Can Lonnie overcome the bad Holiday memories with his dragon's help?
Lonnie Douglas has reason to dislike, almost hate the holidays. His parents are now in the background of his life. Back from his time in the Navy, Vincent Taylor lands in Lonnie's present life, hoping to show him the love and need he has always felt.
Can Lonnie handle the new responsibilities the town leaders are asking of him? Can he overcome the bad memories with his dragon's help?
How do you tell a very large, sometimes excitable, fire-breathing dragon that his girlfriend ran off to Vegas to get married? The week before Christmas?
Lonnie Douglas paced across the back porch. Sixteen steps in each direction, he knew that from previous experience. Pacing the back porch helped him think. Solve problems. "How do I solve this one?" he wondered out loud, running a hand through his red hair. Unlike him, Vincent had always loved the winter holidays.
Lonnie's family had turned Christmas into a nightmare for him. The fighting, drinking, lack of presents or food, and the year he ended up in the hospital. New Year's Eve, he didn't even want to think about.
Vincent's family celebrated the Winter Solstice: family get-togethers, great food, and a lot of laughter. They even had small presents for everyone who made it to the celebration, including Lonnie, the few times he could make it.
A large shadow passed over the backyard. Lonnie peeked at his watch. Two fifty-eight p.m. When Vincent landed it would be three o'clock. Dragons were never late. Or early. They were always precisely on time.
Vincent Taylor glided into the clearing, all black and gold sleek dragon body. The black wings folded after landing. Clear golden eyes spotted Lonnie on the porch. As the dragon moved toward the house, there was a brief flash of white light, and a tall man stood where the beast had been. Long black hair, golden eyes, wearing black leather pants, duster and boots. Nothing else. He looked delicious.
"Are Carol and Cole back yet?" Vincent asked.
Lonnie stared. "Back from where?"
"Las Vegas!" Vincent smiled as he shook his head. "Where they were going to get married?"
Lonnie almost sagged with relief. "You knew they were seeing each other?"
"I introduced them. Knew they'd be perfect for one another." Vincent looked at Lonnie. "Did you think I was going to be upset?"
Lonnie shrugged. "When they told me they were eloping, I could only think of you. The idea of you being hurt during the holidays..." Lonnie paused. He stood on the top step and was actually eye to eye with Vincent for a change. Lonnie put his palm against Vincent's cheek. When he realized what he had done, Lonnie tried to pull away.
Vincent set his hand on top of Lonnie's. "You can touch me. I've wanted you to for a long time."
"You have?" Lonnie flexed his fingers. The skin felt smooth. Almost like soft leather. No bristles. Dragons didn't grow beards. Or any type of body hair.
Vincent looked at the man before him. Lonnie was one of the few civilian humans he completely trusted. They had known each other all through school. Shared almost all their classes. Helped each other. Defended each other. Vincent physically. Lonnie logically. They were the Odd Couple of North High. The Nerd and the Fire Dragon.
Lonnie went to college. Vincent went to the Navy. Totally against the family tradition of the Air Force. Fire Dragons on the sea? What was Vincent thinking?
It had been a very intense six years in the Navy preparing for the second war with the Voldai. It hadn't started yet, but everyone believed it was coming. He'd been home for a couple of months now working in the family business, a Shifter training facility. The place was now training agents for some of the government's more clandestine offices.
After living away for years, Lonnie had moved back to the family home when his parents retired and decided to travel. They were in Alaska now. Somehow they hadn't killed each other yet.
Lonnie's computer training business could be conducted online from anywhere. He'd been happy to buy the house from his parents. When they traveled, they didn't call him. When they were home, they called him weekly to tell him all the ways he disappointed them. No wife. No grandchildren. When was he going to settle down?
Lonnie had felt the need to totally do over the interior of the house. New look, new memories. But he hadn't put any Christmas decorations out. Why bother? There was nothing to celebrate. No good memories.
Lonnie looked into those golden eyes. "I've wanted you for a long time. Since we were in high school."
"You never said anything." Vincent pressed a kiss into Lonnie's palm.
"You are my best friend. I didn't want to mess that up." Lonnie smiled. "You were dating while we were in school. The cheerleaders and Daisy."
"I didn't date the cheerleaders. That was a joke on my brother, Prentice. I dated Daisy because she and I had the same problem," Vincent murmured against Lonnie's palm.
