How did this happen? Well… Someone posted a thing on Twitter and I said I would as a joke but I was almost done with All Is Bright and the idea pretty much devoured my brain. It’s practically writing itself and I’m having too much fun. How about an oh-so-unedited peek since I’m wrapping up writing in the next few days? Here you go:
“And the very lonely snowman wasn’t lonely anymore,” Marcus whispered and shut the book. He leaned and his neck stretched as he peeked to make sure she was sleeping. A soft swear of relief escaped from him as he eased off the bed. He slipped off her elf ears and Sam’s eyelashes made Marcus’s heart squeeze. He glanced at the clock on her bedside table and smiled. 11:27. It took three hours and a stack of books but she was finally asleep. “Merry Christmas, princess,” he mouthed as he caressed her cheek then went to turn off the light. It was a touch early but he made the rules, right?
Marcus’s feet dragged down the hall and he yearned for his bed but he headed downstairs because he still had hours’ worth of work to do. He yawned as he flipped on the kitchen light and grabbed the milk from the fridge as he passed it. He poured a glass and picked the best two gingerbread men from the pan and arranged them on a plate. Marcus swiped Sam’s letter off the fridge and chuckled at it as he hurried through the living room and set everything out on the mantle. Marcus took a bite out of the gingerbread man’s leg to make it look like Santa had a nibble then dusted his hands off and went to get the gifts and the tree.
Sam was an angel and cut Marcus a lot of slack but he had to get his shit together. It was his second Christmas as a single father but this year was harder than the first. He was so determined to make last year perfect he overcompensated and got way ahead of the game. This year, depression hit him like a freight train and work fell to pieces so he doubled-up on editing jobs so he could work from home. He should’ve had plenty of time to wrap presents and decorate but Marcus was in the weeds because he turned the living room into a tent fort and gained ten pounds living on takeout and cupcakes.
“The carrots!” Marcus gasped and headed back to the kitchen. Sam thought the reindeer would appreciate them so he bought the kind with the long leafy bits. He pretended to be a reindeer and munched on one of the carrots as he waited for the coffee maker. “That’s enough of that,” he decided and tucked the bundle of deceptively nibbled carrots under his arm and was dunking a cookie in his coffee as he headed back to the living room. “Time to drag out the beast,” Marcus decided. They inherited the tree from Rick’s parents and dreaded pulling it out because he didn’t want to get bogged down in memories. He went to the basement and ignored the tattered old box with the frazzled plastic tree. Wisps of memories taunted him but Marcus ignored all the old jokes and duct tape repairs. He had hid Sam’s presents and stocking in the washer and dryer and there was another squeeze but this one hurt his heart. Sam asked Santa to bring Grandma and Gramps but the storm had flights canceled around the country. She also wanted a Switch but Marcus had to cut his rates because everyone was struggling.
The alarm on his watch told him it was midnight so Marcus sucked it up and grabbed the old rolls of wrapping paper on his way up the stairs. He managed to shut the basement door as he juggled the gifts and wrapping paper then tripped when his heel bumped into something heavy. Marcus grabbed the wall and frowned at the massive red bag. It appeared to be made of very thick velvet and tied tight with a thick gold rope and the bag didn’t budge when Marcus pushed it with his toe.
“What the fuck…?” He whispered under his breath and craned his neck as he made his way past the kitchen and the stairs. He glanced at the front door and it was closed and appeared to be locked so he peeked around the living room wall. “Oh…my God,” Marcus said and dropped the bags of gifts and rolls of wrapping paper. A very large man in a red velvet suit with fluffy fur trim was bent over the coffee table. “Ummmm….?” Marcus squeaked and the other man turned. “Holy shit,” Marcus said then clapped his hands over his mouth to hold in a scream.
“Oh! Hello, Marcus. I hope you don’t mind,” Santa said as he waved the hobbled gingerbread man at him then took a bite. “You’re getting really good at this,” he said encouragingly.
“I’m sorry. What?” Marcus rasped and stomped on his toe but Santa was still there.
“These are just about perfect,” Santa said then took another bite. There was absolutely no doubt that he was Santa. He was just a touch too large to be a mortal man—he was at least seven-feet-tall—and the heady scent of cookies and peppermint radiated from him. His beard was silver and his eyes sparkled with cheer. “Thank Samantha for these!” He said as he tucked the carrots into his coat pocket. “The reindeer always appreciate a snack.”
