Don’t Plan to Stay

by Kaje Harper

At eighteen, Donnie Kagan's plans for graduation, and maybe even college, were derailed by a beer, a stoplight, and a fatal crash. Now he's twenty-four, out of prison, and bitterly determined to start over. But with the holidays approaching, he can't resist a quick trip home to Tallbridge, North Dakota, and the man he left behind. Just a fast look, to make sure Adam's doing all right, before Donnie starts his new life. He doesn't plan to stay.

Adam Lindberg's been waiting six years to get closure with Donnie. He missed that chance after the accident, fighting for his life in a hospital bed as Donnie pled guilty and disappeared into the justice system. Without so much as a letter back from Donnie in all this time, Adam's tried to move on. And yet, he never found another guy he cared about the same way. So when Donnie shows up in Tallbridge, Adam's ready to fight for more than three words of goodbye. Of course, Adam's brother and dad don't want Donnie to stick around, but it's the busy Christmas season at the family store. If Adam asks for Donnie's help, maybe he'll stay long enough to finally talk about the future, and the past.

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A voice behind me said, “Can I help you?”

I didn't turn. I didn't even breathe.

“Is there something you're looking for?” Adam said patiently.


Without letting him see my face, I said as gruffly as I could, “No.” Then I added, “Thanks,” because I was back in the real world, and it wouldn't kill me to be polite.

I'd changed in six years, too. A lot. My voice was deeper, and I didn't look the same or stand the same as when I was the hot, bad boy on the block. Back before I got a lot of the attitude beat out of me. But all it took was two little words from me, for Adam to whisper, “Donnie?”

I wanted to walk away, but my feet were glued to the floor right there beside the damned teddy-bear-ornament tree. My vision sparkled. I think my fingers went numb.


Adam eased around me, moving like someone stalking a deer. When his face came into view, his eyes were huge. Maybe he was the Bambi. “Donnie? Is that you?”

I took a deep breath, then snapped, “Well, I ain't fucking Marie, right?”

“Not unless you've changed teams.”

When our eyes met, it was almost like six years didn't happen. It was me and Adam, together, me supplying the attitude and the straight lines, and Adam doling out the punch lines and the smiles. For a moment I almost grinned at him, but then the little kid laughed behind me and I remembered that time didn't really stand still. I looked down. Adam still had feet the size of canoes in his work-boots. “I was just going.”


About the Author

I get asked about my name a lot. It's not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname.

I live in Minnesota, where the two seasons are Snow-removal and Road-repair, where the mosquito is the state bird, and where winter can be breathtakingly beautiful. Minnesota’s a kindly, quiet (if sometimes chilly) place and it’s home now.

I’ve been writing for far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty years*), mostly for my own entertainment. I mainly publish M/M romance (with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi…) I also have a few Young Adult stories released under the pen name Kira Harp.

My husband finally convinced me that after all that time writing for fun, I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out from MLR Press in May 2011. I have a weakness for closeted cops with honest hearts, and teachers who speak their minds, and I had fun writing the four novels and three freebie short stories in the series. I’ve been delighted by the reception Mac and Tony have received.

I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published. A complete list with links can be found on my Books page.
I also have  an author page on Goodreads where I do a lot of book reviews. You can find me to chat there– I hang out on Goodreads a lot because I moderate the  Goodreads YA LGBT Books group there. I also post free short YA stories on that group, more than 50 of them so far. Or find me on Facebook –

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