Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: Santa Baby by Heidi Cullinan

Santa Baby #4
Trimming the tree is more fun with three.

Twin Cities developer Dale Davidson has come to Logan, Minnesota, to turn it into Christmas Town, not to give in to Arthur Anderson’s offer to join him and his fiancé, Gabriel Higgins, for a Christmas Eve threesome. Dale is polyamorous, but it’s clear Arthur is offering a night of fun and nothing more. Maybe one night with the couple he admires so much won’t hurt…

Together the three of them light a fire hot enough to boil Lake Superior in January, and one night of fun becomes an extended engagement as Dale puts down some tentative roots in his new hometown. Everyone loves Dale, Logan’s own Santa Claus, and somehow no one knows what wild times are happening right underneath their noses. No one knows, either, the complicated ways they’re falling in love with one another.

But a shadow from Dale’s past emerges, an abuser threatening him with violence and shame. Ronny doesn’t want a happy ever after for Dale, only to draw him back into a consuming darkness. It will take the love of not only Gabriel and Arthur but all of Logan to convince their Santa he has nothing to be ashamed of—and that he will always have a home in their hearts.

I just love the boys of Logan and they're back in full force with this year's Heidi Cullinan holiday treat, and it's just that: a treat of mega proportions!  But Santa Baby is a little different than the first three in the Minnesota Christmas series.  I've read threesomes, I've even read foursomes before some of which have led to poly relationships but never before has an author explained the nature of a true polyamory family as well as Miss Cullinan and she's done so without it coming across as a school lesson.  Arthur and Gabe, who we first came to know in book 2 Sleigh Ride, are back and very much in love but when Dale enters the scene, things should become complicated and jealous but they don't.  Oh, there are moments of awkwardness, what kind of a story would it be if everything was smooth sailing from page one?

Personally, I don't think I could manage a successful poly relationship, I like sharing my things but I don't think I'd be any good at sharing my love, not like that.  Perhaps that's why I'm so intrigued to read stories that have that kind of dynamic, especially when the tale is as well writen as Santa Baby.

Whether you like polyamory, threesomes, or just a well scripted love story, I highly recommend reading Santa Baby.  Do you need to read the series in order? I recommend doing so but as each story is centered around a different couple, it's not really mandatory but I find it flows better in order but you really do need to read Sleigh Ride before Santa Baby since they both are about Arthur and Gabe.  I haven't re-read these stories yet but I look forward to doing so as the Wisconsin weather gets colder, they'll definitely keep you warm on the long winter nights.


December 19, 2015
Logan, Minnesota, belonged on the front of a Christmas card.

A set of cards, actually, and as the thought expanded in Dale Davidson’s mind, he stepped away from the Winter Wonderland festivities to make a voice note on his phone. He took a few photos as well, examples to put in his ever-growing portfolio of ideas for how to turn sleepy Logan into a tourist destination.

He’d come to the small northern Minnesota town both as a favor to his longtime friend Marcus Gardner and as a straight-up business opportunity. Tiny hamlets like this, dressed up and spun the right way, could mean big tourist traffic for local businesses and investment money for the developers that helped the municipalities get those coveted visitor dollars. He saw a lot of potential profit in Logan.

Of course, because it was a small town, there’d already been trouble, chiefly at the informal city council meeting the other night, when a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens for Logan had burst in and accused Dale of pushing a “homosexual agenda.” As irony would have it, this was in fact a bit of why he was here. If Logan was LGBT friendly, it’d be more attractive to Twin City tourists. Marcus and his friends had managed to make this sleepy village unusually gay-friendly—or so Dale had thought until the Concerned Citizens had appeared. The city leaders had worked overtime ever since then to convince Dale the naysayers were nothing but an aberration, that Logan was ready for this project and the vast majority of its citizens were fully onboard.

No one had worked harder, though, than Gabriel Higgins, Logan’s librarian. He had pulled Dale aside the day after the meeting and launched into a long speech about his own experience moving to Logan from Minneapolis. He’d explained the difference between Logan and his hometown of Roseau, Minnesota, making it clear Dale wasn’t to paint all small towns with the same brush. All this was impressive enough. But then he’d pulled out a binder of research and grants on LGBTQIA youth and adults in rural areas, statistics on how little development was being done in those places, and projections on how much good attention and effort was believed to do for that population. This was presented in a fat three-ring binder, which he’d given Dale a forty-five minute tour of before sending him home with the same. Gabriel had made it clear he could fill three more volumes with as many bits of data Dale required to be convinced of Logan’s worthiness.

