|Cover Art by BitterGrace|
Christmas, and the man of his fantasies is back in Chris's life.
It's been far too long since Christian Matthews has seen Daniel Bailey. In fact the last time they met Chris was a senior in college and he was the TA tasked with helping Daniel who was a way too confident freshman.
Seven years down the road, Chris is licking his wounds after being asked to leave the private school where he was teaching. He has no job, no money, and has to rely on his friend Amelia for the job and a room to live in. He needs a freaking Christmas miracle to make this Season anything other than a total loss.
Then Daniel comes back into his life and suddenly everything seems possible. Not only is Daniel still the man Christian wants more than anything, but this time Chris may well actually tell Daniel how he feels.
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Rainbow Books Reviews - "...This is a great Christmas story, from the slow build of a romantic relationship that is long overdue, through some very angsty territory, all the way to lives being threatened, and a perfectly adorable ending. And even though Christmas isn’t really at the heart of the story, Chris and Daniel's love is the focus, it is a perfect example of the Christmas spirit. Of course, the setting of New York in December and January may have something to do with it. Two of my favorite scenes ere the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller center and the two guys going ice skating. The latter was hilarious! ..."
Hearts On Fire Reviews - 5/5 - "...Ms Scott managed to pack in enough action and spice to keep me turning pages and finding her trademark HEA. If you’re looking at the days ticking by and just don’t feel the spirit, pick up this wonderful, heart warming romance and you’ll be looking forward to the holiday again..."
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MM Good Book Reviews - 4/5 - "...this story left me smiling and happy with a little holiday cheer. New York Christmas is another great Christmas story from RJ Scott. ..."
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words - "....RJ Scott broke out the carols, the mistletoe, and the wassail because this story is permeated with the glow and good tidings of a wonderful Christmas tale. I have certain expectations of a holiday story. It must make me feel good, leave me smiling in joy for the characters who have found love in each other and the season. I love to have some snow (although not necessary), some good deeds, and a couple or couples well on their way to happily ever after. With New York Christmas I get all that and more...."
Life on Magrs - "....These two men and their courtship and predicament seemed very real to me. Their awkwardness and hesitations, and then the very exciting moments of shared communication and passion rang very true. This is a classy romance, full of atmosphere. And maybe I’m going soft and sentimental – but I loved it, and wanted more of this kind of gay romance...."
Joyfully Jay - 4.5/5 - "....I’m a big fan of Scott’s and New York Christmas is one of the prime examples why. Real characters, with real and believable emotions, this story gives us a nice holiday romance about two men finding themselves and each other...."
Wednesday, November 21st
Everything started between one breath and the next, with the seventy-fifth repeat of Lennon’s Christmas classic in his ears and the smell of Amelia’s cranberry muffins in his nose. It was heaven and hell and all the clichés in between, a surprise that kicked him in the butt so hard that he almost fell down.
Daniel Bailey, of the Boston Baileys, the boy who Daniel had wanted with a passion.
Tall. Way, way tall, with chestnut brown hair and beautiful hazel eyes, a dimpled chin and high cheekbones, Daniel freaking Bailey was perfection personified. They had studied together. Daniel was in English Lit 101 for easy credit; Chris was the TA for the English professor. Daniel had been assigned remedial English because he was so good with “special needs” students. Special needs was, in this case, a euphemism used by those that actually worked hard at college. Used with much disdain to describe those students who just didn’t seem to care enough. That was Daniel, the boy who never had to try. He never ever appeared to work at anything. Yet, somehow Daniel always managed to scrape through.
Then again, why would Daniel even want to work at school? He didn’t need to. A trust fund at twenty-five, a Ferrari—two actually—in the campus parking lot. Holidays in Europe, no need to worry about planning a career—it was expected he would join the family firm when he left college. Daniel had it easy really and was a person with a stunningly bright light about him.