“The reindeer…” Marcus repeated breathlessly and the room began to spin around him.
“Easy!” Santa laughed as he caught him. “Let’s go over by the fire,” he said and put an arm around Marcus.
“Thanks,” he said weakly.
“Why don’t you have a seat,” Santa offered and pulled the armchair closer to the fire but Marcus shook his head.
“I don’t want to,” he said. Santa’s head pulled back before he laughed.
“You are a delight!” He declared and slapped his knee. “But we should get to work. You’re exhausted and Sam’s going to be up in six hours,” he warned. Marcus choked on a laugh and his brain finally kicked back on.
“A delight? Not on my best day,” he promised and shook his head. “What is going on?” he demanded. Santa’s clear blue eyes glistened as he reached for Marcus’s cheek.
“I promise you, my boy. You’re on the Nice List and it looks like you could use some help.” He gave Marcus’s nose an gentle flick. It tickled and the tingle danced down his spine. Marcus laughed softly because he knew it was going to be ok. It was a soft, warm thing that spread through him and the muscles in his shoulders that never, ever unkinked let go and he felt like he was melting.
“I’m on the Nice List?” He babbled and Santa nodded firmly.
“Of course, you are. You’ve always had a kind, open heart and look at all you’ve done to help me make Christmas magical for Samantha.”
“Really?” Marcus asked but Santa tapped a gloved finger against the side of his nose.
“If anyone would know, it would be me.”
“Right.” Marcus turned and it was still his living room and was sure he was awake. He was also completely sure he was talking to Santa… “I’m awake?” He asked. He could have fallen asleep while he was reading to Sam. It happened pretty regularly. Marcus decided to check again and gave the underside of his arm a pinch then gasped when it stung.
“You’re awake! And we’ve got work to do!” Santa scolded with a chuckle as he opened his coat and slid out of it. Marcus’s eyes widened as Santa tossed it at the armchair. Santa’s ripped? He thought in confusion. Santa was wearing an oatmeal-colored Henley and suspenders and while he was pleasantly thick around the midsection, his arms and shoulders made Marcus feel a little too warm. It didn’t help that the two buttons on Santa’s collar were open and offered Marcus an intriguing peek of snowy white chest hair. Jesus. Get your shit together. It’s Santa!
“It might be time to start dating again,” he whispered to himself.
“What was that?” Santa asked and Marcus shook his head quickly.
“Nothing! Just realized it’s been too long since I…” His head bobbled as he wondered if he was actually going to tell Santa that it had been more than four years since he’d touched another man like that. “Since I got out. I haven’t been this close to another adult human in months and it’s warping my brain,” he confessed.
“Ah.” Santa nodded knowingly. “You must be lonelier than usual,” he said gently as he gestured at Sam’s gifts and the rolls of wrapping paper. “Let me take care of those.” He tapped his nose and there was a poof of snow and glitter.
“What?” Marcus laughed as he waved in front of his face and the gifts were perfectly wrapped with big curly bows. “Wow!” He picked up the biggest box and shook his head in disbelief. “I don’t know if I’m more dazzled or relieved that I don’t have to stay up all night wrapping these myself,” he admitted.
“That’s why I’m here!” Santa said then gestured for Marcus to follow as he went to his bag. “I was thinking a fresh tree would be just the thing.” He gave the gold cord a tug and it unraveled easily and a swirl of snow and glitter rolled from the bag and down the hall.
“Seriously?” Marcus asked as he hurried back to the living room and a startled laugh burst from him. He clapped his hand over his mouth and spun to make sure he hadn’t woken Sam.
“Don’t worry. She won’t wake up. Look at the time,” Santa said and Marcus glanced at his wrist.
“Holy…” He slurred. It was still midnight. Marcus blinked at his watch in shock then pushed his gaze to the fully lit and decorated tree. There were so many presents and a Switch was set up and waiting beneath the television. “That’s so… Thank you!” He cried as he threw himself at Santa.
“You’re very welcome!” He said as he held Marcus. He smelled like a Christmas tree and a little like marshmallows and Marcus sighed as he rubbed his cheek against Santa’s chest.
