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WINTER LIGHTS IN LOVELAND




WELCOME TO LOVELAND, BOOK 5



K-LEE KLEIN

TABLE OF CONTENTS





Title Page

Copyright

Other Books by K-lee Klein

Dedication

About Winter Lights in Loveland

Winter Lights in Loveland

About the Author

Contact the Author

Welcome to Loveland





This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.



Copyright © 2017 by K-lee Klein

Cover Design © 2017 Karrie Jax



All rights reserved.



No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.



Published in the United States of America



OTHER BOOKS BY K-LEE KLEIN


Series Titles


Countdown to Daddies

Book 1: Countdown to Daddies

Book 2: Countdown to Santa


Family of Misfits

Book 1: Lucius’ Bite

Book 2: Ali's Intuition

Book 3: Manny's Heart


Stone Magic

Book 1: Moonstone


Unbreak My Heart

Book 1: Unbreak My Heart

Book 2: Unbroken Hearts


Welcome to Loveland

Book 1: Lucky in Loveland

Book 2: Lost in Loveland

Book 3: Mistletoe Reunion in Loveland

Book 4: Finding Forever in Loveland

Book 5: Winter Lights in Loveland


Single Titles


Dancing for Diamond

Domestic Relations

Las Palabras de Amor

Outfoxed


DEDICATION





The Welcome to Loveland series is very special to me since it was my first attempt at self-publishing. I'm thrilled that it's been so popular and that I've been encouraged to continue it. I promise the next book will be all about Lucky and Jack again.

I have a wonderful group of crazy readers that I really need to thank for being there for me and for being so sweet to me all that time. They won't mind me calling them crazy since the name of my group is K-lee's Krazies. I love our little Krazy community.

Special thanks to Bethany, Cassidy, Kaje, Karrie, Patricia, and Terri for helping me get this book off the ground. Without their kind and encouraging words, I probably would have just filed this one away, but they made me want to finish and share it. Also to Melissa for giving me a much-appreciated hand. Thanks, guys. You're my rock. Xo



ABOUT WINTER LIGHTS IN LOVELAND





Loveland, Colorado, is a special place all year round, a community of creativity and art, with scenic views and majestic mountains. But it shines even more brilliantly at Christmas time.

Miles can take or leave Christmas, and that goes double for his Loveland family's huge annual get-together. This year, for the first time, he has a boyfriend during the holidays, and the possibilities are making him a nervous and excited wreck. 

But Jeremy is everything Miles isn't—experienced, relaxed, an obsessed Christmas freak. Being with him gives Miles courage and renewed belief in what he can do and who he is. Simply put, Miles is a guy in love, and he hopes that putting his trust in Jeremy and himself will help him take a big step in their relationship. 

Maybe this will be the year Miles finally catches the Loveland holiday spirit.



WINTER LIGHTS IN LOVELAND





Miles Redmond faked nonchalance as he huddled behind a garishly decked-out Christmas tree that looked like the holidays had thrown-up all over it. Thankfully, it was almost closing time at the chaotic Loveland department store, but where on earth was Miles' boyfriend?

He'd tried to time his arrival so he'd spend as little time as possible amongst the bustling crowd of Christmas Eve shoppers, and people seemed to be finally heading home to be with their families after a full day of chaos and stress. The added room to breathe took the edge off Miles' tendency toward claustrophobia and brought his headache down to a dull roar from its previous screaming down the house pain.

It was all Jeremy's fault.

Miles fished his phone out of his pocket, quickly confirming the time and his suspicion that his boyfriend was late. They'd agreed on 5:15—more than enough time for Jeremy to leave work and meet him. Of course, that assurance was contingent on Christmas traffic and holiday transit, neither of which could be guaranteed.

So Miles waited, sighing heavily and careful to not meet anyone's gaze as he peered around the store. He ended up backed into a section filled with snowman accessories. Seriously? Snowmen needed their own department now? Of course spending time with a group of fake people made of fake snow was definitely better than navigating the harried from the holidays flesh kind.

He supposed the biggest problem—besides the whole freaked out by crowds thing—was that even surrounded by the holly-jolly memorabilia of the holidays, Christmas still wasn’t his thing. The gaudy decorations and over-blown festive posturing made him a little nauseous and a lot uncomfortable. Jeremy told him he was far too cynical for someone so young, which was an unfair statement from someone only three years older. Being only twenty-two didn't mean Miles couldn't long for the good old days when Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas hadn't been merged into one clusterfuck of holiday overload.

Jeremy ate it all up, though, ever the excited puppy dog, which made their trips to each brightly lit mall, and decked-out suburban neighborhood, more fun. But this visit—this horrific foray into the ultimate commercial madness of the night before Christmas—was entirely Jeremy's idea. His excuse was simple—he'd been a slacker and needed to find a last-minute gift. Miles had already finished the homemade projects that fit his negative-dollars budget for a couple of weeks, and he had no reason to be subjected to this circus, except he'd do anything for Jeremy.

"Hey, sexy. Come here often?"

Miles gave into the wide grin that automatically stretched his face when a strong arm wrapped around his waist and a cold nose burrowed between Miles' layers of clothing. Prickly, excited warmth fanned the back of his neck.

"You're frowning. Don’t you know the rules, babe?" Jeremy taunted. "No frowns allowed at Christmas."

"And you're late," Miles replied hastily. "Is tardiness allowed during the holidays?" All Jeremy had to do was breathe the same air as Miles, and Miles' mood turned bright. Plus he loved nothing better than teasing his boyfriend. He was as happy as an elf in a toyshop, but that didn't mean he was above giving him a hard time.

Jeremy groaned. "The bus was packed. It was awful. Where’s everyone going on Christmas Eve?"

"Well, there are the dumbasses who leave their shopping until tonight." Miles knocked the side of his head to Jeremy's jaw. “Hey, you got your hair cut. It looks…” He trailed off, sliding his fingers over Jeremy’s freshly-shorn skull.

With a proud grin, Jeremy finished Miles' thought. "Kind of like yours, right?”

“Shorter on top, but yeah.” Miles would never admit he liked having the same ‘do as his best guy.

He inhaled deeply, not even attempting to hide the obvious sniff since Jeremy always smelled so good—pine, snow, coffee. The scent distracted Miles from why he'd been so frustrated and impatient only moments before. He sank back into Jeremy's embrace, closing his eyes for the tiniest of moments. PDA was something else that made Miles uncomfortable, but the press of Jeremy's body, the tightness of his hold after an anxious day, was too good to pass up. Jeremy provided that bit of courage Miles constantly searched for within himself.

