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by Alexandra Y. Caluen

A M/M romance novella about finding the future you want.

Once upon a time, Ashley Wong pledged the same fraternity as Justin Landau. They weren’t friends. The last time Ash saw Justin was the first time he realized the other guy was gay, too.

Fast-forward to 2018: Ash is back in L.A. after nearly a decade away. Starting over with everything, except his job; that’s only a new location. Which happens to be in the same building as the law firm where Justin works. They still aren’t friends.

But Ash belongs to an online chat group, and he’s friends with someone there. They both use aliases. At Christmas, they open up enough to discover they’re both in L.A., and they decide to meet.

Justin has a moment of OMG No when he sees Ashley at the rendezvous. Things happened back in college. Those things weren’t Justin’s fault, but he didn’t exactly help, either. Should he walk away? Or should he trust that one kind of friendship could become another?

Adult situations, themes, and language; 34000 words and a happy ending.


Justin sprawled on the chaise end of Jordan’s sectional, gazing across the room at the newly-engaged couple. He absolutely did not begrudge his brother this happiness. Amanda was right for him in so many ways. Right for the whole family, really. All four parents were pleased. Even the news that no children were on the horizon didn’t seem to faze them. This was one hundred percent a good thing. And it left Justin the one remaining single person in his generation, or at least that was how it felt. All his cousins were married, or living with someone. All his high-school and college friends were too.


He’d thought there was a chance with Scott. They got along well, had decent sex, and were at the same stage of life. They even had compatible careers, or they would at some not-too-distant point; Scott was a social worker. When Justin brought up the idea of living together, though, Scott resisted. The conversation that followed – the one that started ‘let’s talk about where we see ourselves in a year’ – deteriorated rapidly. Because it turned out Scott saw them exactly the way they were: dating. Not exclusively, which was a surprise to Justin. After a moment of stunned silence, he’d said, “Was I not clear that I was looking for a long-term committed relationship?”

And Scott said, “Yeah, you were. I thought I was clear that I wasn’t.”

After that, there wasn’t much more to be said. They both apologized, with too-obvious resentment, for the misunderstanding. Neither of them suggested continuing to see each other while Justin looked for Mr. Right. So here he was at a family Christmas party, alone as usual, and the closest thing he had to a relationship was his ongoing chat with Asif.

“You okay over here?”

Justin looked up at his brother. “What?”

“You had a strange face on your face.” Jordan sat down.

With half a laugh, and a quick glance around to make sure nobody else was listening, Justin said, “I was just thinking that this internet friend of mine is the closest thing I have to a relationship.”

“Maybe you should ask him out.”

“What have I got to lose, right?” Another half a laugh, and an eyeroll. “He probably doesn’t even live in L.A.”

“But maybe he does. Stranger things have happened.”

“Mm-hmm. People meet their soul mates waiting for a flight at LAX.” They smiled at each other. “Should I start with a picture?”

“No,” Jordan said instantly. “Your connection is intellectual at the moment. Keep it verbal.”

“Okay, but how explicit? Thirty-third Christmas is past and I want to be engaged by this time next year? Wanna get together? By the way I live in West L.A.?”

Jordan blinked at him. “That’s pretty explicit.” Justin laughed. “He’s single?”

Justin nodded. “Pretty sure. He’s referred to some dates but there was definitely a sense of, you know, welp that didn’t work.”

“Any idea how old he is?”

“He mentioned dancing in a Pride parade and wearing lavender Wayfarers.”

“Okay, he’s either under forty or over sixty.”

They both snickered. Then Justin said, “I don’t even care. Age is just a number.”

“There you go.”

After a quiet moment, Justin pulled his phone out. “No time like the present.”


Landho Albatross: Merry Christmas [dancing reindeer gif]
Asif Youread: Hey! Merry Christmas to you too. Did Santa bring you what you wanted?
Landho: He did not, and we had some words. This was Xmas 33 and I’m over it.
Asif: Wow.
Landho: Sorry.


Ash stared at the screen. If ‘Xmas 33’ meant what he thought it meant, this guy was exactly the right age. Was he leading up to suggesting they meet?


Asif: No worries. I’ve been feeling kind of the same way. Where are you right now?


Justin stared at the screen. He could do the usual thing: say he was at his brother’s house and leave it at that. Or he could do what he wanted.


Landho: I’m at my brother’s house in Culver City. He and his gf announced engagement today. Big family party. Super happy for them but you know.


Oh holy shit. Ash had to tell himself to breathe. He had no doubt they were now fewer than a hundred words from someone saying ‘let’s get together.’ Did he want that? Yes, yes he did.


Asif: This was Xmas 32 for me and I’m staring ‘over it’ in the eye. Our family dinner was last night in Altadena. Sister had another ‘you should meet this guy’ at which I smiled weakly and did not ask for the number. Today I’m home with the cat and an e-reader full of M/M holiday novellas.


“Holy shit,” Justin said. He heard a muffled snort and glanced over at his brother. Wordlessly held the phone so Jordan could read the exchange.

“Whoa. Those are not discouraging words.”

“No, they’re not.” One deep breath to manage the nerves. Then he tapped out a reply.


Landho: Seems like we’re both in L.A. Maybe we could talk in person sometime.
Asif: I was about to say that. [smiley face] What’s your schedule like for the next week or so?
Landho: Working the rest of this week. Off 29th-NYD.
Asif: Same, though I may have a job landing over the weekend. Definitely time in there for coffee.
Landho: You know where The Ripped Bodice is?
Asif: Duh, yeah.
Landho: LOL okay. French café place about a block away?
Asif: Been there. 11:00 Saturday?
Landho: Sounds great. [smiley face] Wear your lavender Wayfarers?
Asif: Sure!
Landho: God I’m nervous.
Asif: Me too. Don’t worry. We’ll always have Paris. [winky face] TTYS

Ash closed the app then, because he really was nervous, and he didn’t want to get too flirty. Dropped the phone on the end table, dug both hands into Catherine’s fur, and bent over to put his face there too. “I’m going to meet him,” he told her. She made a querying noise. “Yeah, the internet guy.” She started to purr. He laughed, somewhat shakily. Should he tell Carly right away, or wait to see what happened? Probably wait. Definitely wait. It might be a disaster. A disaster on Saturday could be turned into a funny story by the following Wednesday, and he wouldn’t even have to dodge much, because she and Marigold were spending the four-day weekend down in San Diego.

Maybe Landho liked theater. Maybe they could go to San Diego sometime, see a show at the Old Globe. “Jesus, start planning the wedding already, you nitwit. You don’t even know his real name yet.” He pushed himself up off the loveseat. Time to find something to do. Something to distract himself.


Features a very large cat named Catherine the Great and a somewhat sketchy kitten named Ivan the Terrible.

About the Author

A long time ago and three thousand miles away, I wrote my first novel - a historical romance - during graduate school. Twenty years later I finally dusted it off and published it. Since then I have written and published many more novels and novellas; all romance, most contemporary. My characters (of various genders and ethnicities) range in age from eighteen to sixty-five, with the average falling in the mid-thirties. I'm inspired by authors like KJ Charles, Laurie R. King, Dick Francis, and Jennifer Crusie. I've lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1995.