Eros (Cupid) takes a much needed vacation. He puts his younger brother Gracien in charge this year of making people fall in love. Problem: Gracien isn't an ordinary cupid, he's Santa's angel, a mischievous fun-looking male who Eros tried to destroy when he was born. The archangel Michael has assured Eros that Gracien can handle the job. Eros isn't so sure, but he has enough trouble keeping his self out of danger when the archangel Gabriel shows up at the hotel in Rome where Eros has gone for a little R&R. The last angel Gabriel expected to see walking around the Louvre is that trouble-making Eros whom Gabriel has been in loves with for nearly two centuries. Eros accidently shot Gabriel in his behind with one of his powerful arrows and now it is Gabriel's chance to make him pay with his heart for what he did.
"What are you watching?" Gabriel asked Michael.
Michael nodded toward the opposite side of the field where the cupids were busy learning how to shoot their bows and arrows.
Gabriel picked up a heavy weight and started training. "What about them?"
"Nothing, they're just so darn cute."
"They're cupids," Gabriel reminded him. "They're supposed to be cute."
Besides being cute these cupids were also notorious pranksters. Their trainers, Jerald and Steven, had their hands full with the jubilant five: Hiram, Eros, Mary, Alice, and Hart. Michael knew all of them well because the Lord, many years ago had put him in charge of the nursery as part of his duties. Hart and Alice were sort of shy and studious. Mary was a bit of a tomboy and excelled in martial arts like her older sister Macy. Hiram and Eros were the class clowns and often played practical jokes on everyone and dragged the others along with them to get in trouble. Right now, Eros was chasing Hiram around the targets, trying to shoot him in the behind.
Michael continued to watch the cupids as he and Gabriel trained. Their other friend, Raphael, came over to work out, too. He had his shoulder-length black hair pulled away from his face in a ponytail. Michael wore his blond hair the same way. Gabriel had short light brown hair and didn't have to worry about it getting into his eyes while he trained. He'd dyed it auburn most of last year and decided to go back to his original color after Christmas.
"What are you guys looking at?" Raphael asked.
"The cupids," Gabriel answered. He pointed across the field.
"Oh, them," Raphael said. "I love to see the nerve in Jerald's forehead throb when he gets angry." Jerald and Steven trained the archangels, too.
Michael stopped what he was doing and walked over and stood between Hiram and Eros. Both cupids stopped in mid-flight. These two were extraordinarily handsome. Eros was leggy and shapely with long blond curls. Hiram had an exotic Asian appearance, just as slender as Eros but just an inch or so shorter.
The two angels bowed to him. "Good afternoon, mother."
Michael cringed at the nickname he'd earned from caring for the babies. He bowed back. "What are you two doing?"
Hiram spoke first. "Eros is trying to shoot me in the butt."
Eros defended his actions. "I needed a big target."
Hiram laughed loudly. "Your butt is bigger than mine."
Michael tried to keep a serious face. "The two of you are supposed to be practicing your archery and not causing your teachers any problems."
Eros raised his startling blue-eyed gaze. "We were just having a bit of fun, Michael. We didn't mean any harm."
Michael had heard it all before, yet still he found himself in confession a lot for having improper thoughts about Eros. He bet Eros did, too. "Apologize to your elders and your class and get back to your studies."
Both cupids bowed again. "Yes, Michael."
Michael walked away to rejoin his friends. Something whizzed past him. He heard someone howl before he made it over there. It sounded like Gabriel. Michael hurried over to him. "What happened?"
Gabriel turned around. He had an arrow in his behind.
Michael looked across the field. Eros stood there looking defiant. Steven was fussing at him. He had his bow raised. Michael glared at him. He was going to have to punish that one. He removed the arrow from Gabriel's backside and held his hand over the injury and healed it.
"You're going to have to do something about him," Gabriel exclaimed. Raphael nodded in agreement.
Michael looked back across the field. Eros hit the bullseye dead center when he shot. "He's a natural born archer."
Gabriel rubbed his butt. "He's a demon with blond curls."
Steven handed Eros the crossbow. He shot, and all of the bolts hit the bullseye in the center.
"No doubt he will be selected as the Angel of Love by the Lord," Raphael said. "The other cupids can't hit the broad side of barn."
Eros had already shot his way into Michael's heart. "We better get back to our training." He kept looking over at the cupids. Hiram was up next to shoot. He completely missed the target. He was the oldest cupid created. Eros was the youngest, but Hiram was no match for the comely blond when it came to shooting. Hiram was much better at watching over the other cupids and keeping them out of trouble. Mary hit the target, but not in the center. Hart and Alice's arrows fell short.
Eros was up to shoot again.
"You need to do something with that little minx," Gabriel said again.
"What do you propose I do?" Michael asked.
"Spank him. He's really turning into a little terror."
Raphael laughed. "I have a feeling that one would love being spanked, especially by Michael. It's obvious that he's trying to get his attention. Why don't you put him out of his misery and bed him?"
Michael shook his head. "I couldn't do that. It would make the Lord angry if I corrupted one of his cupids."
"Then the Lord shouldn't have made them so gorgeous," Raphael said.
Gabriel agreed. "That one should not have a penis."
Michael didn't understand what he meant. Eros did not have any feminine attributes that he knew of, and adding a penis to the handsome package did appeal to Michael more than a vagina. "I'll talk to him. He has to learn that what he does has consequences."
Gabriel rubbed his butt again. "Yeah."
Several centuries later
"Eros, you remember Gracien, don't you?" Michael asked as they stood in the foyer of Eros's mansion. The place reminded him of a museum with all the framed masterpieces and sculptures decorating most of it and the outside perimeter.