"So how was work? Bad as you anticipated?”

Jeremy's reply was preceded by a drawn-out moan. "Worse. Who knew so many people didn’t buy their tree until the night before? Seems really pointless to me since they're just going to take it down soon anyhow."

"What?” Miles squeaked. He choked back a laugh before twisting in his boyfriend's hold. He wound one arm around Jeremy's neck, glancing quickly about for any over-interested or critical bystanders before brushing a kiss to his mouth. The reward for his bravery was a brilliant smile pressed to his lips. “Mr. Christmas is unhappy with some aspect of his most-cherished season? I’m shocked.”

"Bah, humbug! And I’d say you’re a shocked jerk,” Jeremy replied. He pushed the ginormous scarf away from Miles’ neck, tracing a finger over his ticklish jaw. His cheeks were pink-tinged, eyes bright but avoiding Miles’ gaze.

“You okay?” Miles was a worrywart. He didn’t like to see his guy so concerned. So sue him.

Jeremy hesitated, dropping his hand from Miles’. He unwound his own scarf, letting it hang loose as he tugged on the collar of his thick sweater. “I um…I wasn’t just late because of the traffic. I, you know, went to a meeting.”

Miles understood the look now, and it made his heart patter faster. He planted a sloppy kiss on Jeremy’s cheek. "I’m so proud of you. Tough time of year to stay sober, huh?”

“I’m dealing," Jeremy said.” He was always casual about his sobriety; casual but still embarrassed at times. He dragged Miles into a hug, bumping the closest tuxedo-clad snowman. It wobbled but stayed standing.

"Yeah, you are." Miles never let Jeremy forget how far he’d come. Once he'd wiggled out of Jeremy's bear-hug, he eyed him with interest. "So what do you need to get again?" Miles asked. "We should probably do it soon. There are…other things on the agenda for tonight after all."

Jeremy let go of him but stayed close at his side. "Yes,” he crowed too loudly. “The Redmond family Christmas sing-a-long, right?"

Miles ducked his head, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jacket. He knew Jeremy was messing with him, but it was a definite sore spot, especially right then. He'd been struggling all week to ask Jeremy to go with him, even chickened out after his parents encouraged—insisted—that Jeremy was more than welcome. But Miles still worried it would be too much to contend with all at once. He wasn't certain that Jeremy wanted to submit himself to the craziness of the Redmond family, especially during the hectic holidays. Was subjecting Jeremy to the weirdness a good thing for their relationship, or a selfish thing on Miles' part?

Regardless of the chaotic nature, the insane level of family closeness that had suffocated Miles as a child had become something special to him as an adult. The yearly party was loud and crowded and involved a whole lot of wacky togetherness, yet Miles couldn't imagine a Christmas without it.

But Jeremy wasn't like anyone Miles had ever met before. He was worldlier than Miles, more in-tune with who he was since he’d been on his own from a young age. His own family was out of the picture, so why would he want to do something so lame, even if Miles had nicknamed him Mr. Christmas?

It wasn’t even a matter of wanting to show off his boyfriend to his extended family. And since he wasn’t the first to come out to his family, there wouldn't be that big elephant in the room. That particular honor belonged to his cousin Lucky, and the extended Redmond family had never questioned or been awkward about it. Lucky brought his guy to last year’s party, and there hadn't been any drama whatsoever. Everyone seemed comfortable, and they'd been very welcoming to Jack.

Unfortunately, revealing Miles' own sexuality was different than watching his confident cousin do it. Plus, he hadn't seen any other members of his family since he'd come out to his parents only a few months before.

Having a boyfriend was new, not to mention a little scary. Not Halloween-slasher-film scary, more I have no idea why he likes me or how can I not look like a total geek in front of him scary. Jeremy was Miles' first in a whole list of things—first kiss, first touching below the waist, first time he'd felt his heart flip-flop in his chest, and yeah, first sexual experience too. And though he'd never admit it to him, Jeremy had also been Miles' ultimate reason for stepping out of the closet with his parents, because he'd never been brave enough to do it before.

Jeremy gave him the courage and the sense that it was okay to be himself, to believe in himself just a little bit more.

Wasn't that what love was all about?

Now although he'd never admitted it to anyone—especially Jeremy—Miles was in love. He was in don't want you to leave my side and please just kiss me forever love. It was almost embarrassing how erratically Jeremy made his heart beat, how often he was in Miles' thoughts. And especially how those thoughts, those strong emotions, turned his insides to mush and spread shivers under his skin. He didn’t want anything to mess up what he had, what they had.

"Is there something I can help you boys find?" A saleslady smiled at them, the gesture overly sweet and definitely forced.

Miles was suddenly flustered and blurted out his reply. "Oh…sorry. Oh, we're just…um, looking."

Jeremy managed a charismatic arch of one brow, something Miles knew he'd never master. He seemed to sense Miles' discomfort as he reached inside Miles' pocket to grab his hand and gave it a squeeze. He proceeded to use his ridiculously effective charm on the flustered woman. "We're doing great, but thank you. That's a fabulous blouse, by the way. It really brings out the color in your eyes.” He was smooth as silk.

Her face relaxed, a blush glowing high on her cheeks, her smile becoming warm. "Oh. Thank you. You're a very cute couple. We're closing in twenty minutes, so let me know if I can help with anything."

"Merry Christmas to you, ma'am," Jeremy said with the tip of an invisible hat in her direction. Miles rolled his eyes. His boyfriend was such an adorable ham.

"And to you."

Miles shook his head as she walked away, and finally stopped gnawing on his bottom lip. "You're so good with the ladies. Sometimes I wonder whose team you bat for."

"Both. But only yours now," Jeremy said.

It amazed Miles how Jeremy could randomly come out with stuff like that, while Miles himself could barely believe his feelings, let alone express them so casually. So he asked him. "How do you just say those things?" he whispered, elbowing Jeremy.

"When you've been on your own since fifteen, you learn to go with the flow, I guess. I've had girls, guys, and time to get over the constipation of feelings."

"Oh, nice. Is that what you think I have?" Miles taunted.

Jeremy nudged him back. "Nah. You have cute Miles-ish awkward silences. I can help with that." Before Miles could ask what he was talking about, Jeremy kissed him.

Miles held back a snicker when Jeremy eased back. "I'm not sure if I should be flattered or offended."

