Weekend Writing Warriors ~ And now for something completely different

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Hi! Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors.  I’ve been MIA way too long and my list of excuses is even longer, so I’ll spare you the sob story and move on to the snippet.

This week I’m excited to announce the release of the anthology ShadowSpinners: A Collection of Dark Tales.  No erotica, but plenty of chills.  My snippet is the first ten lines from my story Reduce Reuse Recycle.

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JAKE WONDERED WHY HE WAS IN THE BATHTUB with his clothes on. Icy moonlight wavered in the through the obscuring glass and stroked the ceiling with crystalline wave patterns. The faucet dripped a rhythm he couldn’t quite place. His fingers curled stiff and blue against the white porcelain. He hadn’t planned on dying so young, but then he hadn’t planned on being a drug-addicted sex worker either.

Alternately aware and unaware of his surroundings, his skin tingled and then went numb. His heart fluttered then stalled. Droplets from imaginary steam slid down blue tiled walls and collected on his eyelashes. He tried moving, but that didn’t pan out. He relived the choices that led to this moment, this pathetic death in a stranger’s bathtub.

***

Yeah, it’s a little dark.  If you like fiction with an edge, A Collection of Dark Tales is now available in both print and ebook versions on Amazon.  ShadowSpinners is an amazing group of writers and I’m pretty tickled to have been included.

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View on Amazon

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This post is part of an ongoing blog hop hosted by Weekend Writing Warriors. Every Sunday, participating authors post eight to ten sentences from a published work or perhaps their current work in progress. Then we hop to our fellow warriors’ blogs and check out all the fabulous fiction that’s happening! I heartily invite you to participate as a reader, writer, or both. It’s a great way to discover your next favorite book. Click here or use the address: http://www.wewriwa.com

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MidSummer Madness Flash Fiction Blog Hop

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Baby, it’s HOT outside.  Really though, it’s pushing a hundred again today and for the Pacific Northwest, we’re talking heat wave.  If you’re in a similar situation, I suggest you read the stories included in this m/m flash fiction blog hop either late at night, early in the morning, or maybe with the A/C cranked up high and something cool and frosty to sip on, ’cause you’re about to get a lot hotter.  And if you’re somewhere cool, bonus!  These stories work better than a hot water bottle.

My story features Ian and Zeke, the mc’s from my new release Betwixt and Between.  Enjoy!  And don’t forget to check out the other participants by clicking here.

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Hide and Seek

The scorching June day had bled into a sultry night and although the full moon glistened like an ice crystal along the treetops, Ian could draw no coolness from her presence.

Ever since he’d become aware of his elfin nature, Ian had been acutely aware of the comings and goings of the moon and had developed a knack for tracking other creatures similarly affected by cosmic tides. Solstice eve, with its full moon and strong flux of solar energy, was the best time for catching a glimpse of magical creatures who usually stayed well hidden. Ian fiddled with the recorder on his phone. He hoped to interview the tree sprites who’d been seen cavorting along the shores of Puget Sound.

Bonfires gleamed like rubies along the rocky shore. Laughter drifted to Ian’s lurking spot amongst the trees. He’d settled on a fallen log, letting his elf instincts guide him to a shadowed glen where moonlight pooled on the forest floor.

Once again he questioned what he was doing chasing magic while everyone else celebrated the solstice. It wasn’t like he needed to prove anything anymore. After tracking and catching the ultimate magical creature- Ezekiel the svarta- one would think that Ian could have hung up his reporter’s badge and camera.

But the magic lust hadn’t abated. Only the focus of his quest had changed. Now he was looking for his own kind.

Zeke was a svarta and for the most part, those dark elves would sooner kill Ian and suck all the light out of him than give him the time of day. Ian was a light elf- an endangered species, it turned out. But there had to be some of his kind left out there in the betwixt and between, didn’t there?

Zeke was an amazing lover, but his true home was the dark realm, a place where Ian couldn’t follow. Like Persephone, Zeke had to go home to rebuild his strength and gather his powers. Zeke might be gone for weeks or months. This time, Zeke had been gone for fifty-two days.

