Beck Justice knows holiday sparkle and snappy carols only mask December’s cruel, black heart. He learned that lesson even before he landed on the streets eight years ago, and his recent step up to a tiny apartment and a busker’s permit for Seattle’s Pike Place Market has done nothing to change his mind. But one day in the market, Oleg Abramov joins his ethereal voice to Beck’s guitar, and Beck glimpses light in his bleak, dark winter.
Oleg, lucky to have a large and loving family, believes Beck could be the man to fill the void that nevertheless remains in his life. The two men step out on a path toward love, but it proves as slippery as Seattle’s icy streets. Just when they get close, a misunderstanding shatters their hopes. Light and harmony are still within reach, but only if they choose to believe, risk their hearts, and trust
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 3
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Setting: Seattle, Washington, Pike Place Market
Languages Available: English
Chapter OneREAD MORE
BECK’S GRAY blankets were vintage Army surplus wool, and if he thought about it, they itched. But they kept him warm, and that was still a miracle for him, so he slept well under them, and even when he did notice the itch, he didn’t grouse about it. It hadn’t been so very long since those two blankets were all that lay between him and winter’s killing cold.
Now the old clock he’d bought at Goodwill squealed its alarm, and Beck rolled out from under the covers and off the Murphy bed that constituted the epitome of luxury in his mind. As he did every morning, he padded on stockinged feet into the kitchen, plucked a bowl of yesterday’s nonreusable leftovers from the fridge, and took it up to a hidden corner on the roof. King Coal, the one-footed crow he’d befriended, would dine on it at leisure. Beck wasn’t sure how, but the old black bird kept all the competition at bay, claiming Beck’s daily offering for himself as if it was some sort of tribute. It made Beck smile, though, to see the down-and-out bird prosper.
At 5:45 a.m., the winter morning remained every bit as dark as night. Despite the frigid air, Beck stayed on the roof for a few minutes to take in the view. He could see to the high-rises across Lake Union from his vantage, but what he paid attention to were the nearby backyards—each one seeming shabbier than the next—and the myriad windows in the four- and five-story apartment buildings that dotted the neighborhood.
Holiday lights burned in many of those windows, mostly left on all night. If he’d been a violent sort, he would have wanted to throw things, shatter the windows in an effort to cut the cords that kept them lit.
Beck, he told himself, you would think they were pretty if they weren’t about the holidays.
I fucking hate Christmas. I fucking hate December. Ergo I hate the fucking lights.
Pretty sure it would be bad karma to start the day on such a negative note, he reminded himself out loud, “But you know what? I have an apartment!” In fact, he had two hundred square feet of studio apartment living space, with a microwave, a fridge, a bed, a shower. And—more importantly—a roof between him and Seattle’s cold rain.
Back inside, he pulled the window shades to shut out the chill, the dark, and the deceptively pretty holiday lights, and then switched on the wall heater, savoring the instantaneous desert wind hitting his ankles and knees.
“Parcheesi!” he called softly a few minutes later. “Come get breakfast, cat!”
He filled her kibble, gave her clean water, and dutifully scratched her fur, the color of which reminded him he actually had a small jar of marmalade in the fridge.
Breakfast, then. Instant coffee and noninstant oatmeal with canned milk, a few raisins, and a pat of butter—all of which came to him compliments of the King County food bank—and a teaspoonful of the marmalade, which he’d splurged for after he’d scored his permit to perform inside Pike Place Market. While he sat near the heater and ate, he studied the marbled oranges and yellows of the preserve. Summer in a jar, he thought, which warmed him, made him smile, and let him forget the season and all its phony glitz for just a few seconds.
He was glad he’d bought the marmalade, which had been a “today only” special at the Hilltop Safeway. Usually, he saved his limited food cash for lunches, which he’d eat during a break from the long days he worked playing his guitar for donations at Pike Place Market.
He loved playing music—it kept him alive. And he loved not having to cower under a sidewalk awning outside in the cold to play it. He loved that the people passing by in the market were a bit more likely to toss him some coin than the ones on the street—especially the tourists. Lots of tourists in the market.
But he didn’t love the job. Not right now.
Figgie pudding, red-nosed reindeer, kings of orient, barumpa bum bum, on the fucking housetop.
He played the season’s music, the songs full of family and false cheer, because that’s what the shoppers wanted. It was what people would pay for this time of year, but every “Jingle Bells” and “Joy to the World” grated on him. There was nothing all that joyful about Christmas, and probably not Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan and Eid—though he knew less about how people celebrated those. Being honest with himself, Beck admitted the existence of quite a lot of “holy day” music he loved even though he professed no religion. Old chant, liturgical hymns. Those held a kind of peace, or sometimes poignant longing that reached his heart. But if he played those, he wouldn’t be able to pay the rent. Occasionally he got a request for “The Dreidel Song” or “Oh Kwanzaa,” which was a change of pace, at least, but people didn’t want to shop to the tune of “Maoz Tzur” or “As I Lay on Yoolis Night,” beautiful though they were.