"Definitely flattered," Jeremy said. "Merry Christmas Eve, babe. How was your day?"

Truth was, Miles was tired, and had they not been in the middle of a department store that he couldn't wait to get out of, he would've gladly fallen into Jeremy's arms and stayed there until Christmas was over. Unfortunately, that would have to wait.

Patting the front of Jeremy's sweater, Miles leaned into him. "So are we going to get this over with or what?" he asked, gazing at Jeremy's amused expression. The sooner they were out of that store—any store—the better. "We talked about going to Winter Wonderlights tonight too. Do you still want to do that? We can grab a hotdog or something for dinner there. Check out the pretty lights. I know you love them.”

The smile in Jeremy’s eyes said he did. “Don’t you have to be somewhere else?”

Miles smirked at Jeremy, purposely ignoring the wink Jeremy threw his way. “You’re in luck. I don't have family obligations until around eight."

Jeremy wrapped an arm around Miles’ shoulders, long fingers slipping under the collar of his coat. His eyelashes fluttered. "So I need to tell you…um…it's not very Christmassy of me, but I kind of lied." Jeremy batted his eyes at Miles, giving his best angelic look.

"What?"

"You're the only one I have left on my naughty list."

Miles sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, wheels turning. "What about the gift for your sponsor?"

"Carton of cigarettes. Bought it last week." Jeremy cocked his head in the direction of the exit. "Shall we?"

Miles nodded, appeased until… "Wait, what?" he asked. "So you dragged me out here to pick out something for myself? I already told you I don't need anything, and we bought these weird matching scarves. Looking to get more matchy?”

Jeremy chuckled and pulled Miles a little closer while they zigzagged through a group of down to the wire shoppers. "Just trust me, okay?"

Miles did. Despite the differences in their backgrounds, their temperaments, their experiences, Miles trusted him completely. Head over heels like some damn teenager was how he really felt.

"But—“

“You’ll like it," Jeremy promised. "Scout’s honor and all that stuff. I swear all shall be explained if you follow my lead for a few minutes. Deal?"

Jeremy and his cryptic weirdness, but Miles did as requested.

It took a few extra minutes to reassemble their outerwear—buttoning extra shirts, zipping coats all the way to their chins, rewrapping scarves to guard against the late-December chill. But a wave of relief swept through Miles when they finally left the stuffiness of the department store. By the time they got outside, neither of them would have been recognizable to friends walking past. A north wind immediately assaulted them, so Miles simply tugged his scarf tighter around his face. Jeremy reached for Miles' hand again, and despite not giving him any skin-on-skin contact, it was reassuring and lovely.

Tucking himself closer into Jeremy’s side, Miles gently elbowed him in the ribs. His voice was muffled behind yards of wool when he remarked, "I hope this deal of yours isn’t too far away.” They headed away from the outdoor mall, crossing to the more residential area nearby. “Care to explain why we had to meet in the place where my nightmares come to life if you weren’t actually going to buy anything?"

"Because it's close to where I wanted to take you. I wanted it to be a surprise, but I didn't want to send you somewhere to wait in the cold."

"Surprise achieved,” Miles said, sinking further into the security of his coat. “Hope it’s a warm one."

"I'm hoping it will be too." Jeremy grinned, leaning down to meet Miles’ gaze. Miles arranged the gray scarf so it covered Jeremy’s ears as they stopped for a moment. Jeremy smiled sweetly with appreciation. "Bundle up, baby, it's cold outside."

Fortunately, their trek through blowing snow and icy sidewalks didn't take as long as Miles feared. Wherever they were heading was supposedly a gift specifically for him, and that particular knowledge would generally send Miles into a tailspin of panic. He wasn’t the best at being surprised, but he sucked it up for Jeremy’s sake.

Focusing back on the moment, he squeezed Jeremy's fingers as the realization that his freak-out was barely discernible from the normal anxiety in his body. That was a big step, a big accomplishment in Miles’ usual anxious world. Had speaking not been out of the question through the wool and frozen lungs, he would've finally told Jeremy he loved him.

Maybe.

By the time he'd weighed the pros and cons of revealing his feelings, and after a ridiculous, silent debate on the validity of being in love so soon, he realized Jeremy had stopped in the middle of the blustery sidewalk. He drew Miles towards the short walkway of a house with a tiny pine tree decked-out in multi-colored, twinkling lights. Miles braved the cold, pushing his scarf away from his chapped lips so he could talk.

"You're not taking me to some weird party, are you?" Miles asked with a groan. "My relatives are strange enough for one night. Seriously."

Jeremy's mouth was still hidden, but his eyes were shiny and expressive—stunning. "Of course not," he mumbled. His scarf muffled the words. "I'd never steer you wrong."

Uneasiness pried its way into Miles' nerves. "Why's it so dark? You really sure about this, Jer?"

With a dramatic eye roll, Jeremy popped his chin out of his coat. He gripped the sides of Miles' face, the leftover roughness of hauling trees around all day scraping Miles’ slight stubble. His breath puffed in little white clouds between them as he spoke. "Trust me. This is not another screw-up. I left that Jeremy behind when I met you, remember?"

The first time Jeremy had asked him out, Miles turned him down—even his very unappealing, slurred offer of a blowjob. They hadn't reconnected until six months later—four months after Jeremy had gotten sober. Trust was important, so Miles nodded his understanding and curled Jeremy's hand against his chest. "Let's go, then. It's colder than Satan out here," Miles said.

"Not sure that's the right metaphor." Jeremy pulled Miles up the path to the strange house. His eyelashes were almost white, with flakes of snow and frost clinging beautifully to them, but despite the cold, his gaze was soft. Miles chose to think it was adoration. And if he also chose to believe that eyes are the window to the soul mumbo jumbo, that was his own business.

Once they climbed the three steps to the door, Jeremy fished a key out of his pocket. He opened it quickly and pushed Miles inside.

"Jer," Miles hissed, momentarily panicked. "What're you doing?"

Jeremy didn't answer. He simply yanked one wet mitt off with his teeth and grabbed Miles by the collar. There were two more doors inside the entryway, one to go up and one down, Miles assumed. Jeremy unlocked the one on the right, grinning nervously as he guided Miles down the stairs.

It was pitch black, definitely more foreboding than inviting, but heat flowed around them in wonderful bursts. Jeremy steered Miles down a hallway, and they removed their scarves and gloves as they went.

"Okay, now close your eyes," Jeremy said. He stepped away from Miles.

"I can't see anything in the dark anyhow."