Ian plucked at his sweat-drenched t-shirt and looked with longing at the creek tumbling down the hillside. He wasn’t stupid enough to strip and cavort in water with sprites and who-knew-what-else roaming the area. Solstice was a dangerous time, a sure-fire time to get hexed or snatched by mischievous magicals. But that didn’t mean he had to sit and suffer. He stood and walked to the creek’s edge, kicked off his sandals and waded into the water up to his knees. Relief swept through him as his core cooled. He splashed water on his face and ran wet hands through his hair.

He lifted his face to the moon.

“Can’t you guide me home, Mistress Moon? Give me a clue?”

The moon remained impassive. Beneath the dull roar of the sea and the burble of the creek, a soft rustle reached him. The hairs on his neck prickled.

Zeke had warned Ian to keep his light essence under wraps. He was considered a delicacy amongst the denizens of the dark realm, after all. Basking in the light of the moon, Ian might have let a little of his essence seep out. He lifted his hands. They were glowing.

Well, shit. He concentrated on dimming the radiance but his focus intensified the glow. The forest around him grew blacker.

He sloshed toward the bank, blinking to regain his night vision. The rustling grew louder, but he couldn’t see who or what approached. He muttered a protective spell and grabbed the moonstone pendant that hung around his neck.

Unfortunately, touching the moonstone enhanced rather than dimmed his aura. Soon all he could see was shining water, a black sky peppered with stars, and the moon. The forest became little more than vertical black streaks wavering at the periphery of his vision. Afraid to move Ian stopped, feet planted in the icy water.

Ian Evernight.

“Who’s there?” Ian whispered. A flare of heat prodded the edges of his sphere of light. A dark shape searched for a way through. Ian realized the voice came not from the forest, but from the water.

You seek us.

Ian nodded, his skin electrified.

Stop hiding, and we will find you.

Stop hiding? How could he do that?

Release the stone.

Ian furrowed his brows in confusion. The moonstone was a magical connection to the moon, his only protection. Still – he dropped his hand.

The illumination surrounding him expanded upward into a wall of water. A quicksilver being formed out of the wave, ten feet tall with crystalline arms stretching toward Ian. Its diamond chip eyes were anything but benevolent. Ian tried to step back but his feet were rooted in frigid water.

Icy fingers touched him and his heart stalled, lungs frozen.

Suddenly the dark thing in the forest broke through. Strong arms wrapped around Ian’s waist. The water creature shrieked and recoiled. The warmth behind Ian melted the ice encasing his lungs as he was carried away from the stream.

Unceremoniously, his savior dumped him onto a bed of moss.

Zeke knelt beside him, hot energy rolling him off him in waves. He was nude and every coiled muscle was taut, quivering from the effort of tearing Ian away from the creature.

“Can’t leave you alone for a second!” Zeke grumbled.

Ian pushed up on his elbows. “You were gone fifty-two days!”

“Never summon the moon while standing in water. And on the solstice!”

“I was never issued the How To Be An Elf manual, remember?”

Zeke pushed black hair out of gleaming eyes and glared down on Ian with a mixture of anger and relief.

“Solstice is a bonding night. If that nymph had her way with you, you could have been enslaved for a hundred years.”

“That thing is a nymph? Didn’t look very nymphy to me.”

“Don’t you know not to believe fairy tales? Fairies are notorious liars.” Zeke grabbed the front of Ian’s t-shirt and pulled him into a fierce kiss. The last vestiges of nymph frost fled Ian’s body, replaced by a surge of passion. When Zeke finally withdrew his tongue and let him breathe, Ian said,

“Nice save, by the way.”

“It’s Solstice. We must bond.”

“If you insist. Wait, does that mean I’ll be enslaved to you for a hundred years?”

“You already are, or hadn’t you noticed?” A smile crept onto Zeke’s face, lightening his expression. He always looked more eerily elf-like after spending time in the dark realm. He kissed Ian gently this time, tongue exploring rather punishing.