"Problem?" Lonnie echoed. Vincent just kissed the palm of my hand. Lonnie shivered.
"Yes, problem. We were both gay." Vincent stepped up onto the porch, holding Lonnie's hand to his cheek.
"But why didn't you tell me? No, wait," Lonnie sighed. "My father."
"Yes. Your father. He barely tolerated me being Dragos. Finding out I was gay would have put an end to us. Our friendship." Vincent realized early in their lives what needed to be done to keep Mr. Douglas from throwing him out of Lonnie's life.
"Damn." Lonnie peered at him. "Daisy? Her mother is going to have a bird."
Vincent laughed. He pulled Lonnie toward him and picked him up. Lonnie wrapped his arms around Vincent's shoulders and his legs around his waist. Those tight leather pants didn't hide much. And Vincent was very happy to see him.
Lonnie rubbed himself against Vincent. "I've wanted you for years." He reached up and kissed the dragon. Light little kisses that soon became long, open-mouthed seductions.
Vincent returned his passion as he carried Lonnie across the porch. Pressing Lonnie's back against the wall, Vincent reached for the doorknob, pushed open the door and carried Lonnie over the threshold. Still kissing, Vincent walked through the back sun porch into the kitchen. Placing Lonnie on the breakfast bar, Vincent pressed harder between his legs.
Lonnie growled softly. Pulling back from the kiss, he tried to get some oxygen into his lungs. "Damn. You taste so good!"
"So do you," Vincent panted. "Like honey cinnamon." Vincent lowered his mouth again. Lonnie snorted and actually giggled. Vincent lifted his left eyebrow. "What?"
Lonnie pointed at the counter. There sat a cup with tea in it. And a bottle of honey cinnamon creamer next to it. Vincent stared. He started smiling and let out one of those funny, rumbling laughs that dragons have. "I guess you still drink those creamers with some tea added." Vincent turned back to grin at Lonnie.
"I'll bet you still drink your tea steeped with three tea bags and black," Lonnie answered.
"Nope. I discovered gunpowder tea."
"Gunpowder?" Lonnie echoed.
"Yep. It's so strong I only use one tea bag." Vincent grinned at the face Lonnie made. He hugged Lonnie closer. "I really missed you. And your sense of the absurd."
Lonnie snuggled, putting his face in the curve of Vincent's neck. He breathed in the scent of his Fire Dragon. Leather, sky, and a hint of spice. Almost a roasted chili pepper. Wonder if that is part of the fire breathing?
Vincent was running his hands up and down Lonnie's back. He couldn't believe he was finally holding his Lonnie. It was an old dream or more like a fantasy. Vincent had realized Lonnie was his mate while they were in high school. But he'd known they both had plans that didn't include each other. It had been hard to leave. So hard.
Lonnie began kissing, almost nipping Vincent's neck. The dragon started shivering and let out a small moan. Lonnie trailed his mouth up the neck to the earlobe. He used his teeth to pull on the lobe. Vincent moaned louder and tilted his head. Lonnie's mouth trailed along his jawline and to his mouth. He pulled Vincent's lower lip between his teeth and worried it, then licked at the spot to soothe it.
Vincent cupped both hands around Lonnie's head and kissed him hard. Slipped his tongue inside to taste the other man. He pulled back and growled, "Mine." Took a breath. "Mate."
At the growl, Lonnie just shivered in his arms. The man blinked and asked, "Mate? Am I your mate?"
"Yes. You are." Vincent stared at him. "I've known for a while. But we both had places to go. I had to do time in the military. You needed to get away from your parents. I would have found you when the time was right. Wherever you were." Vincent's voice deepened. "I had to find you. You are the other half of me."
Lonnie thought back to the last year they were in high school. Vincent was right. They had both needed to grow up. Do things outside of their small town.
"I wish I had known," Lonnie said. "It would have been nice to know you were mine. But, I also know we needed to get out of here. At least for a while." He sighed and leaned into Vincent.
They held one another tight. Lonnie pulled back and smiled. He kissed Vincent. A small kiss.
Vincent opened his mouth and met Lonnie's tongue with his own. He loved the growl Vincent let out. Lonnie felt so good. The dragon belonged in his arms. He wanted him. His mate, as Vincent had called him. He believed it.