Now standing at his side, Jeremy snorted. "When did you become so difficult? There’s something down here called electricity. You should Google it sometime."

"Jerk," Miles replied with no harsh intent.

Jeremy mock-gasped. "Lose some of those layers too. My plan is to keep you warm myself."

"Promises, promises." With an amused shake of his head, Miles obeyed Jeremy's request. "You're such a bossy bitch today. This better be good because you're acting weirder than my family right now."

"Whatever. Cover those baby blues."

"Don't trust me to close them?" Miles asked with just a tad of amusement.

"Not with that attitude."

It took remarkable strength for Miles to resist peeking because his curiosity was spiked even more than before. A shuffling of feet and crinkling of paper had his senses flipping to hyper-aware, and he breathed a sigh of relief when light finally leaked through the cracks of his fingers.

"Okay, go ahead. Open them."

He had no idea what to expect, but Jeremy with a big red bow wrapped around his chest like a Miss America sash was definitely not it. An involuntary snort broke the silence before he let his gaze wander away from his boyfriend. The room wasn't big, maybe the size of the living room at Miles' house, with paint-chipped walls and a scuffed hardwood floor.

After a quick glance, Miles noticed that a bed shoved against one wall—more like one of those futon things from Ikea—was one of only a few pieces of furniture in the entire place. It was pushed into the corner near a dresser that Miles recognized as Jeremy’s and under the only window in the room. The dark blue comforter was familiar, old and worn, but perfect for snuggling. They'd used it a lot for just that purpose at Jeremy's place, and Miles hoped that cuddling was his big surprise. He'd be satisfied with that after a hectic day.

There was a reading lamp with no shade on the floor beside the bed and a desk with a duct taped leg close to the door. A chair was tucked underneath and an oversized mug holding various regular and colored pencils sat on the desktop. A black sketchbook beside the cup caught Miles' attention. It was the kind he used the most, when he could afford them. Either Jeremy had taken up drawing or Miles was getting a badass Christmas gift.

The next thing he noticed were the piles of Jeremy's clothes folded neatly on another chair, along with a pair of sneakers, underwear, and socks tucked underneath it.

"I haven't had time to put everything away," Jeremy said, reading Miles’ mind with a sheepish expression.

"Put everything…what is this?" He didn't mean to raise his voice, but his complete confusion bled through. He'd slept at Jeremy's only two nights before, so what the fuck was going on? "You didn't tell me you were moving."

"I know it's not much…" Jeremy began. He seemed deflated as he slid the bow off his shoulder. He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans and slumped against the wall. "My sponsor found me this place. He was helping me get everything set up after the meeting, that's really why I was late. The lease starts January first, but the family upstairs didn't mind me moving in early since it was already empty."

Miles didn't know how to feel. He took a deep breath and forced himself to stop fidgeting. "I'm sorry. Didn't mean to be a drag." He took a few steps toward Jeremy and was met halfway with a hug they both probably needed. "I like it, Jer."

Jeremy pressed a kiss to the side of Miles' head. "I'm glad. But what about you? You stressed about something? Wanna talk about it?" he asked. He eased back, sliding his hands inside Miles' jacket and skimming his palms down the sides of his ribcage. "You said you had time before the party, right?"

"No. I mean, yeah, I do," Miles said. "So why the change? I thought you liked your roommates."

"I'd rather share with someone else." Jeremy's face was flushed, and he looked more nervous than Miles had ever seen him. Sliding his fingers through his short hair, he took a few steps backwards, holding out his hand to Miles.

"Someone else?" Anticipation bubbled under Miles' skin. Nervousness made him shuffle his feet, but Jeremy didn't seem to notice.

After completely ignoring—or just not hearing—Miles' question, Jeremy led him to the bed, waiting until he was seated before reaching under the closest pillow. "I know it's technically not Christmas yet, but I probably won't see you tomorrow because you have plans and stuff, so I thought maybe I'd give you this now if that's—"

Miles interrupted Jeremy's ramble with a poke to his ribs. Jeremy flashed his pearly whites and the strings around Miles' heart stretched taut. The shiny blue box that was pressed into his palm was intriguing, both in size and shape—and it shouted jewelry. Oh my god. If that was the case, Miles thought he might freak out after all. But with Jeremy's persistent urging, he threw all caution aside, carefully untying the little red ribbon and unwrapping the flashy paper.

"What did you get me?" Mile asked. He didn't mean to squeal—it just came happened. But he was excited and didn't care that it showed.

"Just open it."

Jeremy inched closer when Miles hesitated in taking off the lid. His mind twisted and churned when he saw the contents.

"It's a…key?" There was indeed a key in the box—no different than any other, silver with a cute rainbow keychain. "I don't know what to say."

Jeremy kept his head bowed as he fingered a loose thread on the blanket. "The guy who owns the apartment is a friend of my sponsor so he's giving me a really good deal. I thought between the two of us we could, you know, manage the rent. I mean, only if you wanted to do that. I know it's small and we've never really talked about—"

"Wait." Miles circled Jeremy's wrist with his fingers, his jaw falling open as he tried to speak. "You want me to move in with you?"

"I mean, only if that's something you want. I guess you could um…just use the key whenever you came over instead. But if it's not too weird or soon, I'd really like…I mean, you could like…live here too. You know, with me."

"Are you serious?" Miles held his breath so long that his lungs almost burst as he waited for an answer. It was also sweet seeing his always-composed boyfriend flustered.

"Well, yeah," Jeremy said. His beautiful smile returned as he stroked the back of Miles' hand. "I know we haven't been going out that long, but if you wanted to give it a try, kind of a trial run…it's closer to your school—"

Miles kissed away Jeremy's babbling. He was tongue-tied and overwhelmed—giddy, even. Kissing was way easier than using his brain. If the Grinch's heart grew three sizes, then Miles totally had him beat—double digits, easily—and it was using up all the blood in his body.

He licked Jeremy's swollen bottom lip before pulling back. "I'll make you a deal," he whispered. "I would love to move in with you but…" He paused for a gentle, lazy kiss with Jeremy's grin pressed against his teeth, then dragged him into a tight hug.

"But?" Jeremy murmured into Miles’ neck. He held Miles tighter than before.

"But you have to come with me tonight!” Miles blurted before he could chicken out. “As long as you don’t mind singing the longest version of the Twelve Days of Christmas in history."

Jeremy tilted his head and squinted. "You want me to come to the party? Your family thing? Are you sure?"