He still looked good at twenty-nine, which is what he must be considering Chris had just scored the big three-oh plus two. Still tall. Well, duh. Still with the long bangs that curled and flicked artfully around his face, still in denim that cost more than Chris probably made in a week at the café, and still with those god-awful, if expensive, sweatshirts he was so fond of. This one was a curious mix of brown and blue, and on a lesser man, a shorter, wider, uglier man, it would have been an awful sight. On Daniel however, the cotton curved over defined muscles and clung to his torso before skimming hips and covering the very area that Chris had defined in college as sheer heaven.
“Chris? Chris Matthews, is that you?” Chris blinked at the deep, cultured voice, his dick hardening impossibly against the zip of his pants. Daniel had that effect on him at college, and apparently nothing had changed. Thankfully, what was happening was hidden under the apron declaring he was one of Amelia’s puffs. Daniel was talking to him. The last time Daniel had talked to him it had been at graduation ten years ago. Then there was the Christmas eggnog incident. Fuck. Why did he have to remember that now? Here? In the middle of the freaking midmorning rush?
Both having stayed at college over Christmas, they were the only two left in their respective shared houses and, more by luck than judgment, had met at the campus coffee shop. Coffee led to a debate on Grand Theft Auto, which led to a grudge match back at Daniel’s house. Daniel’s house had been so different from the dump Chris shared with seven others. Daniel shared with only two others and they each had their own bathrooms. Luxurious and yet another example of the difference between them. To this day, he couldn’t remember whose idea it was to introduce eggnog into the situation but the memories of what had happened next sustained him for quite a few years.
Daniel had tipped the contents of the bag gently onto the work surface and Chris held a hand out to stop the bottle of bourbon from rolling off the side. Following the recipe, they concentrated as only two young guys full of beer could on creating what was described in the recipe as the perfect eggnog. Eggs, sugar, nutmeg, cream, then brandy, a bit more brandy, and then some bourbon, which Chris had tried with a healthy swallow to make sure it was okay. The alcohol made him bold. The man of his dreams was standing not more than a foot from him and was waving bourbon under his nose, demanding Chris tell him if it was okay to use. Then he had added nearly half the bottle.
The first taste of the concoction had Chris gasping for air. Then the second numbed the pain. He had very few memories of the next few hours apart from exchanging sloppy under-the-mistletoe Christmas kisses. Which was a total waste given his dick was alcohol affected. The fickle thing couldn’t have risen to the occasion even if Brad Pitt had walked in the room naked and asking for butt sex. He’d woken on the floor with a mouth full of dead something, Daniel snoring on the sofa, and his butt untouched. Chris left. Walked the two blocks to his home and spent the rest of the day clutching the porcelain god, losing his stomach contents ten times over. But the kiss… he’d wanted more of those. He never got them though.
And now the man he’d tried to forget was standing here looking for a rational response from a normal guy and suddenly Chris’s head was empty. In his head he knew exactly what he should be saying and how he should say it. But just like the nerd in every cliché movie ever, what actually came out was little more than a squeak and probably could only be heard by teenagers and small dogs. He coughed, made a show of patting his throat after the cough, and swallowed before starting again.
“Hey.” Eloquent. Not.
“From college. Chris Matthews, right?” Daniel added carefully. He looked a bit confused, an expression that spoke of worry that he had misstated Chris’s name, or indeed that he didn’t really know Chris at all.
“Muffins,” Chris began, “uhmm, yes, Chris, college, I do… I work… erm… muffins.” Well, that killed his hard-on. Four years of college education and he was reduced to blind idiocy with zero verbal skills at the sight of tall, dark, and sexy.
Daniel smiled. An easy, broad, happy smile that reached his hazel eyes and creased his entire face. And goddammit, there were his dimples, all kind of cute and pitted and— was he actually thinking the word?—dimply.
“Long time no see.” Daniel clearly wanted to carry on a conversation, and Chris was right there with that. It was just a shame that his brain and his mouth were having a lot of trouble connecting with any level of coherence.
“Uh huh,” Chris managed; Daniel always had this way of making him so damn tongue-tied. He shifted from one foot to the next, hoping that he was being subtle. Then, with nothing else he could think of to say, blurted, “What can I get you?” He hadn’t meant his tone to be brisk, but that was the way it came out. Chris cursed inwardly at the social ineptitude that only manifested around really hot guys.
