They say time heals all wounds, but is love enough to heal what time didn't?
In effort to deal with the death of his partner, Daniel Hoffman turned to work, burying himself amongst the old books and records of the archives. Years later, he is comfortable in his isolated and insulated life.
For years Jared Lont and Chance Devlin have watched their closest friend withdraw into himself and his work. A couple for a decade, their mutual desire and love for Daniel prompts a Christmas getaway spent in northern Michigan in a cabin near Lake Huron.
Even as the ice and snow swirl about them, desire and need heat up in an effort for love to heal old wounds and melt the walls built by grief.
|Publisher:||Totally Entwined Group|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||213 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
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Daniel Hoffman stared out of the backseat passenger window of his friends' black SUV into the foreign, snow-covered terrain. He still wasn't sure why he'd agreed to spend the holidays with his best friends, Chance Devlin and Jared Lont. The pair made a terrific couple, but they really didn't need a third wheel tagging along to spend Christmas and the New Year in a cabin on the frozen shores of Lake Huron. He doubted it was the romantic getaway that Chance had pictured when he first proposed the idea to Jared. Daniel shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He had no idea what his friends had been thinking.
He would have been better off staying in the city where there were plenty of things to keep him occupied ... and keep his mind off Collin and how wonderful Christmas was supposed to be. He would have been perfectly happy spending the time in the archives helping new genealogists discover their family history, or a more advanced family historian untangle the stubborn threads of a complex line to reveal long held secrets.
For the hundredth time during his waking hours, he cursed himself for getting talked into the vacation. He should be at the archives. Not that his boss would be welcoming or particularly accommodating. Ashley Marks was a great boss, but she had kicked him out the door with orders not to show his face until the seventh of January. He hadn't taken a vacation, called in sick or missed a day of work in over eighteen months. He had even begun taking private clients and researching their family trees for them.
Daniel sighed. He knew the exact date things had changed — the eleventh of June. The day the state police had come to his work and told him that his partner of three and a half years was dead — killed by mini-van driver who hadn't been paying attention and who hadn't really seemed to care that she'd killed someone. She'd repeated plenty of times that she was a Christian and hadn't meant it, but never once had she said she was sorry. Not even as the judge had convicted her of vehicular manslaughter.
Tears welled as he thought of the last moments with Collin before he had left that morning.
"God, you're a lousy liar. I hate you, Daniel. You need to figure out if you really want me in your life anymore or not," Collin had shouted before stomping out of the house. "You have until I get home from work —"
"Danny, hey, you with us back there? We're going to stop at Meijer's. There are a few things we need to pick up," Jared said, his dark eyes looking at him in the rear-view mirror. "My sister, Janice, called earlier to say that the cabin hadn't been re-stocked after the hunting trip."
Daniel nodded and turned back to the window. At least that was something he didn't have to worry about. There were no memories of him and Collin at the cabin. Collin was a city boy through and through. He'd said on more than one occasion that college was as rural as he ever wanted to get. He'd grown up in San Francisco and hated the smaller city surrounding the college he'd attended. Daniel, on the other hand, had grown up a few hours from their destination in Grand Rapids and didn't mind the country occasionally, even while he loved his home and friends in Philadelphia.
The truck came to a stop and Daniel focused on the scenery, slightly bewildered. At some point they had entered a town and pulled into the parking lot of a large grocery store. He remembered the store from childhood. It was similar to Wal-Mart, but as far he knew Meijer's was older and local. Blowing out a breath, Daniel shrugged into his coat, grabbed his gloves and stepped out into the swirling snow. He followed his friends into the store and scowled. Christmas music rang out overhead. Decorations and gift ideas were everywhere. Shoppers pushed their way through the aisles to get at one thing or another. After veering towards the food section, the trio quickly filled a cart with food, beer and other assorted essential goods.
"Let me get this," Chance said, resting a hand on Daniel's arm as he reached for his wallet.
"I'm not broke. I can pay for my own groceries," Daniel protested.
"I know. I'm not saying that you can't, but ..." Chance replied, his hazel eyes pleading.
Daniel finally nodded. "If it's that bloody important to you ..."
"Thank you," Chance said softly then added, "You're here because we want you here. You know that, right? You're our friend."
"What — why —?"
"You've been so quiet most of the way here. I wanted to make sure you knew that we want you here with us."
Daniel nodded and moved to the end of the checkout line while the cashier rang up their purchases, bagging them in enough plastic bags to give an eco-warrior a heart attack. He liked simple. He liked the local grocery store he could visit every couple of days with his own shopping bags — where he was known, but nobody asked how he was or tried to flirt with him.
"When did you pick that up?" Chance asked.
Daniel looked up in time to see the cashier move a cardboard carton containing six brown bottles of beer into a bag. The packaging was blue with a scene painted on it to reflect a lit log cabin in the woods inside an oval decorated with holly berries and ivy. The label said it was new — Smugglers' Cove Winter Stout.