“That’s really nice,” he said dreamily then flinched and jumped back. “I’m so sorry! I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” He whispered loudly. Santa just laughed and threw a hand at Marcus as he went to sit by the fire.
“It happens all the time,” he said as he lowered into the armchair and Marcus winced. The seat was just able to accommodate him as he got comfortable and propped his elbow on the armrest. Marcus was momentarily distracted by Santa’s thick thighs and gave his head a shake to clear it.
“With children, not adults, though. And you can’t even begin to know how wrong it is in here,” Marcus argued and gave Santa an apologetic wince as he pointed at his forehead. Santa laughed and his head fell back as his chest shook.
“I don’t come across a lot of children on Christmas Eve! But I do meet a few parents in my travels and some stops get a little x-rated,” he confided. Marcus’s jaw dropped in shock.
“Really? What about Mrs. Claus?” He whispered, as if he didn’t want to get Santa in trouble. He laughed again and gave his thigh a pat.
“I told you, you’re a delight! Why don’t you come and have a seat, lad?” He offered tenderly. Marcus’s head pushed forward in confusion but his feet still carried him across the room and there was a mortifying heaviness to the front of his pajama pants.
“A seat?” He asked weakly and Santa winked cockily at him.
“You can have a lot more than that if you’ll tell Santa what you really want.”
“Oh.” Marcus looked at the hall and remembered that Sam wouldn’t hear them or wake up then rubbed his lips together nervously.
“Have a seat and don’t be shy.”
“You’re sure Mrs. Claus won’t mind?”
“She’s had just about an eternity of me. We find that a little adventure keeps things fresh and makes coming home even sweeter,” Santa explained as he held out his hand.
“That’s…confusing,” Marcus murmured and his brows pulled together. But he rose on his toes so he could slide an arm around Santa and pull himself up. Marcus was 5’11 but he felt small on Santa’s lap.
“A strange thing happens when you’ve been alive for as long as we have. You grow up. And she’d want you to have a little fun, Marcus,” Santa said gently and kneaded Marcus’s shoulder. It was firm but affectionate and all the tension drained from Marcus as he became fixated on Santa’s beard and lips. He was as enigmatic and charming as you would expect but there was a frisky quirk to his smile that drew Marcus in.
“Me? Why would she…?” He mumbled as he stretched toward Santa’s lips.
“We’ve both been worried about you. That’s why I’m here,” Santa said.
“What?” Marcus frowned and swallowed hard. “This is nuts,” he whispered to himself and Santa shushed him.
“Go ahead and give it a try,” he urged so Marcus shut his eyes and touched his lips to Santa’s.
“Oh!” Marcus’s lips throbbed and a current of pleasure zipped down his spine and he shivered. “That’s…nice,” he breathed and licked tentatively. “Wow!” He giggled and there was another shiver. Santa’s lips tasted like vanilla and peppermint.
“Don’t lose your nerve now. Take what you want. You deserve a little joy,” Santa crooned as his hands cradled and rubbed Marcus’s back soothingly.
“You outgrew toys a long time ago but I can still put a smile on your face,” Santa said and angled his head so his lips could nudge Marcus’s. His breath was sweet and minty and Marcus’s mouth watered as his tongue swept into Santa’s mouth. Santa groaned encouragingly when Marcus’s fingers twisted in his beard and the kiss became desperate. “Slow down. You can take all the time you need,” he reminded him but Marcus shook his head and kissed Santa again.
“You taste so good!” He said and pushed against Santa’s chest so he’d sit back. He was starving and Marcus couldn’t stop his hands from wandering Santa’s broad chest and round belly. His hands drifted to the front of Santa’s trousers and Marcus squeaked when he found an alarming bulge in the red velvet. “I guess you brought the North Pole with you,” he teased and Santa snorted in amusement.
“You can climb it, if you’re brave enough,” he challenged. Marcus sat back and his chin tilted haughtily.
“You’ve gone and brought my honor into it,” he replied then slid off Santa’s thigh.
“See what I mean?” Santa laughed softly and flicked the end of Marcus’s nose. “Delightful,” he observed but Marcus’s face scrunched dubiously before he shrugged.
“Not as delightful as this,” he said as he braced his hands on Santa’s thighs and kissed him again. “I want to know if the rest of you tastes this good.”