Everyone on the city council and chamber of commerce had come up to Dale all day during the Winter Wonderland festival to make sure he hadn’t been too put off by the Concerned Citizens’ theatrics. They seemed sure Kyle Parks’s clever snow sculptures or Gabriel’s carefully delivered opening speech, or possibly Mrs. Jessup’s delicious, state-fair-winning Lussekatter had been what convinced Dale to continue the Christmas Town project and not back away slowly from the potential headache the Concerned Citizens had shown him. The truth was none of these things had swayed him. Thirty percent had been the mayor’s promise he’d pass local legislation if he had to in order to keep the riffraff at bay, which had kept Dale’s hand in. Seventy percent, however, had been Gabriel Higgins. His binder full of data. His passion.

And the fact that Dale found him incredibly attractive.

All of Marcus’s gay friends were a buffet of handsome and cleverness, but Gabriel in particular drew Dale. His wittiness, his devotion to causes he believed in, even his occasional awkwardness was endearing to Dale. Unfortunately Dale had missed his chance with the man by a year and some change, because Gabriel was also engaged, as were all the gay men in Logan, apparently. Normally when Dale felt an attraction this strong, he would push a bit, hoping perhaps the object of his affection was also polyamorous or at least open to hearing a pitch about joining his ranks. However, he wasn’t in Logan to complicate his friend’s life with his unconventional concept of relationships. He was here to develop the town’s tourist interests. End scene.

This didn’t mean he stopped pining for Gabriel, especially as he took his photos during the festival and discovered Arthur and Gabriel in one of his frames. They were thirty feet away from him: a tall male figure with glasses and a mop of curly hair smiling and holding a bag of something as he bent to kiss a shorter man with red hair and a full beard beneath a tall, wide-limbed tree draped with snow. Dale quickly snapped a photo, smiling to himself. He lowered the phone and pulled up the image, cropping it and editing the brightness and sharpness and adding a filter to make it the sort of image the two of them could use in their engagement announcements, if they wanted.

He had it pretty much perfect and was about to save it when a text-notification bubble drifted over the screen, and he hit it instead of the DONE button. The text, Dale noted with a riot of emotions, mostly negative, a few slightly anticipatory, was from Ronny.

Ronny Morgan: When are you done with Mayberry?

Dale rubbed his thumb along the side of his phone case, arguing with himself about how to respond and whether or not he should at all.

He’d gone six months without this relationship, except for the aberration at the company Christmas party last weekend. He couldn’t even call Ronny his ex. They had…hooked up. Kinky, intense, power-play hooking up, which initially had been fun. But it had gotten weird, uncomfortable, borderline seriously not okay, especially after last Christmas, so he’d ended it. Or rather, he’d tried to end it, an effort which had become so much easier once he’d broken away from Kivino Enterprises to form Davidson Incorporated. He was still a subsidiary, still worked for the same CEO, but he and Ronny were in different office complexes now, on different sides of the metro area. All he had to do was ignore any of the man’s texts that weren’t about work. Which he had done without issue.

Until he’d had too many glasses of champagne and let Ronny put his hands on him in the hallway while he waited for an elevator at the Christmas party. Until he’d sent a mixed signal instead of a firm not interested. And now here he was, unable to know if Ronny was texting him about work or trying to start something up again.

And how like him to not let me know which direction in the opening text.

The only way to find out was to engage, so Dale tapped a reply. Not sure. Why?

His heart thudded as he waited for the answer, and it sank, twisted and confused, when it came.

Need to make sure I give you your Christmas present.

Dale put his phone in his pocket without replying and did his best to erase thoughts of Ronny from his mind. He’d made a mistake to engage. The odds of Ronny having anything work related to say to him were low, and nothing would have been to do with the Logan project. It was Dale’s sole focus at the moment. It needed to remain that way.

Think about Logan, he reminded himself. Logan is why you’re here.