"Yes, it's nice to see you again, Gracien. Please come in."
Michael could not believe how charming Eros was being, especially to a younger sibling he'd once tried to harm. He and Gracien followed Eros through the house. The ceramic floors and the white walls made the place feel cold. The walls were littered with precious artwork, most of it commissioned from popular artists Eros had met over time. Where most of the angels lived humbly, Eros loved opulence, the grandeur, the better. Eros took them to the parlor and then brought them tea.
"How is Nick?" Eros asked Gracien.
"Santa's fine," Gracien answered as he looked around. "He's lost all of the Christmas weight and his blood pressure has returned to normal." Gracien was always worried that Santa would become ill from all the overeating. "He's been busy designing toys for next year."
Gracien was Eros' younger brother who lived at the North Pole. Gracien had grown up in Rome, under the watchful eyes of the bishops at the Vatican. He was a gospel singer as well as a healer. Gracien was also loved by everyone he met, except for Eros.
"Mama sends her love. She wants you to come for a visit soon." Mama was Mrs. Claus. The woman just simply loved everyone.
"I might take her up on her kind offer," Eros said.
Michael looked from one cupid to the other. Eros was older by several centuries. He and Gracien resembled each other because Gracien had been created by using some of the same essences the Lord had used when he created Eros. Michael had just tweaked the formula a bit, giving Gracien red hair, plumper cheeks, and deeper dimples. Eros was blond, but he and Gracien shared the same fathomless blue eyes. Michael had also given Gracien a sweeter disposition and a shapelier body. Eros did have more upper-body muscle from centuries of archery.
"Have you decided on a vacation spot?" Gracien asked his brother.
"Rome," Eros answered.
Gracien groaned a bit. It was understandably so since Gracien thought of the place as home. "Why?"
"I want to visit the Galleria Borghese. It's one of my favorite museums."
Eros was an artist, too. Michael wondered if it was just a coincidence that he chose the place where Gracien had been raised. Michael had taken the infant there after Eros had tried to smother him. After many centuries of counseling, the Lord felt it was time to give Eros another chance to get along with his brother. Gracien was in Heaven to take Eros's place as Cupid for Valentine's Day while his brother had a much-deserved vacation. Plus, it was time for Gracien to meet the rest of the angels, especially those in the House of Cupid. That would take place some other time though. This visit was to be kept a secret just in case this forced reunion didn't work out. Gracien would only be there for two weeks to be trained by Eros in the fine art of match-making. Funny. Gracien was already in a relationship with a shifter named Lancelot, while his older brother was still single and mateless. "I think I better go and let the two of you get acquainted." Michael rose and left Eros's mansion, hoping the two brothers would not kill each other.
After showing Gracien to his room, the two brothers went downstairs to dinner. Most angels didn't need to eat, especially the older ones like Michael and the rest of the archangels. They lived off of a fruity tasting drink called ambrosia. It made the angels mellow. Cupids, on the other hand, were a different breed. They were partial to sweets, especially chocolate or cake. And had embraced the western custom of having three meals a day. All of them were vegetarians, since animals were considered sacred and have souls, too.
Eros escorted Gracien to the smaller of the two dining rooms. They ate a green salad, followed by tomato soup. The main course was vegetable lasagna. Gracien eyed the delicious-looking chocolate mousse. "I really shouldn't have chocolate. Lance said it makes me hyper."
"Lance?" Eros asked.
Gracien nodded. "My boyfriend."
"Oh, him." Eros had met the shifter last year when he went to Rome to hear Gracien perform with the choir and at Gracien's home in the North Pole when he'd gone there with Michael to ask Gracien to be Cupid this year. He studied his younger brother from across the table. Except for the red hair the two of them could be twins. "What did he say when you told him that you were coming here to Heaven to train to be Cupid?"
Gracien stopped eating the chocolate mousse. "Of course, he had his apprehensions since you tried to smother me when I was a babe."
Eros chuckled. "So now you're here seeking revenge?"
Gracien shook his head. "I suppose you had a reason for what you tried to do. My life wasn't so bad at the Vatican and I figured you'd gotten over your jealousy or something like that."
Eros rolled his eyes at his sibling. "You were in the way. Michael stopped seeing me and only had eyes for you."
Gracien sighed. "I was a baby, Eros. Michael is the only father figure I have. Why couldn't you have accepted me? The two of you would be bonded by now and probably have a family."
"I was stupid and jealous," Eros admitted. "I didn't want to share him with you. I loved him and wanted to marry him. So I figured if you were eliminated, it would happen."
"So how did that way of thinking work for you?" Gracien asked sarcastically.
Eros sighed sadly. "It drove Michael away."
"I am not a threat," Gracien said. "I love Lance and he makes me very happy. You need to marry Michael."
"It's too late for Michael and me, I'm afraid," Eros said. "But thank you for coming here even though I've been so unkind to you."
"You're my brother," Gracien said. "And family always comes first. "You have a very tough job and you deserve a break."
"Our practice starts tomorrow. I have a week to teach you the fine art of being Cupid."
"How hard can it be?" Gracien asked. "I just have to shoot humans in the butt with arrows."
Eros chuckled. "No, it's a little bit more than that. You need to learn the art of falling in love and lovemaking."
"Did I not mention that I have a boyfriend," Gracien asked.
"Gracien, love and lust are two different things. You need to learn the difference."
Did he mean that what he felt for Lance wasn't love? Gracien finished off his dessert. Later he slept restlessly hoping Eros didn't try to smother him again.