Ian playfully nipped at Zeke’s lips and ran his hands up the elf’s smooth back.

“Why are you naked?” he asked.

“Why are you still dressed?” Zeke countered.

“Uh, splinters. Poison oak. Evil nymphs.”

“Let’s go home,” Zeke whispered.

“And where’s that?” A pang of disappointment pricked Ian’s heart. That nymph had read his longings and tricked him, proving how out of place Ian was in the magical realm that should have been his birthright.

“Anywhere we’re together.” Zeke held him tight. The rightness of his touch soothed Ian’s soul. Although they were total opposites, light and dark, when Ian was with Zeke, he was complete. He was home. No reason to hide and seek.

He wriggled free and pulled the phone from the pocket of his shorts. “Just let me get a shot of that nymph.”

Zeke plucked the phone from Ian’s hand and threw it in the creek. He pushed Ian down and stifled his complaints with kiss. “Don’t worry, Ian. They’ll find you. Whether you like or not.”

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Don’t forget to click the blue box to check out the other writers participating in the hop.

A Holiday Short Story

To celebrate the dawn of a new year, I decided to post this little short story featuring Axel and Liam from To Catch a Threeve. Enjoy! Happy New Year! Šťastný Nový Rok!

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The Longest Night

by Alexis Duran

Liam struggled down the ice-slicked lane dragging his burden behind him. He ignored the stares and muffled laughter of the villagers. He’d almost become used to being the center of whispers, odd looks and gestures of magical protection. Today he honestly didn’t care, his thoughts and energies entirely focused on surprising and delighting his lover this solstice eve.

Having spent so many years apart in wildly different cultures, Liam and Axel had shared many surprises, not all of them pleasant. This tradition, however, was one of the few positive memories Liam brought back from his time with the threeves. It seemed important to salvage some wee bit of joy out of the seven years of his imprisonment.

He kicked in the heavy oak door of the narrow daub and wattle house Axel had inherited from his father. Though the great room with the hearth was small, as were the rooms above, it was a tall house, rather large for a bachelor. Now that Axel spent most of his time at the castle serving Lord Lacknor, it had lost its homey feel, the hearth unlit, the windows shuttered. With Axel coming home for the longest night, Liam had the brilliant idea to enliven the place and make it feel like home again.

He walked in but found his gift too large to fit between the door beams.

He let go of the trunk and glared at the tree in consternation. It looked much bigger lying half in the house, half in the street, than it had in the forest.

He tugged, he pulled, he cursed. In desperation, he mumbled a wee bit of the tree magic he’d learned from Begbie Darrow. The tree momentarily folded up its limbs and Liam sailed backward, landing on the wooden floorboards with the tree on top of him.

He laughed, hugging the pitchy trunk to his chest. Threeves never encountered this problem because they lived in tree houses, mostly, and so didn’t have to bring a tree inside. They usually had one or two growing straight through the middle of their great rooms.

After a rough start, Liam got the tree into a wooden bucket of water and stood it up in the corner. It filled nearly half the room and he had to push the heavy table closer to the hearth and rearrange Axel’s few chairs. The entire time, the portrait of Axel’s father glared down at him disapprovingly. For the first time, it occurred to Liam to be nervous. Would Axel be angry to have this symbol of his enemies’ religion taking over half his house?

Liam backed up and collapsed into a chair. The evergreen loomed enormous, its top bent sideways against the rafters, its limbs partially blocking the entry to the narrow stairs. The fresh forest scent soothed him somewhat, and the tree, which had offered itself up for sacrifice to the goddess Moon, emanated soothing, ancient magic.

“You’ll look better when you’re properly adorned,” Liam said, and hurried to get the sacks of sugarpine cones and larkberries he’d gathered earlier.

 

***

 

Axel strode wearily along the lane after tucking away his horse Sapphire in the neighboring stables. He’d given her an extra helping of oats this hallowed eve, all the while chiding himself that horses had no interest in celestial celebrations.