He mentally indexed the notes he’d made last night, the ones he’d put right on top of Gabriel’s. But his mind was jumbled, thrown by Ronny’s interjection into this safe, idyllic space. His phone buzzed against his thigh, jolts of sensation flicking him repeatedly to make Dale do what Ronny wanted. Pulling him into the shadows, laughing as he pushed him—

Dale shook his head roughly, dispersing the image. He settled his gaze on Gabriel and Arthur once more, letting himself appreciate how prettily slender and tall Gabriel was as he frowned at the bag, how handsome and strong Arthur seemed as he waved his arms and spoke animatedly to his fiancé. Dale didn’t consciously decide to start walking toward them, but he didn’t stop himself once he realized what he’d done. They didn’t appear to be doing something they’d mind him interrupting, and he desperately needed a distraction right now.

When they saw Dale, they smiled at him, waved, and then Gabriel sighed and gestured helplessly at what Dale saw now was a brown bag of steaming chestnuts.

“Do you have any idea how to eat these?” Gabriel held them toward him. “I bought them from a local vendor because I was trying to be polite, and now I have this bag of too-hot nuts I don’t know what to do with.”

Dale tugged his gloves from his fingers and tucked them in his pocket before withdrawing a nut from the top of the sack. “My grandparents had a chestnut tree on their farm in Wisconsin when I was growing up. They’re rare in the United States, though this wasn’t always the case. A blight in the early twentieth century wiped almost all of them out. They’re doing what they can to repopulate them with a strain strengthened by an Asian variety, but it’s going to take a long time to get back what we lost.” He peeled one edge of the tough husk with a skill honed by years. The chestnuts hadn’t been sliced through quite enough before they were roasted, and he had to get his pen knife out of his pocket to help them along the rest of the way. “Chestnuts are universal. Armies have survived sieges on them. They’re part of special celebrations the world over and have been for centuries. Millennia, even.”

He could feel Gabriel soaking in the story as only a librarian could. “I’ve always thought it was odd how we had a holiday song about them but we didn’t know what they were. Now I understand why. I should have thought to look them up sooner.”

Arthur leaned on a tree, watching idly as Dale peeled. “My great-grandpa talked about eating chestnuts at Christmas. I wonder where these came from, if they’re so rare.

“They’re starting to make a comeback, but demand far outstrips supply.” Dale discarded one side of the husk and worked off the other side as well. “Different cultures have different legends about chestnuts.” He sliced it in half to give them each a taste, passing the first half to Arthur, holding it out to drop it into his gloved hand. “In Japan they’re used to celebrate the New Year, symbolizing both hard times and success.” He extended the second half to Gabriel, but he was caught up listening, clutching the bag with both hands. Possessed by devilry, Dale didn’t give the librarian time to extricate himself and popped the meat into Gabriel’s mouth instead. “The early Christians believed they symbolized chastity.”

Oh, but Dale liked the way the remark made Gabriel blush. He knew he needed to diffuse the flirt, though, to let Arthur know he wasn’t actually making a play for his man.

Except Arthur only snorted and gave Dale a heavy wink, chestnut meat poking between his teeth as he reached into the bag for another nut. He swept the half Dale had peeled for him into his mouth with a wicked swipe of his tongue and bit into it smartly, giving it a few chews before replying. “Put us down for Japan, sweetheart.”

Arthur peeled the chestnut, mimicking Dale’s technique, holding his hand out for the pocketknife when the nut failed to comply as it had for Dale. Dale handed the tool over without a word, though he did note the way Arthur needlessly caressed his fingers as he collected the implement. Dale stroked his beard, trying to check his flicker of interest and stick to his earlier conviction Logan wasn’t the place for such things. Especially with practically married men in Logan. Especially with practically married men whose fiancés were standing right fucking next to him.

Hoping for a reminder of why he should behave, he glanced at Gabriel—only to find Gabriel studying him with the same wary, careful gaze.

Wary, careful, tentatively interested gaze.

The world shifted beneath Dale’s feet.

Arthur sliced the chestnut, carving it into thirds and splitting it between the three of them. He popped his part into his mouth, fed Gabriel the same way Dale had, and he did the same for Dale, though he took care to be extra sensual with his delivery of Dale’s portion. “A shame we don’t get chestnuts here too often, then. There’s no reason they should be so rare, except they’re not planted. Sounds like all they need to thrive is a bit of science, some common sense, and some care.”

