Authors: Robin L. Rotham
A Carnal Christmas
Robin L. Rotham
A Carnal Christmas
Copyright 2014 Robin L. Rotham
Cover art by Robin L. Rotham
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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This one's for Rachel, who did EVERYTHING to help me get this book out. I love you, boo!
Table of Contents
An orgy might make for the perfect holiday weekend, but the prep work sucked ass.
“Are we done yet?” Joe pushed the can of furniture polish and soiled rags into AJ’s hands with a long-suffering sigh. When she’d handed them to him earlier in the afternoon—right after he vacuumed at least an acre of carpet—he’d protested that it was a brand-new house and they’d been in it for less than a week. How much dust could have accumulated?
One swipe of the rag had shown him. Jesus, no wonder women bitched about housework. All that dust was enough to make him question their decision to build on Brent’s acreage instead of in Goodland.
“Sorry, old man.” AJ grinned as she turned toward the broom closet. “Am I working you too hard? Do you need to take a nap before Mandy and Hake get here?”
He swatted her ass, making her yelp and dart out of the way in case another was coming. “Watch it, little girl, or you won’t get what’s coming to you this weekend.”
“You say that like it would be a bad thing,” she told him, rubbing the seat of her faded jeans.
“It would be for you. Unless you’re in the mood to experience prolonged orgasm denial?” He raised his brows. “I’m sure Hake would be happy to help with that.”
“Maybe next year.”
written all over her face, she shoved the dusting supplies into the closet and shut the door, turning around just in time to catch him decapitating a gingerbread man with his teeth. “Joe!”
“What? It’s Christmas,” he said around a wonderfully spicy mouthful, “and gingerbread is my favorite.”
She scooted between him and the kitchen island, where two dozen and eleven of the cookie’s delicious little brothers lay cooling on wire racks, and leaned back over them protectively. “They’re not iced yet!”
“So I saved you some time.”
“I’d rather save the gingerbread for after dinner,” she informed him sternly.
Still chewing the last of the gingerbread man, Joe leaned down and gave her a peck on the lips. “
Remember those words, doll face.”
She bit her lip and then said, “I just want you to be healthy.”
He sighed. Not this again. “AJ, I’m fine.”
“But your blood pressure—”
“Isn’t even high enough to require medication.”
“Only if you watch your diet and ex—”
“AJ, you’re not my mother,” he snapped, “and I’m not your doddering old father. I don’t need you to take care of me.”
He wanted to kick his own ass the instant the words left his mouth. Jesus, he couldn’t have said anything more hurtful if he’d tried, and the pain that flashed over her face before she hid it made his gut twist with regret.
“You’re right,” she said softly, turning around to scoot the cookies onto plates.
“Fuck.” Joe shoved his hands through his hair. “AJ, look, I’m just—”
“No, it’s okay. You’re right. I have no business mothering anybody.”
what I meant, Ariel Jane,” he said in a louder tone than he’d intended, anxiety and guilt tightening his every muscle.
She glanced up at him and he could see in her eyes just how badly he’d fucked up. “No, really—I mean it. You’re a grown man and you can take care of yourself. I’m sorry I overstepped.”
“Come on, Ariel, you know I—”
“Can we just drop it, please?” she said, taking the racks to the sink and turning on the water. “I still have a lot to do.”
The stiffness of her back told him saying any more right now would be worse than useless. And what was he going to say anyway? He had no idea how to talk to a woman and never had, at least beyond talking her into bed. Which was just one of the many reasons his wife had left him. And why he left most of the “couples” communication to Brent.
He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Got anything else for me to do?”
She shook her head. “I think I can get the rest.”
“I really don’t mind helping, y’know.”
Finally she gave him a little smile over her shoulder, and it felt like the sun peeking out in the middle of a storm. “I know. Thank you, Joe, but the rest is stuff I need to take care of.”
He sighed. “Guess I’ll take a walk, then, see what’s going on outside.”
He’d just about made it to the garage door when she said softly, “Don’t forget your coat. The wind’s changed.”
Though he’d heard the north wind come up when he was dusting a half-hour earlier, he just said “Thanks” as he grabbed his jacket off the hook by the door on his way out.
He walked through the two-car garage and out the open overhead door on Brent’s side. Brent’s pickup was still gone, of course—when the time came to help AJ clean, he’d suddenly, and very conveniently, had an appointment with the accountant that couldn’t be delayed.
“I might need to spend some money,” he’d said with a grin that wasn’t the least bit apologetic. And the hell of it was, between his custom farming income, the equipment sales and the profit on his own crops this year, he probably
need to buy some inputs for next year to keep his income tax bill manageable, but that was no consolation when Joe needed him here.