"While you were chasing down the wine. It looks good. It's a microbrew — Michigan-based, according to the sign," Jared said, smiling. "Maybe we can even coax Danny into having one with us."
Daniel shook his head. "Not likely." His alcohol consumption was limited to a glass of Bailey's on the rocks on New Year's Eve. He had no desire to change that.
* * *
Two hours later the truck had been unloaded and the groceries and luggage put away. Daniel set up his laptop before walking into the main room of the cabin, which was actually more of a house. The large open area held a spacious kitchen, dining room and living room. The downstairs bathroom and a bedroom opened off one side, while the master suite with a private bathroom and a staircase leading to four bedrooms and the last bathroom upstairs were on the opposite side of the room.
"Are you sure about this?" Jared asked, kissing Chance, his hands down the front of his lover's jeans.
"Yes, I'm sure," Chance replied, his hands settling on Jared's ass.
The sight was intoxicating and Daniel could easily imagine the couple naked ... except he could easily imagine there being sex and three people instead of two. The images had his cock starting to fill. Daniel cursed and retreated to his bedroom, knocking into a table as he did. The pain only softened his erection a little.
"Danny?" "Are you okay?" Chance and Jared asked simultaneously
Daniel turned back to his friends and nodded. "Sorry, I'm not used to ... I'm — I didn't mean to walk in on you two. Just let me know when you're done."
Chance kissed Jared again and let him go. Daniel watched Jared cross the floor to him before he pulled him into a hug. Squirming, he tried to jerk out of his friend's embrace, hoping Jared didn't notice his erection.
"You're our best friend, Danny. We didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable or unwelcomed."
Daniel shrugged, pushing his friend away. "It's just ... It's not that. It's more a reminder of what I can't have." What I'll never have again.
"Sweetheart, what makes you say that?" Jared asked, hugging him again. "Collin's death wasn't your fault. It hurts, but it doesn't make you unlovable. There's someone for you."
Daniel wriggled away. "I came out to see about dinner," he said, changing the subject. He didn't want to talk about Collin's death or his love life ... or lack of one. He certainly didn't want to have any sort of conversation that might lead to him revealing the reason for the series of fights he'd had with Collin up until his partner's death. Or the dreams that had been plaguing him since then.
"Why don't you and I start dinner? Chance can bring in some more wood and start a fire," Jared said, looping an arm around his waist and kissing his cheek.
"You're touchy-feely all of a sudden," Daniel said, the words sounding harsher than he'd intended.
"Nope, same as always. You withdrew into yourself after Collin's death." Jared shook his head. "Come on. We'll make something quick tonight. You can show off your culinary skills tomorrow."
"We probably should have stopped and ate along the way, so we didn't have to cook tonight," Daniel replied, allowing the bigger man to drag him into the kitchen.
"Probably. But I forgot to ask Janice what was still open." Jared turned the tap on and stuck his hands under the water. The pair got out everything they needed to make homemade sloppy joes.
"We can go explore the town tomorrow and see, though," Jared suggested, browning the ground beef.
Daniel nodded automatically, knowing full well that he didn't want to go into town. He wasn't in the mood to be around people — strangers or friends. That he'd allowed himself to get talked into this vacation still irritated him. Cursing, he slammed the cupboard door harder than he'd anticipated.
"Wow, are you all right? What's going on?" Jared paused pulling two bottles of beer and a bottle of Coke out of the refrigerator.
"Nothing," Daniel snapped. He took several deep breaths, knowing he was angry with himself not his friends. It wasn't their fault and he couldn't justify taking his anger out on them. And the one person he could possibly blame was dead.
* * *
Jared Lont leaned against the kitchen counter and watched his best friend curl up in an easy chair by the fireplace, a thick book in his lap. He'd caught a glimpse of the title earlier and sighed. The volume of battlefield correspondences had several dozen note cards stuck between the old pages. Even on vacation, Daniel refused to rest. Jared shook his head. When he'd hugged his friend earlier, he was certain he'd felt at least a partial erection. What he couldn't be sure of was whether it was because of him in particular or just a reaction to a warm body. Jared pushed a hand through his hair and blew out a breath. He'd hated seeing Daniel pull further and further away from everyone, burying himself in work.
"Have a beer with us?" Chance asked, walking into the room.
Jared pushed away from the counter. He grabbed a Heineken for Chance and a Smugglers' Cove Winter Ale for himself out of the refrigerator.
"No, I don't like to drink," Daniel replied, shaking his head.
"It'll relax you," Chance suggested.
"It just makes me tired."
"Chance, let him be," Jared interrupted. He could see Daniel squirm. He'd known him since he'd arrived in Philadelphia years ago and in that whole time, he'd never seen the man drink except on New Year's Eve. He didn't want his friend to feel any more pressure than necessary. Heaven knew that Daniel had buried himself in work and continued to try to withdraw from everyone he'd grown close to over the years.