It was all simple enough, what he was saying, and yet Dale had never felt as if tree talk could strip him naked. He was working out how to call Arthur out and ask if he was getting propositioned with a bag of nuts and for what, exactly, when Gabriel whispered in a warning tone, “Arthur.”

Arthur rolled his eyes. “I was being cool, until you had to go and point it out.”

Gabriel blushed as if someone had been roasting him on an open fire. He tucked the bag of chestnuts to his chest and pressed a mitten to his face. “Stop, you’re making it worse.”

Ignoring him, Arthur turned to Dale, the seduction veil lowered, though not entirely dropped. “Look. Let’s be real. You’ve been giving both of us eyes one way or another.”

“Oh my God.” Gabriel tried to make himself shorter.

Arthur patted him on the back and kept going. “And you’re a tall drink of water, I’ll grant you. So let’s cut to the chase. You just flirting, or you interested?”

Stick to the plan. Tell him no. Except Dale’s gaze kept tugging to poor Gabriel, who was mortified at Arthur’s blunt approach. “Very interested. But I don’t know if it’s such a good idea, starting something in a small town.”

His reply leached some of the tension from Gabriel. Arthur, however, seemed annoyed. “Oh, hell, that doesn’t matter. It’s not as if we’re gonna fuck on the city square or anything.”

Gabriel rounded on Arthur, looking ready to do murder. But when he raised his hand as if to strike, Arthur caught his wrist in a lightning-fast strike, grinning as he held him captive with a wink.

Dale’s dick got a little hard, especially when Arthur raised an eyebrow at him. “You want to come play with us sometime before you leave for the Cities?”

Dale glanced around. They were in full view of the town, but they were slightly separated, off on a snowy knoll behind the farthest ring of shops. It was risky and surreal. He reminded himself of all the reasons he should say no.

But Jesus, Gabriel and Arthur were one hell of a distraction from those reasons. Gabriel’s pretty curls and the memory of what Arthur’s tongue did to a piece of meat. Dale’s thigh buzzed again, but Ronny’s texts were no more annoying than a gnat at this point, because he had other, better prospects now. Ronny could fuck himself with his present.

Dale cleared his throat. “What type of play are we talking?”

Arthur’s dark chuckle made Dale’s knees waver, and when Arthur stepped close enough to run a subtle hand up his arm, Dale’s legs buckled, however briefly. “I don’t know, son. Why don’t you tell me what you like?”

Dale’s blood rushed to his groin, but enough of it lingered in his brain to remind him of Gabriel’s nerves. They had to quit doing this out in the open. But part of him feared if they went anywhere private right now, Arthur would start something immediately. Dale paused, struggling to remember why exactly that was a bad thing.

He cleared his throat. “I’m pretty open-minded. Discretion is my bottom line, though. I’m not interested in being the subject of local gossip.”

“Then it sounds as if we’re all of the same mind.” Arthur’s thumb massaged at Dale’s elbow. “When do you leave town?”

With this prospect on the table, Dale was willing to stay through the New Year. “I’m flexible. I largely work remotely at this point, so I can stay in Logan as long as I’m needed here, or check in from the Cities. I have engagements tonight, tomorrow, and Monday night, but beyond then I’m free.”

“We’re booked Tuesday, but Wednesday we’re open. How about you come over to our place? Show us your chestnuts.”

It was Gabriel’s curls, Dale decided. They’d hypnotized him. He stared at them, cock throbbing a happy hum in his pants as Arthur stroked his arm, and he threw his common sense out the window. “What time?”

“Six-ish? We’ll feed you first.” Arthur chuckled and swatted Dale’s butt. “Wisconsin boy like you must eat venison, right?”

Dale kept his attention on Gabriel, who was long and lean and graceful as a gazelle. “Oh yeah. Anytime I can get it.”

“Great. See you then.”

Arthur linked arms with Gabriel and his bag of chestnuts and led him away.

Gabriel glanced over his shoulder, mortified, flustered…and eager.

Dale adjusted himself as discreetly as he could, relieved the phone in his pocket had finally gone quiet. God in heaven, but he wished it were Wednesday.


As the Winter Wonderland festival wound to its successful close, Arthur stood at the back of the old elementary gym with his fiancé, family, and friends, and soaked it in.