Regardless of which holiday was front and center, Beck knew December had the blackest heart of any month. The days came cold and dreary more often than not, and shopping bags might be full of pretty things, but he felt sure they were empty of anything resembling humanity and compassion. He happened to know those smiling, gift-laden daddies and grandmothers easily passed right by broken children on the street without a second glance.
Beck Justice! You’re being negative again. Stop. You have a lot less to bitch about than you did last year, you know.
“Yes,” he agreed with himself, and told the supremely disinterested Parcheesi, “We have an apartment. Lucky, right?”
She mewed, and he took that as assent. After all, Parcheesi had been homeless too.
As he luxuriated in the rich extravagance commonly called a hot shower, he let his mind wander to thoughts of the gnarly, tightfisted old man whose improbable kindness led to Beck acquiring this apartment near Twenty-Third and Denny Way, his very own tiny urban paradise.
Tracing good fortune back to its source, Beck owed his shelter, his full stomach, his warm clothes, and his ability to pay for these things to the secret kindness of one unlikely individual, Dooley, of Dooley’s Pawn and Loan. Dooley’s shop fronted Sixteenth Avenue in White Center, one of the economic low points in the greater Seattle area. Along with the other shops in the block, its brick façade had seen brighter days, and the display windows were crammed with a variety of obsolete electronics, beer steins and bric-a-brac, musical instruments, and power tools. Of course, Dooley’s real money came from the business he did in guns, and he had a decided knack for knowing when to lose the paperwork on those. His tendency to be tightfisted with a loan didn’t hurt his bottom line either, nor did his policy of never holding something a single day longer as collateral than he had to. If you were late to pick up your pawn, you paid the selling price—no second chances.
A lot of people Beck met on the street didn’t like Dooley one bit, and that seemed perfectly understandable. Yet when the crusty older man found Beck shivering through a frigid predawn February morning under some cardboard in the gravel behind his shop, he’d taken him inside and given him coffee. And gloves. And a pack of saltines with a tin of sardines.
“Come back tonight. Half past five. Clean the place up. Sleep in the storeroom.”
Instead of saying thanks, Beck asked, “You trust me?”
“No trustin’ about it. You gonna be locked in. Cain’t get out lest you set off the alarm. Ain’t gettin’ away with a damn thing.”
Beck never had to sleep outside again. Soon he was working for Dooley almost full-time, and Dooley paid him cash money. With an address, he was able to get medical benefits and food, and every day he got stronger. When Dooley said, “Time for you to move on, boy. You been gettin’ ’spensive,” Beck had nothing but gratitude for what the gnarly old man had given him, but at that point, he was ready for change. He bought a banged-up but beautiful Seagull Coastline folk guitar from Dooley at about half what someone else would pay, and spent the rest of his hoarded cash on the deposit and two months’ rent for his tiny but perfect apartment.
Then he started peddling his music on the streets.
That had been right at summer’s end, a fair-weather time of year in the Puget Sound region, and Seattle was both generous and an outdoors kind of town. Beck sought out lucrative spots day by day, parking himself just outside a festival one day, on a busy street corner the next. A few times, a tavern owner called him inside to play for the weeknight patrons, payment coming in the form of a meal and tips. He would play mostly blues then, wringing truth from his beat-up acoustic with things like “Black Mountain Rag,” changing it up with Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” or Neil Young’s beautifully sad “Birds.” The weather held right through October, and the world had generally treated Beck well. And in November, after he got the chance to start playing in the Market, he woke one Thursday morning to find his zest for life had returned.
Too bad December came snapping at November’s heels.
Vicki on Love Bytes Reviews wrote:
I've read some really awesome holiday stories this year and now I'm adding another one to the list. Lou Sylvre's 'Falling Snow on Snow' was everything I look for in a story, holiday or not. It was about filling that space in your heart that longs for that one person...that special someone who loves you above all else, it was about finding faith, love, hope, compassion, forgiveness and ultimately a home.
Beck was 14 when his stepfather kicked him out. He's spent most of his life since then on the streets making a living as a busker playing his guitar at the local market. What starts out as just another day suddenly changes when Beck hears a voice singing along to his music...for Beck it's not just any voice, no this voice has the tone of an angel and he wants to see the person who that voice belongs to.
Oleg has the voice of an angel and a family. A big, loving, supportive Russian family what he doesn't have is a special someone and he keeps looking in all the wrong places for Mr. Right...until he sees Beck. But as in most cases the path to love is neither straight nor smooth. It takes a leap of faith for both of these men to find what they're looking for.
I started reading this one and could not put it down. I loved Lou Sylvre's 'Vasquez & James' series and this story is written with all of the emotional passion that I found in those books. Of course I wish there'd been more not because the story wasn't complete just simply because I loved it that much. I felt Beck's anger and frustrations with the path his life had taken but I also felt his hope and his strength as he took ownership of his mistakes and determined to have something better...to have a chance at love and happiness with Oleg.
While this was by no means a light and fluffy story it was a story filled with hope and love. Ms Sylvre did this holiday gift up beautifully right down to the bow on the package (the cover). I was totally enchanted with this one and if I can only recommend one book this holiday season I'd have to say this is it. Thankfully I can recommend several others as well but right here, right now this is the one that I want you to notice. Happy Holidays!