Why the hell hadn’t he just let AJ’s gentle nagging flow over him like so much water off a duck’s back? It wasn’t like she was being genuinely obnoxious or controlling, and she really was worried. Dammit, he should never have let her drag him to the doctor last spring when he had the flu. She’d heard the words
high blood pressure
and been prodding him about it ever since.
So his blood pressure was a little high—big deal. Some things in life were just inevitable, like wrinkles and gray hair. Reading glasses and hearing aids. Hip replacements and ear hair. And eventually a dirt nap. As far as he could see, there was no rhyme or reason to who died when, or why—life was just a crapshoot, and it seemed like the harder you fought to keep some affliction at bay, the more insistently it came after you.
But try making AJ see that.
He slowed enough to scoop up a roofer’s nail off the drive before it wound up in someone’s tire and sucked in a sharp breath at the pain that streaked from his back and around his side.
“What the fuck?”
Sticking the nail in his jeans pocket, he unzipped his jacket to probe his right side as far back as he could with his fingers, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly where it hurt. It didn’t matter anyway, since the pain was easing already. Fucking housework—he’d probably just tweaked something bending at the waist instead of at the knee, like he always told Brent not to.
He zipped his jacket all the way back up to his chin with a shiver and continued down the long gravel driveway. Damn, it really had gotten cold fast, and the air smelled like snow. The skies had been overcast all day, and the forecast called for up to a foot of accumulation in the next twenty-four hours. That would be a rude shock after the record warmth they’d enjoyed for the last couple of weeks.
Even more out of sorts now, Joe dug his hands into his pockets and trudged on, hunching his shoulders against the wind. Just as he reached the end of the drive, Brent pulled in and rolled down his window.
“A little bit of housework and you’re already running away from home?” he teased.
“She didn’t need me anymore,” Joe grumbled without slowing down. “Besides, I need some exercise.”
When he turned onto the finer gravel along the edge of the road, he heard the diesel engine clatter to a halt and the pickup door slam, followed by the sound of boots coming up behind him. With anyone else, he would have tensed, but as Brent caught up and matched his stride without a word, Joe began to unwind a little. Brent knew better than to push. He just tried to be there whenever Joe was ready to talk. In some ways it made him feel vulnerable that someone knew him that well, but it felt good, too—like if he stroked out tomorrow and couldn’t make his wishes known, there’d be someone to stand up and say ‘Pull the plug on him. He wouldn’t want to live this way.’
His feet picked up speed.
Pull the plug.
Christ, AJ and her health watch were really getting to him if he was thinking like that.
“Hey.” Brent’s hand hooked into his elbow and pulled him to a stop. When Joe looked at him, Brent bracketed Joe’s neck with both hands, which were as warm as his brown eyes when he said, “It’s okay, Joe. Whatever’s got you running like your tail’s on fire, it’s okay.”
Joe drew in a breath and then exhaled a long draft of steam, nodding. Trust Brent to get right to the heart of things. “I know. I
. This all just…takes some getting used to, you know?”
“I do.” Brent’s thumbs stroked the scruff on Joe’s jaw. “We’re asking a lot of you right now and I’m expecting some pushback, but just don’t take off, okay? If you need some space, say so, but don’t take off. Whatever you need, we’ll work it out.”
Brent pulled him in for a kiss and Joe didn’t offer any pushback at all. Instead he slid his arms under Brent’s open jacket and around his lean waist, savoring not just the press of cool lips and the scrape of stubbled chin against his, but the fact that Brent felt secure enough to do this out in the open.
him enough. Brent was his anchor, and without him, Joe’s life would be totally fucked right now.
When Brent’s tongue teased the seam of his lips, Joe opened with a grunt, tightening his arms until he could feel Brent’s cock stirring against his own. It was moments like this he was truly at peace with settling down in the country, miles from anyone who’d notice or care that two farmers were making out on the side of the road.
Between the turbulence of the wind and the drumbeat of arousal in his ears, Joe didn’t hear the approaching vehicle until it honked. Shit, had the mail come yet? He might enjoy making out with another man on the side of the road but he didn’t really want to give the elderly mail carrier a heart attack doing it.
He broke away from Brent, his heart pounding and a blush roaring up his neck into his cheeks. When he saw the pickup, he slumped in relief—their company had arrived. He could see Mandy slurping them up with her eyes while Hake just grinned at them through the open driver’s window.
“Starting without us?” he asked.
“Just gettin’ things warmed up,” Brent told him with an easy smile as he and Joe crossed the road. “We weren’t expecting you this early. You must have made good time.”