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Not So Silent Night

by H.L Day

Not So Silent Night - H.L. Day
Editions:Kindle: $ 4.99

One grumpy patient. One unconventional nurse. Twenty-two reindeer later.

Things aren’t great for Xander Cole. It’s Christmas, he’s fractured his pelvis on a skiing trip he never wanted to go on, and his on/off boyfriend is most definitely off. No wonder he’s not exactly full of festive cheer.

Ferris Night isn’t having much luck either. His plan to take a break from work before starting a new job has been wrecked by a flooded flat. With nowhere to stay, he grabs the opportunity for a job as a live-in nurse with both hands. After all, how hard can it be?

Xander doesn’t need a nurse. Especially one who’s far too flirty, far too attractive, far too into Christmas, and far too good at getting his own way. But Ferris has never faced a challenge that couldn’t be overcome with a bit of charm and perseverance. It doesn’t matter how attractive Xander might be. He’s immune. Maybe.

As banter and sparring between the two men turn into more, a nurse might not be needed, but both men could be in for a fresh start to the new year.

A low angst 63k romantic comedy, which features snarky banter, a slow burn relationship, two men who can give as good as they get, an annoying ex, and a Star Wars nativity scene.

*Please note that this story was originally released as a single POV short story as part of the Winter Wonderland Prolific Works giveaway. The story has been revised and is now dual POV with over 40k of added content*

Excerpt:

Chapter Five

Xander

December 5th

 

Miles: Problem solved. I’ll call you when I land. You can thank me later.

 

I only got a few seconds of staring at the text message before the doorbell rang. What problem? Solved how? Thank him for what? I stared balefully at my painkillers, which I hadn’t gotten around to taking yet, cursing whoever it was for not having the courtesy to wait thirty minutes until I’d taken them and they’d kicked in. It took at least a minute to struggle to my feet, sweat breaking out on my brow as I jammed my crutches under my armpits. It took another minute to navigate my way out of the living room and into the hallway. In that time the doorbell had rung another five times. If it was carol singers, I was going to lose my shit. Was it a criminal offense to threaten children with a crutch? I guessed it probably was. I just wasn’t sure I’d be able to hold back enough to care.

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It wasn’t carol singers. However, the sight that met me was equally as unpalatable, particularly considering the way the man on my doorstep was grinning at me. I was in pain, and sweaty from the physical effort it had taken to get to the door. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t been expecting visitors, so I was only dressed in an old bathrobe. I wasn’t in the mood for whatever he was selling, and with a cocky grin like that, he had to be selling something. I was halfway to shutting the door when he stopped it with his foot. “Whoa! Xander, right?”

The fact he knew my name didn’t mean anything, except that he’d taken his time to do his research. They probably taught that in Sales 101. Know your target. Smile and address them by name. Well, he was two for two at the moment. I shoved at the door, but it didn’t budge. “I’m not interested.”

His head tipped to one side, one eyebrow arching in a quizzical fashion. “Not interested in what?”

“Whatever you’re selling, or whatever charity it is that you work for.” There was nothing in his hands, but there was a rucksack on his shoulder, so whatever it was, was probably in there. I scanned his chest, searching for ID while definitely not noticing how toned it was through the shirt he wore. No ID. That figured. He probably thought he was above having to wear it. I made another attempt to close the door, but with his foot still wedged in it, it was a pointless exercise. Discomfort gave the rising irritation even sharper edges. “Don’t make me call the police.”

“The police!”

He looked completely taken aback. Obviously, the hard sell usually garnered a better result. Luckily, the fact that I’d been reading Miles’s message meant I’d slipped my phone into the pocket of my bathrobe. I leaned more heavily on my right crutch, fishing it out and brandishing it in front of me. I paused, giving him a chance to retract his foot. When he didn’t, I began to dial, deciding a running commentary was in order, just in case he was too stupid to realize what I was doing. “That’s the first nine that I’ve just pressed. I’m now going for the second one, which I will follow with the—”

“Miles sent me.”