An older, former school on the other side of town had been turned into low-rent apartments, but this place had been where Arthur went to school until Logan’s enrollment had dipped low enough they’d had to consolidate with Pine Valley. Now this structure was the city council building and general catch-all meeting place for any and every event Logan couldn’t fit in the American Legion or a church. Tonight Marcus’s friends Laurie and Ed led Logan’s finest in the waltz, rumba, and, at the moment, were giving the room a tango demonstration.

Arthur watched this from the side of the room, and beside him stood two new friends, Spenser and Tomás, whom Laurie and Ed had spoken of last year and had managed to coax up for the festival this time. They’d brought their son, Duon, and Tomás’s parents and his nieces and nephews. They’d had reservations, apparently, about coming up to such a small town, worried about prejudice and discrimination, as Spenser was the single white person in their entire crew, but by all accounts they’d had nothing but a wonderful time all day. Renata, Tomás’s mother, had fallen in love with the craft fair and engaged in a lengthy discussion of knitting techniques with one of the sellers who, by some miracle, knew Spanish. Tomás’s father, José, and Arthur’s best friend and business partner, Paul, had been huddled together for the last half hour, Paul struggling to resurrect his high school Spanish and José dredging up his best English so they could have a serious discussion about the Minnesota Wild’s chances for the playoffs this hockey season. And the kids had a fantastic time because it was a festival and there were a million kid things to do and a Santa to visit in “his real house,” Arthur had heard them whisper to each other.

It felt good to be having a festival in his hometown. He missed these kinds of community events. When he was a kid, it happened all the time. The Memorial Day bonfire. The Fourth of July parade and celebration in the park, with the fireworks at dusk. The parade had stopped happening when he was really young, but he had a dim memory of standing on a curb beside his mom, stamping his feet and dancing in time to the beat of the bass drum. The bass line had fascinated him. His mom had told him when he was older he could be in band if he wanted, and he could be the one to carry the drum, and he couldn’t wait. Except by the time he got to school not only was the parade gone, so was the marching band. They barely had a music program at all now.

The tango demonstration ended, and the room erupted in applause. After Laurie and Ed took their bows, Laurie grabbed the mic from the stage behind him.

“Thank you so much for coming to the Winter Wonderland festival. Logan is such a wonderful town, and I know I speak for Ed and so many of us when I say we love any excuse we can get to come here and support your library, the Pine Valley Children’s Home, and so many other great causes. In a moment we’re going to announce the total raised, but first, let me thank—”

He cut off as Arthur’s mother, Corrina, leaned over and whispered in his ear. He nodded, then resumed speaking. “I want to thank everyone who has donated their time and resources today, particularly Kyle Parks for his stunning ice sculptures in the city center. I understand he stayed up all night finishing some of the pieces. So don’t miss your chance to thank him for his hard work, and remember, the best thanks you can give him is to make a donation to the Logan Library or to the Winter Wonderland Foundation. You can find links and addresses for those at the website, at the library itself, or in the back of the room on flyers near the cake, which I must warn you is almost gone. And we will announce the amount donated today, but before we do, we have to wait for the mayor. So until then, what do you say to a little more dancing?”

The room erupted in cheers and applause, though Arthur couldn’t help noticing Tomás, who was standing beside him and juggling a weary six-year-old, frowned. “Ed can’t keep dancing,” he said to Spenser. “He was pushing it to tango as it was.”

Arthur wondered why Ed couldn’t dance, then remembered the former semipro football player was former because he’d had a serious neck injury.

Spenser bit the corner of his lip. “You could dance with him, yes? Or Duon?”

Duon held up his hands. “No way. I ain’t dancing in front of all these white people.”

Tomás shifted the sleepy boy in his arms. “Where’s my mom? If I can pass off Ashton, I can get over there.”

“Here, give him to me.” Spenser held out his arms.

“He’s heavy.” Tomás jostled the boy gently. “Buddy, you’re big enough to stand. Let Uncle Spenser take you to Abuela, okay?”

But before they could get any further in their plans, Laurie continued speaking. “I’d like to do something different this time. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the dollar dance at weddings, where the guests pay a dollar to dance with the happy couple? We’ll do a variation of it now. Ed will collect the money, and the dancers will be me…” he made brief eye contact with Tomás, who nodded, “…Tomás Jimenez, from my studio in St. Paul, and of course your librarian, Gabriel Higgins.”

