TCO is so excited to bring you 12 Days of Kissmas. We have 12 of your favorite authors ahead over the coming days, bringing you beautiful pictures of men kissing that the authors have chosen themselves, along with exclusive posts, excerpts, and giveaways. The idea sprang from a conversation with an author that just turned into a “what if…”, and when I started asking a few authors, they immediately said they were in. Make sure you enter the giveaways, as there are lots of them! Thanks for stopping by, and a HUGE thank you to all the authors for their generosity, and loving spirit. Happy Holidays to everyone!
Victoria Sue is stopping by today with an awesome Kissmas picture, and exclusive short story featuring her characters from Five Minutes Longer, published by Dreamspinner Press.
A Five Minute Christmas
Talon was going to kill him…again. Finn really hadn’t meant to invite anyone else. Their first Christmas Day and they’d promised each other they were going to eat turkey in bed. Just the two of them – all day.
Thanksgiving had been a complete bust. Some cop over in Gainesville had decided to arrest an enhanced fifteen-year-old for threatening a store owner that morning except it had turned out the kid was just trying to get help. He was mute and lived alone with his elderly grandmother. She was just pulling a baked ham out of the oven, and she’d had a heart attack. The kid wasn’t trying to threaten anyone, but the store owner had taken one look at the mark on his face; the lightning bolt shaped scar that all enhanced had, and assumed the worst.
So, Finn was determined Christmas was going to be perfect. He had all the recipes from Connie, Vance’s mom, and she had completely understood when they’d turned down the offer of going to their house for dinner. They’d said they might stop by later, but that was when Talon had pulled Finn into his arms, kissed him stupid until his knees gave way, and gruffly told him they would be spending the day in bed. At least he’d waited until they had got to the car to impart that particular news, though.
And he really hadn’t meant to invite Gael.
They’d all been chatting as they’d gotten out of their uniforms the day before. Talon had to go see Gregory over approving a possible new agent that he absolutely refused to discuss with the rest of the team, and Finn had asked Gael casually if Wyatt his younger brother was visiting him for the holiday.
“Nah,” Gael had shrugged. “Wyatt’s got a new girlfriend. He was invited there.”
Finn had paused. “So, are you going to Vance’s then?”
But Finn had known instantly Gael was lying. Vance had a huge family, and the place would be packed. Gael had a tell when he was stressed. He pulled at the bottom of his scarred cheek with his teeth where it touched his lips. The scar his dad had given him when the drunk had held a twelve-year-old Gael down and tried to burn his enhanced mark off with a gas lighter. Because of the looks of fear Gael got – his mark and the way the left side of his face was all scarred – Gael hated crowds unless he was in uniform. Finn knew damn well he’d spend the day alone in his apartment.
“We’d love it if you came to us,” the words were out of Finn’s mouth before he thought twice, and the shy, hopeful, look Gael gave him made the thought of imminent death at the hands of his boyfriend worth every second.
Not that Talon was an ogre… much. He’d listened as Finn had haltingly told him an hour ago either he was gonna have to get out of bed, or there was gonna be three of them in it. Talon had kissed Finn on the nose and told him he was a softy. Finn had just copied Talon’s trade mark raised eyebrow. It had been Talon who had insisted on staying with the kid at Thanksgiving. Taken him to visit his grandmother in the ER to see she was okay, and then got him settled at the group foster home near where they all lived. Talon was as soft as Finn, he just hid it better.
“It smells amazing,” Gael had greeted them and held up a bottle of the expensive Dutch vodka Talon liked. Finn had waved them both out of the kitchen, flushed, and mildly panicking at what now seemed an insane amount of food he’d bought. They’d both offered to help, but he was relieved when he heard the sound of the game coming on and stared at the mess in the kitchen. In his eagerness to impress his boyfriend, he’d gone a little over board. Finn grinned – understatement.
An hour later he was reading Connie’s instructions on how to make the green bean casserole when the doorbell rang, and he walked out of the kitchen smiling in shock when Vance stepped into the apartment.
“Hey, buddy!” Gael grinned at his friend, a little flushed as he and Talon had been experimenting with the Dutch vodka and the eggnog.