I froze, lifting my head to stare at him.

“Your brother.”

“I know who Miles is. I’ve known him for twenty-five years. I just don’t know who the hell you are.”

The man nodded. “We should probably start again. I’m Ferris.”

I cleared the 9’s from my phone screen in case my thumb inadvertently slipped and I dialed another one accidentally. I had enough to deal with without the police tracing a silent call. “Like the wheel?”

His grin slid back into place. “Like Ferris Bueller actually, if you must know. My mum was a huge fan. Not so much of a fan of me avoiding school though, when I tried to live up to my namesake. Although”—he waggled his eyebrows in a suggestive fashion—“I have been known to give a hell of a ride.”

He was flirting with me. What kind of weirdo flirted with sweaty men in bathrobes who’d threatened to call the police on them? Was that what did it for him? Or was he just one of those people who did it as easily as breathing? That was probably it. I bet if I put a cabbage on the doorstep, he’d flirt with that as well.

I shook my head, trying to dislodge the thought of him flirting with vegetables. What he did or didn’t flirt with was hardly the crucial part of the conversation. I needed to find out why he was bandying my brother’s name about and claiming to be there on his say so. I narrowed my eyes at him, letting him know that the flirting didn’t wash with me. “How do you know Miles?”

Ferris gave that easy grin again, giving every impression of being oblivious to my suspicion. “I don’t. Not really. It’s more that we have people in common. Do you know Phil?” He didn’t wait for an answer, pressing on regardless, either not interested in the answer, or already knowing it. “Well, his cousin’s wife’s friend works at the same place I do, or should I say did, because I’m currently between jobs. I left there, which is the only reason I’m free for a few weeks before I start a new job. Lucky for you, I guess. So yeah, I heard from Phil, and here I am.”

My head started to pound. If there’d been an actual answer to my question there, I couldn’t manage to unpack it from the rest of the information. There’d been an awful lot of words there that had told me nothing at all. I glanced down. His foot was still in the door. I rested my head against the door jamb, contemplating if I closed my eyes whether he’d still be there when I opened them. Deciding it was worth a try, I closed them, counting to five very slowly before opening them again. I reared back, almost toppling off my crutches. He was not only still there, but he’d moved closer, peering right into my face with a curious expression on my face. “Are you alright?”

I shifted position, trying to combat the soreness from one of my crutches digging into me by transferring more weight to the opposite side. My body was starting to scream “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” at me. “Never been better.” I wiped away the trickle of sweat that had decided to punctuate my words by dripping down my face.

“We probably shouldn’t be having this conversation on the doorstep.”

I stared at him. “Or at all.”

If he’d registered my less than friendly response, he didn’t react to it. “We should go inside so that you can sit down.”

Any restraint I had disappeared. “I still don’t know who the fuck you are! I’m not in the habit of inviting strange men into my house.” I bit down on the urge to add, unless we’ve hooked up on Grindr. Besides, that was pre-Harvey days. Although, given Harvey’s inability to even pick up the phone when I called him, or to respond to any of my text messages, I guessed those days would be returning. The thought made me less sad than I’d expected. There was a twisted sort of relief at no longer being caught up in Harvey’s whirlwind life of parties and being seen in all the right places. I might be a model, but I’d never fit the stereotype. I was just as happy—happier sometimes—spending the night in front of the TV.

“Let’s go inside.”

It was a definite sign of how weak and nauseous I was that I gave in, letting him steer me toward the living room, the door slamming shut in our wake. The journey back to the sofa was slightly quicker, probably as a result of me wanting to dislodge the fingers that rested on my back, which I assumed were meant to be helpful.

I sank onto the sofa gratefully, dragging in lungful after lungful of air until the urge to revisit my breakfast had finally begun to ease. Lifting a hand, I gestured at the bag slung over his shoulder. “What’s in the bag?”