Gabriel stiffened, choked on his sip of hot cider, and turned to Arthur with a wide, terrified gaze.

Arthur patted Gabriel on the back and took the cup from his hands. “You can do it, baby. You’re a great dancer. Anyway, all you gotta do is stand there and smile.”

Gabriel still looked rattled. “They could have asked me.”

“I imagine this was Laurie punting on the fly, trying to make it seem planned. Dollars to donuts he apologizes after for putting you on the spot.” He pulled his fiancé closer to plant a kiss on his cheek. “Hon, it’s gonna be ninety percent little kids coming up to you anyway.” He winked and shifted his hand to grip Gabriel’s butt. “And me.”

“You’re right.” Gabriel sighed. “I suppose I should get out there and do my civic duty or whatever this is.” He leaned into Arthur’s touch, bending slightly to speak into his ear. “But if I’m beset by Concerned Citizens for Logan or anything else unpleasant, I fully expect you to come rescue me.”

“Always, honey. Always.”

Arthur clapped with the rest of the town as Gabriel joined the other celebrity dancers, but nobody beamed with pride the way he did over the town librarian. Everyone queued up to dance with the gentlemen, but the line to Gabriel was longest and mostly filled with children clutching dollar bills and bouncing on their heels, smiling and staring wide-eyed at Arthur’s fiancé as if he had personally hung every star in the sky. Linda Kay, Kyle’s twin sister who had Down’s syndrome, hesitated at Gabriel’s line, but opted in the end for Tomás, waggling her eyebrows at Kyle when he came forward and quietly admonished her to behave herself during her dance. “I’ll be good,” she promised. “But he’s sure a sexypants.”

Arthur joined Gabriel’s line out of loyalty, though he did agree with Linda Kay.

Kyle stayed with his sister, apparently not trusting her to keep her promise, but Kyle and Arthur’s lines processed in parallel, so they chatted as they went.

“Too bad Laurie didn’t call up your mom or someone,” Kyle observed. “It’s all women in these lines, except for us. Women and kids.”

Arthur studied the sea of people waiting and saw Kyle was correct. “I guess this is the downside to him only knowing a bunch of gay men in a small town? I don’t know. Something tells me he’s killing time. I don’t think he had the luxury of forethought here.”

Kyle grinned. “I wished he’d have asked me. I would have suggested Penny Mattherson.”

Arthur scratched his chin, trying to think of why she sounded familiar. “Penny Mattherson. She’s Bob Mattherson’s sister, right? Went out with Ottie Johnson back in the day?”

“Yep. Right up until she acknowledged she was a lesbian instead.”

Arthur laughed. “So you wanted to have a full rainbow coalition on the dance floor?”

“Well, sure, but three gay men and one lesbian would hardly be a full representation.” Kyle sighed wistfully. “I keep thinking of what Dale said at the city council meeting, about how we could be a draw because we’re queer. I know it’s not that simple, but I’d love to make even a little of it happen.”

“It’s not as if we don’t already have a rainbow up here. We just have to gather it in…whatever you gather rainbows in. We should have a monthly LGBT supper club or something.”

“That’s a good idea.” Dale Davidson’s bright voice boomed over them, and Arthur and Kyle turned to find him standing in line with them.

“Oh, hi, Dale.” Kyle shrugged. “I’d love to have a group, but I don’t have time to organize it, and my schedule sucks. Maybe once I get to take my new shift, though it won’t be a whole lot better. Besides, where would we have it?”

“They meet all over.” Dale gestured to the gym around them. “Here would be a good place, though it might be big. Council room might be a bit stale, but it would work.”

“Or the library.” Arthur wanted it to be the library, actually, mostly because of family pride. “Maybe it could rotate. Because when the weather’s nice, we could have it out at our place.” He could see it in his mind’s eye. Picnic tables set up on the ridge, him and Marcus working the grill, Gabriel chatting with the guests. God, he wanted to have them all over now. When they had the remodel done, they’d have room for that kind of thing inside the house too. Of course, once they started fostering, they’d also be full of kids. Which was good. He wanted kids. Watching Spenser and Tomás wrestle their brood, however, had made him quietly glad they’d agreed on older kids only.

