for a whole week right before Christmas. Everyone knows I’m not a Jew. Why would I be taking Hanukkah off?” Lars shook his head. “No way.”
Seth clenched his eyes shut, clenched his fists. He fought to muffle his pain.
But he was angry, too. Angry at Lars, and angry at himself for expecting him to change. Of course Lars wouldn’t come with him. The risk was too great. Not only would it come out that the great Lars Varga of Finch and Varga Law Offices was actually friends with a mere paralegal, but that the two of them had been fucking each other for over a year.
“It’s about time they know,” Seth reasoned, trying very hard to keep the desperation out of his voice.
Lars sat up in bed, creating a wall with his broad back. Even without seeing it, Seth knew Lars rubbed his face with his hand, stressed as usual.
“Not this way,” Lars said finally. “It’s tacky.”
“So what is the not-tacky way?” Seth asked. He sat up as well, dislodging the sheet that covered his legs. “The best thing to do would be to tell people. Tell them we’re lovers. Tell them we’re going on vacation together.”
Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, three dogs, three goats, and a horse. By day she is a civil servant. By night her time is devoted to her writing, working for animal rescue organizations, and sleeping.
She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate of Western Washington University.
Her novel The Archer’s Heart was a finalist for the 2008 Lambda Literary Award for Best Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror, and The Devil Lancer won the 2015 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Fantasy. Her novel Song of the Navigator was a runner up for the 2015 Rainbow Award for Best Science Fiction.