Will a decade-old family feud and long held secrets stand in the way of love?
Auden Whipple is searching for a bit of peace and quiet from his loud family when he stumbles across the neighbor, Porter Eldin. Porter is scorching hot on a freezing Christmas Day, and nothing like Auden expected. A moment shared by the creek begins a relationship that surprises them both.
As the Christmases pass, Auden and Porter’s relationship deepens. But the obstacle of the unresolved conflict between the Whipples and the Eldins makes Auden worried. Worried to tell his family of his new-found love, worried that the conflict will come between them.
Can two men truly in love help mend fences that have been broken for too long? Can the holiday spirit help Auden and Porter find their happily ever after?
The chill is starting to make me feel sluggish and I bounce on my toes and shake out my hands in an attempt to warm up. “How are you not freezing to death?” I ask, gesturing at his hoodie. “You’re not even wearing a hat and you don’t have any hair.”
He chuckles and waggles his eyebrows. “I’m warm-blooded.”
“Mhm.” I sweep my gaze over him, from head to toe. One upside to what he’s wearing is that his clothing doesn’t hide much, and I like what I see. Wide shoulders. A broad chest. Narrow hips, beefy, drool worthy thighs, and muscular calves. I lick my lips before I come to my senses and quickly look away.
He bursts out laughing again. The sudden sound echoes between the trees and scares the birds into silence.
Crap. That was incredibly stupid, gawking at him like that. Especially considering what he just told me. I curl in on myself and hide my face in my scarf. “Sorry,” I mutter. “I didn’t mean to ...” I let my voice trail off.
He finishes the sentence for me. “Check me out?”
“Yes. That.” I scowl at my own stupidity.
He takes a step closer to me. “Relax, honey. I’m nothing like them.” He lets his gaze fall to my lips.
“We have more in common than you think.”
My mouth falls open, but he shuts it carefully with a finger under my chin. He doesn’t remove his hand immediately; instead, he runs his finger through my soft beard, sending shivers down my neck.
He’s a little taller than me, and I like that. He’s broader, too, and rugged, all muscles and power. He makes me feel small next to him, but he’s not threatening. He holds himself in a way that tells me he’s aware of his strength, knows he can be intimidating, and doing his best not to scare me. His laughter is disarming, there’s something sensitive about his mouth, and his eyes are kind.
I can’t stop staring at him.
“You were very cute as a teenager,” he says, voice low and rumbly in his chest. “All gangly limbs and adorable awkwardness. And you grew up nice. Real nice.” After a final caress to my chin, he lets his arm fall to his side.
“You ... you thought I was cute?”
He nods. “And interesting. I always wondered what you were drawing in that sketchbook you carried around everywhere.”
I don’t know what to say to that. I never noticed him paying me any attention -- I never notice anyone paying me attention -- and never thought about him like that when we were still somewhat on speaking terms. I don’t think I’ve seen him once since I went to college. “I still carry my sketchbook around,” I say, fighting the urge to roll my eyes at myself. My conversation skills are non-existent today.
“Are you an artist?”
“Yes. No!” I shake my head. “Um, maybe?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I am an artist, but I have a day job to survive. At a desk. It’s boring and unfulfilling but it pays my bills. My dream is to illustrate children’s books, though. They are magical and make everyone happy.”
He smiles. “Have you ever done something like that?”
I shake my head. “Not really. I mean, I’ve done some covers for children’s books and I do other book covers, too, for indie authors mostly. But I keep trying.”
“I’d love to see your work some time.”
“Okay.” Does he mean that? I hope he means that, I so want to see him again.