Neither Eddie nor Mom would let me rescue Owen.
“I heard about your newly dubious virtue,” Eddie said, piping pink icing boobies onto a cookie. Eddie was nineteen years old and perpetually horny so he gave the cookie stripper boobs. “Tough break.”
I vaguely pointed my bag, bulging with blue sugared lard, at a cookie tray and craned my neck to peek above the frost on the kitchen window. Owen and Dad had returned the snow blower to the garage twenty minutes and two lifetimes ago. Mom stood sentry at the kitchen door because when I’d heard yelling, I’d dropped my frosting to sprint for the garage. Nothing doing. Dad was having a man to man discussion with Owen and my mother would beat me bloody with a wooden spoon to keep me away, if she had to. My shoulder still stung from her warning salvo. “Jesus, I wasn’t a virgin when Owen and I met.”
“Don’t you take the name of the Lord in vain, Seth Jeremiah,” my mom snarled from her post at the mudroom door.
I jutted a mutinous chin. “Sorry.”
“Wipe that look off your face too. You’re in big enough trouble already, mister.”
Eddie rolled his eyes. “It’s not like you knew Owen wouldn’t marry you when you moved in with the guy.”
True, I hadn’t. We’d never discussed marriage because neither of us had believed that within the realm of possibility. We hadn’t talked—fought—about it until Question Six passed. That didn’t matter to my mother. In the half hour since I’d come downstairs, Mom had worked herself into a powerful mad about her youngest son living in sin for the past year. My family had been fine with us living together before. Until Owen, I’d been wild and impulsive, but what twenty year-old isn’t? I’d also been somewhat of a slut, though I’d never advertised that to my parents, but despite my family’s initial objections to our age difference—Owen was a dozen years my senior—and the fact that my boss had seduced me out of my Dockers, they’d ultimately decided that Owen was a steadying influence. I’d stopped drinking. I wasn’t flitting from boyfriend to boyfriend and from job to job anymore. After he moved me into his house and mentioned adopting kids, my mother wrote his name beside mine in the family Bible and my dad invited Owen fishing. When I wasn’t even allowed on Dad’s boat.
“I would’ve moved in with him anyway,” I whispered to Eddie. Because that was also true.
“I heard that!”
Ears like a bat, my mother’s.
Busily piping frosting boobs and what I guessed were supposed to be gingerbread lady bits at the cookies’ crotches, Eddie winced. “Are you crazy?” he hissed. “You’re making it worse!”
I bent over my cookie tray full of gingerbread and dutifully squeezed the bag of icing to draw blue dicks on my share of the cookies so Eddie’s strippers would have customers. Piping a pair of balls on either side of those cocks wasn’t easy and the color was unfortunate. After a lonely holiday week of Owen sleeping on my parents’ living room couch, I expected my balls to be so blue by Christmas Day that they’d snap free of my body and roll right off. “I’m just saying,” I said in a softer, quieter murmur. “If Owen bent you over a desk, you’d move in with him too.”
The crack of my mother’s wooden spoon landing on the back of my skull split the hush of the kitchen and I yelped. Dropping the bag of icing, I jerked my hand to my poor head, rubbing furiously at the sting. Like a thousand angry hornets. “Ow! Damn it, that hurt,” I protested, wriggling around but not fast enough to avoid a second swat across my left butt cheek. I pivoted, one hand scrubbing at my smarting scalp while the other covered my freshly injured ass. “What was that for?”
My mother raised the evil spoon and jabbed at me in dire warning. “No cursing in my kitchen.”
“But you threatened to toss Owen out on his ass,” I pointed out and then scrambled to the side when my vile, abusive Mom lifted the spoon to smack me again.
“Don’t you sass me!”
I hadn’t realized insanity ran in my family, but Owen’s failure to make an honest man of me seemed to have triggered a psychotic break in my mother. She didn’t hit me again, but she followed me with the punishing spoon when I scooted down the line of the kitchen counter. Cackling gleefully, Eddie leaped out of the way, the coward. “Mom, you can’t smack me like that. They call that child abuse these days,” I argued, guarding my ass with both hands. “Plus, I’m full grown. An adult.”
“Kids today would be mindful and courteous if a wooden spoon spanked their spoiled rotten tushes when they earned it. Spare the rod? Not in this house.” Mom bared her teeth in a smile that shriveled my balls to raisins. “And none of my children will ever grow so big that they can’t be—“
The flare of the camera flash momentarily blinded me.
“Oh shi—shoot.” Eddie snickered, arms around his stomach as he laughed from the safety of the other side of the kitchen.
“Thanks.” In the doorway, Lisa lowered a neon blue digital camera. “Great pic.” She flashed a toothy grin so similar to Mom’s that I decided on the spot that therapy wasn’t a bad idea at all. “This’ll look fantastic on my Facebook.”
My jaw dropped. I swiveled to my mother, pleading, “Mom!”
She lowered the spoon, thank God, and refocused her disapproving attention on my sister. “Lisa, don’t embarrass your brother.” She darted a ferocious scowl at me. “He’s done enough to shame himself, as is.”