Living with Liam, who persisted in the threevish way of thinking every living thing had an intelligent soul, had started to affect him. Axel even avoided stepping on the iceflowers poking up through the cobblestones. Not exactly something a hardened constable should concern himself with, he thought, and wondered if love was making him soft minded.

So much time spent in the castle in the company of rough knights and tough as nails mercenaries had made him acutely aware his doting admiration of his lover put him at a disadvantage. But he wouldn’t change it for the world, not for all the gold Lord Lacknor could heap on him. True, Liam had some strange behaviors and quirks left over from his time with the threeves, but it only served to make him more lovable. The more obvious, possibly dangerous habits could be weeded out and smoothed over in time.

And tonight, at last, they had time. With his lover in his arms, Axel anticipated that the longest night of the year would pass very quickly indeed. He quickened his pace, shrugging off the weariness of what had seemed like the longest day instead of the shortest.

When he turned on to his lane, the sight of a candle beaming through his shutters and smoke curling from his chimney warmed his heart. He pushed open the door and was enveloped by the scent of burning cedar in the hearth, some sort of spicy stew simmering in the cast iron pot and rather oddly, the sharp bite of pine pitch, snow and mud.

The wide smile on his face became rigid as he blinked at what appeared to be a monstrous tree in his great room. Liam balanced precariously on a chair he’d placed on top of a trunk, leaning in to the dark green mass, a star of woven reeds and ribbons in his outstretched hand.

“You’re early!” he cried and began to topple forward into the branches of what Axel could no longer deny was indeed a tree. The tree shimmered and tinkled as all manner of shiny objects shook and knocked together.

Axel rushed forward, seized Liam around the waist and rescued him from the arms of the evergreen. He lowered him awkwardly to the floor and keeping his arms firmly around him, asked,

“What in holy hounds is that?”

“Do you like it?” Liam grinned over his shoulder at Axel.

“I, uh—” Axel’s gaze travelled over the dark green mass that filled the corner and stretched out to nearly the middle of the room. He took in the strands of red ribbons, sprays of dried cranberries, rows of tiny tin bells, sugarpine cones coated with crystalline pitch, what looked to be pieces of Axel’s family silverware, all wrapped around the tree in a confusing mass of colors, shapes and sizes. Most alarming were the candles stuck to the branches with wax and twine.

“What is it?”

“It’s a Solstice Tree, our offering to the goddess Moon on the night she rules the sky.”

Axel released Liam and stepped back. A cold shiver ran up his spine.

“A threeve tradition, is it?”

Liam’s smile faded. “Lots of folks celebrate the solstice this way. Not just threeves. In the northern lands no household would dream of celebrating solstice without one.”

Axel’s mind raced. In the morning, a stream of friends, family and neighbors would drop by as they made The Blessings round, making sure everyone survived the longest night and celebrating the dawn of the new season.   What would they think of this bizarre symbol of the threeve religion planted squarely in the middle of Axel’s house? He and Liam had gone through great pains to hide Liam’s half-threeve nature. Something like this, well, it declared it to the world.

“You hate it,” Liam said glumly.

“I’m worried about what it represents. How people might take it.”

“It represents our respect and gratitude for the gifts of the forest. It honors the beauty of nature, the light the moon provides in the dark of winter, the bounty of the earth.   It’s a symbol of beauty and peace.”

“Doesn’t sound like a threeve way of thinking to me,” Axel said.

Liam turned away and went to poke at the fire. Axel could tell by the hunch of his shoulders he was upset. He always curled in on himself, his fine lean body returning to its threevish posture whenever he felt threatened.

Axel strode over to him and turned him around. “I’m sorry. It’s a lovely tree. It’s just that, I thought we agreed to leave all things threeve behind us.”

“I’m half-threeve, Axel. I can’t leave half of me behind, can I?” Liam’s emerald eyes glittered in the firelight. “Do you hate that half of me? Do you fear it?”

“Goddess, no! I adore every bit of you.” Axel wanted to kiss Liam, but could tell by the firm line of his lips he wasn’t ready to let the matter go. And with the tree looming in the corner, how could they?