Mt Snow on Rainbow Gold Reviews wrote:
Wow. This story is the perfect blending of a holiday romance, deep characters, a bit of darkness, and an authentic setting.
Beck Justice is just getting his life together after some time living on the streets of Seattle. He is a musician, a guitar player, busking at Pike Place Market, he has a tiny apartment, and even a cat. He’s worked very hard to pull himself up, and works hard every day to keep what he has. He’s not fond of December, due to the false cheer of everyone, the fakeness of it all, and the excessive spending. Not having a family, he doesn’t appreciate the holidays, and it’s damn cold and wet in Seattle. He is forced to play mostly Christmas music, since that’s what people want to hear, and he’s got to keep the tips coming in. The one bright bit he gets comes in the form of a man singing with Beck’s playing, but then… poof. He’s gone.
Oleg is part of a large Russian family, who all managed to immigrate to Seattle, and stay together, making music and living near each other. They are loving, and happy, and no one cared a bit when Oleg came out. Even with all of the acceptance and love, Oleg is still missing something. He needs a man, and isn’t finding what he needs in one night stands or back-room hook ups. Walking through Pike Place Market one morning, he hears the sounds of a guitar and stops to listen. Then join in. The man playing finishes his song, and tries to catch Oleg, who panics and runs.
But the two are meant to be together, and the universe puts them in each other’s paths until it happens! Even with drama from Beck’s past, nothing is going to stop this relationship from happening. And it does happen! They work for it, like Beck is used to doing, and the payoff is lovely.
I loved so much about this book! There wasn’t a lot of sex, but damn, what we got was perfection;
He hadn’t known any man would ever do sex the way Beck was doing it, taking his time. He damn near wanted to tear up over the thought of everything he’d been missing, but he was too busy digging the way it felt.
Ugh. So yummy!
The two men are fantastic characters on their own, Beck has issues, but worked so hard to overcome everything. He’s such a good, strong man, even when he could be horrible to a person in need, who had been horrible to him, he takes the high road. I loved him. Oleg too, he’s come from a totally different place as Beck, happy and loved, but he’s maybe created an issue for himself, in needing more than he has. Beck meets that need, giving him love just for himself.
Then there is the city of Seattle. I am a Seattle girl, I’ve lived within 25 miles of Seattle my whole life. I have a total love/hate relationship with books set in my area. I know I need to calm the hell down and stop obsessing, but, it is what it is! Blame Sleepless in Seattle and it’s many many errors…. So anyway, this book is set in downtown Seattle, and written by an author that lives in the state. I am happy to say Lou Sylvre got it right! She gives us enough details to show she knows the area, the weather, the streets, the feeling. She called Pike Place Market by the right name, and gets the atmosphere of the old place just right. She mentions the weather, but didn’t harp on it. Didn’t make it sound worse than it is, even in December. It may seem silly to other people, but I truly appreciate it when authors get my home state right!
I can be a little bah humbugish, and I get tired of fluffy Christmas stories. Even though I feel compelled to read them this time of year. This story was perfect for me, it wasn’t fluffy, but still left me feeling warm and content. I loved the characters, I loved the connection built between these two lonely men, I loved the physical connection between them, I loved the family connection I think Beck is about to get. I loved the story, the background, the drama. I loved the setting, and the details. And I LOVED the ending.
Seriously, give this book a chance, it’s wonderful!
Why MtSnow chose this book: Lou’s writing has never let me down. Soul deep. Kindness incarnate, and I absolutely fell head over heels with Sonny & Luki in her Vasquez & James series. How could I go wrong with a little holiday cheer from this lovely author?
Oleg and Beck. If ever there is a story of deep love and loneliness, this one was it. I just finished it and have such a warm feeling, of being wrapped in a cozy fleece blanket with a loved one, sipping rich hot chocolate and smiling whimsically, cuddling. Hearth and home, and so much. With so little.
It is amazing to me in such a short little story, that two people so unalike yet the same could so closely not have met, or crossed paths. A look. A glance.
This story is the perfect length. A perfect picture in what was, what is, and what can be. If ever you find yourself feeling down and lonely over the holidays, Sylvre has figured a way to make even the loneliest of souls have hope again, with music, compassion, in a place with people that seem to have so little, but that in all actuality have so much.
These shared words have such a kindness to them, that I’m almost overwhelmed with tears to see two such as these find each other in the end, despite the things that dark December might bring to those with much sorrow in their past.
Having been to Seattle, and The Market myself, I could hear the echoes of the guitar sweetly playing in the back chambers and halls as a lonely busker plays what’s in his heart, and imagine that still sweet voice that joins him for a flash, a few minutes to be gone. But that little bit strikes a spark of warmth in a sad, lonely heart.
A very lovely holiday story. Simple yet sweet. Gingerbread and hot chocolate, or rich, dark tea and baklava, however you might like your sweets. A treat for any that has the loneliness of heart, fear of wanting that ‘something’, but afraid to think it might be out there, for you. Just in time to find that precious gift. Wrapped. And waiting..
10/10 pots of gold = 100% recommended and converts to 5 of 5 stars