“What are you doing here?” Finn said in surprise as he nearly tripped over Olly. Talon’s black lab was ecstatic every time one of the team came over, and she’d rushed to greet Vance. Vance shrugged.
“There’s like fifteen kids at mine,” Vance grumbled and sat on the corner of the sectional. The sofa dipped alarmingly.
Talon chuckled. “You mean you’ve got no TV to watch the game on?” Vance grinned and chinked the beer bottle with Gael’s glass as Gael passed it to him. Finn immediately reversed back to the kitchen to peel more potatoes.
“Hey,” Talon followed him back into the kitchen. “This isn’t about you being in here, and me being out there. I wanna help.” Talon bent his head and kissed the back of Finn’s neck, and turned him around gently taking the potato peeler out of his hand.
The doorbell rang, and Talon groaned. Finn pushed him out. “Go see who it is.”
Finn came out of the kitchen a few minutes later and stopped in astonishment as their boss; Tony Gregory stood talking to Talon. Finn blinked. The man looked quite good in jeans. Couple that with the peppered gray hair and easy smile and he looked about ten years younger than normal.
“Sir?” Finn squeaked in alarm. Shit, were they gonna get called out?
Tony turned and smiled. “Don’t worry. I was on my way to my sister’s, and I was passing so I just thought I’d say hello.” He pushed a bag awkwardly under the tree and said his goodbyes hurriedly.
“Hey, Talon?” Gael called and picked up a present from under the tiny Christmas tree. “Santa’s been, and you haven’t opened your presents.” Finn flushed bright red. Oh dear God, no. He knew exactly what was in that and the last thing he wanted was it opening in front of anyone else. Gael saw his face and grinned evilly.
The doorbell rang for the third time. Talon just leveled Finn a look as he got to his feet, but Finn had no idea who it was.
But I really should have he thought, as Sawyer and Eli walked in. “We’re not stopping,” Sawyer said hurriedly, and Eli dug his hands into his pockets and looked at the floor. “We were just on the way past.”
Finn gave his boyfriend kudos for not so much raising an eyebrow at the obvious lie and bolted back into the kitchen.
“Finn?” Finn looked up from stabbing the turkey as Eli came in. “Talon says we could stay, but I wanted to check with you.” He looked down at Finn as Finn poked the thing with a knife. “I think it’s dead,” he said dryly.
Finn didn’t look up. He knew Eli was looking at the disaster area that was their kitchen. He was probably going to come out with some smart comment about Finn being as useless in the kitchen as he was at the FBI. The sound of a faucet being turned on had him looking, though. He tried not to gape as Eli started stacking pans to wash.
“You don’t have to do that,” Finn stammered.
Eli ignored him and quietly carried on. In five minutes working together, they could actually see counters. “Thanks,” Finn said.
“I never had this,” Eli replied so quietly Finn barely heard him. He flushed slightly. “I don’t mean the food.”
Yeah, Finn had sort of guessed that. “Clearing up a disaster zone?” Finn quipped.
“Can I help?” It was Sawyer. Finn made a quick decision. Trying to do everything was just pushing people away. It was dumb.
“Mash,” Finn said nodding to the potatoes.
“With cheese?” Sawyer rubbed his hands gleefully and opened the fridge.
“You doing green bean casserole?” Vance asked from the door.
“I was thinking about it,” Finn replied cautiously. “Your mom wrote down how to do it.” His own mom had always just bought pre-prepared shop items.
Vance chuckled. “Mom thinks she knows the recipe but dad has perfected it over the years. You got any bacon?”
Finn grinned as Talon and Gael walked in. The small kitchen was getting kind of full. Talon took over the turkey and Gael pushed Finn down on a chair producing two beer bottles. One he opened and passed to Finn, one he threw at Vance who promptly opened it and mixed it into the sauce he was making. Gael started frying bacon under Vance’s watchful eye. Talon just cleared up as people finished with things.
“Where are we eating?” Talon suddenly said, and Finn nearly choked on his beer; their kitchen table was barely big enough for two of them, and Vance was two people just on his own.