“I know we agreed I should do my best to hide my threeve nature, but I can’t go on that way.” Liam met Axel’s gaze. “Threeves aren’t all bad. They’re not all like Begbie Darrow.”

A bitter bile rose into Axel’s throat. He’d fought and hated threeves for so long. They’d taken Liam from him. How could he forgive that?

But they’d also made Liam the person he was today. Liam’s mother was a threeve. Her blood ran thick in his veins. For the first time Axel imagined Liam’s mother as a woman, an individual, an expectant mother decorating her solstice tree and dreaming of the future solstices she’d spend with her child, a future she didn’t live to see, a child she never met.

Axel reached up and plucked a pine needle from Liam’s golden hair.

“If you can forgive them, I guess I can too.” He stroked Liam’s cheek and pressed his lips to Liam’s. Liam’s mouth parted and they kissed long and deep. As he pressed his body against Liam’s something poked Axel in the chest. Liam still held the reed and ribbon star and it was squished between them. Axel took it from him.

“Let me put that on the tree. Goes on the top, does it?”

Liam nodded. Axel noticed the top of the tree was bent sideways against the rafters.

“I’ll get a knife and trim the top a bit. Is that all right?”

“I was hoping we could cut a hole in the roof instead,” Liam said. Axel looked at him in alarm and was relieved to see him grinning again. “Of course it’s all right.”

Axel crossed his arms over his chest and observed the tree with fresh eyes. The mass of confusion resolved into a beautiful evergreen, lovingly decorated with the spare offerings of the winter forest and Axel’s meager collection of baubles and whatnot.

“They should have one of these in the castle!” he declared, imaging an enormous tree festooned with jewels, lit by a hundred candles.

“What will we tell our Blessings visitors?” Liam asked, posture still a bit stooped.

Axel put his arm around him and drew him close.

“Exactly what you told me. It’s a symbol of peace.”

Liam relaxed and leaned in to him. “It is a tad large, isn’t it?”

“Nonsense. It’s perfect. I predict someday everyone will have one and on solstice, at least, the rift between threeves and men might heal a tiny bit.”

“Axel, the smell of pitch has gone to your head,” Liam chuckled.

“No, you’ve gone to my head. My head and my heart and I thank the goddess for that.”

They pressed together, Axel’s arm still around Liam, and admired the tree in silence. Axel tried not to worry about the conflagration that was sure to happen when they lit all those candles.

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Weekend Writing Warriors~ Merry Solstice Threeve

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Happy Solstice!  Time for another round of Weekend Writing Warriors sensational snippets.  To celebrate the upcoming two weeks of revelry and overabundance and to say thanks to all the readers and writers who’ve given me so much friendly support this year, I’m giving away a hot holiday short story.  Just click the widgety thing on the side bar to get your free copy. You can also read the flash version over on my Midwinter Madness Flash Hop post. Please note the Xtended version contains hot m/m action.

Also in honor of the season, I thought I’d share a snippet from a solstice-themed short story I’m working on involving Axel Blackwood and Liam Alloway from To Catch a Threeve.  Liam has brought back a few odd traditions from his time with the threeves, which occasionally puts a strain on Axel and Liam’s relationship.  On Solstice eve, they might face their biggest challenge yet!  (If you like the snippet, stay tuned. I’ll probably post the entire story on New Year’s Eve.)

***

When Axel turned on to his lane, the sight of a candle in the window and smoke curling from his chimney warmed his heart. He pushed open the front door and was enveloped by the scent of burning cedar in the hearth, some sort of spicy stew simmering in the cast iron pot and rather oddly, the sharp bite of pine pitch, fresh melted snow and mud.

He stepped inside and the wide smile on his face became rigid as he blinked at what appeared to be a monstrous tree in his great room. Liam balanced precariously on a chair he’d placed on top of a chest, leaning in to the dark green mass, a star of woven reeds and ribbons in his outstretched hand.

