Lew has lost everything he worked for. He’s alone, broke, and preparing to sell the house he loves to stave off bankruptcy.
The voice in his head insists it’s time for him to come home, whatever that means, but he’s sure the voice is a symptom of stress. On Christmas Eve, he goes to a bar to forget what’s he facing and meets George who insists they knew each in other in college. Lew doesn’t remember him, but the stranger is oddly familiar and their attraction is unmistakable.
No harm can come from a dalliance over the holidays, Lew decides, but George has more in mind than a night of hot sex. What he shows Lew on the Carmel beach the next day forces Lew to face the fact that everything he believes about himself might be wrong.
Publisher: Fireborn Publishing
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Word Count: 9500
Languages Available: English
Lew turned into the driveway of the restored 1930s cottage that had been his home for ten years and wondered again how long it would take to sell. It had never looked better, with the tree in the bay window twinkling madly, the tasteful fir wreath on the door, and the stupid lights he had strung on the bougainvillea bushes under the window.
The house looked warm and inviting, as if it were still a home, but Ann had departed three weeks before. He was packing away the extra ornaments when she announced her decision, citing her inability to continue living with a failed real estate broker with a knack for attracting trouble. Her words. She left the next day. Not until he called Ann's sister did he learn she had joined the lover he had not known about until that moment. Traveling for business had provided the perfect cover, and he had trusted her.READ MORE
Her lawyer sounded adamant. The house must be sold unless Lew preferred to contest the divorce. Given he was broke and Ann offered to settle for half the proceeds from the house if he went along with the plan, Lew figured he would take the deal. He hadn't called the lawyer back, but he couldn't afford the lease payments on his two-year-old Mercedes let alone the pricey lawyer he'd need to fight Ann. He'd call after he found an apartment. The house would show better without him in it. Too bad the holidays were such a lousy time for buyers.
Lew left his car in the driveway and opened the side door to the kitchen. His footsteps echoed on the pink marble tile. He hadn't spoken to Marta, their five-days-a-week morning housekeeper, so she still showed up every morning. The kitchen looked immaculate. Since Ann left, he rarely ate at home. Had hardly eaten at all. Anywhere he went, he would meet someone he knew, so Lew settled for takeout Mexican and diner food. The house was so empty the sound of his footsteps echoed.
He wandered through the voluminous living room, decorated with fat red candles nestled in balsam branches and the ridiculous tree that filled the bay window, and into the smaller library, his favorite room. Lined with books on one wall, a large screen TV covered a good portion of another. Comfortable chairs sat in front of the bookshelves, including a recliner Ann hated, but Lew loved. In one corner sat his computer.
He had left the computer on. A photo of Lobo Point mocked him with its serene beauty. Seals basked on the rocks. The sun sparkled on the water, turning it silver. He could check his email, but hell, nobody looked at houses on Christmas Eve and his phone had been silent since yesterday.
"Time to come home, Lew."
"Shut up," he muttered to the voice in his head.
He didn't see himself as a guy who heard voices, saw visions, or believed in ghosts. He lived in California, but grew up in the stolid Midwest, raised by God-fearing parents who loved hard work and believed what they could see. Still, the voice had started yammering a week before Ann left.
Standing in the shower, its clarity had startled him so much he dropped his soap. He thought his phone had sprung to life or the radio in the bedroom turned on, but the message repeated, clearly coming from inside his head, low and soft, vaguely female but not a voice he recognized. It had plagued him ever since. Must be his imagination, a symptom of stress. Financial ruin probably caused all kinds of interesting symptoms.
"Lew, it is time."
"Fuck off," he said and threw his suit jacket onto the couch. He clicked on the TV. Old movies and Christmas specials. News, none of it good. He turned it off and went upstairs to change. Five minutes later, he came down wearing jeans and a black polo shirt that minimized the extra pounds around his waist. He poured himself a shot of Chivas, neat, drained it, and pulled a soft leather jacket from the hall closet. Might as well find some Christmas cheer.
As he pulled out of the driveway onto San Carlos Road, the voice whispered its monotonous refrain. "Time to come home. You are finished here."
"I'm finished, all right," he said and stepped on the gas.
If he was losing his mind, he didn't want to know about it. Another couple drinks should do the trick. Lew considered driving to San Francisco for the weekend. Usually, he took his furtive vacations from his wife in an upscale hotel on the fringe of the Castro. Ann knew about his need to bed men. She didn't mind as long as he was discreet, but he hadn't indulged for at least six months. Now that he was alone, the pressure was mounting. Lots of lonely guys would be on the prowl in the city. Even though Lew wasn't young anymore, it wouldn't be hard to find a compatible bedmate on Christmas Eve. Lew guided the Mercedes toward the entrance to Route 1, heading north, but when he approached the exit for Monterey, he suddenly decided to try the hotel with the hot young bartender. He could always drive to the city tomorrow.
The bar in the old hotel on the less prosperous side of Monterey was dark and loud. A blaring TV competed with a vintage jukebox playing a song he recognized from college. Lew gravitated toward the darkest corner and took a stool next to the wall. The bartender, young and buff, smiled as he took Lew's order. Only a few customers sat at the bar. A couple of middle-aged guys nursing whiskies, one couple who looked like tourists, drinking wine, and a young guy hunched over a beer who looked as depressed as Lew felt.
"Haven't seen you for a while." The bartender smiled again as he placed Lew's scotch and ice on a coaster.
"Hi, Ben. Keeping busy. You know." Ben's muscles bulged under his green tee shirt and his smile enticed Lew the way it always did. Sometimes he indulged in low-key flirting when he came in here, but it never went any further. He knew when he was outclassed. "But now, everything's dead until January."
Ben assumed his sympathetic face. "Christmas can be tough."
"Yeah," Lew said and sipped his drink.