Christmas Morsel #3
“A little more to the left.”
Jeff eyed Ash. They’d been at this for over thirty minutes. The tang of evergreen filled his nose. “You just said a little more to the right.”
“You overcorrected.” Ash grinned. “Now it needs a bit to the left.”
“I’m sure there’s a carpenter’s level in the construction zone.” Which was pretty much the entire second floor of the house. The formal sitting room was one of the few places in the Rabbit mansion that had undergone restoration.
“You want me to hold the tree?”
“I don’t think I can let go.” Pine sap had glued Jeff’s fingers to the trunk. Spruce needles poked through his sweater, generating a tickle and itch.
“A little more to the left, then.” Ash motioned with one hand.
Jeff tilted the tree.
“Stop. Right there.” Ash strode over and ducked down to tighten the tree stand. He straightened, a few stray needles in his hair. “Let go.”
Jeff let go as Ash crossed the room. Golden sap and bits of bark stuck to Jeff’s fingers. “Is it straight?”
“It’s perfect,” Ash said. He had that beatific smile on his face—the one that made Jeff feel like the king of the world. “Just like in a magazine.”
Giving an answering grin, Jeff joined Ash on the other side of the room. It was pretty cozy. Two of the walls were papered in gold- and wine-striped silk, and the other two were bare plaster. Ash had insisted on halting the work for the holiday. Ash had lovingly restored the oak fireplace mantel and hung wine-colored velvet stockings, one for each of them. A fire crackled in the hearth, giving warmth to the high-ceilinged space. Above the mantel a beveled mirror reflected the room. The hardwood floor gleamed around the edges of the Persian rug.
“It does look good.” Jeff wrapped an arm around Ash’s waist and pulled him in for a kiss. “You have a good eye.”
“I have a good memory for what it looked like when we were kids.” Ash put his arms around Jeff. He smelled good, like citrus and fresh-cut grass. “I think Dalton would approve.”
“I think he would.”
Dalton Rabbit had left the Rabbit estate jointly to Jeff and Ash, with the caveat they had to work together to restore the house. Between Jeff’s architecture background and Ash’s intuitive knack for decorating, they were making slow progress. Years of neglect had left the house in need of a generous dose of TLC.
Ash raised an eyebrow. “Ready for a treat before we decorate the tree?”
“And what would that be?”
“A dessert wine and dark chocolate truffles with raspberry and quince.”
Jeff’s mouth watered. Ash created the best chocolates on the face of the earth. “Sounds like Santa Claus made an early delivery.”
Ash led the way to the sofa. “Santa has nothing on me when it comes to chocolate.”
Jeff dropped onto the couch and pulled Ash down beside him. The firelight danced over Ash’s pale hair, highlighting his Scandinavian good looks.
“I’m glad we’re home,” Ash said.
“If it weren’t for this house, would we have ever gotten back together?”
“Yes,” Ash answered promptly.
Jeff chuckled. “How can you be so sure?”
“I moved back here.” Ash moved closer, ice-blue eyes intense. That frenetic energy radiated off him, like waves of heat. “I knew it was just a matter of time before you came back too.”
“If it weren’t for the will—”
“The will has nothing to do with it.”
“It was Fate. The cosmos wanted us together.” Ash spoke with certainty. “It was set in motion when we first met.”
That had been a lot of years ago. Nearly sixteen, in fact. A year ago Jeff never could have imagined himself sitting in the front parlor of the Rabbit Mansion with Ash. “It’s too bad the upstairs rooms aren’t finished. We could stay here.”
“We are staying here.”
“With the mice and the bats?” The upstairs was…rustic. To put it mildly.
“No, down here.” Ash’s smile glinted in the firelight. “I brought the air mattress and blankets. It’ll be just like camping out.”
“C’mere.” Jeff pulled him in for a kiss. And another.
“What about the wine and chocolate?”
“Later.” Jeff kissed him again.