“You’re early!” Liam cried and began to topple forward into the branches of what Axel could no longer deny was indeed a tree. The tree shimmered and tinkled as all manner of shiny objects shook and knocked together.

Axel rushed forward, seized Liam around the waist and rescued him from the arms of the evergreen. Axel lowered Liam awkwardly to the floor and keeping his arms firmly around him, asked,

“What in holy hounds is that?”

***

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Midwinter Madness Flash Hop

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Welcome to another flash fiction blog hop hosted by the magnificent House of Manlove.  Click this link to find more awesome winter/holiday themed short reads for your enjoyment!

Flash fiction is quite the challenge for me, and when I first wrote The Wrong Elf, it was way over the 1200 word limit.  Rather than abandon the longer version, I had the brilliant idea to “flesh it out” and offer it as a free holiday giveaway!  So, if you like the flash version, please click this link to download the Xtended version from Amazon. And if you know anyone who enjoys steamy m/m reads, please feel free to pass the word. It will be free through Christmas Day.

Now, the story. Flash version.

The Wrong Elf

By Alexis Duran

 

Ordering at the last minute from a discount catalogue exposed a person to certain risks. Out of stock. Wrong color. Doesn’t fit. None of those disappointments compared to this cock-up.

Avery knelt in the torn wrapping paper and snowdrift of packing peanuts, still gripping the scissors. He considered cutting his throat with them. Another miserable, lonely Christmas, and all because he’d wasted his holiday money on a stupid elf.

It had seemed like an awesome way to counter a pathetic winter break spent alone in his fraternity house. He’d specified male on the order form. No substitutions. And yet, here before him stood a female elf and not even a particularly attractive one. She was stocky and sported the hint of a mustache. She reminded him of his eighth grade gym teacher.

He reread the order form. The tag line under Your Very Own Elf! said Guaranteed to make wishes come true.

This elf didn’t even speak English.

“Here’s my wish,” Avery said. “Turn yourself into a hot guy elf.”

She grinned at him, the tassel on her cap bobbing as she rocked onto the toes of her pointy shoes.

He shook out the papers and discovered a pamphlet that appeared to be the instruction manual, written in a language he didn’t recognize.

He sighed. The elf watched his every move, cheerful as the moment he’d unwound her bubble wrap.

“How about getting me a pizza?” he suggested. She cocked her head to the side and walked around him, thoughtful now.

“Back in the box, elf. If I hurry I can get Fed Ex to pick you up before they close.” He hesitated over refund or replacement. Was it worth the trouble of trying again?

“Nothing personal, but you’re not what I had in mind, so stand still, okay?” Avery held up a sheet of bubble wrap and smiled at her. She shook her head, grinned and before he could stop her, waltzed out the door.

“Hey!” He ran into the hall, but she’d vanished. “What about my refund?”

It hadn’t occurred to him an elf he’d bought and paid for might just up and leave. He wasn’t responsible for a malfunctioning product, was he? Not only did she not grant wishes, she didn’t even follow simple orders. He decided to call the company’s help line and complain. Even on Christmas Eve some drone would be manning the phones.

 

Avery was flat on his back in bed with the phone pressed to his ear, listening to “Frosty the Snowman” for the hundredth time, when a commotion in the hall drew his attention. There was a couple thuds, a grunt, some singing in a lilting foreign language, and then his door burst open, kicked by his wayward elf, whom he’d discovered from the packing material was called Griselda 1819191.

She had a large sack over her shoulder. It wasn’t pizza.

Avery sat up, alarmed. The sack was moving.

“Griselda, what did you do?”

She grinned and dumped the writhing sack on the floor. The sack grunted. Avery winced. Griselda bowed.

“Take it back,” he commanded. She rocked onto her toes and back again.

“Oh, this can’t be good.” Avery slid from the bed to kneel beside the sack. Growling sounds emerged. Better get this over with, Avery thought. He untied the knot at the top and pulled down the sides.

Furious brown eyes glared at him. The mouth was duct tapped. Dylan from Art History. Crap. Sure he’d fantasized about Dylan, but kidnapping wasn’t in his erotic repertoire.   His heart sank into his slippers.