“Leave him alone, Clara.”
My eyes snapped shut, the absurd horror suddenly more than I could bear, but that didn’t stop Owen from striding across the kitchen and draping the warm weight of his arm over my shoulders to pull me against his chest. The familiar scent of his aftershave, musky sandalwood, tickled my nostrils. “This isn’t Seth’s fault,” he said and brushed a chaste kiss at my temple. “Blame me as much as you like. I’ll even sleep on the couch. It’s your house and your rules.” When I dared a glimpse, Owen nodded to my father, who emerged from the mudroom in his socks, whereas snow fell from Owen’s boots to freeze my bare toes. “But don’t punish Seth for what was and is my decision. He’d marry me today, if he could. He’s done nothing to be ashamed of, with the possible exception of falling in love with his boss.”
“Owen’s a cougar,” Eddie said, the teasing accusation muffled around the gingerbread he’d stuffed into his mouth.
“In a manner of speaking.” Owen arched a cool eyebrow. “I’m a lot older and more experienced.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” I squirmed away, out from under his arm at my shoulder. Irritation straightened my spine. “I’m a grown man, not a boy you seduced. I make my own decisions.”
“Precisely.” My mother crossed her arms over her ample chest, wicked spoon twitching in her fist. “Seth needs to answer for his poor behavior.”
“This isn’t the fifties, Mom.” Adult or not, I moved closer to Owen when her eyes narrowed, glittering and mean. “People live together before they get married now and some never get married.”
Mom seethed. “Not my son.”
“Give it a rest, Bit.” Heaving a tired sigh, Dad rounded the corner of the mudroom. “At least he can’t get pregnant.”
I blinked at my father, shocked to the core that Dad was taking my side. Against She of the Devil Spoon? Never been done.
“They want to adopt kids!” my mother shrieked and I cowered against Owen’s side when she pointed the spoon at me.
The camera flash flared.
My mother squawked in red-faced outrage.
“Lisa, go to your room,” my dad said with a grimace.
She lowered the camera and pooched out her lower lip in a pout that had stopped being cute when she was six and hadn’t been all that adorable even then. “I’m twenty-four years old, Daddy. You can’t—“
I flinched at the roar. My dad was an even-tempered man. While we were growing up, Mom was the parent to set the rules and mete out discipline to enforce them. Truthfully, present circumstances notwithstanding, my mother hadn’t been that bad. Firm, but fair. I’d had my butt spanked when I was a kid, sure. We all had, but Mom had been much more prone to taking away privileges and assigning extra chores. The spoon was new. Evil. But new.
“Put that thing down, Little Bit,” Dad said to my mom, voice calm and like the dad I remembered as he walked across the kitchen to take the spoon from my mother’s suddenly lax grip. She stared at him, eyes huge in her face, as though she were as shocked by my father’s behavior I was. “How could you hit our son?”
That did it.
Lisa didn’t inherit the pouty lip from Dad. Mom’s pooched out and her eyes glistened for two nanoseconds before she abruptly burst into tears. “B-but they’re living together and just a couple of years away from adopting too, I just know it,” she said, gasping and sobbing as my dad put his arms around her. “And they aren’t even married!” she wailed.
“Stop.” My father hugged her, patting her shoulder. “Anybody who can count on their fingers knows Brenda was born six months after we got married.”
Eddie hopped onto the kitchen counter, munching porno cookies like there was no tomorrow…or party at Grandma Stewart’s on Sunday. “My birthday’s four months after my parent’s anniversary.” He grinned. “Daddy needed persuasion of the shotgun variety.”
I snaked my arms around Owen’s waist, to show my support. I was reasonably confident no one would… “New Christmas rule: no firearms,” I declared, just in case.
When my cousin bit into another cookie, a frosting blob boob slid off the gingerbread and onto his lap. “Spoilsport.”
“He’s old enough to choose his own life. We need to let Seth and Owen sort this out their way,” Dad gently said into Mom’s hair, ignoring the three of us. “Why don’t you go upstairs and splash water on your face.”
Mom’s slight, wet nod made me feel two inches tall and rather than comforting me, Owen caressing my back in those long, soothing strokes made me feel smaller.
“Hand check,” Eddie, the little bastard, shouted, when Owen’s touch dipped a little too far south and skimmed the upper curve of my ass in my blue jeans.
Owen yanked his hand higher.
Dad’s lips curved to a predatory bow next to Mom’s head when he glanced at Owen. “Remember, we have all week. He’ll change his mind.”
Sniffling, Mom wiped her eyes on her sleeve and glared, damp and bloodshot, at Owen. No mystery who I inherited my great honker of a nose from. “The floor you tracked up had better be clean when I’m finished fixing my face,” she said to Owen, though if my mother had ever smoothed anything onto her skin except Oil of Olay, I was unaware of it. “And keep your hands to yourself.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Owen replied.
Christmas. Of. Doom.
* ~ * ~ *
Amazon Gay & Lesbian Bestseller
ARe Category Bestseller — Romantic Comedy