As close as the three of them were, Chance didn't know Daniel as well as Jared did. Hell, even they weren't as close as they had once been. Chance's constant travelling lately was starting to wear on both him and their relationship. Jared had suggested more than once that he let his vice president or other manager do the majority of the travelling, but his lover had yet to listen to him. When Chance had suggested spending a couple of weeks at the cabin Jared's family owned, Jared had been thrilled. He hadn't even objected when Chance had suggested they bring Daniel along to see if they could pursue a relationship with the slightly younger man. With his relationship with Chance on less than steady ground, it was tantamount to relationship suicide to even consider bringing a third person in, but it had seemed so important to Chance that he hadn't been able to say no. It would either be the smartest move they ever made ... or the dumbest. He was risking everything for the possibility of love with both men.
Daniel smiled up at Jared before turning back to his book.
"Want to watch a movie?" Jared asked, handing Chance his beer before joining him on the couch. "We have the newest Mark Harris movie. The one with the really great butt shots."
Chance smiled. "Sounds great. He's among my top five actors."
"Because of his acting ability or his body?" Daniel asked, looking up from his book.
"Yes," Chance replied. "Are you going to watch it with us?" "Go ahead. I'm going to read."
"Are you sure we aren't going to bug you? This is the only TV in the house." Jared stood. That had been a long argument years ago. Everyone in the immediate family used the house for vacations and hunting trips, so in the end they had agreed to only one television, in the living room.
"I'm sure," Daniel said. "If it's too distracting, I can go to my room."
Jared nodded. He retrieved the movie from the bedroom he shared with Chance then put it in the player. Daniel staying in the living room with them felt right. Even if his best friend was doing it just to sneak glimpses of the actor's body, he wasn't running away from them. Maybe this trip was what Daniel had needed all along.
Chance shifted until the only place Jared could sit was between his legs. Sighing, Jared shook his head but let Chance pull him back until Jared was resting against the muscular wall of his broad chest. Chance's arms encircled him.
Jared watched Daniel out of the corner of his eye. Partway through the movie, Daniel was still reading his book, occasionally stealing glances up at the screen. Once, Jared had caught him looking at them.
Chance moved his hands lower, tugging Jared's shirt out of his jeans before feeling his way up under the multiple layers he was wearing to toy with one of his nipples. Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Daniel smiled and nodded once to him then disappeared into his room. He was torn between going after Daniel, reminding Chance that Daniel was there and enjoying the sensations.
Chance's fingers danced over his skin, lighting the nerve endings on fire as he went. His cock hardened when one of Chance's hands unbuttoned his jeans and slid the zipper down partway before sliding his hand inside and wrapping it around Jared's cock.
Jared groaned and draped his leg over Chance's, giving his lover more room to play. Conscious thought ceased as Chance eased his cock and balls out of the confines of his jeans and underwear, all the while pinching a nipple and licking and kissing his ears. Jared bit his lower lip and rode through the onslaught to his body.
Chance released him and grabbed the layers of material, pulled them over his head and tossed them on the floor. Jared carefully wiggled out of the rest of his clothes before kneeling between his lover's open thighs.
Bracing himself on the arm of the couch, Jared bent down and kissed Chance deeply while pulling his shirt from the waistband of his dress pants. He continued the kiss as he worked in tandem with Chance to strip him. Jared repositioned himself, kneeling astride Chance on the couch with a leg on either side of his man's hips and their erections rubbing together. He kissed and licked the indentation where Chance's neck and collarbone met before sucking and marking his partner.
"I'm going to fuck you long and hard," Chance whispered harshly in his ear, his hands spreading his ass cheeks while strong fingers played with his hole. "Time to ride, baby."
Jared moaned and nodded. Chance reached down and came up with a bottle of lube. The bottle disappeared from his view. Moments later, the liquid slid down between his cheeks, doing little to cool the heated flesh. Chance's fingers swirled in the gel, circling his hole one finger pushed its way in. Jared gasped at the welcome invasion. Chance roughly finger-fucked him for several minutes before adding a second finger with more lube, and then a third.
"Now. Fuck me now!" Jared demanded, impaling himself on Chance's fingers.
Chance grunted and placed his hands on Jared's hips. Jared bit back a cry as he tried to move his hips and failed. Chance's grip tightened. An eternity passed before he felt the head of Chance's erection at his entrance. Chance flexed his hips just enough to slip into Jared then slid out again. Growling in frustration after the fourth teasing thrust, Jared tried to take more of Chance's erection. Chance's grip stopped his movement. Taking a deep breath, he pushed down until Chance was in as far as he could go.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Christmas To Remember"
Copyright © 2011 Simone Anderson.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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