He gripped the edge of the tape and jerked it loose.

“I’m so sorry. The elf malfunctioned.”

“Get me out of this bag,” Dylan said in a menacingly calm voice.

Avery grabbed the end of the bag and dragged it away. Griselda had wound duct tape all around Dylan, pinning his arms to his sides and his legs together. He wore flannel pjs and a t-shirt.

“Untape me, Avery.”

He knows who I am? Avery’s elation was quickly replaced by fear. He knows who I am!

He scrounged for the scissors and began cutting away the tape, careful not to nick the skin. “I don’t know what happened, honest. The elf is broken and the manual is in some foreign language.”

Dylan fumed silently until he was freed. He tore the last strips of tape from his clothes and leapt to his feet. “Expect a visit from the cops,” he said and made for the door. Griselda blocked his way.

“Call off your elf.”

“Let him go,” Avery pleaded. Griselda leaned against the door, looking very immovable.

“She’s one strong fucking elf,” Dylan commented. “Where’s the manual?”

Avery held it up. “It’s in Russian or something.” Dylan snatched it from him.

“It’s in Czech. You ordered an elf from a company called We B Wishes?”

“They had a bunch of five star reviews.”

Dylan shook his head and stared at the manual. Avery was reminded of all the hours spent last semester staring at the blond sophomore as Dylan poured over the text book, taking notes and occasionally nibbling delectably on the end of his pen. He looked especially sexy all messed up and sweaty from his recent abduction. Avery had to admit, he had wished for a hot encounter with Dylan, but not like this. He wanted Avery to want him, not hate him. Stupid elf.

“Says here, guaranteed to make wishes come true.” Dylan narrowed his eyes at Avery. “What did you wish for?”

“You read Czech?”

“Answer the question.”

“I, uh,” Avery swallowed a growing lump in his throat. “I sure didn’t say it out loud. I wanted company. Hot company. I swear on Santa’s beard I did not ask Griselda to kidnap you.”

Dylan dropped his eyes and thumbed through the manual. “She could’ve just asked.”

“I told you. She’s defective.”

“Or hyper-efficient.”

Avery stood and brushed peanuts from his knees. “What are you still doing on campus?”

“No family to speak of. Thought I might as well get some work done. It says here you can get her to go to sleep by saying, uh, not sure how to pronounce it, jit spat.”

Griselda crossed her arms over her chest, slid to the floor and fell promptly to sleep leaning against the door.

“We can drag her out of the way,” Avery said. “Maybe get her back in the box.”

“You’re going to send her back?”

“She’s dangerous! Besides.” It was Avery’s turn to blush. “She was supposed to be male.”

“That’s what you wish for?” Dylan cocked an eyebrow. “A discount elf?”

“I thought I did. I guess a magic elf knows better. I wished for—” The small bedroom suddenly felt cramped and overheated. “You.” His cheeks flamed red and he stared down at Dylan’s bare feet. The oddly perfect toes curled and uncurled. Dylan rocked up on them until he could look straight into Avery’s eyes, then down again. He was rather elf like, Avery decided.

“In an odd coincidence, when Griselda broke into my room, I was online with Santa’s Wish Shop, placing a request for the cute guy in Art History to ask me out.”

Avery’s pulse pounded so loud in his ears he thought he might have misheard.

“You forgive me for the duct tape and sack episode?”

“I’m willing to blame the elf, if you promise to ask nice next time.”

“I swear.” Avery put his hand over his thudding heart and decided next time was now. “Dylan, would you like to spend Christmas Eve with me?”

“Well, since I’m here—” He sat on the bed and leaned back on his elbows. Avery sat beside him and looked gratefully at the snoozing Griselda. Maybe he hadn’t been sent the wrong elf after all.

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Click the cover to download the Xtended version and find out what happens next! Free through Christmas Day.

For more free fun, don’t forget to check out the rest of the flashers on today’s blog hop:

Azalea Moone

Jennah Scott

N.D. Wylders – M/M Author