"Totally. Remember you asked me why I've been stressed? Well, that's all I've been thinking about. I just didn’t know how to ask you."

Jeremy didn't look convinced, as he worried the inside of his cheek. "But it hasn't been that long since you came out, babe. You sure you’re not rushing this on my account?”

Uneasiness soared through Miles. Maybe inviting Jeremy had been the wrong thing to do. "Rushing it how?" Miles asked.

"I don't know." Jeremy shrugged. "By bringing your boyfriend. Is your family ready for that?"

Miles pushed Jeremy so he was flat on his back on the bed then straddled his hips. He gazed down at him with everything glowing in his heart and gently thumbed across the redness of Jeremy's lips. "They have to be, right?"

Jeremy looked momentarily stunned. "Is this because I gave you a key?"

"That might've solved the problem in my head, but it's what I really wanted before I ever saw that key. You've met my parents. They like you. That's all that matters."

Concern shone in Jeremy's eyes. "Are you out to everyone?"

"I imagine it’s made the rounds of my family." Miles was almost positive it had.

“But I don’t want to make things awkward for you.”

Miles had the sudden urge to comfort or maybe seek comfort from his boyfriend, so he did. He flattened himself on top of Jeremy from his forehead to the tips of his toes, wriggling around until he achieved contentment. "I just want you there more than anything. Besides, didn’t I tell you I have a gay cousin who has thoughtfully paved the way for me?”

“You didn’t mention that, no," Jeremy said. The reward for Miles' confession was a hug hard enough to make him squeak. Jeremy spoke warm and breathy against Miles' neck. "Did we just decide to live together?" His voice was smooth as warm chocolate, with a tick of disbelief and excitement at the end.

"We did, and we're going to need to warm up our vocal cords for tonight."

"Vocal cords?" Jeremy said, arching one brow. "Is that code for suck each other off?"

Miles smothered a snort in the crook of Jeremy's neck. Oh, if only that's all it meant. "Well, that’s not exactly what I had in mind, but I guess we have time if we skip the lights."

Apparently Jeremy had different plans. “We’ll still have time for that. You said the lights were your favorite part of the holidays, right?” He bucked Miles off, immediately vaulting to his feet and disappearing into the hallway by the stairs. He came back loaded down with boxes and bags. Curious, Miles scooched to the edge of the mattress. "More presents?" he teased.

"Not today. But I did forget to give you this.” He handed Miles a beautiful pink rose before dumping everything else onto the bed. “One more thing,” he said before hurrying from the room again. His excitement was contagious, and Miles was sure he’d never been happier. He sniffed the flower while he waited in anticipation.

"A tree?" Miles said, a little impressed and a lot surprised when Jeremy strolled back in with the tiniest pine tree Miles had ever seen. It was no more than two-feet high, but perfect in every way—at least in a Charlie Brown sense. "It's adorable."

Jeremy was quiet for a moment, chin dipped to his chest. His eyes were moist when he looked up again. "I can't actually remember the last time I had a tree for Christmas. I mean, not one that I considered mine. I guess I haven't really celebrated for a lot of years." He shrugged. "Never had anyone that I wanted to do that with, you know?"

Miles rubbed slow circles over Jeremy's back. "I'm sorry. I complain about my family, but in the end, I'm happy to have them."

"Sure you wanna share that with a stranger?" Jeremy asked, gaze averted. "I don't want you to feel obligated."

"How can you even…you just gave me a key to the apartment where you want me to live with you," Miles said, reaching up to grip the back of Jeremy's neck. For once, he felt like he was the one with the answers. He was the one who got to comfort instead of being comforted, he was the one who had to make things right. It felt amazing, but it wasn't worth the sad expression on Jeremy's face. "There's something I've been meaning to tell you.”

Jeremy glanced up at him, his expression more curious than hurt now. "You're actually married with kids? Is that it?" he teased. "I've been suspecting that stain on your black shirt was baby puke for a long time."

Miles cackled then covered his mouth. "You got me. Wife, two-point-three kids, white picket fence, the whole nine yards."

"And is your family going to be at the party?" Jeremy asked with a smirk.

"I only take my mistresses…or um, misters-esses?" Miles paused to shake his head. "I have no idea how to say that."

Squinting one eye, Jeremy leaned in to kiss Miles' jaw. "Guess that makes you my sugar daddy and this our little sugar pad, huh?" he said smugly. He was far better at this game than Miles.

"Sugar pad? I, um, I dunno…I guess," Miles stammered. "Have I ever told you how weird you are?"

"Only every day."

"So since my wife won't be there—on purpose…” Miles said, pausing to throw Jeremy the smirkiest smirk of all smirks. “Are you available to fill in?”

Jeremy faked a yawn. "I can check my calendar." Peace had returned to his expression, though. "But first let me show you what else I bought."

Miles mirrored Jeremy's cross-legged position on the bed—their bed—knees touching. He brought the rose to his nose again. He could drown in the scent if given the chance. "Okay, lay it on me."

Jeremy dumped one of the plastic bags, little boxes and packages falling between them on the bed. "I've got baubles and tinsel and any other Christmas crap I could find." Jeremy emptied another—mini-ornaments, strings of garland, and a tin star tumbled onto the old blue blanket. Excitement and anticipation made Jeremy's usually pliable mouth straighten into a thin line and the corner of his bottom lip quiver in a really cute way. He reached in, rustling something at the bottom of the bag before holding it over Miles' head.

"Mistletoe? Seriously?" Miles said incredulously.

"Gotta go with the flow, dude. Kiss me stupid then we'll decorate the shit out of our apartment."

"I like how that sounds." Miles liked it a lot.

"And if we work really quickly, maybe we'll even have time for oral…I mean, vocal warm-ups."

They sealed the agreement with a kiss that turned into an extended make-out session among very uncomfortable decorations. But Miles had never been more comfortable than with Jeremy in his arms.



* * *



They considered splurging on a cab to get to the big light show, but it was Christmas Eve so that wasn’t going to happen. Instead they hoofed it, hands entwined, illegally crossing streets, cutting between cars, and bypassing people here and there. Miles couldn’t help sneaking glances at Jeremy, his surprise still thrumming through Miles’ body. He couldn’t remember ever being so happy.

“Looks crowded,” Jeremy said when they were close.

“We probably picked the busiest night of the year. Change your mind?” Miles asked. He squeezed Jeremy’s fingers, halting them just short of the entrance. “Dinner instead?”