“That’s easy,” Vance said. “We just put everything out on the counters, plate up what we want and go sit in the there.” He nodded to the lounge. Finn smiled. He was going to do this elaborate place setting idea he’d seen on TV, but suddenly Vance’s idea seemed better.
The meal was easily the best thing Finn had ever eaten in his life. He was perched on the floor with his back wedged in between Talon’s legs. The game had finished, and Gael was eyeing the bag Gregory had pushed under the tree. “Hey, this one’s got my name on,” and he dragged the bag out. “We’ve all got one,” he chuckled and passed everyone a present from the bag.
Talon approved the bottle of wine he opened. Vance chuckled at the key-ring with the tiny free weights attached and the card that said Vance had to try and not break these. Gregory had actually had to get the team their own gym at the field office because Vance kept breaking all the equipment in the regular one. Sawyer got an Amazon gift voucher and Eli a book on old Harley Davidsons which he was thrilled with. Finn opened his eagerly then blushed a deep red at the T-shirt inside.
Talon grinned and held it up so everyone could see another Superman T-shirt to add to his collection. Talon cleared his throat. “Actually, Gael can you pass me that small red envelope?”
Gael pulled an envelope out from behind the tree that Finn knew for sure hadn’t been there that morning. Gael passed it to Talon, and Talon solemnly handed it to Finn. “Merry Christmas.”
Finn took it with shaking hands. His boyfriend’s blue eyes darkened. He opened the envelope, and a key slid out. Finn looked at Talon in confusion. Talon stood up. “C’mon.” All the team followed Talon as he solemnly walked Finn to the elevator and down to the parking garage. Talon came to a stop next to his monster truck and then moved Finn to the side so he could see what was next to it.
A gleaming blue Mustang coupe. Finn stared, completely unable to find words. Sawyer took the key from him and got behind the wheel and started the engine. He got back out and handed him the key. “It’s a sweet ride.”
Finn swallowed quickly. He’d bought an old Taurus three months ago, and no matter how many times Vance’s uncle tried to fix it, it had constantly let him down. He’d wanted to be independent as usual, and instead of asking for advice he’d bought the car straight off the lot. It had been a disaster, but Talon hadn’t even once given him shit about it.
“How did it get here?” Finn asked in awe.
“Sawyer drove it here, and Eli followed in his car,” Talon answered.
Finn’s eyes narrowed, remembering how Talon didn’t seem fazed at Gael’s arrival. His eyes narrowed. “You knew everyone was coming.”
Vance chuckled. “Like we were gonna miss this.”
“Besides, we’re family.” Gael cuffed Finn on his head. “You gotta include us.”
Talon turned him around so he was facing him. “Do you like it?” he asked, and Finn heard the catch in his breath. Finn smiled and launched himself at Talon to be caught and wrapped up in his big strong arms. All these months he’d tried to be independent. Worried every minute he wasn’t strong enough, fast enough, or even capable enough around his enhanced team, and it was dumb.
They needed to be needed just like him. Every one of them was his family from Talon who kept his heart beating to Eli because he’d included him.
It was going to be the best Christmas ever.
Talon Valdez knew that when he transformed into an enhanced human, his life and his dreams were finished. Reviled, mistrusted, and often locked away, the enhanced are viewed as monsters, despised by the public, and never trusted to serve in the military or any law enforcement agency.
Years later he gets a chance to set up a task force of enhanced to serve in the FBI, but with one proviso: each enhanced must partner with a regular human.
Finn Mayer dreamed of joining the FBI since he was fourteen and made every possible sacrifice to make it happen, including living with his selfish mother and bullying homophobic brother and never having a boyfriend. But his undiagnosed dyslexia stopped his aspirations dead in their tracks. His last chance is to partner with Talon, an enhanced with fatal abilities who doesn’t trust regular humans with their secrets and wants Finn to fail.
Four weeks to prove himself to the team. Four weeks for the team to prove itself to the public. And when another group threatens their success—and their lives are at stake—four weeks for them to survive.
Victoria Sue is giving away an ebook copy of any of her books, along with a $25 gift card!!!! Just comment on this blog post telling us who your favorite superhero is and why.