It seemed it was now Daniel’s turn to go quiet as the enthusiastic brightness in his eyes faded a little and his broad shoulders stiffened just a fraction. It didn’t last long, Chris may even have imagined it, it was so brief, then Daniel pulled those same amazingly broad shoulders back, concentrating avidly on the tempting layout of muffins under the glass and finally pointing at the cranberry muffins.
“Twelve of those please.”
Chris boxed them, taking careful interest in what he was doing so he wasn’t looking at Daniel or meeting his eyes. He handed the box to the other man, offering a small smile, but Daniel didn’t exactly smile back. Instead, he handed over a twenty-dollar bill. Chris fumbled with the change, counting the two dollars and twenty-five cents carefully into Daniel’s outstretched palm before the other man looked at him expectantly, then expectation turned to confusion, and finally he turned on his heel and just left.
“Talk about hot.” Chris heard the soft words and the low whistle. He turned to face Amelia, his boss, who was juggling more muffins and a platter of replacement cream cakes.
“Hmmm?” He hadn’t been following what Amelia said, but obviously she was talking about the muffins, right? Chris immediately took the new batch from her, sliding them into the glass case.
“That guy you just served: tall, dark, and sexy.”
“Oh. My. God,” Amelia half whispered under her breath. “Christian James Matthews, you slut, you got his name already? It’s true when they say that the quiet ones are the wildest.”
“I knew him in college, okay? ‘M not a slut, Ame,” Chris said. He managed to mutter this before the next person in the winding line demanded his attention with an order for three muffins, one cream cake, a macchiato, a flat white, and a mocha.
He dealt with that customer and the next, thoughts of Daniel being pushed aside by masterful coping with the pre-Thanksgiving, still at-work, need-a-muffin rush.
Thinking back, even the eggnog incident and the fact that after this Daniel seemed to avoid him at college outside study sessions, hadn’t dampened Chris’s crush on the younger man. Still, he left college without taking that crush into the open. The only other thing that stuck in his mind was the memory of his last day at college. Daniel had cornered him in the parking lot and pulled him into a tight hug.
“Thank you for all your help with my coursework,” Daniel had said.
“You’re welcome,” Chris said. His response was the same one he gave to all the first-year students he had helped. Short and to the point.
“I’ll see you in a few years,” Daniel offered.
It was only later when he was in the car listening to his mom’s crappy choice in music that he considered what Daniel had said. A few years? He doubted he would see the man again.
So what if Daniel had been the subject of more than one of Chris’s right-hand fantasies over the last eleven or so years? So what if he had probably just lost his entire life’s chances of actually talking to the guy as a grown and confident adult. He was never going to see Daniel again. New York was a huge city, and Amelia’s, while popular, was just one coffee shop off the beaten track.
Shame. Because really? Daniel Bailey was still freaking hot.
* * * *
Daniel changed into his uniform in the locker room and then hurried to his desk. He dropped the box of twelve cranberry muffins on the table in the middle of the bullpen. Counting down in his head from ten he wasn’t surprised when it was his partner, Alex Strachen, who made the first comment.
“Muffins are just ever-so-slightly gay, Bailey,” he said. “Hell, sugar, couldn’t you get doughnuts or cookies or something a bit straighter?”
“Ha ha, Strachen,” Daniel said drily. He scooped the box out of Alex’s way and closed the lid. “I’ll just take them to admin then.”
“Don’t be so hasty,” Alex said. He held out a hand and shook it, palm up. “Gimme.”
Daniel placed the box very deliberately in front of his partner and then settled himself on the nearest chair before scooting forward to help himself to a muffin.
“These are from Grand Street?” Alex commented around a mouthful of muffin. He pointed at the address on the side of the box. “That’s like ten blocks away.” He swallowed his mouthful and took a swig of coffee, grimacing at what Daniel knew was disgusting caffeine. “And in the opposite direction from where you live.”