He frowned. “The usual. Pajamas, toothbrush, toothpaste, clothes, the book I’m reading.”

I struggled to a more upright position, trying for a little more authority than my current slumped position allowed, and speaking slowly and clearly. “Why are you here? You said Miles sent you. I’m struggling to think why he’d do that.”

Ferris’s brow furrowed. “I’m a nurse. I said that, didn’t I?”

A nurse! I subjected him to a long, slow scrutiny, taking in everything from the tight jeans and the leather jacket he wore that accentuated his lean, muscled build, to the fact he was incredibly handsome. I’d worked with less good-looking models on shoots. “You look nothing like a nurse.”

He gave me a beaming smile. “Thank you.”

“It wasn’t a compliment.” Except it sort of was, wasn’t it? I was struggling to picture him devoting his days to changing bedpans and taking blood pressure readings. Half of his patients were probably in love with him, even if his bedside manner was horrendous.

Everything clicked into place. Ferris was what Miles had been referring to in his message, the so-called answer to a problem. I was going to kill him the next time I saw him. That could be my inspiration for healing. I’d push past the point where I could hardly walk just to be able to commit fratricide. Something else suddenly occurred to me. “Why have you got pajamas?”

Brown eyes met mine, a smile hovering on Ferris’s lips. “It seems rude to sleep naked in someone else’s house. I’m guessing we’ll be sharing a bathroom, but hey, if you’re cool with bumping into me in the middle of the night when I’m naked, then I’ll quite happily leave them in the bag. I’ve got to ask…” The grin grew wider, edged with mischief. “…will you be naked as well?”

He was still flirting. I decided to ignore it. “Even if you are a nurse, I don’t need one.”

If I’m a nurse?” Ferris shook his head, as if he’d decided that that wasn’t the argument he wanted to pursue. “And as for you not needing one, you looked like you were going to keel over at the door. If I’d been here, I could have answered it for you.”

I let out a sigh. “If you’d been here, there would have been no need to answer it because there wouldn’t have been anyone outside to ring the doorbell in the first place.”

“Good point.” He eased his bag off his shoulder and lowered it to the floor.

Panic raced through me. “You can’t stay here.”

“Miles said I could. Miles said it would be fine. That was the agreement.”

Miles was living on borrowed time. He just didn’t know it, yet. I retrieved my phone, hitting the button to call him with far more force than it needed. It rang and rang, voicemail finally kicking in. I hung up without leaving a message, glaring at my phone as if I blamed the device itself.

Ferris cleared his throat. “He’s on a plane.”

I transferred my glare from the phone to him. “I’m well aware of my own brother’s movements. I don’t need you to tell me.”

Ferris shrugged. “Just saying. You seemed surprised when he didn’t answer.”

I sighed. “Life is full of surprises today.” I made an effort to gather myself. “Look, Ferris.” I added his name to try and build a sense of rapport between us. The best tactic was to get him on my side, lull him into a false sense of security, and then kick him out when he least expected it. After all, it wasn’t like I could use brute force, so guile would have to do. “I don’t need a nurse, and Miles knows that. Even if it was useful to have someone to… I don’t know, do the washing up or something, I’m not a complete invalid, I don’t need someone here twenty-four hours a day, so you living here would be ludicrous. It would be a complete waste of your time. So—”

“That was for my benefit, not yours. That was the deal we struck rather than him needing to pay me.” Ferris elaborated when all I did was give him my best steely stare. “I was meant to be moving into a new place. New job. New place. I was going for the whole shebang. Only, there was a flood in my flat, the old one, not the new one. Apparently, the people upstairs fancied an indoor swimming pool. So now I’ve got to wait until my new flat is ready. I needed a place to stay. You needed a nurse. It was fate, with Phil playing fairy godmother.” He screwed his face up. “God, he’d look terrible in a dress. Too stocky and too bearded, not to mention the chest hair.”

