After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws.
Peter clapped him on the back. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Stephen. I saw you with Jeremy and after his accident. I saw you when you believed you’d never fall in love again. This relationship with Russ—it’s made you a new man. You may not see it, but it’s changed you.”
“I know it has,” Stephen acknowledged. Peter left, and Stephen sought Russ again. He was in line at the bar now, and he held up his empty glass, mouthing “be there in a moment”. Eager to go to him, Stephen set down his own empty glass on a deserted table as he crossed the distance between them. Russ, distracted by something the person in front of him said, didn’t notice Stephen’s approach.
Stephen leaned in, whispering in Russ’ ear as he rested his hands lightly on Russ’ hips. “Dance with me?”
Russ turned to look at him, surprised. “Are you sure?”
“Sure I want to put my arms around the man I love? Yes.” The earlier doubt he’d felt was gone. Peter had some valid points, and what Stephen wouldn’t give to feel Russ in his arms right now. Over the years, he’d conditioned himself to expect less than others, simply because he was gay. Straight couples didn’t think twice about dancing with each other during the holiday party. Why should he?
I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this story was to write. What should have been a relatively easy, fun holiday novella wound up becoming a writing challenge. I struggled with this story from September to November, trying to get it right. When I finally felt like I had it ready, I sent it to my betas. The majority of them told me it had potential but needed work. I got nearly idential comments from several people telling me it didn’t flow well and felt repetitive. Clearly I needed to re-work it.
So I tore it apart, completely decimating the timeline and re-working it. I cut a few scenes, tweaked the remaining ones, and by the time it was done it was much tighter. I felt better about it and the feedback on it was good. And I learned a lot from the experience.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such a stressful, rushed, and disorganized release though. I was aiming to have this out by the first week in December but the extra time was needed and I’d rather put out a good story late than half-ass it and get it out on time. If only it wasn’t so stressful. I’m ready to pull the blankets over my head and sleep until the new year.
That being said, I really do love the story and am glad I was able to tell it. Russ and Stephen are very dear to my heart and I had fun exploring what the holidays would be like for them.
I hope you enjoy the story. And more than anything I hope you’re able to spend the holidays with the people you care about. Because, like Stephen, I’ve learned that people you meet can often become as important–if not more–important than the family you were born into.
If there’s one thing I wish for this holiday season, it’s that everyone has at least one person in their life they can call family. A person who feels like home.