Lonnie continued to kiss his dragon. His body wanted that cock inside. Skin. He needed skin. Lonnie pulled Vincent's duster down his arms and ran his hands over that bare back. So warm. Dragons were warm-blooded, especially the Fire Dragons. It felt so fine.
Vincent pulled back, breaking the kiss. Lonnie looked slightly dazed. "Bedroom, Lonnie. We need your bedroom."
"Want you in me. Now," Lonnie panted.
Vincent picked the other man up. Lonnie wrapped his legs around his dragon's trim waist. They headed down the hall to Lonnie's room. Vincent's cock was growing. His mating scales throbbed.
A call came from the backyard. "Lonnie? You in there? It's Chief Manning."
Vincent lifted his head and turned the two of them toward the kitchen. "Chief Manning? What the hell?"
Lonnie froze in his arms. "Oh God. My parents."
Vincent lowered him to the floor. He kept an arm around Lonnie's waist. "Hey. It may not be bad news. The chief does visit the townspeople around the holidays."
"True. I hope that's what this is." Lonnie led the way to the back door. He was trying not to imagine the worst.
Vincent picked up his duster and shrugged it on as they walked. No need to advertise what the two of them had been doing. He wanted Lonnie to himself for now.
Lonnie pushed the door open to find the Chief of Police heading to the porch from the squad car parked in the driveway.
"Lonnie. Vincent." The chief nodded his head as the two came through the door. The man still looked like a cowboy. He'd held the office for over ten years and still wore jeans and a cowboy hat.
"Chief Manning. How are you, sir?" Lonnie held out his hand. The chief shook his hand, then Vincent's.
"Doin' fine. I've come to ask a favor, Lonnie."
"Sure, chief. You know I'll gladly help with the town's computers." Lonnie saw the chief shaking his head. "Not the computers?" Lonnie questioned.
"Nope. Not the computers this time." The police chief sighed. He took his hat off and ran his fingers through his gray hair.
Vincent and Lonnie looked at each other in surprise. Chief Manning was not the type of man to "pussyfoot around". He'd proclaimed that many times in the past.
Lonnie swallowed. "Chief. My parents?"
Chief Manning looked up at him. "No, Lonnie. Not your parents. Damn. Didn't mean to make you worry." He shook his head. "The Christmas committee has somehow decided that they want you to play Santa at the community party this year."
"What?" Lonnie asked in shock.
"I told them that wasn't a good idea," the chief said. "I didn't want to tell them why. I just said they should find someone else."
"You mean Miss Isabelle and Miss Julia, don't you Chief?" Vincent knew the women who ran the committees around town. Southern women you didn't say "No" to unless you or someone in your family was dying.
"I thought Mitch Gainer was Santa this year." Lonnie spoke in a hurry. He was starting to sweat. This couldn't be happening.
"He broke his leg yesterday. Fell down the steps in front of Miss Julia's house," Chief Manning replied.
Both Vincent and Lonnie looked at him in suspicion.
"No, he didn't do it on purpose. Mitch is marrying Dorothy Lee. He is not about to let down his future mother-in-law." The chief looked at the men in front of him. "Lonnie, I know you don't like Christmas. I was here a few times when you or your mom called for help."
"You know I can't do this. There has to be someone else." Lonnie was beginning to really worry. He wasn't going to panic. Lonnie took a deep breath, then another. He would find a way out of this. Someone else could be Santa.
Vincent pressed against Lonnie's shoulder. He had come to get Lonnie a few times when his parents had gone too far with the drinking and fighting. He had seen what Lonnie went through.
Vincent couldn't volunteer. The Dragons usually didn't go near the community Christmas party. They were welcomed more now than when Vincent was in school, but Dragos worshipped the Mother Goddess or Mother Earth. The human religious holidays didn't interest them.
"What about Mike or Bob Jones? Or Mitch's brother, Gabe? Can't one of them play Santa?" Lonnie asked.
"The Jones twins are shipping out on the twenty second. They're both in the Navy." Chief Manning looked at Vincent. "You know Gabe can't do it."
"Yeah." Vincent looked at a confused Lonnie. "Gabe is in jail right now. We caught him, Newt, and their buddies breaking into the training center. The FBI got involved."
"That was stupid. Everyone knows your security is top rate." Lonnie was surprised to hear someone tried to break into the Dragon Cliff.
"The politics of war," the chief mumbled.