“Fate!” I couldn’t have put more distaste into the word if I’d tried. “Well, you’ll have to find somewhere else. This is my house, not Miles’s, so he had no right to give someone else permission to stay here.”

“I see. I guess…” Ferris turned his gaze to the ceiling, pasting a deliberately faraway expression on his face. “I understand. Even though it’s really close to Christmas, and the hotels are all booked up, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure I’ll find some sort of place that I can afford on nursing wages, maybe a crack den or a brothel. And if not, there’s always the streets. Snow isn’t forecast for a couple of days. I can always bed down with the drunks and druggies. Sell my body for a warm blanket when it does snow. Yeah, that sounds fun. You keep your spare room. I don’t need it.”

I knew when I was being played. It was extremely doubtful Ferris didn’t have someone he could stay with, but even so there was a tiny niggle of doubt. What if he did end up sleeping on the streets at Christmas? What kind of person did that make me? And Miles wasn’t going to be happy that he’d said one thing and I’d said another. He’d probably give me the silent treatment. Mind, I was going to kill him anyway, so that shouldn’t matter.

Ferris sighed, long and loud—a move straight out of a daytime soap opera. He reached down, pulling his bag onto his shoulder in the best parody of it suddenly having been filled with bricks that I’d ever seen. I almost wanted to applaud. He could probably mime being stuck in a glass box really well too. He ran a hand through his dark hair in a gesture that screamed of a weariness that hadn’t been there ten seconds earlier.

“I’ll get out of your way then. Apparently, there’s a soup kitchen that if you queue up early enough, they don’t always run out. I need to find a box as well, one that’s big enough to sleep in.” He pulled his leather jacket more tightly around him, as if he was already starting to feel the effects of the cold despite my central heating being on high. “Do you have any newspapers I can borrow? For the box.”

I shook my head.

He took a step toward the door. “I’ll let myself out. It’ll be quicker. I’ve got a soup kitchen queue to make, remember.” He paused, the silence hanging between us. “I’ll go then. It was nice meeting you, Xander.” He took another step. “Have a lovely Christmas all on your own, and don’t even give me a second thought.”

Ferris moved out of sight, but I could still hear him as he made the trip to the front door even slower than I had earlier. “Halfway to the door…” Long silence. “Reaching for the door handle…” More seconds went by. “Opening the door. I’ll be on the other side of it very soon.”

I doubted that. I was pretty sure he could still stretch it out for at least another five minutes. I didn’t know whether it was the guilt trip that had done it, or the mention of being on my own. Possibly a combination of the two. I laid my head back against the sofa and gave in to the inevitable. “Ferris!”

“Yes?” He’d completed the journey back into the living room in 0.2 seconds, which made it about four minutes quicker than his exit.

Even though I’d made my decision, the words were still difficult to force out. “You can… stay.”

“Yeah?” The grin was back. “You won’t regret it. You’ll barely notice I’m here.”

I’d known him a grand total of ten minutes, and I already knew that wasn’t true. What had I done? What had Miles done?

COLLAPSE

About the Author

H.L Day grew up in the North of England. As a child she was an avid reader, spending lots of time at the local library or escaping into the imaginary worlds created by the books she read. Her grandmother first introduced her to the genre of romance novels, as a teenager, and all the steamy sex they entailed. Naughty Grandma!

One day, H.L Day stumbled upon the world of m/m romance. She remained content to read other people’s books for a while, before deciding to give it a go herself.

Now, she’s a teacher by day and a writer by night. Actually, that’s not quite true—she’s a teacher by day, procrastinates about writing at night and writes in the school holidays, when she’s not continuing to procrastinate. After all, there’s books to read, places to go, people to see, exercise at the gym to do, films to watch. So many things to do—so few hours to do it in. Every now and again, she musters enough self-discipline to actually get some words onto paper—sometimes they even make sense and are in the right order.