Jeremy swooped to capture his lips in a chilly kiss. “Hell no,” he growled, nipping at the tip of Miles’ nose. “It looks amazing, and I have the perfect date.”

Miles attempted to hide his massive grin. “Weirdo.”

Chapungu Sculpture Park was decked-out for the holidays in the biggest way possible. Music flowed around the throngs of people, and lights in every imaginable color blazed in intricate patterns and shapes throughout the place. Miles went every year, but seeing it through the eyes of a Wonderlights virgin was truly remarkable. After paying their admission—a donation of boxed pasta and a jar of sauce from the store down the street—they started wandering the grounds.

Jeremy’s face was lit as brightly as the array of lights, his mouth hanging open. It was adorable. “This is so cool. I can’t believe you don’t want to go every night.”

“I’m not quite that obsessive. It is cool, though," Miles replied, drawing a big breath. He let the cold air stretch his lungs and refresh his tired brain. “But there’s something we need to make the experience perfect.”

Jeremy arched an eyebrow but followed where Miles led.

Hot chocolate and popcorn in hand, they made their way through the maze of wonderment. “Next year,” Jeremy started, licking a dab of chocolate from the corner of his mouth. Had they not been so publicly exposed, Miles would have taken care of it himself. Jeremy appeared amused to find him watching. He puckered his lips in an air kiss directed at Miles, seeming to lose his train of thought.

“Next year?” Miles encouraged.

“Lights! Our place is going to be covered in goddamn lights. It’s going to be amazing.”

“I just can’t with you.” Miles walked ahead, using the excuse of throwing his bag away to stop him from saying anything stupid. He was pretty sure that would come later.

Jeremy caught up and bumped Miles' hip. “Says here,” he said, balancing his cup in the crook of his arm. His words were barely comprehensible since he’d tucked the edge of the popcorn bag between his teeth. Miles reached to take it from him. Jeremy must have picked up a pamphlet without Miles noticing. “Says there’s over forty-six-thousand lights and takes ten people and a whole week to set up. This is so fucking cool.”

“Slow down a bit,” Miles said as he hurried behind Jeremy. “Your enthusiasm is overwhelming, man.”

“Shit! Look at the cool stars.” Jeremy swung his head around like it was on a swivel. “Holy—there’s a lovers’ lane. We have to go that way.”

“We’ll get to it all. Chill out.”

“Oh my God! That tree in the middle is epic!”

So Miles happily let himself be dragged around. No light display or lit-up sculpture was missed in their great quest. It was so endearing to see Jeremy sweetly losing his mind. Who knew he was such a little boy inside? Well, Miles thought he knew pretty well now.

As they neared the entrance again, legs tired from walking and faces red from the wind, Jeremy pulled them into a semi-private alley beside the bathrooms. It wasn’t the most romantic place in the world, but really it was. He pressed Miles against the brick and kissed the cold from his mouth, holding him tight around the waist, his tongue sweeping in to nab a last taste of Miles' second hot chocolate. Miles returned the embrace with fervor, slightly lifting up on his toes to get the best angle to kiss his boyfriend breathless.

It seemed to work.

Jeremy inhaled deeply when they broke the kiss. “I don't ever remember having such a great Christmas,” he said between puffs of frozen breath. He ducked his head, tugging Miles so they were thigh to thigh. “Thank you,” he whispered. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

A lump formed in Miles’ throat and in an attempt to swallow it down, he choked. He rested his forehead against Jeremy’s while Jeremy patted him on the back and mumbled in concern. “I’m okay,” he managed. “There’s something I’ve been trying to say—"

“Shit, someone stole our make-out spot,” a gruff voice announced.

The interruption made Miles jump away from Jeremy. He knew the voice. Fuck! He knew it too damn well. Chad Hardwick. Miles kept his head down, hoping the jerk from his childhood would just move on. No such luck.

“Holy fuck. Look who it is,” Chad said. More crunching footsteps came closer. “Redmond. Little Miles Redmond all grown up and kissing some—holy shit. Is that a guy?”

Jeremy turned toward the intruders. “You gotta problem, man?” he asked in a tone Miles didn’t recognize.

Chad ignored him. “Guess we were right about you, huh, Redmond? You are a fag.”

Miles drew strength from Jeremy’s hand still clutching his hip. “So what if I am? Why don’t you just take a fucking hike, Chad.”

“Can’t a guy wish an old friend Merry Christmas?” Chad flashed a shit-eating grin. He’d always been the biggest jerk in school. Some things never changed.

“We were never friends,” Miles asserted loudly.

Chad pulled a shocked face. “Ah, we weren’t? I’m hurt.” The girl pressed to his side giggled then tried to pull him away. “Probably because you were the biggest geek in school. Always thought you spent too much time with that limp-wristed cousin of yours. Got gay rubbed all over you.” He laughed loud but not long when Jeremy stepped into his space.

“Get lost, pal. Just go about your business," Jeremy said, his jaw set granite solid, eyes narrowed as he stood his ground.

Chad waved the girl away then bumped his chest to Jeremy’s. “Funny. You don’t look like one. Guess you’re considered passable, huh? Think you could probably do better than this little—"

Jeremy shoved him, sent him sprawling backwards and flat on his butt in the snow. “I said move along.”

“Asshole,” Chad seethed as he stumbled to his feet. “You wanna get into this with me?”

“It would be my pleasure to kick your ass.” Jeremy crowded him as soon as he was standing. “But it’s Christmas, man. How about we not completely spoil the holiday cheer?”

Chad’s date tugged on his arm. “Let’s go," she whined. "I’m freezing.”

He shook her off again. “Can’t you see I’m talking here?”

“Pretty sure we’re done, Chad,” Miles said, moving to stand beside Jeremy. He straightened his spine and held his head high. “And we’ve got nothing to say anyway. See ya.”

A streak of pride soared through him when he stepped out of Jeremy’s shadow, linked their arms, and pushed past his childhood bully. They walked out the exit and kept going until Miles was out of breath. Despite that, he was finally able to breathe comfortably after the confrontation.

When the coast was clear, Jeremy wrapped an arm around Miles’ shoulders and pulled him close. “You okay?”

Miles buried his face in Jeremy’s warmth, a sigh stuttering involuntarily between his lips. “I’ve never stood up to him before. I mean you did all the work, but I didn’t sink into the ground like I usually would. I’m really sorry about that.”

Jeremy hushed him, holding him tighter and dropping a kiss to the side of his head. “What an asshole. School friend…non-friend, I guess?”