Lonnie looked over in surprise. "What?" His voice came out in shock.
"We're not sure exactly what they were trying to do, but someone paid them to cause trouble. You know Newt Fielders always hated â€˜my kind'." Vincent made quote marks in the air.
"And we all know the Fielders are a bunch of redneck lowlifes who hate everyone that isn't a Fielders or McKenzie," Manning stated. "If my Margie wasn't a shirttail relation of the McKenzies, they wouldn't listen to a thing I say." He snorted. "Not that they do listen half the time."
"The perks of living in a small Kentucky town." Lonnie ran a hand over his face. The drawbacks of living in a small town. Everyone volunteered. And owning a business in a small town meant you took your turn. Santa Claus. How the hell was he supposed to get through this?
"Chief. When do the ladies need an answer from Lonnie?" Vincent asked.
"Today is Wednesday and the party is on Sunday, after service. I believe the women need to know ASAP." Chief Manning turned to Lonnie. "I'm sorry about this Lonnie. I suggested other men to do this, but they shot down all of them. I even volunteered." He smirked. "Thought I could get one of my deputies to call me in after an hour."
Lonnie felt Vincent's hand at the small of his back. He knew the dragon would back whatever decision was made. Lonnie took a deep breath. With Vincent's help, he could do this. He knew he could.
Looking at Vincent's face, seeing the smile and nod, Lonnie went with his gut feeling.
"Chief, tell Miss Isabelle and Miss Julia I'll do it. But, there is a condition or two." Lonnie felt Vincent's arm tighten around his waist. It gave him some comfort.
"Thank you, Lonnie. I know this is not going to be easy for you." The chief stepped up to shake Lonnie's hand. "What do you want me to tell the ladies?"
"No alcohol. I was there a few times when some of the men had had a bit too much to drink. The kids don't need that."
"Fine with me. I've gotten them to only offer beer and wine the last few years. This is what I need to get it out of the hall entirely." Chief Manning smiled as he nodded.
"I don't want any kind of a clash if any dragonettes show up. Or some of the older Dragos children." Lonnie had lived through a couple of parties where this had happened. Vincent had been through some of those.
Chief Manning shook his head. "I hate to tell you this Lonnie. We haven't had any disagreements about the dragon children for the last three years. Since your parents left town."
"Damn." Lonnie looked up to the sky. He didn't want the pinching in his eyes to produce tears. "Just, damn." His parents had a lot to answer for.
"Santa only needs to be there to hand out the toys, right?" Vincent asked. He needed Lonnie to think of better things. His parents weren't here and were not supposed to be back for years. Maybe never.
"Usually Santa hands out toys and candy canes with the help of his elves. Then he listens while the kids sing a couple of Christmas songs. Santa then makes an excuse about being very busy and goes back to the North Pole," the chief explained.
"Do you have an elf costume that will fit me?" Vincent asked.
Lonnie turned to the dragon as his eyes rounded in shock. Vincent was offering to be an elf?
Chief Manning's mouth dropped open. He stared at Vincent. After a moment, he closed his mouth and cleared his throat. "Vincent, the elves are usually girls. Petite girls. You're over six feet tall and muscular. I don't know if they could make a costume to fit you in three days."
Lonnie grinned. "I think you would look good in tights. And the velvet smock comes down to just about here." He pressed the side of his hand against the thigh about four inches below Vincent's groin.
"Tights? A mini skirt?" Vincent actually turned pale. He looked at Lonnie. Maybe this hadn't been one of his better ideas.
Lonnie smiled at the man beside him. It tickled him that Vincent was actually willing to play an elf if it would help make the Christmas party easier.
"No. I think it would be better for the kids if the girls played the elves this year. I don't remember ever seeing an elf in the movies over a foot taller than Santa and very muscular." Lonnie knew he heard Vincent give a sigh of relief.
Chief Manning also looked relieved. "Sounds good to me." He nodded to the two men and turned away.
Lonnie and Vincent watched the police chief walk to his car and drive away.
"He probably figured he better leave before I changed my mind," Vincent mused.
Lonnie shook his head. He went to one of the Adirondack chairs and slid into it. Vincent moved to the footstool in front of the chair and sat.
"Santa Claus. What the hell do I do? I haven't dealt with kids since I was a kid. And I didn't do much with other kids then." Lonnie had his head back and his eyes closed. Second thoughts were bombarding him.