Last year, eight-year-old Daniel made a fateful Christmas wish for him and his Uncle Josh to find someone special in their lives and bring them closer together. Daniel knows the day Nick entered his and his Uncle Josh’s lives it was nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Since the two men have been together, Daniel has basked in the love and affection his two favorite adults have given him.
When a school bully makes Daniel question whether the two men are truly committed to each other, he becomes worried the foundation of happiness his Uncle Josh and Nick have worked so hard to build may come crumbling down around them. Young Daniel craves the true stability from both men to officially pledge their lives and devotion together that he believes only a marriage ceremony can give.
All Daniel has ever wanted is to be an official family. Now all he has to do is convince Uncle Josh and Nick to do it, so his biggest dream can come true.
Nick paced the floor anxiously and checked the time on his watch for what he knew must have been the hundredth time. Where the hell was Josh? He knew that his fiancée should have been home at least fifteen minutes ago. He walked over to the kitchen window and looked out into the backyard once again to check on Danny.
Danny and his beloved basset hound, Fred, sat on the porch steps together. His slight shoulders hunched over as he picked at a thread on his shirt. Fred leaned heavily against Danny’s side and licked his cheek, making Danny giggle. He watched Danny’s small arm reach around and hug the dog to him.
Damn, Nick loved that dog.
If anyone could get Danny out of a funk, it was Fred.
Nick wished Fred could do the same for him. Unfortunately, doggie kisses didn’t do anything for him. Nick needed Josh. His calm demeanor and voice of reason was something that both Nick and Danny relied on.
Nick rubbed his hands up and down his arms trying to ward off the uneasiness that threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn’t get the vision of that horrible boy attacking Danny out of his mind. Even with him parked practically on the side of the school, he witnessed the attack quite clearly. As soon as he saw the bully hit Danny with the erasers, he dashed out of his car and started running toward them but Nick still didn’t get there in time to stop the attack and the guilt of it all, weighed heavily on his shoulders.
He knew he should have left the house earlier. If he had, he would have been able to park closer to the front of the school and he could have gotten to Danny sooner. He was supposed to protect Danny and knowing that he failed to do so, made him feel sick with remorse. He anxiously twisted the gold promise ring that Josh had given him. Over the past year, touching that ring had become a comfort to Nick whenever he was nervous.
Nick spun around and sprinted toward the foyer when he heard the front door close.
“I’m hoooooommeee! How are my two favorite people doing?” He heard Josh’s tenor voice sing off-key.
His feet dashed toward Josh’s voice and it seemed like minutes passed before he stood directly in front of his lover’s smiling, welcoming face.
Nick knew that between his body language and facial expressions, Josh immediately realized something was wrong. His smile vanished and a look of concern crossed his handsome face.
“Oh, my god, Nick…what’s wrong?” Josh’s warm hands cupped his face and his light green eyes looked worriedly up at him.
At six foot, Nick stood a few inches over Josh’s five-ten frame, but there were times Josh’s comforting presence made him appear larger than life.
“It’s Danny…” He began.
A look of pure terror washed over Josh’s face. “What about Daniel?”
Nick took a deep breath trying to calm his nerves before he continued. “He was harassed and attacked at school by a fellow classmate this afternoon right before school let out. Danny and this horrible boy were dusting out the erasers in front of the school and the boy said some cruel things to him and started hitting him with them.”
A look of astonishment fell over his lover’s face. “Our Daniel was bullied? Who would pick on such a sweet child,” he asked.
Nick nodded and brought his own hands up to Josh’s waist. “Apparently, this Andrew boy and his father believe that Danny is some kind of freak because he lives with a couple of fags like us. According to them, our kind isn’t welcomed here and we should just pack up and leave before our disgusting lifestyle influences others.”
Josh’s green eyes blazed with anger. “What the hell…Is he all right—I thought that school has a no tolerance policy! Has this been going on long?”
“He’s a little shaken up, but he’s fine. We had a long talk with his teacher and evidentially this Andrew boy has been picking on him for some time now. Danny chose not to say anything because he wants the boy to like him and he didn’t want to get him into trouble. Today is the first time Andrew took it to another level and attacked Danny. Mr. Thompson and the principal assured both of us that bullying is not tolerated at school and they have suspended Andrew for the rest of the year. They’re also going to make sure that Andrew and Danny don’t have the same class together next year so this doesn’t happen again.”
Josh nodded and pulled Nick close to his warm body. The smell of rubbing alcohol lingered with the fresh scent of his cologne. At first, Nick thought that the aroma was an unusual combination, but since Josh often came home from his job from the hospital in his scrubs, that smell soon became a comfort to him.