Hopefully kids less moody than Tomás’s eldest niece, who was off in the corner weeping over something with her abuela. For what had to be the eighth time.

This hour.

Kyle frowned at Dale, glancing at him and then at the two queues forming on either side of him. “Are you in line, or…?”

Dale looked sheepish. “You caught me. I came up to talk to you guys in hopes I could slip in. I tried to get over here earlier, but those kids are fast. And they’ve cut off Gabriel’s line.”

Arthur bit back a grin as he gestured to the space in front of him. “Be my guest.”

Dale inclined his head. “Thank you.”

They were nearly to Gabriel now, and Arthur made eye contact with his fiancé, getting a smile and a wave in return. Dale got a smile and a blush, and when Dale and Kyle got to chatting about the ins and outs of how to start up a local LGBT support group, Arthur noticed Gabriel’s gaze kept sliding over to Dale, mapping the muscles of Davidson’s chest through his sweater.

Arthur grinned. This was so much more fun to think about than whether or not he was biting off more than he could chew by signing on to be a parent.

Last night in bed they’d had the best sex they’d had in a long time while Arthur demanded Gabriel admit how much he was attracted to Dale. His fiancé had been stealing glances at the man ever since he’d shown up Wednesday night, and once Gabriel admitted he thought the guy was handsome, Arthur couldn’t resist taking the fantasy to the extreme, teasing Gabriel until, in the throes of passion, he acknowledged he wanted to be fucked by Dale. Because they were playing, Arthur had pretended to threaten to call the man up and tell him, then settled for giving Gabriel a sound spanking instead.

Dale Davidson was fucking hot, and he turned both Gabriel and Arthur’s cranks. He was almost as tall as Gabriel, but he was as wide as Arthur. He was blond, but a dull, dark blond, not the shiny light blond of Marcus’s fiancé, Frankie. He had a granite jaw covered in a neatly trimmed full beard and mustache. His eyes were a soft blue, reminding Arthur of the Minnesota sky in summer. Paul had said Dale was like a combo between Chris Evans’s Captain America and the Brawny paper towel man, and all this was truth. He looked as if he could bench-press a mountain, but he’d hold a door for you while he did it.

The man was a certified flirt with everyone from little old ladies to the stodgiest of councilmen, but whenever he flirted with Gabriel, he made a point to acknowledge Arthur as well so he knew Dale didn’t have any dishonorable intentions on his man. He did this now as he danced with Gabriel, not settling for simply dancing in place with him as the children had but instead showing off his moves as he spun Gabriel around the floor, eliciting catcalls and laughter from the audience. Gabriel blushed and did his best to keep up, but he appeared to be having the time of his life.

Dale gazed at Gabriel as if he wanted the next spin to take them into a bedroom, but then he’d wink at Arthur, the gesture telegraphing, Don’t worry, man, I won’t.

Too bad the guy didn’t know Arthur wouldn’t mind one bit, so long as Gabriel came home again once they were finished.

Dale Davidson was handsome and polished, with all the city ways that gave Logan residents a thrill, but he was honest folks too. At least six different people had said as much to Arthur while Dale visited in the final preparation for the Winter Wonderland festival. Dale was a charmer, but he was a pleaser above all. Odds were good he’d carry that attitude into bed as well.

Oh, hell yes, Arthur wanted this experience for Gabriel. And he was going to make sure his baby got it. Arthur thought about how good they looked together dancing now, how good they’d look fucking on Wednesday night. He thought, too, about what a pretty picture Dale would make on his knees. Captain America/Brawny Man could fit into one hell of a submission fantasy.

When Dale’s turn ended, he brought Gabriel back to his station to a round of applause, and passed him, breathless and flushed, into Arthur’s arms. Arthur accepted his fiancé’s embrace with a grin.

“Nice moves there, buddy.” He winked and drew Gabriel close, leading him in a slow, simple sway. “Bring them Wednesday.”

With a grin, Dale saluted and disappeared into the crowd. But Arthur watched him go, and Gabriel had his eyes on him too.

Oh yeah. Wednesday was going to be all kinds of interesting.

Author Bio:
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren't enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her family. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state's LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.



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