“Almost my whole life," Miles said. And Chad had bullied him for most of it too.

“Sorry you had to deal with that asshole. I tended to punch my way out of everything. Not the best coping strategy, but then neither was the booze that usually fueled most of my anger.”

Miles adjusted Jeremy’s scarf, letting his last statement settle in his brain. They’d never talked much about Jeremy’s alcoholism, just that he was very diligent about going to meetings. He made Miles proud to be with him.

“That’s when it started?” Miles asked, sweeping some blowing snow from Jeremy’s face. They were being so public, snuggled up inside the bus shelter, yet Miles didn’t care who saw them. It was a first for him.

“Middle school was tough. That’s when it started. Small town. Nothing else to do, and it was easy to get alcohol.” Jeremy grinned sheepishly. “You already knew I wasn’t an angel. Still not.”

“I stole a pack of gum once," Miles offered quietly.

There was dead silence then Jeremy burst into choking laughter. “You’re such a jerk,” he said between coughs.

Miles smacked him on the side of the head. “Shut up!" he said, slapping him again. "Not gonna turn me in, are you?”

The bus pulled up in a cloud of steam and racket. Miles gave Jeremy a hard pat on the chest then yanked him up the steps. They cuddled all the way to the ‘burbs.



* * *



Miles’ anxiety about his family returned as soon as he and Jeremy walked into the Redmond home. His cousin Dave—the really, really annoying one—was the first to greet them.

"Hey, Miles Maloney."

Jeremy mouthed his confusion. "Miles Maloney?"

"Don't ask," Miles whispered back. He unwound his scarf then helped Jeremy with his, barely giving his cousin a second glance. "What's up, Dave? How's the party going?"

"So I hear you have a girlfriend," Dave said with a ready smirk. He snickered. "Oh, sorry. I meant boyfriend."

The words weren't kind, more clipped and snotty, very much suiting a fourteen-year-old idiot. Miles kept it classy though. "Yeah, this is Jeremy."

The corner of Dave’s mouth curled up in a sneer. "Huh. Gay population is growing in our fam." He was such a jerk.

“Two gays make a population?" Jeremy asked.

“Well, four gays, actually.” Miles turned to find his cousin Lucky Roberts grinning at them. “Hey, Miles. Great to see you.” He grabbed Miles in a bear-hug, and Miles sank into the warmth of his favorite cousin.

"Hi, Luck,” Miles managed as the life was squeezed out of him. Lucky had always been a big old teddy bear.

Lucky stepped back. “You picking on poor Dave again?”

"Just a little," Miles said. The guy in question groaned and sauntered off.

Lucky grinned crookedly. “Little shit always deserves it, doesn't he? Oh, hey. You’ve met Jack, right?”

Miles twisted to see Lucky’s hotter-than-hell boyfriend. Jack was probably the best-looking guy he’d ever seen, not that he’d ever say that. And of course he thought Jeremy was just as hot. “Hi, Jack. Merry Christmas.” They hugged then Miles tugged Jeremy close. “This is Jeremy. Jer, my cousin Lucky and his…Jack.”

Jack laughed and shook Jeremy’s hand. “I haven’t graduated to any other status yet,” Jack teased with a smirk.

Miles tried to backtrack. “Oh, I didn’t mean—"

“Ho! Ho Ho! What's going on over here?"

They spun to see Miles' grandpa blocking the way to the kitchen, big smile on his weathered face. The sweater he was wearing was far too familiar, dark green with a red-nosed Santa. Miles looked back at Lucky and Jack again. Jack was decked out in a bright purple sweater completely covered in little plastic Christmas lights, and Lucky’s sweater was dark blue with a sparkly poinsettia and miniature elves. So ugly. Miles' mom had gone all out this year, and he just wanted to crawl under the floor and take Jeremy with him.

"Hi, Grandpa." Miles let himself be pulled into a hug that only Jeremy, and maybe Lucky, had ever succeeded in topping. "Nice sweater." He figured it was best to just deal with the elephant in the room, and surprisingly, Jeremy wasn't the pachyderm in question.

Bob Redmond smiled mischievously. "I'm surprised to see you without yours, Miles," he said, reaching over to pat Jeremy on the shoulder. “Welcome to the madness, Jeremy."

That seemed to break the ice, and Jeremy shook Bob's hand with an open expression. "What's this about sweaters?"

Miles moaned. "Please don't ask."

But Grandpa was having none of it. "You boys look cold. How about some hot cider?" he offered. "Or I can make my famous rum and eggnog too.”

"Boys!" An excited voice preempted Miles' mom barreling around the corner. She tackled him, planting a loud kiss on his cheek before turning to Jeremy. "I'm so glad you're here. Welcome." Jeremy didn't have a chance to answer before she'd tugged him into a hug too. He looked flushed and a little frazzled. Miles secretly loved it.

His mom led them into the basement where the Redmond clan—extended and some so close they might as well be related—was congregated, already chatting and celebrating up a storm. Jeremy looked a tad shaken when they entered the chaotic party room.

"The way you talked about your family, I expected them to be wearing black robes and chanting religious verses when I walked in," Jeremy mumbled, sticking close to Miles' side. Lucky stopped just in front of them, throwing a chuckle Jeremy’s way. "But they seem like normal people. They might even be nice people if they’re anything like you."

The strings of Miles' heart tugged taut. He leaned in to press his smile to Jeremy’s. His mom’s fingers were still wrapped around his forearm, but he didn’t hold back, just puckered up and tried to show his gratitude. Jeremy seemed quite pleased and kissed him back without hesitation, of course they made it brief and PG.

"Miles. Jeremy," Miles' dad said as he came around the corner. He shook both their hands then encouraged them farther into the room. "Come and get your Christmas on."

Jeremy’s expressive face turned to confused. "Get our Christmas on?" he asked with wide eyes.

Miles sighed, debating whether to come clean with Jeremy or let him swing in the wind a while longer. "Ceremonial robes, remember? It's almost time to start chanting, my dearest gay boyfriend.”

"Miles," his grandpa began. "Don't scare the poor kid. It's not as bad as all that. Mostly. Go let your mom get you all pretty, then I’ll get you a drink to dull the pain." He turned away, but Miles caught him by the sleeve.

“I’ll just have eggnog, Grandpa. No rum.”

His grandpa didn’t miss a beat. “All right. Same for you, Jeremy?”

“Sure. Thank you,” Jeremy said. He whispered close to Miles’ ear after they were alone again. “You didn’t have to do that. I don’t mind you drinking, babe.”