“Great detective work,” Daniel said. He bit into a whole cranberry and the juice of the tart fruit sparked on his tongue. God. These muffins were heaven in a box. He watched as one by one they disappeared as other officers took them. A small part of him regretted sharing. Still, an empty box meant he could go back after Thanksgiving and see Chris again.
“Is this something to do with your guy? Did you track him down?” Alex leaned in and spoke quietly. Despite the fact that every single person in the department knew Daniel was gay, Alex respected that he didn’t want to talk details with everyone getting up into his private life.
“We’ll talk later,” Daniel offered. Unspoken was ‘when we’re out and away from here’.
They settled into the routine of the new day, checking reports, briefing, and organizing themselves into what they needed to do. It was nearly midday before they hit the streets, and the snow was a blessing in that it slowed everything down. People still milled around; cars still forced their way through lights and around corners narrowly missing the feet of the waiting pedestrians. But there was a buzz of excitement in the air. The first snow was always an exciting one, before it melted or, worst case scenario, turned to slush. The bitter November air stung Daniel’s face but it was okay. He was home here.
“So tell me? Did that guy you tracked down, the brother or something, give you good intel?”
Daniel hated to use police information to track down the man he wanted to find and had instead relied on good old-fashioned detective work. Knowing Chris’s brother worked at the Times was a good place to start, asking for details of where his brother worked the next step. Address in hand—and leaving two hours early for work—meant that finally, after all these years, he had seen Chris again. Strange that the man who had given Daniel’s studies purpose had ended up in a coffee shop of all places. In his head Chris had become a teacher, or gone on to further study and become a doctor of English lit. Anything but someone who made coffee and sold muffins for a living.
“Yeah, and he was working behind the counter there.”
“Hence the muffins. Did he recognize you?”
“Yeah he did. I could see he realized it was me immediately.”
“Were you in uniform?”
“Left it here yesterday and changed when I arrived. Didn’t want to scare the guy off at first sight.” Daniel shrugged. “He looked like a scared rabbit, and he wasn’t wearing his glasses.”
“You remember he wore glasses?” Alex laughed. “Man, you have it bad. Have you really liked him for this long?”
Daniel hadn’t shared a lot of his backstory with Alex. His partner knew the headlines: son of rich parents, private education, college degree, cop. He didn’t know about Chris and the effect the senior had had on his freshman self. Why would he? Daniel kept everything very close to his chest. He sighed.
“It’s unfinished business. I should have looked him up way before this.”
Alex looked at him thoughtfully while he deftly avoided colliding with a woman who had stopped to look in a shop window with very little consideration for the people around her. He grimaced but continued walking. They were used to much worse. Everyone out here had an agenda and it was a cop’s job to make sure they handled whatever the City threw at them.
“So why didn’t you look him up?”
Daniel spotted a scruffy Santa with a charity box on the corner and looked pointedly at the guy, who seemed to get the hint and disappeared. He had mastered the art of the steely-eyed take-no-shit glare from Alex and he used it to good effect. Sometimes body language and the uniform were more effective than words.
“The time wasn’t right. I was at college, then battling family, then training, then beat. Only just settled I guess.”
“Dangerous game if he was that important. What if he up and met some other way-tall, hazel-eyed studmuffin and eloped to Tortuga?”
“You calling me a studmuffin, Strachen?”
Alex huffed a laugh and answered a call to his radio. There was a situation a street over and suddenly talking was done.
As they dealt with the details—a dead rabbit, a conman, a wailing kid, and the kid’s mom—Daniel attempted to get his own thoughts in order. Chris had been shocked to see him this morning but he had recognized him. That was a good thing, right? Chris was still just as Daniel remembered. Flustered, cute—not cute, gorgeous—and still with that smile that caused butterflies in the pit of Daniel’s stomach. He would go back soon, maybe even pluck up the courage to ask the guy out.
Decision made, he concentrated on the story of why a four-year-old had found a dead rabbit inside a shoe box.
Only in New York City.