This month I'm posting a series of holiday vignettes, featuring characters from my books. Christmas morsels--bite-size scenes of the season. This is Beck and Zach from High Concept…Christmas Morsel #2
Beck slouched on the sofa, watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Two days before Christmas, and Denver had unseasonably warm temperatures and not a hint of snow. Didn’t feel very Christmassy, especially with only two fingers of bourbon for company.
Zach was late. Any minute he might call to say he couldn’t get away, that some case had heated up and kept him out in the field.
A key rattled in the lock. Beck jumped up and opened the door to a surprised Zach, who grinned and said, “Hey! You’re home!”
“I am.” Beck’s heart gave a little skip at that gorgeous smile. Beautiful and happy and all his. He tugged Zach inside, dragging in cold air and closed the door. “You made it.”
In answer Zach dropped his duffel bag and pulled him in, hot mouth covering Beck’s and tasting of mint. After not seeing each other for three weeks, it was easy to enter into the spirit of things. Dueling tongues and bodies pressed together.
They broke for air, and Zach said, “Merry Christmas.”
“It will be, now that you’re here.”
Zach chuckled, pulled off his coat, and draped it over the back of an overstuffed chair. “Want to get me a drink?”
“Coming right up.”
“Where’s the tree?” Zach looked around Beck’s apartment as if Beck had hidden a decorated spruce somewhere.
It hadn’t crossed his mind that Zach might want—expect—a tree. Of course Zach had grown up with a more normal childhood, where a Christmas tree would be commonplace. “I…there is no tree.”
“What do you mean, no Christmas tree?” Zach looked like the Grinch had just stolen his Christmas.
Beck winced. As a kid, there hadn’t been money for frivolities like Christmas trees. After he was on his own, Beck had never bothered with a tree. Christmas was just another day. Hence, no tree.
Sometimes it was hard to predict what Zach expected. New relationship learning curve at work, Stryker. “I’m never sure if you’ll make it when we plan to be together, and I didn’t need a tree…just for me.”
Zach opened his mouth, closed it.
Was Zach mad? Frustrated? Had Beck blown it utterly and completely by forgoing a tree? He'd wanted this to be perfect, and now...no tree. No decorations of any kind. No manifestation of holiday spirit. His gut clenched. Beck looked away from that intense blue gaze.
In a blink Zach was across the room and Beck found himself taken in strong arms. He responded in kind, drawing Zach to him. The now-familiar smell of Zach’s lemongrass aftershave soothed Beck's nerves.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been more reliable,” Zach whispered. “The job tends to be unpredictable.”
Understatement of the decade. In two months, Zach had had to cancel more rendezvouses than he‘d attended. Thanksgiving had ended up a solo holiday. So Beck had looked forward to Christmas, hoping against hope that Zach could break away. A tree would have been a glaring reminder if Zach had cancelled yet again.
Beck buried his face in the crook of Zach’s neck. “I know. But it’s what you do. You’re good at it.”
Zach pulled back and gestured between them. “I want this. You know that, right?”
“Yeah.” Beck understood wanting to be together and having it happen weren’t the same. They’d known going in, the long-distance thing wouldn’t be easy. Knowing it was a finite period of time had made it tolerable when Zach left Denver in October and returned to Minneapolis. Beck hadn’t counted on just how tough Zach’s job might make things.
Beck rubbed his palms on Zach’s shoulders. “Let’s go get a tree.”
“I don’t need a tree, as long as I have you.” Zach’s eyes were full of humor.
“Oh, you have me all right.” That had been true practically from the time they’d gotten reacquainted in October. After some initial antagonism over the case, fireworks had flown and ignited a spine-melting heat between them.
“In that case, want to open presents?”
“But it’s not Christmas for another two days.” And he hadn’t wrapped Zach’s gift yet.
With a slow smile Zach said, “Tonight, you’re my present.”
Now that was a Christmas sentiment Beck could get on board with. He grinned. "Then by all means, let the unwrapping begin."