Miles simply shrugged, “I like you better than booze, so what’s the problem?”

“No problem here. So what’s next?”

“You’re going to regret asking that,” Miles grumbled—just a little.

The old-fashioned chest in the corner held the goods, and his mom was already rooting through it.

"I think this is the one you usually like, isn't it Miles?" She pulled a deep red sweater with a comical reindeer and big red pompom nose appliquéd on the front, its hind end wrapping around the back too. It was definitely not the one Miles liked, but it was the lesser of a lot of evils, so he accepted his fate. "And Jeremy…Do you consider yourself a snowman kind of guy?"

Jeremy's eyebrows rose into his hairline. "Um…sure?"

"Then this is just what you need," she said, tossing a matching fire-engine red sweater at him—a pom-pom snowman smiling demonically on the front. Miles didn't bother to hold back his laugh when Jeremy's mouth dropped open.

"Thank you?"

Miles' mom stood with hands on her hips. "Miles. Didn't you warn Jeremy about your family’s weird traditions?"

"First thing out of my mouth when I met him, Mom," Miles said. "But that's a really big list, and I must've neglected to tell him about our traditional sweaters of shame."

"It's very…festive." Jeremy snickered, surprising both Miles and his mom when he bent to kiss her cheek. He slipped the sweater over his head and held out his arms. “Fits. Thank you for having me."

Eventually, festively dressed in their tacky attire, Miles and Jeremy retreated to one of the empty loveseats close to the fireplace. The Redmonds pulled out all the stops for these family gatherings—mulled wine steaming in the corner, eggnog in Christmassy cartoon mugs, Santa-shaped cookies, songbooks decorated with snowmen and bells and funky trees. It was no small occasion, and to have Jeremy sitting beside him was more than Miles had ever hoped for. With the exception of Dave the Jerk, none of Miles’ worries had come true. Jeremy was hugged, kissed, and possibly even groped by Miles' eccentric Aunt Alma, and he hugged and kissed right back. He didn't seem fazed to answer a lot of odd questions thrown at him, and he seemed relaxed and happy to mingle.

"Have you ever had sex on this couch?" Jeremy cooed into Miles' ear, quiet as a mouse. Miles wasn't so quiet when he snorted his drink and choked into his fist. His three-year-old cousin came toddling over to pat his hand. "Miles sick?"

He shushed little Kristin with a hug, silently smug when she climbed onto Jeremy’s lap.

"What did you ask Santa for, pretty girl?" Jeremy asked, gently twisting her braid between his fingers.

"A unicorn!" Kristin exclaimed, jumping off his lap and twirling in a circle. "I love unicorns."

"Me too! And do you know what?" Jeremy held up a finger as he shoved his hand in his front pocket. Kristin waited excitedly, swinging her arms as she kept Jeremy firmly in her sights. "I brought this especially for someone who loves unicorns as much as I do."

Miles had no freaking idea how, but he magically produced a sticker—and a unicorn one at that.

Kristin squealed and grabbed it from Jeremy's hand. Miles laughed as she zipped back to her mom, waving the square in the air for everyone to see. Jeremy looked sheepish, until Miles leaned in to rub their noses together. "Care to explain how you just happened to have that with you?"

"My sponsor's daughter loves stickers. I picked up a bunch but forgot to give them to her. I'm well prepared if any other unicorn-loving kid shows up to the party."

"I love unicorns," Miles mimicked his little second cousin matter-of-factly, biting away the smile that threatened to crack his face.

Jeremy shifted again, searching his pocket before waggling a sticker in front of Miles' face. "How's this one? Cute. Pink. Adorable with long fluttery eyelashes, just like you."

Miles blushed but peeled the backing off the sticker and stuck it in the middle of his reindeer's eyes. "It's not too late for me to get out the black robes and start chanting, you know."

"Aha! I knew you were keeping something from me," Jeremy whispered as he roughly squeezed Miles' thigh.

"Hello. Jeremy, right?" Lucky’s mom was suddenly perched on the arm of the loveseat, big smile on her face, and it was Jeremy's turn to snort eggnog.

"Um…hi. Happy holidays." He tried unsuccessfully to wipe the nog from his chin, and Miles didn't interfere or help.

“Merry Christmas.” She bent to kiss Miles’ cheek. “I’m Miles’ Aunt Sally. Lucky’s mom. I’m glad you’re here. You seem very good at making little girls happy,"

“He's very good at making boys happy too,” Miles teased. Jeremy shot him a mortified look.

“I can see that," Sally said with a wink. "Can I fix you boys a plate?”

"You don’t have to do that.” Jeremy looked unsure, so Miles bumped their shoulders together in a show of solidarity.

“Well, just yell if you need anything. Lucky and Miles were close when they were young. We miss seeing him.”

Her perch was quickly filled by Miles’ mom. “I didn't think this guy was ever going to get the nerve to ask you. I'm glad he did."

“Thank you again for inviting me. I've never been to anything like this before. It's nice, and I might have to keep the sweater."

She giggled. "You're very welcome. “

She bent toward Miles, offering her cheek, and he kissed her with a soft chuckle, adding an extra snicker when she aimed the same cheek at Jeremy. Miles was beginning to think she had a thing for kissing his boyfriend, or at the least, having his boyfriend kiss her. "Stop embarrassing him. Don't you have more songs to organize?"

"I do!" she said. "And you two are my main event."

Miles used his best puppy eyes to plead wordlessly with her—oh my God, please don't make me do this in front of Jeremy, you know my singing sucks. "Mom!" he whined, shooting Jeremy an apologetic look.

It looked like Jeremy had returned to awfully damn comfortable. "Ah, poor baby. Sounds like you’re anxious to get things started," he teased, arching a practiced brow.

“Trust me. You don’t know what you’re saying,” Miles said with an elbow to Jeremy’s side.

"Thank you, Jeremy. Just for that, I'll let you choose which of the twelve days you'd like to take. And you don't have to listen to anything Miles says for the rest of the night."

Miles rolled his eyes to the heavens, but Jeremy didn't hesitate in answering. "Miles told me five golden rings are where it's at."

Gaping at his boyfriend's traitorous words, Miles hissed. "Oh my god! No, I didn't. I said it was the hardest one. The worst."

"Well, yeah," Jeremy stated with way too much enthusiasm. "We're going to show them how to do it the right way."

Miles mother handed them each a songbook. "Oh, the right way. And what way is that, Miles?"


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