Tired of being ridiculed as the man dumped in favour of an ugly Christmas sweater, Aston is determined to get revenge–by having his dream vacation at Ibiza’s hottest clubs! He’s even planned a social media campaign to make sure his ex, Dan, knows exactly what he’s missing.
When a snowstorm strikes, and Aston’s media campaign takes off before he does, he finds himself propositioned by his unwelcome roommate Mike: trade vacations, or Mike will out Aston as a fake. Desperate to save his reputation, Aston finds himself in Finland–and falling hard for a man with a sweater almost as terrible as Dan’s. Worse, Laaksonen cares as little about impressing people as Aston cares about being nice. Aston knows he has too much self-respect to fall for a man so hazardous to his reputation. But the long Polar Night poses the ultimate test to his Ibiza club dreams…
“What is Dan doing?” Aston frowned at his phone screen. “He saw the message. I know he saw the message. So where’s the reply?”
“He’s ignoring you.” Mike, Aston’s companion in the cupboard-like hotel room, didn’t even look up from his phone. There was not much to look at. The curtains were a faded geometric design that almost succeeded in making the stains look like part of the pattern, and there were cracks in the plaster ceiling. The carpet had given up on life altogether. Fortunately, their two twin beds took up most of the room, so they didn’t have to see much of the carpet at all.
If only the same could be said for Mike. Aston gave him a withering glare. The man had long, shaggy hair and wore a woollen jersey that—while thankfully bereft of hideous seasonal decorations—showed signs of being mended by hand. The overall impression was a university student who had never got around to graduating. Or even shaving. Mike was not Aston’s first choice to share a hotel room with, or even his second, third, or fourth. Unfortunately, the worst snowstorm in British history, cancelled flights, and a shortage of hotel rooms at Heathrow had led to Aston lowering his standards considerably. The only upside was that British Airways was footing the bill for the shared accommodation. “He’s not ignoring me.”
“Right.” Mike snickered. “Who could ignore knees like those?”
Of all the people Aston would have preferred to walk into the hotel room while he lay on his back on the carpet with his knees in the air, camera in hand, and laptop precariously balanced on the edge of his bed, Mike was the absolute last. He hadn’t offered to hold the laptop steady while Aston faked his beach photo, just leaned against the wall to watch, making disparaging comments. And when Aston had said ‘Do you mind?’ in his most cutting tone, Mike had simply grinned and said that he didn’t. “Shut up.”
“Why should I? This is as much my hotel room as it is yours, and to be perfectly honest, watching you fake beach photos was not how I wanted to spend my vacation.”
Aston sat up. “You’re not even going on a real vacation, just some crummy cut-price ski thing.”
“Hey, it was the best I could afford, and I’ve lost an entire day already. The group will have started without me. You, on the other hand, don’t need to play catch up in the clubs.”
Aston glanced uneasily at his computer. “At least Ibiza is a real vacation destination.”
“In summer, sure. It’s winter in Spain, you know.”
“Still warmer than here,” Aston shot back. “God, I want to be out of this country.”
“You’ve said. Repeatedly. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was rooming with a desperate fugitive. What’s the deal?”
Aston blinked. Mike was unexpectedly sharp underneath that scruffy exterior. “I’ve been working towards this vacation for years, honing my beach body, spending every night I could out clubbing. Ibiza has some of the best clubs in the world! Space has this amazing—”
“No, I mean…there’s more to this than liking a good time. When the flight attendant told you there was no way you’d be flying to Ibiza today, you practically broke down. You asked about other flights, if there was any way you could detour.”
“I want to get to Ibiza as quickly as possible.”
“You offered to go to Ibiza via Shanghai.” Mike put his phone down, sitting up to look more closely at Aston. “That’s a detour of eight to ten hours.”
“I want to be on my way. I can’t stand all this waiting around.” Aston shrugged.
“So you’d rather be crammed into a tiny airline seat instead? Just relax. British Airways is footing the bill, and they offered us an upgrade on future flights.”
Aston smiled slightly. “Business class is enough to make anyone jealous.”
“There! What did I tell you?” Mike crossed his arms. “You’re obsessed with this ex of yours.”
“I am not.”
Aston’s phone beeped with his message alert. He snatched it up, only to see that it was a google notification. He sighed, dropping it onto the bed, and met Mike’s eyes. “That could have been an important message from British Airlines.”
“Sure. Just accept the fact that you were dumped—”
“I wasn’t dumped! If anyone was dumped, it was him!” Aston sucked in a short breath. “I gave him an ultimatum. Shape up or move out.”
“What? At Christmas? Harsh.”
“Christmas is just like any other time of the year, except that everyone loses their collective minds about it.” Aston stood from his bed. “Nothing special about it—just exceptionally good marketing.”
“Spoken like a true advertiser. But you’re not working now. Doesn’t the thought of Christmas coming give you a sort of anticipation, a sense of wonder, of excitement?”
“All Christmas has ever given me was a feeling of dread. It’s a fake holiday for fake people.”
“All right, all right, sorry I brought up your deeply rooted Santa trauma.” Mike mirrored Aston’s actions, standing up. “The airline gave us complimentary meal vouchers. Want to see if we can trade them in at the bar for drinks?”
Aston shook his head. “Pass.”
“What are you going to do, sit and stare at your phone? You can do that in the bar with a drink in hand. Come on.”
“Not feeling it.”
“And you call yourself a clubber?” Mike paused in the doorway, sticking his wallet into the back pocket of his paint-splattered jeans. “I tell you, there is something about you that just doesn’t add up… Maybe I should scan the papers while I’m in the bar. If I’m rooming with an escaped convict, I want to know about it.”
Not good. Not good at all. Aston gulped. “You are not— For Christ’s sake. Fine, I’ll come to the bar.” He picked up his phone, patting his pocket to check he had his wallet. “But don’t expect me to like it.”
“No,” Mike muttered. “That would be entirely too much.”
Gillian St. Kevern is an author of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Originally from New Zealand, she currently lives in Japan and has visited over twenty different countries. Her writing is a celebration of the diverse people she meets.
As a chronic traveller, Gillian is interested in journeys rather than endings, writing characters that grow and change to achieve their happy ending. Her stories cross genres, time-periods and continents, taking readers along for an unforgettable ride.
a Rafflecopter giveaway